Friday, June 3, 2011

Loads of Linseed in Lode

Monday, 30th May: Now it is Friday Saturday already and I have only just gotten around to posting this! The good news is that in the meantime I have done some cycling, but the bad news is that most of it was for meetings and although I took a camera with me I ended up taking no pictures.

So a quick update on that evergreen (or ever-flooded, or never-going?) topic – the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB). The great news is that some of the new tarmac surface has been spotted – the blacktop. Let’s hope it doesn’t get trashed by maintenance vehicles sorting out the CGB before it is fit for purpose – ready.

It is always interesting to compare a news item with the Press Release that generated it – and the CGB has presented quite a few of those opportunities. Press Releases generally say what the “announcer” would like people to read, news items try to report on news stories that the “audience” would find interesting.

So we have the Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) press release of the 3rd of June, 2011: “Plans in place to raise flooded sections of Busway cycleway”. Whilst the Cambridge News news piece for the 4th June, 2011 has the headline “Legal notice opens battle of the busway”. Spot the difference in emphasis? To be fair the CCC’s did press release mention the legal issue. Of the 10 paragraphs in the Press Release the last one did mention plans to set up a “core group of officers and members to manage and oversee the process of resolving the dispute…”.  zzzz.

The Cambridge News piece did also mention the fixing of the flooded cycleway. Although the fixing suggests that one section is still expected to be underwater for an average of 29 days per year (so some years it could be two months?) Apparently the CCC is also exploring whether funding can be found to put a tarmac surface on the stretch between Swavesey and Longstanton. Although I would have thought that there is some challenge in developing a decent surface that would be subject to an “average” of 29 days flooding per year. Oh yes, before I forget it also reports that if the legal battle was lost in its entirety the £151 million pound bill could be pushed beyond £180 million.

Fortunately in this age of “open government” and the internet despite the challenges sometimes of finding information you can generally dig down and get more. Is it just me, or do others find the CCC website just that little bit tricky to navigate despite the search facilities. My feeling is that the information is there, somewhere, but the categorisation leaves a little to be desired (by me).

What I generally look for are reports being submitted to the Council prior to Council Meetings. These tend to provide more illumination on the subject and sometimes dig up information not reported elsewhere. Here is that report (it is a word document) and here is where it came from  - Agenda Item 9.   The word document implies that we might now expect that the flooding will affect one part of the cycleway for an average of 29 days per year (see item 3.8), with adjacent areas of track being flooded for an average of only 15 days per year.

Here is the original report (pdf on the NoGuidedBus website.) which discusses the potential  flooding  issues. The report indicates that the Busway itself could be closed for around four days every  ten years plus.  However by the 2080s such closures would occur one in five years. (Para 4.228 and 4.229). A CCC report dated 16th March 2010 (Document here) suggests that flooding in the preceding six winters would have occurred for between 4 and 55 days and for three winters flooding would have been 7 days or less.

Whatever the reality it seems to me that there needs to be a permanent alternate Sustrans NCN51 route available.  Can you imagine the Government building a road such as, say the M25 and telling motorists “oh by the way – it’ll will be closed for some time each year – maybe only 7 days or less, but on average 29 days, which depending upon how we work out averages could means it will also be closed for almost two months in some years”. Yeah – right!

Back to Bank Holiday niceness. This ride was a gentle ride along NCN51 into Quy, along the back way to Lode, then to Upware  and then the bridleway down through Harrison’s Drove, once round Wicken and back along  Lodes Way to Cambridge.  The weather wasn’t brilliant, but it was not too bad either and there were loads (lodes!) of cyclists out and about and not just on the formal bits of Lode Way. Here are a couple I passed on the bridleway (The green dotted line in the middle just after the bend)  out of Quy on Station Road.

What does this tell me – well there is a demand for routes  truly away from traffic in the countryside. Or to put it another way the perception of the dangers of cycling on roads is probably keeping a lot of people off their bikes. More importantly cycling on ordinary roads (even on shared-use paths) can be quite extraordinarily unpleasant for some.

Talking of which Summer is slipping,  I recently blogged that cycle Hire was stating in the Summer at Wicken Fen. Then I noticed it was going to be July, well it would now appear to be 1st August – taking a leaf from the CGB?. This is a pdf map of some of the suggested cycle routes – featuring Harrison’s Drove on the short route.

As I got closer to Lode what did amaze me was how much Linseed (Flax) was growing in the surrounding fields that I had not noticed. There must have been at least six fields full of the stuff – acres of small blue flowers blowing in the breeze.

Just to prove it I think I ended up taking pictures of everyone of them – the fields not the flowers.

When I said acres I meant it.

The challenge, that I now realise I failed, was how to capture the sense of being amongst fields of blue flowers.  These are more delicate than fields of chrome-yellow oilseed rape, but also more unusual.

The disused Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway track along which I cycle, passed though the middle of what is quite a delicate and unassuming flower.

Phew, here is one where you can actually see more blue than green (almost) – honest it was really quite a sight. Unfortunately the flowers do not last long at all so as this Post has taken a long time to appear this will now be more or less over – sorry if you were hoping to go there.

No this is not even more Flax (Linseed), it is a footpath leading diagonally off White Drove. Why the picture you might well ask? Well over the last few years I can’t recall seeing the path reinstated after crops were sown, this year it clearly has been re-instated. Let’s hope this does not disenchant the farmer too much with walkers and cyclists.  (I wonder what Mr Woollard’s position is on such matters?)

I couldn't help noticing this amazing specimen of a thistle on Great Drove just after turning off Lodes Way. I think that it is a Cotton Thistle or Onopordum acanthium. As is often the way apparently it was “introduced into North America, South America and Australia as an ornamental plant and is now considered a major agricultural and wildland noxious weed”.

A white water lily (Nymphaea alba) growing in Wicken Lode

A view of a rather bleak Verrall’s Fen from across Wicken Lode

I did stop on my way back to check out the newly buried sensor cable just near the Lodes Way/Newnham Drove intersection – let’s hope this doesn’t get dug up, but let’s hope it will also sense the passing traffic. I wonder if they got a high reading when the cows came by?  Does it work on all traffic or only for metal bicycles (and prams?).

The recently re-edged ha-ha along the Lodes Way. Someone knows how to drive a digger. You can also see just how thin the peat topsoil is just here.

Although I don’t mention it much there was a little bit of much-needed rain – 3mm around 3-4pm.  You can see how dry it is though from the way the mud has cracked.

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