Rabu, 11 April 2012

A cycle loop to Ely and my 1st puncture for a while pt 1

Saturday, 7th April 2012: I know this is a bit late – but I did mention in an earlier Post that holidays make it harder for me to cycle – unless it is a cycling holiday. And this one wasn’t.

There is some good news and some bad news. I mentioned in my last post that I discovered a crack in the seat tube of my Marin San Anselmo. I popped it back to Ben Hayward Cycles, and they confirmed that it was cracked. They also checked when I had bought it and said it might  well be covered by the Frame Warranty. To cut a long story short it was. A replacement frame has been sent to Ben Hayward and I should have my bike tomorrow (Thursday).

I have seen the frame, it is darker than the one it replaces – but hey – that is great no quibble service. The bad news – well I had talked myself into looking at new bikes.  So no new bike – but excellent service from both Ben Hayward and Marin.

Talking of good news and bad news – well it seems that petrol is still going up in price – “…as petrol hits £1.50…”. The good news is that cycling is a sure fire way of cutting your petrol and gym costs. Perhaps it is even time to think more radically and sell the car? Although I personally am OK with just using my car infrequently at the moment.  If that is really to hard – then why not just drive more carefully and become a hyper-miler!If that sounds too difficult why not a half and halfer – park and ride.

You don’t need to replace the car, or get a fancy MPG readout – here are some tips – the author went from 50 mpg to 65 mpg – or to put it another way assuming 10,000 miles a year at £1.5/litre which is £6.83/gallon. So that is around £1,366 driving badly or £1,051, a saving of £315 or 23%. So why don’t we all do it? As a cyclist and pedestrian I would certainly welcome calmer roads and as a driver I would as well.

The trouble is we have all been sold on cars as the fastest way to get around. As a lad I used to check out the top speeds on cars – although my flawed approach was to look at the highest speed on the speedometer – well I was a young lad at the time.

Although this post is not about the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) just after I had written and published my post with pictures of the CGB it gets two mentions in the press. The first suggests that the “Guided bus court case won’t start until 2014”. They are going through disclosure at the moment, or edisclosure.

The second bit of CGB news relates to a school bus – “Busway sparks new fight for school bus”. Apparently School Authorities (Cambs rules here) allow pre-16 year-olds free bus transport if they live more than three miles from their secondary school (2 for primary schools). Also the three mile route must be reasonable.  (Such is the case for pupils travelling from Milton to Impington. There is a cycleway being built along Butt Lane, but it is not of sufficient width and so the “free” school bus will not be withdrawn.) Now that seems a little bit crazy, they are building a cycleway, but it doesn’t meet the “safety” rules and so the County will still foot the bill for the school bus as well. That tells me we aren’t really serious about building cycle routes in Cambridge.

In this case it would seem that the addition of the CGB Cycleway has brought the safe distance to less than 3 miles. Interestingly the news item even refers to the Cycleway as the “maintenance track” – which hardly sells it at all.

My kids are adults (well over 18 anyway) which makes it more difficult for me to try and empathises with the good citizens of Oakington. Here is the OSM streetmap of the area (although WLW doesn’t actually show it, so I will need to check it after publishing").


View Larger Map

The map shows the area and here are Cyclestreets suggestions. The distances are between 2.5 and 3 miles in length and the journey times vary between 15 to 20 minutes. (When I was at my secondary school the distance was 1.5 miles although somewhat hillier.)

So my initial reaction is that it is perfectly reasonable to expect kids to cycle between the villages. Indeed I wonder whether the issue is one of: perceived safety from either traffic or predatory adults, outrage at the loss of a free service or concern as to what the kids might be up to when out of sight for so long?

Let’s face it cycling to school is not as popular as it once was, even here in Cambridge where visible steps are being taken parents are not keen.  According to this Post from Cyclists in the City cycling to schools in London is on the decline. (Note the link he refers to has been moved and is this pdf I think – “Cycle to School A review of school census and Bikeability delivery data march 2012”  (is it just me or does the Government info seem to bounce around from place to place?). Check out Table 3.2 on page 6. The average mode share for cycling for the journey to school has  from from 1.9% in ‘06/’07 up to a high of 2.02% in ‘/07/’08 back to 1.97% for ‘10/’11. Here in the East it has gone from 3.3% up to 3.8% and was 3.6% last year. To put that into context in Denmark he (C in the C) suggests that in Denmark 55% of children cycle to school.

Rather disturbingly ROSPA’s review of “The Safety of School Transport” (pdf April 2003 rev) concludes that:

“casualty statistics indicate that fewer casualties occur to children traveling to and from school in PSV vehicles than amongst those who walk or are driven in cars.”

Our roads aren’t safe take to the buses!

As another “data point” – “On call 24/7: How parents spend 25 days a year ferrying their children around”. Apparently the survey indicated that “one third of mothers and fathers told the survey they spend between 10 and 49 hours behind the wheel every month bringing each of their children to school and social activities”. Phew – that is a fair bit of time and cost.(around £60 according to the AA).

