Thursday, 29 January 2015

29 Jan: Thursday ride to Newport and Barley

Edward writes: Despite a forecast that promised us a fine morning followed by showers, and possibly sleet or snow, in the afternoon, a dozen riders turned up in Hauxton for our ride out to Newport and Barley. Into the mixture there would also be a strong westerly wind which in the afternoon became a northerly wind and very cold.

At the start Rupert announced that he had come without overshoes and decided to return home - definitely a case of cold feet. This left the remainder to set out on a conventional route out through Little Shelford and Whittlesford to reach the A505. The wind was more or less against us and the sun was still very low against the clear blue sky making it quite difficult to see.

Once we had cleared the A505 we went through Duxford and on to Ickleton and on to our old friend Coploe Hill. The climb up to our re-grouping spot is hedge lined which kept the wind off us, but after a brief stop at the top the wind buffeted us as there are few hedges on this part.

Coploe Hill

Coploe Hill

We arrived at Catmere End and,in view of the weather and the recent rain, we decided against going via the country route to Wendens Ambo and instead went down Chestnut Avenue to the B1383 where we turned right for the last mile and half into Newport.

Catmere End

En route we had been joined by Mike B and John F and at Newport we found Craig already warming himself with a cup of coffee. As the sun was still out some of us were able to sit outside protected from the wind and it felt quite pleasant.

Arriving at Newport

After coffee one or two went straight home leaving the remainder to head for Wicken Bonhunt where a group of self-proclaimed faint hearts (no names) left us to go into Arkesden and head for home.

Wicken Bonhunt

This left about eight to tackle the complete circuit which took us first to Rickling, where we saw a couple of black swans on the pond, followed by Berden.

Black swans at Rickling

We were now heading south westerly and feeling the full force of the wind, and across here the roads is very exposed, there being no hedge cover. After Berden we went through both Stocking Pelham and Brent Pelham, but now we had turned more north westerly and the wind became less of a problem.

Brent Pelham

We were also beginning to see the sky cloud over which made the prospect of that sleet in the weather forecast become a real possibility. Next up was Meesden soon followed by Anstey and then the lovely twisting road into Nuthampstead. It’s still a source of amazement that Nuthampstead was considered for London's third airport before Stansted was finally chosen.



This brought us to Barley and the Chequers for lunch arriving at the slightly later time of 1.30 pm.

Arriving at Barley

The pub was busy and obviously provides very nice meals but unfortunately they didn’t have a record of our intention to visit. Nevertheless they rallied round and those who ordered a meal didn’t have to wait too long which enabled us to get underway again at 2.30 pm. As we stepped outside the weather had deteriorated and there was a brief sleet flurry, but also the wind was now northerly thus thwarting our hopes of being blown home down the B1368. As we made our way downhill to Flint Cross we could see dark and threatening clouds over to our left and made us wonder if we could make it before being caught out. We made it to Flint Cross and turned for Fowlmere when a hailstorm developed and it was like shards of glass on our faces and also painful. In no time at all we were in a complete whiteout as the hail turned to snow and the road was completely covered.

Between Flint Cross and Fowlmere

This meant we had to very careful to stay on our bikes but we eventually arrived safely in Fowlmere and the worst of the storm had blown over. This still meant a careful ride into Newton and then into Little Shelford before finishing the ride in Great Shelford at 3.40 pm. At 41 miles this was a much shorter ride than normal but in view of the afternoon conditions one in which we were all glad to be home and in the warm. Despite it all there were smiles at the end so I think we all enjoyed it and thanks to everyone who came out. Edward Elmer

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Sunday, 25 January 2015

25 Jan: Sunday ride to Saffron Walden and Langley

Nigel writes: We've had generally good weather for our Sunday rides so far this year (with just one exception), and today continued this trend, with a fine, mild day of clear skies, bright sunshine and a very light winds.

The promising conditions brought out a good turnout at Brookside at the start of today's ride, fifteen riders in all: Carl, Ian, Alex, Mike CC, John R, John E, Greg, Steve, Neil, Tom, Pete, Charlie, Rupert and Gareth, who was our leader today. As with other recent rides, it was good to see one or two new faces, and it was also good to see that some relatively new riders had come back for another ride.

