Monday, 31 August 2009

30 Aug: Day ride to the Mildenhall Rally

Mike Stapleton writes: Sunday's day ride to Mildenhall was led by Joan, who led the ride out over the cycle bridge by the station so I could take a movie of the club riding out of Cambridge. Joan continued to Fulbourn where I tried to get another shot, but unfortunately this didn't quite work as I thought they would come up the main street but instead followed me over the hill so the first I knew about them was hearing them coming up behind me - and with the sun behind them.

Joan took us out through Bottisham, Swaffham Bulbeck and Swaffham Prior to Reach where we had coffee under the spreading chestnut tree. There were lots of chestnuts on it, which surprised me as I thought the chestnut trees were all sick. After coffee we wended our way to Exning so we could take the little roads to Freckenham. One of them has a little hump backed bridge that looks as though it was old but in fact it was rebuilt some years ago.

We arrived at Mildenhall at midday to the sounds of commentary from the school area where the rally is held. There was the usual huge gathering of cyclists, event riders and of course the trade tents for which some of us made a beeline. There were all the usual stalls with hot dogs and the cafeteria which were all doing a roaring trade.

Wherever we turned we found old friends you we had last seen years ago. A whole lot of club members appeared – even Ray from Barrow who was there on his trike. Ray said it was his first time out this year. Then George Stevenson and Geoff arrived, followed by Bob and Myrtle and then Simon Proven, fresh from riding the 300km the day before. We also saw Malcolm and Gwen. If I've missed anyone out please accept my apologies. It was great to see you all.

Then there were the rides. The kieran was in full swing when we arrived and later I watched the bicycle ring race. I videoed the latter ride which was a masterpeice of cheating, much to the amusement of all concerned. Even the crowd joined in by placing tyres in the ring for riders who could not find a ring. There were several pairs in rings at the start but eventually the Marshalls weeded them out. I think Pete Whelan won and sang the traditional rainbow song quite well at the end!

Then we had to head home. Adrian and I got left behind - which was just as well as we were both tired and it was much easier to ride at our own pace against the steady breeze. We arrived at Anglesey Abbey in time for tea with the rest of the gang which we enjoyed out on the grass under an umbrella. There was a spot of rain during tea so we moved in under the umbrella. By the time we were ready to leave it had dried up so the ride back to Cambridge was reasonably pleasant, if a little windy. I truly great day was had by all. Many thanks to Joan for leading us. Mike Stapleton.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

30 Aug: Afternoon ride to Wicken Fen

There was a definite end of summer feel to the weather on this August Bank Holiday weekend: dry but cool, and a brisk wind. With tea not too far away at Wicken Fen, our leader Jacob said that today's ride would be a bit of a "pootle".

After leaving Brookside, Jacob led us across Parker's Piece along the familiar route towards the river. However, to our surprise, he then took us down Melbourne Place and round the back of the Grafton Centre before crossing Newmarket Road and taking us onto Midsummer Common.

After following the river for a short distance we reached the Green Dragon bridge, where we crossed over and switched to the path along the north side of the river which we followed to Bait's Bite Lock and beyond it to Clayhithe. Here we joined the road and turned back towards Cambridge for a short distance before turning off onto a bridleway towards Lode, in an interesting alternative to the route that we took on 16th August. The bridleway had a rather loose gravel surface but was otherwise perfectly cycleable.

After a while we crossed the old railway line to Mildenhall which we followed to Lode. This section of railway line is owned by the National Trust and is a permissive footpath, though we know the NT want to develop this route as a cycle route.

When we reached Lode we turned left towards the fens. After a short while we turned right into White Fen Drove. This took us onto White Fen proper and the bridge over Bottisham Lode that we visited earlier this month. After crossing the lode we followed the road north to Upware.

A few miles north of Upware we reached the A1123. However, instead of turning right towards Wicken, Jacob took us onto a short section of rough bridleway that took us onto the road (part of NCR 11) that runs parallel to it. This took us east to Wicken.

