Richard’s Cambridge & Oxford cycle route

This page was last modified on 26 July 2014.
The route notes themselves were last altered on 30 August 2013.
The notes are also available in PDF format.
A GPS track of the route is available in GPX and KML (Google Earth) formats.

“Thanks for the detailed and very helpful instructions… your judgement is obviously to be trusted!” — Gerard
“The directions were outstandingly good and very easy to follow throughout” — Jonathan
“…In awe of your detail… a splendid day out.” — Maggie
The directions were totally accurate — James
Really enjoyable — Adam
“Fabulous” — Colin

[PHOTO: The winding minor road leading to Brill: 70.1K]

The winding road leading east towards Touchbridge Cottage and Brill, seen on a summer’s evening. Much of Richard’s route is on roads of this nature, though admittedly not all as picturesque!

Overview

This page contains instructions for cyclists wishing to cycle across a small part of the UK between the university cities of Cambridge and Oxford, in either direction.

The instructions are intended to replace the need for a map, and they guide the user along quiet roads. They are based on the author’s observations, and those of various people who have helped.

The route runs across Buckinghamshire & Bedfordshire, taking in the following places:

OXFORD, Elsfield, Horton-cum-Studley, Ashendon, Quainton, WHITCHURCH (Bucks), Soulbury, Brickhill, WOBURN, AMPTHILL, Maulden, Haynes, Old Warden, Ickwell, SANDY, Gamlingay, Longstowe, Barton, CAMBRIDGE.

Distance: 83.9 miles (135.0 km).

Status

This resource is actively maintained in an effort to retain accuracy. All constructive criticism is welcomed, as is feedback on the use and usefulness of this page.

Notices

Previous rides by correspondents

On 21 June 2014, Adam Poland-Goodyer & Leigh Hatton rode from Cambridge to Oxford in 5h53m; they found the scenic route really enjoyable and did note how it gets a bit hilly towards the Oxford end!

On 12 & 13 April 2014, Alessandro Abate rode from Oxford to Cambridge and then back again, in 7 and 8 hours respectively thanks to the prevailing westerly wind.

On Sunday 29 September 2013, Linda Moore rode from Cambridge to Oxford—having ridden the British Heart Foundation’s charity ride from Oxford to Cambridge (which uses well over half of my route) the previous day! She completed it in 6h48m, diverting after Boarstall via Honeyburge, Stanton St John, Forest Hill and the A40 cycle-track to Thornhill Park & Ride: a useful point to note, actually, for those whose base at the Oxford end of the route is their car.

On 17 August 2013, Clive Richards rode from Warborough (about 9 miles south-east of Oxford) to Cambridge and back in just 13h10m overall, a total of 193 miles — a stonking effort!

In mid-May 2013, Miles Chetwynd-Stapylton rode the route in 7h40m but got horribly lost at Brook End House on the way into Sandy. I am not aware of any deficiency in the notes at that point, but know it is easy to lose track of which instruction comes next when riding a route from notes for the first time.

On Saturday 15 September 2012, Alan Iwi rode the route Cambridge-bound. Alan spotted a couple of syntactical errors in the notes, and also supplied a modified version of the route’s KML file which I have adopted as the official one: it is less than one-tenth the original size but is effectively similar! He also fed the KML file into Bing Maps which, when zoomed in, can helpfully show Ordnance Survey Landranger mapping. Thanks, Alan!

On 23 August 2012, Rupert rode the 170-odd miles from Oxford to Cambridge and back without undue difficulty; it took him 5h19m outbound, he had 3h20m rest & some tea, then returned to Oxford in about 7½ hours: A bit slow, v sleepy but legs fine! He had done the same both-ways ride on 23 August 2009, the outward journey taking barely more than 5 hours and the return taking 8 hours despite losing an hour to lighting-dynamo problems.

On Tuesday 31 July 2012, James Chadney and Simon Waterhouse rode on a tandem (probably a first for this route!) from Cambridge towards Oxford, turning off in the Brill area to reach their destination near Abingdon. The printed route-notes fitted neatly onto a home-made map-holder on the handlebars.

On Saturday 19 May 2012, Mike Francis plus seven others rode the route from Oxford as far as Everton, branching off to the north thereafter to reach Fenstanton instead of Cambridge. The group, whose members are aged between 40 and 67, likes a challenge and on this occasion also raised £1700 for Leukemia & Lymphoma Research.

On 3 & 4 December 2011, Rob Gooder plus six friends (some of them inexperienced cyclists) rode from Oxford to Cambridge in 11 hours; he returned with two of the more hardy ones in 7 hours the following day; they used the GPX file to navigate.

On 6 July 2010, Gerard rode it Oxford-bound; instead of printing the route-notes, he loaded the GPX file into his GPS receiver and navigated that way. See also his website, Cycle routes from Oxford.

On 9 April 2010, Colin Russell rode both ways in a little over 11 hours… and that was on a fixed-gear training bike. The mind boggles! A followup enquiry from me confirmed my suspicion that Colin was in training for a race: Styrkeprøven, a single-stage race from Trondheim to Oslo (540km / 335 miles) which is held each June. Colin duly completed it just inside 24 hours (overall average speed of 14.0mph).

