Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Cambridge to Ely cycle loop–Cottenham, Clouds and a Causeway

Monday, 20th June: No rain today, although the grass is now looking much greener. Mind you if you dig just a little way beneath the surface you’ll find dry soil.

First a bit of the recent news – here is a video on the Cambridge News website on what happens when a guided bus breaks down. This was a trial rather than for real, but shows that things must be getting closer to an open Guided Busway. I wonder if there will be a cycling event when they open it.  The Opening date is the 7th August which is a Sunday. In that modern press-management-way we are getting a “deluge” of CGB news stories – just like buses you get no information and then loads comes along. The CGB is also having a “short back and sides”.

Whilst on the Cambridgeshire County Council Website I noticed this piece about Traveller graffiti artwork unveiled in Willingham – I must look out for it the next time I pass through Willingham. If you have sneaked a look at the map I didn’t see it this time, but I only went through the outskirts of Willingham.

Apparently the cost of petrol had caused a third of drivers to cut down on the number of car journeys they make according to an RAC report. The RAC also predict it will get worse. The problem is that the long-term trends are set the oil in the ground is not an unlimited resource.

Mind you if you do get out in the car beware back-seat drivers they cause one in seven accidents and near misses.  Apparently they distract the driver. I can also vouch for the fact the women are more likely to lose their temper at criticism – well in my limited experience.Auto 

So there you have it – back-seat drivers please don’t distract the driver when near cyclists. I wonder if that is what caused this Coach Driver to write off nine parked cars whilst looking for a short-cut. Apparently he had previously picked up a parking ticket and wanted to find a free space. Perhaps he could find a new job as a traffic warden – parking on double yellows appears to be a perk of the job.

Or perhaps it was a pothole that caused him a problem, it is going to cost £2.7m to fix the worst ones in the county. Just in case you were interested here are a few facts about road building. We all pay for them by the way.

After my recent trip South I decided to head North. Like the last ride this one was not so much planned as happened.  It started off with a ride up the Cam.  The other day when cycling along riverside there were heaps of people coming back after the bumps. Which makes for very slow going particularly at the various gates and cattle grids. In the end I went through to Willingham and then along the Aldreth Causeway though Haddenham and then past Grunty Fen to Ely and then back along NCN11/Lodes Way/NCN51.

Here is the route, a combination of byways, bridle ways, country lanes and shared use paths. In all I covered around 77Km/ 48 miles. I am still running a little picture-lite after the cloud problems recently.  As you might have noticed I had more problems with Blogger yesterday as there was a temporary glitch. I have noticed that these forums are a little patchy in terms of expertise. They do help to reassure me that the problem is a general problem rather than a local issue on my computer. In the case of the temporary glitch the “answer” was just plain wrong.

For a change and while it was not too busy I set off up the River Cam.  Mind you at this time of year it is a popular place to walk and it helps to have a bell on my bike to alert walkers. There were also quite a few cyclists as well as cycling coaches. In the fine weather there are quite a few people out on the river as well.

Unfortunately NCN11 up the River Cam comes to an end when it reaches Waterbeach. My usual route is to head over to Landbeach and then Cottenham. The road between Landbeach and Cottenham is not the nicest road to cycle along, thin and fast, but most cars overtake leaving plenty of room. usually I turn off up Long drove just as I reach Cottenham which heads North and eventually re-joins Twenty Pence Road. However the Twenty Pence Road is not the most inviting for a cyclist so I carried on through Cottenham along Lambs lane past the Cottenham Primary School.

I can see why so few kids cycle to and from school. the road had cars parked pretty much all over the place and those mums take no prisoners. Even where I should have had right of way they would drive at me. Funnily the only motorists to allow me my right of way was a white-van driver.  They tend to block one side of the road and then charge along the other side.

Even on the High Street a car passing their little pride and joy suddenly stopped and called over to offer him/her a lift. Oblivious to me being held up behind them. That will have to be another law of cycling – don’t cycle past schools at opening or kicking out time. It was a pleasure to get out on the Rampton Road which has a shared-use cycleway (not very wide though, so it is a tidal flow path, presumably trying to promote cycling to/from Cottenham Village College. Although I can’t find anything on their website that might indicate there is decent provision for cycle parking.

As I was cycling over to Rampton these clouds caught my eye. The series of horizontal lines that look as if the red Arrows have been flying in formation and turned on their smoke trails briefly.

The view the other way was also pretty good. Endless fields of crops and a blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds.

I did see a hang glider flying around but wasn’t quick enough to take a picture. Then in Rampton I turned off down Cow lane and then along Irlam Drove. This is a nice, but long way through to Willingham. The only problem is that at one stage it must have been a concrete road and over the years the slabs have had tarmac added and moved apart so you get a constant bump, bump as you cycle down. Not dangerous – just tedious. before reaching Willingham I turned down the Causeway. As I reached the Meadow Road there was a horse right across the track and a few travellers had settled in.

I normally carry on, never having had issues when cycling past travellers but I also noticed a dog that looked to be free-running. When passing free dogs I like to have a bit of speed in reserve ready if they chase after me. It doesn’t happen that often –  once or twice a year at most and normally never Traveller’s dogs which tend to be on a lead and stake). But I find that it doesn’t do to whizz past horses so I decided to take the long way round and went back to Irlam Drove, turned left onto Rockmill Road and then right along Meadow Road. There are various Traveller sites along this road, but set off the road so there are no horses to be careful about.

