Thursday, 29 May 2014

29 May: Thursday ride to Balsham and Kentford

Edward writes: After the last few days of rain it was a relief to arrive in Hauxton in fairly mild weather but, most importantly, no rain. This was a good start and the forecast said it would be dull all day, with the possibility of the odd shower, and this was how it turned out. Thus we left Hauxton with about fourteen joining us for our excursion into the countryside to Kentford by way of Balsham. As to be expected we went from Hauxton to Little Shelford and then joined the cycleway at Whittlesford church over to Sawston.


When we reached Sawston high street we turned right and headed south out of the village so that we could join the beginning of the new cycleway along the A505. This cycleway isn’t quite finished, requiring a top surface from the Pampisford turning all the way to the underpass at Great Abington. It seemed a worthwhile exercise as we knew that the contractors were not working this week so we had an uninterrupted ride for its full length.

A505 cycleway

A505 cycleway

In Great Abington we passed the Granta science park, but shortly afterwards Eva had a puncture which, as is the way of things, Mike C was on hand to get her on the road again. When we reached Hildersham we turned right and went along the back road in Linton and climbed to Balsham by way of Rivey Hill, arriving at the Black Bull shortly after 11 am.

Great Abington

Needless to say we met several other members there including Jacob who, by the state of his bike, had enjoyed a cross country experience, Adrian, probably also via a cross country route, Geoff, Jerry, Joseph and Mike S. Also present was Peter W who was in club tops distribution mode, and was later to join us for the rest of the ride. We all sat outside for coffee which at £2.70 a cup was a little on the expensive side.


After coffee a few headed for home and still about fourteen set out for the long ride out to Kentford. From Balsham we went across to West Wickham and out to Wratting Common and then on to Withersfield. Now we settled down to enjoy nice countryside and, although the skies looked a bit threatening at times. never really amounted to anything and the rain stayed away. Somewhere along here Peter got a puncture and luckily he was riding with Mike C who gave him his usual assistance.

West Wickham

Next up was Little Thurlow and at the junction we went straight across for the road which took us up to the A143; this was slightly different to our normal route to the A143 and, although it put us on it for another half mile, it was a nice change. We now left the main road and went into the country passing through Cowlinge, Lidgate and Dalham and it was only after Dalham that puddles on the road told us that we had just missed a heavy downpour. As it was we did finally run into some light misty rain, but it was nothing serious. After Gazeley another couple of miles brought us to Kentford and the Animal Health Trust at about 1.30 pm and 38 miles.

The Trust is becoming a firm favourite with the Thursday riders and worth the long trip to get there. After lunch there was some more persistent drizzle as we started the afternoon session which led us along the B1506 to the Moulton turning and now began some hill work as we moved into some undulating country, particularly the climb up to Cheveley. Of course, the climbs bring with it some very satisfactory long descents. We threaded our way through the villages of Saxon Street, Little Ditton and Woodditton before reaching Stetchworth and another nice descent into Dullingham.

West Wratting

In Dullingham we made the turning that took us to the Brinkley-SixMile Bottom junction where Eva, Peter and Sean left us with the rest of us carrying on to West Wratting and Balsham where Jacob left to take the route into Cambridge via Fulbourn. Finally, down to the last seven, we went down to Hildersham, Great Abington, over the farm track into Babraham and Sawston. We arrived back in Little Shelford to complete the ride at 5 pm, after 68 miles. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

28 May: Evening ride to Hemingford Abbots

Nigel writes: Today was dull, cool and drizzly, and the only people who turned out for this evening's ride were Jim and me.

After waiting for a couple of minutes for any latecomers, the two of us set off. We rode through the City Centre, up Castle Hill and out along the Huntingdon Road to Girton Corner. From there we rode through Girton village and a few minutes later turned onto the busway for a brisk ride to St Ives. As we rode along, patches of drizzle came and went but it remained mostly dry.From St Ives we continued west along the Thicket Path to Houghton.


