Sunday, 16 August 2015

16 Aug: Sunday longer ride to St Neots, Oundle and Swavesey

Nigel writes: From time to time the club organises an additional all-day ride which goes a little further than the normal all-day ride held on the same day. Earlier in the year Gareth led a 104 mile to Whitwell in Hertfordshire. This time it was my turn to lead a ride of a similar length to Oundle in Northamptonshire.

Typically these rides have had a small turnout so when I arrived at Brookside just before 8.30am I was pleased to find Gareth, Alex, Joseph and Tony waiting to join me. By coincidence three of us had been to Oundle last week on the Cambridge Civil War 200km Audax but since we visit this part of the world so rarely I was very happy to pay it another visit on a rather more leisurely ride.

Our coffee stop this morning was in St Neots, so we set off west from Cambridge along the Barton Road cycleway to Barton and then along the B1046 through Comberton and Toft to Bourn.


The weather today was excellent for a bike ride: rather cooler and less sunny than last week but still pleasantly warm and dry, and with the slightest of winds.

At Bourn we took the turn to Caxton and then continued west through Great Gransden and Waresely towards St Neots. I tried to set a moderate pace appropriate to a CTC ride but since everyone in the group was a strong, experienced rider we ended up going a bit faster than that and we made good progress, arriving at Ambiance Cafe in Riverside Park rather earlier than I had planned at 10.15am.

Crossing the Willow Bridge in St Neots

Ambiance Cafe (despite the idiosyncratic spelling) is an excellent stop when out for a bike ride, serving a good range of light meals. My order of scrambled eggs on toast was served quickly and efficiently. Whilst we were there Adrian arrived, no doubt planning to meet the normal all-day ride when they arrived later.

We weren't the only cyclists at the cafe; there was also a large group from Sustrans on one of their regular local rides, and we briefly exchanged friendly greetings.

After half an hour it was time to set off again and within a few minutes we were out of the town, heading west through Duloe and Staploe into the flat west Cambridgeshire countryside. We continued west to Bushmead before turning north to Little Staughton and Pertonhall. For the next few miles between Pertonhall and Kimbolton we were sharing the road with hundreds of runners on the Kimbolton Castle Half Marathon. Their run ended in Kimbolton, but we continued north through Stow Longa to Spaldwick. Although no sun had been forecast the clouds briefly parted and we stopped to put on sun cream.

After crossing the A14 we encountered two short hills. These come as a bit of a surprise after the earlier flat landscape but they're nothing really: Belton's Hill rises from 25m to 60m and the longer hill that follows rises from 36m to 58m.

Climbing Belton's Hill north of Spaldwick (Photo: Gareth Rees)

We continued north towards Hamerton before turning west for Oundle. From here onwards we were on the quiet pleasant lanes that three of us had ridden along last week, making good progress at a slightly faster-than-moderate pace, arriving in Oundle at 1pm exactly.

Oundle is a very small town (little bigger than nearby Sawtry), but is a pretty place with fine stone-faced buildings and an impressive range of cafes. On another visit it might be nice to try somewhere new, but today we revisited Beans Cafe which was entirely satisfactory.


After lunch we set off back in the direction of home, our next goal being Swavesey where we were due to call in at John R's house for tea. This took us east to Polebook and then through the flat landscape of harvested fields to Glatton and Sawtry.

USAAF 351st Bombardment Group Memorial near Polebrook

At Sawtry we crossed over the A1(M) and followed the B1090 for a few miles before turning off at Woodwalton to take a short loop through Great and Little Raveley before rejoining the same B1090 at Kings Ripton. We followed the B1090 for a couple of miles past RAF Wyton before turning south to Houghton. There we turned onto the Thicket Path for the short distance to St Ives.

The Thicket Path from Houghton to St Ives

At St Ives we joined the busway for about three miles to Swavesey where we stopped for tea. We reached John Ross's house just before 4pm, half an hour earlier than planned. After a while we were joined by the normal all-day ride led by Sarah and the afternoon ride led by Ray as well as a good number of other members who had made their own way there.

Tea at John's house in Swavesey

After a very enjoyable hour or so sitting in John's garden enjoying a splendid spread of sandwiches, snacks and cakes we set off back to Cambridge. Various people headed off in various directions; I rode back with Alex and a large contingent from the afternoon ride.

Riding home along the busway with the afternoon riders

As I neared home I decided to put in a small extra loop over Castle Hill to extend my mileage slightly before returning to Brookside and the final mile back to my house. I arrived home at 6.30pm having cycled 101 miles.

Download GPS track (GPX).

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