Sunday, 31 May 2015

31 May: Sunday longer ride to Jordan's Mill, Whitwell and Braughing

Gareth writes: Somehow I slept through my alarm this morning, so when I woke and looked at the clock it was already 08:16. I leapt out of bed, threw on my clothes, jumped on my bike, and pedalled as fast as I could into the stiff south-westerly wind, arriving at Brookside a couple of minutes late. Luckily Alex was still patiently waiting for me.

The wind was blowing at about 30 km/h from the southwest, and there was an intermittent light drizzle, so we put our heads down and ground away slowly westwards, through Barton, Comberton, Toft, and Bourn. The road from Bourn to Caxton had been newly dressed with loose aggregate chippings, so we made our way gingerly along here, trying not to skid in the occasional deep pile of gravel. The same treatment had been applied between Great Gransden and Waresley. I guess it’s a cheap form of road maintenance, but it’s really unpleasant for cycling on, and it was a relief to get back onto smooth roads at Waresley.

When we last cycled to Whitwell, just over a year ago, there was such a tailwind that we were in Southill by 10:10, but today we were a long way behind that kind of schedule! The planned coffee stop was at Farrowby Farm near Hinxworth, but we found the road closed near Edworth. As usual when a road is closed, we persevered in case we could get through, but our way was blocked by a man from the water company who told us that there was a burst water main and the road was deeply flooded between us and Edworth. This was frustrating because we were within three miles of Farrowby Farm, but to go back and take another route would be more than 13 miles, unless we dared cycle down the A1.

I decided that under these circumstances it wasn’t worth going to Farrowby Farm at all (there was no day ride to meet there), and to go to Jordan’s Mill instead. This was about 8 miles away, but it was in the general direction of Whitwell, so it wasn’t wasted distance. At the cafĂ© we met the Touring group from the Cambridge Cycling Club.

Consulting the map by the village pump in Watton at Stone.

After coffee, the wind was blowing just as hard as ever as we headed west through Broom and Shefford. Coming out of Shefford on the road to Meppershall, there’s a short steep climb, which tops out with a stunning view over a valley to the edge of the Chiltern escarpment, with Deacon Hill, Butts Hill, Wayting Hill and Barton Hill laid out clearly from east to west. Hidden behind Butts Hill is the 155 metre Gravel Hill, and a steep lane climbs to the very summit. After working into the wind all morning, this was quite tough, but at least it was sheltered by trees. After Gravel Hill, the road descends to Lilley Bottom, and then crosses the Icknield Way, turning sharply left out of the wind, and we made quick work of the remaining seven miles to Whitwell and lunch, getting there about 13:30. Emily’s Tea Shop fuelled us up with hot mugs of tea and toasted sandwiches, and we set off again into the drizzle.

Bridleway between Watton at Stone and Whempstead.

The next section of the ride, from Whitwell to Whempstead was wholly new to me. It’s always interesting to explore new roads, especially with a tailwind. The B656 was busy at Codicote, but we dodged through some back streets and emerged onto quiet hilly roads (with no signposts) to Pottersheath, crossed over the A1(M) and under the East Coast main line to Woolmer Green, and then got into the big chainring for the descent to Watton at Stone. The map showed a track heading east towards Whempstead, so we gave it a try, and found a useful bridleway: clearly once upon a time the main road to Whempstead, but now cut in two by the A602 as it bypasses Watton at Stone.

The rain was falling steadily as we made our way on familiar roads to Dane End. We crossed the A10 at Puckeridge using a narrow ginnel that I’ve previously failed to find (possibly it gets overgrown during the summer), and arrived at the church hall at Braughing at about 15:45, about ten minutes before the afternoon riders appeared. As always, there was an amazing selection of cakes, making it very hard to choose just one.

Climb on Quickset Road between Elmdon and Ickleton.

We stuck together for the ride back, taking the scenic route across the north Essex hills, through the Pelhams, Meesden, the Langleys and Elmdon. I was home at about 18:45, having ridden 168 km (104 miles). Thank you to Alex for keeping me company and doing some valuable turns into the wind.