At Wicken Fen we stopped at the cafe, where we met George and some others who had arrived by car, and sat outside eating rather overpriced tea and cakes whilst swatting away the wasps.

After tea we headed back to Cambridge, into quite a fierce headwind. We followed NCR 11 back to Burwell before joining the B1102 road to Swaffhams Prior and Bulbeck. From there Jacob and Mike continued along the main road to Lode and Quy whilst I led a small breakaway group along the longer but quieter route via Bottisham. We were back in Cambridge at about 6.45pm, with a total mileage a relatively modest 35 miles.

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Saturday, 29 August 2009

Cycle routes in South Cambridgeshire - CTC Comments

Cambridge CTC has published its comments on the current consultation on various cycleways proposed for South Cambridgeshire.

You can find our comments and suggestions on the Right to Ride page.

29 Aug: Mildenhall 100km Audax

Ian D and I got up early and drove to Mildenhall for this annual event organised by Suffolk CTC as part of the Mildenhall Cycle Rally. We arrived at Mildenhall Upper School just after 8am for a 9am start giving us plenty of time to obtain our brevet card and eat breakfast with the campers in the school dining room.

We departed slightly early at 8.50am on a route that rook us south towards Worlington and Red Lodge. Although it was bright it was still quite cool, with a noticeable breeze pushing us along, though we soon warmed up and before long the day became warm and sunny.

This was my second Audax ride ever. For those unfamilar with this type of event, an Audax ride is not a race. You're given a route sheet which you follow at your own pace. There is a time limit but it's an undemanding one, and we were able to complete the course with hours to spare. There are checkpoints along the route where your "brevet cards" are signed or stamped.

After crossing the A11 the route shown on our route cards took us east to Herringswell and Tuddenham before turning south for a long loop to the south-east. At some point we were overtaken by a large group from the West Suffolk Wheelers, and I tagged on to the back, increasing my pace a little to keep up. This cheerful and sociable group remained my companions and pace-setters for the rest of the ride.

After skirting Bury St Edmunds (home base of the West Suffolk Wheelers) we continued south through the lovely intimate countryside that we occasionally visit on club day rides (most recently on 26th June). This took us through Hawstead and Stanningfield after which we joined the main road into the beautiful and historic town of Lavenham.

A few miles beyond Lavenham we arrived at the rather unbeautiful and non-historic Acton Place Industrial Estate, where we had our brevet cards signed before going into Wally's Cafe to order mugs of tea (and, in some cases, a large fried breakfast). By now it was about 11.15am, and with a tailwind I had averaged 16mph. Ian arrived about five minutes after I did.

After a half-hour break I spotted the West Suffolk Wheelers preparing to departed, and I did the same. From here our route turned west, into the wind which slowed us down considerably; I was glad to be able to shelter in the middle of a large pelaton.

Just south of Clare we reached another control point at about 12.30pm and paused briefly to enjoy the free squash and biscuits. Then we turned north towards Mildenhall, still over 20 miles away.

We rode through Clare and a series of villages familiar from club day rides: Poslingford, Stansfield, Denston, Wickambrook and Gazeley, where a sign said we were only 4 miles from Newmarket. We ignored the sign and continued north, back to Red Lodge and retraced our ourbound track to Mildenhall, where we arrived at 2.10pm;

By now the cycle rally was in full swing and I sat in the sun watching the grass track racing and eating my lunch.

After a short while Ian joined me, after having ridden the second half of the ride at a pace that had allowed him to appreciate the countyside in a way that perhaps I had not from my exhilarating vantage point in the middle of a fast-moving pelaton. Overall my moving average speed was 15.1 mph, over a total distance of 67 miles. No doubt this ride will be repeated next year; I'd happily recommend it.

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If you'd like to try a 100km Audax, why not come along to the "Cambridge Randonee", organised by Cambridge CTC on Sunday 27th September. This departs from Hauxton Village Hall at 10am. Details on the Audax UK website or contact Simom Proven on 01223 719550. Advanced entry recommended; if not please arrive at least 30 mins early to register.

