Friday, 30 September 2011

29 Sep: Thursday ride to Horseheath and Stradishall

Edward writes: The last few days of September and astonishing temperatures, probably better than anything we have experienced all summer. This meant another large turnout for the ever popular Thursday ride. This week we met at Greta's, and after setting off we made our way via the familiar route to Whittlesford from where we took the still relatively new cycle path to Sawston and thence to Babraham. Here we took the farm track which leads to the foot/cycle bridge over the A11 and then to Great Abington. However, we had a small delay whilst Jim's puncture was fixed, also an opportunity to draw breath and take on water as by now the temperature had risen considerably.

From Gt Abington we made the first of our three crossings of the A1307 going via Hildersham through Linton and over the A1307 again. We now headed for Bartlow, turned left and back over the A1307 for the third and last time. This took us on the rural route to Streetly End and finally to Horsheath.

At Horsheath we took our coffee break in the ever-poular Old Red Lion Inn where we are always made to feel welcome. As is often the case we were joined by other riders and our group had expanded to eighteen or twenty. We all sat outside and enjoyed a very leisurely break and it was probably with some reluctance when it was time to start cycling again. When we left Horseheath we briefly retraced our route and then made for West Wickham after which we turned right to take the road to Thurlow. The road to Thurlow and beyond right up to the A143 is delightfully rural - very narrow and stunning views of the surrounding countryside, and again a chance to observe the rapidly change fields as they are prepared for another year. After we joined the A143 it is but a short ride to our lunch stop, namely Tubby Ts. Some sat outside to enjoy the sun whilst others preferred to sit inside as by now the sun was extremely hot.

After a relaxed lunch we started again and found ourselves in gorgeous country lanes including the wonderfully named Trotting Horse Lane and finally arriving in Great Bradley. Our next destination was to be Malcolm's, and to get there we went back to Thurlow and back along the roads we had come out on in the morning and then turned to Carlton. At Malcolm's we all sat out in the garden and took tea and a specially baked cake from Gwen. Our thanks to both Malcolm and Gwen for their unfailingly generous hospitality.

When it was time to go we went via Brinkley and then the fast descent to Six Mile Bottom, over the A11 and then into Gt Wilbraham and Fulbourn. At Great Wilbraham some of our group left us to get back home into Cambridge and the remainder went via Fulbourn, over the Gogs and then into the hospital site, onto the DNA path to Great Shelford and then to Hauxton where the ride ended. Thanks to Greta for a memorable day out and we wonder if it's possible to get any more days like this before summer finally ends. We did 55 miles. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

28 Sep: Evening ride to Stow-cum-Quy

We had two new riders this evening: Charlie joined us at Brookside, and his friend Chris joined us at the Newmarket Road Park and Ride. I hope they'll come again.

It was a beautiful evening for a ride: warm but not too hot, with clear skies. We took NCN51 out to Bottisham, and then turned through Lode to join the Lodes Way. I wasn't sure if we'd be fast enough to make it to Burwell, or whether we'd have to bail to Reach, but we were across Bottisham Lode by 19:00, so there was time to take the long way round. And I'm glad we did: there was a deer running through the crops, and a barn owl swooping low over a ploughed field. The sunset was quite spectacular, with a display of crepuscular rays and cloud shadows.

On the bridge over Burwell Lode at 19:17.

With the rush hour over, I thought it'd be easiest to go directly from Burwell to Stow-cum-Quy via the B1102, and we reached the pub a few minutes late. The air stayed warm enough to sit outside without a jacket. A very pleasant 30 miles.

27 Sep: Seniors ride in Thetford Chase.

Peter writes: Once more, we decided to have a car assisted ride in Thetford Chase (postponed from the previous Tuesday). We arrived at the Forestry Offices at Santon Downham about 9.45am. The last time we went there the parking was free weekdays but charged for at weekends. They have now scrapped the charges at weekends.

We started out from Santon Downham at 10.05am, going North to pick up the Harling Drove (East, about 1/2 mile). We made good time, on a very pleasant sunny morning, to A11/Peddars Way Rest Place where we had bought coffee and used the toilets. This part of the ride had taken us 70 minutes in which time we had encountered about 10 motor vehicles, three of which were Forestry Commission Trucks. In three miles of hard surfaced road (Harling Drove) we encountered one car (that's how quiet it is).
On Peddars Way

Moving on, we rode the Peddars Way to the Brettenham to Bridgham road, turned left to Bridgham and took the right hand lane to the sandy lane which leads to the minor road to East Harling. Turning left at this point, we proceeded to Middle Harling, East Harling and Larling. We arrived at The Angel just after 1.0pm, ready for a pint and lunch. Not a cheap lunch but excellent quality and quantity, we usually struggle to finish it.

