Tuesday, June 1, 2010

cycling on By-ways on a Drizzly day - not a good idea

First a quick round up of some recent cycling news - "Cycle lane motorists 'shamed'". The local newspaper (Cambridge News) has reported on a gallery of images on a website www.cyclestreets.net . The website provides a Journey Planner for cyclists and a Photomap, both based upon the OpenCycleMap map data. One of the Photomap galleries shows more than 100 vehicles contravening the law where it matters to cyclists. The article suggests that this is "cyclists waging war upon motorists". I am not sure that such inflammatory language helps, but even I was shocked at the level of casual disregard for the rights of cyclists on the roads. In fact I would go further and say that there is a casual disregard for others. As a society we have tricked ourselves into a commuting style of life and with congestion and inevitable rising fuel costs the cracks are starting to show. Still all those motorists who seem to bleat on about how they never break the law whilst all cyclists do should realise that even if they do not flout the law large numbers of motorists do and similarly although, regrettably some cyclists break the law many cyclists do not.

Talking about law-breaking in the same copy of the Cambridge News: "Parking fines 'worth it for rich motorists'" apparently there are serial offenders for the worst culprit having clocked up 35 tickets for illegal parking. If a ticket is paid early then the cost is £25 which compares to a cost of £22 for five hours of parking in the Grand Arcade (Shopping mall car park).

I can't miss an opportunity to report on the latest shenanigans on the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) - "Getting cash from BAM Nuttall 'may be difficult'". At an open Council meeting questions were asked about how certain the Council was on getting the overspend on the CGB (around £50million) by a Cambridgeshire resident with experience of managing such schemes.

Yesterday was the first day of June, I can't believe how quickly the year seems to by flying by. Although one thing that happens slowly is the monthly back up on my computer. Since moving from Vista to Windows 7 I have been impressed with the changes and improvements with the exception of the new Backup facility. I used to run a weekly incremental Backup but it is now so slow that I have changed it to a monthly backup. Instead I run a program called "Synctoy". It is a free application from Microsoft that synchronises files and directories - it is fast convenient and all the copies are in the "clear". I keep a set of USB disks where I effectively duplicate my important stuff - which means I can see them and know they are there and available. Anyway 36 hours later the Backup is still running and slowing down my computer and looks as if it has another 12 hours or so to go!

Back to Monday - it started raining around Lunchtime - perhaps even a bit earlier and was set to rain for the rest of the day apparently. It was not even that warm - but it was the First of the Month and I like to start as I mean to go on. Sometimes I wonder - if I like cycling so much, why is it an effort to get going? I do know myself well enough to know that once I am out, in pretty much any weather I enjoy it. It is just the setting off that is the tricky bit. This time around I put on some waterproof socks, sandals. waterproof leggings, a fluorescent yellow jacket that used to be shower-proof (over a thin vest) and waterproof gloves. I knew it was overkill, but if you are warm then that overcomes the problems of being damp, I don't like to be wet and cold. I also wore a hat - psychological protection really - but it served its purpose later on in the ride.

Because of the rain I also packed various things into plastic bags including my phone and money, camera and GPS unit. The Garmin edge GPS has a rubber plug to seal the USB port when out and about - but with all the opening and closing mine fell off. I have seen this commented on the forums. I have sent in a request to the garmin Support to see how I might get another one - but that was a few days ago (30-5-10) and no response yet. So to protect it I put a plastic bag over it and used an elastic band to cinch the bag up around the back of the device. I also took my small pocket camera as it was easier to keep dry (a Sony DSC-W200).

As I was cycling along this hedgehog scuttling along caught my eye - it did not seemed perturbed by me and carried scuttling along the grass verge - they actually move quite fast. I like to think I did my bit for nature - my presence encouraged the hedgehog to go into the hedge rather than attempt to cross the road.

