Sunday, 4 May 2014

4 May: All-day ride to Saffron Walden, Great Dunmow and Ashdon

Nigel writes: Only two weeks after the last bank holiday, another one comes around. A holiday weekend and the prospect of warm weather usually means reduced turnout on club rides, but today there were still nine riders at Brookside for today's ride: Conrad, leading yet again, Ian, Tom, Jim, Li and Pete as well as relative newcomers Mark, Mike and David C. Conrad led us west out of Cambridge along the Barton Road cycleway to Barton, where we turned south towards Haslingfield.

Barton

We climbed Chapel Hill and paused for the customary rest at the top. It had been quite cold overnight but the sun had come out the temperature was rising steadily.

Chapel Hill

We zoomed down Chapel Hill to Barrington and continued through Shepreth and across the A10 to Fowlmere. Here we turned south and crossed the A505 on our way to Chrishall Grange.

Crossing the A505 south of Fowlmere

At Chrishall Grange we turned onto Royston Lane. This long, narrow and quite hilly road has long been a club favourite despite the very the poor surface and offers some surprisingly fine views.

Royston Lane

A summit on Royston Lane

We followed Royston Lane all the way to the end, past Howe Wood (still a carpet of bluebells), over the M11 and down into Littlebury. A few miles further we arrived in Saffron Walden where we stopped for coffee at The Temeraire.

Several members were already there, including Greta, Mick C, Adrian, Geoff, Mike S, Edward and probably one or two others. We ordered coffee and slices of carrot cake and sat outside in the warm sunshine catching up on each other's news.

Coffee stop at The Temeraire, Saffron Walden

After coffee we regrouped, with Pete, Jim and Ian returning home and Geoff joining us for the next stage of the ride to lunch in Great Dunmow. In addition Adrian and Mike would be riding to lunch at their own pace.

We set off up the High Street (still potholed despite being on the TdF route) and out along the road to Debden. When we reached the cross-roads north of Debden we regrouped once more, with Tom, Geoff and Li taking a direct route whilst the rest of us took a slightly longer route via Henham.

Henham

We continued south to Molehill Green and Takeley. This took us around the perimeter of Stansted Airport but as always it was invisible behind the trees, with only the stream of Ryanair jets flying low overhead showing that there was an airport there at all.

At Takeley we turned onto the Flitch Way, a disused railway now converted into a unsurfaced cycle and pedestrian path, and signposted as NCN 16. Despite the lack of a sealed surface the path was dry and fairly smooth and made a pleasant change from the busy roads around Stansted.

The Flitch Way between Takeley and Great Dunmow

The Flitch Way took us east for two miles to the edge of Great Dunmow. We rejoined the road for the final two miles into the town centre. We stopped for lunch at Deb's Diner, a friendly cafe just north of the centre beside a small lake. We had visited this place several times in the past but this was my first visit since it had taken its present incarnation as a tex-mex diner. I am pleased to report that it is as pleasant as ever and still serves baked potatoes and beans as well as more exotic fare, all at very reasonable prices. A welcome consequence of its American influence is that it now serves rather yummy milkshakes.

Lunch at Deb's Diner, Great Dunmow

After lunch, the group divided yet again to allow everyone to ride on to tea in Ashdon at the speed that suited them best. I stayed with Conrad, Mark, Mike and David. We rode more or less directly there: north along the B1057 to Great Bardfield and then along quieter roads to Little Sampford. There we turned onto the B1063 towards Radwinter. We were pleased to discover that this road has been recently resurfaced, perhaps in anticipation for the forthcoming Tour de France which will use this road in July. Whatever the reason, the new surface was a pleasure to ride on.

We arrived in Ashdon at 3pm and stopped for tea and cakes at the village museum. We were an hour early, and after a pleasant stop we were back on the road by 3.45pm.Because of our early departure we didn't have a chance to meet the afternoon riders.

Our route back to Cambridge took us north through Bartlow and across the A1307, with Conrad, Mark, David and Mike setting a brisk pace and forcing me to ride along behind at a faster speed than I would otherwise taken. A short distance further on Conrad left us to return home via Balsham, leaving the remaining four to carry on north to West Wratting before enjoying a rapid descent to Six Mile Bottom.

A few miles further and we reached Little Wilbraham. David and Mike turned left towards Great Wilbraham leaving just Mark and me to continue at a more relaxed pace (phew!) into Cambridge via Quy and the Jubilee Cycleway. I arrived home at 4.50pm, having cycled 81 miles.


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