On yet another glorious spring day, I rode to Brookside expecting to see a repeat of last week's huge turnout; in the event only Mike K and Averil turned up for what proved to be my best day's cycling so far this year.
Mike was our leader today, and he led us east across Parker's Piece and Midsummer Common down to the river.
We then followed the Jubilee Cycleway to Quy.
From Quy we took the road to Little Wilbraham and Six Mile Bottom. The weather was clear and sunny, with only a slight breeze. However the breeze was still quite cool, and I stopped to put on an extra layer - which I soon took off again as the morning warmed up.
At Six Mile Bottom we followed the A1304 for a few hundred yards and then turned off for the long climb past Wadlow Farm to West Wratting. As we rode through the village we were overtaken by a couple of faster cyclists and as they rode past I accellerated to join them. I had expected not to be able to keep up with them for more than a few hundred yards, but they were in fact not going especially fast and I was able to stay with them, chatting pleasantly, as we rode to Carlton Green and then to Little Thurlow, where our routes parted.
At this point I remembered that Mike and Averil had been planning to take a different route and so I continued on my own to the coffee stop at Tubby T's Cafe, Stradishall. Geoff was waiting there with his brand new bike (a birthday present to himself) but with no-one else. After a short while Mike and Averil joined us, having taken a slightly longer route via Witherfield.
After coffee Averil returned to Cambridge with Geoff, leaving just Mike and I to continue to lunch in Clare. It only took us half an hour to get there, via Denston, Assington Green and a particularly lovely lane to Poslingford.
The sun was still shining brightly, the sky was clear and it was becoming quite warm, so when we arrived in Clare we stopped at the Co-op to buy sandwiches and sat down at a bench in Clare Castle Country Park for a picnic.
By a happy coincidence there was a tricycle-mounted mobile cappucino stand only a few yards away so I was able to round off my lunch with a freshly-prepared latte.
After lunch we explored a little more of the country park. The park has two focal points. The most obvious is the ruined castle, which stands on a mound in the middle of the park. If we hadn't had our bikes with us we might have climbed the steps to the stop. The other focus of the park is the old railway station, which retains its building and platforms, and a fine iron bridge over the River Stour.
The trackbed is now a path. We followed it for about half a mile to the edge of the village.
Back on the road, we continued east to Pentlow and then north to Cavendish and Glemsford.
The road from Glemsford to Hawkwdon is about four miles of undulating, twisting, single-road, and is in my view one of the loveliest lanes in the whole area. What makes it special is not the fact that it's traffic-free and peaceful, but the constantly changing views it offers as you ride along it. And as you approach Hawkedon, it offers a splendid ford.
At Hawkedon we sat down at a bench outside the church to relax for twenty minutes. I ate a sandwich whilst Mike went into the church to inspect its attractive wooden ceiling. We then continued north and west and, after another hour or so of gentle-paced cycling we arrived at Stechworth, and tea at The Marquess of Granby. Here we found George and David S, and Mike S and his wife (Mike is recovering from a broken hip and had arrived by car). After a few minutes Simon FM arrived with a large group from the afternoon ride. It was nice to see that the sunshine had brought out several new faces.
Although we were above the booked numbers for tea, there was plenty of food and tea was a pleasant and convivial affair.
After tea we returned home to Cambridge via Dullingham, Swaffham Bulbeck, Quy and the Jubilee Cycleway once again. I was home by just after 7pm, after having ridden 81 miles at a relaxed pace on a beautiful warm spring day.
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