Thursday, 31 March 2011

31 Mar: Thursday ride to Horseheath and Newmarket

Edward writes: Today seven riders met at Greta's house in Hauxton in conditions that were overcast, but warm and fairly humid. This was another difficult decision day as far as choice of clothing was concerned. Although overcast in the morning the forecast was sunny in the afternoon with and increasing wind. We set off and made our way through Little Shelford and then on to Whittlesford where we turned left on the track which leads up to the Church and then on to the newly laid cycle way to Sawston. For those who remember the old track through here this is such a good improvement, especially with the elimination of the little bridge about halfway across. This brought us to the Sawston by-pass and then through Sawston itself and on to the equally fine cycleway leading to Babraham.

We turned right at the end of the cycle way and made for the A505 which we had to negotiate over the hill and down to the Pampisford turning and then the road to Abington and down to the A1307 where we crossed into Hildersham. The wind had gathered strength by now and we were lucky enough to spend most of our time with it on our backs. After Hildersham it was the two mile climb up to Balsham. It was through Balsham towards West Wickham, but before reaching this village we turned right towards Streetly End and then on to Horseheath where we had coffee and cake. This was at the Old Red Lion Inn, always a pleasant place to stop: splendid coffee and cake for a pound - what a bargain!

After our break, with the sun now shining, we went to West Wickham, Carlton and Brinkley, with the added advantage of the wind on our backs this was all free-wheeling (nearly anyway). From Brinkley it was downhill to Dullingham and then on to the Horseracing Museum in Newmarket, which was our lunch stop. This is another good value place to eat.

We left Newmarket at 2pm and went out of town to take the road to Dullingham and as we expected the wind was now not in our favour. At Dullingham we turned right and took the Brinkley road and battled against the wind and turned right to go to Six Mile Bottom, over the railway and up to Great Wilbraham. Luckily the wind, although still strong, was not quite in our faces. From Gt. Wilbraham it was on to Fulbourn along the cycle way to Cherry Hinton, Queen Edith's Way, onto the hospital cycleway, Great Shelford and leaving Greta to cycle back to Hauxton.

As always thanks to Greta for being our leader. Mileage 54. Edward Elmer.

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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

29 Mar: Seniors Ride to Cambourne

Peter Writes: Three riders started from Madingley Road P&R Site to ride to Peters for coffee. After coffee, three of us started out for Cambourne via Caldecote (Jackie having turned back to deliver club posters to dealers),...

Near Caldecote Church

...Bourn, Caxton End Ford, Bourn Mill,...

Bourn Mill, near Caxton Village

Mill Cottage

...Caxton, Lower Cambourne and finally Great Cambourne and The Monkfield Arms, where we met Vic for lunch.

29 Mar: Day ride from Rutland Water (Car-assisted)

Adrian writes: Six club members arrived in two cars at Whitwell car park on the north side of Rutland Water reservoir for our day ride around the reservoir and surrounding area. (Mike, Averil, Jim, Tony, Rupert and yours truly).

Mike was the leader for the day which was bright and sunning with hardly any wind and quite warm.

After first having a coffee at the car park kiosk we headed west towards Oakham on the cycle path round the reservoir, we turned left before Oakham to go around the peninsular of Upper Hambleton village which juts out into the reservoir. The cycle path around the peninsular was very unadulterated but with lovely views.

Still on the cycle path we went through Egleton and Manton. At Manton we left the cycle path and headed south to the village of Wing, from Wing we went to Morcott, crossed the A47 and onto Seaton where you get a lovely view of the Harringworth/Welland Viaduct. It is very unadulterated here with some steep climbs.

From Seaton we carried on to Uppingham for lunch and to meet George Stevenson who was joining us for the afternoon. Four of us had a cooked lunch in a lovely café in the town and the other three had there sandwiches in the churchyard just off the market square and then joined us in the café afterwards.

After lunch we left Uppingham on the same road we came in by, but turned left after about a mile to Bisbrooke and then onto Glaston and back up to Wing again where we stopped to look at the Maze and regrouped.

After Wing we headed east to Pilton where we stopped to read the information board over an old disused railway bridge about the old disused quarrys in the area.

From here we turned north at the next crossroads to North Luffenham and Edith Weston which brought us back to the south side of Rutland Water.

At the car park kiosk we stopped for an afternoon break, here we left George to ride back to Uppingham, where he had left his car and we carried on around the reservoir on the cycle path, past Normanton church museum,

over the dam, back to Whitwell car park were we had left our cars.

