Thursday, 29 November 2012

29 Nov: Thursday ride to Ickleton and Kedington

Edward writes: It was something of a surprise when twelve cyclists met in Hauxton for our trip out to Kedington. The forecast was for a clear, but cold day and an obvious improvement on the previous few days. Unfortunately, just as most of us were leaving our homes there were one or two light showers which would have put a few doubts in people’s minds. It was certainly cold, but we set off with a following light wind on our backs. The wind was in the north and we were basically heading south. So, out of Hauxton and in into Little Shelford and into Newton.

Mick C was our leader today and it was his intention to have a relatively short route to coffee at Ickleton followed by a longer ride through to Kedington. Therefore, after Newton we travelled through Thriplow and Fowlmere to bring us out to a busy A505. After all of us had crossed this road it was Chrishall Grange and then then the narrow lanes which lead into Ickleton and the Riverside Barns for the coffee break.


At coffee there were more arrivals giving us fifteen in total, including Myrtle who had arrived with Doug; it was also good to see Joseph out. Coffee and cake in the warmth was almost a bit too comfortable, making for a certain reluctance to get underway again. However, the deed had to be done and eventually twelve, after the usual comings and goings, set off for Kedington. This entailed a mile or so on the old A11 as far as Littlebury where we turned to join Windmill Hill which runs down into Saffron Walden. We left Saffron Walden with the Common on our right and climbed out on the Ashdon road and into Ashdon itself.

Towards Ashdon

The sun was out and from the height we had gained we had the first of many fine views over the surrounding countryside, showing that all of our seasons, even in winter, have something nice about them. In Ashdon we turned for Steventon End and out into the country and the long, quiet stretches before reaching Helions Bumpstead, which of course, is followed by Steeple Bumpstead.

After Steventon End

This then led onto the road for Sturmer which is narrow but gains height and once again giving delightful views all around. Following all the recent rains it was not surprising that the roads were at times extremely messy and many with water running down from the high ground. After Sturmer and another three miles we were in Kedington and our lunch stop, arriving just after 1pm.

Olmstead Green

As is usual some had sandwiches and ate them outside and then to come in for coffee, whilst others ordered lunch in the pub. Sadly, the pub was unable to cope with us all and it was nearly an hour before the meals were served. It has to be said that we may have contributed ourselves by forgetting to ring in advance to warn them of our arrival, so maybe the message is that we should always ring in advance, especially when we have a large group.

After Helions Bumpstead

Because of the long wait it was decided that the we should split the group with Mick leading those who were ready to go on and leave those who had ordered lunch to follow later, under Rupert’s guidance. Thus the leading group set off and crossed the A143 into Great Wratting where we turned towards Withersfield, to be followed by the trip over Wratting Common. We turned left here to face a very low and very bright sun before arriving in West Wickham.

Wratting Common

There then followed the up hill and down hill into Balsham. Between the A11 and Fulbourn I had a puncture which Mick took charge of and we soon got underway again. We decided that it was best for Sarah and Tony to go on as too many people standing around on this fast road wouldn’t be safe. Not only that the light was beginning its fast descent into dusk, and a rapid drop in temperature. We said goodbye to Averil in Fulbourn and Mick and I went back to Shelford by going over the Gogs and the DNA path from the hospital. This was a very good ride through some our our favourite roads in this Essex and Suffolk border area, so thanks to Mick for another good route. We did 55 miles.Edward Elmer

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Sunday, 25 November 2012

25 Nov: Morning rides to Ickleton/Reed

Nigel writes: For the third Sunday running, today was a clear, sunny day. This time, however, we had a very strong south-westerley wind which made today's ride far from idyllic, at least at the start. Despite this there were six of us at Brookside for today's all-day ride including John S, our leader.

Our coffee stop today was to be in Reed. This would mean cycling directly into the wind almost all the way so John took a direct route to Trumpington and Great Shelford where we turned right onto the road to Little Shelford.

Right from the start the wind was a serious obstacle, but there was little to be done about it other than to engage a suitably low gear and plod on slowly.

At Little Shelford we turned onto the road that leads west to the B1368 where we turned south-west towards Newton.

By the time we reached Newton we had already lost two of our riders (who had gone off to do their "own thing") and at Newton we lost one more, with Paul turning back for home. This left just John, Kenny, Peter and me to carry on. Along the road to Fowlmere we caught up with Conrad who was making his own way to Reed.

