Sunday, 14 September 2014

14 Sep: All-day ride to Newmarket, Chippenham and Wicken

Nigel writes: There were six riders at Brookside for the first stage of today's all-day ride: Rupert, Lynn, Neil, Jim, me and our leader Eva. The weather today was once again warm, dry and fairly sunny - perfect for a gentle trundle through the flat but pretty lanes north and east of Newmarket.


We set off east from Brookside, across Parker's Piece and down to the river. We continued east across Midsummer Common and Stourbridge Common to Ditton Meadows, where we turned away from the river to head for Fen Ditton.

Ditton Meadows

We continued from Fen Ditton to Quy, Swaffham Bulbeck and then into the fens to Reach.

In the fens near Reach

In the fens near Reach

From Reach we continued to Burwell and then along the heath road to Exning. From here it was just two or three miles along the A142 into Newmarket. This is a rather dull, busy road so when we reached the outskirts of Newmarket, I assumed we would be following NCN 51 through the local housing estates into the town centre. However this wasn't in Eva's plan so there was some confusion after which I found myself leading a small breakaway group along a typically poorly-signposted section of the national cycle network. Fortunately we met Keith coming the other way so he was able to show us the route and shout for me to come back when I overshot a turning.

Shared horseway and cycleway, Newmarket

A few minutes later we arrived in the town centre where we stopped for coffee at Coffee & Co.

Coffee & Co, Newmarket

Coffee & Co in Newmarket is one of my favourite stopping places. It's relatively pricy, and the staff seem to get easily overwhelmed by a sudden influx of customers, but we are always made very welcome, the coffee and cakes are good, and the tables outside provide a quiet and very pleasant place to sit and relax. As usual, several additional members joined us here including Joseph, Geoff, Adrian and Cheryl.

After coffee we set off once more towards our lunch stop in Chippenham. A combination of leavers and joiners had swelled our numbers slightly to eight.

Climbing out of Newmarket on the Moulton Road

It was only a very short distance to Chippenham so Eva took us on a big anticlockwise loop east to Moulton and Gazeley and then north through Kentford and Herringswell to Barton Mills.


Near Herringswell

At Barton Mills we crossed the busy A14 and then turned west towards Worlington and Freckenham. Along the way Eva spotted a £5 note on the ground (which we subsequently spent on a couple of shared pots of tea at Wicken).

Near Freckenham

We turned south to Chippenham and a few minutes later arrived at La Hogue farm shop and cafe where we stopped for lunch.

This was my second visit (my first visit had been on the remarkable day last winter when about twenty-four people came on the ride, and the cafe accepted a huge booking at short notice), and once again I was impressed by the quality of food and in particular by the rapid, efficient service.

Setting off after lunch at La Hogue

After lunch we set off back north for the short journey to Wicken for a windmill visit and tea. We rode round the edge of Chippenham Park back to Chippenham and from there followed the B1085 and B1102 to Fordham.

Skirting Chippenham Park

We rode through Fordham up to a big junction with the A142. Fortunately we didn't have to ride around the roundabout and were able to use a conveniently-located cycle/footbridge instead.

Bridge over A142 near Soham

From the A142/A1123 roundabout to Wicken is just about three miles along the A1123, but since this is a relatively busy road and we were not in any hurry we decided to try an off-road route instead. We ride north towards Wicken for half a mile where everyone apart from me turned left onto a rough byway which offered an off-road route all the way into Wicken. I had my mind set on a slightly longer route which involved slightly less off-road distance, so continued north into Soham before turning left onto a minor road and then onto another rough byway to Wicken.

Byway between Soham and Wicken

This route probably gets quite muddy in the winter but at this time of year it was completely dry and fairly straightforward to ride, though very bumpy. But it was nice to explore a new route and avoid the busier A1123. When I reached Wicken, which was about ten minutes before the others, I headed straight to the windmill. Today's ride was our annual "windmill ride" to celebrate the day when many local windmills were open. Last year we marked it by visiting three windmills, but today we were visiting only one.

Before long the others arrived and we spent a very interesting half hour climbing up inside the windmill and being shown the various mechanisms.

Wicken Windmill

We left the windmill and rode the short distance along the high street to Wicken Methodish Church, where we stopped for tea. Mike S was already there and after a while we were joined by the afternoon ride.

Wicken Methodish Church

After an enjoyable and inexpensive tea we set off back towards Cambridge. Most of the all-day ride had left before me so I rode back with Eva and Jim and the four riders who had come on the afternoon ride: John F, Simon, Alex and Ray.

Heading home through Wicken Fen

This was a pleasant trundle back through Wicken Fen and along the Lodes Way to Lode, where Eva and Jim left us to take a cross-country off-road route west to Horningsea.

Burwell Fen

The final few miles took us through Bottisham, Quy and Fen Ditton and then across the meadows and commons back into Cambridge. I arrived home just before 6pm, having cycled 71 miles.

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

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