Normally when cycling through Bury St Edmunds I tend to take a more direct route, because I know it. The first time I noticed that Sustrans had opened up the Sustrans 51 route to the East of Bury St Edmunds it took me ages to find the route. It follows a cycle/path-way down a road called Honey Hill and past Old Shire Hall. My approach became one of heading towards the Abbey Gardens/Cathedral along Angel Hill and then turn down Honey Hill and the route then appears to go through some car parks. On the OS map it passes through the Crankles, on the OSM map it is called Kevelaer Way alongside No man's Meadows.
This time around I followed the Sustrans 51 route through the town- or rather around the houses. The Google Earth "snip" shown here shows my GPS trace as I cycled through. Almost as soon as you enter the outskirts of the town the route then turns right and heads off through various estates and alongside (or near) the River Linnet - with a nice bit of off-road through Holywater Meadows. By off-road I mean away from traffic along a decent path through the park - not some tricky mountain descent.
In terms of tricky it was the navigation that got to me. With all the "ducking and diving" around the back streets and then crossing onto pavement and dismounting I lost my way. Or rather, I lost sight of Sustrans 51 signs. So I gave up on the Sustrans Route and using my trusty GPS headed yo where I thought I should be heading. Looking at the Sustrans Map there is indeed a loop around this bit of town and I must have missed the turning and once I looped I was unable to work out from the Sustrans signs which direction to go in. Perhaps it is just me - but I do find navigating Sustrans routes around towns to be tricky because you just have to pay attention to the traffic and the route takes second place in priority terms. Then once you have lost the route it can be tricky back-tracking. Whereas when following a route in a car the signs don't suddenly disappear when you take a wrong turn (usually).
I sometimes take the relevant bit of map with me - but even then only use it to take the direct route. In this case I did enjoy the "suburbs" route and if you look at the trace it is fairly direct and the journey through the meadows is quite pleasant.
The route heads East out of the town into a new development over a bridge of the A14 (this was the third time of crossing). Here is the A14 - looking East (in the Cambridge direction) the silos to the right of the picture are part of the British Sugar Corporation. Here they process sugar beet to produce sugar - you can smell sweetness in the air sometimes - but not today.
The path on the bridge - it comes to a T-junction. Sustrans 521 is signed both ways and I did not pay enough attention - I should have gone left - I went right. I did come to another sign that pointed towards Thurston/52 which was where I was heading. Having looked at the OS map I can see why I went wrong - the OS map shows the route going to the right.
Fortunately the wrong way also had signs to the "right way" and some decent shred use cycle paths. This view looks back towards the town - you can see the "new" Cathedral tower in the mid-distance.
Another OAK which looks as if it might have Acute Oak Disorder (AOD). I like the way the grass has not been cut around the base of the tree though.
If you look back at the Google Earth "snip" you can also see that I got a little lost again. There has been a lot of new building in this part of the "town" and cycle routes appear all over the place - although not always the one I wanted to follow. Eventually I stopped and asked a chap cutting the verges - he pointed me in the right direction. Apparently there have been quite a lot of changes to the cycle routes, in fact at the point where I relented and asked for directions there was a post with what looked like a torn Sustrans 51 sticker. Thinking about it perhaps it was deliberately torn off when the route was changed rather than just a bit or random vandalism.
The route out of Bury St Edmunds is very pleasant for cyclists though and has a lot of off-road and quiet road sections. It passes the Flying Fortress pub and then Rougham Airfield. at one point the Pub was commandeered for use by the U.S. 8th Air Force for Technical Stores and the website has some photographs from the era - apparently there are many more at the pub! The cycle route alongside the airfield appears purpose built. The route then crosses the road, where you find yourself having to cross what looks like a significant railway line on foot (with the bike obviously). The line connects Cambridge and Ipswich (as well as Ely) so I guess is not that busy. I have crossed this point a few times and not seen any trains go by. I still "stopped, looked and listened" though
After crossing there is a country lane which passes through Thurston, past Thurston Community College before turning down Station Hill and then taking to some paths through the village before popping out at a bridge carrying the railway line.
This is the view along the track Cambridge direction (taken from the other side of the fence - no I did not stand on the track-side.) Although it is dual-track here the route has not been electrified. I think that it is also a Goods train route. Thurston has a station and according to Wikipedia has seen passenger growth from 14,000 in '04/'05 to 40,000 in '08/'09. I wonder why - less jobs in the rural areas or more people moving out to enjoy the quality of life in rural areas?
A rather nice brick bridge taking the railway line over the road in Thurston.
After Thurston the route gets quite rural - this is Hollow lane - with cow parsley growing on the verges along with various other spring flowers.
The road is quiet - although I did pass one car I think - you can tell is can't be that busy look at the gravel down the middle of the road - a sign - traffic would "sweep" it I think.
The hedgerow was quite dense - but I did take a picture through it - this tree in the distance caught my eye and after setting the camera to manual I discovered that it digitally zooms in to make manual focusing easier. The challenge with this type of scene is that the camera's auto-focus tends to pick up on the near objects such as the tree and shrubs in the foreground. Having discovered the facility I am impressed - I must use it more often. (Normally I would keep moving the camera around to get a lock on the bit of the scene I wanted in focus - this will make it quicker. The "zoom" only happens when you turn the focus ring and then resets when you press the shutter button to the exposure lock. Yes I know I should read the flippin' manual but isn't "need the mother of just-in-time discovery"?
I couldn't resist taking a picture of some bluebells by the roadside. This time I set my camera to the "flower" setting. I generally use my camera with a more manual setting but sometimes the automatic pre-sets are useful.
The hedgerow in which the bluebells were nestling. The route carried on through Tostock a small village before heading south back over the A14, and then East (after a shortish distance towards Drinkstone, better link.)
The route out of Drinkstone follows Deadman's Lane before jinking off to Woolpit. If you look at the map it could quite easily have carried on - the journey through Woolpit was a diversion - a picturesque place perhaps. (Or more so than Woolpit Green the alternative and more direct route.) The link points to the village website - next time I must check out the Green Children on the road sign. One of the interesting features of picturesque routes is that you see some of the local landmarks from different directions and get confused as to wheat direction you really are heading in (Drinkstone mill is one such landmark).