Sunday, 19 October 2014

19 Oct: Afternoon ride to West Wratting

Ray writes: We gathered at Brookside in bright afternoon sun; it was unseasonably warm today and most of us were back in shorts. Ian arrived just after 2pm with Julia and Flo, and we set off down Trumpington Road. We left Cambridge on the DNA path (photos below) and followed the cycle route through Sawston to Babraham where we crossed the footbridge to Abington before continuing on quiet roads to Linton. This is a well-ridden route for the club, but the first time for me in this direction.

On the DNA path (more photos at end)

We continued south-east to Bartlow before turning north and making a beeline for West Wratting, where the all-day riders had just arrived (and some were foregoing tea and heading straight back to Cambridge!) All of the afternoon group and the remains of the all-day ride enjoyed a satisfying tea before setting off for home.

Afternoon tea, West Wratting

Three riders turned left and took the direct route back, while the main group turned right to follow Ian on a more interesting route through Weston Colville and up to the Brinkley Road where we turned left to drop down into Six Mile Bottom. We regrouped just after crossing the main road, where Ian told us not to wait for him as he might have to stop to deal with a slow puncture. Nigel took the lead and we followed him to Stow cum Quy, Fen Ditton, and on into Cambridge, with riders peeling off along the way. This was a lovely ride on quiet roads, with plenty of autumn colours. I arrived home having covered 38 miles. Ray Miller

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CTC Cambridge at the Cambridge Freshers' Festival

Julia writes: Last week, CTC Cambridge took part in the Freshers' Festival, organised by the Cambridge University Students Union. The event was held in the Kelsey Kerridge Sports Centre and on Parker's Piece on Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th October.

With thousands of students expected to attend, it seemed a perfect opportunity to introduce young people to CTC as a national organisation, but in particular to the activities of our local group. Road racing and mountain biking are well catered for by other clubs in the city (the Cambridge University Cycling Club, for example), but touring or casual, sociable road riding is something not easily found in other clubs - and is of course the core of our local group activities.

The event was set to start at 9 am on the Tuesday morning, with registration opening at 8 am, so it was an early start for me. Having borrowed a gazebo from our neighbours and packed it, together with banners, posters, Cycle magazines and flyers, into the box of our cargo bike, I set off on what was a rather cloudy and cool morning. The forecast was for occasional showers and strong winds, and I hoped that we'd be able to set up our stall in the dry before the official start of the festival.

The organisation wasn't brilliant, I have to say, and it took some time and effort to find out what was where and how things were meant to work. I eventually managed to register, pick up our staff lanyards and find our designated spot on the “bike market” on Parker's piece, albeit somewhat later than I had expected. Tina, who had kindly volunteered to help me out during the morning, arrived just before 9 o'clock, and together we erected the gazebo, found a table and two chairs, fastened banners and posters in place and by 10 am were ready to go.

I had been worried about not being all set up by 9 am for the “official” start of the event, but I need not have been. It was very quiet initially - most students are not early birds, apparently! Simon Nuttal from the Cambridge Cycling Campaign seemed to have known this - he only arrived around 11 am to check out the situation, deciding that, as it was getting a bit busier by then, it would be worth setting up their stand next to ours.

We were situated between the stalls of the Cambridgeshire County Council, who informed about road safety and handed out free cycling maps and accessories, and various cycle shops showcasing their bikes. By late morning things livened up and we did get to chat to some of the people passing through the bike market area, introducing them to CTC, telling them about the rides we organise and encouraging them to join the club - at only £16 per year we feel that a student membership (link) is very good value for money, indeed! But it was not just students who stopped by to learn more about CTC - the event was open to parents and the general public, too.

A dull, cold and windy morning turned into a sunny and much more pleasant afternoon. There was live music and fun bikes to try out for entertainment, Outspoken's smoothie bike, a curry bus and a crepes van for refreshments, and the event developed something like a festival atmosphere at last.

Flo and Ian came back to help me pack up, and once everything was back in the cargo bike we had a look around the various attractions ourselves. Flo was most impressed with the big lorry that was parked next to our stall. It was open for people to get in and check out the high tech safety features on board modern HGVs, which should help to make those big vehicles less hazardous for cyclists - such as all-round cameras and automatic warning announcements.

