Nigel writes: The clocks went back this morning, so we had an extra hour in bed - a small consolation as we enter the season of cold mornings and dark evenings. This particular morning, however, wasn't too bad. It was cloudy and dull - and we didn't see much of the sun all day - but surprisingly warm considering the time of year. Even the steady wind was quite warm. There were nine of us at Brookside for today's ride, including Tony our leader.
Tony led us west out of Cambridge along the Coton path to Coton and up Madingley Hill to Hardwick.
We joined the old St Neot's Road which we followed west until the turn to Knapwell.
We turned north for a big loop which took us through Knapwell and Connington before turning south-west to Hilton, where we stopped to admire the Turf Maze.
We continued south-west to Graveley, directly into a steady headwind which was to keep us company for most of the day.
At Graveley we turned directly south, first to Croxton, where we crossed the A428, and then to Waresley, where we arrived at the garden centre at about 11.20pm. As usual, there were several club members already in the cafe including Adrian, Doug and Mike S.
After coffee several riders turned back to Cambridge leaving about seven to continue on to lunch in Hinxworth. Adrian, Doug and Mike finished coffee first and set off on their own towards lunch, leaving Tony, Rupert, Conrad and me to follow on later. Tony had planned a 24 mile route to lunch but since it was already 11.45am Rupert suggested we ride straight there. The direct route through Gamlingay, Potton, Dunton and Edworth wasn't very long, so despite a steady headwind we only took an hour. We arrived at Farrowby Farm, Hinxworth at 12.45pm, ahead of Adrian's group who joined us a few minutes later.
Farrowby Farm is a real farm, and my bike was parked next to a field full of young pigs.
After lunch we continued in two groups. I remained with Tony's group of four, which was heading east towards our tea stop in Ickleton. Meanwhile Adrian's group made their own way back to Cambridge.
Our first stop after Hinxworth was Ashwell, where we briefly stopped to inspect the "Ash Well". This is a rather attractive pond in a sunken hollow in the middle of the village, surrounded by trees (some of them, presumably, ash trees). The spring here forms the source of the River Rhee, which is one of the tributaries of the Cam.
From Ashwell we turned south - and back into the wind. This took us up into the chalkland of north Hertfordshire. We crossed over the A505 and continued to Sandon, Kelshall and Thirfield to Reed. We were now riding through a much more undulating and intimate landscape than further north, much more attractive than the flat, quiet but rather bleak landscape of Huntingdonshire and Bedfordshure which we had been riding through until now. As we rode along we encountered dozens of cyclists riding the other way. These were riders on the "Emitremmus Desrever" 100km Audax from Stevenage to Saffron Walden and back. Along the way we spotted Tina from our club.
When we reached Reed we paused briefly outside the (closed) Silver Ball Cafe to have a drink and for Rupert to have a sandwich. Unfortunately Tony hadn't noticed that we had stopped, so he carried on without us, and althouhh we followed on after a few minutes we didn't see Tony again.
From Reed we were riding with the wind behind us, and we made rapid progress to Barkway. After a short distance along the B1368 we turned off towards Shaftenhoe End and the switchback climb to Great Chishill.
From Great Chishill it would have been a short and pleasant ride to Ickleton, our planned tea stop, but the three of us decided to head straight back to Cambridge instead. We continued through Heydon towards Chrishill Grange. When we reached the turn for Elmdon we came across Simon P and the afternoon ride, who had just climbed up from Chrishill Grange and were waiting for the final member of their group to join them.
Simon's group continued on south for a loop through Littlebury Green and Catmere End whilst Rupert, Conrad and I carried on home via Chrishill Grange, Duxford, Whittlesford and the Shelfords. I was home by 4.30pm, having cycled 77 miles.
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