Monday, May 16, 2011

Cycling around the Rain Clouds of Wicken Fen

Thursday, 12th May: After the last few days of meetings I had the day to myself and then I was going out to meet some friends/ex-colleagues for a curry at the Tamarind in Teversham. Despite the fact that I was going to have an opportunity to cycle in the evening out to Teversham I decided that I deserved to get some quality cycling time in so got up early got a bunch of stuff sorted and then went out for a spin mid-afternoon.  The direction was Wicken Fen, the route was through Quy, the back way to Lode and then along the same route as Sunday.

The only downside to cycling when it fits in with a bit of free time was that you can’t choose the  weather and this time it was not so good Yesterday it just looked as if it might rain, today there were definitely showers around. In fact it was bad enough that I took a rain jacket with me and stuck it in my rack pack. I just wanted to get away from the traffic though and getting wet when cycling is rarely as bad as you think.

I can’t have been paying much attention to roadside flowers recently as it was a surprise to see some corn roses growing. Actual I have never called them corn roses, I just picked that up from the Wikipedia article on Papaver rhoeas or red poppy. I admit that I had a bit of a play with this picture and turned up the saturation so that the petals almost look like a red cloth hanging down. Having noticed them once I realised that there were quite a few growing in the verges, although not so many in the fields.

Sometimes when I take a picture I do a search for images to check out different ways of visualising the subject. When I did this search (poppy fens with Google Images) one of my pictures appeared in 12th place, certainly not one of my best though.

At Quy where NCN51 bypasses the roundabout the fields were looking almost bluey-green – the clouds didn’t look too promising though and there were damp patches around on the roads and paths, there had been a small amount of rain.

As my plan was to cycle along Station Road out of Quy  and then along the bridleway and old disused railway line around the back of Anglesey Abbey to Lode (and Lodes Way) I first cycled up the main road Stow Road (B1102 in Quy).  This road has got some traffic calming features to help reduce the speed of traffic passing through the village. Although a search for any news on speeding through Quy throws up some interesting snippets. The Burwell Parish Council discuses the Quy traffic calming and the issue that the speed limit there remains at 40mph, which I have to admit is rather counter-intuitive.

Stow cum Quy (as Quy is more formally known) reports that they cannot get any volunteers for Speed Watch in the village. The trouble is that from the villagers and more vulnerable road-users perspective you really just want motor vehicles to drive slowly though the village. However Councils seem to find it easy to do one-off installations of rather than work to achieve the goal of “just” speed reduction. So vehicles get slowed down by the obstruction and then speed right back up to 40mph, so perhaps their average speed gets reduced, but at the expense of slowing down and then speeding up. This means that this sort of scheme is not at all eco-friendly as it uses fuel inefficiently it will also create more noise and I would guess more pollution.

As a cyclist my reaction to these sorts of measures is that they tend to create more driver impatience which increases the risk to other road users. This particular island has a channel on the left to allow cyclists to carry on. The trouble is that cars having to go around them quite often try to nip in front of cyclists before the bend.

Mind you there are also the odd anti-social tossers motorists who feel that it is perfectly acceptable to park on the pavement, practically blocking the pavement for pedestrians and partially blocking the road for cyclists and certainly obscuring the island from view.

I wonder how much the three traffic islands in this village delay traffic during the rush hour.  I reckon that the distance between the two speed limit signs in the village is 1.11Kms or 0.694miles. If you travel through at an average of 40mph it would take 1 minute. (Sounds about right since at 60mph you travel a mile in a minute.) If you travel through at 30mph then it would take 1 minute and 23 seconds. So if during the rush hour you get delayed by more than 10 seconds twice then you have wasted more petrol to achieve a 30mph limit.

I guess that this approach does slow the night-time “boy-racers” a bit. It doesn’t seem to please the people from surrounding villages though – check the traffic calming bit of the Forum. Although it (the Forum link) didn’t work when I did it – here is a Google cached version (4th May 2011).

Perhaps that is why I try to go “off-road” as much as possible, that way I don’t get so worked up about the way in which roads get “designed” – politics, money and lack of joined-up thinking all conspire against the inhabitants and the road users I feel.

This is the bridleway (actually the bridleway is to the right of the trees on the right) from Station Road in Quy to The Drove Way (track). There may be trouble rain ahead.

After turning onto Fen Road alongside Bottisham Lode a nicely drilled field, just  slightly highlighting the contours of the field. You see it is so flat around here I get excited by the merest ripple in the land.

As I stood there taking pictures two cyclists came down from the White Fen Droveway (think part of Lodes Way). That bicycle on the right is interesting. The handlebars are behind the “baby-bit” and the front wheel is in front.  I certainly looks like it gives the occupants some protection against inclement weather. I wonder what it is like to ride. I have a tandem and you have to adapt to a longer vehicle and when you are on your own you do notice the extra weight. Mind you the flatlands are probably one of the best places when you are carrying extra weight. Perhaps she is hyper-gravity training. The bike looks like a Bakfiets Cargo bike – not sure whether it is long or short..

