There was definitely a sense of approaching spring in the air today. It was bright with frequent sunny intervals, and very mild, if a little breezy. No fewer than ten riders were at Brookside for this afternoon's ride to Caxton.
Mike K, leading his second ride in two weeks, was clearly keen to give us an interesting route, which took us along three separate sections of off-road cycling.
We started off down Trumpington Road. After a few hundred yards we turned right onto the common and followed the path down to the river.
After crossing the Cam we joined Barton Road before turning left towards Granchester. From here we continued to Haslingfield. Instead of the better-known private road through Canteloupe Farm we followed a public footpath which took us towards a stepped bridge over the M11. The path was mostly across soft earth, which would have been very muddly a few weeks ago but today was relatively dry and straightforward, even for those of us on road bikes.
The bridge over the motorway had steps but they weren't steep (much less steep than the A11 bridge near Abington) and it was easy to carry our bikes up and down them.
Once across the M11 we were now on a bridleway, which took us down to the top of Canteloupe Road, the public road that leads into Haslingfield.
It was nice to be on tarmac once more, and we made quick progress over Chapel Hill to Barrington. There we turned right to Orwell.
Just beyond Orwell we reached the A603. Here Mike had a second section of off-road cycling planned for us. We crossed the A603 (right then left) and entered the Wimpole Estate, and followed a track through the woods which broughts us out opposite the main entrance to Wimpole Hall.
We rode through the grounds of Wimpole Hall. There were hundreds of cars parked here, their passengers no doubt more interested in seeing some newly-born lambs than visiting the historic house. At the far end of the estate we crossed the A1198 and into Arrington.
When we reached Croydon a mile further we turned right onto our final section of off-road cycling. By now it was about 3.40pm; with hindsight we should have stayed on the road. However we were tempted off-road one final time by the promise that there would be hard tarmac and no more mud - and that it would avoid Croydon Hill. So we made an excursion onto the surfaced byways north of Croydon. These are pleasant enough: essentially empty roads in a flat, open landscape.
Unfortunately these pleasant roads don't actually go anywhere useful and after about half an hour we rejoined the road at East Hatley, about a mile beyond where we had left it.
By now it was clear we would be late for tea, but we pressed on, some going more quickly than others. I rode with the rear group which arrived at The Cross Keys in Caxton at about 5.20pm, about 50 minutes late.
The Cross Keys is an old favourite of the club. The landlord there is welcoming (and tolerant) and always provides a good spread. So there was plenty of food left despite a large contingent of day-riders having been and gone earlier.
After tea we returned back to Cambridge via Bourn, Toft, Comberton and Barton. With a bit of a headwind we made quick progress. We stopped in Bourn to turn on our lights, and by Comberton it was dark and had started to rain gently. I was back at Brookside by 6.45pm after having ridden 38 miles.
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