Thursday, 29 August 2013

29 Aug: Thursday ride to Haverhill and Depden

Edward writes: Another great day for cycling and, what a surprise, only seven people turned up for our ride out to Depden Green. Those who didn’t make it certainly missed out on a splendid day in the Suffolk countryside. Today’s head boy was Tony H and he was fresh back from the over sixties’ tour of the Pennines; also from that tour was Rupert. Today we also welcomed Sue who was joining the Thursday ride for the first time, having previously gone along to a Saturday morning ride.

We left Hauxton and went along to Whittlesford where we were joined by Mike B and then followed the cycleway to Sawston and Babraham where we went on the farm track, over the footbridge and then into Great Abington. This brought us to the unpleasant A1307 which we crossed and this took us to Hildersham and Linton and of course back to the A1307. From here the land rises as we made our way through Bartlow and Shudy Camps.


Sue decided to return home from Haverhill; also going home from there would be Mike B and Joanna, so Sue would have had company back to Cambridge. The route Tony chose, going through Nosterfield End, is very rural and really a cyclist’s dream and this soon brought us to Haverhill and the Drabbet Smock for our coffee break. Already enjoying a coffee there were Joseph and Geoff.


After coffee we said goodbye to the three returning to Cambridge and the rest of us threaded our way out of Haverhill and joined the road to Kedington and on to Hundon where Tony was stung by a wasp. We were now really out in the country, and with the breeze on our backs we made rapid progress as we headed for Wickhambrook.



Now that we are at the end of August we can see how much the countryside has changed with the last of the wheat being harvested and already the ground being prepared for next year’s crop. This brought us within sight of our lunch stop at Depden Green Farm shop which is just off the road that leads to Hargrave.

Depden Green

This is the first time we have used this as a lunch stop and it was a pleasant surprise. The menu is limited but the food on offer was first class, for example the salads were beautiful served, an apple was also included and they did not include limp lettuce leaves, coleslaw and mayonnaise which are so often served up as a salad. This should be a definite for future rides.

After an enjoyable hour we left the farm shop at 2.15pm. We retraced our route back to Wickhambrook and then turned left to head briefly towards Clare, but after half or mile or so we turned onto a very narrow country lane which took us through many twists and turns to Cowlinge.


Next up was Great Bradley and then Brinkley, where we said goodbye to Geoff, and the long downhill that took us into Six Mile Bottom where Joseph turned off to head for home. Of course this lead to the two miles up to Great Wilbraham which cars seem to treat as a race track. Next followed Fulbourn, over the Gogs and into Great Shelford where the tour ended.

This was a textbook ride in perfect weather and very much enjoyed by those who took part. Finally, our thanks to Tony for an extremely well-thought-out route giving us 64 miles to put in the miles bank. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

28 Aug: Evening ride to Hemingford Abbots

Nigel writes: Sunset is advancing at the moment at a rate of about 15 minutes a week. A week ago Wednesday sunset was at 8.11pm, tonight it was at 7:56pm, and in a week's time the sun will have set by 7:40pm. The nights are definitely drawing in. Nevertheless it's still August, which means that despite the approaching darkness tonight was warm and dry, with hardly any wind. A lovely evening for a club run.

There were seven riders riders at Brookside for this evening's ride: Gareth, Klaas, Neil, John, newcomers Nils and Franz, and me. We were joined along the way by Paul at Oakington and and Jeremy at Hemingford Abbots, making a total of nine.

We set off from Brookside through the city centre, up Castle Hill and out of the city along Huntingdon Road. We turned right at Girton Corner and continued through Girton until we reached New Road, which we followed as far as its junction with the busway.

New Road between Girton and the busway

Once we were on the busway it was just a case of settling down to riding at your preferred pace until you reached St Ives. In the case of Gareth the pace was rapid and, as on other recent rides, he was soon disappearing into the distance. The rest of us followed at a slower, but still quite brisk, pace.

After a short while we reached St Ives. We rode through the town centre before joining the Thicket path to Houghton. We crossed the Ouse (wheeling our bikes underneath the mill) and cycled across the meadows to Hemingford Abbots. There we stopped for drinks at The Axe and Compasses. We were warned that there was a long wait for food so we purchased drinks and packets of crisps which we enjoyed sitting outside in the garden.

