Monday, February 21, 2011

A Cambridge loop - spitting distance from Duxford - lots of mud

Sunday, 20th February: Despite it being yet another grey day it was Sunday and our family plans were to have Brunch followed by afternoon tea (although a late-ish one). So I found myself setting off around noon, well fuelled for the journey, perhaps too well fuelled. Mind you when I was a boy a fried breakfast included fried bread - something I don't think I have had for years. In fact as I write this it reminds me that I used to sometimes spread honey on my fried bread - really delicious. Nowadays Black pudding is my "guilty secret" and what's more it is cheap as well and yes we did have some, although I always buy it in a link or half-link, rather than pre-sliced.

So when I set out on Sunday, my plan was to not have a plan, but not go to Wicken Fen so I headed south. After a large Brunch I also figured a hill-climb wouldn't be a bad thing so after braving the Cherry Hinton potholes I headed up Lime Kiln Hill, though Shelford, joined the NCN11 before taking a very muddy byway (the Drift) between Whittlesford and Thriplow. I had to walk along one bit of the Drift and my feet sunk right into the mud in places. Then on the way back I had a look around the Souther Section of the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) before cycling over the Hills Road Bridge to see what it is like for a cyclist.

Parts of the route reach the dizzy heights of 40m above sea level, but it is only 40Km (25miles) long, although it seemed longer, that must have been the bit where I was trudging through the mud. Here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the route which is also shown below.

Cambridge trip to Thrplow and back Antt.jpg

I have said before how I dislike the Traffic Calming in Cherry Hinton, as a cyclist I feel it compromises my safety (as a cyclist) rather than enhances it. I suppose it does slow traffic down a bit though - well I hope it does. The trouble is the cycle path has diverts that are quite narrow and at night you really wouldn't want to clip your pedal on the kerb on either side. Here is one such divert, but what I really stopped to do was take a picture of the pothole, it doesn't look too bad, but was worse than it looked and was not what you want just before negotiating a divert. I took the picture to ensure I remembered to report it - which I did using this link. Checking the tracking reference it seems I must have placed the arrow on the pavement rather than the road. Still it will be interesting to see what happens.


After heading out of Cherry Hinton I took the hill route up Lime Kiln Hill, this is a narrow lane, but a bit of a rat run and despite its narrowness seems to be used by quite a lot of cars. It is not a long hill though and on the day I rode up all the cars waited until it was clear before over-taking me. I feel that for a cyclist thin roads and wide roads are ok, the worst ones are where the road is just wide enough to make the car or van driver think that they can whizz by without slowing at all.

If you ever cycle along this road you will see a lot of wing mirrors smashed by the side of the road - clearly the ancient sport of wing-mirror-jousting is still practised in these parts. Is it something that drivers are taught in their driving test? It is better to lose a wing mirror than to show any weakness in the face of oncoming traffic. What worries me though is drivers who can't judge how far the oncoming car is from theirs probably can't work out how much room they need to give to a cyclist when over-taking them.

I promised myself I wouldn't go on about the grey days or let it stop me taking pictures. Here is a picture of Addenbrooke's Hospital taken from the top of the hill. I rather like the way it has compressed the scene and has a painty feel to it. The trees almost look as i they were added as an afterthought.


As I took the picture a fellow cyclist came by - travelling into Cherry Hinton - he went the safe way. He cycled up the hill from the Shelford side where it is wider and then down the narrower Cherry Hinton side where he could travel at car speeds.


After passing through Shelford I joined NCN11 where I decided to cycle along the new cycle way into Whittlesford from Sawston. Before that I had to cross the A1301 twice, first into Sawston and then on the way past the Paper mill. Just before the first crossing was a dead badger, not a very reassuring sight - there must be drivers who go so fast that they can't avoid a sizable animal. Now I can imagine a deer bounding out unexpectedly, but a badger.


To be fair the Council has done something by placing traffic signs warning motorists that there is a crossing ahead. In fact it looks as if the passive signs were insufficient and a sign that seems to measure the speed of the oncoming traffic and light up to warn motorists diving too fast has also been added. It would have been harder waiting for a car to pass by that did not light up the sign than it was taking pictures of cars being warned. The next couple of cars as I stood taking pictures both lit the sign.


