Sunday, 29 March 2009

29 Mar: Afternoon ride to Langley Lower Green

Today is the first day of British Summer Time. For CTC Cambridge this means our Sunday rides change to their summer timetable. The morning ride starts half an hour earlier, at 9.00 am rather than 9.30am, and whilst our afternoon rides continue to start at 2.15pm, the booked tea stop for both the all-day and afternoon is moved half an hour later at 4.30pm to 5.00pm.

Today's tea stop was at The Bull, Langley Lower Green. This is about eighteen miles south of Cambridge making it one of our furthest regular tea places: a very appropriate choice to celebrate the first day in which we have an extra half hour's afternoon cycling and the prospect of a ride home in daylight for the first time since last autumn.

Despite a forecast of fine, sunny weather there were only five of us at Brookside for the afternoon ride: Jacob (today's leader), Mike Sl, Simon, Mike K and me. Jacob led us south out of Cambridge along the DNA path to Great and Little Shelfords and then along the B1368 to Newton. It was was sunny with a light breeze, and although this never turned into a headwind it was quite cold and I was glad to be wearing a windproof top.

From Newton we continued towards Fowlmere but on seeing a signpost advertising the Thriplow Daffodil Weekend we decided to make a diversion through the village, which was crowded with hundreds of festival-goers. This event is as much a village fete as an opportunity to admire flowers and we stopped to watch the Devils' Dyke Morris Men do their traditional thing with sticks and bells.

After picking our way carefully through the crowds we left Thriplow and continued to Fowlmere where we turned south towards Chrishall Grange and the gentle climb to Elmdon (below).

From Elmdon we continued south to Duddenhoe End, where our route became notably more narrow and intimate.

At this stage we were only a few miles from Langley but since it was still only 4.00pm Jacob led us on a loop through Arkesden (below), Wicken Bonhunt and Clavering. where we splashed through the ford.

When we arrived at The Bull at Langley Lower Green we found Mike St and Ian, the sole remnants of the all-day ride, and George and Peter who had come separately. The pub was unlocked for us just after we arrived and we entered to find tea laid out waiting for us.

After a relaxed and convivial tea (£4.50) we all headed back to Cambridge. I rode back with Simon and Ian through Langley Upper Green (where the road runs across the middle of the cricket pitch) , Duddenhoe End and Elmdon (again) and on to Ickleton. Then it was a smooth fast ride along the Cam valley to Duxford, Whittlesford and the Shelfords and along the DNA path once again to arrive back in Cambridge just before 7pm. It was still broad daylight.

Today's ride was the first long afternoon ride of the summer season. It's nice to think that it is still only March. Total mileage: 48 miles.

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29 Mar: Day ride to Barkway, Tye Green and Langley

Mike Stapleton writes: Sunday was a good day with light winds and reasonable temperatures. It was a vast improvement on the week before, which had been very windy.

The ride was led by Ian Wright and I think about five riders came with him from Brookside. I met them at Barkway golf club as did four others. It was quite a crowd - and there were a lot of golfers in the clubhouse too.

From the golf club Ian took us through Anstey and Little Hormead to Furneux Pelham. This was a lovely quiet ride except for a single motorist who hooted as he passed. We then went via Little Hadham (with its traffic lights that take forever to change) to Much Hadham and Tye Green, where we had lunch at the Prince of Wales. We met Tony and Sue and a number of Herts riders in the Pub.

I was surprised when five of our group went home at lunch time. It was perfect cycling weather though cloudy and cool. Ian and I did the first circuit this year around the east side of Hatfield Forest and Stansted Airport. It was really quiet on the road to Elsenham. It makes me think that the number of people using Stansted Airport has gone down a lot. Perhaps they won't build the second runway after all. It's is a shame that they are proposing to build it on beautiful open countryside which I love.

Then we went over the railway at Elsenham and checked that the small shop and snack bar were still open - which they were, though it is closed on Sunday afternoons. We had time to view the extraordinary bridge built in haste over the railway when the two young girls were killed crossing it a couple of years ago.

It was about this time that the sun came out and it warmed up a lot. We arrived at the Bull at Langley Lower Green about twenty to five where we met the afternoon riders and two others.

After tea the riders split up and I think most returned to Cambridge via Duxford.

Today was a very enjoyable spring ride with daffodils everywhere you looked. England may have its share of problems but the beauty of our countryside on a nice spring day takes some beating. Mike Stapleton.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Annual Dinner 2009

Mike Stapleton writes: The club's annual dinner was held last Saturday, 21st March, and was a great success. We went to a new venue, the Unicorn at Trumpington, which was excellent. We have used the room in the past as a clubroom but it has since been redecorated as a dining room and is really nice.

The meal itself was very good, with four courses and coffee for just £15. I had concerns that at such a good price, so near to Cambridge, the meal might not be very good. However I was wrong: it was one of the best meals we have had at any annual dinner venue. The service was also very good. We will certainly be going there again.

