Julia writes: The weather did not look too promising on this Easter Sunday, with grey skies and showers forecast throughout the afternoon; and with many people presumably on holiday or engaged in family activities, I wondered how many people might turn up for the afternoon ride which I was supposed to lead. The turnout was better than I expected, however, and we set off in a group of 9 riders just after 1.30 pm. I like the hills to the south of Cambridge and often choose to lead rides in this direction, and I had planned a route with as many hills as I could fit in between Cambridge and our tea stop in Ickleton. I wondered how popular this choice of route would be on a day like this, when the rain and wind make everything seem more of an effort than under a clear, sunny sky. But I decided not to change my plans just yet and to see how we would get on - short cuts would always be an option later if we got desperate.
So we set off along Barton Road and to Haslingfield, turning right after the church to tackle the first hill: Chapel Hill between Haslingfield and Barrington. This climb took us up to only about 50 metres above sea level, yet it felt as if we were cycling straight into the cloudy sky. A steady, dense drizzle lay over the area by now, and the view from the top was somewhat less rewarding than usual. We did not stop as we often do at the top of the hill, but carried right on and down the long descent into Barrington. The rain eased off a bit as we rode through Shepreth and then took a little loop via Frog End to Fowlmere. From there we continued to Chrishall Grange and then, finally, up into the "proper hills" around Elmdon. Despite the wet weather, I really enjoyed the ride: There were still some daffodils and tulips around, the blackthorn and forsythia bushes by the sides of many country roads are in full bloom, birds were singing and my legs felt strong and pushed the pedals round easily as we climbed up to Elmdon, reaching dizzying heights of 125 metres above sea level.
At Elmdon, I suggested various options for the rest of the route to tea. No short cuts needed: Everyone seemed to be up for a few more hills, so we dropped down a bit along Essex Hill and then turned off left to go up again to Littlebury Green. From there it was another short descent followed by one or two little climbs to get to Catmere End and the top of Coploe Hill, before we swooped back down again on Coploe Road towards Ickleton. Just after crossing the M11 there is a farm track going off to the right, which brought us out on Frogge Street, right opposite the Riverside Barns. We arrived there just before 4 pm and sat outside (it had stopped raining by then) to enjoy our teas, coffees and cakes.
There were no day riders at tea (perhaps they'd had enough of getting wet?), but Bob from Royston joined us there and rode back home with Tina afterwards. The rest of the group returned to Cambridge the usual way via Hinxton, Whittlesford, the Shelfords and the DNA path. I arrived home, which is a mere 11 metres above sea level, around 6 pm, having cycled 39 miles and feeling quite satisfied. Had I not been leading the ride, I am not sure I would have gone out today - and I am glad I did, as it was really enjoyable to be out in the fresh air and experience those April showers first hand. Julia Hochbach
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