It was very encouraging to see some new riders on the afternoon ride: especially since Braughing is one of our most distant tea stops, so it would have been a tough first ride for them. But maybe next year they’ll be coming on the longer rides.

31 May Sunday afternoon ride to Braughing

John R writes: Originally John F had offered to lead this ride but he was unwell so I took over this ride to Braughing Church Hall for afternoon tea.

I set off from home in Swavesey down the Guided Busway and along to Brookside where, despite the poor weather forecast, I found several riders all set to take on the challenging ride into hilly North Hertfordshire. Included in this group were two relative newcomers to CTC Cambridge – Sabine and Gina.

Brookside

The weather was mild but windy and we knew that at some stage we would be hit by rain. So in total 11 of us set off from Brookside where, having spoken too soon, it had started to rain and we had all donned waterproofs.


We followed the usual route out of Cambridge along the DNA cycleway and down to the Shelfords. Winding our way through Newton and into Fowlmere we crossed the busy A505 where we stopped to remove rain-gear and started the climb up to Chrishall Grange. This was to be first of a good number of hills encountered throughout the day. From Chrishall we continued onward and upward into Heydon where it is interesting to note that Holy Trinity church, in the centre of the village, was seriously damaged in a bombing raid in 1940. The south arcade was undamaged as was the chancel (which is from 1866) but the north aisle and the nave were entirely rebuilt. Heading toward Shaftenhoe End we could see the gathering storm over to our right which was steadily coming our way. The dark clouds and rain hit us so we stopped once again to don waterproofs.

I had planned to follow John F's route which would have taken us through some of the lovely North Hertfordshire villages such as Nuthampstead, Anstey and Great Hormead. However, it was clear that the nasty weather conditions and the steady stream of hills had slowed our progress. So, not wanting to miss our planned tea-stop I decided to take the quickest route to Braughing along the B1368 through Barkway, Hare Street and Hay Street. We arrived at Braughing Church Hall at 4pm for a very welcome mug of tea and several slices of home made cakes. Already there were Gareth and Alex from the all-day ride. Also joining us was Joseph who had made his own way there. This tea-stop is most definitely one of our favourites with a sizeable slice of cake only costing £2 and with tea and coffee at 60p with refills at 30p – great value and much needed sustenance.

Getting ready to set off for home after tea in Ashwell

Time to depart came around all too soon and so 14 riders left just after 4.30pm. The weather was now slowly improving so we decided to stay off the B1368 and instead stick with quiet country lanes. This took us through Furneaux Pelham, Stocking Pelham, Brent Pelham, Meesden. From here we followed the general route of the London to Cambridge ride through Langley Upper Green, Duddenhoe End and over the final climbs of the day Essex Hill and Elmdon Hill – much to the delight of Sabine and Gina!!!

From here we were back into the flatter terrain of Cambridgeshire and so we sped along through Ickelton and Duxford crossing the A505 and on back though the Shelfords, down the DNA and arriving at Cambridge train station around 6.50pm. Here the remainder of our group split up to go our separate ways home.

The round trip from Cambridge was a very commendable 52 miles.

The weather had not spoilt what was eventually a lovely ride through South Cambridgeshire and North Hertfordshire – parts of the country which are surprisingly hilly.

I would like to thank everyone who turned out to ride - it was a pleasure to lead a group that stayed together throughout the day with everyone enjoying the company of others.

Finally I would like to congratulate Sabine and Gina who never complained about the hills and finished with a smile! John Ross

Thursday, 28 May 2015

28 May: Thursday ride to Swavesey and Moggerhanger

Edward writes: This morning continued the pattern we are experiencing this month which seems to have been one nice day followed by an indifferent day, and today was the latter. Today's ride was out to Swavesey followed by Moggerhanger for lunch and as Swavesey is on the busway it was no surprise that numbers were slightly down at thirteen. This is because many members who live in Cambridge and choose the busway to Swavesey rather than go out to Haslingfield. Our leader today was Jim and he lead us away from Haslingfield in blustery conditions with the wind from a cool north westerly direction which meant, for the most part, it would either be against us or buffeting us from the side. The plus part of this meant we could look forward to a relatively easy return home with a following wind.

