Thursday, 30 April 2015

30 Apr: Thursday ride to Gamlingay and Moggerhanger

Edward writes: With about sixteen members away in Suffolk on the club's spring break it wasn't a surprise that just thirteen riders met this morning at a very sunny Haslingfield Green. Given the circumstances this was a very good turnout.

For today's ride we were under the guidance of Tony and our itinerary would take us to Gamlingay for coffee and Moggerhanger for lunch.

Gathering at Haslingfield (Photo: Alex Brown)

Naturally, we set off with a climb up Chapel Hill, and with good visibility we enjoyed the usual good views and also noted that the railway track into the old cement works has now reached the road.

Cresting Chapel Hill (Photo: Alex Brown)

The breeze was in the West and after a chilly night was still quite cold and most of the morning's work would be facing it. We rode through Barrington and then turned to Orwell, over the A603 for the approach to Wimpole Hall.

Orwell (Photo: Alex Brown)

After the estate grounds we came to Arrington and Croydon where it seems some progress has been made on the Queen Adelaide pub.

Passing Wimpole Hall (Photo: Alex Brown)

After Croydon, of course, came the inevitable climb up Croydon hill and then the five mile run through the Hatleys before entering Gamlingay at 10.45am. We met Richard M, already there, and seconds later we were followed in by Charlie and Mike B who had arrived at Haslingfield about five minutes after we had all left. They could see us ahead at various times but couldn’t quite catch us up and later Bill also joined us but would return home afterwards.

Lj's in Gamlingay is a popular and friendly stop which is almost certainly because many have a liking for their bacon sarnies.

Ed's bacon sarnie (Photo: Alex Brown)

After coffee five left us for home and in the meantime Richard suggested that as were going via Tempsford hill we should go into the village and look at the memorial to the people who served in the SOE during the last war, and everyone was happy that we should do this. But first we had to head towards Waresley and then turn to head south west to the Everton Road, Everton village and then the excitement of a rapid descent of Tempsford hill, past the new solar farm, the railway and when on the roundabout over the A1 we turned right for the short trip into the village and the memorial. This, of course, was very interesting and thanks to Richard for the suggestion.

SOE Memorial, Tempsford

After this visit we retraced our steps back to the traffic island and headed off to Blunham, Moggerhanger and the Woodland cafe, arriving about 12.45 pm.

By now the clouds had darkened the sky and the weather had a distinctly showery look about it. However, there was still enough sun to encourage us to sit outside, particularly as inside was very busy. But soon more clouds arrived accompanied by a drop in temperature so we all moved inside where ensued a very relaxing and pleasant lunch.

Lunch at Moggerhanger (Photo: Alex Brown)

Lemon and Blueberry Cake (Photo: Alex Brown)

At 1.45 pm we started the return leg to the accompaniment of a willow warbler singing nearby and now with the benefit of a following wind.

Leaving Moggerhanger (Photo: Alex Brown)

We went back through Moggerhanger and then turned onto the former railway for the run into Sandy. This was followed by the climb out of the town where we enjoyed the glorious sight of carpets of bluebells all the way through the woods.

Bluebells at Tempsford

Such a lovely time of the year with blossom on the trees and people's gardens now in full spring colour - a wonderful sight and another reason to enjoy our cycling. We again went through Everton and next came Waresley and then Great Gransden where our luck ran out and we were caught by a shower which, luckily, didn't last long. It seemed that we had been able to dodge the rain as many times black clouds loomed up and made threats but didn't come to anything other than a bit of huffing and puffing.

A legend in his own socks

We were now on a well used track as we came to Caxton and then Bourn where six of the group headed for Cambridge and the remaining four went via the Eversdens and Harlton to Haslingfield where the ride ended at about 3.30pm and 49 miles. Despite the mixed weather this was a particularly enjoyable ride and what’s more nobody became separated and we all kept together all day which is an achievement in itself. Finally thanks to Tony for his efforts in leading the ride. Edward Elmer.

Download GPS track (GPX).

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

29 Apr: Evening ride to Barton

Nigel writes: A shower of rain at about 6.15pm made me contemplate staying at home, but I quickly remembered that I was the designated leader and so put on my rain gear and set off for Brookside. I wasn't really expecting anyone else to be out, but when I reached the start point I found Alex there, making just two of us for this evening's ride.

We set off west out of Cambridge, taking the Coton path to Coton. Almost as soon as we had started, the rain stopped and the clouds vanished. Although it was nice to be back in sunshine, we were now riding directly into a low, bright, sun and the glare reflected from the wet road was a little uncomfortable.

