Sunday, 25 March 2012

25 Mar: All-day ride to Stradishall, West Stow and Snailwell

Nigel writes: With an area of high pressure directly overhead, and expected to remain over the while country for the rest of the month, today's weather forecast was for bright sunshine and warm temperatures. So when I got up for today's first ride following the clocks going forward I put on shorts, a thin top, and fingerless mitts. I could see that there was still a bit of early morning mist around, but I didn't expect it to amount to much. It was only when I was already half-way to Brookside that I realised that I had made a big mistake. It was in fact freezing cold: about 5C, foggy, and with a bitingly cold wind. But it was too late to go back: I was down to lead the ride today, and I didn't want to be late.

When I got to Brookside I found about half a dozen other riders waiting. A rather smaller turnout than in recent weeks, which I attributed to the 9am start which, taking into account this morning's clock change, meant we were departing 90 minutes earlier than last week. So a special credit to Pete H, Gareth, Zhiqing, Tom, Martin and Jerry.

I led the group south-east out of Cambridge along Hills Road, past Addenbrooke's and as far as the turn for Wort's Causeway. There we turned left for the long but fairly gentle climb over the Gogs to Fulbourn. As we left the built-up area it became apparent that it was really rather foggy. However as we climbed the hill I became rather more preoccupied with the fact that I was really quite cold and my fingers were rapidly becoming frozen.

When we reached Fulbourn we turned onto the road through the Wilbrahams to Six Mile Bottom, where we began the long climb up to Brinkley. Eventually the fog began to clear but the sky stayed overcast and the temperature remained very cold, and my fingers too frozen for me to take many more photographs.

After Brinkley we continued to Carlton, Carlton Green and the lovely narrow lane to Little Thurlow.

After splashing through the ford there (about an inch deep) we took the equally lovely lane east that eventually meets the A143 near Highpoint Prison near Stradishall. After a short distance along the main road we stopped at Tubby T's cafe for coffee. There we found a number of members already waiting, whilst others joined us a little later: if I remember correctly we met Adrian, Joseph, Edward-the-blogger, Doug, Rupert and John S. I ordered a hot chocolate and a large wedge of bread pudding (a bargain at 65p) and sat down to thaw out.

Whilst we were sitting in the cafe the cloud at last cleared and the sun came out, and the day was suddenly transformed. Afterwards various members made their own way home. Adrian and Zhiqingli set off for the lunch stop, leaving early to allow them to take a slower pace, and a few minutes later I followed them with Gareth, Tom, Martin, Rupert and John S.

With the sun now shining the day was transformed: the temperature rose steadily to around 15-18C and our ride through quiet Suffolk lanes to to our lunch stop was delightful.

We stopped for lunch at the Anglo-Saxon Village near West Stow. This is set in a country park by a lake, with a large area of forest (The King's Forest) immediately to the north.

This was our first visit to the cafe here, and I think it was entirely satisfactory. Service was a little slow but the menu was just fine (I ordered a jacket potato with beans) and we were able to eat our lunch sitting in the sunshine.

After lunch we has a fairly short stage to our afternoon tea stop. We set off west, past the edge of the forest, to Lackford.

Our route took us through Cavenham, Tuddenham and Kennet where we turned onto the B1065 which took us over the A11 to Chippenham. When we got there it was 3.05pm and we would be very early for tea, so I took our group on an extra loop via Badlingham Manor and Freckenham before returning back to Chippenham. From here it was just over two miles to our afternoon tea stop at the George and Dragon in Snailwell.

A few minutes later Peter D arrived with the afternoon ride: there were 18 on that ride, making a total of 24 in all. Fortunately we had both phoned the pub beforehand to give numbers and there was plenty of food and we had a most enjoyable 45 minutes or so sitting in the pub garden.

After tea we all returned to Cambridge. We were now 24, so I gained a large number of new cycling campanions to chat with. However with such a large group we fragmented somewhat: my group took a route through Landwade to Exning, where we turned onto a farm road which I had not used before, but which was very nice (photo below).

When we reached Burwell our group divided with Peter D taking a group the short way home along the B1102 whilst Gareth led a smaller group into the fens to Reach where we joined the Lodes Way to Lode.

After a final few miles through Bottisham, Quy and Fen Ditton I was home by 6.20pm, with the sky still clear and the warm sun still shining brightly, having cycled an excellent 87 miles.

View this GPS track on a larger map

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