We crossed the Ouse Meadows to Hemingford Abbots and after a brief excursion west across Eastside Common and back, stopped for drinks at The Axe and Compasses. This pub has changed hands since our last visit but it remains similar to before, and importantly a portion of chips remains on the menu at £2.50.

Afterwards the two of us set off back home, through Hemingford Grey to St Ives and then along the busway back to Cambridge. I arrived home at 9.55pm, having cycled 37 miles.

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Sunday, 25 May 2014

25 May: All-day ride to Newmarket, West Stow and Wicken

Conrad writes: Today, I surpassed myself by only getting ready to leave the house at 9am so there was no way I could have made it to Brookside in time. I decided to pour myself an espresso, kick back and relax, secure in the thought that Newmarket is not that far from where I live. I made my way out of Cherry Hinton went through Fulbourn to get to the Wilbrahams. Somewhere along the way, I met Paul Dover, who was also on his way to coffee.

We had to stop just before the intersection at Six Mile Bottom, where the road goes under the main road because it was flooded! I know my ride experience is nowhere close to some of the others in the club but this was the first time in five years that I have seen that road flooded. There was no way to walk around the floodwaters so Paul and I bravely cycled through. Alright, I lie. It was Paul who bravely cycled through while I gingerly pedalled behind, making sure I followed his exact line.

We then climbed and turned left to Dullingham, where we took the B1061 straight into Newmarket. On the high street, just before the turn into Coffee and Co, we met Eva who was leading a large group of riders that obviously did not share my late tendencies. In total, we had about 20 riders at Coffee and Co and we were soon joined by Peter and Leslie who had a boot-full of new club jerseys to distribute.


We were just about to leave when the more observant amongst us heard a crunching sound as a car was driven over the road hump in front of Coffee and Co and some shouted to the driver to stop. I was oblivious to the earlier sound and feared the worst when I heard the shouting but it turned out that one of the car-tyres had gone flat. Fortunately for the driver, Keith B very kindly offered to stay behind and help.

Eva led 11 riders, less Keith, out of Newmarket, up through Moulton where we passed the Pack Horse Bridge and took the long climb up to Gazeley. Turning left, we cycled to Kenford, by which time Keith had heroically managed to catch up with us. Through no fault of his own, Keith had been unable to help the driver because her spare was dented so badly he couldn't fit the spare tire and so the driver had to call for roadside assistance.

Eva then led us over the A14 and then turned right at Dane Hill Road to Tuddenham. We then turned South East on Cavenham road, before making the turn to Lackford. It was only 12:30 pm so instead of going directly to West Stow, Eva led us on an anti-clockwise loop through the forest and finally to the Anglo Saxon Park at West Stow.

It was my first visit there and as I had packed my own lunch, I can't comment on the food offerings, but it was a very pleasant place. We set off at 1:45pm taking the other route out of West Stow and retraced our steps through Lackford and Tuddenham before turning right to cross the A11 at Barton Mills.

This is a tricky crossing even though one could cross two lanes at a time. We were all bunched up in the middle of the road divider waiting for a break in the traffic when, call it good karma for Keith's good deeds earlier in the day, or divine intervention or whatever, but two cars stopped on the A11, and waited for us to cross. I was frankly stunned by this gracious act and what's even more surprising is that three days after the ride, I have yet to see a story in the local newspapers with the headline "Cyclists cause 200 metre tailback and delays of 30 seconds by doing something completely safe and legal".

From Barton Mills, Eva led us through Worlington, Isleham and then into Soham. We then followed the A road into Wicken where today's tea stop was at the Methodist Church.


The afternoon ride arrived shortly after and there must have been at least 25 club riders there. With such a large number of riders, it was inevitable that we would split and leave in two groups. Eva led my group through the usual way through Lode Way into Bottisham and then Stow Cum Quy. Most of my group proceeded to Fen Ditton while I made my own way back to Cherry Hinton. I cycled 70 miles today which was probably slightly less than those who had started at Brookside. Conrad Chua

Friday, 23 May 2014

22 May: Thursday ride to Ashwell and Ardeley

Edward writes: Last Thursday was the perfect ride in a perfect day; this Thursday was a day of contrasts with sun, showers, thunder and lightning. This week we met at Haslingfield Green and when we left there were about fourteen of us and this number was to remain like this all day notwithstanding the usual comings and goings at coffee.

