Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Collapsing mudguards on bouncy roads

Sunday, 20th March: After yesterdays bit of exploration it is back to familiar territory today, yes a trip around Wicken Fen. In general when we want to get somewhere we try to take a fairly direct route but as you can see from the map, there is no “direct” route out to Wicken Fen from Cambridge. Now personally I don’t think that is a bad thing when it comes to motor vehicles. We already suffer from enough motor vehicle pollution as we go about our daily lives lets have more routes for non-polluting transport, or am I biased?

The shame is that there is a bit of a bottleneck, as far as cyclists/walkers and horse riders go trying to get out of Cambridge in the Wicken Fen direction. You want to head north-east but either go east along NCN51 towards Quy or North along the River Cam to Waterbeach, where that particular bit of the NCN11 stops. It would seem that there are some agreeable potential routes, but no agreement. However it is a real shame that it wasn’t twigged earlier that disused railway lines can make for great traffic free amenity routes. If the old railway line were now a walking, cycling and horse-riding route it would be a great way into Burwell from Cambridge (and it would also be pretty good for Lodes Way as well.

I am not quite sure why I show the map, as it is yet another variation on routes to cycle around Lodes Way – variations on a theme. Mind you I can see why composers got so stuck into themes and their variations.  Actually I do know why I put the map in. For one, despite the odd glitch, Bike Route Toaster (BRT) is  very easy to use and for two, it is quite satisfying to plot my routes.  It also then means I can produce a picture to “scribble” on.  Which also means that in my normal “workflow” I have something to remind myself of what the ride was like when I get behind on my posting.  (The observant will notice that here I am on a Saturday, writing the Post for last Sunday, almost a week late.)

What I tend to do when I get home from a ride is download the pictures and GPS trace and then start converting the HDR pictures  whilst using BRT to plot the route whilst it is still fresh in my mind.  I also jot down some notes at the same time.  That captures the essence of the ride, at a later stage I then select the pictures and annotate a picture of the route and upload it onto PicsasaWeb ready for loading into a Post.  These are what I think of as photostreams, ready and waiting, (currently three not including this one.) The trouble is when I am busy and the weather is sunny and pleasant I use spare minutes to cycle and find very little time to write the words, and let’s face it cycling has to be the priority.  Anyway I apologise and there was always be the odd gap of bad weather in which I can catch up.

So the ride is around 57Km/35 miles and it was most pleasant, so pleasant that I wore shorts and sandals again – there is something to be said for the feel of the wind in your hair toes. One of the things I find amazing about the Fens is how quickly the ground goes from wet to dry.  I suppose it is a combination of low rainfall, drainage, soil type and wind, but one week the bridleways are churned up mud and the next they are concrete-hard ruts. This time around the route was fine on my hybrid, although bloomin’ Newnham drove caused me some problems.

Yesterday’s excursion had seen some mudguard problems, so I sorted them out before heading off. I am a bit of a hoarder, so if I replace something on my bike I will keep the old nuts and bolts as you never know quite when they might come in handy.  I had some some old mudguard stays so I cannibalised them to replace the missing nut and made sure I tightened it up – although I didn’t check the other fittings.

The weather has certainly become a bit more spring like however for a change I went up to Quy and up Station Road (although the Station is long gone), before cycling along the byway that joins up with the course of the old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway. I am not sure quite what the status of this “path” is – but it is certainly a route I have used over the last 20 years or so. This is the view from the byway just before reaching the old line.  The sun was more or less shining through the clouds and there were blue bits in the sky.  Taking a multi-exposure picture (for combining as an HDR picture) does tend to throw up any dirty bits on the lens – I must give it a clean before heading out.

This is the view of the byway – called The Drove Way. It is a popular walking spot round here – the old railway line crosses at the pint where it goes from a grass track to a mud/gravel track.

I cycled along White Fen Droveway and  as I reached Sandy Road – which is actually a well surfaced tarmac road  and looks like one road) I noticed that there was a Planning Application notice stuck to the Lodes Way signpost. So I stopped to have a look – they are building a new motorway through here – no only kidding. the application is by the NT to put some camping huts in the wood to the left, up the path.  In the general scheme of things I think that we should make it easier for kids to have adventures and get out and about and good luck to them.

When I was younger we would happily go off all day to play in the woods (weekends and holidays that is), climbing trees, building dens, making bows and arrows and more successfully making throwing-arrows. We would turn up for tea, slightly scruffy but having had a good dose of fresh air and “starving”.  As a society we have made it much more difficult for kids to enjoy that sort of freedom nowadays – and I think that it has had an effect (and not a good one). The planning number is 11/00230/FUL if you are interested, East Cambs has an online site. The support is there, although there are concerns about the Compost Toilet filling up!

I carried on down and then past the Lodes Way path through White Fen. As you can see the path carries on, although not as a byway but as a Road uses as a public path (RUPP). The crops seem to be growing nicely.

As you can see from the map, after crossing Swaffham Bulbeck Lode, I carried along up road past Slades Farm. although I did stop to take a picture of the freshly ploughed and prepared field, next to the farm.  The buildings in the background, to the left are called Lythel’s Farm on the OS map.

This picture was taken from the same place, but looking along the road past Slades Farm in the direction of Wicken Fen.  As you can see a lot of Lodes Way has managed to string together some pretty reasonable surfaces for cycling along. You can just about make out a sign which is where this no-through road reaches the “main” road.

