Sunday, 31 March 2013

31 March: All-day ride to Wimpole and St Neots

Nigel writes: On the first morning of British Summer Time, the temperature was -2C. But with a dry and bright day in prospect I put on two extra layers and set off to Brookside for today's all-day ride. Waiting at the start I found Averil, Neil, Ian, Paul and Lynn. No-one had volunteered to be leader, but with the coffee stop at Wimpole Hall the route was pretty obvious.

We set off west out of Cambridge along the Barton Road Cycleway to Barton. The temperature was still very cold and my fingers were soon frozen. Fortunately there was not much wind, and what there was was behind us.

At Barton we turned left onto the road to Haslingfield. From there we climbed over Chapel Hill to Barrington.

We reached Barrington at about 10.10am. We didn't have much further to go, so I suggested that instead of taking the road directly to Orwell and Wimpole we took a slightly longer route via Shepreth, Meldreth and the nice little road through Malton to Orwell. However this was the phase of the ride when everyone was feeling chatty, and as we rode into Meldreth I was deep in a discussion with Lynn about Croatian internet providers, and rode past the turn to Malton without noticing.

It was only when we reached the cross-roads west of Meldreth that we released we had overshot. However instead of turning back we turned right for a loop via Whaddon, the A1198, Arrington and the Wimpole estate. By now the sun had come out and I was fully thawed out.

Coffee today was in the stable block at Wimpole Hall. Already sitting in the courtyard was Mike S, Mick C and Eddie, and after a while we were joined by Peter H.

After coffee most of the group returned back to Cambridge, leaving just Lynn, Paul and me to carry on to lunch in St Neots. Again the route was obvious: back though the park to Arrington and Croydon, up Croydon Hill and through the Hatleys to Gamlingay, and then through Gamlingay Cinques and through the woods to St Neots.

When we reached Eynesbury on the edge of St Neots we followed a series of pavement cycleways and off-road paths to the Willow Bridge over the Ouse.

Having crossed the river I took the opportunity to explore a path I hadn't used before: on the west side of the bridge, a path leads north parallel to the river all the way to Riverside Park where we were due to have lunch. This is quite a narrow path (photo below), and it was busy with dog walkers, but it had a good smooth surface and plenty of signposting to say that it was a cycle route. When we arrived at Ambiance Cafe (sic) I observed that we had cycled all the way across St Neots without mixing with motor vehicles at all.

The cafe was quiet on this cold day but there were two members from this side of the area already there. This is a club favourite but I think this was the first time I have had lunch here, and I have to say that my hearty mug of tea and baked potato I ordered were just perfect for the occasion.

After lunch we considered our route options for the afternoon. I suggested a loop to the west, briefly entering Bedfordshire before turning north to Grafham Water. These roads were very quiet today, and with a lack of wind, and relatively mild temperatures, this was a very pleasant part of the day. Our route took us west through Duloe and Staploe to Bushmead where we turned north for a loop round the old airfield to Staughton Highway. From here I suggested we took the direct route to West Perry, the final part of which takes you along a private road through the prisons. For anyone who doesn't know this route: it is certainly not a public road, but there are no gates or barriers and I think cycling through here is absolutely fine.

At West Perry we were overtaken by Martin C. He stopped briefly for a chat: he had been out to Oundle in Northampton and was now on his way home via Buckden. We waved him on his way before carrying on round the reservoir to Grafham village, Paul taking a muddy cycleway that leads to the top of the dam, and Lynn and I below him on the road.

At Grafham village we turned east for Brampton, Huntingdon (above) and Godmanchester, where we joined NCR 51 across Eastside common and the Hemingfords to St Ives. It was now about 3.55pm - that loop to the west had been further then I had expected. However no-one wanted to stop (and there was no sign of the afternoon ride as we passed the River Tea Rooms) and so we carried on to the guided busway.

On reflection, I think I should have stopped in St Ives for a rest, as the final hour back to Cambridge was a bit of a slog, with a slight headwind. After half an hour I left the busway to ride through Girton. Feeling distinctly weary, when I reached the Co-op in Girton I stopped for some confectionery and a sweet drink which I quickly consumed. This perked me up considerably and I felt much better for the final few miles into Cambridge. I arrived back home - in broad daylight now - at 5.50pm, having cycled 74 miles.

