Saturday, 30 April 2011

30 Apr: Cambridge 300 audax

Gareth writes: Terry Dickerson’s Cambridge 300 was the first audax over 200 km from Cambridge for several years—maybe since Mike Stapleton’s last OxCam 400 in 2001.

I made a bit of a mess of this one. The ride was great as far as Market Harborough (140 km), but the next section, over the Leicestershire hills to Wymondham into a vicious headwind, finished me off. At the Windmill tea rooms in Wymondham (180 km) I stared disconsolately at my apple crumble but was unable to finish it. After that I got slower and slower and everything hurt, and although I knew I had to eat, I just couldn’t manage it, so I whiled away the time by cursing the whole sport of audax and myself for getting into this mess. I arrived at the finish shortly after midnight, shaking and barely able to speak, and although there were plenty of Terry’s delicious apricot flapjacks left, I was unable to eat even one.

But now that I’m no longer aching (much), some things I remember about the ride:

  • Terry put together a super route, on country lanes throughout, with a variety of scenery and no long boring sections. We started by heading south to Barkway, then northwest to Ashwell, across the A1 at Edworth and up east of Bedford to the first control at Thurleigh Farm Centre. Then west into Northamptonshire, across the River Nene to Earls Barton, and a hilly section north to Market Harborough (140 km), where the change in land use was distinctive: from the mainly arable farming of Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire to mixed arable and pasture. The wind was starting to be a factor here. From Market Harborough north to Wymondham (180 km) there was a series of rolling hills and valleys, almost northern in parts. This was very tough with the wind in the north-east, and it was a relief to reach the Windmill tea rooms at Wymondham, perched on top of a hill to the north of the village. A mostly flat section to Market Deeping (217 km) north of Peterborough followed, with each turn to the southeast giving a bit of respite from the wind, and then for slow riders like me the sun began to set as the route headed southeast across the fens to Chatteris (264 km) on familiar roads, atmospheric in the gathering dusk. From Chatteris at least the wind was mostly a help, and then in Cambridge I used a bit of local knowledge to shave off half a kilometre or so by going through the centre of town rather than round by Fen Causeway, reaching Hauxton (308 km) at 00:16.

  • Tony and Jacky were very encouraging all the way to Market Deeping. Hope I didn’t hold you up too much.

  • Terry’s routesheet was spot-on. Only one moment of doubt, in Chatteris, where there was no signpost for the B1050, but loads of signs for the A141 and A142. If I were going to change one thing on the route, it would be to get from Benwick to Chatteris via Ibberson’s Drove instead of Dykemoor Drove. The latter is the quieter route, and must have been lovely for those who got there in daylight, but the bad road surface was painful in the dark.

  • I saw a red kite (see photo below), several buzzards, four kestrels and, I think, an osprey! (It was at Holcot, which is adjacent to Pitsford Reservoir, where ospreys have been reported, so it’s not completely out of the question.)

  • On the River Nene (old course) near Benwick there was a swan sitting on its nest on the far river bank, right out in the open. In the gathering gloom the quiet of the fens was punctuated by the honking of distant swans.

  • The audaxer who, despite 300 km in his legs, still felt the need to race a kid on a mountain bike down Castle Hill.

336 km (209 miles) in all.

Getting ready.

Last chance to see the fast riders, on the B1368 near Newton (2 km).

Descending into the Ashwell valley (32 km).

Red kite over Ashwell valley (33 km).

River Great Ouse at Great Barford (65 km).

River Nene near Earls Barton (103 km).

Between Harrington and Braybrooke (133 km).

Between Braybrooke and Market Harborough (135 km).

Windmill tea rooms, Wymondham (180 km).

Near Holywell (200 km). This picture sums up how I was feeling.

Near Carlby (206 km).

A familiar sight just north of Whittlesey (232 km). (Compare.)

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Thursday, 28 April 2011

28 Apr: Thursday ride to Barkway and Puckeridge

Edward writes: The weather seemed to be playing tricks on cyclists this week. On Tuesday it was cool and windy, Wednesday was a good sunny day, Thursday broke cool, overcast and windy. Neverthess, nine riders met at Greta's house in Hauxton for our regular day ride. We set off on the outward leg with the wind mainly in our favour by going to Little Shelford and then on to Newton.

After Newton we detoured the long way round Thriplow, the daffodils long since gone, before arriving at Fowlmere from where we crossed the A505 to arrive at Chrisall Grange. Here we turned right to make the long climb up towards the turning to Elmdon, although we went to Heydon and Great Chishill.