Head boy today was Jacob, assisted by his Garmin, and he led us away from Haslingfield with a brisk climb up our old friend Chapel Hill which took us down into Barrington.



It should be said that the weather in the morning was perfectly pleasant being slightly less hot than the previous few days, thus making for good cycling conditions. We soon passed through Barrington and made our way up to Orwell before briefly joining the A603 and then turned for Wimpole Hall. This took us through the grounds of the hall and out to the road through Arrington and Croydon. This could have meant a slog up Croydon Hill but luckily Jacob had a better idea and we turned away and headed back to the A603 for the short trip to the little road which connects Wendy to Guilden Morden. How times have changed - this little connecting road a month or two back was hardly fit for the stagecoach era but now its potholes have been filled in and a new surface laid and it has moved forward a century or two. Another twist in the route here as we now made our way to Abington Piggots which is a really nice diversion before arriving in Litlington.

Abington Piggots

Abington Piggots

This now left us to go through Steeple Morden and finally our first stop of the day at the ever-popular Day's cake shop.


Ashwell always a popular coffee stop and it was very pleasant either sitting on the bench under the new tree which is growing quite rapidly or relaxing in the little cottage garden on the other side of the road. The garden was supremely colourful and a real pleasure to look at and a credit to those responsible for its upkeep.


After an enjoyable break it was time to move on and after a slight hitch with the Garmin we climbed out of Ashwell and headed off to Bygrave which as the hills peak give wonderful views over the countryside. It was now downhill into Baldock and after negotiating the town took the road to Weston but not before an extremely steep climb out of the town. After a lot of huffing and puffing we all made it to the top and settled down for the ride into Weston which led on to a very attractive part of the route using lanes rarely used on our Thursday rides thus making it very interesting for both new and old hands. We went through Hall’s Green and here it was all very undulating before a descent to cross the A1307 and the final climb up to Ardley Church Farm and lunch.


Weston to Ardeley

In Ardley there is also the pub which can be used for lunch, the farm shop itself and outside ample space for those with packed lunches. As we we took lunch was the point when the weather deteriorated as a thunder storm circled overhead and soon began the first heavy downpour of the day; luckily we were all under cover. At 2 pm we were ready to start the afternoon session and the good news was that it wasn’t raining even though, looking up to the skies, it didn’t look promising as dark rain clouds were all around us. So off we set and went by the windmill at Cromer and then set a northerly bearing to take us through to Rushden before branching off to go into Sandon. So far we seemed to be having good luck as we made our way under increasingly glowering skies as Sandon gave way to Kelshall and Therfield and then a very fast downhill through the golf course to an abrupt stop as the bottom of the hill leads out to the A505 and lots of fast traffic. We had to do a couple hundred yards on this road which had to be crossed to get into Litlington and thence to Bassingbourn.



At last our luck ran out and the rain started, although not too heavy at first and it was only in Bassingbourn that the real fun and games began. We left Bassingbourn in increasingly heavy rain and a rapid drop in temperature and by the time we were heading for Meldreth the heavens opened with a deluge of hail and even with helmets our faces and heads were stinging with the impact.

Unfortunately, at Mettle Hill just before Meldreth Averil got a puncture and several pairs of cold hands struggled with the tyre before getting her underway again. Although it was still raining hard we decided there was no point in trying to shelter as we were all soaked anyway so we pressed on into Meldreth and Shepreth finishing the ride back in Haslingfield with another climb over Chapel Hill. This was a trip of 55 miles and in fact a splendid ride which used some roads not often seen on our Thursday outings, so our thanks to Jacob for giving us such a good day out defeating all attempts by the weather to dampen our spirits. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

21 May: Evening ride to Barrington

Conrad writes: I arrived at Brookside with my customary 2 minutes to spare to find Eva, Carol, Klaus, Neil, Chris, Mark and Emma already there. We left Brookside and took the usual route down Trumpington Road, through the Shelfords, Whittlesford and Duxford.

