Thursday, November 11, 2010

Every other day is sunny in the Fens - sometimes

Wednesday 10th, November: After a couple of days festering - well getting other things done a cycle ride into the Fens was overdue. Also in one of those strange coincidences it was also a nice sunny day and that always makes it easier to get out for a ride. In one of those not so nice coincidences tomorrow is due to be very windy - so "pedal while it ain't windy" is the motto to follow. For this ride I detoured though Fen Ditton and along a bridleway called Field Lane back to the Horningsea Road before turning back to High Ditch Road. According to BikeRouteToaster the route is 58Km/36 miles in length and varies in height from -1m to 20m above sea level.

I also fitted my new Sigma Speedo before heading off, a sort of trial run to make sure it is in agreement with my GPS in terms of distance and time. I also tightened my brakes up, from the adjusters on the brake levers rather than fiddle with the cables - although the route was flat brakes are quite important really.

Cambridge Lodes Way Loop 7Annt.jpg

The easiest way to get to Fen Ditton is along a path called Wadloes Footpath, not to be confused with Wadloes Road which is nearby. This path has fairly recently had white lines painted down the middle. It is shown as a footpath on the Cambridgeshire Country Council (CCC) Rights of way map but has signposts indicating that it is a cycle route and appears as such on the Cambridge City Council Cycle map (pdf). I assume that the addition of the white lanes was to help facilitate both the shared-nature of the path and to facilitate cyclists passing each other. This is an old-fashioned path and has a width normally associated with footpaths. To prevent motor vehicles using it illegally there are posts at the Fen Ditton end. The slightly odd thing is that when cycling towards Cambridge from Fen Ditton the white lines down the middle will tend to "push" cyclists to riding in the middle of their half of the path - right into one of the posts. The posts do not appear to have any reflective markings on them - so watch out for them at night. That'll teach cyclists not to ride at night without lights - or it'll keep them on the roads where there are streetlights and no hidden traps.

I then cycled along past the church in Fen ditton along Church Street to Green End where there is a byway - Field Lane that heads back to the Horningsea Road. On the Streetmap (OS) it is shown as a road (and on Google Maps), although the Streetview photography stops at Field Lane. If you are thinking you'd like to drive along it, my advice would be to give it a miss. I am not sure it is really wide enough. It is fine on a bicycle, although the back wheel was a bit squirrelly after so much rain and I had to duck a few times to avoid over-hanging brambles.


This is where it emerges onto Horningsea Road and the new Horningsea-Fen Ditton cycleway, a nice bit of flat tarmac with white dashed lines along each side. The picture shows the route as it heads towards Fen Ditton. I am not sure whether the existing shared-path back into Fen Ditton is going to be improved or not - it had not had any work done this time around as I headed down the road back towards Fen Ditton. The road has, what I consider to be an absurd amount of traffic calming along it, which I feel makes it an unpleasant road to cycle along. The paths either side are shown as shared-use on the Cambridge City Cycling map - but they do not appear to have had much done to make them suitable for sharing.


I tend not to take many pictures of cars and roads unless there are cycle paths alongside. This time around I thought I would take a "stock" photograph of traffic on the A14. As you can see it is a popular freight route. The sign indicates the Quy roundabout turn is up ahead. I guess that the dissimilar speeds of lorries and cars does not help produce a smooth flow. In my mind the key to achieving fewer accidents is to reduce the turbulence so perhaps there should be more focus on establishing constant driving speeds in the two lanes, with adequate turn-on/turn-off slip roads. I would probably establish the inner lane for lorries and vehicles that want to travel at their speeds (50-60mph) and the outer lane for vehicles to travel at say 60-70mph. People who are speeders or slowers would then be banned from using similar roads for say a week or month and I would use Average speed cameras to enforce the rules. Although the Cambridge News reports that the Average Speed Cameras will not get this far - they will be put up between Girton and Fen Ditton with work starting next month. Unfortunately my idea suffers from the fact that on dual-carriageways there are three speed limits: cars/motorbikes - mph, cars+caravan/trailers/buses/Lorries <7.5t - 60mps and lorries >7.5t 60mph.