We had twenty-seven members on the night. Several arrived by bike, and others came by car. The occasion was, as usual, a great chance to get together and discuss all sorts of cycling-related matters. We dispensed with a presentation and speeches as experience has shown that they are not very popular.

The event was specifically to celebrate Peter Rowell's 80th birthday, but we also celebrated birthdays for Bob and George. We all were in good voice for the traditional rendition of "Happy Birthday to You," which we all joined in with great gusto. We had a traditional cake complete with candles. Averil added four candles that refused to go out even when all three birthday boys tried to blew them out. The cake was big enough for everyone to have a large piece and still have enough left over to send a couple of pieces to Geoff, our treasurer, who is not well. We sent him our good wishes and the Len Nice Trophy, which was awarded to him for his outstanding contribution to the club over the past year.

We finished off the evening with a short slide show from Mike and Peter. The slide show showed just a few slides from rides to Harling Road and the last two years Birthday Rides. The 2007 Birthday Ride was actually the Vic Skelton Birthday Rides which was very similar to the traditional CTC Birthday Rides. Mike tried to show a video of Sir Nigel Gresley, specially for Vic, but Peter's Projector refused to show it even though his laptop did.

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to the success of the event. The help I received took a lot of effort off my shoulders and allowed me to enjoy the evening. Mike Stapleton. Event Organiser.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

22 Mar: Day ride to Newmarket, Horringer and Stetchworth

With another warm and sunny in prospect we were expecting a good turnout for the day ride. However there were only five of us at Brookside: Averil, Mick, Bob, Tony and me. It was my turn to lead the ride so I took the group east out of Cambridge along the river to Fen Ditton and Quy.

We continued to Bottisham and Swaffham Bulbeck before turning right to Dullingham. It is seven miles from Swaffham Bulbeck to Dullingham along which the landscape changes gradually from flat and rather bleak fenland to the cosier, leafier land of horseracing, with grand stud farms and wide mown grass verges. A group of faster club cyclists passed us along the way and I tagged on behind them for a few minutes before dropping off to wait for the rest of my group.

At Dullingham we turned left towards Newmarket, where we stopped for coffee at the Golden Lion PH. Here we met Mike St and John T. This Wetherspoons pub was already busy with young drinkers enjoying 99p pints of beer, but I stuck to coffee which together with a blueberry muffin cost me a still-reasonable £1.99.

After coffee several people headed home at coffee, leaving four of us (Tony, Averil, Mike St and me) to continue to lunch. We climbed east out of Newmarket towards Moulton, with racecourses on both sides of the road. At Moulton I took a short diversion over its ancient packhorse bridge.

From Moulton we continued east to Gazeley, Barrow and Little Saxham until we got to the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds, with its huge sugar factory dominating the landscape in front of us. However instead of entering the town we turned right and dropped down to Horringer, a small village by the gates of Ixworth Hall.

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At Horringer we stopped at the Six Bells PH for lunch. When we called the pub earlier in the week they had warned us that they would be very busy serving Mothers' Day lunches and there might be a long wait for food. We therefore turned up carrying sandwiches, which they kindly allowed us to eat in the pub garden on condition that we purchased drinks. Pint of Orange and Soda £2.50.

The morning had been warm and sunny, with just a light breeze (and that was behind us), so sitting in the pub garden was very nice.

After lunch Tony left the group to ride directly home and I took the remaining three of us (Averil, Mike St and me) first east and then south, along a series of very quiet lanes through tiny places with names like Pinford End and Mickley Green. A navigation error on my part took us through Brockley rather than Hartest but this was of little consequence. Then we turned west towards Cambridge. This took us directly into a headwind which had picked up since lunchtime and was now quite fierce and which persisted for the rest of the day, making the remainder of the ride quite taxing. Nevertheless it stayed warm and bright.

On through Wickhambrook and Kirtling. The headwind had slowed us down and we were going to be slightly late for tea. At Woodditton, less than two miles from the tea stop at Stetchworth, Averil had a puncture. It was fixed quickly but when we arrived at the Marquess and Granby at Stetchworth we were almost 30 minutes late.

There were nine members already there: seven from the afternoon ride and two who had cycled there separately. However there were ample sandwiches and cakes left.

After tea (£4) we all cycled back to Cambridge. There was still a headwind, and riding against it all afternoon had clearly taken its toll as I was unable to keep up with the main group and rode back on my own through Dullingham (again), Six Mile Bottom, the Wilbrahams and Fulbourn.

Overall a fine day's cycling, though a surprisingly tiring afternoon. Total mileage a very satisfactory 76 miles.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

15 Mar: Afternoon ride to Connington

Today's ride was clearly going to be the warmest so far this year, with sunshine, light winds and a forecast of temperatures of up to 15C. So there was a healthy turnout of seven riders at Brookside this afternoon, with a couple of very welcome new faces.

As today's leader I led the group west out of Cambridge down Fen Causeway, across Lammas Land and along the Barton Road to Barton. Then we turned onto the very quiet B1046 through Comberton, across the Greenwich Meridian (marked by a stone plaque beside the road) and into Toft, where we turned made a short diversion past the church.

