Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Sunny cycle to King’s Lynn and a bit of rain back from Ely Part 1

Tuesday 29th March: Well I am slowly cutting the time between going on my cycle ride and when I manage to publish the post.  I think that it is getting harder because I am riding more frequently again. And why am I riding more frequently – well the weather is taking quite a turn for the better and becoming much more Spring-like and the countryside seems to take large leaps towards green-ness every time I go out.

Because I am out of sync with my posting I thought I would pop in a few news reports – so they don’t lose their topicality. In disturbing news “You could waste away waiting for a guided bus” – cardboard skeletons have been waiting at guided bus stops in Swavesey (On April 1) – let’s hope they don’t try cycling they might get a bit soggy. Mind you, there now appears to be a Guided bus timetable and schedule of ticket prices on the Cambridge County Council (CCC) Website.

It is odd that whilst various cuts are being made in order to balance the County budget (in line with national budgeting) there can be some peculiar decisions made.  In Cambridgeshire bus routes are being cut, but £595,000 is being spent on screens at various city bus stops with real-time bus information. Now what would I prefer, more buses or a system telling me how late the reduced number of buses is? Apparently this is being funded by Section 106 money from Housing Developers.  I can’t help feeling that the Developer money is treated a bit like “free money” and perhaps spent on more “frivolous” things.  If you follow the link one issue is that it can’t be spent on on-going running costs which is why it gets spent on this type of project I suppose. Although these types of IT systems require running and maintenance.

In this case £280,000 of S106 money is also paying for the hard surface on the CGB cycleway between the Railway Station, Addenbrooke’s and Trumpington Park & Ride. Personally (and I am biased) I see more enduring benefit from the hard surface than an IT system to report on infrequent buses.  The bus companies will also incur costs to provide the data, which just makes bus tickets more expensive.  Given how little wear and tear bikes cause on tarmac surfaces as long as the CGB does not need a steady progression of heavy machinery using the cycle way for maintenance purposes the hard surface should last a long time. It will encourage more cyclists, making them healthier and costing less in healthcare. It will also help to reduce the pollution from motor vehicles also reducing health care costs – but yes I am biased. (I would also like to see more buses not signs as well.)

Having said all that there was a burst water main along Mill Road which caused the Citi2 bus to be re-routed, but no-one told the people waiting for it at the bus stop along Mill Road – so perhaps signs would have some benefit. Although someone from the bus company could have gone out and stuck a paper sign on the bus stop. Much as I like playing with technology, not all solutions have to be high-tech.

In what looks like an April fool item, but isn’t, Cockup Bridge has made it onto a National Trust list of the “silliest place names”. Funny I thought “bridge” was a commonplace word!

After my cycle into Sunny Suffolk I suppose I have become more aware of news items and two caught my eye – “Under-fire council leader quits” and “’Hated’ council boss oversaw £500,000 payments to gag departing staff”. Democracy in action!

Two more positive items also came up – “Oxfordshire's speed cameras to be switched back on” and “RSPB leads project to regenerate Fens’ wildlife habitat”. Whilst my daughter is learning to drive I find myself thinking like a driver whenever I am a passenger in a motor vehicle (as well as when driving). I was on the bus the other day and in my mind I was thinking, right now start braking , have you seen that cyclist, the lights have changed, be prepared to stop.  Mind you I didn’t actually say any of this. You often hear about RLJs – cyclists who jump red lights, and yes I also think that it is idiotic and dangerous at worst and selfish at best. Mind you next time you are out  see how many motor vehicles also jump red lights and overtake at stupid places and speed.

Anyways – back to my cycle ride. I haven’t really had a day’s cycling for ever (well quite a long time) and the weather was inviting and my wife and daughter were both otherwise engaged all day so I took the day off and decided to spend the day out on my bike.  The weather was pleasant, and not windy so I thought I’d “let the train take” some of “the strain” and cycle from Cambridge to King’s Lynn and back by train. Or rather back to Ely by train and then cycle back from Ely. The advantage of this route is that there are a series of railway stations along the way so you can always cut the journey short if the cycling gets unpleasant. You can also make it work for either Southerly or Northerly winds.  I occasionally catch the train to King’s Lynn and then cycle back.

Here is the route, essentially I followed NCN51 to Bottisham and then Lodes Way and NCN11 the rest of the way. There are quite a few different routes that are all equally pleasant (well to me anyway).  This is the map of the ride and here is the Bike Route Toaster (BRT) Link. The order of the ride on BRT  shows me starting in Ely and cycling down to Cambridge and then up to King’s Lynn. – I only did that so the ride would show as one contiguous ride to distance and elevation mapping.  This was my longest ride of the year – around 136Km/85 miles. It is a remarkably flat route though, at the maximum the elevation is 34m (and the minimum is –1m).

I took a couple of cans of coke and a bag of jelly babies with me.  I have done this route often enough that I know where the shops are if I need more food or drink. One of the enticing aspects of this route is that there is a nice Cafe at Kings Lynn Railway Station that does excellent sausage sarnies and bacon sarnies which are delicious and most welcome sitting on the train waiting for it to start the journey back to Ely. You don’t need to book bicycles on the train, they are free. However the bikes have to go in the door areas there is no special provision. Stick your bike on the right hand side (looking in the direction of travel). The doors open on the left at all stations until Cambridge (the odd one out) so you don’t cause any blocking issues.

