Saturday, February 19, 2011

How many more ways are there to describe a grey day in the fens?

Saturday 19th February: Is it just me or are the days greyer than ever? Perhaps someone needs to investigate Global Greying. As I mentioned before the weather forecasts don't really consider the "greyness". Still on Saturday I generally catch up on the week's Archers episodes. I load up my MP3 player and head off generally somewhere not too noisy. In fact what I do is create a playlist with a Podcast that I am less interested in because as I cycle out of Cambridge the traffic noise in places can drown out the MP3 player (and I prefer not to have the volume set too loud).

This is the route, flat and 57Km long, dropping to an elevation of 0m. I generally rate this as quite a reasonable surface for cycling along. There are bits, off the Lodes Way, that are quite unpleasant and although almost car-free are not routes I would take young children along (Newnham Drove for example) - more your 8-12 +kids with MTBs and you want to tire them out. At the moment though bits of the Lodes Way proper are quite a trial. The section as you head into Wicken Fen just after passing along Priory Drove (and past Drainer's Ditch) is having fencing constructed to keep wildlife and humans apart. As a result there are cattle grids being built and there are no signs to indicate where you are supposed to walk or cycle and lots of churned up mud.

There are loads of possible routes around this part of the Fens using the Lodes Way some of them country lanes and quite a few byways. Mind you some of those byways and bridleways are easier than others - especially in the winter. Which is why I have included this map, with a few annotations to show where I took some of the pictures and where the Wicken Fen fencing is taking place. Split Drove is also quite unpleasant, especially at the Reach Lode Bridge end. At the moment I do feel that Lodes Way is more for the thicker tyres, 25mm and above rather than skinnier racing tyres/bikes. I know I am moaning a bit, but on skinny tyres the Upware route through to NCN11 after Wicken Fen would be a more sensible alternative.

Lodes Way Loop 10 V2Annt.jpg

These are the "pictures from the hill", on a grey day any splash of colour catches your eye including this white house with a red roof seen from Quarry Lane round the back of Swaffham Bulbeck. I did notice when using Bike Route Toaster to create the route that rather than follow NCN51 round the back of Swaffham Bulbeck it routed along the straighter line (so avoiding the hill), but not a rather nasty double bend on the road. I generally always take the hill route, on the flatlands you need to get some hill-climbing practice in, no matter how small the hills actually are.


From the same vantage point these ivy-clad trees stood out. The lane is called Quarry Lane so I can only assume that the depression in the ground you can see below the road is an old quarry which was a source of clunch, a building material. Apparently the ivy is more of a symptom of a tree in decline rather than a cause and is a habitat for wildlife. It does provide a bit of green in Winter, but as you can see does dominate the look of the tree and competes for sun (sun what sun?) and nutrients.


As I was trying to take a few different pictures I stopped along the other back way around Swaffham Bulbeck. The place I stopped was the bridge over Swaffham Bulbeck Lode - Cow Bridge. At least the banks of the Lode have a bit of green in them.


In the distance was what looked like a Railway bridge one of the remaining bits of the disused Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway line. It looks rather high though on the left hand side, trains don't usually go down steps. It does follow the line of the old track though. I have cycled along that track which runs beside the Lode. It is a byway and another route to the Lodes Way - it meets it at the new bridge over the Lode. The last time it was passable but lumpy with quite a lot of grass.


The grey days mean that I tend to take several photographs in different directions when I stop As the poor light levels fall pretty quickly as it gets darker. So Whilst on Cow Bridge (which I used for support) here are a couple of trees in a field.


After cycling along through to Lode and then White Fen I stopped further up the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode on the "new" Lodes Way Bridge. The Lode seems much wider at this point and the grass is growing back on the right hand bank after the maintenance work.


The same picture, but with more zoom, it was such a grey day that it seemed misty - near the water at least.


The next picture was taken from Reach Lode Bridge, built as part of the Lodes Way construction. I've never really noticed the line of telegraph poles running alongside the Lode before - this is looking up towards Upware.


The obligatory shot of the same Lode looking down towards Reach. I really must explore somewhere different the next time I go out for a cycle ride. A nice view, shame about the electricity transmission cables.


I got quite muddy cycling into Wicken Fen - it was a good job I'd got my cycling boots on. I am surprised that there are not more warnings about the Lodes Way being pretty tricky to cycle along at the moment. I had to walk through some of the cattle grid construction areas and got a lot of mud stuck on my boots. This was a problem for two reasons, the first is it makes my boots slip from my pedals, the second is that it annoys my wife if I tread mud into the house. (I have not fitted SPD cleats on these boots, but mud stops the cleats from locking to the pedals.)

For a change I cycled along the Maltings path into Wicken Fen. It seems that this path is also getting the make-over treatment with more cattle-grid works taking place at the end of Monk's Lode. The current Google satellite map still shows an older version of the bridge area before the construction of the "pen" which is now being removed.


Again to make use of the stop I also took a picture of the windmill in Wicken, which is shown as disused on the OS map on where's the Path, but I've seen it turning and you can buy bags of flour milled on site.


Did I mention that before I set off I fitted a handlebar clamp for my more powerful rechargeable LED lights. I have an Exposure MaXx-D and a Joystick. Fitting it delayed me leaving, there were choices of "packing material" to ensure the clamp was a snug fit on the handlebars. Being an idiot I discounted the first bit I tried (that came with the light) and had to rummage around in my bits box, only after some exasperation to find the fit was perfect with the bits supplied.

I took the powerful light, it is great for illuminating dodgy, slippery rutted tracks - such as Newnham Drove. It also tends to slow cars coming in the opposite direction whose drivers seem to think that passing a cyclist in the dark at 60mph on a single lane country road is perfectly reasonable. I did pass a couple of deer, but by that time it was too dark to take pictures.

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