Sunday, 16 February 2014

16 Feb: Sunday ride to Wicken Fen and Chippenham

Nigel writes: There was no sign of the current weather crisis today, with clear blue skies and constant sunshine from dawn to dusk and just a light westerly breeze. A glorious day for what turned out to be our largest Sunday ride in recent memory.

I rode down to Brookside for the 9.30am start and found a large crowd of cyclists already waiting for today's ride. Eva was our leader today, and after carefully counting the number of riders present led us east along Lensfield Road towards Parker's Piece. Along the way we met several latecomers and by the time we reached Parker's Piece our numbers had grown to about 24.

Dividing into two groups on Parker's Piece

We paused on Parker's Piece to regroup. Eva decided that there were too many of us to ride as a single group so we divided into two. Eva would take the first group, whilst Rupert would lead the second group a few minutes behind. I rode with the second group.

Rupert leads the second group along the river

We crossed Parker's Piece and followed some local streets to Midsummer Common. We continued east along the river to Fen Ditton and from there took High Ditch Road east towards Quy.

High Ditch Road, Fen Ditton

From Quy we followed NCN 51 to Bottisham from where we took the "old" NCN route to Wicken Fen  through Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior, Reach and Burwell.

Along the cycle path to Bottisham

Swaffham Prior

This was a delightful ride, at a moderate pace, with the sunshine making it feel much warmer than the 5C or so it was at that time, and a gentle tailwind propelling us along.

Approaching Wicken Fen

Wicken Fen

When we reached Wicken Fen we stopped at the cafe for coffee. Eva's group had arrived a few minutes earlier and so were in the queue ahead of us, but the service was reasonably quick and we didn't have to wait too long to order coffee and cakes.

After coffee we divided once again, with a smaller group returning back to Cambridge and a larger group of 18 carrying on to lunch. We had booked a table for 6 at lunch, so Eva made a call to the lunch stop to check that they could accommodate 18 of us. After an anxious wait they called us back to confirm that this was fine.

The route on to lunch took us east along the main road to Soham and then through Isleham and Freckenham to Chippenham.

Wicken to Soham

Crossing the Soham by-pass

Approaching Isleham

Lunch time!

We stopped for lunch at "La Hogue", a farm shop with a large restaurant. This seemed pretty busy when we walked in but fortunately we had called ahead and were shown to a long table that had been reserved for us.

Our 18-seat table for lunch

This was my first visit to this particular restaurant and I was pleased to discover that it was excellent, with a good selection of light meals and sandwiches. Despite the large size of our group, and the large number of other customers, it didn't take us long to order and our meals arrived quickly. I hope we will come here again.

Chippenham to Snailwell

After lunch we set off back towards Cambridge. Eva led us south-west to Snailwell and from there into Newmarket.

Snailwell to Newmarket

Newmarket was relatively busy but we were soon through the town and on our way out the other side, climbing a long hill called Duchess Drive past a series of stud farms. After the absolute flatness of the fens earlier it was not unpleasant to encounter a hill and to get the heart and lungs working a bit harder.

We turned west and followed a series of minor roads through rolling countryside to Stechworth and Dullingham.

The rolling hills south of Newmarket

At Dullingham we turned south towards the Woodland Cemetery and Six Mile Bottom (though a few people separated to take another route). In Six Mile Bottom my gear cable snapped, forcing me to use just one gear for the final ten miles to Little Wilbraham , Quy, and back into Cambridge. Fortunately this didn't turn out to be difficult and soon we were riding back along the river past the rowers and mixing with many others enjoying the late afternoon warmth. The sun was low in the sky but still shining brightly when I arrived home at 4.45pm, having cycled 60 miles. Special thanks are due to Eva for leading the ride and coping with the exceptional numbers.

View this GPS track on a larger map. Download GPS track (GPX)

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