Given our weather over the last few months, it’s probably best to take advantage of any of the few nice days that deem to grace us with their presence – who knows when the next bright but fresh day will appear? It has, however, meant that on those rare occasions we deem satisfactory for a trip out we’re usually met with a wall of mud, a sea of puddles, and the remnants of trees that didn’t quite make it through to spring.
And so it was that last weekend we woke to a glorious day, and ventured out to try out a trail that Lucy had spotted some time last year – the Flitch Way.
This route gets its name from the Flitch Trials, held in Dunmow every 4 years (and with a history that stretches back to the 12th century). Mentioned even in Chaucer, the Flitch Trials were a tradition started to celebrate the sanctity of marriage. A mock trial tests the marriage of couples who wish to be questioned, with full legal arguments and representation – on one side, a counsel for the couple; on the other, the prosecution – who represents the “Flitch”.
And this, of course, is how a tale of a muddy bike ride finds itself on this food-oriented blog.
A “flitch” is an entire side of pig, including the front and back legs – quite a portion of bacon! The couple (or couples) who can prove (under oath) to a jury of 12 unwed local residents that they have lived for a year and a day in married harmony get to take this very generous gift home.
So, back to our day out.
The Flitch Way forms part of the national cycle network route 16, and runs from Great Dunmow to Braintree along the trackbed of the old Braintree to Bishops Stortford line. This turned out to be pretty handy – we just had to get our bikes onto the train, hop off at the end of the line at Braintree, and cut through the car park to the start of the trail. We managed pretty good time on the trail, despite the huge number of dog walkers and the rather muddy conditions, but by the time we got to Little Dunmow we were very much ready for a break.
Luckily, there’s a nice little pub in the village that celebrates the Flitch Trials – named appropriately “The Flitch of Bacon”. Obviously popular with the locals, and indeed quite a crowd of walkers and cyclists mimicking our journey, we settled down for a quick drink and some food. With the day getting on, we then headed back the way we had come.
There are of course other places to stop off along the route – naturally, there are occasional small villages along the line. One old station has even been turned into a cafe/tea rooms. We didn’t stop, but it seemed popular!
The Flitch Way is definitely worth a walk, or a ride (we totted up about 15 miles from Braintree to Little Dunmow and back) – but perhaps wait until the ground has dried out a little! Better still, enter the trial next time it is held, in July 2016.