Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Roaming the Roman Road (Worsted Street)

Monday, 13th June: So where to start? Well let’s get the moan out of the way first. This cloud-based computing business is getting a bit tiresome.  When it works it is great. Blogger enables me to put up a blog without having to worry about bandwidth limits, or templates, search engines or a URL. I have experimented with running a Website from my computer at home, in fact I was quite proud when I demonstrated that by typing a few numbers a couple of silly pages appeared all served up from my computer. The reason for using an IP address (a few numbers) was that I couldn’t quite decide on whether I really wanted to pay for my own web address.

I then went through the evolution of how to store and display the photographs and at what resolution, how to publish them conveniently, both when I was on line and more importantly when I wasn’t. In the end I used Blogger and Picasaweb and a program called Zoundry to do my off-line editing and all was good. There were some niggling problems, Zoundry was not a supported program and every now and then there was a glitch and I would have to tidy up disk space to get it to work (or re-load it). So one issue with free cloud computing is that the interface tools can be very good, but can unexpectedly lose any support.

So I switched to Live Writer, which is pretty good, although at this stage I would pay reasonable money for a decent blog publishing platform, it is just pretty tricky trying to track one down.  Windows Live Writer has ways in which contributors can add extra functionality – though in my experience those don’t always work and when they do they still can be a little idiosyncratic. The other thing is that it tends to support Microsoft stuff such as Bing Maps better than it supports non-Microsoft stuff like Google Maps – but hey it is free.

However over the last couple of weeks first Blogger had problems with the introduction of a new system, which resulted in the system becoming unreliable, then being switched to read-only ant some previous point in time and for me one of my Posts going missing. The end of the world no, but it makes you think and I have to say the information coming out of Google was pretty sparse. I even filled in a special Google form to highlight my missing post but got no feedback whatsoever.

It made me realise two things, the first was how reliable Blogger had been up until that point and the second was that as Google had been so reliable they had not had to put support in place for us Bloggers. There were some messages coming out and I even joined Twitter to try to understand what was going on.

This last week I have had problems uploading my Blog pictures onto Picasaweb where they get stored and used by my Blog. This problem has continued and if I though the Support information coming out of the Blogger group was sparse, this has been much leaner. What makes it more frustrating is that I actually pay for that storage and the problem is an interface between two Google things – Picasa (the desktop client) and Picasweb the online repository.

Then when I went to use BikeRouteToaster to enter a route – it had also stopped working. (It was only for a couple of days though). So you can see why I am somewhat jaded.  what I really need is a good Blog publishing tool such that I can keep a true record of all my stuff and then target it at different Blog, picture and video storage systems should they change and/or disappear.

What it has made me do is gain a bit more understanding of the picture interface though. My pictures as they get uploaded onto Picasaweb are of the order of 4,000 x 3,000 pixels. Although after processing they can drop to 3,800 x 1,800 or so pixels. Ideally they should then appear at 600pixels width on the Blog pages and then if you click on them you should be able to get the full size appear in your web browser. that way the pictures should be quick to load when you read the post and yet if you want a closer look cab be viewed in a new web page.  It turns out that the URL encodes the picture size. So the third picture has a URL that looks like one of these:

They each differ in size if you click on them, the key difference is just before the last bit of filename – /s200    or /s800   this defines the size it will appear at. I think that s/1600 is the maximum size, but you can omit the s/800 bit and it will then show at the s/1600 size, but if the actual picture is larger in a Chrome tab you can click on it and it gets bigger still..

As of now  (15th June 2011) it is all working except for Picasaweb where I am using an alternate way to upload my pictures.

Now on with the news, the trouble is that now I subscribe to several Twitter feeds I find myself reading more interesting stuff about cycling although it is ultimately just wasting my time and now yours – sorry.

The Cambridge News reports that “Parking charge increase get go-ahead”, it is just too easy a target not to from a cash-strapped Council point of view and yet in my mind long overdue. If you want somewhere to park then you either need to pay for more garden or live in a rural area and suffer the issues of rural life. But it seems reasonable that taking up pubic space has a cost. Apparently a garage adds 6% onto the value of a house and a double garage adds 15%. Why should our council be making our public assets “pay their way”.

After all if you were to park at Cambridge Railway Station then the going rate there is over £1,000 for an Annual parking permit. Did you know you can get ten bikes in the space of one car, in fact if you don’t need all the car manoeuvring space you could probably get 20 bikes into the space of one car.

Why does this all matter, well Brussels is the most congested city and the UK the most congested country in Europe. Cambridge is in 48th place in terms of congestion – this is not something to be proud of.  Think of all that space our kids could be running around and playing in. (Although my kids are a bit old for that sort of thing nowadays.)

One thing I hate is blaring headlines that seem designed to scare and shock rather than inform in a sensible manner.  So if I say that “Millions of children at risk” oh my goodness I hear you say that should we do. Well it turns out that they are at risk for not wearing cycle helmets and it is a Petrol Company telling us so. They were asked whether their next campaign would focus on getting children to wear helmets in cars, an activity statistically more dangerous than cycling without a helmet – of course they deflected the question. as it happens I certainly got my children to wear helmets and I also got my 20 year old son to wear a helmet when we went cycling in India. However do we really want a super-nanny state with rules for everything.

Talking about dangerous activities, the Daily mail reports that “more than 20,000 people admitted to hospital every year… after falling out of BED”. Which means that, assuming most inhabitants of the UK sleep in a bed, that over 61million people are at risk from sleeping in beds.  (When I was at school we used to use the number 56million.) The numbers get worse 12,000 are seen by medical staff after falling from a chair and 1,200 after tumbling from trees. Let’s chops those trees down and sit on the floor. In fact perhaps we all ought to wear helmets in bed and for sitting on chairs. 20,000 people admitted to hospital is a pretty staggering number. Mind you almost 460,000  people are admitted overall because of falls.