We all had had a lovely time in an area we don’t visit very often and the only rain we had was on the way home in the cars. Thanks again to Mike for organising and leading. Adrian Lee.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

27 Mar: Afternoon ride to Ickleton

Gareth writes: It was a cold day, cold enough for woolly hat and thick gloves, and there was a turnout of six. Bob Billingham led us over Chapel Hill to Haslingfield, then through Barrington, Foxton and Fowlmere to Thriplow, where thousands of people had gathered for the daffodil weekend. The village loop was closed to all traffic, so we skirted it to the south and peeped at the displays of daffodils.

Climbing Chapel Hill. All Saints Church, Haslingfield, and the Ryle Telescope in the background.

Daffodil weekend in full bloom at Thriplow.

From Thriplow we descended to the A505 and then climbed up the gentle slope to Chrishill Grange and Elmdon. On Coploe Hill we came across the tail-enders of the Head2Head London to Cambridge cycle ride for the Samantha Dickson Brain Tumour Trust.

Climbing to Chrishall Grange.

At the Ickleton Riverside Barns we met the day riders. I had some wisdom teeth removed this week, so there was nothing I could eat, and I looked enviously at the other riders’ plates. Cycling just isn’t cycling without cake!

Ickleton Riverside Barns.

The 42 miles for the afternoon were a bit too much for me with no food: I was close to bonking by the time I staggered home.

Monday, 21 March 2011

20 Mar: "End of Hibernation" 200 km audax

Gareth writes: After a warm and sunny Saturday, Sunday dawned bitterly cold. Did I really want to be setting out at 06:30, shivering and teeth chattering? I felt stale and unfit, not having done much in the way of cycling since the ride I led back in January. But thoughts like this are usual, so I did my best to ignore them.

The “End of Hibernation” 200 km audax was previously run by John Juckes of Cambridge Cycling Club, but this year Terry Dickerson had taken over as organizer.

There seemed to be fewer starters than last year, maybe thirty or so, but last year the weather was much warmer, and anyway I’m not such a good estimator of numbers (last year I thought there were about forty riders, but the list of finishers showed more than sixty). From CTC Cambridge there were Tony, Simon Proven, and me.

Organizer Terry Dickerson summons the riders for the off.

Ready, steady... (John Juckes at right in the orange top.)

There was a strong south-westerly breeze, and for the first leg we had behind us and rolled along at quite a pace. A group of about six got away from the bunch as we sped down Hinton Way, but I managed to tag onto the back of the second group, led by Chris Adams of Cambridge Cycling Club. Halfway up Worts Causeway we met Simon Proven, who had snuck out a couple of minutes early and was taking photos. With wind behind us and fresh legs, we fairly rattled through Six Mile Bottom, Dullingham, and Saxon Street. At Cowlinge the group put on a spurt and dropped me, but I was only half a minute behind when we pulled into Tubby T’s café at Stradishall, having ridden the first 47 km in the (for me) very fast time of 1:50.

Climbing the Gog Magogs. Chris Adams in the red, white and blue CCC top; me in high-vis. Photo by Simon Proven.

Coming up Hartest Hill, the steepest bit of the ride.

I am getting better at eating quickly on audaxes, and I wolfed down a banana, a danish pastry and a mug of coffee, and was out of the door and on the road again in about fifteen minutes. I really like the next section of route, on narrow lanes through Denston and Hawkedon to Hartest. After Hartest came the steepest section of the route, Hartest Hill, which is over 10% for a short section, but it’s Suffolk and the top is only 97 m above sea level, so it was soon over.

I wasn’t surprised when just before Cockfield I was caught by the group I had been riding with on the first leg, and I managed to tag on to the back again, and they dragged me at high speed all the way to the control at Riverside Lakes Café near Onehouse. 87 km ridden, and still only 11:45!

The café here is under new management since last year, and coped pretty well. Cyclists were arriving in a constant stream, and a constant stream of beans on toast emerged from the kitchen in response.

As I was leaving, some kind of vintage tractor rally was arriving, with tractors old and new queueing up to enter the Riverside Lakes. It seems that people drive vintage tractors around the country for charity. I would have said, “what an absurd activity,” except that I was on a 200 km bike ride myself.

A Massey Ferguson 399 joins the tractor rally at Riverside Lake near Onehouse. In the background you can see a Massey Ferguson 35 painted “Jill, the CLIC Sargent awareness tractor”.

