Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Traffic Jams in the Fens

Today is Saturday's Post (from 21 August 2010) and as my wife and daughter are going to London for a day out on Sunday I am planning a day ride so for this ride I went for an amble around the Fens not going anywhere in a hurry nut just loosening up my limbs for a longer ride on Sunday. The weather did not look too bad and the forecast for Sunday was looking good as well.

The route was my usual meander around and about taking in Horningsea and Lode and is shown below and can be found on Bike Route Toaster here. For a meander it is quite a reasonable ride of just under 60Kms, what happens is that I set off and tend to add lit bits to the journey I might though about taking when I set off. It always helps if the weather is good. I am surprised that the route involves more climbing than the loop around the North of Cambridge yesterday. In fact according to BRT 90m of ascent/descent although the height variation was 1m to 20m so my guess is that is must be that bridge over the A14 on Low Fen Drove.

I forgot to mention it was quite windy - but when you are meandering it is not so much of a problem. When you are just looking around and not going anywhere in particular it means the wind loses its psychological power - that's what I tell myself anyway.

When cycling on the bridge over the A14 I followed a police van over and down the byway - I am not sure whether the recent burnt-out car or perhaps the fact that lots of travellers had departed the Swavesey camp had required them to check out the byways. They stopped before reaching the Kennels - that road is seriously pot-holed and takes a lot of car to drive along. They took care, I've not driven down it and am not planning to. After reaching White Fen (on the Lode's Way) I broke with tradition and decided to cycle along Rand Drove - this is a very soft peaty track alongside the fields - it heads North and usually the peat is so soft that the wheels dig in and I find it almost impossible to cycle along on my Hybrid. Why the masochism - well tomorrow's plan was to cycle in the Thetford Woods and I needed some practice cycling in the soft stuff. Although in the woods it is sand rather than peat. For probably only the third time ever I manager to cycle along Rand Drove without stopping, there were moments when it was more about balance and effort on the pedals than any real forward motion. All that good work was halted though as there was a traffic jam on Rand Drove. To be fair the farmers have got a lot of work on at the moment and this combine was just about to start work in the field on the right. It seemed that the Combine driver and the accompanying tractor driver were just planning their strategy.

Despite the blue skies earlier once I got around to Wicken village the clouds were looking a bit greyer but acted as a backdrop for the village Swallowtail butterfly sign. Apparently the Fens used to have lots of this type of butterfly but they gradually became extinct in the area by 1952. Three attempts were made to re-introduce but they failed as it was not wet enough for their Milk Parsley, a rare plant they feed upon. (Or rather their caterpillars feed on.)

The Fens were starting to resemble the roads - first a traffic jam and now I came across road-works. Where Sustrans 11 switches from the road to the Wicken Fen reserve at the end of Lode Lane the usually pretty good shared-use path has suffered quite a lot. There is only a short patch of damage but it seems that it is the only route by which maintenance vehicles get into this part of the reserve. So when it was wet the path got chewed up pretty badly and then quite a few weeds have grown so that there is a single mud rut to follow for around 10-20m before the path flattens into what you see at the bottom of the picture. This bit of the path can also be quite tricky in the winter as it gets muddy and freezes - so let's hope this work sorts it out.

On the other side of the Wicken Fen reserve yet another cycle-jam? The paths around here are really good for families with cyclists of different levels of "competence" to cycle together.

The earlier clouds did not seem to have hung around and you could see quite a lot of blue in the sky. I shall be happy if it is like this for my extended ride.

Then all of a sudden the road clear and I was able to put my foot down. No of course not - it is normally like this, you meet a few people but it is never unpleasantly busy and of course there is no need to speed on a bicycle.

On the way back to Cambridge as I passed White Fen and before Lode I noticed an encampment - no this is not where the traveller's have moved to - I think that this is our equivalent of Glastonbury (which is actually near Pilton) - this is the Lodestar Festival. Let's hope it is a success and that they have some good weather. I would not mind going - but my wife would not be too keen and my kids are too old to go with me! Are well perhaps I'll just have to cycle up and down the lane. I did see another police car speeding around the lanes as it happens though.

Well that ride has certainly got me in the mood for some exploring tomorrow - I did think about joining the Cambridge CTC for their Sunday day long ride - but as it turned out I did not get up quite early enough - so the King's Forest it was.

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