So it was refreshing to also read to day that the National Trust has commissioned a report to get more kids visiting trust properties get out and about. (Me cynical?). I rather like the bucket list of things to do before you are 11¾ though. The interesting thing is that I probably did most of those things with my friends rather than my parents – not because my parents were stingy – but because they gave my brother and me our freedom to explore. Although we sometimes got told off – muds slides don’t always go down well with mums. Also we didn’t have geocaches when I was a lad, we did carry sheath knives for our “forest explorations” though. without even thinking much about it I have a couple of things to add to the list: make a throwing arrow and make a tree house. To be fair I probably did some of the stuff when I was a bit older as well – and also we didn’t have much “elf and safety”.

I must get on with talking about the ride – but first a picture.  We have a drought here in the East – although the aforementioned residents of Oakington might not have thought so with a road filled with water for hours. A quick reminder our some of our Water Companies also have responsibility for sewage as well – well Sea too dirty to swim in after heavy rain. suggests that things might not be too good on that front either.

Round here with so much agriculture the farmers have to work around those issues. Here is a field being irrigated near Padney.

Field being irrigated near Padney

And here is the map of my ride, I followed a reasonably standard route although cycled on the track around Barway rather than take the road. It does not seem to be a right of way but does have a Sustrans 11 sign on at least on pole along it. It runs alongside Soham Lode. Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link. It is 70Km and rises to 7 metres above sea level and sinks to 3 metres below sea level. I also managed to cycle along a byway that I haven’t been along before.

As you can see I didn’t start taking pictures until I got to Soham Lode – this is the view looking back along the track towards  Goose Fen Drove, I was standing on the bridge in the link. The bridge in the background is the one the road NCN11 route takes. One of the things I like about this time of year is the fresh green colour of the new leaves. A quick check on the Sustrans map doesn’t show this alternate route though.

Soham Lode

As Barway Bridge is one of the high spots, at 5m above sea level, I took a few pictures. Here is some more irrigation equipment set up and ready to roll. You can see the big feeder pipes laid alongside it. In the background is the Ely to Cambridge railway line.

Cambridge to Ely Railway Line, near Barway

Also at this time of year – in fact any time of year when the crops need water you can hear the chug of the diesel water pumps – like this one – with the exhaust just visible.

An irrigation pump, near Barway

And from the same vantage point a little way down the track was this old boy – he was metal detecting and seems to have detected something and was digging it out. I didn’t hang around to see what he had discovered though.

Metal Detecting – near Barway

After Barway the route continues off-road firstly along farm tracks and then along a tarmac path at the top of the bank alongside the River Great Ouse. At this point the route becomes the Fen Rivers Way which is a walk from Cambridge to Kings Lynn. Up ahead was the A142 – the route into Ely from Newmarket. This is the A142 crossing the River Great Ouse. There is a Marin at Ely and as I went by there were two boats passing under the bridge.

A quick look at Cathedral Marina, Ely and  there are quite a few boats available from a Wide Narrowboat at £110,000 with others more like the one in the picture. If you fancy living on a river then read this article on “Living life on the Cam”. It is not as cheap as you might think, mooring fees have risen by 7% a year whilst at the same time there is a freeze on council tax. Apparently it costs more in fees for living on a boat than a family would pay in Council Tax. (It is hardly free-loading as some might think!)

There doesn’t appear to be a huge amount of clearance under the bridge – the speed limit as you pass under and the bridge head into Ely is 4mph.

A boat under the A142 bridge on the River Great Ouse

And here is the second boat – the guy is wearing a yellow inflatable jacket and a Top Hat and appears to be speaking into a microphone it must be a river tour. Using the power of the Internet here it is – it is the Liberty Belle. According to this link there are regular 30 minute cruises at £5 for adults and £3.5 for children.

The Liberty Belle under the A142 bridge on the River Great Ouse

After that I headed down the shared use path to Stuntney and then just beyond the turn to Barway, which I usually take and instead down a byway. It appears on the map as Ely Lane and connects the Ely Road to Soham Cotes on the edge of Soham.

I was hoping to get a reasonable picture of Ely Cathedral, but there was stuff in the way. The telegraph pole is on the road into Barway.

I did pass a Land Rover Discovery coming the other way – so indicated the path was reasonably passable.

I also found that this byway has yet to make it onto the OSM Streetmap.

Ely Cathedral from Ely Lane byway

And it was, except that there had been some recent hedging and there were quite a few bits of spiky twig along the way. At this point it crossed my mind that I haven’t had a puncture for quite a while – no I am not superstitious, but what a stupid thing to think. As I reached the road the smell of a chicken farm greeted me.

As I cycled into Soham there was a tick-tick sort of noise coming from the back wheel – oh flip, probably a thorn. I stopped and checked the rear tyre – yep, there was a thorn sticking out of the tyre. Now what I normally do is pull the thorn out and then seconds later regret it as the tyre hisses and deflates. So this time, I thought I would just cut the thorn but leave the spiky bit in the tyre. I was hoping that it would not work its way in any further, and so act like a slow puncture rather than a fast one.

Hopefully I would then make it to a seat somewhere in Soham and be able to fix it at my leisure.

