At least you should get some money back from GA for the Cambridge semi-fast being cancelled and having to do the all station stopper. Fingers crossed the weather remains nice for cycling in
Indeed, I was 47 minutes later than planned into Ely so while it might not be a lot from £9 it all helps
Ely was chosen as a destination to base myself in because of the good choice of trains to do if the weather isn't good. I'm told it might not be that nice for Day 3, but I will judge that in the morning. For now, here be the trip report for Day 2:
12/10/2021 - Tech's Third Cycling Holiday, Day 2
Despite an early morning wakeup, with going back to sleep thankfully until around 0620, I had an amazing sleep in a really comfortable bed, so I started the day off very well. It was a very lazy morning, and my maps were both updated and studied carefully. My London map looked much better after Day 1's big ride, I've got a taste for exploring London on two wheels! Eventually devices were charged up and I booked a day return to Cambridge for £4.90. I fancied trying my luck again on Great Northern and went for the 0845 to London King's Cross.
I arrived with plenty of time to spare anyway, but due to OHLE issues earlier in the day there were plenty of delays around. After scoring 755406 for sight on the 0828 to Cambridge, I headed to Tesco for some rolls to add to the previous bit of food before the ride, then as it was chilly a tea got bought to go in the travel mug. Not badly priced at all for £1.50 from the little kiosk. Eventually the inward working of the 0845 arrived, and it was winner 700021, my first score of the adventure. It was also my first use of the bike space on a 700, nice and simple to use with the securing straps. Approximately 21 minutes late I was finally on the move, and I had options at Cambridge.
One option was to do Route 11 towards Bishops Stortford, partly to visit the point where the 10,000 miles of National Cycle Network markings are. The other option, which I have to confess was the most tempting, was to ride up the guided busway to St Ives and follow Route 51. I was still deciding that on the way to Cambridge, it wasn't my easiest decision!
After finally arriving at Cambridge, and yes I was applying for Delay Repay, I actually started on my rolls before I got going. I will say right away that I didn't know before I arrived how friendly Cambridge is to cycling, wow that was a pleasant surprise and the amount of cyclists I saw everywhere was pleasing. I've got a new city on my favourites list! Eventually I made it to Jesus Green, and after working out where I was on Maps I was soon off again. The weather was fantastic for cycling, a bit chilly in the wind but otherwise it was beautiful. I had planned to ride to Route 51, but I ended up following Regional Route 24 out of Cambridge. Oh well, that would do, it would take me to the 51 and I could do some terrain I wasn't planning to do.
I rather enjoyed that first few miles, after Girton there was a good bit of traffic-free riding on the shared-use path which was nice and wide AND in good condition. Holy moly, I'm not used to such luxury! At Oakington, which was a nice little village too, the 24 took me up Longstanton Road (I think!) which is closed to road traffic and there is a lot of new road construction up that way. It looked like a bypass was being built, but I couldn't spot any signs informing me of that.
I got a bit lost in Longstanton, as it appears some silly person has moved the sign for the 24 at a mini roundabout. Still, I needed a break and I was soon back on the 24. When I found a way to get to Route 51, however, I took that and I finally joined the route alongside the Cambridge to St Ives guided busway. That was a strange sight, but quite an interesting concept. I'm to believe there's another such busway in Luton on the former railway trackbed to Dunstable. On which note, as I look at my map while typing this up in the evening, for anyone reading this who wants to ride or walk the route alongside the busway out of Cambridge I would strongly recommend doing so from Cambridge North station. It is FAR easier to access from there, however I'm jumping the gun…
So, what can one expect from this route? Well, it was very quiet when I rode it, and believe it or not it's not as flat as it might appear. There was a surprising amount of deceptive uphill sectors, nothing too major of course but enough to notice when battling the wind. The route passes by the RSPB's Fen Drayton Lakes site, which looked worth exploring especially for those who enjoy birds. Generally though, it's a fairly featureless route, nothing of any real interest personally and I was glad to get to St Ives.