Ian had a go on a Paper Bicycle (no, it's not made of paper), an Airnimal Joey folding bike and an Onderwater family tandem, while Flo and I enjoyed a test ride on the School Run Centre's teddy tricycle. I have to say I was rather impressed with the manoeuvrability of this vehicle, given its weight and size!

On Wednesday the event started an hour later, so Ian and I arrived at Parker's Piece around 10 am. We had four more helpers on the second day: Simon K, who had generously offered to volunteer the entire day and helped us set things up, Mike S, Bob B and Sue H. Together they manned our stall and - more importantly - actively approached people as they passed by.

As on the previous day we found that simply being present at the stall was not enough to get people interested, but when we walked up to them - armed with leaflets, magazines and a big smile - many reacted positively and some were very keen to find out more. Simon K developed an especially effective technique for stopping students in their tracks and getting them involved in a cycling conversation, and by midday we were running out of our local group leaflets. I dashed to the office to get a new stack printed and then had to go to work, so I left the others to carry on with the afternoon session.

In total we handed out around 100 leaflets and I would say it was a pretty successful event. Thanks again to all our volunteers who helped to make it happen! Julia Hochbach

19 Oct: All-day ride to Stradishall, Clare and West Wratting

Nigel writes: Today's ride started at 9.30am, an ominous reminder of the dark days to come since we'll be maintainign this new time throughout the winter. Today's however was far from wintry: a lovely autumn day with plenty of sunshine and quite warm despite a persistent south-westerly breeze. Our leader today was Andy, whose first act of leadership was to delegate to Rupert the task of piloting us through the local streets and paths of Cambridge east to Cherry Hinton and Fulbourn.

The Tins, Cambridge

With Andy resuming the role of leader we continued through the Wilbrahams to Six Mile Bottom and then up the long, gentle, climb to Brinkley. As is usual for the first stage of these rides, our progress was leisurely as we concentrated more on chatting to old friends than on going quickly.

Climbing from Six Mile Bottom to Brinkley

After Brinkley the road levelled off. Andy led us on to Great Bradley before turning towards Cowlinge.


A short time later we arrived at Adam's Cafe. This is advertised as being in Stradishall but is actually two miles to the west, on the A143 next to Highpoint Prison. This is one of those roadside cafes which on a Sunday morning is frequented by two rather different tribes ot road user: burly motorcyclists in heavy black leathers, tucking into huge fried breakfasts, and skinny cyclists sipping coffee and nibbling a biscuit. Already at the cafe were about eight members of the club who had made their own way there.

Morning coffee, Stradishall

After coffee about half the combined group turned back to Cambridge leaving about eight of us to continue on to lunch in Clare. We first retraced our steps to Cock and End before turning east to Farley Green before meeting the A143 once more near Stradishall crossroads. We followed the A143 for a few hundred yards before turning right to Denton and Hawkdon.

Half-way between Denton and Hawkedon we paused to re-group, and I took the opportunity to ride ahead to allow me to take a short break behind a tree before stopping in Hawkedon to wait for the others. I waited for ten minutes, decided the group must have taken a different route and so carried on to Clare on my own. In fact the others hadn't taken a different route: they had stopped for a puncture. But none of this mattered; I knew exactly where to go and enjoyed a quiet solo ride along the lovely narrow lanes from Hawkedon to Glemsford. From there I continued to Cavendish where I crossed the main road (into Essex) for a loop via Pentlow before arriving at Clare at about 1.15pm.

I was the first to arrive at the Bell Hotel so I ordered my baked potato and beans and sat down to wait for the others. After a while the other arrived and joined me.

After a late lunch we turned back north-west in the general direction of Cambridge. It was almost 2.30pm when we set off, directly into a headwind, so it was probably just as well that we didn't have far to go before our tea stop in West Wratting.

Andy led us a fairly direct route via Hundon, Barnardiston and Great Wratting and then across the great expanse of Wratting Common to West Wratting, where we stopped for a pre-booked tea at The Chestnut Tree. A few moments later we were joined the afternoon ride, led by Ian.

Afternoon tea, West Wratting

After a very pleasant fixed-price tea of sandwiches, cakes, tea and coffee we returned back to Cambridge. As usual the group fragmented somewhat with different people taking different routes. I joined Ian and most of the afternoon ride for a short loop via Weston Green and Weston Colville before a rapid descent to Six Mile Bottom.