Ely Lane Byway, heading to Soham Cotes


As it happened I made it through Soham without the tyre getting softer and so decided to take the byway/bridleway route through to Wicken and then I would be able to fix my tyre and have a drink at the Wicken Fen cafe…

So I headed along through Soham over Horse Bridge and down Mill Drove and over the level crossing. All the while being hype-sensitive to any perceived squidginess coming from the back tyre.

I was hoping not to find myself down a muddy byway with a flat tyre – fixing a flat tyre is a nuisance, fixing a muddy tyre with mud and grass around is tedious – at least it wasn’t raining.

As I cycled to the end of the straight bit of Bracks Drove it was fine. Even when I got of the bike and bounced it. (An old Policeman’s trick I was told – it is no substitute for proper maintenance but you either here that something is loose or the bike doesn’t bounce properly and something is probably not right.

Having stopped I took this picture of a dandelion clock. It never ceases to amaze me – one minute it is winter, then spring comes around and suddenly the dandelions are in flower one day and seeding the next.

A Dandelion Clock on Bracks drove near Soham


I also took a picture of the top of the church tower of St Andrew’s Church  looking out over the trees.

St Andrew’s Church Tower – Soham

And still the tyre was staying inflated. by now I was wishing I had taken the thorn out, but it probably had worked its way in and so if I took it out now it would actually start deflating.

Jumat, 06 April 2012

As I was cycling to St Ives it rained when I got there–so I cycled back down the CGB cycleway

Tuesday, 3rd April 2012: As it is the hols I am taking some time off this week. which paradoxically makes it harder to cycle as I have family things to do. However I did have a bit of spare time on Tuesday afternoon and after reading about the new warning markings painted on the CGB cycleway on the Blog – “Travelling the Cambridgeshire guided busway” in the post “Safety for cyclists” I thought I’d check them out with a ride out via the old NCN51 to St Ives and then back to Cambridge on the CGB (the new NCN51).

I mentioned that I was a bit concerned about a possible crack in my seat tube on my Marin hybrid bike. To cut a long story short I took it to Ben Hayward cycles (where I bought it) and they confirmed that it was cracked. They have checked with Marin and I am getting a replacement frame under warranty. That is good news and unexpected and why it is worth buying from a reputable cycle shop. However I did start thinking about buying a new bike and getting slightly excited by the idea – never mind.

So I have been riding around on my Longstaff instead (the picture was taken from Noodling around Norfolk.

The Oakington Airfield Road – closed to most motor traffic – supposedly

Here is the route and here is the Bike Route Toaster Link. The route is 53Km/33 miles long and flat. The only challenge it throws at you occasionally is the wind. Now my first rule of cycling is wherever possible cycle out against the wind and back with the wind. There is no scientific reason for that, it just makes a round trip seem more pleasant to me.

My second rule is try to avoid going there and back by the same route. Like all rules these get broken and my numbering system isn’t consistent either. This time around I obeyed both rules and had the wind behind me (more of less) on the way back to Cambridge.

For some strange reason, that I haven’t looked into Bike route Toaster won’t automatically route along the Airfield Road between Oakington and Longstanton. It will if you select the Google Data, but not if you select the OSM data. I did try out Cyclestreets and that will route along the road – which implies that it is not the underlying map data. (I turn off auto-routing at the appropriate point and then back on again to get around the problem).

Bike Route Toaster Map: Cambridge to St Ives and back

I have said this before, but it is worth saying, since the improvements were made to Gilbert Road it has become a noticeably better road to cycle along. Of course that might just be me knowing that changes have been made and that my perception of it being better is not necessarily backed up with any quantitative data. I should also point out that I don’t regularly use this road to commute on either.

However what I do sense is that motor vehicles take cyclists more seriously on this road.  Too often when cycle lanes are painted on roads they tend to be too narrow. In my opinion this give motor vehicles “permission” to pass a cyclist with very little clearance. On Gilbert Road the cycle lanes are wide enough that I can cycle away from the kerb – always a bad place to be for a cyclist and yet there is still a gap between me and the white cycle lane line. Here is an example of what I mean: this is Newmarket Road near the Park and Ride site. Narrow cycle lanes are worse than useless in my opinion as they permit drivers to ignore them. Unfortunately there are many examples of cycle lanes that are too narrow in Cambridge.

There are also many pictures of crazy cycle lanes – here the BBC feature some – check the fifth picture in. Some more from the Nutty Cyclist. Even more from Derek. There are standards and guidelines though and in this bureaucrapitalistic era every Council or Traffic organisation seems to have their own – TFL (which suggests 1.5-2.0m for the MCL.0, Nottinghamshire CC – (preferred width 1.5m, minimum width 1.2m and 2oh well if you really must 1.0m”). Conveniently the Cambridge Cycling campaign have summarised some more guidance.

The problem is that the rules say motorists should not encroach into an MCL, the practice is that motorists encroach all the time – result confusion. I also wonder why we taxpayers have coughed up for so many sets of guidelines?

