Saturday, September 25, 2010

Autumn brings grey days to the Fens (and push-me-pull-you deer)

September 25: I was not going to bother putting up a map and Bike Route Toaster Link for this ride as I thought I had already done it before. (Indeed I may well have but couldn't find it.) So here it is - yet another loop out of Cambridge using the Lodes Way as one of the legs - or rather using the Lodes Way to connect the loops.

Saturday is a day for getting the shopping done for the week along with any other chores and then getting out to ride. It is funny I thought it was September, but my calendar must be wrong - they had mince pies and Christmas Puddings on sale in the Supermarket. Although as my wife pointed out they also had Hot Cross Buns for sale - so their calendar must be completely haywire.

Once the chores are done then the incentive to ride is that I can catch up on the Archers, a radio soap opera that has been running for 60 years, having started in 1950 by the BBC's then Midlands Home Service. It hit the mainstream on January 1st 1951 when it was broadcast to the UK. It started as five 15 minute programs a week and is now broadcast 6 times a week (still 15 minutes for each program). Just to make it clear this program started before I was around, I am not that old. I started listening to it probably when I was around 16. At one stage I used to listen to the Omnibus program, the week's episodes lumped together into a Sunday morning program. (It was an excuse to have a lie-in and listen to it in bed.) Later, when driving around was part of my job I would listen to the evening editions of the program, broadcast at 7.15pm. The nature of the program is that you can still follow it even if you don't hear all of the programs. Although it can be a bit confusing sometimes if you do miss key moments.

With the advent of DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) in the UK in the 90's I acquired a Psion Wavefinder in around 2000, it connected to my PC and allowed me to "record" DAB Radio programs onto my PC and then to transfer them onto my MP3 player. I now download the Archer's BBC Podcast and listen to it on my MP3 player (since it became available in February 2009). By Saturday I have a week of the Archers programs recorded and listen to them when out cycling, either on Saturday or Sunday. Generally I listen to another program first so that by the time the Archers is playing I have gotten out of town and into the country so the program does not get drowned out by the noise of traffic.

For this run it gets quieter by the time I am on the Lower Fen Droveway. The route is around 50Km/30 miles in length and as you might expect only reaches a maximum elevation of 20m (and a minimum of 0m) so there is not much climbing. It has gotten colder though as Autumn (Fall) approaches. In fact I wore leggings for the first time since the Spring (and a jacket and long-fingered gloves and socks).

Cambridge Lodes Way Loop 3 Annotated.jpg

The weather was quite cold and gloomy, although I was not really worried about lightning (just the possibility of rain), However I could not resist adding this cartoon from xkcd - "A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language." A link to show the image is included on their Website so I hope that putting it in my Post is acceptable to the Author.

I did pass some cyclists as I cycled around Lower Fen Droveway, I also saw what looked like some small motorbikes beings ridden on one of the fields by Snout Corner as well. I don't actually show it on the map trace, when cycling I sometimes cycle down no through roads to see what is there. This picture is Dock Lane in Horningsea, it leads to the River Cam. This house was up for sale by auction the last time I passed this way. The garden around it has been cleared so I assume it has been bought and is in the process of being renovated.


This is Headlake Drove, looking back towards Cambridge - you can just about see where the dips in the road have been filled and the cracks alongside left to keep cyclists on their toes (or should that be pedals).


It was looking a bit bleak when I cycled through - Upware to the left, Reach to the right and Lodes Way straight on. I also discovered a single jelly baby in my fluorescent yellow jacket - an unexpected treat bit of energy.


I passed a couple more cyclists on Lodes Way, one looked as if she was just out for a cycle in the wind and the other was walking (actually more like running) quite a large dog. After reaching the end of Burwell Fen as the NT signs show but appears to be Hundred Acres on the OS map I hauled my bike over the footbridge at High Bridge (over Burwell Lode). The challenge is that this bit of the Lodes Way does not really look like a real shared use path and so cars park across it


I cycled around Wicken Fen along the Maltings path and then back in via the entrance way. There were loads of cars in the car park. It surprises me how popular the Reserve is, and yet you don't see that many people on the outskirts of the reserve. Here is a windpump that rather than pump water away is used to pump water into the Sedge Fen to keep it appropriately wet. However it is being replaced by a modern windpump.


There are already signs of the "builders" having moved in to construct the new windpump. When you cycle into the reserve there are various signs warning of construction work and these "crates". The company that appears to be doing the work is Birse Civils, but a quick web-search does not seem to throw up any information.


On the way out of Wicken Fen on my way to Burwell I passed some deer in the field.


Including this rare push-me, pull-you deer with two heads!