This is my idea of a road - no traffic heading, off into the wild blue yonder - well Low Fen Drove Way anyway. This is probably one of the high spots on the journey - well it is one of the hills, although the elevation information on the Bike Route Toaster mapping probably does not take this into account when estimating the height gained/lost on the ride. I did not notice it at the time, but I got up to a reasonable speed down the other side of the bridge and hit the bumps quite hard and slightly dislodged the sensor on my Speedo so I lost around 5 minutes (and the corresponding distance) I must use a stronger rubber band o-ring.


I passed a couple of horse-riders out enjoying the sunshine going around the Drove way, there was also this bike abandoned by the track. I didn't stop to check it out - but a rather odd place to dump a bike.


Then after going up the Horningsea Fen Ditton cycleway and back long the Harcamlow Way I stopped to take picture of these used fireworks that I mentioned in a previous Post. OK, maybe I overestimated how many there were - 10-15. They had not been retrieved and disposed of unfortunately. Before then as I was cycling up the cycleway a car flashed other cars going into Horningsea, all became clear when I entered the village, there was a Police Patrol with a radar gun doing speed checks. Someone needs to invent a cheap, easily deployable average speed check device - either that or we turn the place into one giant motorway.

Mind you I was listening to a Podcast discussing road safety - here in the UK we tend to use the intermittent stick (as opposed to the carrot). Lots of motorists break the law, a bit of speeding, not giving way to lollipop ladies, jumping red lights and so of course, do cyclists. Occasionally they get caught, but the chance of getting caught is small enough that it does not really seem to affect road-user behaviour. Except I believe that average speed cameras do appear to work, they create an orderly traffic flow and are without fear or favour.

The article discussed a road in Japan with grooves cut so that at the right speed the driver hears a melody playing - indeed they are called Melody Roads. Here is a Youtube link if you want to hear one. There are other Musical Roads some are more successful than others. It got me thinking though generally control systems need to have reward as well as punishment and our current road traffic system does not have rewards and I am not talking about the odd time a Policeman might stop a car to praise good driving. For me there ought to be a reward for switching from motoring to cycling since the latter has multiple benefits both to the individual and to society. Perhaps there ought to be a more obvious reward for motorists who don't have any speeding tickets perhaps? Say every five years you get a bit off your tax?


The route I take heads on through to Lode but passes a short bridleway stub up to Stow-cum-Quy Fen where there is a memorial to William Ison killed by lightning, aged 29 in August 1873.


The trees near Anglesey Abbey, still looking autumnal.


The view along the disused Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway line, looking towards Lode. One thing I have not noticed before is when I combine multiple exposure pictures to create a "high dynamic range" HDR picture it tends to bleach the (my) shadow out. It is not really HDR, but rather a widening of the range of tone the camera can portray and then compression back into a single picture. I did come across the "Lode with Longmeadow Parish Plan" (pdf) it is surprising how many inhabitants want improved cycle access to Waterbeach and Cambridge. The current Lode/Bottisham/NCN51 route whilst being on shared-use paths is not the most direct from this village.


I stopped at White Fen Drove to take a picture of the missing sign as pointed out by MikeC, there used to be two blue signs pointing each way along the route. You can see from the mud on the road there has been quite a lot of traffic along this road recently and the "White Fen Drove" sign has been bashed before. The second photograph was taken on the 7th September, 2010 before the sign was damaged. The road sign next to it had been bent well before then it would appear.


Old Picture

When I was cycling down White Fen Drove I passed a traffic jam, well not quite there was a large truck, a small car and a cyclist, all trying to pass each other. (The car and cyclists were heading one way the truck and I the other.) Once we had gotten past each other the truck turned off towards the big pile of sugar beet at the bottom of White Fen. Another load being taken off to be made into sugar. This was a Bartlow Estate Lorry.


It looks as if there will be a few more lorry loads before this pile of beet has been moved.


After crossing Swaffham Bulbeck Lode bridge I cycled up alongside the Lode to have a look at the bank work along the side of the lode. That is quite a smooth surface they have created. The byway was a bit chewed up and soggy- I got along it without dabbing my feet down though.


