Monday, July 12, 2010

The early farmer catches the crop

The morning (Sunday) started off duller than the day before - but it soon heated up and got sunnier and sunnier. Mind you I was not complaining. The heat can be a bit tiresome when stuck indoors - we were not wasting energy on air-conditioning though- er actually we don't have it. But sunny hot weather is lovely when out on a bicycle in shorts and t-shirt. However there was also the Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone to watch as well.

I find that the motor race is more interesting if I watch when it happens, in real-time. (Not that unreal-time means much in a human context!) The trouble is if I watch a recording there is too much temptation to whizz through the slow bits rather than watch the drama unfold, so I do, which reduces the drama and so then I whizz through more of the race. Personally I like it when the races are being staged in the Far East and because of the time differences get screened early in the morning. That way I can watch the race and have the rest of the day left for normal things.

The race was a good one, I also felt that an injustice had been done to Mark Webber by Red Bull Racing so even if a Brit didn't win he made a good substitute. (Whilst I understand the team's rationale for what they did I would not have done it that way.)

I also follow the Tour de France, but, because it unfolds over many days on a daily basis (with the exception of a few rest days) I only watch it when convenient - it is not the most photogenic of sports for me. So if it is on in the background whilst I am working and I hear the excitement building then I tap into it. As for the other sport on over the weekend, as a boy I would play football most playtimes when I was at school I cannot get excited about it at all any more. All power to the psychic octopus though.)

Because of the motor race I had only a couple of hours to go out for a cycle - but I did make time to slap plenty of sun screen on though. The sun was blazing by mid-afternoon. I generally use factor 30 with moisturiser and water resistance.which is great for combating the sweat, but when it comes to washing it off when I have a shower or bath it takes for ever and lots of soap.

After using my smallest camera yesterday, for comparison I took my middle camera - a 4/3 format Panasonic. It behaves like a portable but you can change lenses so it looks a bit like a small SLR. They both have the same number of pixies to capture the picture (12M) but the Panasonic benefits from a larger lens and is easier to hold still when taking several pictures in a row.

As usual I popped into the Fens as I do when I have a limited amount of time. (If I had a bit more time then I would have gone up the Cambridge Guided Busway). This time around I also stuck to the roads as well as it is generally quite a bit faster on the roads than on the lumpy mud tracks.

As a result I ended up going along roads I haven't been on for a week or so and was amazed how much the fields have changed. It seems that one minute the crops are growing and ripening in the fields and the next minute the fields have been harvested and ploughed ready for something else to be sown (or drilled). This field is adjacent to Lord's ground Drove or thereabouts. It has changed so suddenly I cannot remember what was growing.


The key seems to be to do several operations in parallel. The crops are harvested in one part of the field, another part is prepared for the next crop and just over the hedge something else is being is being irrigated. It appears that there is just a small strip in the middle of the field to be harvested. One of the changes I have seen in agriculture since I was a boy is the provision of "Portaloos" in the fields for the people picking the crop. strangely it seems to have become more labour intensive than it was when I was a boy. Although that might just be the different agriculture in the Fens compared to Somerset.


It is surprising how what appears to be an piece of old technology is still used and what's more seems to deliver the right results - I am talking about the plough - not the Portaloos.


These look like onions (or perhaps leeks) - it amazes me how free of weeds the crops are - they must use some pretty potent weedkiller.


As you can see the skies were blue and there were some white clouds around. It seems to be good ripening weather. Once nuisance when cycling is that there seem to be lots of small black midges/flies - which I call Thunder flies. They are basically very small black insects that get everywhere when corn fields are being harvested. They seem to get everywhere including under computer screens. Today they seem to be getting stuck to the sunscreen lotion I had put on. It was really irritating when they stuck to my face and seemed to tickle the skin. Despite the heat I wished that I had worn a buff.

This photograph was taken near White Fen - I had "wandered" up a track near White Fen Drove as it is marked on the OSM Cycle Map. Actually I think that the road is Sandy Drove and the byway to the right is White Fen Drove. (According to the Cambridgeshire County Council Map anyway. I headed left on the brown track (if you follow the link) at the end of White Fen Drove, up to Commissioners' drain (not marked - but the first blue line it comes to.).


In my non-expert opinion it won't be long before this gets harvested. (It is the same field as the previous picture.)


This is where the track meets Commissioners' Drain and a wooden bridge provides way across the drain. This is not an HDR picture - I did not hold the camera still enough when taking the picture it looked even more blurred than usual. So what I did was use Photoshop to edit the sky separately from the rest of the picture. This meant I could stop the sky from bleaching out. Wherever there is a ditch or drain (or Lode) you can see a stripe of green - in this case encroaching on the bridge.


A view along Commissioners' Drain, apart from the change in colour of the vegetation the drain has all but disappeared.


The footpath goes diagonally across the field and how good is this. The farmer has gone to the trouble of attaching a note to re-assure walkers that the cows are harmless and that there are no bulls in the fields. (Townies can't always recognise the difference between a cow and a bull - it ain't the horns that count.) Actually you would only generally have one bull in the field - so that is what the sign actually says. This sign is from Spinney Abbey Farm up near Wicken Fen - they sell meet direct and can be found at Burwell Farmers' Market on the second Saturday of each month apparently. Sounds good to me - but check the website for the latest information.


The field runs alongside Commissioners' drain and has been recently fenced (well since the last time I visited), to stop the cows going for a swim. So I guess you might be able to detour - it leads to the same path the diagonal route takes. Although it is not a right of way.


Looking back towards White Fen Drove the path continues diagonally through another field - this time with a neatly delineated path through the crops. Some farmers are very good at re-instating paths.


Once thing I did notice was that there were not so many people out and about. There were people around, but perhaps fewer, either because of the sport or the very sunny weather.


  1. Once thing I did notice was that there were not so many people out and about

    I noticed that too: it was very quiet on the roads on Sunday, especially in the evening once the football had started.

    Have you ever thought about coming out cycling with the CTC? You can see from my ride report that we could do with better photography.

  2. The reason the notice about the livestock at Oily Hall is from Spinney Abbey, is that they are from Spinney Abbey, according to the NT's "News from the Fen" published this week. (I don't think it is distributed as far as Cambridge, so pick one up at Wicken V.C)

    Oily Hall has been in NT ownership for about 4 years, and the kissing gate was placed by the County Council right in the middle of that field. NT have moved it to a more sensible position recently.

    The grass track to the right (east) of it is going to be a "permissive bridleway", and notices saying so should appear soon (according to John H. this lunchtime, who is going to be doing the installing).

    The last few months have been so dry that I claim to be the first person to use the new Reach Lode bridge to shelter from a sharp shower, on Monday evening.

  3. Gareth,

    You are right I should come out on a CTC ride - although an early morning on a Sunday requires a bit of organisation - but I will give it a go - the last CTC report looked interesting.


    Good news about the Permissive bridleway another loop to add to Lodes way.
    I could have done with a serendipitous bridge on Wednesday when I got caught in the rain over near Conington.

  4. I could have done with a bridge to shelter under on Wednesday too when I was caught by a heavy shower on the old railway line behind Anglesey Abbey.


  5. early morning on a Sunday requires a bit of organisation

    We do Sunday afternoon rides and Wednesday evening rides too; see the calendar.

    But the Sunday all-day rides are the best because of the chance to get well away from town and onto some unfamiliar roads.