Sunday, 29 June 2014

29 Jun: All-day ride to Huntingdon, Thurleigh and Waresley

Nigel writes: Today was the first Sunday all-day ride that I had volunteered to lead for several months, and disappointingly it turned out to also be the first wet Sunday for quite some time. The day started dry and sunny, though when I arrived at Brookside I discovered that the forecast of rain later had reduced the turn out to just David, Ian, newcomer Lysandra and me. We set off through the city centre and north out of Cambridge along Huntingdon Road to Girton.

Just beyond Girton we joined the busway which we followed all the way to St Ives.

On the busway, arriving at St Ives

Along the busway we were joined by Conrad, who had left home late and had raced along to catch us up. When we reached St Ives Lysandra turned back, leaving Conrad, David, Ian and me to continue on along the Thicket Path to Houghton and across the Ouse Meadows to Hemingford Abbots. From here we continued west across Eastside Common to Godmanchester. At some point along this section Ian left us to head home to do some gardening.

When we reached Huntingdon we took a short diversion across Mill Common to Huntingdon Station along a new cycle path that I had wanted to try out.

Mill Common. Huntingdon

A few minutes later we arrived at Hinchingbrooke Country Park, where we stopped for coffee at the cafe there. At the cafe we found Adrian, Rich ard and Vic. Whilst we were in the cafe it had started to rain.

The cafe at Hinchingbrooke Country Park

When we left the cafe it was still raining but it was little more than drizzle and wasn't enough to put off Conrad, Adrian, David and Richard from riding with me on to lunch. From Huntingdon we continued west to Brampton and then south-west along a very pleasant country lane to the village of Grafham, on the edge of Grafham Water.


Between Brampton and Grafham

We cycled round the lake to West Perry and then south past Littlehey Prison to Staughton Highway.

On the dam at Grafham Water

We continued to Great Staughton and on through Little Staughton and Keysoe Row to Thurleigh, where we stopped for lunch at Thurleigh Farm Centre. David, Adrian and Richard had taken a slightly different route from Staughton Highway and joined us about ten minutes later.

Thurleigh Farm Centre

This was my first visit to Thurleigh Farm Centre and I am pleased to report that it was just the kind of place we like to visit for lunch, with a good range of light options at reasonable prices.

After lunch the five of us discussed what do do next. The rides list had specified afternoon tea at Danish Camp, eight miles to the south, so I had planned a loop to the west, visiting Sharnbrook and Odell before making our way back east through the middle of Bedford to the tea stop. However given the likelihood of more rain, and the unappealing prospect of cycling through Bedford, we agreed to cut short the ride and proceed directly to Danish Camp.

This allowed us to explore a route I had not taken before: south along country lanes to Salph End, around the edge of Bedford and then along a surfaced bridleway over the River Great Ouse to Danish Camp. This turned out to be a surprisingly good route, and well worth using again in the future. The lanes from Thurleigh to Salph End were very quiet despite the proximity to Bedford, whilst the short urban section along Norse Way in Bedford had a wide, smooth and pleasant cycle track along it. A toucan crossing across the A428 allowed us to connect easily with a wide, concrete-surfaced bridleway south to the River Great Ouse. (This was the route that Conrad and I took; Adrian and David left us at Salph End to take a slightly different route, using an unsurfaced bridleway to by-pass the urban section along Norse Way).

Bridleway bridge over Castle Mill Weir on the River Great Ouse

We crossed the river and continued along the bridleway under the A421 southern by-pass, which here strides across the flood plain on a viaduct, and into the Grange Estate country park. We turned off the bridleway and followed a very pleasant cycle path round the edge of the park to meet the NCN 51 railway path at Danish Camp. It was about 3.15pm so we didn't stop for tea but continued east along NCN 51 to Sandy.