In October 2009, Michael and Andy rode the route Cambridge-bound in under 6 hours 53 minutes (plus half-an-hour for lunch in Ampthill)—not bad for two 15-year-olds on mountain bikes!

On 12 September 2009, Simon Fitzmaurice rode it Oxford-bound. Near the end of August 2009, Maggi and Mike rode from Oxford to Cambridge over 3 days, staying overnight in Aylesbury and then at Village Farm B&B in Thorncote Green.

In early July 2009, Philip and his wife rode from Oxford to Cambridge over two days with an overnight stop at Little Brickhill, and stayed at The White House B&B which is only 175 metres from the cycle-route, and report that it was “really good”!

Previous previous rides by correspondents are not (for now, at least) recorded here.

Introduction

Cambridge, 1995: circumstances dictated that I would need to travel between Cambridge and Oxford on quite a few occasions; as a teenage cyclist I was naturally keen to see how best it could be done by bicycle. I knew the obvious route for cars to take (round the bypasses of St. Neots, Bedford, Milton Keynes, Buckingham and Bicester), but not only would that be fairly hideous to cycle, it’s also not as-the-crow-flies.

[PHOTO: Woburn Park, complete with deer: 64.2K]

The St. Neots bypass doesn’t have quite such pretty views as this! …Woburn Park, seen from the 141m summit and looking towards Oxford. Spot the large number of deer in the distance (visible in this photo as a brown mass to the left of the road). Photo taken on 23 July 2003.

Making my own route

So I got together the four relevant OS 1:50 000 Landranger maps, laid them out and taped them together in their correct relative positions, and stretched a piece of string between Great St. Mary’s in Cambridge and Carfax in Oxford. Carefully avoiding busy roads, major villages and the worst of the hills, I re-arranged the string to lie along the proposed route; I made sure that the wiggles I thus introduced tended to follow one another so that the deviation from the “crow-flies” line was gentle and sinusoidal. Then, with all the curving-points on the string taped to the map, I selected the exact route, writing down instructions for how to get from Cambridge to Oxford.

The scribbled notes thus produced were back-checked, by “virtually riding” the route across the map and seeing if we got “lost”; with several bugs ironed out, it was time to give it a go for real. I set out before nine one sunny morning in April 1995 and, assisted by a tailwind, was pleasantly surprised to find much of the route to be not only as un-travelled as the maps had suggested, but also extremely picturesque and fun to ride! Having not ridden as far as 85 miles by myself before, I was flagging towards the (undulating) Oxford end, with a touch of low blood-sugar, dehydration and sunburn; but with plenty of stops I made it in 8 hours, still feeling reasonably strong and very pleased. The route was a success!

Many rides

After that I rode the route a couple more times in the westwards, Oxford-bound direction, before having a chance to ride it eastwards; they have different character to them. Eastwards is generally slightly easier because the topology decreases in severity as you ride through Bedfordshire, so being kinder to tired cyclists; and there’s usually a tailwind in that direction! My Mother drove me along the route in each direction on a couple of occasions, and when I first drove a car (hired!) after passing my test it was to move bulky items to/from Cambridge: naturally for a new driver, my quiet route was preferable to the fast-moving A421 and all those roundabouts in Milton Keynes! Driving it again in August 2005, I was encouraged to find that it could not be done in much less than 4 hours by car—barely quicker than the fastest bicycle-time!

[PHOTO: On-bike no-hands view of country lane: 86kB]

Many rides indeed! Richard has this country lane (near Beckley, shortly before descending Woodperry Hill) to himself and can relax & enjoy the ride; he likes to think that this view is preferable to that of a steering-wheel, or indeed the back of a coach-seat on the X5! Photo taken on 20 July 2003.

I have now ridden the route many times in each direction, in all sorts of situations: on a baking summer’s day, and on a glorious autumn afternoon; I’ve set off at nine at night—two weeks before Christmas!—with an exciting new home-built 6-Watt headlamp; my brother rode it with me each way once; I did it with a headwind in persistent rain which never once eased up in the seven hours it took that time; and in August 2000 I was feeling strong and had a beefy tailwind, and rode it virtually non-stop in 4 hours and 42 minutes!

Make no mistake, the countryside through which the route passes is charming, and the scenery is by turns impressive and intimate. Between the city boundaries of Cambridge and Oxford, no traffic-light junctions are encountered at all—just a couple of Puffin crossings in the largest town en route, Ampthill (south of Bedford).

[PHOTO: a Puffin Crossing in Ampthill town centre: 76kB]

One of two Puffin Crossings in Ampthill town centre. From the pedestrian crossing at Barton Road / Grantchester Road, Cambridge, all the way to the pedestrian crossing at Marsh Lane / Horseman Close, Oxford, these Puffins in Ampthill are the only traffic signals encountered on my route—and that’s a distance of exactly 80 miles! Photo taken on 23 July 2003.