Madingley Hill

After a stop in Coton to remove rain gear we climbed Madingley Hill and turned onto the old St Neot's Road towards Hardwick. After a further stop to remove overshoes we continued west along the old St Neot's Road to the Bourn turn. We turned left towards Bourn and then a mile later turned west to Caxton. From there we continued to Great Gransden, where we paused for a couple of minutes outside the windmill before continuing on to Little Gransden.

Post mill at Great Gransden

Little Gransden marked the westerly limit of our ride, where we turned south and then east towards Longstowe, Bourn, Toft, Comberton and finally Barton. There was a light westerly breeze so we made rapid progress on this homeward stretch and arrived at the White Horse ten minutes early at about 8.20pm.

Outside the pub Ian W was waiting for us, and the three of us went inside to order drinks...

and I ordered a light snack....

With Barton being so close to Cambridge we were in no hurry to rush home, but after a pleasant half hour relaxing in the pub we set off back along the Barton Road cycleway to Cambridge. It was still dry but was rather cold and I was glad that I had come out slightly overdressed. I arrived home at 9.35pm, having cycled 32 miles.

Download GPS track (GPX).

All photos by Alex Brown.

Monday, 27 April 2015

26 Apr: Afternoon ride to Ashwell

John writes: Greg and I were the only two at Brookside for today's afternoon ride despite the weather being fine for cycling although a gentle north-easterly breeze made it cooler than of late.

I was riding my ATB and Greg had a robust-looking machine so, not being constrained to the tarmac, we took the footpath from Newnham into Granchester, turned left, crossed the Cam by the temporary foot/cycle bridge and joined the new gravel path from the entrance to Byron’s Pool and eventually reached the A10 at Harston.

Here we decided to take the footpath (dry despite the overnight rain) from the A10 into Haslingfield. After Chapel Hill, Barrington and Orwell we entered Wimpole Park by the iron gates onto what may once have been the principal drive to the estate. This is now a 'green road' but also dry.

After passing Wimpole Hall on our right we exited through the Arrington Gate, climbed up to Croydon, turned left and then, having turned onto then off the B1042, we reached Ashwell Church Hall at 3:40 p.m. having gone through Shingay and Guilden Morden.

There were no cyclists from the all-day ride, and none had arrived by 4:15 p.m. when we, plus two who had arrived independently, set off homewards via Steeple Morden, Littlington, Meldreth, Shepreth and Barrington. By Haslingfield we had all dispersed and I returned home via the footpath to Granchester. My round trip was almost exactly 40 miles. John Ferguson

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Rides in May and June

Our rides lists for May and June are now available. Long days mean that our Sunday rides can take longer routes with the addition of an afternoon tea stop. Many of these rides will be visiting various church halls for their delights of home-made tea and cakes.

Look out for two car-assisted rides on the last Sundays of May and June. On these days there will be no normal all-day ride. Instead, on Sunday 31st May we offer a car-assisted ride in Northamptonshire (details) a longer, challenging ride starting from Cambridge at 8.30am and visiting Whitwell in Hertfordshire (details), or an afternoon ride from Cambridge starting at 1.30pm (details).

On Sunday 28th June we offer a choice of two car-assisted rides in the rolling countryside near Rutland Water, starting from the same point at the same time: one shorter (details), one longer and hillier (details). In addition we offer our usual afternoon ride from Cambridge (details).

The rest of our weekly rides also reflect the approach of summer. Our Wednesday evening rides now take place every week and our Thursday rides become a little bit longer. Meanwhile we continue our "Short Saturday Social" rides twice a month and our weekly Senior Cyclists rides every Tuesday.

We urgently need some more leaders for the Sunday rides - any ride marked as "leader needed" needs a leader. Please email Rupert (runs secretary) to volunteer if you can lead one of these rides. Contact details here.

26 Apr: Sunday ride to St Neots and Biggleswade

Alex writes: Maybe it was the dull weather, or maybe members were keeping their powder dry for next week's cycling jaunt in Suffolk, but only three of us assembled as Brookside for this morning's ride: me, Ian D and John Ross (today's ride leader).

Undaunted, we struck out through the centre of town, up Castle Hill and out through Girton, soon joining the Cambridge/St Ives busway heading West. The sky was leaden and there were spits of moisture in the air. In bird news, John pointed out a White Throat and Warblers warbled at us from the reeds.

And above them the sky

At Fenstanton, John took us left onto a new-to-the-club track, which was rough and gravelly, requiring concentration to thread through the potholes. Soon we re-joined the tarmac and continued West on the pleasantly quiet roads. In one of the many groups of cyclists passing on the other side of the road, suddenly one started waving at us: it was John J, out for a practice ride in preparation for a charity event.

Shortly after 11 o’clock we reached St Neots and, pulling up at market square, found 10 other members already settled in at the Market CafĂ©.

