We set off east from Brookside, across Parker's Piece and down to Midsummer Common and the river.
Parker's Piece, Cambridge
We followed the river north-east, along Riverside, across Stourbridge Common and under the railway to Ditton Meadows, where the river turns north, and we turned east to Fen Ditton.
Stourbridge Common, Cambridge
At Fen Ditton we switched back to the road, and continued east to Quy and along the A1303 cycleway to Bottisham. The sun put in an appearance briefly but it didn't do much to compensate for the cold wind, and for the first hour or so I was regretting swapping my winter gloves for fingerless mitts before leaving home.
Between Quy and Bottisham (with another club behind us)
After Bottisham we continued to Swaffham Bulbeck and joined the B1102 cycleway towards Swaffham Prior. We were halfway there when, to my surprise, we turned left towards Commercial End. This road is very pleasant, but simply loops back to the west, so I expressed my surprise to the leader. John reassured me that he knew exactly where we were going, which was to to rejoin the B1102 and follow the cycleway alongside it as far as Lode. There we turned north and joined the familar route onto the Lodes Way.
John's plan was to follow the Lodes Way east to Wicken and then join the A1123 for three miles to Soham before turning south for the last few miles to Fordham. There we were due to stop for coffee.
The first stage of our Sunday rides is always conducted at a very moderate, sociable pace, but I was feeling energetic (and rather cold) and in the mood to try out a faster, slightly longer route via Upware and Barway. I duly notified the leader what I was planning to do and and then sprinted ahead on my own.
Things didn't go entirely to plan, since when I reached the turn to Upware I was confronted with "road closed" signs. I could see the closure a few hundred yards away. With fences across the whole road and verge, and lots of construction vehicles, it didn't look passable on foot and cycle so I checked the map and identified an alternative route to Upware using parallel minor roads to the east.
The roads I used were shown as yellow on the OS map, but as I rode along the quality of the road surface deteriorated, and for one relatively short section disappeared completely.
Harrison's Drove, alongside Commissioners' Drain, with Upware in the distance
However I was able to ride through without much difficulty and it was nice to be on such a quiet, peaceful, route. And in any case it wasn't long before I was back on properly-surfaced roads at Upware. I crossed the A1123 and continued north past G's hostel for seasonal workers at Barway before turning east to Soham. From here I could see Ely Cathedral clearly in the distance, about two and a half miles away.
After a several miles of enjoyable, fast, cycling along empty roads I reached Soham and turned south towards Fordham, arriving for coffee at Simpson's Nurseries at 11.12pm, just five minutes or so behind the others.
Several members were already in the cafe, which coped ably with the sudden influx of cyclists and allowed us to enjoy a pleasant 20 minutes or so drinking coffee and eating cake.
Coffee at Simpsons Nurseries, Fordham
After coffee several members went home whilst several others joined the ride for its next stage, to lunch in Depden. For this part of the ride there were Alex, Joseph, Eva, David W, Conrad, Keith, Charlie, Li and of course John our leader.
Our route took us south-east into Suffolk, crossing the A11 at Kennet and the A14 at Kentford and then along some particularly lovely quiet lanes through Gazeley, Barrow and Hargrave, arriving for lunch at Depden Farm Cafe a little after 1pm.
Lunch at Depden Farm Café
After lunch we set off west towards West Wratting where we were due to stop for tea. This took us west through Wickenbrook and Cowlinge to Great Bradley and then along the B1061 for a mile or so to Little Thurlow. After the morning's exertions (and a substantial hot pork baguette for lunch) I was ready to take things easy but the the others were feeling more energetic and set a rapid pace which left me struggling to keep up.
Temple End, Little Thurlow
At Little Thurlow we turned west onto the very pleasant lane that leads west through Temple End to Carlton Green. From there it was just a few more miles to West Wratting, arriving at The Chestnut Tree rather early at about 3.15pm.
After a while we were joined by David S and Simon, making eight at tea in all, the others having decided that they weren't hungry and departed for home. No-one from the afternoon ride arrived. Despite the reduced numbers we were made very welcome and did our best to tackle an enormous spread of sandwiches and cakes.
Tea at The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting
More than eight of us could eat
Afterwards we all returned back to Cambridge. Some returned via Balsham and Fulbourn but I suggested a slightly longer route via Six Mile Bottom and was joined by Alex and Simon. At Little Wilbraham we said goodbye to Simon, leaving Alex and me to ride through the Wilbrahams to Fulbourn. From here I would normally have headed straight into Cambridge via Cherry Hinton but Alex was keen to add an extra few miles so we crossed over the Gogs to Great Shelford where we turned onto the DNA path towards Addenbrooke's, the busway, and the city centre.
I discovered a possible reason for Alex's keenness for an extra loop when we reached Great Shelford. Just after turning onto the DNA path, Alex announced that today's ride was now his longest ride, ever.
I arrived home a few minutes later at 5.55pm, having cycled 86 miles, making this my own longest ride so far this year. Today's mileage leaves my Eddington Number unchanged at 75 but brings my progression to 76 one ride closer.
Route showing Nigel's extra loop via Upware and Barway
Download GPS track (GPX).