As it happens just as I followed the road onto the line of the Causeway I did meet two lads each on a horse and cart with small horses in tow. I am not sure whether they were being moved or out for exercise.

The bit of the Causeway from Meadow Road onto Aldreth seems to be quite well used. The track is quite wide and there are ruts along it- but not terribly deep.  It is not the smoothest of byways but it is quite cycle-able on my Hybrid. There is a cycling club in Willingham – Willingham Wheels. They do a cross-country run to the pub on Thursday evenings.

I heard “Ultralight” flying around and did manage to get a picture this time. Although by the time I did have my camera ready he/she was quite far away. Not close enough to work out the flight-sign. But it shows that it wasn’t very windy.

Rivers are always a good thing to take pictures of here is the River Great Ouse on the outskirts of Aldreth from High Bridge? (I know where I was, I am just not sure what the bridge is called.

A close up of those reeds.

I then cycled up through Aldreth and then Haddenham. The causeway is around 2m above sea level where it crosses the River Great Ouse and then there is a climb up to 30-35m as you reach Haddenham. As you join the main road (A1123) you get to go down hill.  As it happens it is not that difficult to cycle at car speeds in villages when going downhill. except that cars don’t like it.  When following a car at 30mph I like to leave some space – I think that car brakes are better than cycle brakes, but that is not based upon any evidence.

In fact it is quite difficult finding a definitive answer,  Cyclecraft  (my copy – it took a while to find though) quotes:

Gradient 10% down 40Km/h (25mph) :   Dry and alert – 27m.   Wet & tired – 84m

Whereas the highway codes states for cars:

20mph  12m

30mph   23m

Which implies that cars can definitely stop more quickly.  As it happens my speed was logged by my GPS on that bit of hill as a touch more than 30mph (48Km/h).  It wasn’t quite a 100mph downhill.

So why did the flippin’ car behind me squeeze past me, pull into the gap I was leaving between me and the car in front and then brake! argh! I will tell you why – he, yes a he, wasn’t reading the road and looking ahead to work out that actually I wasn’t delaying him – but that van turning right up ahead would delay all of us. It is a good job I leave braking room and yes I was in the primary position. I turned off a bit later although there  are useful byways around Sutton and Witchford that I must try out.

The road skirts around what was RAF Witchford which was opened in June 1943 and then closed  in 1946 with the runways being broken up in the 1960-70s. There is now a business park -  Lancaster Way and a bridleway around the perimeter which I must also try out.

When I lived in Willingham, we used to cycle from Ely via Witchford, the last bit was on the A142 – a very busy road nowadays. There is now a decent shared-use path. An old lady stopped as we both circumnavigated the roundabout onto the shared path – she said “you’re faster than me” as she let me through – always good for my ego, even if I am not that fast anymore. (If I ever was!)

Cycling along the shared-use path I couldn’t resist a byway to the left.  I later discovered it was called St John’s Road (track) and led onto St John’s Road in Ely. It looked pretty good but was actually fairly overgrown, with quite a few stingles and thistles and I was wearing shorts.

Now I was not quite sure where it went, but hey that’s what exploring is all about sometimes. However I don’t really like getting stung just to explore.  I stopped at one point and took a picture of this field of spuds in flower.

But the path onward actually looked quite good and despite brushing against quite a few stingles I didn’t get stung and yes it did get a lot more overgrown than this bit.  Then the bad bit – I had to cross the A10 – it took ages and there was a lot of traffic. It would probably have been a bit easier if I’d followed the shared-use path – then I could have crossed one lane at a time.

Once into Ely I followed NCN11 back down through Barway and to Wicken Fen.  I stopped on Goose Fen Drove to take a picture of these roses.  I got a nice wave from a passing driver, I think he thought that I’d stopped for him.

I am not sure I would use the byway into Ely but the route was quite good with much of it on road. It is a pity there are not a few more cycle-able routes through to Aldreth and Cottenham and alternatives to the B1049 – not bad but not that good for cycling. I wonder if there is any called for a new bridge over the River Great Ouse – after all £450,000 is being spent on the connection between Histon and Cottenham to improve the cycle-path. Lets get Aldreth a bit better connected.

Before I finish I’ll just mention this link to some Old Fen maps.



  1. Swaffham B. cyclistJune 22, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    I see you use the tunnel under the A14 a lot. I wondered if you've noticed that a pair of swallows have set up home above the 1st of the 3 lights in the tunnel as you head towards Quy! Quite an unusual place, but I suspect it's nice and warm for them and hopefully for their young above the light! I keep cycling through the tunnel behind either of the adults as they swoop back to the nest!

  2. Thank you, I hadn't noticed them - it always worries me how unobservant I can be at times. I will keep an eye out for them the next time I head through. I have noticed that the metal drain grates at either end of the tunnel seem to have gone missing though.

  3. Swaffham B cyclistJune 23, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    Hi Jme- the swallows are easily missed- I only spotted them when an adult returned to the nest.

    Shame about the mising metal- I noticed that too. Those corners are bad enough especially when wet- looks like someone's tried to fill the holes with some grit or something as a temporary measure which is now washing away. Anyway- great blog & good to see so many familair unsung corners being enjoyed and pictured- happy pedalling!

  4. Thank you. Despite it being flat the countryside is actually very nice around here. I haven't had the chance to get out for the last few days and there is a Formula 1 race as well. At least I have managed to cut the lawn :-)