I almost had my squishing moment as I was cycling through Swaffham Bulbeck a Volvo with a "Baby on Board" (BoB) sign hanging in the back window couldn't wait and started to overtake me - but there was a car coming the other way. Fortunately the Volvo driver slowed down and did not try to force me into the kerb. It makes me wonder how someone with so little ability to read the traffic situation could have passed a driving test. No wonder they need the BoB sign - to warn other road users away - for their own safety!


I did not grow up in these parts and so, as I cycle along I recognise some wild flowers and not others. (Although if the truth were known whilst I might recognise the flowers I struggle to remember their names nowadays.) So I have deiced to take a few pictures and see if I can name them when back home. Taking pictures of flowers in the wild is trickier than it sounds. Most cameras, including mine, cannot really get close enough, even on full zoom, to get the image to fill the screen. It is even harder in the rain as I try to minimise the time the camera spends out of the plastic bag and keep the lens pointing down to avoid getting rain drops on it.

I think this flower is a Field Mouse-Ear (Cerastium arvense) or a Common Mouse-Ear (Cerastium fontanum) - types of chickweed. they are named for their deeply notched petals. My book suggests that the filed variant grows in patches - so I think this one is the Common variant. My Sony camera does not automatically take bracketed shots which means it can be difficult picking up on all the detail - the white petal has bleached out a little.


There is lots of this growing around (a bit in the garden as well) I have also called it Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) not to be confused with Giant cow parsley or Hogweed.


Yet another plant growing along the verge - and another not very good photograph - I think it is a Speedwell - there are many types of Speedwell, but I think that this is Bird's-eye Speedwell or Veronica chamaedrys. The Wikipedia article suggests that the leaves are like the white deadnettle - and these do.


In order to get to Burwell to join the Roman Road - a nice long byway I joined the Icknield Way after cycling along Balsham Lane between Dullingham and Weston Colville (not the B1052 though a small road past Underwood Hall. It passes a pumping Station where I stopped to take this picture of a field framed by the electricity poles - by chance the farmer was also driving his 4x4 round the field as well.


The Icknield Way joins Balsham on the West Side - I did stop to take a picture of the village sign. The sign depicts the sole survivor of a Viking raid in 1010 which destroyed the village.


A Bandstand is right next to the sign - the Prince's Memorial.


I then followed the Icknield Way trail directly opposite the Bandstand pasta shop. The route was quite tricky the rain had turned the nice dry tractor ruts into a rather slippery sticky mess. Once stuck in a rut it was doubly difficult to pull out as the wheels could not get purchase on the edges and the rut tended to prevent the front wheel from turning. I did a couple of unplanned dismounts - managing to land on my feet though.

I then turned right onto the Roman Road (Cambridge to Balsham and beyond). - this bit was even worse than the track down from Balsham. There are deep ruts that in the dry are tricky and in the wet tricky and sticky. My hybrid is pretty good for a bit of off-road cycling but with thin tyres and mudguards and not much fork clearance it quickly gets clogged up. Both wheels jammed and I had to clear them, the Speedo stopped working as the sensor mechanism became displaced. This photograph is not the worst - but just one of the times I stopped to find a think but strong stick to clear the mud.


Once the track crosses the B1052 it becomes less rutted and more navigable. Although the hedgerow has grown a lot since the winter. I mentioned my hat earlier - it did protect me from some over-hanging brambles


Another flower growing along the Roman Road that I was not sure about - but a look though my Collins Complete Guide to British Wild Flowers and I think it is a Wild Mignonette or Reseda lutea. My Guide indicates that it is not to be confused with Weld (Reseda luteola - but the Wikipedia "article" indicates they are the same. .


By the time I got home I was drenched - either from sweating inside the waterproofs or from rain that had run down inside my jacket - but I was warm and had a very pleasant cycle out in the rain. I did notice that my arms ached a little - all that heaving the bike up and down the muddy ruts. I also broke the habit of a lifetime and hosed the bike down before doing anything else. (Actually I do wash it when it is really muddy.)

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