Friday, 26 September 2014

From one Hall to Another

Location: Prickwillow Road, Isleham, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB7 5RQ, UK
We left Clippesby Hall on a glorious sunny Thursday morning and had our best day of cycling inland to Isleham (you pronounce the 's') near Ely.

We had great weather all day and cycled through Thetford Forest Park on quiet back roads past Lakenheath Airbase and another MOD army base.  Both of these were actually surprisingly pretty and we got a little airshow off a helicopter which was quite exciting.  We had lunch in a picnic area in the Forest Park in blazing sunshine and then did the last 20 miles to Isleham.

Nokia Lady (the sat nav on Tom’s phone) told us we’d reached our destination, but we couldn’t see a campsite so we carried on along the incredibly straight Prickwillow Road and saw a track leading off to the right with Camping & Caravanning Club signage, we headed down the track past a beautiful field of leeks towards a gated compound passing a couple of occupied caravans and eventually found a buzzer next to the large locked gates.  An oldish gent wandered out to meet us and opened the gates, it was £7 a night (bargain) and we could pitch up where we liked.  I asked about showers and toilets and he said ‘oh they’re extra’ to which I laughed, but he wasn’t joking.  We paid the extra £3 to get the key to the loo and shower, much needed after a sweltering day of riding.

On the Friday we had a vineyard tour with wine tasting and afternoon tea booked at Chilford Hall near Cambridge and we decided since we’d had no luck getting a Warm Showers host in Cambridge that we’d leave the tent and gear and cycle to Cambridge for a couple of hours in the morning, cycle on to Chilford Hall and then back to the campsite, about 60 miles in total.  This seemed like a great plan in the lovely evening sunshine, but we awoke to an incredibly grey, wet day which put a bit of a dampener on it.  Anyway we set off for Cambridge and arrived about 2 hours later soggy and disheartened.  We found a brilliant indoor bike park where we locked our bikes up next to hundreds of others.  Honestly I think this was my favourite bit about the city, but I don’t think we gave Cambridge a fair go.  It seemed to be overrun with tourists and we didn’t find a nice place for brunch/warming drinks, so we were quite pleased to be off again a couple of hours later.  It had stopped raining by now and we got to Chilford Hall in good time and transformed ourselves in their disabled loos from sweaty bikers to semi-respectable afternoon tea company.  The vineyard tour and wine tasting were excellent and it turned out that, Jed, the Chilford Hall wine tour guy, knew my sister and her husband – and I totally love that small world stuff!

We didn’t get back until after dark, which was a bit of a pain, but at least the tent was all set up and we set about making a feast of instant rice and tinned chilli under the red lights from our head torches due to the incredible multitude of daddylonglegs that shared our campsite, singing ‘Roxanne’ and then sipping whisky and looking at the stars.

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