Sunday, 16 March 2014

16 Mar: Sunday all-day ride to St Ives, St Neots and Newnham

Nigel writes: Sundays in 2014 seem to have been blessed, since almost every one we have had so far has been bright and sunny, and in recent weeks quite warm as well. Today was no exception: another glorious spring day. Rather cooler than last week, perhaps, but still very nice for mid-March. Not surprisingly this led to another good turnout at Brookside for today's all-day ride.

Gareth was our leader today, and led our group of thirteen rides through the centre of Cambridge and then north along Huntingdon Road to Girton.

King's Parade

A mile beyond Girton we turned onto the busway and the start of ten miles of lovely wide traffic-free smooth tarmac which took us all the way to St Ives.

Joining the busway

This was the club's first visit to the busway cycleway since last autumn, before the winter floods closed it between Swavesey and St Ives for three months. The whole route is now open again, though there were still traces of mud on the few short sections that were until very recently underwater.

Along the busway: signs of recent flooding

One of the best things about taking a large group along the busway is that everyone can cycle at their own speed, knowing that there was no possibility of getting lost.

At the end of the busway

We reached St Ives at about 10.45pm. This was where we had planned to stop for coffee but it was still slightly early so Gareth led us through the town centre and then out along the Thicket Path to Houghton.

Along the Thicket Path

When we reached Houghton we continued to the Mill where we dismounted and wheeled our bikes underneath the Mill. We then got back on our bikes and rode across the meadows to Hemingford Abbots.

Across the meadows from Houghton Mill

At Hemingford Abbots we turned back east and rode through Hemingford Grey back to St Ives. There we stopped for coffee at the River Tea Rooms, where we found a large group of members already enjoying coffee and cakes. The tea rooms looked a little busy so I walked back along the riverside to an Italian restaurant on the quayside, where four of us ordered coffee and panettone and sat outside in the sunshine overlooking the river.

After coffee about half the group returned back to Cambridge leaving about half a dozen to continue on to lunch in St Neots. It was almost noon and so Gareth led us straight there by a direct route: to Fenstanton, under the A14 and then south-west to Hilton.

Like almost every other Sunday this year there was a moderate but steady wind, and on this leg of the journey we were riding straight into it.

Hilton

At Hilton Gareth led us on a short diversion through the ford, and then we continued on to Graveley where we passed the wind turbines, doing good business in the steady breeze.

Graveley

The headwind was beginning to tire us but fortunately we didn't have far to go before we reached St Neots. We crossed the river and stopped for lunch at the Ambiance Cafe in Riverside Park. Yes, the name of the cafe really is spelled like that.

Lunch in St Neots

After a very inexpensive but satisfactory lunch we set off back towards Cambridge. Gareth led us through Riverside Park and south to the Willow Bridge where we crossed over the River Great Ouse.

Willow Bridge, St Neots

Instead of taking the direct route back to Cambridge Gareth took us south past the power station to Little Barford and on to Tempsford. This is a route we rarely use and due to construction works it was completely free of traffic. At Tempsford we turned east and set course for Cambridge. At last we had the wind behind us, so our speed increased, interrupted only by the always-surprising steep climb up to Everton.

The climb from Tempsford to Everton

From Everton we took a more or less direct route through Wareseley and Great Gransden to Caxton. We continued east to Bourn where we joined the B1046 for the final few miles through Toft, Comberton and Barton to Cambridge.

When we reached Newnham on the edge of Cambridge we stopped for tea at John's house - in what is easily the best street in what is apparently the second-best place to live in Britain.

By now it was about 4.30pm and we were about half an hour late but it didn't matter: there was still plenty of excellent sandwiches and cakes left. The afternoon ride was already there together with quite a few other members, and we all enjoyed a lovely hour or so sitting outside in the late afternoon sunshine.

Tea in Newnham

After tea it took me about ten minutes to return back home. It was still light and the sun was still shining, but the temperature had dropped noticeably, reminding me that it was still only March. I arrived back at 5.15pm, having cycled 65 miles.


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