After lunch, I enquired of the Landlord about a lane beside the pub which passes under the A11 to Larling Church. I was told that it is OK except in the Winter when it floods under the A11. We then took this lane (off road) and turned left when we got to the Church Road, leading us to the B1111. We then returned to Santon Downham via Great Hockham, Wretham and the Harling Drove. In all we had cycled over 32 miles many of which were off road with very little traffic on the road sections and very, very quiet when off road. Coupled with a beautiful sunny day we had a great day out.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

25 Sep: Day ride to Nuthampstead, Green Tye and Royston

Nigel writes: Today turned out to be one of my best rides of the year. Despite the fact that it's now officially Autumn, today started warm and sunny, and was to remain warm and sunny all day despite a steady breeze from the south-west. I arrived at Brookside to find plenty of others ready to enjoy the sunshine: Julia, Ian, Lynne, Peter H, Jackie, Joseph, Averil, Adrian, Gareth, Tony and me.

Tony was our leader today, and led us south to Addenbrooke's, where we turned south onto the new Francis Crick Avenue.

We then left the road and joined the DNA path to Great Shelford.

From Great Shelford we followed the familar route through Little Shelford and then south to Whittlesford and across the A505 to Duxford. We continued to Ickleton where we left the completely flat Cam valley and started the long climb up to Elmdon.

After Elmdon we continued to climb, first to Heydon and then to Great Chishill at a dizzy altitude of 148m compared with 21m in Whittlesford.

Having attained the highest village in Cambridgeshire the only way was down, in this case to Shaftenhoe End where we turned left towards Nuthampstead. The final few miles were absolutely gorgeous: quiet narrow lanes weaving through the woods, with the sun casting dappled shadows across the road.

When we got to Nuthampstead we stopped for coffee at The Woodman. Waiting on the grass in front of the pub we found a group of members who had ridden there directly, including Greta, Doug, David, Stuart and Mick.

This pub has become a regular coffee stop but this was my first visit. We were the only customers, but once they realised we had arrived the staff seemed welcoming enough. We ordered coffee and asked for biscuits, which rather bemused them but a packet of hobnobs was soon obtained. We sat outside in the sunshine enjoying its lovely quiet location.

After coffee, as usual, several members headed back to Cambridge, leaving a slightly different group to continue on to lunch in Green Tye. Gareth, who had taken a longer route to coffee, announced that he was going to take a longer route to lunch as well, and I decided to join him. Stuart came with us as well. Gareth set off at a rapid pace, and despite quite a strong headwind from the south-west the three of us took the twenty miles to lunch at quite a rate.

Gareth led us to Anstey and through all the Pelhams: Brent, Stocking and Furneaux before turning east for a loop via Manuden and then south and back west to Little Hadham. We crossed the A120 and continued south to Much Hadham, where we turned left onto a narrow lane down to a ford. This was shallow and clear so we rode across confidently.

After the ford, a short climb brought us to Perry Green and then to Green Tye, where we stopped for lunch at the Prince of Wales. The rest of the group was already there eating lunch.

After lunch the group split yet again, with several riders heading off on their own leaving Gareth, Tony and me to continue on to tea in Royston.

We'd had quite a leisurely lunch so we took a fairly straighforward route to Royston. We set off more or less directly west. This took us to Barwick where we encountered our second ford of the day. This was rather deeper and longer than the earlier ford at Much Hadham, and only Gareth dared to ride through.

After safely navigating the ford we continued west, under the A10 and on to Dane End where we turned north. We continued through Haultwick, Ardeley, Cromer, Rushden, Sandon, Kelshall and Thirfield, finishing with a very fast tailwind-assisted descent down to Royston. We arrived for tea at Tina's house exactly on time at 4.30pm. Together with a well-attended afternoon ride there were 22 of us in total.

We sat in Tina's garden drinking tea, eating excellent sandwiches and sampling delicious cakes.

