Sunday, 29 July 2012

29 Jul: "Challenging" All-day ride to Finchingfield, Stisted and Horseheath

Nigel writes: Today was the third Sunday this summer when, in addition to the normal all-day ride, the club arranged a longer and slightly faster version for those who were looking for something slightly more challenging. Gareth has been the leader of all of these longer rides, and the club is grateful to him for doing so. Support for these rides is steadily increasing: on 3rd June there were two of us, on 17th June there were three, and today there were four: Gareth, Tony, James and me

We set off from Brookside at the slightly earlier time of 8.30am. It was a gorgeous warm morning with a clear sky and bright sunshine, though there was rain forecast for the afternoon. The speed was high from the start, which meant I didn't have any opportunity to sprint ahead to take photos.

Gareth's strategy when planning a long ride is to take a direct route to get away from Cambridge as quickly as possible. Today wasn't the day to dally on lanes we had ridden many times before. Instead Gareth led us south to Trumpington and Great Shelford where we turned right onto the road to Whittlesford, Duxford and Ickleton. Here, instead of climbing Coploe Hill, we stayed on the flat and took the road to Great Chesterford. We joined the B1383 to Littlebury before switching to the B184 into Saffron Walden. Although these roads can be quite busy, at 9am on a Sunday they were very quiet. Saffron Walden would be where the normal all-day ride would stop for coffee today, but we passed through without stopping and carried on along the B1053 to Radwinter, Great Sampford and Finchingfield, which we reached at about 10.15am. We stopped for coffee at Boswell's Tea Room.

Another of Gareth's strategies for a long ride is to avoid spending too much time at the stops, so we were soon back on our bikes and on our way. Now that we had got some useful miles behind us the pace relaxed slightly, and we even stopped briefly to inspect the "Cave" (a medieval lock-up) in Great Bardfield.

I won't describe the route to Lunch in detail: it is shown on the map below. It took us south, past the airfield at Great Saling (below), to Felsted.

From Felsted we turned east, passing well south of Braintree before turning north once more to our planned Lunch stop at Specialities Tea Rooms in Stisted, which we reached at 12.15pm.

This was our first visit to Specialities Tea Rooms, but it had been much praised by Essex CTC and it seemed well worth a visit. I am pleased to report that it is excellent. The menu seemed perfect for cyclists, offering sandwiches, light meals (I chose beans on toast) and a varied array of cakes. The proprietor, who is clearly keen on cycling himself, gave us a warm welcome and excellent service. Stisted itself is a tiny and very quiet village: we ate our lunch sitting outside in the sunshine; the only disturbance was when a combine harvester drove past.

We were just finishing our lunch and preparing to leave when Tom and the main all-day ride appeared.

It was a little after 1pm when we set off again. We continued north, passing to the east of Halsted before turning west to Little and Great Maplestead. A short while later Gareth took us along a narrow and very rustic road to Sible Headingham that he and I discovered last winter and rode along in darkness.

From Sible Headingham the roads became more familar, taking us through Toppesfield, Stambourne and Birdbook to Steeple Bumpstead.

James rides through the ford at Steeple Bumpstead. Compare with this photo taken 14 days ago

From Steeple Bumpstead it was a short distance through Helions Bumpstead and the Camps to Horseheath, which we reached at 3.30pm. Here we stopped at the Old Red Lion Inn. Tea was planned for 4.30pm, so we had an hour to wait, but our early arrival allowed us to avoid the rain which had just arrived and, more importantly, allowed us to watch the final ten minutes of the Olympic Games Women's Road Race and see Lizzie Armitstead win a Silver medal in pouring rain.

After a pleasant and relaxing hour the main all-day ride arrived and at about the same time Peter D arrived with the afternoon ride, and a excellent tea of sandwiches, roast potatoes and cakes arrived.

After tea we all returned to Cambridge.

