Nigel writes: In many parts of the country, the first month of 2014 has been the wettest January since records began. However today was a lovely winter's day: clear and sunny all day, with very mild temperatures for the time of year. It was therefore no surprise that when I arrived at Brookside for today's ride there was large group of riders already waiting. As with my last week two weeks ago, it was great to see some new members on their first ride with us, and several others who had started riding with us recently and who were returning for another ride. The total number of riders was seventeen.
Gareth was our leader today, with Conrad kindly offering to be back marker. We set off south-west out of Cambridge, crossing Lammas Land to Newnham and following the Barton Road cycle track all the way to Barton. With such a large group and mixture of riding speeds the pace was gentle, leaving nobody behind, and the atmosphere chatty and convivial.
At Barton we rejoined the main road for a few hundred yards before turning left towards Haslingfield. We climbed Chapel Hill and after a short rest at the drop enjoyed a high-speed descent down the other side to Barrington.
Just south of Barrington, the road to Shepreth crosses one of the arms of the River Cam. This normally runs underneath the road but today the river was running across the road as well, forming quite a deep ford. Most of us wheeled out bikes along the raised footway whilst Ian and Pete braved the waters.
When we reached Shepreth we paused to allow everyone to regroup before turning towards Meldreth.
We continued to Kneesworth where we crossed the A1098 and continued to Bassingbourn. There we turned north towards Abington Piggots and Shingay.
We continued north to Croydon, climbing the first few feet of Croydon Hill before turning off into the village itself.
We continued through Arrington and crossed the A1098 once more and entered the grounds of Wimpole Hall. A few minutes later we arrived at the Stable Block, where we stopped for coffee. By now it was 11.30pm, rather later than usual, and so although there were several members waiting for us a number of other members had already been there and departed.
The cafe in the stable block was something of a disappointment, with a power cut meaning that not all of us were able to get a hot drink.
After coffee the group divided into two, with Gareth leading seven riders on to lunch in St Neots and the remaining ten or so returning back to Cambridge. The club doesn't provide an official leader for those making an early return, but with several experienced members amongst those riding back I knew that no-one would get lost on the way home. (The club is aware that this is not an ideal arrangement and would welcome offers from members who are willing to be an official leader for those returning home from coffee).
I stayed with Gareth's group. By now it was nearly midday and so we took a direct route to St Neots. This took us back the way we had come, through the grounds of Wimpole Hall and through Arrington and Croydon. We climbed Croydon Hill and continued through East Hatley and Hatley St George to Gamlingay. The sun was still shining brightly and with the temperature a very mild 8C this was a very pleasant ride.
From Gamlingay we took the road to Gamlingay Cinques and on to St Neots. We crossed the River Great Ouse using the Willow bridge and then turned north along a rather unfamilar cycle path to Riverside Park, where we stopped for lunch at the Ambiance Cafe.
After lunch we returned back to Cambridge. Gareth led us across the Town Bridge into the town centre and then north out of St Neots along the B1043. After a couple of miles we turned right onto quieter roads through Toseland and Graveley to Hilton, where we took a diversion to try out the ford on the southern side of the village. It turned out to be relatively shallow, so we were able to splash through it confidently.
From Hilton we took the road to Fenstanton where we crossed the A14 using the subway. From there we took the road to Fen Drayton and continued from there to Swavesey where we joined the busway for the final few miles to Cambridge. The busway was busy with cyclists of all ages and a quite few walkers, all enjoying the winter sunshine and the mild temperatures. I arrived home at about 4.30pm, still well before sunset, having cycled 66 miles.
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