Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cycling to Hemingford Abbots via Sustrans 51 and back with the wind on the Cambridge Guided Busway (again!)

One thing about the Spring sun is it makes me want to venture further afield on my bike - even when I don't quite have the time to do so. The adventure of working from home is that I can get up early and clear the decks and then get out for a ride mid-afternoon (which means 3pm for me). There is also the advantage that it gets warmer during the day - cold nights - but sunny days. There was quite a strong wind around today and as I prefer to cycle into the wind going and with the wind on the way home that set my direction for the day. As the wind was blowing from the North-West (up to 15-20mph I think) that meant heading out up towards St Ives.

A quick scan of the Sustrans map and it looks as if there will be an alternative route between St Ives and Hemingford Abbots - although only a small part of it was shown as open - hum be interesting to explore that. I also realised that the off-road cycle route between Hemingford Abbots and Godmanchester runs alongside a disused railway - how had I managed to miss that?

As I was not supposed to be out too long I set off up Sustrans 51 and depending on how windy it was and how "fit" I was feeling - and not too many photograph stops. I had to stop on Sustrans 51 near the Newmarket Road Park and Ride Car park where the route goes off road towards Fison Road. The hedgerow was multi-coloured with different blossoms and shades of green topped by some puffy white clouds.


The next time I stopped was on the outskirts of Oakington - motorists - they hate cyclists blocking their roads but then block the shared cycle-paths - perhaps they think that they get to share as well. Why - well I guess he (probably a he) does not want his fine car damaged by all the other irresponsible motorists. He knows that some motorists just don't give enough space when they whizz past slower or parked "objects". He also knows that cyclists will take more care when passing his fine piece of metal as the cyclist is way more vulnerable.


I stopped to take a picture of a quaint cottage framed by a Horse Chestnut tree in the nearby Churchyard. Unfortunately the wind was blowing the branches around and as an HDR picture it looked weird (multiple branches) and as a normal picture it looked dull so some nearby purple flowers got into the Post instead (Aubretia).


I followed the Sustrans 51 route properly this time - no detours past mare Fen and hardly stopped - despite the wind it was such a nice day I just had to cycle up to Godmanchester and on the bit of off-road sustrans 51 between Hemingford Abbots and Godmanchester stopped to take a photograph of the railway track bed. Now I know it is a disused railway it is easier to spot - it appears on the 1940 OS map as the Huntingdon and St Ives Branch (LN&ER). The Godmanchester Station seems to have been on the outskirts of Huntington rather than Godmanchester - as was often the case with railway stations.


This is the view that passengers on that railway would have enjoyed. That Communication tower in the distance lies alongside the A14 - which follows in part the route of a Roman Road. It is a very busy road one of the reasons for justifying/creating the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB)


On my way back through Hemingford Abbots I was making good time despite the wind against me - and now I had the wind with me for the return journey so I decided to explore the Sustrans 51 Stub to see where it might go. The route turns off Common Lane onto Meadow Lane a "No Through Road". Interesting that the name of the road was Common Road as there are some far from common houses along it. I had always assumed that this road led to the River great Ouse and no further but it had already gotten some older "Cycle Route" signs so it should lead somewhere. It shows how observant I am - not.

The route followed a bridleway across a bit of the River Great Ouse (the area is a floodplain and the river seems to take multiple routes through). I stopped at the first bridge - called Black Bridge to take pictures up- and down-stream.


On this map this bit does not have a name - but is quite a wide stretch of water.


The bridleway was tarmacked across Hemingford Meadow where it reached Houghton Mill where it was possible to cross the rest of the River Great Ouse - by foot (with my bike). At hits point I did not have a firm plan as to how I was going to get back to St Ives so I headed out and reached the A1123. I would not recommend it - a very busy road - the footpath on the right-hand side (looking towards St Ives) appeared to have intermittent Cycle path signs - but was barely wide enough for one cyclist let along two. When I got home it appears there are paths that presumably Sustrans is negotiating with the "powers that be" on access for cyclists which will make this a much more delightful route for touring cyclists.


As I was still on a bit of a deadline I carried on through and decided to take the CGB route back to Cambridge - it is a fairly straight run as it meanders less than the Sustrans 51 route. The last time I travelled this way, earlier in the month, there were three areas of the shared-used cycle path that were impassable without resorting to the concrete tracks of the Busway. This time around when I reached the first bit of flooding it looked shallow enough to risk cycling through it. Almost a mistake - the path was so soggy that my wheels sank and it was all I could do not to sink into the ground and stop. I managed to keep the bike going but 25mm wide tyres were not really suitable. The real problem was not the depth of the water it was the quality of the path underneath having been flooded for so long. Then I came to this stretch of path - again as I got closer my wheels sank - discretion was the better part of valour, I resorted to the Concrete tracks. where on earth is all the water coming from? It almost appears as if the paths have been designed to flood!


The last of the three remaining stretches - once again I chickened out - maybe on an MTB and if the water had been clearer I would have cycled through - but not today. You can see the wind causing ripples on the water though and that wind was behind me.


Elsewhere the cycle path is actually pretty good - two hard-pack lines have appeared and they make a good surface for cycling along - with the wind behind me it was 32Kmh/20mph cycling. The windmill in the picture was turning - which if you look closely you can see.


The shared-use path swaps sides from time to time as the CGB crosses various roads. I must have passed around 20 cyclists, who looked like commuter cyclists - all but one on the Concrete tracks though. I don't know why I like this small windmill blowing in a field alongside the CGB. A splash of red amongst the green fields and blue skies.


At this point the track is on the right hand side of the CGB - you can see what I mean about the two lines appearing. It implies there is reasonable maintenance traffic along here - although I only met one van though. A but further on the track is starting to pit - small potholes are appearing - I hope this does not mean it will deteriorate too quickly. At the moment it is acceptable (IMHO) for commuting much more deterioration and it will put off longer distance commuting.


A closeup of the small windmill.


A great ride, especially with the wind behind me on the way back and on such a sunny day. I was amused to see that yet another CGB deadline has come and gone. In the Cambridge News it was reported that "Transport bosses miss deadline to name date for guided busway". Why am I not surprised? Given the list of defects I would expect to see the CGB a hive of activity considering how much money is tied up in a construction and not doing anything for Cambridgeshire. I am still concerned that the quality of the cycle-path will be compromised in the name of expediency.


  1. Why are all your photos glowing?!

    1. They are multiple exposure and then combined using Photomatix pro. I like the "glow" it brings.