I had never been before, and in case anyone's wondering, no I didn't see the man with seven wives on my way to St Ives! Of note there, there is a pub called Seven Wives a little way north of the town centre. I should have taken a photo! A funfair was in town, so I diverted out and around, but it looked like a nice enough place. I continued exploring a bit, before a sign told me Huntingdon was only 5 miles away. Yes I will, no I won't, no I can't be bothered was the conflicting attitude at that point, however by the time I got to the enormous Morrisons I changed my mind and decided to go for it.
I had lost Route 51 due to the funfair, and ended up on a shared-use path alongside the A1123 until Houghton where I saw a small green sign, by chance, opposite the junction to tell me of a cycle route via the village. Aha, that's where Maps was telling me to go, that was a much nicer idea than riding along the A road. Another nice little village, and I was soon back alongside the A1123 for the final bit to Huntingdon. I was going to pop by the railway station, just because I could, but I found myself alongside what Maps describes as the Old Bridge and that was a nice spot to stop for a short break and ride plan. The weather had been cloudy for a while now, and it felt like it would close in soon with rain. So I didn't hang about for too long, I had a mission on my hands!
That mission was to ride my Gran Fondo for the month of October. A Gran Fondo is a 100km ride, in one single ride, and I only usually go for said challenge on Strava when I'm on a week off. It's become a bit of a tradition! I was not even halfway through it yet, but I was now on Route 51 again and I had some assistance from the wind. This was a nice sector to do, and the villages of Hemingford Abbots and Hemingford Grey were soon passed through in my highest gear. Oh yes I was enjoying the scenery and some high power, this was better, I was having great fun!
A little way outside St Ives, a short break led me to realise I could have a look at St Ives Bridge, which I didn't do earlier on. The odds were that I'll probably never return to the area, so I might as well. It was a nice view, and by now I was on something around 30 miles in my Fondo. A long way to go, and my first of two failures to hit resume on my Fitbit happened here. I can't recall where the other was, so I lost a bit of recorded distance. Oh well, it wasn't a major loss. I was determined to clear the busway route, so once I had navigated my way around the funfair and its diversionary route I was back on it. With that sort of irritating rain that's enough to get one wet, so a coat was needed again even though I would have preferred not to use it.
Much further on, I finally made it back to Longstanton and having not eaten since I had first arrived in St Ives some hours beforehand I stopped to finish my cheese slices and rolls. The poor legs were not amused! I think it was still around 8 miles to go until Cambridge at that point, and the coat had come off as I was convinced the rain had gone. Less than a quarter of a mile after the break, I was stopping for the coat again! It is a new coat, and it does a great job at keeping the heat in but good golly gosh I was melting it in and that was causing its own issues!
Once I was convinced the fine rain was gone again, the zip finally came down and what felt like forever into the ride with a mostly sidewind but also partly tailwind (yes that really was the best way I could describe it) I finally left the busway route and I was outside Cambridge North station. I had not been aware of it being quite architecturally fascinating, I need to return for that. I did start doing so later on, again I'm jumping the gun...The huge cycle racks was a welcome sight, I'll be using them one day, and I wonder how much noise can be heard at night in the Novotel right next to the station. There's also something else being built next to that, although I couldn't tell what.
I carried on however, despite temptation being to head back to Ely as I was still a fair way off the Fondo. I was now following Route 11, and that was quite a nice gentle ride alongside the river. I ended up getting confused as to where exactly the route went after a while, and followed a walkway to Quayside. By now I had been desperate for caffeine for hours, and I settled with getting an Earl Grey from Foy. My mission to support independent local businesses where possible continues now and again, sometimes it is just far easier to go into Pret, Tesco or similar. Frustratingly, when I sat down and took the lid off my cup I found they'd put milk in the cup. Back I went and got that sorted, and I noticed when it was remade that they even put the wrong teabag in. Thankfully the error was soon rectified, and for £2 it wasn't too expensive for my first try of Earl Grey. I actually quite liked it, nicer than English Breakfast that's for sure.
