Sunday, 11 July 2010

11 July: Day ride to Haverhill, Clare and Ashdon

Gareth writes: Workmen were digging up the road and the pavement at the corner of Brookside and Lensfield Road. Perhaps they had been interring CTC members, because by 09:05 there were still only the two of us, me and Joseph.

It was a nice morning, pleasantly cool and overcast, a relief after Saturday’s scorching sun. With coffee more than twenty miles away in Haverhill, I took a direct route via Six Mile Bottom, Brinkley and Carlton. It was very quiet on the roads and we made quick time, getting to Haverhill at about 10:50.

I can’t quite believe how cheap the food is at the Drabbet Smock. Coffee and a bowl of fruit with yogurt for £1.49? How do they make a profit? If they were expecting to make it up by selling alcohol, they were sadly disappointed in us.

After coffee, Joseph headed for home, leaving me to complete the ride on my own.

One of my plans for this ride was to investigate the road over the hill from Steeple Chase to Stradishall. This is shown on Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 sheet 154 (see below left), and also on Google Maps. But does it really exist?

It didn’t look good as I cycled north through Steeple Chase.

The Ordnance Survey say it is.

The road signs are less sure.

No entry to motor vehicles.

And sure enough...

The road gets as far as the radio mast at the top of the hill...

... before coming to an abrupt end. A track continues beside a field...

... but there’s no way through.

So I came back through Steeple Chase and went to Stradishall via Hundon. From Stradishall, I took the narrow lane through Denston, and then the even narrower lane over the hill via Assington to Poslingford. At the top of the hill are the ruins of Chipley Priory. “This small Augustinian Priory, now in scattered ruins, was built before 1235 a.d. on the lands of Clopton. William Peche, companion in arms with William the Conqueror, held Clopton under Earl Richard.”

At Clare I bought sandwiches from the Co-op, and ate them at the country park. The clouds had parted around mid-day, and it was swelteringly hot in the sun. But the skies were amazing:

Near Poslingford.

Near Helions Bumpstead.

Coploe Hill.

I headed south, passing through Ovington, the delightfully named Tilbury Juxta Clare, Great Yeldham, and Gainsford End, to Finchingfield. I’m not sure why the club doesn’t come to Finchingfield for lunch. There’s a cafĂ©, a pub, a pasta bar, and you can always sit on the green and eat your sandwiches if you don’t like any of the establishments. I stopped at the Fox Inn for a cold drink and a refill of my water bottles.

I had about an hour to get to Ashdon, so I took a roundabout route through Helions Bumpstead and Castle Camps. Entering Ashdon from the north at about 16:10, I saw that there was an open day at Ashdon windmill. This post mill was built in 1757 and extended between 1809 and 1815 (during the Napoleonic Wars, when French flour was embargoed). “The whole body of the mill is mounted on a single vertical post, around which it can be turned to bring the sails into the wind.” It is gradually being renovated by the Ashdon Windmill Trust.

Ashdon windmill.

The central post is supported on cross-beams, leaving a gap at the bottom.

At Ashdon Museum I met the afternoon riders. At this point I had only done just over 70 miles, so I tried to find someone who wanted a longer ride back in the warm evening sun. There were no takers: everyone was for the quick way back via Abington.

So I retraced some of the route that the afternoon ride had taken: through Saffron Walden, Audley End, and over Coploe Hill to Duxford. On Coploe Hill a buzzard passed overhead, soaring on the evening thermals, and in Whittlesford a stoat chased a baby rabbit across the road and into the hedge.

It was a tough ride on my own in the heat, but worth it for the beautiful views and quiet roads. I had 100 miles for the day.


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