I always tell myself to wait a while before taking too many pictures on longer rides and to pace myself.  Stopping and starting does add to the journey time, but with modern digital cameras I could take heaps of pictures without any problems.  I have an 8Gb memory card on my camera and unless I am going away don’t bother taking a spare with me on day cycle rides. A quick check and 59 pictures occupies 322Mb of space. Which works out at around 5.5Mb on average per picture. With HDR pictures there are either three or 7 exposures per “picture” so assuming I take 7 exposures per picture. then 8gb would allow me to take just over 200 separate sets of pictures. However  just recently I have been taking 3 exposures per HDR picture which means 500 images. whilst that doesn’t seem to be huge on a 5-6 hour cycle ride I’d struggle to get much cycling done.

Of course if I took HDR video then that would change the picture… This time around I reached Lode before taking my camera out. This is Lode High Street which leads onto Station Road.  the Church of St James is just out of shot to the right.

When I got to White Fen I saw a cyclist up ahead, so I felt I had to stop again to take his picture. You can see the electricity cables dangling from the pylon to the right and the huge amount of tree planting that has taken place. (Alright they look like plastic tubes – but they have trees in them.)

Further along Lodes Way, after the Upware Road crossing I stopped to take a picture of the trees along Headlake Drove – nicely coming into leaf.

Sadly some fly-tipping along Headlake Drove. This is just off Lodes Way which follows Split Drove. At this point I had overtaken the other chap and was going to take his picture as he went by.

Back on Lodes Way some wildlife – (as opposed to wild road-kill, see yesterday Post, depressingly large amounts of road-kill).

Once through Wicken Fen the route follows a no-through road to Padney past various farms. The contrast between the fresh leaves on the left-hand tree and the starkness of the right-hand tree struck me.

Padney is one of the smaller villages on the ride, between 3 and 5 houses/farms.

The road comes to an end (Padney Drove) however the NCN11 route continues along a permissive concrete farm track alongside Old Fordey Farm and apparently near a Scheduled Monument at Risk (here is another link with a map). Farm traffic and school buses do use this link. You can’t quite see them however the open gate has large yellow metal blocks sticking up – ok for tractors and cyclists to get around, cars and vans use the electrically controlled gate at the side.

Hats off to both the owner for allowing this to be used and Sustrans for linking it all together.

After Barway the route goes off-road and follows Soham Lode and then the River Great Ouse to Ely. Being a flood plain area the land is fertile and you see a fair bit of farming in action along here. I stopped at the end of Soham Lode, by a pumping station, all this low-lying land takes some work to keep it drained. One of the nearby fields almost looks as it it had been flooded – actually “plastic” strips to accelerate plant germination and growth.

This is the Pumping Station.

The NCN11 route passes through the middle of Ely, you can avoid it if you wish, but it is a rather fine Cathedral City built on one of the few hills in the area. The cycle route goes through a park, known as The Park, a rather nice place for office-workers to eat their lunch. (Actually for anyone to eat their lunch for that matter.) This is the view of the Cathedral from The Park.

After passing through Ely the route continues to Little Downham another picturesque place built on a hill.  The link points to the Parish Council website and this link shows the pubs in 1901. Given that the 1891 census showed a population of 1,873 (and more female than male) the 1901 information shows 20 pubs.  That implies one pub for every 93 people. In the Domesday Book the village was apparently called Duneham, at that time the Fens were mostly flooded, hence the settlements being on hills.

This is the view “climbing up” into the village. The are quite a few byways around here that looks is if they might be worth exploring.

It was a pleasant day for cycling, very little wind and not too hot in fact it almost seemed misty off in the distance as you looked out over the fields (wide-open countryside) with a few trees here and there.

On the outskirts of Little Downham the NCN11 route follows a a B-road to Pymoor. At this point there is also a turn which after a bit of winding around gets you to Coveney, a place that also features on my travels. The routes to Coveney are also alternate routes up to this point. So why did I take this picture, well there are 7 traffic signs (one of which is the NCN11 route sign) – it must make it tricky to mow the grass verges round here.

After passing Pymoor which apparently means “flies over marshland”.  The link points to another source of Fenland Rides which I didn’t come across until I had started my Blog, which was after I had started exploring.  It provides some interesting historical pointer – like the “flies over marshland” and this archived version of a Pymoor website. Next time I visit I must check out the Village Sign.

After Pymoor the road meets up with and runs parallel to the New Bedford River (or Hundred Foot Drain. Just before it meets the Drain is one of those random dilapidated farm buildings.  This was taken as an HDR picture which allows the inside and outside to be seen at the same time in the picture.  The second picture shows how it would look in a “normal” photograph.

A single exposure of the building.

Just for good measure a close-up of the interior. For what looks like a fairly modern building it is interesting to see a fireplace and chimney along with the electricity meetings.  I guess it was used as a workshop and whoever used it wanted to keep warm in the Winter.

To be continued…

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