Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Soggy Poets day - a wet exploration of the new cycle way developments in Cambs

Friday, 5th November: Fair weather cycling doesn't really work for me. I have to cycle when the mood takes me and of course when I have the time available. If I had to factor in the weather then it would make it much harder to cycle. (Although of course I would prefer the weather to be nice all the time.) Cycling is also something that is much easier if you just keep on doing it. To be a regular cyclist is easy, until you stop, then getting back to being a regular cyclist can be quite hard. At least that is how it is for me. This month my cycling has been a bit patchy, so come Friday I decided that I would have to clear the afternoon and get out for a ride.

My day had started with an "emergency" drive to my daughter's school. She had been caught out by the switch from British Summer Tim to GMT and as she was slowly getting ready she had one of those "oh no" moments when I asked her if she had her first lesson off. Fortunately I was able to get her to school using modern logistic methods - "Just in time". As a result of being in the car I also did a few chores that included buying a few fireworks - well it was November the 5th after all. I have always been interested in science and chemicals and fireworks, despite some fairly unpleasant burns when I was a boy (a home-made flame-thrower - don't ask!). I like to think I am a lot more sensible nowadays though.

I always buy Kimbolton fireworks as I find they are both reliable and spectacular. the last thing you need is a firework that hasn't worked, or rather appears not to have worked. All the advice is not to go near a firework that has misfired but I have seen someone do that at a professional display, fortunately they weren't injured - but it was very close. The fireworks I bought were Cat 3 and require some space to be let off safely - I tend to go for the cakes - including "Ducks playing in the Autumn Leaves". I bought them from Scotsdales Nursery on the A1134 A1301 out of Cambridge and had to pop over to Linton - on the way over I noticed that the Cambridge to Wandlebury cycle path looked as if it was being extended.

So with my daughter at school and my wife busy helping a friend with a project I had the afternoon free and decided to visit the new bit of cycleway at Wandlebury and while I was at it visit some of the other new bits of cycleway that have sprung up around the County. here is a BRT (BikeRouteToaster) map of my route. I headed East out of Cambridge along NCN51 before heading South past Marshall's Airfield in through Teversham into Fulbourn and then briefly on the Roman Road before skirting Wandlebury Country park along a byway and coming out on the new bit of the cycleway. I then cycled into Sawston, detoured along the Sawston-Babraham Cycleway before cycling back through Sawston to check out the path to Whittlesford and then back up to Cambridge to try out the New Bit improvements. The good news is that it is quite a pleasant route with quite a few changes of scenery - the bad news - well as a friend did warn me - Friday rain, Saturday sunny. She wasn't wrong. I got soaked. So soaked that my Sigma Speedometer failed on me.

The distance was around 43Km/25 miles, so quite a pleasant distance, although there is a bit of climbing (for this part of the world). It reaches 68m above sea level and has around 120m of ascent/descent. The worst bit was on a small bit of the Roman Road which had gotten quite soggy - and.. well I'll mention it when I come to it.

I did try to get out just before lunch hoping to miss the rain, although I hadn't actually checked the weather forecast. I called in at a shop at the start and bought a sausage roll and double decker (chocolate bar) to take on the ride with me (and a drink of course). Oops I almost forgot - here is the BRT link to the map. The OSM cycle map does not appear to have the Byway alongside Wandlebury Park marked (it is on the OS map though).

Normally when cycling towards Fulbourn I would take the Airport Cycleway and then cut past Tesco and up Fulbourn Old Drift - so for a change I went through Teversham, which is also a more direct route. There is a traffic island along the Airport Way road to make it easier for cyclists and pedestrians to get to Teversham. I sometimes wonder how many cars are caught out by this if they try to overtake when coming down from the Newmarket Road direction. I have seen overtaking cars pass "Keep Left" bollards set in the middle of roads, on the right, quite a few times. I guess they are so focused on the timing of their overtaking manoeuvre that they miss the bollard in the middle of the road until it is too late. I would imagine that there are double white lines in the road but that they also get over-looked. A quick check on Streetview shows that there are hash markings prior to the Airport Way traffic Island and governed by Rule 130. Which does allow drivers to cross them and so overtake - I guess the island and the markers are seen as warning enough.

Teversham is a nice little village on the edge of Cambridge and it has its own website as well. The village sign is a simple one, but the Anvil caught my eye.

So I took a closeup picture of it. It was put there to commemorate Jim Borley (1900 - 1991) the Village blacksmith and Chorister for 75 years and Churchwarden for 33 years.

There is a shared-use path between Teversham and Fulbourn for much of the way - in this case it is a pavement with some blue signs peeping around the lampposts to indicate that you can cycle along it. There are some who complain about cyclists in the pavement and some who complain about cyclists on the road when there is a cycle way (or shared path) and I bet there are some who complain about both. Whilst ignorance is no defence in law there are times when I get confused about whether a particular path is shared or not. The blue signs can be quite far apart. I would imagine that this path is to facilitate and encourage cyclists going to the primary school in Teversham - not a bad thing.

The route I take through Fulbourn wibbles about a bit - but I find it easier than trying to get from School Lane into Babraham Road, which is on a bend. My route approaches from Dogget Lane.

Babraham Road (which as I have mentioned before) is a no through road that just stops at the Roman Road, it is generally not that busy but around five vehicles passed me. Although it won't look like this for long the trees brought some colour to what was otherwise a rather dull day.

The next step of the journey was a short cycle along the Roman Road or Worsted Street. The Cambridge end of this byway is generally pretty good - but it dips a little as you go towards Wandlebury and I found myself cycling sideways - well not quite sideways, but the rear wheel kept slewing sideways and slipping as well. So you have to steer into the skid, keep pedalling and hope that you don't fall off. Here is a picture looking along Worsted Street, back to the West, they way I came. The slippery bit is just out of sight when there is a crossing between fields.

