Thursday, 27 July 2017

27 Jul: Thursday ride to Reed and Stansted Mountfitchet

Edward writes: Today's ride was destined for the Silver Ball at Reed and to the Bean House in Stansted Mountfitchet, with Sheila leading from Hauxton and Glyn doing the honours at Brookside. The weather forecast was sort of OK with some showers predicted from late morning onwards, and accompanied by a westerly wind which, as we were heading southwards, wouldn’t be of much consequence on either the outward or the homeward journey.

I didn't get the numbers from the city but at Hauxton we had eleven, that is until we were about to set off, Greg turned up; some people just like to make grand entrances. Our ride started into Little Shelford and then over the hill to Newton. Unusually we missed out Thriplow and carried straight on to Fowlmere where we found Mike B waiting to join us. We negotiated the A505 and made our way to Chrishall Grange ready for the climb up the hill to the Elmdon turning where we had the usual pause so that everyone could come together again. This brought us to a lovely part of south Cambridgeshire with fine views all round, except that we had to pedal hard on the hills so probably not too much notice was taken of the surrounding countryside.


Shaftenhoe End was followed by a stiff climb before descending to reach the B1368 for the run into Barkway and finally up to Reed and the Silver Ball for coffee where we found the city group already installed.

Coffee at Reed

As is now the custom quite a few turned back after coffee but this still left two sizeable groups to head for Stansted. Just as we were about to leave we had the first squally shower of the day causing the waterproofs to go on, but luckily it didn't last long.

Leaving Reed

We had to retrace our steps back to Barkway where there appeared to be a dispute between Garmins and brains, with the former apparently directing us back the way had just come. Maybe the Garmins were confused because of the diversion signs in Barkway, but luckily brains won the day and we continued south through the village before taking the Anstey turning.

Now we were in the Hertfordshire countryside with much quieter, more rural roads. We went past the golf course before another minor encounter with the gamins but Adrian knew the turning to take and who would you put your money on if it was a choice between a Garmin and Adrian? Most people would reckon that would be 'no contest'.

The ride got better as the roads through Brent and Stocking Pelham were really pleasant but the best bit was going down to Manuden, as this was a very pleasant ride on narrow roads with hedgerows either side. Now in Essex our ride to lunch was only two more miles and we arrived at the Bean House at 1 pm only a few minutes after Glyn’s group.

Near Stocking Pelham

Near Stocking Pelham

The Bean House is a fairly recent discovery. They are always most welcoming and they are always pleased to see us and everything else matched up with good quality food at a fair price and all served in order for us to leave by 2pm. The Bean House should always feature on our runs list.

Glyn led his group away first with Sheila following a few minutes later with a large contingent of thirteen. We left Stansted on the road out to the B1383 which immediately took us to Alsa Street and on to Ugley Green before arriving at Elsenham level crossing where we had a long wait for two trains and then wait for the manually operated gates to be opened.


Elsenham Station

We carried on beside the motorway and railway before rejoining the B1383 to run down to Newport after which we turned off to go through Wendens Ambo.

Wendens Ambo

Wendens Ambo

This inevitably took us face to face with the long climb up to Telegraph Hill. As we climbed we could see heavy storm clouds developing in the direction of Coploe Hill and it was a question of whether or not we would get though unscathed.

Telegraph Hill

Threatening Clouds over Coploe Hill

In the event we just about made it; we did get some rain but the worst of it missed us. We finished the ride through Ickleton, Duxford and Whittlesford. It was 4pm and we had covered 57 miles so thanks to Glyn and to Sheila for their routes which took us through some lovely Herts and Essex countryside.
Edward Elmer

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26 Jul: Evening ride to Hemingford Abbots

Nigel writes: Today was another gloomy and damp day but, as on Sunday, this didn't put our regular riders off, with a fine turnout of eight riders at Brookside and a ninth joining us along the way. We set off east along the river, crossed the Green Dragon Bridge and continued to Cambridge North Station where we joined the busway for our ride to St Ives.

