Wednesday, 30 September 2015

30 Sep: Evening ride to Barton

Nigel writes: Tonight was our final evening ride of the summer (from now on they change from weekly to monthly) so it was nice to be able to enjoy a fine, clear evening.

My companions were regular Sven, not-yet-regular Chris on his second ride with us, and Thursday regular Yasmin who was here on her first evening ride.

At Brookside

Our pub stop this evening was to be in Barton, so I suggested we took a loop to the west. We set off from Brookside and wound our way through West Cambridge to Coton before climbing Madingley Hill. Today had been a lovely sunny day but with sunset today at 6.45pm we never got to see the sun, and by the time we reached the top of the hill and continued west towards Hardwick the sun was just a red glow on the horizon.

Just beyond Hardwick we joined the old A428 and continued along it as far as the turning for Bourn. Caxton, Great Gransden and Little Gransden soon followed. This is a relatively dull route compared with some of the other directions we ride so I was pleased that all four of us were ready for a relatively brisk ride.

At Little Gransden, after a brief pause at the windmill, we turned onto the B1046 for the ride back east through Longstowe, Toft and Comberton. We arrived at The White Horse at Barton bang on time at 8.30pm. We were in good time to order bowls of chips (which arrived quickly) and had a pleasant half hour chatting before setting off again for home.

Waiting for our chips at The White Horse, Barton

The ride back along the Barton Road cycleway into to Cambridge only took about twenty minutes, and I arrived home at 9.30pm having cycled 31 miles.

Our weekly evening rides have now ended, but we continue to hold evening rides every month throughout the winter. Our next ride is on 28th October, details here.

Download GPS track (GPX).

Sunday, 27 September 2015

27 Sep: Sunday ride to Saffron Walden and Great Bardfield

Alex writes: Nine of us assembled at Brookside this morning. It was a chilly morning and I was glad to be wearing the warm jacket I'd disinterred from storage after last wearing it in Spring. The forecast was for warmer weather later.

John R was leading today, and our coffee stop was to be in Saffron Walden. We set off for the busway, crossed the railway line and headed down the DNA path, through the Shelfords, Whittlesford, and then over the A505 to Duxford. As on Thursday's ride, we made a loop through Hinxton and again, nobody was courageous enough to ride through the fast-flowing ford.

Coploe Summit

Next up, Coploe Hill. As the gradient increased there was the usually clack of changing gears, but not for Keith who was riding fixed. He sailed up the slope; I tried to keep up but had no chance. At the top we regrouped and caught our breath before heading on to Catmere End, and then sped along Chestnut Avenue and past Audley End House into Saffron Walden.

Chestnut Avenue

We found ourselves mingling with (okay, being overtaken by) large number of cyclists wearing race numbers. As we waited at the lights in Saffron Walden I asked what they were up to: they were riding L’Etape London which reprised much of Le Tour de France's route from last year. They were too concerned with riding fast to stop at Bicicletta, which was thus able to accommodate us with ease. Already waiting were Eddie, Mick C, David W, Edmund, Andy & Sarah, Conrad and probably others.

This new coffee stop is rapidly becoming a favourite. The coffee is particularly well crafted and the cakes delicious. On top of that a number of high-end carbon fibre Italian bikes and accessories are offered for sale. We CTC members admired the bikes guardedly, ruing the lack of mudguard eyes and clearance – not to mention the eye-watering price tags.

At Bicicletta Cafe

Bicicletta Cake

After the usual comings and goings, around ten of us were cycling on to lunch. We climbed out of Saffron Walden and headed south to Debden before looping through Broxted, Tilty and Lindsell to begin heading North again to Great Bardfield, our lunch stop. The route was mostly on very pleasant quiet lanes and with the sun shining (but still a chill in the air) we made brisker than usual progress, allowing John to include – with his Garmin's help – an extra loop before arriving at the Blue Egg for lunch.

Crossing the railway line

This is the first time I'd been to this lunch stop and I was impressed with the quality of the food (I had a pulled-pork 'burger'). By now the sun had begun to assert itself and we were able to sit outside and enjoy its warmth.

After lunch we rode back fairly directly on the familiar route through Finchingfield, Castle Camps and Linton before crossing the A11 on the Abington footbridge and then through Sawston and the Shelford to home.