On two occasions I failed to complete the ride—the first was when the bike’s frame broke, luckily without injuring me, as I approached Ampthill at 9pm on a Sunday night. A couple of attempts later I was riding Oxford-bound, and as it came on to rain at Sandy the rear tyre punctured; some miles later it further suffered a blowout when the sidewall failed. I was already drenched and beginning to get cold and, having nothing to prove, I opted to take the train… By spooky coincidence, both failures occurred at almost exactly the same spot—just a couple of hundred yards west of the Flitwick petrol station at the south end of Ampthill, by the railway!

Publication

The publication of this route on the Web arose from an email that I received from Myra VanInwegen (see Acknowledgements) back in November 1998. She’d seen my (then very new) website which mentioned that I’d cycled between Oxford and Cambridge, and she wanted to know what route I’d taken. I thought it’d be amusing to make a typed-out version of the route notes that I’d made; she then suggested alterations to the description, I responded with a new draft, and a working document was born.

Having grown to like this beautiful route so much, and to know it so well (every hill, each view, how much to brake for certain bends, et cetera), I don’t need to refer to the route-notes to find my way; but I still take a copy with me on which to scribble updates (e.g. signposts removed) and pedantic corrections! It took three iterations of this process to get the notes to my satisfaction, with all signpost information correct and intermediate mileages added in, various little bugs removed. Even now, there’s something to alter after every ride (my pedantry ensures that there’s a log of such changes), as junctions are remodelled, signposts replaced, pedestrian crossings added, phoneboxes removed, a clearer way of describing a junction realised, and so forth. In 2004 I surveyed the route by carrying a GPS receiver, leading to several improvements in accuracy of data provided as well as the Gradient Profile shown on the GPS survey & Gradient Profile page.

It is with pleasure that I present “my” route for all to share and enjoy. The notes are intended to be as simple but as fool-proof as possible. They are divided into numbered paragraphs to assist with keeping one’s place when trying to follow them whilst cycling. Directions to useful amenities are also shown. The Key to route notes, and the route notes themselves for both directions, appear below. They are also available as separate PDF and plain-text files, to facilitate printing as may be required.

The route described

The route runs from Great St. Mary’s in Cambridge, to Carfax in Oxford, as these are the generally-accepted centres of the two cities. Let’s look at the route in that direction.

[PHOTO: Gamlingay Church by day: 65kB]

Left: Gamlingay Church as seen when heading towards Oxford. The red letter-box and K6 phone-box underline the charm of the village. Photo taken on 23 July 2003.

When we start out from Cambridge, the countryside is flat-ish (actually a relentless gentle climb of nearly 60 metres), perhaps the least-attractive part of the ride, out on the Barton Road and the B1046 through Comberton, Toft and Longstowe. After Gamlingay, Cambridgeshire gives way to Bedfordshire. A pine forest leads to Sandy whose centre we bypass, and at whose station we cross the first of the major north-south railways (the East Coast Main Line). Crossing the A1 without the aid of a bridge is not as bad as it sounds, though patience is a virtue in those circumstances.

Perhaps the most unsullied and intimate section follows, the roads undulating gently through Ickwell, Old Warden, a charming natural amphitheatre called Standalone Warren, some of the Haynes villages, and into Maulden. This brings us into Ampthill, the least-small town we pass—an opportunity, should we wish, to shop for provisions at a new Waitrose, to buy fruit or fish & chips, to use public toilets or, for those less inclined to stop, at least to refill water-bottles from an outside tap thoughtfully provided on the wall of the (Flitwick) Shell Select Shop [probably from basins at public toilets near Waitrose].

[PHOTO: 10% gradient-sign and Ashendon hill towering ahead: 71kB]

Right: The second half of the route is more hilly, but perhaps more attractive too. The OS map (and my legs) give the eastbound ascent of Ashendon hill as having a 1-in-7 gradient, though the sign doesn’t agree! Photo taken on 20 July 2003.

Our westward progress is demonstrated as we leave Ampthill, and cross the Midland Main Line and the M1; the first stiff climb and a cattle-grid heralds Woburn Park, with its roaming deer and grand viewpoint from the top of the hill; this is the half-way point. Beyond the pretty village of Woburn comes a deep forest, and Buckinghamshire; the scenery then gets to work, providing the second large climb at the Brickhills: there’s a very fine descent into the Ouzel valley, where we also cross the Grand Union Canal and the West Coast Main Line.

Immediately the third of the large climbs brings us through Soulbury and into Stewkley; there’s something of a plateau through Whitchurch to Pitchcott, where the plateau becomes a ridge; this ridge then falls off, giving a magnificent viewpoint of the Chilterns and a speedy descent towards Quainton, with its windmill. Over the old Great Central Railway (the last main line to be built and the first to be torn up), we arrive at the fourth and stiffest climb of the day: Ashendon. Only a small section is 1 in 7, it’s quite possible to take it patiently and the views are well worth the effort; so is the descent, on which I once clocked 48mph! The fifth hill creeps up on us and we find ourselves back at almost the same height as Ashendon, near Brill.