St Neots, Market Square

No cake here. I ordered a bacon baguette and watched with some jealously as Ian D devoured a stack of bacon and sausage sandwiches - with brown sauce.

Alas, not mine!

The weather was still dull, but David W was counteracting it with his fluoro argyle socks.

The fashion bar is raised

After the usual comings and goings, seven of us were to head on to lunch. Richard led us neatly out of St Neots and onto more remarkably quiet country lanes heading towards Biggleswade. As usual, Adrian decided to find some adventure for himself by going offroad for an alternative route and a taste of the “rough stuff”.

South of Duloe

At Jordan’s Mill I was tempted to roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding, and then further tempted to some Victoria Sponge and coffee. Over the meal it transpired that no member much fancied going on to tea in Ashwell, and so we resolved all to head home our separate ways.

Sunday lunch

I stuck with John who took us south, across the A1, and then on to Gamlingay on roads which remained pleasantly sparse of motor vehicles. We passed a hovering kestrel and a soaring buzzard. John set a good brisk pace and before long we arrived in Toft where we split, with me heading back to Cambridge through Barton; when I arrived home I had cycled 123km (76 miles).

Download GPS track (GPX).

25 Apr: Pork Pie Perm 200km Audax

Nigel writes: Today I joined Gareth on a 200km Audax ride from Cambridge to Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. On a bright and breezy spring day it allowed me to visit a part of the region which I have rarely visited on a bike, and to push myself into cycling rather further than I usually do. .

Audax is a form of cycle touring where riders aim to visit a sequence of controls by following a set route. It's not a race, although there is a time limit for completing the ride which places riders under a certain amount of pressure.

Audax rides can be organised mass-participating events, with an organiser planning the route and operating the control points. They can also be more "DIY" affairs, with individuals planning their own route in advance, registering it with Audax UK, and then doing it on their own. In this case they collect shop or ATM receipts (or record a GPS track) as proof of their achievement. Today's ride was somewhere between the two: the participants would be just me and Gareth, but the route we took was a "permanent" route, designed by a local Audax UK member and already registered with Audax UK. Of the two of us, only Gareth was actually registered to collect points for the ride; I was just there for the journey.

Our ride today was the "Cambridge Pork Pie 200 perm", described temptingly on the Cambridge Audax website. The name, of course, reflects the fatty meat pie for which Melton Mowbray is famous.

I got up early and set off from Cambridge at about 7.35am to meet Gareth at the official start point of the ride, which was the Co-op in Girton. I arrived there just before 8am and was soon joined by Gareth, who called into the shop to obtain a receipt bearing the place and time which would serve as official proof of the start of the ride.

8am: Gareth emerges from the Co-op in Girton after obtaining a timestamped receipt

When setting off for a long bike ride it is always best to divide it, both practically and psychologically, into distinct stages with food stops in between. Today's ride divided neatly into four 30-mile stages: Cambridge to Oundle, Oundle to Melton Mowbray, Melton Mowbray to Oundle by a mostly different route, and finally Oundle back via a mostly different route to Cambridge.

The first stage started off on familiar ground, along the busway to St Ives before cutting north-west to Abbots Ripton and Sawtry. The first hour was cool and drizzly, but soon after St Ives the rain stopped, the sky brightened and the sun came out. There was a light but constant south-westerly wind. Periodically when we turned west we found ourselves riding into a headwind but for the most part it was just a side-wind and wasn't too much of a problem.

WW2 memorial near Lutton, just after crossing into Northamptonshire

After Sawtry we continued north-west and crossed from dull, flat Cambridgeshire into Northamptonshire. The landscape became more scenic, the local building material changed to light-brown stone, and the roads became quieter. I remarked how nice it was to cycle through, especially as the sun had now come out.

After a few more miles we arrived in Oundle, where we stopped for refreshments at one of several cafes in this very pretty small town. This was the first official control point of the ride, so, whilst I was waiting for my beans on toast, Gareth slipped outside to visit a nearby ATM and obtain another piece of paper proving his location and time.

Late breakfast at The Coffee Tavern, Oundle

For the next stage we continued north-west towards Melton Mowbray. This section of the ride was noticeable by a succession of descents into small river valleys followed by an immediate climb out the other side. The first of these was at Harringworth, where we crossed the River Welland.


Although we had no choice but to drop down into the Welland Valley and climb up the other side, when the East Midland Railway was constructed here in 1875 its builders had other ideas, and built one of Britain's longest railway viaducts across the valley instead.

Nigel enters England's smallest county (Photo: Gareth Rees)

We continued north-west, through Seaton, Glaston and Wing. This was a pleasant undulating landscape I remembered visiting last year on a CTC car-assisted ride from Wistow and the year before in a CTC car-assisted ride from near Stamford.

