Sunday, 17 July 2016

17 Jul: Sunday ride to Saffron Walden, Hatfield Broad Oak and Clavering

Nigel writes: Today was the hottest Sunday we've had this summer, and the combination of classic summer weather, an excellent route and a superb home tea made this one of the most enjoyable club rides of the year so far. As is often the case on nice summer days, the numbers were rather lower than usual, and when I arrived at Brookside I found just four riders waiting to join me: Alex, Ray, Mike CC, and Conrad our leader for today.

At the start at Brookside

We set off and headed south from Brookside. Conrad announced that he wanted us to get out of Cambridge (and into the countryside) as quickly as possible, and so instead of following our now-traditional route to Great Shelford via the busway and DNA path, we took the simpler and slightly shorter route along the main road, following Trumpington Road to Trumpington and Shelford Road to Great Shelford.

We turned right to Little Shelford and continued south to Whittlesford and Duxford. The temperature was about 20C with a light westerly wind blowing a refreshing breeze across us.

Coffee today was in Saffron Walden, which meant we had time for a loop along the way. So instead of carrying on to Ickleton we turned onto Grange Road, the long, straight and very quiet road that runs west from Duxford to Chrishall Grange.

Mike CC on the climb from Chrishall Grange up to Chrishall

We then turned east and enjoyed a fast roller-coaster descent to Elmdon, followed by a short climb and then a slightly steeper descent down to the B1039 at Wenden Lofts.

Topiary in Elmdon

We followed the B1039 east for less then a kilometre to the junction for Littlebury Green. Here our small group divided, with Mike CC continuing along the flat to Wendens Ambo before the final climb into Saffron Walden, whilst Conrad, Alex, Ray and I turned left for a short climb to Littlebury Green followed by a long descent along Chestnut Avenue to Audley End House and the inevitable climb into Saffron Walden.

Ray and Alex on the climb up to Littlebury Green

We stopped for coffee at Bicicletta Coffee. This is often rather overcrowded on Sunday mornings but today it was quiet when we arrived so we had no problems finding somewhere to sit and our coffee and cake orders arrived swiftly. Already sitting outside were Edward, Mick, and returning member Martin, and a few minutes later we were joined by Susan.

Morning stop at Bicicletta Coffee, Saffron Walden

After coffee Mike CC left the group to return home, whilst Susan and Martin joined it, and as a result there were now six of us carrying on for the next stage of the ride: Alex, Ray, Conrad, Susan, Martin and me.

Our next stop was lunch at Cammas Hall Farm near Hatfield Broad Oak. We left Saffron Walden and followed Debden Road south to Debden and Debden Green. There we turned off onto slightly quieter roads through Cherry Green and Broxted.

Broxted Hill

We continued along a succession of delightfully peaceful lanes to Molehill Green. This is just north of Stansted Airport but as the airport was completely hidden behind a thick barrier of trees the only thing that betrayed the existence of the UK's fourth-busiest airport was an increase in traffic and a constant stream of Ryanair and Easyjet aircraft passing low overhead on their way in to land.

We soon left the airport behind and continued south to Takeley and a further succession of charming quiet lanes to Cammas Hall Farm. This is a "pick your own" farm with a fairly large cafe. This is normally quite a quiet place but today it was very busy, and we had to quite for about fifteen minutes before we could place our orders for lunch. However once we had done that the food was delivered fairly quickly and efficiently. Whilst we were sitting waiting for our food we were joined by Gareth, who had left Cambridge a little after 11am and cycled directly here.

Lunch at Cammas Hall Farm, Hatfield Broad Oak

After a pleasant lunch we set off once more for the next stage of today's ride. We left the farm and cycled west, passing through the picturesque villages of Hatfield Broad Oak and Hatfield Heath to Sawbridgeworth.

Hatfield Broad Oak

Hatfield Heath (Photo: Gareth Rees)

Sawbridgeworth is a relatively busy little town but it wasn't long before we were through it and back on the tranquil lanes that lead through Allen's Green and Green Tye to Much Hadham.

Green Tye

As the afternoon progressed the temperature rose to about 25C. On a longer, harder ride this would have been quite uncomfortable but today we didn't have far to go. At Much Hadham we turned north, crossed the A120 at the traffic lights in Little Hadham and continued to Stocking Pelham and on to Clavering. Here we stopped at lovely house where one of the club's celebrated "home teas" was awaiting us. Our hosts today were Craig and Frances, though the venue was actually the lovely home of one of their neighbours.

It was 4pm and we were half an hour early, but no-one seemed to mind. On a cooler day we might have added an extra loop but on such a hot day we were happy to spend the extra day relaxing.

Tea in Clavering

After a while Ian W arrived with the afternoon ride, and we all enjoyed the splendid tea that Craig, Helen and their neighbour had put on for us.

A fine spread

We lingered at tea for about an hour and a half before setting off for home.

Just about to set off for home

Ian led the afternoon group west for a loop via Langley, while the "all-day" group took a more direct route home via Arkesden and Catmere End. This involved climbing Quicksie Hill out of Arkesden followed by the much steeper hill between Clanver End and Littlebury Green. We have long wondered what name to give this second hill, but seem to be settling on "Telegraph Hill" in recognition of the radio masts at the top.

"Telegraph" Hill from Clanver End to Littlebury Green. Steeper than it looks.

Telegraph Hill

Telegraph Hill

After a short descent down to Littlebury Green and another short climb to Catmere End, we were able to end the ride with a fast and very enjoyable high-speed descent along the Catmere End - Coploe Hill - Ickleton rollercoaster.

After a final run along the flat through Duxford, Whittlesford and the Shelford I arrived home at about 6.30pm, having cycled 136km (84 miles). Following this ride, my Eddington Number has increased to 81.



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