Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Wobble Around Wicken

After a lay-off of over a week I managed to get out again on Sunday - always a good day for cycling - there tend to be more cyclists about and fewer cars. Mind you I have been having a few techie issues recently. I noticed that my anti-virus software McAfee kept giving an "Update error" when it tried its update manually - but the date of the last update was set to the new time. It was only by chance I noticed it. After a bit of Googling and various experiments I did what I hate to do - removed the software and re-installed it. To be fair to McAfee it was straightforward. I logged onto my McAfee account and downloaded an installer which un-installed the software without fuss. I then re-booted the machine and it re-installed the software again without fuss. Although Windows 7 kept reporting issues - "no-antivirus" software - it was correct but I did not have to wait too long until the A/V software was back up and running.

Google have also updated their Chrome browser which I use as my default browser. It amazes me how much faster it is than IE8, or perhaps I am more surprised how slow Internet Explorer 8 is, at least running on my Desktop and laptop computers. Actually I use the Google Chrome Beta version browser. Like a lot of software, except for my McAfee anti-virus program for a short time, it updates automatically. The upside of being on the Beta program is you get improvements early, the downside is that there can be the odd hiccup. I find the trade-off quite acceptable, you can use an even more advanced Development version but for me that is a step too far. I like Chrome because of its visual simplicity and performance - Chrome Version 6 continues to improve on both. Unfortunately it did cause my web-based email client to crash - well the tab with it in - not the whole Browser program. There was a work-around I switched to the "classic" email view it worked fine but seemed quite clunky compared with the newer version. However Google have now fixed Chrome 6 for this particular problem - not bad for a weekend.

Whilst on the subject of gadgets my GPS has started reporting "Memory Full" errors again - despite it showing 300Mb of 485Mb free. After deleting the history stored on the GPS it freed up another 55Mb - reaching a total of 355Mb free. My guess is that either the memory usage is not tracked properly or the device needs a certain amount of working storage which does not show when you check free space by plugging it into a computer. It could be related to the fact that for ease of use I have stored the entire map of the UK on the associated memory card. You can load chunks, which I did in the beginning, but I kept finding myself cycling off to areas with no map so in the end it seemed the easiest thing to do. The map is stored on a 2Gb memory card and uses around 1.Gb of the space available so is quite large. I will have a look to see whether it reports on the actual memory in use next time I am out cycling. I download each ride pretty much on the day I cycle them so it all ends up on my Desktop - and is then backed up from there.

Sunday's ride was a random wobble around Wicken Fen - in fact I am not totally sure that map on BRT (Bike route Toaster link) or the picture below are totally correct. It was windy though and I did find myself dabbing my feet down occasionally when cycling on some of the more rutted bridleways. Actually I did set of in one direction, I was going up to St Ives, but had forgotten my camera so I had to go back to get it (around 0.5Km) and switched routes - I though the Fens would be easier with the wind direction.

According to the BRT summary it was around 60Km of cycling with a total of 100m of ascent/descent and reached the dizzy heights of 20m above sea level. The bridleways were not very muddy despite the rain, there were one or two puddles but it has been so dry that the rain seems to have soaked in pretty quickly. The only challenge was the wind which made the going quite slow. I have added some arrows to the map as my route does not really follow a logical path - it wobbles around the map!

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The first stop was around the back of Swaffham Bulbeck on White Droveway - this field was briefly a sea of blue linseed flowers - I wonder when it will get harvested. I assume the green patch in the middle is a cover crop for game birds.


Further round White Droveway I came across a rural cycle stand. I would imagine that this bike had been borrowed stolen for a joyride and then abandoned.


After cycling through Swaffham Prior and then alongside Swaffham Bulbeck Lode my convoluted route headed back along Lord's Ground Drove - there are quite a few fields of turf in these parts - the recent rain has greened them all up amazingly quickly.


Further down Lord's Ground Drove a freshly ploughed field - the plough was too tired to make it back to the farm though.


Normally on Sunday's Wicken Fen can be quite busy the not so good weather depleted the numbers a bit I think - although I did pass a few people out walking around. I generally ting my bell and say thanks when I go by, most people say hello - occasionally I get some pretty dirty looks as if to say what the hell are you doing cycling on our path! Or perhaps I am being a tiny bit paranoid. The map does not show it but this time I followed Monk's Lode around St Edmund's Fen to a foot bridge and then re-traced my "steps" back onto the Sustrans 11 route. This is Monk's Lode taken from the bridge.


The view looking north towards Wicken Village with the windmill on the horizon. I have seen cyclists on this path (normally family groups with kids) although strictly speaking it is a footpath.


Heading back down Factory Road towards Burwell there seemed to be lots of fruit trees in the hedgerow. It was a bit windy though so the branches kept moving around when I took pictures of the plums.


On heading back through to Reach (on Sustrans 51) I decided to take to the byways (Straight Drove) and check out the new bridge over Reach Lode. As you can see (just about) the path was pretty dry - I claim it was the wind that caused me to dab my feet down along here.


The Lord of the Rings comes to mind here - Gandalf saying "Thou shalt not pass" - so despite the additional fencing being in place the bridge is still barricaded - perhaps we are descendants of the Balrog. If you check out my profile the Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of my favourite "books". When my son was younger I read them to him as a bedtime story . Actually the first time I started reading them, after I had read The Hobbit to him, I had to stop as it was a bit too scary for a bedtime story so I had to wait a year or so.


I did take a brief detour along Headlake Drove up towards Rand Drove - although I did not actually cycle along Rand Drove. I have done but it is very soft and peaty and really much easier with fatter MTB tyres. You can see a few puddles as evidence of the recent showers.

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This was taken from the same spot - there are still quite a few fields to be harvested. Apparently with the Russian embargo on exporting wheat the price has gone up so those farmers that have not forward sold their grain should make a bit more money this year.

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As it was windy any HDR (multiple exposure) picture becomes a bit blurry as the leaves shake around between pictures. This is Swaffham Bulbeck Lode taken from the "old" new bridge built as part of Lode's Way.


On my way back through Lode onto Bottisham and the Sustrans 51 route back towards Cambridge there was not much progress on the Lode crossroads crossing. I am sure work had taken place but it looked similar to the last time. There has been progress on improving the shared-use cycle path between Lode and Bottisham though. It seems as it if is being widened slightly and re-surfaced. Hopefully it will encourage more cycling to School - Bottisham Village College is at one end of this path.


Even though it was windy I passed around 25 cyclists out and about, including a group of around 10 (just for clarity I don't mean overtook, in most cases . At one point I overtook a youth on a small BMX bike. I must be getting old - they look very uncomfortable - inevitably he started speeding up - his street cred would have been hit if an old fogey had overtaken him. At this point I was thinking - I'll show him what an old fogey can do and was starting to wind up the speed - there is, after all life in the old dog yet. As I started going past him he responded - the race was on! Or not, as he picked up his pace something went snap on his bike and with as much nonchalance as he could muster he sat down on the saddle and free-wheeled as if nothing had happened.

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