Nigel writes: Today was clear and sunny, with a light but surprisingly cold westerly wind. At Brookside for the first leg of today's ride were John, John, Tracy, Peter H, Neil T, Conrad, Angela, Steve and me. We didn't have an official leader for today's ride but I had quickly prepared a route last night and so suggested I lead. We set off east out of Cambridge along the Barton Road cycleway to Barton.
We turned south to Haslingfield and then climbed Chapel Hill before descending the other side to Barrington.
From Barrington we continued through Shepreth before crossing the A10 to Fowlmere. We crossed the A505 to Chrishall Grange and then rode along Royston Lane and Grange Road to Ickleton, where we stopped for coffee at the Riverside Cafe. Along the way we saw Bob and Myrtle and when we arrived at the cafe we found Mike St, Mick C and several other members already enjoying coffee and cake at one of our favourite morning coffee stops.
After coffee the majority of the group set off back to Cambridge, with Peter leading a group of about six. This left four of us to carry on to lunch in Great Bardfield: Conrad, Steve, David W and me.
Opposite the entrance to Ickleton Barns is a concrete farm road which takes you to the foot of Coploe Hill. We climbed this and as we descended down the other side I suggested we turned left to Littlebury. This took us past Howe Wood which is famous for its springtime bluebells which today formed a carpet of blue beneath the trees.
From Littlebury we took the B184 into Saffron Walden and then rode up the main street (which surely needs to be resurfaced before The Tour passes though here in the summer) until we reached the junction with Debden Road. We were soon back out in the countryside, making rapid progress to Debden and from there to Thaxted,
From Thaxted we took a series of particularly quiet and lovely lanes to Great Bardfield, where three three of us stopped for lunch at the Blue Egg Cafe. It was 12.45pm. Already at the cafe we found Mike St, Doug and Adrian.
The Blue Egg Cafe is well-known for the quality of food as well and I found it difficult to decide what to have to eat since almost everything on display looked lovely. They also have a large shop selling food and various crafts, but for cyclists it's also famous for its association with cycle racing. Apparently Mark Cavendish (champion cyclist) has a house in the area and sometimes visits.
After lunch we spent some time chatting to a group from Havering CTC before setting off for the third leg of today's ride, to West Wratting for tea. Steve and Adrian set off in one direction, no doubt intending to have a bit of off-road cycling along the way, whilst Conrad and I set off in the other. The two of us initially rode north-east along some delightful wooded lanes to Stambourne before turning west for Steeple Bumpstead, Helions Bumpsted and Horseheath. We were now riding into the wind, so progress was slower than before, but by way of compensation the day seemed to have warmed up at last and I took off my arm-warmers.
Conrad and I arrived at The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting at about 3.35pm. Adrian, Steve and Mike were already there. We were too early for tea so we waited outside in the sunshine. After a while we were joined by Peter and Lesley who had brought their minivan with a selection of club tops for order.
Just before 4pm Eva arrived with the afternoon ride - a good turnout with about 11 riders - and we all went inside for tea. This was a classic club tea, with platefuls of sandwiches and cakes served with tea and coffee for a fixed price of £4.50.
This was a typically social and convivial occasion and it was great to be able to see lots of faces I'd not seen for some time.
Afterwards we all got ready to set off for home. It was about 5pm.
After a short discussion of possible routes, Eva announced that she would lead the afternoon ride back to Cambridge via Wadlow Farm, Six Mile Bottom, the Wilbrahams and Fulbourn. However with the sun still high in the sky, and sunset still three hours away, I was keen to prolong my ride. I suggested to Cheryl that if she was interested in cycling all the way home to Ely (rather than taking the train from Cambridge) I would keep her company, and she gamely accepted.
For the first few miles to Dullingham we were joined by Keith. Then he turned east for Newmarket whilst Cheryl and I continued north to Swaffham Bulbeck and via the Lodes Way to Wicken.
This was a lovely - and unexpected - coda to my trip, an easy flat ride along empty roads and tracks through Padney and Barway and finally finishing with a couple of miles along the Ouse floodbank into Ely.
I said goodbye to Cheryl and then rode up to Ely Station for the short £2.85 train ride back to Cambridge. I had been concerned that I hadn't brought lights, but the sun was still shining brightly when I arrived home at 7.30pm, having cycled 88 miles, making this my second-longest ride of the year so far.
View this GPS track on a larger map. Download GPS track (GPX).