Sunday, 7 June 2015

7 Jun: Sunday all-day ride to Meesden, Benington and Ashwell

Nigel writes: Today gave us the best weather we'd seen this year for a Sunday ride: sunshine all day and a very light but pleasantly cooling breeze. Excellent conditions for what I knew would be a relatively long ride. Our leader today was Ian D, and at Brookside he was joined by Linda, Rupert, John, Greg, Ian W, Mike CC and Li.

Before we set off, Mike CC showed us the plate on the bench there, which he had newly polished. A nice accompaniment to the recently-cleaned woodwork.

Newly-polished plate on our bench at Brookside

We set off from Brookside and ride to the station where we joined the busway to Addenbrooke's. As usual on Sunday mornings the pace was leisurely, allowing me ample scope to sprint ahead and position myself to take photos of the approaching riders.

On the busway south of Cambridge station

On the busway spur to Addenbrooke's

The DNA path

We continued south along the DNA path to Great Shelford where we rejoined the road for the familar route south through Little Shelford and Whittlesford to Duxford.

Crossing the A505 south of Whittlesford

At Duxford we turned west onto Grange Road towards Chrishall Grange. This is where the pleasant rolling countryside begins, with a gentle climb towards Chrishall, a descent and short climb to Elmdon, another descent to Wendon Lofts and yet another easy climb through Duddenhoe End to Langley.

Grange Road Duxford

At about 10.45am we arrived in Meesden and stopped for coffee at the village hall. This is a community initiative known as a "Village Shop" with local volunteers selling tea, coffee and various food items on occasional Sundays. This was our first visit (I think). We'd told them in advance that we were coming, and were warmly welcomed.

Several members were already sitting outside the hall including Edward, Joseph, Doug, Adrian and Mick. The rest of us bought hot drinks, cakes and bacon rolls and went back outside to join them.

Meesden village hall

Afterwards about half those present continued on to lunch in Benington with the other half returning back to Cambridge. The "official" group consisted of Ian D leading Greg, Li and me, and the "breakaway" group consisted of Adrian, Joseph and Doug, with Adrian planning a shorter route including some "rough-stuff".

With the sun still shining brightly and the roads still very quiet this was a delightful ride, taking us west through Anstey and Wyddial to Buntingford and then south-west along narrow wooded lanes through Westmill, Nasty and Great Munden to Dane End where we turned back north for the final few miles to Benington. Along the way we passed countless other cyclists, including many on an Evans Cycles sportive.

We stopped for lunch at The Bell in Benington, our first visit for some years. I remember it as quite a popular pub but today it was very quiet. It now specialises in curry but we were offered lighter meals and sandwiches if we wanted them. We sat outside in the by-now hot sun and after a while were joined by Adrian, Joseph and Doug.

Another leafy lane near Benington

After lunch we set off once more in separate groups. Li switched from Ian's group to Adrian's, leaving just Ian, Greg and me to ride a clockwise loop around Stevenage, passing through Whitwell (which Gareth and Alex visited last week) before threading our way around Hitchin and Letchworth to Baldock. With wooded lanes almost all the way it was nice to be out of the sun, though these beautiful roads weren't quite as quiet now, no doubt due to the proximity of several large towns.

Once through Baldock we left the trees behind and were back in a quieter, more open and familiar prairie-like landscape for the final few miles to Ashwell, which we reached just after 4pm.

We stopped for tea at the Parish Church Room, another volunteer-run cafe which we have visited many times. Adrian, Li and Joseph were already there, and so was the afternoon ride. This was led today by Ray, who today was joined by Simon, Neil, Gina and John E.

Tea at Ashwell Parish Church Room

Afterward we set off back home to Cambridge, mostly as a single large, sociable, group.

Getting ready to set off after tea in Ashwell

We took the usual direct route east through Steeple Morden and Litlington to Kneesworth where we crossed the A1198 before continuing east to Meldreth. From here I would normally have continued on to Barrington and Chapel Hill but the afternoon ride had already been that way so Ray proposed going back via Melbourn and Fowlmere and the rest of of were happy to follow.

After riding through Thriplow and Newton I parted from the group, with everyone else turning towards Little Shelford and the DNA path and just me and Neil continuing on to Harston. After a few hundred yards along the A10 we turned onto the path across Trumpington Meadows.

After crossing the motorway we turned left onto a new (and rather gravelly) path which led into the newly-opened country park. Greg had told us earlier that this led via Byrons Pool to Grantchester, but there were lots of paths, and no signposts, so we went down a couple of dead ends before eventually finding our way through.

Path in Trumpington Meadows Country Park leading towards Grantchester

Once we reached the road we turned towards Grantchester. This road is something of a rat-run but today it was lovely and quiet due to roadworks closing it to motor vehicles. We continued to Barton Road and then back into Cambridge.

I arrived home at 6.45pm, having cycled 91 miles. Although this brings the next increment closer, my Eddington Number remains 77.

Download GPS track (GPX).

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