I felt a thousand times better for that, money seriously well spent. For the record, one place I went past in St Ives wanted £2.50 for tea. Good grief no, for a tea that is taking the mickey! Another place wasn't brave enough to put their prices up, and in any case I think fate had intervened as stopping in Cambridge was clearly the best move. Knowing now what awaited me, I have to say it was well timed! Keep reading to find out why I was glad to be warmed up inside before I continued my quest!
By now I was on 45.3 miles and I was ready to roll, and I had a vague plan going on. I was going to ride to Shepreth for more coverage and to eventually get a train back. Thank Gravy I didn't go for that after all! I continued following Route 11, taking in more of Cambridge and being very impressed as I went. I soon had to stop though and let a cow, yes really, pass by uninterrupted. That experience in a grassy area was rather unexpected! Somewhere in the Trumpington area I found myself off Route 11 and heading out of Cambridge towards my approximate area of interest anyway. Now the coat had to go back on, as the rain had returned but this time it was getting serious. Where were my waterproof trousers? Back in Ely!
The rain really did start coming down now, oh my that wasn't fun. I was now heading towards Shelford, then towards Whittlesford, but the rain was getting to me a fair bit. To an extent, I can deal with wind, but rain I really don't enjoy! At Little Shelford, I started heading around to Harston, and that soon changed when I saw Cambridge was 5 and a half miles away. I would do that and the final few-ish miles for my Fondo around Cambridge I decided. Or I would forget about doing it after all, the decision would be made when I got there. Fortunately, I got a second wind when the caffeine got through the veins and into the muscles, and when I reached the A10 I was a bit nervous about riding that. Fortune was again on my side and a shared-use path existed. Upon looking at my map later on, this was the same path I was going to have been on for the ride to Meldreth station.
The rain really came down hard for a bit at this point, so I was grateful to the kind souls who had decided to put the shared use path in! Once I got past the Park and Ride site, the rain stopped and I was very happy about that. I still don't know exactly where I missed the turn for Route 51, but I was soon enough back in Cambridge and I basically ended up on an 'ooh where does this road take me' kind of ride for a good while. I did decide to go to Cambridge North station for the photo, however my Fitbit had decided it had had enough, and was running very low on charge. This was enough to convince me to hurry up and get back to Cambridge station, given by that point I was on 59 or so miles anyway. I had seen quite a bit of Cambridge now!
Eventually I got to the railway station, and I had wanted to take photos as the station I knew when I visited on my 2011 ALR was completely different now. The whole area has been modernised, it was unrecognisable. My wet feet and trainers were having none of that, I had done around 62 miles and cleared my Gran Fondo, it was time to get into the station and get back to Ely.
It was here I found out about the overhead line damage between Cambridge and Royston which had suspended services, and I was incredibly glad I hadn't gone to Meldreth after all! It felt like a very long 25 minutes waiting for the 1635 to Kings Lynn to leave, during which time I got to watch 317348+317507 leave on the 1620 to London Liverpool Street. That would have been a fun journey! The Class 720s are really spreading their wings now, I noted it out in the morning too and 720556 was on the 1629 to Cambridge North. The writing is on the wall now for the 317s, I cannot imagine it will be much longer until they get fully replaced.
I joined dud 387118 and winner 387105 on the 1635 to Kings Lynn, at least I got to score two trains on this day! The journey to Ely was soon over, and I was straight off to Tesco for some urgently needed food before getting back to the Airbnb. After a quick bath, which the body seemed grateful for, it was time to eat and I can't put into words how glad of that I was. Following that was a full forum catchup, then a lot of time spent typing up the trip report. I didn't finish that until 2036, and I had started it around 7pm!
Another excellent day, despite the rain, and I still had the fun of my map update to do! I had no idea what Day 3 would bring, but I knew it would have some work to do to even match Days 1 and 2. I did know whatever it was that it would need to be a touch easier than Day 2, and a good night of sleep would be vital!