Whilst on this subject sort of, a Tweet led me to this website “At War With The Motorist” – which highlights transport issues from a cycling perspective. This Post on Tipping Points gave some food for thought. There are changes afoot, congestion, population density, fuel costs, broadband – what sort of society do we want?  There is no doubt that there is huge inertia behind car ownership and that we have tailored our society around private ownership. But do we really want what we’ve ended up with traffic jams, roads, noise, money and more importantly time just being wasted on petrol. This post argues that the real advantage of a bicycle is the experiential understanding. Or to put it another way, perhaps we like our car because it is our cocoon from the world. That is why buses and trains are stressful they force our personal space to be invaded.

If you think it is bad then there are some groups who are far more disadvantaged. "The Daily mail reports on “Disabled ‘terrified’ to travel on public transport’ because of rising abuse from commuters” and the Cambridge News reports that a “Disabled man stopped boarding bus with a bike”. Have we gown so callous or has the commute grown so awful?

Finally, the challenge of the CGB continues, despite some of the good news – the Cambridge News reports that the “Guided Busway legal battle ‘could cost £6.5 million’”. There is, what I though was an odd quote from the local Lib Dem transport spokesman (Kilian Bourke) about “… not spending one penny of local taxpayers money on the busway”. Two things sprang to mind, give that there is a legal disagreement does he propose that the CCC capitulate. The other is that our country is run in the manner of “squabbling schoolboys” – the example set to us all is to squabble it out – little wonder that that is how society behaves then.

So what to do when the troubles of the world are stressing me out – well Lodes Way, been there, the CGB – well closed and been there. So it must be time to head out along Worsted Street (aka Worstead Street). The route of the Roman Road between Cambridge and Balsham (and beyond). The map is below and here is the Bike Route Toaster link (now working again). It is 53Km/33 miles long and big chunks of it are either on byways and bridleways or peaceful country lanes. I have highlighted in yellow the green lanes on the map.

Instead of cycling over Lime Kiln Hill I went around to Addenbrookes and then up Wort’s Causeway, pausing briefly to take a picture of the Flax growing up on the hill. The road I take is just to the other side of the hedges on the right of the picture.

There were a few people parked up at the entrance to the Roman Road – there are barriers across the entrance with a thin gap, it amazes me that cars do get through it. I am not quite sure what the intent is though. Do they want to stop all cars, only large cars or perhaps vans?

Despite the rain we have had here in the Flatlands we do need lots more and the ground is still bone dry. Despite the fact that there are roads all around really when I am cycling along the Roman Road it does feel quite rural. There are electricity pylons in the distance – that proves it is rural.

As you pass along the track there are gaps in the hedgerows, as it is pretty much arable farming around these parts the crops stretch out to the horizon. One of the other nice features of the Roman Road is that it undulates.

Whilst the crops look ok the recent lack of rain will have hit the yields, the plants don’t seem to have grown as tall as in some years.

Cambridge farmers export a lot to Scotland – here you seed a field full of Thistles ready for harvesting and transporting north.

Alright this might not be quite as stunning as some of the pictures of flowers published in the Daily mail recently and there is not a young lady smiling winsomely. Although as they are thistles I think it might be more wincingly if they were in the middle of the field.

As you can see the fields are ripening well. In the distance is the old Linton Water Tower.

Amongst the wheat there are also poppies to be seen giving a red tinge to the edges of the fields. I am not sure whether this was Conservation Headland or not.

Pretty soon I had reached the turn-off for Balsham.  I am quite pleased to say that apart from photo stops I didn’t dab my feet at all on the way through.  There are some deep ruts that occasionally catch me out.

Up on the hill is Balsham Wood an SSSI.

This is the barley growing in the field

I then follow the Icknield Way Trail up to Balsham and then head down to Fox Road and out the other side once again on the Icknield Way Trail. (Walkers seem better at organising long distance trails than cyclists.) Once again as soon as you leave Balsham it becomes very rural again.  This byway will take me to the small white dot on the horizon which is I think, Green End Farm. At that point the byway crosses a road and carries on.

It was a nice day and although I didn’t see anyone on the byway i did see one or two dog walkers about.  I am a bit more sensitive to stray dogs after being attacked near Ousden (by dogs).

This is the bit where the byway comes to an end at least for a while. You emerge onto Grange Road after crossing a dry Ford and a pumping station. This is the view up the hill. Although I actually cycle on the road to the left rather than through a field of wheat (I think).

It is still looking a bit green, but that’ll soon change.

After cycling along Grange Road I took the turn towards Westley Bottom, with a bit more undulation, actually undue and the elation as you go downhill.  From here is is green lanes to Wilbraham. The fist green lane from the A13054 through to the bridge over the A14 is incredibly bumpy. There are quite a few rabbit carcases lying around and various ridges and potholes. A horse-riding friend tells me that rabbits can be a menace for horses and their riders because of all the potholes they create.  It isn’t quite as dangerous for a cyclist, but can still be pretty uncomfortable. You do have to hang on to the handlebars.

I took this picture just before crossing the Six Mile Bottom Road looking north onto the rural landscape of pylons.

Not far from Wilbraham the various fields alongside have various dire warning notices “Trespassers will be eaten” and the like.  Talking of eating you can smell the peas growing in the fields. There is a lot more pea-growing this year than I remember from last year.

This route is a great ride, way from traffic, through the countryside, but it does leave me a little more weary than Lodes Way or  the CGB, perhaps because the paths whilst cycle-able are quite bumpy and on my non-suspension hybrid it does get a bit tiring after a while. It was actually quite pleasant to shift back onto cycling onto tarmac for the last few kilometres home.

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