One of the great things about working from home is that you can start work early, dressed however you want. You don't need to start with a shower or breakfast. You can have breakfast during your first break, skip lunch and wahay you've done your bit and there is some gorgeous Summer weather out there just calling for you to ride your bike.
I do not tend to worry too much about getting sun burn - but with the blazing sun I made sure I was protected with sun screen, including my feet. I have some cycling sandals, which provide good foot protection but are open. As a result I have brown "tiger" stripes on my feet - even with the use of sun cream. But before I put on the sun screen lotion there are other important issues. As those who follow cycle racing will know there is a concern that some cyclists are cheating by taking banned performance enhancing drugs. I believe that all cyclists should do their bit and so I test my blood
regularly irregularly. Now I was just about to set off on a ride and so time was ticking away. The obvious thing to do is several things at once. So as I was bare footed, muddy cycling sandals and the kitchen floor do not make for harmony, I was able to get ice out of the fridge ice dispenser and into a drinks bottle and at the same time arrange for a piece of ice to fall on my foot and stab me. So I was going to have a cold drink available to me on the ride and I was able to check that my blood was still red. Not being an International Cycling Federation I have to limit my drugs testing to, well, is my blood red and it was.
I think that is the first time I have ever been stabbed by a piece of ice - it delayed me a little as I had to put on a small plaster to avoid the wound rubbing on my sandal. Eventually I got everything together and after applying the sun cream set off. Actually one of the things that delays me is the time from turning on my GPS to it get a satellite lock. In fact the time for the GPS to switch on and get set up is the bulk of the delay so I tend to switch it on before getting other stuff ready. Then when I am ready so is my GPS - me a slave to the machine.
On hot sunny days when I have not looked at a map thinking about where to go I tend to go with the default ride - somewhere over near Wicken Fen. I know my way around and there are tracks and quiet roads where I can get away from traffic. If the weather is exceptionally nice then I tend to head more for tracks than road so as I was cycling out of Cambridge on Sustrans 51 I doubled back onto High Ditch Road and then over the A14 onto Fen Drove Way. The bridge over the A14 is probably the high point of the ride, it is the only "hill" of note. it is easy to whizz down the other side and then you realise that the tarmac surface turns into a gravelly pothole surface - my advice, stand on the pedals and roll with the potholes. Actually avoid the potholes it is easier.
The great thing about going down hills is the potential energy gets converted into kinetic energy - but it never lasts as long as you want and as I slowed down I realised I was passing a coupe more fields full of peas. I had not realised that peas were grown commercially in these parts - I can't remember seeing peas around these parts before - mind you I am taking a bit more interest in nature this year. We aren't growing peas at home this year (spuds, beetroot, chillies, courgettes, cucumbers - but no peas) but when we do we always stick either canes of sticks into the ground around the plants to support them - - these plants seem to be able to support themselves.
So a picture or two, a sip cold drink and I set off again - there was a car parked further up the track with a chap walking back to it. In my mind I classified him as a fisherman- although I am not sure I saw him with a rod I did think that I will have a look at the map to see what rivers there are in the vicinity when I get back. Answer a few "drains" or ditches. Mind you round here the ditches have real amounts of water in them.
What actually caught my eye was the gun he had propped up against the car - the laws about guns in the UK are sufficiently strict that you do a double-take when you see a weapon in plain sight. When I was younger I (and my friends) used to shoot with air rifles and in my early twenties I did a bit of live ammo target shooting (in a club) - but I thought it would look a bit odd if I stopped to check what sort of weapon he had. So I am not sure if it was an air rifle or "real" - but just a little surreal.
The track then swung round towards the Horningsea Road as I reached it a car turned up the drove. Was this another person coming to join the other chap in a bit of shooting? He waited at the bottom of the track and allowed me to pass by. In my experience very few cars wait, and a few whizz by kicking up dust and stones with inches to spare. It became clear after I passed him (it was a he) he let a dog out and then drove along the track letting the dog follow on. I have seen it quite often around here - walking a dog - whilst driving a car alongside. I would have thought that one of the benefits of owning a dog is that it provides an incentive and an excuse to get out for a walk - especially when the weather is so nice. Of course it could be that the owner cannot easily walk - so who am I to comment?
