Monday, April 19, 2010

Cycling Along Swaffham Bulbeck Lode and Ambulances at Wicken Fen

Two things seem to be continuing here in the Flatlands - sunny skies and no aeroplanes. It has got colder, some mornings there is a ground frost. Mind you by the time you read this (and I have actually posted it) the planes will be flying again. When I return from a ride I generally download the route from my GPS, add the distances/times/speeds to a spreadsheet where I keep a note of all my cycle rides. (So far this year I have cycled 3,608.03Km and cycled 2 out of every three days and am on target for 12,000Km for the year.

I also jot down some words to remind me what happened on the cycle ride and also transfer the pictures I took onto my computer. I then start converting any multi-exposure pictures into an "HDR" picture using Photomatix. This stage normally takes a bit of time and I don't often get them all converted before I get a 30min warning to take a shower or bath before we eat our evening meal. I then end up converting the rest of the pictures in drabs and drabs, which can mean early-ish the next morning. (I tend to get up first in the house - although not always!) Having converted them I then review and tweak all of the pictures taken in Picasa (contrast/tuning, crop, straighten and sharpen are the main tools). I then select a mix of pictures (both ordinary exposure and multi-exposure as not all pictures/subjects/results work in HDR) and export them using Picasa to a new directory. I then create a new Post page using Zoundry Raven and dump the exported pictures into it - then convert them all to 600 pixels in width, add a black border and centre them up. I then save the post in "draft" form which uploads the pictures to my Picasaweb account and takes 10 minutes or so depending upon the number of pictures. I try to keep below 15/post as Zoundry has problems showing pictures sometimes with too many in a post. At this point the post is ready for writing - and so I add text around the pictures - also highlighting any snippets of cycling related stuff in the press.

So there are four cycle-related pieces of news that caught my eye. "Van driver fined for angry attack on cyclist", "Pedestrian seriously injured by cyclist in hit-and-run", "£3m railway station plan unveiled by campaigners" and finally "Britain's barmiest bike lane that is wider then the CAR lane". The first three are from the Cambridge News and the last one from the Daily Mail. The first two pieces highlight the tensions of getting around. Both are wrong, in both cases the perpetrators should be punished. Unfortunately in the latter case the "cyclist" ran off and it looks as if he dumped his bike. In both cases they highlight interactions between two very different forms of transport - motor vehicle and bike, and bike and pedestrian. Part of the challenge is that there are laws of the road, but not for the pavement/shared footpath - in the sense that when we walk along a footpath we feel it is ok to wander around, or 4 abreast or with a dog wandering to and fro. I think we need to make both roads and paths safer - by better design and segregation. It is about time we started devoting more resource to bicycles as a separate form of transport.

The third news piece caught my eye - there is talk of a second railway station in Cambridge - the city equivalent of a "two car family"? There are some good reasons why it makes sense - and certainly if we are to get a further shift from using the car as a means of transport then we do need to radically improve alternatives (rail, bus, bike and walking). The interesting thing about this piece is that it has been proposed by an independent group Cast.Iron. I think they were originally set up to promote the re-use of the Cambridge to St Ives disused railway line as a railway versus the Cambridge Guided Busway.

Finally the last piece about a rather odd cycle lane. To me it highlights some of the issues - this seems to be a case of "designing" (or rather painting) a road for the effect rather than properly thinking out the issues. The more I cycle (and perhaps the older I get) the more I believe that we need to devote real resource to cyclists - segregated and dedicated cycle routes. Our tax money is being wasted with some of the crazy fiddling around the edges that is occurring at the moment. Mind you after thinking about the issues the country faces as we prepare for a General Election I believe that we as a country need to move away from a "make do" approach and get better at long-term strategic planning.

Oops too much ranting - back to a sunnier topic - cycling on a sunny Sunday afternoon. My usual stand-by route an amble through the Fens - White Fen and Wicken Fen. The leaf painter has been painting a bit more of this tree on the banks of Swaffham Bulbeck Lode - perhaps he will get around to the trees on either side next!


The National Trust have put in a couple of picnic tables in the corner of White Fen near to the bridge over the Lode. Actually I was sitting on one bench when I took the previous picture. This picture is of the field adjacent to the picnic tables. The oilseed rape is rapidly coming into flower.


Once I crossed the Lode I carried on up the farm track alongside the Lode - it was a sunny afternoon - sightseeing not speed. The track has dried out and is 3m/10ft below the lode bank so you can't actually see the water. I did see this cowslip (Primula veris)growing in the bank though.


The view from the top of the bank - the farm track is to the right of the picture (and quite a bit lower) - Swaffham Bulbeck Fen also lies to the right - it is now fields. This picture looks North.


The Lode joins with the River Cam at Swaffham Lock. Here is a pumping station - part of the extensive network of Lodes/Drains and pumps that keep us dry here in the Fens. You can visit "The Museum of Fenland Drainage" at a place called Prickwillow near Ely for a more hands on look at how the drainage was/is achieved. The systems are electric now, but used to be wind powered and then converted to steam before being converted to electric pumps.


This is part of Swaffham Lock looking to the River Cam side. The bridge is part of a footpath alongside the River Cam. I took several pictures here - this one got chosen because I liked the greeny tinge of the reflections in the water.


The view looking back down the Lode from Swaffham Lock towards Swaffham Bulbeck. The grass seems to have re-grown after the repairs over the Winter period.


On the way back down the track I stopped at Commissioner's Drain - this runs at right angles to Swaffham Bulbeck Lode and is 3-4m/10-13ft lower than the Lode.


So there is Swaffham Tunnel which allows Commissioner's Drain to pass under Swaffham Bulbeck Lode. When I saw it marked on the map I think I was expecting something a little larger - tunnel - pipe - although Swaffham Pipe does not sound so interesting.


I then cycled along Headlake Drove, with a brief stop to show how the leaf painter has been busy here as well.


There was not much to photograph at the site of the new bridge over Reach Lode being built as part of Lodes Way. I did see the alien locust that has been stripping the leek fields though. Whilst crawling along the field it seems to get power from the sky as well!


As I was cycling through Wicken Fen (on Sustrans 51) there were a couple of ambulances with lights flashing, one by the entrance and one deeper in the Fen. I hope there has not been a problem. As a Sunday it was busy and they seem to have put sign boards out on one of the walks.


One of the ambulances, the path in front of the ambulance is part of Sustrans 51.


On my way back I noticed that the aliens must also have been sucking power out of the National Grid near Reach.


On my way back towards Cambridge I was flashed. There were several groups of people walking back towards Burwell from Reach and it looked as if they might have been enjoying the hospitality of the pub in Reach - Dyke's End. Because as I went by they shouted cyclist and lifted their t-shirts and flashed their chests at me. Unfortunately (from my perspective) they were men.

To add to the slightly surreal nature of the afternoon as I approached white Fen a couple of young men in a car stopped me (single track country lane - I was busy being surprised they slowed down at all). Did I know any local farms where they could go shooting? At this point I wondered what guns did they have in the car - they did not look like farmers with shotguns. The spring weather is definitely having an effect on people.