This is the view East towards Cambridge.

The byway alongside Wandlebury does not appear to have a name on the maps I have looked at, it pops out just by Magog farm Barns. There is now a track that has been cut, it appears to have a reasonable width and I am hoping that it will also have a tarmac surface. By now it was raining and the loose grit surface made climbing up the hill towards Wandlebury very hard work - but still preferable to cycling on the road in my view.

You can see that a few cycles have already used the path so there is demand for it, despite the loose surface. The wooden edging appears to be slightly proud of the surface which suggests that a layer of tarmac will be added. Although not a thick one by the looks of it. I did see a reference to this work, on the Wandlebury website, indicating it was in the wish list, but a web search to see if I can find some up to date information has not thrown anything up.

I did find some interesting things though - the Cycling in Cambridge Blog by Mr T, which I now follow, which has a piece on a subject dear to my heart - the crap cycle parking at Cambridge Railway station along with a Post on Gilbert Road - did you know there have been six reported accidents involving cyclists on Gilbert Road in the last five years. An article on the Oakington Airfield Road would be a good topic Mr T - if you are listening?

By this point the rain was really quite tedious and my camera refused to come out of its bag to take any more pictures. I couldn't blame it. I carried on though. Crossing from the Wandlebury cycle path onto the Haverhill Road to Stapleford took ages though. That is one busy road to cross and being wet and misty I played it safe and waited for a big gap in the traffic.

I then joined NCN11 in Stapleford on the shared-use path into Sawston where I turned left at the traffic lights. (technically I went straight on at the traffic lights. NCN11 is on a shared-used path into the middle of Sawston and then it dumps you at a set of traffic lights, with no hints as to who the cyclist might best cross to carry on on the left hand side of the road as a normal road-user. What I do is join the traffic lights on the right hand side where I normally then wait until I can turn left to carry on down the High Street. Although this time I took the Babraham Road (left from the direction of NCN11 but in my case straight on from the traffic lights - simples. I then cycled along the new Sawston-Babraham Cycleway - there and back to see how far it was and very nice it is too. However it was still too wet and my camera refused to appear.

Back at the traffic lights I went straight across and down New Road past the Sawston Village College. I wanted to check out the new route to Whittlesford. There is quite a lot of on-road parking on New Road, which I normally think is ok as it slows traffic down. Most of it was on the right-hand side as I cycled down. Despite my best assertive cycling and yellow fluorescent jacket (or perhaps because of it) most cars coming up towards me felt it was perfectly reasonable not to give me any room nor to slow down. It isn't that fast a road so it did not feel dangerous - but fellow cyclists, you learn what it is like to be a second-class road-user on that bit of road.

I then tried out the new bit of cycle route to Whittlesford, next to Spicers Paper Mill - despite the rain it was wonderful - I am really impressed that this has been opened up and a decent surface put down. I really do like cross-field routes that take cyclists and pedestrians away from the road and make use of old footpath routes. Sorry, still no photographs, in fact there are no more in this post. Although the rain was not heavy it kept on and on and despite wearing waterproof leggings and jacket and gloves the rain got inside my gloves and socks and down my neck. I was warm enough, but I got quite squelchy as the ride progressed.

I did pass a car accident on the Trumpington Road, it looked as if one car ran into the back of the one in front as they were moving out of Cambridge. It is surprising how much the bumpers of modern cars get mashed up by what can't have been a very high-speed accident. There were two disgruntled looking drivers standing in the rain swapping details.

I tried out the new bit of cycle path at New Bit where NCN11 rejoined my route - there is now a dual-cattle grid there- phew we cyclists have never had it so good. At some stage I stopped to eat my lunch - the constant rain had put me off stopping earlier on, but I was hungry. Cold sausage roll never tasted so good. Although the Double decker chocolate bar unfortunately had gotten a bit solid as it was in my rack pack and so took a bit of chewing. When I take jelly babies on a cycle ride I normally carry them in a pocket - warm (as in body heat) jelly babies are delicious.

Also my Speedometer stopped working - it is a Sigma BC1606DTS - with a wireless sensor on the fork next to the wheel and a display on the handlebars. I assumed it was becuase one of the batteries was runing low (either the Sensor or Display).

When I got home I was not allowed much past the back door without removing a bunch of saturated clothes. My waterproof socks were, they had collected loads of water that had trickled down from inside and I had to wring them out. The rest of my cycle clothing then got hung on radiators in the Utility room - and a hot bath beckoned. Cycling in the rain is not actually that bad once you have reconciled yourself to it and the hot bath afterwards is wonderful.

There is some unfinished business - I must get some photographs the next time.


  1. Scotsdales is on the A1301; the A1134 is the god-awful excuse of a ring road Cambridge has to fester with. I've added the byway to OpenStreetMap but as a 'possible byway': I'm sure someone will survey it soon. I went along the Sawston-Whittlesford cycleway for the first time yesterday (Friday 12th): it was about five in the evening and quite dark, but I certainly enjoyed the route. The surface was perfect throughout and cycling down that tunnel of trees near the southern end was such a surprise with smooth tarmac. I was cycling wondering "How did they get the laying machine down here?"

  2. Thank you, I have now corrected the Post. I think that the water must have affected me as well.

    The Wandlebury byway is marked as a right of way on the CCC right of way map. But I am not moaning, the OSM Cycle map is really good and the map I use as default on Bike Route Toaster (and Where's The Path).

    I went back the next day to get some pictures of the Sawston-Whittlesford cycleway - I only wish we could have more and longer routes like it. Compared with the current surface of the Cambridge Busway the surface is a dream (actually, compared with most shared-use paths and roads the surface is a dream).