Thursday, June 10, 2010

A few Flowers around the Fens

The Cambridge (un)Guided Busway (CGB) has hit the news again. Depending on how the story is presented it is either "More anger after latest report into busway delays" in the Cambridge News or "Cambridge busway firm 'fined' £6m for delays". It seems that it is still handbags at nine paces as the date by which the CGB will become operational does not appear to draw closer. (The fine refers to a penalty due under the contract for late completion of the CGB.) To be fair to the Cambridge County Council they do seem to be regularly publishing meeting Minutes concerning the CGB. If you read the document it appears that according to minute 2.10 BNL (the contractor) has chosen to re-visit the matter of liability for the flooding of the Maintenance track! An interesting note on paragraph 5.5 - "The busway should also have a high quality track alongside that is available for pedestrians and cyclists..." and paragraph 5.6 "The busway will provide good public transport and cycle/foot links between St Ives, the intervening villages and Cambridge...". Well I am sorry to be picky - but the "high quality" implies either tarmac or a well compacted path with few potholes and certainly no soggy or flooded bits.

One other snippet of CGB news - the Southern Section, between the Cambridge Railway Station and Trumpington Park and Ride, which barely gets a mention, is expected have have construction work completed by mid-December. Strangely precise given other project slippages, but there is then an undefined checking and commissioning period.

In these parts we have issues with traffic congestion - what part of the UK does not? The problem road is the A14 - a dual carriageway connecting the bottom of the M6 (and the middle of the M1) with Felixstowe (a places with docks on the East Coast). It also passes the A1 and M11, along with towns/cities such as Kettering Cambridge, Ipswich and Huntingdon. It is a very busy road both with industrial traffic and rush hour commuter traffic. The high cost of housing in Cambridge forces people to commute from around the area and the A14 is one of the main commuter routes.

As a result it is can be an unpleasant route and there are regular reports of incidents on the A14 in the area - such as this tragic accident and this lorry accident. The road has been due for a £1.3Bn upgrade somewhere between Huntingdon and Cambridge, however given the need for the UK plc to spend within its means this has now been cast in doubt. Interestingly Cambridge City Council supports the postponement as a "victory for common sense". I do think that we have to grasp the nettle of moving away from our dependency on roads as the only form of transport. A new road does not exist in isolation, it creates traffic, or rather draws it in creating its own problems. (Which is what happened when the A14 was built.) There needs to be better long-term planning - do we really want the UK to become a network of busy, noisy roads - especially as we see our oil (and so petrol) supplies coming to a finite end. Indeed our desperation for oil leads to situations such as the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Whilst on this negative streak - yet another shameful "hit and run". This accident seems to have occurred on a cycle lane with a door being opened in front of a cyclists (dooring or the door zone). It seems that whilst this is a very well known cause of accidents road planners still put cycle lanes alongside parked cars. (Two immediately spring to mind - Trumpington Road - both ways and the High Street, Cherry Hinton - both ways). Talking of Trumpington - "Potholes delay bollard work". Apparently a problem with a bollard has been left unfixed because priority has to be given to pothole work and I agree with the priority. As citizens we cannot just expect money to be spent to sort our immediate needs - we have to look at the overall picture - there is not a bottomless pit.

There is also a report of a cyclist being seriously hurt after being robbed - which rightly does not try to demonise all pedestrians as robbers. So why I wonder do they sometimes seem to demonise all cyclists as "red-light jumpers" or am I being too sensitive?

If you think that it is bad in Cambridge you should read this blog: Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest - it is not for the faint-hearted as the author will sometimes provide a roundup of recent pedestrian and cyclist accidents and fatalities. I do enjoy reading it though (not the accidents though).

On a positive note - an electric pool bike scheme is being launched in Cambridge and it will soon be Bike Week Jun 19-27 with more information available on the County Council's Cycling in Cambridgeshire web-page. There are a load of links on the page as well ranging from reporting problems through to Adult cycle training.

Wednesday was another rainy day and I popped out at the end of the day for a quick (in a slow-pedalling sort of way) head-clearing spin around the Fens. Why do I default to the Fens - because there is fresher air, fewer cars and I can cycle without constantly having to worry about some idiot in a metal can failing to see me. Of course there is also the plants and wild-life to see as well - including this Knapweed - the question though is it the Greater or Common variant?

Actually before I popped out I replaced the front and rear brake blocks on my Marin. The brakes are v-type and were last replaced around 2,000miles/3,200Km ago so I cannot really complain. They did need replacement though - the rear were just getting to the metal - which does not do the wheel rims any good. (I have used a set of brakes in around two days and 100miles/160Km when cycling down steep hills in India.)


The descriptions do not really discuss how to differentiate the two variants - my money is on it being Greater Knapweed - Centaurea scabiosa


My route took me out towards the NT permissive path near Lode - at the corner of one field the poppies seem to have really come on since the weekend. I also noticed a water leak in Lode - it appears to be coming from one of the water meters set in the pavement (in front of the house it serves). The leak has been painted in blue so it appears to have been reported - I hope the owners of the house do not end up with a big water bill.


The other day I noticed that there were cycle wheel guides on the footbridge bridge next to CockUp bridge (High Bridge?). This route forms part of Lodes Way and there are longer term plans to build a new bridge over this Lode (Burwell Lode). It was raining too hard the last time - this time it was not too bad so here is a picture. This seems like a practical solution to at least improving the access for the route. There was a young lad on a motorcycle who had come up the other bank and was trying to get his motorbike up the ramp in order to get over to this side of the Lode. He did not have much luck whilst I was watching.


Here is another very common plant - known as the Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) or more commonly as the Stinging Nettle. In my family they are known as Stingles, which is what my son used to call them when he was (much) younger. They are essential to the life of some moths and butterflies though.


There appears to be some work still taking place along Headlake Drove, part of the Lodes Way way. I am not sure quite what is planned here? Perhaps the stepped bank is to discourage parking on the verge (by both visitors and Travellers?).


I thought got wet on the previous day's cycle-ride when I got home this time I was saturated - not cold just wet.


  1. Cockup Bridge / High Bridge history

    When the current Burwell Lode was cut in the late 17th C. it divided the "Adventurers Fen" into two, and so the first bridge was probably installed at the same time. It was a lift-up operation rather like the hand-operated ones still common in Holland. Another was at the site of the current arched bridge across Wicken Lode at Upware. In the mid 19th C. the "Cockup Bridge" near Priory Farm was replaced by an arched bridge, which survived until the mid 20th C. and can be seen in Enion's and Bloom's books about the area. This continued to be known as known as "Cockup" and also as "High" bridge from this time. The arched bridge was the model for the current Wicken Lode bridge installed about 20 years ago. The current concrete footbridge built on the site of the old bridge and the electric lifting bridge nearby were installed in the 1950s.

    Today either and both can be known as High or Cockup, but if you ever need to email the Environment Agency, to whom they belong, about one call it High Bridge or their naughty words filter will reject the mail.

    The previous line of Burwell Lode can be seen about halfway between the buildings of Priory Farm and the gate into the N.T. land with the Konik ponies. It's now a twisting ditch leading east towards the brickworks buildings visible in the distance. In this area any twisty ditch or drain is a sign of considerable antiquity, even more so if a parish boundary follows it (look at exact line of the the Lode / Swaffham Bulbeck boundary for example).

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