Technically this path is not a published right of way but I have never had any problems cycling along it it heads towards a track called Rail Drove which emerges on the Upware road by Highbridge Farm. Cycling along the road from Highbridge Farm was a different matter, a truck emerged from Lord's Ground Drove, it basically sped towards me and forced me off the road, well it was either that or get run over. It is tossers like that who make me seriously consider going to the next geek level and getting a video camera for my bike (so I have something to show the Police). I was too shocked to get its number plate, but I say it again - what a tosser, especially on these country lanes - Lodes Way runs on this bit of road as well.

I forgot to mention that when cycling along the byway between Horningsea and Lode I passed a tractor and trailer on the byway coming in the other direction. As I pulled to one side to let him pass me without slowing so did the tractor driver - he pulled right over and drove along the wide verge and waved as he went by - that is courteous driving. I also passed the two horse riders I had seen earlier as well - we had similar ideas about nice routes.


I headed towards Upware rather than continue along Lodes Way, but did stop to take this picture of turf growing in the field. Actually the picture is made up of 3 (x7) the sunset is getting earlier and earlier.

Upware Road Panorama.jpg

There was turf growing in the field on the other side of the road as well. With the sun low in the sky the shadows cast by the roadside trees were very long.


I was hoping to be in an interesting place when the sun finally set so sped up a little on my way through Upware and on to Wicken village. I did stop on NCN11 where it passes the new Windpump work in Wicken Fen - I am not sure whether a new "ditch" has been cut or an existing one widened. I assume that water will be pumped from here across to Sedge Fen. I can't easily find a Map of the area on the NT Wicken Fen website, but Sedge Fen Drove runs through the middle of the Nature Reserve. It is a pity that the NT have not published a bit more information showing what is going where. Silly me - I should have done a search on their website - here is a Map which shows Sedge Fen it's where I thought it was. The picture is looking towards Wicken Poor's Fen. I still can't find a diagram showing what is going where - this is from the website: Chalky Water to the Rescue at Wicken Fen.


I then headed down to Burwell from Wicken Fen and back up to Lodes Way along Newnham Drove. At the bottom of the drove is an Electricity sub-station, which is where I happened to be just as the sun was setting. So I took a couple of pictures of the sun setting through the metal structures.


The conductors and insulators almost seem to be glowing - well no not really it is the sun behind.


With the recent wet weather and the farmers getting fields ploughed and farrowed and drilled there is quite a lot of mud around on the country roads in these parts. Newnham Drove was no exception, it was just that bit harder in the dark as well The problem is that the mud creates a slippier surface and then hidden potholes and rocks can jar the bike and it handles just a bit unpredictably. Momentum helps, I think.

By the time I had cycled up Newnham Drove and reached Lodes Way the sun had practically set with a small patch showing above the horizon.


This bit of Lodes Way has suffered a bit from the recent wet weather - the water does seem to be lying (rather than draining). It is not too deep, but deep enough. Fortunately there are not any hidden potholes to worry about at the moment.


This is a single exposure picture, just to show how dark it really was, the sky reflects nicely in the puddles.


By this point it was tricky taking pictures so I just kept on going. Be aware that there are now two poles blocking large vehicles from entering the Reach Lode Bridge on the other side - they are bright metal but have no reflective tape on them,. Also the Split Drove is very muddy just where it ends and crosses the Reach/Upware byway near the bridge. It was slightly scary in the dark. I also followed a large gang-mower used to cut the grass growing for turf in the fields - so the farmers have to work late around here.


  1. A14 traffic

    That section of the A14 carried 51.1 thousand vehicles in the 16-hour "working day" survey for Cambs C.C., of which 17% were HGVs.

    Source in here.

    I extract the fragments of map from the PDFs, and stitch them together to make one to cover the county.


  2. Interesting data, although I struggled to reconcile the Cycling data in Section 7. The 2001 census data that 26% of journeys to work in Cambridge are by cycle versus Table 3.1 (in section 3) showing cyclists had a 16% modal share across the Cam screen line.