From Haslingfield we headed to Barton and over the motorway to the Coton roundabout and into Coton where we found the traffic on the A1303 at a standstill and backed up the hill past the American Cemetery. This made it easy to get across and as we crossed the A428 we found the reason for all the traffic on the A1303, the A428 was completely empty - no doubt a traffic incident.

Past the rear of the American Cemetery

We continued into Madingley and Dry Drayton and onto a fairly busy road out to the A14 and after crossing it we entered Oakington.

Dry Drayton

Jim took us to Longstanton using the route through the former Oakington airfield and after leaving Longstanton we could see the start of groundworks for the new town of Northstowe. For the final stretch into Swavesey we went down the busway and as we approached Swavesey the weather took a turn for the worse as we ran into a heavy drizzle squall making it all unpleasant.

Oakington to Longstanton

Good cheer was at hand as we had arrived at the Baptist Chapel and could look forward to all the home-made cakes which this week were provided by the ladies of the festival committee. As expected our thirteen who started became almost thirty as a host of members were already enjoying the wonderful offerings - they certainly know when to turn out in such numbers! So we all sat back and enjoyed it all, but we had to move on and although plenty returned home at least twenty set out for Moggerhanger in much improved weather, still windy but the sun was making an effort. We went along to Fen Drayton and Fenstanton, the underpass of the A14 and up to Hilton.

Fen Drayton

The next section to Graveley was probably the hardest part of the day as it was directly into the wind. Even though it was quite tough we still had much to enjoy with the May flower still looking good and, of course, loads of Queen Anne's Lace in the grass verges.

Graveley

From Graveley we turned south towards Croxton where we crossed the A428 again and then to Abbotsley followed by the Gamlingay Cinques and on to Everton. This gave us the fun of Tempsford hill where, with so many riders, caution was the watchword, so no speed records were broken. When we reached the East Coast Main Line just one Virgin express heading to London went through and to our surprise the barriers went up as it's not uncommon to wait here for four or five trains to go through. Next it was over the A1 and this brought us within touching distance of our lunch stop as we only had to go through Blunham and finally we reached Moggerhanger and the Woodland Cafe at just before 2 pm and 44 miles.

Moggerhanger

As usual lunch was sandwiches for some outside and something from the menu for those eating in; for those outside it was quite pleasant as the sun made several appearances. It was just before 3pm when the final thirteen set off again; another group who were not going back to Cambridge had left slightly earlier. We retraced our steps back towards Blunham and then took the former Cambridge to Bedford railway into Sandy where Adrian was asked to takeover to guide us through Sandy on a slightly different route from the one we normally take.

Sandy

After this little diversion we were back in Jim's hands again as we headed back to Everton and riding became much easier as the wind was now firmly behind us.

Gamlingay Heath

We crossed Gamlingay Heath into Gamlingay and out to the Hatleys and five miles later we were going down the hill into Croydon and Arrington.

Wimpole

We went through the grounds of Wimpole Hall, Orwell, Barrington, over the hill into Haslingfield where the ride ended at 4.45 pm and a very satisfactory 67 miles. Although the weather wasn't the greatest it was another great day out and thanks to Jim for such a good ride. Edward Elmer



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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

27 May: Evening ride to Reach

Nigel writes: Tonight was a dull, cool evening, with rain forecast for later which never arrived. My companions for this evening's ride into the fens were regulars Alex and Neil and newcomers Sabine and David, making five in total.

Our pub stop this evening was The Dyke's End in Reach, our first new pub stop for some time, and chosen to allow us to enjoy a fenland loop via Upware and Wicken at a comfortable pace.

We set off east from Brookside, making our way down to the river before following it east along the commons to Ditton Meadows. There we turned away from the river and continued via Fen Ditton to Quy.

We had left Brookside slightly late so to save a mile or so we turned onto the B1102 and followed it to Lode, skipping the quieter but rather longer alternative of going via Bottisham. At Lode we turned north off the main road and rode through the village before turning then east onto White Fen Drove, the first part of the Lodes Way.

