Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cycling from Cambridge to Wimpole and back to see how far it is! Part1

I am getting a bit behind on Posts again. The main reason is when I do too much cycling, take too many pictures and then have to catch up on other things before finishing the posts. The longer the gap before Posting the more web pages that get "stuck" as a reminder on my browser that have caught my eye and are waiting to be "linked" to a post. So here goes: "Dynamo power to recharge handsets" - a BBC News report that Nokia have introduced a Bottle dynamo (the sort that rubs on the tyre) to charge a 'phone. They claim that 10 minutes at 6mph ( a distance of 1 mile) will provide 28minutes of talk time or 37 hours of standby - pretty good for cycle trips through the wilds - it would be even better it if could charge MP3 players and cameras as well!

A news report on a subject close to my heart - "Who says cyclists don't suffer from congestion?". A Cambridge News piece on the problems cyclists face when trying to park their bikes at Cambridge Railway Station. Apparently there are around 1,000 bikes parked there per day and not nearly enough parking space as demonstrated by the bikes chained to lampposts and fences because of lack of cycle rack spaces. The current focus appears to be on removing bikes that have been abandoned (24 have been removed and a further 50 tagged for removal) - but I think they should be adding spaces as well as removing abandoned bikes.

When I first came to live in the Flatlands of the UK I thought that is was less friendly to walkers than the Mendips and Levels of Somerset where I grew up. Some of the difference is probably accounted for because the focus is on arable here whereas in the Mendips it was cattle. Another difference is that young lads tend to explore more and are less concerned about following rights of way than older fogies like me. Indeed in my youth I have had a shotgun waved in my general direction by a farmer - we did not think he was going to fire but we scarpered pretty quickly non the less. Nowadays I tend to do my exploring by bike and so am on the lookout for byways and bridle paths and little used country lanes where I can cycle into the countryside. I explore using a Hybrid in the main and am not looking for a mountain bike sort of experience (MTB). I do have an MTB (well two actually) and do go out cycling in more rugged areas. The reason for using the hybrid - it provides a good compromise between speed on the road and "comfort" on the bumpier paths. My MTBs have gnarly large tyres and are not so good at covering distance on the road.

The advantage or working from home is that I can work early and then get out in the afternoon and with the glorious weather here in the Flatlands it was just too nice to stay in. So today (Thursday) I decided to have an explore day (actually afternoon) and try to find some places I had not been before (by bike). A fellow cyclist had pointed me in the direction of the Wimpole Estate, an NT estate with both a Farm and Stately Home as a place with some interesting byways around and about so I decided to make up a route to Wimpole and back. (I have been to Wimpole quite a few times - it is a great place for kids to visit with lots to see and some nice walks. )

This is the route I chose, when covering a longish distance I try mainly for country lanes with a few byways thrown in, rather than string every byway possible together. This means that even if the byways are in an awful condition for cycling it does not impact too much on the total journey. There is nothing worse than when nearing the end of a long cycle ride to find that the only route, without a large detour is almost impassible riding a bike. It has happened to me once or twice, one time I broke a spoke and the wheel buckled. My bail-out plan was to cycle to the nearest station - but in the end I slackened off the brakes to stop them rubbing and managed to cycle the remaining 25 miles home without any more problems. The ride was a bit odd as the buckle caused the rear of the bike to wobble quite noticeably.

Back to Wimpole - surprisingly enough there is no real mention on their website of cycling/cyclists although there is a Cycling Byway partially signed route that passes through the Estate. I do not really know much about the National Byway trust - but it appears that it is still in the early stages of establishing some cycle routes around the countryside. In some ways it appears to overlap with Sustrans, but when I got home I could not find route maps for the various signs I saw near Wimpole. There is a Press Release on their website "Cambridgeshire catches up" that suggests that the route will shortly be complete and a route map published. Personally I think that need to publish Maps a little more proactively.

My route is shown on this OSM Cycle Map with on-road in yellow and off-road in red. The various Xs mark where I took some of the photographs. As is often the case when exploring I end up taking loads of photographs to start with and then as time goes by and it gets later and I am due home I find myself taking fewer pictures. I ought to learn to pace my photography as well as my cycling. Anyway as a result I have split this Post into 3 parts to cut the number of photographs down for each part.

