Sunday, 28 June 2009

28 June: Day ride to Newmarket, Bury and Balsham

Today was expected to be hot but overcast with a risk of sporadic heavy showers. In the event it turned out to be hot, with periodic spells of sunshine, and dry. Leading the first stage of today's all-day ride was John Lumbers, who led half a dozen of us eastwards out of Cambridge taking the most direct route: Hills Road, Cherry Hinton Road and then Fulbourn Road to Fulbourn, which meant that we were very soon out in countryside on the way to Great Wilbraham. From there we continued to Little Wilbraham and the long road to Six Mile Bottom. There we turned right and set off up the long but gentle hill that leads past Wadlow Farm.

Half way up the hill we turned left, and John led us north past the peaceful Woodland Cemetery to Dullingham. From there we joined the B1061 for our final descent into Newmarket, which was fast and enjoyable. Our coffee stop at about 11.15am was at the National Horseracing Museum, where we met seven other members.

After coffee we split into two main groups. John turned back towards Cambridge with several others, whilst I led a group of six on to Bury St Edmunds. We left Newmarket along the Moulton Road, which is a long but pleasant climb with racecourses on both sides and fine views of the town behind us.

From Moulton we continued to Gazeley and Higham Upper Green before following a tiny lane to Barrow. From here the road leads directly to Bury. On the way we passed through the tiny village of Little Saxham, where I was very interested to see that the church there had a very striking Norman round tower.

When we reached Bury we headed straight for the Abbey Gardens, an attractive park with the abbey ruins in the centre. We wheeled our bikes into the park and settled down near the refreshment kiosk to eat our sandwiches.

After lunch the six of us split once more into two groups of three. Mike S led one group more or less directly to Balsham, whilst I led the remainder a more circuitous route. We headed south out of Bury towards Nowton and a meandering route that took us through Pinfold End and Mickey Green ending up eventually at Hartest. These lanes are always a favourite on club rides: quiet and intimate.

From Hartest we rode up the hill to the isolated hamlet of Someton which we inspected briefly (church nothing special) before descending again to Hawkedon. By now it was about 4.00pm and time to press on to tea so we stopped dawdling and continued through Dunston to Stradishall. Here we crossed the A143 and took a back-road diversion via Cock and End before returning to the A143. This was very quiet as we followed it for a mile or two past the two prisons, enjoying its exceptionally smooth surface. Soon we turned right towards Thurlow and we were back on tiny lanes once more.

Just beyond Thurlow, on the road to Carlton Green, we met the afternoon ride going in the opposite direction. "We're taking an extra loop" cried Jacob. From Carlton Green we took the road to West Wickham and the final descent and climb to Balsham, where we arrived at The Bell about ten minutes before the afternoon ride.

Also at tea was Mike S and several others who had gone there directly, making about fifteen in total. Another splendid tea and then a fast descent from Balsham back to Cambridge. Some people find the Balsham Road boring, but for me it is offset by the fact that even the level sections are fast. At Charterhouse Bridge over the A11 I reached 30mph and, even after the road levelled off, I was able my speed above 20mph all the way to Fulbourn. I arrived back in Cambridge at 6.40pm. On a hot day that was never so hot to be uncomfortable, my total mileage was 77 miles.

View this map (part-hand-drawn and part-GPS based) in a larger map

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