From Sandy we took the road up through the woods to Everton and a few minutes later arrived in Waresley, where Conrad and I stopped for a brief coffee stop at Waresley Park Garden Centre. It was 4.15pm and the garden centre was due to close at 4.30pm but they were happy to serve us and when closing time was reached the staff seemed perfectly happy to allow us time to finish our drinks whilst they cleaned up around us. Unfortunately Adrian and David, who were a few minutes behind us, didn't realise the cafe was still open and so sheltered from the rain in a bus stop nearby.

Whilst we were in the cafe it began to rain quite heavily and it was still raining steadily when we emerged at 4.45pm. Our route from here was on familiar roads, through Great Gransden, Caxton, Bourn, Comberton and Barton. I arrived home at 6pm, and despite having cut short the ride I had cycled 80 miles.


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Thursday, 26 June 2014

26 Jun: Thursday ride to Horseheath and Great Bardfield

Edward writes: This Thursday we met in Hauxton with another day delivered for the purpose of cycling, i.e. warm, virtually no wind and no rain predicted - ideal. Amongst the sixteen who met today we had the pleasure of welcoming three newcomers and these were Stuart and, riding a tandem, Graham and Christine. I suppose we've had tandems before on a Thursday, but this was the first one in recent years. Leading us today for our ride out to Horseheath and Great Bardfield was Averil.

Setting off at Hauxton

We set off promptly at 9.30 am and rode out through Little Shelford and Whittlesford where we joined the cycleway over to Sawston, waited for a London train to go through before going into the village and rejoining the cycleway to Babraham.

Sawston

In Babraham we used the track through the farm and the footbridge over the A11 to bring us into Great Abington.

Crossing the A11 between Babraham and Great Abington

This brought us to the A1307,which we crossed, and then took the road round the back of Hildersham for the turning which climbs for two miles up to Balsham. We regrouped here and then made our way to West Wickham, Streetly End and then Horseheath arriving at the Old Red Lion at 11 am.

Balsham

As we have said before the Old Red Lion is a very popular stop and once again it didn't disappoint with cakes brought out with the tea and coffee. Needless to say several others had made their own way there such that we had twenty two enjoying the sunshine out on the terrace.

Horseheath

As is the way of things we had to move on, probably reluctantly in some cases, and we left Horseheath at 11.45 am and took the track that allows you to cross the A1307 and into Cardinal's Green and Mill Green and part of Shudy Camps followed by Castle Camps. The warm sunshine has turned the fields of barley a golden colour and the wheat also is coming along nicely, and also very noticeable are the many fields growing field beans. Next up was Helions Bumpstead and now we were deep into the countryside; we crossed the B1054 and this left us with the very rural five miles to Finchingfield which, no doubt, will be a highly sought after vantage point for the Tour de France.

Towards Finchingfield

Great Bardfield is the next village along and the Blue Egg farm shop is barely a mile outside the village where we arrived at 1 pm - Averil's timings still spot on!

Great Bardfield

The Blue Egg seems to be a cyclists' mecca as there were plenty of them coming and going as we sat outside in the sunshine for lunch. At 2pm it was time to go again and we started off by going back to Great Bardfield and then to Little Bardfield and once again into really very beautiful green and undulating countryside with, at times, glorious views. After Little Bardfield Jacob and I dropped back from the main group but we pedalled on happily enough as we made our way to Thaxted. Averil had told us the route back so we had no concerns and when we reached Debden we saw three distinguished looking gentlemen enjoying an ice cream at the village shop. We joined them and it turned out the three were Malcolm, Geoff and David W, so we also enjoyed an ice cream break. We finished our ice creams and started off again at 3 pm to head for Saffron Walden arriving just as the County High School was turning out. We turned into Chestnut Avenue and sadly nearly all the chestnut trees were affected by the blight we have seen in recent years, so it seems their future doesn't look very promising; several have already been felled and replaced. This brought us to Catmere End and then over Coploe Hill into Ickleton, Duxford, Whittlesford and Great Shelford. This was ride of a regulation 57 miles and a special thanks to Averil for making it all possible. Edward Elmer


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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

25 Jun: Evening ride to Fen Drayton

Nigel writes: Tonight was a dry and sunny midsummer evening, with the midsummer warmth offset slightly by a surprisingly chilly breeze. The riders tonight were Klaas, Jim, Neil, Mike K, James and me. We set off north from Brookside, riding through the city centre along streets decorated with bunting to celebrate the forthcoming Tour de France visit.

