Sunday, 12 July 2015

5 Jul: Sunday all-day ride to Gamlingay, Harrold and St Neots

Conrad writes: After the glorious days of sunshine today turned gloomy with a forecast of light showers but I was still surprised to only find Rupert and Lee at Brookside today. We waited a while longer but because of certain route complications (more on that later) I decided we had to leave soon.

Today’s ride featured a long section from coffee to lunch so I was keen to get to coffee early. We took a fairly direct route over Chapel Hill (which was where my Garmin felt the need to shut itself down hence I only have the GPS track after Barrington), Orwell and then through Wimpole Estate. It was early but there was already a large group of children getting ready for an organised run. The children had completely blocked off the path but before I could suggest to our small group that we dismount, their teacher(?) ordered them to clear a path for us and we cycled through the group in scenes reminiscent of the Tour de France yellow jersey going through a tunnel of supporters on the climb to Alpe de Huez. We can dream...

At Gamlingay, we found Mick C, Adrian, Ed and Richard from Bedford. Mike CC joined us soon after. Adrian, Mick and Ed turned back to Cambridge while the rest of us decided to push on.

The next stage would prove more challenging. Earlier in the week, I had consulted the ride gurus on how to get to Harrold Odell Country Park without going through Bedford while trying to reduce the distance. Thanks to Nigel and Gareth for their suggestions but there was no getting around it — it would be at least 25 miles to lunch. Fortunately, Richard kindly agreed to follow us as far as Bedford and his local knowledge would prove invaluable.

We took the usual route to Everton, through the Sandy estate and onto the disused railway track that led all the way to Danish Camp. We had to stop twice, first to help Lee with her panniers and the second time, to help a woman cyclist who looked in some distress after coming off her bike at a corner. Bike traffic was light at this time of the day so it must have been tempting for her and other cyclists to take a corner just a little too fast. Richard was also very kind to point out one section where it was better to dismount because of the narrow lane and several blind corners.

We took a turning on the cycle path and then crossed a main road, and went around several roundabouts before we stopped just outside Salph End to decide on our plans. Rupert, Lee and Mike CC were keen to return to Cambridge but I was interested to push on. Again, Richard was kind enough to show me this very good route through a park and then up the hill towards Kimbolton before turning off on a very quiet road that later rejoined the road to Thurleigh. It was here that Richard left and I pushed on.

The next section was new to me. Instead of taking the suggested route through Sharnbrook, I went on a loop through Milton Ernest and Carlton, enjoying some beautiful views of the valley before arriving at Harrold Odell Country Park at 1:45pm. This was very late but I had packed my own lunch so I was ready to leave by 2:30pm, but not before my customary espresso.

I wasn’t that concerned about leaving the lunch point late because it wasn’t too far to St Neots, so I took the direct route through Sharnbrook, Little Staughton and Bushmead, arriving at Ambience Cafe at 3:45pm. it was about this time that some relatively heavy rain showers were passing through St Neots but it was still pleasant enough for me to eat my smoothie outside. I waited till 4:15pm but there was no sign of the afternoon ride so I decided to leave before any more rain showers came through.

Again, I took the direct route through Waresley, Caxton, Bourn etc. I arrived home at 5:45pm after riding 150km (93 miles). This was easily my longest ride of the year. Conrad Chua

Download GPS track (GPX).

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