At Fowlmere John had planned to turn off to take a loop via Great Chishill but since it was so windy and we still had a long way to go he suggested we simply carry on along the B1368. So we carried on to Flint Cross where we crossed over the A505. After another half a mile I announced that I had had enough and wouldn't be carryong on to Reed. Cycling directly into the wind wasn't much fun and in any case the cafe at Reed wasn't one of my favourites. Instead I would make a loop back to Cambridge via Great Chishill and Elmdon, stopping for coffee at Ickleton along the way. Kenny, Peter and Conrad all decided to join me, leaving John to carry on to Reed on his own.

So whilst John continued along the B1368 to Barkway (see below for John's report), the rest of us turned left onto the long straight road which climbs slowly up to Great Chishill. We were still going south but were no longer directly into the wind and the going suddenly became much easier. This allowed me to appreciate for the first time that, apart from the wind, today was a truly beautiful day.

At Great Chishill we turned left towards Heydon and Elmdon. With the wind behind us at last we made rapid progress and we all started to enjoy ourselves at last. A short time later we arrived in Ickleton, where we stopped for coffee at Ickleton Barns. It was about 11.30am. This was actually our planned afternoon stop, so we were simply having tea four and a half hours early...

After a most enjoyable coffee and cake we set off back to Cambridge. Conrad was keen to get home so took the direct road to Duxford, leaving Peter, Kenny and me to take a slightly longer but quieter route via Hinxton.

Just beyond Hinxton we discovered that the ford on the road to Duxford had flooded and the road was impassable.

Although we could reach the footbridge beside the ford fairly easily, the road ahead was completely flooded and it was clear that if we continued we would certainly get wet.

As we stood on the bridge we saw that a car had been swept away earlier and was now submerged a few yards downstream of the ford.

Peter called the police to make sure they knew about this. (The local newspaper later reported that the driver escaped unhurt). We then turned back and returned to Cambridge via Hinxton, Sawston, Stapleford and the DNA path. I arrived back home at about 1.20pm, having cycled a modest 35 miles. Nigel Deakin

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John adds: After parting company with the rest of the ride, I plodded on towards Barley and Barkway and then right towards Reed, in case there were dozens of eager day riders who had made their own way there waiting to be led. While climbing through Barley I was overtaken by a horse, which was sadly neither galloping nor trotting – more strolling. There was some shelter from the wind, and I was rewarded with fantastic clear views to the north from near the navigation masts. The wind was still strong, and I looked forward to being blown home later on.

Arriving at the Silver Ball at around 11.40, I was pleased to find Doug who had been waiting patiently since 11.00 and was about to leave. After tea and Eccles Cake, we proceeded. It was so late by then that we decided that Braughing for lunch was a bit ambitious, so we decided to aim for Buntingford instead. Doug kindly warned me that my planned route through Dane End was flooded, having just seen a wet-footed cyclist who had come that way. So we took a short detour via Hay Green and then on towards Sandon and Buntingford. A stream had burst its banks in Mill End, and the road was under water for about 30m, but was shallow and clear enough so you see it wasn’t deep and could avoid any potholes.

We had lunch a café in Buntingford, admiring the way the main street still has the old shop fronts, and still has active local shops and businesses at its heart. After lunch Doug headed south towards Ware and Stevenage and I turned west towards Hare Street. I had hoped to be blown onwards towards Clavering in the blink of an eye, but sadly the strong wind from the morning had dropped to a light breeze, and so I headed north along the B1368 towards Shelford and was home by 4pm. I had cycled only 80km on a shortened day ride, and learned that feeling smug about all the hard work you had done riding into a headwind is a sure fire way to make it disappear just as soon as you turn around! A lovely day out though, with some great views and cloudscapes. I just hope no one went direct to the Brown Bear at Braughing to find there was no one there! John Seton

Thursday, 22 November 2012

22 Nov: Thursday ride to Bourn and St Ives

Edward writes: This Thursday gave us day in total contrast to the fog and stillness of last week. This time it was clear skies and strong winds, but this didn’t deter sixteen cyclists who met in Haslingfield for our ride out to St.Ives. This should have been to Fen Drayton but the pub there was unable to take us so the lunch stop was changed to St. Ives.

Our ride leader was Rupert and amongst those cycling were Stuart who came over from Stevenage and Lynn who was visiting from her new home in Croatia.


We started with the climb up Chapel Hill and at the the top we had our first taste of how strong the wind was. In Barrington we stopped briefly to allow everybody to come together and we continued on through Shepreth and into Meldreth where we turned to go to Orwell via Malton.

Near Wimpole

This was a nice ride as the wind was firmly behind us. After Orwell we took the road past the Wimpole Estate and carried on up the hill where we reached the A1198 and stayed on this for about one and half miles when we turned off to go into Bourn and our coffee stop at the Abantu Cafe.

