Thursday, 16 April 2015

16 Apr: Thursday ride to Cottenham and Ely

Alex writes: Today was an historic one: for the first time ever, a Cambridge CTC Thursday ride was to venture as far north as Ely. So with inoculations taken, travel insurance in place and magical wards activated around 15 riders left Haslingfield this morning, bound northwards and for the Fens.

The weather forecast had been for a dull day, but as it turned out, the morning’s watery brightness developed into full sunshine by the afternoon, and despite a cooling breeze it was quite warm.

Getting ready to set off from Haslingfield Green (Photo: John Ferguson)

(Photo: John Ferguson)

Only a few minutes into the ride a general halt was called so riders could shed layers and get into more summery garb.

Approaching Kingston

We started on familiar ground, heading NW and then up the long hill through Caldecote to the A428, which we crossed heading NE towards Dry Drayton. The roads were well-surfaced but quite busy: it may be that the lack of truly cycle-friendly roads to the north is a reason why this is a route less taken.

Soon we joined the Cambridge/St Ives busway for a while, turning off at Reynold’s Drove onto an unmade track which took us towards Rampton and thence onto our coffee stop in Cottenham.

Heading along the busway towards Reynold's Drove

Around 15 bikes were already parked at the Community Centre, since many members had decided to rendezvous here: a fact also evidenced by the well-depleted Victoria Sponge cake (which was excellent). Other members enjoyed some of the intriguing flavour combinations on offer: cheese scones with sultanas for example. Truly we were in the Fen Country.

Coffee at Comberton Community Centre (Photo: John Ferguson)

Victoria Sponge

After the usual comings and goings, around 20 members were heading on to lunch in Ely. Two groups were to go by road, and Adrian was to lead a contingent via an alternative off-road route for a taste of the 'rough stuff'. I joined one of the road groups.

We headed deeper in the Fens, riding on characteristic exposed roads which continue in straight lines before abruptly turning at a sharp angle to continue on. We passed through Grunty Fen; a kestrel flew overhead; the temperature rose.

At Coveny we regrouped and for the first time spied Ely Cathedral, the 'Ship of the Fens' in the distance. Rupert decided to lead us on a less direct, but better surfaced route there and before long we had arrived in Ely for lunch. Here members split up: some decided to go to the pub, others to eat in town, and others to eat at Bill P’s house at his gracious invitation.

Regrouping at Coveney

I followed Rupert into town, trusting in his ability to sniff out some good fish and chips. We bought haddock and chips and took it back to Bill P's where we joined others to eat in the garden, enjoying also cups of tea kindly provided by Bill.

Lunch at Bill P's

After lunch we set off through Ely, passing the cathedral on the cobbles, before meeting up with the 'pub' contingent at the Cutter Inn, and heading south back towards Cambridge on Sustrans Route 11. It was a beautiful afternoon: the sun was glinting on the Great Ouse. Jacob pointed out a Trumpeter Swan. We continued on down the largely unmade Sustrans track; the temperature rose; finches called from the hedgerows; and then it happened - we were riding along a straight lane, but perhaps because of some strange trick of the place, the group somehow became separated. We tried to regroup at Wicken Fen but to no avail: some had gone their different ways.

Rupert (today's ride leader) at the Cock-up Bridge

On we rode, through Wicken Fen and White Fen. We saw a coot and lapwings; wild ponies cantered in the distance us and highland cattle looked on, munching. But before long as we approached Cambridge, and more familiar scenes. We passed through Lode and Quy and then starting splitting up, heading to our various journeys’ ends. I arrived home having ridden 106 km (66 miles). Alex Brown

Download GPS track (GPX).

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