Sunday, 23 October 2011

23 Oct: All-day ride to Horseheath, Sible Hedingham and Saffron Walden

Nigel writes: October has been a superb month for fine weather. Although it is now definitely autumn, and there has been no repeat of the record-breaking temperatures of the start of the month, the past week has seen an unbroken succession of clear, sunny days. Although today wasn't expected to be quite as sunny, it was clear that we were going to have yet another lovely day, and so it proved.

I found eleven other riders waiting at Brookside for today's all-day ride. Perhaps we were all feeling that the fine weather couldn't last and we needed to make the best of it. Tom was our leader today, and he led over Hills Road bridge and down Cherry Hinton Road to Fulbourn.

At Fulbourn we turned towards the Wilbrahams and the road to Six Mile Bottom. When we reached Six Mile Bottom we crossed over the A1304 and climbed the hill for about two-thirds of the way towards Brinkley before turning right by the woodland cemetery onto the lovely lane that follows the ridge to West Wratting.

We continued to West Wickham and after a few more minutes arrived at Horseheath, where we stopped at The Red Lion for coffee.

Already waiting outside the pub were Geoff, Adrian and Doug, and after a while Mike S turned up, making a total of sixteen at coffee. I wandered into the bar to order coffee to discover that the landlord had already spotted us and that staff were already preparing tea, coffee and plates of cakes for us. As always, this is a really nice place to stop for coffee. The landlord and staff make us feel welcome and the food and drink is very good value. We spent about half an hour sitting on the sofas chatting (and agreeing on the inevitably of the All Blacks winning the rugby World Cup).

About ten of us carried on towards lunch in Sible Headingham. Tom's route was fairly straightfoward: south through The Camps and Helions Bumpstead to Finchingfield, then east through Withersfield to Sible Headingham.

Just after Finchingfield we were overtaken by a couple of club cyclists, who called out a cheery greeting as they sped past. I was still feeling full of energy from the two cakes I had eaten at Horseheath, so I decided to latch on behind them and see how long I could keep up. Normally when I do this I soon have to give up and drop back, but today we were reasonably well matched and I was able to ride along with them, chatting pleasantly, for quite a few miles. They turned off south towards Halstead just as I was beginning to tire, and I completed the final few miles to Sible Headingham on my own. I found the Corner Cafe, ordered my lunch (£3.99 for a huge baked potato and beans) and sat outside to wait for my meal, and the other riders.

This was the first time the club has visited this cafe, and we were pleased to discover that it is entirely satisfactory: an adequate menu, friendly, and excellent value. No doubt we will come back here next year.

After lunch, just as we were planning to leave, Gareth arrived. We waited whilst he ate a quick coffee and bacon toastie and explained how he had just been for a ride with "another cycling club" before cycling down to join us. As a result, whilst the rest of us were on 40 miles so far, Gareth was on 60.

Before long we were on our way. Tom took us north out of Sible Headingham and then west, though a series of enchanting quiet lanes, to Great Bardfield.

This area is rather annoyingly on the junction of four adjacent OS maps, which made it necessary for Tom to stop periodically to make sure we were on the correct route. But it didn't matter: it was sunny, it was warm, and the area was beautiful and quiet.

From Great Bardfield we continued through Thaxted and Debden to Saffron Walden, where we arrived at The Temerarire at about 4.30pm. Here I ordered a coffee and a large slice of carrot cake, and we sat outside in the sunshine to await the afternoon riders. After a few minutes Conrad arrived with about eight others. Whilst they queued up to order coffee the all-day riders got ready to leave.

Our route back to Cambridge took us past Audley End house and along Chestnut Avenue to Catmere End. We followed the ridge over Coploe Hill before dropping down to Ickleton and the road through Duxford and Whittlesford to the Shelfords. We joined the DNA path to Addenbrooke's before turning onto the busway cycleway towards the station.

As we rode along the super-smooth busway cycleway I realised my front tyre had gone soft. I had a puncture. Fortunately it only took a few minutes to change the tube and re-inflate, and I was home by 6.15pm, after having cycled a very enjoyable 82 miles.

View this route on a larger map

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