We continued north up Castle Hill and along Huntingdon Road, taking the turn to Girton, riding through the village, and joining the busway a short distance beyond.

On the busway

As with other evening rides in recent weeks, the pace was brisk, with Jim, James and particularly Klaas pulling the rest of us along into a light headwind. When we reached St Ives we continued along the Thicket Path to Houghton.

Lock at Houghton Mill

We crossed the Ouse Meadows to Hemingford Abbots and then turned back south-east through Hemingford Grey and Fenstanton to Fen Drayton, where we stopped at The Three Tuns for drinks and plates of chunky chips.

After about half a year we set off for home. By now it was 8.50pm, but sunset was still half an hour away and it was still quite light. We returned to the busway via half a mile or so of rough tracks through the Fen Drayton lakes. These were either loose gravel or potholed but allowed us a traffic-free alternative to the road route via Swavesey.

On our way back along the busway Klaas took the lead, setting an impressive pace and allowing Jim and me an enjoyable ride tagging on behind. When we got back to Cambridge we sent our separate ways, and I arrived home at 9.50pm, having cycled 37 miles.


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Sunday, 22 June 2014

22 Jun: Afternoon ride to Braughing

John F writes: I was joined at Brookside by five riders: Alison, Mike K, Ray, Simon and Tiia. Our route took us to the A505 at Flint Cross via the busway cycle track, DNA path, Shelfords, Newton and Fowlmere. The earlier 1.30pm start enabled us to take a more interesting route than the B1368: we climbed to Great Chishill where we stopped to regroup and replace lost liquid. Thence we followed delightful lanes through north Hertfordshire with its stunning villages of Nuthampstead, Anstey, the Hormeads and Furneux Pelham to Braughing.

The countryside was spectacular this afternoon, with barley ready for combining and wheat turning from green to gold. Thankful for the earlier start we arrived at the St. Mary’s Church Hall at 4.15pm where we met the all-day riders and enjoyed a leisurely and sumptuous tea.

After leaving Braughing and the all-day riders at Clavering (see Nigel's report) we went through Arksden, Littlebury Green and sped down Coploe Hill, re-crossing the A505 at Duxford nd thence via Whittlesford and the Shelfords home.

The all-day and afternoon rides prepare to depart after tea at Braughing

The cycling conditions were perfect - warm, uninterrupted sunshine and with a favourable wind for the homeward leg. I arrived home at 7.30pm, my GPS having recorded 49 miles. John Ferguson
Sun 22 Jun: The all-day and afternoon rides prepare to depart after tea at Braughing. Read the full report.

22 Jun: All-day ride to Wimbish, Hatfield Forest and Braughing

Nigel writes: The day after the summer solstice was a fine summer's day, dry and warm and sunny all day with a light breeze to prevent it becoming uncomfortably hot at any time. There were seven riders at Brookside for today's all-day ride: Mike CC, John, Klaas, Lynn, Rupert, Martin, Conrad and me, with Conrad taking the lead. We set off south out of Cambridge along the busway to Addenbrooke's where we joined the DNA path to Great Shelford.

Departing Cambridge along the busway

From Great Shelford we continued in familar fashion to Little Shelford and then south through Whittlesford and Duxford to Ickleton. We climbed Coploe Hill to Catmere End and then dropped down along Chestnut Avenue to Audley End House.

Coploe Hill

We rode past Audley End into Saffron Walden and then quickly left the town along the road to Debden. A few miles later we arrived at Wimbish where we stopped for coffee at the Elder Street Farm Shop Cafe.

