Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Loop from Cambridge to Great Chesterford

Thursday, 17th March: The good news is that I have been getting in a bit more cycling, the bad news is it means my Posting is getting a little tardy. I have been getting to grips with Windows Live writer to create my posts though. I have developed a work flow that, well, seems to work. I do get the feeling though that off-line editors are an unloved backwater and when I have the time and inclination will spend a little more time checking out other possibilities.  I have found that a few of the plug-ins that I have tried for WLW either don’t work, or are not very flexible. It still irritates me that there I can’t get borders round my pictures without editing the HTML.

I also had a minor hiccup when my computer crashed, warning of a problem with the Video driver but it subsequently recovered. A bit later on when I tried to upload pictures from a variant of Sony’s Memory stick (from my Sony W-200 DSC) the computer did not acknowledge the memory stick.  When I was in Bangkok in 2008 just before cycling off to Saigon I bought an all-in-one USB memory car reader.  This is now plugged into a USB port on my computer display which then connects with my computer. 

I think when the Video driver crashed it must have nobbled the other features of the display. So I tried to reboot the computer which seemed to hang around for ages (15minutes at least) just “logging off” so I held the on-off button down and forced it to switch off.  On restarting it was fine, the memory card could be read everything was hunky-dory. Except because of disk-drive problems around Christmas I replaced my drives and reconfigured the RAID Storage system from a Raid 0 (speed) to a Raid 1 (safety). Effectively I have two 2Tb drives and one is automatically maintained as a copy of the other by the OS.  It is slightly slower but I tend not to notice any issues. I still run two different types of back up as well and do a clone of the disk every 6 months.  (As it happens I am running SyncToy 2.1 at the moment).

When I forced the machine to switch off, on re-start the disk management software performed an automatic verify and fix analysis. This then makes the computer run like a drain (which means very, verrryyy slowwwllllyyyy.) until the check is over. It seems to take 6+ hours and that put me behind on checking out which pictures to include in my Posts. Everything is back to normal and I have three stacks of pictures preloaded (not including this one) waiting for the worms words to be added.

This is the route (and here is the BikeRouteToaster link), yes it was definitely a case of sneaking out early, the weather felt nicer than it looks in the pictures. If anything I was rather too warm on this ride. I have a tendency to wrap up too much when heading out only to find myself sweltering after a short distance. Regular readers will has sussed out that I quite often end up cycling around a place which then leads on to a related route the next time I pop out.

I enjoyed my recent ride up the Roman Road to Balsham so decided to check out a bridleway from the Linton Water Tower into Linton. There is one route that heads South straight into Linton and another that heads West around Rivey Wood before dropping down past Pains Pasture (a wood) onto Back Lane. It appears on the OS map but has not yet made it onto the OSM Cycle Map. Having gotten that far I though I might as well head off down the bridleway between Linton and Great Chesterford, starting at the grain store and reaching Great Chesterford by Cow Lane.

The route back was going to follow the NCN11 into Cambridge but I detoured and crossed a ford instead.  There was another challenge though, normally adding these routes to Bike Route Toaster is easy.  This time around I found because of the missing OSM byways I had to use the Satellite view and follow the tracks by hand.  I also found that on parts of the route the website kept hanging which meant going back to the beginning and re-doing the route. All in all I think I must have started tracing the route 8-10 times.  I found problems with the cycle route near Whittlesford, which is open although marked on the OSM map as being constructed. I also had to hand route through Cherry Hinton. There could well have been some issues with the underlying data. Still I got it done.

The route is a round 65Km/ 40 miles and reaches the dizzy heights of 110m twice.  Although I found taking the direction from Linton the Great Chesterford easier than the other way around and the hills seemed to be mostly in my favour after the initial hill from the Quarry to West Wratting) just past the A11.  The going was good for the most part, except for a bit of sticky hoof-churned track in the woods just before reaching Cow Lane (the track not the road).

I was thinking of using the Roman Road to get to Linton but in the end went for more road and less byway at least until I got to the Linton Water Tower. That way I would have a bit of energy left for the bridleway down to Great Chesterford. After passing through Fulbourn and heading for Great Wilbraham I cycled along Mill Road towards the “Chalk Pit” which appears on the Cambridge Horizons website (PDF – item 28)  as a site for dumping of inert waste. The road really serves the A11 and the junction also serves the Landfill site. I would imagine that it is quite busy during the rush hour but when I cycled along there was not a great deal of traffic.

I did stop on a bridge over the Cambridge to Ipswich railway to take a picture of the track heading off into the mists of Fulbourn. Just at the horizon, on the right hand side of the track,  you can see the grain company buildings that are on the site of the old Fulbourn railway station

The last time I cycled along this road it was an old quarry road, pretty narrow considering the lorry traffic. It was barely wide enough in places for two lorries to pass each other.  This time around the road has been widened and resurfaced.  Which implies that quite a lot of lorry traffic is being expected along here.  To the left of the picture you can also see how a mound of earth has been piled up.  This site seems to be destined for “greater” things – more rubbish or more chalk? (Rubbish I assume.)

It seems a bit strange cycling through what looks like a quarry, but there is a bridleway sign pointing the way and although I saw a couple of lorries moving in when I was on Mill Road none passed me.  After the Chalk Pit you start the first part of the climb up to the high hills of Balsham the first climb. There is a climb up a byway over the hill to Wadlow Farm and then a climb up the road to West Wratting. You start off at around 20m above sea level at Great Wilbraham and then reach around 100m near Balsham.