Friday, 28 August 2009

25 Aug: Senior Cyclists' ride to Thurlow

Peter Rowell writes: We started at the Newmarket Road Park & Ride Site, making our way by the National Cycle Route 51 to the Wilbraham turning, carrying on to Six Mile Bottom, where we stopped for coffee at the recreation ground.

We continued on the road towards Newmarket, turning off at the unsurfaced road to Westley Bottom level crossing. From there we continued on to Westley Waterless on a surfaced road. Onward to the Dullingham to Brinkley road to Brinkley, Carlton and Carlton Green, where we turned left for Little Thurlow and a very good lunch at The Cock.

After Lunch we rode back to Carlton Green where we turned left and right for Weston Colville. From there to Six Mile Bottom via the West Wratting road and the same route back to the Park and Ride. This was a round trip of 32.8 miles. Peter Rowell.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Cycle routes in South Cambridgeshire - Public meetings

Exhibitions are taking place this week to allow the public to view plans and comment on the following cycle routes:

• B1049 improvements (including Cottenham, Histon and Impington)
• Fen Ditton to Horningsea
• Harston to Trumpington
• Milton to Impington

For more information see here.

Campaigners from CTC Cambridge will be attending the final meeting at Fen Ditton Church Hall on Mon 7th Sept between 4.30 and 7.30pm to make their views known. Do some and join us!

The full schedue of meetings is:

Mon 24 Aug - 4.30-7.30pm
Histon and Impington Recreation Centre (Pavilion)

Tue 25 Aug - 4.30-7.30pm
Horningsea Village Hall

Wed 26 Aug - 4.30-7.30pm
Cottenham Village College

Thu 27 Aug - 4.30-7.30pm
Harston Village Hall

Tue 1 Sep - 4.30-7.30pm
Milton Bowls Pavilion

Thu 3 Sep - 4.30-7.30pm
Histon and Impington Recreation Centre (Pavilion)

Mon 7 Sep - 4.30-7.30pm
Fen Ditton Church Hall

Monday, 24 August 2009

23 Aug: Day ride to Newport, Hatfield Forest and Balsham

Mike Stapleton writes: Today's ride to Hatfield Forest went via a coffee stop we hadn't visted before - Saggers Garden Centre in Newport. This garden centre is quite unusual in that it is at the back of one of the shops on the High Street and has a do-it-yourself tea room with space for just six people. The cakes are home made and it has filter coffee. It has a glorious view over the centre's garden which stretches down to the railway and contains all sorts of ornamental arches, statues and of course shrubs.

After coffee we headed out along the road where all the cycle club quarters are located. We passed through the bridge under the railway which has a very sharp turn where cars are supposed to hoot. Then on to Henham which is a lovely village with a green and a village pond. This leads to the tiny road past Cherry Green, with its surprisingly steep hill which always catches me out - I had to push hard up the last bit.

Then on to Broxted and the various Ends that make up the village and the road to Molehill Green. Molehill Green is famous for being the centre of the battle to stop the expansion of Stansted Airport. Personally, I suspect this will be put on hold for several years due to declining usage of the airport. If this happens it will be good news for cycling as the expanded airport would spoil some lovely countryside that we often ride through.

We carried on through Takeley to Hatfield Forest. This is an ancient area of woodland which used to be a royal hunting forest. It is now managed by the National Trust so there is free access for cyclists. The centrepiece of the forest is the lake and visitor centre, which has a handy cafeteria. We ended up by the lake where we ate our sandwiches and watched the wildlife. Much to our surprise we spotted a pair of terns perched on a log on the other side of the lake. It was so pleasant there that we stayed until half past two. Since we had to go a fair distance to go to tea we had to hurry.

On the way we went through Thaxted and could not resist stopping for tea at Poppy's Tea Shop on Fishmarket Hill. Poppy's is a lovely tea shop that I highly recommend. They have all sorts of tea and serve lovely cold drinks like ginger beer - just what you need on a hot afternoon. They also have fancy cakes and scones but all we wanted were drinks.

