Thursday, June 17, 2010

Smoke, Water and Bridges

Alright I admit it - there were no excuses today(Wednesday) - the weather was simply too nice to not to go out for a mid-afternoon spin and as I have meetings in London Thursday evening and Friday afternoon my cycling over the next couple of days will be to Cambridge Railway Station. So I made the most of the weather and nipped out onto the tracks and byways around Quy, Lode and Wicken Fen.

Thus time around I cycled along Sustrans 51 into Quy and carried on past Quy along S51 to Dunsley Corner and left the S51 and turned left back towards Quy on the Albert Road. (There used to be a pub called the Prince Albert on the corner - it is now a restaurant called the Missing Sock. Once back in Quy straight across the crossroads along Station Road. (Stopping of course for traffic - it is complicated slightly by some traffic-calming measures - if motorists do not leave the "keep clear" clear.

Once there used to be a Railway from Cambridge to Mildenhall - with a station at Quy - but the railway is no longer, the road name stuck though. Then after passing over Quy Water at Stone Bridge there is a by-way a little further on to the right . I think the track is called the Drove Way or at least it leads to the Drove Way where it passed Alicky Farm. I stopped at the point where it crosses the old Railway Line. There was a shallow pit being used to burn cleared vegetation and wondered how the smoke might look in an HDR picture. Not much different to an ordinary picture really - still you have to experiment a bit.


TI then explored a route of the NT Permissive by-way which leads back to Horningsea via Stow cum Quy Fen. I guess that strictly speaking these are footpaths, I did not check until I got back home. I have never heard of any problems with cycling on them though. (When my son was a scout I once accompanied a bunch of them on a night cycle - later in they year - they got incredibly muddy - these tracks can get quite deeply rutted. (Although not this one in the picture.)


TI have walked on the path, which heads off across the field but I think most people go around the outskirts. (I have also accompanied a bunch of Scouts on a night hike around here - almost as bad as cycling!). It amuses me to see random bits of agricultural machinery around the fields.


You also see random bits of agricultural building well.


I then popped back to Lode and along Fen Drove Way to White Fen. At the moment the verges along this road look wonderful with assorted wild flowers in bloom. It is good to see that not all verges need to be cut to within a millimetre of the ground.


I did come across this Pineapple Mayweed (Matricaria discoidea). I thought it was Mayweed, but did not realise that it is called Pineapple Mayweed because it smells strongly of pineapple when crushed. Next time I venture along the White Fen way I must crush a little and try it out.


I believe that when footpaths cross fields farmers are under a duty to restore the footpath within a set period of time. Personally I think that some leeway on this rule is appropriate, especially when there are reasonable alternatives nearby and that Farmers should also show lee-way on routes that are not rights of way.


I then headed up Straight Drove, which runs semi-parallel to Reach Lode. Even with the recent rain it has dried out pretty quickly and is rock hard again. These ruts are not really a problem on my Marin Hybrid - they get worse in places though and you have to keep you wits about you, especially when trying get cycle out of a rut before it gets too deep.


I have cycled along this track quite a few times but I had not realised there were some large pools nearby. This is opposite Tubney Fen There are several on either side of Reach Lode. They might be for fishing or for irrigation purposes. There are a number of rectangular ponds in the area that I assume have been built by the Farmers as a source of water.


Talking of irrigation here is a runway field of spuds with the irrigater getting ready for take-off. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the farmers need to start irrigating the fields. I guess there is plenty of water around and so it is better to be safe than sorry.

I also bumped into MikeC in the opposite direction so we stopped for a chat and he suggested some alternative routes around Wimpole that I must try.


The NT have been sprucing up the fences - beware the wet paint on this gate as you leave Wicken Fen to join Priory Drove (all part of S51). The ditch on the left, which you can't quite see is called Drainer's Drain.


I crossed High Bridge (near CockUp bridge) using the new cycle ramps to assist with climbing the concrete steps. There were some piles of different coloured earth in the field. My plan was to visit the new Reach Lode Bridge and see what it looked like from the other side. at the moment the cycle paths are awaiting signing and flattening work, i assume. So I followed the course I thought the path might take - and got it slightly wrong. A comparison of the current OS amp with the 30s and 40s OS maps shows that there used to be a few more roads in the area. These have degraded but bits of tarmac are still in evidence alongside some fields. (Where's the path allows side by side comparisons of various maps and Satellite images.)


When I reached the new bridge I have to express my admiration for all those involved in making this happen - it looks suitable and what's more I have seen more cyclists out and about this year than last year. With additional routes being built it should make this area a great place for Sunday afternoon cycling pootlers. A few suggested circular routes with some information on various points along the route (both historic and biological) would also provide encouragement I think.

Here are some lilies alongside the new bridge.


The bridge, or rather part of the bridge. I had not appreciated (until MIkeC told me) that the culverts were designed to provide a route through. In fact when I was on the side side chatting we saw a couple of vehicles drive though a culvert - probably anglers. They are bigger than they look. Here on the other side you can see tracks going through the culvert. You can also see the gloriously blue sky - I was getting a little worried that I might get a bit sun-burnt.


On my way back along S51 at the back of Burwell (Weirs Drove) it was the rush hour and I had to stopped for a bit of webbed-feet traffic. The ducklings were being expertly shepherded across the road. (Can ducks shepherd?)


By the way there is a still a water leak near a domestic water meter in the pavement in Lode. I also met one guy who would drive up one of the quiet droves let his dogs out and then wait for them to walk themselves up to meet him. One of the dogs, a Dalmatian looked slightly weary though - probably getting on a bit. I also passed a lady walking her dog by bicycle. (Although with no lead to get tangled up I think.)

Just after chatting with MikeC on Straight Drove a deer ran across my path and quickly disappeared into a field of crops.

I also saw a fox - not this time but a couple of days earlier crossing a country road.


  1. Rectangular pools at ground level are brick-pits, where clay has been extracted for brickmaking. If they have any use now it's generally for fishing, and they are kept well stocked.

    The farmer's reservoirs normally have raised banks and are above ground level. The Tubney Fen one, now made into a mere for wildlife, is an example. Sometimes fishing is permitted, the big one at 52°16'47.59"N 0°14'29.62"E seems to be one such. The track past it and around to Lords Grounds is perfectly cycleable too.

  2. Culverts at Reach Lode bridge

    Errm well, they were not so much designed as added at the last moment. That's why the ramps originally designed at a constant slope now are steeper at the bottom, ease off for a while, then the bridge itself is noticeably steeper. Today, Friday, the tarmac surface on the bridge was being laid and the ramps look as if the "Breedon gravel" (sp?) surfacing is finished.) Official opening is on 12th Sept 2010, everyone invited!

    The use of the culverts closest to the lode for vehicle traffic is an unexpected bonus, and the furthest out ones can be used for grazing animals to use at will, with some judicious fencing to keep them and the vehicles of the fishing community and bank maintenance apart.

    Some more news on bridges in the area:

    The potential/probable designers for the next bridge, over Burwell Lode, have come up with a very neat looking idea using pre-stressed concrete. This bridge will be slightly longer than the Reach Lode one, but more than double the width. And therefore about double the cost. Donations to fund the roughly £1million cost requested ;-)

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  4. Hi Mike,

    I tried the track along past the Lord's ground today - it was quite amazing to cycle along a decent road near where I have cycled many times - but it was all new to me. I cycled along the road with a smile. When I catch up on my posts some photos will follow.

    I also took a picture of the new gravel surface on the bridge - as you say the bridge appears to be quite steep.

    I had not really twigged the difference between banked pools and un-banked pools - but now you mention it - it makes sense.