On my map I mark the route from where Low Fen Drove meets the Horningsea Road to Horningsea as being on-road (in yellow). Now they have built the shared use cycling path, even though it does not have markings yet I use it. It is much better than having cars zoom by and it is nice and flat. Then I turn back to the East on the Harcamlow Way just after Horningsea along a gravel track. This then turns onto a grass track along the edge of a field - in fact the the one in the picture. A couple of days ago this pile of earth covered 90% of the width of the track now it only covers 10% - I am still not clear why it was dumped there in the first place though.
The view from the track was one of green crops, the occasional tree and blue skies with a few wispy clouds. The clouds looked like contrails left by passing jets.
The path cuts through Alicky Farm - whoever runs this farm has already got the hay in - nicely stacked. I wonder if the farmer has made a den and that hole in the middle near the bottom is the entrance? He must be thin if it is!
After passing the Farm as I carried along the track a white van passed me - with what appeared to be ambulance markings along side - although the sort you'd get on a Private Ambulance. The only vehicles I normally see on these tracks are farmers vehicles, usually tractors and already I had seen a "gunman" and an "ambulance" - this was turning into a slightly surreal ride.
After passing the "ambulance" a lad on a BMX bike stopped me to ask the way to Horningsea. he was on the right track - but it was not so easy to describe the route as there are very few signposts and you can get confused between byway tracks and other tracks. Anyway I pointed out the direction he needed to aim for. Sometimes I go along the old disused railway line (a permissive NT path) but today I was not in any hurry to go anywhere so carried on the Drove Way to Quy. I then cycled through the village and took the main road - the B1102. I don't cycle far on the road and there is a quieter alternative (via Bottisham) but although the traffic speeds are fast it is not high in my list of unpleasant roads. Most cars gave me plenty of space when they overtook. The level of danger I perceive depends upon the volume of traffic, the width of the road and the straightness. The worst roads seems to be fairly thin and straight with cars that are using it as a short-cut between more main roads.
In one of the fields alongside Whiteway drove is this mound of "earth". I think that it is treated human sewage - it has a somewhat different small to cow-muck. In Somerset it was common for farmers to use muck spreaders to spray cow muck on their fields the smell was pretty strong but different. This smell is much less strong but has a distinctive whiff. Apparently more "farmers are turning to human sewage". (another sewage link)
Anyway I was not on it long before turning off through Lode and down to White Fen. After crossing Swaffham Bulbeck Lode I carried on the farm track (a byway) and then turned down a farm track between two fields. (This is not a right of way - but no-one has complained to me - I did once see a van driver who had pulled off for a kip. Here is an important crop being irrigated - it is turf - a "crop" that has become more popular over the last few years. I guess the flatness and soil qualities make it easy to grow and "harvest". The track I took then met with Rail Drove before joining with Whiteway Drove - heading for Swaffham Prior. After a short ride down the road I turned off onto Black Droveway - another track - in the dry this is hard-packed rutted mud - I managed it with no dabs. As I reached the other end of the track there was a traveller caravan parked up. You occasionally get them here, almost as an overnight stop, I said hello to a chap walking back to the caravan and just as I passed a yapping dog chased me. I am not a great fan of being chased (by dogs) when cycling - you don't know what is likely to get tangled up. Normally I just accelerate away - small dogs have small legs. This time I was also having to navigate ruts and mounds and there was no way I could just speed up - so I shouted at the dog - which did the trick.
On the outskirts of Reach I then headed for Straight Drove - where I managed to navigate the rutted tracks without having to dab my feet down at all - I was on a roll today. Except when I stopped to take pictures - my balance is not that good. They have reinforced the barriers on the new Reach Lode Bridge - although you can see that it looks as if the netting has been flattened a bit higher on on the right hand side.
