Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Cambridge and Coton Crop Circle Cycle

Sunday, 5th June: Before getting onto the ride perhaps I ought to get better at “dealing” with the various cycling related snippets of news that gather, as if by magic, on my browser.  Currently I have around 20 tabs open and it is time for a cull.  Since starting my Twitter account I had found that there are Twitter-ers and Twitter-ees. It mazes me how some people seem to generate so many Tweats which often includes links – I basically have to ignore them otherwise I could easily get side-tracked from doing any work at all.

I am a twitter-ee, at the moment, in that I tend to read Tweets rather than post them, but it would be a good way of disposing with interesting weblinks as they arise, rather than letting them gather.

So here are those links – the first is there will be a Bike Fair on Parker’s Piece on the 11th and 12th of June (this coming weekend) arranged as part of Bike Week and it is free. Perhaps it might distract all those Cambridge residents rowing over parking permits once again under consultation. The trouble is that whilst we don’t own our neighbourhood we feel we do and that ownership entitles us to repel all parkers so that we can clog up the streets.  The trouble is land is expensive and so are houses in towns and cities, especially Cambridge and we are a car-centric society and we are territorial.

Although here is an interesting property to buy – “A three-bedroom Aladdin's cave filled floor to ceiling with bicycles, a rickshaw and other oddities” A snip at £1m – it is the “Kew Curiosity Cabinet”. My wife makes me keep the rickshaws in the shed.

And finally, before getting on with the ride. If all these crops growing in the fields inspires you to become more involved with farming there is the Hempsals Community Farm scheme in Willingham.  They want 20 local families to get involved in the running and “share the risk and rewards of farming”. If the idea is of interest – here is the Hempsals Community Farm website.

Now to the ride: Sunday is one of those days when I catch up on various podcasts that have accumulated on my computer, the mainstay is the week’s Archers and the new offshoot Ambridge Extra. The Archers is something I have listened to on and off for 30 years (and more).  What has really helped me though, in terms of keeping up is the advent of the Archers podcast. In fact I listen to a whole lot more radio since the BBC started making programs available via podcast.

When I started listening to Ambridge Extra it made me realise how well The Archers scriptwriters craft the story into 15 minute chunks. Although it probably sounds like an oxymoron the trick is to maintain the right pace, well at least that is what does it for me.  So Ambridge Extra seemed a little out of sync at first. But I find myself first listening to the week’s Archers and then to the Ambridge Extra and it works.  The only thing I don’t like is the music they play for the Ambridge Extra program – it is too loud and too bright.

I also listen to Dr Karl and the Naked Scientist (two different programs) along with a variety of science and technology programs, including “All in the mind” and “More or Less” to name a few.  Of course I also listen to cycling podcasts including The Bike Show  and the Guardian’s “The Bike Podcast”, which used to be monthly, but has not had an update since November 2010. (Whilst popping over to get the web address I did stop and read a few cycle blog items. “29 June 1878: The Nuisance of careless bicycling”, “How I took on my insurers over a stolen bike – and won”, “Why cyclists sometimes opt for the pavement” and “Why not make the ‘cycling revolution’ bigger?” being four such items.

It is strange how so many people seem to vilify cyclists for cycling on the pavement and yet we accept that cars, vans and lorries should park on the pavements. Well alright we don’t accept it but it doesn’t raise the ire that cyclists on pavements does. Yet, lots of councils are only too happy to make pavements shared-use when it suits them.

Back to Sunday’s ride – the weather wasn’t the nicest, the CGBC (Cambridge Guided Busway Cycleway is shut) and I’d been along Lodes Way quite a few times just recently it was time for a change.  This is a route I have done before (or at least very similar).  It sort of skirts around Cambridge taking to Country roads to the east of the City to before coming back down through the Wilbrahams and then through to Coton before returning along Gilbert Road. It has two hills on reaching 50m and the other reaching 60m, small beer in cycling terms, although they seem quite high here in the flatlands and you do get to cycle down the other side and pick up some speed. In fact looking at my GPS log my maximum speed was around 48Km per hour (30 miles per hour). Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link to the map shown below. It is A little over 54Km /33 miles in length and allow though follows road, shared-use path and country park path the surfaces are all tarmac or concrete.

The first photo-stop along the way was when I saw these poppies growing in a field under the pylons. This is just past Middle Hill on the “climb” out of Swaffham Bulbeck on the Swaffham Heath Road. I have always assumed that where you see poppies growing amongst the crops the farmer has made a choice not to apply herbicides, perhaps for cost reasons or health reasons. I assume also that it does affect the yield of the crop . This website suggests by as much as 32%, it also suggests that there are herbicide resistant strain of the common poppy.

At the end of the day, there is a balance between high yields and the input costs, with fuel prices increasing,  herbicide costs increasing and although the push of technology into agriculture is huge it is interesting to see that it is not universal.

As I cycled along between Great Wilbraham and Fulbourn road I found myself passing some cyclists. This is either a sign that I must be getting fitter, or that it is a Sunday with more slower cyclists enjoying a leisurely ride. I also passed a field full of flax with white flowers. The small seed of hope – or another fad? At the end of the day I think that we are best served by a balanced diet. Mind you there does seem to have been a significant increase in the amount of flax grown around the flatlands. I am not sure why although this report (pdf) indicated a decline from 1999 to 2003 due to lack of processing capacity. So has there been more capacity added?

Here is a close-up of the flower. The plant is grown both for its seeds and fibres and according to the Wikipedia article some varieties also have red flowers.  This article suggests that the colour of the flower is down to when in the year it was grown. This article  suggests otherwise.

After climbing up out of Fulbourn and over the Gog Magog hills I had to stop halfway down the other side to take pictures of this field full of blue flax.

Actually this field was more of a basin and one of the few high areas around the city. On the other side of the road is a Beechwood Nature Reserve (or Beechwoods). We do have a few woods around and about if you know where to look though.

Next stop blacktop. After Wort’s Causeway I rode along past Addenbrookes and down Long Road, stopping where it crosses the unopened, still a construction site, Cambridge Guided Busway to see for myself if there was indeed evidence of the laying of tarmac. This is the view looking south towards Trumpington – look at that a ribbon of black tarmac heading of into the distance.  There isn’t enough room under the bridge for the cycleway to run with the busway so it diverts.

Here is a picture I took earlier (3rd March 2011) - which I shows that the cycleway has its own bridge and doesn’t need to cross Long Road. There is access to Long Road at this point though.

Here is the view looking north towards Hills Road and the Cambridge Railway Station – yet more black tarmac. 

As I cycled up the Coton path a quick stop to take a picture of this plant. It looks a bit like cow parsley, but is Hogweed or Heracleum judging from the leaves.

Despite the weather being a bit dull it barely rained and there were quite a few cyclists out and I even managed to pass 6 out on the country lanes. (I did not get overtaken by any either.)

I am also looking forward to cycling along the new CGB Cycleway tarmac surface, although I wonder what it will be like when the buses are running?

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