Sunday, 29 May 2011

29 May: Day ride to St Neots, Tilbrook and Caxton

Nigel writes: On a bank holiday weekend it's always difficult to predict how many people will come on a ride, since many people go away for the weekend. So it was no surprise that there were only four riders at Brookside for today's all-day ride: Mick, Julia, new rider Duncan and me. No one had volunteered to lead today's ride, so I turned up with a map and a plan and effectively became the leader for the day. It was a dull morning, cooler than of late, and very windy. In fact the strong south-westerly wind became the dominant feature of the day.

We headed west out of Cambridge along the Coton path to Coton where we turned north and rode to Madingley.

At Madingley we turned right and then left to Dry Drayton before turning south once more to join the old A428 just west of Hardwick. This took us directly into the wind so I was relieved that I was riding my dropped-handlebar Airnimal road bike (now repaired) rather than my straight-handlebar Marin town bike.

We continued west along the old A428 for a couple of miles before turning north to Knapwell. This allowed us to speed along with the aid of a tailwind for a few miles, though at the cross-roads beyond Knapwell we turned left and back into the wind once more.

When we reached Papworth Everard we joined the A1198 for a mile before turning off by a huge display of daisies towards the wonderfully-named villages of Yelling and Toseland.

A few miles further on we reached St Neots and stopped for coffee at the Market Cafe in the middle of the town. It was just before 11am. A large group of members were already in the cafe, including Ian W, Brian-from-Bedford, Greta, Doug, Adrian, John S and David W.

After coffee we had the usual arrangement at which people joined or left the ride depending on what they planned to do that day. The net result was that Ian, Julia, John, Duncan, David, Brian, Mick and I carried on to lunch in Tilbrook.

Our route took us west from St Neots, under the A1 (and into Bedfordshire) to Duloe, Staploe and Bushmead.

At Bushmead we turned north towards Little Staughton and then on to Pertenhall, just beyond which we crossed back into Cambridgeshire.

When we reached Kimbolton we turned west onto the B645 for a couple of miles to Tilbrook, where we stopped for lunch at the White Horse pub.

We soon discovered that this was no ordinary Sunday at the White Horse. It was "Tilfest", a sort of weekend beer festival, with dozens of real ales being served in a marquee behind the pub. The usual roast lunches had been replaced by a (much cheaper) outdoor barbecue, so we ordered our burgers and sat down in the garden trying to find somewhere out of the wind to eat our lunch.

After a cheap but rather chilly lunch we got back on our bikes. David thought he'd try John's bike for size (John is rather tall) but decided it was rather too big...

David, Brian and Mick headed directly home in their various directions, leaving Ian, Julia, John, Duncan and me to continue on to tea in Caxton. The burgers had not taken long to prepare or eat, so it was only 1.45pm, allowing us to take a big, long loop south and then east.

For the first hour or so we headed south-west - directly into the wind - through Lower and Upper Dean and Riseley to Bletsoe.

Just before Bletsoe, and at the westernmost point on the ride, we turned east to Thurleigh and then south-east to Ravensden and Great Barford.

Just behond Great Barfield we reached Blunham, this time the southmost point on the ride. Here we turned east on the cycle path along the old railway. From this point onwards we had the wind behind us for the rest of the day.

We soon passed under the A1 and entered Sandy. For a change we decided to follow the signposted cycle route through the town. This took us on long winding cycle track through a housing estate before depositing us on the road to Everton.

The road to Everton climbs up through a lovely area of woodland. I had forgotten how nice this section was and it was nice to be reminded.

From Everton we continued through Gamlingay Heath and Great Gransden to Caxton. Along the way we met Mike S and a little further on met half the afternoon ride, led by Jacob. A few minutes later at about 4.35pm we arrived at the Cross Keys where the other half of the afternoon ride was already enjoying tea.

After tea we all returned home, most of us back to Cambridge. With the wind still behind us we made rapid progress through Bourn, Toft and Comberton. I was home by 6.10pm after having cycled 87 miles, my longest ride so far this year. Not bad for such a windy day! Nigel Deakin

Photos 2,4,8 and 12 by Julia Hochbach.

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29 May: Afternoon ride to Caxton

Tina writes: Eleven riders, including new rider Bob, met at Brookside. After Andy had deftly dealt with Sarah’s flat tyre we set off south down Trumpington Road, along Barrow Road, left on to Long Road and right down Robinson Way. Unusually, we didn't turn down the DNA path, but continued straight on to Red Cross Lane and across Babraham Road to Nightingale Avenue. Bob B then took us on a pleasant tour of residential roads, finally emerging on Worts Causeway. We turned left onto Babraham Road and then right up Granham’s Road for the long haul up and over the Gogs. We paused at the top to admire the view and wait for stragglers before the downward sweep to the Shelfords and the right turn to Hauxton.