Elder Street Farm Shop Cafe

At the cafe we found David, Adrian, Malcolm and Mick and were joined a little later by Edward. After a pleasant half hour sitting outside, trying not to get too hot in the sunshine, we set off on our way once more, with Rupert leaving the group and David and Malcolm joining.

We retraced our steps to the Denham road and then continued south through Debden and Henham to Molehill Green on the northern edge of Stansted Airport. From here we followed the road that leads round the edge of the airport to Takely. The airport itself was hidden behind trees, with only the continual progression of EasyJet and Ryanair aircraft overhead betraying the existence of a major airport close by.

When we reached Takely Conrad led us onto the Flitch Way. We followed this west for a short distance before leaving it to turn south into Hatfield Forest.

Flitch Way

We rode into the Hatfield Forest park and where stopped for lunch. Several of us had brought sandwiches whilst others bought food from the kiosk. Most of the group sat at a large table in the shade at the back of the cafe whilst I preferred to sit on the grass nearby.

Hatfield Forest

After lunch we left the forest and rode west through Little Halingbury, Sawbridgeworth and Green Tye to Much Hadham. We crossed the River Ash at the ford, some of us using the footbridge and others splashing through the water.

David and Klaas in Much Hadham Ford

Mike and John in Much Hadham Ford

A warm midsummer day

A few miles further west we reached Barwick, which boasts a particularly wide and impressive ford through the River Rib. Again some of us used the footbridge whilst others braved the waters.

Mike in Barwick Ford


Klaas in Barwick Ford

From here we headed north to Standon and Puckeridge and a few minutes later arrived in Braughing, where we stopped for tea in the Church Hall. The club visits quite a few volunteer-run village tea places but this has long been one of our favourite, with a fine range of cakes served with hearty mugs of tea at very reasonable prices.

A few minutes later we were joined by John F and the afternoon ride, which today consisted of about half a dozen riders.

Tea in Braughing Church Hall

After tea we all set off towards Cambridge.

The all-day and afternoon rides prepare to depart after tea at Braughing

Our two groups rode together to Furneaux Pelham and on through Berden to Clavering. There we divided into our constituent groups once more, with John taking his group to Catmere End and over Coploe Hill (where we had been in the morning), and Conrad leading us on a more westerly route to via Langley, Elmdon, Chrishall Grange and Fowlmere.

On the way home

After last week's fast-paced "longer" ride, today's ride had been conducted at a satisfying but more moderate pace, so I was still going strong when I arrived home at 7.10pm, having cycled an excellent 91 miles.


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Saturday, 21 June 2014

21 Jun: Saturday morning ride to Milton

Conrad writes: Today was the Summer Solstice and the weather was pretty much perfect --- warm, sunny with very little wind in any direction. I arrived at Brookside to find nine other riders, including Ian. Now, I have volunteered to lead the Saturday rides to give Ian and Julia some well-deserved rest but on the two occasions that I have been ride leader, Ian has thwarted my plans. But today, it was fortunate that Ian was on hand to provide some route guidance. More of that later.

We made our way through the crowded city centre, past Market Square (where I heard an American tourist exclaim "look they're going for a race") and up Castle Hill. Once we made the turn to Girton, we could begin to relax as we were now on quieter roads. We cycled through Oakington and took the road to Longstanton where we passed a large number of walkers who were participating in the annual Pathfinder March where people walk 46 miles along a route that links four airbases from which the Pathfinder group launched their flights during WWII.

At Longstanton, we joined the guided busway up till Histon. This was where Ian's experience came in handy as I had originally planned to go all the way to Kings Hedges and then take the cycle bridge to Milton but, on Ian's advice, we went through Histon and Impington and joined Butt Lane up to the Recycling Centre where I could see a sign for our tea stop, the Rectory Farm Shop. However, we didn't turn onto the A10 at this point, as it would have meant cycling along that busy road for a fair distance before reaching the farm shop. Instead we cycled over the bridge into Milton and then took the road to Longbeach. Here the A10 crossing was a bit tricky but fortunately, a kind driver allowed us to cross safely. We then followed an unsurfaced road into the Rectory Farm Shop.