Most people took the direct route via Balsham, though Gareth, Tony, James and I were keen to push the ride to over 100 miles to took a longer route via Carlton, Brinkley, Dullingham, Swaffham Bulbeck and Bottisham. We could see rain in the distance but miraculously we stayed dry for the whole ride back. I arrived back home in Cambridge at 6.55pm, feeling surprisingly strong after having cycled 107 miles. I'd like to thank Gareth yet again for leading a very satisfying and enjoyable ride.

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Thursday, 26 July 2012

26 Jul: Thursday ride to Castle Camps and Great Yeldham

Edward writes: This week the Thursday group were to be led by Richard B for our tour out to Great Yeldham. As the weather had been so hot it was no surprise to find that we left Hauxton with a group fourteen strong. With various comings and going throughout the day we at one time had nineteen riders out to enjoy the sunshine.

Sawston-Babraham Cycle Way

Although we didn’t formally get into two groups we did in fact keep ourselves far enough apart so that two groups formed naturally. Richard led the way through Little Shelford to Whittlesford Church where we joined the now not so new, but still splendid, cycleway into Sawston and on to into Babraham. This, of course, brought us to the farm and the track over to the cycle bridge which then brought us to Great Abington. The wind, incidentally, was very light and caused us no difficulties during the day. Probably the same couldn’t be said of the sun which became very hot and any bits through shaded areas were very welcome.

Babraham Cycle Bridge

After Gt Abington we crossed the A1307 and took the short but undulating road into Hildersham and then to Linton and once again bringing us back to the A1307 which we crossed for the ride up to Bartlow. After Bartlow it was the three miles, mainly climbing, up to Castle Camps and our first stop. There being no cafe here we stopped on the little green and had what refreshments we had brought with us. After our break we continued on our way south east on a very rural route allowing us to observe the passing of the seasons with many fields being harvested - certainly a sign that summer is marching on. We went through Finchingfield and then on to Wethersfield and out on the road to Sible Hedingham but turning off to head north to Toppesfield before reaching our lunch stop at the Wagon and Horses in Gt. Yeldham. We all enjoyed lunch helped by moving the garden tables about into the shady areas of the garden.

The Open Road

After lunch we left Gt Yeldham and took more equally delightful rural roads through Tilbury Juxta Clare, Ashen and then to Stoke by Clare. Much of this is quite wooded and provided much needed shelter from the hot sun - a couple of weeks back we would have been looking for a different kind of shelter. From Stoke by Clare we turned north westerly and benefitted from what little wind there was which was light from the south east, and finally brought us to Kedington. With the heat everyone agreed that a stop for ice cream would be in order, so we called in at the local shop to buy ice creams and enjoy a short break.

Castle Camps


When we resumed we crossed the A143 which took us to Great Wratting and then on to Withersfield and it wasn’t long before we were cycling over Wratting Common to the junction where the group separated to allow people to make their own way home. However, the main group carried on to West Wratting, then down to Six Mile Bottom and then up to the Wilbrahams and Fulbourn for the final part of the day’s ride. Today we covered 64 miles and our thanks to Richard for leading us and devising an extremely pleasant rural ride. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

25 Jul: Evening ride to St Ives

Nigel writes: Today was probably the second-hottest of the year so far, with temperatures of up to 28 C in the afternoon. Fortunately the evening brought more comfortable weather and a pleasing cool breeze. This evening's riders were Paul, Neil, Gareth, Tiia, John E, Steve, James and me, with a promise from Simon P that he would join us at Orchard Park. Our destination this evening was St Ives, which we would ride to along the busway cycleway.

The worst part of any ride along the busway cycleway is the ride across northern Cambridge to get onto it. The route we took from Brookside this evening took us through the City Centre, up Castle Hill and along Histon Road to Orchard Park. We rode along the cyclepaths around the edge of the estate until we reached the busway, where Simon was waiting.

I think next time I might be tempted to skip the diversion around Orchard Park and join the cycleway at Histon (which Steve did this eveing).

