Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A lazy Sunday afternoon cycle

Sunday, 17th April: Despite moaning about the fact that it can sometimes be a bit uninspiring cycling the same routes too often. The changing weather and perhaps more importantly the changing seasons do help to completely change a route. I like cycling for loads of reasons and this route represents the ideal “lazy stroll” – well equivalent of a lazy stroll. I say route, it is not a fixed route, it has a general direction, but there are loads of variation and by and large it is either off-road or on single width country lanes or shared-used paths.

You can tell there are quite a few ways around as this particular route map is called Lodes Way Loop 17.  (That was also the link to the Bike Route Toaster Map) The map is also shown below, what they have in common, well Cambridge, Wicken Fen and generally they use the Lodes Way route somewhere along the route. They are also flat although there are one or two small hills – round the back of Swaffham Bulbeck and the bridge over the A14. However the ride elevation varies from 0m above seal level to a maximum of 19m – you can’t pack many hills into that level of flatness. The ride can be shorter and more direct or it can be longer, this one is 58Km/36 miles.  What I do like is that it is pretty much a ride in the country despite being so close to a city, although not a big city.  It also passes through wilder spaces as well as farm land.

I often start my rides heading out of Cambridge on the NCN51 route, most of the time following it until Quy, but on Sundays I often leave it on the outskirts of Cambridge and cycle along Wadloes Path to Fen Ditton (where salt rustling takes place.) The route then runs along High ditch Road before turning off Long Fen Drove Way and crossing the A14 by an impressive bridge (for such a little used path).

This is a view from the bridge over the A14 looking towards Snout’s Corner. A search for “Snout’s Corner” as shown in quotes on Google shows that a number of the links returned on the first page use the same sentence – plagiarism or borrowing?  Also one link is highlighted by my anti-virus software as having a very dodgy reputation.   Snout’s Corner now seems to be notable for the confluence of pylons. I do see cars and vans along bits of this route, some seem to belong to delivery drivers looking for somewhere peaceful to have a kip eat their lunch. I saw a car today – the “road” has a lot of potholes and cars tend to slowly swerve from side to side trying not to crunch their cars.

Two pylon runs converge and then run in parallel to the Burwell Electricity substation, a 400Kv substation. Is is just me or do quite a lot of the cycle routes pass industrial structures like this (and sewage treatment works). I guess that the areas around such places are not desirable places to live and so tend to get left in an undeveloped state. We cyclists then get left to pick up the crumbs of as cycle routes. It might just be that they are actually all over the place.

This looks as if there is a yellow lake with the odd tree and electricity pylon coming up through.

Low Fen Drove Way then reaches the Horningsea Road, just opposite Biggin Lane (a private lane to Biggin Abbey). The trees are now nicely in leaf surrounded by more of the yellow lake.  This is also the scene of the recently completed cycleway between Fen Ditton and Horningsea. The advantage of my route is that it uses an “exclusive” bridge over the A14 and avoids the rat-run traffic. There are a few disadvantages too, it is longer and bumpier.

The view up the cycleway towards Horningsea. The road to the left (Biggin Lane) and the cycleway are actually at right angles to each other.  This picture is a panorama stitched together from three pictures

There is a short bit of road after Horningsea and then the route heads off-road again to reach Lode and the Lodes Way. After crossing the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode I carried on up the byway alongside the Lode (rather than follow the Lodes Way) and then turned off just by Lythel’s Farm. The crops are starting to appear in the fields – or rather the crops that have been sown recently. The Oilseed Rape that was drilled last year is clearly in evidence.  Have you noticed that the Oilseed Rape that comes up at this time of year is shorter than the the stuff that comes up later in the year.  I have been in fields where I can barely see over the top, this is less than a metre high.

Whilst still on the road between Lord’s Ground Drove and the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode byway I took a picture of another popular crop in these parts – turf.