We hadn't gone far before it started to rain, and most of us stopped to put on wet weather gear, though I decided not to in the hope that it wouldn't last for long. I was half-right: the rain did dtop eventually, but after rather more rain than I would have preferred. Fortunately it was quite warm and by the time we reached St Ives I was dry again.

On the busway

For three riders (Alex, Nick and me) this was our last ride before LEL, and a final opportunity to compare plans - and for Alex and me to receive a few final tips from Nick.

On the busway

When we reached St Ives Nick turned back for home, leaving the rest of us to continue along the Thicket Path to Houghton and across the Ouse meadows to Hemingford Abbots. There we found Paul who had made his own way there.

The bar area was busier than usual so we asked the staff whether we could sit in the restaurant, and they cheerfully assembled a table of nine for us before taking our food orders. A little later John S arrived, who had made his own way there by motorised means.

Dining at The Axe and Compass

Afterwards we returned back to Cambridge via Hemingford Grey, St Ives and the busway once more, and I arrived home at 10.30pm, having cycled 61km (38 miles).
Nigel Deakin

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Tuesday, 25 July 2017

25 Jul: A ride around Maidwell, Northamptonshire (car-assisted)

Rupert writes: I arrived at the Maidwell parking space a mere five minutes late to find four people waiting, making strange gestures and pointing at their watches. But I was travelling with Adrian - who was our leader today - and so I was able to remain guilt-free having arrived at exactly the same time as the leader. We were now eight in total: Adrian, Rupert, Clive, Mike C, John S, Tom, Jill and George S.

We unloaded the bikes and set off north along the NCN 6 cycle path which follows an old railway line from Northampton to Market Harborough. The route is unsurfaced, but generally good riding, with the exception of the two short tunnels. Both tunnels are quite straight which means there is a clear light at the end of both tunnels (insert obvious comparison with Brexit here) making them seem a bit shorter than they are. But the tunnel floor is rather potholed and wet so that good lights are needed to ride through safely.

Emerging from the first tunnel (Photo: Adrian Lee)

Same photo with Adrian (Photo: John Seton)

Once through the second tunnel it was time to divert for our morning coffee at a nice cafe just off the trail. Cake or bacon butties were ordered according to preference, with the exception of a certain unnamed party who decided to order a combined sausage and bacon sandwich. I wonder if he realized what lay ahead.

Setting out along NCN6 (Photo: Adrian Lee)

After coffee we carried on north into Market Harborough where the route leaves the railway line and follows pedestrian paths past supermarkets and shops. We had to weave slowly though teeming hordes of pedestrians who seemed mildly surprised at our presence. Then a gently climb out of town and up a residential street to join the canal towpath.

Riding along the towpath (Photo: Tom Ambrose)

The canal is a short stub off the Grand Union Canal that terminates at Market Harborough. It felt a bit strange to ride a long way uphill and then emerge beside a canal - this canal is at a surprisingly high elevation relative to the town. The canal follows the contour of the higher land giving a series of delightful curves - it almost loops back on itself at the end. The towpath is excellent riding, apart from the regular over-bridges which are quite low and only have a narrow ledge under the bridge to carry the path. So some caution was needed to cycle under the bridges. I was following one of the taller riders who was having to duck and squeeze under all the bridges, probably not helped by that fateful decision to have BOTH sausage and bacon in his morning sandwich.

Foxton Locks (Photo: John Seton)

Lunch at Foxton (Photo: John Seton)

All too soon we arrived at Foxton locks which were full of tourists watching a steady procession of narrow boats making their way up and down the staircase of locks. We stopped here for lunch while Rupert went to investigate the ruins of the inclined plane. The inclined plane is a wonderful Victorian relic - a canal boat lift that enabled the boats to bypass the locks and be lifted up or down in a fraction of the time it would take to traverse the locks. It also used much less water than the locks (almost none according to Wikipedia). Sadly, it had a short working life of just over 10 years and only the foundations remain.