Narrow Cycle Lane on the Newmarket Road, Cambridge near the Shell Garage

Another sign that poor motorists get confused by is the low-flying motorcyclist one. This theoretically excludes motor vehicles. This is the Oakington Airfield Road – although it is called something different and has featured in a few blogs – “Rules of the road are there to be ignored if you disagree” and “Oakington Airfield Road” being two examples.

The signs get ignored – I struggled to get a picture without any cars on the road they are so frequent. Most of them do not qualify as exceptions either – although oft-maligned taxis are allowed along here. Occasionally motorists get targeted and you only need look at the comments to see how the poor motorists suffer. Some even get fined. If this road were opened up then what would happen – it would become choked with traffic to the detriment of the local residents .

Oakington Airfield Road – is that a taxi?

No it didn’t look like a taxi to me. The strange thing is when I have my camera with me and am taking pictures the cars seem to be driven more sedately. A big bunch of cars went by me this time.

Oakington Airfield Road – is that a taxi – don’t think so!

Sometimes I follow the old NCN51 route to St Ives and sometimes I take a detour. This time I detoured up over Windmill Hill rather than take the Ramper Road route. Since I still had my long lens it was an opportunity to try it out from the bridge over the CGB.

I hate cycling along noisy roads – I am sure that a lot of non-walkers/cyclists just don’t realise how noisy motor vehicles have become. Let’s face it most cars are well sound-proofed and we tend to leave the radio/CD players on all the time, I do.

So I like to listen to music or radio podcasts when cycling – it protects my hearing. I don’t have them very loud – although there are some roads that are so noisy it drowns out anything I am listening to. There seems to be a lot of strong feeling along the lines that cyclists who listen to iPods/MP3 players should be shot. So I was interested in this article about Bike headphones that don’t distract from cycling safety.  (There are loads of comments).

I guess the question in my mind is why is it that cyclists shouldn't listen to music and motorists can? I think that it is a similar argument as that used to state that cyclists ought to wear cycle helmets yet motorists don’t need to. Whilst the idea is that it improves a cyclist’s safety (always difficult to argue against) the underlying implication is that we cyclists should scurry out of the way whenever we hear the sound of a mighty motor vehicle lest we impede the progress of progress.

Try cycling in a busy city – the noise does not help you think straight. So an alternative would be to stop the motor vehicles from being under the totally random control of the driver. Now that makes sense. How about some concrete tracks –and here’s one I made earlier. The other good thing about the CGB is that the buses aren’t as noisy as I thought they might be – I think that the concrete tracks helps to cut tyre noise.

Funnily enough “Bird song has got LOUDER in the last 30 years to compete with traffic”.  What is not funny is that traffic noise has gotten louder – that just seems wrong.

A Bus heading down the Cambridge Guided Busway after leaving Swavesey

How about that – the CGB attracts a better class of driver with a collar and tie. They do move pretty quickly along the concrete track. You would be mad to walk or cycle on that track and of course there is absolutely no need – there is some nice tarmac alongside.

Sartorial Elegance on the Cambridge Guided Busway

After the bus passed under the bridge, I turned around to take a picture of it heading down towards Longstanton.  This also gives a good idea of how the cycleway has attracted users. We have a cycling “racer”, someone walking and the lads on BMX bikes. You can also see a double decker bus coming up from Cambridge on the other side of the traffic lights.

Single Decker Bus heading down the CGB to Cambridge

The serious cyclist – Lycra and cycling shoes. He is having to cycle against the wind.

Serious Cyclist on the CGB Cycleway approaching Windmill Hill

I rather like long shots with a long lens they accentuate the undulations of both the tarmac and concrete. As you can see there are no lights along these stretches of the CGB. Personally that is how I prefer it. When I go out cycling at night I take lights and fairly powerful ones at that. On a decent straight route like this one I think it is perfectly reasonable not to have street lights, saving taxpayers money and reducing both light pollution and CO2 pollution from the generation of the power.

I can also understand that in towns and villages people feel insecure without decent street lighting. So it is not surprising that the Cambridgeshire project to replace four fifths of street lights and to remove one in 10 has incurred some complaints. Perhaps they should have laser lights like Weymouth.

One Walker, two Buses and three Cyclists on the CGB

That chap in Lycra is still keeping his head down and making good progress.Although I was cycling out against the wind I was using my Longstaff tourer with drop handlebars. Having not ridden it regularly for a while I did find the different position took a bit of getting used to. The lower wind resistance was noticeable though, even at my slow speeds. My Longstaff is also noticeably lighter and manoeuvrable – not always what you might expect from a tourer.

A “Serious Cyclist” heading towards Swavesey on the CGB Cycleway

I tend not to take so many pictures on gloomy days, so I can only blame the green of the buses – they made me take more pictures. You think that is a lame reason – what about this driver who when caught trying to evade the Police claimed “Police made me speed, says driver”. Strange how few comments this news item attracted compared to say items about cyclists.

