The sun was shining, there was a 15 mph south-westerly wind, and there was a good turnout for the all-day ride, with thirteen riders setting out from Brookside. There were a couple of new faces (at least new to me), which is always good to see.
With coffee at Saffron Walden, our leader Conrad needed to put in a loop, and he took us out of Cambridge over Chapel Hill to Barrington, and then to Foxton and Fowlmere, where we saw the spectacular field of poppies pictured below. We crossed the A505 and took Royston Lane and Strethall Road to Littlebury, crossed the river at Audley End and climbed the hill to Saffron Walden.
After coffee at the Temeraire, we lost a couple of riders but gained Adrian and Doug. Conrad led us to Thaxted on the B184, which is a fast (if slightly dull) alternative to the quieter road via Debden. At Thaxted we turned into the wind, and with heads down we grovelled through Broxted and Molehill Green. There were some black clouds overhead, and a few spots of rain. At the bridge over the A120 there was a kestrel hovering, perfectly still despite the gusting wind.
From Takeley, a disused railway track (formerly part of the branch line from Bishop’s Stortford to Braintree, now part of National Cycle Route 16) leads to Hatfield Forest, but we had some navigational difficulties. Getting on to the track at the abandoned Takeley station was straightforward, but we completely missed the junction at Takeley Street where the railway line crosses the road, and we kept going almost to the M11. A helpful walker with a GPS unit put us right and we retraced this wooded track to Takeley Street, where we found that the way down from the bridge to the road is an unsigned narrow path overgrown with nettles. So we were about 20 minutes late to the café at Hatfield Forest.
After lunch we retraced our steps for a bit and then Conrad led us through Elsenham and Stansted Mountfitchet, to Manuden, where we split the ride. Adrian took a direct route to Clavering, while Conrad led us on a loop via Rickling Green, where a cricket match had apparently just finished. With the wind now mostly from the side we made better progress and we got to the Chequers at Barley at about 16:20, having cycled about 70 miles. This is the first time we’ve been to tea at the Chequers and there was a good selection of sandwiches and endless refills of the teapots. Eleven day riders at tea is a very good turnout, so congratulations to everyone who made it, especially the new riders. I hope you all enjoyed it! And thank you, Conrad, for leading.
After tea, nearly everyone wanted to go directly home via the B1368, but Peter felt he hadn’t had quite enough exercise, and I needed another 30 miles for a century, so we waved goodbye to the others and took a loop via Langley and Catmere End. The clouds were clearing and the evening sun shining on the green hills of wheat. Cycling doesn’t get any better than this! At the ford in Hinxton I fell into the river, but it was a warm evening and I dried off quickly, except for my soggy socks and gloves.
It doesn’t make for the prettiest of maps, but it was a good day out.