Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mist and Sunset in the Fens

Monday 15th, November: I rather like cycling at night in the countryside, especially if there is no wind. Now usually I don't like wind when cycling because most of the time it seems to be pushing against me. What you need to do in such circumstances is to not think about the fact you are going to go a bit slower and instead focus on the pleasures of exercise in the fresh air. The trouble is, that for most cyclists, well me anyway, you hate to lose efficiency. At least with hills for each "up" there is normally a "down" - but every time you stop and lose momentum or for each gust of wind blowing against you there is an additional expenditure of energy. I am sure that most motorists either don't realise or don't care how much it costs in energy terms when a cyclist has to stop. For a motorist there is a cost in monetary terms for hard-accelerating/hard-braking driving, but the cost is delayed. When you are on a bike you pay the price as soon as you re-start at a junction.

Whilst this does not excuse cyclists who jump red lights it does, in my mind, explain why they do it - they are trying to maintain momentum and so minimise unnecessary energy expenditure rather than save journey time (although that does matter as well). It is also why the way in which cycle paths start and stop and cross junctions matter. They all waste energy which is why they can and do get ignored. Now of course you might say that it does not matter when you are out cycling for pleasure, but I notice that when I am feeling tired I am less inclined to stop to take pictures. Conversely when I am not tired then I tend to take lots of picture. (So there are a few picture in this Post.)

I watched the last of the 2010 Formula 1 Grand Prix on Sunday which fell at an awkward time of day for cycling, so I didn't. I have certainly enjoyed this season's races and in the end feel that Sebastian Vettel deserved his win and title. (I am also glad that Alonso didn't win after the issue of Massa ceding a win to him earlier in the season). What it does mean though is when I cycle every other day I tend to take more pictures. I think it is because I have more energy and there is more chance that there will be a change in the scenery, particularly if the weather changes.

Monday was a cold day, with frost in the morning, so when I went out in the late afternoon although it was clear it was getting quite cold, fortunately it was not windy which makes it easier to take photographs. As I knew I would be out during the dark I thought I would try some night photography in the Fens - Wicken Fen to be precise. On my way out to Wicken Fen I did stop to take a picture of Swaffham Bulbeck Lode - the leaves have almost dropped and the sun is low in the sky which gives a warm look to the picture.


This plaque has been screwed onto the bridge - it didn't really cross my mind that the NT would have a bridge built from illegal or irresponsible sources really. That thing sticking up at the bottom of the picture is the thumb from my glove sitting on the back of my bike whilst I was taking pictures.


I have taken pictures of the long shadows on the turf growing alongside Upware Road before, here they extend beyond the edge of the field.


These trees have also featured in quite a few photographs before, they are on a byway called Rand Drove. I have cycled along the track, but it runs on Fen soil and is a bit like sand when dry and even worse when wet. I generally only cycle along it when I am on my MTB with gnarly tyres. What I hadn't noticed before is how much the tree on the right is leaning though.


The last picture was taken looking east, of course the sun sets in the west.- which is the direction I was pointing when I took this picture of the sun dropping behind the hedgerow.

Upware Road sunset.JPG

Further up the Upware Road I noticed the mist (low density fog) forming in some of the fields. It was going to be a cold evening - cycling through freezing fog is well, freezing!


On the outskirts of Upware these fields form a floodplain for the River Cam, in the Summer you sometimes see cattle grazing, in the Winter they tend to flood.


The same picture but taken with at much less zoom (a wide-angle shot). It seems that it is not just the trees that get tired in the Fens, so do the electricity poles. It shows just how different the land is to build upon really. It is why the roads around here tend to undulate.


On the other side of Upware on the way to Wicken the sun had set and created an interesting pastel backdrop to the trees growing on the horizon. These trees are growing along Fodderfen Drove I think.


There is a quarry and factory alongside the main road between Stretham and Wicken - the smoke was hanging in the air. the road by the "Works" is called Dimmocks Cote Road.


Although the sunset had started some time earlier the pastel colours remained in the sky as I cycled down Lode Lane to Wicken Fen. The track here is pretty chewed up as a result of the construction of the new Windpump. The path has been narrowed and partially routed over the grass verge which has been trampled into mud. I stopped though to take a picture across Sedge Fen through which the board walk goes. A couple of cyclists cycled on through as I was taking pictures. The signs suggest dismounting (bikes and horses) but, I confess, I don't. I prefer not to get my cycling shoes really muddy, it causes problems when I get home! Anyway a cyclist pushing a bicycle takes up much more room than a cyclist on a bicycle. Be wary though wet peat fen mud is very slippery.


