]> SQUAREWHEELS.org.uk – Richard’s Cambridge & Oxford cycle route


Richard’s Cambridge & Oxford cycle route

This page was last modified on 16 October 2021.
The route notes themselves were last altered on 16 October 2021.
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
Many thanks for all of the pleasure your route has given over the years — Peter
The roads are wonderfully scenic and quiet and I loved every minute — Tom
Stunning views, great skies, empty roads: Brilliant — Tim
…In awe of your detail… a splendid day out — Maggie
The directions were totally accurate — James
An absolute gem — Richard
Really enjoyable — Adam
A total delight — James
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 as far as reasonably possible. They are based on the author’s observations, and those of various people who have helped.

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

OXFORD, Elsfield, Horton-cum-Studley, Ashendon, Quainton, WHITCHURCH (Bucks), Stewkley, Soulbury, Great Brickhill, WOBURN, Steppingley, AMPTHILL, Maulden, Haynes, Old Warden, Northill, SANDY, Everton, Gamlingay, Comberton, 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

Map

Rides by correspondents

The Previous rides by correspondents section originally located here has been moved to its own page.

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 7 hours 18 minutes, 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 topography 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 has ridden it with me each way twice; 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 three pedestrian crossings (two in Ampthill, one in Sandy).

[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 (and now a Toucan/Pegasus in Sandy, and an actual traffic-control signal beneath the Midland Main Line bridge between Ampthill and Steppingley) 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. I finally published this route on my website on 13 August 2000. 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 bakery items or fish & chips, to use public toilets or, for those less inclined to stop, at least to refill water-bottles.

[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.

I used to have a ‘teaser’ on this page: Here’s something to look out for, and on which to report back to me—What object has an unusual home and is visible across the fields on your right, when approaching Thorncote Green from Northill? All answers welcomed, but brownie points for anyone who can tell me exactly what it is and what it’s doing there! …Well, the object isn’t there any more so I might as well tell you. It was the fuselage of a Vickers Viscount, a passenger aircraft dating from 1954, registration F-BGNR and nicknamed Victoria Lynne. It languished at Skysport Engineering, Thorncote Green (the field adjacent contains a mown grass airstrip too) between 1998 and 2007, and has since been relocated to the Midland Air Museum at Coventry.

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  https://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
16 October 2021  https://www.squarewheels.org.uk/bike/routeCamOx/

1. Start south along King’s Parade, 10m elev
R at T into Silver Street, over River Cam and past rising bollards
L at tfl, SO at rdbt, grass on LHS
Follow 90deg right at tfl into Barton Road
Continue beyond city limits; could use 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, 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, SO thru first mini-rdbt, cross big rly on bridge, imm…
L at new mini-rdbt, past SANDY station, 23m elev, Continue 0.67 mile to A1
   [ T*sco: soon after stn (Mon-Sat 07-23h, Sun 10-16h), has toilets ]
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 LHS
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 RHS, 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. [ Toilets and Water (Mon-Sat 08-17h, Sun 10-17h):
     R imm before zebra crossing, Follow 1-way road ]
   [ Waitrose: R at first mini-rdbt and stop on R after 120 metres
     (M-F 08-21h, Sat 20h, Sun 11-17) ]
L and L (SP Flitwick, Public Library), Continue
   [ Fish & Chip & Kebab shop on LHS
     (apparently open until 22h, 23h Fri-Sat) ]
   [ Pub “The Old Sun” on LHS (Sun-Thu noon-2330, Fri-Sat noon-0030) ]
   [ Cottage Bakery on LHS (Mon-Fri 0730-1630, Sat 0730-13h, Sun closed) ]
SO over 2 mini-rdbts, then downhill to larger rdbt (“One-o-One”):
   [ Water, toilet, shop: SO (2nd exit) from One-o-One & next R
     into Shell petrol station (24h/7d);  snacks, cash-machine, toilet
     (door is locked at 22h, then no toilet, window service only);
     Flitwick railway station is 1 mile up this road ]
R at One-o-One rdbt, 160 metres
L at 2nd rdbt SP STEPPINGLEY and under rly (tfl)
SO at 2x new mini-rdbts, SO at rdbt, Follow up thro STEPPINGLEY and 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
into LITTLE BRICKHILL, R at rdbt, 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 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 (moiré 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)
   [ Coffee-shop: R in Quainton into The Green
     (Tue-Sat 08-17h, Sun 09-15h, Mon closed, BH 10-14h) ]
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 at tfl-T and imm R at tfl into Marston Road, Continue
SO/R at tfl by Park, soon 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
16 October 2021  https://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
Soon half-L at tfl (trees and stone wall on RHS), along Marston Road to
L at tfl-T, and imm R (SP Ring Road) at tfl into Marsh Lane
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 (care!)
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)
   [ Coffee-shop: R/L in Quainton into The Green
     (Tue-Sat 08-17h, Sun 09-15h, Mon closed, BH 10-14h) ]
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 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, 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, thru forest and into Bedfordshire
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 rdbt, SO at 2x new mini-rdbts, underneath rly bridge (tfl) to
R (2nd exit) at rdbt, 160 metres to “One-o-One” rdbt
   [ Water, toilet, shop: R (3rd exit) from One-o-One & next R
     into Shell petrol station (24h/7d);  snacks, cash-machine, toilet
     (door is locked at 22h, then no toilet, window service only);
     Flitwick railway station is 1 mile up this road ]
L at One-o-One rdbt, SO over 2 mini-rdbts and up into AMPTHILL
   [ Cottage Bakery on RHS (Mon-Fri 0730-1630, Sat 0730-13h, Sun closed) ]
   [ Pub “The Old Sun” on RHS (Sun-Thu noon-2330, Fri-Sat noon-0030) ]
   [ Fish & Chip and Kebab shop on RHS
     (apparently open until 22h, 23h Fri-Sat) ]
Arrive at double-mini-rdbt
   [ Waitrose: R and L at mini-rdbts and stop on R after 120 metres
   (M-F 08-21h, Sat 20h, Sun 11-17) ]
R and R thro the mini-rbdts.
   [ Toilets and Water (Mon-Sat 08-17h, Sun 10-17h):
   L imm after zebra crossing, Follow 1-way road ]
								   (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 A1
R at T (care!) onto A1 (SP London), imm filter L into New Road
   [ T*sco: shortly before stn (Mon-Sat 07-23h, Sun 10-16h), has toilets ]
Continue past SANDY station, 23m elev, up to new mini-rdbt (was T-jct)
R at new mini-rdbt onto B1042, cross big rly on bridge, SO at 2nd mini-rdbt, imm
L SP EVERTON, road-name Swaden.
								   (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 RHS, 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 well under 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 inadvertently 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 kindly 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 an hour before midnight and 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.