Abantu Cafe, Bourn

We overwhelmed this little cafe as, in addition to those who started from Haslingfield, we were joined by Bill, Peter W, Kenny and Sarah who responded to a request made earlier in the week by bringing one of her delicious home-made cakes. Cycling on Thursdays certainly has its perks.

When Rupert was finally able to round everybody up we left Bourn by way of Caxton and Great Gransden. As part of his ride leadership responsibilities Rupert produced a route list which he had passed round at the start. With the large numbers we are getting for these rides this could prove a useful tool in order to keep people who become separated on the correct route. On the approach to Abbotsley we turned right for ride through the now brown fields to Croxton. This was approaching mid-day and also the best part of the day with the sun making it a nice winter’s setting.

Near Abbotsley

For the most part the roads had coped well with the previous day’s rain, but now and then there was plenty of standing water and mud as the sugar beet harvest is still in progress. When we got to Graveley we turned to head up to both Offord D’Arcy and Offord Cluny. (The scene in Graveley is about to undergo a big change as the wind turbines are being delivered to the wind farm during this month and next.) After the Offords we had to use the main road before we reached Godmanchester and then to the Common beside the former railway line.

Hemingford Abbots

This took us through Hemingford Abbots and Hemingford Grey and then into St. Ives and our lunch stop arriving at 1.15pm having cycled 37 miles. Although Nuts Bistro was the stated lunch stop, in fact we split up with some using the Riverside Cafe and others choosing fish and chips.

St Ives

After the comings and goings at lunch it left eleven to make the journey back to Cambridge. During the morning ride the wind was mainly in our favour but this afternoon promised much harder work. We made our way over to Fenstanton and the underpass of the A14 before turning into the wind for the ride up to Connington. In the event, with the aid of the hedgerows, the riding wasn’t too bad, only being difficult on exposed stretches.

St Ives

After Connington it was the long gradual climb to Knapwell and again quite well protected from the wind. This finally bought us to the St Neots old road where some left to go back through Bourn and the Eversdens whilst the main group went back to Cambridge via Hardwick and then to Coton and the final leg down the cycleway into Cambridge City Centre beside King’s College and Great St Mary’s Church. This gave us a regulation Thursday ride of 54 miles and thanks to Rupert who had to devise two routes for this today because of the disappointment at Fen Drayton. Edward Elmer

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Sunday, 18 November 2012

18 Nov: Afternoon ride to Shepreth

Ian writes: Today's afternoon ride was to the Teacake Café in Shepreth. With clear skies and virtually no wind forecast, I expected a reasonable turn out. We had eight other riders at Brookside, which was quite a healthy number for November.

I took a ride to this destination via the hills beyond Duxford a few weeks ago, so this time I though we’d go through Wimpole Hall as we haven’t been that way for a while. There is no direct way to cycle there, so I announced we would go via Barton and Chapel Hill, which prompted the customary but good-natured groan.

We set off on the cycle path out of Cambridge to Barton, turning left for the road to Haslingfield. The ascent of Chapel Hill was over in a couple of minutes without the need for ambulances or heavy moving equipment. The leaves have mostly fallen from the trees now, giving clear views for miles on a clean and crisp day like today.

Now the fun bit: we whizzed down the other side of Chapel Hill to take us into Barrington where we took a right turn up to Orwell.

In Orwell we briefly considered a lovely forest track to Wimpole Hall, but the ground looked pretty boggy, so we followed the path on the side of the road. There was a craft fair on at the Hall, so we had to go a little carefully, but it gave us a breather and a chance for a photo stop.

The next leg took us along one of my favourite bits of road through Croydon. Very little climbing is needed for the reward of huge views. From here we crossed to Shingay along the quiet pretty lanes and onto Bassingbourn. Now it was but a short hop and a skip through Melbourn to Shepreth for tea. Our fingers and toes were quite cold by now, so a warm cuppa and a cake was just the ticket.

After tea, it was properly dark and starting to get icy cold, so I took a group back to Cambridge via the track along the side of the A10, waving goodbye to them at Trumpington once everyone knew where they were. My GPS track showed 41 miles Ian Driver

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18 Nov: All-day ride to St Neots, Hinxworth and Shepreth

Nigel writes: For the second week running we had a glorious Sunday of clear skies, continuous sunshine and hardly any wind. And not surprisingly we had a big turnout for today's all-day ride. Gareth was our leader today, and he led us to our morning coffee stop in St Neots by just about the most direct route possible. From Brookside we rode the short distance into the City Centre before turning west, over the river and through the Backs onto the cycleway to Coton.

