Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The King's Forest - Part 3 Getting back

"Red dot lanes", as I think of them or rather "other routes with public access" as the OS 50K map legend refers to them, are like a curate's egg - "good in places". I tend to think of them (rightly or wrongly) as routes that once had some importance/relevance, but for whatever reason failed to make the grade as a road. For a cyclist this means they can often be excellent "short-cuts" avoiding the unpleasantness of fast country roads and sometimes stinging nettle alleys. To get back to Cambridge from Lackford I could have followed the Icknield Way a minor road that heads South-West to Kentford. (The Icknield Way has its own association which you can join and lays claim to being the "oldest road in Britain".) It is quite a pleasant stretch of road, it has not been too busy when I have cycled it before. What caught my eye when looking at the map though was a "red dot" lane between Lackford and Risby pretty much heading South.

It did mean cycling along the A1101 though Lackford - but main roads in towns are not quite so unpleasant. I know I have gone on about this before, but I am convinced that fast roads have gotten noisier than ever. I am not sure whether the cause is speed, tyres or road surface, I am sure they are unpleasantly noisy. The track is opposite Old Bury Road and starts off as a reasonably wide Farm Road - climbing gently. When zoomed in on Streetmap the sheds to the right of the track are called the Engineshed Buildings.

The track carried on past a number of fields with various signs indicating No public right of way and passed through Risby Poor's Heath past some Round Barrows, a Scheduled Monument, at risk. Next time I must look out for them. As a boy I do remember my History teacher - Mr Whiteley encouraging us to learn map references for historic "things" and them quoting them in essays. One such map reference was "598632 this will get you to Stanton Drew" - where if you look at the Grid Reference on OS Map you will find some Long Barrows. (I think it was OS MAP sheet 172.)

These sorts of "red dot" routes generally start well, turn into farm tracks and then end well. This route was no exception even before I got to the other end (Lackford Lane) it was quite a reasonable stretch of hedge-lined road.


Once past Bullock Lode Farm there was a Water Tower to the right hand side , this was also probably around the high point of this stretch of road at 59m.


I used a tree to steady the camera when taking the last picture - as you can see it was now a proper minor road.


The Village Sign in Risby caught my eye - the tower depicted is Norman Church Tower but I have not been able to find anything on the web (in a short search) explaining the sign however fruit and a plough are fairly generic.


As I was heading through Risby towards the Newmarket Road I noticed what looked like a pigeon sliding across the road rather strangely - it turned out to be a pigeon that had been caught by a stoat or weasel. It had a long body, longer than a rat and is thinner. As I cycled along the stoat (or weasel) let go and disappeared into the hedgerow - I am not sure if the pigeon was mortally wounded or not it was certainly trying to get away. According to the link they do eat birds.

After the excitement of the pigeon I then joined the Newmarket Road - which no longer gets to Newmarket - is is a short strip of road then has been bypassed by the A14 dual carriageway, previously known as the A45. Even on a Sunday it was fairly busy. I was certainly not intending to cycle along here. (I have cycled along the A11 dual-carriageway before - although the traffic is fast there are wide margins at the edge of the road - but passing junctions can be tricky.) My route took me over the A14 (which is where I took the picture) and then onto New Road heading towards Barrow but I turned off along Shaker's Road a bridleway heading East.


As is often the case major routes are served by several modes of transport as our transport system evolved (or some might say degenerated). Alongside the A14 is the Cambridge to Ely Railway Line which also has a branch line to Cambridge. as you can see it has not yet been electrified and a line speed of 40-75MPH - though there are plans to dual the bit between Kennet and Ely to improve capacity for hauling freight from Felixstowe. As you can see this bit already has a dual track.


This is Shaker's Road it passes through a farm yard and then emerges alongside another farm.


Apparently it is an ancient trackway and passes across Barrow Field. It also passed a disc harrow on the day I cycled along it.


There was also a giant haystack - well pretty big - this was two (x7) photographs stitched together.


The clouds had thinned out a bit and hung in the sky - which is why I took this picture - the disc harrow lies to the right just outside of the picture.


My route took me through the outskirts of Barrow and then up Coalpit Lane back up the the A14 where I was able to take a side road that took me onto the Higham Road - although it is marked as the A14 it is only a slip road for relatively minor country lanes. I also crossed the Railway Line twice and passed a War Memorial. At this point I headed towards Gazely and joined the Sustrans 51 route towards Newmarket. Every now and then I stopped to take pictures of the dramatic skies. This was taken on the Higham Road somewhere between Higham and Gazely.


I carried on Sustrans 51 until Exning where I diverted though the village and along Haycroft Lane and Howlem Balk - both bridleways. This picture was taken on Howlem Balk - the field had been recently combined.


After rejoining Sustrans 51 in Burwell I left it in again in Reach and headed towards White Fen and what will be Lode's Way. Once again taking a bridleway (Black droveway) in preference to cycling along, even the country lanes. This is Black Drove in the picture.


Then I headed back to Cambridge through Lode. In Lode I bumped into MikeC coming the other way. (Not literally the road was wide enough for the both of us!) We stopped to have a chat and Dave (someone I have cycled with) happened to pass by and joined us. The conversation turned to Mike's recumbent and Dave and others in his group gave it a go. As you can see here it is harder than it looks - Dave is pushing and Mike is looking on in this picture. Mike reckoned it was easy - but watching them try reminded me of what it was like just after I took my stabilisers off when I was learning to ride a bike.


Mike did a bit of adjustment to make it easier for Dave to fit and as you can see he mastered it - look at the concentration in his face and smile of satisfaction!


After the stop in Lode it was time to push on home and to reassure you no-one was hurt in the making of this Post. Although there were times when the 'bent looked a bit wobbly. I managed to get home before my wife and daughter for a well-earned (I think) soak in the tub.

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