The Axe and Compasses, Hemingford Abbots. Exposure: 1s at f2.8 (thanks Nils for loan of tripod)

Afterwards we turned on our lights and rode back to Cambridge via Hemingford Grey, St Ives and the busway once more. I arrived home at 9.50pm, having cycled 36 miles.

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Monday, 26 August 2013

Aug 18-26: A ride along the Pennine Cycleway

Rupert writes: Four of us (Bill, Richard, Rupert and Tony) cycled the Sustrans Pennine Cycleway (Sustrans Route 68) this August. The route runs from Derby to Berwick-on-Tweed, covering around 380 miles and about 30,000 feet of ascent (equivalent to climbing Everest)

It's an on-road cycle version of the Pennine Way footpath and the two routes cross and recross. We took 9 days for the trip, including the travel days, so it was about 7½ days of cycling with an average of about 5o miles and 4,000 feet per day. We were carrying all our own luggage (about 10kg in my case) and this distance felt like a good balance. We were cycling for about 7 hours a day with enough time for leisurely stops and still arriving in good time. We stayed in hostels, with the bonus of a good nearby pub in most cases. I would strongly recommend this route: every day has some highlights as you cross some of the best parts of England visiting a range of high moorland and a series of pretty villages and towns.

The Sustrans route seems to be chosen to avoid the main roads as far as possible and on the few occasions where we joined a main road (either by accident or design) it was a nasty shock which I think fully justifies this approach. But as the price of avoiding main roads the route contains several sections of unsurfaced off-road paths. Most of these sections can be ridden (albeit rather slowly) but a few short sections did require us to get off and push (not to mention a few very steep hills that also required us to get off and walk). We were very lucky with the weather with sun and light winds on most days. There were just two days of light drizzle and two nights of overnight rain. This meant that most of these off-road sections were relatively dry and I think many of these sections would be a lot more difficult in wet weather. But any cursing about the need to push your bike is rapidly dispelled as the routes unfold and you understand the Sustrans logic of keeping you away from traffic and taking you deep into the beautiful English countryside.

Day 0: Derby to Hartington

Our train arrives at Derby earlier than expected: a late train change means that we can travel direct to Derby without having to change at East Midlands. After a bit of consulting the natives, we find the Sustrans route and wriggle out of Derby via a series of zig-zags, not helped by several mispointed signs. We assume this is the work of local teenagers, but fortunately their usual trick appears to be simply swap the directions (180 degrees) making it fairly easy to stay on route. As we emerge into the countryside for the first time, passing cyclists recommend a nearby Buddist café: "just carry on down the drive, it's wonderful". It's a bit early to be stopping, but we must maintain the CTC traditions so we take their advice stop for tea and cakes.

Buddhist cafe at Etwall

As promised, it was a delightful find with large pots of tea and home-made cakes. After suitable meditation, it's back on the bikes for a gentle ride on to Ashbourne where we encounter our first proper hill as we climb out of town to join the Tissington trail. Somehow we manage to miss the main tunnel entrance at the start of the trail and instead join at the first car park. We make rather slow progress along the trail, as it's a sunny Sunday and there are lots of day users. But as we get further away from Ashbourne the trail starts to get quieter and we can pick up speed. So much that we nearly overshoot the turning for our first stop at Hartington YHA. We divert down the road into Hartington, where we are faced with a short but very steep climb up to the hostel. It's been a good first day: we're finally on our way!

Day 1: Hartington to Crowden

We rejoin the Tissington trail and follow it to the end, exiting a short distance before Buxton where we pass a pub with an unusual name.

The "Quiet Woman" pub in Earl Sternedale, near Buxton

We drop into Buxton and buy lunch before exiting with a short section on the main road. But soon after leaving Buxton, we turn off onto a minor road and encounter our first big hill and first rough section. The minor road suddenly degrades into a very rough off-road section that is impossible to cycle.

Rough track near Buxton

Muttered curses at the Sustrans route planners are later withdrawn as the surface improves and it turns into a pleasant route that avoids the main roads. We then descend into Whalley Bridge and New Mills, exiting New Mills via an even bigger hill. This time it is an innocent looking residential street that has something like a 1:10 slope that seems to go on-and-on forever. More curses: anyway how do they manage to build houses on such a steep hill? I am also starting to understand why relatively few people cycle to the shops here: it is very hard work compared to flat Cambridge. We finally stop for tea at a small shop/café to let our legs recover from the shock of all these hills. The route now bypasses the centre of Glossop and wriggles through a series back streets before emerging onto a smoother off-road route that weaves around a series of reservoirs to reach Crowden.

