Nigel writes: Today started cold and bright, with a chilly wind from the west. The approach of Christmas meant that I had plenty to do back home, and when I set off for Brookside I thought I'd just ride to coffee and then come back. In the event, and not for the first time, I ended up staying out all day. There was quite a good turnout at Brookside: Jim, Conrad, Adrian, Mick C, Richard B, Neil, Jim and Averil, our leader for today.
Our first stop today was St Ives for coffee, and as I had hoped Averil had decided to ride straight there along the busway cycleway. After a short discussion about the best route to get onto the cycleway I suggested heading down to the river, crossing over to Chesterton and then riding up Arbury Road and Northfield Avenue to join the cycleway at Orchard Park. Not the most scenic of routes, but the roads were quiet and the journey simple enough.
Once we reached the cycleway I think we all relaxed. Smooth, wide, traffic-free tarmac would carry us all the way to our coffee stop, about eleven miles away. A couple of miles further we passed a group of horses, reminding us that in addition to being an excellent cycleway this route was also a bridleway.
When we reached Oakington we were joined by Rupert, Cathy and Janice. As we rode along the weather began to deteriorate. We were riding into a gentle but persistent and cold headwind, and after a while it began to drizzle. For short periods the drizzle turned to sleet, and it became quite uncomfortable riding along with snowflakes blowing into the eyes. Fortunately it never got too bad, and the little patch of wet weather soon moved on.
We arrived in St Ives at almost exactly 11am. We stopped at Nuts Bistro and I ordered a warming bowl of soup.
By the time we left the cafe the weather had brightened up and the sun had come out. The weather had improved at just the point where each of us had to decide whether to return home or carry on to lunch, and I suppose I should not have been surprised to find that the majority of the group had chosen to stay on the ride. Perhaps we were all keen to get a few miles in credit before the excesses of the forthcoming holidays. In any case the sun was shining brightly as we rode over the town bridge towards Hemingford Grey.
Our route took us through the Hemingfords and then across the meadows to Godmanchester.
At Godmanchester we turned left by the "Chinese" bridge and followed the B1043 towards the Offords.
We were now riding into the wind and the sun had disappeared, making it now quite cold. Fortunately we didn't have very far to go. When we reached Offord Cluny we turned west towards Buckden, where a subway allowed us to cross the A1 without the need to use the busy roundabout close by.
After a couple of miles we found ourself riding below the high grassy dam at the eastern edge of Grafham Water.
We followed the southern shore of the lake for a couple of miles further before reaching West Perry where we stopped for lunch at the Harbour View restaurant. The car park was empty and there were few people around, so we were able to enjoy the best seats in the restaurant and confirm that it did, indeed, have a harbour view.
After lunch we turned south toward St Neots. Just before leaving West Perry I stopped to photograph a large map of the area. I thought this might be a useful reference in the future, so here it is:
Our route south from West perry took a route that I had not used before: a short section of private road past Littlehey Prison which took us onto a lovely narrow lane to Great Staughton. I'd happily recommend this route for future use.
A series of quiet lanes took us around Staughton Moor airfield to Bushmead where we turned east towards St Neots. On this occasion we had no need to visit the town centre so we reached Eaton Socon on the western side of St Neots we turned south and then east to cross the River Great Ouse on a new cycle bridge which had been opened only a few months ago. (Subsequent research tells me that this bridge is called the "Willow Bridge" and was opened in September this year).
The bridge itself is quite long as it needs to cross not just the river but the flood plain alongside. It is of ample width, and it was nice to see that the new cycle paths connecting to it on each side were wide and smooth as well.
This is a nice piece of new cycle infrastructure which provides a good alternative to the town bridge and which I look forward to using again. At the western edge a cycle route runs north along the river to Riverside Park. I will suggest we try it out next time we visit the cafe there.
At the eastern end of the bridge a cycle path brought us out in Eynesbury. We joined the B1046 for a short distance before turning off onto the quiet road that leads over Lily Hill to Waresley. It was now 3.15pm, and most of us stopped at the Garden Centre for coffee. About fifteen minutes later we were joined in the cafe by Jacob, who had been the only person on the afternoon ride. Steve G also joined us - he had ridden there directly.
After coffee we returned back to Cambridge along the direct route via Great Gransden, Caxton, Bourn and then along the B1046 into Cambridge. I was home by 5.30pm, having cycled 67 miles.
View this route on a larger map