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

Download GPS track (GPX).

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