From Thaxted we continued on to tea, riding directly to Saffron Walden along the B184 to save time. We usually avoid the B184 as it is bit busy but today this was a good ride with a following breeze which speeded us along the way. After Saffron Walden we took the B1052, which took is up a long hill which was relatively easy with the wind behind before dropping down into Linton and climbing back up again to Balsham and tea at the Bell.

The Bell did us proud as usual. We had fourteen for tea which was a great relief as there were only two at five o'clock and we feared we might be under numbers. We always get a great welcome from the publican who is usually to be found at the bar. This is real English pub - and just to cap it all we heard that England had won the Test Match and that an English rider had won the Tour of Ireland. Mike Stapleton.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

23 Aug: Afternoon ride to Balsham

Another hot August afternoon brought out seven riders at Brookside for our ride to Balsham. It was my turn to lead the group. We took what is probably the most relaxing route out of Cambridge - across Parker's Piece, along Clarendon Street to Midsummer Common and along the river to Stourbridge Common, where cattle was reclining alarmingly close to the path. After crossing Ditton Meadows we turned onto the Wadloes path to Fen Ditton from where we took High Ditch Road to Quy church. As we rode along we noticed that despite the warm weather it was quite breezy, with a blustery wind from the south.

After following the cycle track along the A1303 for a mile we turned right onto the long straight road that leads to Six Mile Bottom. After a couple of miles Jacob left the group for an off-road detour whilst the rest of us continued to Six Mile Bottom where we turned left onto the main A1304. We followed this for a mile (it's wide and not very busy) before turning right onto the unsurfaced road that leads to the level crossing at Westley Bottom.

After waiting at the crossing for a minute or two Jacob rejoined us and we continued along the lovely narrow lane on the other side that leads gradually up to Westley Bottom, with only a short interruption along the way for Simon F to fix a puncture.

After a short while we were in Brinkey and the road to Carlton. We were heading south now and into the direct force of the wind.

After passing through Carlton we turned left at Carlton Green onto the narrow lane that took us to Little Thurlow. After riding the short distance from Little Thurlow to Great Thurlow we turned right onto the road to Withersfield. This is a short climb followed by a steep descent into the village. Another right turn took us onto the road towards West Wratting. This is another short climb that takes you up onto the plateau that was once the site of a wartime airfield. At the crossroads in the middle of the plateau we turned left to West Wickham and a short final descent and ascent to Balsham where we stopped for tea at The Bell.

Waiting at the pub were George, Peter and Steve who had ridden there directly. After a while Averil, Tom and Mike from the day ride arrived and we enjoyed another substantial tea, with plates laden with well-made sandwiches and a huge array of cakes and biscuits.

After tea, and with only ten miles back to Cambridge, there seemed to be no urge to hurry home and so five of us took a longer route back to allow us to enjoy the gorgeous early evening sunshine. At Mike K's suggestion we took a route north to West Wratting and then left onto the minor road that took us past the woodland cemetery to Dullingham. Then left over the level crossing and the long road past the Polo ground to Swaffham Bulbeck. From there we followed the familiar NCR51 route back into Cambridge. This took is through Bottisham, past Quy Church again, through the Park and Ride site, across Ditton Meadows and finally along the river into the city centre. I was home by about 7.45pm, after riding 48 miles on this lovely hot, sunny and breezy day.

View this part-GPS, part-manually-constructed track on a larger map

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Updated rides lists for August and September

The rides lists for August and September have been updated, with amended tea stops on Sunday 23rd August and Sunday 6th September.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

16 Aug: Afternoon ride to Great Wilbraham

I counted eleven riders at Brookside at the start of this afternoon's ride but no sooner had we started than some latecomers arrived and we were fifteen, making this probably the biggest Sunday afternoon ride this year. As might well be expected for a hot, Sunny afternoon in August.

Our leader today was Gareth. Since our tea stop today was to be in Great Wilbraham, only a few miles from Cambridge, there was no need to rush off to cover long distances and instead Gareth took us on an unusual and most interesting route along some unfamiliar roads and tracks close to home.

