Nigel writes: Our "longer" all-day rides are occasional rides which are held in addition to our normal all-day ride and are intended to be a little longer, and perhaps a little faster, than our normal all-day ride. Today's ride was led (as usual) by Gareth, and I arrived at Brookside at the early time of 8.30am to find Gareth waiting there with Tony.
Gareth's normal practice when leading a long ride is to get us away from Cambridge as quickly as possible to allow us the maximum amount of time in the more unfamiliar distant countryside.
On the road between Little Shelford and Whittlesford
So the route we took to our morning coffee stop was fairly direct: south to Whittlesford and Ickleton, then via Great Chesterford to Saffron Walden, and from there along mostly B-roads to Radwinter, Great Sampford, Finchingfield and Great Bardfield, where we arrived at the Blue Egg Cafe just before 11am.
After a relaxing stop for coffee and some excellent cake we continued onwards. With almost 30 miles behind us we at last turned off the B-road network onto narrow country lanes. Gareth's route took us south to Great Saling (past the airfield where the Thursday riders had visited for lunch a few days previously) and on to Felsted.
Somewhere along this section - at 11.30am - we heard a very loud bang. I thought someone must have been shooting birds very close by, and thought nothing further of it, though we now know that it was almost certainly a sonic boom which was heard all over the area.
From Felsted we continued south-east and followed an anti-clockwise loop through the countryside around Braintree. At White Notley, possibly our furthest point from Cambridge, we encountered our first and only ford of the day.
Gareth takes the ford at White Notley, three miles south of Braintree
We turned north-east and a few minutes later arrived at Stisted, where we stopped for lunch at the Specialities Tea Rooms. This is a lovely tea room, run by cyclists, in a quiet and pretty village. Already eating lunch were Joseph, Adrian and Eva, all of whom had cycled from home to Finchingfield to join the normal all-day ride to find no-one there and had made their own way to lunch. A few minutes later we were joined by Conrad, Paul and Steve who had started at Brookside, making nine in all. Together with a group of riders with Malton, every customer at lunch today was a cyclist.
Lunch at Stisted
Afterwards Tony left us and made his own way home, leaving Gareth and me to carry on to tea in Ashdon. We rode north-east towards Halsted, skirting the town to the east on what was probably the prettiest leg of today's ride. A few miles further on we turned west for the final hour to Ashdon. This took us through Little Maplestead, Gestingthorpe, Great Yeldham, Stambourne and the Bumpsteads.
A rare shot of Nigel near Stambourne
On the final miles to Ashdon we were beginning to flag, and we arrived slightly late at 4.05pm, with 80 miles on the clock so far. The only club member there was John T, but a few minutes later we were joined by the afternoon ride. We never saw any of the other all-day riders; we presumed they had been running late and had decided to stop somewhere else instead.
Setting off after tea at the Ashdon Museum
After tea we all returned back to Cambridge. By now the sun had come out to stay and it was lovely and very warm afternoon. The afternoon ride took a route back via Bartlow, Balsham and Fulbourn but I was keen to achieve another century so suggested to Gareth that we took a very slightly longer (and rather prettier) route via West Wratting, Wadlow Farm, Six Mile Bottom and Quy. This had the additional benefit of allowing us to enter Cambridge via Fen Ditton and the route across the meadows, and on this lovely warm evening the paths besides the river were busy with family groups cycling along. I arrived home at 6.10pm, having cycled 102 miles. This means I've ridden over 100 miles on two Sundays in succession. Next week I think I'll take it a bit easier...
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Photo 4 by Gareth Rees
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