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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