Monday, March 22, 2010

Walking around Wicken Fen

There is going to be a little less cycling this week as my Mum has come to stay. I did suggest that we could go out on the Tandem, but she turned down my kind offer! I wonder why? When I went to pick her up the weather was cold and rainy and wet and to make matters worse in the drive up to her place I had two road closures due to road repairs that detoured me (an extra 30miles) and I got stuck for one and a half hours on the M6 because a multi-vehicle crash had blocked all but one lane of the motorway where the M6 and M6 Toll roads met. This meant 6 lanes of traffic being funnelled down to one lane. That is why I prefer cycling!

Sunday the weather had changed for the better. It was much warmer and sunny. We drove out to Wicken Fen to have a walk around. When we got there the car park was packed and we had to park in the over-flow car park. I was surprised, although Sunday is generally the busiest day I do not normally see quite so many cars. (An update: "Nature Fen up for Top Award" - it appears Wicken Fen has a chance for an award for Best Active Venue in the Rough Guide to Accessible Britain Awards.)

I am a member of the NT and was expecting to park for free, but when I checked the Pay and Display meter it turned out that the NT were running a bonus weekend when visits to their properties was free for all. As a member I also got a voucher so that I can take a guest the next time I visit a property (before end June I think - must check).

Normally I cycle around the Fen but this time we went inside to walk along the board walk. It was likely to be more sheltered and less muddy than the external paths, although they look to have dried up quite well. Anyway I have not been in for a while. I was wondering whether it would be rather busy - but it is a large place and despite the huge numbers of cars once we headed away from the visitor centre it was very peaceful and we only passed other people occasionally.

We had both put coats on but with the shelter from the wind and the sun beating down (yes really) it was pretty hot. The Fen is a reminder of what the countryside would look like without the network of Lodes and pumps that help to drain the Flatlands of the Fens. Mum used her walking stick to check the depth of the water - only a couple of inches so even if a toddler happened to toddle over the edge of the board walk it would not be a problem.

When I first used to visit Wicken Fen the boardwalk was made of wooden planning - it has now been replaced by plastic wood effect boards - which look realistic we had to stop an examine them to make sure they weren't wood. With the large amount of water I presume the wood used to rot too quickly - and it was probably not good for the wildlife to use loads of preservative on the wood either.

The boardwalk follows 4 edges of a large rectangle and is 3/4 of a mile in length - and ideal for pushchairs and wheel chairs since it is a flat stable surface but and excellent way to see how the Fens were. We took a detour so probably walked around a mile and a half or so in the end.

This is a typical scene - rushes, flooding and a few trees.


The route also takes you past a Windmill - or rather a Windpump which was originally used elsewhere to control water levels in the peat digging areas. This windpump is now serves a different purpose - instead of draining the land it is used to pump water onto this part of the Fen (Sedge Fen). Not that it needs more water at the moment.


I took this picture because it reminded me of rice paddies I have seen in Cambodia and Vietnam.


This picture makes the clouds look darker than they really were - nice reflections of the ditches though.


As we walked around we could see across Wicken Lode to the Sustrans 51 shared use cycle path through Wicken Fen. The fine weather had brought out quite a few cyclists, there were quite a few parked at the NT reserve. Here are two coming from the Burwell direction.


There is a bird watching tower - walked up to it but did not climb it - the stairs inside are quite steep.


At one point we sat down to admire the views - the Fen is a very peaceful place - we could not hear much traffic noise - the Fen seemed to go on for ever in some directions.


Walking back along the side of Wicken Lode. There are walks on either side of this Lode and although the rushes are cut back they leave a sprinkling along the edge.


This is my favourite picture of the ones I took this time around. I did not have to try very hard to avoid getting people in the shot.


The tree in the middle of these two pictures is the same one - the clouds look as if they are leaving behind trails as they travel across the sky.


We went out along the Upware Road to get to Wicken Fen - my Mum was surprised how litter free and clear the countryside is - let's keep it that way. I was surprised how bumpy the road is - or rather how undulating it is. I have not driven along the road for a long time, although I cycle along it several times a week. I realised that it is the undulating surface that keeps most cars from speeding. The cars quickly starts bouncing more and more if you go too fast. Now I do understand the principles of resonance - what good is a Physics degree if I didn't - however it would take some nerve to drive faster and faster beyond the resonance "speed" - but there are some cars that do it and then pass my cycling with inches to spare.

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