The Capitals of East Anglia 300 Enter this event >
From 6am, Saturday 10 July 2021, from the Recreation Pavilion, Girton, Cambridge (next to the church).
The second-running of our popular 300km event that heads far out into the ‘wilds’ of Suffolk, dipping a toe in the North Sea at Dunwich, and then to the civilisation that is Norfolk, before heading back to Cambridge via the ‘subsea’ levels of Fenlandia.
The route visits five capitals of East Anglia on its way, although the real interest is the predominance of very quiet lanes and B-roads that make up this route, taking you through some very picturesque farming landscapes of one of the most important agricultural regions of the UK, as well as visiting the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB.
The five — nay, eight! (I found some more) — capitals are:
Cambridge — The Capital of Learning — although outside the boundaries of the ancient kingdoms of Anglia, Cambridge is firmly included in the modern definition of East Anglia and is a veritable seat of learning, admired around the world. The city dates back to pre-Roman times as one of the last useful fordings of the river Cam, the university didn't arrive until 1209, when a number of scholars faced execution in Oxford for disagreeing with the then authorities on some trifling matter, so they left to set up a rival institution, but with more agreeable rules. When governments ask “how can we have more university towns like Cambridge? what do we need to do?”, Cambridge dons chuckle, stroke their collective beards, and retort: “you need a good university … and 800 years!” Cambridge is steeped in history and tradition and well worth a visit off the bike.
Bonus capital: Hadleigh — Guthrum's Capital of East Anglia — the route takes you near to this other capital, although to route through it would be both uneducational (read the text at the link above), and a bit of an unnecessary detour. Nevertheless, Hadleigh would have been an extra capital on a different route.
Ipswich — the Capital of the ‘South Folk’ — the county seat of Suffolk (‘South Folk’), Ipswich is one of England's oldest towns, possibly the oldest continuously inhabited, and dates back to well before Roman times. Its location on the estuary of the River Orwell gave it a sheltered port close to mainland Europe that was critical for trade from Roman times onwards. Unfortunately, the old town is mainly focused around the dock, which is a little off-route, but it's worth a visit if you have the time.
Dunwich — the Capital of the Kingdom of East Anglia — and a favoured destination for a certain overnight ride — once the largest town in England and a major trading port, storms in the 13th century dragged great swathes of the coastline under the waves, leaving behind the village we see today, population less than 100. Surrounded on all sides by Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB, it's a popular destination for walkers and twitchers, although the pebbly beach isn't so good for building castles. It is said that when a storm is blowing across the sea, you can still hear the bells of the submerged church towers ringing out their sodden peal …
Venta Icenorum — the Roman Capital of East Anglia, displacing the Iceni tribe's own Capital — although I mentioned Venta Icenorum in the original routesheet, I didn't realise its fortuitous importance as the location of another capital, incrementing the count by two! Originally the capital of the Iceni tribe (one), once led by their irascible and somewhat scary leader (in story at least), the legendary Queen Boudicca, the historical record has it that the Iceni were usurped from their seat by the Romans after Boudicca got overly-feisty once too often, and they established Venta Icenorum (“the marketplace of the Iceni”) as their new capital (two) … although she got her revenge, some say. You can see the settlement mound on your left as you ride by and it's probably worth a visit if ever you're in the area sans vélo.
Norwich — the Capital of the ‘North Folk’ — the county seat of Norfolk (‘North Folk’) and sharing a common accent with the West Country for some unknown reason, oo-aar. Norwich was once the second wealthiest city in all of England, and Norfolk the most-densely populated county (although that's hard to believe these days), due to its temperate climate, rich arable farmland, and excellent access to London and Europe. Two cathedrals, two universities, a magnificent motte and keep, a plethora of medieval buildings and streets still complete and unsullied by modernity (except running water, electricity, telephone, the odd satellite dish, etc., so mostly unsullied … ), this capital is said to be one of the happiest places in the UK to live and work, so possibly also the Capital of Contentment?! A very popular destination for city-bound tourists and worth coming back to.
