Sunday, 15 June 2014

15 Jun: Longer all-day ride to Great Bardfield, Great Saling and Ashdon

Nigel writes: Today the club had four separate rides. In addition to the normal all-day and afternoon rides we had a car-assisted ride in Derbyshire led by Adrian and a longer all-day ride led by Gareth. I decided to join the longer all-day ride and so turned up at Brookside at 8.30am for the slightly-earlier start to find that the only other person to turn up was Gareth himself. We set off south out of Cambridge, taking the usual route through the Shelfords, Whittlesford and Duxford to Ickleton. With a long day in prospect, today was not a day to climb Coploe Hill and so we took the direct route to Saffron Walden via Great Chesterford and Littlebury.

Today was cloudy, dry and surprisingly cool with a light northwesterly breeze, and remained much the same all day. As expected on a ride of this type, the pace was fast from the start (aided by the cool temperatures), and we made rapid progress, arriving at Saffron Walden just after 9.30am. We continued through the town without stopping, turning onto the B1053 east to Sewards End and Radwinter. At the right-turn just beyond Radwinter we spotted a rider in a CTC jersey approaching from a side road and paused briefly to allow us to see how it was. It was Malcolm, who was making his own way to the coffee stop to join us.

The three of us continued to Great Sampford and Little Sampford and a short while later arrived in Great Bardfield, where we stopped for coffee at The Blue Egg cafe. Already at the cafe was David W, which brought the number of people on today's ride to four.

After coffee we set off south for a loop through Stebbing, Felsted and Pleshey, where we stopped to inspect the motte and bailey castle.

Pleshey Castle More information

From Pleshey we turned back north, back to Felsted and on to Great Saling, where we stopped for lunch at Andrews Field. This rather unusual little cafe is at a small airfield, and you sit in the same room that is used to conduct airfield operations.

Arriving at Andrews Field

Andrews Field

After lunch we set of north to Shalford and then along some delightful narrow lanes to Finchingfield. We now had a slight headwind which increased steadily as the afternoon proceeded, but speeds were still quite high. From Finchingfield we turned north to Helions Bumpstead. After a brief stop at Castle Camps to look for traces of the castle we arrived at Ashdon Museum at 3.30pm.

Already at the museum cafe was Keith and after a while we were joined by Joseph and by Conrad, all of whom had made their way here independently. Somewhat later we were joined by the afternoon ride, about eight riders who were being led by Ray. It was nice to see several new faces and a couple of old faces I hadn't seen for some time.

We left the Ashdon Museum at 4.45pm and rode north for a couple of miles to Bartlow. Here we continued with today's theme of exploring ancient monuments by visiting Bartlow Hills. I had ridden through Bartlow dozens of times over the years, past Three Hills Farm and past the Three Hills pub, and was aware that hidden behind the trees there were some well-preserved burial mounds. However I had only ever seen them in the photos that Gareth published when he visited them in 2011 and was keen to experience them in person. There are no signs on the road telling you how to find the mounds, and so was surprised to discover that they are very close, accessed by a well-made path through the trees.

We followed the path and a few moments later arrived in a delightful clearing in the woods, and three huge mounds.

Roman Burial Mounds at Bartlow Hills. On the left is the highest burial mound in Britain.

(For the benefit of others, the path is directly opposite the entrance to Booking Hall, and is the middle of three possible paths. See it on the GPS track below and on Google Street View. The mounds are cared for by the local council, open at all times, and there is an information notice.)

View from the highest mound

After climbing two of the mounds and enjoying this charming secluded space we returned to the road and set off for home. I rode back with Gareth via West Wratting, Six Mile Bottom and Quy, and arrived home at 6.30pm, having cycled 97 miles.

View this GPS track on a larger map. Download GPS track (GPX).

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