Sunday, 26 November 2017

26 Nov: Sunday afternoon ride to Wicken Fen

Greg writes: The day dawned cold and crisp – as I looked at the frost on the garden I pitied the all day riders braving the early morning – expecting that the weather would warm up significantly by lunch time. However when I arrived at Brookside to lead the afternoon ride my early hopes were only partially met. It was a bright, sunny day but the temperature had only managed a somewhat risible 6C by 1pm – and it would then get colder...

Ah well, there were bound to be some other fools who wanted to visit Wicked Fen with me! (A brief diversion: the "Wicked" term was an autocorrect fail when I said I'd take on leader duties to Ray. Somehow it seems appropriate and will henceforth be used (by me at least) to describe the destination for today).

Ready for the off!

Lo and behold we had six people at Brookside by 23 seconds after 1 o'clock – I know the exact time because Ray helpfully pointed out we were now late in starting. However, our tardy set-off at least meant that Paul arrived for the start, just. We few (Mike, Bev, David, Neil, Ray and me) left just as he arrived and so we all set off up the new cycle path on Trumpington Road and took the left turn into Barrow Road – where we could admire the gas lamps which burn all day and all night.

In Rutherford Road we collected a further two riders, Lalita and Mark, as prearranged. We were now quite a sizeable group as we headed onto the guided busway and through the Addenbrookes site.

We exited via Red Cross Lane and crossed the main road into Worts Causeway where we could now start to feel we had left Cambridge's traffic behind. A leg stretch up the Gogs warmed the group. We stopped at the top to regroup and offer some pithy words of advice to a cyclist who was doing a bit of fettling – whilst wearing an Oxford Uni sweatshirt! The honour of the open road ensured we offered help – but also some sartorial criticism! We left on good terms and enjoyed the run down to Fulbourn – the day's only hill now left behind us.

We proceeded on through Fulbourn and out through the Wilbrahams. Just before Bottisham we collected a further two riders – again by prearrangement. We had scheduled this collection for 2pm – our arrival at 2.01pm was therefore not bad timekeeping! Ian was coming along for the ride with his wife Julie – her first time out with CTC and we were delighted to have a newbie with us.

On through Swaffham Bulbeck where Paul wondered at our ETA at the tea stop. I said it was 3pm and he observed we'd have a job since it was already 3.14pm, until he divined that we were not running super late – he had not switched his ride computer over from BST! Therefore we were still on schedule...

We reached Reach in a slightly strung out fashion and slowed to regroup – we would arrive at the tea stop as one, I was determined about this point! Just before arriving in Burwell we took a sharp left down Newnham Drove – as shown on the Ride With GPS website as a cycle route and fen road. Well, dear reader – don't you believe it! This was a sensory assault – crevasses where the road was scarred its entire width, mud and deep puddles – and it shook our bones and bikes for over a mile. Next time I will take the next left – Little Fen Drove – since Newnham Drove not only shook us to bits it also shook Ray's mudguard to bits!

Eventually relief hove into view as we could see in the distance cars and people where the Drove joined the Lode's Way. Quite what so many people were doing in the literal middle of nowhere on a freezing cold day was not immediately apparent. All was revealed on our arrival – the assembled gaggle of blokes (yup, all blokes) were twitchers – wearing their best camouflaged kit they were looking for the short-eared owl that had apparently been spotted in the locale. A horde of luminous lycra-clad cyclists would surely scare away any shy wildlife but after a few pleasantries we all wished each other well – I think they hoped we might flush the elusive bird out!

Never has the Lode's Way appeared such a luxurious and smooth surface – we fare glided North now – passing a herd of bemused – though apparently warm – highland cattle who glared at our bright outfits as we rushed past. And we were now rushing – relatively – as it was only a mile or so to the warmth of the NT café – which we arrived at at 3.02pm. Ray suggested leadership marks be deducted for such poor timekeeping!

Tea at Wicked Fen!

At departure time (3.30pm prompt) Julie was left at the café having tried out the CTC experience – Ian had gone ahead to get their car. A little taster session which maintained her enthusiasm and we look forward to her joining us again in due course. However, though we lost two at the café we also picked one up for the return leg so we again had a sizeable group.

On time departure

Sunshine over the fens

This time we were headed back across Wicked Fen and down the Lode's Way – the direct route home – into a most glorious setting sun. We passed numerous people photographing the sky as the sun set – and also the twitchers again who were maintaining their fruitless vigil. We pressed on – I was keen to get back onto tarmac before we lost all the light completely – and this we achieved. With so many in the group and the collection of quite good lights between us (Ray won the competition for the brightest light) we made quite a sight.

At Anglesey Abbey we were able to use the cycle path that is currently being constructed in the field margin – which makes the trip to Quy safer and more pleasant. At least – it will do in due course. We went about three quarters of the way before our progress was stopped by two diggers completely blocking the path. The construction machinery has to be parked somewhere but it meant we had to manhandle bikes back onto the road – but it was only a short way into Quy and we then left the main road for the tunnel under the A14. Shortly after this point the group split – Ray taking the city slickers back and I led the South Cambridgeshire team through to Addenbrookes.

I got home at 5.30pm (bang on time – natch!) having ridden some 44 miles in total – the actual scheduled ride distance from Brookside was 37.7 miles. The temperature was only just above freezing by the time I got back – but a crisp wintry day – bright and cold – is no bar to spending time out on the bike – it was a great time – Wicked! Greg Tucker

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