Sunday, 17 May 2015

17 May: Sunday all-day ride to Saffron Walden, Rayne and Ashdon

Nigel writes: Today was forecast to be dry and cloudy, with the sun putting in an appearance during the morning before taking the afternoon off. In the event it turned out to be much as predicted: a pleasant spring day.

The first stage of today's all-day ride was to Saffron Walden for coffee, and when I arrived at Brookside I found that my companions would be Rupert, Mike CC, Alex, Martin, Graham and Conrad. Conrad was our leader today and led us west out of Cambridge along the Barton Road cycleway to Barton. As usual on Sunday mornings the pace was moderate, allowing us to chat as we rode along and also allowing Steve, who had arrived at Brookside a few moments late, to catch up with us.

Barton to Haslingfield

At Barton we turned off the main road towards Haslingfield. We climbed Chapel Hill and dropped down the other side to Barrington, continuing through Shepreth and Fowlmere and over the A505 to Chrishall Grange. Here we turned onto Royston Lane which we followed for its whole length to Littlebury.

Royston Lane

Despite the rather misleading name, Royston Lane is one of my favourite lanes: very quiet, very scenic and with a couple of small hills along the way. The pleasure is always offset, however, by the very poor road surface, though at the eastern end (perhaps when we cross into Essex) it is markedly better.

Royston Lane summit

At Littlebury we crossed over to the B184 and climbed a small rise before enjoying a fast descent into Saffron Walden.

We arrived in Saffron Walden just after 11pm and stopped for coffee at the new Bicicletta Cafe. This is in Hill Street, the main street that leads east from the traffic lights in the middle of the town. We arrived to find several members already there and sitting outside, including David W, Mick, Edward, Doug and Adrian. I parked my bike (there are bike racks under the arcade in front, with big windows facing the cycle parking) and went inside.

Bicicletta Cafe, Saffron Walden

This was the club's first visit and I have to say I was very impressed, both by the stylish interior (vaguely like a high-tech bike shop, with fancy bikes on display and racks of classy clothing for sale) and by the excellent coffee and cakes served by friendly staff. I hope this will become a regular stop for the club.

Inside the Bicicletta Cafe

After coffee some members returned back home but the majority carried on to lunch in Rayne, including David W, Adrian, Steve, Martin, Doug, Mike CC, Alex, Graham, me and Conrad our leader. Rupert accompanied us as far as Finchingfield.

Great Sampford

Conrad led us there by a fairly direct route: along the B1053 to Radwinter, Great Samford and Finchingfield.

Between the Sampfords

When we reached Finchingfield, Conrad decided we were making faster progress than expected (no doubt because of a gentle tailwind) so led us off the main road and onto a delightful series of tiny lanes to Waltham's Cross and Shalford.

Lane between Finchingfield and Shalford

As we approached Shalford the group divided, with Conrad leading the main ride east to Shalford, along the B1053 for a mile and then west to Shalford Green, and me leading a breakaway group along about a mile of unsurfaced byway directly to Shalford Green. Rather to my surprise Adrian had never been this way before, and we were pleased to discover that it is perfectly cycleable: rough but not rutted, and dry.

Byway between Shalford and Shalford Green

My own bike is not well suited to rough-stuff but I'm happy to withstand the vibration for short distances so long as the route is dry. In this case it wasn't long before we reached the end and were back on smooth tarmac.

Rough-stuff survivors, Shalford Green

From here we only had a few more miles to go before we reached Rayne, where we turned onto the Flitch Way (a discused railway, not a unsurfaced cycle route) for a few hundred yards before stopping for lunch at the cafe at the old Rayne Station.

The Booking Hall Cafe, Rayne

The cafe was very busy and we had quite a long wait for food but it was good value and was good when it arrived.

Afterwards we set off back north towards our afternoon tea stop in Ashdon. Conrad's route took us west to Blake End and then north to Great Saling, Great Bardfield (passing the Blue Egg Cafe) and Finchingfield. Here we crossed over our morning route and continued north to Helions Bumpstead, arriving at the Village Museum in Ashdon somewhat early at about 3.40pm.

A visit to the Ashdon Museum is always a pleasure and today was no exception. Already at the cafe were Keith and David S and after a while we were joined by the afternoon ride, including Ian W, Ray, Simon, Mike K, Jacob and one or two others.

After tea we set off back to Cambridge. Most of the others took a fairly direct route via Linton, Abington, Babraham and Sawston, but I fancied a slightly longer and hillier route so rode back with Alex via West Wratting, Six Mile Bottom and Fulbourn. I arrived home just before 6pm, having cycled 85 miles. My Eddington Number remains 76.

Alex had been out for a spin before the start of today's ride, so his distance for the day stands at 192km (an impressive 119 miles); his Eddington Number is 38.

Download GPS track (GPX).

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