Sunday, 10 April 2016

10 Apr: Sunday ride to Wyton and Kimbolton

Nigel writes: Today started bright and sunny, with a cool easterly wind that would push us along during the morning but blow into our faces on the way home in the afternoon. I arrived at Brookside to find Rupert, Russell, Edmund, English Seb, Ray and Ian our leader.

Our coffee stop this morning was to be in Wyton near Huntington, so I had expected us to set off towards the north or west, but Ian explained that if we rode straight there we would arrive too soon and so instead we rode east, across Parker's Piece, and down to the river.

At the start

Crossing Parker's Piece, Cambridge

When we head east along the river we usually stay on the south-eastern side on our way to Fen Ditton and Quy. However today when we reached the Green Dragon bridge crossed over to Chesterton (where we were joined by Rupert) and followed the north-western bank towards Milton. As usual the river was busy with rowers and the towpath was populated by rowing coaches on bikes and runners on foot. With the low morning sun shining brightly on a classic Cambridge scene this was a delightful part of the day.

Along the river

Just beyond Bate's Bite Lock we turned west, away from the river, and into Milton. We continued west to Histon and, having added sufficient extra miles to the ride, joined the busway here,

Bait's Bite Lock

I've just bought a new bike, and today was its first outing on a club ride. It's the fastest bike I've ever owned, and the smooth, wide asphalt of the busway gave me an opportunity to put it through its paces. Now I'd like to make it clear that we're most definitely not a racing club, and the great majority of CTC Cambridge rides are very moderately paced. Nevertheless there's one role on a ride where the ability to ride at speed comes in very handy - and that's the photographer. It was very easy today for me to sprint ahead of the group, stand at a photogenic spot, take lots of photos as the group rides by, and then sprint to catch up. Over and over again.

On the busway at Windmill Hill Bridge

On the busway at Fen Drayton Lakes

As we approached St Ives I noticed that we had been joined by Conrad. We continued along the Thicket path to Houghton and then along a short length of the busy A1123 for a few hundred yards until we reached Wyton Garden Centre, where we stopped for coffee and cakes at the large restaurant there.

This was my proper visit: I'd led a ride here on 20th Dec 2015 but, rather embarrassingly, couldn't find the restaurant. Fortunately today there were people here who knew where to find it, right at the back of a huge retail area.

Morning coffee at Wyevale Garden Centre, Wyton

As garden centre cafes go, this was just fine, with plenty of room for even the largest Thursday group. Already in the cafe were Alex, Adrian, Mike CC and Mike P, each of whom had made their own way there.

Cycle parking at Wyevale Garden Centre

After coffee several members turned back towards Cambridge, leaving an enlarged group of nine to continue to lunch in Kimbolton: Mike CC, Mike P, Alex, Edmund, Ray, David W, Russell, me and of course Ian our leader.

Wyton Garden Centre is on the eastern edge of Huntingdon, so our route west inevitably cycling riding through that poor, benighted town and around the dreadful one-way racetrack that encircles its town centre before turning north towards the Stukleys.

Little Stukley, passing RAF Wyton

Whilst this wasn't much fun, we passed through quickly enough and without incident, though it was only when we were past Alconbury and on a quiet lane west towards Woolley that we were able to relax and enjoy the gorgeous weather once more.

Between Alconbury and Woolley

When we reached Barham we turned south. An enjoyable descent of Belton's Hill took us over the A14 and into Spaldwick.

Stow Longa

We continued south through the pretty village of Stow Longa and a few minutes later arrived in the rather larger, and distinctly grand village of Kimbolton. This is dominated by the public school which occupies the classical buildings of Kimbolton Castle, but our destination today was Oliver's Cafe in the main street where we were due to stop for lunch.

Oliver's Cafe, Kimbolton

First impressions were positive: we were just starting to pile up our bikes outside when a member of staff came out and invited us to bring them all round the back. The rear access was a surprisingly long way away, but we found it easily enough and were welcomed into their back yard by the same member of staff. Excellent.

Lunch at Oliver's Cafe, Kimbolton

Inside the cafe we found Adrian and Chris sitting at a large reserved table, and we sat down to join them. This was my first visit (and might well be the club's first visit) and I'm pleased to report that our experience today was entirely satisfactory. The menu offered a good selection of fairly simple light meals, our orders were taken and delivered quickly and efficiently, and as we'd already discovered the staff were friendly and helpful. A worthy addition to our repertoire of lunch stops.

After lunch it was time to turn back towards Cambridge. This meant that for the first time today we were riding into the cold easterly wind that had propelled us along in the morning. The sky had clouded over whilst we were having lunch, making it slightly cooler than earlier: I was glad to be wearing my thick windproof top.

Our route home took us east along the fairly quiet B645 to Stoneley and then along even quieter roads to Dillington. When I reached Dillington the group I was riding with realised that Ian wasn't with us, and so we stopped to wait. After ten minutes or so I was deputed to ride back to see what had happened. About a mile back along the road I found Ian, Mike P and Edmund. Edmund had sustained a puncture and a mishap with his rear brakes, but it wasn't long before he was back on the road again and we carried on east through Dillington and along the private road past the prison to Perry on the edge of Grafham Water.

Riding below the dam at Grafham Water

A short run along the rather busier B661 took us along the base of the dam and down to Buckden. We crossed the A1 using the subway and continued east to Offord Cluny.

Emerging from the A1 subway at Buckden

Crossing the River Great Ouse at Offord Cluny

From Offord Cluny we continued east through Graveley and Hilton to Fenstanton. Here Ian left the group to head for St Ives (having been reassured that we knew the way home) and the rest of us contined east to Fen Drayton, Swavesey and along the busway back to Cambridge, with various members peeling off along the way. I arrived home at 5.45pm, having cycled 75 miles.



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