At Coton we joined the cycle path alongside the A428 for the short climb to the top of Madingley Hill. It was still quite cold, and remained so all day, but once we had got warmed up it was really rather pleasant in the sunshine. I was wearing my earbags which prompted admiring comments from several other riders.

At the roundabout at the top of Madingley Hill we turned onto the "old" St Neots road. This continues west for six miles. At its end a short length of cycle track brought us to the A1198 just north of Caxton Gibbet.

We followed the busy A1198 north for a mile and a half before turning west once more onto quiet lanes through Telling and Toseland. Just after 11am we arrived in St Neots where we stopped for coffee at the Market Cafe.

With all the shops open and a busy market, St Neots was full of people. The cafe was busy as well with a mixture of cyclists and motorcyclists, and I found myself sitting outside in the sunshine.

After coffee we did the usual swap: several people left the group to return back to Cambridge whilst several others joined us for the next leg south to Lunch at Hinxworth. Once again Gareth didn't have much choice of route and took us directly there via Gamlingay and Potton. When we reached the cafe we found yet more members (Mike S and Barbara in this case) waiting for us.

After lunch we turned east towards Cambridge for the relatively short leg to Shepreth. This took us round the back of Ashwell on some pleasant little lanes and on to Steeple Morden.

We continued to Littlington where we turned left for a short diversion via Abington Piggots before carrying on via Bassingbourn, Kneesworth and Meldreth to Shepreth, where we stopped for tea at Teacake cafe.

Teacake cafe only opened last year but it has quickly become a club favourite. In addition to excellent hot drinks and cakes we are always given a very warm welcome. After a while Ian D arrived with the afternoon ride, and we had a very pleasant and convivial half hour as the sun set outside.

When it was time to set off for home it was completely dark. Ian led his group back via Harston and Trumpington whilst Gareth, me and some others returned via Barrington, Chapel Hill, Haslingfield and Barton. Freed from the burden of leadership, Gareth set a brisk pace. I stayed behind him for a couple of miles but when we reached Chapel Hill I was dropped as Gareth and another rider (unidentified in the dark) sped up the hill.  Soon their rear lights were disappearing into the distance and I completed the final few miles to Cambridge on my own. I arrived home at 5.40pm, having cycled 66 miles.

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Thursday, 15 November 2012

15 Nov: Thursday ride to Nuthampstead and Braughing

Edward writes: This morning was in sharp contrast to yesterday morning. Then it was nice and sunny, today was very misty, typical sort of weather to expect in November. This didn’t deter eight riders from meeting in Hauxton for our ride out to Nuthampstead and then on to Braughing. After calling in on Greta and getting an update on her recovery we left Hauxton by way of Little Shelford and then on to Newton. On the approach to the Thriplow turning we considered it safer to go through Thriplow as the two mile stretch up to Fowlmere is often a speed track for some motorists and who may not be as observant as they should be. When we did reach Fowlmere we turned for the two mile run out to the A505 at Flint Cross. Unexpectedly the road was quiet and we were able to cross quickly and safely. This gave us the road for Barley but we left it for the two mile climb up to Great Chishill where we waited for everybody to come together. We headed out of the village towards Shaftenhoe End but took the turning to Little Chishill and then on to Langley Lower Green.

Towards Langley

After the initial climb these three miles to Langley were on the flat and riding was easy. If only the sun could have broken through as this is nice countryside, but even so, it felt quite atmospheric as it was very quiet peering into the gloom and of course no wind.


Once at Lower Green we left the village on the road to Meesden and then on to Anstey and this brought us to the Woodman in Nuthampstead and a very welcoming fire, coffee and biscuits. Fortunately we had booked ahead so there were no surprises. For us, though, we found another six cyclists, thus bringing our numbers up to fourteen, which represents a very creditable turn out on such an unpromising day.


We should report at this stage that this was to be a day of punctures - in fact five in all. Before he got to the Woodman Dave, who had made his own way there, had already had a puncture but on leaving the Woodman his tyre was again flat but our usual puncture repairmen, Mick C and Adrian, were soon in action to get the bike back on the road. Adrian, with typical ingenuity, made very good use of the puddles in the car park to locate the puncture.

Puncture repair

We left the pub and headed down to the golf course near Barkway and then turned back to Anstey. Decision making became committee work and we finally decided on the route through Great Hormead and Little Hormead where we encountered a flooded road, and then on to Furneux Pelham. Here we checked with the Brewery Tap that they were still willing for us to call on them for coffee and lunch and they confirmed that this was OK. Just outside Furneux Pelham Mick had a puncture, the third for the day, and Mick and Adrian soon got the bike back on the road for the final three miles into Braughing and lunch at the Brown Bear. On arrival, it was no surprise that puncture number four had occurred and the unlucky one was Barbara. As this was our lunch stop this wasn’t much of a problem and it was soon repaired. This was probably the best time of the day as the sun had made an effort to get out and brighten things up.