As this was a lazy cycle ride there are not that many pictures.  I cycled up to Upware (where else?) the long way, along Headlake Drove and and then Harrison’s Drove (the first). Then after crossing Reach Lode by Reach Lode Lock headed back along the bridleway besides Reach lode and into Wicken Fen alongside Wicken Lode.  This has to rate as another excellent form of lazy Sunday afternoon transport. They did not look too happy, perhaps their holiday was coming to an end?

The bridleway route then turns off along Harrison’s Drove  (the second). Don’t ask my why there are two Harrison’s Droves, so close together but separated by Reach Lode.  My only advice is that if you ever agree to meet someone on Harrison’s Drove near Wicken Fen make sure you both agree on which one.

The other Harrison’s Drove seems to be the remnants of a tarmac track – this one as a narrow grassy mud track at one end and a decaying line of concrete slabs at the other. In the dry it is quite easy on a bike, when it is wet and muddy I tend to avoid it.

Today it was rock solid and I passed a few Twitchers waiting patiently with their cameras on tripods for something or other to appear.  Apparently men go bird watching either to satisfy their hunting instincts or for systemizing, women go for recreation if at all. Humm I think I will stick with the recreational women.on that one.  Mind you I do like to see diversity in nature, I just don’t feel the need to systemize. At this point I also have to admit I heard my first cuckoo of the season, perhaps that is what they were trying to get a picture of.

This is Harrison’s Drove the second at the muddy end (but dry).  There are quite a few places where someone (I presume from the NT) has put down plastic matting in the deeper potholes presumably to stop them getting any deeper when they are wet.

On the other side of the bank is Burwell Lode – further up Reach Lode splits into Reach Lode and Burwell Lode. Harrison’s Drove the second meets up with Lodes Way just near Burwell lode.  As you can see these banks need quote a lot of maintenance work to keep them in shape (and presumably not just in shape but strong enough to hold the water in).

I popped back up  Lodes Way and then the Maltings Path and around and back into Wicken Fen on NCN 11 . You can see this windmill on the outskirts of from the the Maltings Path

Then it was back into Burwell and through Reach. I have to digress at this point. On a bit of normal two-lane road with cars parked in the other lane (as often happens in villages). I was cycling with the right of way and yet some stupid driver came steaming up and forced me into the kerb. This often happens with white van drivers, but in this case it was a middle-aged woman, she hadn’t been paying attention to the road and then just forced her way through by assertion of size. (Do we really want women and children first – I’ll stick with the children first thank you. Or perhaps that rule also applies to the road and she took it literally!)

I then cycled along Black Droveway to avoid such problems and gave plenty of room to the family out walking along the drove. (An extended family of 15 by the looks of things – another excellent Sunday afternoon pastime. )

There were no other irritating selfish drivers to annoy me on the rest of the way home although I did stop on the outskirts of Bottisham. This field seems to have been prone to flooding for years – well at least as long as I have been cycling in these parts. It looks as if they are trying to sort it. I wonder why now and not during the winter before the planting.

That was an excellent lazy Sunday afternoon ride with only one blood-pressure raising moment. I must have passed over 20 plus cyclists also enjoying the countryside and I also passed some horse riders out as well. The only bad bit was I saw a little lad out cycling with his Dad have a tumble in Swaffham Bulbeck – nothing broken but he did scrape his knees.  Unfortunately that does seem to be what little boys do – I often had scabs on my knees when I was a lad and not just from falling from my bike.


  1. Wow what a beautiful sunday outdoors. There is a community ride on in our city by the same name as this blog. It basically a community ride for everyone, I wish it was amongst this scenery though.

  2. That sounds like a great idea, if I ever get the chance to cycle in Brisbane I'll come along.

    It is raining at the moment here in the Flatlands of England :-(

  3. Ahh that's never to good. We had all the rain we could stomach in January with the floods so it is great to see some sunshine now. Happy riding Jme and I hope it gets dry soon !