Sunday, 23 May 2010

23 May: Day ride to Barkway, Hatfield Forest and Thaxted

Nigel Deakin writes: Our late summer heatwave continues: today was clear, very sunny, and very hot, with temperatures above 25C all day. So it was no surprise to see a dozen riders at Brookside for today's all-day ride.

Mick C was our leader today, and he led us south to Addenbrooke's and out of Cambridge along the DNA path. Along the way we picked up Toby, who was out on his first ride with us.

This part of the ride is always a sociable affair, with most people riding two abreast chatting to friends.

I'm usually so absorbed chatting that the first part of these rides tends to pass without me noticing where we were going, but I think we headed south to Whittlesford, looped north to Newton and then south again to Thriplow and Fowlmere. After crossing the A505 we climbed up to Great Chishill and then, after a final loop via Nuthampsted (where we caught up with Vic and Adrian), stopped for coffee at Barkway Golf Club. Here we found Greta, John and - I'm delighted to report - Doug. Doug is now back on his bike following his serious leg injuries at Christmas.

It was already so hot that several of us skipped coffee and ordered large cold drinks instead.

After coffee several members returned to Cambridge as usual, whilst the main ride continued on to Lunch. This took us south through Meesden, Brent Pelham and Manuden where we looped back north along a lovely narrow lane to Rickling Green.

We continued through Ugley to Elsenham, where several of us stopped at the shop by the station to stock up on food and drink.

The final stage of the morning ride took us around the edge of Stansted Airport, though it was barely visible behind the trees, to Takeley where we stopped in Hatfield Forest Country Park for a picnic by the lake. By now it was 1.30pm so we were ready for a rest.

After lunch we headed east along the Flitch Way, NCR 16, a former railway, which we followed to Great Dunmow. Although the path is unsurfaced it is OK to ride on, and it was nice to be sheltered from the sun.

At Great Dunmow the railway path ended, and the cycle route deteriorated into the usual poorly-signposted Sustrans mystery ride along some rather poor paths.

East of Great Dunmow the railway path started again, and we followed it a few more miles to Little Dummow where we left it to turn north.

By now it was about 4pm and we were due in Saffron Walden at 5pm, so we split into two groups: a faster group which would head directly to tea, and a slower group which would head straight to Cambridge at a slower pace. I was with the faster groups.

We reached Thaxted at 4.40pm, where we decided to skip the Saffron Walden stop and visit Parrishes Cafe instead. This is open until 7pm and I can recommend it. After a few minutes the slower group caught up with us and joined us in the cafe.

After our final refreshment stop the faster group returned to Cambridge via Ashdon. As our mileage passed the 70 mile mark and then the 80 mile mark we were all waning somewhat, though after Balsham I had second wind and my descent to Fulbourn was quite fast.

We were back in Cambridge by 7.20pm, after having cycled 92 miles. Nigel Deakin

View this route on a larger map

Photos 1, 6 and 9 by Gareth Rees. Licence: Creative Commons CC-BY-SA v2.0


  1. Some typos: Meersden, Ricking, Dummow, Hadfield.

  2. ...serves me right for composing ride reports when I should be working. Now fixed.

  3. Thanks for the trip yesterday - very friendly group. Will definitely join up with you all again at some point in the near future.

  4. It was good to have you with us, and I hope to see you again.