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05 June: Sandy to St Ives

posted 10 Jun 2011, 04:55 by South Herts   [ updated 1 Jan 2017, 03:55 ]
Our first Sunday in June was to be a car/train assisted ride, offering a chance to venture further afield into unfamiliar countryside and visit new venues. The start was at Sandy railway station in Bedfordshire (handy for the A1 and anyone wanting to travel by train from Hatfield). However, a group of us met up at Hatfield around 8.00 am to work out some car sharing. Soon we were packed into a smaller number of cars and were away up the A1 to Sandy, where Craig, Steve and Carol met us. After blazing hot weather on Saturday, the day was cloudy, with rain forecast for 4.30. There was a very powerful northerly wind - so which way was our first leg? - North. Doubling through suburban Sandy we started along the cycle path, following the track of the old 'Varsity Line', heading in the Bedford direction.  We turned off through the picturesque village of Great Barford, with its ancient bridge over the Ouse, then north along a traffic free back road, passing through Colmworth and turning right to Staughton Moor and Great Staughton. Approaching West Perry, we saw a blue expanse in the distance that turned out to be a field of flax flowers rather than Grafham Water, but soon after we reached our first refreshment stop at the Harbour View cafe. 

Passing fields of flax
The Harbour at Grafham Water

The cafe was perfectly good and is popular with cyclists and bikers. The wind by this time really was a killer and our progress had been slow. Our way was now east and the wind seemed to be funnelled into the valley below the reservoir dam making progress painful for a time. But soon we were in Buckden, with its palace (once the home of Catherine of Aragon) and on to Offord Cluny and then north again to Godmanchester. Here we took a small lane heading past the sewage works, eventually turning right onto a perfect, well surfaced cycle path across fields by the river. Very pleasant. This brought us into the delightful, ancient riverside villages of Hemingford Abbots and Hemingford Grey - full of thatched cottages and a pleasure to ride through.
Cycle path to the Hemingfords
Taking a curious horse for a walk
Thatch dog (or pig?)
Hemingford Abbots

Then turning left through the water meadows we crossed the medieval bridge over the Ouse and so into St Ives. The ancient market town is bristling with pubs and the one we picked (The Robin Hood) was offering bargain meals - much appreciated by the poverty stricken cyclists.
Bridge at St Ives
The Ouse at St Ives

After lunch, I was less familiar with the route, so frequent map checks were needed. We returned southwards through Fenstanton, Elsworth and Papworth Everard. Here a new bypass, not on my map, caused a navigational wobble, but soon we were through the village of Yelling. I looked out for the Women’s Institute notice at the village hall; could have made a nice picture, but failed to spot it. Another quiet, traffic free road took us south over open rolling country to Waresley and its garden centre, where we had a welcome tea stop. I think the wind had helped us back, at least we were no longer complaining. It was now only about 10 miles back to our cars at Sandy, with just one pause as Steve stopped to rescue a rabbit that was sitting in the middle of the road, stunned after a brush with a car. Just as we set off for home in the cars, the rain turned up on time as forecast, and we had the first substantial precipitation for a couple of months. A really good day's cycling in countryside and villages with a different character and feel to our more familiar home patch.
Statue of Oliver Crowell in St Ives
5 June 2011