Near Little Hormead

After we had finished lunch it was about 2.15pm with barely a couple of hours before it got dark. Going home all the way along the B1368 didn’t really appeal: the day had already darkened and the traffic on this road can be very fast. We did do three or four miles on it as far as the turning for Great Hormead and we joined this morning’s road for the ride back to Anstey and Nuthampstead and then on through Shaftenhoe End and up to Great Chishill. Barbara’s tyre seemed to be going down again but we felt with more air in the tyre she should be able to get home, so she left us to go into Barley and take the B1368 downhill all the way to Flint Cross.

Another puncture repair

Towards Nuthampstead

Towards Nuthampstead

Shortly after this it was Adrian’s turn for a puncture - Mick and Averil stayed with him whilst the rest went on through Great Chishill, Heydon and down to Chrishall Grange, Fowlmere, and Newton, where we said goodbye to Brian M and then on to Great Shelford where the ride ended as most people separated here for their routes home. This gave a journey of 55 miles. Despite the weather and the number of punctures everybody pitched in and we all had an enjoyable day. Edward Elmer

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Sunday, 11 November 2012

11 Nov: All-day ride to Horseheath, Risby and Horningsea

Nigel writes: Today was a perfect autumn day, with a clear sky and bright sunshine all day. Not surprisingly there was a good turnout for today's all-day ride, with a dozen riders at the start and more joining later on. Our leader today was Paul. Given the 9.30am start, and the need to be in Risby by lunchtime, he calculated that we needed to take a direct riute to Horseheath for an early coffee stop. So we set off east out of Cambridge along Cherry Hinton Road and Fulbourn Road to Fulbourn.

At Fulbourn we took the long road to Balsham. None of us particularly like this road, especially in this direction (uphill), but it served its purpose of getting us out into the countryside as quickly as possible.

From Balsham we were on quieter roads. We dropped down in the direction of West Wickham before turning right to take the very nice little lane past Streetly Hall to Streetly End. From here it was only a mile to Horseheath where we stopped for coffee and cake at The Old Red Lion Inn.

Half a dozen members were already there when we arrived. As always, the coffee (and tea) was plentiful, the cakes very nice and the overall cost extremely modest, making this one of our favourite coffee stops at the moment.

After coffee we carried on our way. A few people went back home and one or two decided to take a shorter route to a different lunch stop, leaving about seven of us to continue on towards lunch in Risby.

We retraced our steps to Streetly End and then set off north to West Wickham where we turned right onto the road past the former West Wickham airfield (where I think a remembrance service had been held a few minutes earlier) to Carlton Green. Here we turned right onto the narrow lane to Little Thurlow.

At Little Thurlow we splashed through the ford before continuing east along another narrow lane until we reached the A143 near Highpoint Prison.

We followed the main road for a mile past the prisons before turning left towards Wickhambrook. We continued through Chevington before turning left for a short and tranquil loop via Frizzlers Green and Great Saxham.

After a few more miles we crossed over the A14 and at last arrived in Risby, where we stopped for lunch at Lizzy's Coffee Shop. This is a pleasant cafe but they were very full and were slightly upset that we had turned up with more than the booked number. However in the end there was room for (almost) all of us, and we were able to enjoy the rather good food that they serve here.

After lunch we set off west back towards Cambridge. It was 2.15pm, and with tea in Horningsea at 4pm we knew were were going to have to ride more or less directly there. Nevertheless the ride back was delightful: still bright and sunny, but with the sun beginning to lie low in the sky, casting long shadows over the road.

After quite a long ride via Barrow, Dalham, Cheveley, Dullingham and Swaffham Bulbeck we arrived at Peter and Sabina's house in Horningsea at about 4.45pm. The afternoon ride were just getting ready to set off home, and since there were quite a lot of them it was probably just as well that we hadn't all arrived at once.

Tea of course was excellent, despite the afternoon ride having eaten most of it. I particularly enjoyed the ham and cheese sandwiches, made from excellent cheese and ham and (especially) excellent bread. The club is grateful to Peter and Sabina for their hospitality.

Afterwards we returned back to Cambridge via Fen Ditton and Ditton Meadows. It was now completely dark but we didn't have far to go, and I arrived back home a little before 6pm, having cycled 74 miles.

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