Sunday, 15 May 2016

15 May: Sunday ride to Ely, Welney and Wicken

Nigel writes: Today was one of our rare excursions into the fens north of Cambridge. Since this area offers miles and miles of totally flat cycling it sometimes surprises people to hear that we don't actually go this way very often. The reason is not that the fens are boring, or that they are windy (though both are true to some extent), but simply that there are not many roads, not many places to visit, and a very limited number of circular rides possible from Cambridge. However the fens are definitely worth a visit a few times a year, preferably when a bright, warm day shows its dark landscape at its best, and when there isn't a cold wind blasting across its endless fields. Fortunately, the weather today was perfect, and we were able to enjoy one of the most carefree and purely relaxing Sunday rides of the year so far.

Parker's Piece, Cambridge

My companions for today's ride were Rupert, Mike CC, David, Sheila, Jerry, Ray, Keith and John R our leader. Our destination for morning coffee was Ely, and to get there we set off north-east from Brookside, following the River Cam all the way from Midsummer Common to Chesterton and then on to Bate's Bite Lock and Clayhithe.

Along the River Cam in Cambridge

At Clayhithe we turned west away from the river towards Waterbeach and then continued through Landbeach to Cottenham, where we turned north onto the B1049 to Wilburton. This road can sometimes get rather busy but at this time on a Sunday it was very quiet.

Crossing the River Great Ouse on the B1049 south of Wilburton

After Wilburton we continued through Grunty Fen to Witchford and from there on into Ely.

Grunty Fen

We arrived in Ely a few minutes before 11am and headed to the Market Place for our morning coffee stop. There are several cafes in the area so the rides list had not designated a specific cafe. We initially went to Kempton's Restaurant in the corner of the Market Place, but they seemed rather understaffed and we quickly we gave up waiting for our orders to be taken and walked a few yards down Market Street to Costa Coffee instead.

Coffee shop in the middle of Ely

After coffee Jerry left the group, and the remaining eight of us set off north towards lunch in Welney. John explained to me that his plan was to follow the old A10 to Littleport and then follow the River Great Ouse all the way to Ten Mile Bank before turning west and then south towards Welney Wetland Centre. I fancied a slightly different route for the first part of the ride, so after explaining to John what I was going to do, I left the group and followed the B1104 east for a couple of miles to Queen Adelaide before turning north onto a quiet road which runs along the River Great Ouse. My plan was to meet up with the others north of Littleport, but in the event I ended up riding all the way to lunch on my own.

I followed the River Great Ouse for six miles to Ten Mile Bank. The road here is actually below the level of the river, and with a high grassy floodbank between the two the river is not actually visible for most of the way. I therefore stopped at one point to scramble up the floodbank to take in the view and see if I could glimpse the others on the other side of the river.

The River Great Ouse between Ely and Littleport, with the River Lark joining on right

By now the day had warmed up and with the sun continuing to shine this was a most pleasant ride. With only the lightest of headwinds - and with absolutely no hills - I made rapid progress and found myself comfortably cruising along at about 18mph. At Ten Mile Bank I turned left towards Welney, and reached the Wetland Centre at about 12.45pm.

Welney Wetland Centre

Inside I found the cafe where a large table had been reserved for us. The cafe here was actually almost empty, which seemed surprising on such a lovely day, but a full menu was on offer. About fifteen minutes later the other arrived and we had a very pleasant lunch, chatting amiably and admiring the fine views from the window.

Lunch at Welney Wetland Centre

After lunch we set off south back to Ely. Yet again we found outselves following a river, in this case the artificial new Bedford River, which yet again was hidden from view behind a floodbank.

Riding below the New Bedford River south of Welney

With a very slight tailwind and with warmer and brighter weather than had been forecast, this was a very pleasant and relaxing part of the ride. We were making good time so instead of following the B1141 all the way into Ely we turned off for a slightly longer loop via Coveney.

Approaching Ely from Coveney

We rode through the middle of Ely, past the Cathedral and out past the station to join the NCN 11 path that runs south along the River Great Ouse towards Barway. Here we found ourselves riding along the top of the floodbank, and so could actually see the river for a change.

Along the River Great Ouse south of Ely

We continued along the familar NCN 11 route through Barway and Padney to Wicken, where we stopped for tea at Wicken Village Hall. It was now about 3.45pm. Inside the village hall a bric-a-brac sale was in full swing and it was full of people, but we quickly located the area where tea and cakes were being sold and sat outside to enjoy our puchases.

Tea at Wicken Village Hall

After about half an hour the afternoon ride arrived: about a dozen riders led by Ian W. We gave them our table and, after a brief exchange of pleasantries, prepared to set off once more.

Preparing to set off from Wicken Village Hall

Our route home from Wicken first took us around the edge of Wicken Fen and then along the Lodes Way to Lode.

Wicken Fen

The bridge over Reach Lode on the Lodes Way

We continued through Bottisham, Quy and Fen Ditton before entering Cambridge along the River Cam. The river was busy with rowers, and the path busy with walkers and other cyclists, enjoying like us the warm late afternoon sunshine. Along the way the others peeled off for home, leaving just me to follow the river all the way into the City Centre.

After a pause opposite the Round Church to eat an ice cream I arrived home at about 6pm, having cycled 84 miles.

Download GPS track (GPX).

1 comment:

  1. This ride is up there with the best I've done this year; thanks to the flatlands of the Fens and the unexpected warmer weather than forecast. Many thanks to JR for his leadership and to Rupert for route planning. Mike CC