Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rolling along the Roman from from Cambridge to Balsham and back the longer way in Spring

When I go out cycling (and walking, or just out for that matter) I usually take my camera. When I return home I usually select a few pictures of the ride and then create a new DRAFT Post and load the pictures into the Post and then later on when I have a few minutes write the Post. Unfortunately over the weekend I noticed that around 30 or so older Posts had lost their photographs.

I create Posts using an off-line editor - Zoundry Raven. This uploads my Posts onto the Blogspot website and uploads my pictures onto my Picasaweb photo store from where the Post links to the pictures. Picasaweb has some limitations on the number of photographs in an Album and so from time to time I have to do some housekeeping. On Friday I moved several hundred photographs from the Album used by Zoundry Raven into a new one. I has assumed that the link used within the Post would not change. Unfortunately it seems that it did in my case and so quite a few posts were devoid of pictures.

I ran a test and uploaded a picture into one album as part of a Post and then moved the picture - no problems it was still visible in the post and had the same URL. I joined the Google Help forum - but over the weekend decided it would be easier to republish the Posts. One advantage of using an off-line editor. This had the disadvantage of duplicating a bunch of pictures - but by deleting the "rogue" album I should be able to deal with that. Unfortunately this took me away from generating new posts - so my apologies. I now have 4 Draft sets of pictures awaiting words

One bonus though - the weather is so nice I have been unable to resist going out for a spin - even when I should be doing other things. When I set out on this ride I was not really sure where to go and on my way through to Lode from Cambridge (via Sustrans 51) decided to head back through the Wilbrahams to Fulbourn and then onto the Roman Road (Cambridge to Balsham). Once I got to Balsham I then followed the Icknield Way before heading to Westley Bottom across the Cambridge to Ipswich Railway line towards the A11 then alongside it before turning towards Swaffham Prior and then round to White Fen.

The map below shows the route I took - these links 1 and 2 show the OSM Cycle map of the area. I have marked in blue the off-road parts of the route (including Sustrans 51 along the Newmarket Road) and in yellow the on-road bits. The are places that have shared paths (Lode road into Bottisham) but as I did not use them I have shown them as roads. I would guess that a good third of the route was along by-ways - which were almost deserted.

RR April 2010 Mkd.jpg

Just outside Bottisham I walked into a field to take a picture of the oilseed rape with a Horse chestnut tree in leaf in the background.


In fact I liked the view so much I took a similar picture but showing a red corrugated roof in contrast to the yellow. Normally I force myself to only use one picture when they are so similar - I couldn't choose in this case.


This is how the Roman Road looks when you first enter from Shelford Road/Worts Causeway end. If you follow the link it has a Google Streetview image - you travel down for around 100yards/100m before turning left onto the Roman Road.


A little but further on the track passes under a canopy of Beech trees - already in leaf. The track is pretty good here - but there are occasional sandy bits that can make the wheels drag.


The "Road" has some information boards along its route showing where you are and what wildlife there is to see.


The route is not flat - although there are not any really steep bits either. This view is looking back towards the Cambridge end. I did not meet any walkers on the path but did pass a couple of cyclists going back to Cambridge.


Spring was doing well along the Road with hedgerow blossom, new leaves on the trees and in places bunches and bunches of cowslips growing.


The blossom was glorious. At this point I will mention that I was wearing a helmet - both because the track can get a little rugged and tip the unwary cyclist of his or her bike and because the fresh growth can lead to branches and brambles hanging at head height (on a bike) across the path. I find sunglasses and a helmet good anti-bramble protection. (I once got caught by brambles when cycling to the railway station in Cambridge for an early morning breakfast meeting in London. When I got to the station the and bought my ticket I got a funny look - when in went into the toilets I could see why I had blood running down my face and matted in my hair. It made for an interesting meeting in London (I was interviewing someone for a job!).


It seems to me that as well as the fresh growth Spring also seems to bring out the fly-tippers. Whoever left these drove a quarter of a mile along the track (where it crossed a country lane) to tip these tyres. What a tosser eh. Apparently the cost varies from around £1 to £8 per tyre depending upon the size. Assuming around 30 tyres at, say £3 each then whoever did this saved £90 - as I said - what a tosser.


Towards the Balsham end the track is also used as a farm track. I have also seen motor cycles along here, so could also be used by 4x4 drivers as well. This requires a bit of care and both forward planning; when the ruts get deep the pedals can easily catch the side and throw you off. I generally either stick to the middle or the outside - but the outside has overhanging brambles and the middle can be very narrow - which requires confidence in your ability to balance.


I took a by-way route to Balsham which also a farm track for part of its way - tricky but easier than the last bit of the Roman Road.


In Balsham I decided I wanted to cycle along a bit more by-way - much nicer on a sunny Spring day than noisy roads so I headed left (towards Cambridge) and found the Icknield Way at the edge of the village. The track was quite passable - although at one point it looked as if a load of rubbish had been ploughed into the ground. The surface was very bumpy - small bumps though - so quite safe to cycle on - just very unpleasantly bumpy. Actually it was ok - and so nice to be out in the countryside.

Also you can see planes flying in the skies again - or in this case the contrails they leave behind.


There are still quite a few farm buildings out and about using corrugated asbestos - not to be treated lightly according to the Health and Safety Executive website. (There are three types - all dangerous but the blue and brown types are more dangerous than the white.)


TI then decided to head off down to Westley Bottom in search of some more off-road cycling. The road down was a reasonable hill - I reached around 30mph/50Kph. Unusually I also passed a car on this single width road - he thought it would be ok to speed past me inches from my handlebars. At the bottom of the road you have to stop and cross a railway line - in this case not a busy one - the Cambridge to Ipswich line - no trains came along whilst I was there.


Then on the other side the road turned bumpy - although this odd looking building was visible from the track, the hill was called Bungalow Hill - named after the building? It turns out to be a listed building and is known as The Folly and was claimed to be Britain's first bungalow when built.

before crossing the busy A1304 onto a byway which seemed to be pitted with rabbit holes. I could have carried on along the by-way to wards Bottisham and picked up Sustrans 51 to Cambridge - but instead turned of on another byway just before the A11


I did cross the A11 using the bridge briefly as I was deciding which way to go. There was time to take a picture of some more "agricultural art" in the field.


The route up the hill alongside the A11 is shown here it was only a 20m climb.


With a brief detour onto the roads I was able to pick up on a by-way alongside the A14 (as the A11 merges with the A14 nearby) before leaving that noisy by-way to cycle back towards civilisation - well actually Swaffham Prior along the Heath road - not to be confused with the Swaffham Heath Road. This was being used as a barrier to the field and not as art - I wonder if farmers get tax breaks when they make such diverse uses of their equipment.


There was a nice view of one of the two Swaffham Prior windmills from the Heath Road. This one is called the Smock Mill the other one is Fosters Mill.


My route then took me along the Upware road to White Fen - where there was time to take a picture of this tree - which has featured the last few times I have been by - the leaves have really come on well.


When they built the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode bridge they dug out a couple of pits to encourage further wildlife diversity - when I went past this one I wondered whether it had sprung a leak though!


I could have gone through to Horningsea from Lode but stuck with the roads/shared paths instead for the last bit into Cambridge - a great Spring Cycle in the countryside - especially when it was warm enough for shorts, t-shirt and (cycling) sandals (and helmet).

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