We were making good progress and so we took the long climb up to Elmdon instead of the shortcut to Royston Lane. We regrouped in Elmdon and then climbed further to catch the beginning of what turned out to be a beautiful sunset. We descended to Chrishall Grange and then crossed the A505 towards Fowlmere, Crossing the A10, we entered Shepreth and finally we reached the Royal Oak in Barrington at about 8:20 pm.

Sunset from the Royal Oak

I didn't join the others at the pub as I wanted to visit my colleague who lives in Barrington. After tucking into some home-made cheesecake and key lime pie, I took my leave and rejoined the others at the Royal Oak, just in time to catch this photo of the sunset. Chris made his own way home while the rest of us climbed Chapel Hill and returned to Cambridge. It was about 9:30 pm when I passed Brooklands Avenue after cycling 31 miles. Conrad Chua

Sunday, 18 May 2014

18 May: Ride around Maidwell, Northamptonshire (car-assisted)

Adrian writes: Eleven members, Mike C, Ed, David W, Craig Frances (with Molly their dog in her basket), Roger and Lesley, Steve G, Vic S, John T and me arrived at Maidwell picnic area in Northamptonshire for today's car-assisted ride. The start point is on an old railway line, now NCN 6. With perfect weather all day, sunshine and hardly any wind we knew this was going to be a lovely day out compared with the last time we did this route.

We headed north under the A14 and entered the first of the two tunnels that we would be riding through before coffee. The surface inside both was very uneven and quite slippery from the water dripping off the roof. Both tunnels are unlit, but most of us had brought our own lights and all got through without any problems.

After the second tunnel we looked out for the sign to a café which is beside some fishing lakes. This had fallen down and was lying in the hedgerow but luckily everybody found the café and we sat outside enjoying the coffee and cakes in the sunshine.

Coffee stop

After coffee we carried on north along NCN 6 into Market Harborough and then along the towpath of a branch of the Grand Union Canal that goes to Market Harborough Basin in the town.

We followed the canal north towards the bottom of Foxton Locks but stopped on the way to mend Vic's puncture.

After Foxton Locks we went north on the main canal to Debdale Wharf where we left the canal and used a bridleway to the village of Smeeton Westerby. I had been thinking of having lunch in the pub there but as it didn't open for another half an hour so we decided to carry on to Saddington, the next village, and visit the pub there that we had used in the past. When we arrived some ordered food and sat outside while the others ate their sandwiches in the garden.

Setting off after lunch in Saddington

After lunch the route was all on road, we went via Shearsby, Upper Bruntingthorpe, Walton, North Kilworth and then onto the village of Sibbertoft which has a village hall open for tea and cakes which of cause we used as we have done on previous trips, the ladies are very friendly and the cakes lovely just like our local church hall teas.

After Sibbertoft we went south to Naseby but on the way David had a puncture. I stayed with him to mend it and told the others to carry on as up the road about a mile was the Battle of Naseby Monument and they could wait for us there. David repaired the puncture and we soon caught up with the others and carried on to Naseby village.

We stopped in Naseby to see if anybody was in a hurry to get back home as there is a road that goes straight back to Maidwell but everybody was keen to carry on cycling and sp we carried on via some very hilly roads through Thornby to Guilsborough where David had yet another puncture in the same wheel. After close inspection he found the tyre wall was split, but luckily he carries a spare tyre and we were soon on our way again.

We rode through Teeton then east up another hill to Spratton and towards Brixworth. This took us close to another steep hill which no-one was looking forward to climbing, but fortunately when we arrived at the NCN 6 railway path we were able to follow it north along the flat back to our start point.

