Sunday, 21 August 2016

21 Aug: Sunday ride to Barrow and Hawstead

Nigel writes: During the course of a year CTC Cambridge organises rides in all directions from Cambridge: north, east, south, north, and most directions in between. However in my experience of riding with the club the best rides tend to take place towards the east and south-east and (to a lesser extent) towards the south. So when I was looking recently for a Sunday ride to lead, and saw that the club had organised a ride that headed east into Suffolk, visiting an intriguing new coffee stop and a familar but delightful lunch stop, I immediately decided that this was the ride for me.


I arrived at Brookside just before 9am to find six other members waiting for me: Mark, Dimitris, Ned, Tony, Joseph and Sheila. After taking a quick photo we set off and made our way across Parker's Piece and down to the river.

Parker's Piece, Cambridge

As we continued east along the river to Ditton Meadows and on through Fen Ditton to Quy we encountered three separate members who just happened to be waiting for us: Seb on Riverside, Rupert on Midsummer Common, and Keith at Quy Church. This came as a pleasant surprise, but then I realised that I had circulated details of our route yesterday, and that by telling people which way we would be heading I had made it much easier for members to meet us along the way.

Our enlarged group of ten continued east to Bottisham and Swaffham Bulbeck before turnng east onto Swaffham Heath Road, the long and rather pleasant road that leads to Dullingham.

Swaffham Heath Road

The weather forecast for this weekend had not been good, with rain and strong winds forecast. Yesterday had certainly been very windy, and had seen a few showers, but today was rather quieter and dryer though there was still a persistent westerly wind of 20-25mph which would be the dominant feature of the weather today.

Since we were heading east today, we enjoyed a tailwind all morning, and we made good progress to Dullingham and on through the rolling lanes south of Newmarket to Cheveley and Ashley.

Approaching Cheveley

The morning had started rather cool and dull, but the sun soon came out and the temperature soon rose to remind us that it was still mid-August,


We continued east through Dalham to Denham. A few minutes later we arrived in Barrow, and stopped for coffee at a cafe we hadn't visited before: The Udder Room. This was set in some converted farm buildings just north of the village: the same premises also accommodated a Post Office. Adjacent (in a huge and impressive converted barn which was apparently once a cow shed) was "Forelock and Load", selling selling equestrian and shooting equipment, and possibly the first gun shop I had ever walked into.

Coffee stop in Barrow

Already at the cafe were Geoff and Adrian, and a few minutes later we were joined by Edmund. The cafe was very pleasant and I'm sure we will be visiting it again.

After coffee we said goodbye to Geoff and Adrian, whilst Edmund joined my group and no-one left it, increasing our number to eleven.

Our lunch stop today was in Hawstead, This is only about nine miles away, so rather than head directly there I took the group on a loop of about seventeen miles which took us right through the middle of Bury St Edmunds and out the other side. I would have preferred to have avoided Bury completely but that would have made for a much longer loop.

As it turned out, our progress folloiwjng NCN51 through Bury was straightforward and, after a dull initial section through suburban streets, was rather interesting, with much of it on surprisingly-good traffic-free paths.

A rather poor section of NCN 51 in Bury St Edmunds

A rather good section of NCN 51 crossing the River Lark in Bury St Edmunds

NCN 51 on the eastern edge of Bury St Edmunds

It wasn't too long before we were back in open countryside and able to turn south towards our lunch stop at the Maglia Rosso cycle shop and cafe in Hawstead, which we reached at 1.15pm. There were few other customers apart from John S, who had made his own way there.

Lunch at Maglia Rosso, Halstead

After a very pleasant lunch it was time to set off for home. Since today's ride was a "light day ride" there was no tea stop, and so we had to ride the 55km (34 miles) back to Cambridge in a single leg. We were now riding directly into the wind, and although the headwind was fairly tiring and slowed us we had a pleasant ride home. We followed a more southerly route than on the ride out, which took us through Hartest, Hawkedon and Denton before crossing the A143 near Stradishall to Farley Green and Cowlinge.

Unfortunately I managed to lose two members of the group on the way back: John S had said he would be riding back with us, but we managed to set off without him, whilst somewhere along the route Dimitris had a puncture but I didn't notice (and no-one else did either). My apologies to both for some careless leading (both riders later sent me messages that they had got back home).

The lanes near Farley Green are lined with high hedges and are normally charming but today the road was covered in hedge-clippings and Joseph sustained a puncture, his second of the day. Since he wasn't heading to Cambridge he waved us on our way, with just Keith staying to keep him company.

The rest of us carried in through Great Bradley to Brinkley and a long, fast descent (despite the headwind) to Six Mile Bottom. After a brief stop to buy drinks at the shop there we continued to Little Wilbraham, where the ride bifurcated. Most of the group continued with Rupert to Quy, returning to Cambridge via Fen Ditton and the reverse of the route we had used in the morning, whilst three of us turned left towards Great Wilbraham and Fulbourn.

I rode back to Cambridge with Sheila, parting company somewhere near the station. I arrived home at 5.30pm, having cycled 127km (79 miles).

Download GPS track (GPX).

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