After the long climb it was into the undulating countryside and narrow lanes with many twists and turns through Shaftenhoe End and Nuthamstead and onto our coffee stop at Barkway Golf Club.

Already there were Brian M and Doug. This coffee stop was not quite the pleasant break it normally is as the reception was a little frosty. Nonetheless, we had our coffee and continued our ride to Anstey and onto Great Hormead where, unfortunately, David got a puncture.

However, with the usual hands to help we were on our way with not too much delay and on to Furneaux Pelham and Braughing, before a short stretch of the B1398 and into Puckeridge and the Crown and Falcon which was our lunch stop. At lunch John S and Mike S joined us.

After a good lunch, good food and cheerful service, we left Puckeridge and climbed up to Great Mundon and Nasty.

After Nasty it was the small hamlet of Westmill, which Doug informed me, was the one time home of John Profumo. Remember him? After Westmill we went to Aspenden before coming to Buntingford. Here Doug took us on little tour to show us the rabbits cut into a yew hedge. The owner came out to tell us it took fifteen years to grow the hedge before he could cut the shapes, but it only requires one cut each year to maintain the rabbit forms owing to the slow growth of yew. Definitely a man with a plan!

After Buntingford out next village was Wyddial. From here we went back to Hauxton following the same route we had taken in the morning. Of course this was mainly head wind and at one point, looking north from Great Chishill, it looked very dark and we wondered if it might rain before getting home which caused a bit of a spurt. After getting to lower levels any threat of rain seemed to disappear (probably wishful thinking) and we made or way back to Hauxton where the ride ended. Thanks to Greta for another good day out. Mileage 60 miles. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 27 April 2011

27 Apr: Evening ride to Haslingfield

Nigel writes: Tonight was a clear and sunny evening, and with normal April temperatures now resumed, quite a cool one. However there were still six riders at Brookside for this evening's ride to Haslingfield: Mike K, Daniel, Conrad, John S, Gareth and me.

Our soute took us south out of Cambridge to Trumpington and Great Shelford. There we turned right for Little Shelford and the road to Whittlesford. We crossed the A505 and continued through Duxford to Ickleton. I sensed the group was somewhat frisky, and aided by a gentle tailwind we made quite a fast progress.

When we reached Ickleton we turned west onto Grange Road Ickleton. This took us past Ickleton Granges to Chrishall Grange.

At Chrishall Grange we turned north once more and crossed over the A505 once more to Fowlmere.

At Fowlmere we turned left and crossed the A10 to Shepreth. We continued to Barrington and climbed Chapel Hill before dropping back down to Haslingfield, where we stopped for a drink at The Little Rose at about 8.30pm.

After about half an hour we left the pub and returned back to Cambridge. It was now dark, the temperature had fallen markedly and it was now quite cold. I was back home by about 9.40pm, after having cycled 31 miles.

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Sunday, 24 April 2011

24 Apr: Afternoon ride to Ickleton

Nigel writes: It's been the hottest April on record, they say, and today was certainly the warmest Easter Sunday we've had for quite some time, with a strong turnout of thirteen riders for this afternoon's ride to Ickleton, including an encouraging proportion of new or relatively new faces. It was particularly nice to see riders who had tried us out for the first time a few weeks ago had decided to come back for more.

Daniel was our leader today, and he led us south-west out of Cambridge along the Barton Road cycleway to Barton.

At Barton we turned off south to Haslingfield, where we climbed Chapel Hill...

...before dropping back down again to Barrington.

At Barrington Daniel took the turn for Foxton, where we crossed the railway line (and the A10) to Fowlmere. We continued south and crossed the A505 to Chrishall Grange. Here we turned off onto the narrow and very quiet lane that climbs up gradually past Ickleton Granges to a summit which forms the border with Essex.

With about an hour left before out planned tea stop, Daniel decided to take us on a loop south through Elmdon to Wenden Lofts before taking us back north through Littlebury Green to Catmere End.

From Catmere End we dropped down along the Coploe Hill switchback to Ickleton, where we stopped for tea at the Riverside Cafe.

A large contingent from the club was already sitting outside the cafe by the lake. There was Jim and a large contingent from the all-day ride as well as George, Bob and Myrtle who had ridden there directly. We ordered coffee and cakes and sat outside in the sunshine enjoying the occasion. The staff were a little overhelmed by our numbers but managed to cope. This is a nice cafe in a very convenient location, and now that the current owners have extended the opening hours I think this cafe is becoming a club favourite.

