Friday, 13th May – Part 2: A quick recap it was FAFPP – Forget about Friday, Push Pedals and after my long ride last Friday I thought I’d go for a more moderate distance. 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.
This bit covers my ride from the Southery Road (B1386) through to Southery and then home via NCN11 with a detour through California.
The B1386 connects Feltwell) with Southery and like many of the roads and ditches in the Fens tends to be pretty straight. If you follow the link you will also see that the area is made up of a patchwork of fields – this is very much arable farming country with fields large and small, growing all manner of crops.
The road is not too bad, but straight roads can be a little intimidating for cyclists as they seem to go on with the same view for ever and ever. They can also be unpleasant as they encourage cars and vans to speed along. This road would seem to be an important “agricultural” route and there is a reasonable amount of “farm” traffic including larger lorries. However I felt that passing vehicles always gave me room – so it was not too bad to cycle along.
As I made my way to Southery there were quite a few dilapidated agricultural buildings dotted here and there. I guess as farming has consolidated and both fields and farms have gotten bigger to take advantage of economies of scale then operations are consolidated in larger buildings and these old tin huts get left behind. They are not even worth the effort of knocking down!
As you go along the route Wissington Factory comes into view and sometimes into sniff. Along with wheat and potatoes, sugar beet has been one of the main fen crops and this factory processes the beet into sugar. Apparently the industry began in the early 1900s with a factory built at Cantley in Norfolk in 1912. This particular factory was built in 1925, or rather the first factory on this site. According to the link British Sugar pays the 2,200 growers in the area around £75 million on average a year.
A more complete history of the site can be found here (pdf). There was originally a Fertiliser factory built on the site in 1904. The site has evolved significantly and now has a five hectare horticulture business heated by the Combined Heath and Power plant the site uses.
That same link also mentions that at the height of the beet season up to 1,000 deliveries arrive at the factory six days a week from Mid-September to March. That is a fair number of trucks – almost 1 a minute 24 hours a day! I have certainly seen a few trucks when cycling around here, but today there were very few.
At the junction where the B1386 meets the Feltwell Road (B1160) as you near Southery, the road is shown as being more significant on the map and is the one used by much of the beet traffic heading to the factory (which lies on the River Wissey). The OS map also shows that RR30 goes off-road at this point. Well it doesn’t, or if it does it is made for tougher cyclists than me. The track would follow up the line of this hedge I think.
The route I normally use heads into Southery, past the Jolly Farmers which is re-opening soon according to the sign (July 10th).
Then you head down Campsey Road, where there is a Sustrans 30 sign – it must be the right direction!
As you go down the road it turns into a track and then if you look carefully there are more occasional RR30 signs
The sign points you down this track. We cyclists are a fickle lot really always moaning about the quality of the cycle paths. Despite the way this looks it is good fun to cycle along, the hard–packed single-track of mud makes for fast cycling along a lovely, but short trail. This sort of trail can be easier to cycle along than the loose gravel byways that you find and it is certainly more picturesque.
The route shown by the OS map and Sustrans does not agree with the route on the ground. The route I followed goes along a marked bridleway, the route shown on the maps seems to take an idealised straight track, which doesn’t look very evident when you are there. Following the bridleway is no problem though and you come out a little bit down the A10, but there is a shared cycle path to take you back up to the Modney Bridge Road (along which RR30 heads).
At Ten Mile Bank I went straight across and joined the NCN11 cycle route where the wind seemed to be a little bit more unfriendly and there seemed to be very little blue or sun in the sky. The road is an open and sometimes bleak route down through Hilgay Fen. Hilgay Station was to be found where the road (Station Road) crossed the King’s Lynn – Cambridge railway line. There are also more of the usual collection of small farm buildings, such as this one that looks a little like a small hangar.
Not all of the buildings are so “elegant” – this one is more of a corrugated iron lean-to. You can see the electric cables of the railway line in the background.
After a slight kink through Lady Fen NCN11 heads down alongside One Hundred Foot Drain past the Welney Wetland Centre. If you look at a satellite view of this area you can see that the River Delph (Old Bedford River) and One Hundred Foot Drain both run in parallel separated by a strip of land in this case known as the Hundred Foot Washes. This provides a “reservoir” for flood waters but is grazed when not flooded. Here is some Wash” land for sale with Internal Drainage Board rates of £30.78 per annum.
A bit further on down, the route briefly joins the A1101 before departing along the B1411, at Suspension Bridge (that is what the place is called on the map). This is the “up stream” view. It was looking pretty overcast – I wondered whether it might rain, The water in the One Hundred Foot Drain looks pretty brown – which suggests that more fen soil is being carried away.
The banks were covered in cow parsley and I also saw a boat some way down. To take this picture I stood on the bridge. Normally when cycling (or driving) on the road you are below the level and can’t see what is happening on the water.
The A1102 runs parallel with the Hundred Foot Drain before a dog-leg over the “river”. It looks as if one driver was caught unawares by the change in direction.
Although the main road leaves the Hundred Foot Drain the cycle route continues alongside on the B1411. The route passes under the Ely – Peterborough railway line. I clambered up the “river” bank (or should that be drain bank). This is the railway bridge over the drain and the line is also elevated over the washes. I passed two cyclists coming the other way at this point – (er not on the bank on the road). Although I rarely see lots of cyclists out here in the sticks I do normally see one or two.
It seems to me that the drain is looking a bit low.
As the B1411 takes a dog-leg away from the One Hundred Foot Drain I noticed two animals fighting in the road – it was a couple of large rats. As I went past one ran off and the other twitched a bit and then lay still. I do see the odd dead rat on the roads, but have not seen more than a handful of lives ones around – ever. (Apart from in Zoos and Wildlife parks.)
For a change I left NCN11 and headed back up under the railway line and then out past Fodder Fen to California – not quite like the California of the West Coast of America. (I expect they hear that a lot.)
Irrigation is a bit feature at the moment in the fields, what is more surprising is that there is also a lot of harvesting – these look like some form of onion, with a few strips left in the ground.
On may way back NCN11 alongside the River Great Ouse into Barway there was a lot of crop-picking taking place. I would imagine that this was salad crops as they were being picked by hand. sometimes it is necessary to irrigate the soil before picking to soften it and make it easier to pull up the crops without damaging them.
As it happens the weather seemed to get nicer as I headed towards Cambridge. This is Burwell Lode – I was back on the Lodes Way at this point.
As I stood on Reach Lode Bridge I took a picture of one of the ponds dug when the bridge was built. Burwell Electricity sub-station is in the background.
Strangely the weather was quite bright and sunny by my return. So had it been nice in Cambridge all day or was it gloomy everywhere during the middle of the day. Despite cycling the wrong way to get the wind behind me on the way home – it was not as bad as I feared.
Mind you I felt more tired after this shorter day’s ride of 134Km / 84 miles than after cycling 228Km/142.5 miles last Friday. To make matters worse the next day I also felt more creaky when going down the stairs first thing.