Thursday, 27 February 2014

27 Feb: Thursday ride to Potton and Henlow

Edward writes: Another Thursday and another ride out into the country, this time to Henlow via Potton. As usual it's a weather report that starts the account. Wednesday had been a glorious day but early this morning didn’t look at all promising. Overnight rain was still at it and even up to about 8.30 am but this didn’t deter ten members including three women who assembled in Haslingfield for our ride.

Steeple Morden

When we met at 9.30 the rain had stopped and the clouds were beginning to break so the signs were optimistic. Richard was in charge today and the ride started with a brisk climb up Chapel Hill, down into Barrington and along to Shepreth and Meldreth. In Meldreth we turned right and began the climb up to Kneesworth where we crossed our old friend the A1198 and soon came into Bassingbourn.

Steeple Morden

The weather by now had improved considerably and the sky had the look of showers which was much in line with the forecast. As we were heading west we were faced by a stiff breeze coming in from that direction. This, of course, persisted all the way to Henlow. We came into Litlington and climbed out past the American memorial and arrived in Steeple Morden and then over to Guilden Morden. We left Cambridgeshire and entered Bedfordshire and came to Potton by way of Wrestlingworth. In Potton we took coffee at the Coach House which we used to go to a few years back. It was good to go there again and, as last week, we were looked after very well. A table had been reserved for us and the staff were very friendly and helpful: certainly one for the future. Richard M, who cycled over from Bedford, joined us and would accompany us to Henlow.



After coffee we left Potton and headed west into the wind before turning south to go past John O’ Gaunt golf club and then into Sutton. This took us to Eyeworth, where Rupert left us, and a long stretch into the wind to the point where we crossed the A1 and the long descent into Langford with the new wind turbines on our right. In Langford, rather than use the main road, Richard had identified a cinder track to take us into Henlow. The surface was no problem until the last couple of hundred yards where it became a little muddy - bikes would definitely have to be cleaned now. The end of the track brought us out by Henlow church and directly opposite the Five Bells and our lunch stop at 1pm and 31 miles.


The Five Bells had reserved a table for us and, although very busy with many other diners, we didn't have to wait long for our food which most people chose from their ‘lite bites’ menu and very good it was too. Once again this is a pub, on Thursday at least, we hadn't visited for some time and we spent an enjoyable hour there.


Just before leaving a heavy hail shower was in progress and the sun had given way to typically showery sky. Richard M left us here and the eight remaining riders left to go towards Stotfold where Adrian assisted Richard to get us through this built up area which luckily had some cycle paths and of course Pendleton Road (no sign of the gold pillar box). This took past Arlsey station and the cycle way alongside the busy A507 and some deft work along the old disused road, clamber down the embankment and up to the A1. All a bit tricky but this finally took us onto the quiet road that leads cross country through Newnham and onto Ashwell; above Ashwell is a wonderful view down over the village.


We left Ashwell and headed back to Steeple Morden where, astonishingly, we could just the wind turbines in Balsham (a straight line on Google gives this as 20 miles). We went back to Haslingfield the same way we had come out in the morning and our luck with the weather finally failed us as we rode through Barrington we got caught in one of the heavy showers that had been circulating for most of the afternoon. This didn’t detract from a splendid day out and a great reward for not being deterred by the morning rain.


Thanks to Richard for our day out on a really good route which gave us 53 miles. Edward Elmer

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Sunday, 23 February 2014

23 Feb: Sunday ride to Shepreth and Buntingford

Nigel writes: I arrived at Brookside this morning to find about ten other riders waiting for the start of today's ride. Although Conrad was our leader today, Gareth was offering to lead a faster group on a slightly longer route to the coffee stop in Shepreth. I took up the challenge and the two of us were joined by visiting newcomer Lyn.

Both groups took a similar route. Conrad's group rode west to Coton and then continued west up Madingley Hill to Hardwick. There they turned south to Toft and from there rode via Kingston, the Eversdens and Harlton to Haslingfield. They then climbed Chapel Hill and descended to Barrington, from where it was just a couple more miles to Shepreth.