It was after 6pm when we got back home. The distance today was not high (about 50 miles) but everybody said they had had a good day. Thanks to all those who came. Adrian Lee

18 May: Sunday longer ride to Southill, Whitwell and Ashwell

Nigel writes: Today was forecast to be the hottest day of the year so far, with clear skies, bright sunshine and very warm temperatures predicted for the whole day. By a happy coincidence this was the day of one of Gareth's occasional longer rides, starting slightly earlier than usual at 8.30am and riding slightly further, and slightly faster, than usual. I arrived at Brookside to find Gareth waiting with John, Seb and Malcolm, making five in total.

After introducing ourselves to each other we set off and cycled south-west out of Cambridge along Barton Road. We soon discovered we were a well-matched group. The pace was fast from the start, with Gareth leading from the front and the rest of us following in a close peloton behind him, occasionally taking turns to ride at the front. Fast rides don't give me much opportunity to take photos, but when we reached Toft I managed to get the group to pause by the church long enough for me to take my first picture.


The purpose of today's ride was to explore the countryside beyond Hitchin and Stevenage in Hertfordshire, an area which lies at the periphery of our usual range for day trips from Cambridge. Today was not a day to explore lanes closer to home, so Gareth's route to our first refreshment stop in Southill took us straight there, via Bourn, Gamlingay, Potton and Biggleswade, reaching the Village tea Rooms in Southill at 10.10am, rather earlier than planned.


Unfortunately the tea rooms didn't open until 10.30am, but once the proprietor had discovered our plight she invited us in anyway. This was my first visit and it seems a lovely place. We ordered food and drinks and sat down at a table in their large garden to consume them. Since the place hadn't officially opened yet we were the only customers there, but after a while other people began to arrive and we were told that were expecting 320 cyclists on a charity ride later in the day.


At about 10.45am we set off again. John left the group to ride home, leaving four of us to continue south towards our lunch stop in Whitwell. We were now cycling along quiet lanes, and the pace of our ride reduced just slightly, especially as the landscape gradually become hillier.

At Hexton, a small village near Barton le Clay, we passed the Lavender Tea Room at the village hall. There were bikes parked outside which suggested it might be suitable as a future coffee or lunch stop. You can see a photo here and opening times here.

We reached Whitwell at about 12.15pm and stopped for lunch at Emily's Tea room. As on our last visit, it was busy with cyclists and almost no-one else. After lunch we were just getting ready to set off when Conrad arrived. He had taken a longer route via Puckeridge and Ware, approaching Whitwell from the south. He went in to order lunch, and the rest of us set off for a loop to the south before turning north towards our tea stop in Ashwell.

The most southerly point of our ride was Ayot St Lawrence, a tiny village famous for being the location of Shaw's Corner, the house where George Bernard Shaw lived for many years, and which is now in the care of the National Trust. We paused outside to take a quick look.

Shaw's Corner, Ayot St Lawrence

It was now time to head back north, along more narrow lanes to St Paul's Walden and then around the edge of Letchworth to Baldock. We reached Ashwell at 3pm and stopped for tea at the Parish Church Rooms. We were very early, but after a while were joined by Conrad, Mike S, and then eventually by the afternoon ride.

The four of us were the first to arrive, and the first to set off for home. With the purpose of our ride achieved, we took a fairly direct (but very pleasant) route to Cambridge via Bassingbourn and Chapel Hill, riding back into Cambridge along the Barton Road.

It was about 5.30pm when we arrived in Newnham on the edge of Cambridge. When we reached the junction with Grange Road Gareth turned north, leaving Malcolm, Seb and me to continue east towards the City Centre. Earlier in the day I had mentioned the ice cream kiosk by the paddling pool on Lammas Land, and since we were very close Malcolm was keen to try it. The paddling pool itself was dry, but the park was busy with local families playing in the late afternoon sunshine. We bought 99's and sat down on the grass nearby to eat them. After a pleasant twenty minutes relaxation we set off once more on our way. Seb and I were almost home, but Malcolm still had another 15 miles to go. I arrived home a few minutes later at 6pm, having cycled 91 miles.

