Monday, January 4, 2010

Cycling on Ice - in the Fens

It seems that we are in for a cold spell - for these parts anyway. Overnight temperatures will drop to as little as -6C with daytime temperatures of between 1C and -1C over the next week. Whilst there are parts of the world, indeed parts of the UK, that have to deal with much colder weather it does present some challenges. Not all roads get gritted and certainly not the routes I take which don't always follow roads or commuter cycle routes. So it means having the right clothing and paying attention to the road (path) surface.

This is on top of the problems we face in Cambridge where apparently we are "Worst place in Britain for cycle thefts" with a theft rate 75% higher than Oxford. This comes on the back of Lily Cole (Cambridge University going supermodel) calling the cycle facilities at the Cambridge Railway Station as a "cesspit of bikes". I don't disagree with her. (For non UK residents that means I agree with her!) Mind you anybody would imagine it is the cyclists faults for not locking their bikes properly. A sad fact of life is that in these circumstances there is a tendency to offer advice - but of course it is only worth listening to law-abiding types. So the hard-done by cyclists are implicitly to blame for not locking their bikes up. And yes - I have had a bike stolen from the Railway Station - yes it was locked, yes I did report it and no I did not get it back. If possible I use Station Cycles to park my bike for times when I go to London by train - it costs around £1 or so for a day's parking.

Back to the icy roads - here is Commercial End in Swaffham Bulbeck - or the road to it anyway. It is shaded from the effects of the winter sun and so can be quite interesting - in turned out to be not too slippy - but there is a slight drop at the end where you really don't want to be out of control.


I have taken part in the odd shooting competition in my younger days - targets not animals - here is a pheasant I shot earlier this afternoon -photographically of course.


The road to White Fen - icy but crunchy ice which is not so slippy.


Today I went out in ordinary boots without cleats to test my theory that it is the cleat that drains away heat into the pedal. I did not wear an extra pair of leggings though - my legs felt cold - but they do most of the work and can stand it - it was pretty cold though. As I passed the Maids Head pub in Wicken Fen their were thatchers doing the roof - I do not envy them on a winters day.


Here is a thatcher wapping some thatch down - very sensibly he is wearing a hat.


When I pass horse-riders I sometimes offer to swap - after all sitting there is bound to be easier than having to provide the energy to keep moving. Not today - the cycling at least helps the body to generate some heat. Actually when it is sunny it is quite pleasant once you've reached a reasonable operating temperature. Mind you I have seen more horses and their riders over the last two days than I normally see in a month. Towards the end of today's ride I passed a pony and trap - that really must have been a cold way to travel.


The Water Pump at Wicken Fen - it did not being life here - but was a water pump.


The clear sky and setting sun tinged the sky an interesting orange colour.


The path I have been banging on about recently as being covered with ice, through Wicken Fen. I got there early enough for there to be enough daylight to take a picture. This looked worse than it actually was. Earlier on as I cycled through the village on one of the back roads I had to brake for some people walking along with their dog - unfortunately the road was covered with black ice and it was all I could do to stay upright. I did though.


The same path with the sun setting just around the corner. The path was not continuous ice just large patches every now and then. Sometimes I went up onto the grass and sometimes I just hung on and tried not to wobble.


If I am ever passing Baker's Fen at sunset I have to take a picture - and here it is.


There often has to be a zoom photo as well. I am sure the sun looks bigger on the horizon than it does when up in the sky.


Just to demonstrate how cold it really is - Burwell Lode under High Bridge - frozen over.


At this time if year in the Fens they often deliberately flood fields in order to facilitate ice-skating and they also hold competitions. Some pictures even made the National Newspapers.

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