Sunday, March 13, 2011

Quy Fen–nudism can cause a fence!


Friday, 11th March: The Internet is a wonderful thing and the Cloud even more wondrous, except when it doesn’t work. Having had problems with Zoundry my off-line Blog editor I now find that I can’t use BikeRouteToaster to create a route map.  I am slowly developing a workflow to use with Live Writer, which although a bit clunky is at least allowing me to publish my Posts.  The trouble is that Live Writer has changed since the last time I used it and I am reliant on some plug-ins to interface with PicasaWeb where I store my pictures. I guess the old adage “you get what you pay for” is true – some of the free off-line HTML editors for posting are pretty mediocre. I would seriously consider paying money for something that had the functionality I am looking for.

It is not all bad, Live Writer is better at formatting the text, with superscript and font-sizing being two features I have made use of. It is also easier to Hyperlink stuff as well.  In general I have found BikeRouteToaster to be very straightforward to use.  It makes plotting routes I have taken pretty easy as it will show and route against the OSM Cyclemap data and seems to have 95% plus of the various roads, cycle ways, byways, bridleways and footpaths that I find myself cycling along. On the odd occasion when the OSM data does not show a particular footpath it is possible to show the Satellite view and plot the route manually. 

BikeRouteToaster will also show a summary of the distance along with directions and an elevation map. The trouble is at the moment BRT only seems to route along Google Map data and not the OSM Cycle map data and as the Google maps are rather devoid of cycle ways, bridleways and the rest, I cannot produce either a map to annotate the route or a link of the route.  I have tried Internet Explorer to see if that is the problem – no, it still fails with both IE8 and IE9. (I am having a play with IE9 – it is faster than IE8 which is why I switched to Chrome in the first place, but the UI is not very elegant.)  I have also tried it out on Chrome and IE8 running on Vista on my Laptop (my desktop runs Windows 7). It still won’t route. So my assumption is that there is some problem between BRT, the source of the elevation data and the OSM cycle map data.

Whatever it is, it is annoying and what’s worse, I use the beta version of the Chrome browser that is also playing up. It is my own fault for using the Beta version I suppose, but my browser has recently been updated and now keeps re-drawing various bits of the browser screen.  I generally find that Google stuff works, but when it doesn’t I find it very difficult finding much on the web to help explain what is going on.  Perhaps I ought to use a different Browser/Search engine to look for answers.

So I will come back and add the route map and link when BRT starts working again. For now I will give a quick outline. I followed NCN51 out of Cambridge and left the cycle route and headed into Quy and then out along Station Road before heading out along a bridleway just after crossing Quy Water.  If you follow the bridleway if becomes known as the Drove Way and crosses the path of the old Mildenhall to Cambridge Railway line. I popped up towards Stow-cum-Quy Fen before re-tracing my “pedals” and heading along the old railway line into Lode.

The route then carried on through White Fen (along the Lodes Way) and as I often do up through to Upware onto NCN11 as it heads back into Wicken and then off again along Drove Lane, a byway before heading back to the main road along a bridleway which joins a byway (which might be called Horsefen Drove. I then headed back the the village and back to the NCN11 track by the Malting path. Then I went into Burwell back out to Lodes Way on Newnham Drove before cycling down Little Fen Drove towards Reach and then along the Black Drove byway. I then headed into Swaffham Prior and along NCN51 back to Cambridge.  Now it would have been much easier to refer to a picture of the map – but ho hum.

UPDATE: (14th March 2011): This morning BRT seems to be working again so here is the annotated picture of my ride and here is the BRT Link. the ride is just over 60Km (or just a bit under 40 miles) and pretty much flat as flat can be.  You could make it flatter by avoiding the loop on the way back around Swaffham Bulbeck and go straight through instead.

The reason I took this route was because I wanted to see if the bridleway near Station Road, Quy had been cleared, as it had at the bit labelled The Drove Way.  It might have been cleared, but not quite as thoroughly. This is a picture of the track, it is a popular walking spot and I have seen one or two horse riders along here as well. Because it is well walked the path has developed one or two flat routes which are easy to cycle along. it will be nice to see some leaves on the trees – it still looks a but stark, although the fields are showing tinges of green.