Volvos - so safe that risk-compensation allows you to drive that little bit faster? I certainly looked carefully when crossing the road with my bike.


After cycling along the new shared-use path, where I passed quite a few families out for a Sunday afternoon walk I decided it was time to head off-road. I am not quite sure why, I have cycled this route before and it was muddy in places the last time (which was in the Summer I think). The path didn't look too bad though - it was quite hard work, I got quite a bit of rear wheel spin, but it is all exercise and is good for my bike control. I didn't had to dab my feet down at all - well on this bit anyway.

The track is called the Drift and crosses the M11 with its own bridge and cellular base station - which you can see to the right in this picture.


Duxford air field is only a couple of fields away and so I took a picture of the Airspace Hanger (the one nearest the entrance) shown here. I did hear some aircraft flying but didn't see anything to take a picture of.


I did take a picture of this electric fence running along the edge of the field, partly because of the splash of colour and partly because I wondered why it was there. It does not enclose the field so I assumed it was either a barrier to deer or a work in progress.


As I cycled out of Whittlesford I passed a horse rider on the road. (Yes I did give them plenty of room, treat others as you would like to be treated.) With all my faffing around slipping and sliding and then taking pictures they had caught me up - well around 0.5Km away and was crossing over the M11.


Before I reached the road I found myself having to walk - the byway was completely chewed up and a couple of times my feet sunk right into the mud. I even had to unclog my wheels as the mud had practically stopped them from turning. I cycled through a few puddles to help wash the mud away. My boots are waterproof so fortunately my feet didn't get wet. (I normally wear waterproof socks as well - but not this time.) Next time I go this way I think I'll go to Fowlmere - however this time around I headed up to Newton where I saw signs of the Secret National Byway Society. The signs are in place but they haven't published a map on their website. Apparently there is work in Essex that needs to be completed. The link indicates that it will be ready by the end of the Year - 2010! This times around I didn't follow the route, it heads back to Whittlesford which is where I'd come from (via Thriplow).


As well as having a village sign to indicate the name of the place - Newton, it also warns of the dangers of having a thatched roof. Apparently the fire destroyed most of the village - although it was back in 1746. Whilst the sign might look old it was only put up in 1977. I must admit I did think the sign said ERIT 1977 - and dredged my memories for what Latin I could remember and it sort of seemed to fit - maybe - Erit - "it will be" - not as I imagined "erected" so wrong tense and meaning - and then I realised ER II - Elizabeth Regina II.


I then carried on up the London Road and Cambridge Road into Cambridge past the disused Hauxton chemical works - and yes there was a smell in the air. The Cambridge Road part of the route has a shared use path but at the moment the path is being re-surfaced although it was still easier to cycle along it than the Drift.

As I passed over the route of the CGB I stopped to take a picture from the road bridge - this one. This bit of the route is only wide enough for a single guided bus track - which is why you can only see one. I think that the problem is the bridge you can see at the top of the picture. The track has a bit of a wibble in it - for what appears to be no reason. At this point I realised that I could cycle along the high-quality maintenance/cycle path and so set off back under the bridge I was on and then along the track. Being careful to avoid the car traps - a bigger version of a mouse-trap perhaps.


This is the view from the ground - it looks nicely landscaped . the traffic lights are at the point that dual-running becomes single-running and presumably stops two buses trying to use the CGB at the same time but in opposite directions. There is also a Trumpington "station" with a covered bike shelter, which was good to see.


I also heard the whump-whump of a helicopter flying which looked yellow and I thought might be the East Anglian Air Ambulance on its way to the Hospital (or Marshall's Airfield). By the time it cleared the trees and I got a picture it was an indistinct object in the distance. I had to enlarge the picture quite a bit to get this image.


There were signs at the start of this bit of the CGB indicating that the gates were locked at the Railway Station end so I went along the Addenbrookes Spur. The current version of the OSM Cycle map shows a gap in the footpath and no spur. No doubt this will get fixed now the route is navigable. The bridge over the railway line was blocked by fencing until recently.

I then cycled along Hills Road and over the Hills Road Railway Bridge which has had quite a lot of work done to allow the CGB to run underneath it. It has also had some bold bike lanes painted to make the car and cycle traffic flow safer for all. I found it very good - no issues at all, but I am a confident cyclist, quite happy to take my position on the road and it was a Sunday.

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