White Fen

After a while we left the Lodes Way and turned north for a loop through Reach and Wicken before returning back south via Wicken Fen and Burwell. On the outskirts of Burwell we caught up with John E, also heading to meet us in Reach.

Wicken Fen

We arrived in Reach at 8.30pm and stopped for a drink at The Dyke's End. Already in the pub was Paul, who had made his own way there from Oakington. He had been there a whole hour as a tailwind had blown him there faster than he had expected.

This was our first visit to The Dyke's End on an evening ride (and my first for several years) so we weren't sure what to expect. We discovered that it's quite a smart pub nowadays, and clearly quite food-oriented. Unfortunately the kitchen was too busy preparing meals for pre-booked diners so was unable to provide any food, but the selection of beers was rather good and we had a pleasant half hour relaxing and chatting before setting off back to Cambridge.

We took the most direct route back, via the Swaffhams, Bottisham and Quy. Neil, David and Alex peeled off along the way leaving John, Sabine and me to retrace our earlier route via Fen Ditton and along the river back into Cambridge. With sunset at 9.04pm this evening much of the ride back had been in twilight, but it was quite dark when I arrived home at 10.10pm, having cycled 35 miles.



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Sunday, 24 May 2015

24 May: Sunday all-day ride to Newmarket, West Stow and Wicken

Nigel writes: Today started bright and warm, with rain forecast for later. I was the leader today, so arrived at Brookside with a route planned for the whole day but ready to cut the ride short after coffee if necessary. (It wasn't necessary). Perhaps because of the poor forecast, but more likely because it was a holiday weekend, only three other riders were at Brookside to join me: Alex, Greg and Steve.

It's not far to Newmarket and we took a fairly direct route to get there. We left Cambridge along Hills Road before turning onto Wort's Causeway and climbing over the Gogs to Fulbourn. In the sunshine it was really quite warm, probably the warmest Sunday we have had so far this year.

We continued through Great Wilbraham to Little Wilbraham, where Steve left us to make his own way to coffee. The remaining three turned east to Six Mile Bottom and climbed the hill to cemetery cross-roads before turning left to Dullingham, finally entering Newmarket via the Woodditton Road.

We arrived at Coffee & Co just after 10.30am, half an hour early. I knew how long it can take to get food and drink here, so I thought an early arrival was just as well.

Already sitting outside the cafe were Mick, Edward and Geoff and a few moments later we were joined by David W. We went inside, ordered coffee and cakes and then went back outside to join them. Whilst we were waiting for our drinks yet more members arrived: Eva and Jim, then Conrad, then Joseph, then Keith (but not necessarily in that order).

Coffee & Co, Newmarket

By the time we were ready to leave the sky had clouded over and there were a few spots of rain. As usual, several members returned back home but I was pleased to find quite a few others who were keen to carry on to lunch despite the deteriorating weather.

My companions for this second stage were Keith, Conrad, Greg, Alex and Joseph. Eva and Jim would be making their own way there. We set off east from Newmarket, climbing up past the training grounds before dropping back town to Moulton. We then climbed a second, slightly steeper, hill before dropping back down to Gazeley.

Climbing the hill between Moulton and Gazeley

Since we left Newmarket we had been following the route of NCN 51, and we continued to follow it to Highham and Barrow. This is a delightful route along quiet lanes and through pleasantly undulating scenery. Patches of drizzle came and went and our rain jackets were put on and removed several times, but overall the rain never amounted to very much and was never more than a slight irritation.

When we reached Barrow we left NCN 51 and turned north, crossing the A14 and continuing north through Risby and Flempton to West Stow. Here the landscape began to change and we found ourselves riding through a mixture of forest and heathland.

We stopped for lunch at West Stow Country Park. Eva and Jim had arrived just ahead of us. We purchased drinks and sandwiches which we ate at a large table outside.

Lunch at West Stow Country Park

Afterwards we set off west towards our afternoon tea stop in Wicken. After having enjoyed a dry lunch stop the drizzle returned and the rain jackets came on and off a few more times.