Returning home

When I returned home I found I had ridden 116 km (72 miles). Consequently, my (metric) Eddington number has increased to 64. Alex Brown

Download GPS track (GPX).

Saturday, 26 September 2015

26 Sep: A ride from Ashford to Winchelsea, Rye and Dungeness

Nigel writes: With a warm, sunny weekend in prospect I decided to get on a train and go for a bike ride in Kent. I therefore got up early on a Saturday morning and caught the 0715 from Cambridge to London, crossing the road from King's Cross to St Pancras to catch the "Southeastern High Speed" service to Ashford International.

This runs on Britain's fastest railway line at up to 140mph (so is rather fun in itself). But more importantly, the journey from St Pancras to Ashford took only 35 minutes and by 9am I was wheeling my bike out of the station into a sunny Kent morning.

My ride today was a long, clockwise loop down to the coast and back and took me through three distinct areas of landscape: High Weald, the coast, and Romney Marsh.

I initially headed west into High Weald. This is an undulating, wooded landscape cross-crossed with miles and miles of tiny tree-lined country lanes.

Quiet lane near Tenterden. The first half of the ride involved many miles of shaded lanes like this

This is quite a "lumpy" landscape with quite a bit of up and down, but the elevation rarely exceeded 100m and none of the hills I climbed were particularly long or particularly steep.

Converted oast house (originally for drying hops)

After a couple of hours I found myself passing Bodiam Castle, a 14th Century moated castle in the care of the National Trust. It was now after 11am so I called in to visit the cafe and enjoyed a coffee and large slice of chocolate cake.

Bodian Castle

I continued south towards the coast, passing through the ancient hilltop town of Winchelsea along the way. It's the size of a village now, and although I spotted at least one cafe in its pretty streets I decided not to stop and to carry on south.

Strand Gate, Winchelsea

I reached the coast at the little village of Pett Level. The sea itself was hidden behind a high floodbank so I briefly parked my bike and climbed up for a view before continuing east along the coast road towards Winchelsea Beach.

Beachfront house at Pett Level

At Winchelsea Beach the road turns north towards Rye. However I was able to continue to follow the coast on a traffic-free path all the way to Rye Harbour. This was a really good path (with a lovely smooth surface), busy with people out for a stroll, but once again the sea was mostly out of sight behind a high bank of shingle.

Traffic-free path between Winchelsea Beach and Rye Harbour

Path between Winchelsea Beach and Rye Harbour

View from Rye Harbour towards Camber Sands

At Rye Harbour I turned north and continued on into Rye, another ancient hilltop town. This was a rather frustrating town to visit with a bike, with a network of narrow, one-way streets designed to make it impossible to simply cycle through in any direction without having to stop and dismount, but I persevered and found a peaceful bench in the churchyard to eat my sandwiches.

Landgate, Rye

I wheeled my bike back out of the town centre, remounted, and continued on my way. After a short section of bumpy cycle path I joined the road east to Camber.

This stony path from Rye towards Camber is part of NCN 2

The High Weald was now behind me and the scenery became bleak, monotous and rather windy. Once again I found myself riding along the coast road, with a shingle bank between me and the sea. After a while I turned inland towards Lydd and I discovered that the prevailing wind today was from the north. For a short length of time the ride began to be a bit of a slog but as I approached Lydd and turned back south-east towards Dungeness my moment of weariness passed as I approached what was probably the real destination of today's ride: Dungeness.

The windswept road from Lydd to Dungeness

Dungeness is famous for its wide-open shingle wilderness and its "end of the world" atmosphere, but it's undeniably a singular place to visit. There's not a lot here: two lighthouses, two pubs, a huge nuclear power station, one or two craft shops, a scattering of wooden houses (some old and run-down, some modern and stylish), and the little station at the end of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway.

Dungeness, the new lighthouse

After a coffee and a scone and cream at the Light Railway cafe it was time to turn north and ride back to Ashford.

Prospect House, Dungeness (the former home of Derek Jarman)

As I left the bleak desolation of Dungeness behind the landscape began to change once more as I found myself riding through the pancake-flat Romney Marsh. As the word "marsh" in the title suggests, it's a bit like the Cambridgeshire Fens with mile after mile of carefully-drained farmland. However it felt much less bleak than the Fens, and with rather better-surfaced roads. In the low sun of the early evening it looked very tranquil.

