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.

View this GPS track on a larger map

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