Reservoir north of Glossop on the way to Crowden YH

We stay on the Sustrans route and this means we have to overshoot Crowden and then descend a couple of miles on the busy main road to reach the YHA. But it's a peaceful location for the YHA and the nearby campsite shop provides a welcome cup of coffee until the hostel opens.

Day 2: Crowden to Hebdon Bridge

We start with a short ride back up that busy road to rejoin the off-road paths. There are some difficult off road sections in the first hour, and we divert to an unplanned short on road section to avoid a very steep off-road section near the new road tunnels.

Track over to Holmfirth

It's a nasty shock to the system to be on the main road with lots of heavy traffic. But eventually we can rejoin the proper route for a short off-road track before the route crosses over the main road and joins a minor road for the easier but long climb to over the top of the ridge via Winscar reservoir. It's then an easy descent into Holmfirth where we buy lunch and manage to take another wrong turning thanks to a badly placed sign. After an interesting diversion, we wind up with another short section on a main road due to a road closure. Just after we rejoin the Sustrans route we miss another turn and have a few more miles of not-too-busy main road before we rejoin the Sustrans route again at the bottom of a steep valley in Slaithwaite. We now have yet another very steep hill to climb out of Slaithwaite. But then we get some easier riding over the top before we drop down to a reservoir nestled beside the M62. Muttered groans from the team as we fear another big climb to reach the nearby bridge that crosses far above the motorway, but these fears are happily averted when we discover an unexpected troglodyte cycle tunnel under the motorway.

Three Trolls under the M62 near Scammonden Reservoir

The path to and from the tunnel has some tricky sections meaning a bit more walking but it is still a good way to cross the motorway. Then it's back onto quiet minor roads with yet more hills as we pass through Sowerby Bridge before joining an off-road path along the valley into Hebden Bridge where we finally emerged into a lovely canal side park.

Hebden Bridge

We're well overdue for our next cake stop so we stop for tea at the first park café . A visit to the nearby tourist information now leads to a change of plans: the lady tells us there is another steep hill in store if we follow our plan and head out of town to our booked stop at Mankinholes YHA. She then casually suggests that we try the local independent hostel. It was very tempting to avoid yet another big hill so we gave in to temptation and booked into the local hostel: our excuse was that Mankinholes was not able to offer breakfast, though frankly any excuse would have done. The local hostel is in the centre of town but it's approached by a very steep residential road so once again we have to get off and push! But it was a good decision: it's a comfortable overnight stop, with the added treat of a good Italian meal in the local restaurant.

Outside hostel at Hebden Bridge

Day 3: Hebden Bridge to Ingleton

Any thought that the worst hills were behind us was rapidly dispelled by a massive climb out of Hebdon Bridge via a steep cobble footpath (almost too steep to even push the bikes this time) before emerging onto the steep tarmac of Hebdenstall for a very hard and slow start to the day. Hebdenstall village is a touristy village where the surface goes back to large lumpy cobbles so we are back to pushing again.

Steep Cobbles at Hebdonstall

We emerge after nearly 1 hour of effort on top of the moors where we get our first taste of bad weather with some light drizzle. The map gives a choice of route here: a longer and flatter route via Burnley, or a shorter and hiller route via Widdop reservoir. Our decision to take the shorter hillier route is recommended by local lady as a "very pretty route": she's right and it is not that hilly compared to our earlier struggles. We then wriggle through Colne (just missing Nelson, the home of Carradice). We seem to be coping well with another set of Sustrans zig-zag routes but eventually we get slightly off-route due to a missing sign. After a quick recovery using the compass we drop down to Foulridge to join the Leeds Liverpool canal towpath. First we take a well-earned stop at the first canal-side café for coffee and cake. Then it's off on the delights of a flat tow path where we start to make better progress.

