There was a hard frost overnight, and although the sun was shining, it was just a couple of degrees above zero when eight of us met at Brookside. As we set off down Trumpington Street, a strong southerly wind, bitterly cold, blew in our faces. The only signs of spring were the carpets of snowdrops in the woods by Whippletree Road in Whittlesford.
Nuthampstead is very close to Braughing (just six miles by the shortest route), so I planned a long and hilly ride to coffee via Duxford, Ickleton, Elmdon, Heydon, and Great Chishill, to be followed by a shorter leg to lunch. But the bitter headwind and the hills made our progress very slow and we were all suffering a little bit. There was ice on the pools of water in the roadside ditches, and on the tops of the hills there were piles of hailstones on the verges and occasional heaps of slush in the shadows. ‘Winter miles count double,’ they say, and today we felt the truth of that saying.
On Ickleton Road in Duxford there was a heron by the side of the road. It didn’t seem all that keen to fly away, and just hopped across the road into the field on the other side. Injured, maybe, or just cold like us? On the hill up to Heydon, we met a couple of horse riders coming down towards us, and slowed down to give them plenty of room. But just as we were coming together, a pair of roe deer leaped out of the hedge and ran across the road behind the horses. One of the horses must have seen the flash of movement out of the corner of its eye, and bolted straight towards me. I too leaped off my bike and into the ditch by the side of the road, but the rider skilfully got the horse back under control, and no harm was done.
It was about 11:25 by the time we reached the Woodman at Nuthampstead. Here half the riders turned back, leaving me, Steve, Chris & Conrad to go on to lunch. The wind was still blowing coldly across the Essex hills, but a red kite was enjoying the updraft, swooping over the lane as we approached Anstey. Here we turn left and took the road through Meesden and the three Pelhams (Brent, Stocking, and Furneaux), arriving at Braughing at about 12:55. My head was drooping and I really felt beaten up by the weather by the time we reached the pub.
The Brown Bear was packed to the rafters, and we had to queue up a bit to order food, but it was nice to sit by the radiator and get some warmth back into our fingers and toes.
Rain was forecast for 15:00, but it was already drizzling as we left the pub at about 13:50, and it gradually increased as we headed north. But with the wind now at our backs we made excellent progress up the B1368 and over the ‘Col du Barkway’ and were back in Cambridge at about 15:30, having ridden 100 km (62 miles).