Gareth led us across Parker's Piece and onto Midsummer Common. After following the south side of the river for a few minutes we crossed over the new cycle bridge and through Chesterton before returning to the river by the Penny Ferry pub. Here we joined the riverside path which we followed all the way to Bait's Bite Lock near Milton.

At the lock (photos above) we crossed over the river, carrying our bikes up the steps at the footbridge, and followed the path east which widens to an elegant avenue leading us up to the main Horningsea Road (note that this is not a right of way). I thought for a moment that we were going to have to ride along this busy road but no, Gareth led us straight across onto a further path (technically a byway) which continued east for about a mile before turning south to drop us down to High Ditch Road. On the way we crossed the dismantled railway (which we wished was legal to ride on) and over the bridge (photo below) across the A14.

View this GPS track in a larger map

It was nice to be back on tarmac. We continued east to Quy and along the cycle path beside the A1303 before turning left to Bottisham and left again to Lode.

We rode through the village of Lode. A mile beyond the village we turned right onto White Fen Droveway, nice and smooth with a new tarmac surface. After a short while this turned into a less smooth but perfectly acceptable new path (below) across White Fen (now owned by the National Trust) and the new cycle bridge over Bottisham Lode.

From there we followed a series of tiny fen roads for a couple of miles. We could have followed these roads all the way to Reach but in the spirit of exploration Gareth took us along a section of bumpy but dry byway (below) for about a mile. This was quite rough and slowed us down somewhat but before long we were in the village of Reach. This path was well worth trying out but next time we would probably stay on the road.

View this GPS track in a larger map

From Reach the route was all on tarmac (probably to our relief at this stage), back through the Swaffhams and Bottisham before crossing over the A1303 to the Wilbrahams.

At Great Wilbraham we rode through the elegant grounds of Wilbraham Temple before stopping for tea at Stable Cottage.

At tea we met Geoff our host and several others who had made their own way there. After a few minutes the day ride arrived, making this easily the largest tea stop of the year. And no wonder, since Geoff and Pam had laid out a fine and substantial tea for us, which we enjoyed sitting out in the sun. Many thanks to Geoff and family for providing a lovely meal.

After tea we split into a number of groups. Gareth took one group north towards Waterbeach (and a few extra miles) whilst I led another group directly home to Cambridge via Fulbourn, Cherry Hinton, and the newly-resurfaced Tins path to Mill Road, arriving back home by 7pm. Total distance: 35 miles.

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Photos 1,4,5,6 and 7 by Gareth Rees. Licence: Creative Commons CC-BY-SA v2.0

15 Aug: Morning ride to Barton

There was a good turnout for today's ride in spite of it being a rather cloudy morning. There were twelve riders, including five new riders.

We avoided the centre of Cambridge as it was likely to be crowded. We went out over Coe Fen and the little bridge to Newnham. This is a lovely quiet path. Then along Barton Road to Grange Road so we could join the route to the Coton path.

The Coton path starts as a wide footpath and separate cyclepath and then narrows down to a normal cycle path width.

There is a bridge over the M11 and to our surprise it has been resurfaced.

We went through Coton and then along the cycle path towards Hardwick until we came to the road leading to Comberton where we turned left down the hill. The hill encouraged several of our riders to form a fast group which waited at the next turning point where Julia took another photo.

We carried on into Comberton village passing the village pond. We went straight on then left to avoid as much of the main road back to Barton as possible. We followed the cycle track to Barton and rejoined the road at its end just before the centre of the village.

We carried on to Burwash Manor where we had tea and cakes in the little cafe. Burwash Manor is a lovely complex of little shops.

After tea we return to Cambridge via the track to Grantchester and the path over the meadows to Newnham and back to Cambridge.

Total distance was about 15 miles and was easily completed by all our riders. Many thanks for all the support. Mike Stapleton.

