Sunday, 6 March 2011

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.

View this GPS track on a larger map

Photos 3,4 and 9 by Andrew Black.


  1. I also (inspired by the day ride, but trying to have the afternoon at home!) cycled to Grafham Water today, but rather earlier - I was home by 1pm. Interesting to see where your route differed, so I can improve mine if I go that way again!


  2. Just make sure you don't try to follow NCR 51 from St Neots to Grafham Water, which I made the mistake of doing last year...

  3. Aha - I had been planning on using that bit of the NCR51 to go the other way, but I took one look at the wet grass path alongside a field at the Grafham Water end and went around the roads instead!