It was a bright and rather promising morning, so I wasn't surprised to see a relatively large turnout at Brookside, with about eleven of us in all.
John was our leader today. Our coffee stop was in Ickleton, only about ten miles to the south, so instead of heading straight there we headed south-west out of Cambridge along the Barton Road cycleway.
Barton Road, Cambridge
At Barton we turned south to Haslingfield, climbed Chapel Hill, and descended to Barrington. By now the sun had come out and a mild morning became even milder.
Regrouping in Barrington
After Barrington we turned towards the south-east, continuing to Shepreth and crossing the A10 to Fowlmere. We crossed the A505 to Chrishall Grange and reached the transition point between the dull, flat land closer to Cambridge and the low rolling hills of the Cambridgeshire/Essex border.
It was now time to turn east towards Ickleton, which meant a ride along Royston Lane. This is always a pleasant (if bumpy) lane, and and as we rode along the clouds gradually disappeared and the sun started to shine quite strongly.
Just after 11am we reached Ickleton, where we stopped for coffee in the Riverside Cafe at Ickleton Barns. This is quite a small place but even before we arrived it was full of CTC Cambridge members, leading to a lack of chairs when the rest of us turned up. Nevertheless this remains a very pleasant cafe in a great location, and we all enjoyed a nice half hour or so there, chatting and catching up after Christmas.
Inside the cafe at Ickleton Barns
Outside the cafe at Ickleton Barns
After coffee the usual reshuffle took place, with some members joining the ride and others leaving it, the result of which was about ten or eleven riders carrying on to lunch at Debden.
We climbed Coploe Hill to Catmere End, followed by the "little hill past the radio masts" to Clanver End. From here the B1039 took us to Wendens Ambo. A couple of members were detained by punctures, so John asked me to lead part of the group the final few miles to lunch, south along the rather busy B1383 to Newport and then east along an unclassified (but still quite busy) road to Debden Barns. This is where the Elder Street cafe is now located, and today was my first visit to it in its new home.
The Elder Street Cafe in its new location at Debden Barns
I'm pleased to report that the cafe was excellent. It's in an attractive wooden building behind an antiques shop and the setting (which you can't see from the road) is rather nice. There's a pleasant area of outdoor seating which will be useful in the summer.
It wasn't the cheapest of places (with some of the weekday options unavailable on the Sunday menu), but we were all very impressed by both the quality and the presentation of the food. For example several of us ordered pea and ham soup. This arrived as an otherwise empty soup bowl with a small disk of ham in the centre, accompanied by a jug of soup and a plate of bread, and was apparently delicious.
After lunch it was time to set off back to Cambridge. I wasn't sure what route John had planned for the return journey, but when I suggested going back via Ashdon and Balsham he agreed and asked me to lead.
So we set off east from the cafe, passing Carver Barracks on the left and then "Elder Street & Taylors Barns" on the right: the latter was where the Elder Street cafe was located before it moved to Debden Barns. After a mile and a half we reached the B184 and turned towards Saffron Walden for a mile or so before turning north towards Sewards End and Ashdon. We were now a group of eight, and although the pace had become slightly faster then earlier I think this was the most pleasant part of the whole ride. The sun was still shining brightly from its position low in the sky and there was a general relaxed feeling that we were on our way home, we didn't have far to go, and we weren't in any particular rush.
From Ashdon we continued north to Bartlow, crossed the A1307 and climbed up to Balsham. Here Yasmin and Edmund peeled off left towards Abington leaving six of us to enjoy a typically fast descent down to the A11 overbridge and the long, flat straight to Fulbourn. Here we waved off Eva and Charlie, leaving just Alex, John, Mike and me to carry on towards Cambridge (where I gave the others a slightly muddy tour of the Cherry Hinton footpath network along the way). When we reached Mill Road it started to rain. Fortunately Alex and I were almost home, though John and Mike still had about ten miles to go. In any case, I arrived home a few minutes later, at about 4.20pm, having cycled 55 miles.
See also Nick W's ride report (taken from Nick's comment below). Some great photos there.
Download GPS track (GPX).