Sunday, 29 August 2010
Joan was the official leader of today's ride, and there was a good turnout at the start, with about eight or nine riders. She led us east out of Cambridge along Hills Road and the busy Cherry Hinton Road to Fulbourn. There we turned left towards the Wilbrahams and Bottisham.
When we reached Bottisham, Pete H and I separated from the others. The main group took the road to Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior and Reach, where they stopped for a picnic coffee stop on the green. From there they planned to continue to Burwell and Exning and from there to Snailwell, Chippenham, Worlington and Mildenhall.
Pete and I, meanwhile, took the road north to Lode. We crossed the B1102 and continued on into the fens.
To get to the new bridge we followed the route across White Fen and the bridge over Swaffham Bulbeck Lode which opened a couple of years ago (see the map below for the exact route). After crossing Swaffham Bulbeck Lode we followed a series of narrow fen roads for a couple of miles. Soon we saw the new Reach Lode bridge in the distance, with a short length of new cycle path leading up to it.
The bridge doesn't open officially until September 12th, and no doubt there are still contruction workers on site during the week. However the piece of fencing that blocked the path seemed half-hearted and it was easy to cycle round it. In practice the bridge, and the new paths on each side, are finished, with only minor works needed to complete them. (There is a small upstand in the track surface on each side of the bridge. And some new cattle grids have been installed without any fencing to stop animals walking round them).
The bridge itself is an elegant, handsome structure.
As we crossed I was impressed by the use of wood to decorate the bridge. This gave it a pleasant rustic appearance.
On the far side of the bridge a new cycle path stretched into the distance across Burwell Fen. This has a soft, permeable surface which had already been damaged in place by horses. However at the moment the surface is adequate for cycling on and we made good progress.
After about a mile we reached Burwell Lode, running high up along a floodbank. And here the new cycle path came to an abrupt stop.
A new bridge is planned here, but this is still a couple of years away at least and construction has not yet started. In the meantime cyclists will be expected to use the existing stepped footbridge, which we could see about fifty yards away. However we could see obvious way to get there. There was a gate ahead of us but a fence still lay between the field beyond and the floodbank.
After considering our options for a minute or two we retraced our route for a short distance until we spotted a stile. We lifted our bikes over the stile and wheeled them up the steep slope to the top of the floodbank. This wasn't particular difficult but couldn't possibly be the route that the National Trust expected cyclists to take when they announced recently that this route would be open next month. Perhaps this bit simply hasn't been finished yet. I made a mental note to ask.
(Update: I have now received confirmation from The National Trust that a temporary access route to the footbridge will be provided in time for the official opening on 12th September).
After cycling along the top of the floodbank for a few yards we reached the footbridge. Slotted ramps had been installed to help cyclists get they bikes up the steps; Pete tried them but found that they were much too steep to be usable, so we carried our bikes over instead.
At the top of the footbridge we stopped to admire the view. The photo below shows the "cock up bridge". This bridge is permanently raised and the NT was unable to negotiate with the NRA a way of making it useable by cyclists (and others who cannot use steps). So until a completely new bridge is constructed we will have to use the footbridge, and the steps. Fortunately the bridge is not high so this won't be very difficult.
We found a place out of the wind beside the "cock-up bridge" and sat down to have coffee and something to eat.
A few hundred yards east of the bridge we rejoined the existing route of NCR 11. In one direction lay Wicken Fen, less than a mile away, and just to prove it we spotted a group from Cambridge Cycling Club speeding past.
So, assuming access from Burwell Fen to the footbridge over Burwell Lode is fixed soon, we now have a fine new route from Bottisham to Wicken Fen which completely bypasses Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior, Reach and Burwell and is several miles shorter. This will no doubt be the new route for NCR 11: Ely has just got quite a bit nearer!
We didn't carry on to Wicken Fen. We went in the other direction, down the road to Burwell. In an attempt to catch up with the others we took the B1103 directly to Exning from where we followed a series of minor roads through Snailwell and Chippenham to Worlington. In the event we never did catch up the main group, and arrived at the rally site in Mildenhall at about 11.50am, to find the others had arrived about twenty minutes before us.