On the busway, climbing the railway bridge to Addenbrooke's

On the busway, climbing the railway bridge to Addenbrooke's

Gareth led us south out of Cambridge along the busway to Addenbrooke's and along the DNA path to Great Shelford. After a short pause at the railway crossing we continued to Little Shelford and then south to Whittlesford.

At the Hill Farm Road/A505 junction near Whittlesford

We crossed over the A505 and continued through Duxford to Ickleton, where the group paused to regroup. It was clear there was a variety of speeds in the group so Rupert suggested we divide into two for the final few miles to our coffee stop in Saffron Walden. Rupert would lead a slightly slower group over Coploe Hill to Catmere End and then down Chestnut Avenue, past Audley End House, to Saffron Walden. Gareth would lead everyone else on a slightly longer route via Elmdon and Wendens Ambo. I rode with Gareth and we arrived at The Temeraire a few minutes after Rupert's group. Also in the pub were several members who had ridden there directly: Edward, Mick, Adrian, Vic, Joseph and Craig, making a total of 21 at coffee.

Prepeating to set off after coffee in Saffron Walden

Afterwards the group divided once more, with about half the total number heading back to Cambridge and the rest carrying on to lunch at Langley Lower Green. We didn't have very far to go so Gareth took us south along the Debden Road and then west through Newport to Clavering. It was now about 12.30pm, and the group divided once more, with Rupert leading the majority directly to lunch, leaving just Gareth and me to add in a very pleasant extra loop via Stocking Pelham and Brent Pelham. I think it's really good when our rides are big enough to be able to divide them in this way, as it means that everyone can have the type of ride that suits them best.

Gareth in the ford at Langley Lower Green

Our lunch stop today was The Bull in Langley Lower Green. This is a familar pub which we often pass on our rides and which used to be a regular tea stop. Our last visit was in March 2009 but since then it seems to have gone into decline. It's in an excellent location in an area that we frequently visit on our rides so we were delighted to discover recently that the pub is under new management and has started to serve light Sunday lunches. Our visit didn't disappoint: the service was friendly and efficient and the food (I had a baked potato) was just right for cyclists on a bike ride. I'm sure we'll be back before long, not only for lunch but perhaps in the summer for a pre-arranged tea.

Preparing to set off after lunch in Langley Lower Green

After lunch we set off back to Cambridge. With sun was still shining in a clear sky, and hardly any wind, it felt very mild and the ride back was a delight. The first two miles took us north to Little Chishill before dropping down to Shaftenhoe End. This is one of my favourite local lanes and was as pleasant as ever.

Little Chishill

At Shaftenhoe End we turned right and climbed up to Great Chishill before dropping down again on the long, straight, road down to Flint Cross.

Descending from Great Chishill towards Flint Cross

At Flint Cross we turned onto the B1368, crossed the A505 and continued along the B1368 through Fowlmere to Newton. With a gentle tailwind we made rapid progress.

Speeding along at the front along what is a rather dull road,  Gareth and I demonstrated to Alex the benefits of cooperative drafting: by taking turns to lead at the front, we were able to maintain a faster pace (about 20mph with a tailwind) for longer than we would have been able to maintain individually. We're not a racing club, and high-speed drafting is not an important part of what we do, but it can be fun to do from time to time.

Waiting to join the B1368 at Flint Cross

We paused at Newton to allow the rest of the group to catch up and then continued on at a gentler pace to Harston. We turned onto the A10, using the bumpy pavement cycleway for the short distance to Hauxton Mill Bridge. There we turned onto the new path that leads through the Trumpington Meadows development site, over the M11, and back to the main road near the Park and Ride.  We joined the busway and a few minutes later were by the station in the middle of Cambridge. I arrived home at 3.45pm, having cycled 56 miles.

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Thursday, 22 January 2015

22 Jan: Thursday ride to Cambourne and St Neots

Edward writes: A cold, raw morning greeted the twenty riders who assembled at Haslingfield Green for our ride out to St. Neots taking in Cambourne en route.

Today we were to be led by John F and as part of his leadership duties he provided us with a route for the ride which, of course, is very useful for anybody who may become separated from the main group.


