Sunday, October 17, 2010

An orbit of Cambridge via the Satellite dishes

Sunday, 17th October: Although the weather is getting colder it was another sunny day today and as my wife and daughter were going shopping (clothes) I was excused and was able to get out earlier in the day. To speed my getting out of the house a little I took my lunch with me, to eat on the way. Actually I took a bag of jelly babies and some lemon squash, tasty, full of energy and I would get my five-a-day when I got home (evening meal) so no worries there.

The question was were to go? In the end three places attracted me. Lime Kiln Hill was the first, I have not cycled over the hill for quite a while and the last time I drove over there I saw a cyclist coming up the other way. The second place was Cantelupe Road which is actually a no through road, which goes past some Satellite Dishes (part of the MRAO) and then onto Grantchester via a bridleway. The last place to visit was the path between Dry Drayton and Bar Hill, I read somewhere that it had been improved, so why not check it out. (Actually it was Get Pedalling, a newsletter from the Cycle Cambridge Team, page 4.) Since I was out that way I also thought I might check out a bridleway called Wilson's Track leading off the A14 near Bar Hill and ending up near Oakington. As you can see if you check out the route I took in the end I did not explore it. The problem was to get to it I would have had to cycle along the A14 a short way, which in itself was not a problem. But if Wilson's Track had been impassable then I would have ended up having to cycle further along the A14, which was not what I wanted to do on a Sunday afternoon.

Here is the BRT link it is around 55Km/35 miles with a total of 163m of ascent/descent, according to the map there are two (x2) areas where it gets up around 40m, Lime Kiln Hill/then the Shelford Road and then near Dry Drayton/Bar Hill. The Lime Kiln hill looks the worst as it is a fairly short climb and the road is narrow and cars whizz by, but it is shorter than it looks. All of the bridleways I took where OK, although between Cantelupe Road and Grantchester the mud had quite a few hoof prints which made the cycling a bit lumpy. I also had to jump off my bike when I (or rather the front wheel) went into a pothole. Fortunately I did not make contact with the headset and will not need to start singing soprano.

One other thing, most, but not all my rides seem to go in a clockwise direction. There are some exceptions but not many, I wonder is this a feature of the routes around Cambridge or something peculiar to me or do most people have a preference?

As I had an early start there was time for an early photograph - this graffiti can be seen on NCN51 just past the Newmarket Road P&R. It turns out there is a website where you can learn more about the writers and their art. You can also read about Cambridge's anti-graffiti PC here, I must check out the giant wall along Newmarket Road (permissive graffiti!)


Whilst on a roll in terms of taking pictures early in the ride - here is the Airport Cycleway, one of the unsung working cycleways (IMHO). The pavement is clear of overgrowth, it is not too thin and there are not loads of give way signs every time there is an entrance to the airfield. The pavement is also fairly flat and does not seem to have suffered root damage. The only challenge is how to leave the cycleway to rejoin the road when you get to Cherry Hinton. I generally end up cycling onto Teversham Drift and rejoin the main road using the mini-roundabout. Although if the traffic is not too busy then I sometimes join at the Gazelle Way roundabout.

Actually one other thing, is it me, or is the noise that cars make both louder and higher pitched? It was dreadful on Sunday! Although the clouds look a bit grey in the picture they were moving and not over all of the sky.


Whilst cycling I also noticed that I must have passed through a time vortex and gone back in time there was a German WW1 Fokker Dr1 in the sky.


This picture shows its more distinctive aspect - it was a triplane. Apparently 320 were built and it first saw service in January 1918. I assume that this was a replica, it was out to do a fly-past of the Bottisham Airfield Museum. The Museum is on Tunbridge Lane - the route of the NCN51 from Cambridge to Burwell in a complex of WWII buildings still remaining. There is also a monument in the village to Col Christian an American group leader based at Bottisham and killed in a raid near Arras in France. (Also on Tunbridge Lane. - NCN51). Must get some pictures next time I head that way.


I was planning on taking pictures at the top of Lime Kiln Hill - but I was put off by the fence. So this was my next picture once I had cycled down the hill and was on Shelford Road near the Gog Magog Golf Club. The trees are starting to change.


The wood is quite a long one and accessible from Wort's Causeway. It is the Beechwoods nature reserve. The trees were planted in the 1840s on arable land and it seems to be a very popular dog-walking wood. When cycling down the hill along Wort's Causeway from up above the woods you have to be careful on a bike as people will randomly walk across the road without looking.

Cherry Hinton Road Beechwood.JPG

The route then passed through the Shelfords and past Hauxton where there was a distinctive chemical "fertiliser" smell in the air. The sort of smell you get when a farmer is spraying fertiliser on his field. The sort of smell that makes me cycle holding my breath, just in case. Although I never manage to get that far holding my breath. The route then follows a lovely bridleway to Haslingfield - where its right leg then meets Cantelupe Road. There are not many houses or farms along the route so it is a quiet road to cycle along, but what I really like about it is the almost surreal way in which large satellite dishes seem to be peeping over the hedges and there are loads of such dishes.


