Sunday, 20 April 2014

20 Apr: Sunday all-day ride to Ely, Welney and Wicken

Rupert writes: The advance weather forecast for today was terrible, with heavy rain forecast. So no big surprise to find myself as Billy-no-mates at Brookside just before the start. But they were wrong (again!) as it turned out to be a much better day than forecast with only a bit of occassional light rain along the route.

Thankfully Neil arrived just a couple of minutes before the start and avoided total wipeout for me as leader. After briefly considering if we needed to split into two groups, we set off along the towpath and headed for Waterbeach. The path was surprisingly busy with a lot of early morning runners and dog walkers, but a bit of Easter courtesy on both sides let us make steady progress. At Waterbeach we were joined by Eva and Jim before continuing on to Landbeach and Cottenham. There we took the tricky choice to head north along Long Drove - tricky because it is a quiet road but is also very bumpy due to the gaps in the old concrete base. At Wilburton we collected another cycling waif in the form of Steve and then took the usual route though Grunty Fen and Witchford into Ely.

Coffee was at Kemptons in Ely - a new stop which worked very well, letting us keep an eye on our bikes in the market squre from an upstairs room. There we met up with Vic, Roger and Leslie. Neil was leaving us after coffee but Roger
and Lesley joined us making a respectable total of 6 setting off for Welney. The rest of the route was straightforward as we headed first for Littleport and then followed the quiet road along the west bank of the river Ouse as far as
10-mile bank. You only get a few glimses of the river here as the road mostly follows the base of the river bank. But they are great views when they arrive with the first of two swans nests visible at the edge of the river on one of these sections (the second nest was at Wicken Fen).

At the 10 mile bank traffic lights (yes, there really are traffic lights here) we turned left to Welney. Today an easterly wind meant we had a welcome tailwind across to the Wetland Centre - a big contrast to last year when a strong westerly with a bit of rain made for hard riding on this section. The other big change this year seems to be a big increase in oilseed rape fields in the fen demonstrating how farm economics now favour these biofuel crops.

The Wetland centre was very quiet but provided their usual warm welcome and a good quality lunch stop with great views from the upstairs cafe. The route back from here is very straightforward as the fen roads don't give a lot of choices. First we head south from the Wetland Centre before turning east into a strengthening side wind through Little Downham and back to Ely to complete the figure of eight. Jim left us at Ely station to take the train back to Cambridge while the rest pressed on along the east river bank down the Sustrans route to Wicken for a welcome church tea sitting in the pews at St Lawrences church.

All too soon the clock was pressing us to move off as I reminded folk of the morning forecast for a band of heavy rain between 6 and 7pm. So we took the direct Lodes way route back to Cambridge going straight down the road from Lode
to Quy to save time. We got back to Cambridge just after 6pm having covered 76 miles. It was pretty good timing: the heavy rain started soon after I got home giving a neat conclusion to a day of extraordinary good luck with the weather.
We just had a little bit of drizzle around Littleport and again when leaving Wicken and no heavy rain all day. Anyone who stayed home in Cambridge missed out on a excellent day. Rupert Goodings

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