Romney Marsh near Snargate

About six miles south of Ashford, Romney Marsh came to an end with the crossing of the Royal Military Canal and I was back in a gently undulating landscape of wooded lanes. Ashford was temptingly close, and the sun was about to set, but I decided to add a few more easy miles to my total distance by taking a six-mile loop to the east. I then continued on into Ashford, arriving back at the station just before 7pm. My total distance cycled today was 100 miles. My Eddington number is now 79.

Download GPS track (GPX).

Bikes on Southeastern High Speed

I'd strongly recommend other Cambridge cyclists use Southeastern High Speed for a day out in Kent. To help others doing this, here are a few more notes on how to take a bike on one of their trains. In summary, it's really easy.

My "Southeastern High Speed train" at Ashford. The yellow patches below the headlights shows which end of the train to get on with a bike.

South Eastern's bike policy is here. They don't impose any special rules for their high speed trains, just the standard ban on rush-hour trains.

Rather surprisingly I didn't see any designated bike spaces (hence there's no advanced booking). When I asked the conductor where to go I was directed to use an area at one end of the train which has the wheelchair spaces and a lot of tip-up seats. It's the last-but-one door from the end, with an orange stripe above.

Southeastern High Speed train at Ashford. The orange stripe above the door shows the location of the wheelchair spaces with areas of tip-up seats where bikes can be placed.

As the train draws into the station, the conductor advised me to look for the yellow patches below the headlights (see first train photo) which identify the end of the train to go to.

If this area isn't already used for seating (and these trains are longer and less crowded that Cambridge-London trains) you can easily fit in four bikes and could probably squeeze in six.

This is a wheelchair space, not a bike space, but my Airnimal fitted in neatly. There's more space opposite and further along.

When you purchase your train ticket, ask for Ashford International. Make sure you don't end up with a ticket to Ashford (Surrey).

Thursday, 24 September 2015

24 Sep: Thursday ride to Reed and Baldock

Alex writes: At Hauxton there was a good turn out of 18 riders. With Adrian leading, we set out through Whittlesford, and crossed the A505 to Duxford. My legs were getting ready for Coploe Hill but Adrian had other ideas, taking us on a small loop through Hinxton. At the ford nobody could be tempted to ride through it 'for a photo' following Mike CC's recent testing of the advisability of this venture; instead everybody took the bridge.

Crossing Hinxton Ford

We then swung through Ickleton and began the ride up to Elmdon – surely Cambridgeshire's marquee climb. At the first (false) summit everybody re-grouped and I decided to go ahead to take a photo, zooming down the fast mini-descent before the resumption of the ascent. An oncoming lorry required me to slow, but as I squeezed the brakes my bike started squirming scarily into the middle of the road. The lorry sped past me and I wobbled to the verge: looking down I saw air bubbling out of a front tyre puncture-in-progress: yikes. Soon the main group arrived and while Adrian stayed on to help with repairs and to escort me, Mick C led everybody else on to coffee.

On the road again, it became clear Adrian had devised a most scenic route, with lumpy progress through Heydon and Barley en route to Reed. Rather too scenic, it turned out, for the other group who took a more direct route to coffee while Adrian and I enjoyed full value. By now the weather had improved markedly with bright sunlight and a brisk wind from the West. Chrishall post mill looked particularly smart in the bright autumn light.

Chrishall Mill, Great Chishill

At coffee Craig, David Ms and perhaps one or two others were waiting. But after the usual comings and goings it was still eighteen of us who set off on the relatively short leg to Baldock and lunch.

Bacon sarnie at The Silver Ball Cafe

At Baldock, we split into various groups. I joined some dining companions for lunch in Fish'n'Chick'n, where we enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation taking in such topics as diesel emission testing, software deblurring of digital images, and the synergies between cycling and being an 'independent consultant'.

Rocking up at Baldock

At lunch

On the return leg shortly after lunch we soon reached a decision point: whether to take a 'rough stuff' route (potentially muddy) or to ride on the old A1 (potentially busy). I was with the eight that decided on the A1 course but shortly after we split – curses! Another visitation from the puncture fairy, this time to Pete Wi.


We rapidly fixed it and set off fearing we would now be some way behind the others. However, after some phone calls it became clear that the 'rough stuff' faction had their own troubles, being forced by an excessively muddy path to backtrack and take the road. It was decided that there would be a general re-grouping at Steeple Mordern and so, duly reconstituted, we set out on the final push for home.

