Sunday, 26 February 2012

26 Feb: Afternoon ride to Waresley

Ian Driver writes: Todays afternoon ride was to the every popular Waresley Park (Perk J) Garden centre. I was a little unsure what the turnout would be due to a conflict of the two national obsessions.

Obsession 1: The weather. Glorious for a February day. Sunny skies and light winds.

Obsession 2 (more arguably): Liverpool Vs. Cardiff in a cup final shown on terrestrial TV, kick off 4PM.

I seems that national obsession 1 won through as there were 10 other riders a Brookside for the 13:30 start (two with distinctly Liverpool accents). A warm welcome to you all.

At this time of year, I was never going to plan an epic ride with many of us down on miles over the past weeks, who wants to slog you guts out on one of the first really good Sundays we get in quite a while. Nice villages and fine views were the order of the day.

We set off on the familiar path to Barton. Instead of taking the right hand direct route, we carried on and hung a left to take us to Haslingfield. This is followed by a right onto the Harlton Road. The road here gives a gently undulating ride up to the Everstons through pretty villages and countryside beginning to turn green again. Snowdrops lined the route in a good few places.

We continued straight across the A603, onto Great Eversdon and then Tinkers Lane to take us through to Kingston. Here the group split with 5 deciding an off road jaunt was in order. The other 6 of us happily left them to it on our slick tyres.

Left onto the B1064 then a right saw us soon at the Ford in Bourn. Not a lot of water going through given the time of year. Cycled through quite happily myself without getting my feet wet.

You are soon past the Windmill and onto the Gransden Road for tea at Waresley, which was the usual high standard. Riders were now coming out of the woodwork from Cambridge CTC. I counted 30 at one point.

After tea, 6 riders returned with me via Gamlingay and Longstowe. The light was fading very quickly on the way home, a reminder to bring lights still.

I arrived home at about 18:30 with 48.24 very pleasurable miles on the clock. I hope to see the new and old faces on a ride soon. Ian Driver

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26 Feb: All-day ride to St Ives, West Perry and Waresley

Nigel writes: Our reward for enduring a week of snow and ice at the start of the month seems to be a long succession of warm sunny days at the end of the month. Last week's Sunday ride took place on a gorgeous spring-like day, and the weather for today's ride was equally lovely and possibly even warmer. We could all have happily worn shorts today.

The fine weather meant we had another large group: about sixteen riders, most of whom stayed on the ride all day. Ian W was our leader and led us west out of Cambridge along Garret Hostel Lane, Burrell's Walk and the path to Coton.

When we reached Coton we turned onto the cycle path alongside the A428 and climbed Madingley Hill.

At the top of the hill we turned onto the old A428 and continued west through Hardwick until we reached the turn to Knapwell. There we turned north.

We continued through Knapwell and Conington to Fenstanton, from where it was only a short distance further to St Ives. Along the way we met a group from Cambridge Cycling Club who were going the same way.

It was just after 11am, and we stopped for coffee in Nuts Bistro. I had been a bit concerned that the other group was heading for the same cafe as us, but in the event they went somewhere else - probably the Local Cafe, another cyclists' favourite.

After coffee we continued west towards our lunch stop by Grafham Water. Last time we rode from St Ives to West Perry we took a route via Godmanchester and Offord Cluny. This time Ian took us a different route. We left St Ives along the Thicket Path which runs west along the north side of the River Ouse to Houghton.

At Houghton we joined the main A1123 for about a quarter of a mile before turning onto a cycle track past the marina and then onto a short bus and cycle-only road to Hartford on the edge of Huntingdon. This was constructed recently as part of the guided busway project, though when we used it we didn't see any buses.

Fron Hartford to Huntingdon town centre our route took us through parkland along the river.

A short section round the one-way system and a succession of typicaly poor-quality pavement cycleways brought us out on the road to Brampton. From there we were on quiet country lanes again.

After about four miles we reached the village of Grafham, on the northern edge of the eponymous reservoir. Our destination was West Perry, opposite it on the southern edge, and after briefly contemplating which way round to go Ian decided to take us anti-clockwise round the lake along the cycle track.