Mind you I wonder what this cyclist said – “Cyclist leads police in 60mph chase on motorway”. Presumably the law in Czechoslovakia regarding cycling on Motorways is the same as in the UK, which is why they went after him. The Daily Mail helpfully explains that he was “drafting” and that any skilled cyclist would be capable of the trick. It takes guts as well as skill. The fastest cycling speed I have recorded is 74.3Km/h (46.4 mph) and whilst it doesn’t sound fast on a bicycle it felt it. You only need imagine your front wheel hitting a pothole and crumpling to get you reaching for the brakes

Double decker Bus on the CGB approaching Windmill Hill Bridge

As you can see it was quite full.  The CGB does seem to be quite popular and in use. Most of the cycle parking spaces are well used at the stops along the way. They have already passed the million passenger mark and are expecting more than 2.5 million passengers within the first year. To put that into context 65,000 to 85,000 vehicles per day use the A14 and 25% are HGVs.  That implies there are 25 million non HGVs using the A14 each year. So assuming that they could run say 10 times as many buses on the CGB they could take 25 million people. That ain’t bad when you consider the CGB cost estimate is £180m and the new A14 developments were estimated to cost £1.1Bn before being suspended. Having said that there is still some litigation to go up to ‘2015’. There are quite a few comments

A full Double Decker Bus heading to Huntingdon on the CGB

As I was taking pictures I did wonder whether I would get lucky with the weather.  When setting off the predictions were between 10% and 20% that there would be showers. The trouble was I seemed to be heading towards the rainy bits.

Rain Clouds over the A14 – seen from Windmill Hill Bridge

After that dithering a quick look to see how those BMX lads were doing – not as fast as the old boy on the racer. For a change there is a blue-assed bus. And in what must be one of my weaker links – did you know a bus-sized asteroid flew past the Earth under the moon. The article didn’t mention whether it was a single or double decker asteroid though.

Three BMX-ers on the CGB

As I carried on through Swavesey where I took a wrong turn and got slightly lost in one of the estates not only was the rain getting closer to me I was getting closer to the rain.At this point it started raining and resigned myself to a rather unpleasant trip through and thence home. As is often the case rain when cycling is worse in the mind than in reality. Yep I got damp but I was generating enough heat to stay warm.  The casualty in such circumstances though is I cut down on taking pictures.

I don’t really like taking my camera out when it is raining. The rain smudges the lens. However, when setting off I had done something I rarely do )except when cycle-touring) I had taken my small Sony along with me as well. I had taken it because it had a wide-angle lens and so made it easier to take pictures like this one than with my long lens.

This is the cycle parking at St Ives CGB P&R. Well used, but with sufficient capacity to encourage others to cycle and ride.  I would hope that as it approaches 100% utilization they will put in addition cycle parking before cyclists have to resort to the railings.

I wonder what the security is like on these cycle parks along the CGB?  I have seen mention of thefts. Perhaps some ‘Old-fashioned policing’ might be needed , it seems to have worked in Cambridge. The article does have a plea from the Police for cyclists to record their cycle identification numbers – that is another benefit of buying your bike from a reputable cycle dealer – Ben Hayward already have  mine on record –so even if I forget them.

Cycle Parking – St Ives CGB Park and Ride

As you can see there had been some quite strong showers. Here are some of the safety markings mentioned by “Travelling the Cambridgeshire guided busway”.  What was it I was saying earlier about not need lighting on the CGB. Well you don’t as long as some idiot doesn’t but random posts and barriers in the way. Those small patches of paint are very impressive either. So why is it that there can be so much focus on wearing helmets and high-vis and not listening to music whilst cycling – yet no-one sees a contradiction with this approach. Random unlit obstacles across the cycleway.

Mind you even Police cars can be impaled by rising Bollards (in Cambridge). That got almost as many comments as a cycling story. What are bollards for – well they are a cheap way of ensuring the motorists don’t break the law and drive where they aren’t supposed to. As we have seen on the Oakington Airfield Road trusting motorists just doesn’t work. So bollards are used to protect the motorists against their own lack of judgement. Putting a barrier in a road has implicit dangers though. So we have a solution where cyclists pay the price for enforcement of no entry to motorists. How fair is that. I suppose that you could argue that if cars were regular users then that would also be dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians.

It is strange that sometimes the protection can cause more risk than the “crime” you are being protected against.  Like this classic Daily Mail story of a “Pensioner thrown off his beloved allotment by council in case he hurts his hip and sues”. Is this what happens in a society where there is so much blame and we expect  to be told what to do. surely him not gardening could be far more serious overall. A quick mention of the Government surveillance plans – they are the bollards of the internet – put there to stop crime but so easily can they cause problems for the innocent. Look how easy it was for the at least one reporter from the  News of the World to allegedly, get supposedly confidential information held by the Police. So why should we believe that it won’t happen again?

As it happens the ride home was pretty much dry despite the puddles. There were a few spits of rain as I approached Cambridge. I was also able to make good progress, partly with the wind behind me and partly because I was on my Longstaff Tourer. The trace from the GPS also shows my average speed holding over the stretches of the CGB coming back.  I was holding 29Km/h – any faster and I would have felt obliged to cycle at 32Km/h (20mph) which would have been too tiring.

I did have a few aches and pains from riding in a different position on my tourer – but after the first few miles it wasn’t really that bad. Strangely my little finger on my right hand was the main “casualty”. The way I hook it over the brake hood  caused it to ache, although not on my left hand.