After an enjoyable 30 minutes in the sun, we started to make our way back to Cambridge. I had originally planned to cross the A10 back to Milton and take the river path but given how tricky that crossing was, we instead made a slight diversion to Longbeach. We cycled on the recently completed cycle path which unfortunately came to an end just in front the Longbeach village sign. We then crossed the A10 for the third time today into Waterbeach and joined the river path back to Cambridge, but not before passing Simon's houseboat at Milton. We then took the usual route back to city centre, at which point I had covered 25 miles.

I would encourage people to consider leading some of these Saturday rides. I personally find it interesting to visit these coffee stops which we typically don't visit during our longer rides, and it is also enjoyable to take a slower ride which gives more opportunities for socialising. Conrad Chua


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Thursday, 19 June 2014

19 Jun: Thursday ride to Hemingford Grey and Grafham Water

Edward writes: This week we found ourselves with fourteen riders starting off at Haslingfield Green, an unusually low turnout and this did not increase significantly during the day. The weather wasn’t great; although there was almost no wind, it did blow in from the north, no sun and low cloud all day, but plenty good enough for a good cycle ride.

Caldecote

Ian W was today’s leader for our trip to Hemingford Grey for coffee and then on to Grafham Water for lunch. When we started we found ourselves facing the little wind there was as we passed through Harlton on our way to the A603 and the Eversdens and Kingston. This led us on to the climb through Caldecote and Highfields with its accompanying speed humps. This, of course, brought us to the old St Neots road which we used until the turning for Knapwell and Connington and after the slight descent all the way through the two villages it brought us to Fenstanton. We took the underpass of the A14 and via Low Road to St Ives and a last mile or so to Hemingford Grey and the Hemingford Garden Room for coffee.

Hemingford Grey

This coffee shop, which is run by the church, has a very pleasant outside seating area and on a warm day it would be very nice to enjoy some summer weather; as it was we still enjoyed the break despite being a bit cool. After coffee things fell apart a bit as some half dozen of us got left behind from the main group. Not knowing the official route we went to Hemingford Abbots, over the common and into Godmanchester and then on to Offord Cluny.

Hemingford Abbots

We soon got to Buckden and West Perry where we took lunch at the Harbour View restaurant. We managed to make contact with the main group and discovered that they had branched off in Common Lane, over the meadows to Houghton Mill before finding their way through Huntingdon, Brampton and then Grafham and had lunch at the Grafham Visitor Centre which was what the runs list said!

West Perry, Grafham Water

We eventually came together at the Harbour View restaurant and after a puncture (me this time) which Mike fixed in almost no time at all, we set off again at 2.15pm with a group much the same size, but different personnel, as had started in the morning. For our trip home we had the benefit of the wind as we headed our way towards Great Staughton, but on the approach to the village we turned off to go round Little Staughton airfield and on to Bushmead. With the wind on our backs it was now downhill all the way into Eaton Socon and our arrival coincided with all the school children making their way home thus competing for space on the cycle ways.

Bushmead

We now headed for Abbotsley, Great Gransden and Longstowe where we stopped to regroup, as various people had branched off to head for their homes, but we still had ten riders to put the finishing touches to the ride. At the Kingston turn we split for the last time with some going into Cambridge and some others finishing in Haslingfield soon after 4.30 pm with 60 miles to savour. Our thanks to Ian for directing operations. Edward Elmer


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15 Jun: CTC at the Huntingdonshire Cycling festival

Julia writes: With all the excitement about the tour de France coming to Cambridge next month, there are lots of cycling related events going on in the city and surrounding areas at the moment. One of them is the Huntingdonshire Cycling Festival, a programme of events throughout the month of June aimed to get people in the Huntingdon area interested in and enthusiastic about two-wheeled sport and transport. CTC Cambridge is contributing two led rides into Huntingdonshire: the first one took place on Sunday, 8th June (read our report) and the second one will be on Thursday, 19th June. We were also present at the central event in Hinchingbrooke Country Park last Sunday, 15th June - to coincide with the start of Bike Week - with stall to promote CTC as a national organisation as well as the activities of our local group specifically.

