Saturday 27th, November: Although we have yet to have any snow here in the Flatlands of East Anglia it is pretty cold. I find that it is best to try to get out before it gets too dark, which is when it really starts getting much colder. The trouble is with Sunset now around 3:50pm it is tricky getting out before it gets dark and taking pictures also becomes very constrained. The situation is not going to change until next year when the days start getting longer again. I haven't really thought about it much, but this year I have tended to cycle moderate distances more often, whereas the past few years have tended to include more longer 150Km - 200Km rides over the middle of the year. I am still on target to hit 12,000Km for the year - which is only 32Km per day, but each and every day and it adds up if you stop. It looks as if I will hit the end of the month having cycled over 11,300Km / 7,000 miles for the year, leaving 700Km/ 440 miles to do in December which I have managed to do in 6 out of the last 8 years...
In case you are wondering I do realise that this is perhaps a little bit obsessive, but what gets measured gets done. As I get older I am more aware of the need to "use it or lose it" and am planning on cycling from Land's End to John O' Groats again in a couple of years time. Keeping up my cycling also makes it possible to visit some interesting countries and to enjoy cycling through them. Cycle tourism with a bunch of strangers is really enjoyable and I think you get to know the people of the country you are visiting a little better. Mind you if my kids got this obsessional I'd probably worry about it, when you are young staying fit doesn't require so much effort.
(Note Tesco have a twofor on packets of Jelly Babies.)
So what this really all boils down to is that I still have to get out and clock up some distance. With the cold weather, shorter days and soggy byways/bridleways route planning is harder. I like to explore, but that is much better in the daylight, although I do like cycling along (off-road) routes I know quite well at night as they feel so different. So the route I ended up with was this one. The out part was in the daylight and the return part was on roads I know well. I headed out towards Suffolk which does have some rather nice countryside. I started out along NCN51 before heading towards Six Mile Bottom and beyond before a bit of wiggling around and then turning back at Cowlinge and finding my way to Newmarket before "catching" NCN51 back to Cambridge.
Here is the BikeRouteToaster (BRT) link, the route is around 73Km/ 45 miles in length with some hillier bits around the middle, reaching 116m above sea level, the Suffolk area is a bit lumpier that the flatlands - but not badly so. It is rolling countryside which, for choice, I find to be the most pleasant of cycling terrain. The route takes "C" road out and under the A11. It is a fairly straight road but with one or two deceptive curves so except cars to whizz by, generally though they can see you and give room when over-taking. It is not a road I would be quite so happy about cycling in the dark though. On the way you pass Little Wilbraham, which from the introductory sentence on Wikipedia sounds a rather forlorn place with no employment in the village - surely the pub employs people? (The Hole in the Wall!).
On reaching Six Mile Bottom you cross both a main road (A1304) and the Cambridge to Ipswich Railway line, I can't remember being held up by the level crossing ever though - it is not the busiest of lines. There was a station in Six Mile Bottom, but it is now a private residence. Given how busy the traffic is on the A14 it surprises me that more is not made of this particular rail link into Cambridge - it seems to be used by students going to Long Road and Hills Road 6th Form Colleges. I think part of the problem is that Cambridge Station doesn't have the capacity for more trains around the rush hour periods.
I like the church in Six Mile Bottom - St George's Church, this is a yew tree (I think, but did not really go up to it and check, it might be some form of Larch?) in the churchyard.
Here is the Church, it was built in 1933 and "commissioned and largely paid for by the aristocratic Hall family" as a parting gift. It cost £3,700 to build and the architects' fees were £250. On the first Sunday in September a special service is held and a picnic held after the service. There are some nice pictures on the link - I should have walked around the grounds a bit more. I didn't because it was already cold despite the blue sky. The temperature indication on my Speedo was around 1C. I try to maintain a reasonable pace in the cold - that makes it easier to stay warm. Once you get cold getting warm again is harder at any speed.
