Sunday, 7 August 2016

7 Aug: Sunday ride to Stradishall, Risby and Wicken

Nigel writes: After last Sunday's unusually large turnout it came as something of a surprise to find only three other riders at Brookside for today's ride: Alex, Camille and Ray, our leader for today. However Ray reminded me that today we also had a car-assisted ride in Northamptonshire today and so we would expect the numbers to be reduced.

I also wondered whether my description of last Sunday's ride as being "one of our longest and fastest-paced Sunday club rides of the year so far" had put some members off. With that in mind, we resolved to take today's ride at a more moderate pace, and set off down Hills Road to Addenbrooke's and across the Gogs to Fulbourn.

Hills Road, Cambridge

We continued through the Wilbrahams before turning onto the long, straight road that leads to Six Mile Bottom.

The long drag to Six Mile Bottom

From Six Mile Bottom we climbed Brinkley Hill as far as Cemetery Crossroads. There we turned right, passing the Woodland Cemetery itself and climbing up to Weston Colville (which Alex and I had last cycled through at about 4am on 5th June). We continued through Weston Green to Carlton Green and on to Little Thurlow. Despite our truce at the start of the ride, we allowed our pace to increase a little, partly because there was quite a strong south-westerly breeze today which blew us along (but which would prove rather less co-operative during the afternoon). As a result, we made very good progress and arrived at Adam's Cafe near Stradishall about half an hour early at about 10.30am.

The cafe was almost empty, with just a handful of motorcyclists inside. Keith was sitting outside tucking into a plate of beans on toast. We all ordered food and joined him. Despite the strong breeze it was already very warm in the sunshine. A few moments later we were joined by Joseph, and a short time after that by Gareth.

Breakfast at Adam's Cafe, Stradishall

After about 35 minutes we were ready to move on. Now that Keith, Joseph and Alex had joined us our group there were now seven of us. That's a nice size for a group: large enough to have lots of people to talk to, but not so large that it's difficult to manage ourselves on the roads.

We continued east, following a delightful route along quiet lanes to Denston and Hawkedon where we turning north to Chedburgh and Chevington.

Hawkedon

We continued north through Little Saxham (where I made a point of admiring its fine round-tower church) and crossed over the A14 to Risby.

Little Saxham

We stopped for lunch in Risby at a rather simple pub called the Crown and Castle. I think this was our first visit: in the past we've usually visited Lizzy's Coffee Shop nearby but I know they can't always cope with the unpredictable numbers on a club ride so I suspect we were researching this as a possible alternative.

The landlord and landlady seemed mildly alarmed when we all walked in, asking how many of us there were and going off to check with the kitchen that they had enough food. Fortunately the answer appeared to be "yes", and we were able to order food from their rather limited Sunday menu. This was oriented towards traditional roast meat meals but offered a couple of lighter options (including a flan with vegetables and potatoes at about £9 which several of us went for), but no sandwiches. We didn't have to wait long for our food and when it arrived it was entirely satisfactory and the quantity of food about right.

Whilst we were eating Susan appeared, looking rather hot, and she joined us for lunch and for the remainder of the ride.

After lunch at Risby

Afterwards we set off again for another relatively short stage that would take us north-west towards our afternoon tea stop in Wicken. By now it was really rather warm (about 24C) and quite sunny, though with the south-westerly wind now blowing from our left side we remained cool and comfortable.

On the road between Risby and Cavenham

We continued through Cavenham to Tuddenham before turning left towards Herringswell and Kennet which took us directly into the wind for the first time today. The landscape was now completely flat, making a direct headwind rather relentless and unforgiving.

On the road between Risby and Cavenham

At Kentford we turned north-west once more, allowing us some respite from the wind as we crossed over the A11 and continued along the B1085 to Chippenham and Fordham. Ray's original plan had been to take the A1123 directly from here to Wicken, but it was still only about 3pm so we crossed over the A141 bridge to Soham for an extra loop through the fens.

Soham

Keith temporarily took the role of leader to guide us through the streets of Soham and on to Soham Cotes and the minor road that leads west to Barway. This section marked the most northerly extent of today's ride and we could see Ely Cathedral about 5km to the north.

At Barway we turned south and followed NCN 11 to Padney and Wicken. We were now riding directly into the wind once more and our pace slowed markedly as the headwind took its toll. However we didn't have far to go and at about 3.30pm we arrived in Wicken and stopped for tea at St Laurence's Church, the big medieval church at the eastern edge of the village. This was serving tea as part of a summer series of Sunday teas which rotate between various venues in Wicken.

In CTC Cambridge we frequently stop for tea in church and village halls, but this is the only place we visit where tea is served in the nave of the church itself and consumed sitting in a pew. Although the cakes themselves were excellent (and very reasonably-priced), this was rather awkward and made conversation rather difficult...

Tea in St Laurence's Church, Wicken

After a while Eva arrived with the afternoon ride, which had quite a large turnout today. Fortunately there was plenty of cake - and plenty of pews in which to sit.

Setting off with the afternoon ride after tea in Wicken

Afterwards we all set off back to Cambridge as a single group, with Ray and Eva jointly leading a route via Upware and the Lodes Way. Riding back with so many other members in the late afternoon sunshine was very pleasant, though the warm, south-westerly wind hadn't gone away and cycling directly into it was quite hard work at times.

Upware

Upware

The Lodes Way

The Lodes Way

Inevitably the group began to break up as we approached Lode and the final few miles through Bottisham and Quy into Cambridge, with Eva turning off in Lode to head across the fields to Waterbeach, Ray staying towards the back to guide the stragglers, and Alex and me near the front trying to keep up with Camille and Matilda. I arrived home at 6.30pm, having cycled 140km (87 miles) on another excellent day out with the club. Nigel Deakin



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