Sunday, 25 January 2015

25 Jan: Sunday ride to Saffron Walden and Langley

Nigel writes: We've had generally good weather for our Sunday rides so far this year (with just one exception), and today continued this trend, with a fine, mild day of clear skies, bright sunshine and a very light winds.

The promising conditions brought out a good turnout at Brookside at the start of today's ride, fifteen riders in all: Carl, Ian, Alex, Mike CC, John R, John E, Greg, Steve, Neil, Tom, Pete, Charlie, Rupert and Gareth, who was our leader today. As with other recent rides, it was good to see one or two new faces, and it was also good to see that some relatively new riders had come back for another ride.

On the busway, climbing the railway bridge to Addenbrooke's

On the busway, climbing the railway bridge to Addenbrooke's

Gareth led us south out of Cambridge along the busway to Addenbrooke's and along the DNA path to Great Shelford. After a short pause at the railway crossing we continued to Little Shelford and then south to Whittlesford.

At the Hill Farm Road/A505 junction near Whittlesford

We crossed over the A505 and continued through Duxford to Ickleton, where the group paused to regroup. It was clear there was a variety of speeds in the group so Rupert suggested we divide into two for the final few miles to our coffee stop in Saffron Walden. Rupert would lead a slightly slower group over Coploe Hill to Catmere End and then down Chestnut Avenue, past Audley End House, to Saffron Walden. Gareth would lead everyone else on a slightly longer route via Elmdon and Wendens Ambo. I rode with Gareth and we arrived at The Temeraire a few minutes after Rupert's group. Also in the pub were several members who had ridden there directly: Edward, Mick, Adrian, Vic, Joseph and Craig, making a total of 21 at coffee.

Prepeating to set off after coffee in Saffron Walden

Afterwards the group divided once more, with about half the total number heading back to Cambridge and the rest carrying on to lunch at Langley Lower Green. We didn't have very far to go so Gareth took us south along the Debden Road and then west through Newport to Clavering. It was now about 12.30pm, and the group divided once more, with Rupert leading the majority directly to lunch, leaving just Gareth and me to add in a very pleasant extra loop via Stocking Pelham and Brent Pelham. I think it's really good when our rides are big enough to be able to divide them in this way, as it means that everyone can have the type of ride that suits them best.

Gareth in the ford at Langley Lower Green

Our lunch stop today was The Bull in Langley Lower Green. This is a familar pub which we often pass on our rides and which used to be a regular tea stop. Our last visit was in March 2009 but since then it seems to have gone into decline. It's in an excellent location in an area that we frequently visit on our rides so we were delighted to discover recently that the pub is under new management and has started to serve light Sunday lunches. Our visit didn't disappoint: the service was friendly and efficient and the food (I had a baked potato) was just right for cyclists on a bike ride. I'm sure we'll be back before long, not only for lunch but perhaps in the summer for a pre-arranged tea.

Preparing to set off after lunch in Langley Lower Green

After lunch we set off back to Cambridge. With sun was still shining in a clear sky, and hardly any wind, it felt very mild and the ride back was a delight. The first two miles took us north to Little Chishill before dropping down to Shaftenhoe End. This is one of my favourite local lanes and was as pleasant as ever.

Little Chishill

At Shaftenhoe End we turned right and climbed up to Great Chishill before dropping down again on the long, straight, road down to Flint Cross.

Descending from Great Chishill towards Flint Cross

At Flint Cross we turned onto the B1368, crossed the A505 and continued along the B1368 through Fowlmere to Newton. With a gentle tailwind we made rapid progress.

Speeding along at the front along what is a rather dull road,  Gareth and I demonstrated to Alex the benefits of cooperative drafting: by taking turns to lead at the front, we were able to maintain a faster pace (about 20mph with a tailwind) for longer than we would have been able to maintain individually. We're not a racing club, and high-speed drafting is not an important part of what we do, but it can be fun to do from time to time.

Waiting to join the B1368 at Flint Cross

We paused at Newton to allow the rest of the group to catch up and then continued on at a gentler pace to Harston. We turned onto the A10, using the bumpy pavement cycleway for the short distance to Hauxton Mill Bridge. There we turned onto the new path that leads through the Trumpington Meadows development site, over the M11, and back to the main road near the Park and Ride.  We joined the busway and a few minutes later were by the station in the middle of Cambridge. I arrived home at 3.45pm, having cycled 56 miles.



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Thursday, 22 January 2015

22 Jan: Thursday ride to Cambourne and St Neots

Edward writes: A cold, raw morning greeted the twenty riders who assembled at Haslingfield Green for our ride out to St. Neots taking in Cambourne en route.

Today we were to be led by John F and as part of his leadership duties he provided us with a route for the ride which, of course, is very useful for anybody who may become separated from the main group.