There is not a lot of overlap between Lodes Way and real road, just around 0.8Km/0.5 miles along Headlake Drove to the cross roads where the “main” road diverts off, but Headlake drove carries on and you turn off along Split Drove. (And the bit out of Lode I suppose.) This is where Split drove carries on over the new Reach Lode Bridge (to the left of the picture). The road seems to have taken a bit of a bashing over the Christmas/New Year period with quite a lot of rubble across the road.  It can be a little tricky cycling over this at night as the sudden jolts can be alarming when you are not quite sure what is causing them.  During the day it is slightly easier and at the moment it is very dry and there is no slimy mud.

A byway between Reach and Upware also crosses the Lodes Way at this point and for a change, and because it was likely not to be too muddy or at least not wet mud I turned right and set off for Reach. The byway is called Straight drove.

There are loads of drainage ditches all around as you cycle down the track. This one heads east.

The byway joins up with the Lode at Reach, just here. I can’t recall seeing many boats travelling up and down this Lode, I remember seeing more boats using the Burwell Lode. I hadn’t realised that Reach Lode was part of the Devil’s Dyke bank and ditch construction. According to the link the last load of clunch left Reach during the 1930 and it took 3 days to get from Reach to Peterborough.

The byway is a working byway and I have occasionally seen cars drive along it (twice). It is not the sort of track I would take an ordinary car along.  The track is similar to this all the way back up to Split drove, although it is narrower for the last half.

After Reach I used Newnham Drove to get back onto Lodes Way, someone had dumped some broken glass in one of the passing spaces. There are some anti-social, lazy idiots around. There are bits of glass right across so be careful if you walk or cycle up here, especially if you are walking the dog.

I keep meaning to mention, but keep forgetting, how the early drainage teething problems of the newly  constructed bits of the Lodes Way through Burwell Fen seem to have been successfully dealt with. It is very easy to point out problems and I did show how fairly large puddles would form along parts of the track. Well there has been quite a bit of work to improve the drainage along the edges of the track and you don’t see puddles along it any more.  There seems to be more bank work though, that digger is sitting on the top of the bank alongside Burwell Lode.

The Lodes Way track just runs out as you get close to the footbridge and is basically a mud track up the side of the bank and then to the steps of the footbridge.  It is quite steep, but fairly easy to cycle up  when the mud is dry. Mind you you have to have a bit of momentum and don’t lean back otherwise the front wheel may lift up.

Having made the effort to haul my bike onto the bridge, I felt I ought to take a few pictures to make the effort worthwhile. This is the view looking up towards Upware.

This is the view looking down towards Burwell. I still think it is a shame that the bridge you see could not have been made available – perhaps by leaving it down and then allowing passing boaters to raise it. After all boaters use locks which are fairly large pieces of machinery.

I really must have felt the hard work of climbing the bridge this time because I took another picture from the bridge, looking the other way again.  This time a close up of a stile further up the path on the left side of the Lode.

A couple of cyclists passed by me on the bridge going the other way. It is easier to cycle down the bank than up it.

I decided to head out if Wicken Fen by the entrance and back by the Maltings Path. On the way through I took a picture of a partially flooded Baker’s Fen.

For good measure a picture of the shared NCN11 path through Wicken Fen. Most of this path is pretty good, although it is not that wide so on busy days you  have to pay attention to walkers. I have a bell on my hybrid that gives a single ting with each flick of the lever –it is surprising how a single quiet ting will alert someone to my presence.  Mind you it does cause the occasional walker to jump – I wonder who would be to blame if they jumped in the Lode?  The lode here is Monk’s Lode.

Towards the end of the afternoon it was getting a bit cooler and I was wearing shorts, so the pictures become a little sparser. As usual I cycled down to Burwell and back up Newnham Drove both to add a little extra distance and to avoid the pedestrian bridge.  As I was cycling along I noticed that one of the front mudguard stays had worked lose – it had lost a bolt down near the axle and was rattling away.   What an idiot – I should have checked the tightness of all the bolts after fixing the other side. I let it rattle a bit until as I was cycling up Newham Drove one of the fixings at the top of the stay disappeared. So I stopped and took the thing off, at least that way I hung onto the one remaining fixing bolt and it did not end up getting tangled in the front wheel. I ended up carrying the two-pronger stay, prongs forward, if I had a fall I didn’t really want one of the prongs in my leg.

I did take a picture of the sun rays illuminating the route ahead whilst standing on the Reach Lode bridge.

On the road just before White Fen I bumped into (not literally) MikeC and stopped for a chat and catch up. Whether it is the opening on new routes or the unpleasant Winter our paths have not crossed quite so much so far. He did confirm that I wasn’t losing my memory, the bumpy road signs just out of Lode were new. We stood chatting until the cold drove me back onto my bike for the journey home.


  1. Meeting JME on the road ...

    ... has been recorded from almost the start of this blog. I was the 'bent rider in October 2008, and I remember that skeleton jersey! Your son was with you then IIRC, when we talked on the (then new) Swaffham Bulbeck Lode bridge.

    Today I can report that there's not much water under the Moulton ford. Next time I'm there immediately after a thunderstorm I'll take a photo for you.

  2. My sister felt the skeleton jersey was not my best choice of top.

    There was also the time you were handing out leaflets before the Lodes Way had been completed - I probably have still got it somewhere.

  3. If my sister ventured such an opinion that would guarantee I'd not only wear it, but get a fresh supply in increasingly garish colours!

    The latest Lodes Way leaflet has gone to a second printing and I reckon I've handed out out something like 400. The one you have is probably the previous version, with the map that I drew (also on the White Fen info board), and is a collectors' item, increasing in value all the time.

    For somewhat small values of value, sadly.

  4. Good to hear the Lodes Way leaflet is popular. I hope the fine weather will see an increase in its popularity. It is one of the few routes where you can cycle more than a few miles and remain away from cars and vans (more or less).