Sunday, 31 May 2009

31 May: Afternoon ride to West Wratting

Gareth Rees writes: There were only six on the afternoon ride today. I don't know where the rest of you were; you missed a beautiful afternoon of blue skies and spectacular sunshine.

Mike Kenny led us out of town on the Jubilee cycle path to Bottisham, where we turned off onto the green lane (see photos) that cuts across the A14 and the A11 to the level crossing at Westley Bottom.

The lane was dry and sandy but very bumpy, with many rabbit holes to avoid. Then Dullingham, Woodditton, Kirtling Green, Little Thurlow, Carlton Green, arriving at the Chestnut Tree at West Wratting shortly after 17:00.

Photos by Gareth Rees. Licence: Creative Commons CC-BY-SA v2.0

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

24 May: Afternoon ride to Litlington - More photos

Mike Kenny has sent some more photos of Sunday's ride. For the full story see 24 May: Afternoon ride to Litlington.

Riding through Haslingfield:

Nigel shows Averil the extra loop he's proposing:

The open road and clear skies:

Sunday, 24 May 2009

24 May: Afternoon ride to Litlington

Today was a perfect day for cycling: very warm, with clear skies and bright sunshine, and hardly any wind. So it was no surprise to find about ten riders at Brookside at 2.15pm for today's afternoon ride. It was particularly nice to be able to welcome several new or unfamilar faces.

Averil led the group west out of Cambridge along the Barton Road cycle track to Barton, setting a faster pace than we usually see at the start of the ride. However we all seemed to be able to keep up as we turned left to Haslingfield, where Mike Sl had a puncture and we all came to a halt.

Fortunately the puncture didn't take long to fix and we were soon climbing Chapel Hill before enjoying a long descent to Barrington. With virtually no wind I was able to attain 36mph on the way down.

After Barrington we continued to Shepreth and crossed the busy A10 to Fowlmere. Here we joined the B1368 which we followed via Flint Cross and Barley (below) all the way to Barkway. I tend to avoid this road because it can be busy and has a poor road surface. Today it was very quiet, but the road surface was still terrible and I was relieved, just after passing through Barkway, to turn right towards Buckland onto country lanes again.

At Buckland we met the A10 again, though this section was very quiet as we rode along it for a few hundred yards before turning off again towards Sandon. Averil had originally planned to head north towards Therfield and Royston but as it was still only 4pm I persuaded her to take a longer route. This took us through Roe Green up to the A505 which we crossed at Slip End. From there we continued through Ashwell and Steeple Morden to Litlington, arriving at the Crown PH about at about 5.05pm, five minutes late.

At tea we met Joseph, the sole remnant of the day ride, and Steve, George and Peter who had come separately. This meant there was a good turnout for tea, which as always at The Crown was excellent.

After tea most of us returned to Cambridge the direct route via Bassingbourn, Kneesworth, Meldreth, Shepreth and the reverse of our outward route. Since we had several newcomers I encouraged the group to ride back as a group, which we did as far as Haslingfield, where we split into two, with one of our new riders setting a brisk pace all the way back to Cambridge.

View this GPS track in a larger map

I returned home just before 7pm. Total mileage: 50 miles, quite high for an afternoon ride but entirely appropriate for such a lovely day.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

17 May: Afternoon ride to Great Chesterford

Simon FitzMaurice writes: Seven riders met at Brookside for the afternoon ride: Jacob, Mike S, Ian W, Julia, Averil, Chris and myself. Somewhat apprehensively, given the forecast of heavy rain and strong winds, we set out from Cambridge through Newnham on the Barton Road cycle track.

From Barton we headed towards Haslingfield where, despite a momentary a lapse of attention requiring a U turn, we managed at the second attempt to turn right, taking the well-trodden (ridden) route over Chapel Hill to Barrington. It was some measure of the headwind that we now encountered that speeds on the descent of the hill fell well short of those previously reported in these pages, but the possibility of rain now seemed more remote. We continued south-east through Shepreth, and Fowlmere before turning south at Chrishall Grange, catching occasional glimpses of activity from the Duxford air show to the east as we went.

From Chrishall Grange our route took us south across the county boundary to the border town of Chrishall, the long climb (below) to which seemed today to validate its claim as the highest point in Essex. We carried on to the increasingly quaintly named hamlets of Pond Street, Duddenhoe End and Hobs Aerie, a delightful area of sheltered and quiet lanes – ideal cycling territory.

