Nigel writes: Today felt like a perfect spring day. The morning started started bright and mild, and then after a few hours of dullness the clouds disappeared and we had a clear, warm afternoon of bright sunshine. Almost perfect weather for a day which took us further from away from Cambridge than we had been for several months, into the lovely countryside south of Royston.
There were thirteen of us at the start. Gareth, our leader for today, led us south out of Cambridge to Trumpington, where we paused briefly to re-group.
From Trumpington we continued to Great Shelford where we turned right onto the familar route through Little Shelford, Whittlesford and Duxford to Ickleton.
At Ickleton we turned right and began the long climb to Elmdon.
At Elmdon we turned south and rode through the village before dropping down to Wendon Lofts.
At Wendon Lofts we turned west onto the B1039 which we followed for a few hundred yards before turning south again onto a tiny wooded lane which took us up to Duddenhoe End.
From Duddenhoe End we continued through Langley Upper Green and Lower Green to Meesden.
By now it we well after 11am and we were all feeling ready for coffee. Fortunately it wasn't much further, though a few of us were flagging a bit and Gareth suggested we divided into two for the final leg to the coffee stop in Hare Street. I led the front group through Anstey to the B1368 and then south for a couple of miles to Hare Street, where we stopped at the Tortoise tearoom. Along the way I carelessly dropped Zhiqing (sorry!), though fortunately she asked a policeman for directions and joined us a short time later.
This was my first visit to the Tortoise tearoom. It's a farm shop and cafe, in a pleasant location with plenty of room to sit outside, and there were several members already sitting waiting for us.
We arrived just as the cafe was recovering from a power cut, and the backlog that had caused combined with the sudden arrival of over a dozen cyclists meant that it took the friendly and obliging staff quite a long time to deliver our food and drink, so it was about 12.45pm when we were ready to continue on to lunch. Nevertheless this seems a nice place to visit and I look forward to coming here again.
As usual, several people left the group to ride back to Cambridge, but more than half of us continued on to our lunch stop.
Since we were running rather late it was fortunate that we didn't have far to go. Our route took us west to Buntingford and from there through Aspenden and Westmill to the beautifully-situated hamlet of Nasty, where we stopped for the obligatory photostop...
From there a series of lovely quiet lanes took us through Great Munden, Dale End and Bennington to our lunch stop at the Rose and Crown in Aston.
If you looked at a map you would see that Aston is less than a mile from the edge of Stevenage, but approaching it from the east you wouldn't realise it. The Rose and Crown is a simple pub but serving a decent menu with plenty of lighter options. We ordered our food and drinks and sat outside in the sunshine, where Adrian and John S were already waiting.
After lunch we turned north towards Royston. By now the clouds had completely disappeared, the temperature had risen and only the lack of leaves on the trees reminded us that it was March rather than May.
We needed to be in Shepreth by around 4.15pm so Gareth took us a direct route via Walkern, Cromer, Rushden, Roe Green, Sandon and Kelshall to Thirfield. This was a lovely ride along mostly narrow lanes through pleasant undulating countryside.
At Thirfield we turned north, down one of the steepest hills in the area, to Royston. As we descended the hill there was a fine view in front of us of the flatter countryside to the north.
From Royston we followed the A1198 for a couple of miles to Kneesworth before turning onto the quieter road east to Meldreth and Shepreth, where we stopped for tea at the Teacake Cafe. We wheeled our bikes into the rear garen where we found Julia and the afternoon ride already eating. This place only opened in November and this was our first visit, and I think we were all very impressed by the pleasant location, the quality of the tea and cakes, and perhaps most of all the pleasant and efficient proprietors. I was pleased to discover that we will be returning here on 1st April.
After tea we returned back to Cambridge. It was still warm, and the sun, though low, was still shining brightly. As we approached Barrington, Gareth sprinted ahead and I chased him for half a mile before deciding I couldn't keep up. As I neared the top of Chapel Hill I passed Gareth coming back the other way. He had clearly enjoyed the hill so much he had decided to do it twice.
Stopping to take a final photo had left me at the back of the group, and when we reached Barton I decided to take a diversion along the bridleway to Grantchester before joining the road back to Newnham (where, if you're puzzled by my GPS track, I stopped for buy milk at the Co-op). It was still light when I arrived home just before 6pm, having cycled 73 miles. A modest distance for an all-day ride, but nevertheless a very fine day's cycling, and very capably led by Gareth.
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