Nigel writes: After a bit of dullness at the start, and a few spots of rain, today turned into yet another hot, sunny day and allowed us a superb day's cycling along some lovely narrow lanes in north Essex. There was seven of us today, led by John S who was leading his first club ride but showed himself to be no novice in terms of planning and following a lovely route.
Our morning coffee stop was in Saffron Walden. John took us there by a fairly direct route: south out of Cambridge to Great Shelford and then via Little Shelford, Whittlesford and Duxford to Ickleton.
Along the way the sun came out and the temperature rose, though we were riding into a gentle but steady headwind from the south-west which stayed for the rest of the day. As we continued up Coploe Hill we passed two groups of cyclists: one was gathered round someone mending a puncture, the other was taking a well-earned rest at the top. In a passing place a few yards further along, we did the same.
From Coploe Hill we continued up to Catmere End.
From Catmere End we dropped back down again along Chestnut Avenue to Audley End house.
A few minutes later we arrived in Saffron Walden where we stopped for coffee at The Temeraire. Geoff was there waiting for us, and Greta and Adrian arrived shortly afterwards, as did Mike S and young Vic.
After coffee Vic went home and Adrian, Greta and Mike went off to make their own way to tea, leaving John, Averil, Geoff, Joseph, Conrad and me to continue south to lunch in Great Dunmow.
John's route took us to Debden and Debden Green and then along a series of lovely narrow lanes to Broxted.
We carried on along a series of yet more splendidly narrow lanes to Great Dunmow, where we stopped for tea at the Tea Tree cafe.
This was my first visit to this cafe: it is in an attractive setting by a lake near the centre of the town. We were just about the only people there, and received friendly and speedy service. The menu seemed ideal for cyclists: I ordered a jacket potato and beans accompanied by a home-made smoothie.
After lunch we turned north along the B1057. After a few miles we turned off to the east for a loop via Bardfield Saling. With the wind behind us at last we made rapid progress, slowed only by the need for Geoff to stop and fix a puncture.
To reach Bardfield Saling John took us along a short section of off-road byway. This was near the airfield at Great Saling and we heard light aircraft buzzing away, invisible beyond the trees that lined the path.
We continued to Great Bardfield and, via yet another loop, Finchingfield. This whole section was delightful. Quiet, narrow lanes, hardly any traffic, and a series of picturesque villages.
When we reached Finchingfield we sped down the hill into this picture-postcard village and sped back out again along the road to Helions Bumpstead. At the cross-roads with the B1054 a couple of miles before Helions Bumpstead we realised we were well ahead of time and stopped for a rest.
From Helions Bumpstead we took the loop via Olmstead Green before contining north via Castle Camps and Horseheath to West Wratting, where tea was being served at Peter's house. By now I was beginning to tire and so the sign outside Peter's house was a very welcome sight.
Peter welcomed us and invited us round the back of his house into his large garden, where we found about twenty other club members already there, enjoying a superb spread of sandwiches and cakes. These "home teas" in members' houses are definitely highlights of the club year, and we are very grateful to members for offering them.
After tea we returned back to Cambridge. Some prople took the direct route back via Balsham. Others took a slightly longer off-road route via the Roman Road. The food had revived me so I joined Rupert and about half a dozen others for a slightly longer route back via Dullingham and Swaffham Bulbeck. I was back home in Cambridge just after 7pm, after having cycled a very satisfying and enjoyable 86 miles.
View this (mostly) GPS track on a larger map