Sunday 20th January 2019
Time for the club's traditional ride to celebrate 'Wassail', and we were met with equally traditional January weather. Tim Newbery met up with John Ambler, John Rickett, Rob Whitworth and Bernie Hobill at the Meridian Leisure Centre. Super to see Mike Gray who was also able to join us on today's ride. Alan Hockham had promised to meet up with us en-route or at Skidbrooke to join the festivities.
Thermometers were consulted before we departed and a chilly minus one degree Celsius was reported. We were blessed however with cloud free conditions and crystal blue skies making the frost in the fields and grass verges glisten like millions of small diamonds.
Departing on St Bernard's Avenue, we turned east to follow the Louth Navigation to Keddington Corner, past Rushmoor Countrty Park (closed for the season) and onto the Cockerington's. We were pleased that the roads had either been well salted or dry and largely frost free. Light winds too made for a pleasant ride. A right fork at Elevens Greens took us through Howdales and were soon arriving at Skidbrooke with a small crowd having already gathered. Alan joined us moments after we arrived.
This was the Grimsby Morris Men's 37th annual Waes-hal. The Anglo-Saxon 'waes hael' means to be healthy, and Wassailing apple trees was thought to encourage a good crop. Traditionally there would be singing, dancing and drinking; frightening off the evil spirits whilst praising and toasting the 'Apple Gods'.
There was certainly a lot of noise being made by the Morris Men and there would soon be a procession around the trees, a toast to Pomona, the Goddess of Apples, the noise helping to frighten off the evil spirits and wake the sleeping trees. Pieces of cider-soaked toast were to be placed on the branches of the trees for the robins, the guardian spirits of the trees.
We had time to warm ourselves up with cups of steaming hot tea and coffee, and for some a mug of hot cider. We'll have to ask John Ambler if he enjoyed the cider (most of us crowded around to breathe in the alcoholic fumes). Time too to watch and listen as the Morris Men demonstrated their border dances and the Herring Gals their North West Morris.
Before the chill air could set in we departed for the short journey to Oasis fishing lakes and the cafe for welcome refreshments. We were pleased to see two fellow lady cyclists who we had met up on a previous ride.
After about an hour's friendly chat, John Rickett departed on a route back to Fotherby and it wasn't long before Alan bade farewell to return to Sutton on Sea. The remainder made their way to South Somercotes where Mike suggested we take a short break and look around St. Perter's Church, part of The Churches Conservation Trust.
South Somercotes is recorded in the Doomsday book, the name meaning 'huts in the summer'. These were perhaps shepherd's huts as the marshy ground wouldn't have been suitable for winter stock. Excepting Louth, the church spire is the only one in the area and St. Peter's is known as 'The Queen of the Marsh'. Local legend has it that it was built as a beacon for sailors, the church itself dating to around 1200.
At this point, following and enquiry from Mike, the group had an impromptu guess as to the current temperature. Guesses from three degrees by Tim to five degrees by Bernie. Berine was spot on! What does Tim know! Sadly no prize for the winner.
The last leg back to Louth went surprisingly quickly and with a check on Bernie's hands, we returned back to Louth having completed 25 miles. A longer ride for John and Alan. A splendid winter's ride and a healthy turnout of the club and we look forward to seeing those on other duties soon. Many thanks to all.