Nigel writes: Our reward for enduring a week of snow and ice at the start of the month seems to be a long succession of warm sunny days at the end of the month. Last week's Sunday ride took place on a gorgeous spring-like day, and the weather for today's ride was equally lovely and possibly even warmer. We could all have happily worn shorts today.
The fine weather meant we had another large group: about sixteen riders, most of whom stayed on the ride all day. Ian W was our leader and led us west out of Cambridge along Garret Hostel Lane, Burrell's Walk and the path to Coton.
When we reached Coton we turned onto the cycle path alongside the A428 and climbed Madingley Hill.
At the top of the hill we turned onto the old A428 and continued west through Hardwick until we reached the turn to Knapwell. There we turned north.
We continued through Knapwell and Conington to Fenstanton, from where it was only a short distance further to St Ives. Along the way we met a group from Cambridge Cycling Club who were going the same way.
It was just after 11am, and we stopped for coffee in Nuts Bistro. I had been a bit concerned that the other group was heading for the same cafe as us, but in the event they went somewhere else - probably the Local Cafe, another cyclists' favourite.
After coffee we continued west towards our lunch stop by Grafham Water. Last time we rode from St Ives to West Perry we took a route via Godmanchester and Offord Cluny. This time Ian took us a different route. We left St Ives along the Thicket Path which runs west along the north side of the River Ouse to Houghton.
At Houghton we joined the main A1123 for about a quarter of a mile before turning onto a cycle track past the marina and then onto a short bus and cycle-only road to Hartford on the edge of Huntingdon. This was constructed recently as part of the guided busway project, though when we used it we didn't see any buses.
Fron Hartford to Huntingdon town centre our route took us through parkland along the river.
A short section round the one-way system and a succession of typicaly poor-quality pavement cycleways brought us out on the road to Brampton. From there we were on quiet country lanes again.
After about four miles we reached the village of Grafham, on the northern edge of the eponymous reservoir. Our destination was West Perry, opposite it on the southern edge, and after briefly contemplating which way round to go Ian decided to take us anti-clockwise round the lake along the cycle track.
The cycle track around Grafham Water is mostly unsurfaced but today was hard, dry and bumpy.
This path is intended to be used by the kind of people who drive here by car, get their bikes out of the back (or from a hire centre), and then ride for a few miles around the lake. Unfortunately if this was their only experience of leisure cycling their impression they would receive is that cycling is uncomfortable, requires big, slow, mountain-bike tyres, and is terrifyingly dangerous, as was confirmed by a succession of bossy signs telling riders to dismount at the gentlest of inclines.
The ride was pleasant enough, but it was a relief to arrive at West Perry where we stopped for lunch at the Harbour View restaurant, a longstanding favourite of the club. I think this is a perfect place to stop, with a good range of meals served in the restaurant, plenty of space for picnics nearby for those with sandwiches, and fine views over the lake.
After lunch we set off again. We rode south to Dillington and Staughton Moor and round the airfield to Bushmead. There we turned east onto the road to St Neots.
At St Neots we crossed the River Ouse using the Willow Bridge, constructed only a year or two ago by Sustrans as part of their "Connect2" project.
This excellent bridge, and the equally excellent wide cycle paths on both sides, connects the districts of Eaton Socon and Eynesbury, and means that getting through St Neots was a pleasant and painless process. Soon we were on the road to Waresley.
We arrived at Waresley Garden Centre at 3.30pm, in good time for a leisurely coffee and cake at the cafe there. This is yet another longstanding favourite of the club, and is in fact our single most popular cafe stop: we have visited here 33 times since the start of 2010, and that count doesn't include the informal group that come here on Tuesdays. (For those interested in statistics, our second-favourite cafe stop is the Ickleton Barns cafe, which we have visited 31 times over the same period).
As usual we were joined by Ian D and the afternoon ride and one or two others who had ridden there directly. After tea we returned back to Cambridge. The main group took the direct route via Great Gransden, Caxton, Bourn and Toft. I, however, was keen to take advantage of the fact that it was only 4.15pm and the sun was still shining, so took a slightly longer route back. Cheryl and Paul joined me on a route via Gamlingay, the Hatleys, Croydon, Wimpole, Orwell, Barrington and Chapel Hill. At the top of the hill we rested and turned on our lights for the final leg via Haslingfield and Barton to Cambridge. I was home just after 6pm, having cycled 77 miles.
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