Oxfordshire is reached near the M40 and from there it’s just one final hill past the Beckley TV transmitter, along the ridge with Oxford in the background, and down through Elsfield “the quiet way” into the city along Marston Road.

Look out for…

Between Toft and Longstowe the route crosses and re-crosses the dismantled remains of the Cambridge–Bedford railway which is a missing link in the old direct route to Oxford. Look out for the road rising up to cross nothing (!) on a bridge whose deck was removed and replaced with an infill of earth in summer 2007; a short distance later, the road sweeps to right and left to thread beneath the railway whose overgrown embankments no longer carry their girder bridge.

Alternative sections of route

The Alternative sections of route chapter previously found here has been moved to its own page.

GPS survey & Gradient Profile

The GPS survey & Gradient Profile chapter previously found here has been moved to its own page.

[GRAPH: plotting elevation in metres against distance in miles: 64kB]

Key to route notes (also available as printable PDF, plain text)

KEY TO ROUTE NOTES
1 October 2008  http://www.squarewheels.org.uk/bike/routeCamOx/

Commands (usually one manoeuvre at a time, command at start of line)
--------
       R = Turn Right
       L = Turn Left
      SO = Straight On.  "SO (R/L)" describes a staggered crossroads where
           the route involves making a right turn, then a left turn.
  Follow = follow the major road, i.e. that with precedence in motoring law.
           NB priorities are not necessarily as maps would suggest.
Continue = just ride down the road, until the next instruction becomes relevant.


Description keywords
--------------------
  C-road = a thicker yellow road on Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 "Landranger" maps
  D-road = a thinner yellow road on Landranger maps
      SP = SignPosted to...
     tfl = traffic lights (at junction, NOT pedestrian crossing)
    rdbt = roundabout
       T = T-junction
     imm = immediately
   90deg = 90-degree corner
     RHS = right-hand side
     LHS = left-hand side
    thro = through
    Xrds = cross-roads (applicable whether or not a Give Way is encountered)
     rly = railway
     stn = station
    elev = elevation = height above sea level
 (care!) = warning of a manoeuvre requiring extra care to complete safely
 (Look!) = flagging-up of a turning which is easily missed


Notes
-----
"R" and "L" ALWAYS involve NOT Following!

A T-junction is defined as one where the road you are on comes to an end,
and you have to Give Way and turn either right or left.

CAPITALS are used ONLY for names of towns & villages which are visited.
SignPosts to places NOT visited are (in brackets).

"right", "left" are NOT commands, descriptive only.  Likewise RHS, LHS.

"right" ALWAYS applies to a direction, NEVER refers to completeness
(consider "Go right into the village"!)

Amenities:
   [ Directions to useful amenities (water, food, toilet) are in indented
     squared brackets like this.  To regain route, retrace steps (but
     with due regard for one-way streets etc!), and then comply with the
     instruction following. ]

Cumulative mileages are shown (in brackets) between paragraphs, and refer
to the point reached after completing the last instruction.

Vertical distances (e.g. elevations) are in metres, and shown as "m".
Travel distances up to 800 metres are shown in metres, shown "metres".
Greater distances are shown in miles, shown "miles".

Additional information about a hazard that carries the "(care!)" keyword
may be inserted before its exclamation-mark.

Items under review or awaiting confirmation are shown {in curly
brackets}.
[PHOTO: nighttime view of signposts: 17kB]

This is the piece of the page that shows you which way to go!
Signposts at the T-junction at the east end of Standalone Warren; the notes say to turn right for Old Warden, so we follow the Scenic Route… (19:31 on 1 December 2004)

Cambridge to Oxford (also available as printable PDF, plain text)

Please see also the Notices section which contains information regarding temporary changes, etc.

CAMBRIDGE to OXFORD
30 August 2013  http://www.squarewheels.org.uk/bike/routeCamOx/