At the A10 junction, we stopped to chat to Greta, who was on the homeward stretch of her ride back from coffee at St Neots, and then continued across and down a track leading to, and on past, Rectory Farm. The ground was dry and bumpy, underlining the lack of rain over the past few months, but the surrounding fields were green with emerging arable crops edged in places with dandelion yellow and the occasional red splash of poppies. We passed a farmer harvesting his rape seed crop with a ‘traditional’ tractor and then continued on down the track, crossing the Cam, edged with flags and rushes, enjoying the rural off-road interlude.

The track brought us to the edge of Haslingfield, where we cycled through the centre of the village and on to Harlton, then across the A603 to the Eversdens.

By this time the group had splintered into two, with Jacob leading the front riders off on an extra loop, while Bob waited for slower riders to catch up and take a more direct route through Kingston.

After Kingston we turned left along the B1046 past Bourn Golf Club and then right uphill to the village.

We took the Caxton End turn where both fords were unsurprisingly dry continuing on along the gently undulating road and past Bourn Post Mill, (so called as it is constructed around a central post – Bob B is a mine of local information!)

We arrived around 4.25pm at the Cross Keys just ahead of the breakaway party, meeting George, David and Steve who had ridden direct. Nigel and the remaining day riders arrived soon afterwards, making about twenty riders in all, spilling out of the main bar into the room behind. Luckily the Cross Keys always provide a magnificent spread and there were plenty of sandwiches and cakes to go round.

After an hour’s chat, most riders took a direct route back to Cambridge through Bourn, Toft and Comberton. Mike S and I pedalled south from Bourn, retracing the route through Kingston and Eversdens to Haslingfield, but then up and over Chapel Hill to justify teatime indulgence!

Thanks once again to Bob for leading today and devising yet another variation on the Cambridge to Caxton route. Tina Filby

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Thursday, 26 May 2011

26 May: Thursday ride to Horseheath and Clare

Edward writes: After last week's respite from the wind it was again back to a breezy day with a none too promising forecast, ie showers. This probably accounted for the fact that a mere seven riders assembled at Greta's house in Hauxton. Interestingly, though, of the seven, four were females. With nothing for it but to get on with the ride we set off towards Whittlesford via Little Shelford.

Again we turned to go on the splendid cycle path to Sawston and on through to Babraham where we took the farm track over and over the A11 and into Gt. Abington, stopping just briefly to look again at the giraffe. This is becoming a familiar routine. From here we crossed over the A1307 and took the back road round Linton and back over the A1307 and up to Bartlow.

The south westerly wind was mainly in our favour and we were able to make good progress, over the main road again to climb up to Streetly End and thence to Horseheath. The Old Red Lion pub was our coffee stop, where we found Geoff already waiting for us. This is a very nice pub for a break, with excellent coffee served with biscuits and still for a pound, and just as important, cheerful service - excellent value.

At this point Geoff and two of the ladies left us as it was their intention only to do this part of the ride. The rest of set off into the first of the showers we were to encounter during the day. At least it didn't rain for very long and we soon dried out and our route was through extremely attractive countryside through Castle Camps, Helions and Steeple Bumpstead, New England (there's a name to conjure with), Wixoe, and some very narrow, but delightful country lanes into Stoke by Clare and then by more back roads into Clare itself which was our lunch stop, arriving at 1pm having travelled 33 miles from Hauxton, demonstrating once again Greta's skill and knowledge at knowing all the back routes, free from much of the traffic, and making these ride the pleasure they are.

During lunch we were pleasantly surprised to be joined by Sue who had driven out to join us. It's good to hear that she is making good progress following her skiing accident, and has already started to ride her bicycle again so we look forward to her joining us again. When we started after lunch it was again into a shower and even more threatening skies. Once again we were soon out of the rain and cycled through Chilton Street and onto Kedington. Although the wind was more or less against us it's noticeable how much the hedgerows along the side of these narrow roads protected us and riding wasn't too difficult.

After Kedington it was over the A143 and on to Great Wratting and Withersfield and then the turn into West Wickham where we had to take shelter under a tree as another of the showers caught up with us. After this brief stop we turned to go through Balsham to be followed by the long straight stretch to Fulbourn.

From Fulbourn it was over the Gogs and into Great Shelford and back to Hauxton where the ride ended. As ever, thanks to Greta who led the ride with her usual aplomb. Distance 60 miles. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

25 May: Evening ride to Little Shelford

Nigel writes: With midsummer only a month away, the sun was still high in the sky when six riders assembled at Brookside for this evening's ride. It was warm and sunny, but a strong southerly wind proved quite a challenge, especially to me as I was still riding on my straight-handlebars about-town bike.

We set off south-west out of Cambridge along the Barton Road cycleway.

When we reached Barton we turned onto the road to Haslingfield and struggled into the wind to Haslingfield.

At Haslingfield we climbed Chapel Hill before dropping back down to Barrington. This descent is usually fast and carefree but the wind kept the descent slow today.

In Barrington we turned left towards Foxton, and the level crossing by Foxton Station, where we were disappointed to find the gate by the crossing padlocked shut.

Fortunately the alternative via the road and a hundred yards along the A10 was only slightly longer.

We continued through Foxton to Fowlmere, where we turned south towards the A505 and Chrishall Grange. We were riding directly south again, and the headwind made this section something of a struggle.