Afterwards we all returned back to Cambridge. I left slightly before the others and rode back with a group of three via Hinxton, Duxford, Whittlesford and the Shelfords. A cool headwind reminded us that it was still only April. I was back home by about 6.40pm, after having cycled a modest but very pleasant 39 miles.

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Thursday, 21 April 2011

21 Apr: Thursday ride to Ashwell and Baldock

Edward writes: Our glorious Spring weather continued this morning and thirteen cyclists gathered in Haslingfield for our Thursday ride. At 9.30am there was just a hint that this is still April and the morning air was a touch cool.

We started the ride with the climb up Chapel Hill and at the top there was a distinct haze in the far distance.

Downhill now

The weather forecasters had warned that the still conditions which have prevailed for sometime now would bring higher pollution levels; could this be what they meant? Once down into Barrington we tried to maintain two separate groups so that there would always be space for cars to get between us. Both groups seemed to travel quite fast and we soon got through Barrington and Shepreth, before turning right in Meldreth to head for Whaddon and onto Bassingbourn.

Water Stop

The weather by now was turning up the heat and with the sun making its breakthrough most people were sensibly taking on water. After Bassingbourn it was through Littlington and Steeple Morden before arriving in Ashwell for the coffee stop.

Time for Relaxation

We all raided Days for coffee, buns, cakes and, it being Easter, hot cross buns. We took them to the usual spot on the little patch of grass and watched the auto screen man replace a windscreen; probably not too often he has such a large audience.

Doug & Bob

In Ashwell we were joined by Doug and Brian, and soon after we were joined by Bob and Myrtle. In was now the run down to Baldock via Bygrave in increasingly superb riding weather. It's a real pleasure to do these rides in such still conditions and to have no concerns about which way the wind was blowing.

We actually arrived in Baldock before mid-day, which is quite early for us. We went to the fish restaurant where some sat outside and the remainder sat inside for fish and chips and a pot of tea.

Which Way?

After lunch we left Baldock by the hilly (very hilly) route, but once the climb was made the views over the surrounding countryside were wonderful. There seems to be a lot more oil-seed rape being grown this year and it certainly makes its distinctive mark on the countryside. The route, although undulating, was a real pleasure to ride, going through quiet country lanes: the British landscape at its best.

Follow the Leader

As we approached Sandon we saw a red kite and further on two swallows. So if one swallow doesn't make a summer what will two do? In Sandon we were able to replenish our water supplies from the tap at the entrance to the church, before setting off again, passing through Kelshall and Therfield to arrive at the tea stop just outside Reed. After tea it was down to Barkway and on to Barley, followed by the fast run to the A505. From here it was through Fowlmere, Newton, Little Shelford and Hauxton where the ride finished. As ever our thanks to Greta for her leadership. Mileage 52. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

20 Apr: Evening ride to Fen Ditton

Nigel writes: Another day of unseasonably warm weather was followed by a pleasant warm evening - warm enough to attrach eight riders out for this evening's ride. Tonight's pub stop was to be in Fen Ditton, so I suggested a loop into the fens to the east of Cambridge.

We set off across Parker's Piece on our way to Midsummer Common and the river.

We then followed the river east out of Cambridge along the Jubilee Cycleway to Quy. On the way we rode through the Park and Ride site where we stopped to pose under its massive bicycle installation.

At Quy we said goodbye to a newcomer who had unfortunately not brought lights and had to turn back home. The remaining seven of us the continued to Bottisham where we turned north to Swaffham Bulbeck. Here Mike K and Conrad, who appeared to be looking for a rather more hilly ride, left the group, leaving five of us to continue to Swaffham Prior and Reach.

From Reach we headed into the fens before turning west via the bridge over Swaffham Bulbeck Lode and White Fen back to the village of Lode itself. A short ride along the B1022 took us back to Quy and a further ride along High Ditch Road took us to Fen Ditton, where four of us stopped for a drink at The Plough. After sitting beside the fiver for a pleasant half an hour we split up and returned to our respective homes.

My route home took me along the Wadloes Path, where I was impressed by the illuminated studs that had been installed along the centre of this narrow, very dark path. I was particularly impressed by the red warning lights that indicated the presence of bollards by the ride of the path.

I was back home just after 9.30pm, after having cycled 25 miles.

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