We followed the busway cycleway all the way to St Ives. As usual this was smooth, fast and uneventful. It was sunny and very warm, and the cycleway was quite busy with other cyclists. A slight headwind slowed our progress slightly, but I was grateful for its cooling effect.

We reached St Ives at almost exactly 7.30pm. This gave us ample time for a loop to Houghton Mill and back before stopping for a drink. We took the Thicket Path to Houghton (picture below), crossed the River Ouse at the mill and then returned through Hemingford Abbots and Hemingford Gray to St Ives.

We were back in St Ives at 8.25pm. It was now time to stop for a drink at The Golden Lion, a large pub in the middle of the town.

The pub had a good menu and several of us ordered food. The menu including two types of chips: twice cooked hand-cut chips for £3.50 (left) or skinny fries for £2.50 (right).

Although this pub is a bit characterless it is comfortable and efficient and I think just fine for a quick refreshment stop on a ride like this. After we had finished our drinks and snacks we all returned back to Cambridge the same way we had come, along the busway cycleway. The pace on the return journey was fast (these evening rides seem to be getting faster in recent weeks). Tiia was at the front for the first few miles but then Simon and Gareth made a breakaway and sped past, I decided to join them and hang on behind. Simon was on a fixed-gear so we rode at a constant 22mph almost all the way back to Cambridge (except when crossing side roads, of course). I arrived home at 9.50pm, having cycled 37 miles - an excellent distance for an evening ride.

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Sunday, 22 July 2012

22 Jul: Afternoon ride to Ashwell

John writes: A momentary panic when I saw masses of cyclists turning into Lensfield Road. These were not joining the CTC ride but were on the Bike Events London to Cambridge annual ride. However there were about a dozen riders setting off from Brookside including a few joining a Cambridge CTC ride for the first time. I apologise for not remembering their names but we hope to see them again soon.

On our route to Haslingfield we were greeted by many Bike Events riders. Did they think we were doing the double journey back to London? We enjoyed fine views from the top of Chapel Hill and Croydon Hill. Jacob led a small break-away group off-road into Wimpole Park where we were all reunited. We zoomed downhill to the A428 and into Shingay thence to Guilden Morden where there was a short delay for a puncture. We arrived at St. Mary’s Room Ashwell (not to be confused with the Village Hall or the URC Church Hall) at 4:20 to see Nigel and Gareth. This was my first visit to this tea-stop and we need to forewarn them of our future visits.

After a fairly abstemious tea we mingled with the day riders and all sped back to Cambridge via Steeple Morden, Bassingbourn, Barrington aided by a brisk following breeze. The combined group spread out over several kilometres which made the role of leader redundant. The ride was about 42 miles. John Ferguson

22 Jul: All-day ride to Willington, Marston Moretaine and Ashwell

Nigel writes: It was 22nd July, but today felt like the first day of Summer. After months of cold, wet weather the Jetstream has at last moved north to its proper place and we can now begin to enjoy some decent weather. The forecast was for warmth and sunshine all day, so I was pleased that today's all-day ride looked like a relatively long one, with some interesting new stops along the way.

As would be expected there was a large turnout at Brookside for today's ride. Our leader today was Mick, who led us west out of Cambridge along the Barton Road cycleway to Barton, where we rejoined the road and turned onto the B1046 to Comberton, Toft and Bourn. Gareth set off ahead of the group at a brisk pace and I followed behind. Gareth was in the mood to ride at his own speed rather than wait for the others, and I was too, and by the time we reached Toft the others were out of sight behind us.

With Gareth at the front most of the time we continued through Caxton, Great Gransden, Abbotsley (taking a slightly longer route than the normal one via Waresley) to Everton. Instead of the usual route via Sandy we turned right and sped down Everton Hill to cross the A1 at Tempsford.

When we reached Blunham we turned onto the NCR 51 railway path towards Bedford.

Our coffee stop today was the cafe at Danish Camp. This is at Willington, right next to the cycle path. Neither of had been there before so we rode right past it before realising what we had done. When we eventually found the cafe we were pleased to discover that this is a rather nice timber building in an attractive location next to the River Great Ouse. A cycle hire place was adjacent.