We rejoined the B1046 and followed it for a further mile or two before turning right into Bourn. This entails a very short climb and then a descent into the village, where we turned left into Caxton End, a tiny lane notable mainly for the presence of two fords along it. One was dry, but the other was very much wet: some of us rode through whilst others preferred the footbridge.

Then it was on past Bourn windmill to Caxton, and then Great Gransden. Just before Abbotsley we turned right and began our progress north towards the tea stop.

Ths took us through Croxton, across the busy A428 and to Graveley. No part of today's ride can be described as hilly but after crossing the A428 the landscape changed from gently undulating to flat as a pancake, so we made good progress to Hilton and Fenstanton before turning right to Connington and Tea at the White Swan.

Here we met the riders from the day ride as well as some other members who had come directly. On entering the pub the landlady ushered us into the restaurant where a particularly impressive spread of sandwiches and cakes was waiting for us (far more than we could all eat, and excellent value for £4 each).

After tea we headed back to Cambridge. We took the road south through Knapwell, joining the old A428 near Bourn Airfield. This took us through Hardwick and down Madingley Hill and then into Coton, finally entering Cambridge along the Coton Footpath.

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Today's ride was as expected the warmest so far this year, and several of us were trying out summer jackets, fingerless mitts and exposed knees for the first time since last Summer. The clocks go back in two weeks, so it was good to have this early reminder of the summer of cycling we have ahead. Total mileage: 40 miles.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

8 Mar: Afternoon ride to Fowlmere

This morning was fine and sunny, though rather windy, so I was looking forward to this afternoon's ride. However by 1.45pm heavy rain had arrived so I decided that staying at home was a more attractive option. By about 2.30pm, however, the rain had stopped and the weather brightened up.

I was beginning to regret my decision to stay at home when my mobile rang. It was Jacob, who had been delayed at home by a puncture and was trying to find out which direction the afternoon ride had taken. I said I wasn't with the ride but fancied getting out on my bike anyway, so we agreed to meet up on Mill Road and ride out to Fowlmere for tea.

It was nearly 3pm when we set out down Mill Road. Mike Sl. and David S had come along as well. Without any particular route in mind we headed down Mill Road and then along the Snakey Path to Cherry Hinton Hall. From there we climbed Lime Kiln Hill and then dropped down on the other side towards the Shelfords. After a short delay at the level crossing we carried on to Whittlesford and Duxford, where we turned on to Grange Road, the long straight road that overlooks the airfield.

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After having been quite bright the weather suddenly deteriorated sharply and it began to hail. We were now riding directly into a headwind, with sharp pieces of hail attacking our faces. It was quite unpleasant for several minutes until the hail relented and turned into rain.

Mike Sl stopped for a puncture somewhere along there and was never seen again (though Jacob phoned to check all was well). Meanwhile the rest of us continued to Fowlmere, taking a short cut along the A505 to save time. By now the rain had stopped and been replaced by bright sunshine, though it remained cold and windy.

At the Queen's Head at Fowlmere we met Mike St. and Adrian from the day ride as well as Steve, who had ridden out from Cambridge, making a total of six at tea. The official afternoon ride was nowhere to be seen: we presume the ride had been cancelled.

There were sandwiches and cakes sufficient for twice our number piled in front of us, but we all knew our duty to the club and tried to eat as many as we could. After admitting defeat we returned to our bikes and rode directly back to Cambridge along the B1368 and A10, with a detour through the Trumpington P&R on the way.

I was back home in Cambridge by 6.15pm. Total distance: 25 miles.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

1 Mar: Day ride to Malton, Old Warden and Gamlingay

We met at Brookside, Cambridge at 9.30am for what was expected to be the longest day ride of the year so far. It was dull and overcast, with patches of drizzle forecast though they never appeared. Mick led us to coffee at Malton Golf Club via a slightly unorthodox route via the Shelfords, Newton, Foxton, Barrington and Orwell. At coffee, where a few more riders were waiting , I enjoyed a cappucino and toasted teacake with jam for £2.25.

Then we continued to lunch at the Shuttleworth Air Museum at Old Warden. Mick took us via Meldreth, Bassingbourn, Litlington, Ashwell and Hinxworth, over the A1 and then on via Broom to Old Warden. My nut roast lunch was £6.25 though some over-priced drinks put the total cost up somewhat.

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After lunch the sun came out and it stayed bright for the rest of the day. We split into various groups, with some going directly home and others going directly to tea at Gamlingay. Four or five of us stuck with Mick who took us on a loop west to Cardington (past the airship hangars) and the Country Park on the edge of Bedford. There we joined the NCR51 cycle path which follows the course of a dismantled railway all the way back to Sandy, with a pleasant loop just before Danish Camp which took us along the river (below). We arrived at the Cock PH in Gamlingay at 4.35pm, five minutes late but at exactly the same time as the afternoon riders led by Jacob. After a splendid tea of sandwiches and cakes we all cycled directly back to Cambridge.

Total distance today was about 73 miles, the longest ride of the year so far.