After tea we all returned back to Cambridge. We set off north along the A1198 which we followed as far as Kneesworth. There we turned right to Meldreth. With a strong tailwind supporting us, the whole large group made rapid progress but when Gareth came past at speed somewhere beyond Kneesworth I decided to chase him. We picked up Steve for a while, who generously gave us a tow through Meldreth and Shepreth before dropping back on the road to Barrington. Gareth and I carried on over Chapel Hill to Haslingfield and, with the tailwind allowing us to ride surprisingly rapidly for such a late stage in the ride, on to Barton where we joined the Barton Road cycleway back to Cambridge.

I was home just before 6.30pm, having cycled a very enjoyable 86 miles.

Photo 6 by Gareth Rees.

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Thursday, 22 September 2011

23 Sep: Thursday ride to Reed and Hinxworth

Edward writes: Today we had good weather for cycling - no rain forecast, skies sometimes overcast and sometimes sunny. Inevitably there was the breeze which has been a feature of this summer's riding. Twelve riders met at Haslingfield Church and this included another three new riders to the Thursday group. Tony (yes, another Tony), Mike, who used to ride with the club about twenty years ago, and Lynne who has been out on the Sunday rides. We very much welcome them all and hope to see them again.

As this was a fairly large group we thought it prudent to organise ourselves into two groups so as to minimise our impact on traffic. We left Haslingfield and made our way to Harston and crossed the A10 (busy) and went over the hill to Newton and turned right to head for Thriplow. We took the back road through Thriplow and rejoined the main road leading to Fowlmere. After Fowlmere we took the long drag out to the A505 at Bridgefoot. Once over the A505 we were into the steady climb up to Barley (always better coming in the opposite direction!). We stopped briefly to regroup and then it was the undulating road to Barkway where we turned right to Reed. This road is always a pleasure as it offers such splendid views over the surrounding countryside and reminds us of the pleasures we have in not just cycling, but to enjoy the rural scenes about us. It's also interesting to observe the changing fields which only a few weeks ago were full of their crops, and now they are being prepared for next year's crops. At Reed we took our coffee break and were joined by Doug, Brian B and Adrian.

After coffee Lynne and Rupert left us and the remainder took the delightfully rural route via Therfield, Kelshall, Sandon and Wallington. This required another crossing of the A505 allowing us to make our way to Ashwell but not before we spotted two Buzzards circling over the fields. From Ashwell it was the relatively short ride to Hinxworth and Farrowby Farm which was our lunch stop where we were joined by Mike S.

After lunch we retraced our route back to Ashwell and then turning to Steeple Morden, Littlington and Bassingbourn. Progress was rapid as we now had the wind behind us and we had to stop once or twice to allow for re-grouping. After Bassingbourn we crossed the A1198 and made for Meldreth, Shepreth, Barrington and Foxton.

Once over the railway and the A10 it was up to Fowlmere again, Newton and Hauxton where the ride ended after covering 57 miles. Once again our thanks to Greta for another splendid day out. Edward Elmer

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Sunday, 18 September 2011

18 Sep: Afternoon ride to Gamlingay

Conrad writes: I was about to leave my home at Cherry Hinton when the heavens opened to such an extent that I had to put on my rain jacket (my refusal to put on the rain jacket during the ride itself would prove to be an issue of some concern among the other riders later on in the day). So I was surprised to find 11 other people at Brookside (Mike K, Tina, Gareth, Paul, Neil, Mike Sleep, Lynn, John, Steve G, Howard and Simon).

As it happened, the rain had stopped by the time we set off from Brookside. Today's tea stop was the Cock Inn in Gamlingay and I led the group on a direct route through Barton and Comberton with a detour down Church Lane to avoid the hill at Toft. We then crossed the A1198 and cycled through Longstowe.

Just before Little Gransden, the rain returned with a vengeance and waterproofs were hastily put back on. Mike Sleep left the ride soon after this point as we cycled through the Gransdens, up the little road to Waresley and then onto Everton. Here, I offered the riders a choice :- either continue with me (with the possibility of more rain along the way) or turn left and proceed straight to the tea stop where they would be 45 minutes early. Tempting though it must have been to go into a warm dry pub, everyone decided to soldier on.