We left Haslingfield under the leaden sky which was to prevail for most of the day with a temperature which rose from 2 degrees to a positively balmy 5 degrees later in the day. We went through Harlton and onto Washpit Lane to find the road was covered in mud as we passed the farm and then it became cleaner as we ran up to the A603 for the turning into Comberton.


Although it was cold there was hardly any wind as we arrived in Comberton and on the way in spotted some daffodils making an early appearance. Spring is next! We turned out of Comberton for the long climb up to Hardwick where we turned to go along the St Neots old road and finally into Cambourne for coffee. Although Morrisons was the designated stop quite a few chose to go into the nearby cafe of Green's instead. At coffee we were joined by Ian W, Mike B, Eva, Sarah and Andy, although, as usual, several returned home after the break.


We left Cambourne, over the A428, and headed into the country and here it felt particularly cold as we approached Elsworth. Although cold and not much colour about the wintry scene still has its attractions.


We left Elsworth and reached the B1040 for the road into Hilton and then, after crossing the A1198, on to the beautifully surfaced road to Graveley where the giant wind turbines loom large over the village. After climbing out of Graveley we headed down to Offord D'Arcy where we turned from going almost due west to almost due south as we rode along side the River Great Ouse and the East Coast Main Line. This took us through Great Paxton and soon after we ran into the environs of St. Neots, today's destination for lunch at the Ambiance Cafe. Thursday is Market day in St Neots making it quite a tricky process to weave our way through all the traffic.

St Neots

St Neots

As usual those with sandwiches sat outside and were warmed for brief seconds as the sun tried its best to make an appearance, but everyone soon went inside for a hot drink. After lunch at 1.30 pm we said goodbye to those making their separate ways home and the remaining thirteen headed off over the meadows and housing estates in order to get to the Abbotsley road. After two miles we reached Abbotsley and then on to Great Gransden and now into familiar territory as we headed easterly towards Caxton and Bourn.



Next it was Toft, Comberton and Barton where we brought the ride to an end at the Coton roundabout to enable people to take their own routes home, the time being 3.30 pm.


This gave us a round trip since leaving Haslingfield of 48 miles, just right for a winter's ride and our thanks to John for once again giving us such a good day out. Edward Elmer

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Sunday, 18 January 2015

18 Jan: Sunday ride to Melbourn and Gamlingay

Nigel writes: Today was a beautiful winter's day, with the early cloud soon disappearing to be replaced by clear skies and bright sunshine. Despite relatively low temperatures, starting at 2C and rising to 4C in the afternoon, there was very little wind making it really rather pleasant.

I turned up at Brookside to find seven other riders waiting: Eva, Alex, Greg, Mike CC, Yvette, Tom and Clare. There was no designated leader today, but Mike had prepared a route and offered to lead.

On the busway south of Cambridge

We set off south from Brookside, following our usual route down to the busway, Addenbrooke's and the DNA path to Great Shelford.

On the busway, turning towards Addenbrookes

We continued south, following NCR 11 to Stapleford and Sawston. As usual, the pace was leisurely and the atmosphere sociable, and the fact that most of this route was along cycle paths made it easy for people to chat to other riders as we rode along.

Crossing the Sawston by-pass

When we reached the centre of Sawston we turned west, crossed over the Sawston By-pass and joined the relatively new cycle path that leads across the river and through some farmland to Whittlesford.

Crossing the Cam between Sawston and Whittlesford

Just beyond Whittlesford the cry of "puncture" was heard and we stopped to allow Alex to remove his wheel, find a thorn and and replace an inner tube. This ceremony took place on a pleasant triangle of grass but it was quite cold and I was relieved when we were able to get going once again.

Alex mends a punchure near Whittlesford

We turned north-west towards Newton and then south along the B1368 towards Fowlmere. We were just beyond Newton when Mike looked around and asked "where are Yvette and Greg"? I went back to find them, and after a few minutes found Yvette mending a puncture with Greg offering the usual encouragement. After a few minutes we were soon on our way. The three of us rode on through Newton and Fowlmere, arriving at Philimore Garden Centre on the northern edge of Melbourn at the rather late time of 11.30am. As we arrived Adrian, Joseph, Mick and Vic were leaving.

We entered the cafe to find Mike and the rest of our group already there, together with Sue who had made her own way there.

