Sunday, 14 July 2013

14 Jul: All-day ride to Saffron Walden, Great Saling and Ashdon

Rupert writes: It was a pleasantly cool start this morning as around 10 riders gathered for today's ride. Mick C was the leader, having kindly stepped in at the last minute to avoid a leaderless ride.

After a short delay waiting for a last few riders to arrive, we set off via the station and the well used DNA path to Shelford. Today was a day to enjoy the lazy lanes farther south so we headed straight for coffee in Saffron Walden via Duxford, Ickleton and Coploe Hill.

As we sipped our coffee in the Temeraire courtyard, the sun was starting to break though the haze, giving a hint of the heat to come. A couple of riders left us here, but a couple more joined, so were still a large group as we set off back up the hill and headed out of town towards Debden.

After passing through Debden, we turned off the main road to Hamperdon End and started to enjoy the quieter back roads. It was good to rediscover the delights of these winding and undulating roads after a few recent rides out into the busier flatter roads to the west of Cambridge. And today we seemed to have a good ratio of thoughtful drivers who slowed down or stopped to let us pass safely on these narrow lanes. Perhaps it was helped by a reasonably good behaviour on our part: we seemed to be riding as a pretty tidy group despite the best efforts of the councils to rattle us by leaving some massive unrepaired craters in the roads. ("potholes" seems wholly inadequate to describe these bike wheel-sized monsters!)

A masterclass in expert route finding by Mick took us along a series of these lovely lanes, passing through Great Easton and Lindsell (but missing the chance to go through Little Cambridge en-route). From here we took a final winding lane followed by a short section of good bridleway to emerge at the airfield entrance.

The airfield cafe was already quite busy when we arrived. I think they do a good cyclists menu here, with a good selection of the simple favourites (ham egg and chips for me) and with the added benefit of a bar for those of us who are allergic to tea for a summer lunchtime. Plus the free entertainment of watching the planes as you eat: a near perfect landing by a glider and a couple of small planes taking off. I love the casual efficiency of this place: the control tower is just a boxed off section in the corner of the bar and the whole place appears to operate smoothly with minimum fuss.

Lunch at Great Saling (Photo: Edward Elmer)

Heading back we took a more direct route following the road to Great Bardfield passing The Blue Egg Farm shop (another favourite stop) en-route. From Bardfield Mick led us via the Samfords and Radwinter from where it is a fairly direct line to Ashdon. The sun was quite strong all afternoon - as I have now discovered having got home and looked in the mirror to discover a rather red forehead. This combined with a last set of undulating lanes meant that most of us were ready for the early tea stop. Eddie meanwhile did an impersonation of a Chris Froome breakaway by skipping the the tea stop and heading straight home.

Ashdon museum was its usual delight with big pots of tea and excellent home made cakes. My disappointment at the absence of any lemon drizzle cake (my personal favourite) was appeased by getting the last slice of the ginger and lemon cake. Sorry afternoon riders: it was delicious. I also discovered the back courtyard today - a shady delight that I've never used before.

We had arrived early at tea and so as we were leaving at 4:15 there was still no sign of the afternoon riders, who I now realise were forlornly waiting for a train at the nearby station. But we were all keen to get home in time to watch the TdF highlights and Mick again took a fairly direct route via Abingdon to Sawston. As usual riders started peeling off as we headed into Cambridge and in the end there we just 3 of us riding back along the DNA path into Cambridge.

A great ride for a hot summer Sunday I think (I might be slightly biased here). A meandering route to lunch with quiet roads and a gentle pace made for a very enjoyable ride. Somewhat tired legs when I got home was a reminder of the heat and that there had been quite a lot of up and down. So it felt a bit longer than the 75 miles on my computer. But, on balance, I think that hot afternoon sun means that I am going to suffer more with my bright red forehead. Rupert Goodings

1 comment:

  1. Another lovely ride. Well done Mick. I didn't get a red forehead but the sun was so strong that it bleached my hair! (see photo)