1. Start south along King’s Parade, 10m elev
R into Silver Street (junction on curve),
over River Cam and past rising bollards
L at tfl, SO at rdbt, grass on left
Follow 90deg right at tfl into Barton Road
Continue beyond city limits;  could use (OK) bike path on RHS, to
                                                                    (2.4 miles)
2. SO at big rdbt, over M11, SO at 2nd rdbt
R onto B1046 SP COMBERTON
Continue through BARTON, COMBERTON, Greenwich Meridian just before TOFT
SO (R/L) across A1198 and into LONGSTOWE, Continue on B1046
pass water-tower on right, 79m elev
on downhill just before Little Gransden, suddenly:
Sharp L onto C-road SP GAMLINGAY.
                                                                   (13.5 miles)
3. SO at Xrds in GAMLINGAY; after 180 metres Follow curve to left.
Follow through Xrds on left bend, cross from Cambs to Beds before...
R at T, Follow left in EVERTON, into trees, Follow downhill and left to
                                                                   (21.1 miles)
4. R at T onto B1042, cross big rly on bridge and immediately...
   [ Budgens: 540 metres on left down High Street  ]
L as for SANDY stn, 23m elev, Continue 0.67 mile to
R at T (care!) onto A1 (SP North), imm filter L (Orchard Road)
Follow 90deg right, 460 metres to
L at T ("unsuitable for heavy goods vehicles")
0.54 mile to R at T (no SP) onto B658
200 metres to L SP HATCH.
Pass through HATCH, THORNCOTE GREEN, NORTHILL, ICKWELL.  Climb to
R at triangular T SP OLD WARDEN, Follow thro OLD WARDEN, SO (SP Shefford).
                                                                   (27.1 miles)
5. Follow 90deg left (SP Ireland), 0.78 mile, pass old rly station.
Follow right under (marvellous skew rly) bridge, trees on left.
SO across A600.
L on downhill after 280 metres, road-name STANDALONE WARREN.
Climbs under trees through HAYNES CHURCH END, 100m elev, down to
L at T onto A6, 110 metres, R, Follows left past turning on right, to
R (on uphill) SP MAULDEN, road-name Limbersey Lane, in HAYNES WEST END
Continue thro reverse curves, then sharp left on downhill.
R at T SP AMPTHILL in MAULDEN, climb past pub, over crest to rdbt:
2nd exit (1 o’clock), Continue into AMPTHILL, approach double-mini-rdbt.
                                                                   (35.6 miles)
6.[ Cottage Bakery shop on R opposite Post Office ]
   [ Toilets and Water (Mon-Sat 08-17h, Sun 10-16h):
      R imm before zebra crossing, just ahead up one-way road ]
   [ Waitrose: R (SP Bedford) at first mini-rdbt, R after 120 metres ]
L and L (SP Flitwick, Public Library), Continue
   [ Pub and Fish & Chips on left: "The Old Sun" inn, with F & C next door ]
SO over 2 mini-rdbts, then downhill to larger rdbt ("One-o-One"):
   [ Shop: SO (2nd exit) from One-o-One & into Shell petrol station on R;
      Shell Select Shop (pasty, choccy); window only (door locked) from 23hrs.
      {Water, toilets and cash-machine possibly available.}
      Flitwick railway station is 1 mile up this road. ]
R at One-o-One rdbt, 160 metres, L at 2nd rdbt SP STEPPINGLEY
under rly to SO at new rdbt, Follow up thro STEPPINGLEY and then over M1.
                                                                   (38.9 miles)
7. Follow the road up into WOBURN PARK, over cattle grid,
summit at 141m, down, half-way point, 2 cattle grids, church
SO (L/R) at Xrds in WOBURN, crossing A4012.
Climb over crest, then 550 metres to
R SP LITTLE BRICKHILL, into Buckinghamshire in forest, over A5 on bridge
R at rdbt, into LITTLE BRICKHILL, 250 metres to (Look!)
L before zebra crossing SP GREAT BRICKHILL, drop 45m and climb to 161m elev
L at oblique T on downhill (Give Way, go straight ahead)
down Partridge Hill on good C-road, steep towards bottom but no surprises.
                                                                   (48.4 miles)
8. At 72m elev cross river Ouzel, and Grand Union Canal.  At Xrds
L/R across C-road (old A4146),
climb up over rly and bypass bridges into SOULBURY
R (concealed turning behind crest) onto B4032 SP STEWKLEY
L (SP Wing) at triangular jct in STEWKLEY, then 750 metres to...
R SP DUNTON opposite Carpenters Arms pub, becomes straight downhill
Follow right and thro LITTLECOTE, DUNTON, past barn (interference fringes!)
L at T onto A413, a short climb and then down into WHITCHURCH where
R at mini-rdbt SP PITCHCOTT.
                                                                   (56.8 miles)
9. Follow to 158m summit, PITCHCOTT, down Pitchcott Hill, under pylons
R at Xrds SP QUAINTON (well off the quick part of hill)
L in QUAINTON (SP Waddesdon) into Station Road
cross Great Central Railway (disused main line, preserved station visible)
R at T onto A41, 0.63 mile (past motorbike showrooms) to...
L SP WESTCOTT, through WESTCOTT, and climb from 85m to ASHENDON
R 210 metres after church (SP Dorton) very near to 156m summit
Down Ashendon hill, 45mph+ and 1-in-7 mid-way, down to 70m.
                                                                   (67.6 miles)
10. past old rly stn on left (was a bridge over road), Follow 90deg left
R after 0.67 mile (SP Brill), over rly and climb up to Xrds
SO, more climb to 153m and another Xrds
SO, down to sharp 90deg right at Touchbridge Cottage, Continue to
R at T onto B4011;  350 metres to...
L SP BOARSTALL, Follow thro twisty section, over M40, into Oxfordshire
R SP OXFORD on left curve in HORTON-CUM-STUDLEY, down Horton Hill
Follow sharp 90deg left curve SP OXFORD
climb 64m to 129m (Woodperry Hill), past TV mast (Beckley) to
                                                                   (77.8 miles)
11. R at T onto B4027 (SP Islip), 1 mile to
filter L SP ELSFIELD
Follow big bends to right and left, ELSFIELD, speed humps, church, down to
L at T, cross Oxford ring road on bridge, OXFORD, 60m elev
L and R at adjacent rdbts, along Marston Road (ignore cyclepath on left)
SO/R at tfl, SO at next tfl (care, buses creating pinch point!)
at large rdbt "The Plain", take 4th exit (1 o’clock), over Magdalen Bridge.
Past tower, SO at tfl, and Continue up The High to Stop at Carfax.
                                                                   (83.9 miles)
[PHOTO: wintry scene with road and hedgerows: 47kB]