The cycle track around Grafham Water is mostly unsurfaced but today was hard, dry and bumpy.

This path is intended to be used by the kind of people who drive here by car, get their bikes out of the back (or from a hire centre), and then ride for a few miles around the lake. Unfortunately if this was their only experience of leisure cycling their impression they would receive is that cycling is uncomfortable, requires big, slow, mountain-bike tyres, and is terrifyingly dangerous, as was confirmed by a succession of bossy signs telling riders to dismount at the gentlest of inclines.

The ride was pleasant enough, but it was a relief to arrive at West Perry where we stopped for lunch at the Harbour View restaurant, a longstanding favourite of the club. I think this is a perfect place to stop, with a good range of meals served in the restaurant, plenty of space for picnics nearby for those with sandwiches, and fine views over the lake.

After lunch we set off again. We rode south to Dillington and Staughton Moor and round the airfield to Bushmead. There we turned east onto the road to St Neots.

At St Neots we crossed the River Ouse using the Willow Bridge, constructed only a year or two ago by Sustrans as part of their "Connect2" project.

This excellent bridge, and the equally excellent wide cycle paths on both sides, connects the districts of Eaton Socon and Eynesbury, and means that getting through St Neots was a pleasant and painless process. Soon we were on the road to Waresley.

We arrived at Waresley Garden Centre at 3.30pm, in good time for a leisurely coffee and cake at the cafe there. This is yet another longstanding favourite of the club, and is in fact our single most popular cafe stop: we have visited here 33 times since the start of 2010, and that count doesn't include the informal group that come here on Tuesdays. (For those interested in statistics, our second-favourite cafe stop is the Ickleton Barns cafe, which we have visited 31 times over the same period).

As usual we were joined by Ian D and the afternoon ride and one or two others who had ridden there directly. After tea we returned back to Cambridge. The main group took the direct route via Great Gransden, Caxton, Bourn and Toft. I, however, was keen to take advantage of the fact that it was only 4.15pm and the sun was still shining, so took a slightly longer route back. Cheryl and Paul joined me on a route via Gamlingay, the Hatleys, Croydon, Wimpole, Orwell, Barrington and Chapel Hill. At the top of the hill we rested and turned on our lights for the final leg via Haslingfield and Barton to Cambridge. I was home just after 6pm, having cycled 77 miles.

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Thursday, 23 February 2012

23 Feb: Thursday ride to Saffron Walden and Thaxted

Edward writes: Incredible weather promised for today and this was certainly a promise kept. The Thursday group met as usual at Greta's who, sadly, was unable to join us, and that is such a shame as this would be a day for her to enjoy. Leadership today was a sort of joint enterprise between myself and Mick C. Today was also a pleasure to welcome back Zhiqing who joined us last week and also Sarah back from her sauna (sorry, holiday), Stuart who had cycled up from Stevenage and also Lynn making an appearance with the Thursday ride.

The start

We therefore had thirteen cyclists as we left Hauxton and took the familiar ride out Duxford via Whittlesford and the crossing of the A505. En route Bob Billingham joined us and after Duxford it was to Ickleton and the long climb up Coploe Hill and our regular re-grouping point at the top of the hill.

Coploe Hill Summit

Whilst climbing the hill two Buzzards were noticed circling overhead. After a short break we now had the pleasure of the downhill swoops to Catmere End followed by Chestnut Avenue which had the benefit of the following wind.

Catmere End

This soon brought us to The Temeraire in Saffron Walden for the coffee stop where Doug, Mike B, Ian W and Mike S were already waiting for us. Coffee was hugely enjoyable sitting out on the patio with now bright sunshine and some lively chatter.

Saffron Walden

After the break we went into Saffron Walden and took the road to Radwinter which meant a fairly long, but wind assisted, climb out of the town. This soon brought us to Radwinter and then followed an interesting, but not universally popular, loop which took us to the north of Hempstead. Unfortunately, the road was wet and fairly muddy and consequently the bikes finished up quite filthy - ride leaders not popular! Dry roads soon followed and we came south again to Great Sampford which was followed by another detour, but not followed by everyone, but did have the advantage of being more or less traffic free, and this took us into Thaxted and lunch at The Swan which is opposite the church.