Many people come to Mildenhall for the whole weekend, staying in the campsite in the school grounds and going for cycle rides around the area. At the rally site itself there were two main activities. Of most interest to us were a number of trading stalls selling bike parts, clothes and equipment.
However the focus of the day was the grass track racing, including the Ladies National 800m Championships and the final rounds of the Men’s National Short Distance and Endurance Grass League.
At about 1pm the promised rain arrived, so we went inside to queue up for lunch. By the time we had finished eating the rain had stopped and the sun had at last come out. By now the serious grass track races had given over to some light-hearted novelty races, notably the "ring race" in which riders proceed around the track until an official blows a whistle, at which point everyone races to park a wheel in one of a number of hoops placed around the track.
Then the whistle blows again and the riders continue cycling. Meanwhile one or more of the hoops is removed, so that the next time the whistle blows the riders have to scramble for the remaining hoops, rather like a game of musical chairs; the rider who is unable to find a free hoop is out of the game. And so it repeats until there is only one person left, who by tradition celebrates his success by singing a little song. Most amusing.
By 2.30pm we had all had spent enough time watching races and wandering around the stalls, and set off back to Cambridge. Joan led us straight down the B1102 through Fordham and Burwell - not the most pleasant of routes but definitely the shortest.
The sun stayed shining and we had no further rain - and mercifully the expected headwind was relatively light. When we reached Lode we called in for tea at Anglesey Abbey.
I was back in Cambridge by about 5.30pm. With an outward distance of 33.8 miles and a return distance of 22.7, today's total mileage was 56.6 miles.
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Thursday, 26 August 2010
Sunday, 22 August 2010
Gareth writes: There were only two of us at the start, the leader (me), and new rider Tony. It was a good day for cycling. Warm but not too hot, blue skies all around but clouds conveniently covering up the sun. Having spent a bit too much time on the B1368 recently, I took a circuitous route to coffee through Great Shelford, Duxford, Heydon, Great Chishill, Shaftenhoe End, and Nuthampstead, and we made good time, getting there about 10:40. Coincidentally this was the exact same route taken by the afternoon ride.
At Barkway Park Golf Club we sampled the toffee cupcakes, which are good value, at least if you measure in calories per penny. Here we were joined by another new rider, Ray.
How can I put these keen new riders off the club, I thought to myself? How about taking them down the muddiest lane in Hertfordshire? Well, that’s not exactly what I thought. In fact, I didn’t know that the lane was muddy at all. The pleasantly named Violets Lane is a narrow road heading south from Brent Pelham to Furneux Pelham, marked with “Ford” on my map. You’ve got to try these things out, haven’t you? It turns out that the reason the lane is marked “Ford” is because when it rains, a river runs down it. It wasn’t raining today, but the river had left behind a fine silty mud that coated our shoes and tyres and made its way from there onto panniers, water bottles, socks, brakes and other parts. Delightful. No doubt older and wiser riders in the club could have warned me against it.
If I had done a bit more research I would have found this video, which suggests that it was only because we’ve just had a long and exceptionally dry summer that we were able to get down the lane at all!
After Violets Lane, the next difficulty was crossing the A10. From Braughing we took the B1368 down to Puckeridge, but how do you get from there to Mentley Lane? It turns out that there’s no sensible way to do it. I think you must be meant to go down the A10 for a couple of miles to the roundabout with the A120 and then come back up again and turn left onto Mentley Lane. Well, no way! Instead we trespassed down a convenient concrete farm track, and once we were safely back on the public highway, there was no further difficulty getting to lunch. At Great Munden we saw some people sitting by the side of the road with a clipboard. “Is it an audax or a time trial?” I asked. “Audax,” came the reply. It must have been the Luton & Herts 150km ride organised by Simon Trott of the West London CTC. And sure enough, after another couple of miles, the first audaxers started to appear.
Church Farm at Ardeley (or maybe Ardley, as it says on the signposts?) was very nice, despite the wasps. I’d go there again. I have never seen such an elegantly presented croque madame.
