Route planning was easy. I had declined the Runs Committee's suggestion of a coffee stop at Ickleton, on the grounds it was not far enough away from the start, and had opted for Reed instead. That's fine, except that the direct route up the often-busy B-road through Fowlmere and Barley is around 30km, which corresponds to an 11am arrival at our normal speed. That then left the problem of extending the route from Reed to Rushden, as the direct route through Sandon is a bit too direct, and the A507 and A505 make it hard to add in extra distance without using busy roads.
Fortunately, Sheila had recently led a Thursday ride from Reed to Ardeley, so I was able to stand on the shoulders of route-planning giants and shamelessly follow pretty much the same route from coffee and on to lunch.
We rode direct from Brookside to Reed in cloudy conditions. The highest altitude we would reach all day was between Barkway and Reed, and here a patch of sun briefly shone through north of Cambridge to pick out the science park in the distance.
Adrian, Joseph, Mick C, Sue, Keith and Mike S were already at the Silver Ball Café at Reed when we arrived. The service was efficient and quick as always, and I was looking forward to my bacon and egg sandwich. I was pleased when it arrived, but this feeling was short-lived, as Alex's gigantic bacon and egg roll put my sandwich to shame.
As we left Reed, Mike S experienced a slight problem with his battery connection on his electric bicycle. This was simply and quickly resolved, and I am hoping that I can find a similar simple solution for the lack of power in my legs!
We proceeded south towards Buntingford, through Green End and Mill End and then on through Arkesden, Westmill and Nasty, where we made all the usual jokes about “nasty rides” etc. In Great Munden we then turned north-west along lovely quiet lanes through Wood End and Moor Green, towards Ardeley.
Here, we turned right to climb up towards Cromer windmill. This is shrouded in scaffolding at the moment, but we still paused for a team photo. From there, it was a short hop to lunch at the garden centre in Rushden, where we found that Adrian had already been and gone, and met up with Susan and Mike S.
The cafe at Mill End Plants is in a poly-tunnel, and bike parking is easy - you can simply take your bike into the cafe! At the best of times, it is not going to be that warm in a poly-tunnel in November, and when we arrived we found that the main form of heating – a space heater – had stopped working that morning, so warmth was provided by two small oil-filled radiators, which struggled to make much impact on the temperature.
There was a good variety of cyclist-friendly food on offer – soups, hot pasties, baked potatoes, toasties, cake etc. and the service was friendly and efficient. After eating, we set off fairly promptly rather than waiting in the rather chilly conditions.
We then headed north to cross the busy A505, and climb the hill towards Ashwell. Here we turned right and took familiar roads towards Littlington, where we turned off the normal route to take the detour through Abington Piggots. Here we were rewarded with the first real sunshine of the day, and the setting sun beautifully lit up the last leaves of autumn on the beech trees.
From there we entered Bassingbourn and paused to switch on lights before taking the regular route through Meldreth, Shepreth and Barrington towards Haslingfield, and on to Harston, where we split into Cambridge and South Cambridge sub-groups and went our separate ways.
The ride was just over 110km, which was helpful to Alex, as it meant that he has now completed 100 rides of 100km or longer, which is another significant milestone (or should that be kilometre marker) in his pursuit of an ever greater Eddington Number (the cycling-related one, and not the number of protons in the observable universe!).
Thanks again to Sheila for having devised a route that provided the basis for an enjoyable day of cycling. John Seton
Download GPS track (GPX).