I rode over to Brookside to find nine other riders waiting to join me today: Rupert, Eva, Jim, Gareth, Alex, Mike P, Mike CC, Keith and Joseph. I was the leader today, and after posing for a quick photo we set off west out of Cambridge along the Barton Road cycleway towards Barton.
Yesterday had been a gorgeous warm sunny day, and the forecast was for similar conditions today. In the event, the weather wasn't quite as good as expected but it was still pretty good, with intermittent sunshine and very mild temperatures (offset by a rather chilly southerly wind) for the whole day. Several of us were wearing shorts for the first time today, and I don't think any of us regretted it.
Haslingfield Ho! (Photo: Alex Brown)
Our coffee stop today was at the Silver Ball cafe in Reed, on the A10 south of Royston. The direct route (along roads we'd never use) is 15 miles, but the much nicer, quiet and scenic route I had chosen came out as 23 miles, which would allow us to get there at about 11am. From Barton this took us south to Haslingfield, over Chapel Hill to Barrington, and on through Shepreth and Fowlmere (where we were joined by Yasmin) and across the A505 to Chrishall Grange.
Between Fowlmere and the A505
At Chrishall Grange the flatlands of Cambridgeshire come to an end and we began a long but relatively gentle climb up to Chrishall. Somewhere near the top we came across Nick W who joined us for the last few miles to Reed. This involved a smaller climb through Heydon to Great Chishill, followed by a delightful series of sweeping descents and climbs down towards Shaftenhoe End and on to the B1168 just north of Barkway. We followed this south towards Barkway for a mile or so before turning west once more for a final gentle rise past the transmitting masts to Reed.
I'm on your wheel! (Photo: Alex Brown)
The Silver Ball cafe is a long-established transport cafe, though it's probably seen better days and its main customers on Sundays seem to be motorcyclists; when we arrived there were probably twenty or thirty motorcycles lined up outside, their owners enjoying hearty fried breakfasts (served at astonishingly cheap prices) inside. Also here were a group from Stevenage CTC, staffing a control point for the "Start of Summetime" audaxes (60km, 110km and 210km), though when we arrived the 210km riders had already been through and the 110km riders were just beginning to arrive.
Despite this being the only cafe in the area with a CTC plaque on the wall outside, this isn't a very appealing cafe, but it's in a good location and it served its purpose well today. Also here were club regulars Adrian and Doug.
Getting ready to set off after coffee in Reed. Note the eponymous silver ball top right.
After coffee we regrouped, with most people turning back towards Cambridge and - rather disappointingly - just four of us carrying on to lunch in Much Hadham (plus Gareth, who had already left). That was a pity, because the 23 miles from here to there were probably the nicest of the whole trip. For the first few miles we passed dozens of audax riders going in the opposite direction, all of whom exchanged cheery greetings with us as we passed. One of these was Susan, who is clearly developing a taste for Audax.
Lunch in prospect...(Photo: Alex Brown)
The route we took was a big loop to the west of the A10, west to Sandon, then south through Rushden and Cromer, and finally south-east through Ardley, Haultwick (which I learned is pronounced something like "artic") and Barwick. This is quite "lumpy" countryside, and the landscape has a smaller scale than it does further east.
Nigel in Barwick Ford
Barwick means, of course, Barwick Ford, and although everyone else used the footbridge I couldn't resist cycling through the water.
Between Barwick and Much Hadham (as the sign says)
We reached Much Hadham at about 1.30pm and stopped for lunch at Hopley's Cafe. This is one of my favourite lunch stops, serving excellent food (and wine) in a pleasant garden beside a small nursery. Here we found Gareth, who had made his own way here via Dane End and Buntingford.
Alex at Hopley's Cafe, Much Hadham
Mike, Alex, Joseph and Gareth at Hopley's Cafe, Much Hadham
After a very pleasant lunch we set off back towards Cambridge. I had plotted a relatively direct route via Stocking Pelham, Berden, Clavering and Arkesden, but we still had 30 miles to cover. Fortunately we now had a tailwind, and the combination of this and a hearty lunch meant we made rapid progress back to Cambridge. I arrived home at 4.45pm, having cycled 76 miles on my longest CTC ride so far this year.
Download GPS track (GPX).