Ely — the Capital of Religion — built around a seventh-century abbey, “the Isle of Ely” stood proud of the marshes that surrounded it, topping out at the giddy height of 26m, the highest land in the fens, and visible for dozens of miles around. The 11th-century cathedral stands proud on top and is known in these parts as “the Ship of the Fens”. However, the city has a dark reputation: in order to gain William The Conqueror's favour, the abbots showed his army the path through the marshes to the Isle of Ely, which was Hereward The Wake's base, and he and his rebel army were routed. The marshes were drained in the 17th century and many of the roads now follow the compacted river beds, which rose above the rest of the land, which subsided as the water was removed. The imposing cathedral has many unique architectural attributes, but the abbey itself was dissolved during The Reformation. In 1830, William Cobbett reported that “Ely is what one may call a miserable little town: very prettily situated, but poor and mean. Everything seems to be on the decline, as, indeed, is the case everywhere, where the clergy are the masters”, although it seems to have cleaned itself up a bit since then!
Unfortunately, no hospitality at the finish this year, so although Girton has become the Capital of Ewa's Cakes, there won't be any waiting for you.
The route is a good mix of roads, mostly very quiet lanes and B-roads, with a few larger roads nearer the big towns, but all "quiet" by normal UK standards — Suffolk and Norfolk are pretty, sleepy counties!
The route starts by passing through Cambridge, which will be virtually deserted at 6am, followed by a long, but easy climb off the Cambridge Plain — the biggest climb of the day, although not quite the hardest, which is Hartest. The route then rolls gently, following lots of lovely lanes, to Ipswich for late breakfast.
After Ipswich the route becomes benign, heading down picturesque Suffolk lanes and quiet B-roads to the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB, and a visit through the fringes of RSPB Minsmere Reserve to the ancient city of Dunwich for lunch by the sea.
The route then heads back inland to Norwich, using a mix of lanes and B-roads, and spears to the centre via a converted-railway path. You may be too early for dinner here, but the control town of Watton is only a couple of hours further on and has plenty more opportunity for victuals.
A push across the Fens to the Isle of Ely from Watton involves some very flat drove lanes, arrow-straight B-roads and quite a number of acute-angled corners with barely any radius. Briefly you'll be below sea level — beware a high tide!
The final stage is flat all the way, apart from a couple of islands to cross, but should pose no problem, following Grunty Fen Lane and Twenty Pence Road back to Histon and then on to Girton, and the finish.
- The route crosses a number of busy roads — these are marked “Care!” on the routesheet. Bear in mind that these roads are “busy for East Anglia”, so quiet by normal standards, but take care anyway!
- You are expected to control in or near the centre of the larger control towns — don't try to minimise distance by skirting around the town, your effort might not be validated if you do! Note that Norwich requires a PoP from the centre of the city, near the Keep, i.e. on the given route.
- There are SIX level crossings between Feltwell and Ely — some of you will approach these in the dusk or full-dark, so please take care, especially as two of the crossings are oblique to the road, which is the worst sort!
- This is an x-rated event — there are no manned controls or checkpoints. You must either get five proofs-of-passage — receipts — from commercial establishments in each of the control towns/villages, or else submit a GPS tracklog.
- You are on a private excursion on public roads. The given route is advisory.
- You should carry a lock to secure your bike at the controls.
- Most of you will require lights.
Validating your ride
This year you have options for validating your ride:
- Get paper proofs-of-passage, i.e. receipts, at each of the controls
- Submit your GPS tracklog (one unique track per rider, even tandems!) after the ride
If using receipts, please check that the time and date on each receipt is correct and that the place name is clearly shown.
I will accept selfies as backup-PoP where the above didn't work for you at a limited number of controls, but not for all of them.
At the finish, if I am back in the car park then you can drop your brevet off with me and I will mark the time. If I am not there then continue to the Co-op (1km on left-hand side) for a receipt before 10pm, or else continue (SO @ mrbt, L @ T) to the 24-hour BP garage for an out-of-hours receipt (2km on left-hand side).
I will also accept a finish-selfie that clearly shows you and the ornamental fence (must be clear, so will depend on having a decent phone and a steady hand in the dark).
Obviously, GPS-validators only need to get back to the car park and you're done.
Everyone must submit a signed brevet, which must get to me by Saturday 17 July 2021, along with all proofs-of-passage.
Start and finish at the Recreation Pavilion in Girton next to St Andrew’s Anglican church on Cambridge Road, CB3 0FH, 2km northwest of Cambridge city centre.
There are five commercial controls:
- Ipswich — lots of cafés, shops, pubs, ATMs in the town centre; there is a Lloyds Bank ATM shortly after entering the town, and there's a Premier Express just after the town centre, for those who don't wish to visit the pedestrianised zone.
- Dunwich — There's everyone's favourite Flora Tearooms on the beach, as well as The Ship pub in the centre of the village, and Dingle Hill Tearooms at the nursery as you leave the village.
