The car park of The Black Bull at Balsham was almost full to capacity by 9.15am as Windmillers converged in numbers to place their lunch time orders before exploring lanes to the north. But Rick won the green prize, once again, for cycling all the way from Harston (and back) whilst Brummy Brian got brownie points for transporting Yorkie Brian with his bike (whilst also holding the world record for how many bikes and riders can fit in or on a Volkswagen Golf).
Having admired Vernon’s smart new bike with 27 gears and wide tyres, specially designed for winter riding on muddy roads and tracks, the assembled gathering which also included our leader Maurice, deputy dawg Andrew, John B, John T, Sandra, Ken, Lawrence and Martin (collectively, the dirty dozen) set off towards West Wratting at a brisk pace on a clockwise circuit via Six Mile Bottom, Little Wilbraham, Bottisham, the Swaffhams, Reach, Burwell, Exning, Newmarket, Dullingham and back to Balsham. Here is the route taken:
The weather was fine and not too cold as we progressed through some pretty villages. Swaffham Prior is particularly famous for its two churches:
Not content with two churches, Swaffham Prior also has two windmills, one of which is still working. Is that why there was a generally good feel to the place?
Talk of coffee / beer began but nothing was available locally, having bypassed Anglesey Abbey and its café, and so we moved on to Reach where a pub with the infamous name of The Dyke’s End was thought by Martin to be possibly open. But alas it was not, but well worth a visit during normal opening hours as the beers and food are both excellent. It is so named because it lies at the end of the Anglo Saxon defensive earthwork known as the Devil’s Dyke, blocking a land route through the fens. Reach is also a good base for cycling through the fens to Wicken, Upware and Ely.
The road from Burwell through Exning to Newmarket was quite built up and busy but there was bound to be a good coffee stop in Newmarket! Perhaps there is one hiding somewhere but we didn’t find it, the Horse Racing Museum and its café being open only from March to the end of October. A dozen Windmillers proved too much for The Bull and so the party split up with some going to Starbucks across the road (avoid!) and some staying in The Bull.
The return to Balsham was along peaceful lanes in glorious open countryside and we received a warm welcome in The Bull followed by an excellent lunch.
Thanks to Maurice for planning an interesting circuit, which would be good to explore further in the future, and to Andrew for getting us all to the start line on time.