It was with some regret on my part that we finally turned north, skirting Littlebury Green before joining the Great Chesterford road at Littlebury. Whether it was the promise of tea, or the fact that we now had the wind squarely behind us, the last few miles flew by, and arrived at the Plough PH as planned almost exactly at five o’clock.

While we were safely inside, some rain eventually fell (perfect timing!), but after tea it was clear that the threatened cloud had passed away, and we took full advantage of the propitious tailwind to travel back via Hinxton (where we carefully skirted the ford, lively due to recent rain), Duxford and Whittlesford, arriving back in Cambridge at 6:45.

View Larger Map

All in all, an exhilarating ride. Total distance 43 miles. Simon FitzMaurice

Julia Hochbach took the following splendid photos of this afternoon's ride:

Photos by Julia Hochbach.

17 May: Day ride to Barkway, Green Tye and Great Chesterford

According to the Met Office a band of rain was due to pass over the region in the late morning, with the remainder of the day expected to be dry and bright but with wind all day. This was enough to put off quite a few of our regular riders and so there were only three of us waiting at Brookside for the 9am start, all carrying waterproofs: Joseph, Jacquie and me.

I led our small group south-west out of Cambridge along the Barton Road cycle track to Barton, where we turned off to Haslingfield. My route then took us over Chapel Hill to Barrington and then on to Shepreth and Fowlmere. It was dry, though puddles on the roads were evidence of overnight rain and the sky was ominous. Then the wind picked up which Joseph said meant that rain was imminent.

From Fowlmere we headed south-east to Chrishall Grange and then took the long climb up to Heydon. Somewhere along the way the rain started. Not especially heavy: but definitely a shower. From Heydon we continued to Great Chishill (above) and then down the hill to Shaftenhoe End and the left turn to Nuthampsted. These are lovely narrow lanes through wooded countryside (below), but since it was now raining steadily we were glad it was only a few miles further to the coffee stop.

After a short while we arrived at Barkway Golf Club. Here we met Mick, Adrian, Vic S and Doug who had arrived just before us. I ordered a hot chocolate and a Kit-Kat, and as we sat discussing our plans for the day it became clear that nobody else was planning to continue to lunch in Green Tye. We went back outside to find that the rain had stopped (never to return) and the sun had come out. Despite this, nobody would change their mind and so I alone cycled off to the south whilst others headed off either straight back to Cambridge or else for lunch at Clavering Lakes.

Although I was now riding on my own, this remained an official club ride and so I can write about it here. I had never been to Green Tye before. It is just west of Bishop's Stortford. I took a route via Anstey, Great Hormead and Little Hormead to Furneux Pelham, where I was amused by the inscription around the church clock.

From Furneux Pelham I continued south to Albury and Little Hadham and then, after crossing the A120, Much Hadham. This section of road forms an important north-south route for long distance cyclists (the London to Cambridge bike ride comes this way) and I passed a several oncoming cyclists, all of whom gave me a cheery greeting as we passed.

Doug had warned me that the pub at Green Tye wasn't anything special, so I decided to give it a miss and instead stopped at the shop in Much Hadham (open on Sundays) to buy sandwiches. Then I turned left to Perry Green and Green Tye, riding through an excellent ford on the way. At Perry Green I spotted a quiet churchyard with a bench and stopped there at about 1.20pm to eat my sandwiches.

After lunch I continued to Green Tye and passed the Prince of Wales Pub. As promised, it didn't look anything special and I didn't stop.

From Green Tye I continued east. I was south of Bishop's Stortford here, and this would be the most southerly part of my ride. I continued my loop round the south of Bishop's Stortford through Spellbrook and Great Hallingbury to Tilekiln Green, where I turned off the road and up a steep track to join the Flitch Way.

This is a former railway now converted into a path for cyclists, horseriders and walkers, and runs for most of the way from Bishop's Stortford to Braintree, with a gap at Great Dunmow. I only followed it for three miles to Takeley. The path is pleasant, almost totally enclosed in trees, especially when it passes the edge of Hatfield Forest to the south. You would hardly know there was a big road junction only a few jundred yards to the north, and a huge airport just beyond. However the surface is pretty poor and I was glad to return to asphalt at Takeley.

From here I turned north. A series of minor roads took me around the eastern edge of Stansted Airport, though the traffic levels were light and the airport almost completely invisible behind banks of woodland. At one point there was a gap in the trees and a side road led into the airport. Tempted, I followed it. Within about 20 yards I found myself on the big roundabout immediately south of the terminal building.