I arrived back home at 5.40pm, having cycled 70 miles. With sunset still twenty minutes away, it was still bright, sunny and very mild. A great day's cycling on the last Sunday of British Summer Time.

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Thursday, 16 October 2014

16 Oct: Thursday ride to Saffron Walden and Great Yeldham

Edward writes: We were lucky again today with the weather, especially as there had been a lot of overnight rain. We were blessed with a mild morning, little wind, with a forecast which encouraged fifteen riders to the start in Hauxton. Today's ride leader was Richard and our route was to take us through Saffron Walden for coffee and Great Yeldham for lunch. As we were going to Saffron Walden, followed by a long stretch of 25 miles after coffee, it was natural that we should take a direct route, thus we went via Whittlesford, Duxford and Ickleton to arrive at the foot of Coploe Hill. As is our custom we paused at the summit to allow everybody to come together and of course the obligatory photo opportunity; the photos may be similar but at least they capture the changing seasons quite well.

Coploe Hill

After a short breather we got under way again and a few climbs and descents later we came into Saffron Walden having gone down Chestnut Avenue and past Audley End Mansion.

Coploe Hill

In contrast to last week we all sat outside on the patio at the Temeraire and enjoyed the warmth of the sun. After coffee a number returned home, including Sue, Yasmin, Greta and Mike B which gave a group of sixteen, including Doug, Craig and Martin who had joined us at coffee, to carry on to lunch. Getting out of Saffron Walden nearly always involves a climb and ours was on the road to Debden, another road with many undulations.


After Debden it was straight through to Thaxted and what little wind there was helped us along quite quickly.


We used Thaxted as another chance to regroup before setting off for Great Bardfield which we soon reached via Little Bardfield.

Great Bardfield

Soon after leaving Great Bardfield we joined the very pleasant, narrow lanes which lead to Shalford. It's always nice cycling through here even if today it was quite wet and muddy in places and giving way to the odd tractor or two and a refuse truck, but we still made it. A quick ride up to Shalford and we joined more narrow lanes and some of these were running with water so required careful riding as there was also mud but with care we got through safely and when we emerged onto more regular roads we turned for Blackmore End.

Blackmore End

Great Yeldham

We were now in territory not often, if at all, covered by our Thursday rides as we progressed to Toppesfield. Although this was the next village it took a long time to reach it, but who was worried, we were travelling through delightful countryside and everything seemed to combine to make this a particularly pleasant part of our trip. Eventually we did arrive in Toppesfield and now there were only two miles to Great Yeldham and the Waggon and Horses for the luncheon interval.
We were given a friendly welcome by the landlord and most of us had baguettes or jacket potatoes and this was all perfectly pleasant; those who had brought a packed lunch were able to sit out in the garden and enjoy the still warm sunshine. The pub certainly lived up to its billing as being cycle-friendly as the notice outside says.

Great Yeldham

About 2.30 pm it was time to leave and here Craig and Martin left us to make their own way home leaving a group of thirteen to set off for home through Tilbury Juxta Clare and Ashen followed by a descent to Stoke by Clare. We left the main road and headed for Kedington and this is climbing all the way and an specially steep climb at the start. From here we were able to look down on nearby Haverhill but we were enjoying delightful country lanes cycling through the ever changing fields as new crops form a sheen and oil seed rape is well on the way. We now circled round the east and north of Haverhill as we passed through Kedington, Great Wratting and Withersfield. After Withersfield we came to Wratting Common where Rupert, Adrian, Mike CC and Ian left us and the last nine went to West Wickham and Balsham where David M left us, and the descent down to Hildersham. The final leg of our journey took us along the new cycle way beside the A505 and the sound of roaring traffic again, Babraham, Sawston and Great Shelford. This left Andy to escort Sarah, Belinda and Sharon back to Hauxton where they would have completed 70 miles.

West Wickham

We arrived back at 5pm and our thanks to Richard for giving us such a splendid day out showing the value of researching the route and ride testing it beforehand. Another plus was we didn't lose anybody and nobody took it upon themselves to go ahead and take a wrong turning! Edward Elmer

Download GPS track (GPX).