Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Loop around Southery Part 1

Friday, 13th May:Today I decided it was FAFPP – Forget about Friday, Push Pedals. I couldn’t actually head out first thing but I did manage to get out before lunch for a longer ride. Yes I know it was Friday the 13th, but you can’t be doing with too much superstition can you. Once again I broke the first rule of cycling. I think it is always better to head out against the wind and then have the wind pushing you home – the trouble is after the most enjoyable ride last week around to Peterborough and back (the long way) I felt like a bit more exploring and wanted head out into some open countryside (fen-side?).

I’ve always found that heading out in the North-East direction leads to open countryside, which does feature a Sustrans route – regional Route 30 (RR30) in the area – Feltwell to Ten Mile Bank. The odd thing though is that on the Sustrans Map you have to zoom in before the Regional Routes appear on their map so they can remain a little hidden.

The bit of RR30 that I cycled doesn’t appear on the OSM Cycle Map. The good news is that it is, more or less signed on the ground, although I didn’t join at Feltwell and did get a little confused at one point (not lost exactly, but note sure were on the track I was). One thing there is though is an independent website which covers Regional Route 30. It has maps and links to the routes on GPSies (a mapping website).

I wonder whether RR30 is “dominated” by its run around the Coast and the inland bit is a bit forgotten. On the Sustrans website for Norfolk it is described as running from Great Yarmouth along the coast through Cromer to King’s Lynn as the Norfolk Coast Cycleway and then from King’s Lynn to Lowestoft via Diss  on an inland route as the Two River Route.

The Sustrans route map shows that there are alternate routes on parts of RR30 near Feltwell and Hockwold Cum Wilton. The odd thing is that the off-road route which bypasses Feltwell is shown as on-road. It ain’t. (This Norfolk County Council leaflet has a map or Regional Cycle Routes – pdf. Here is another pdf map of the route between Weeting and Ten Mile Bank.

I’ll stop going on about it, here is the route I followed and here is the BRT link, some bits are not actually mapped on the OSM map (as bridleways or cycle routes)- but that’s half the fun. The route I took is about 134Km / 84 miles and flat. The only snag is if it is very windy it can be a bit unpleasant as a lot of it is exposed. I followed NCN11 back from Ten Mile Bank although I did detour through California for a change. I also used a byway between Soham and Prickwillow – I won’t be doing that again in a hurry. (And of course it is also flat.)

This ride was more of a lasso rather than a loop. Although I like to cycle around large loops they take more planning time, so this one is really a ride to and from Barway and a loop from Barway to Southery and back to Barway. I followed NCN51 and then Lodes Way out to Barway. Just after crossing Swaffham Bulbeck Lode I took a picture just before reaching meets  Whiteway Drove – there were quite a few clouds in the sky – but it was not too bad, there was some warm sun around as well.

I also took some picture so of these dog roses (Rosa canina) in the hedgerow. The plant has hips which were a good source of itching power when I was a young lad. When you go by you can sometimes can catch the lovely perfume smell although not all the time?

Just before turning off Headlake Drove onto Split Drove I noticed green arrows – I took a picture to remind me to check what they might have been indicating – I haven’t checked yet though.

Whilst standing on Reach Lode bridge a quick picture of the Bund Work – it would seem to be nearly complete, in what my Cassini Map (1898-1901) calls Adventurers’ Fen

Although we are now in what is called British Summer Time (BST) apparently Summer (In climate terms) in England is mid-May to mid-August and apparently it is getting earlier although many would say that June 21st is the mark of Summer. Anyway hire bikes will be available in the “Summer 2011”. So I wonder when exactly they will be renting out bicycles at Wicken Fen – it has slipped from the April date also suggested in some NT literature.

After going through Wicken Fen and Wicken village NCN11 passes along a small country lane through a very small village Padney up to Barway. At this time of year there seemed to be quite a lot of salad crops growing. I assume they are salad crops, I didn’t stop to get a close look.  In fact I assumed they were lettuces, but am not sure lettuces need defending from birds, at home we find the slugs more of a problem and they don’t swoop from the sky,

I passed through Barway, which is where quite a few of the agricultural workers live. Although on this website they are called “seasonal production operatives”. The Company they refer to on the website was started by Guy Shropshire who began farming in the fens over 50 years ago. I don’t know which fields are there but I often pass their workers making their way between the Hostel in Barway and Ely on days off. They are always polite and stand to one side to allow me to cycle past.

I left the NCN11 route at Barway and headed the other way over the Ely – Ipswich Railway Line passing another field that also looked to be full of salad crops. This one had been covered to help speed up the plant growth.

After crossing the busy A142, well more of a dog-leg, right then left, the route gets back onto country lanes. With a right turn onto the Barcham road past, yes you’ve guess it Barcham Farm with a nice view of a lake. As I cycled down Barcham Road there was a Tree Nursery which I think is Barcham Trees.

This reason for coming this way was to cut across to Prickwillow on my way through to RR30 (regional Route 30) near Little Ouse and there was a convenient byway – Horse Fen Drove (track) which has not yet made it onto the OSM Cycle Map. This is Horse Fen Drove – not the easiest of byways to cycle along. As you can see it must be quite a popular tractor route as it is quite rutted and does not make for easy cycling. I did not manage this without any dabs – by a long way.