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Thursday, 28 March 2013

28 March: Thursday ride to Reed and Baldock

Edward writes: The weather forecast seemed to suggest we would be in for day with a slightly a higher temperature, or at least a bit less cold, as even a degree or so higher would have been appreciated. At 9.30am on Haslingfield Green it did at least look promising as the sun was out, some blue sky and the wind, still in the east, but not blowing quite so strongly. This must have encouraged the dozen or so riders who met for our trip out to Baldock under the stewardship of John F. Our original plan was to give Hattie’s, a cafe in Bassingbourn a first visit, but owing to their lack of seats indoors, it had been decided instead to go the the Silver Ball in Reed.


We left Haslingfield with a stiff climb up Chapel Hill with its usual reward of fine views from the top and then down into Barrington, to be followed by Shepreth. This brought us to the busy A10 which was crossed and shortly after brought us to Fowlmere and then out to the other busy road, the A505 at Flint Cross. This brought us to our next climb when we turned for the two mile stretch up to Great Chishill.

Near Great Chishill

Great Chishill

By now the sun had given up and the temperature dropped, in fact there was a one degree difference from the bottom of the hill and Great Chishill where we recorded a temperature of two degrees. Not surprising as we were now surrounded by the remains of the recent snow and it showed how the lower levels around Cambridge had escaped mainly unscathed. We regrouped in Great Chishill and left the village with the rapid descent and the undulating road to Shaftenhoe End. From here to where we joined the B1368 at Barkway the snow was piled up high beside the road. We entered Barkway and then turned for the climb up to Reed and most of us were starting to feel the cold with the gain in height, but at least the views down towards Royston might have been worth the discomfort.
We all arrived safely to the warmth of the Silver Ball cafe where at least four others were already enjoying their coffee. After coffee Sarah and Jacob decided discretion was the better part of valour and headed for home, and the remainder split into two groups for the leg out to Baldock. Thus we went down to Reed End and then on to Sandon. Even though it was cold it was still nice to ride through this quiet countryside with its narrow roads, albeit partly covered in snow and stretches of ice and sometimes running water. Next on the list was Wallington and soon after to a footpath/cycleway which enabled us to cross the new Baldock bypass and finally to Baldock town centre.

Near Barkway

Near Barkway

Lunch was taken at the Fish Restaurant and unfortunately we rather overwhelmed them and it took a little time before everyone was served, but at least we were in the warm. When everyone had eaten we got under way again and from now on we would be riding into the cold east wind. We left the town and quickly joined the road to Bygrave which meant some more climbing and it did feel cold as we ploughed on into the wind and with snow on the surrounding fields which certainly made for a bleak wintry scene, and this is meant to be spring. Bygrave was followed by more up and down riding as we approached Ashwell. Sadly, in Ashwell, the tree on the green where we sit for coffee has been felled and the bench has also been removed. The journey back was the direct route through Steeple Morden, Littlington, Bassingbourn, Meldreth and Shepreth before a final climb of Chapel Hill and back down into Haslingfield with a well-earned 45 miles to add to our log.

Steeple Morden

Steeple Morden

We must thank John for the day’s outing which, despite the cold, was enjoyed by all. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

27 Mar: Evening ride to Newton

Nigel writes: This week is proving to be one of the coldest March weeks for decades, and despite it being only a few days until Easter, this evening's ride was held in sub-zero temperatures. Once again the only people on the ride were Tony and me, and despite the cold we had rather a nice ride.

We set off at 6.30pm just as the sun set, and within half an hour a full moon rose into a mostly clear sky. The cold northerly wind of recent days had abated today, leaving us with just a gentle tailwind to speed us on our way.

With a pub stop planned for Thriplow we took what is by now one of our standard evening routes. We set off south through the Shelfords, Whittlesford and Duxford to Ickleton and then continued over Coploe Hill to Catmere End. My hands and feet were quite cold at first, but once I had warmed up I was perfectly comfortable. The roads were clear and dry, but on the higher ground south of Ickleton there was snow on each side of the road and occasional patches on the road itself, though this didn't prove a problem.