Gareth's group also left Cambridge on the Coton path to Coton but instead of climbing Madingley Hill we continued north to Madingley Village and carried on to Dry Drayton before turning south to Hardwick.

Today was yet another very windy day, with a strong southerly wind gusting at speeds up to 30mph. So for much of our route we were riding either directly into the wind or with a strong cross-wind. Despite the headwind, Gareth and Lyn seemed to have lots of energy and set a rapid pace all the way, with me just about managing to keep up behind them.

Today was a dull, rather dreary day, but at least it was dry, and with the temperature over 10C from the start it was very mild for February, despite the wind.

At Hardwick we turned west onto the old main road as far as the turning to Bourn where we turned south for Bourn, Kingston and the Eversdens, catching up with the others somewhere near Harlton. As we passed them Gareth and Lyn slackened the pace slightly which allowed me to ride ahead and take my first photographs of the day.


Chapel Hill, Haslingfield

Chapel Hill, Haslingfield

A few minutes later we all arrived in Shepreth, where we stopped for coffee and cakes at one of our favourite refreshment stops, Teacake cafe. We arrived to find it busy with customers, including a number of club members who had made their own way there. By the time the rest of us arrived it looked as if we might run out of places to sit but a few extra chairs were produced and we all managed to fit in.

Afterwards Conrad led half a dozen of us south to lunch in Buntingford leaving the others to return back home.

Conrad's route took us west to Meldreth, Kneesworth and Litlington before turning south to Thirfield, Sandon and Buntingford.


At Buntingford we stopped for lunch at the Buntingford Coffee Shop.


After lunch we set off back towards Cambridge. It was still dull and damp, with a touch of moistness in the air which threatened to turn into drizzle but never did. But with the wind mostly behind us at last we made rather faster progress than we had on the way out.

Conrad led us north-east to Wyddial and from there via Nuthampsted and Shaftenhoe End to Great Chishill. There we turned left onto the long straight road that leads downhill to Flint Cross. This positioned us perfectly for a wind-assisted 20mph blast along the B1368 to Fowlmere and a further blast from there to Newton. Just beyond Newton we turned right to Little and Great Shelford and the final few miles along the DNA path and busway into Cambridge. I arrived back home at 3.55pm, having cycled 65 miles.

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Thursday, 20 February 2014

20 Feb: Thursday ride to Horseheath and Dullingham

Edward writes: For today's ride out to Horseheath and Dullingham we had a dozen riders meeting in Hauxton under overcast skies but mild temperatures. We left Hauxton without a leader and headed for Little Shelford where we met Jacob ("Oh, am I the leader?") waiting by the roadside and he was then able to take over the reins.


En route to Whittlesford we also met Mike B, like Jacob wearing shorts. We went over to Sawston using the cycle way where we turned right on to the high street and out to Pampisford. Already it was noticeable how many snowdrops were out with many fine displays growing in the verges. Once out of Pampisford we had to join the busy A505 in order to get to Great Abington and the good news is that work is well under way constructing the cycleway along this stretch of road.


Next up was a crossing of the A1307 which took us into Hildersham and a right turn along Back Road to Linton. This was the worst part of the day as the road rises and a lack of hedges leaves it completely unprotected, and the rain on the wind blew across us from the west. However, once we reached the built-up area it became easier and we left the village to once again cross the A1307. We rode straight through Bartlow and climbed again for the turning to Shudy Camps for another climb which left the two small hamlets of Mill Green and Cardinal’s Green before arriving at the Old Red Lion Inn in Horseheath.


This has always been a favourite stop for the Thursday group and today we were regally treated. Not only were they ready with the coffee but the chef had that morning made chocolate brownies and cookies (large ones) which for £2 was exceptional value. Already there were Bill, Geoff and Joseph, and, although not riding, Peter W. With a nice warm fire it’s hard to encourage people out to resume the ride, but we eventually got everybody out on the road and headed out towards West Wickham where we had a following wind to take us across Wratting Common up to the Little Thurlow turn. We joined this very rural and rather mucky route which runs for about two miles to where it joins the B1061 and we followed this road through Great Bradley, Burrough Green and finally into Dullingham and The Boot pub just before 1 pm.