We then went down the short 14% descent into Tempisford, with a brief stop at the level crossing to wait for an East Coast train to pass, and crossed the A1. By this time, the sun had reappeared, making the journey over the narrow bridge into Blunham particularly beautiful. Going through Blunham, we turned into the cycle path that runs next to the old railway line and emerged in a residential part of Sandy.

Just after the roundabout in the centre of Sandy, we turned left and cycled up Sandy Lane, which is a forest path that runs parallel to the main road into Everton.

By this time, it was getting late and we had to push on to Gamlingay where a huge rainbow was there to welcome us. At the Cock Inn, we found Nigel and Mike S, the only survivors from the day ride, who had been waiting for us patiently since 4:30pm.

After tea, most of us went back via Croydon Hill (our second steep descent for the day), Orwell and Barrington. Gareth went ahead, followed by a small group, while I stayed in a small group with John and Tina. At the bottom of Croydon Hill, Tina turned south to go home to Royston and we caught up with Mike Stapleton who was putting on his rain cape at the side of the road. Sure enough, the rain returned as we turned into Orwell. I did not fancy another extended spell of cycling in the rain so I left Mike and John and sped up to Chapel Hill where I was surprised to find Mike K and Paul waiting at the top for any stragglers. After a brief consultation, we decided to return via Cantelupe Road and Grantchester Meadows, stopping only to mend Paul's puncture.

I reached home at 1930, quite late for an afternoon ride, having cycled about 50 miles, including three descents of 10% gradient or more. Conrad Chua

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18 Sep: Day ride to St Neots, Bedford and Gamlingay

Nigel writes: Today started clear and sunny, with a cool crispness in the air: a perfect early Autumn morning. Waiting at Brookside I found Jerry, Jacob, Averil, John F and Jim, our leader for today. Jim briefly explained the route he had planned for today, and then we were off.

Our route took us right through the centre of Cambridge, along King's Parade and left down Senate House Passage. As we rode along we passed numerous race marshalls gettting ready for the Chariots of Fire relay race. Fortunately the event had not yet started, so we made easy progress.

We turned onto Trinity Lane and then onto Garret Hostel Lane, which took us over the river and west out of the city centre.

Soon we were on the Coton path and out of the city. By now we were all warmed up and with the sky completely clear of clouds we remarked how glorious the weather was.

From Coton we continued to Madingley and Dry Drayton before turning south towards Hardwick. There we joined the old A428 (is there a better name for this road?) for about a mile before turning off south to Highfields and Caldecote. Here we picked up the B1046 but soon turned off to Bourn, Caxton and Great Gransden, where we turned onto the lovely little lane to Waresley. This is quite a litany of place names but in fact I paid little attention to the route as I rode along, engrossed in conversation with Jim and the other riders. The first hour or two of any day ride is always very chatty and today was no exception.

At Waresley we turned onto yet another lovely little lane: the road over Lily Hill which leads ultimately to St Neots. There we stopped for coffee at the Market Cafe in the Market Place in the middle of the town. Already sitting in the sun outside the cafe we found Greta, Rupert and about half a dozen others from the club.

After coffee the majority of the enlarged group set off back in the direction of Cambridge, leaving a small group of Jim, Tony P, David W, Averil, Mike S, Doug and me to continue on to lunch in Bedford. The route west from St Neots is always very nice, involving a quiet road under the A1 that leads to Duloe.

From Duloe we continued to Staploe and then along a short loop along tiny lanes to the south through Honeydon and Rootham's Green before turning back north to Bushmead Cross.

We turned west towards Bolnhurst, crossed over the B660 and along a mile or two of farm track between Mount Pleasant and Greensbury Farm.

At Greensbury Farm we rejoined the tarmac, which on this occasion took us along a graceful avenue of trees.

It was now time to head south to Bedford for lunch. We continued south, crossed back over the B660 at Ravensden and then into Bedford along a series of minor roads. By now the sky had clouded over and we had a few minutes of rain, but it didn't amount to much and the usual tactic of donning full waterproofs had the desired effect and the rain soon stopped.

At about 1.20pm we arrived at the Priory Marina pub, where we stopped for lunch. Already sitting outside we found Mike S and Doug, who had taken a more direct route, as well as Chris who had cycled independently from Sawston to rendezvous with us. After a while Bob and Myrtle turned up - they had come directly from Royston. There had been some concern about whether this pub was a suitable place for lunch: it seemed OK to me, with quite nice food but no cheap options at weekends. However it didn't have much character: despite its location beside a lake, there was no view of water or parkland from our tables outside, and we might as well have been anywhere. As we sat eating our lunch, the drizzle returned but we were able to stay dry under our umbrellas.

