A couple of minutes before the official start time, Rupert had a call from Mike P, John R and Dr John, who were in Chesterton, having been delayed by a puncture. As I had not planned any route, apart from vaguely setting off via Fulbourn, it was easy enough to seamlessly create a new plan to meet the successfully re-inflated trio by the Green Dragon Bridge, and instead head out via Fen Ditton and Bottisham towards Dullingham and then Newmarket.
The official coffee stop was Coffee and Co. in Newmarket, but prompted by Rupert a few of us relocated to try out the new Horse Racing museum cafe at their new site in Palace Street - just a few yards from Coffee and Co. The new Palace House has a big courtyard that could take lots of bikes, and a restaurant/café called The Tack Room, together with a take-away shop that does hot drinks, cakes and savoury items. There is plenty of outside seating for people to consume items bought from the take-away shop in good weather.
The general view was that the new place is good, and offers good value and prompt service on the take-away side of things. The sit-down indoor restaurant also looks good for lunches and light bites, though prices are perhaps a little higher than at the old NHRM site. Purely for selfless research purposes, I had a take–away home-made sausage roll and a spinach quiche, and I am pleased to report that these were both good quality and good value.
A feature of our rides is that it is hard to predict numbers, and most coffee/lunch stops will struggle to serve everyone quickly when there are 20 or 30 people out on the day. Having two good places a few yards apart in the same street in Newmarket now means that we have the option to balance the load and get everyone served more quickly according to numbers. I think the plan will be to use Palace House again, and explore using it on Thursdays as well as Sundays, and for lunch as well as coffee.
We re-convened outside Coffee and Co, from where a number of people including Mick C, Mike CC, Edward E and Alex B rode back towards Cambridge. The rest of us proceeded east from Newmarket with the help of a benign tailwind through Ashley, Dalham (after which Rupert headed back), Barrow, Little Saxham, Chevington, Hargrave and on to lunch in the farm shop at Depden. The roads around Little Saxham showed that we had been very lucky with the weather, as there were big puddles everywhere and there had clearly been a recent torrential downpour.
When we arrived, the staff at the farm shop in Depden stared at us blankly and denied all knowledge of any cyclists having being booked in for lunch by anyone called Rupert, and upon further investigation it turned out that they were instead expecting a party of actors from a "Cambridge Theatre Company" - or "CTC Cambridge" for short. Maybe this is evidence of the ruthless efficiency with which the Cycling UK re-branding has now been implemented!
The farm shop were offering a reduced Sunday menu, which only has roasts as a hot meal, but everyone was able to find things that worked on the menu, so this turned out not to be much of a restriction on choice. While we were having lunch, Dave W and Susan arrived, having cycled direct, and David T and Sheila rejoined us after eating their sandwiches nearby.
Adrian headed off to make his own way back, and nine of us set off through the southern fringes of Wickhambrook towards Cowlinge. This is an area with no obvious centre to it, and I am convinced someone jumbles the roads up differently each time I try and navigate around there. Today, things were different, and I managed to find the correct twisty little roads, and just for once we came out where I had expected on the A134.
After a short stretch on the (thankfully not too busy) A-road we headed off on quieter roads through Little Thurlow, where Dave W pointed out a house with a replica aircraft in thatch on the crest of the roof. It isn't an exact scale model, but my misspent youth of Airfix kit building suggests that it is most likely based on a Short Stirling bomber, which flew from nearby RAF Wratting Common in 1943.
The thatch bomber in Little Thurlow
There were dark clouds to the west, and there was a brief burst of rain, but thankfully this quickly passed. At the T-junction in Carlton Green we split into "Central Cambridge and beyond" and "South Cambridge" groups and went our separate ways. I continued with Susan, Edmund, Seb and Dave W through West Wratting, Balsham, Hildersham and Great Abington. Some of the party declared themselves not to be big fans of the A11 footbridge, so we instead went past Granta Park and under the A505 to Sawston and Stapleford, were we went our separate ways.
We were lucky with the rain, and the wind was helpful on the way out, and dropped a bit for the return journey. I normally over-plan rides on my Garmin satnav and then get discombobulated when things change. Today I turned up to lead a ride with not much of a plan, and a couple of dog-eared OS maps, and this meant that we could embrace change, and fit the length of ride to the weather. I think the lesson for me may be that there’s a life beyond Garmin!
I didn't take any pictures of cyclists, which suggests that I rather take it for granted that someone else such as Nigel or Ed will be doing this on all our rides. Neither of them was riding with us today, so if anyone else has any more relevant pictures, please send these to Nigel! John Seton
Download GPS track (GPX).