After Catmere End we took a loop through the hills of Littlebury Green and Elmdon before turning north to the flatter countyside of Chrishall Grange, Fowlmere and Thriplow. Now that we were heading north  the wind was in our faces, and although it was quite gentle it was very cold. We were glad that we did not have to ride in it for very long.

At Thriplow we discovered that the Green Man was closed for refurbishment - the lights were on and we could hear work going on inside. We therefore carried on north to the Queen's Head in Newton. The open fire in the lounge here was particularly welcome this evening, and after an equally warming mug of brown soup we returned back to Cambridge via Harston, the A10 and the guided busway. I arrived home just before 10pm, having cycled 33 miles.

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Saturday, 23 March 2013

During this snowy and icy weather

There's nothing like a cycle ride to warm you up, so despite this cold, icy and snowy weather we are continuing to hold as many rides as possible.

                Dec 2010

But if there's snow, or it looks slippery, especially on the minor roads that we like to use, we will cancel rides, usually the day before.

To confirm whether a ride will be held, check this website or phone the ride leader (most of whose phone numbers are given on the March rides list) or contact the appropriate rides organisers. Announcements will be also be made to our members' email forum.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

21 Mar: Thursday ride to Saffron Walden and Clare

Edward writes: Another Thursday and another cold day in this everlasting winter. Fortunately, the night-time temperatures didn’t fall as low as predicted, only going down to about zero degrees. In fact the day looked quite pleasant with early morning sunshine and little breeze, but still coming in from the east. We left Hauxton with about fourteen riders as we made our way out of the village to Little Shelford and then on to Whittlesford. We realised that the morning session would, by and large, be a ride, if not a toil, into the wind, but this would be rewarded with the wind on our backs on the return journey from Clare. There are few alternatives when it comes to cycling out to Saffron Walden and we chose the well worn path via Duxford and Ickleton and on to Coploe Hill.

Coploe Hill

As expected, although the views are worth the climb, the wind certainly made its presence felt and it was decidedly cold. As is our custom we waited to re-group at the top and then set off again with the benefit of the downhills, albeit into the wind. Sadly we said goodbye to Sue who felt a little unwell and she turned off to head for home whilst the rest of us made our way via Catmere End and Chestnut Avenue, Audley End and thence into Saffron Walden.

Coploe Hill

Audley End

Coffee was at the Temeraire in Saffron Walden and our numbers briefly swelled to eighteen including both Bob and Myrtle, although not on their bikes; nonetheless it was good to see them. With twenty miles in front of us we didn’t spend too long at coffee and we were underway again by about 11.20am. A number of people intended only to stay out until coffee and left for home, but sadly, Brian and Peter took a wrong turning and missed out on the remainder of the ride. Peter had just returned from his epic holiday to South America and Antarctica and said that it was colder here than in Antarctica, so what does that say about our winter!

To Sewards End

From Walden we cycled up the Ashdon Road as far as the turning to Sewards End and on to quiet country lanes before reaching the Ashdon to Radwinter road on which we turned towards Radwinter. This soon brought us to Great Sampford and a trip along the delightfully named Sparepenny Lane. We were now in the quiet country roads of this part of the Essex and Suffolk border and then ensued a pleasant ride through the countryside via Cornish Hall End and Stambourne Green before finally arriving at Ridgewell on the A1017. We crossed over this road and passed through Ashen. Here Adrian, an encyclopaedia of of the byroads of East Anglia, suggested a quicker route to Clare and he took us down Doctor’s Lane, a narrow and muddy side road, but it produced the goods and enabled us to run into Clare at about 1.10pm with 35 miles on the clock.

Lunch was taken in Cafe Clare and, although only three people ordered a meal, the remainder joined for coffee after eating sandwiches out in the cold. We were joined by Geoff who had cycled over from his home near Bury St Edmunds. It was very pleasant in the cafe, especially as a warm fire was on the go and a few copies of Cycling Plus as a further benefit/distraction.

We left Clare at about 2.15pm and and headed up to Chilton Street and then Hundon. This was followed by Barnardiston before coming to the A143. We travelled on this for about two or three hundred meters before turning off for Great Wratting. This was a narrow lane and at times muddy but by now we were feeling the full benefit of the wind on our backs and progress was a rapid. Great Wratting was soon followed by Withersfield and then on to Wratting Common.

