This last weekend I completed a bike rides project I started during the first Covid lockdown in 2020:
I’ve cycled to every settlement (and radio observatory) within 20km of my house, in alphabetical order.
In early 2020, during the first lockdown, I was going a bit stir crazy. Clare said “you’re going very strange, you have to go out and get some exercise”. After a bit of discussion, we came up with this plan: I’d visit all the local villages, in alphabetical order.
Choosing the radius
I decided that I would pick a round number of kilometers, as the crow flies, from my house. 20km seemed about right. 25km would have included Ely, which would have been nice, but it would have added a great many places, all of them quite distant.
I wrote a short Rust program to process OSM data into a list of places to visit, and their distances and bearings.
You can download a tarball of
the alphabetical villages scanner
. (I haven’t published the git history because it has my house’s GPS coordinates in it, and because I committed the output files from which that location can be derived.)
I set off on my first ride, to Aldreth, on Sunday the 31st of May 2020. The final ride collected Yelling, on Saturday the 19th of August 2023.
I did quite a few rides in June and July 2020 - more than one a week. (I’d read the lockdown rules, and although some of the government messaging said you should stay near your house, that wasn’t in the legislation. Of course I didn’t go into any buildings or anything.)
I’m not much of a morning person, so I often set off after lunch. For the longer rides I would usually pack a picnic. Almost all of the rides I did just by myself. There were a handful where I had friends along:
Dry Drayton, which I collected with Clare, at night. I held my bike up so the light shone at the village sign, so we could take a photo of it.
Madingley, Melbourn and Meldreth, which was quite an expedition with my friend Ben. We went out as far as Royston and nearby Barley (both outside my radius and not on my list) mostly just so that my project would have visited Hertfordshire.
The Hemingfords, where I had my friend Matthew along, and we had a very nice pub lunch.
Girton and Wilburton, where I visited friends. Indeed, I stopped off in Wilburton on one or two other occasions.
And, of course, Yelling, for which there were four of us, again with a nice lunch (in Eltisley).
I had relatively little mechanical trouble. My worst ride for this was Exning: I got three punctures that day. Luckily the last one was close to home.
I often would stop to take lots of photos en-route. My mum in particular appreciated all the pretty pictures.
I decided on these rules:
I would cycle to each destination, in order, and it would count as collected if I rode both there and back. I allowed collecting multiple villages in the same outing, provided I did them in the right order. (And obviously I was allowed to pass through places out of order, without counting them.)
I tried to get a picture of the village sign, where there was one. Failing that, I got a picture of something in the village with the village’s name on it. I think the only one I didn’t manage this for was Westley Bottom; I had to make do with the word “Westley” on some railway level crossing equipment. In Barway I had to make do with a planning application, stuck to a pole.
I tried not to enter and leave a village by the same road, if possible.
I had to make some decisions:
I decided that I would consider the project complete if I visited everywhere whose
was within my radius. But the centre of a settlement is rather hard to define. I needed a hard criterion for my OpenStreetMap data mining: a place counted if there was any
, with the relevant
tag, any part of which was within my ambit. That included some places that probably oughtn’t to have counted, but, fine.
I also decided that I wouldn’t visit suburbs of Cambridge, separately from Cambridge itself. I don’t consider them separate settlements, at least, not if they’re conurbated with Cambridge. So that excluded Trumpington, for example. But I decided that Girton and Fen Ditton were (just) separable. Although the place where I consider Girton and Cambridge to nearly touch, is administratively well inside Girton, I chose to look at land use (on the ground, and in OSM data), rather than administrative boundaries.
visit both Histon and Impington, and all each of the Shelfords and Stapleford, as separate entries in my list. Mostly because otherwise I’d have to decide whether to skip (say) Impington, or Histon. Whereas skipping suburbs of Cambridge in favour of Cambridge itself was an easy decision, and it also got rid of a bunch of what would have been quite short, boring, urban expeditions.
I sorted all the Greats and Littles under G and L, rather than (say) “Shelford, Great”, which seemed like it would be cheating because then I would be able to do “Shelford, Great” and “Shelford, Little” in one go.
Northstowe turned from mostly a building site into something that was arguably a settlement, during my project. It wasn’t included in the output of my original data mining. Of course it’s conurbated with Oakington - but happily, Northstowe inserts right before Oakington in the alphabetical list, so I decided to add it, visiting both the old and new in the same day.
There are a bunch of other minor edge cases. Some villages have an outlying hamlet. Mostly I included these. There are some individual farms, which I generally didn’t count.
I visited 150 villages plus the Lords Bridge radio observatory. The project took 3 years and 3 months to complete.
There were 96 rides, totalling about 4900km. So my mean distance was around 51km. The median distance per ride was a little higher, at around 52 km, and the median duration (including stoppages) was about 2h40. The total duration, if you add them all up, including stoppages, was about 275h, giving a mean speed including photo stops, lunches and all, of 18kph.
The longest ride was 89.8km, collecting Scotland Farm, Shepreth, and Six Mile Bottom, so riding across the Cam valley. The shortest ride was 7.9km, collecting Cambridge (obviously); and I think that’s the only one I did on my Brompton. The rest were all on my trusty Thorn Audax.
My fastest ride (ranking by distance divided by time spent in motion) was to collect Haddenham, where I covered 46.3km in 1h39, giving an average speed in motion of 28.0kph.
The most I collected in one day was 5 places: West Wickham, West Wratting, Westley Bottom, Westley Waterless, and Weston Colville. That was the day of the Wests. (There’s only one East: East Hatley.)
Here is a pretty picture of all of my tracklogs:
Edited 2023-08-25 01:32 BST to correct a slip.