- Norwich — plenty of shops, ATMs, cafés, etc., in this bustling provincial city. After passing by Norwich's magnificent motte and keep (castle), there's a BP garage and Tesco Express just after the city centre.
- Watton — a quiet town with ATMs, takeaways, Tesco, perfectly placed for dinner.
- Ely — ATMs, cafés, shops; you'll arrive here quite late on, so you may prefer to head through the centre, admire the cathedral, and then take your leave at the 24-hour BP garage as you exit town, and if you're quick enough, there's also a Burger King, although not 24-hours.
Toilets are not available at the start/finish! — no hall this year, sorry. Toilets are available at all the control towns, or behind the many hedges along the route.
I checked the route on 12 June 2021 — all good, some nice new Tarmac in places.
There are two versions of the routesheet, depending on what you want: one has distances between instructions and holds your hand; the other contains just the turn-by-turn instructions with only as many distances as necessary for navigation and planning, as preferred by old-school audaxers: (updated 13 June 2021)
Download the routesheet
The GPS files
I checked the route on 12 June 2021 — all good, some nice new Tarmac in places.
IMPORTANT — make sure you understand which version of the following GPS files are most suitable for your device.
- Garmin Edge devices — new 500, new 700, 800/810/820, 1000, 1030 — use TCX; 10,000 points should be okay
- The RideWithGPS IQ App also allows direct download from the pinned track to the latest Garmin Edge units
- Older Garmin Edge devices — you're in a murky area in that TCX should work, but you may get a more reliable result from GPX; 10,000 points should be okay
- Wahoo devices — TCX 10k, or "pin" the RideWithGPS route
- Older Garmin devices — GPX and either 250-point or 500-point depending on which device.
Make sure you test these files out on your device before you start!
The full-route files are provided as a single TCX or GPX each. However, the rest of the GPS routes, where the route is split into multiple GPS files, are provided as a ZIP file for each format — you require all of the files in the ZIP file!
The routes are provided as follows:
- a single route for the whole 321km —
- two legs: one to lunch and one back home —
- six stages —
The routes will appear as
CEA300_… on your device.
There are additional notes in the organiser's notes and routesheet, including cautions and alternative routes. It is your responsibility to familiarise yourself with the route and any reported hazards before you start, especially as none of this information is included in the GPS files!
This is now where it gets complicated — there are a LOT of options here, sorted by how split up the route is, how many points in each part, and whether it's TCX or GPX.
You require six proofs-of-passage from Ipswich, Dunwich, Norwich, Watton, and Ely, as well as a finish PoP if I am not in the car park when you get there.
I am riding this event myself, setting off in the last group. I will pass some of you on the way round, but I expect most of you will finish ahead of me. I will wait in the car park at the Pavilion for an hour or so when I get there, and will happily collect brevets from you and mark the finish time.
If I am not in the car park then you will need to ride to the Co-op a further 1km on the left-hand side (open until 10pm), or else to the BP garage a further 1km beyond that (24-hours). Get a finish receipt and post the brevet back to me.
Obviously, those relying on digital-PoP need to get back to the car park, save your track, post the brevet to me, and email your GPS tracklog to me. If relying on selfies, please make sure I can clearly see both you and the ornamental fence next to St Andrew's Church in your photo, and email to me — if the photo isn't clear then go grab a receipt down the road.
All brevets and proofs-of-passage must reach me by Saturday 17 July 2021 — don't make me chase!
Please remember to fill out the boxes on your brevet with establishment names and times, and sign your brevet before handing it in with your PoPs!
Getting to the start
Hopefully you live close enough to cycle to the start.
Cambridge is well-served by train, although unfortunately this event starts too early to take advantage of that fact. If you do manage to find a train that arrives early enough, it’s an easy 7km ride from the station to the start through the historic centre of Cambridge — routesheet | GPX | TCX — if you use these instructions, continue past the Co-op to the start on RHS in 1km next to the church.
If you intend to drive, aim for St Andrews Church on Cambridge Road, CB3 0FH. And then park in the village, but not in the Parish car-park (which will be busy all day), and ride to the pavilion. Wherever you park, please park considerately.
Due to the large numbers of entrants, if you could ride to the start instead of driving, or park outside the village and ride in, that would be an enormous help!
There are no refreshments at either the start or finish this year, I'm afraid — Covid. We will have bottles of water at the start to refill bidons of you adventurous ECEers.
Have a great, safe ride! Enter this event >