The tiny village of Wotton Underwood is between Brill Hill and the foot of Ashendon Hill on this route. This view is typical of a Buckinghamshire road in winter—soft verges, hedgerows, bare trees and a slightly mud-soiled road under a dull cloudy sky. And I still love it. (15:11 on 1 December 2004)

Although we pass this sign for “Wotton”, the village is actually (and is signed as being) up a dead-end side-road. To avoid confusion it is not mentioned in the notes.

Oxford to Cambridge (also available as printable PDF, plain text)

Please see also the Notices section which contains information regarding temporary changes, etc.

OXFORD to CAMBRIDGE
30 August 2013  http://www.squarewheels.org.uk/bike/routeCamOx/

1. Start down The High, SO at tfl and past tower, onto Magdalen Bridge
bear L thro large rdbt ("The Plain"), SO at first tfl (ignore bike path).
Soon half-L at tfl (trees and stone wall on right), along Marston Road to
L and R at adjacent rdbts, 60m elev, 680 metres to
(care!) fork R to cross Oxford ring road on bridge, imm R SP ELSFIELD
Continue up past ELSFIELD church, speed humps, large bends to right and left
R at T (SP Stanton St John) onto B4027, 1 mile,
L SP HORTON-CUM-STUDLEY at staggered Xrds.
                                                                    (6.0 miles)
2. past TV mast (Beckley) at 129m, 64m of descent down Woodperry Hill to
HORTON-CUM-STUDLEY: Follow sharp 90deg right, up Horton Hill, then
L at T SP BOARSTALL, into Buckinghamshire, over M40, through BOARSTALL to
R at T onto B4011 (SP Brill);  350 metres to...
L (SP Brill), Continue to Touchbridge Cottage, Follow 90deg left and climb
SO at Xrds (summit 153m elev), descend to second Xrds.
SO (SP Wotton), more descent, over rly to
L at T SP ASHENDON, then 0.67 mile to
Follow 90deg right and past old rly stn (used to be a bridge over road).
                                                                   (16.2 miles)
3. Climb from 70m to 156m elev, 1-in-7 mid-way, up into ASHENDON
L at T SP WESTCOTT after summit, fast downhill to 85m, WESTCOTT
R at T onto A41 (SP Aylesbury), (past motorbike showrooms), 0.63 mile to...
L SP QUAINTON, and Buckinghamshire Railway Centre
cross Great Central Railway (disused main line, preserved station visible)
R at T in QUAINTON, SP WHITCHURCH, 1.2 miles to
L at Xrds SP PITCHCOTT, ascend Pitchcott Hill, thro PITCHCOTT to 158m elev
In WHITCHURCH, L at mini-rdbt (SP Buckingham) onto A413 uphill.
                                                                   (27.1 miles)
4. After blind summit, road descends sharply: prepare early for next (care!)
R onto minor road SP DUNTON, through DUNTON and LITTLECOTE
L at T (after climb) in STEWKLEY, 750 metres to...
R SP SOULBURY onto B4032 at triangular junction;  2.1 miles to SOULBURY
L at T SP GREAT BRICKHILL, large downhill over bypass & rly bridges, to Xrds
L/R across C-road (old A4146),
cross Grand Union Canal, and river Ouzel at 72m elev.
                                                                   (35.5 miles)
5. Climb Partridge Hill, into GREAT BRICKHILL; after access roads on left
R SP LITTLE BRICKHILL (really SO on left bend at Old Red Lion pub)
Ascend Pound Hill, to 161m elev, drop 45m down and climb back up, to
R at T in LITTLE BRICKHILL, SP WOBURN, 250 metres, L at rdbt
cross A5 on bridge, Follow to right, into Bedfordshire during forest
L at T SP WOBURN, 0.78 mile, arrive at Xrds in WOBURN
SO (L/R) across A4012, into Park Street; church, cattle grids
climb in WOBURN PARK  up to 141m summit (half-way point)
curves L over 3rd cattle grid (care!) on descent, Continue.
                                                                   (45.0 miles)
6. Cross bridge over M1, Follow sharp zig-zag thro STEPPINGLEY to
SO at new rdbt.  Underneath rly, then R (2nd exit) at rdbt.  160 metres to
Arrive at "One-o-One" rdbt.
   [ Water and Shop: R (3rd exit) from One-o-One,
      next R into Shell petrol station.
      Shell Select Shop (pasty, choccy); window only (door locked) from 23hrs.
      {Water, toilets and cash-machine possibly available.}
      Flitwick railway station is 1 mile up this road. ]
L at One-o-One rdbt, SO over 2 mini-rdbts and up into AMPTHILL
   [ Pub and Fish & Chips on right: "The Old Sun" inn, with F & C next door ]
Arrive at double-mini-rdbt
   [ Waitrose: go L at second mini-rdbt and stop on right after 120 metres ]
R and R thro the mini-rbdts.
   [ Toilets and Water (Mon-Sat 08-17h, Sun 10-16h):
      L imm after zebra crossing, just ahead up one-way road ]
   [ Cottage Bakery shop on L opposite Post Office ]
                                                                   (48.3 miles)
7. Keep L at rdbt on climb, over 2nd crest, then 600 metres to (Look!)
2nd L in MAULDEN, road-name The Brache, (SP Haynes, Scenic Route).
1.8 miles to L at T in HAYNES WEST END (downhill approach), Follow right to
L at T onto A6, 110 metres, R (SP Scenic Route), into HAYNES CHURCH END
100m elev, Continue, descent under trees, pretty, STANDALONE WARREN
small climb to R at T SP OLD WARDEN (Scenic Route), soon
SO across A600, Continue 650 metres and Follow left, trees on right
Follow left under (marvellous skew rly) bridge, past old stn (private house).
                                                                   (56.1 miles)
8. Follow 90deg right into OLD WARDEN, SO SP ICKWELL.  Leave OLD WARDEN;
800 metres to L (care, tightens!) SP ICKWELL, descends;
2.54 miles through ICKWELL, NORTHILL, THORNCOTE GREEN, to
R at T (SP U. Caldecote), 200 metres to
L opposite Brook End House (SP "Unsuitable for Heavy Goods Vehicles").
0.54 mile to R (no SP) into The Green.
After 440 metres, Follow 90deg left into Orchard Road, to
R at T (care!) onto A1 (SP London), imm filter L into New Road.
Continue past SANDY station, 23m elev, up to
   [ Budgens: L at T, 540 metres on left down High Street ]
R at T onto B1042, cross big rly on bridge, imm L SP EVERTON.
                                                                   (62.9 miles)
9. Climb, Follow right under trees, Follow right in EVERTON, 660 metres to
L SP GAMLINGAY, cross from Bedfordshire into Cambridgeshire before
Follow through Xrds on right bend at GAMLINGAY THE HEATH
SO at Xrds in GAMLINGAY, Follow past church and up onto ridge, down into
                                                                   (70.4 miles)
10. Sharp R at T (care!) onto B1046 SP LONGSTOWE, 79m elev, pass water-tower
Follow right in LONGSTOWE, to SO (R/L) across A1198.
Continue on B1046 thro TOFT, over Greenwich Meridian, COMBERTON, BARTON, to
                                                                   (80.8 miles)
11. L at T onto A603 SP CAMBRIDGE
SO at rdbt, over M11 and down to SO (fast!, 2nd exit) at large rdbt
Continue into CAMBRIDGE;  could use bike path on LHS until boundary
Follow 90deg left at tfl, grass on right, SO at rdbt
R at tfl into Silver Street, past rising bollards, then
L on 90deg right bend, into Trumpington Street, 10m elev;
Continue along King’s Parade to Stop at Great St Mary’s Church on right.
                                                                   (83.9 miles)