Leeds-Liverpool Canal between Nelson and Gargrave

All too soon, we have to leave the canal and rejoin a minor road. We stop in Gargrave for a quick lunch and brace ourselves for the hilly afternoon section. But the afternoon starts well with a short diversion to a superb farm café (due to another timely recommendation by passing cyclists) and after a large pot of tea and cakes we continue with a series of hard afternoon climbs to reach Settle and then Ingleton.

Day 4: Ingleton to Dufton

Another sunny day greets us as we set out on our best morning route so far as we climb out of Ingleton across the fells to Dent. There's some tough climbing but a breathtakingly beautiful valley with virtually no cars. Rupert is almost tempted to go back and do it all over again...

Above Ingleton (not sure where Rupert is going)

A steep descent into Dentdale overheats the rims, so we stop at a small café in Dent for coffee and cakes to let riders and rims cool down.

Descent into Dent

Cafe stop in Dent

Then on into Sedbergh where we buy lunch, but it takes longer than expected due to mother ahead of us in the sandwich shop queue who seemed to be buying enough for 100. Soon enough we climb out of Sedbergh along a set of minor roads that is surprisingly hilly, but cleverly weaves alongside the M6, passing under and over before finally striking off NE across the moors to Appleby. Despite the nearby motorway, this is still a beautiful section, helped by a warm sunny day, and quiet roads.

Deep discussion over a red top clash

The final stage to Appleby is another delight with wide vistas of moorland, but a completely different feel to the earlier moors. We eventually arrive in Appleby for more coffee and cake.


We still have a few more miles to go, so it's back on the bikes to follow the route a few more miles to Dufton YHA. We follow the official Sustrans route which is a bit annoying here as their back road route makes this last section nearer to 8 miles instead of the 4 mile direct route which is a big difference for tired legs.

Day 5: Dufton to Once Brewed

Another superb bleak moorland ride this morning. First a gentle undulating route on minor roads over to Melmerby. But then a long hard climb up to Hartside, with the final section (1 mile or so) along the main road. We stop at the café at the top of Hartside, along with a lot of other cyclists who seem to regard Hartside as an easy training ride. A welcome cup of coffee and a snack while we enjoy the views before we descend – again on the main road. After a fast descent, the route turns off onto more gentle back roads to Alston. The final section includes a long section along a disused railway cycletrack. We have some route problems here due to several Sustrans route changes: we have two maps which show different routes here and both differ from the current signed route. We emerge into a private garden which is on the old railway line, but after a friendly chat the owner lets us carry on through his garden and take what seems like the ideal route over the nearby viaduct.

Crossing a lawn (with permission) to a viaduct on the old railway to Haltwhistle

It seems this is the source of the Sustrans route changes and it is clear that they have not been able to reach an agreement with the private owner, which is a shame as the viaduct is a highlight of the route.

On the viaduct

The route now continues along the old railway until we reach the outskirts of Haltwhistle. It's time for another stop for tea and cake at the first café - where we are regaled with tales of Sustrans broken promise: the café was deliberately located here and assured there would be 1000s of riders doing this route: in fact there are just a few 100s. Another tiring end to the day as we haul ourselves out of Haltwhistle up to the next YHA at Once Brewed close to ‘adrians Wall. Obviously, this being the posh north they've added an "H"; but I suppose this is what Adrian did before he retired!

Day 6: Once Brewed to Rothbury

A similar start to yesterday with a short sharp climb up to Hadrians wall followed gentle undulating moorland.

Hadrian's Wall near Once Brewed

But this is soon followed by a tricky off-road section through Kielder/Wark Forest. The path is just slowly drying out after heavy overnight rain, and the loose gravel squirms under our tyres making for tricky descents on the dips as we try to avoid boulders and puddles. Slow progress over this section makes for a long morning before we reach our first café stop at Bellingham where we can finally refuel. Rupert and Tony buy pork pies from the local butcher leading to accusations of treachery later in the day when Tony's pie disappears, and Rupert has already eaten his pie. The dark cloud was only resolved when Tony unpacked back at home and discovered a flattened pie in the bottom of his pannier. The hills are getting easier now, or our legs are getting stronger, and it's just a short last stage before we divert to Rothbury missing a short part of the official route. It is just starting to drizzle as we reach the hostel and we are safely inside when the heavier rain starts.

