Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Variations on a Theme - yet another cycle ride round Lodes Way

Sunday, 6th March: I got up early on Sunday, to fix my bikes although as I mentioned the Marin had a ripped rim and was going to need a bit more than puncture repair. Still at least it was not raining and the sun was shining through the clouds from time to time. So after lunch I went on a ride up to Horningsea, across to Lode and then on and off Lodes Way. This is a route with many variations and is either off-road or on quiet country lanes around the Fens. Mind you on a Sunday I do tend to see quite a lot of people out walking or riding.

The map of the ride is shown below and here is the BikeRouteToaster link. It is not the fastest of routes, more a sort of "lazy" amble around the Countryside. I do enjoy cycling with other people, especially when there are roads/lanes/tracks which allow you to chat. I tend not to get involved in chain-gang rides much. Partly because quite a lot of my riding is during the day since I don't have to commute in the morning or evening and partly because it is harder to stop and take pictures when you are cycling with others even if they are only moderately competitive. (Yes I have been known to play those games - first past the next road sign type of thing.) Mind you I really ought to go out with the CTC on one of their Sunday rides - they look as if they visit some interesting places and they take pictures.

This ride is a shade under 40 miles/ 63Km and very flat, but not for the skinny tyre brigade really and you don't need a mountain bike either. There a neither mountains no particularly bad tracks on the route. I have 25mm tyres on my two main bikes, one has flat bars (Marin) and the other drop bars (Longstaff) and whilst the Marin is marginally preferable off-road the Longstaff is quicker on the road so it is really swings and roundabouts. Not that I had a choice since my Marin was in need of some fettling.

Lodes Way Loop 11Annt.jpg

After leaving Cambridge I left NCN51, instead riding along Wadloes path to Fen Ditton and then out along High Ditch Road to the first byway - Low Fen Droveway. Before I started exploring on my bike I often wondered where the strange road bridge over the A14 headed. Even more strange was that sometimes the road to the bridge was blocked by a bank of earth. At the moment the road is half-blocked. I think it is to discourage fly-tippers, but byways have a legal standing as a right of way and this one does not have any signs making it a restricted byway.

Here is the view from the A14 bridge - the fields are turning green and there is blue in the sky - Spring is springing, although it sometimes seems to be two steps forwards and one and a half back again.


The view looking back over the bridge towards High Ditch Road - the sun was so bright it hijacked the picture - but it is a proper road bridge with pavements (just on the bridge part though).


Low Fen Drove Way does suffer quite a lot of fly-tipping and today was no exception. I have seen it clear, but I guess that it is easily accessible from Cambridge however once the fly-tipper is over the bridge their nefarious activities are relatively well hidden. As it happens I drove along High Ditch Road a couple of days later. (Yes I do drive, but I do try not too if I can help it.) A moderate size van seemed to be reversing down the slope of the bridge towards the road, which immediately made me think the worst - more fly-tipping. Unfortunately I was not quick enough to get the van's number plate. I must check to see if there is any more rubbish dumped the next time I go that way.

As you can see on Sunday there were two piles, one of mainly hedge trimmings and a second of trimmings plus a bed frame and a couple of toys. At home we have a small shredder, or stick nibbler as we call it, which does a good job of chewing this sort of stuff up and then we use some of it on paths and some goes into the compost bins. When we had to have some tree work done we got in approved tree-specialists who brought a massive shredder and cart it away to an approved site. I guess whoever did this was trying to save money and figured it was organic - so what the hell. Kind of them to only half block the road wasn't it?


As I carried on along (and around) the byway, there was yet more fly-tipping - how thoughtful to dump it off the track and only partially blocking the entrance to the field. This lot looks is if it has also been shredded - you do get a better class of fly-tipper here in genteel Cambridge. I didn't mention that the path is mainly pretty reasonable,but there is a section (about half way round) which is hard-packed mud, at the moment it is a bit wet and squidgy so you have to pick your route through it. It is not too bad though and improves your bike control.


The byway comes out onto the Horningsea road and the new Fen Ditton Horningsea Cycle way. It is a pet peeve of mine that some motorists seem to see no problem with partially blocking pavements and Cycle ways - like this one. The blighters aren't content with shouting at us to get off the road and onto the Cycle paths - they then want to use the cycle ways as well to park their cars. Yes I have been shouted at to get on a Cycleway in an such an expletive laden sentence that it took a while to work out what the car driver was on about. I must admit the driver, quite fat and going red in the face had me worried, I though he might be having a heart attack. (The last time was in Bury St Edmunds). However I did read that there will be new powers for councils to tackle pavement parking. (Check out the against comments!!!)

The good news is that on Sunday I passed loads of people using this new shared-use path. There were several groups of walkers out and I also passed a group of cyclists coming the other way. Yes you've guessed it we passed each other at this car so even though I was on the cycle way I got held up by a flippin' car.