Comberton

We left Haslingfield under the leaden sky which was to prevail for most of the day with a temperature which rose from 2 degrees to a positively balmy 5 degrees later in the day. We went through Harlton and onto Washpit Lane to find the road was covered in mud as we passed the farm and then it became cleaner as we ran up to the A603 for the turning into Comberton.

Hardwick

Although it was cold there was hardly any wind as we arrived in Comberton and on the way in spotted some daffodils making an early appearance. Spring is next! We turned out of Comberton for the long climb up to Hardwick where we turned to go along the St Neots old road and finally into Cambourne for coffee. Although Morrisons was the designated stop quite a few chose to go into the nearby cafe of Green's instead. At coffee we were joined by Ian W, Mike B, Eva, Sarah and Andy, although, as usual, several returned home after the break.

Cambourne

We left Cambourne, over the A428, and headed into the country and here it felt particularly cold as we approached Elsworth. Although cold and not much colour about the wintry scene still has its attractions.


Elsworth

We left Elsworth and reached the B1040 for the road into Hilton and then, after crossing the A1198, on to the beautifully surfaced road to Graveley where the giant wind turbines loom large over the village. After climbing out of Graveley we headed down to Offord D'Arcy where we turned from going almost due west to almost due south as we rode along side the River Great Ouse and the East Coast Main Line. This took us through Great Paxton and soon after we ran into the environs of St. Neots, today's destination for lunch at the Ambiance Cafe. Thursday is Market day in St Neots making it quite a tricky process to weave our way through all the traffic.

St Neots

St Neots

As usual those with sandwiches sat outside and were warmed for brief seconds as the sun tried its best to make an appearance, but everyone soon went inside for a hot drink. After lunch at 1.30 pm we said goodbye to those making their separate ways home and the remaining thirteen headed off over the meadows and housing estates in order to get to the Abbotsley road. After two miles we reached Abbotsley and then on to Great Gransden and now into familiar territory as we headed easterly towards Caxton and Bourn.

Caxton

Bourn

Next it was Toft, Comberton and Barton where we brought the ride to an end at the Coton roundabout to enable people to take their own routes home, the time being 3.30 pm.

Toft

This gave us a round trip since leaving Haslingfield of 48 miles, just right for a winter's ride and our thanks to John for once again giving us such a good day out. Edward Elmer



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Sunday, 18 January 2015

18 Jan: Sunday ride to Melbourn and Gamlingay

Nigel writes: Today was a beautiful winter's day, with the early cloud soon disappearing to be replaced by clear skies and bright sunshine. Despite relatively low temperatures, starting at 2C and rising to 4C in the afternoon, there was very little wind making it really rather pleasant.

I turned up at Brookside to find seven other riders waiting: Eva, Alex, Greg, Mike CC, Yvette, Tom and Clare. There was no designated leader today, but Mike had prepared a route and offered to lead.

On the busway south of Cambridge

We set off south from Brookside, following our usual route down to the busway, Addenbrooke's and the DNA path to Great Shelford.

On the busway, turning towards Addenbrookes

We continued south, following NCR 11 to Stapleford and Sawston. As usual, the pace was leisurely and the atmosphere sociable, and the fact that most of this route was along cycle paths made it easy for people to chat to other riders as we rode along.

Crossing the Sawston by-pass

When we reached the centre of Sawston we turned west, crossed over the Sawston By-pass and joined the relatively new cycle path that leads across the river and through some farmland to Whittlesford.

Crossing the Cam between Sawston and Whittlesford

Just beyond Whittlesford the cry of "puncture" was heard and we stopped to allow Alex to remove his wheel, find a thorn and and replace an inner tube. This ceremony took place on a pleasant triangle of grass but it was quite cold and I was relieved when we were able to get going once again.

Alex mends a punchure near Whittlesford

We turned north-west towards Newton and then south along the B1368 towards Fowlmere. We were just beyond Newton when Mike looked around and asked "where are Yvette and Greg"? I went back to find them, and after a few minutes found Yvette mending a puncture with Greg offering the usual encouragement. After a few minutes we were soon on our way. The three of us rode on through Newton and Fowlmere, arriving at Philimore Garden Centre on the northern edge of Melbourn at the rather late time of 11.30am. As we arrived Adrian, Joseph, Mick and Vic were leaving.

We entered the cafe to find Mike and the rest of our group already there, together with Sue who had made her own way there.

After a pleasant and warming half hour in the cafe it was time to be on our way again, with Mike, Alex and me carrying onto lunch in Gamlingay (joined by Sue as far as Orwell) and the others returning back to Cambridge.