Overnight stays

Some folk have ridden the route over the course of two days, which of course involves selecting somewhere to stay overnight part-way along. Here are links to such establishments which cyclist correspondents have used while riding my route:

Amenities

84 miles or perhaps the thick end of 8 hours’ riding might well require the rider to seek food/drink, a toilet, and maybe a rest, during the ride. Here are some suggested places for these, as discovered by me and the many people who have emailed in.

All of these are already mentioned in the route-notes. The information below was comprehensively verified by me in person on 19 April 2017 where possible (and on 27 March 2017 as far as possible by web and phone), and piecemeal subsequently.

At the Shell Flitwick petrol-station at the south end of Ampthill (also known locally as the 101 Garage as its address is 101 Ampthill Road, and from which the nearby roundabout takes its name) there used to be an outside tap supplying mains water which was perfect for refilling water-bottles (especially for those trying to cover the route against the clock!), but the facility was remodelled in the 2000s and no such tap now exists. There is water at mains-type pressure available at the air+water point (for cars) and an attendant demonstrated that it was drinkable by drinking some for us (!), but the signage says it is not drinking water—presumably because the pipework is not of food grade.

All of the above-listed items are mentioned in the route-notes, and directions given there.

In addition to the above list, there are also toilets (but with handwash units) in Sandy Town Centre Car Park; these are in the High Street, at eastern end of town centre, north side of road, almost opposite large church, and are open daily 08h-17h30. This might be useful for those coming through on a Sunday morning before T*sco opens…!

For the adventurous who are riding by or through the night, your options are naturally somewhat limited: do check the opening hours shown above.

Bailing out…

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan and you cannot complete the ride (or don’t wish to take the operational risk of trying to). I’ve bailed out twice, as noted elsewhere, once after the bicycle frame broke and second after a sidewall blowout in the rain. I was lucky in that I was within easy walking distance of Flitwick railway station on both occasions, and at times when trains were still running. (My brother needed a trauma doctor and a helicopter, but that’s a different story!)

None of the railway stations is currently very helpful, because the railways encountered between Cambridge and Oxford all [currently] run to/from London. Nevertheless, any port in a storm…!

There are railway stations at:

Disclaimer

I hope and believe I have demonstrated that these notes have been carefully prepared and thoroughly checked; over the past 20 years since I first published them, scores of riders have emailed with ride-reports and feedback, in most cases confirming that the notes worked just fine. But this is where independent feedback is 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!