The Boot is another enjoyable stopping point as we always receive a friendly welcome and we were ably to enjoy another pleasant break.


After lunch at about 2 pm we started out for the afternoon session and this took us down to Dullingham station and the very rare experience of finding the gates down and having to wait for the train; also, not very often seen these days, manually controlled gates and signal box.

Dullingham Station

After the excitement of seeing the train pass through we followed the road down to the A1304 and then took the road to Swaffham Bulbeck. As we crossed the A14 each side of the road had a nice early display of daffodils, and with the skies having cleared and the sun out it started to feel like spring. From Swaffham Bulbeck we went into Bottisham and then along the cycle way beside the A1303 which took us up to the newly named Cambridge International Airport (CIA !) where the group split up to go separate ways home. A group of five went alongside the airport into Cherry Hinton, up to the hospital and the DNA path to Great Shelford leaving Sarah and Craig to go back to Hauxton thus being the only ones to complete the full circuit and a most enjoyable 50 miles.

This was another good day out, especially as the weather improved as the day went on and, of course, special thanks to Jacob for taking us round. Edward Elmer

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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.

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Saturday, 15 February 2014

Rides in March and April

Our March and April rides lists are now available. Our unified, "Sunday winter ride" format (a single Sunday ride with stops for morning coffee and lunch) will continue until the clocks change at the end of March. Then in April we go back to the old format with two rides on Sundays, both including an afternoon tea stop. In addition, our Wednesday evening rides becomes weekly from 2nd April.

On 20th April (Easter Sunday) we will be revisiting a favourite figure-of-eight ride out into the fens to visit Ely and Welney.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

13 Feb: Thursday ride to Swavesey and St Neots

Edward writes: Finally, this Thursday we enjoyed a whole day of cycling without a drop of rain which, after three consecutive weeks of rain and cold winds, is something of a relief. In fact this was an improving day with the clouds lifting and by the afternoon lots of bright sunshine. Today we were under the leadership of Tony for our ride out to Swavesey and then on to St Neots and, with the prospect of good weather, we had a total of thirteen riders leaving the village green.


Our route today took us out through Harlton and over the A603 to go through both Little and Great Eversden. Already the clouds were clearing as we came up to Kingston and the roads which, up until the last day or so have been covered by large puddles and debris from the fields, were now much clearer and had even dried out quite well. We left Kingston and went along the B1046 for a short while to get to Bourn followed by the steady, but not difficult, climb up to the St Neots old road. We crossed this road and with the wind directly on our backs made rapid progress as we passed through Knapwell and also enjoyed the slight downhill to the Boxworth turning. We turned at the junction for the climb up to Boxworth and then a nice downhill to go over the A14 and the last mile or so into Swavesey and the Baptist Chapel for one of the club’s favourite coffee stops.


Each week a different group from the village run the coffee shop and this time it was the Women’s Institute and, as you would expect, the cakes, and there were plenty of them, were wonderful, typically WI ! As usual at this stop we were joined by other club members and one count we made it twenty two enjoying the fare at the chapel. Among those joining us were Sarah, Rupert, Bill, Mike CC and Richard M from Bedford who all came along to St Neots. Also seen there were Kathy and Howard, John F, Ian and young Florian, thus making a very convivial bunch.


As is the way we had to leave and we left Swavesey to go along to Fen Drayton, and en-route we saw a couple of Kestrels flying low over the fields. We followed Fen Drayton by Fenstanton and turned south west to have the stiff breeze more or less in our faces as we made our way up to Hilton. This was followed by more hard work as we progressed along the open roads to Graveley. It’s fascinating that, as you approach the village, one of the wind turbines in the background looks as if it’s in a back garden of one of the houses, but as you get nearer it’s clear that looks are deceptive. After Graveley we turned for the long straight road which leads to the B1043 and the final run into St Neots and the Ambiance Cafe where we arrived at 12.50 pm. and 34 miles since leaving Haslingfield.