Finally it looks as if the recent superb weather is but a memory. With snow in some areas from Scotland to Devon.

And really finally a picture of  bioluminescence on the beach and some beautiful macro pictures.

Selasa, 03 April 2012

The Long Way to Wicken Fen, with a Long Lens part 2

Saturday, 30th March 2012: A quick recap I have put the map picture second in the post as a picture looks more interesting than a map when seeing summaries of Posts. I also forgot that I was going to try and label my pictures as I have found it tricky sometimes finding pictures in my Blog.

Here is the Bike Route Taster map link to the map shown below this picture and the next, it is 54Km/34miles and hovers between 7 metres above sea level and 1m below sea level

After reaching the little Hamlet of River Bank I decided to give a peaty bridleway Rand Drove a try. It is a track I probably cycle along once or twice a year. It runs alongside some very peaty fields and is a bit like soft sand. On my hybrid with 25mm tyres it can be hard work. The tyres seem to dig in and then slide sideways. It is pretty straightforward on my MTB with 2 inch plus tyres.

As I cycled along it I there were signs of tree felling – three quite distinctive trees which have featured in some of my pictures lie along the track. Well only one seems to be there now. I’ve no idea why they were chopped down – they could have been rotten or suffering some form of blight – it still seems a shame though.

They get a mention in this Post: Mist and Sunset in the Fens, the picture below shows a bit of lean – which explains things.

Three Trees on Rand Drove, River Bank, Cambs

Well now there is one. (As a complete aside there has been another update to Chrome Beta – it now seems to have some problems displaying image searches from the URL bar.)

In the old maps Rand Drove is shown has heading to Blinkers Hill at the end of Headlake Drove. I can’t find many mentions of Blinkers Hill Farm – although it does appear in the London Gazette for July 1995, May 1980  and December 1975, in connection with water abstraction licences.

After reaching Blinkers Hill you can head down Headlake Drove and onto Lodes Way. I turned left along a rather bumpy tarmac “road” to Straight Drove and then up Straight Drove to Harrison’s Drove (one of two in the area – the other being in Wicken Fen. )

This was taken near Blinkers Hill.

Swaffham Prior seen from Blinkers Hill with Onions in the field

The map for reference – as you can see I wasn’t sure whether the plants were onions or leeks. Actually I thought they were onions and didn’t look closely – but on looking at the picture I thought I’d admit to my uncertainty..

A ride around Horningsea and Wicken Fen from Cambridge

This is the unnamed bit of tarmac heading form Blinkers Hill toward Straight Drove. If you turn right it gets you to Reach, left to Upware. I have on the odd occasion seen cars drive along it – not recommended unless you have a 4x4. The bank straight ahead is stopping Reach Lode from pouring down over the fields.

Reach Lode ahead  from Blinkers Hill

As you can see we really are suffering from drought – the farmers are having to irrigate the fields to help the seedlings germinate. Isn’t it comforting to know that our water companies must be doing something right as they are paying out bonuses.

To me it seems to be another feature of the weird world of UK Bureaucrapitalism.  We regulate them with various rules and expect them to make lots of money. What was the name of the Quango Oftwat, Ofwat or less advertising from Wikipedia’s Ofwat entry.

What irritates me is the condescending way in which those bl**dy water companies seem to imply it is our fault and we have to pull together to save water, despite them failing to meet their targets for minimising leaks on the water system. They then blame the weather – but isn’t the point that they should be investing in facilities to smooth out the weather issues.

One interesting fact is that water is transferred from Denver sluice, near King’s Lynn to Essex. That is from a region with a drought ban to a region without a drought ban.

Irrigation in the fields near Reach Lode

As I was cycling back towards Upware along Harrison’s Drove there were some interesting contours provided by the planting in the fields.

Newly germinated crops following contours, near Upware

And just before Upware a fair bit of colour by the roadside.

Bright colours on the road into Upware

It does not seem that long ago that we used to see fields of daffodils being grown around here. That was before the time of this Blog - but I did cycle around the area in those days. Here is one such picture:

Upware Daffodils – April 2006

These are all the daffodils you see nowadays, six years later. It isn’t the same field, this in in the village. But you can see how it was once used to grown daffs. The field does have a Guard Dog warning sign on it – which seems rather odd.

Upware Daffodils – March 2012

After Upware and a rather dry Docking’s Lane byway I returned to Wicken and then onto the Lodes Way. This time around I heaved my bike over the Burwell Lode footbridge and stopped for a rest to take some pictures. (My advice wait – Chrome beta is being a real pig at the moment 18.0.1025.151).

Burwell Lode from the Lodes Way footbridge

In part 1 of this post I mentioned how as a kid I was used to wandering through fields and woods without worrying overmuch about paths. Well it seems that the National Trust has gone in the opposite direction – the paths around Wicken Fen seem to be turning into fenced corridors with a topping of barbed wire for good measure.

Out for a walk with the dog – Wicken Fenced Paths
T
aken from the Burwell Lode footbridge

Talking of bridges – here is the Reach Lode Bridge – I think they did a neat job of providing a bridge – but one that adds to the form of the countryside, rather than dominates like the electricity pylons.

