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.

Croydon

Croydon

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

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.

Ashwell

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.

Bygrave

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.

Cromer

Sandon

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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