Wimpole annotated.jpg

The first bit of off-road is just after passing through Grantchester - which features in a poem by Edwardian Poet Rupert Brooke. If you follow the link there are some Panoramic pictures on the Wiki page. The route leaves Grantchester on a road aptly named Bridle Way - although the road sign has been blurred by Google in this Streetview image. I wonder if it was accidentally called that by the map makers many years ago - the note on the map said bridle way and something thought it meant the road name?. It is a delightful route to Barton and I accidentally took the Barton direction and had to rertace my "pedals to the bridge. The countryside is still very much yellow with, as you can see, blue skies.


The track from Grantchester (taken from the M11 Bridge. This part of the route is quite a reasonable track for cycling.


The M11 bridge - pretty good for a byway and I assume farm traffic. I did pass a few cyclists out enjoying the sun away from the roads - If you ignore the M11 down below!


The direction I meant to take (and did return to after a brief diversion to Barton) followed alongside the M11 with Spring/Summer flowers growing alongside. The track from the bridge to Barton turns into a narrower single shallow rut - quite easy on a Hybrid bicycle but you (well I) need to concentrate to stay in the rut. Here is an Ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) growing alongside the track..


As you can see an easy track to cycle along, the M11 is on the left-hand side of the hedge


There were quite a few flowers growing alongside the track including the Common Daisy (Bellis perennis) smaller than the Ox-eye daisy. According to Wikipedia the name might be a corruption of the term "day's eye" because the head closes at night and opens in the morning! The slightly blurry yellow flowers are Meadow Buttercups (Ranunculus acris) - I think - or possibly Creeping Buttercups (Ranunculus repens).


As I had stopped, I was on a roll, and took pictures of a few more of the flowers alongside the track. Here is some White Clover (Trifolium repens) . As a boy we would sometimes pull a bit off the the flower out and suck the sugar liquid from the base. We would of course avoid areas where dogs were walked! Not all were sweet - but some were.


Some red Clover (Trifolium pratense). Whilst checking to see whether others had Blogged on the sweetness of clover I found this excellent website with some beautiful and detailed clover pictures. The other thing we very occasionally used to do was look for "lucky" four-leaf clovers - (Trifolium - three leaved). We did not spend a lot of time doing it, perhaps because they were quite rare and so beyond the patience of young lads. Mind you according to Wikipedia there is only a 1 in 10,000 chance of finding a four-leaf clover so it is not surprising.


It turns out that in this neck of Cambridgeshire special attention is paid to wildlife diversification alongside productive farming. Some of the farmland belongs to Lark Farm (with 400 acres) owned by the Countryside Restoration Trust and Tennant Farmed. Apparently there are Bee Orchids here - i shall have to keep my eyes peeled the next time I visit. (some friends have got Bee Orchids growing in their garden).


The farm has Permissive footpaths for walkers - I stuck to the bridleway.


The land has some Information Boards - the route passes Millennium Wood three acres of land recently planted with Oak, Ash and Cherry.


After Millennium Wood the path (bridle path) is a little less kind to cyclists on Hybrid bikes. It is well used by horses and the track surface is quite bumpy. Nothing too tricky - just bumpy. This is where a proper MTB would have been more comfortable - but by no means necessary.


The paths also had one of two seats around for weary walkers to rest and admire the beautiful views.


  1. I followed this route, with a few minor variations (most intentional!), yesterday for a glorious 44 mile ride. Thank you.

    It was my first through Wimpole Hall grounds, despite having been to the farm with my children many times. Also my first time up (and down) Chapel Hill coming out of Barrington - a good lung buster towards the end! Catching Sustrans 11 back from Great Shelford to Addenbrooke's, along the "10000th mile/genome" path, was an unexpected final treat.

    My longest ride yet - I reckon I am within reach of the London to Cambridge ride!

  2. Thanks for that - it turns out that it was MikeC who pointed me in the direction of Wimpole so we both have him to thank really. Barrington is a picturesque village but I tend to forget the steepness of the descent on the other side. As far as I can remember the London to Cambridge is much flatter.