Cuckoo Hill near Wethersfield.

After lunch, the route turned back towards Cambridge, into the teeth of the westerly wind. The B1115 crosses some gentle Suffolk downs over which the wind blows without headge or windbreak, and it was tough going. I find it psychologically very hard cycling into a headwind: with a hill you eventually get to the top, but a headwind never lets up: the only thing to do is to grit my teeth and keep pedalling.

Around Bildeston I was caught again by Chris Adams and group, and managed to tag on for about five kilometres before they dropped me going up the hill toward Monks Eleigh. And then at Sudbury I was caught by Michael (I think) from Birmingham, and we chatted for a bit before I mismanaged a gearchange and dropped my chain on the climb up the A131. I found an abandoned water bottle in the gutter, though, so it wasn’t all bad.

Finchingfield seemed to take forever to appear. I found this section pretty dispiriting last year, and so it was again this year. For quite a while I had my head down feeling very sorry for myself, but eventually (about 14:30) I was collapsed into a chair in Boswell’s Café with tea and scone. (This café may be under new management too—last year it was ‘Jemima's Tea Room’.) Simon Proven soon arrived—after taking photos of everyone back on Worts Causeway he had got stuck at the back of queues in the cafés and had been last, or nearly last, to leave Onehouse. “Don’t sit there, you’ll be stuck,” he said, and I wearily acquiesced.

Unlike last year, the wind didn’t let up after Finchingfield, and the next leg west through Thaxted, Newport, and Clavering was a bit of a drag. It’s beautiful countryside, but I just couldn’t spare the energy to appreciate it as my brain had turned to mush. Time seemed to stand still, with Brent Pelham just three miles away but seemingly not getting any closer. But all journeys come to an end, and at eventually I reached the turn at Great Hormead, where I sat outside the pub for ten minutes to massage my legs and eat a banana and a flapjack.

The last section was great. The wind was at my back, and the new route is a big improvement over last year’s: instead of going to Hare Street and taking the long and dull B1368, it winds through the back lanes of Anstey and Nuthampstead, over the hill to Shaftenhoe End and down to Barley. I took a wrong turn in Anstey (when the route sheet says “second left”, you have to know that the first left doesn’t count because it’s a dead end) and ended up going via Barkway Park Golf Club. At the junction I caught up with Michael, who had made the same mistake as me, so I told him to follow me for a bit, since I knew the way home from Nuthampstead.

With a tailwind and downhill, and home not far away, I had a resurgence of energy, and managed to get back onto the top chainring, which had seen no use since lunchtime. The sun set over Royston vale in a spectacular blaze of orange, and the daffodils nodded in the evening breeze. The last of the twilight was just dying as we pulled into Hauxton Village Hall at 18:40.

So a best-ever 10:40 for me, despite the long drag from Onehouse to Great Hormead. What with riding to the start and home again, I had 230 km (143 miles) for the day.

Thanks to Terry for organizing a good ride, and for providing so many delicious cakes at the end.

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Sunday, 20 March 2011

20 Mar: Afternoon ride to Shepreth

Nigel writes: Spring has well and truly arrived in Cambridge. The blossom is out, daffodils are in bloom along the verges, and the clocks go forward next weekend. Although today was quite cloudy, with the sun only making an appearance later in the afternoon, it was very mild, and I was not at all surprised to find ten other riders waiting at Brookside for this afternoon's ride to Shepreth, including several new faces I had not met before.

Today's ride involved riding south along the flat Cam-or-Granta valley to the chalk uplands that lie along the border with Essex. We would enjoy the hills, narrow lanes and fine views offered by this area for an hour or so before turning back north and dropping back down into the low, flat country of the Cam-or-Rhee valley and our tea stop at Shepreth.

After leaving Cambridge by the DNA path to Great Shelford we rode south through Little Shelford, Whittlesford and Duxford to Ickleton.

At Ickleton we left the Cam-or-Granta valley and climbed up Coploe Hill.

As we waited at the top Jacob spun an unlikely story about how Coploe hill got its name. (Anybody know? The best I can find is that "coploe" is old English for summit or mound).

The top of Coploe Hill is also the border with Essex, though there is no indication of this on the ground. So we headed on south into Essex, dropping down a little on this lovely single-track road before climbing up once more to the tiny hamlet of Catmere End. Here we paused for a short while before dropping back down again through Littlebury Green to the B1038 on the far side of the ridge.