The same view after they passed by, clearly wondering why I was taking their picture. Now if that isn’t a bucolic picture I don’t know what is. The verges had been fairly recently cut and the fresh cut grass smell was really strong.

Near where the Lodes Way emerges onto a road after White Fen (and Swaffham Bulbeck Bridge) there was a farm/stud for sale. It is Highbridge Farm on the map and has 4 bedrooms, 2.37 acres, equestrian facilities and is yours for £645,000 and is conveniently placed for access to Lodes Way. According to Bike Route Toaster it is at 2m above sea level.

Did you notice the puddles on the road – I thought I might be in for a bit of rain – but my luck was in so far, I felt a few spots but nothing too bad.

A bit further up the road a turf field under the dark clouds.

On the other side of the road were similar dark clouds with the odd patch of sunshine showing through. That building and haystack to the right of the picture are shown but with no name on my OS map. However I have also bought some Cassini Historical maps of the area and it is marked as Blinkers Hill. (MikeC had mentioned them to me and that the NT sold them from their shops in Anglesey Abbey and Wicken Fen, however they had sold out when I tried so Amazon came to the rescue.) I am not quite sure why it is Blinkers Hill as it lies on the 0m contour line.

A little bit further up Great Drove an irrigator could be seen pumping out great gouts of water onto the crops – well I assume there were crops there.

On the same road this was irrigating a turf field somewhat closer to the road and so I stopped to take a picture of the huge spray as it slowly turned around with each jet of water. As I patiently waited it seemed to slow and then the amount of water coming out dropped as well. One of the problems in this area is that of drainage, but it does mean that irrigation is less of a problem as there all these convenient drains. I would imagine though that as they are low at the moment that there might have been a clogging problem with the source of the water for this spray.

On the road between Chapel Farm  (next to the Little Chapel in the Fen) and Rand Hall there was some road mender’s graffiti. It is interesting that as a cyclist I actually don’t mind the gentle dips on these roads. I think that they serve to slow the motor traffic down far better than traffic islands and yet they don’t cause problems for other road users (like cyclists). However I do accept that dips turn into potholes and they are unpleasant especially  for cyclists. The puddles weren’t quite so bad up here. “Up where” I hear you say, well yes, near Upware.

Further along, on the other side of Upware near a spot that is sometimes used as a Beet clamp. Actually there seem to be spots on both sides of the road. This one on the Wicken side, looking towards Wicken which is where I am heading and where it looks like it is raining.

After wending my way through to Wicken Fen and down the path past Monk’s Lode the rain seemed to have moved on and left lots of blue sky and a few white puffy clouds. Which are I think Cumulus, although I can’t say I have ever been that interested in clouds much – so I am probably wrong.

The clouds look more like Stratocumulus as it seems to be forming a layer (or strata)? I couldn’t remember quite, at first, where I took this picture, but if you look more closely you can see that the Burwell Electricity Sub-station down in the distance (pointed to by the two tractor tracks).  I was standing where the track from Priory cottages meet Little Fen Drove between Burwell and Wicken Fen. What originally drew me to take a picture was the way the crops were waving in the breeze and looked like a sea of green.

As I cycled along the Burwell Road between Reach and Burwell another view of the Electricity Sub-station from the other side.

On my way back I saw a car cut across the triangle of land in front of the Church to get from the Newmarket Road (A1303) onto the  Church Road (B1102) without having to drive down and around the roundabout and back. I say car, it was actually a big pickup truck.

I got home just in time for a quick shower and change before cycling of to Teversham to meet some friends for a curry at the Tamarind. I got there just-in-time but a little warmer than planned although I was only wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. The curry and conversation was good and we finished up quite late. For the journey home I did wear my yellow fluorescent jacket and had my brightest front light.

The jacket was mainly for warmth as it can turn quite nippy in the evenings. What I did notice and find rather pleasant is that you move through areas of warm air and then into cold air and so on. In shorts it is really quite noticeable on a bike. It’s a bit like being in a shower when someone else is causing the water to got hot then cold and hot again. I took my bright light because the route home has cattle grids (Ditton Meadows etc)  and I feel that they can be quite tricky in the dark without decent lights. In fact urban cycle paths do tend to be a bit tricky with random bits of street furniture around.


  1. Quy traffic calming

    Cambridgeshire County Council's policy on the use of this sort of chicane is Particular care needs to be taken in installing give way features as they are not suitable for high speed or heavily trafficked (greater than 6,000 vehicles per day) roads. Safety Audit approval is necessary to ensure they do not become an accident risk. A reasonably balanced two-way flow is also required.

    But in the latest traffic survey they show that road carrying 8,100 vehicles per 16 hour average annual weekday. And of course the flow is very tidal at busy times, towards Cambridge in the morning and away in the afternoon. Bit of an own goal here.

  2. The problem is polices get created at some cost to us all and then ignored. I see that the policy also notes that it:

    Can prove difficult for cyclists as they may be 'squeezed' between a large vehicle and the kerb. With the right carriageway width this can be addressed effectively by road markings.

    As a cyclist I have never found the road markings to give me a lot of comfort or protection. And yes we can get squeezed.