Before heading to Lode I also cycled up towards Stow cum Quy Fen – or Quy Fen as I know it.  I haven’t been that way for a while. I wasn’t intending to cycle through the Fen itself though.  When I got there there were two old boys who had driven right up to the gate in an ordinary car – no mean feat as the track is fairly lumpy and rutted.  It turned out that one of them farmed this area 30-odd years ago and his son now does and he’d come down for a look.  In his day it was quite different and that there had been quite a lot of hedge “tidying”. He mentioned that there were hawthorn bushes with orchids growing underneath but as soon as the bushes were cleared the cows munched up the orchids. Although I don’t suppose the cows were too bothered about the orchids really.

There have been rumours that you can see some dodgy people around Quy Fen and on two occasions I have seen men in various states of undress.  One seemed to be walking around with no trousers and I just looked straight on, paying attention to the track as I didn’t want to fall off so I didn’t see quite what state of undress he was in.  So I was interested to see on this sign near the gate into Quy Fen that there is a sufficient problem that a prohibition features on the sign in SHOUTING LETTERS.  I have just done a Google search for “Quy Fen Nudists” and I didn’t feel the need to follow any of the links or to include them in the Post either – I don’t want to cause a fence.

On the way over to Lode along the disused railway line I detoured slightly along a tree-lined path which then heads back to the line of the old railway (and Harvey’s Droveway). As I was cycling along minding my own business on what is a broad strip of ground, hugging the edge as the easiest bit of flat ground to cycle along there was a bang. Just writing it down doesn’t do it justice it was if someone had fired a shotgun right next to me.  I almost fell of the ridge I was cycling along with the fright. It wasn’t anyone out shooting though it was a bird scarer, although in this case it was a Cyclist scarer, there were around 20 plump pigeons feeding in the newly drilled field and they didn’t seem to move a millimetre and just carried on eating.

There seemed to be cars using Harvey’s Droveway to turn around who seemed to find a cyclist weaving around a bit off-putting.  That part of the drove is wells used by tractors and so I the “dry” line is sometimes on one side and sometimes on the other.  I didn’t get held up too badly in the end.

Cycling up the Fen Road to White Fen I had the feeling I was being spied upon – there were three deer standing still in the middle of the field just watching me. Often if I stop to take a picture they will then run off – these three obviously felt safe enough to stand and stare.

As I haven’t taken many pictures of the wildlife – here are some domesticated animals instead. In this part of the Fens the focus is on arable farming. There are one or two herds of cattle around though, including the NT herd of Highland cattle. Although that seems a bit of an oxymoron Fen-based Highland cattle. They do moo with a Scottish accent though. I am not sure how many flocks of sheep there are in the area – but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was only one and here they are – penned in by an electric fence.

I don’t normally cycle along and back along Lodes Way, I prefer to to take a more circular route. This is the crossroads where I normally head away from Lodes Way and instead cycle up to Upware and then round the back of Wicken Village. This cycle route is well signposted though. Straight on is Headlake Drove and to the left Great Drove.

On my way through Upware I did take a small diversion just after the Lock along an unnamed byway, which takes you to the River Cam and then past the 5 Miles from Anywhere pub. The web address for the pub always seems harder (for me anyway) to find that it ought to be – here is the link. As it happens I found the link on the East Cambs Visit Ely website for the Pub. But their link ends in “” and it should be “.com”.  I have sent them an email letting them know, but the Visit Ely website has its own issues – the “Contact Us” link didn’t work either. (And yes I mentioned that in my email to them.)

Back to the byway it then becomes a footpath before reaching Fodderfen Drove another byway.  It seems strange to me that the bit in the middle is only a footpath it seems logical that the route would have been used as a byway along all of its length.

A bit past Upware a footpath crosses the road and connects Fodderfen Drove with Wicken Fen. This is path heading towards the byway.  It is good to see that whoever farms here keeps the path unploughed and in good order. The footpath does not appear on the 1930 or 1940 OS maps though.

When I cycle this way I generally head up the A1123 towards Wicken and then down Way Lane to join the route of the NCN11 along Lower Road. You can avoid the A1123 entirely (apart from crossing it) by cycling past Red Barn Farm and then up Docking’s Lane a byway. I find the state of the byway a bit unpredictable though and most of the time use the A1123. Instead of using the NCN11 route into and through Wicken this time around I carried on around the back of Wicken Village and down Chapel lane then the onto a byway called Drove Lane which wiggles around a bit and then I take the route back to the A1123 on the other side of Wicken.