Photos by Julia Hochbach.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

9 Aug: Day ride to Barkway, Green Tye and Ashdon

The day ride today was led by Mike Stapleton, whose vast knowledge of the lanes of the region meant that we were sure of a well-led and interesting ride on this warm and sunny summer Sunday.

There were six of us at Brookside, and Mike led the group south out of Cambridge through Trumpington to Great Shelford, where we turned right for Little Shelford and the road to Whittlesford. Just before we entered the village we took another right turn to skirt the western edge of the village and bring us to the A505 by the Hunts Road roundabout.

After crossing the A505 we continued to Duxford where we turned west onto Grange Road, which like its Cambridge namesake is long and straight, and along the southern side of Duxford airfield. From there it was a long but gentle climb up to Heydon and Great Chishill. After having gained all that height we lost it almost immediately, sweeping down the hill to Shaftenhoe End. After a pleasant meander through Nuthampsted we arrived at Barkway Golf Club. As we arrived a large contingent of riders from another club were leaving. Clearly the attractions of their 90p coffee are well-known to local cyclists.

After coffee Jim and Val headed home leaving four of us to continue to tea. Mike took us through Anstey and Brent Pelham to Stocking Pelham, where we met a large and sociable contingent from Lea Valley CTC who were heading for the same lunch stop as us. Together we rode on towards our lunch stop, chatting amiably. It wasn't far: south through Little Hadham (where we waited at the only traffic signal I know which bears a sign warning of a long wait for a green) to Much Hadham. Here Mike turned left and along a lovely wooded lane (which even some of the Lea Valley locals didn't know) and through a small ford to Perry Green. This was the home of the sculptor Henry Moore; we stopped to observe his grave in the churchyard where he is buried next to his wife Irina. In the photo, these are the graves nearest the camera.

From Perry Green it was only a few more minutes until we arrived at the Prince of Wales in Green Tye. Apparently this is a popular stop for local club cyclists (and the beer selection looked very tempting) but at the time we visited our two groups were just about the only people in the entire pub.

After a very satisfactory and cheap lunch we said goodbye to the Lea Valley riders and headed directly through the middle of Bishops Stortford to the little village of Birchanger, where Mike had a little research project planned for us.

According to our research, there was a cycle route from here to Stansted Airport though it was not shown on any of our maps. Our task was to try it out.

We found it easily: it was signposted as a bridleway (so legal to cycle on) but with nothing to say it was a cycle route, or to say where it led. We followed it anyway: it was pretty rough, with a loose surface. Just a bridleway, really. However it was perfectly cycleable and we followed it to a bridge over the M11.

After crossing the M11 the path divided. The main group waited whilst I headed south and explored a route which led under two slip roads and over the A120 to end on the B1256 Dunmow Road, the "old" A120. After returning to the main group we turned north and followed the other option. This soon turned into a proper cycle route with a tarmac surface and lots of blue signs and took us easily down to a small roundabout on the edge of the airport. From here another section of surfaced cycleway led towards the terminal but we didn't take it, instead heading north-west around the perimiter of the airport to Elsenham.

So: was this route much use as a route to the airport? Probably not. Was it useful as a route for other local journeys, avoiding the main roads and junctions in the area? Possibly so, but the surface is really not acceptable to the moment. These routes are shown on the map below.

View this GPS track in a larger map

From Elsenham the route became simple again, and Mike took us north and east through Widdington, Debden, Wimbish and Radwinter until we eventually arrived at Ashdon just after 4.30pm. Here we met the afternoon ride and a couple of other members who had ridden there directly, and we had a jolly time sitting in the sunshine drinking tea and enjoying home-made cakes.

After tea we returned to Cambridge as a single group. Nobody was feeling like going fast, so the whole group stayed together all the way back to Cambridge, riding at a gentle and sociable pace. The route we took was via Bartlow and Linton and the back road to Abington, where we crossed the A11 using the footbridge and a short section of rough track to Babraham.

Our final few miles back to Cambridge took us through Sawston and Stapleford and the DNA path back to Addenbrookes. I arrived home just before 7pm after spending this warm August day in the best way possible: cycling 82 miles.

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