I took a few pictures whilst standing near the entrance. The mist can be seen forming. I did notice some rather nice mist pictures on the Web - apparently we might be in for a harsh Winter. I used to live near Glastonbury Tor which features in some of the pictures if you follow the link. The Tor featured in my black and white film photography days (which like cycling took a back seat when I was travelling on business a lot.) I have not scanned in my film pictures - but managed to find a digital picture I had taken of the Tor in April 2004. I once went up the Tor with some friends in the early hours of the morning. On the way home one car-load came to a fork in the road and went straight on into the ditch. Fortunately no-one was hurt (beyond the odd scratch), the car was Morris Traveller I can't remember if that survived or not. I think it did - cars didn't have crumple zones in those days.


Whilst looking for the picture of the Tor I also came upon this picture - taken when I was on business in Seoul - they have proper Winters there - the big rivers freeze over. From memory I think it was around -20C. During that trip I visited Korea (-20C), Japan (0C) and Taiwan (20C), It was weird experiencing such differences in the weather and it made packing difficult as well.


Back to Wicken Fen.


They seem to be making good progress on the new Windpump, well the work on the left-hand side seems to have had the ground work completed. I am still not sure where the Windpump is actually going to go though. A new channel has been cut from Monk's Lode to the place where the groundwork had been completed. So I think that the Windpump will be built there. I'm sure it will all become clearer in time. I certainly hope the path recovers before we get freezing weather. Icy mud ruts at night are not the easiest of things to navigate. If the Lodes froze I could invest in some spiked tyres it would open up new cycle routes I suppose. At this point I noticed that my new Speedometer was reporting that the battery was low on the sensor on the fork. I've only had it a week! It lasted until I got home though, so better to be warned I suppose. My new speedo also shows the temperature - it was 1.8C when I stopped.


The mist looked pretty solid on my way out of Wicken Fen - the farm is Prior Farm and seemed to poke out above the mist.


This is the same view, with a bit more zoom, I tried to edit the picture a little so that the shared-use path (NCN11) can be seen as well as the mist and pastel skies behind.


This time around I cycled into Burwell and then back up Newnham Drove to Lodes Way. I have a pretty good front light, a USE Joystick although mine is not a Mk5, it is a great, bright, light with a very a decent battery life. When cycling along the good bits of the CGB I used it on medium strength. cycling along Newnham Drove was a different matter - even with the light on full power it was hard cycling along the rutted road with the addition of thick helpings of black Peaty mud. You need to cycle with one eye on the road ahead in order to pick a good route, whilst at the same time paying attention to the thick gloops of mud and ruts just under you wheels. I did not get off and walk - the road is too long for that, but a couple of times I thought why am I doing this? The good thing was I had a bit of padding from my winter clothing, the bad news was I did not have a helmet on. I am not in favour of making helmets compulsory and rarely use them except when I do. For example when cycling in India and along dark, rutted, peaty rides at night. The next time I do this I will wear a helmet.

The problem was that the front wheel started skidding which is much more difficult to correct, well it is for me. I am quite happy dealing with a skidding rear wheel. Ah well I suppose it all helps to sharpen up my bike handling skills.

This is where Newnham Drove reaches Lodes Way. The gap in the gate has been increased and the string has been removed so it is easy to get through. By this point it was so dark that I had to use my flash to take the picture. You can see why reflective signs are so important - look how the Lodes Way signs stand out - yet the pole they are on is invisible.


There was just enough light for one more picture, actually I took a few, but only one made it to the Post, the exposure time was 8 seconds. I put the camera on a fence post to keep it steady. You might notice two dots of light on the horizon - they are probably farms on the Upware Road. (I can't remember whether there are street lights in Upware.)


I had another slippery moment on Split Drove after crossing Reach Lode - it was the same black , peaty mud on top of a road with unpredictable (when you can't see them) ruts. There was a car parked up by the bridge in a secluded spot I hadn't realised it was a Kiss & Ride spot!

I forgot to mention whilst on the Upware Road I twice had to pass lorries, this time they were larger articulated lorries, one stopped at a convenient place for me, the other I stopped for and got a thank you flash. I guess my subjective view of other motorists is that the Artic drivers tend to pretty courteous, well the ones I meet on the country lanes are. The Smaller mid-size lorry drivers are not so courteous and the "White vans" can be pretty scary. Tractor drivers are good as well.

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