West Stow heath

Our route took us through Lackford Green to Cavenham, where Greg left us to head straight back to Newmarket and Cambridge and the rest of us turned north towards Tuddenham and Red Lodge.

Waiting to cross the A11 at Barton Mills

After crossing the A11 at a rather difficult surface crossing we turned west. This took us first through Worlington and then to Isleham, the landscape becoming flatter, and bleaker. We continued to Soham, the rain a little steadier now but still not amounting to very much and the rain jackets going on, and coming back off fairly soon afterwards.

From Soham it's only three or four miles to Wicken along the A1123. However this is not a particularly nice road and it was still only 3pm so instead of taking the direct route we turned north for a loop along much quieter roads via Barway and Padney.

Between Soham and Padney

Sign near Padney

We arrived at Wicken just before 4pm, bang on time, and stopped for tea at Wicken Village Hall. Outside we met John E, Simon and Stan who had set off from Brookside at 2pm, and inside we found Steve who had been riding with in the morning.

Tea in Wicken Village Hall

We purchased cakes and mugs of tea and sat down at a large table for half an hour's relaxing chat. After a few minutes we were joined by Cheryl who had cycled down from Ely.

Getting ready to set off after tea

After tea we went back outside to discover that the rain had finally passed over and the sun had come back out. After a brief pause for a photo we said goodbye to both Keith and Cheryl and returned back to Cambridge as a group of eleven.

We rode via Wicken Fen and the Lodes Way. The combination of warm sunshine, traffic-free paths and a relaxed, sociable group made this probably the most enjoyable stage of the whole ride.

Crossing Burwell Lode

Crossing Reach Lode

When we reached Lode, Eva and Jim turned onto the disused railway for an off-road route to Waterbeach, leaving the rest of us to continue back to Cambridge via Bottisham, Quy and Fen Ditton, with various people peeling off along the way.

After riding back to Brookside in order to add a couple of extra miles I arrived home at 6.15pm, having cycled 81 miles. Following today's ride my Eddington Number increases to 77.



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Thursday, 21 May 2015

21 May: Thursday ride to Saffron Walden and Great Bardfield

Edward writes: At last a break in the weather and a day came along which was ideal for cycling and in sharp contrast to last week's dismal weather. This morning it was sunlit blue skies with a little cloud cover, warm and to everyone's relief no discernible wind. Thus it was that nineteen riders assembled in Hauxton with many taking the opportunity to admire Greta's wonderful garden before setting off on our ride out to Saffron Walden for coffee and then on to Great Bardfield for lunch.

Greta's in Hauxton

Going to Saffron Walden really only means one way and so we went out through to Whittlesford, the A505 and then crossed into Duxford and in the interests of variety we went through the factory area and the ford to Hinxton and then round to Ickleton which probably adds about a mile to the more direct route from Duxford to Ickleton.

Hinxton Ford

This now meant Coploe Hill and on this sunlit day all around looked a treat with the yellow oilseed rape still looking its best standing out against the rapidly growing wheat and barley fields; certainly May is a beautiful time of the year with all its variety.

Coploe Hill

Coploe Hill

After arriving at Catmere End we then joined Chestnut Avenue with the chestnut trees looking splendid in full blossom for the run down to Audley End mansion and the last climb into Saffron Walden and the Temeraire for our coffee break.

Coffee in Saffron Walden

Already there were about six others and we were all able to sit outside and enjoy the new surroundings following the recent refurbishment. They have extended the patio area and laid artificial grass and it is now a much improved sitting out area - nice weather also helps.

Coffee in Saffron Walden Photo: David Wooldridge

As usual about half a dozen left us after coffee leaving a large contingent to head off to Great Bardfield. Just as we were about to leave Geoff discovered a puncture in his front wheel but Mike C and Adrian were soon on hand and after about fifteen minutes we were on our way again. We left Saffron Walden along Debden Road and went through the village and now started to experience the undulating nature of this part of Essex.

Between Saffron Walden and Debden

After Debden we turned right and headed towards Henham and meanwhile Adrian took Jacob, Mike CC and Doug on a slightly shorter route which probably included some of Adrian's beloved 'rough stuff'.

