Monday, 26 December 2011

26 Dec: Social ride to St Ives (and beyond)

Nigel writes: I found seven members waiting at Brookside for this morning's short social ride to St Ives: Rupert, Cathy, John, Julia, Steve, Jacob and Ian. The weather was cloudy but bright, and extremely mild. There was a steady wind from south-west but it was not cold, and we remarked that we had worn shorts on colder days than this.

Rupert led us across Parker's Piece and down to the river at Midsummer Common. We followed the south side of the river downstream to the Riverside Cycle Bridge, where we crossed over to Chesterton. After a short section through streets we met the river once more to follow the path along the north side out of the city.

On the river we passed a rowing eight and a few dozen walkers, but otherwise it was very quiet. A few miles further we reached Bait's Bite Lock.

Just beyond we turned west away from the river into Milton, where we rejoined the road south to the cycle bridge over the A14.

This took us onto Milton Road and the start of the busway cycleway which would take us all the way to St Ives, about 13 miles away.

Swavesey Church

The cycleway was quiet, with few other cyclists and not many pedestrians, except for the attractive section past Fen Drayton lakes which was busy with Boxing-Day strollers. It being Boxing Day there were no buses, either.

Before long we arrived in St Ives, which seemed quite busy with several shops and cafes open. As arranged we stopped at the Oliver Cromwell pub for a drink. Here we found Mike S waiting for us.

After a pleasant drink most of the group returned back to Cambridge along the busway cycleway. This would have made a round trip of about 35 miles.

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I, however, was keen to have a longer ride, to make the most of what was a very mild day. Together with Steve and John we rode the short distance to the Local Cafe in the middle of the town and had lunch. Afterwards John and Steve, too, returned back to Cambridge along the busway cycleway, leaving me to continue on my own.

On this non-social solo excursion I crossed over the river and joined NCR 51 through the Hemingfords to Godmanchester and from there to Huntingdon. Here I joined NCR 12 which I followed north to Alconbury. From here a series of empty lanes took me north through the countryside west of the A1 and then east to Peterborough. I had planned to follow the well-signposted NCR 12 all the way but according to the map this would have followed the A1(M) for some of the way, so instead I continued further north before heading into Peterborough via Haddon.

By the time I arrived in Peterborough City Centre it was 4.45pm.

Peterborough Cathedral gatehouse

I stopped at McDonalds for a warm Chicken salad sandwich and a coffee, which I ate on a bench outside whilst planning the long ride south to Cambridge. (The food and drink were rather good, and astonishingly cheap).

My route home was dominated by the wind. It had been windy all day. but for most of the time it had been wholly or martially behind me. However for the homeward journey I could not avoid riding directly into it.

I took a fairly direct route via B1095 and B1040 to Ramsey St Mary's and then along minor roads to Ramsey Heights and Upwood. The section between Pondersbridge to Upwood is about six miles, most of it along a completely straight road, directly into the wind. The only way to handle headwinds is simply to change to a low gear, put your head down, and be patient. During the day I would have been surrounded by flat fenland vastness, but in the dark it felt quite intimate with just me, my bright lights, and the surrounding darkness. Fortunately it wasn't in the least bit cold.

After Upwood I continued through Great and Little Raveley to Broughton. This changed my direction from south to south-east, and with an element of wind behind me I speeded up.


I continued south-east through Woodhurst and Bluntisham and Earith, where I crossed the River Great Ouse and took the B1050 south to Willingham and Longstanton. This was the only road I had used all day with any significant traffic, and even this was light.

At Longstanton I met the busway cycleway once more, and from here, and with the wind behind me once more, I made a rapid return to Cambridge. I arrived home at 9.40pm, still feeling surpringly strong despite having cycled 96 miles.


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