Monday, June 6, 2011

Fields full of plants–get out and cycle

Friday, 3rd June: It was definitely POETS day today and after the smog ridden streets of Cambridge I needed some fresh air. Actually the last smog alert was for the Easter break, at the moment here in the East the forecast is low to moderate.  The other factor that might have had something to do with my enthusiasm to get out and cycle was the weather – the skies were blue, the sun was shining, the only downside was that it was quite windy, with an average wind speed of 10 knots and a max of 20 knots. So for once I obeyed my own first law of cycling, one of them anyway and cycled more or less out against the wind and back with it.

The wind was from the north-east which ruled out the Cambridge Guided Busway’s (CGB) high quality cycleway. Which as I write is improving in quality. At least some of it is, the flooded areas up near St Ives might still require diving skills. Mind you technically it is a bridleway and so open to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders alike. Should it be the “Insert name here” cycle-, walk- and horse-way? We do seem to be getting a steady feed of “good news” though – is this part of a PR plan – the latest Press Release discusses the plans to raise flooded sections of the Busway cycleway.

So given the direction of the wind, the need to get out of the smoke where else but out towards Wicken Fen? Although I have been this way many times there are myriad possibilities depending upon how you feel about cycling on byways, bridleways and decrepit crumbling roads (BOATS or RUPP?). So here is the map and here is the Bike Route Toaster link to that map. It is a little over 50Km/30 miles in length.

If you read yesterday’s Post about Cycling being for the young and the strange then it suggests that when people do consider cycling, they consider it a leisure activity.  I think cycling is multi-purpose, well for me anyway. Sometimes it is good for commuting, sometimes it is cheap, sometimes it is reliable, but I have to admit this ride is most definitely one for pleasure.  It is a potter or pootle ride and on a sunny day it is delightful.

For a change I have used the OSM Cycle map as the map “background” rather than the vanilla OSM view.  As you can see there is a dashed line from Waterbeach to Bottisham Fen.  If that were open it wouldn’t stop my occasional meander around Honey Hill but it would certainly make a pleasant ride out along the River Cam towards the Lodes Way.  The OSM Cycle map shows a thin blue dashed line from Bottisham Lock to the point where Swaffham Bulbeck Lode connects with the River Cam which implies it is a “cycle way” – or is that just my wishful thinking. The underlying OSM map shows it as a footpath and so does the on-line Cambridgeshire Rights of Way map (although not the definitive map).

If the Cambridge Sewage Treatment Works does get relocated to near Honey Hill then I for one might be less inclined to take this detour and would welcome the opening up of the River Cam route to Lodes Way. Whilst I am looking at the Connect 2 website I rather like the idea of the Conkers Circuit. The Connect2 bit of the Sustrans website  dealing with the Lodes Way development no longer seems to mention the provision of a bridge over the River Cam. Has this aspiration quietly been shelved.

Enough moaning, it was a sunny day with blue skies and the very occasional and quite small white puffy cloud in the sky. There are also lots of different crops growing out in the fertile fields of the Fens.  Here is a field full of peas – well pea plants anyway.  These field peas are not like the ones we grow in our garden, they don’t need to climb up sticks for support but seem to be self-supporting.

It is quite a sight seeing pea plants in flower by the field-load.

So much of a sight that I seem to have included three pictures of the fields near Honey Hill in this post. The ground looks pretty dry though so I would imagine that it will hit the yields. Indeed there is research at two Agricultural Research centres in the region to develop drought resistant crops.

As I wound my way around my route I also came across this field of oilseed rape still in flower, it must have been planted a little later than elsewhere.

Here is some wheat I think, although actually I have no real idea.  What you can see is that it seems to be growing slightly more lushly in the shade of the hedgerow.

A bit further round, along the disused Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway line, where it runs behind Anglesey Abbey, there were six or so fields full of flax in flower. A week later there are still the same number of fields, still full of flax, but very much fewer flowers.  Here the flowers have either lasted longer alongside the hedgerow, or perhaps come out later than the bulk of the field. (You snooze, you lose as they say the opportunity to see the flax in flower that is.)

Here they are an array of solar powered green-energy storage systems – plants.

The flowers now only seem to be dotted around the fields though. This is a view back along the old railway line track bed as it curves through the fields.

I would imagine that potatoes are even more susceptible to drought problems than some of the other crops grown around the Fens.  This field full of spuds is getting a drink anyway.

On my way into Wicken Fen I was feeling extremely thirsty, although I am not sure why, it wasn’t that hot. The trouble was I had not taken a bottle of squash with me. Needs must and I bought something at the Wicken Fen cafe, conveniently near to the the cycle way cycle parking (It is now different from the Streetview photo-map of the area – which covers the walkways within the Fen.)  As I cycled back out of Wicken Fen towards before crossing Burwell Lode a couple of cyclists called across to me – “Is that the way to Cambridge?” So I “sold” the benefits of the Lodes Way, but unfortunately had run out of Lodes Way leaflets but they said they would pick up one near the entrance.  The other great thing was I had the wind behind me for my ride back to Cambridge.

For the way back I followed Lodes Way, they ought to get the Google Streetview people back on their bikes and photo-map it.  Along Headlake Drove the parsley was huge, more than the 1m height suggested in my wildflower book.  Perhaps it is Hogweed which grows to 2m I’d better check out the leaves next time.

Along White Fen Drove there were a few poppies scattered around the fields.

I also paid attention whilst cycling through Lode – here is the scene of the accident that I completely missed the last time I cycled through..

On the way out of Lode there was a thoughtful white van driver who kindly parked on the pavement so as not to obstruct the road too much. Sod the pedestrians – they’re probably just as strange as people who cycle after all.

As I passed by he drove on, probably wondering why I stopped to take his picture.

For all my crossness about white van man, it is a delightful route and one which you need to visit often if you are to see how rapidly nature moves on. That’s my excuse for cycling this way.


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