After lunch, with the drizzle now passed, we rode south past the lake and through the country park.

We continued south-east to Cardington and rode past the huge airship hangars at Cardington.

A few miles further on we reached Old Warden, where there was a huge steam rally in the grounds of the house. We then turned north-east to Moggerhanger and Blunham where we joined the NCR 51 railway path which we followed for about a mile to Sandy. From Sandy we climbed up through Everton Woods to Everton and at about 4.20pm arrived in Gamlingay. By now I was getting tired and ready for a cup of tea at The Cock, our planned tea stop. I was the only one in our small group to do so, and everyone else carried on straight past the pub and headed home.

In the pub I found Mike S. We had a pleasant chat whilst we waited for the afternoon ride to arrive. They were rather late, so when Conrad and the other riders eventually arrived at 4.50pm I was gasping for a cuppa. Fortunately the landlord at this popular tea stop knows how to look after us, and when tea eventually arrived there was plenty of it. There was thirteen in total at tea, a welcome return to normal numbers after last week's disappointing turnout.

After tea we all returned back to Cambridge. We had a bit of a tailwind, and although I was now getting rather tired, I was able to make rapid progress.

Our route home took us through the Hatleys, down Croydon Hill and then through Croydon and Arrington to the back gate of Wimpole Hall. We ride through the grounds, past the front of the house, and out through the front entrance. From here we took the familiar route back via Orwell, Barrington, Haslingfield and Barton back to Cambridge. I arrived home just after 7.10pm, having cycled a very satisfying 88 miles.

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Saturday, 17 September 2011

17 Sep: Ride to Bury St Edmunds

Conrad suggested that it would be a fun day out to ride to Bury St Edmunds to see the start of Stage 7 of the Tour of Britain. But there were not many takers: Conrad and I were the only two to set out from Cherry Hinton at 07:30, and then we met up with Tony at Little Wilbraham.

Early morning sunlight through the trees, near Stetchworth.

We planned to go through Gazeley and Higham, but I made a wrong turning at Ashley, so we went through Ousden and Hargrave instead, rejoining our route at Little Saxham.

Tony on the road to Ousden.

The church of St Nicholas stands by the junction at Little Saxham, with its distinctive round tower. According to Mortlock’s Popular Guide to the churches of Norfolk and Suffolk, the lower part of the tower is Saxon, and the bell tower at the top is Norman. There’s certainly a discontinuity in the architecture here, with distinctive Roman (semicircular) arches at the top.

Church of St Nicholas, Little Saxham.

Having benefitted from a tailwind, we got to Bury St Edmunds around 09:15, and found our way through the maze of one-way streets to the start of the race, by the Abbey Great Gate. The square was jammed with people, team buses, race cars, sponsors’ vehicles, cyclists and spectators. In the narrow streets of Bury, people were lined up three deep against the barriers, and it was hard to get a view of the riders as they set off slowly. I held my camera as high above my head as I could reach, and got some photos. (I could see nothing myself!)

Team NetApp setting off on stage 7 of the Tour of Britain.

We took a longer and more leisurely ride back, taking some lovely narrow lanes south of Bury toward Hartest. As we descended the last hill before Hartest, there was a loud bang! from behind me: Conrad’s inner tube had burst through a gap left by the tire, where the bead had separated from the tread. This took a while to repair, and Conrad didn’t trust the tire to stand full pressure any more, so it was with a rather soft back wheel that he continued. At Denston, we were caught in a rain shower, but it was only a small shower, no more than three or four miles across, so we were able to ride out from under it and make our way damply to Stradishall for a welcome lunch at Tubby T’s.

On the way back, near Great Thurlow.

The strong westerly wind made the last section a bit of drag, but by about 14:45 we were back in Cherry Hinton having done nearly 70 miles. But it was such a nice afternoon that I put in an extra loop to Coton and Swavesey, and then back along the busway to make it up to 101 miles for the day. Thanks to Conrad for organizing the ride.

Update: Ian Driver, who was marshalling at the start of the race, took some photos that are a lot better than mine.

Start of stage 7 of the Tour of Britain. Photo: Ian Driver.

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