For those with a packed lunch the weather was good enough to sit outside before coming in and joining those who had bought a lunch at the cafe. At about 1.45 it was time to go. Sarah and Bill left us here to make her own ways home whilst the remainder started the journey back by crossing a very wet Priory Park. A few days ago this park was submerged but the river had receded into its own banks but left still left vast puddles on the grass and footways; also in attendance were huge numbers of seagulls, ducks and swans. We followed the route through the housing estates to join the road out to Abbotsley and in one garden there was a fine display of crocuses and snowdrops. Also in evidence were daffodils emerging into bud, a sure sign that spring is on its way. We now had the wind behind us and we made good progress as we came into Great Gransden. This left us with Caxton, where Richard M left us, and Bourn where Geoff and David W left us to go back to Haslingfield. We were now left with five to finish the ride at Coton roundabout after riding through Toft, Comberton and Barton and bring the ride to an end at 4.15pm having cycled a very pleasant 51 miles.

Thanks are due to Tony for conducting us round but, maybe on this occasion, a special thanks to the weather man who gave us such a nice day. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 12 February 2014

12 Feb: Evening ride to Fen Drayton

Conrad writes: When Nigel sent members an email the day before saying that he would not be able to attend the Wednesday ride, and that he was tempted to cancel the ride because of the weather, I was in a less than engaging meeting and, without much thought, agreed to lead the ride.

Foolishly, I had not checked the weather forecast when I sent out the email. The forecast was grim with heavy rains and gusts of up to 46 mph. Thankfully, I did not completely take leave of my senses and I decided to bring forward the pub stop time to 8pm to give enough time to return.

I arrived at Brookside uncharacteristically early to find no one there. Just as I was about to re-evaluate my options, Jonathan arrrived. This was his second CTC ride, the first being last week's Thursday ride. Everybody else must have hunkered down at home so a few minutes after 6.30pm, we set off.

Nigel had earlier changed the pub stop to the Three Tuns at Fen Drayton and he was rightly skeptical of my suggested route of going south first. In any case, the howling winds knocked some sense into me and I decided on the most direct route going through the city and taking the guided busway. As expected, the winds were brutal, especially the cross winds and I found myself cycling most of the way at a 45 degree angle and being blown left and right across the cyclepath.

We weren't the only ones on the cyclepath. At Longstanton, we passed a group who were practising what I can only describe as skiing on short skis with wheels. I only found out when I got home that these are roller skis. I would have taken a photo but I was anxious not to stop in the face of these strong winds.

We couldn't cycle all the way to Fen Drayton on the busway because of flooding so we went through Swavesey before turning south west to Fen Drayton, or right into the wind. This was the toughest stretch and my speed dropped considerably. Thankfully, we weren't far from Fen Drayton and due to Jonathan's punishing pace, we arrived at the Three Tuns at 7:40pm.

This was my first time at the Three Tuns and it is a place I would come back again. I had not planned to eat dinner there and I thought a small portion of potato wedges for £2 would be manageable. It turned out to be one of the largest servings I have ever seen.

We left the Three Tuns at 8:30pm and braced ourselves for the return journey. Given the winds, I decided on a route designed to offend Nigel's GPS sensitivities. We took the same route back to Cambridge. We don't know if it was the food or whether the winds had died down slightly but it was slightly easier coping with the wind on the return journey although the cross winds were still tricky.

I arrived at Mill Road at 9:30pm after cycling 29 miles. A short ride, but a good workout and I look forward to seeing Jonathan in future CTC rides. Conrad Chua

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Sunday, 9 February 2014

9 Feb: Afternoon ride to Foxton

John writes: Five of us left Brookside at 1:30 p.m. and headed towards Barton and Haslingfileld into a gale force wind. We had to pedal down (!) Chapel Hill into Barrington. There we decided to omit the planned circuit through Wimpole Park and Croydon and go straight from Orwell along the main road through Wimpole village. We took the slip road after the Lazy Dayz café onto Ermine Street for 200 metres before turning right onto the long straight road through Wendy and Shingay.