After a pleasant and warming half hour in the cafe it was time to be on our way again, with Mike, Alex and me carrying onto lunch in Gamlingay (joined by Sue as far as Orwell) and the others returning back to Cambridge.

We were now running quite late so Mike led us on a direct but very pleasant route to lunch, through Shepreth, Malton and Orwell to Wimpole Hall and from there through Arrington, Croydon and the Hatleys to Gamlingay. We arrived at Woodview Farm Cafe (which is on the main road about a mile south of Gamlingay) at about 1.30pm. Adrian and Joseph were already there. Jerry B was there with his family on the next table.

This was my first visit to Woodview Farm Cafe and it was very pleasant, following the usual pattern of a cafe and farm shop and offering a good range of light sandwiches, paninis and cakes.

Woodview Farm Cafe, Gamlingay

The service was fast and efficient but we were feeling in a leisurely mood and it was approaching 3pm when we left the cafe and prepared to set off for home. I rode back to Cambridge with Alex, via Waresley, Great Gransden, Caxton and the B1046 to Cambridge. We reached the outskirts of Cambridge at 4.20pm just as the sun was setting, but since the sky was completely free of clouds it still seemed quite light. I arrived home at 4.30pm, having cycled 52 miles.

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Thursday, 15 January 2015

15 Jan: Thursday ride to Ickleton and Debden

Edward writes: This morning, at Hauxton Green, eighteen members met in decidedly fresh conditions, but under a clear blue sky, and this morning we welcomed Charlie who was making his debut with us.

Today's leader was Mike C who, along with Adrian, share an encyclopedic knowledge of the byways of South Cambridgeshire and neighbouring Essex and Suffolk.

The start at Hauxton Green

Even Mike couldn't surprise as we left Hauxton for a routine run through to Whittlesford and then on to Newton. Newton became Thriplow and then Fowlmere where the increasing strength of the wind was felt at full face on.

Chrishall Grange

Chrishall Grange

Chrishall Grange

We came to the A505 followed by more face wind as we rode up to Chrishall Grange. We followed the Elmdon road but branched off to head for Ickleton Grange which, once reached, put the wind on our back and being slightly downhill we made pleasantly rapid progress into Ickleton and thence to the Riverside Barns for the first break of the day. At coffee we were joined by Vic F and Sue, both of whom had cycled out independently.

It was very cozy inside the little cafe, in some contrast to the temperature outside. After our break there were the usual comings and goings but this still left fourteen to proceed to lunch.


Ickleton (Photo: Charlie Drew)

We used the concrete farm track to obtain the road going up Coploe Hill and although some had stopped at our usual regrouping spot the break was brief and we pressed on and took the turning down to Littlebury. This road goes past the bluebell woods which are such a wonderful sight in the spring. We reached Littlebury and crossed over the B1383 and headed up to Windmill Hill for the climb and descent into Saffron Walden and then exited the town along Ashdon Road. When we reached the top of the hill we turned towards Sewards End, into Newhouse Lane and then turning towards Radwinter and once again into the wind.

Water Lane, Radwinter

Water Lane, Radwinter

When we had passed through Radwinter we turned into Water Lane which today was very appropriately named as both the fords were in full flow. After crossing the second ford Averil had a puncture which delayed the small group at the back by about 15 minutes; punctures couldn't come as a major shock as we saw a lot of hedge trimming in progress. Luckily we were only two of three miles from our lunch stop and we finally got there at about 1.45 pm.

Debden Barns is a nice place but not appropriate for a group of cyclists as some had to wait an hour for their lunch and thus we didn't leave until almost 3 pm. In fact some of our group went to the shop at Carver Barracks to buy something there and, as it was, the first seven who were ready to leave left at least half an hour before the final seven were ready to leave.

When it was time to go we had to fix a puncture in Charlie's bike but this only took a few minutes (Mike was on hand this time!) Over towards Newport the sky was rapidly turning black and with it the wind got stronger and colder. When we finally ran into the mini-tempest it was like needles being driven into our faces as we rode through hail and the wind blew hard making it difficult to hold a line on the road. When we got to Newport Mike abandoned the planned trip through Wicken Bonhunt and Arkesden and instead we stayed on the B1383 out of Newport and up to Wendens Ambo. At least now the wind was mostly behind coming over our left shoulders from an 8 o'clock direction, and this was a good thing as we had to make the long climb up to Littlebury Green. The roads, of course, were now very wet which were already filthy from all the farm traffic moving the sugar beet harvest. By now the temperature had dropped and the cold started to make itself felt. We reached Catmere End and once again onto Coploe Hill for the two miles into Ickleton and then onto Duxford.

