Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Cycle Ramble - looping North out of Cambridge

Update: In a pre-date sort of way. Having not published anything for a week or so I now find that something has changed between Zoundry Raven (off-line Post editor) and Picasaweb (photo-storage) and I cannot upload pictures from Zoundry. So for this post I have edited the XHTML by hand and downloaded the pictures using Picasa (to Picasaweb) and then added the links by hand - tedious, but I have not come this far to be put off. I am not quite sure where to proceed from here - I'll probably give Livewriter a go, but might even consider buying something if there is a decent Post editor out there - there must be surely.

I am not sure when this Post will finally make it to the Blog. I have a few cycling tales to tell, including a day trip to the King's Forest in near Thetford and cycling in Bath. Unfortunately every now and then circumstances seem to conspire against you - well not really "you" but against me and against getting my Blog updates done. This week I have been down in Bath where I could not get an Internet connection and then York where the Internet cost 50p/minute (capped at £15/hour) which seemed a bit steep and I could not get a connection in my bedroom. Also as it was a few days away with the family it would not have been a good use of time. Then on returning home with a bunch of photos and around 5 Posts of stuff to write about I find that my ISP (Internet Service Provider) is a non-service provider. I use a smaller ISP which when it works, which is most of the time is really good, but when it doesn't there seems to be little information forthcoming. Although I have checked with someone else I know using the same ISP and it isn't working for other people either. Now whether it is a cabinet fault or something more central I do not know. The other guy was asked to jump through the usual hoops - check the firewall check for blocked ports when he could see that his DSL modem had failed to log on! Mind you I do the same when my wife has a problem with her laptop - "just re-start it, dear - if it still doesn't work then I will fix it!".

The annoying thing is that it means I cannot go onto Bike Route Toaster (BRT) to load up the routes I have taken. Although fortunately I did do this one before I went away. Also Monday is a holiday here in the UK so it would not surprise me if the Broadband problem does not get fixed until Tuesday! It is amazing how accustomed you become to having a network connection for email, and web for work and college.

This is my Poet's day ride last week (Friday - 20 August) having almost cycled along a byway leading from the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) near Histon I checked it out on the map and decided to take it as I have cycled along the CGB a few times recently I cycled to Histon along the Histon Road (using the shared path towards the end). I then carried along the Sustrans 51 route, which is where the byway emerged before heading around the back of Longstanton and off towards Rampton. However just after crossing the CGB I diverted from the route to Rampton and found another byway which the last time I looked was not marked on the map. As at the time of writing I am without Internet I cannot add the ride details and link to the BRT map - but I will do.

Actually I have been getting memory full errors on my GPS and I reset it this time which seems to do the trick - I have to re-enter various settings, but having done this a few times it does not take long. I also discovered that whilst the GPS "thinks" that it has cleared the history in my cases there were around 122Mb of files that the GPS could not "see" but where present and taking up space when I connected it to my computer so for good measure I deleted those as well.

Using my 3 Dongle I have checked out the route details and the distance is around 40Km with only 50m of ascent/descent with the highest "hill" being all of 20m. I don't call this the flatlands for nothing. Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link. The route is pretty reasonable most of the way on a Hybrid - the worst bits are on fairly flat, but corrugated grass bridleways on the way into Cottenham.

As I mentioned the last time I was cycling along the CGB I looked down this track to see where it might lead - it is marked as a bridleway to Girton, with little walking, riding and cycling symbols on the sign, just to make it clear. It is actually marked to Girton 11/2 miles but the last time I tried it the route seemed to head back North ish again so I thought I would check it out on the map before cycling along it. According to the Cambridge County Council Rights of Way Map it ends up somewhere to the North-West of Girton on Sustrans 51. It does not seem to appear on the Streetmap OS map or the Where's the Path OS map but it does appear on the OSM Cycle map. What does interest me is the varying quality of the byways and bridleway. I would not expect a tarmac/gravel surface on a bridleway. I guess that the better-used paths tend to have somewhat better surfaces., especially when they are closer to villages rather than stuck in the middle of nowhere.

