Sunday, 24 May 2015

24 May: Sunday all-day ride to Newmarket, West Stow and Wicken

Nigel writes: Today started bright and warm, with rain forecast for later. I was the leader today, so arrived at Brookside with a route planned for the whole day but ready to cut the ride short after coffee if necessary. (It wasn't necessary). Perhaps because of the poor forecast, but more likely because it was a holiday weekend, only three other riders were at Brookside to join me: Alex, Greg and Steve.

It's not far to Newmarket and we took a fairly direct route to get there. We left Cambridge along Hills Road before turning onto Wort's Causeway and climbing over the Gogs to Fulbourn. In the sunshine it was really quite warm, probably the warmest Sunday we have had so far this year.

We continued through Great Wilbraham to Little Wilbraham, where Steve left us to make his own way to coffee. The remaining three turned east to Six Mile Bottom and climbed the hill to cemetery cross-roads before turning left to Dullingham, finally entering Newmarket via the Woodditton Road.

We arrived at Coffee & Co just after 10.30am, half an hour early. I knew how long it can take to get food and drink here, so I thought an early arrival was just as well.

Already sitting outside the cafe were Mick, Edward and Geoff and a few moments later we were joined by David W. We went inside, ordered coffee and cakes and then went back outside to join them. Whilst we were waiting for our drinks yet more members arrived: Eva and Jim, then Conrad, then Joseph, then Keith (but not necessarily in that order).

Coffee & Co, Newmarket

By the time we were ready to leave the sky had clouded over and there were a few spots of rain. As usual, several members returned back home but I was pleased to find quite a few others who were keen to carry on to lunch despite the deteriorating weather.

My companions for this second stage were Keith, Conrad, Greg, Alex and Joseph. Eva and Jim would be making their own way there. We set off east from Newmarket, climbing up past the training grounds before dropping back town to Moulton. We then climbed a second, slightly steeper, hill before dropping back down to Gazeley.

Climbing the hill between Moulton and Gazeley

Since we left Newmarket we had been following the route of NCN 51, and we continued to follow it to Highham and Barrow. This is a delightful route along quiet lanes and through pleasantly undulating scenery. Patches of drizzle came and went and our rain jackets were put on and removed several times, but overall the rain never amounted to very much and was never more than a slight irritation.

When we reached Barrow we left NCN 51 and turned north, crossing the A14 and continuing north through Risby and Flempton to West Stow. Here the landscape began to change and we found ourselves riding through a mixture of forest and heathland.

We stopped for lunch at West Stow Country Park. Eva and Jim had arrived just ahead of us. We purchased drinks and sandwiches which we ate at a large table outside.

Lunch at West Stow Country Park

Afterwards we set off west towards our afternoon tea stop in Wicken. After having enjoyed a dry lunch stop the drizzle returned and the rain jackets came on and off a few more times.

West Stow heath

Our route took us through Lackford Green to Cavenham, where Greg left us to head straight back to Newmarket and Cambridge and the rest of us turned north towards Tuddenham and Red Lodge.

Waiting to cross the A11 at Barton Mills

After crossing the A11 at a rather difficult surface crossing we turned west. This took us first through Worlington and then to Isleham, the landscape becoming flatter, and bleaker. We continued to Soham, the rain a little steadier now but still not amounting to very much and the rain jackets going on, and coming back off fairly soon afterwards.

From Soham it's only three or four miles to Wicken along the A1123. However this is not a particularly nice road and it was still only 3pm so instead of taking the direct route we turned north for a loop along much quieter roads via Barway and Padney.

Between Soham and Padney

Sign near Padney

We arrived at Wicken just before 4pm, bang on time, and stopped for tea at Wicken Village Hall. Outside we met John E, Simon and Stan who had set off from Brookside at 2pm, and inside we found Steve who had been riding with in the morning.

Tea in Wicken Village Hall

We purchased cakes and mugs of tea and sat down at a large table for half an hour's relaxing chat. After a few minutes we were joined by Cheryl who had cycled down from Ely.

Getting ready to set off after tea

After tea we went back outside to discover that the rain had finally passed over and the sun had come back out. After a brief pause for a photo we said goodbye to both Keith and Cheryl and returned back to Cambridge as a group of eleven.

We rode via Wicken Fen and the Lodes Way. The combination of warm sunshine, traffic-free paths and a relaxed, sociable group made this probably the most enjoyable stage of the whole ride.

Crossing Burwell Lode

Crossing Reach Lode

When we reached Lode, Eva and Jim turned onto the disused railway for an off-road route to Waterbeach, leaving the rest of us to continue back to Cambridge via Bottisham, Quy and Fen Ditton, with various people peeling off along the way.

After riding back to Brookside in order to add a couple of extra miles I arrived home at 6.15pm, having cycled 81 miles. Following today's ride my Eddington Number increases to 77.

Download GPS track (GPX).

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