Tuesday, 29 December 2015

29 Dec: Special ride to Saffron Walden and Thaxted

Nigel writes: Today we had yet another ad-hoc ride. This was Alex's initiative: he had originally suggested having a ride on Sunday but we agreed to hold it today because the weather forecast looked much better. Whereas our ride to Newport last Wednesday had been arranged through the members' email list, and the ride on Christmas Morning had been arranged by word-of-mouth, we made today's ride an official ride and announced it on the website.

Judging from the number of responses to my emailed announcement it quickly became clear that today was going to be a well-supported ride, and I wasn't surprised to discover about ten or eleven members turned up at Brookside for the start of today's ride. Not only was today the first working day between Christmas and New Year but it was also a most gorgeous winter's day. The forecast was for clear skies and bright sunshine the whole day long, with astonishingly mild temperatures, and this was exactly how the day turned out.

I was the leader today, and led the group south along Trumpington Road, along Long Road, and onto the busway.

On the busway bridge (Photo: Alex Brown)

We continued south along the DNA path, marvelling at how mild it was, and delighted to be riding in bright sunshone.

Along the DNA path

In Great Shelford we were met by a large group of out-of-town members who had been waiting there to meet us. We paused by the War Memorial to allow me to count the numbers: there was now about twenty of us, so I quickly arranged to split the ride into two, with me leading a front party and Rupert leading the remainder a few minutes behind.

Dividing into two groups in Great Shelford

The challenges of having a large group are familar to the Thursday riders, but to a Sunday rider like me they are very unfamilar: the last time I was on such a large ride was almost two years ago (when Eva led a similar-sized group to Wicken Fen and Chippenham).

Between the Shelfords (Photo: Alex Brown)

I rode on with the front group to Little Shelford towards Ickleton. Along the road yet more members were waiting to join us.

I've been having a spell of bad luck with punctures in recent weeks, and as we approached Ickleton my luck failed again and we stopped at the foot of Coploe Hill to allow me to repair a flat tyre. Whilst I was working on my bike the rear group arrived and overtook us, with Alex racing up the hill ahead of them to take photographs as they passed.

Ascending Coploe Hill (Photo: Alex Brown)

Ascending Coploe Hill (Photo: Alex Brown)

At Coploe summit (Photo: Alex Brown)

Descending Coploe (Photo: Alex Brown)

After about ten minutes my bike was back on the road and I made my way to the top of Coploe Hill to meet the rest of "my" group. We continued on to Catmere End and then dropped down Chestnut Avenue to Audley End House.

Audley End (Photo: Alex Brown)

My group arrived in Saffron Walden at about 11.20am, about ten minutes behind Rupert's group. The planned coffee stop was at Bicicletta Coffee, though in the event most people went to The Temeraire (a Wetherspoons pub) instead, and just three or four of us ended up at the coffee shop. I had expected it to be quiet on a Tuesday morning but a large group from another club were already there, though fortunately there were preparing to leave and we were able to find a table and be served quickly.

Afterward we wheeled our bikes over to the Temeraire to meet the others. I had expected everyone would be getting ready to move on, but in fact I found several members settling down to hearty Wetherspoons breakfasts.

Keith takes coffee in Saffron Walden (Photo: Alex Brown)

When the time came for us all to leave, we divided once more into two groups for the next stage of the ride to lunch in Thaxted, with Rupert's group taking a slightly shorter route than mine. However we had just departed from The Temeraire when Eva discovered a puncture, and once again Rupert's group set off ahead whilst my group waited for yet another puncture repair.

Setting off from The Temeraire, Saffron Walden

We were soon back on our way again, and I led my group on a very enjoyable loop to the south-west, though Wendens Ambo, Arkesden, Wicken Bonhunt and Rickling Green before turning east to Ugley, Henham and Debden, arriving in Thaxted at about 1.20pm.

The breakaway group (Photo: Alex Brown)

Once again we split up to eat lunch in various different places. Rupert and half a dozen other visited The Swan Hotel, though they seemed a bit overwhelmed by relatively small numbers of customers and most of the others went to Parrishes Restaurant just down the road. Another dozen or so ate there, though by the time I arrived they had stopped taking food orders (also being a bit overwhelmed) and so I bought a sandwich from the shop next door and ate it across the road under the historic Guildhall before rejoining the others in Parrishes for coffee.

The service in The Swan Hotel was extraordinarily slow and the diners there were still waiting for food when it was time for the rest of us to set off again. Rupert suggested we set off without waiting for them, and so I ended up leading a single large group east to Great Sampford and north towards Radwinter and Ashdon.

Approaching Great Sampford


A couple of miles beyond Ashdon we reached Bartlow, where the group divided. Most people were keen to go straight home and so turned towards Linton, taking what I think is a rather tedious way home via Abington, the A11 footbridge, Babraham and Sawston. This left about five of us to continue with me north to Balsham and a very fast descent down to Fulbourn, with the sun setting along the way down. Cherry Hinton and Romsey soon followed, and I arrived hime at about 4.30pm, having cycled 64 miles.

Today's modest mileage means there's no change to my Eddington Number today, and so it looks almost certain that I will end the year with an Eddington Number of 79 miles, missing (by just one 80-mile ride) my 2015 target of 80.

Download GPS track (GPX).

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