Your turn!

If you are attracted to the idea of riding this route (maybe purely for fun, but more probably because you live in/near one city and have friends or business at the other), my advice is emphatically to Go for it!! If you are new to cycling, you may prefer to ride part of the route to begin with; when I first rode it I was fairly unfit and certainly not much used to long distances, but I kept going and did it in eight hours. If you aren’t fazed by distances of that magnitude there is no large psychological hurdle and, unless continuous headwind and rain or lots of stoppage conspire against you, even well-laden it probably shouldn’t take more than eight hours. Aidan, who has ridden it several times by way of training for a Triathlon, did it in 4 hours 20 minutes!

On mid-summer’s day—Saturday 21 June—2008, Andrew Norman took part in a group sponsored-ride from Oxford to Cambridge using my route; as at 25 June it had raised £2,900 for Pembroke House, Walworth. In July 2008, Martin rode to Cambridge over two days on his Brompton folding bicycle—the first recorded instance of a Brompy being used to cover the whole route.

This section wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Andrew Stevens & his friend who were riding to Cambridge on Sunday 6 August 2006—on which day I just happened to be riding the other way. They & I duly passed each other en route, and they were astute enough to recognise me from the photos on these pages! A fine coincidence seeing as we’d never corresponded and it was my first ride of the route for 20 months!

[PHOTO: Signpost to Brill, at the junction with the B4011 near Boarstall: 93kB]

Go on, try the route… it’s Brill!!