For the afternoon part of the ride, a loop was clearly needed, since it’s only 11 miles from Ardeley to Royston. But interesting loops seemed in short supply when I was planning the ride. I thought about a big loop west of Stevenage, but it came out way over distance. Other plans were foiled by the need to recross the A10 or the A602 or A505. So instead I folded up a very wiggly ride in the lanes to the south of Ardeley, including a completely gratuitous loop around Whitehill Golf Club, which begins with a vicious little climb. After an hour and half of this, we found ourselves in Cromer, just a couple of miles from Ardeley.
It was here that I had to borrow a map from Tony. This ride circles an awkward corner where four Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 maps adjoin, and I had only remembered to bring three of them, leaving a gap from Rushden to Therfield. Luckily the road signs around here are pretty good, so I could probably have managed. From Therfield we took the delightful swoop down the hill past Royston Golf Club, and in no time we were sitting in Tina’s garden, very early indeed (about 16:20).
I hope that Tony and Ray will forgive me once they have washed their bikes, and will come out riding with us again. After all, it was only one muddy lane, and the rest of the ride was glorious.
And many thanks to Tina for such a splendid tea. Courgette and chocolate cake! 87 miles for the day.
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At Duxford we turned west onto Grange Road, which took us past Duxford Grange to Chrishall Grange.
From Chrishall Grange we continued south and climbed the hill to Heydon.
A mile beyond Heydon we reached Great Chishill, which, as I never tire of reminding the other riders, is the highest village in Cambridgeshire. (The highest point in the county is just to the east, at an elevation of 146m (480 feet).
From here our route inevitably led downhill, on the narrow road that drops down, in a series of delightfully fast switchbacks, down, up and then down again to Shaftenhoe End.
At Shaftenhoe End we turned left towards Nuthampsted on a narrow road which took us gently upwards again through woodland up to Nuthampsted and then down again towards Barkway. As an aircraft flew over high above us I was reminded that this charming countryside was once short-listed as a possible location for London's third airport. (The Roskill commmission in the late 1960's considered a shortlist of four locations: Nuthampstead, Cublington in Oxfordshire, Foulness on the Essex coast and Stansted. They recommended Cublington, though of course in the end we got Stansted.)
At Barkway we crossed the B1398 and continued west to Buckland, where we crossed the A10. As we rode along, the intimate wooded landscape of Nuthampsted gradually turned into wide open praries, with farm machinery busily gathering in the harvest.
This is relatively high country: when we reached Therfield our altitude was about 168m, making this the highest point of the ride. (This was Hertfordshire, of course.)
With all that altitude in the bank it was a delight to be able to squander it on the descent to Royston (altitude 60m), and especially in a fast, steep descent across Royston Heath.
In Royston we stopped for tea at Tina's house. There we found Gareth and several riders from the day ride, and a number of others who had ridden there directly. We sat outside in the garden enjoying tea, sandwiches and a splendid spread of cakes.
After tea we returned to Cambridge via Kneesworth, Meldreth, Shepreth annd Barrington. With the wind behind us we made fast progress, and we were back at Brookside by 7pm after cycling 46 miles.
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Saturday, 21 August 2010
Following a network of back roads to avoid riding down the main Hills Road, we emerged just before the Addenbrooke’s roundabout and then turned up Wort’s Causeway. The road inclined gently uphill until we crossed Limekiln Road where it climbed more steeply, but also gave us some great views down over surrounding countryside. We paused at the top to re-group and then freewheeled down to Fulbourn.
Luckily George knew the route, and we took a left turn towards Great Wilbraham, otherwise I might have automatically followed the road up to Balsham familiar from Sunday afternoon rides! We headed towards Bottisham, crossing the A1303 and cycling up through the village, turning left on to the B1102 towards our coffee stop at Anglesey Abbey. We sat in the cafe and chatted to Cathy and Anya about Cambridge CTC & suggested they might like to sample a Sunday afternoon ride as the ‘next step up’.
