Sunday, 6 September 2015

6 Sep: Sunday ride to Gamlingay and Willington

Nigel writes: Today was the first of the club's new shorter Sunday rides. These replace our traditional "all-day" rides with a slightly shorter "two-stop" ride. As the name suggests, instead of stopping for morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea, these rides have just two stops, returning straight home after lunch. This is an innovation intended to make these rides more attractive to members: please let us know what you think.

Our start time today was 9.30am, half an hour later than the traditional 9am summer start time. Again this is intended to make the rides more attractive to members from outside Cambridge. Once again, please let us know what you think.

The weather forecast for today was excellent, with a cold start due to be followed by warm sunshine for the rest of the day. I woke up at the usual time and was rather frustrated having to wait for a later start, but decided to make the best of it and rode down to Brookside for the 9.30am start. There just three outer members waiting: Rupert, Greg and newcomer David. We didn't have a leader today, but we didn't really need one: Rupert offered a choice of routes via Coton or Wimpole, I chose Wimpole, and so off we went.

Barton Road, Cambridge

At 9.30am it was still cloudy and cold, so we took the 20 miles to coffee at a brisk pace. We rode south-west from Cambridge along the Barton Road cycleway to Barton. There we turned south towards Haslingfield and climbed Chapel Hill before dropping back down to Barrington. From here we continued to Orwell, crossed the A603 and entered the grounds of Wimpole Hall.

Wimpole Hall

Wimpole Hall is a popular venue for organised runs and bike rodes and today we noticed that there were both. The running event was the Wimpole Estate Junior Parkrun which had finished earlier and people were now clearing up.

We rode through the estate to the Arrington Gate, crossed the A1198 and continued west to Croydon. As we climbed the short but steep Croydon Hill we met our first sportive riders coming the other way. At the time we assumed they were all riding back to Wimpole but I later found that they were actually riding the Strawberry 50 and were on their way back to Impington.

A little further along we noticed some sportive riders turning left onto what appeared to be a rough track. It became apparent that there was a second event taking place for off-road riders. This was the Tour of the Cornfields Cyclocross Sportive and would eventually be returning back to Wimpole.

Refreshment stop at East Hatley for the Strawberry 50

Perhaps inspired by the other riders, Rupert, Greg and David were riding quite fast despite the westerly headwind and after I stopped in East Hatley to take a few photos I had to work hard to catch up with them.

I reached them just before Gamlingay and a few minutes later we all stopped for coffee at Woodview Farm Cafe. Already in the cafe were David W, Richard (from St Neots) and a new member who I now know to be Vin.

Coffee and cake at Woodview Farm Cafe, Gamlingay

After coffee my companions for the second stage of today's ride were David W and Vin, with everyone else returning back home. It was only about nine miles to our lunch stop by the direct route so I suggested going the long way round via St Neots, using the Willow Bridge to cross the Great Ouse. The weather was improving rapidly and by the time we arrived in Willington it was warm and sunny.

Lunch by the Ouse at Danish Camp, Willington

We stopped for lunch at Danish Camp. This is a cafe and cycle-hire place right next to the NCN 51 railway path, with a large lawn leading down to the River Great Ouse.

After a pleasant light lunch sitting by the river we discussed what to do next. David and Vin decided to head back home whilst I was keen to make the most of the fine weather and stay out a little longer.

After going our separate ways I continued west along NCN 51 towards the edge of Bedford. This took me into Priory Park, a large country park built on former gravel workings which was busy with people enjoying the warm September sunshine.

Boats on the lake at Priory Park, Bedford

NCN 51 continues west from Priory Park into the centre of Bedford but today I turned south, along the side of a large lake and along a series of not-very-well-signposted cycle paths towards Cardington.

The lake at Priory Park, Bedford

I emerged from the park into a business park and rode around a large roundabout before turning off onto quiet lanes towards Cardington.

The historic airship hangers at Cardington

I continued south, passing close to Old Warden before continuing on into the small town of Shefford. Here I turned east and carried on through Clifron and Henlow to Langford.

When I'm out cycling I like to stop for food and drink every two hours, so when I noticed that Langford had a Garden Centre I decided to call in at the cafe for coffee and cake. It was now 3.30pm, and with about twenty miles to go I was due to take on a few more calories. As I sat in the sunshine enjoying my latte and carrot cake another cyclist came up to me to say hello. It was Stuart, a familiar face from Stevenage who occationally joins our rides. Today he and a fellow-riders were on their way home from a trip up to St Ives.

Coffee at cake at Langford Garden Centre

Suitably refreshed I got back on the bike for the final stage back to Cambridge. I crossed the A1 by the water tower at Edworth and turned onto the road to Hinxworth.

Water tower near Edworth

I'm always looking out for possible food and drink stops so was interested to see a sign for teas at Lower Farm, Edworth. A later web search shows this to be the Summer Barn Tea Room, open until 4.30pm and possibly worth investigating further.

I continued to Ashwell (where I saw that the church room was open for teas until 5pm) and pressed on along familar roads through Steeple Morden, Litlington and Bassingbourn to Kneesworth. I crossed the A1198 and continued east to Meldreth.

Wind turbines near Langford

Our usual route from Meldreth involves riding through Shepreth, Barrington and Haslingfield, but we'd been that way in the morning so I decided to take a slightly longer route back via Melbourn, Fowlmere, Thriplow, Newton and the Shelfords. I returned to Brookside, turned off the GPS and rode the final mile home. I arrived home at 6.15pm, having cycled 87 miles.

Download GPS track (GPX).

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