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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