It is still a rather nice “short-cut” though and certainly cycle-able in place.  I stopped to take a picture of theses daisies – I thought they might be moon daisies or oxeye daisies.

The byway does not go on for too long before reaching the Northfield Road part of the secret unpublished National Byway route between Ely and Soham. This takes you on to the Prickwillow Road (of the Phone Box Gallery fame) where parts of the area are between 1 and 2m below sea level and you can see the way in which front doors of houses have had to have steps added to reach the doors as the ground level has shrunk down. I then headed out of Prickwillow on the Mile End Road (B1382) past this interesting house in the process of being built. It is not far after the level crossing, the current (as of 18-05-2011) Streetview shows the frame of the new building. At the side of this picture you can see how the farmland is lower than the road.

As I stood there two trains went by on the Ely Ipswich Line so I felt obliged to take a picture but was too slow for the first one.   I don’t think I have ever been on this particular line.

The route then comes to the A1102 Mildenhall Road, which sounds worse than it really is. According to the map the Letter F Farm is opposite the junction.  Despite being straight and flat I find that motor vehicles generally gave me reasonable space when over-taking. You turn left onto the main road and then the first (proper) road to the right, about a mile or so along the road (1.6Km). The road is marked (White House Road) as being a no-through road – but we don’t let that put us off. There was a lot of small crops growing in the fields as I passed with irrigation pumps blasting away.

There are the occasional lines of trees acting as a windbreak I presume – in this one there were a whole flotilla-worth of little “flags” blowing in the wind despite the wind break.

The thing I like about this route is that despite it being a no-through road there is a continuous “road” including this bridge over the Little Ouse River (aka Brandon River). River Little Ouse is a tributary of the River Great Ouse.  The Little Ouse also defines the boundary between Norfolk and Suffolk for much of its length which is 60Km/37 miles. This is a view of the river from the short sharp bridge, looking upriver.  Despite the road being indicated as a no-through road it didn't seem to stop Google Streetview – this is a link to the pictures taken by their vehicle on the bridge. Of course they could have been riding their trike.

This is the view looking downriver towards the River Great Ouse which it joins at Brandon Creek. This link suggests that the river is 22.5miles in length, so I wonder where they lost 15 miles of river. Using Bike Route Toaster a quick trace of the map showed it was at least 60Km long, but perhaps technically it is a different river?

After crossing the bridge you really start to feel you are getting away from civilisation there are bridleways down the side of the river that I could have take, but on longer distances I tend to limit myself to medium-sized chunks, just in case they are too slow and troublesome to cycle along.The road out of Little Ouse or Brandon Bank as it is once you have crossed the bridge is along Anchor Drove.  This is the view looking back down towards Brandon Bank.

And this is the view across the fields from Anchor Drove – it just seems to go on for miles.  I once did a conference call from here – I had lost track or the time. It was fine though, I had to mute when the occasional tractor went by. That’s the great thing about mobile phones no-one need know where you are.

And this was the view ahead on Anchor Drove. This was a good road surface, but in the middle of the countryside and with very little traffic on it. Also the wind was sort of behind me, which I would pay for later in the day, but at the time felt fine.

After a following the road around a left turn (along Corkway Drove)  I normally then follow the road up Black Drove (a road) to the Southery Road (B1386) which is where I normally join the RR30 route. This time I carried on down Corkway Drove past Manorfen farm along Corkway drove – the byway. As byways go this one was pretty reasonable. Not all of it was quite as good as this – but not too far off.

At some stage my plan was to follow join the off-road bit of RR30 back up to the B1386. I did see a likely track and started up it, but it wasn’t as I remembered it so I turned around and carried along Corkway Drove. The trouble was I have only ever cycled the other way along it and just didn’t recognise it. I thought that this track was in better shape than I remembered the last time. Whilst I was musing  I did take a picture of the fields alongside. I was starting to think that the cloud cover was getting a little more pronounced.

After carrying along Corkway Drive I twigged that as I got closer to the Cut-off channel that I should have carried on up the last turn so I turned back and back-tracked again – twice in a few kilometres now that was careless. Some bits of Corkway Drove have been mapped on the OSM Cycle map but not the unnamed track between Corkway Drove and the B1386. Mind you the track does appear on the Google map.

The track also appears on the Sustrans map as an on-road route. It is not quite road, but it is pretty good in terms of quality. It does not appears as right of way on the OS map, nor does it appear on the OSM Cycle map. So I assume it is a permissive route. There are no markings on the ground though to indicate RR30, at least along this bit. So unlike the National Byway who mark their routes on the ground but don’t make them available on the web Sustrans have a route visible on the web, but not marked on the ground. Obvious isn't’ it.

Whatever, this is actually a very pleasant ride away from traffic in some nice countryside – alright there aren’t hills – but I think I knew that. Part of it follows Sallowrow Drain and it pops out on the road by Whiteacre where there is a RR30 sign but not really showing the off-road route.

I finally reached the B1386 and yes there are more tales of the unexpected as far as RR30 goes.

To be continued…

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