]> SQUAREWHEELS.org.uk – Alternative sections of route for Richard’s Cambridge & Oxford cycle route


Alternative sections of route
for Richard’s Cambridge & Oxford cycle route

This page was last modified on 12 June 2017

This route of mine is not “set in stone” and there are ways in which it may be gently refined and improved. In this section, the suggestions that I and others have made are examined and recorded.

Headington/Elsfield

Originally I’d put the route as entering Oxford via Barton (past the Crem), through Headington and down the London Road, but the extra mile to go via Elsfield is well worth it for the much quieter roads.

Of course, depending on your origin and destination and how well you know “the other place”, you may well want to choose your own route within Cambridge and/or Oxford anyway.

“Ashendon Bypass”

The OS Landranger map of the Westcott area would suggest that there is a flat, straight road running south-west from Westcott to the foot of Ashendon Hill on the Oxford side; it is in fact the course of the old Brill Tramway.

I and others had considered that this might be the perfect Ashendon Bypass.

However, save yourself the disappointment… the road from Westcott which leads to Westcott Venture Park is just that—and it has a gatehouse with security staff who won’t let you through!—I went and checked. The inviting tree-lined avenue as seen at the Westcott end also deteriorates (as per Google Maps aerial views) into a muddy track long before you reach Wotton. If you wish to avoid Ashendon Hill, the diversion via Kingswood (below) may be much more useful!

Kingswood (avoiding Ashendon hill)

A diversion of considerable merit is that between the Brill area and Quainton, via Kingswood. It has the worthwhile advantages of being much flatter than the standard route via Ashendon and its 1-in-7 hill, and of crossing the busy A41 at a crossroads rather than travelling along it for nearly two thirds of a mile. Also, measurements on Google Earth indicate that the diversionary route (7.28 miles) would save about 9/10 mile compared to the original (8.13 miles).

Simon Fitzmaurice kindly surveyed this diversion Cambridge-bound in October 2009, and reports that as well as being indeed much flatter, it is “not without charm”.

In the Cambridge-bound direction, then, after crossing the saddle of Brill you descend to 2nd Xrds; the notes would read like this:

SO (SP Wotton), more descent for 1.14 miles to
L SP KINGSWOOD imm after bridge over rly (mirror at jct)
Follow through woods, 0.60 mile to
Follow sharp bend to R at jct, Continue to KINGSWOOD

3. R/L across A41 at Xrds (SP Grendon Underwood), 440m to
R SP QUAINTON (“Gated Road”)
Cross over mothballed rly (steep bridge) and under pylons to
R at T SP QUAINTON (avoiding low bridge over road!)
cross Great Central Railway, another 0.85 mile to
R SP QUAINTON soon after left-hand bend
Continue into QUAINTON, SO SP WHITCHURCH, then 1.2 miles to
L at Xrds SP PITCHCOTT

I suspect that this variant could be particularly useful for the rider heading Oxford-wards, who might be tiring near the end of an increasingly-hilly ride; I am tempted to try it myself when the opportunity presents itself, though I do also enjoy challenge of Ashendon and the payoff of its downhill!

This alternative section has some railway interest in it too. The same dismantled railway encountered on the standard route at Wotton station, at the foot of Ashendon hill on the Oxford side, was still in situ until relatively recently where the alternative route crosses it. However it appears now to be re-purposesd as an access road (Creighton Road) leading from the A41 to the Energy From Waste plant near the former Grendon Underwood Junction. This stretch of railway line ran from Ashendon Junction to Grendon Underwood Junction and, when built, was the Great Western / Great Central Joint Railway and a main line for just four years.

Sandy

It has been suggested by at least two people that the route should go through Sandy town centre instead of Beeston, to cross the A1 at the A603 roundabout where traffic nominally has to give way to you. I investigated this at half-past eight on a winter’s evening, and found it quite unpleasant in several ways. At least by crossing the A1 at Beeston (as per my route), you’re not relying on motorway-speed traffic to give way to you; and you’re not on the major roads. The alternative route is 210 metres shorter, but my route will continue to run via Beeston for now.

Biggleswade and Potton (avoiding Sandy and Everton)

Richard Bryce has suggested an alternative route between Old Warden and Gamlingay:

Rather than dropping down from Old Warden into Sandy and then climbing back up to Everton in order to reach Gamlingay, consider keeping to the high ground past the Shuttleworth Museum and [SO onto what becomes] the B658 into Biggleswade. Though crossing the A1 means negotiating a roundabout, there is a very handy Sainsbury’s store on the other side. From Sainsbury’s you follow the main northern through-route on the B1040 SP POTTON past the John O’Gaunt golf club into Potton, [Continuing] to Gamlingay. I doubt there is much in the mileage. The Sainsbury’s refuelling stop is useful as is the loss of the climb into Everton. The downsides are that it cuts out a scenic element, and being on the Sainsbury’s road has more motor traffic.

Thanks for submitting this—it appears from Google Earth and GPS measurements of the alternative (8.17 miles) and original (9.27 miles) routes that there is 1.1 miles’ saving to be had here, as well as a perhaps flatter road; however, both versions dip down to about 24m. Definitely worth a look.

Tim Pickersgill rode this alternative section in May 2017 and reports that “The B1040 is a bit of a fast road and the roundabout crossing of the A1 is not going to be ideal for everyone”.

Toft

Simon Fitzmaurice has also suggested a diversion which avoids the main drag through Toft which is often cluttered with parked vehicles. Coming from Oxford, at the start of the village you turn R into Brookside; from Cambridge, just after the Hardwick turning you turn L into Church Road; in both cases you Continue past St. Andrew’s Church to T where you rejoin the B1046, turning right for Cambridge or left for Oxford. The distances for normal and diversionary routes would appear to be very close to equal.

Beckley village

A suggestion was received from Gabriel to avoid the mile of B4027 between the Elsfield Road and the Horton-cum-Studley turning, by running via Beckley village. My view is that the B4027 isn’t too bad at all, whereas Beckley village has a gravelley off-camber downhill curve in both directions as well as a stiff climb in the eastwards direction; via Beckley is also 210 metres longer. So, although I’ve noted this suggestion, the route has not adopted it.