The path then headed right just at the end of the visible path in the last picture onto a swing gate and large wooden sleeper across the path. This picture was taken after I had passed over the "barrier". You get an interesting mix of different barriers, presumably to stop the wrong sort of path-user. Mind you cycling along here at night and round the bend on a bike could be interesting if your lights weren't too bright. Bridleways are open to cyclists, but there does not have to be any specific provision for them. I didn't bunny-hop over the wooden sleepers, I lifted my bike over them - just a little larger than I would be comfortable jumping!

The path surface was pretty reasonable all along - except for the cracks that had opened up such as this one. You could easily get your wheel stuck in this whilst admiring the country-side. This path seemed to have been reasonably well surfaced once - but I guess like a lot of things there is not a lot of budget left for the maintenance of bridleways or perhaps not the political will? Mind you I though that it was the responsibility of the land-owner so perhaps I am being unfair to the Council. Whilst bridleways do not have to specifically take into account cyclists I would have thought that this would be dangerous for horses as well.

It always amazes me how the countryside can look so different from a new viewpoint - even one which is only a short-distance from a well-ridden route. In this case this is halfway between the CGB and Sustrans 51 - yet it looks unfamiliar.

In the main the entire length of the path was pretty reasonable and I passed about 8 people walking along the path so it was fairly popular. I did not see any horse-riders or evidence of horses although I have seen riders on the CGB near here. There is a synergy between horse-riding and cycling - I have been stopped once or twice by horse-riders asking me to support the "bridleway-ation" of paths in the fens. Frankly it can feel unsafe on a bicycle on the roads nowadays with so little apparent courtesy shown by motorists - it must be worse on a horse. Mind you the only horse-riding I have done was a bit of pony trekking on holiday once with the family - I think we all agreed that it was an interesting experience - but not one we needed to repeat in a hurry. we were in Canada and had booked a series of activities as part of the hols and the pony-trekking was one of those activities. During the trek one of the riders got kicked in the shin by a skittish horse. There was quite a lot of blood and panic and we were miles from the road so the injured rider had to carry on. Mind you my bike has whacked me in the shin once or twice with a pedal.

The path then followed the course of a small river - Beck Brook - before emerging onto the Sustrans 51 route near Girton. The river is hidden and on the left of the picture. That explains why the path wiggles a little bit. It emerges onto the Sustrans route here. When I get back my Internet connection I will add a Streetview link and find the name of the river.

After cycling along Sustrans 51 through Oakington towards Longstanton where I passed the stretch of road that is theoretically banned to motor vehicles but in practice seems to encourage speeding motor traffic (around the edge of what used to be Oakington Airfield) I headed off along St Michael's Lane towards a byway called St Michael's Road when then turned right and ran parallel (as Long Lane) to the CGB with the Oakington Immigration Centre in the middle. Looking at the map it appeared that there was a placed called Toad Acres Park on the other side of Long Lane. It was a pleasant leafy, shaded lane although the recent rain had left the track a little muddy and there were one or two puddles. The ditch alongside the lane did not look as if there was much water in it though. The byway then connected with the Rampton Road - a byway which crosses the CGB and heads off towards Rampton - surprising eh, where it became Renold's Drove.

Not long after crossing the CGB there is a small green bridge and a path that heads off at right-angles. The last time I checked this route on the map it was not clear clear where it went and as far as I can remember it was not shown as a right of way. I have since checked it on the Cambridgeshire County Council right of way website and it is shown as a bridleway and emerges between Rampton and Willingham on the Rampton Road/High Street (Rampton) . I must check to see which maps show what is what. A quick check of my old paper copy of the OS 1:50,000 map of Cambridge and Newmarket (Sheet 154 Copyright 1981) does not show it as a right of way, nor for that matter does it show the Histon to Girton bridleway. Someone somewhere in the Cambridgeshire County Council is doing a good job of researching and restoring rights of way as well as establishing new ones. This one also seems to have a reasonable gravel surface and emerges with a somewhat overgrown swinging gate for pedestrians and a couple of sleepers for horse-riders and bunny-hoppers. As the farmers are busy ploughing the stubble in the fields the main gate was open saving me from having to hop. The track is another that shows on the CCC Rights of Way map, on the OSM Cycle map but not on the Streetmap and Where's the Path OS maps. (In fact neither map appears on the OS Get-a-map service.)

The path then conveniently led through Belsars Field onto a bridleway to the east of Willingham leading onto the Aldreth Causeway.One of a few ancient routes leading to Ely and not an easy one according to this Information Board alongside the route.

