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.
View this GPS track on a larger map