Sunday, 23 August 2015

23 Aug: Sunday all-day ride to Saffron Walden, Hatfield Broad Oak and Braughing

Nigel writes: I hadn't expected much of a ride today. The day started off warm, dry and sunny: delightful conditions for a bike ride. But with a band of heavy rain forecast to arrive at 2pm I expected the ride to be cut short. But that was a decision for later: for now the weather was lovely, and I arrived at Brookside to find nine other riders waiting to start: Rupert, Mike CC, Alex, Gina, Keith, Jim, Ray, Li and Joseph our leader.

At Brookside (Photo: Alex Brown)

Morning coffee today was in Saffron Walden so we set off south from Brookside, down Trumpington Road and then along Cambridge's most expensive backstreets to Long Road. This is where we normally turn onto the busway but today Joseph surprised us by continuing east along Long Road to Addenbrooke's. We turned onto Robinson Way, continued onto Francis Crick Way, and on to the DNA path. Meanwhile Alex, who had sped ahead to take photos, was waiting in vain for us to arrive at the busway bridge...

On the DNA path approaching Great Shelford

That was the only surprise that Joseph sprang on us. Once we reached Great Shelford we followed the familiar route south through Little Shelford and Whittlesford to Duxford. There, and no doubt in order to lengthen the route a little, we turned left onto the road to Hinxton, crossing over the railway before reaching Hinxton ford.

Today was a day of fords: we crossed four of them the course of the day, and passed near to several more. Our first ford at Hinxton is famous for being green and slippery so we all by-passed it using the footbridge.

By-passing Hinxton Ford

At Hinxton we turned back across the railway towards Ickleton. There began the climb of Coploe Hill.

Coploe Hill

After a short pause at the summit we carried on to Catmere End and then descended along Chestnut Avenue to Audley End. As we descended I found myself riding ahead of the group and completed the final miles into Saffron Walden on my own.

Morning coffee today was at Mocha Cafe, but I was keen to pay a return visit to Bicicletta Cafe, a combined bike shop and cafe, which I had visited earlier in the year. I parked my bike in the racks outside, went in, ordered a coffee and cake, and sat down. Rather to my surprise a staff member jumped up and announced that he was going outside to lock my bike for me, and after doing so he handed me the key.

A staff member secures my bike at Bicicletta Cafe, Saffron Walden

I'd heard about this previously, so it wasn't a complete surprise, but I have to say the effect was charming and certainly made me feel extremely welcome.

I finished my coffee and cake, unlocked my bike, and after a pleasant chat to the "lock valet" wheeled my bike round the corner to Mocha Cafe where I found the rest of the group. They were sitting outside and seemed to be enjoying their food, but I heard a grumble that the cafe didn't have any cake...

The rest of the group at Mocha Cafe, Saffron Walden

There were several other members at Mocha Cafe, notably Gareth and Sue who joined us for the remainder of the ride. In a few minutes we were ready to set off again; several people left us to ride home, leaving Gina, Gareth, Alex, Ray, Li, Sue, Joseph and me to carry on to lunch in Hatfield Broad Oak. I was rather surprised to find so many people heading on to lunch - we were sure to get wet on the way back - but I was pleased and proud that there were.

Leaving Saffron Walden (Photo: Alex Brown)

From Saffron Walden we took the road south towards Debden. Once again I found myself ahead of the group, accompanied by Gareth despite him being rather tired after the Cambridge Market 200 audax yesterday. For a few miles we kept stopping to wait for the others but eventually decided to press ahead at our own pace, taking a route south through Broxted, Molehill Green and around the edge of Stansted Airport to Takely. From there a pleasant series of lanes brought us to the edge of the village of Hatfield Broad Oak, where we stopped for lunch at Cammas Hall Tea Barn.

Lunch stop near Hatfield Broad Oak

This is the cafe at a "pick-your-own" centre, and today was quite busy with lots of small children running about. We ordered food, sat down in the marquee outside and about five minutes later were joined by Joseph and the remainder of the group.

Lunch at Cammas Hall Tea Barn

Alex's Victoria Sponge at lunch (Photo: Alex Brown)

As we sat eating our lunch (and waving away the wasps) we noticed that it had started to rain. We got back on our bikes and set off west. The rain was quite lightly initially but gradually became heavier.

Waiting at temporary traffic lights in Hatfield Broad Oak

Before long it was pouring with rain. We put on waterproofs and pressed on. On a warm August there was little danger of getting cold but my sunglasses became covered in raindrops and it began to be difficult to see where I was going. We pressed on west through Spellbrook and Green Tye to Much Hadham, where we encountered our second ford of the day. This was shallow and free from green slime, so several of us took the opportunity to ride through.

Sue in Much Hadham ford

Ray in Much Hadham ford

From Much Hadham we continued west once more. It was still raining quite heavily, but in the distance we spotted a band of clear sky which gave us hope that it would soon end.

In the rain between Much Hadham and Barwick

In the rain between Much Hadham and Barwick

The rain had slackened slightly by the time we reached Barwick, and our third ford of the day. This is a wide but shallow ford, once again free of green slime. This time only Gareth and I braved the waters, with everyone else taking the footbridge.

Gareth in Barwick ford

Nigel in Barwick ford

At Barwick we turned north for the final few miles through Standon and Puckeridge to Braughing. As we rode on the rain continued to ease off, and by 3.30pm, when we reached the Church Hall in Braughing, it had almost completely stopped.

Tea in Braughing Church Hall

Tea in Braughing Church Hall was as delightful as ever, serving us mugs of tea and slices of excellent cake. My "death by chocolate" was particularly good.

As we queued up to order our food and drink I heard Gareth asking someone how they pronounced the name of the village. To my surprise the reply was much closer to "Braffing" than the "Bruffing" I had always used myself. I asked someone else and received the same reply. Well, well.

We sat eating cake and drinking tea until about 4.10pm. There was no sign of the afternoon ride, not surprisingly given the afternoon weather.

Emerging into the sunshine after tea

We went back outside to discover that the sun had come back out and the afternoon had transformed into a fine sunny evening for the final leg of our ride. We left Braughing and rode north-east through the Pelhams (Furneaux, Stocking and Brent) to Langley, where we crossed our final - and completely dry - ford of the day.

Arriving at Langley Lower Green (Photo: Alex Brown)

From Langley we were on familar ground once more for the final hour back to Cambridge. We rode on through Elmdon, Chrishall Grange and Fowlmere before following the B1368 to Harston. After a short diversion across Trumpington Meadows we joined the busway for the last few miles into Cambridge. I arrived home at 6.50pm, having cycled 87 miles. Not bad on a day I thought might be a washout.

Download GPS track (GPX).

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