Thursday, 19 September 2013

19 Sep: Thursday ride to Ashwell and Benington

Edward writes: Today looked as if summer was finished for this year. Although the temperature was slightly higher than yesterday it was overcast and the forecast said rain moving in from the west by about mid-day. This probably accounted for the slightly lower turnout than of recent weeks despite the fact that Averil was today’s head girl. Today we renewed acquaintances with Lynn, making one of her brief UK visits, also Jacqui who was with us in Durham and to Daniel who was making a rare Thursday appearance. Thus ten riders left Haslingfield for our excursion out to Benington near Stevenage.


Not surprisingly we had to make the climb up our old friend Chapel Hill to bring us into Barrington where we stopped briefly for some re-grouping. Averil took us round to Orwell and then all the way past the grounds of Wimpole Hall to give us the climb up to the A1198.


We turned left onto the A1198 and enjoyed the mainly downhill run to bring us to the gates on the far side of Wimpole Hall where we turned to go through Arrington and Croydon. Luckily for us there was no climbing of the formidable Croydon Hill, as we turned left again so that we went through Wendy and Shingay and the ride towards Guilden Morden. Although the the breeze was light we were riding into it and so we made slow progress up to the turning for Steeple Morden where David Mr got a puncture which was soon fixed by our regular team of puncture fixers. Once on our way again we just had the two miles to reach Ashwell and coffee courtesy of Day’s bakery and a sit down either in the lovely village garden or under the newly planted tree opposite the village museum.


After coffee about half our number decided to return home so only about seven, including Doug who had joined us at Ashwell, carried on for the full day’s ride. We left Ashwell and did the steep climb out of the village and once on the higher ground the surrounding fields looked quite bleak. It was now starting to rain, just as promised, and the fields in this transitional phase looked colourless. We were again heading into the wind and the rain became heavier so it wasn’t particularly pleasant as the rain in our eyes made it difficult to see. When we reached Sandon Jacqui left us to make her own way back to Cambridge. The rest of us ploughed on and still into the wind and rain as we passed through Redhill and Cromer and then a detour via Walkern Hall before reaching Benington and The Bell for our lunch stop. Thus a bunch of rain-sodden riders arrived looking forward to some relief from the unpleasant conditions. The landlady kindly gave permission for those with sandwiches to eat them in the pub and the others ordered their lunches which, when they arrived looked extremely appetising and well presented. This seems another venue which shouldn’t be forgotten when future rides come this way.



At about 2.15pm, with lunch over, we had to go out and face it all again and we set off to head towards Whempstead. By now Doug had left us as the stoical group carried on to Dane End and through Little and Great Mundon. Although it was still raining we had now turned towards the north and the wind was mostly on our backs. We made good progress, passing through Nasty, Cherry Green, Westmill, Aspenden, and seeing a Kestrel hovering overhead, and finally into Buntingford. We passed the yew hedge with the expert topiary, but no stopping to admire this time as most people’s thoughts were on getting home. We left Buntingford and climbed up to Wyddial before joining the B1368, but only for a short ride as we turned off to go to Nuthampstead followed by Shaftenhoe End and then rejoined the B1368 at Barley for the last leg of our rather wet day out.


The rain by this time was teasing us as it seemed to stop and then start again and the sun seemed to be trying to emerge through the small gaps in the overcast skies. But now it was downhill as we sped along to Flint Cross only for an interminable wait as a convoy of traffic had built up behind a tractor. Our day out was nearly at an end as we made for home via Fowlmere, Thriplow, Newton and Little Shelford and ending in Great Shelford after a very creditable 63 miles. The final irony was the appearance of blue skies and the sun came out. It wasn’t the most pleasant of days but we owe a vote of thanks to Averil who had put a lot of time into researching this route and on any other day would have been an absolute winner. Edward Elmer

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