Thursday, May 5, 2011

Across the fields to Fordham and back

Wednesday, 4th May: (Star Wars day – May the 4th be with you) For a change I went the “wrong way” around the Lodes Way. Actually I went to Fordham and back and this time I left NCN51 at Bottisham and carried on along the Newmarket Road to a bridleway that cuts across to Swaffham Heath Road. Here is the Bike route Toaster Link to the map shown below. This way around the Lodes Way area is not as flat as the Lode/Upware/Wicken Fen way as it reaches 40m above sea level.  The distance is 56Km/35 miles and apart from the Newmarket Road (A1303) manages to steer clear of too many unpleasant roads – apart from the noise cycling alongside the A14.

As I was cycling along the Newmarket Road after passing Bottisham I noticed this growing near a small layby – although it looks a bit like cow parsley it is taller and the leaves are almost fern like which makes me wonder whether it is Poison Hemlock, not that I am at all sure. The stalks do have purple spots on them and it is growing much taller and has yet to flower unlike the Cow parsley.

I stopped again just up the road to take a picture of this dilapidated farm building alongside a yellow field. it is opposite the Car Breakers by the Heath Road byway leading down to Wesley Bottom.

The bridleway runs parallel with the road for a short distance just past a farm called Whitelands on the OS map. Where there is a Stone yard and Cooks Barn offering Christmas Party Nights – although the website lists 2009 so maybe it is out of date? The bridleway then turns at right angles to the road and head across the field along the hedgerow. As it has been quite dry the surface was pretty good and has not been imprinted too much by tractors or horses so made for pleasant cycling.

I did stop and take this low level picture of a dandelion seed head.  We had a friends three-year old round to play the other day and he delighted in picking all the dandelions in the lawn and blowing the seed heads around the garden. Now if I’d done that my wife would have had a word or two to say about it – but at that age they get away it. I was going to say it teaches them to count – but he could already count beyond the small number of puffs it took to blow the seeds away. We used to call them dandelion clocks as the number of puffs to clear the seeds was supposed to be the time.

There is a climb up from the Newmarket Road – but nothing too serious really. The road is at 14m and the top of the hill at 34m where you get a pretty good view out around over Swaffham Bulbeck,  Bottisham and to Cambridge in the distance.

I did try to create one large panorama of six picture but there was so little for Photoshop to match them up that in the end I created three sub-panoramas – this is looking towards Cambridge

This is looking between Bottisham and Swaffham Bulbeck. In the middle of the picture is a large clump of trees slightly larger than the surrounding trees.  They are between Bottisham Hall and a sewage farm, euphemistically called “Wks” on the OS map.

This is the view of Swaffham Bulbeck and off to Swaffham Prior. There is what looks like a join in both this and the last picture, which is where the stitching program struggled I think.

A couple of close-ups, that spire is the Church of  Holy Trinity. Actually it isn’t, if you follow the link you can see that Bottisham Church has a tower. In fact a quick check of the various villages leaves me puzzled. Maybe it is further away than it looks.

In this picture you can see the various cranes dotted around Cambridge and I think the tower is the Cambridge Museum of technology chimney which is around 7 or 8 miles away. So the church spire could be one of the Cambridge Churches such as All Saints or the Church of Our lady and the English Martyrs. I don’t really know and will take my long lens up there one of these days to see if I can get a better idea.

After what is a very pleasant off-road route it was time to join the Swaffham Heath Road. I turned right and noticed a farm track (down to Chalk Farm) that was also a footpath. I wasn’t planning on cycling along it – but a Pillbox caught my eye – there was something odd on top.  So I cycled along the track to get a closer look. I also stopped to admire this fine bit of ploughing – here the soil is very light in colour.

This is the Pillbox, which sits just off the farm track under the path the electricity pylons coming from Burwell. As you can see there is something on top.

Well if you ever wonder “Mr BT Ambassador”, whether all those Phone Books that you pay to have delivered make I would have to say that it doesn’t look like it.  I have seen little piles of them in various ditches but this is the oddest place to dump them.  Someone has driven along this track and then climbed up and put a load of them on top – how weird is that. I didn’t look inside, perhaps there were more there and it was full up.

After that detour, which I forgot to include on the map, I carried down the Swaffham Heath Road until a byway just before the A14 bridge.  This is where the A14 and A11 briefly join before separating a little way down the road on the other side of Newmarket. You turn off by some houses and go past them. The track is rather overgrown at the moment with so much Spring growth – it was a good job I had sunglasses on to protect my eyes from the odd bramble. I stuck to the middle track.

I wonder how this Iris ended up along this path?

They byway converts to a bridleway and then back to a byway before reaching the NCN51 route between Burwell and Exning. It also passes under the Devil’s Dyke bridge over the A14. This picture shows the route towards Exning. The Warehouse is the other side of the road this byway connects with.  The path looked as if there had been some recent cutting back of the hedgerow – I was a bit worried about punctures and stopped a couple of times to check for wood splinters.

Did I also mention just how noisy it is cycling alongside this A14. To get the full effect you have to turn up the volume for this clip.  I took a short video form the Devil’s Dyke bridge looking down on the A14. (This is looking back the way I had come).  As luck would have it the traffic seemed to get less busy when I started filming.