The cafe was large and looked an excellent place to have lunch, though on this occasion I ordered just a coffee and a pastry, Danish of course.

Already at the cafe was Doug, Mike S and Brian, and a few moments later Martin arrived, all of whom had made their own way there.

About fifteen minutes later we were joined by Mick and the rest of the ride. Since we had already finished our coffee Gareth and I were ready to go, so after briefly discussing the route with Mick the two of us set off on our own.

Our lunch stop was about ten miles further west, also on NCR 51, so we could follow Sustrans signposting all the way. This took us along the Ouse right into the middle of Bedford. It was the Bedford River Festival this weekend and there were lots of people about, but the cycle path was still open and we were able to ride through carefully.

Once in the middle of Bedford the NCR 51 signposts took us north over the river on a road bridge, west along the north bank for a mile, and then back south across a pedestrian and cycle bridge.

We followed the busy B531 west out of Bedford and out into the countryside again. The NCR 51 signs took us along some quiet roads through Wooton and under the A421 to Marston Moretaine. We turned into Marston Vale Millenium Country Park and stopped for lunch at the Forest Centre. This is a very big visitor and conference centre with a large restaurant with lots of tables outside in the sunshine.

Here we found a large group from South Herts CTC, whom we had arranged to meet here. It was now about 1.30pm and they were getting ready to ride back home to St Albans, but Mick and the main group arrived before they departed and we were able to exchange brief pleasantries before sending them on their way.

This restaurant was another place we hadn't visited before, and I can report that it is excellent, with a good menu, plenty of space both inside and outside, and with friendly efficient staff. I had a jacket potato and beans, followed by a huge portion of carrot cake (rather larger than I would have liked, not that it stopped me eating the lot).

After lunch we all set off together. Although I had enjoyed riding a bit more quickly with Gareth I was looking forward to a bit of sociable cycling with the others.

However there was a bit of confusion over the best way out of the park, and by the time Gareth and I reached the exit by Millbrook Station the others were nowhere to be seen. So yet again Gareth and I found ourselves riding on our own for the third leg to tea.

We had faced a bit of a headwind before lunch, but now we were heading back east and had the wind behind us. From Millbrook Station we rode a mile and a half to Millbrook itself before turning to Houghton Conquest. Here we climbed (or plodded in my case) up a short, steep, hill which took us onto the Greensand Ridge.

Now we had a tailwind we made rapid progress through Haynes Church End, Southill and Broom to Langford, where we crossed back over the A1 to Edworth. After a few more miles we arrived in Ashwell. Here we stopped for tea at St Mary's Church Hall.

Just as Gareth and I sat down with our tea and cakes the afternoon ride arrived, and a few minutes after that the rest of the all-day ride turned up.

After tea our combined group set off back to Cambridge. There must have been over twenty of us.

Inevitably this large group began to string out along the road. Gareth sped off ahead and was soon disappearing into the distance. This time I didn't try to stay behind him, but followed behind with Tiia and some others. With over 70 miles behind me at this stage I was beginning to flag so was happy to let Tiia set the pace for the next few miles through Steeple Morden, Litlington, Needingworth, Meldreth and Shepreth to Barrington, where we climbed Chapel Hill. We paused for a rest at the top, which I found surprisingly restorative, and I increased my pace (still assisted by the wind, I should add) for the final miles through Haslingfield and Barton back to Cambridge.

When we reached the edge of Cambridge, whilst Rupert and others rushed back home to see the highlights of The Tour on TV, I stopped for a ice cream from the kiosk on Lammas Land. I was home by 6.30pm, having cycled 92 miles.

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Thursday, 19 July 2012

19 Jul: Thursday ride to Swavesey and St Neots

Edward writes: Today’s ride to St. Neots was from the Haslingfield start point and was under grey skies and not particularly warm; the forecast was for grey skies all day and lengthy showers, and it didn’t disappoint. About fourteen cyclist assembled and these included three first-time riders - Joanna, David and Richard who was taking the opportunity to get some mileage in before doing this coming Sunday’s London to Cambridge cycle ride. We welcome all three and hope that they enjoyed their day out, despite the weather, and will join us again in the future.

