Today started bright and sunny, with a cool westerly wind. The heatwave of the previous two or three weeks has definitely ended. Despite this, nearly a dozen riders were waiting at Brookside for the 9am start of today's day ride.
Today's leader was Mike Kenny. He led us east out of Cambridge, first across Parker's Piece and Midsummer Common to the river and then along the Jubilee Cycleway to Stourbridge Common, Ditton Meadows and eventually Quy. Just beyond Quy Church there we turned right towards the Wilbrahams and Six Mile Bottom. There we turned right onto the main road, crossed the railway and then turned left off the main road for the long climb (below) to West Wratting.
The wind was mostly behind us and we made good progress, though that didn't stop us complaining about how cold it was. The wind would remain our companion all day: a chilly tailwind on the way out and then a weary headwind on the way home. Fortunately the sun was never far away and there was never a risk of rain.
From West Wratting we dropped down via Streetley Hall to Horseheath and across the A1307 to Castle Camps, where we called in to the Castle Camps Saddlery. There had been a cafe here in years gone by, and although there wasn't one any more the proprietors were happy to supply us with cups of tea and coffee for 80p when we asked nicely.
After tea the majority of the group left to return home, leaving just four of us to continue to lunch. Mike K, Joseph, Averil and me. Mike took us a very quiet and pretty route via Helions Bumpstead and a loop south of Steeple Bumpstead to Stambourne and Toppesfield, where we found a small jumble sale (below) in operation in the middle of the village. We stopped for a few minutes; Averil spotted an elegant bag to add to her stylish collection, which Mike gallantly stowed in his pannier.
From there it was a short ride to Sible Hedingham where we found the While Lion PH. Most of us had brought sandwiches so when we discovered that they weren't serving food anyway we decided to eat our lunch in the churchyard of nearby St Peter's Church instead.
After lunch the group decreased in size once more, with Averil and Joseph deciding to return directly to Cambridge. This left just Mike and me. Our destination was Thurlow, about 12 miles to the north. We had about two and a half hours to spare before tea, so we headed east and the north in a big meandering loop through the lanes of north-east Essex and south Suffolk.
This took us through Great Maplestead (where we stopped to admire the village sign), Gestingthorpe and Belchamp Walther to Foxearth (and another fine village sign).
Then through Glemsford where our route began to turn to the west - and so into the wind. The lanes to Stansfield and Denston were quiet and pretty but our thoughts were beginning to be preoccupied by the wind, and the prospect of tea.
At Stradishall we joined the A143 for a short distance and then took a short diversion via Farley Green before rejoining the A143 near Highpoint Prison. The main road was actually very quiet (with a lovely smooth surface), but we turned off very soon for the final two miles to Little Thurlow. With something like 65 miles on the clock at this point we were a bit too tired to enjoy the journey, and were relieved to arrive for tea at The Cock PH only about ten minutes late. The afternoon ride were all there and tucking into yet another generous and fine tea.
After tea most of us returned to Cambridge the direct route via Carlton Green, Carlton, Brinkley and Six Mile Bottom and the reverse of our outbound route. With the wind still very much in evidence I was glad to be able to shelter behind the less tired afternoon riders on the way home.
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Total mileage: 87 miles.