Approaching Tilty

After the rest of us had passed through Henham we joined the B1051 heading east until we came to Broxted and then on the very narrow road to Tilty where it seemed everyone was in favour of stopping to look at the church which is near to the original site of the eleventh century monastery (dissolved in 1536) some of whose ruins still stand.

Tilty Church

This was all very enjoyable and after about fifteen minutes we set off again through Tilty, Duton End and onto the B184 for a short while before turning into Little Cambridge, Gallows Green Road through Lindsell and the final two or three miles into Great Bardfield and the Blue Egg arriving at the later than usual time of 1.40pm.

As usual the Blue Egg was busy and we found Adrian and friends already enjoying lunch and our group of fifteen sat outside with packed lunches or ordered from the restaurant. By about 2.30pm it was time to go again and we went back into Great Bardfield and turned onto the narrow lanes through Waltham's Cross and into Finchingfield but not before receiving a volley of abuse from a driver - these narrow lanes make overtaking a very precarious business.

In the lanes near Finchingfield

After Finchingfield we eschewed the usual route past Spains Hall and instead chose the slightly longer route to Steeple Bumpstead via Cornish Hall End where sadly we lost Mike CC and two others who had fallen off the back and evidently took a wrong turning. From Finchingfield to Steeple Bumpstead is a long haul and also into the wind which had picked up slightly during the day making it quite hard work for four or five miles. Next came Helions Bumpstead and another deviation from our normal route as we chose the route through Olmstead Green which may only be one or two houses it being such a small settlement. Nevertheless it is a particularly pretty and isolated route with few if any cars.

David in Helions Bumpstead

This brought us to the junction for Ashdon and Bartlow where Rupert realising the time was 4pm felt that we should go via Bartlow rather than Steventon End and Ashdon in order to be home more quickly. Needless to say we were all aware that the beer festival was exerting a greater pull on Rupert's desires than finishing the ride along the designated route.

Approaching Steventon End

This left about ten to go via Ashdon and then Bartlow but the good news was that Rupert came across Mike CC so all of us were accounted for. The ride was nearly at and end as we went into Linton and then to Hildersham where David W led a group via the A505 cycleway to Sawston and on to Hauxton while the remaining four went via Little Abington and the farm track into Babraham and Sawston. We finished the ride in Great Shelford and 68 miles at 5.15 pm. With such good weather and quiet country roads we could hardly fail to have a good time. Edward Elmer



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20 May: Evening ride to Hemingford Abbots

Nigel writes: We're going through a spell of unseasonably unsettled weather this week, with rain, hail, blustery wind and quite cool temperatures. This evening, however, was quite pleasant: dry and with bright sunshine, offset by a strong and cold westerly wind.

The first thing I discovered when I arrived at Brookside was that Cambridge City Council have cleaned our bench, no doubt in response to requests from the club (Mike CC) last week. All the pine needles and litter around the bench have been swept up, and the bench itself has been given a bit of a sand-down and now looks much better. Thank you to the City Rangers. Let's hope it stays tidy.

"Our" bench at Brookside

Our destination this evening was Hemingford Abbots, and my companions for the ride were John R, Neil and Alex. We set off from Brookside and rode through the city centre, up Castle Hill and along Huntingdon Road to Girton Corner. We turned towards Girton, rode through the village, and joined the busway.

Joining the busway

Cycling along the busway is always a pleasure, though this evening the pleasure was offset slightly by a strong headwind. Half an hour later we reached St Ives and continued west along the Thicket Path to Houghton.

On the Thicket Path

We crossed the Ouse Meadows to Hemingford Abbots where we stopped for drinks at the Axe and Compasses. It was 8pm and still quite light. A few minutes later we were joined by John E who had made his own way there.

After a very pleasant three-quarters of an hour in the pub we went back outside and set off back to Cambridge via Hemingford Grey, St Ives and the busway. The sun had set ten minutes earlier and, despite the wind having died down, the temperature was now really quite cold. The lack of a headwind meant we had an easy ride back, and I arrived home at 10.10pm, having cycled 35 miles.



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