For a road I have moaned about I actually quite like cycling along Newnham Drove between NCN51 and Lodes Way (NCN11) despite its very bumpy surface. The signpost is labelled as (11) - which shows it gets you to NCN11 but is not itself NCN11. This implies that the road I was on - Weirs Drove was still NCN11 as the sign further along shows it as "11" and "51". Or am I making too much of the signing?


I saw two more deer as I cycled along Newnham Drove at the time I though they might be the same two I saw - but Burwell Lode is in the middle, so unless they swam or used the footbridge they couldn't have been.


The gates across Newnham Drove to get to Lodes Way are still locked. I once again squeezed through - but because I was wearing more clothes the squeeze was a bit tighter. I carried on up to Burwell Fen Farm and took a few pictures.


This is the inside of one of the barns - I was hoping to see what the construction was like (MikeC mentioned it was a rare form of wartime construction.) The buildings were quite dark and I assumed that taking a multi-exposure picture would make all visible. I had not reckoned on lens iris artifacts appearing in the picture though (the hexagons).


A trip along Lodes Way would not be complete without some pictures taken on the bridge. Don't worry I will tire of this soon.


A closeup of Split drove taken from the bridge - the signpost indicates the bridleway called Straight Drove from Reach to Upware - a route I seem to have been neglecting since the opening of Lodes Way.


Instead of following Lodes Way along Whiteway Drove I took Rail Drove a track heading north alongside fields at the bend in the road by Highbridge Farm and then onto the byway alongside Swaffham Bulbeck Lode. As I reached the Lode the digger that has been working there was silhouetted against the sky. I think that it has been cutting the grass - but did not check to see whether there was a cutting tool on the end of the arm.


The same picture (and 6 others) combined to create an HDR picture. Now the days are drawing in I must start thinking about taking sunset pictures and not relying upon HDR effects. I also need to check out my bicycle lights. I have used a variety of different rechargeable lighting systems over the years. I first upgraded from simple non-rechargeable lights when cycling back from work along country lanes in the evening. I found that motorists would rarely dip their lights when coming towards me. When that happens a cyclist is effectively blinded and the road all but disappears. The implications was that the motorist didn't see me! As soon as I started using brighter lights then motorists would dip their lights - job done.

The early ones used lead-acid batteries and filament bulbs and were not terribly reliable so a while back I got an LED light from Exposure Lights it was remarkably good for such a small unit. It got lost on some very rough track unfortunately, but not before I had bought another one. The light was called the Joystick and it is on its mk5 version this time around I am thinking of something more powerful for my off-road cycling. (These sorts of lights can be expensive, but they feature different power levels and it is my safety I am investing in.)

The challenge when cycling at night is what to do on shared-used cycle paths. The tend not to be very wide and often vegetation encroaches even further onto the path. So you need decent lights to see the path and make sure you don't run into hanging brambles, but when there are oncoming cyclists or pedestrians bright lights can blind them. So I "dip" my lights when there are oncoming cyclists, or at least I try to. Although most shred-use cycleways in the countryside tend to be tidal, with people going into Cambridge for work in the morning and out of Cambridge home in the evening I tend to cycle against the flow. So at the end of a ride in the early evening I am the one going into Cambridge against the flow.

For rear lights I use Cateye lights - generally the TL-LD1100 in flash mode and I carry a spare set of batteries. They reckon to have around 100 hours of battery life in flashing mode which is pretty reasonable and they are certainly noticeable


Just after White Fen I passed a cyclist I had seen earlier towards Quy Fen, only this time he was walking his bike. It looked as if he had punctures in both the front and rear tyres. I offered him some help and some patches, but his plan was to walk through to Waterbeach Station and catch the train back. I think that he had tried to patch up his rear tyre, but it was going flat again. It can be incredibly annoying when you mend a tyre only for it to deflate pretty quickly, you start doubting your ability to fix any punctures when that happens. Hopefully it won't put him off cycling into the Fens.

My worst record was three punctures on a ride and I used up all my patches, at that point I was paranoid about getting another puncture and having to call for help 50Km/ 30 miles away from home. What I did was find a bike shop in a nearby town (Downham Market) and stock up on patches and inner tubes, just in case. Fortunately I did not puncture again on that ride.

Although the Autumn colours have not really become too evident yet, along the NCN51 on Newmarket Road just after Quy the trees/bushes alongside had very definitely taken on an Autumnal look.


One thing I didn't mention was that when I put my leggings on they had a bit of a hole in the saddle area - which I did not notice until sitting on the cold saddle as I was setting off down the road on my bike. I couldn't be bothered to go back and change so kept having to readjust my position. The nose of the saddle kept catching, a reminder that not only do I have to check my bikes and lights ready for winter - but also my clothes. The worst thing is where a perfectly good pair of leggings or shorts is no longer any good because the elastic in the waistband is no longer, well, elastic. I blame the washing machine for getting too hot.

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