I was briefly tempted to visit the terminal and buy a coffee, but decided instead to take a quick photo of my bike and the return the way I had come. As I rode back through the gap in the trees, the airport disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.

I soon left the airport behind and was back on quiet rural roads. From Molehill Green I continued to Henham (apparently under threat of disappearing under a new town, according to local posters) and then passed under the motorway to Ugley, Ricking Green and Ricking.

I was on home ground now, thinking of tea. I continued through Wicken Bonhunt and Arkesden. From here the smart route would have been to drop down to Wendens Ambo and follow the Granta valley to Great Chesterford but instead I took a hillier route: the "transmitter road" over the hill to Littlebury Green and a further hill before dropping down to Littlebury and a final, fast burst along the main road (with the wind behind me at last) to Great Chesterford, where I found The Plough PH without difficulty, despite not having visited it with the club for several years, and arrived almost bang on time at 5pm.

At the pub I found quite a large group of riders from the club: eight from the afternoon ride and three who had come separately. Tea was served in a tiny room but was huge in quantity; we only ate about half the sandwiches and hardly any of the chicken drumsticks and sausages. Excellent value for £4.00.

After tea we returned to Cambridge. It was nice to be riding with a group once more, and with the evening sun now shining brightly and my companions setting a comfortable, sociable pace I had a very pleasant ride back through Ickleton, Hinxton (where we decided not to ride through the famously-slippery ford), Duxford and the familiar road through Whittlesford and the Shelfords. After taking the DNA path to Addenbrookes I was at home by 6.45pm, the sun still shining brightly.

Larger map

Total mileage: 85 miles.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

10 May: Day ride to St Neots, Keysoe and Caxton

Gareth Rees writes: We were a few minutes late setting off, which was my fault because I rather incompetently tightened some loose spokes in my back wheel, causing it to develop a kink that I couldn't quickly fix. But I let out some slack on the brake cable and we got going at about 09:05.

Ian led nine of us out to Coton by the cycle path, where the may trees are blooming white, unlike the ones in the city, which are mostly pink. From Coton we joined the old A428 past Hardwick, and then though Caxton (where we later returned for tea), Great Gransden (below) and Abbotsley, arriving at St Neots a bit after 11:00. In the narrow streets of Eynesbury a bit of a queue of cars built up behind us, leading to some rather aggressive overtaking attempts—one SUV driver hit my back wheel on his first attempt to squeeze past.

At St Neots marketplace the touring section of the Cambridge Cycling Club had arrived shortly before we did, so there were at least 25 bikes and a very busy cafe. Here we were joined by four more riders, but after coffee Greta and John headed for home, leaving eleven to head to lunch.

From St Neots we crossed under the A1 and entered a maze of country lanes. I failed to keep track of all the twists and turns here, but I think we went through Duloe, Honeydon (above), Church End, and Keysoe Row before arriving at the Chequers in Keysoe at about 12:40. In the garden here there is giant fibreglass globe displaying a map of the Earth, about 2m in diameter, cracked and weather-stained but still turning. Very Ballardian.

After lunch five riders departed for their various homes, leaving only six for the best part of the ride, north through the small hills of Huntingdonshire district, through Riseley, Upper Dean, Lower Dean, Tilbrook, and over Bustard Hill (above) to Kimbolton. North of Kimbolton we cut through some fields to join the off-road cycle track that runs around the west and north sides of Grafham Water, which was swarming with mountain bikers (the track, that is, not the reservoir).

Ian stopped at Grafham Cycling to do some shopping, and then we headed for tea. With time fairly short, we took the direct route through Graveley, Yelling, and Papworth Everard, and then straight down the A1198 to the Cross Keys at Caxton, arriving about 17:10 to find that the hordes of afternoon riders had already made considerable inroads on the sandwiches and cake. But there was plenty for everyone in the end.

The weather was gorgeous throughout the day, sunny but not too hot, with a gentle northwesterly breeze.

I had 84 miles on my computer, but that was from and to home, so I would estimate the mileage to from Brookside to Keysoe and back to be 77 miles. Gareth Rees.

Photos by Gareth Rees. Licence: Creative Commons CC-BY-SA v2.0

10 May: Afternoon ride to Caxton

Julia has sent in the following photos of this ride, which was led by Peter Davison:

Photos by Julia Hochbach.