Gareth writes: Today was the hottest day of the year (so far), with temperatures over 30° for much of the day, and accordingly there was a pretty good turnout at Brookside, with eight riders (including one first-timer). We lost Rupert right away, when he discovered that his headset was loose, and no-one happened to be carrying a headset wrench. But the other riders made it to coffee at Pembroke Farm near Ashwell. This is the first time (I think) that the club has visited this café, and everyone liked it: coffee was nice, there was a selection of teas, and the carrot cake was excellent. It's a bit pricey, though.
Today's was an awkward ride to plan, because our coffee stop and lunch stop (Church Farm, Ardeley) were only about eight miles apart. I spent some time with maps looking for interesting loops to extend this leg, but I couldn't find anything that was both about the right length and on interesting roads. So I developed a cunning plan: go direct to Ardeley and have an early lunch, and then use the extra time to go a bit further in the afternoon. Since our tea stop (Braughing) is the southernmost tea stop we visit, there was an opportunity to go a long way south into Hertfordshire. Could we make it to the Lee Navigation? It looked just about doable.
Not everyone wanted to take such a long detour south, so we divided the group in two, with some going more or less direct to Braughing, leaving four of us to head down the A1170, through the centre of Ware, across the Lee River, and onto the towpath that makes part of National Cycle Route 61. (Mike Stapleton very helpfully pointed out that the A1170 would be suitable for cycling, since it was bypassed in 2004 by the A10.)
We only did two and a quarter miles along the towpath (just as far as Stanstead Abbotts), but with the afternoon sun shining on the blue water of the river it was a delight. The narrow path and gravel surface don't make for very fast travel, but if you had time to spare it would be a pleasant way to get into London.
At Stanstead Abbotts we stopped at a newsagent to replenish our dwindling water supplies, and then turned north, taking the B180 to Widford and then the B1004 to Much Hadham. Here the energy-sapping north-easterly wind began to make itself felt. But we were only a few minutes late getting to Braughing, arriving at 16:07. There was still plenty of cake still for sale, despite the presence of the "Come & Triers" group of the Hertfordshire Wheelers, who had (like us) cycled up from Ware.
After twenty minutes or so the afternoon ride turned up. There were only two riders—perhaps everyone else had stayed in to watch the tennis. Since we were all pretty hot and tired and thirsty, I suggested we take the shortest route home. The B1368 may not be the most interesting of roads, but it goes directly home! From Brookside to Ware and back to Cambridge was about 87 miles. Well done to everyone for coping with the heat and being such good company.