Gareth climbs up to Glaston

Nigel climbs up from the River Chater towards Manton (Photo: Gareth Rees)

When we reached Manton, about three miles south of Oakham, we joined the A6003 for a couple of miles. This took us right past the western edge of Rutland Water, but I couldn't see any sign of it.

Decorative garden in a bleak roadside location on the A6003 south of Oakham

We turned off the main road and rode into Oakham. On a Saturday morning this was busy and congested, but it didn't take us to get through the town and before long we were on quiet toads once more.

This speed sign in Oakham displays 16mph as Gareth approaches

As we approached the border with Leicestershire, signs along the road made us aware aware that a major professional cycle race was due to take place in this area the following day: the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic.

Tomorrow's cycling event

Several teams were already in the area, warming up and researching the course.

Cycling team out for a recce

We arrived in Melton Mowbray at 1.30pm. We called at a butcher's in the High Street where Gareth bought some Pork Pies to take home and, more importantly, obtained yet another timestamped receipt.

Nigel outside our nominal destination in Melton Mowbray (Photo: Gareth Rees)

We then stopped for lunch. I spotted a quiet restaurant behind a market stall and we went in for a pleasant lunch of penne bolognaise - and a welcome rest.

Lunch in Melton Mowbray

After lunch we set off back south. This third stage would take us back to Oundle, taking a more westerly, and much hillier, route than our journey here. We were soon out of Melton and cycling up our first hill along a remarkably smooth, gated, road which forms part of NCN 64. This was the first of many times today where I was very impressived by the smoothness and high standard of maintenance of minor roads. Well done Leicestershire.

Smooth, gated road over Gartree Hill south of Melton

Despite the sometimes punishing hills this was easily the nicest part of the ride, with lovely scenery, and roads which were not only very smooth but surprisingly quiet.

Eventually we reached Glaston where we rejoined the route we had taken in the morning for the last few miles into Oundle via Harringworth, Bulwick and Southwick.

Descending for our second visit to Harringworth, with a fine view of the Welland Viaduct

Plethora of choices on offer at Harringworth

I had spotted a group of pro cyclists by the side of the road earlier. One of them had given me a dutiful wave as I passed. Now they were behind them and I braced myself to be passed at speed. With a distinct draft of air they passed me, their support car just behind them. We were going slightly downhill and they cruising along at a relaxed pace, and for a moment I considered tagging on the back before thinking better of it. Instead I followed them for just long enough to take a picture.

The JLT Condor professional racing team cruises past, followed by their support car

Whilst I had been distracted by the JLT team, Gareth had stopped to take a photo of a Red Kite.

A red kite floats lazily overhead (Photo: Gareth Rees)

The "Alpes de Leicestershire" had been hard work and our pace had lessened, particularly for Gareth who was riding steadily but who was not on his normal nippy form today. We arrived back in Oundle at 5.30pm. This time we stopped at Beans Cafe, where we ordered milkshakes and cakes which we enjoyed whilst sitting outside, contemplating the final stage back to Cambridge. By now we had ridden 102 miles, so we were entitled to feel tired.

Milkshakes and cake at Beans cafe, Oundle, before the final stage to Cambridge

The final stage of the ride began by taking a more southerly route than in the morning, though Winwick and Mamerton to Alconbury Weston. Fortunately this was fairly flat and easy. Also, the expected rain had not returned and the afternoon gradually transformed into a fine, sunny evening.

Ford at Alconbury Weston

After Alconbury we were on familar, if tedious ground. We crossed the A1(M) and A14 and followed Ermine Street into Huntingdon. After an uneventful half-circuit of its ghastly one-way town centre ring road (a sad planning error which more or less destroys Huntingdon as a nice place to either visit or live) we were on our way to Godmanchester and the familar off-road path across Eastside Common to the Hemingfords. We were soon in St Ives where I turned on my lights for the final few miles down to busway to Cambridge.

We reached the Co-op in Girton at 8.30pm, making this a slightly slower ride than on some earlier 200km Audaxes, but still comfortably within the Audax time limits. Here we stopped whilst Gareth popped in to get another receipt.

Gareth returns to the Girton Co-op to buy a well-deserved beer and, more importantly, obtained a timestamped receipt

Garmin display at the official end of the ride

I rolled on into Cambridge and arrived home at 8.50pm, having cycled a total of 141 miles, which rather unexpectedly matches the personal record I set almost five years ago for my longest ride ever, as well as incrementing my Eddingdon Number to 76.

Download GPS track (GPX).

Full details of the route, including route sheets and GPX files more suitable for navigation, can be found on the Cambridge Audax Site.