Sunday, 5 June 2011

5 Jun: Day ride to Horseheath and Finchingfield

Nigel writes: It was a dull day, less hot than in recent days but still warm, and with a slight chance of rain later. A cool, blustery wind was blowing from the north. Geoff was our leader today, with just me, Rupert, Eva and newcomer Jackie joining him for today's day ride.

Geoff led us south out of Cambridge to Trumpington and Great Shelford from where we continued through Stapleford to Sawston. Here we turned left onto the road to Babraham. Along the rural part of this road there's a short but rather nice cycle path.

As we rode along we enjoyed the plethora of poppies that were growing alongside.

When we reached Babraham we turned right onto the farm track that leads to the footbridge over the A11.

We reached Abington, crossed the A1307 and continued north to Balsham, which was busy with both cars and pedestrians due to numerous "yard sales" taking place all over the village.

We were making good progress, so Geoff took us on a short loop to avoid us arriving too early for coffee. This took us north to West Wratting, east onto the flat plateau where there was once an airfield, and finally south to West Wickham and Horseheath, where we stopped for coffee at the Old Red Lion Inn. Already enjoying coffee and cupcakes were young Vic, Mike S and David W. Adrian and John S arrived soon after. The landlord was clearly pleased to see us, and was happy to come out to take orders as we sat outside.

After coffee Vic went on his way, and Eva and Jackie headed home, leaving the rest of us to continue south to lunch in Finchingfield. We started by cutting through along the overgrown path that took us down to the A1307 which we crossed to Cardinal's Green.

We continued south to Shudy Camps and Castle Camps from where everyone except Mike S took a diversion along the ever-popular Olmstead Green loop to Helions Bumpstead.

At Helions Bumpstead we turned south. We crossed the B1054 and continued south for five final miles before we reached Finchingfield.

Finchingfield is an ever-popular honeypot village with a large green, a picturesque stream and pond and for some reason, dozens of motor cyclists.

We stopped for lunch at Boswell's cafe which overlooks the green. We found Mike S locking up his bike as we arrived, and Brian turned up on his tricycle.

The cafe was offering a simple but quite pricey menu, but when the food arrived it was well-presented and good quality, even something as simple as my baked potato with beans.

Afterwards John ordered a treacle sponge and I decided to join him in eating dessert. I spotted knickerbocker glory on the dessert blackboard and, overcome by a rush of 1970's nostalgia (or perhaps just a rush of gluttony), ordered one.

I had forgotten that knickerbocker glory is designed to look spectacular on the table, and, rather in awe of what I had ordered, could not resist taking a picture.

After lunch we relaxed on the green (and John and I digested our desserts).

When it was time to make a move, Mike, David and Adrian announced that they would make their own way home leaving Geoff, Rupert, John and me to continue west to afternoon tea in Braughing. Our route took us south along the (very quiet) B1057 through Great Bardfield until we got to the turn to Lindsell.

We hadn't really noticed the wind until now, but with the wind behind us we made rapid progress. We continued through Lindsell and on to Little Cambridge.

We crossed the B184 and carried on west through Duton Hill and the wonderfully-named Tilty to Broxted, where we turned south once more towards Molehill Green, on the edge of Stansted Airport.

With the wind behind us all the way since lunch we were well ahead of Geoff's schedule. From Molehill Green we skirted the airport (completely invisible behind trees) until we reached Elsenham, from where we followed the B1051 to Stansted Mountfitchet. As we rode along it began to rain very lightly. It was really more a case of raindrops in the air, really, but with heavy rain forecast for further west we wondered whether worse was on the way.

During our westward progress from lunch we had occasionally turned north for a short distance, directly into the wind, which made is aware that the journey home would be hard work. It was only 3pm, a full hour and half before the planned tea stop, and after some discussion we decided to skip tea and head north to Cambridge.

Our route north took us through Manuden, where we separated from John. John was riding a mountain bike with suspension forks and was clearly finding the ride harder than he would have liked, so he announced that he would return at his own pace and invited Geoff, Rupert and me to go on ahead.

We contined north through Rickling Green and Rickling to Wicken Bonhunt, where Geoff separated from us to head home via Saffron Walden, leaving just Rupert and me to continue to Cambridge via Arkesden, Littlebury Green, Catmere End and Ickleton. The headwind made the journey back a bit of a slog, though we managed a reasonable speed, with me sheltering behind Rupert most of the time.

I was home by 5.10pm, after having cycled 79 miles. Not a bad mileage considering that we cut short the ride: if we had gone to tea in Broughing the total mileage would have been over 90. But given the cloud, the wind, and the light rain I was happy with the ride we did. Nigel Deakin

Photos 3, 13, 15 and 16 by John Seton.

View this GPS track on a larger map

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