The B1038 is a pleasant, quiet road with hardly any traffic which we could have followed all the way to Great Chishill. However this would have taken us along the valley floor, so in order to make the ride more interesting (and add a few extra miles) we turned right at Wenden Lofts after only a few hundred yards, and climbed back up to Elmdon. From Elmdon we followed the top of the ridge, back into Cambridgeshire, and on to Heydon. Pausing briefly outside Heydon church, we noticed that this medieval church (below) has a modern, and extremely plain, brick tower. Mike K told us that the original tower had been bombed in the War, which seemed a plausible explanation. (Pevsner writes that the tower was hit by a bomb in 1940, collapsed, and tore down half the nave.)

We continued on along the ridge to Great Chishill, where we turned right towards Flint Cross. This long, straight, road took us down off the ridge, and we dropped down from about 130m to 40m. As we sped down the hill on a lovely, quiet road, the sun at last came out and we were able to enjoy fine views towards the north.

At Flint Cross we crossed the very busy A505 and followed the B1368 to Fowlmere, where we turned at last towards Shepreth. The Green Man is on the far southern edge of the village, just south of the A10, and we approached it by the narrow single-track road past the RSPB bird sanctuary.

We arrived at the Green Man, Shepreth, about ten minutes late. Here we found Mike St, who was sitting on his own at a table in the dining area. The eleven of us filled that table and overflowed onto a neighbouring table. Soon afterwards a large contingent from the all-day ride arrived. Although Geoff, Averil and maybe one or two others didn't wait for tea, we were still 18. Although we had apparently only booked for 10, the staff agreed to make some extra sandwiches and, after an understandable delay, everyone had their fill of quite good-quality sandwiches and cakes, plus a less than adequate single cup of tea.

After tea we returned back to Cambridge. I led the group across the A10 into Shepreth proper, on to Barrington, and over Chapel Hill to Haslingfield.

The final few miles of our ride took us through Barton and then into Cambridge along the A603. I was back at Brookside by 5.45pm and home by 6pm, after having cycled about 41 miles.

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Sunday, 6 March 2011

6 Mar: Afternoon ride to Waresley

Tina writes: The forecast had promised a dry afternoon with sunny intervals and eight riders, including new rider Andy, assembled at Brookside, keen to stretch their legs. Daniel was determined to make us earn our tea and had planned a ‘Four Peaks’ route (well ‘hills’ anyway!), taking in both Chapel and Croydon hills.

We took the cycleway out through Barton, turning left towards Haslingfield and then everyone clicked down for the climb over Chapel Hill, pausing to admire the view and snatch a quick drink at the top. We swept down to Barrington, then right to Orwell, through the village and across the unusually quiet A603 to Wimpole Hall, joining families and dog walkers as we crossed the park to Arrington.

We cycled through Croydon, chatting, enjoying views across Cambridgeshire countryside and admiring the last of the snowdrops along the verges. Croydon Hill brought conversation to an abrupt end as we pedalled upwards to the Hatleys. From here it was a relatively straight and flat road on to Gamlingay and the intriguingly named Gamlingay Cinques.

Instead of turning right at the crossroads down Drove Road to the B1040, we headed straight over the junction for a final loop with Tetworth Hill, in our sights. As Pitsdean Road swept sharply round to the left, we took the right fork along a quiet lane, to climb our final ‘peak’, Lily Hill. Unfortunately, Paul discovered his rear tyre was soft indicating a puncture, but was able to inflate it enough to ride the last mile, rather than doing a roadside repair.

We reached Waresley Park around 4pm, joining three remaining day riders enjoying their cakes and tea. After a half hour break, Paul repaired his puncture and we headed back to Cambridge, splitting into two groups around Caxton – afternoon riders opting for the gentler route, while the day riders tackled the hillier road through Caxton End. From Caxton, we took the direct road back along the B1046 through Bourn, Toft, Comberton, finally rejoining the Barton cycleway. We arrived back in central Cambridge by 6.15pm and according to Daniel’s GPS had clocked up a respectable 39 miles. By this time it was nearly dark, though noticeably lighter than last week – roll on the Spring! Tina Filby

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6 Mar: Day ride to St Ives, West Perry and Waresley

Nigel writes: Today was dry, cloudy and cold, with a chilly breeze that reminded us that although spring is not far away, it was still winter. I was the leader today, and when I arrived at Brookside for the 9.30 start I found seven other riders waiting. Our route today would take us north and west, into the Ouse valley and along the quiet, relatively flat, and ever so slightly dull lanes of the former county of Huntingdonshire.