One irritation I suffer from (along with many others) is that my nose tends to run when I exercise in cold weather. So I always carry a hankie in my back cycling pocket which, not to put too fine a point on it, is generally sodden by the time I get home. Obvious though it may sound, I always carry a hankie except when I don't. My usual routine when I return from cycling was interrupted and the wet hankie was put in the laundry basket, but I forgot to put a clean one back. Usually I would have a spare in one of the other pieces of clothing I wear, but not this time.
I don't like having to blow my nose without a tissue or a hankie, but needs must, and as a cyclist it is a trick I have had to learn. Essentially you have to blow you nose and rather than catch the result in a tissue you arrange for it to spray over the road behind you. Now as you might imagine it is bad form if there is a cyclist right behind you, then you are expected to move out a little. You also have to consider cross-winds that can affect your aim. It does work and it means that you don't have to keep sniffing as you cycle, I find it a little rough on the nose though. I also find it better to use this technique whilst on the move to ensure good snot clearance (by which I mean you don't want it to blow back on you).
I did wonder whether I might find myself cycling through snow - although the clouds didn't look too big and threatening.
After Six Mile Bottom I kept heading East though Carlton (mains sewers coming), Great Bradley (in Suffolk) and Cowlinge (also in Suffolk). I did think about heading along Water Lane out of Great Bradley up to Kirtling Green, but the temperature on my Speedo was dropping as I cycled - down past 0.8C to 0.5C so I stuck with my original plan and started heading back once I'd reached Cowlinge, through Lidgate (Suffolk), a place worth having a better look around one summer day. I briefly joined the B1085 before turning off to Upend (Cambs), Broad Green and Saxon Street. This is most definitely Horse Racing territory with its proximity to Newmarket and there are quite a few Stud Farms along the route back to Newmarket.
By now I was a little surprised as the temperature had dropped to 0.1C but now seemed to be rising to 0.5C, although it was getting dark and certainly did not feel it was getting warmer. Actually I had misread my Speedo reading it was really -0.5C, yes it was getting colder.
As I cycled back the Newmarket I did stop a couple of times to catch the sun as it finally disappeared below the horizon.
The same picture but after adding the other two exposures to it. It loses a bit of the drama of the silhouette, but you can see the "race track" leading off behind the foreground trees.
The same silhouette in close-up - the sun was slipping away without much fuss today.
The HDR version of the same picture does not look that much different.
By the time I got to Newmarket (Suffolk) I was most definitely feeling the cold. By now my toes all felt a numb and my thumbs were also feeling the cold so I didn't hang around to see what sort of pictures I could take of the Christmas Decorations. In fact I paid so little attention to them that I didn't see them. I followed NCN51 back through Exning and then round the country lanes to the outskirts of Burwell. I did stop - partly to do a bit of foot stamping and swinging to get some warm blood back in my toes and also to take a picture of the trees against the clear sky. Just looking at the picture reminds me of how cold it felt. Although it was quite easy to get my thumbs warm again, and once warm they can be kept warm for a while with a small amount of maintenance - hand swinging. I did warm my toes up a bit, but my cycling boots are worn out so I was wearing a pair of thinner walking boot/trainers and with a thin sole on a metal pedal my foot very quickly went cold again.
Although I did take a few pictures in between stamping my feet - the same silhouette but more zoom.
After that it was a fairly fast ride back, straight from Burwell to Swaffham Prior, I didn't fancy the Reach detour, but for some reason did drop down through Swaffham Prior back to the NCN51 route. By now the temperature was -1C. I did a bit of foot swinging to stop my toes from abandoning ship but when I got home and took my boots off the toes were numb and I couldn't feel my indoor sandals with my toes as I slipped them on. Before having a bath I sat and uploaded my ride and pictures onto my computer. It is surprising how painful it is when your toes get their feeling back. Once they were Ok I then had a hot bath - it was wonderful. Cycling when cold is wonderful when you stop :-) But I must pay more attention to maintaining appendage temperature if you stop them going cold you can endure for longer.