Wratting Common

Here we said goodbye to Rupert and Adrian whilst the last five went home through West Wickham and Balsham where David left us to go through Fulbourn and the last four enjoyed the downhill to Hildersham.


In order to speed things along we elected to go along the A1307 to Four Went Ways as far as the turning to Babraham and then to Sawston. All day the temperature had been about 6 degrees but now the day was cooling down and we made quick progress to get home. Tony left us in Sawston and the last three went through Sawston and over via the cycleway to Whittlesford and finally Hauxton where the ride finished with a workmanlike 64 miles to our credit. Edward Elmer

Sarah and Averil at Southill on Tuesday

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Sunday, 17 March 2013

17 Mar: Morning ride to St Ives

Nigel writes: Today was mild but breezy, with rain forecast for the afternoon. I therefore set out for Brookside with the intention of riding to coffee and then returning back home. At Brookside I was joined by Averil. Neil, Rupert, Paul and Rupert, who in the absence of an official leader acted as our leader today.

Rupert suggested we ride directly to coffee along the busway. We set off through the city centre, up Castle Hill and along Huntingdon Road. When we reached Girton Corner we turned right to Girton.

Just beyond Girton we turned right onto New Road for a few hundred yards before turning left onto the busway cycleway.

Once on the busway it was about ten miles to St Ives, and always this passed pleasantly and sociably.

When we arrived at St Ives we stopped for coffee at the Riverside Tea Rooms. Already there were Mick and Edward, and we spent a pleasant half-hour chatting in a corner by the window, with the medieval bridge just outside (see photo).

Afterwards there was not much interest in continuing on to lunch at Grafham Water so we all returned back to Cambridge. However just as we were getting ready to depart Adrian arrived followed by Sarah and Andy, who I think were planning to carry on.

Whilst we were having coffee someone had mentioned that the Thicket Path to Houghton had been converted into a proper cycleway, so we went and tried it out. After a short unfinished section at the start this is complete and provides a lovely smooth surface, for now at least (since it will surely be gradually undermined over time by tree roots). The final section to Houghton is as bumpy and muddly as ever, and it was unclear whether there were any plans to improve it.

At Houghton Mill we turned south and crossed the Ouse meadows to Hemingford Abbots. There we turned back east to Hemingford Grey and Fenstanton. We used the subway at Fenstanton to cross under the A14 and rode south through Conington and Knapwell to the old A428, where we turned east once more for the final ten miles back through Hardwick and Coton to Cambridge. There was quite a headwind, which made cycling hard work but had the benefit of staving off the approaching rain from the west. It was still dry when I arrived home just after 1pm, having cycled 38 miles.

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Thursday, 14 March 2013

14 Mar: Thursday ride to Swavesey and St Neots

Edward writes: This Thursday started with overnight temperatures dropping to as low as minus 5 degrees centigrade. By the time nine riders met at 9.30 on Haslingfield Green the temperature had lifted to about zero degrees. The forecast promised a good amount of sun and a lot less wind than we’ve had recently, so all in all a fairly promising day ahead.

David W was the leader for today and he took us out of Haslingfield to Harlton where we crossed the A603 and out to the Eversdens and Kingston. In this direction we were riding into the little breeze there was, and coming from the north, it still felt very cold. After Kingston we joined the uphill and narrow road through Caldecote and here, as the road is very well shaded by the trees, we met frozen snow and ice. Throughout the village there are many speed bumps making it an uncomfortable ride. Once out of Caldecote we joined the St Neots old road beside the A428, and still into the cold breeze, before turning off to go through Knapwell and Boxworth and then to the flyover on the A14. This left us with a couple of miles into Swavesey and the Baptist Chapel and, of course, one of our favourite coffee stops. Already in residence must have been a further nine or ten cyclists thus justifying our ringing in advance so that the ladies of the church, whose turn it was to be the volunteers, a chance to make enough cakes. They certainly did their stuff as there was a fine selection of cakes from which to choose.


Needless to say there was no particular rush to move on, but eventually we left the chapel at about 11.30 for the next leg of our journey to St. Neots. Our next village was Fen Drayton followed by our second crossing of the A14 at the Fenstanton flyover and then on to Hilton. Still into the cold wind we pressed on through to Graveley where we turned towards Croxton and went past the eight new wind turbines installed just outside Graveley.

