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.

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