The cycle way ends in Horningsea but I carried on up to bridleway - The Harcamlow Way. This is a picture taken from the byway, to be fair it makes the clouds look more dramatic than they really were.


Although the track is classified as bridleway it is actually a very good route, better than many byways I have been along. The track surface is pretty flat and pothole free, better than a few of the roads around Cambridge. You can't really assume to much when checking routes on a map, although the legal definitions of byways and bridleways are different they really act as restrictions to the general public You aren't allowed to drive on this track, but it is clearly used by tractors and other agricultural vehicles and well maintained. However I have seen bridleways that would be almost impossible without a decent 4x4 with significant clearance to drive along.

Although it is unlikely to happen I would like to see a bit use made of rights of way by cyclists. There routes might have their roots in historic routes, but nowadays many rights of way have an important recreational role and recognise the new ways people want to access the countryside - prams, wheelchairs, cycles as well as ensuring access for horse riders. this bridleway does turn off along the edge of a field where it becomes a somewhat flattened grass track.


After crossing the field the bridleway once again joins a farm-track (past Allicky Farm) , perhaps not quite as good as the early part but on the whole flat and easily cycle-able. It reaches the old Cambridge to Mildenhall disused railway line, or at least the route of the line, the tracks and sleepers are long gone. The bridleway at this point is called The Drove Way and reaches a grass track which, if you follow it heads to Quy. This is that grass track, it looks as if there has been some work on it, both clearing the hedgerow but also flattening the track itself. (Note to self - must have a cycle down there sometime to check it out.) The last time I cycled this way to Quy the track was more a single mud path, (single track) and made a good cycle route, but it is also popular with dog walkers. I sometimes see the Cambridge Dog Walker out this way giving his charges a good walk.


This is the way I went - along the old railway line route - straight through to Lode. It is well used by the people around here and nearer the Anglesey Abbey end there is a permissive bridleway. This part of the track is quite good, but it can get a bit slippery in the wet and the two ruts do get deeper in places. The good thing those is this track is away from the roads so not too noisy like some of the Share-use Cycle ways.


This track appears in Lode just by the old Bottisham and Lode Railway Station on the Fen Road, which is part of the Lodes Way (I think). This picture is of the rays of light shining down on the fields used for the Lodestar festival and kite flying. Bottisham Lode is between me and the green bank you can see in the foreground.


The road the turns off towards White Fen (Lodes Way) but this time I carried straight along it where its name changes to Lug Fen Droveway and past an area of farmland that has Polo studs. (As in Polo Horses not Polo mints)


The road then turns right and after another kilometre reaches Mill Drove where I turned right and arrived at this sign. Technically this is a footpath, but as you can see the track has a hard surface. Don't expect some National Trust mansion - Oily Hall seems to be some slightly ramshackle farm sheds.


The track stops at Commissioners' Drain where the field has been fenced in to provide a route through. There is a footpath across the field and the farmer has posted notices to indicate that the cattle are safe, but this provides an alternate route. It was hoped to create a circular route for horse riders (and cyclists:-) ). Apparently it has been put on hold hoping for a change of situation. This is the track I went along, soft and soggy but not too bad.


In this closeup you can just about see the bridge across the Drain in front of the small trees. That then heads down to White Fen.


This is the aforementioned drain, but looking back the way I had come. Depending upon the time of year it can be quite green and overgrown.


My next stop was to take this 3 (x3) picture, stitched together using Photoshop Elements. The last time I cycled along here the field was in the process of being harvested (for turf) it looks like they did quite a thorough job.

Upware Road Turf Field.jpg

On the way into Wicken Fen I took a picture of the Wicken Fen Windmill, one of quite a few in Cambridge. I rather like the way it was silhouetted, it is a pity about the cables in the foreground. I assume that the bobbles on the cable are to warn the birds.


On the way out time for a picture of the light shining behind Baker's Fen.


The way out of Wicken Fen has been streamlined for cyclists (and horse riders) with the addition of a fence along each side of the path and 2 cattle grids at each end - but you don't have to stop to unlatch and re-latch the gate, which has been removed.


I hadn't got that far from the last rays of light beaming down before I had to stop to take this picture, just by the cattle grid in the last picture.


I did my usual detour from Lodes Way down to Burwell and back up Newnham Drove.The drove is unpleasant and probably doesn't do my bike much good with all the battering it gets. It reaches Lodes Way which has been fenced off like the bit by Wicken Fen, it is a bit of a shame really. I don't suppose it makes that much difference to me, but it felt nicer not to be cut off. This bit of Fen will be allowed to get wetter again and you can see how a pit has been dug out.


I was hoping that the sun's rays would be underneath the bridge's span, unfortunately not. I did have to re-tighten my saddle when I reached the top of Newnham Drove though. There is only one bolt holding the saddle in place and it needs to be pretty tight.


That was a very pleasant ride and I caught up with the Archers, albeit a day late and apart from a slipping saddle there were no bicycle problems.

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