Kings Lynn to Barnet via Cambridge
Trains to Kings Lynn (changing at Cambridge), on a fine sunny summer July morning. Offloaded at the station in Kings Lynn, and down to the old town to the Market Bistro for some excellent coffee and ham croissants to start the day. Then south out of town and along the river bank as far as Watlington, before cutting inland to Downham Market, with the day warming up. Dogleg to the New Bedford River where a narrowboat had misjudged the sluice and was well aground, waiting for the tide to lift. Followed the river to Ten Mile Bank, but went astray, turning west too soon and running along a concrete farm track with joints every twenty feet for several miles of steppe-flat cabbage fields, arriving back at the New Bedford River very grumpy to find we had paralleled a perfectly good road for several miles of purgatory. Followed the river again to Pymoor, then Little Downham and a stretch of B-Road to Ely, sun now high, tarmac hot and dusty and the Cathedral teasing us for miles, never seeming to get any closer as we wove indirectly towards it. Into Ely for lunch, and, critically, somewhere to watch England vs Sweden. Pubs already full to bursting, but cue a charming girl outside WildWood on the High Street, offering tasters of Mint Lemonade and pizza bread, unfazed by three sweaty cyclists. D asked for a suggestion for somewhere to watch the match – “we have a cinema upstairs and we’re screening it there, store your bikes at the back of the restaurant”. Result. Excellent pizzas and fudge desserts, and much more mint lemonade, so much so that M and I only made the second half, but the result was good (well fed, and England 2-0). Back on the road.
South out of Ely towards Wicken. Quiet roads, cycleways and Sustrans bridges, slow and warm going along dykes and farm roads, but no cars and lots of small wildlife about, easygoing summer cycling. Suddenly hit the A1303 east of Cambridge, and into the city centre, cyclists everywhere, walkers and sunbathers also as we gingerly followed the Cam to the middle. Stowed the bikes at the friendly Centennial Hotel and hit the Flying Pig for a couple of pints of Adnams Freewheel (a cyclists beer the Southwolders only seem to have made for a couple of years, much missed). Maison du Steak for steak frites, bed.
A good Sunday fried breakfast at the Centennial before weaving through quiet Sunday streets out of town past Addenbrookes, the biosciences labs, and along the DNA cycleway. South through the string of villages towards Duxford, joining forces with an organized Cambs-London ride for a couple of miles, before we turned away across the treacherous ford between Duxford and Hinxton (one man down with a tremendous splash), then Ickleton, and across the M11, climbing gently into the rolling hills to the west of the motorway, tricky going in places as the roads had just been resurfaced, and there were loose chippings everywhere, but the weather was fine and bright, and the roads quiet. To Clavering for ice cream at the Nisa, and a bidon top up, as the heat was telling. Lots of attractive little hamlets basking quietly in the sun, occasional churches punctuating the route. Finally swung off route N11 to tract west heading to Pelham and the tricky junction at Little Hadham, before arriving at the Chequers at Wareside for massive ploughmans lunches. Fast run down to Ware, and onto the River Lee Navigation towpath. West to Hertford to join the lovely Cole Green Way (old railway line) to Welwyn, and then wove through Welwyn and Hatfield to join Route 12 running south paralleling the A1 to South Mimms. Under the M25 through the famous culvert, up the long haul of Kitts End Road to Barnet, down the hill to the cinema and disperse.
Old Kings Lynn lovely, fens flat, dry and dusty, occasional oases of tree lined towns. Ely beautiful but tantalizing across the miles. Ely to Cambs easy riding, Cambs a cycling mecca so long as you go slow. Surprisingly attractive rolling country just west of the M11 probably the scenic high point of the trip, felt more like France than Cam’shire, then busying up along the family routes around Ware and Hertford, before ducking and weaving into London on the carefully crafted but fundamentally irritating route 11 – like most city approaches, safe routing strips it of any pizzazz, and it weaves about a bit.