On the approach to Chrishall Grange the road turned east and the high hedges on either side gave us a welcome respite from the wind.

At the T-junction in Chrishall Grange we paused to ponder our route options. Should we head south - into the wind - for an extra loop via Ickleton? Or should we turn left and ride directly - with the wind behind us - to Duxford? We agreed to take take the shorter route and soon were speeding along.

From Duxford we continued to Whittlesford and on to Little Shelford.

We arrived in Little Shelford slightly early at 8.20pm, so I suggested a short loop via the middle of the village before continuing to our planned pub stop in Great Shelford, but when we passed The Navigator pub I suggested we stop there instead.

After a pleasant half hour we returned back to Cambridge via Great Shelford and the DNA path to Addenbrookes. I was back home by about 9.15pm, after having cycled 26 miles. Nigel Deakin. Photos 2 and 9-11 by Julia Hochbach.

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Sunday, 22 May 2011

22 May: Sunday afternoon ride to Newmarket

Conrad writes: 30 mph headwinds on the return leg? First time ride leader? And with only the prospect of a Wetherspoon pub for a tea stop? Only five riders (Jacob, Steve, Mike, Howard and Peter) fancied their chances as I led them on a scenic and event-filled ride to Newmarket.

From Brookside, we cut across Parker’s Piece and soon engaged in a pitched battle against the usual Sunday afternoon crowd of cars, pedestrians, dogs and cows before emerging at Newmarket P&R. From there, it was the usual route to Six Mile Bottom, but with Jacob on the ride, it was inevitable that a rebel group would take an early off-road option only to rejoin us at the beginning of the gravel road near the windmill.

We then made our way down some quiet country roads to Dullingham, Stetchworth, Woodditton, Saxon Street, Cheveley and finally to Moulton. Along the way, we passed several interesting pubs, including one near the medieval pack-horse bridge in Moulton that Steve recalled visiting as a tea stop several years ago. I could feel the anxiety of the group rise as I ignored sign after sign that pointed to Newmarket.

At Moulton, we decided to visit the Little Chef in Exning instead of the Golden Lion in Newmarket as a tea-stop, given the general distaste that the collective had with Newmarket High Street. Jacob led the way but our progress northwards came to an abrupt halt when we reached the A11.

We decided to cut our losses and make our way to the Golden Lion when Jacob spotted a trail that promised some refuge from the strong headwinds going into Newmarket. This trail looked like the edge of a practice track for horses and, after a long incline, it continued on the opposite side of the B1506. This part of the trail was much more pleasant until the last section when my wheels started to sink into what I quickly learnt was sand. We had to push our bikes back to the B1506 and from there, it was a simple ride downhill to Newmarket.

Suitably fortified with beer and food, we then made our way back to Cambridge via Exning, Burwell, Swaffham Bulbeck and Bottisham. By this time, the headwind had died down somewhat but still slowed us down considerably. I arrived home at 7pm having cycled 45 miles. Conrad Chua

Saturday, 21 May 2011

21 May: Introductory ride to Bourn

Julia writes: It was gloriously sunny and pleasantly warm when Ian and I arrived at Brookside this morning just before 10:00 am and we were expecting the nice weather would have tempted quite a few people out for a ride. So we were a little surprised to find only three riders waiting there initially. While we introduced ourselves to the newcomers and handed out the guest entry forms for them to sign, three more cyclists turned up to join the ride, so eventually we set off with 8 people. It was an interesting and diverse group of four British men (Nigel, Chris, Paul and Ian) and four foreign women: Nellie from Greece, Erika from Italy, Luci from Hong Kong and myself from Germany.

Ian led us west out of Cambridge on the Barton Road cycle path, from where we continued to Comberton and Toft. As usual for a Saturday ride we went at a very gentle pace, Ian at the front of the group and me at the back to make sure we don't lose anyone. Just how important this role of the back marker is became clear to me on the last Saturday ride two weeks ago, where I somehow managed to lose a few people between Horningsea and Fen Ditton - it is easily done! In Toft, we diverted off the main road through School Lane, where I got ahead of the group to take a few photos.

Just before School Lane rejoins the road, we passed a field of colourful lupins in full bloom, so another picture stop was required.

The flowers are not only beautiful but also provide a hug feast of nectar and pollen for insects, especially bees and bumble bees.

We then continued along the main road to Bourn (below) and after a few gentle climbs and descents reached our coffee stop, the Abantu fair trade shop and café.

It was the first time I visited this venue, and I would thoroughly recommend it. It's a beautiful place with a nice terrace to sit outside, a good selection of cakes and a wide range of beautifully crafted fair trade gifts, jewellery and vintage crockery.

We sat down for some refreshments and chat and stayed for at least half an hour (it was so comfortable and pleasant there that I lost track of the time) before setting off again and making our way back to Cambridge via Alms Hill, Hardwick and the Coton footpath. We arrived back in the bustling city centre around 1.15 pm, where we stopped for a final group photo before everyone went their own way. Total distance: 20 miles.

Thanks everyone for a great ride, and I hope to see you again soon! Julia Hochbach