Sunday, 24th April: The weather over the Easter weekend has to have been the best ever, well in my memory anyway. Mind you Sunday was not as hot as Saturday, but it was still good cycling weather, albeit a bit windier as well. There has been barely a flicker on the rainfall graph - check out the Weather graphs for April.
This ride started out as a plan to ride up to Coveney (via Cottenham and Wilburton) with my long lens (100mm-300mm or 200mm to 600mm in 35mm speak) and was really a chance to get a few miles in whilst my son, who was skint and needed to earn some cash cut the lawn! Especially as I had spent a good few hours driving to pick him up on Good Friday.
Despite being a little cooler it was actually very pleasant cycling weather and as I got closer to Coveney and passed a likely looking byway I decided to explore. There are quite a few byways and bridleways in the Mepal, Witcham and Ely area, but my limited experience of them has been that they are a bit of a Curate’s Egg – good in places. In the last few years the only time I have turned around on a byway and headed back to the road was on the Bury Road (a byway) out of Witcham.
Mind you I have just had a quick look on the Where’s the Path map + satellite image of the area and it does not look too bad. Perhaps I just wimped out too soon. So this time around, on a whim, I set off along a byway off Long Causeway alongside Catchwater Drain. Well at least that is where I discovered I’d been when I got home. As I was exploring I also managed to end up on a dead-end and had to back-track to find another suitable track to follow.
Here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the route I ended up taking, including the area where I got a little lost. The map is shown below. The route is around 75Km / 47 miles in length, although you could save yourself a little distance by not
getting lost exploring like I did. The route is also flat although at the time Ely feels like more of a hill than the elevation trace for the route shows.
As I have cycled up to Waterbeach and across to Landbeach a few times just recently the urge to take pictures did not come over me until I reached Cottenham and was heading around the outskirts along Long Drove. It was the sight of Cottenham Church in the distance across yet another yellow field. It is the Parish Church of All Saints Cottenham.Tower. “It is around 100 feet high and was rebuilt in 1617-19 to replaced a previous steeple destroyed in a gale”. What was interesting to me is the Pinnacles on the four corners. It is the bulbous, ogee shape that is unusual – they almost look like minarets (a feature of Islamic mosques). (I didn’t know what “ogee” meant until I looked it up.)
This is the view along Long Drove, Two Bit Farm is somewhere up on the left. There are also gravel pits on the right which are being used (I think) as part of Donarbon’s Waterbeach Waste Management Park. Apparently it covers 400 acres and treats and manages waste. It also produces renewable energy and you can collect free compost if you pick it up yourself.
A picture I have taken before, the last time from the Aldreth Causeway – Haddenham Water Tower and Communication Tower. This picture was taken from the B1049, which although a “B” road is not the quietest of roads – however I must had seen around 20 cyclists in dribs and drabs going the other way. I did wonder whether there might be some sort of cycling event on.
I carried on ‘oop North past Wentworth and crossed the A142. A road that can sometimes be a little busy, today it was fine. (Actually there looks to be an interesting way across to Sutton from the Grunty Fen area on a byway and then on the other side of the A1421 a Boat). After crossing the A142 there were yet more yellow fields, looking almost like a large lazy river heading down towards Ely. Mind you a closer look at the picture and the map suggests that might actually be Little Downham in the background.
This is the tree to the right of the middle in the last picture, but taken down near the byway I ended up cycling along. The byway had metal gates across it to make it a restricted byway and I used them to rest my camera on to hold it steady. Many of the byways in this area seem to have names, although not the one I cycled along – it was alongside Catchwater Drain (which is a common name for drains).
After a while I turned of the easterly-track to the north, along Old Fen Drove. I had in mind I wanted to head closer towards Coveney, although as I was not using a map I could only make judgements based upon what I could see. Mind you both Ely and Coveney are on hills and so make good landmarks.
These tracks seem to see reasonable use, but were not as chewed up as some I have seen and judging by the wooden “barrier” across this byway nothing large had come by for a while. The tracks, so far, were very pleasantly cycle-able, with only a minor amount of teeth judder from the shallow tractor tyre imprints.
The byway wiggled a bit and then reached a long straight track – Wentworth Sedge Fen Drove, seen in this picture. Unfortunately this track seemed to reach a bit of a dead end. If I wanted to I could have struggled and found some sort of way through, but my intention was to cycle along the byways and judging from the lie of the land this was not a byway so I headed back to the last byway junction. When I got home and checked the map I could see what had happened, Wentworth Sedge Fen Drove was not a byway.
I returned to what was a byway, called New Drove and then came to a T-junction with Sweet Hill Drove. It looked as if there was a byway that ran parallel with he dead-end byway which I turned onto. This was Sedge Fen Drove and ran parallel with Long Lane through Coveney. However the byway was at around 0m elevation and Long Lane was at 10m elevation. You can see the houses along Coveney Main Street at the top of the Oilseed Rape field in this picture and what I think might be Manor Farm to the right. (I could have been a bit further along though.)
From the same spot I could see Ely Cathedral in the other direction, with the Flag of St George fluttering in the breeze. I’d like to be able to say that I waited patiently until the flag was nicely lined up for the picture – I didn’t it was just luck. the good news was that I would have the wind behind me on the way home. From here it seemed that everywhere else was up though.
As I carried on a young lad cycled past me, these tracks are certainly much safer than cycling on the roads, providing I suppose, that you don’t fall into a drain (ditch).
Sedge Fen Drove then reached Green Drove, a road, from Coveney to Ely, which is the way I was originally expecting to go. Despite it being Easter Sunday this farmer was “making hay” in the fine weather. The top of the road is School Lane where it reaches Main Street, Coveney.
Just for completeness a view back along the byway I had just cycled down, I can’t recall seeing a “Byway” sign and you certainly can’t see one in this Streetview picture of the byway (it is though).
The road from Coveney then leads onto Ely where you meet up with NCN11. I skip the scenic route and cycle down Back Hill out of Ely onto the Stuntney causeway before re-joining NCN11 on the shared-use tarmac path alongside the River Great Ouse. I did stop on one the benches along the path for a few jelly babies, a drink and took a few pictures. This one is of the Ely to Newmarket railway bridge, which appears to be called the Newmarket Bridge on the OS Map. In June 2007 Eleven wagons were left hanging over the old railway bridge, which in the Newmarket Journal is called the Hawk Bridge. The effect was to close the line for six months
The other reason I stopped was to take a picture of the herd of grazing cows “blocking” the path. These cows only showed a mild interest as I squeezed my way through them!
Conveniently a cyclist followed through, as you can see the cows made way and a couple showed interest, but even with calves in tow there was no stress, for cows, walkers or cyclists.
Of course the other way of traveling in these parts is by boat on the river or by train. The Ely to Cambridge line is behind the river in this picture.
The shared-use path splits off at heads down to Barway, the Fen Rivers Way path carries alongside the river for walkers.
A bit further along and some serious irrigation was taking place. ( I can’t quite place where I took this picture – the pylons ought to give it away!)
It felt good though, cycling with my back to the wind and to be honest cycling out against the wind hadn’t been that bad either.
To be continued…