Flying to Frinton with Stuart Wilks

Sep 16, 2020

It’s been a funny few months…

Like most, I’ve been riding solo almost without exception lately. But last month, had the opportunity to join five other riders on a trip to the Essex coast. Hurrah for the rule of six!

Heading from Chelmsford, our destination was Frinton. If you’re not familiar with the quiet coastal town, it is famous for the phrase, "Harwich for the continent, Frinton for the incontinent". Secured from the riff-raff by a set of railway level crossing gates, Frinton is known for its exclusive attitude and sleepy juxtaposition with brash (and perhaps slightly tired) neighbour, Clacton.

The group included an old friend, Carl, of leading construction and commercial barristers, 4 Pump Court. Carl had been trying to coordinate a ride for some time, so it was great to be able to get out on the road together at last.

Contrary to popular opinion, the wind isn’t always against you. Very rarely, you experience a ride in one direction where the tailwind is in your favour. (And if you’re like me, you cheat coming back, by using the train!). This was one such occasion, so it was a great run out to the seaside. 50 miles, propelled by a firm south-westerly breeze.

We won’t discuss the point at which I enthusiastically headed towards a ford, only to hear all too late the cries of, “DON’T GO THROUGH THE FORD!” I was doing quite well until I hit a ridge in the concrete base of the river crossing. An untimely dip in the river Ter quickly followed. Luckily only pride dented…

Our route took in a selection of quiet lanes and picturesque villages, with ancient, Saxon sounding names: Wickham Bishops, Layer de la Haye, Tolleshunt Knights, the list rolled on as we rolled through the lanes.

The sound of carbon running effortlessly, unhindered by headwind is a beautiful thing. Not without the occasional incline, the rolling countryside of Essex and its history provide a fascinating backdrop to many a ride for those of us based in that part of the world.

On the subject of inclines, Essex is often frowned upon for cycling as being too flat. Broadly speaking, flat it may be, but don’t let that put you off. The roads are great. Generally, the drivers are patient - far more patient than in Surrey or Kent (in my experience). Though we did come across one who hadn’t received that particular memo...

If you fancy this ride, the route is here: https://www.strava.com/activities/3949140399 . We had planned to take a ferry from East Mersea to Brightlingsea which would have added an extra element of fun / jeopardy. But the ferry was cancelled (due to that pesky virus of course). So we’ll have to save the voyage for another time…

A great thing about this little jaunt was that, except for Carl, everyone was new to me. The team included another clerk from a big set of commercial barristers and various folk from different walks of life. Whilst I do love riding with real estate and construction professionals, it's refreshing to vary the gene pool a little.

At work we’ve recently started working with one of the country’s leading barristers. This is not only fascinating, but one of our most challenging assignments to date. Running the social media and marketing for a high-profile figure is both exciting and terrifying. (As an example - google what happened when another well-known barrister in his wife’s kimono clubbed a fox to death and announced it on social media.)

The importance of discretion as well as balancing openness and honesty formed a centre point of our conversation. Being discreet is key to the role of a clerk. And no matter what your profession or role, the delicate balance of telling people who you’re working with / what you’re doing and ensuring those you support receive the level of privacy they expect can be a tricky path to tread…

If you’ve not been lucky enough to work with them, barristers’ clerks lead a fascinating life developing a vast network of contacts and supporting the advocates who are associated with their chambers. Every clerk knows that relationships are the lifeblood of their business.

Most businesses rely on trust and relationships, but for barristers this is heightened further, as each barrister is self-employed and very much reliant upon personal reputation. There are no designs, no examples of past projects or glossy photos. No renderings of streetscapes, just word of mouth, based on their work in court and personality.

As a result, most rely heavily upon the clerks and their network for their work. If anyone is ever in need of an example of how to do networking and business development, then you need look no further than your nearest barristers’ chambers clerk’s room!

On arrival in Frinton, we enjoyed some delightfully greasy sausage and chips courtesy of Carl and to our delight, a visit to his family beach hut on the seafront where some of the team were set for a dip in the North Sea. A great end to the ride before letting the train take the strain on the way back.


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