Sunday, 19 May 2013

19 May: Ad hoc all-day ride to Melbourn, Nuthampstead and Braughing

Nigel writes: I didn't go on the normal CTC all-day ride today. Instead I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and rode down to Trumpington Park and Ride to join the A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign and their ride along the A10 to draw attention to the need for better cycle provision along this route.

A short ride down the busway brought me to Trumpington Park and Ride just before 10am. Here I found a large crowd of cyclists waiting to set off on the ride. The turnout was bigger than anyone expected, with approaching a hundred people present, including many parents with their children.

Waiting to set off from Trumpington Park and Ride

The A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign is an independent organization but several CTC members are actively involved, including CTC's Cambridgeshire right-to-ride representative Mike Stapleton who gave a briefing at the start.

Mike Stapleton addresses the crowds before departure

We set off at about 10.20am along a concrete road which crosses the Trumpington Meadows development site to a "accommodation bridge" across the M11. This will one day be turned into a proper cycle route, but today we were able to explore the route with special permission from the developers.

Trumpington Meadows east of the M11

Approaching the accommodation bridge over the M11

After crossing the M11 the concrete road comes to an end and we had to wheel our bikes for a few hundred yards along the edge of a field to rejoin the A10 near Hauxton Mill. Some of us could have probably cycled this section but with so many people on the ride, many of them carrying children, it was better that we all walked this short section.

Trumpington Meadows west of the M11

When we reached the A10 it was simply a case of cycling along the footway along the northern side for about four and a half miles. Much of this is designated as a shared-use cycleway, though I'm not sure whether all of it is. Nevertheless it did mean that we didn't have to ride along the A10 itself at any point.

However this offers an extremely poor environment in which to cycle. The path was bumpy, extremely narrow, overgrown and intersected by numerous side roads where we had to stop and give way. The section through Harston was especially bad, with multiple side entrances to cross. Possibly the worst part was when we had to cross the side road to Haslingfield. Fortunately a marshall was waiting to help us cross at this blind corner. Essentially the goal of the A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign is to persuade the County Council to provide something better than this that people would actually want to use.

Poor-quality pavement cycleway along the A10

As we rode along I noticed that we were being filmed by TV crews from both the BBC and ITV. The ITV report can be seen here and included both some nice photos of us all riding along as well as several interviews with people who explained what we were campaigning for.

Just beyond the turn to Shepreth we crossed over the A10 (another difficult manoeuvre) and turned off onto a minor road towards Meldreth.

Approaching Philimore Garden Centre, Melbourn

A few hundred hards further we turned right into Philimore Garden Centre where we were due to stop for refreshments. I had expected a long queue for the garden centre cafe and so was delighted to discover that the organisers were waiting with a tent serving drinks and some very nice cakes. After a while a separate ride arrived from Royston, consisting of perhaps fifty people.

Coffee and cake stall at Philimore Garden Centre

My GPS gadget only registered just over eight miles from central Cambridge (and five miles from Trumpington), reminding me that this area would be an easy ride from Cambridge if only the road was less horrible.

It was now about 11.30am and people were beginning to set off back to Cambridge. I was ready for a longer ride and so were four other CTC members who were there: Rupert, Mike K, Neil and Cheryl. There wasn't time to join the official all-day ride at its lunch stop in Aston (near Stevenage), so Rupert suggested we have lunch in Nuthampstead instead.

We took a fairly direct route there, through Fowlmere, across the A505 to Chrishall Grange and up the hill to Heydon and Great Chishill. This is the highest village in the county and I led the group on a short detour along the B1039 to the top of the hill at the edge of the village. At 146 metres above sea level this is the highest point in Cambridgeshire.

Mount Chishill

It was nice to be away from the noisy A10 and on quiet country lanes at last.

We arrived at The Woodman in Nuthampstead at about 1.20pm. The restaurant was fully booked but were able to fit us in and I had a pleasant hour enjoying a gourmet sausage sandwich, a small bowl of chips and a large glass of orange juice and soda.

Afterwards Rupert said goodbye and set off for home leaving Cheryl, Mike, Neil and me to continue on to the planned tea stop at Braughing. I led the group south-west through Anstey and Wydial to Buntingford. We continued south-west, under the A10 and through Aspenden for a very nice loop through Cherry Green and, er, Nasty.

A short while later we reached Great Munden where we turned east for Puckeridge. This meant we had to cross the A10, which is a dual carriageway at this point but was relatively quiet (much quieter than when we crossed it near Shepreth). A short section of footpath took us into Puckeridge.

Short-cut to Puckeridge

We turned north for the final few miles to Braughing, where we stopped for tea at Braughing Village Hall. Here we found the "official" all-day ride and after about half an hour we were joined by the afternoon ride.

After tea we all set off for home. I rode back with Peter H and the afternoon ride.

Preparing to set off for home

Braughing is 25 miles from Cambridge by the direct route, making this possibly our most distant afternoon tea stop. But I didn't fancy the B1368 so suggested a slightly longer route to the east.

On the way home

Our route took us through the Pelhams, Clavering, Arkesden and the "little road over the hill past the radio masts" to Littlebury Green. From here a short climb took us to Catmere End and the ever-popular descent to Ickleton. From here the familar route through Duxford, Whittlesford and the Shelfords brought us back to Cambridge. I arrived home at 7.30pm, having cycled 65 miles.

View this GPS track on a larger map

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