The first stage of our ride involved cycling to St Ives for coffee. I asked the assembled group which of two alternative routes they prefered: a 13-mile route using the cycleway alongside the guided busway, or an 18-mile route along roads. My suggestion that we use the guided busway caused groans: "it's so bumpy, and so boring, and it's underwater in places", so I quickly reassured everyone that we would stick to the roads.

I led the group west out of Cambridge along the Coton cycleway and up Madingley Hill to Hardwick.

We continued west along the former A428 for a couple of miles before turning right onto the road to Knapwell.

We continued through Conington and Fenstanton to St Ives, where we crossed over the River Great Ouse using the historic old town bridge. On the bridge we met Adrian and Edgar going the other way, and stopped for a chat.

A short ride along the waterfront brought us to our morning coffee stop at Nuts Bistro in Station Road. This was my first visit. It's closer to a traditional english cafe than a bistro (there was a full fried breakfast menu on offer), but perfectly nice and a very satisfactory place to stop for coffee and a slice of bread pudding.

As usual, we found several other members already in the cafe, and, as usual, several new people joined the ride whilst several others dropped out to ride back home. Lunch today was at West Perry, on the shore of Grafham Water. To get there from St Ives we crossed back over the town bridge and followed NCR 51 through Hemingford Grey and Hemingford Abbots before crossing the meadows to Godmanchester.

At Godmanchester we turned onto the B1043 which took us south along the Ouse valley to Offord Cluny. Here we turned right, across the railway and on to Buckden.

At Buckden we crossed over the A1. Crossing the A1 here in a car involves navigating a roundabout which all A1 traffic is using as well. Fortunately a subway nearby allows cyclists and pedestrians to avoid this completely. (This wasn't a surprise to me: I would never take a CTC ride across the A1 on a surface-level crossing, and made sure the previous night that a safe alternative was available).

After crossing the A1 we were on the B661. After a couple of miles the huge dam at the eastern end of Grafham Water loomed above us. We continued a couple of miles further to West perry, where we stopped for lunch at the Harbour View Restaurant on the shore of the lake.

Although the morning had been clouds and dull, by the time we had finished lunch the sun had come out, and we were able to spend a few minutes looking out onto the lake and viewing the boats before continuing on to our afternoon tea stop at Waresley Park Garden Centre.

Unfortunately the sun didn't stay out for long, and the short spell of warmth it had brought came to an end. It was still a cold day, and the cool breeze became a cold headwind. Although never particularly strong, it slowed our progress for the remainder of the afternoon.

As we rode along I was cheered to see plenty of daffodils on the verges, most still waiting for spring but one or two already in bloom.

Our route from Grafham Water to Waresley took us south to Great Staughton and a winding lane over Staughton Moor to Bushmead Cross. Here we turned east, to Staploe and Duloe before passing under the A1 to St Neots.

In St Neots Martin had a puncture. Mick and Averil stopped to help, whilst the remaining four of us continued to Waresley. We took the little lane over Lily Hill, which is normally a charming route but today I was feeling a bit battered by the headwind and ready for a stop in Waresley.

We arrived at Waresley Garden Centre at 3.35pm, and was surprised to see no sign of the afternoon ride. We queued up and ordered coffee and cakes and were still eating when Daniel and the afternoon riders eventually turned up just before 4pm. Despite the cafe closing at 4pm they didn't have any problems getting served. In fact the cafe was still busy with customers and the friendly staff didn't seem to be in any hurry to throw us out. By the time we left it was 4.25pm.

The route back to Cambridge took us through Great Gransden, Caxton, Bourn and the B1046 through Toft, Comberton and Barton. We started off in a single large group, though before long we separated into smaller groups riding at different speeds.

I set off in the front group, with Andrew and particularly John setting a rapid pace with Tom and me just behind. I suggested we take the road through Caxton End, which is quiet and pleasant though it was really just a device to slow the pace for a while. This road has several fords, which I splashed through without really thinking and was surprised to find them rather deeper than usual. After Caxton the pace picked up once more, but I was getting tired and dropped back, arriving in Cambridge just after 6pm and home at 6.15pm, after having cycled 68 miles.

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Photos 3,4 and 9 by Andrew Black.