It is a fair way from our home in Fen Ditton to Huntingdon, certainly with a heavy cargo bike and a small child on board, so in order to avoid a long trip on Sunday morning, we decided to set off on Saturday evening and spend the night in St Ives, leaving only 7 miles for the next morning to get to Hinchingbrooke. Having gathered together our promotional material, we packed everything we needed into the box of our cargo bike and panniers on my orange hybrid and left home around the time when Flo would normally go to bed. He got quite excited with all the packing activity and did not seem to mind the change in routine; he happily pointed out cats, dogs, busses and anything else of interest that he could spot as we cycled through Chesterton and along the busway to St Ives.

Flo making sure the tyres are fully inflated before we depart

The next morning we set off a little later than we had planned, arriving at Hinchingbrooke Country Park around 10:30 am. The event was officially opening at 11:00 am, so we quickly found our spot between the Peterborough Vintage Cycle Club, who had put on a lovely display of Penny-farthings, old tricycles and bicycles of various ages and sizes, and a Richardsons Cycles stall showcasing a large variety of rather more modern Claud Butler bikes, and started setting up our stand. The gazebo kindly lent to us by the Cambridge Cycling Campaign was quick and easy to erect, a table was provided by the organisers and our banner, leaflets, Cycle magazines and posters were soon on display.


Our stand

We were a little late finishing our setup, but given the cloudy, windy, cool and drizzly weather, not many people had made their way into the park yet, so it was rather quiet initially. While we waited for the weather to improve and crowds to descend onto the park, Flo investigated the play area next to the events field and enjoyed the swings, various climbing structures and a giant slide that was built onto the hill side.

We were soon joined by Simon K, who had kindly agreed to help us man the stall, giving Ian and myself an opportunity to grab some sandwiches at the Park Cafe for lunch. In the afternoon, the weather did indeed brighten up, and with the sunshine came more people. Many of them were families with young children, some of them unaware that the cycling festival was going on that day, but a good number seemed to have come especially, many arriving on bikes with child seats and trailers for the little ones. Meanwhile, our little one needed a break and went to sleep for an hour, comfortably resting on a pillow in the box of the cargo bike.

Flo asleep in the bakfiets

There was a good variety of stalls and activities, ranging from a Sustrans stand with lots of information about their campaigning activities, over Outspoken, who had a pedal powered toy racing car circuit, and St Neots Cycling Club to Travel for Work, and a bouncy castle provided by One Leisure. There was also Bikability training for children and a range of electric bikes to try out. People could be seen effortlessly zooming across the events field on the electric bikes, while others were riding high wheelers or some of the adaptive bikes that Huntingdonshire District Council has recently purchased to give people with various disabilities access to cycling. Flo and I tried out a model that had a detachable front end which converted into a wheel chair for a disabled passenger; other models included side-by-side tandems and a hand-cranked bike.

Our stall had a good number of visitors, too, including some families, seasoned cyclists, and a lady who said she was in the process of moving to Cambridge and had been wondering how to meet people to go cycling with. Sounds like our group should be just what she's looking for, and we hope to see her on one of our rides before long. We gave out some of our updated leaflets, told people about our group and the rides we organise, and talked them through the benefits of joining CTC. You can download a copy of our promotional leaflet (pdf) here.

Simon talking to a family at our stall

By 4 pm it was time to leave, and while Flo checked out the kids' bikes range at the Richardsons stall before they were all boxed up again, we took the gazebo down and packed our promotional material away. Overall, what started as a rather unpromising, drizzly and quiet morning turned into a sunny and sociable afternoon, with lots of cycling fun and some nice chats at our stall. I hope that our presence at the event helped to make people aware of CTC, and that it may have tempted some to join the club! Julia Hochbach

Flo at the Richardsons stall