Sunday, 15 May 2011

15 May: Afternoon ride to Hemingford Abbots

Nigel writes: I very nearly didn't go on this afternoon's ride. An ill-advised attempt at amateur bike maintenance the previous evening meant that the bike I normally use for club rides was off the road pending a visit to a bike shop. Although I did have a second bike, with fat tyres and straight handlebars, it was intended for about-town use and I'd never ridden it outside the city limits. However the prospect of an afternoon doing shopping or performing domestic tasks was too awful to contemplate, so I decided to come on the ride using the about-town bike anyway. I could always turn back if I couldn't keep up. In the event I needn't have worried: this afternoon's ride was almost completely flat and gentle-paced and I had no trouble keeping up.

Our leader today was John F, leading a group of seven riders on total. He led us west out of Cambridge along the Barton Road cycle track to Barton.

At Barton we turned right onto the B1046 which took us through Comberton and Toft to Bourn, where we turned off to ride into the village.

In the middle of Bourn we turned left onto Caxton End, a narrow lane with two fords and a stream running along it. There was no sign of the stream, one ford was dry and the other was just a puddle.

We continued to Caxton and on to Great Gransden where we rejoined the B1046 and followed it west for a further two miles, before turning right towards Croxton. We were now heading north, and after crossing the A428 at Croxton we continued to Graveley. Here the group split into two: the official group led by John continued to Hilton, Fenstanton and the Hemingfords, whilst a breakaway group led by Jacob took a shorter, but off-road route. I was intrigued by Jacob's route, and since I was riding on fatter tyres than usual, I was keen to try it.

Jacob led us west out of Graveley for a few hundred yards before turning north onto a bridleway towards Godmanchester which lies three miles across the fields to the north. This involves about two miles along a farm track followed by another mile or so of minor road to Godmanchester.

The track itself was rough but not bad at all. I could have probably managed it on my Airnimal with its 25mm tyres but on my Marin Kentford with its fatter 32mm tyres it was no problem at all.

We soon arrived in Godmanchester. We rode through the town for a mile or so. On the left we spotted the famous "Chinese" Bridge on our left.

We headed east out of Godmanchester for a few hundred yards before turning left onto the excellent, surfaced cycle path which crosses the Ouse Meadows to Hemingford Abbots.

We arrived at our tea stop, the Axe and Compasses in Hemingford Abbots, just after 4.30pm, bang on time. At the pub we found Geoff, Adrian and Neil from the day ride. A few minutes later John arrived with the "official" part of the afternoon ride, making a dozen in total at tea.

After an excellent tea we returned back to Cambridge. Jacob suggested that instead of taking the obvious route east was actually go west for a short distance before crossing the Ouse at Houghton Mill. Everyone seemed up for, this, and we all followed.

Houghton is a very pretty little village, and from it a pleasant surfaced footpath known as the "Thicket Path" runs for a mile or do through woodland to St Ives.

After riding through St Ives town centre we joined the track that runs alongside the guided busway. This track is as poor as always, with a surface of loose limestone chips. However at least it wasn't flooded, unlike every other time I have ridden along here.

When we reached Swavesey we found builder's fences had been placed across the route, evidence of the work that has just started which will give the cycle track a proper hard surface from Swavesey to Cambridge. So we left the track (much to the relief of Geoff) and followed the roads through Longstandon, Oakington and Girton back to Cambridge. I was back in central Cambridge by 7pm, having cycled 47 miles.

View this GPS track on a larger map

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