So instead of meeting at the train station, I turned up at Brookside to find only Eva, Jim and Carol waiting. It was a surprisingly low turnout given the glorious weather. Today's coffee stop was at Riverside Barns at Ickleton which was of course extremely close to Cambridge. So I decided against the direct route and went via Barton Road and Chapel Hill. The climb up Chapel Hill was just the thing to warm us and we stopped at the top for some welcome wardrobe adjustments. Then it was down to Shepreth, Fowlmere and across the A505. At Chrishall Grange, I decided to turn left and reach Duxford by Grange Road. We were still early so we took in a loop via Hinxton but Andy's bravery (you can ask Jim about this) was in short supply in this group and so none of us ventured into the ford.
Despite my heroic attempts to stretch out this first leg of the ride, including taking a wrong turn (intentionally of course) at the bottom of Butcher's Hill, we still arrived at Riverside Barns at 10.45am to find Mike S already there. Soon Adrian and Vic joined us. The weather was pleasant enough that we all sat outside.
Coffee at Ickleton Barns
Adrian and Vic headed back to Cambridge leaving the rest of us to take the farm road onto Coploe Hill. Only Mike S and I wanted to go onto lunch but Mike S wanted to go via Arkesden while I wanted to try a longer route. So Jim, Eva and Carol followed Mike S as far as Littlebury at which point they made their own way back to Cambridge. I had earlier turned right to Quicksett road where I then turned left to climb to Elmdon. Then it was a very pleasant descent down Essex Hill before climbing to Duddenhoe End, after which I wound my way through the Langleys, the Pelhams and then the straight road to the Hadhams. This stretch from Elmdon to the Pelhams is one of my favourite routes and I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to explore Essex.
I reached Much Hadham just after 1pm and Mike S arrived soon after. The lunch stop was Hopley's which is a small garden centre with a cafe and a very well maintained garden. Again, it was pleasant enough to sit outside.
Mike S and I left Hopley's at 2 and again we took different routes to tea. We both cycled together for the first part, retracing my route back up to Little Hadham, crossing the A120 but I chose to turn right towards Farnham while Mike S went straight and followed a route similar to what I did in the morning.
I had never been to Farnham so I was keen to explore. On the OS Map, there was a track at Farnham that looked like it could be a short cut through a park or estate. The sign that said no through road should have given me enough warning but I decided to try it anyway. It turns out the track led through what looked like a private estate where the owner had blockaded the path with what I can only describe as a phalanx of SUVs and for good measure, a rather loud guard dog housed in a huge cage. I thought better of it and retreated but I was then intrigued by a public bridleway that had a hint of a short cut. I followed that for a while but found myself in a field with a well-surfaced trail that was unfortunately overgrown with grass. I could still hear the guard dog barking (or baying for my blood) and I finally gave up. I got back on the road towards Manuden (which Craig later told me is a dangerous road for cyclists at peak periods on weekdays).
From Manuden, I turned right at the Yew Tree pub onto another one of my favourite roads. This is a narrow road that climbs to Rickling Green, after which I cycled via Rickling, Clavering, Langley Lower Green and I arrived at St Swithun's Church at Great Chishill just as the afternoon ride was pulling up.
This was a pop-up tea stop organised by one of Tina's contacts at the church. The cakes looked very good but I lost my appetite for solid food (but thankfully I did not lose any solid food) on that last climb to Great Chishill so settled for a nice big mug of coffee.
Great Chishill Church
The afternoon ride wanted more miles under their belt and they headed east while I was feeling the effects of all the climbing in the day and just took the shortest route going down to Flint Cross and returned to Cambridge at about 5.30pm. I had cycled 80 miles. Conrad Chua
Download GPS track (GPX).