Near Toseland

By now the sun was having the desired effect and we were all grateful for its warmth as well as no longer riding directly into the wind. From Croxton we were now heading south before arriving in Abbotsley and then, finally, St. Neots where we arrived at 1.20pm with 35 miles to our credit.



We stopped for lunch at the Ambience Cafe, although Jacob and Rupert rode just up the road to their favourite fish and chip shop!

St Neots

When we set off again at 2.20pm we retraced our route out of the town before heading for Gamlingay which we entered through the Cinques. By now, of course, the wind was entirely in our favour and we had a pleasant ride from Gamlingay, through the Hatleys to Croydon Hill. Along here we saw a green woodpecker in the fields outside Hatley St George and, although some daffodils are out, it looks like it’s going to be slow progress into Spring. After sailing down Croydon Hill we turned into the village itself and then through Arrington and followed by the Wimpole Estate. This just left us with Orwell and Barrington (Chapel Hill) and the completion of the day’s efforts back at Haslingfield, and this gave us a regulation Thursday ride of 58 miles. Our thanks to David for a good trip round, making yet another enjoyable day out. Edward Elmer

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Sunday, 10 March 2013

10 Mar: Sunday all-day ride to Reed, Buntingford, and Ickleton

Gareth writes: I looked out of the window this morning to see snow flakes falling from a dark cloudy sky. It was chilly out: just barely above freezing, and there was a cold north-easterly wind. Just the kind of day on which it would have been nice to sit in a warm house and drink tea. If only I hadn't promised to lead the day ride.

The first challenge was to get to Brookside: it was the day of the Cambridge half-marathon, and the city centre was wrapped in orange tape and surrounded with race marshals. I made a detour around the blockage via Grange Road and Barton Road, and at Brookside I found three riders: Tom, Neil, and Conrad. A pretty good turnout given the conditions.

My plan for the day was to ride directly to coffee, getting there a bit early, and then to have a longer detour between coffee and lunch. It worked out pretty well: the north-easterly wind blew us quickly down the B1368 and up the hill to Barkway, where we turned west towards Reed. The snow had been forecast to stop, but as we climbed up into the Hertfordshire hills, it got heavier, and the north-facing fields were covered with white. Never has arriving at the Silver Ball Café seemed so welcome!

Near Wood End, Hertfordshire.

Neil had to turn home, so there were only three of us as we set out into the narrow lanes west of the A10, with the snow still swirling around us. The roads were well above freezing, so the snow was melting rather settling, but many of the minor lanes were in quite shocking condition: mud and potholes and puddles everywhere. I had washed my bike on Saturday, but now it was utterly filthy again, as were my feet and legs. On the road from Ardeley to Great Munden, Conrad punctured: a sharp little flint had penetrated the tyre (he was sensibly riding his winter bike).

Fixing a puncture, near Wood End, Hertfordshire.

Due to this enforced stop, we were a bit late getting to lunch. Since we were passing through Westmill, We looked in at the Westmill Tea Room (in the old post office building) to see if they had a table for us, but they were booked solid. So we rode on a couple of miles to Buntingford and stopped at the excellent Buntingford Coffee Shop. The warmth of the café was as welcome as the toasted sandwich: I hadn't been able to feel my toes for some time!

When we left Buntingford at about 14:15 the snow had stopped, but now we were riding directly into the headwind. On the tops of the hills it was pretty tough making progress. We took a direct route through Wyddial, Barkway, Great Chishill, Heydon, Elmdon and over the hill to Ickleton, where we met the afternoon riders. A good day's ride despite the appalling weather: about 67 miles.

10 Mar: Afternoon ride to Ickleton

Nigel writes: I had originally planned to go on the all-day ride today, but when I looked out of the window at 7am and saw falling snow I decided to stay indoors and wait for things to improve. By lunchtime the snow seemed to have passed and so I rode across to Brookside to join the afternoon ride. Only two other riders turned up: Daniel and Tom. There wasn't a pre-arranged leader so I suggested a route and off we went.

We headed west out of Cambridge along the Barton Road cycleway to Barton. There we turned off to Haslingfield and climbed Chapel Hill. There was a dusting of snow on the verges but nothing on the carriageway itself. It was quite cold so I rode quite quickly to get warm.