Top section of Inclined Plane at Foxton Locks - - 507458
The top section of the Inclined Plane at Foxton Locks (Photo: Keith Rose [CC BY-SA 2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

I was fascinated by the inclined plane boat lift - Victorian engineering at its best - and would like to share a few of the interesting facts with you. There were two parallel lifts to keep it balanced just like a funicular railway. But unlike a funicular railway, it is always perfectly balanced thanks to Archimedes principle. For me, the clever bit is the way they get the boats out of the lifts at the top. There are two subtle details - it's even cleverer than I thought at the time. The ramps are horizontally offset to separate the loading docks and the slope of the ramps is reduced at the top to compensate for the change as the lower lift enters the water (a buoyancy adjustment feature). Absolutely wonderful. I recommend a bit of googling if you are interested: you could start here.

Between Foxton and Naseby (Photo: John Seton)

Consulting on the route (Photo: John Seton)

After lunch we headed south on small roads until our next stop at the memorial site of the battle of Naseby. Over ten thousand troops on each side fought one of the decisive battles of the civil war here. Despite the best efforts of Prince Rupert (no relation) the Royalists were defeated.

Naseby - Cyclists in battle formation (Photo: John Seton)

We continued south via Naseby Village, continuing to enjoy the delights of quiet roads and increasingly warm sunshine. We were passing a lot of unharvested wheat fields here - and not much sign of any combines at work. It seems the weather has been too unsettled for the harvest to get going here.

We eventually arrived at Church Brampton where Adrian's off-road instincts kicked in again. He lead us off down a pleasant lane past a golf course. This gentle introduction was followed by a short section of narrow and muddy bridleway which was rather overgrown with a lot of nettles. Rupert pushed ahead, braving the nettles and leading the way, but true to form he then took a wrong turn and disappeared, so the poor leader had to chase him down and get him back on track. Eventually we emerged from the nettles onto a better and wider track.

Adrian was clearly not satisfied with such a short section of "rough-stuff" and suddenly turned off the sandy track to lead us down a rough field edge path on beside a cornfield in search of a secret river crossing. The sight of cyclists pushing their bikes through the cornfield caused a big surprise to a local dog-walker. And with good reason: we were heading for the wrong bridge! So we retreated all the way back to rejoin the main track, and carried on a bit further to discover that the next river bridge crossing had a fully signed and surfaced cycle track that was a lot easier to follow than the edge of a cornfield.

Heading back along NCN6 (Photo: Adrian Lee)

At this point our route rejoined the southern end of NCN6 just outside Northampton - the start of the old railway line. The old tracks and a few bits of old rolling stock are still in place on this first section, but tragically the hoped for tea shop at the old station was closed. So we settled down for a tea-starved last few miles of delightful riding to find the cars where just we had left them.

Apart from the minor disaster of failing to find a tea shop for our afternoon tea, a wonderful day was had by all. Those who completed the full circuit, including the unscripted cornfield excursion, would have covered 48 miles. Our thanks to Adrian for both organizing and leading the ride. Rupert Goodings

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As it was: Map of Northampton to Market Harborough Railway (Photo: Tom Ambrose)

Sunday, 23 July 2017

23 Jul: Sunday ride to St Neots, Oundle and Houghton

Nigel writes: Today's ride was one of our occasional "longer" Sunday rides, with a slightly earlier start than usual and a slightly longer distance planned. However the weather forecast was distinctly unpromising, with rain showers predicted for later in the day. I therefore set off for the 8.30am start expecting to find few other riders apart from Alex, our leader for today, and me.

I was completely mistaken, and instead of finding just a handful of riders I found one of our largest turnouts on any Sunday ride this year, with a total of fifteen riders present including me. Clearly members of CTC Cambridge are not put off by an earlier start, by a longer distance, or by the prospect of a shower or two. Bravo!


For the first stage of today's ride we rode west to our coffee stop in St Neots. With so many riders Alex invited me to take the lead at the front whilst he followed on near the back, and for part of the way we rode as two separate groups.

Barton Road, Cambridge

Alex had chosen a fairly direct route, following the B1046 all the way apart from a diversion via Caxton half-way along. Along the way we passed through Abbotsley, and we spotted quite a few amusing participants in its scarecrow festival as we rode along.