Catmere End

This brought us to the A505 which was incredibly busy and it was ages before we could find a gap to get across. This just left us with Whittlesford and Little Shelford before finishing the ride in Great Shelford at 4.30pm and 51 miles.

This was a typical winter's ride with strong winds, sunshine and a hailstorm but for all that still very enjoyable for which we have to thank Mike for such an excellent ride. Edward Elmer

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Sunday, 11 January 2015

11 Jan: Sunday ride to Wicken Fen and Chippenham

Nigel writes: We're now in the depth of winter, and in the last seven days we've seen freezing temperatures, heavy rain and high winds. But today was a very benign day: despite a cold westerly wind it wasn't too cold at 5C and started bright and sunny with no prospect of rain. Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised, since Eva was our leader today and her recent rides have been blessed with very fine weather. Indeed almost a year ago Eva led us on a very similar ride with a huge turnout and superb winter sunshine.

I suspect I wasn't the only member to be aware of this, since when I arrived at Brookside there were eleven other riders waiting: an excellent turnout for January (and rather better than the two members I found there braving the -4C freeze last week).

From Brookside we set off east, across Parker's Piece and down to Midsummer Common and the river.

Crossing Parker's Piece, Cambridge

We followed the river east to Stourbridge Common and Ditton Meadows and then along the Wadloes Path to Fen Ditton.

Waiting to cross the B1047 in Fen Ditton

In Fen Ditton we were joined by Jim, Andy and Sarah, bringing the number of riders up to fifteen. 

High Ditch Road, Fen Ditton

We continued east to Quy and then followed the route of the "old" NCN 51 through Bottisham, the Swaffhams and Reach to Burwell. Here turned north onto a quiet single-track road which took us towards Wicken Fen.

Approaching Wicken Fen

For the whole of today's ride we rode at a very moderate, sociable, pace which made it easy for me to dash ahead, take a few photos as the others rode past, and then sprint to catch up.

Around Wicken Fen

A few minutes later we reached the Wicken Fen Visitor Centre where we stopped for coffee and (in my case) a large slice of chocolate cake. Already at the cafe were Adrian, Joseph, Vic and perhaps one or two others, making the numbers up to about eighteen.

Eva shows Rupert and Nigel the route to lunch (Photo: Alex Brown)

Setting off after coffee at Wicken Fen

After coffee about a dozen of us continued on to lunch at La Hogue Farm, Chippenham whilst the others turned back towards Cambridge. From Wicken we followed the A1123 east to Soham (where a tailwind meant I easily reached 25mph on the flat as I sprinted ahead for yet another photo). After riding through the town we turned east to East Fen and then, after crossing the A142, on to Isleham.

A typical "fen bend" on the way to Isleham

The countryside around here is typical Cambridgeshire Fen: completely flat, of course, a little bit desolate, and with dead-straight roads linked by right-angle bends. Although we weren't very far from Cambridge this is a direction we rarely visit on club rides and it was nice to be on unfamilar and somewhat disorientating roads.


At Isleham we turned south and crossed the border into Suffolk towards the village of Freckenham. We carried on to Chippenham and gradually the bleak fen landscape turned into the rather more domestic landscape of the horce-racing countryside around Newmarket.

A few minutes later we reached La Hogue Farm Shop where we stopped for lunch.

Alex and a well-earned pavlova at La Hogue Farm

After a very relaxed and sociable lunch we set off back west towards Cambridge. After a morning with the wind behind us, this took us directly into a headwind. Although this turned out to be less of a problem than we had expected, it was nevertheless quite cold and we were glad of our windproof jackets.

Eva leads the group into the wind towards Snailwell

We returned home by a more direct route than in the morning: west to Snailwell and then over the A142 to Exning. From there we followed the route of NCN 51 to Burwell and then back by the way we had come to Cambridge.

Waiting for stragglers in Swaffham Bulbeck

After a very enjoyable day's cycling I arrived home at about 4pm, having cycled 57 miles.

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