With these numbers two groups had to be the order of day and we started from Hauxton into Little Shelford and then over the hill into Newton, Thriplow and then Fowlmere. It was in Fowlmere that an error in navigation occurred as we should have gone to the A505 and then to Chrishall Grange but up front the lead group missed this turning and instead made for Flint Cross. However, as were later to discover this was a Serendipity moment as this put us on a different route to Saffron Walden from our almost routine trek over Coploe Hill.
Once we cleared Flint Cross we turned for the long climb up to Great Chishill and at this turn the temperature noticeably lifted as we had the north west wind more or less behind us. This climb is more than two miles but with the following wind we all accomplished it without any difficulties.
After a bit of a breather we joined the B1039 for a short climb to 146 metres above sea level (Cambridgeshire's highest point) and then followed a long, twisting downhill which took us all the way to the Littlebury Green turning where all except about half a dozen of us made this turn, and they found themselves in front of a very steep climb up to Littlebury Green.
The half dozen at the back chose the easier option of a flat route to Wendens Ambo and then into Saffron Walden. As it happened we all arrived together at the Temeraire in Saffron Walden so there would have been no appreciable difference in mileage. Interestingly, we arrived at 11 am on the dot and some might claim that to be good planning!
As expected our numbers increased at the coffee break and we all sat outside on the new eating-out area on the artificial grass and at this point the sun was making fleeting appearances and it was all very pleasant. By 11.40 we were called to order and there were the usual coming and goings but still at least twenty-three carried on for lunch. We made the inevitable climb out of Saffron Walden and used the undulating roads to Debden and with the wind behind us all this was very easy with the exception of the sharp climb up to Thaxted. Unfortunately, as the second group left the coffee stop Peter W had a puncture but we understand that Mike C was soon in action to get Peter going again, and it wasn't long before they re-joined us in Thaxted.
After Thaxted our ride took us through both Little and Great Bardfield and then on to picturesque Finchingfield which, perhaps unsurprisingly in this indifferent weather, wasn't at all busy.
Soon after Finchingfield we were caught in one of the showers that had been circling around us, but as there were plenty of trees we were able to escape a good soaking by taking shelter under the trees. We now passed through the hamlets of Duck End, Howe Street and Gainsford End and we enjoyed quiet roads much frequented by farm vehicles as there was plenty of mud on the road. We soon reached Toppesfield and this left a couple of miles to run into Great Yeldham and the Waggon and Horses for a lunch break at 1.40pm and 41 miles under our belts.
Although there were so many of us only a few ordered from the pub but the landlord generously allowed those with sandwiches to sit out in the garden. As we had lunch the weather deteriorated to the extent that it rained on and off and the temperature dropped down to thirteen degrees and it felt decidedly cold. This was all very disappointing but we were heartened by the frequent cricket updates from Andy showing England very much on top in the Test Match, such are the many duties of leading our rides.
Thus it was that we set off in the cold and the rain but as we moved along the rain eased and the clouds lifted, the sun tried to do its best and we all felt a little warmer so much so that rain wear began to be removed. (The change in the weather this week must be disappointing for the farmers as they try to get the harvest underway.)
We went through Stambourne and now travelling west and north west we faced the wind but it was never a problem as it was only light and there is plenty of hedgerow protection as we came first to Steeple Bumpstead and another couple of miles to Helions Bumpstead.
We then chose the quiet route up to Olmsted Green which is a curious place as there are only a handful of houses along here and it's hard to know where Olmsted Green actually is. This was of small concern as a few more miles brought us to Bartlow and then Linton.
After Linton, and nearly home, we went through the village of Hildersham and crossed the ever-busy A1307, past Great Abington and then joined the new but very noisy cycleway alongside the A505 to the Babraham turning.
This left us with Sawston and Stapleford and Great Shelford where everybody went their separate ways. Those who went back to Hauxton would have completed a round trip of 70 miles, finishing at 5pm. Our thanks to Sarah, and Andy for his assistance and the ever-important cricket updates, for a splendid ride and although the weather was indifferent and hardly summer-like a very enjoyable day out. Edward Elmer
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