Sunday, 28 August 2016

28 Aug: Sunday ride to Stradishall, Long Melford and West Wratting

Nigel writes: In my report of last Sunday's ride I mentioned that some leaders had started circulating their route in advance, and that this was encouraging some riders to skip the start at Brookside and meet the ride as it made its way out of Cambridge. Since I live fairly close to Brookside I've never felt the need to do that until today, when the frame of my seat-post-mounted bag (an Altura Aero post pack) snapped in two and threw my bag onto the road.

My Altura Aero post pack. I'm not impressed.

I had just enough time to limp back home, strap the bag onto my bike using a couple of elasticated velcro straps, and cycle in the opposite direction to Riverside where I stopped and waited for the ride to pass by.

Riverside, Cambridge

John Ross was our leader today, and his posse consisted of Tom, Mike CC, Sheila, Camille, Mark and me, with Rupert joining a couple of minutes further along on Stourbridge Common. We continued to Fen Ditton where we turned east onto High Ditch Road.

High Ditch Road, Fen Ditton

The weather today was rather more varied than we have had in recent weeks. The day started rather dull, though still comfortably warm. We saw more of the sun as the day progressed, but there was a bit of rain around and from time to time encountered a very short shower of rain. The rain didn't amount to very much until much later in the day, when an almost biblical downpour arrived just as we were having tea. But more of that later.

Newmarket Road, approaching Quy

Our initial destination was Adam's Cafe near Stradishall. That's one of our more distant coffee stops, so to get there John took a fairly direct route via Six Mile Bottom, Brinkley and Carlton Green. John set a comfortable, moderate pace, which allowed Camille and me to speed ahead of the group from time to time and take advantage of the westerly tailwind we had for most of the morning.

Breakfast at Adam's Cafe, Stradishall

We arrived at Adam's Cafe just before 11am and found several members already there: Keith, Andy and Sarah, who were there to join the ride, and John S, who was dressed in civilian clothes and stamping cards for today's Mildenhall Rally 100km Audax. A few minutes later we were also joined by David W.

After we'd all finished our bacon sandwiches, rounds of toast, beans on toast, and similar treats we all set off again in the direction of Long Melford, our lunch stop. The first few kilometres was familiar: a fast sweep down the A143 to the Denston turn and then through Denston and Hawkedon to Hartest. Here we had the rare pleasure of climbing Hartest Hill, possibly the most notorious steep climb in west Suffolk despite the ascent being a mere 40m.

Hartest Hill

Hartest Hill

We turned south towards Stanstead (we wondered how many car drivers end up here looking for the airport) and a few minutes later arrived in Long Melford. Since it was a bank holiday weekend Rupert had advised us to bring sandwiches, which we enjoyed sitting on the huge green just north of the village.

Picnic lunch in Long Melford

After lunch we fancied a cup of tea and a slice of cake. By chance an antiques fair was being held in a hall close by, so we each paid £1 admission and went in to visit the cafe inside.

Setting off after post-lunch tea and cake in Long Melford

Afterwards we set off west, leaving Long Melford and passing through Liston before turning onto a short off-road section towards Foxearth. It started to rain, fairly heavily, but it didn't last more than ten minutes.

Off-road between Liston and Foxearth

We continued west towards our next stop, West Wratting. To get there John led is on a gentle loop around the south of Haverhill, passing through Ashen, Ridgewell, Stambourn and the Bumpsteads. There was a slight headwind on the way there but it was nowhere as bad as last seek. Nevertheless I think this leg of the ride was longer than people expected, and we were glad when we eventually arrived at Peter and Lesley's house for one of their famous home teas. There were several members already there and after a short while we were joined by Ray and the afternoon ride.

As we sat outside, drinking tea, munching sandwiches and eating cake, the weather began to deteriorate and after about half an hour it began to rain. Fortunately there was plenty of room indoors in the conservatory and we were able to sit sit inside whilst the rain got heavier and heavier.

Tea in the rain in West Wratting

Before long it was time to return home to Cambridge. It was still raining heavily but Ray was keen to make a move with the afternoon ride and John prepared to follow suite. John led the all-day riders back via Six Mile Bottom and Quy, whilst I joined Ray to return via Balsham and Abington. For the first half hour or so the rain was almost biblical in its intensity, with water streaming across the road and huge floods of several inches. It was a relief that there was very little motor traffic, as it would have been miserable to share a road with cars under such conditions.

After a while the rain stopped and the sky brightened a little for the final few miles through Babraham, Sawston and Great Shelford back to Cambridge. I arrived home at 6.50pm, having cycled 127km (79 miles). Nigel Deakin



The map shows the "offical" route taken by ride leader John Ross. Download GPS track (GPX).

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