The shortest route back took us straight up the main road to Quy, which was reasonably busy, so it was ‘heads down’ until we reached the crossing & joined NCN 51, turning left under the bridge & then picking up the cycle route alongside the A1303. Clive rode straight on as we turned left towards Fen Ditton & Cathy left us at the crossroads to cycle back to Waterbeach and then there were 3....
With George leading the way, we picked up the Jubilee cycleway, taking us across Ditton Meadows, Stourbridge Common and finally to Riverside and Midsummer Common arriving back in central Cambridge about 1.15pm. Tina.
Friday, 20 August 2010
As summer turns into autumn our weekly rides programme continues with up to six rides a week.
On Sunday 26th September we're holding 100km and 200km Audax rides, starting from Hauxton.
Our popular mid-week Wednesday evening rides continue in September for one final month.
As always, our rides lists are subject to change, but you can always obtain the latest version from this website. If a ride is cancelled it will normally be announced here. In addition, members who are subscribed to our email discussion list will be notified by email.
Wednesday, 18 August 2010
We started the ride with a spin down Hills Road to try out the new cycle track alongside to A1307 to Wandlebury.
We didn't go all the way to Wandlebury, but instead turned right at Magog Down onto the road to Stapleford. From there we picked up our usual route through Great and Little Shelford to Whittlesford.
At Whittlesford we turned west to Newton. After a loop through Thriplow we turned towards Foxton where we crossed both the A10 and the railway. Although it was still light, this was the point at which we all turned on our bike lights. Then on to Barrington where we climbed over Chapel Hill to Haslingfield. From here it was just a few more miles to Barton and Grantchester.
We stopped for a drink at the Green Man in Grantchester. After a few minutes Peter R joined us, making a total of seven round the table.
After an enjoyable half hour's chat we returned to Cambridge via Newnham. I was home my 10.05pm, after having cycled 28 miles.
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Tuesday, 17 August 2010
The narrow lane towards Ickleton Granges was quiet & delightfully car-free and we were able to chat & ride along at a leisurely pace.
Just south of Chrishall Grange, we turned south and uphill to Heydon. I had a few problems engaging gears on my ‘new’ bike, but Jacob & Mike’s technical know-how saved the day and we caught up with the main group just before Heydon village – home to renowned King William IV pub.
‘Hilly Hertfordshire’ lived up to its name as we climbed up to Gt Chishill, dropping sharply down towards Shaftenhoe End, turning right, again uphill & followed a ‘switchback’ road to Nuthampstead, through woods which had been carpeted with bluebells earlier in the year. We passed the ‘Woodman’ pub with its American Air Force memorial, the most southerly point of our circuit, then back via Barkway, along a scenic ridge road to Reed, crossing the A10 towards Therfield. As Jacob commented reassuringly, it was all downhill from there, dropping down over Therfield Heath & then a short ride along the A505 turning right across the carriageway to Litlington – always a stressful manoeuvre.
The Crown at Litlington gave us its usual warm welcome & we also met up with David, Steve and Clive who had come by a more direct route. No-one from the day ride, but it was rumoured the regulars may all be away cycling in Cumbria – wonder if they visited: http://www.greystokecyclecafe.co.uk/index.htm?
Living in Royston, I cycled back with the group as far as Kneesworth, but then headed home up the A1198, leaving the others to return to Cambridge via Meldreth, Barrington and the knee-testing Chapel Hill.
Thanks to Jacob for a varied route taking in 3 counties – Cambridgeshire, Essex and Hertfordshire. Sorry no pics – the group only stopped once to wait for Jacob, Mike & me & immediately set off again! Cheryl reported we’d cycled about 34 miles before tea, so estimated total mileage for the afternoon was around 48 miles. Tina
Sunday, 8 August 2010
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.
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Wednesday, 4 August 2010
We headed south out of Cambridge to Addenbrookes and along the DNA path to Great Shelford. After stopping for a minute or two at the level crossing we continued to Little Shelford and the familiar route south via Whittlesford and Duxford to Ickleton.
