Sunday, 11 April 2010

11 Apr: Day ride to St Neots, Tilbrook and Conington

On the warmest weekend of the year so far, I expected a good turnout for today's day ride, and that was what we got, with fifteen turning up and the majority staying for the whole day. The day started out bright, though it was quite cloudy, and warm enough for me to wear shorts for the first time.

Today's leader was Adrian. He led our long group west out of Cambridge along the Coton path to Coton and then, after a pleasant diversion via Madingley and Dry Drayton, onto the main St Neot's road (the old A428) heading west.

With such a large group many of us were seeing old friends for the first time for several months, and I spent most of the first hour of the ride chatting and didn't really notice our smooth progress, which I later realised was assisted by a tailwind.

We followed the St Neots road past Cambourne before turning right (north) to Elsworth and then left (west again) to Papworth. We then followed the B1040 past Papworth. Unfortunately part of this road has been stolen to form the A1198 Papworth Bypass, and we had a mile or two of uneventful main road riding.

We turned off the main road and were soon on quiet roads again, which took us through the wonderfully-named villages of Yelling and Toseland.

After a few more miles we reached St Neots, where there was some confusion as to where the coffee stop was. With Adrian riding towards the rear the front riders headed through the town centre for the Ambience Cafe in the riverside park. Most of the group had coffee there, whilst several others including me returned to the town centre where we found Adrian sitting down for coffee at the Market Cafe.

This was my first visit to the Market Cafe. It is a classic old-fashioned cafe with a large breakfast menu; I ordered cheese and toast for about £2.20.

As we were getting ready to depart Geoff and several others turned up from the group that had stopped at the Ambience Cafe, ready to set off for towards lunch. After coffee, about half a dozen people returned to Cambridge. However half a dozen others joined the ride at this point, making a group of about fifteen of us continuing to Lunch.

We headed north out of St Neots to Little Paxton, where we crossed the Ouse and then joined a little road, closed to traffic, to Hail Weston.

Along this road we encountered a ford. It looked quite deep and slimy. Alasdair splashed bravely through, whilst the rest of us wheeled our bikes over the footbridge.

At Hail Weston we joined the B645 (the old A45) for a few yards before turning off for an off-road diversion via Pastures Farm.

We then rejoined the B645 before turning off again for a short diversion via Dillington before once again rejoining the B645. This road was extremely quiet; it was hard to remember that this was the main route from Cambridge to Birmingham until relatively recently. With lunchtime approaching we followed the B645 through Kimbolton, round its infamous sharp turn (below), arriving at The White Horse, Tilbrook at exactly 1pm.

After a leisurely roast lunch we continued west for a short distance before turning right (north) for turning east for a big loop north of Huntingdon. By now the sky had partially cleared and the sun was shining. However the wind had picked up and we soon found ourselves riding into quite a strong headwind, which remained our constant adversary for the next couple of hours.

This section of the route was along completely unfamiliar roads, which was a most pleasant change. After heading east for about an hour we crossed the A1 and eventually found ourselves riding through the pretty little village of Wennington

We then turned south towards St Ives. Somewhere near RAF Wyton I decided the pace of the group was getting a bit slow for me, and so I went ahead. No doubt the prospect of being late for tea had also crossed my mind. After a while several others joined me in my breakaway group. Riding more quickly now, we sped along into St Ives, over the Ouse on the old bridge and on to Fenstanton. Here we crossed the A14 using the subway and rode the final mile or two to Conington, which I reached at 5.15pm: 15 minutes late.

At tea we found Julia and the afternoon ride, plus George and Steve who had arrived separately: about ten in all. There was enough food left for us, however, and also for several more who arrived after a further 10 minutes.

After tea the sun was still shining. We returned home to Cambridge in two separate groups. Most of the group followed Adrian south through Knapwell to the old St Neots road and back that way. I led a smaller group north to Fen Drayton to join the guided busway track.

After briefly getting lost in the Fen Drayton nature reserve we joined the guided busway track and followed it all the way back to Cambridge. This was my first ride along it in daylight.

I soon became fed up with the bumpy cycle track and rode most of the way on the concrete guideway.

As before, this route is annoyingly bumpy but it is certainly very quiet and peaceful, and before long we were back in Cambridge. I was home by about 7.25pm, having ridden 89 miles.

View this GPS track on a larger map

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