Reach Lode Bridge – seen from the Burwell Lode Footbridge

It was quite a long rest stop taking pictures. Here are some highland cattle enjoying being out to grass.

Wicken Fen Highland Cattle – out to grass
Taken from the Burwell Lode Footbridge

After heading back there was more irrigation to be seen from the Reach Lode Bridge (and more problems with Chrome not drawing the lines on my Bike Route Toaster map). So I have been driven to using Internet Explorer!! Why well I noticed that the routing suggests I jumped the Lode.

Lodes Way – “avoiding” Reach Lode bridge by jumping the Lode Smile

Reach Lode jump

Irrigating the fields near Reach Lode

After crossing the bridge I did stop along Split drove to check how well the crops were germinating – there was no sign of them last week. I did pass a car heading towards the bridge – you can just about make it out in this picture.

Plants spring up in the field alongside Split Drove

I also took a picture looking the other way along the drainage ditch – more for the almost abstract form.

Drainage Ditch alongside Split Drove

A last picture before finally getting my head down and heading home. The south facing leaves always seem to come out first – this is Headlake Drove just before the crossroads with the Swaffham Prior Upware road.

Headlake Drove – spring leaves on the trees

And finally some pictures – lightening does strike in the same place twice. And some cycling “celebs” – Samantha Cameron in a leather jacket (and helmet), Naomi Watts? and family and Conan O’Brian.

The Long Way to Wicken Fen, with a Long Lens part 1

Saturday, 30th March 2012: I like to carry a camera with me when I am out. When cycling I prefer to carry it on me rather than in my bike bag on the bike rack. That way the camera doesn’t get so rattled around – I think. It also means that I can get to my camera quicker if a picture presents itself. I do have a camera bag that goes on the handlebars – but I tend to only use that when touring. It is slightly better spring and probably protects the camera if I fall off – compared with carrying it on a strap around my neck.

The trouble is I am less inclined to carry around additional lenses for my Panasonic Lumix GH1 camera. Actually I only have two – a 14 – 140mm zoom and a 100 to 300mm lens. Which in 35mm speak would be 28-280 and 200-600mm. For some reason when I got my first SLR camera, a Canon AT-1 I coveted long zoom lenses, but they were always out of my reach. I did have a 50mm Canon lens, a Tamron 28mm lens and a Vivitar 70-210mm lens. The one I used the most was the 70-210 zoom, it was pretty good and I wanted to try an even longer lens. I guess I hadn’t quite twigged how a very long lens can be quite limiting.

All this means that  when I am cycling I tend not to carry my 100-300mm lens so much. It has its uses, no doubt, but is less flexible. So every now and then I make a point of taking it out. It does mean I have to think a little more about the pictures I want to take and I often find myself taking more than I would on a normal ride. Which is a long-winded way of explaining that although on a regular ride around Horningsea and Wicken Fen I have split the post into two.

I have also put the map picture second in the post as a picture looks more interesting than a map, I think, when seeing summaries of Posts. I am also going to try and label my pictures as I have found it tricky sometimes finding pictures in my Blog. I assume that Google Images associates nearby text with a picture. That kind of works but I have found some rather odd pictures popping up when searching my own Blog. There was a program run by Google to enlist people to use Google Image Labeller to label pictures as a game. I did try it once, but that was a few years ago – it ran from 2006 to 2011 according to the Wikipedia article.

So this ride started as a cycle around the Stow cum Quy fen area and then up to Wicken Fen. I do try to avoid following the same route every time though and since it has been dry I tried out a route I haven’t been on for a long time.

This is the start of the route out of Cambridge – Wadloes path (see Under Construction) it connects Howard Road with Fen Ditton High Street. Whilst it might look as if it is a mini-road to teach youngsters the highway code in their pedal cars the white lines do serve a purpose. As a shared-use path for cyclists and pedestrians it is rather narrow. In my view the white lines tend to encourage better sharing between pedestrians and cyclists. They also show up more when you cycle along here at night (with lights of course). I guess it is a bit shaded to make solar-powered led lights feasible.

Here is the Bike Route Taster map link to the map shown below, it is 54Km/34miles and hovers between 7 metres above sea level and  1m below sea level.

After passing through Fen Ditton I cycled down High Ditch Road to Low Fen Droveway and onto the A14 bridge. This is the view looking further down the track from the bridge. As I stood there there 4x4s cam zooming along – surprisingly fast for a road that has such potholes in it. They waved as they went by.

Apparently we do have a more general problem with our roads – which have been damaged by the drought. Apparently the County Council is asking for a hand-out emergency funding from the Government to the tune of £9.9million. I guess we will all have to drive and cycle more slowly until that happens. All things said and done I would rather my car got damaged than I got thrown off my bike though. Damage to wealth is better than damage to health (IMHO). The Fen areas have been worst affected – which doesn’t surprise me.

As I stood by the side of the bridge I also noticed some syringes discarded on the verge.  I suppose we should be grateful that the users had put caps on the end to minimise the risk of needlestick injuries. It makes me wonder who uses this bridge and when.