We reached the Ambiance Cafe in St Neots a few minutes after 10am. This is a modest, unpretentious cafe, but once again it demonstrated a high degree of professionalism, catering for a sudden influx of cyclists quickly and efficiently and supplying table umbrellas without prompting when it began to rain.

After coffee several riders returned back to Cambridge, leaving a still-sizable group of ten to continue on to lunch. This had originally been planned to be at the National Trust tea rooms in Lyveden near Oundle, but this would have involved a mile or two of off-road cycling, and in the light of recent rain Alex decided to avoid this and divert to Oundle instead.

Pertenhall, just before Kimbolton

The rain soon stopped and for a while the sun came out, but the most memorable aspect of this next stage of the ride was the rain, which restarted as we passed through Pertenhall and by the time we reached Kimbolton had became a downpour. However we kept going, pausing only to put on raingear, and after about twenty minutes the rain stopped again.

Eight minutes after the previous photo, sheltering from the rain

We reached Oundle at 1pm exactly and stopped for lunch at Beans Cafe.

Lunch in Oundle

Although it had been dry and warm as we sat outside Beans Cafe eating our lunch, it started to rain as we prepared to set off. Within a few minutes the rain had become a downpour. Despite this, Alex said "let's go" and set off along the street, whilst most of the others stayed motionless, sheltering from the rain in a gateway near the cafe. After a few moments I decided to follow, leaving my fellow-riders to stay behind in their mutineer refuge.

I caught up with Alex and we tacitly agreed that it was probably a good idea to stop and wait, and we too took shelter in a doorway about 100m along the street. A few minutes later the rain slackened slightly, the others appeared, and we all set off together. The rebellion had ended without a single word being exchanged.

The next stage of our ride took us south-west, across the busy A605 and then right at the following junction - the famous "turning for Thurning" (we make the same joke every single time we visit this tiny village). We continued in a straight line through Thurning, Winwick and Hamerton as far as Alconbury Weston where we turned north for the short climb up Vinegar Hill toward Monk's Wood. The rain hadn't lasted long and by now it was warm, dry and sunny.

A little further along we joined the B1090 - rather busier than usual because of the "Secret Garden Party" in Abbots Ripton - and followed it towards St Ives. Just before we reached St Ives we turned right and dropped down a little hill to Houghton, where we stopped for tea at the National Trust cafe beside the mill.

We were due to meet the afternoon ride there, but they never appeared, though we did meet Ian W who had made his own way there.

After a pleasant half hour eating cream teas in the sunshine we set off for home, taking the Thicket Path to St Ives and the busway from there back to Cambridge.

Heading home along the Thicket Path to St Ives

On the busway

I arrived home at 6pm exactly, after having cycled 150km (93 miles) on our longest ride so far this year. Nigel Deakin

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CTC Cambridge Summer Barbecue

We are pleased to announce a Summer Barbecue event on Sunday 13th August. This will be hosted by Sarah and Andy at their house in Little Chesterford and will run all afternoon with lots of nice food and good company. UPDATE: Booking extended to 6th August. Members are welcome to bring a guest.

The cost is £6 per person, which includes all the food plus soft drinks, tea and coffee. Please book and pay in advance using this form by 6th August.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

20 Jul:Thursday ride to Ashwell and Willington

Edward writes: This Thursday our ride would take us westward to Ashwell and on to Willington for lunch with Tony leading from Hauxton (fifteen riders) and Rupert leading from the city with six riders. The weather at the start was a lot cooler than recent days and accompanied by a stiff westerly wind which meant a morning riding into it. We started our ride with a climb over Chapel Hill into Barrington with a short pause in the village to allow everyone to come together again before setting off for Shepreth and Meldreth.



Although showers had been forecast these came in the form of light drizzle leaving the dilemma of whether or not to put on waterproofs. We climbed up to Kneesworth and Bassingbourn and for once we took the direct route to Litlington, omitting the loop round Abington Pigotts. After Steeple Morden we soon arrived in Ashwell and for a change we arrived some ten minutes before the city six allowing us first choice at the bakery.

Coffee in Ashwell followed the usual formula with one group on the little green and another in the village cottage garden.