At Ickleton we turned west onto Grange Road, a lovely quiet road that gave us fine views of the setting sun.
When we reached Chrishall Grange we turned north again, to Fowlmere and on to Shepreth.
By the time we arrived at Barrington the sun had set. With lights now turned on we climbed Chapel Hill and dropped down into Haslingfield where we stopped at the Little Rose pub bang on time at 9pm.
I had never visited this pub before. In fact I have cycled through Haslingfield dozens of times and never noticed it. This is because the pub is not actually visible from the road, and we had to ride up a short driveway to find out that the pub is modern and quite large, and, I'm pleased to report, perfectly pleasant. The pub itself was almost completely empty, with the entire cliente playing boules in the sandpit outside. Rob ordered a drink and a basket of hot chips, Daniel and I followed suit, and we sat outside to consume them.
Afterwards we returned back to Cambridge via Canteloupe Farm and Grantchester. I was home by 10.15pm, having cycled 30 miles.
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Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Tissington is in the south of the Peak District National Park and is about three-quarters of the way down the Tissington trail. There is an intact platform and a refreshments kiosk. The trail is entirely off-road and follows the path of the now disused railway line. The Tissington trail meets up with the High Peak trail further north.
At Tissington we met up with Averil and Mike C, who had driven up separately. We began by riding south along the trail towards Ashbourne. The Tissington trail ends at Ashbourne where there is cycle hire and a refreshment kiosk, where we had our first coffee of the day.
We now had to leave the relatively flat trail. Most roads in the peaks go up or down, some more steeply than others! After a gradual climb up the B5035 we turned onto a minor road and discovered some very steep hills. The descents are not easy either because you have to watch the cars and gravel on the narrow roads. We then rejoined the B road and climbed again for a while. Then it was a brief but fast bit of downhill down to Carsington Water.
At Carsington there is a large visitor centre and shops and a cafe. The well-surfaced cycle trail goes right round the reservoir but we left at the northern end and rejoined the B road. We left the B road shortly and raced down a very steep incline into the village of Wirksworth. It was one of those hills where you daren’t let go of the brakes!
Wirksworth was our lunch stop and John, myself and Adrian went into the pub for a meal. The Roast was a very reasonable £5.99 and there was a selection of ales on offer including the pub's own brew.
From Wirksworth we set off up the hill to join the High Peak trail at Middleton Top. This turned out to be a very long steep climb up the B5023. Here we joined the High Peak trail.
The High Peak trail runs from Cromford in the south and runs NW for about 15 miles until it joins the Tissington trail at Parsley Hay. Cromford lies in the Derwent valley so when the railway was built, engineers had to find a way of getting trains up an incline of over a thousand feet in five miles.They built a winding engine at the top of the incline and literally winched the trains up four similar inclines ranging from 1 in 14 to 1 in 8.
We rode up some of these inclines, and I can verify that they are very steep indeed. Bottom gear was employed for much of the climb and, of course, I had to stop to take photos. At the top there is the winding house museum which shows the winding gear still in situ.
From here the trail flattens out and although some of the surface is a little bumpy it is eminently passable. Having been told it was only a couple of miles to Parsley Hay I left the others and charged ahead. At this time of day on a Sunday there are a lot of other users on the trail but most are very polite and move aside without being asked. This part of the trail is very high up and affords fantastic views of the surrounding countryside and ragged outcrops of rock above your head.
Mike’s prediction proved a little out as it took me 8 miles to reach Parsley Hay, just beyond the junction with the Tissington trail. Here I sat down for a well earned cup of tea and ice cream.
At Parsley Hay we left the track and descended down a fast windy road that cut
through the rock towards Hartington.
Just before Hartington we climbed back up via the B5054 and rejoined the Tissington trail, heading south, at Hartington station. There is an intact signal box here which you can view.
From here we rode the final 5 miles back to our cars at Tissington at 6:00pm, all downhill!
Total mileage: 40 miles of very enjoyable country. I arrived home at 9pm, but it was worth the long drive to enjoy such spectacular cycling. Joseph Sugg.