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.

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