Three Venerable Gentlemen



By 11.30am our two leaders assembled everyone and offered a choice of two routes, apparently of roughly equal distances. Rupert would take his group in the direction Cardington and Tony would take his via Southill. At coffee there had been reports that Rupert was again out of sight as he lead from Brookside (probably only a rumour), but we hoped that he would stay in sight for the ride to Willington. Meanwhile, Tony led his troops out of Ashwell on the cross-country route through Hinxworth to Edworth where we crossed the A1. This brought us head-on into the wind as we ran down to Langford.

Leaving Ashwell

It was relief to turn northwards in Langford for the run up the B659 before turning for Broom where we saw a field of roses under cultivation. This used to be a familiar sight here but we haven't seen them for a number of years now, so this was a welcome return. We were now in the pretty Bedfordshire villages of Southill, Old Warden and Northill. In the distance we could see the Cardington hangars and also the airship known as the "flying bum".

Airship at Cardington (Photo: Peter Wilson)

Roses in Broom

Soon we turned north westwards to climb up to Cople. This left us with a mile or two to bring us to the Home and Garden Centre, arriving at 1pm to find those with Rupert already seated waiting for their meals; so they did manage to keep an eye on him!

There were probably about twenty at the cafe and the staff seemed to have a relaxed attitude to those with sandwiches occupying tables out on the patio.

Lunch at Willington

When we nearly ready to leave it became apparent that Mike CC wasn't ready as he had made a late order for coffee and cake. In the event he had to switch groups and joined Tony's group. As we were leaving the garden centre Mike kept himself at the centre of attention due to a fault with his saddle. Averil provided him with an elastic band which gave him a temporary fix and we all set off again - this time for real.

After a mile or two we came to Danish Camp where we joined the old railway to take us via Blunham into Sandy. However, Mike still wasn't satisfied and brought us to a halt for more repairs. Luckily for him Mike C was on hand and along with Tony they came up with gaffer tape and electrical ties and afforded him a more permanent fix.

Mike CC in Person

Near Blunham on old Railway

We carried along the old railway alignment into Sandy, then through Everton, which reminds some of us that it will soon be the football season, and along to Waresley. At this point we said goodbye to Mike CC and wished him a safe journey home. (Hope you did get home all right, Mike.) Of course now we enjoyed the following wind and we rapidly made our way through Great Gransden, Caxton and Bourn.

Just after Bourn the group split, allowing those going to Cambridge to stay on the B1046 and the others to go back via Kingston and the Eversdens to Haslingfield where we arrived at 4.30pm and a nice round 60 miles. It was a good day out and we thank Tony and Rupert for their efforts. Edward Elmer

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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

19 Jul: Evening ride to Barrington

Nigel writes: My companions for tonight's ride were Seb, Camille, Ray and Will: given the growing importance of good food on these evening rides it felt appropriate that 40% of tonight's group were from France. The weather this evening was dull, hot and very humid: for much of the ride it felt as if it would start raining at any time, but fortunately it stayed dry and didn't start raining until the middle of the night.

Tonight's pub stop was in Barrington. We'd visited this about a month ago, when Ray led the ride there on a clockwise loop, setting out south and then turning west. On this occasion I decided to try an anticlockwise loop, setting out west along the Coton path and following the old St Neot's Road west before turning south towards Bourn.

After a short run south along the A1198 (which is always very quiet in the evening) we turned back east onto the lovely quiet lane that runs down towards Old Wimpole. Up until this point we had been riding on rather dull roads and it was nice to be on a country lane at last. We crossed the A603 and continued to Orwell.

We could have continued directly from Orwell to Barrington, but it was still not yet 8pm and so I took the group south to tiny Malton and on to Meldreth, stopping to admire the Meridian marker along the way.

Meridian marker near Orwell

We reached Barrington at about 8.15pm and stopped for food and drinks at The Royal Oak.

Dinner at The Royal Oak, Barrington

Camille's Octopus

Afterwards we returned back to Cambridge via Chapel Hill, Haslingfield and Barton. With a gentle tailwind this was a very fast ride back, and I arrived home at 9.45pm, having cycled 53km (33 miles). Nigel Deakin

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