Joseph writes: 11 cyclists made the journey to Rutland water for today's car-assisted ride. It takes about an hour and a half to get to Rutland, depending on your speed. It is an easy drive, up the A14 and A1. Rutland water is the largest, by area, man-made reservoir in the UK. It was completed in 1975 by damming and flooding part of the Gwash valley. Two small villages were lost, whilst Upper Hambleton survived. It lies on a peninsula on the western side of the lake. There is a 25 mile track, for walkers and cyclists, that circumnavigates the lake. There are several visitor centres with a variety of facilities, so you can choose where you start your ride. The track itself is reasonably flat with gentle rises all the way round. The area around Rutland, however, is very hilly and a good challenge if you are used to the flat lands of Cambridge.
The day began misty as we left Cambridge, but that quickly cleared and gave way to a gorgeous early morning with the promise of another very hot day in store. We parked at the Whitwell centre, where the main shop of Rutland Cycling is sited. Everyone assembled for a 9:30 start. As always, some made their own way and some car-shared. We started by following the cycle track in a clockwise direction. There are great views of the lake from the start. We cycled over the dam at the Eastern end of the lake and then stopped to look to have a look at the Normanton church museum. Originally a private estate church, it was deconsecrated in 1970 and threatened with demolition when the valley was flooded. However, after a public outcry, it was saved by filling the lower half with rubble and raising the floor to window level. It now houses a museum recording the history of Rutland water.
After another mile we stopped for our first coffee stop of the day at Edith Weston, having cycled four miles! There is never any hurry on these rides, and lots of cafe stops.
After coffee, we continued along the cycle track for two miles before leaving the track and heading south through Lyndon down a long steep hill to Wing.
At Wing there is a turf maze, said to date from medieval times. It is very similar to the Hilton maze. By now the terrain had become quite hilly and the lower gears could be put to use. We rode from wing to Preston and Ridlington. At Ridlington we took our first bit of off-road. Having slipped to the back we came down another hill to find that David S had had a tumble on a partially obscured speed bump. Having picked himself up and inspected the damage, the bike was fine, we carried on to Braunston-in-Rutland.
By now we were feeling the full heat of the day, and it was hot work climbing up the hills. Adrian had warned the pub we were coming, so we carried on to Knossington and Owston before finally reaching our lunch stop at Burrough on the hill. As it turned out it didn't matter that we were late, the pub was open all day. Many drinks were purchased, and everyone sat down with some relief. Food consisted of pork cobs and cheesy chips! The food was very good, and very reasonably priced. The staff were very friendly and the pub was a very nice venue indeed, well done Adrian.
We took our time, while we cooled down, and finally left shortly after 3 O'clock. Despite a few rumbles of thunder and some dark clouds during lunch, the weather stayed dry and the clouds soon cleared. We started with a nice bit of downhill and then rode past Burrough hill fort, a well preserved iron age hill fort, a significant landmark in the area. We also passed a group of people in a field making music. We weren't quite sure what was going on, but speculated that it was some kind of pagan ritual! We carried on to Little Dalby and then over the A606. Next we reached the rail line from Melton Mowbray to Oakham, and had to wait at a rare manned crossing whilst the wooden gates were opened for us.
We carried on to Wymondham and arrived at our next stop. Here there is a disused windmill, tearooms, craft centre and Bike shop! We found out about the place because Mick C had visited recently to try out Bianchi bikes. We had afternoon tea and scones in the afternoon sunshine. It was still warm, but bearable.
It was now time to make our way back to Rutland. We rode through Edmondthorpe, Teigh and Barrow and on to Cottesmore. Nearby are Barnsdale gardens, home to Gardener's world and Geoff Hamilton for many years. Next we rode a short bit of off-road to Exton and then back to Whitwell where we had to wait a while to cross the busy A606.
We got back to the visitor centre at about 6 O'clock and found John and Vic taking it easy in the sunshine. It was still very hot and we took our time to purchase drinks and cool down before the drive back to Cambridge. The drive back was uneventful and I got back to Linton at about 8'Oclock. Many thanks to Adrian for organising another great day out, and thanks to everyone who came for providing good company. Total mileage on bike: 48 miles. Joseph Sugg
Photos by Adrian Lee