However, in more recent times I’ve become rather unfit because of (at one point) a sedentary night-shift job. It took me a shameful 8 hours 53 minutes to get back to Oxford in July 2003, battling against a headwind and getting caught in rain for the last 17 miles from Ashendon at 10pm. Part of that was because of stopping to take pictures (and poking around for many minutes among stinging-nettles as I tried to retrieve a dropped lens-cap after mountaineering on the old skew railway-bridge near Old Warden, see photo below!), but mostly I just had “no legs”. In December 2004 I redeemed myself somewhat with 7 hours 27 minutes Oxford-bound, thanks in part to having an unladen & fitter cyclist with me some of the way.

August 2006 saw my next go at the ride, and this time I was limited to a weekend. I bravely rashly decided to try to complete the round trip on the consecutive days, in spite of my total mileage in the preceding 20 months (since last riding the route) actually being less than the weekend’s mileage! With little luggage and very gentle riding, I survived with two 7½-hour daytime rides, some nerve-damage in my foot, a lot of sunburn; and a slow puncture in Marston Road, Oxford, at the very end! ;-)

[PHOTO: The marvellous skew bridge... with stinging-nettles at its base! 91kB]

Left: This is the “marvellous” skew bridge (described thus in the notes) on the disused railway in the vicinity of Old Warden. Not far away to the right is the old Southill Station, now a private dwelling; and a mile or so away beyond that is Warden Tunnel, half-a-mile long and bricked up. The line used to run from Bedford to Hitchin. The volume of stinging-nettles below me can be judged by that visible in the corresponding location opposite! Photo taken on 23 July 2003.

Even July 2003’s outward journey took only a little over 8 hours (arriving 0318!)—and that included 40 minutes of stoppage in Woburn while I “mended” a blowout caused by yet another rear-tyre sidewall failure. This one—whisper it—was caused by my inadvertantly running over the nearside kerb a mile previously, when turning left out of Woburn forest in the dark! I mended the innertube and, as a get-me-home measure, covered the tear between bead and sidewall by thrusting an offcut of old tyre-outer inside before pumping up to about half-pressure.

[PHOTO: flash photo of lonely nocturnal roadside repairs: 82kB]

Right: Such is life! This is the scene at 23:09 on a Sunday night, opposite Woburn Church, while I wait for the vulcanising solution to “go off”. I tend to patch the tube rather than change it as I find it easier and the spare is kept in reserve. My 6-Volt 7-Amp-Hour Sealed Lead-Acid battery can be seen in the foreground—on night-rides I used to carry a head-torch with a lead I made up to plug into this, greatly assisting in nocturnal roadside repairs. However, nowadays the LED-headtorch (or a helmet-mounted LED headlight) has become ubiquitous. Photo taken on 20 July 2003.

I recall that as I worked at the roadside, a chap diffidently approached in his car and enquired after my welfare; even at that point I never felt that such a stoppage was anything other than a routine delay, but to him the idea that I was trying to mend my bike with another 40something miles still left to ride was evidently quite unsettling. Cycling does imbue a modicum of self-sufficiency.

I happily wager a bottle of something alcoholic and fizzy to the first person who can prove to me that (s)he rode my route inside 4 hours (21.2 mph)!! Harry Bulstrode got very close on 12 March 2008, with a howling tailwind towards Cambridge and a time of 4 hours and 7 minutes, but consoled himself with having taken less than 4 hours between the two cities’ limits.

Riders who have ridden my route, who have any comments or who would like to know more about it, those who dislike my notation or have spotted any discrepancy… you are urged to email me to share your thoughts and improve the quality of the resource.

Disclaimer

I hope and believe I have demonstrated that these notes have been carefully prepared and thoroughly checked; to be honest I can’t see how anyone could go wrong on them, and several people have written in confirming that the notes worked just fine. But this is where independent beta-testing may be helpful—the route and the notes as seen through someone else’s eyes. If you should find yourself lost, chances are that the next signpost you come to will enable you to regain the route: but you are deemed to have got yourself lost, rather than me having mis-led you, unless or until you can demonstrate a failing in the notes! And this isn’t America, so it should be plainly obvious that if you injure yourself whilst cycling, it’s hardly going to be my fault…

Changes

The Changes chapter previously found here has been moved to its own page.

[PHOTO: straight open road with tree and water-tower: 108kB]

Above: The heat-haze, the power-lines, and the tree that got struck by lightning all come together in this study of the open road in summer. The almost-imperceptible uphill from flat fenland to gentle rolling countryside reaches its summit here, 300m west of the water-tower between Longstowe and Little Gransden (this view looking towards Cambridge). A message for riders who have set off from Cambridge and reached the location depicted above: don’t despair—it isn’t that you’re dishearteningly unfit all of a sudden—it’s that you’ve just climbed 70 metres’ elevation without really noticing! Photo taken on 5 August 2006.

Acknowledgements

The Acknowledgements chapter previously found here has been moved to its own page.

[PHOTO: Brill turning (as elsewhere).  A Beautiful sunny evening, blue sky, green fields... and a bike! 59kB]

On a beautiful sunny evening, what better way to enjoy the Great British Countryside than on a bicycle!