Today's ride was to the west, into Deepest Huntingdonshire. I found Geoff, Averil, Brian and Joseph at Brookside, and since I was the leader today I began the ride by taking us south-west to Barton and Hadlingfield and over Chapel Hill to Barrington.
As we climbed the hill Mick C caught up with us; he had arrived at Brookside a few minutes late.
In Barrington we turned right to Orwell. We then crossed the A603 and continued through the Wimpole Estate.
From Wimpole we continued through Croydon, the Hatleys and Gamlingay to Waresley, where we stopped for coffee at the Waresley Park Garden Centre. Here we found Brian-from-beyond-Bedford, Stuart-from-Stevenage and one or two others who I have forgotten (sorry).
After coffee we rode via Lily Hill (below) to St Neots.
At St Neots we crossed the Great Ouse via the bridge into Riverside Gardens.
We rode west out of St Neots along the B645 to Hail Weston. This is not a particularly busy road nowadays and in any case offers a decent quality cycle track for this short section. From Hail Weston we continued north along a minor road which took us to a ford across the River Kym. After crossing the ford (I was the only one who dared to ride through the water) we turned left onto a three-mile off-road section of National Cycle Route. The signposts showed this to be both NCR 12 and NCR 51 running concurrently; NCR 51 ultimately leads to Cambridge.
When planning the route the previous day I had spotted this route on the map and decided we should use it as it offered a direct route from St Neots to Grafham Water. No-one else seemed to know about this route, which strengthened my interest in giving it a try. It was part of the National Cycle Network, so although it might be a bit rough and ready it would be OK.
I was wrong. This short section of the National Cycle Network is probably the worst I have ever used and is an absolute disgrace. The first mile and a half was virtually uncycleable: it consisted of a series of gravelled farm tracks, with gravel deep and loose enough to require the utmost concentration to avoid sliding over.
We had gone a mile along the track before I discovered that Mick and Stuart weren't with us. Joseph told me that they had taken one look at the surface and decided to take a different route to lunch. They had made a wise decision.
Most of us were riding normal touring tyres, but Joseph pointed out that his bike had fat 1.75" tyres, and he was still finding it the track difficult.
The gravel was too much for Geoff's tyres and he had a puncture.
After a while the track became narrower and deeply rutted, though with less loose gravel this was rather easier to cycle on.
Eventually, and with much relief, we reached the B661 which runs along the southern edge of Grafham Water. We sped along this gleefully for a couple of mile to West Perry, where we turned off and rode though a car park to the a cafe at the edge of the lake. Here we were reunited with Mick and Stuart. Also here were Young Vic, so was just leaving, and Tony P.
The cafe here has a bar and serves decent pub-lunch-style fare. I went inside for lunch with Geoff and Joan whilst the others had a picnic outside on the grass by the lake.
After lunch Joan, Mick and Averil made their own way home, leaving Brian, Geoff, Joseph and me to continue on to tea. Tony P also rode with us for a while before turning back for home.
I took us west to Stonely and then north to Stow Longa, where I stopped to take a photo of the village sign.
From Stow Longa we continued north, crossing the A14 at Spaldwick and then up a short, steep, hill to Barham. The hilliness of this section comes as quite a surprise after all the flatness before. We turned right to Wooley and then left to Alconbury Weston. We crossed the A1 at Alconbury Hill. Whilst drivers on the A1 would never notice it, this is indeed at the stop of a short hill.
From Alconbury we continued east to Monk's Wood. Here we met the B1090. If we had had less time we would have followed this road all the way to St Ives. However it was still only 3.30pm so we had time for a loop east to Wennington (below) and Great Raveley, before rejoining the B1090 at King's Ripton.
The B1090 tooks us past Wyton Airfield (still an active RAF base) to Houghton, where we rode through the village to Houghton Mill. After wheeling our bikes past the mill we crossed the River Great Ouse and cycled across the meadows to Hemingford Abbots.
It was then a short and familiar journey through Hemingford Grey and Fenstanton to Conington, where we arrived at the White Swan at about 4.45pm. Already waiting were George, Peter, Mike St and Eva and husband, and a few minutes later Steve G arrived. That made ten of us, and by the time the afternoon ride arrived we were 22.
At many of our tea stops our unexpectedly high numbers would have been a problem, but not here. There was plenty of high quality food, as is always the case here, and tea was a relaxing and convivial occasion.
After tea we returned home to Cambridge, in a number of different groups riding at different speeds. My group took a route via Knapwell and Madingley, entering Cambridge along the Coton Footpath. I was back home by 7pm after having cycled 87 miles.
View this GPS track on a larger map