We dropped down to Barrington and continued to Shepreth. We crossed the A10 to Fowlmere and then crossed the A505. There has been quite a lot of sleet and snow overnight, so there were large puddles on the road to to Chrishall Grange.

At Chrishall Grange we discussed route options. I had originally contemplated a loop through Chrishall, Elmdon and Littlebury but that would have been a bit too far. So we turned left onto Royston Lane to Strethall and a short climb to the top of Coploe Hill. As we rode northbound along the ridge to Coploe Hill we found ourselves riding directly into a freezing cold headwind, but fortunately it subsided when we dropped down on the other ride to Ickleton.

At Ickleton Barns we ordered coffee and flapjacks and waited to see who else turned up. After a short time Gareth arrived with the all-day ride, which on this occasion consisted of Gareth, Conrad and Tom H.

The cafe at Ickleton Barns closes next week. I said how sorry we were that this was happening, and gave them our thanks.

Afterward we rode back to Cambridge. I arrived back home at 5pm, having cycled 32 miles.

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Friday, 8 March 2013

Last chance to book places for the Annual Dinner

All members are invited to our 2013 annual dinner. This will be on Saturday 20th April at The Lord Byron Inn, 22 Church Lane, Trumpington. To book your place please download the menu here, make your food choices and send the completed form with a cheque for £17 to Mike at the address given on the form. To allow as many members to come as possible, the deadline for booking has been extended to 17th April.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

7 Mar: Thursday ride to Nuthampstead and Braughing

Edward writes: This is springtime and this is England so it should surprise no one that the weather is going to change on an almost daily basis. For those who were out on Tuesday they would have cycled in glorious weather, but today, although not cold, was dreary and damp following overnight rain and with more in the forecast. Twelve assembled at the start in Hauxton for our ride out to Braughing by way of Nuthampstead, and this under the leadership of Mick C. Just before we left the local vicar arrived to see Greta, and who knows, give us a blessing for the day ahead.


There was virtually no wind as we set out through Little Shelford and on to Newton and then to Thriplow (only a week to go before the daffodil weekend and plenty of work for the flowers to do), and then on through Fowlmere and up to Flint Cross on the A505. There was not much traffic and we all quickly crossed over onto the road for Barley. However we took a left turning and climbed for two miles before arriving in Little Chishill where we waited for everyone to come together again.

Great Chishill

This left us with the normally pleasant cross-country route via Shaftenhoe End and then to Nuthampstead. On a sunny day this can be a great ride through some of the highest parts of the county, but not today as the cloud cover became lower and rain didn’t seem far away. It’s noticeable, too, the amount of work the farmers have done in recent weeks, finally being able to get on to their fields and make spring sowings. At Nuthampstead we turned into the The Woodman for coffee and the comfort of a real log fire.


After a comfortable and lengthy coffee break we set off again but the rain had started and only eight went on to Braughing with the remainder turning away at Anstey. The core of eight went on to Great Hormead, Little Hormead and Furneaux Pelham, all delightful country roads, before running downhill into Braughing and lunch at the Brown Bear. We had a pleasant break but afterwards half went home directly along the B1368 whilst the other half turned off this road at Hare Street and went back into the hills again for the climb up to Brent Pelham. By now the rain had that set-in feeling and showed no signs of stopping.

Hare Street

From Brent Pelham it was an easy ride, although into a bit of a breeze and the rain, before arriving at Clavering. We turned at The Cricketers towards Wicken Bonhunt and then into Arkesden. This route is still undulating and with a particularly stiff climb from Wendons Ambo to Littlebury Green and then Catmere End. This left our old friend Coploe Hill before arriving in Ickleton where a refreshment break was called for and a stop at Riverside Barns. Here we were greeted by the sad news that, owing to a rent increase, this favourite cafe is to close. Therefore this cafe will be closed in two weeks’ time. We spent about three-quarters of an hour here before leaving to find the rain a bit heavier, so we rapidly made our way home via Hinxton, Duxford, Whittlesford and finally Great Shelford. In all we covered 52 miles, and of course we thank Mike for a good ride despite the weather. Edward Elmer

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