Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Reach for the Fair (part 2)

Monday, 2nd May: A quick recap I got the date wrong in part 1, May day is of course in May and not April, I have now corrected it. I took the opportunity presented by the Cambridge Cycle Campaign’s  mass cycle ride to the Fair from Cambridge (pdf) to pop out and photograph cyclists around the Lodes Way as well as have a ride of course.

Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link to the map shown below. It is a little over 50Km or 30 miles in length and flat. On the day the wind obeyed the first rule of cycling, out against the wind and back with the wind and a stiff, cold wind it was too.

After Upware the soil loses its characteristic fenland peaty black and is much browner for a spell.  This field has featured in a picture or two recently. Mainly because it lies next to a Flax field.

This flax field as it happens, the recent sun has brought out the flowers, at least along this edge of the field which gets the most sun. Flax is grown for its oil and in fact I tend to think of this as a field full of Linseed rather than Flax. When I was a boy linseed oil was used to oil cricket bats (and as far as we were concerned that was the sole use for Linseed oil). If you follow the link we also use to “knock” the bats in, but we weren’t so diligent to do it for 4 – 6 hours phew.

As you can see at the edges there were more open flowers.

Here is a close-up of the flax flower – it is quite a delicate flower and according to the Wikipedia article the oil can also be used for bicycle maintenance as a thread fixative, rust inhibitor and lubricant.

After passing over the A1123 and down a very dry Docking’s Drove I joined NCN11 and headed back down towards Wicken and of course normal yellow service was resumed. I rather like the way there is almost a “sun inversion”.  The sun has dropped out of the sky and spread out over the fields leaving a blue sky with puffy white clouds hanging in the sky.

I didn’t hang around in Wicken Fen as it was busy, I was on best tinging behaviour though. I generally give a soft ting from a distance, but make the tings louder if there is no sign of recognition.  Actually despite us cyclists being told to use our bell quite a few people just don’t really recognise it for what it is – a cyclists warning.

This was taken from the Lodes Way footbridge (you have to haul your bike over). I have seen a reasonable amount of boat traffic recently – yet the lode (Burwell Lode) does not go far.  According to the link barges were built in Burwell by the Prentice Brothers until 1920. The Lode runs from Burwell village up to the River Cam where it joins it at Upware junction (3.8miles in total).

As I stood on the footbridge two weary cyclists made their way up the banking to the  footbridge.  I think at this point some cyclists give up and turn around and go back. The route just seems to come to an end  Well the nicely gravelled path through Burwell Fen does anyway. At this point you find yourself pushing you bike up a short but steep muddy track and then dragging it over a footbridge. It is worth it though and  I generally build up a bit of speed and cycle up it. His helmet looks rather different from the usual cycle helmets. Mind you here is a cycle helmet for people who want to be seen – Angle Bicycle Helmet.

Here are some of the diggers and other earth moving equipment parked up by Burwell Fen Farm (at the end of Newnham Drove) that have been constructing the Burwell Fen Bund. I counted seven plus a van.

This is the view of the Bund from Reach Lode Bridge before it gets capped.

More unusually I also saw a boat coming down Reach Lode, or rather trying to, it seemed to have gotten stuck against the bank. This Lode meets up with Burwell Lode at Pout Hall Junction. A trip from Reach to Lode by canoe is also possible.

After crossing Reach Lode I then cycled down a byway called Straight Drove towards Reach towards the route suggested by MikeC across Tubney Fen.  This is what you see when you get there, an information board and a gate. I think that it is technically a permissive bridleway.

This was the way I had just cycled down from Reach Lode Bridge. The byway does not run alongside Reach Lode but rather forms a triangle with the Reach Lode which it meets at Reach. (There is a footpath alongside Reach Lode).  Today the track was solid, but not too badly rutted and made for quite an interesting ride.  You have to pay attention in picking your route – I did not need to dab my feet at all.

The path across Tubney Fen was quite a revelation although if you read this blog (and search for Tubney) the route has been a recent addition. The blog mentions the farmer giving permission, although from the look of the Lodes Way Map the NT own sufficient land between Straight Drove and the Reach to Upware Road. Here is another Fendog post (Go to Fen Chitchat, July 2010, Lesley Boyle) who grazes Tubney Fen (under agreement with the NT. Apparently 85 cattle are (or were last year) grazed - 49 cows, 35 calves and one bull which is light grazing.

I did pass the cattle grazing but they barely registered my presence.  What did surprise me though was that the path was so cycle-able.  The bit from Straight Drove is fairly firm grass but this meets a track that becomes a reasonable gravel track. This is the view looking back towards Straight Drove. I was close to the bird watching area.

The cows were grazing near the road – Little Fen Drove. This farm was a 100ha turn farm and was purchased in 2005. (247 acres in old money).

I cycled towards Reach and was surprised by the amount of traffic coming from Reach until I realised it was people coming from the fair. There were cars parked at the Swan Lake Granary as well. As I set off along Black Droveway, the way I had planned to cycle along I also saw a Landrover (short-wheelbase looked newish – in green)  take to Barston Drove towards Swaffham Bulbeck.  There are basically three roads into Reach and the centre was closed so I would imagine that locals try to park there car in no-fair land if they need to go somewhere on the day of the fair. Or perhaps it was cheaper than paying for the kids to go on a fair ride.

As i cycled long Black Droveway there people walking looking as if they had lost their dogs in a nearby field.  In the other direction, looking towards Swaffham Prior a field was being irrigated.

On reaching Whiteway Drive (the road between Swaffham Prior and Upware) I tried to get a picture of the rainbow caused by the sun reflecting in the spray.  the trouble is the wind was strong and I had to wait for the sprayer to rotate around. As I stood there I kept getting hit by a fine mist blown by strong gusts of wind. I held my camera behind my back to avoid it getting on the lens.

This is Whiteway Drove on the outskirts of Swaffham Prior – is it me or is the cow parsley much more profuse this year?

At least I had the wind to blow me back to Cambridge. When cycling into a cool wind it can chill you down, when cycling with it behind you the chill effects are much less.

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