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Thursday, 15 May 2014

Thursday 15th May: Lunch time in Clare. Read the full report.

15 May: Thursday ride to Horseheath and Clare

Edward writes: Last week we had abysmal weather - cold and wet - but what a difference seven days makes! Today we were blessed with warmth, a blue sky and so little wind that it was never a feature of the day. In fact this was one of those days you wish you could roll it up and take round with you and bring out for days on the bike.

This week we met at Hauxton Green and, no surprises here, we had twenty riders assembled for the trip out to Horseheath and then on to Clare, and this week we were under the expert eye of Mike C. This week we welcomed Sean who was making his first appearance with the Thursday group, having previously been out on the club’s weekend rides.


With so many we split into two groups and left Hauxton up to Whittlesford where we joined the cycle way over to Sawston and as we passed Whittlesford Church a cuckoo was heard.


We went through Sawston and joined the other cycleway to Babraham and then on to the much improved farm track through to Great Abington.

Babraham to Great Abington

A slight hitch to the plans occurred here as the second group took the back road via Hildersham whereas the first group went through the Great Abington and also through Hildersham village. The result of this was that the second group, on the slightly shorter route, got in front of the lead group. None of this really mattered as the difference in mileage was negligible.


We passed through Linton, back over the A1307 and down into Bartlow followed by the climb up to the turning for Shudy Camps.

Bartlow to Shudy Camps

We continued with another gentle climb through Shudy Camps and then the tiny hamlets of Mill Green and Cardinal's Green before making another crossing of the A1307 (Upset Driver No 1) into Horseheath where we stopped for coffee and cakes at the ever-welcoming Old Red Lion Inn.

Cardinal's Green

Not unexpectedly we were greeted by more members and one count made twenty six in total. We all sat outside in the sunshine and enjoyed the fare on offer and as usual we were extremely well looked after. It’s worth reminding members that the Old Red Lion is hosting a cycling event on the day of the tour and are inviting clubs to join them.


After leaving the pub, again in two groups, we went along to West Wickham and over Wratting Common before joining the always popular cross country route via Little Thurlow to the A143.

Little Thurlow

Along here a buzzard could be seen overhead (as well as Upset Driver No 2 who passed us with a volley of abuse). Once on the A134 we passed the prison at Stradishall and turned off the main road for a short loop before coming back to the A134 which we crossed and then headed for Denston. This brought us to a most attractive section of our ride as the lanes were narrow with grass growing in the middle as we passed through Assington Green. It should be said how fabulous the countryside looked under the sunshine with May blossom on the hedgerows and of course the ever present Queen Annes's Lace and many other colours which made a very attractive backdrop to our ride.


It's also notable how the seasons move on as the brilliant yellow of the oil seed rape starts to fade away and the corn crops become more evident. Our next village was Poslingfield and a last downhill took us into Clare arriving at about 1.30 pm. and 38 miles. The time didn’t matter as lunch is not booked here so some had packed lunches in the park where the last vestiges of the old railway can still be seen, others ate in The Cock and yet others had fish and chips.


After lunch we all assembled outside The Cock before starting the return leg which took us up to Hundon and shortly after into Kedington and a crossing of the A143 which took us into Great Wratting. Again we were on narrow country lanes taking us up to Withersfield and the second crossing of Wratting Common but this time heading for West Wratting. In this village the group divided into two with about half heading off to Six Mile Bottom and thence into Cambridge whilst the last remaining eight carried on into Balsham before heading down into Hildersham and Great Abington, back over the farm track to Babraham and Sawston. We finished the ride via Stapleford and Great Shelford and the last four of Belinda, Sharon, Craig and David W completed the full circuit running up 64 miles. This was a splendid ride in perfect weather, in fact one for the scrapbook, and so our thanks to Mike C for taking us round. Edward Elmer

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