The first byway is pretty good, I tended to stick to the ruts as they were pretty smooth, but every now and then you have to watch out as the ruts can get quite deep and catch your pedals.

As I was mainly sticking to roads I then followed the B1052 out of Balsham towards Linton.  Unlike Linton, Balsham has an ordinary concrete water tower. I guess the powers that be figured that the site was not too visible from all around.

Instead of following the road around Rivey Hill I followed the more direct line of the bridleway up to the water tower (at 112m above sea level) . Normally I would carry straight on down into Linton along a path at the edge of Rivey Wood. approaching the tower from the Linton side the climb is steeper and the path can be a little tricky, this way round was pretty easy. This is the bridleway as you reach the “summit” the tower comes into view. Although you can see the tower from many different viewpoints.

The bridleway seems to run along someone's drive at first and then skirts to the north of Rivey Wood. The path is pretty reasonable for cycling along and the views are marvellous.  It would be even better to get a view from the top of the tower though. I’ve forgotten exactly which way I was looking when I took this picture. It looks like Linton with Rivey hill to the left and the path skirts this side of the wood you can see peeping out on the right hand side. Certainly there is a drop into Linton and then a climb up the other side before dropping down towards Great Chesterford. If I am right then the wood on the right is called Pains Pasture.

This is the view looking east which looks somewhat flatter. You can see the electricity pylons marching off left to right in the distance.

For completeness here is a view back up towards Linton Water Tower just behind Rivey Wood. The path at this point heads south towards Linton where it joins Back Road. This is a scenic spot and the round walk up from Linton along one side of Rivey Wood and back down the other seems quite popular, I passed a number of people out and about.

Getting through Linton is a little trickier than you might think because the roads are narrow there is a one-way system in part of the town.  Looking at the map I should have headed away from Linton first. Mind you the village is split by the River Granta. There appears to be a footpath I could have used to get to the A1307 through the middle.  I emerged onto the A1307 from the High Street – not an easy place to join the main road. I used the pedestrian crossing just nearby in the end. I then cycled down the A1307 until I reached the Grain Store where like the Wilbraham Chalk Pit it  feels odd to be cycling through a place with heavy lorries moving about.  After passing past the silos I stopped and took a picture looking back the way I had come.  (I had to use the Photoshop transposing function to get the perspective more correct on this.)

Once through to the other side the bridleway is actually a pretty reasonable farm track with a decent surface to cycle along. Those pylons I mentioned cross overhead at this point, just by some ramshackle “farm buildings” and an abandoned and dilapidated car. without going back to check my old pictures I can’t remember that being there the last time I cycled through.

The grain Store seems to be quite a large development with a variety of different sized silos.

This is the bridleway as it heads off over the hill.  The Grain Store is around 50m above sea level and the hill rises to 105m by a place called Catley Park on the map. Apparently Sir Thomas Sclater settled at Catley park around 1674. further history is available in this History Survey of Linton. (it is a pdf – search for Catley). Catley Park was also the scene of a Steam Engine Explosion on June 16th, 1904.

The path through the wood showed signs of recent bike tyres and horses. I would like to say it was a lot easier cycling down than up, but with my skinny-ish 25mm tyres I found myself dabbing my feet down so much I ended up practically walking down the path. To make matters worse the vegetation on the side of the path I was on consisted of brambles. It was a good job I was wearing leggings.  If I stopped then the tyres would just sink down – perhaps someone is trying to tell me I could do with losing a few pounds.

Once clear of the wood the track becomes more of a country lane with hedgerows along each side and a moderately good surface. It then passes Crave Hall where it meets Cow Lane – the Road.  The track alongside Crave Hall’s garden has been cleared, flattened and the Hall garden shored up alongside the track. This is the satellite view of Crave Hall the road to the left and the track to the right.

Map picture

Once you are onto the road then it is a more or less gentle slope down the road to great Chesterford.  You can see Great Chesterford in the misty middle-ground. (Great Chesterford lies at 40-50m above sea level.

I cycled through Great Chesterford, under the M11/A11 turn-off, to Ickleton where I joined NCN 11, which looked different as I joined it, I suppose I did not have the context of the rest of the route. Passing through Hinxton, a place I have been through quite a few times I noticed a sign pointing to Duxford which I had not noticed before so I took it, a route made all the more interesting because there was a Ford along the route which I couldn’t resist.

I had been this way once before a few years ago when I cycled from Cambridge to London and caught the train back from Kings Cross. It was a surprisingly pleasant route although, even during the day the train fares were steep enough that I don’tt make a habit of cycling that way.

I cycled through although there was a reasonable amount of water flowing, in fact I went through a couple of times to wash my tyres off (actually three time, otherwise I would have ended up going back the way I had just come.)

This route through Duxford was not the most pleasant, it looks as if the road signs could do with a jolly good wash.  There were also signs of that elusive, secretive National Byway, striking out along a route not already carved by Sustrans.

I had to wait for trains at the level crossing just by Spicers (pdf). There are signs asking drivers to turn their engines off whilst waiting. The chap in his car next to me was too busy on his hands-not-free phone to notice. I cycled along the A1301 rather than detour through Sawston – the safer but longer way.

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