At the start in Haslingfield

Ian W was our leader for this ride and he led us out at regulation Thursday ride pace to Harlton and then on to the Eversdens. After the Eversdens we turned for Kingston and then on to Bourn. The weather at this point was still reasonable so we were able to progress without much ado up to the A428 which we crossed and took the road through to Knapwell. After Knapwell we turned right and headed into Boxworth which then brought us to the A14 which we bridged and then ran into Swavesey and the Baptist Chapel for our coffee stop.

Towards Boxworth

This is always an excellent stop and this week the ladies came from St Andrew’s Church and the choice of cakes on display was truly tempting - if only Adrian had been with us! A coffee and homemade cake for £1.50 can hardly be bettered. The little hall was crowded and no wonder. At coffee Sarah, Bill, Mike K were already enjoying the fare, but when we resumed the ride Richard B and Brian M returned home via the Busway.

We left Swavesey and headed towards Fen Drayton but Ian led us on an off-road track towards the lakes but bringing us out in Fen Drayton where we rejoined the road which took us down towards the A14, but turning to ride parallel to it into Fenstanton. We took the underpass which gave us the road to Hilton and by now the clouds were becoming ever lower and more threatening. In fact in Hilton we stopped to put on our rain gear and also to shelter under the trees but the rain was to be more or less with us all the way into St. Neots. (In Hilton we also saw two Green Woodpeckers.)


In Graveley we became a bit strung out as Richard was beginning to struggle a little so the main group waited until we knew that those at the rear had closed the gap. On entering St. Neots Joanna had a puncture but help was on hand and she was soon on her way to our lunch stop at the Ambiance Cafe near the river. Already there were Doug, Tony P and Richard from Bedford.

Cycleway in St Neots

After lunch we left St. Neots at about 2.15pm by way of the Willow Bridge cycleway and this eventually took us out to the road for Abbotsley. In Abbotsley Mick and I became separated from the main group owing to our desire to look at the many scarecrows on display. Abbotsley obviously had great fun with their Olympic themed scarecrow display and there were many fine scarecrows to be seen.

Scarecrows in Abbotsley

Mike and I went home via Gt. Gransden, Caxton, Bourn and the Everdens whilst the main group went via Gt. Gransden and Longstowe, Bourn and then on to Toft, Comberton and Barton. On the road between Kingston and Gt Eversden it is possible to see the wind turbines between Balsham and West Wratting. I’ve ended the map at Fen Causeway which gave a total of 53 miles. Our thanks to Ian for a splendid ride which everyone enjoyed despite the best efforts of the weather. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

18 Jul: Evening ride to Newton

Nigel writes: This evening was warm and humid, with a threat of rain later. The sky was overcast but with just enough hint of brightness to bring out five riders for tonight's ride to Newton: Tiia, John E, Andrew, newcomer Marc and me.

After a short delay to adjust Tiia's brakes we set off south down Trumpington Road. We turned left onto Porson Road, our usual short-cut down to Long Road and the busway cycleway, where we met Chris coming the other way. Chris turned to join us and we were now six.

This evening's route was an old favourite: through the Shelfords to Whittlesford, Duxford and Ickleton before climbing Coploe Hill for our customary rest and photograph.

We continued south to Catmere End. From here we took a loop south through Littlebury Green and Elmdon before returning north to Chrishall Grange, Fowlmere and our pub stop in Newton. The whole ride was taken at an enjoyably rapid pace, though our delayed departure together with a stop for Marc to mend a puncture meant we arrived at the pub slightly later than planned at 8.50pm. Here we were reunited with John F who had separated from us near Whittlesford.