Day 7: Rothbury to Berwick

We again cut the corner of the Sustrans route to rejoin the route NW of Rothbury. Rupert's day is rather spoiled by a first and only encounter of extreme road rage: the driver reverses nearly half a mile back up the road to stop us and voice his opinion that 60mph is a completely safe speed on this narrow lane. It feels like a long morning route because we missed out on a cooked breakfast this morning (all because the Rothbury café did not open until 9am and we wanted an earlier start). And we don't pass any cafés until we reach Wooler where we find a choice of busy cafés and we can at last catch up on our missing breakfast. En route, we decide to bypass a rather muddy off-road section (we take a quick look and decided it was uncyclable after the heavy overnight rain). But the sun is now coming out making it a good last day. More Sustrans route changes lead to a choice of routes, and we decide to follow the shorter older route out of Wooler which follows a B-road before turning back onto the minor roads. We stop for lunch at picture postcard Etal, with a castle, tea shop and lots of day trippers.

Lunch near Etal Castle, Northumberland

Soon after Etal there is another Sustrans route change, this time a bit annoying: it follows a lovely riverside route but it has a loose gravelly surface with some steep hills that again make short sections uncyclable. The route takes a very indirect route now as we're into the closing stages: the road signs show only 6 miles to Berwick but the Sustrans signs announce 13 miles to go. But it's a welcome loop on the cycle route which takes us across the spectacular chain bridge into Scotland.

View of Union suspension bridge over Tweed into Scotland

Union suspension bridge

Scottish Border

After a short ride in this foreign land we loop back and enter Berwick from t'north. We made it! On time, no injuries, two puncture and just a little bit of light rain. A wonderful end to a most enjoyable trip as witnessed by the happy smiles. Rupert Goodings

A proud Rupert at finish

Photos by Bill Perry

Thursday, 22 August 2013

22 Aug: Thursday ride to Croydon and Old Warden

Edward writes: This Thursday was in sharp contrast to most of the previous days. We had all been enjoying warm sunny days, but today was very different. The overnight rain had stopped by about 7am and we were left with overcast skies, but the temperature was still high with the added discomfort of high humidity thus making for a very sticky ride, especially when waterproofs had to go on. Despite all of this we were able to leave Haslingfield under Mick C's guidance with a dozen riders and this was to rise to eighteen by the time we arrived at our coffee stop. This was a good number especially as seven members were either at the Birthday Rides or toiling along the Pennines from Derby to Berwick upon Tweed.


Mick took us out from Haslingfield along to Harston and then the climb and descent into Newton. We joined the B1368 but veered off into Thriplow where the rain started again and here we stopped to don our waterproofs. We left Thriplow and the next mile took us to Fowlmere and by now the rain had stopped and of course we all became very hot under our waterproofs.



Next we came to Shepreth followed by Meldreth and the two miles to Orwell where we were joined by a number of other riders including Clare who was making her first ride with us and Andy who was probably joining us for the second time. We soon arrived at Wimpole Hall and followed the track through the grounds which took us to Arrington and then Croydon and the Queen Adelaide pub for our coffee break.


This is the second time we have used this pub this year and it was a particular pleasure with coffee and tea all ready for us and a friendly welcome from the landlord. It’s certainly worth bering in mind for future rides which pass this way.
We left the pub at 11.30am and made our way to the bottom of Croydon hill and to sighs of relief we turned away so that we went through to Shingay and then on to Guilden Morden. Once out of Guilden Morden we went through to Ashwell via Loves Lane (formerly Love Lane!), and then out to Hinxworth for the crossing of the A1. This gave us a nice long downhill into Langford and, although there was a minimum amount of breeze from the west, we made rapid progress to Langford. This left us to run through Broom, past Jordan’s Mill and finally to Old Warden and the Shuttleworth Air Museum for our lunch stop.


We enjoyed a good hour’s break here and were joined by Richard M who had cycled over from Bedford and David W and grandson. During lunch the rain started again and was to stay with us for the most of the afternoon, never heavy but never far away. Our journey back took us through Northill and Ickwell with their many thatched cottages and then on to Moggerhanger and Blunham where we joined the old Cambridge to Bedford railway for the last mile into Sandy.



After negotiating Sandy we left it along the road to Everton and then Gamlingay Heath. Sadly, from a group of sixteen we suddenly became a group of five as the leading group, far ahead of the leader, went on to Gamlingay whilst the rest of us went on to Waresley.