The wind was now in our favour so we made rapid progress, arriving before long in Barrington where most riders turned off to head back to Hauxton. Four of us continued for a final flourish over Chapel Hill, and I then rode back into Cambridge via Harston and the busway.

In a day of gremlins it turned out my Garmin had failed to record, locking solid early on (the second time it has done this since I've had it). Nevertheless it had been a most enjoyable ride – thanks to Adrian for devising a great route and for leading! Alex Brown

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

23 Sep: Evening ride to Thriplow

Nigel writes: Today was the second day of autumn, and with sunset now occurring just before 7pm our evening rides are making the transition from being daylight rides to being almost entirely in the dark. For this evening's nocturnal jaunt my companions at Brookside were John R and Sven, with Chris meeting us a few minutes later on the busway.

Tonight's route was one of my favourite evening loops. We set off south out of Cambridge along the busway and DNA path to Great Shelford. After a short pause at the level crossing we continued to Little Shelford and on to Whittlesford, Duxford and Ickleton. The pace was fairly brisk and we made rapid progress.

Francis Crick Avenue

By the time we reached the top of Coploe Hill it was quite dark. We continued south to Catmere End and made a loop south through Littlebury Green before turning back north to Ickleton. The darkness made these familar roads feel quite unfamilar, and I periodically had the not unpleasant experience of not being exactly sure where I was.

After dropping down to Chrishall Grange and crossing the A505 we reached Fowlmere at about 8.20pm. This gave us time for a short diversion via Thriplow on our way to our pub stop at The Queen's Head in Newton. However as we cycled into Thriplow we were distracted by the delicious smell of freshly-cooked chips drifting across the road from The Green Man and decided to stop there instead. After all, the Queen's Head doesn't do chips...

Beer and chips in The Green Man

John, who had further to go than the rest of us, decided to give the pub a miss and head straight home. The rest of us went inside and ordered drinks and bowls of chips before sitting down by a cosy log fire which gave us rather more warmth than we needed.

Leaving The Green Man

After a very pleasant half hour in what is probably my favourite pub for evening rides we set off for home. The three of us rode together as far as Newton, where Chris turned off towards Whittlesford leaving just Sven and me to continue back to Cambridge via the Shelfords, the DNA path.

New lighting on the busway (Exposure: 4 seconds)

I arrived home at 9.40pm, having cycled 34 miles.

Download GPS track (GPX).

Sunday, 20 September 2015

21 Sep: Sunday afternoon ride to Wicken Fen

John writes: Perfect weather tempted ten members to join the ride to the National Trust cafe at Wicken Fen.

A direct route there would be too short so Ray, today's leader, took us through the Addenbrooke's site and up Wort's Causeway with fine views over the county into Fulbourn. From there we winkled our way on largely traffic-free lanes through the Wilbrahams, Bottisham, the Swaffhams and into Reach.


At Reach Joanna, whom we hadn't seen for some time, left us and the nine remaining continued into Burwell, down Dyson's Drove and reached Wicken Fen by the Lode's Way cycle route. There we met several of the day-riders with whom we enjoyed tea 'al fresco' in the late afternoon sunshine.

Tea at Wicken Fen

After tea the group was reconstituted without some of our outward bound companions but with the addition of a few of the all-day riders. We took the back route westwards through Wicken village, with fine views of Ely Cathedral, and across the fens via Upware to Lode.

En route Simon and two others left us for an off-road route home. Now reduced to four – Ray, Neal, John E and John F - we returned to Cambridge via Bottisham, Quy and Fen Ditton and across Sheep's Green.

A permanent resident at Wicken Fen

This was a splendid ride of about 40 miles - and what a change from my last ride to Wicken (26th July) which took place with two companions - John E and Simon - through relentless rain. John Ferguson

Download GPS track (GPX). Track recorded by Ray Miller

20 Sep: Sunday ride to Newmarket, West Stow and Wicken

Nigel writes: Today's "2-stop" ride was our best-attended Sunday ride for several weeks, with eight riders at the start and many more joining along the way. No doubt the weather was an attraction, with sunshine at the start and forecast to continue all day. But I suspect the direction of the ride may have also encouraged members to come out: today we would be riding east into Suffolk, through some of the finest cycling country in the area.