I was slightly annoyed to see that the byway I was on had been closed and would remain closed for some time. As it happens the closure if part of the footpath along the Devil’s Dyke I think.  I didn’t see any work taking place. It does annoy me when public routes such as this are closed for great chunks of time so that the Council can send people along at their own convenience – it is not my idea of a service culture. I wonder how many days work will actually be needed during the 6 months of closure.

The photographs get a bit sparse for a while – I joined the road and cycled through Exning and passed Landwade in West Suffolk – one of the smallest parishes in the county.  What I hadn’t realised is that Landwade was part of Cambridgeshire until 1994 when it was given to West Suffolk – boundaries seem to be very arbitrary divisions. I then joined the Fordham Road into Fordham. You join it before the Fordham bypass but fortunately there is a shared-use cycle path. Which I only realised after I had cycled on the road for a while. I then cycled into Fordham and back towards Burwell (B1102) detouring along the bridleway next to Ness Farm along the Broads Road into Burwell.

This time for a change I cycled along the NCN11 then NCN51 route into Reach and then cycled over Delver Bridge onto Straight Drove, a byway that runs up to Upware but not quite in line with Reach lode. I stopped to take a picture of the Tubney Fen information board. Hemlock is the third plant from the left.  I had a play with Photoshop to alter the perspective – which cut a small chunk from the bottom right corner.  Next time I need to have a larger area around the board if I want to digitally correct the view.

There were some US jets flying around, it is unusual to see them this far from Mildenhall/Lakenheath – we do see them, just not that often. I would say that this is an F15 Eagle.

I cycled on up to Lodes Way rather than cut across Tubney Fen and then along Lodes Way and round the back of Highbridge Farm via Rail drove.  Now that is a pretty big irrigation device. It has been very dry here – a good job we have a lot of rivers draining down through the Fens – at least there is some water for irrigation even if there is a flood risk.

Along White Fen there was a bird of prey, hovering, now I am not very good at identifying birds, but my guess is that this is a sparrow hawk

As I was looking on the Wicken Fen website to look for information to identify the bird in the previous picture I noticed this article on the cuckoo. They have been charting the arrival of the first cuckoo at Wicken Fen and have records going back over 35 years. This year they were first heard (or maybe spotted) on the 14th April. I heard them on the 17th of April so not too late.


  1. Hi Jamie - tried to cycle this today without a map. Ended up going a completely different way by accident as I'm such a chump. Do you know this route?

    I started in Burwell and after heading down Weirs Drove and turning off to travel alongside the electricity sub-station on the Lodes Way, I was then following the Lodes Way until heading through Whites Fen onto the Whites Fen Droveway. I then turned off the NCN11 by turning right onto the Lug Fen Droveway (where you cut over a little bridge and a couple of stiles marked with a sign saying you can only cycle here with written permission - near a farm/house?) and past Bottisham Lock and through Clayhithe.

    I was then running along the River Cam until I reached a pub called The Bridge in Waterbeach - where I rejoined the NCN 11 along the Cam towpath into Chesterton.

    Was a lovely route and only took an extra 15-20 minutes onto the time it'd take from Burwell to Cambridge on NCN51 through the Swaffhams and Bottisham onto Stow-cum-Quy.

    Have you done this one? Sustrans seems to call the Bottisham Lock/Clayhithe bit a planned route.

    Really enjoy your blog - keep it up!


  2. Thank you.

    I agree it is definitely a lovely route and not a bad way to get to Waterbeach Station either. There is a picture of Bottisham Lock about two thirds of the way down this Post-Aug3, 2009 and of the "Written Permission" sign

    Apparently there is a problem with agreeing access with the current landowners as the Connect 2 proposal has been around for ages. to create that route.

  3. Yeah, the legalities of using a cycle across the bit where it says "Written Permission" are a bit sketchy.

    I personally cycled across this bit and due to the fact that a) I wasn't shot by a farmer and b) I'm not now in purgatory mean that it's probably best to just cycle along it. Like you, I don't cycle on pavement and I'd have got off and pushed if I'd have encountered any hikers.

    As an aside: I'm not a massive fan of chain pubs but stopped for a lasagne at The Bridge pub on the river in Waterbeach - its lunchtime deal for £5 was a bargain - lots of chips and a decent sized lasagne portion.

    PS - Don't buy a Coke as they're £3.15 a pop! Shocker!

  4. I have only once had a farmer wave his shotgun in my direction and that was many, many years when rights of way we not something I really bothered much about

    My son used to kayak there with his friends - he
    always rated it. I do think that Lasagne is one of my favourite cycling foods. When I did LeJoG, ten years or so ago that must have been the most popular thing to order.

  5. Hello,

    Looks like a nice route.

    That plant in your first photo is definitely hemlock. Like you said, you can tell by the ferny leaves, and it's much taller than cow parsley, but the light green stem with dark red/purple blotches is the absolute giveaway.

    Flowers usually around, well, now (Mid June - Early August), whereas cow parsley is just finishing flowering.

    Its funny, its quite a nice, inoffensive plant, but it's stature suddenly becomes somewhat more menacing when you consider it's one of the most deadly plants growing in our hedgerows!

    Nice pic of the eagle, too. :)

    1. I must have seen Hemlock many times without really considering it. I suppose I must have thought of it as giant cow parsley. Apparently cow parsley is edible (according to Wikipedia - but unpleasant.

      Thanks - It is unusual to see eagles over this part of the fens and normally I am a bit slow getting the camera out to take a picture.