Great Gransden

After Waresley we took a familiar route home through Great Gransden where Mike CC had a puncture and luckily for him the puncture specialists of Mick and Adrian were ready with their help. Needless to say this didn’t delay us long and next up was Caxton and Bourn where we said goodbye to Mike and this left four, namely John F, Mick C, Adrian and me to finish off the ride through Toft, Comberton and finally Barton and the Coton roundabout where we would end the ride with 64 miles to be added to the spreadsheets. Despite the weather we still had a very enjoyable ride under Mick's leadership and we'd all like to thank him very much for a job well done. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 21 August 2013

21 Aug: Evening ride to Fen DItton

Nigel writes: I discovered this week that the American author Elmore Leonard (who died recently aged 87) listed ten rules of writing, of which the first was "never open a book with weather". Nevertheless I'm going to start by reporting that the weather this evening was dull and overcast but dry and warm, with virtually no wind. Nice conditions for a short evening ride, and the pleasant weather brought out a good turnout for tonight's evening ride: John, Neil, Klaas, Paul, Gareth, Tracy and me.

Our route this evening started with a ride down Hills Road to Addenbrooke's, where we turned left for the climb over the Gogs to Fulbourn. With the group now warmed up, we continued to Great and Little Wilbraham and from there along the long, straight road that leads to Six Mile Bottom.

Unfortunately Paul had forgotten his lights, so when we reached Six Mile Bottom it was time for him to turn around and head for home. Meanwhile Gareth, in another energetic mood this evening, sped off ahead of the rest of us and we didn't see him again until the pub. The rest of us crossed over the main road and continued up the hill towards Brinkley, as far as the cross-roads by the woodland cemetery.

Here we turned north for Dullingham, along possibly the nicest road of the circuit, and where we were overtaken by a faster group of riders from another cycling club. After Dullingham we turned north-west to Swaffham Bulbeck (and were overtaken a second time by the group that had passed us earlier) from where it was only a few further miles through Bottisham and Quy to arrive at The Plough in Fen Ditton bang on time at 8.30pm. We ordered drinks and bowls of chips and sat outside by the river chatting for a longer-than-usual 45 minutes. The sun had set at 8.15pm, so by the time we were ready to set off for Cambridge it was completely dark. Fortunately this short journey only took about 15 minutes, and I arrived home at 9.45pm, having cycled 29 miles.

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Sunday, 18 August 2013

18 Aug: All-day ride to St Neots, Thurleigh and Over

Gareth writes: The BBC forecasted rain showers from mid-afternoon (which did not transpire) and a strong westerly wind (which did). Accordingly, the ride westwards to coffee in St Neots was pretty slow: we all got our heads down and stuck together for shelter. A kestrel looking for prey near the Papworth bypass was struggling to make westward progress, and the wind turbines at Cotton Farm near Toseland were turning briskly. We picked up several riders at morning coffee, and it was a group of ten that I led out of St Neots through Duloe.

Conrad punctured near Staploe, and since I planned to do a loop to Ravensden in the south, I split the ride, leaving Adrian and David to go with Conrad direct to lunch, and taking the remaining seven by a roundabout route through Wilden, Ravensden and Thurleigh. As we approached Thurleigh, we saw a group of riders heading south towards Robin's Folly. This was, we think, the St Neots Sustrans Rangers.

It's only the second time we've been to the Thurleigh Farm Centre. This farm café is well worth visiting, with bike stands, freshly made sandwiches, and a salad bar.

Near Bedford Aerodrome

After lunch, I took the group north on the perimeter road round the end of Bedford Aerodrome. This was formerly a research site of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, but now much of it is a motor racing circuit. Along this road, Conrad punctured again, poor chap, and this time we waited for him.

Off-road near Grafham Water

I led the group north through Keysoe, Kimbolton, Stonely, and along the off-road path around the north side of Grafham Water. With the wind now behind us, we made good progress through Buckden, Offord Cluny, Godmanchester, the Hemingfords, and St Ives. We took the busway cyclepath to Swavesey, passing many other cyclists, and arrived at Mike's house in Over at 16:30.

Grafham Water

Bridge over the Great Ouse at Offord Cluny

Mike and his wife prepared a most enjoyable tea, and we ate it in their garden in the afternoon sunshine. Many thanks.

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