My no-dab success carried on all the way up Straight Drove - where I was pleased to see some traditional hay-making - "like what I used to help with as a boy". Those are what I call bales - things that I could lift as a lad. Mind you the farmer I used to help did not have that new-fangled blue thing which collects a few bales together before dropping them - we used to that bit by hand. You can see that they have three tractors working this field - following the adage - make hay while the sun shines.
The soil in the fields is browner as you get past Upware on the way through to Wicken village. I assume that the irrigation water comes from one of the drainage ditches leading off the River Cam which is not far behind the trees in the background of the picture
I generally take the back road through Wicken Village and join up with Sustrans 11 by turning off the A1123 onto Way Lane and then along Lower Road. The Sustrans 11 route then turns towards Wicken Fen by turning right onto Chapel lane. But as I was ambling I turned left carrying on around the back of the village and down Drury Lane to a byway called Drove Lane. The byway leads to a bridleway (in the shape of a reverse "Z") before becoming a byway again (Bracks Drove) and gets you to Soham.
This is how the route looks halfway along the track, near the start of Bracks Drove I think - you can see the Electricity Cables but no pylons. At the moment we have not had much rain and so the track was baked mud and pretty easy to cycle along. In fact I was a little worried that cracks that had opened up along the path might grab the wheels.
The end of the byway (Bracks Drove) and the start of a road in Soham (Mill Drove). The top sign on the left says "Public Byway" the bottom one "Wicken Walks". This bit of the track was slightly more difficult as there were tyre ruts, I managed to cycle along it without having to dab a foot down though. One thing that strikes me is that it is quite common to see telegraph poles and electricity cables along some of these routes (I think). I guess that the convenience of the route, which is why the byway exists, also works for the stringing up of cables.
The route into Soham crosses the Ely-Ipswich railway line and then you have to found your way onto the Fordham Road. I had to stop to take a picture of this Hillman Minx - my Dad had one of these when I was a young lad. It had a 1500cc engine but nothing like the power of modern cars. We used to joke that we would have to get out and push it up the hills, Ours was grey.
On the way out of Soham you can cut through a small housing estate near Down Field Windmill on Orchard Row - this brings you out on the A1123 opposite a byway which is a short-cut through to the B1102 to Burwell. It gets close to the Fordham Bypass but the minor country road (Cockpen Road) avoids it. It is also around here that the Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line joined and crossed the Ely to Ipswich Line. There is not much sign of it now - if you know where to look you can see the curve where the track swept round on Google Earth, to the East of Lark Hall Farm.
The B1102 is quite a fast road - but also quite wide and so does not feature very high up on my list of unpleasant roads to avoid - having said that I still prefer to turn off at Ness Farm along a byway that becomes a road into Burwell which runs parallel to the B1102 and then runs into the Sustrans 11 route (which then becomes the Sustrans 51) route.
You can tell it was a hot day - the road surface was so soft that a tractor has left marks in the road somewhere between Burwell and Reach (as they also do on the byways). Apparently the degree of damage a vehicle does increases to the fourth power with the axle weight. So if you double the weight there is 16 times the effect (2 x 2 x 2 x 2). That is why cars and particularly lorries should not park on pavements.
As you can see from the map I detoured off Sustrans 51 at Reach and went via White Fen - it was just too nice to hurry back into the hubbub of the traffic. Whilst cycling along White Fen I had a Serengetti experience - I startled a grazing deer in the Fen and it started leaping high in the air as it bounded around trying to get away from me. Normally the deer I see tend to slip away into the long grass and or crops - this was a larger animal though and if I'd been a tiger I would have definitely gotten the urge to chase it down as it bounded along. But I am not - despite my tiger feet.
After returning to Sustrans 51 I spotted a few more California poppies growing alongside the route near the Quy Mill Hotel.
This was one of those slightly surreal days - nothing untoward, just a series of events, each one would have been of slight note - but unusual for them all to happen on one ride. Mind you that is what I enjoy about cycling - there is always something to see, whereas it is all to easy to switch off when driving a car and miles pass by without you having any particular recollection of the drive.