Such a large group obviously tested the bar staff, but they coped very well and a good lunch was soon served, many choosing the two for £10 option. We left Thaxted at about 1.50pm by going down the hill and taking the road which would eventually lead us to Henham. This crosses some very nice undulating countryside, made even more special by the rising temperatures and brilliant sunshine. Shortly after leaving Henham, Sarah incurred a puncture but Mick C was on hand and after a few minutes we were back on our way again.

By now some people were starting to drop away to make their own way home but the remainder went into Newport by way of the climb up to Widdington and down again. Here we left Zhiqing, who was tiring but nobly persevering, and Richard, who decided to take the train back home. The last of the day's riders made their way back via Wendons Ambo, Littlebury Green and then back to Hauxton the way we came out over Coploe Hill. The ride finished in Hauxton at about 4.10pm having covered 58 miles. Edward Elmer

More photos below. Photos 1-4 by Edward Elmer, photos 5-12 by Lynn Brown.

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Sunday, 19 February 2012

19 Feb: All-day ride to Fordham. Newmarket and Fen Ditton

Nigel writes: Today was a gorgeous winter's day, with clear blue skies and bright sunshine all day. It was still cold, of course, with a gentle north-westerly wind bringing a noticeable chill, and ice still visible on a few sheltered puddles, but in general it was much milder than the icy weather of the previous week.

It was therefore no surprise to find a large turnout at Brookside for today's all-day ride.

Geoff was our leader today, and he led us east out of Cambridge along the river to Quy.

From Quy, Geoff's route took us via Bottisham to Lode and then north into the fens to follow the Lodes Way to Burwell. This took us along a series of cycle paths and quiet farm roads: the absence of motor traffic meant that we could concentrate on chatting, catching up with friends and generally enjoying the morning sun.

We had a couple of punctures along the way: Gareth, somewhat rashly, rode off a kerb in Bottisham and burst a tyre. A short distance further along Jim had a puncture as well. As a result our large group split up into a number of smaller groups.

At about 11.15pm my group reached Fordham where we stopped for coffee at Simpson's Nursery and Garden Centre. There we found Adrian and Vic, who had ridden there directly, and after about ten minutes the remainder of our group arrived.

After coffee most of the group continued on to Lunch in Newmarket. The direct route is only five miles, but Geoff took us a longer and much nicer route via Chippenham, Badlingham Manor, Red Lodge, Kentford, Gazeley and Moulton.

At Moulton, Gareth and Graham couldn't resist the temptation to ride over the steep packhorse bridge whilst the rest of us used the dry ford alongside.

Unfortunately cycling over this bridge involves dropping down a step at one point, which was enough to blow the patch off Gareth's freshly-patched tube and force him to stop and replace the tube completely.

The road from Moulton to Newmarket involves a short climb and then a long, gentle descent. We arrived at "Coffee & Co", our planned lunch stop, at about 1.30pm.

This is located in a quiet lane just south of the High Street. This was our first visit, and I think we were all impressed by both the quality of the sandwiches and the friendly service. We will be back.

It was about 2.15pm when we set off again back towards Cambridge. We took the road to Saxon Street, passing Chevely Park Stud along the way. One of the entrances is named after one of their most famous stallions, which impressed Rupert and Geoff enough for them to want to pose for a photo.

When we reached the village of Saxon Street we turned west towards Woodditton, Stetchworth and Dullingham. From there it was a short distance to Six Mile Bottom and the long road past the Wilbrahams back to Quy.

We reached our planned afternoon tea stop at 4.15pm. This was at Julia's in Fen Ditton, where a beautiful display of interesting and delicious food was waiting for us.

After a short time Peter D arrived with the afternoon rode, making a total of nearly twenty crowding into Julia's lovely little house for a delightful gathering.

After tea we returned back to Cambridge. Although I fitted my bike lights the sun was still shining brightly and I never needed to switch them on. As we rode along the river on Stourbridge Common I couldn't resist one final photo.

It was still light when I reached home at 5.20pm, having cycled 59 miles.

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