The whole ride so far had been free of rain, though there was plenty of water on the roads and we could see heavy rain on the horizon. By the time we left the pub the rain had arrived, though it was fairly light (much less than a week ago) and wasn't a problem. I arrived home at 10.10pm having cycled 32 miles.

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Sunday, 15 July 2012

15 Jul: All-day ride to Stradishall, Long Melford and Ashdon

Nigel writes: Today was forecast to be a rare dry day in what has been a very wet spell of weather recently, so it was no surprise to see a good turnout at 9am at Brookside for today's all-day ride: about a dozen or so in total.

Paul was our leader today, and led us south-east out of Cambridge along Hills Road, over the railway and onto Cherry Hinton Road.

We continued to Cherry Hinton and over the slight hill to Fulbourn.

At Fulbourn we set off on the long road to Balsham. This is a bit of a boring road, and the first section can sometimes be fast and busy, but at 9.30am on a Sunday morning it was fairly quiet and served its purpose of getting us to the lovely cycling country beyond Balsham as quickly as possible. We were assisted by a gentle but noticable tailwind which sped us on our way.

At Balsham we turned onto quieter lanes which took us through West Wickham and Carlton Green to Little Thurlow. By now the sun had come out and it was quite warm.

As we arrived in Little Thurlow we met a shepherd who signalled us to stop, and we waited whilst a hundred or so sheep were herded past us.

The sheep had been unexpected. However a familar pleasure of Little Thurlow is the ford, which was in full spate today following recent rain. Some of us used the footbridge, but a few brave souls risked the water.

After Little Thurlow a further narrow lane took us east to Stradishall, where after a short section along the A143 past the prisons we arrived at Tubby T's cafe. We sat outside drinking mugs of tea and, in my case, eating a bacon sandwich.

Afterwards the group divided: about half of the group turned back for home, leaving about half a dozen to continue on to lunch. The route to Long Melford was along some of my favourite lanes through Denton, Stansfield, Thurston End and Glemsford. We arrived in Long Melford at about 12.15pm to find the main street closed to motor vehicles (but not us) and the villagers setting up for the Long Melford Street Fair.

We stopped for lunch at Tiffin's Tea Emporium, a friendly cafe in the main street.

After lunch we had an opportunity to look at what the fair had to offer. As the fair didn't start until 3pm there wasn't much to see yet, though John's attention was caught by this traction engine (and Paul's attention was attracted by the tractor just behind).

After this brief pause we were on our way again, this time westwards towards Ashdon and ultimately Cambridge. We were now riding directly into the wind, and although it wasn't a major problem we were definitely riding more slowly than we had been earlier.

John's route took us along yet more quiet lanes, through Belchamp Otten, Belchamp St Paul, Ovington, Ashen, Ridgewell and Birdbrook to Steeple Bumpstead. Here the road crosses a wide ford, which is normally dry but today most definitely wasn't.

From Steeple Bumpstead we continued to Helions Bumpstead, Olmstead Green (where I stopped to mend a puncture) and Ashdon where we stopped for tea at the village museum. It was about 4pm.

As always, we received a friendly welcome at what is one of our favourite tea stops, and were served with suitably large slices of cake. A few minutes later Julia arrived with the afternoon ride. However they entered the cafe to discover that disaster had struck: they had ran out of cake! Fortunately Jacob had a backup plan and led a group on to Linton to buy cakes from the village shop.

After my group had finished our cake and tea we set off back to Cambridge. Our route took us to Linton, where I found the afternoon riders lounging on the village green finishing their shop-bought refreshments. With our two groups united at last we set off once more for Cambridge via Hildersham, Abington, the bridge over the A11 and the footpath to Babraham.

The final leg of our ride took us through Sawston, Stapleford, Great Shelford, the DNA path and the busway cycleway back into Cambridge. In Stapleford my gear gear cable snapped. If this had occured an hour earlier it would be been very inconvenient. However I was now only five (very flat) miles from home, so I was able to limp home stuck in a slightly-too-high gear without too much difficulty. I arrived home at 6.30pm, having cycled 78 miles.

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