Iain, Brian and Rowan went on this ride led by Philip. Iain writes:
Brian and I arrived in Sleaford bright and early, with the day looking promisingly bright.
Phil and Rowan arrived shortly afterwards and, with bikes assembled, we headed north out of the town for our first stop. Actually, we started off by heading south out of the car park, crossing the River Slea on a concrete slab, because Sleaford’s one-way system was working against us at this point. We then inserted ourselves into said one-way system, heading the right way and passing a scattered collection of parked police vehicles before taking the Connect-2 path over the A17 and up to Leasingham. This path, complete with blessedly traffic-free bridge, was opened only last September so we definitely timed our first Sleaford ride well.
We’re still not sure why there were police vehicles scattered over northern Sleaford though.
Following a coffee-and-cake stop at a very nice garden centre in Ruskington (we had travelled all the way up from Northamptonshire before we got started) we set out across the flattish lands of central Lincolnshire, passing the old airfield at Metheringham, discovering a tarmaced (and well-used) Bridleway in Dunston, and visiting the “Dandelion Clock” in the exquisite little village of Nocton. We also benefitted from National Rail’s policy of closing level crossings wherever possible – we had about 3 miles of tarmac with a level crossing in the middle that could be used only by pedestrians and cyclists. 3 miles with virtually no chance of anything motorised being on the road.
Having said that, the lanes from Sleaford to Lincoln were all pretty light on traffic, the only busy-ish section being a bit of B-Road that we travelled on and which wouldn’t have been considered busy in Northamptonshire.
We cut down to the Sustrans path (yet again, tarmac!) along the river Witham a few miles east of Lincoln and trundled along to the edge of the centre. Due to a strange combination of pedestrianised areas, dual-carriageways and one-way systems, Lincoln is not a simple place to find one’s way around. Beautiful, but confusing. So it took us some time to lock the bikes up and make our lunch stop – Stokes Coffee Shop on High Bridge. And it is on the bridge, right over the River Witham. I do believe Mr Gray relieved them of their sole remaining sample of local beer while we there – hope they restock before anybody else goes.
After lunch, and more wandering around to retrieve our bikes from their various locations, we had to attempt the climb up to the cathedral, cobbles and all. Three of the group made it – I won’t say who resorted to walking.
Having marvelled at the cathedral awhile, we made our way back down the hill, on tarmac this time, and left Lincoln on what is probably the most infuriating cycle path I’ve used in some time. Not only did it, confusingly but usefully, go across the centre of a roundabout, it stopped at every side turning into retail parks, car parks, petrol stations – some of which had slipped access from the dual carriageway so cars weren’t expecting even to slow down that much as they turned. There was plenty of space on that road for a proper cycle lane which wouldn’t have ceded priority to turning or joining traffic. Later on, the surface went from tarmac to paving slab, just to add insult to injury.
Rowan and Phil disappeared into a large house at this point, and returned a few minutes later brandishing a set of mudguards to fix to Rowan’s bike. How fortunate we’d not needed them thus far – that would change!
Back on the road (using a proper cycle lane and not a painted bit of sidewalk) we headed away from the urban area altogether and back out into the countryside, noticing the wind properly for the first time. We trecked along the low-lying land south of Lincoln before turning east towards the escarpment and the village of Boothby Graffoe. While heading eastwards, we took to watching a small storm over to our right, some miles away but heading towards us. We figured that if we got up the hill, made a right turn onto the main road and got going, it would probably miss us.
The climb up the escarpment was, again, noticeably steep but we all managed to stay on the bike for this one and we had a lovely view of the approaching storm as we made our way through the village. Satisfied that we wouldn’t get wet, we were somewhat surprised when two minutes later it started raining. We bolted for the shelter of some trees in front of a gated driveway and stayed there for a good ten minutes putting on water proofs and watching our part of the world getting considerably wetter. It stopped about two minutes after we set off again and a few miles down the road it looked like they’d escaped the downpour altogether. We would have missed it had we been quicker! That was all the rain we saw during the ride.
We tracked back towards Leasingham using a combination of very quiet lanes and a brief stint on the A15 before heading back into Sleaford on the Connect-2 path we’d left on.
The track of the route (from the morning coffee-stop on) is here:http://www.endomondo.com/workouts/222422170/5180977. Don’t believe the numbers – the pause function doesn’t seem to be working too well and I’m sure I didn’t hit 47 mph. I think I’d remember if I did!
Thanks to Rowan and Phil for planning this one, and I’d recommend Lincoln for a day out, or Lincolnshire for a day’s riding, to anyone. Everyone we met seemed to be cheerful and helpful to boot!
But take a map.