I cannot imagine that the syringes were left by walkers or pedestrians and are just another example of how motor vehicles cost society more than we might at first think. Now, clearly very, very few car drivers will also use syringes, but I do see a lot of general rubbish by the roadside. The A14 layby near the Crematorium (near Bar Hill) gets mentioned as an eyesore. Apparently the County Council spends £20,000 a year picking litter along the A14.  That is just wasted money paid out of our taxes and would be far better spent on public transport or care for the elderly. Unfortunately due to selfish and thoughtless behaviour it is a story repeated up and down the land.

After skirting around Snout’s Corner I came to a gate that blocks a bit of concrete path, next to the bridleway. It is normally closed – I wonder who opened it and left it open? As I cycled down towards the Horningsea Cycleway I noticed that the trees on Biggin Lane were just starting to come into leaf, with the ones nearest the road leading the way.

I have been getting a bit of creaking from my seat post/saddle area on my Marin and did remember to check it out before setting of. I re-greased the post which has quietened it down. I did notice what seems to be a deep scratch or crack at the top of the seat post. So I planned on calling into Ben Hayward Cycles to get their advice. They were busy so I carried on – it is the season to be cycling – no doubt about that and so some people’s thoughts turn to new bikes and I guess others turn to maintenance of older bikes.

When I turned off the road onto the bridleway to Lode I was amazed at how quickly the oil seed rape had come into flower. (According to Wikipedia it was grown in the 19th Century as a source of lubricant for steam engines.)

This is how responsible farmers ensure they don’t block rights of way. In this case it is a footpath leading off past Eye Hall Farm and on towards Bottisham Lode and the potential link between the River Cam NCN11 and Lodes Way.

This the bridleway route towards Lode. Better than some roads around these parts?

It as as I was taking pictures across the top of the yellow fields that I realised that I could see Swaffham Prior in the far distance. You can see one of the windmills, that water tower and some way off the the right of the picture one of the church towers.

This picture was supposed to focus on that prominent plant to the front and right. Apparently it is could be a volunteer or it might just be a rogue seed in the batch.

I am not sure whether it is just my poor memory – however I reckon that when I was growing up the tractor tracks in fields were more random. Nowadays they are set to ensure coverage with the various bits of equipment towed by the tractors in order to maximise yield .

This has to be one of the best bridleways around – although I am not sure I have actually seen any horses being ridden along it. Actually thinking about it the CGB cycleway is a bridleway for much of its length. That is probably the best one and is used by horse riders.

The route turns off down a field – well the cycle-able bit anyway. (From a right of way perspective). It seems to have acquired a new signpost – although perhaps we are preparing for war and the sign posts won’t actually be signed. This is where I turn right – Stow cum Quy Fen is straight on.

And this is the bridleway down the field that I shall be riding along. You can just about see two walkers at the bottom. There is a left turn towards Quy Fen there as well (for walkers). I carried on past Alicky Farm and the to Lode.

At Lode I joined the Lodes Way through to White Fen.  You can already see some trees coming into leaf  - the two smaller ones between the taller tress on the right hand side of the picture. The path is where Lodes Way wends through White Fen.

And just in case you didn’t see which trees I meant – here is a close-up – oh the joys of zoom lenses.

I ought to just point you at John’s blog – he is the Wicken Fen Vision Warden and has an update on the rough camping site being prepared near Oily Hall.

I usually turn off Lodes Way and head off to Upware, before looping back through Wicken Fen. Quite a few of the fields on Great Drove have been covered in “plastic”. I wonder how they decide which way they are going to plant their crops.

These are two separate fields – at least I think they are.

At the top of Great Drove I stopped, near the Little Chapel in the Fen. I tried out my panning skills when a furry two-headed rodent squirrel ran across the road. I definitely need more practice.

Where I grew up in Somerset is was our usual practice as boys to go off roaming around the countryside whenever we could. There is a lot to see and explore from potholes to gorges and old ruins. As boys were paid no attention whatsoever to footpaths and would roam across fields and climb fences. Most of the time we would obey “Private” signs, unless they happened to be randomly placed in the middle of nowhere.

It was also not unusual to see farmers out with their shotguns, both in organised shoots and presumably out to bag a rabbit for the pot. It was also not unusual to see where someone had taken a pot-shot at a road sign. I and a couple of friends also had a farmer wave his shotgun in our direction – the international sign for get lost – quickly I think.

Nowadays it would seem that as the UK has become more populated and there is more abhorrence of guns in general you rarely see much evidence of farmers out shooting. Although cover crops are grown around here and which I associated with cover for the rearing of game birds.

I was surprised to see that this road sign at the top of Great Drove had been shot (by someone using a shotgun). Judging by how little the pellets have spread whoever did it was pretty close. They were therefore likely to be using it form the road – which is illegal. Apparently this is a crime that is spreading – “shotgun-toting vandals a sign of trouble”. Here is a link to the website – Gunfire Graffiti -  which focuses on this particular type of crime.

As you can see not only is this a bumpy road is it also slippery.  (Here is my tale of hearing machine gun fire whilst out on a peaceful cycle ride.)