Here the head wind was at its strongest; we were thankful to turn left at Manor Farm. We now had an adverse cross-wind on a quiet road with flooded meadows either side. Tina had telephoned Sue to warn her that we would be late.

At Bassingbourn we now had a following wind and sped towards Shepreth. Having recrossed Ermine Street a scud of rain produced a magnificent double rain bow with the main bow being a complete arc. The new cycle track beside the A10 enabled us to enter Foxton from the South.

At Sue’s house there was a fantastic and plentiful tea which enabled us to replace the Kcals consumed on the ride. The day-riders were there well before us.

After tea those returning to Cambridge did so via Fowlmere, Newton and the Shelfords. Cycling alone through Granchester I went through flood water. At home the GPS recorded a modest 30 miles, nevertheless one of the hardest CTC rides I can recall. Many thanks to Sue and family for a magnificent spread. John Ferguson

9 Feb: All-day ride to Saffron Walden, Nuthampstead and Foxton

Nigel writes: Today was dry, sunny, cold (but not uncomfortably so), and very windy. And it was the wind that was the dominant feature of the day: a relentless south-westerly blowing at about 25mph for the whole day. Fortunately it didn't bring us any rain, so we were spared the storms that have plagued the west of the country in recently days.

Not surprisingly the turnout today were inevitably reduced from last week's impressive figures, with only four riders at Brookside for today's all-day ride: Wendy, Neil, Tom and me.

Heading south out of Cambridge along the busway

I was the leader today, and with the morning coffee stop in Saffron Walden took a relatively direct route there: along the busway and DNA path to Great Shelford and then through Little Shelford, Whittlesford and Duxford to Ickleton.

After Ickleton we climbed Cople Hill and followed the ridge to Catmere End. Here it started to drizzle and I was braced for a passing shower, but it dried up with a couple of minutes and despite the forecast of passing showers we encountered no further rain the whole day.

From Catmere End we dropped down along Chestnut Avenue to Audley End. We rode past the house, which was still wrapped in scaffolding, and climbed the short hill into Saffron Walden where we stopped for morning coffee at The Temeraire. Waiting inside the pub we found David and Chris.

After coffee Neil and Wendy set off back to Cambridge leaving Tom, David, Chris and me to continue on into the wind towards lunch in Nuthampstead. We set off south out of Saffron Walden along Debden Road towards Debden.

Near Debden

At the crossroads north of Debden we turned west to Newport and from there continued west along the B1038 to Wicken Bonhunt. I had originally planned to turn south at this point but with the wind slowing our progress I decided to cut short our ride and take a direct route instead. We therefore continued along the B1038 to Hill Green on the edge of Clavering before turning right onto quieter lanes to Meesden and Nuthampstead.


We arrived for lunch at The Woodman in Nuthampstead at 1.15pm. This is a pleasant pub which seemed very popular both with drinkers and diners.

Lunch at Nuthampstead

After lunch we set off on towards tea in Foxton. David left the group to make his own way back leaving me to lead Chris and Tom back south to Anstey and Meesden before turning north to Langley. It was just as windy as before but once we had turned north it was mostly behind us, and with the sun now shining brightly in a mostly clear sky, with no prospect of any rain, it was a beautiful afternoon.

We continued through Duddenhoe End and dropped down to the B1039 before climbing back up to Chrishall. From here it was downhill to Chrishall Grange and then along the flat to Fowlmere. A few minutes later we arrived at Sue's house in Foxton, where a splendid tea was waiting for us. Several other members were already there and after a while we were joined by John F and the afternoon ride.

Tea at Sue's in Foxton

After a relaxed and convivial tea we all thanked Sue and made our various ways home. John said he would be leading the afternoon ride home via Fowlmere and Newton so I suggested to Tom that the two of us return via Barrington, Chapel Hill, Haslingfield and Barton.

We encountered flooding between Foxton and Barrington where the road crosses the river Cam or Rhee, but it was only an inch or two deep and we could ride through without difficulty. At 5pm the sun set and it quickly became dark for the final miles into Cambridge. I arrived home at 5.45pm, having cycled 60 miles.

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