Our leader today was Alex. We set off from Brookside and followed Hills Road to Addenbrooke's, where we turned onto Wort's Causeway for the ride over the Gogs to Fulbourn. This gentle hill is always an excellent way to start a ride, with an easy climb offering fine views and a long, enjoyable descent. Perhaps surprisingly, the elevation at the highest point is 68m, seven metres higher than the top of Chapel Hill near Haslingfield.

Alex leads the climb over the Gogs

We continued on through the Wilbrahams and turned onto the long, straight road that leads to Six Mile Bottom and then up in the direction of Brinkley.

Setting off after a brief pause at Woodland Cemetery crossroads

When we reached the crossroads about a mile before Brinkley we turned left to Dullingham and then along the B1061 which allowed us an enjoyably fast descent directly into Newmarket.

We stopped for coffee at the large Waitrose supermarket just north of the town centre. In recent years we've always visited Coffee and Co but we've increasingly become frustrated by their slow service and rather careless attention to remembering who had ordered what, so we were visiting Waitrose to see if it was any better. It was certainly quick and cheap but rather spartan and characterless - though excellent value for money.

Already at the cafe were quite a few other members, including Joseph, Adrian, Conrad, Geoff and Eva who joined us for the next stage of the ride.

After coffee we set off east towards Moulton, which offers a long and scenic climb past the racecourse training grounds. Somewhere near the top I realised my rear tyre was soft so stopped to change the tube, telling the others not to wait.

Warren Hill, Newmarket

It didn't take me long to get back on the road, but by now the other were well ahead and, as I had expected, I found myself riding the next fifteen miles or to to lunch on my own. I got out my map to plan a route, but it was fairly obvious which way to go, following NCN 51 through Moulton, Gazeley and Highham to Barrow before turning north to cross the A14 to Risby. This was a delightful ride, through pleasantly undulating countryside and as I rode along I wondered whether there were any better lanes in the entire area.

From Risby I continued north towards Flempton, overtaking Adrian, Joseph and John along the way, and crossed over the A1101 to West Stow. A couple of miles further on I reached West Stow Country Park, arriving at the cafe about five minutes behind Alex and the main group.

Lunch at West Stow Country Park

After lunch we set of back towards Cambridge. This took us through West Stow Heath, an area of pleasant woodland on the the southern edge of the much larger King's Forest forestry plantation, and then along a short section of A1101 to Lackford.

West Stow Heath

At Lackford we turned off the main road towards Cavenham, continuing through Tuddenham and Herringswell to Kennet where we joined the B1085 and crossed over the A11 to Chippenham.

Between Cavenham and Tuddenham

At Chippenham we paused briefly to divide into two groups. Today's ride was a "2-stop" ride with no formal afternoon stop, so Alex announced he would be leading the "official" ride back to Cambridge via Snailwell, Exning and Burwell. However I didn't want to go home just yet so invited people to ride with me to meet the afternoon ride for tea at Wicken Fen. Most people decided to stick with Alex, with just Eva, Chris and Keith accompanying me through Fordham to Soham and on a short loop through Soham Cotes, Barway and Padney.

Distant view of Ely Cathedral from Barway, five and a half miles away

We arrived at Wicken Fen just before 4pm and stopped for tea at the cafe. Moments later the afternoon ride arrived, led on this occasion by Ray.

After a very pleasant half hour or so sitting outside in the sunshine we all set off back to Cambridge. The afternoon ride had cycled around Wicken Fen on the way here so Ray led us around the back of Wicken village and then west to Upware.

Ray leads the afternoon ride home from Wicken

I always enjoy meeting the afternoon ride at tea and riding home with them, taking the opportunity to catch up with a different set of friends from those I had been riding with earlier.

The bridge at White Fen

From Upware we rode south across Swaffham Prior Fen and then along the Lodes Way to White Fen. With a low westerly sun I was inspired to take as many photos as I could so I followed my customary practice of sprinting ahead and standing with my camera as the others ride past before sprinting on to catch up with them.

White Fen

When I reached the crossroads with the B1102 just south of Lode I was ahead of the group. They must have stopped for some reason or perhaps taken a different route, as I didn't see them again and enjoyed the final few miles to Quy and into Cambridge on my own. I arrived home at 6.15pm, having cycled 82 miles. My Eddington number remains at 78.

Download GPS track (GPX).