Although it is not so secluded that some of the old farm buildings aren't a target for graffiti. In fact I guess that it is the seclusion that makes it a target.


Some of the Satellite Dishes make use of the old Cambridge to Oxford Railway Line (the Varsity Line). The railway line's orientation made it perfect for the job in hand along with the railway line. To the left in the picture you can see railway tracks, although not all the dishes are on those tracks. This is where I almost suffered a permanent injury in the interests of my photography. To get this picture I got up close to a wire mesh fence surrounding the tracks so that the mesh did not appear in the picture. I was so intent on finding the right place to take a picture that I paid no attention to the rough ground I was cycling along until my front wheel disappeared into a pothole. It was either jump or pain - I chose jump and landed on my feet - I am getting too much practice at unplanned dismounts.


Cantelupe Road leads onto a bridleway - this one, taken looking back, the satellite dishes are to the right just out of shot. The track itself is actually quite cycle-able. The bridleway crosses Bourn Brook before climbing up through a little bit of wood. where there is a bench, so I stopped to have my lunch a few jelly babies and a drink. I also meant to take a picture or two, but forgot. The route up to the bridge of the M11 is a little lumpy from the horses hooves, but seems to drain ok so was not too muddy. The countryside Restoration trust has been instrumental in encouraging sensitive farming methods in the area (Lark Rise Farm - this links to a 10Mb presentation explaining the many steps taken).

Bridleway nr Cantelupe Farm.jpg

After that I headed up to Coton, cycling via the Coton Countryside Reserve, stopping to take a picture of this Star-Wheel-rake in a barn at the entrance.


The reserve has taken steps to make the place more accessible for prams, wheelchairs and bicycles by putting concrete "tracks" down - like this one.


No the Reserve is not so incredibly busy that it has its own Traffic Information signs - this stands high on the M11 which runs along one side of the reserve.


There are footpaths, this leads to a bridge over the M11 and then to the A603. You can see that where the path has not been concreted it is less easy to navigate.


The concreted path, by comparison has two tracks. this helps to support farm vehicles, whilst at the same time providing each-way paths for passing users. whilst some mud has gathered - the tracks were pretty good. It does not take much mud to make pushing a pram or wheelchair very difficult.


After Coton I headed over to Dry Drayton and took an indirect route through the village.


Autumn is in evidence in Dry Drayton.


This is track between Dry Drayton and Bar Hill, also known as the Bar Hill Cycleway (and the Drift.) The surface was good - the path was "protected" by rather annoying gates with prongs - I know this is to stop motor cycles which is a good thing, but they aren't the most visible of "gates" - it would be a bit tricky at night.

I was going to cycle along Wilson's Road a track off the A14, but in the end took the B1050 to Longstanton and then back along the NCN51 route past the Oakington Airfield. A road closed to motor vehicles, except for access. Some wonderful views of the open countryside from the side of this closed road. Although it was not that closed, I was there only a short while and 10 motor vehicles passed me.


I stopped briefly just before the "No Access sign" - you can see the back of it just where the car is passing it. The car was moving pretty quickly as it went past me and then had to break hard for the 30MPH sign. As you can see the road is not wide and cars do tend to drive along the middle.


I cycled up through Oakington to join the Cambridge Guided Busway CGB) briefly. There were three cyclists using the concrete tracks and none (except for me) using the shared-used path along side. What is going to happen when buses start to run on it? Although apparently "Delays close the door on the St Ives Section opening first". Apparently no meaningful progress has been made on the six issues identified on the North Section - so why is the River Great Ouse Viaduct closed then, if not for repairs? The 26th October 2010 report to the CCC has a couple points to note, Paragraph 6.4 refers to the cycle path and that it is being unofficially used and usage is expected to increase when the CGB is open. I wonder - it seem to me that the majority of cyclists are currently using the concrete tracks so when the CGB opens that will have to stop. So unless they sort the flooding out surely fewer cyclists and walkers will be able to use the route?

Especially in view of Paragraph 4.2 which suggests that resolving the flooding can be done when buses are running and that is not likely to be possible until after the flooding season. Given how long the flooding season is for the path the situation looks bleak for cyclists and walkers, unless of course the concrete tracks remain available for even longer. (i.e. the opening gets delayed even more.)


I then turned off the CGB at Histon along the Park Lane Cycleway, which took me past the place I was knocked off my bike by a SMIDSY car driver a couple of years ago (almost.) Then I cycled along Butt lane between Histon and Milton the indicative Milton-Impington Cycleway route. It certainly would help if there was one.

Although it was not the longest of rides it was a pleasant day and I got back before it got dark and cold. Even better I have just exceeded 10,000Km total distance for the year.


  1. Thanks for yet another picture showing drivers violating the No Vehicles exclusion.

  2. Unfortunately it is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel - although I have never actually shot fish in a barrel.