We were now running quite late so Mike led us on a direct but very pleasant route to lunch, through Shepreth, Malton and Orwell to Wimpole Hall and from there through Arrington, Croydon and the Hatleys to Gamlingay. We arrived at Woodview Farm Cafe (which is on the main road about a mile south of Gamlingay) at about 1.30pm. Adrian and Joseph were already there. Jerry B was there with his family on the next table.

This was my first visit to Woodview Farm Cafe and it was very pleasant, following the usual pattern of a cafe and farm shop and offering a good range of light sandwiches, paninis and cakes.

Woodview Farm Cafe, Gamlingay

The service was fast and efficient but we were feeling in a leisurely mood and it was approaching 3pm when we left the cafe and prepared to set off for home. I rode back to Cambridge with Alex, via Waresley, Great Gransden, Caxton and the B1046 to Cambridge. We reached the outskirts of Cambridge at 4.20pm just as the sun was setting, but since the sky was completely free of clouds it still seemed quite light. I arrived home at 4.30pm, having cycled 52 miles.



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Thursday, 15 January 2015

15 Jan: Thursday ride to Ickleton and Debden

Edward writes: This morning, at Hauxton Green, eighteen members met in decidedly fresh conditions, but under a clear blue sky, and this morning we welcomed Charlie who was making his debut with us.

Today's leader was Mike C who, along with Adrian, share an encyclopedic knowledge of the byways of South Cambridgeshire and neighbouring Essex and Suffolk.

The start at Hauxton Green

Even Mike couldn't surprise as we left Hauxton for a routine run through to Whittlesford and then on to Newton. Newton became Thriplow and then Fowlmere where the increasing strength of the wind was felt at full face on.

Chrishall Grange

Chrishall Grange

Chrishall Grange

We came to the A505 followed by more face wind as we rode up to Chrishall Grange. We followed the Elmdon road but branched off to head for Ickleton Grange which, once reached, put the wind on our back and being slightly downhill we made pleasantly rapid progress into Ickleton and thence to the Riverside Barns for the first break of the day. At coffee we were joined by Vic F and Sue, both of whom had cycled out independently.

It was very cozy inside the little cafe, in some contrast to the temperature outside. After our break there were the usual comings and goings but this still left fourteen to proceed to lunch.

Ickleton

Ickleton (Photo: Charlie Drew)

We used the concrete farm track to obtain the road going up Coploe Hill and although some had stopped at our usual regrouping spot the break was brief and we pressed on and took the turning down to Littlebury. This road goes past the bluebell woods which are such a wonderful sight in the spring. We reached Littlebury and crossed over the B1383 and headed up to Windmill Hill for the climb and descent into Saffron Walden and then exited the town along Ashdon Road. When we reached the top of the hill we turned towards Sewards End, into Newhouse Lane and then turning towards Radwinter and once again into the wind.

Water Lane, Radwinter

Water Lane, Radwinter

When we had passed through Radwinter we turned into Water Lane which today was very appropriately named as both the fords were in full flow. After crossing the second ford Averil had a puncture which delayed the small group at the back by about 15 minutes; punctures couldn't come as a major shock as we saw a lot of hedge trimming in progress. Luckily we were only two of three miles from our lunch stop and we finally got there at about 1.45 pm.

Debden Barns is a nice place but not appropriate for a group of cyclists as some had to wait an hour for their lunch and thus we didn't leave until almost 3 pm. In fact some of our group went to the shop at Carver Barracks to buy something there and, as it was, the first seven who were ready to leave left at least half an hour before the final seven were ready to leave.

When it was time to go we had to fix a puncture in Charlie's bike but this only took a few minutes (Mike was on hand this time!) Over towards Newport the sky was rapidly turning black and with it the wind got stronger and colder. When we finally ran into the mini-tempest it was like needles being driven into our faces as we rode through hail and the wind blew hard making it difficult to hold a line on the road. When we got to Newport Mike abandoned the planned trip through Wicken Bonhunt and Arkesden and instead we stayed on the B1383 out of Newport and up to Wendens Ambo. At least now the wind was mostly behind coming over our left shoulders from an 8 o'clock direction, and this was a good thing as we had to make the long climb up to Littlebury Green. The roads, of course, were now very wet which were already filthy from all the farm traffic moving the sugar beet harvest. By now the temperature had dropped and the cold started to make itself felt. We reached Catmere End and once again onto Coploe Hill for the two miles into Ickleton and then onto Duxford.

Catmere End

This brought us to the A505 which was incredibly busy and it was ages before we could find a gap to get across. This just left us with Whittlesford and Little Shelford before finishing the ride in Great Shelford at 4.30pm and 51 miles.

This was a typical winter's ride with strong winds, sunshine and a hailstorm but for all that still very enjoyable for which we have to thank Mike for such an excellent ride. Edward Elmer



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