There is still work to be done in the fields in these parts - I don't suppose the recent unsettled weather has helped.

The byway after the farm starts off well - it even has a line marked down the middle - although actually I think this was some vehicle leaking oil.

The path morphed into a farm track - with a pretty reasonable surface but more grass and hard pack mud rather than gravel. The line down the middle continued down the ... middle

The route then emerged onto Iram Drove, a small single track road between Willingham and Rampton. The sign calls it Haven Drove and like quite a lot of byways in these parts it has further restrictions on motor vehicles. The little white note on the pole also claimed further powers to be able to move anyone along trying to "camp" along the path. (with powers of seizure in the event that those concerned did not move along.)

Rather than go up to Aldreth I then headed along the road towards Rampton where the Drove became Cow Lane and and I headed off along the first bridleway I came to. It is one I have cycled along before. The path is clear but a bit bumpy - small regular bumps - not difficult just unpleasant. This apple tree looks to have plenty of fruit growing on it. I have managed to convince myself that these apple trees result from walkers discarding their apple cores when out walking. The trees always seem to grow along the edge.

The path continues after a dog leg to the right - it seems to be well kept and so I would imagine it is well used.

The path crosses a stream - that even with the rain is dry - although I call it a stream it is probably a drainage ditch - necessary in these parts.

A reminder that the end of summer is nigh with trees "fruiting" - in this case an Oak tree that seems to be avoiding AOK (Acute Oak Disease). When I was a boy growing up in Somerset I used to like climbing trees and was always told that Oak trees were not safe. They are old English trees and do not have resistance to various diseases unlike newer imported tree species and so the internal heart wood is often rotten - but the rot can be hidden by the bark. Thus making them treacherous to climb.

Further along the bridge I noticed this sign - the bridleway is named after a horse called Archie. This is another route that was not indicated on my 1981 50K OS map of the area. When I first came to the Cambridge area in around 1980 I used to think that there were not many footpaths and the like to walk along - that situation is certainly changing.

A nice view of my Green Leather Brooks saddle as well- so far it has "done" around 1600Km/1,000miles. They say they take around 50-100miles/80-160Km to mould to your shape - this one does not seem to have changed much at all - mind you it was comfortable as soon as I fitted it on the bike. In fact it was more comfortable straight away than the saddle it replaced (not a Brooks).

The bridleway led onto a small fen road into Cottenham crossing the New Cut (and Cottenham Lode further up the map) at this bridge.

To round off the journey (and to get home) I headed through Landbeach towards Waterbeach and joined the dead-end leg of the Sustrans 11 route alongside the Cam. I normally use this route to cycle out of Cambridge but as they say a change is as good as a rest. It surprises me how different routes look when you travel along them in the opposite direction to the accustomed way. The path has a fine grit and easy to cycle along. It is not so wide though which is not normally a problem, you do have to watch out for cyclists who are coaching rowing crews on the Cam. They often cycle with loud-hailers shouting instructions to the boat being rowed along the river whilst focusing all their attention on the crew and what seems to be none on their own cycling progress along the path. I wonder how many end up cycling into the River because of lack of attention?

Sustrans 11 (alongside the Cam) passes under the A14 - with a concrete bridge supporting the road - an obvious target for graffiti.

Despite it being a windy day the route was a good one for getting a bit of cycling done and a bit of exploring also. When I got home rather than it taking around 5 minutes to download the route it seemed instantaneous having deleted all the orphaned history files.

I forgot to mention I passed 15 cars parked on the "cycle lanes" when cycling along Gilbert Road and 13 cyclists when heading down alongside the Cam.


  1. "Someone somewhere in the Cambridgeshire County Council is doing a good job of researching and restoring rights of way as well as establishing new ones."

    I'll see one of them at a meeting on Weds next week, and will pass on your compliment.

    Now if only we could get Highways to do their part and cut back overgrowth on cycle tracks, for example the brambles out of Bottisham to the A1303!


  2. Excellent, thanks - am now catching up on Posts so the "Recumbent training" pictures will appear soon-ish!

    I rode along Lodes Way yesterday - it is looking good (better than expected by me)- although the last bit, near CockUp bridge is a bit tricky, as it is not actually finished.