Nigel writes: The day before the Great Storm of 2013 was warm, sunny, fairly dry, and very windy. There had been rain overnight by 9am it had passed over and the sky was now mostly clear. I cycled across to Brookside to discover that my companions for the first part of today's ride would be Ian, Howard, Rupert, Neil and Conrad our leader. We set off north through the City Centre and then along Huntingdon Road to Girton.
Instead of joining the busway just beyond Girton, Conrad led us to Oakington and then on a loop via Rampton, Willingham and Over. It was good to try a different route for a change but these roads were relatively busy (despite it being 10am on a Sunday) and when we got to Swavesey it was nice to be able to join the busway at last.
We soon reached St Ives where we stopped for coffee at the River Tea Rooms. This cafe has a pleasant outdoor terrace beside the river but today it was closed because the staff had tidied away the tables and chairs in preparation for the oncoming storm. Fortunately there was enough room inside and after a while we were joined by Sarah and Andy.
After coffee we went outside where we found Jeremy, and after the usual post-coffee route discussions it turned out that there would be three of us going on to Lunch at West Perry: Conrad, Jeremy and me. Again, Conrad took a fairly direct route there: through the Hemingfords, across the meadows to Godmanchester, south along the B1043 to Offord Cluny and then west through Buckden to Grafham Water. We reached the reservoir a little after noon which gave us ample time to take a short diversion to the bike shop there.
I'd paid a brief visit to Grafham Cycling once before but today was the first time I'd been able to have a proper look around this very large bike shop. I was very impressed. I had expected the shop to be aimed at the kind of occasional cyclists who come here by car, cycle round the lake and then drive home, so was pleasantly surprised to discover that had plenty to interest the more committed cyclist. The range of clothing was much larger than anywhere in Cambridge so I took the opportunity to buy a smart new windproof cycling top for the winter, whilst Jeremy bought a new waterproof. The friendly staff happily gave me a 15% CTC discount.
We eventually dragged ourselves out of the bike shop and made the short journey along the top of the dam and around the lake to West Perry where we stopped for lunch at the Harbour View Cafe. This place has changed hands since I was last here so I'm pleased to report that it remains entirely suitable for our club to visit. In fact the menu is probably more suitable than before, with a good range of light meals including baguettes and baked potatoes. And it's pretty cheap.
After lunch we set off south past Littlehey Prison and along a series of quiet lanes through Great Staughton and Little Staughton to the crossroads at Bushmead. This is the point at which we could have turned east towards St Neots but Conrad calculated there was time for a short additional loop to the south and east before turning back north to Eaton Socon. Riding south took us directly into the wind, which had increased in intensity over lunch and was now slowing us (and tiring us) significantly.
Along the way south of Bushmead we passed a series of rather elegant pumps beside the road which I had never noticed before, some of them nicely painted.
When the time came to turn east for St Neots it came as a relief to all of us and our speed increased significantly. In Eaton Socon we crossed the Willow Bridge to Eynesbury and continued to Waresley. We reached the Garden Centre at 4pm exactly. In the cafe the staff were cleaning up and preparing for the 4.30pm closing time but were nevertheless very happy to see us. I ordered a coffee and a hot apple tart and custard which "hit the spot" for me perfectly. Jeremy, in contrast, ordered an ice cream.
A few minutes later Jacob arrived with the afternoon ride which today consisted of him, John and Wendy, who was here on her first Sunday ride after completing her training on the Saturday rides.
After a typically pleasant Waresley tea we went back outside and were reminded just how windy it was today. We got on our bikes, turned on our lights and set off back to Cambridge. Refreshed from our food stop, and with the wind mostly behind us, Conrad, Jeremy and I made rapid progress, and I arrived home at about 5.20pm, having cycled 77 miles. Not bad for such a windy day!
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