The surface is pretty reasonable although tiring to cycle along as in most places it is a grass track There are also a couple of byway routes to Soham as well.  They are great when dry and really difficult when wet. I didn’t even think about checking them out this time around. The last bit of the byway is a reasonable had-packed farm track running in parallel with some electricity pylons. here are the pylons and that tower to the left is a base-station, which is part of the mobile phone network. I didn’t check my phone to see how much signal I was getting though.

This is the track the road (A1123) is just up past the Nissen Hut. I generally always cycle along the track nearest the field. The hedge is a bramble hedge and the thorns are best avoided.

As we are quite close to two large Airbases – Mildenhall and Lakenheath which are used by the US Air Force, it is not unusual to see aircraft flying loops around the Fen skies. You will see both fast jets and larger bombers and here is an AWAC plane that was looping around as I was cycling along. My guess is that it is an E-3 Sentry.

A close-up of the Nissen hut – corrugated white asbestos roofing, as was common in those days and someone has kindly dumped some tyres just in case you happened to be driving by and have a puncture. 

Instead of going through Wicken Fen by the “front door” there is a route to the East of Wicken (and Wicken Fen) that has a tarmac surface and avoids the cars and crowds driving in and out of the car park.  The path is locally called the Maltings Path but I have not seen this name used on a map (OSM, OS etc.) The surface is better than the main entrance sometimes.

The Maltings Path crosses Monk’s Lode, by way of the bridge in the picture and then runs alongside Monk’s Lode to join the NCN11 path. With the NT recent path work, which seems aimed at corralling visitors along distinct routes many gates are being replaced by cattle grids for walkers and cyclists and then 5-bar gates for moving the stock around as well as providing access for horse riders.  This bit of the path just after the Monk’s Lode crossing is no exception and I can now cycle along it without getting off my bike.

Since the Lodes Way features in a lot of my pictures they become a bit sparser in this part of the Post. Although I can’t resist moaning about Newnham Drove. If anything it is more uncomfortable on my Marin bike. The problem was I was wearing thinner gloves and with flat bars the hand position provides less cushioning.  I do wonder why I cycle along it sometimes. Still I’ve only got myself to blame.

I did have to stop at Reach Lode bridge though to take a picture of the dramatic skies.

The last time I took a picture of the balancing pond on the left of the bridge – here is the much smaller pond to the right of the bridge.

For a change after passing along Split Drove to the Headlake drove/Great Drove/Little Fen Drove crossroads I headed down to Reach past Tubney Fen which has also been given the “open access” treatment. The gate has gone and some posts and massive chunks of concrete has replaced them. I am not quite sure how they will keep the cattle in though.  The concrete steps to the left are for horse riders, although they probably won’t need them now they can carry on through. 

I wasn’t sure which way to choose when I reached Reach. There are three tracks and the road as well. In the end I cycled along Black Droveway.  Your sometimes see Travellers parked up along here, but I have never had any problems. Apart from one time when there was a delicious frying bacon smell that made me feel very hungry. This is the back of the Swan Lake Grain Store – it sounds far more picturesque than it is, as you can see. Apparently in 1999 one of their lorries knocked down a street light.

This is Black Droveway – a combination of dried mud ruts and large puddles. I managed to cycle along it without dabbing my feet down and did have to go through one or two puddles in the ruts as well.  I am not sure I’d want to cycle along here at night without decent lights though.   

The last picture of the set I wonder whether this was the cause of one of my recent puncture?  The freshly flailed hedge alongside NCN51 between Bottisham and Quy.

As I mentioned I used my Marin bike for this ride – it is just a tad easier when dealing with rutted byways and bridleways. The handlebars are slightly wider and the riding position a bit more upright, which helps me to keep an eye of the mud ahead.  Although the front tyre had gone squidgy after replacing the tyre and inner tube I was pretty sure it was not a puncture I’d caused by nipping the inner tube. So before I set out I let all the air out and pumped it back up again. My theory was that it was a valve problem. as it happened quite a lot of dust came out of the valve and this tyre stayed firm so hopefully the problem has been cleared.

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