Sunday, 11 January 2015

11 Jan: Sunday ride to Wicken Fen and Chippenham

Nigel writes: We're now in the depth of winter, and in the last seven days we've seen freezing temperatures, heavy rain and high winds. But today was a very benign day: despite a cold westerly wind it wasn't too cold at 5C and started bright and sunny with no prospect of rain. Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised, since Eva was our leader today and her recent rides have been blessed with very fine weather. Indeed almost a year ago Eva led us on a very similar ride with a huge turnout and superb winter sunshine.

I suspect I wasn't the only member to be aware of this, since when I arrived at Brookside there were eleven other riders waiting: an excellent turnout for January (and rather better than the two members I found there braving the -4C freeze last week).

From Brookside we set off east, across Parker's Piece and down to Midsummer Common and the river.

Crossing Parker's Piece, Cambridge

We followed the river east to Stourbridge Common and Ditton Meadows and then along the Wadloes Path to Fen Ditton.

Waiting to cross the B1047 in Fen Ditton

In Fen Ditton we were joined by Jim, Andy and Sarah, bringing the number of riders up to fifteen. 

High Ditch Road, Fen Ditton

We continued east to Quy and then followed the route of the "old" NCN 51 through Bottisham, the Swaffhams and Reach to Burwell. Here turned north onto a quiet single-track road which took us towards Wicken Fen.

Approaching Wicken Fen

For the whole of today's ride we rode at a very moderate, sociable, pace which made it easy for me to dash ahead, take a few photos as the others rode past, and then sprint to catch up.

Around Wicken Fen

A few minutes later we reached the Wicken Fen Visitor Centre where we stopped for coffee and (in my case) a large slice of chocolate cake. Already at the cafe were Adrian, Joseph, Vic and perhaps one or two others, making the numbers up to about eighteen.

Eva shows Rupert and Nigel the route to lunch (Photo: Alex Brown)

Setting off after coffee at Wicken Fen

After coffee about a dozen of us continued on to lunch at La Hogue Farm, Chippenham whilst the others turned back towards Cambridge. From Wicken we followed the A1123 east to Soham (where a tailwind meant I easily reached 25mph on the flat as I sprinted ahead for yet another photo). After riding through the town we turned east to East Fen and then, after crossing the A142, on to Isleham.

A typical "fen bend" on the way to Isleham

The countryside around here is typical Cambridgeshire Fen: completely flat, of course, a little bit desolate, and with dead-straight roads linked by right-angle bends. Although we weren't very far from Cambridge this is a direction we rarely visit on club rides and it was nice to be on unfamilar and somewhat disorientating roads.


At Isleham we turned south and crossed the border into Suffolk towards the village of Freckenham. We carried on to Chippenham and gradually the bleak fen landscape turned into the rather more domestic landscape of the horce-racing countryside around Newmarket.

A few minutes later we reached La Hogue Farm Shop where we stopped for lunch.

Alex and a well-earned pavlova at La Hogue Farm

After a very relaxed and sociable lunch we set off back west towards Cambridge. After a morning with the wind behind us, this took us directly into a headwind. Although this turned out to be less of a problem than we had expected, it was nevertheless quite cold and we were glad of our windproof jackets.

Eva leads the group into the wind towards Snailwell

We returned home by a more direct route than in the morning: west to Snailwell and then over the A142 to Exning. From there we followed the route of NCN 51 to Burwell and then back by the way we had come to Cambridge.

Waiting for stragglers in Swaffham Bulbeck

After a very enjoyable day's cycling I arrived home at about 4pm, having cycled 57 miles.

Download GPS track (GPX).

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