Sunday, July 24, 2011

Broken spokes and wobbly wheels on the Lodes Way

Friday, July 22nd: Despite (or maybe because of) my lack of proper cycling I managed a POETS day today. Although I don’t commute and so ought to free up time for decent chunks of cycling it doesn’t always seem to work out that way. Mind you I think that I then enjoy getting out for a ride all the more.

Although a bunch of “interesting” webstuff has piled up on my browser I am not going to be side-tracked. The trouble is that as more and more pages lie open it uses both memory and CPU cycles on my computer. (Currently using Windows 7 and Chrome 13.0.782.99).  I was also finding that sometimes it would use almost all the  CPU and crash the browser from time to time, which was a nuisance. It seemed to me that Shockwave would crash and Flash would steal CPU cycles.

So I have used FlashBlock for Chrome which seems to calm things down and stops many of the adverts appearing. Then if I want to look at something I can click on the empty box” and it enables that one stream. That way I can leave my browser open with loads of tabs and not feel that my computer is spending all of its time displaying adverts!  As the Wikipedia page on Adobe Flash says – it has been criticised for adversely affecting the usability of web pages. Mind you I do find it irritating that Apple’s iPad does not support Adobe Flash – one of the iPad’s sweet-spots is as a Web browser, except you can’t see the news clips on  websites like the BBCs. (Another benefit is that web pages open more quickly and don’t stall waiting for adverts I don’t want.)

What was that I said about not getting side-tracked – ah well.  Here is Friday’s ride and here is the Bike Route Toaster Link. It is 66Km/40 miles in length, which for me is a pleasant distance, long enough to cover some distance, but not so long that I am exhausted at the end of it. Although more importantly it covers some really pleasant bits of countryside.

The trouble is there are some tossers out there who really don’t care about anybody but themselves. Once again on Low Fen Drove Way, just after the bridge over the A14 there was some fly-tipping. With great care and attention they only blocked half of the road. In case you were wondering and even if you weren’t the local re-cycling centre is 6.5km away or just over 4 miles away on Butt Lane open until 8.00pm in the Summer.

When I cycled over to Bury St Edmunds and back I saw quite a lot of this growing and decided it was Mayweed, but also thought I’d take a “better” picture to check my identification. Well on closer inspection I think that this is Common Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris) and contains many alkaloids making it poisonous to animals. If it is then it falls under the Weeds Act of 1959!

In one of those coincidences that actually isn’t coincidental at all Hemlock and Ragwort have also made it into the daily press – “Pretty but deadly, the monster hemlock invading out verges thanks to wild weather changes”.  The article talks about how just six hemlock leaves can kill and then mentions ragwort at the end of the article.  Whilst on the subject of our deadly countryside a friend holidaying in Scotland had to deal with several ticks on her young son.  Ticks can spread Lyme disease.

I wonder how much of this is increase awareness, climate change and detachment from the countryside. As a boy I went to a village Primary school with a total of around 60 kids  in two classes (Infants and Junior). We would regularly go out on nature walks and we grew up amongst “nature”.  But I sense that as a society there has been an increase in urbanisation and “we” have become detached from both nature and agriculture. So much so that situations that have been around a long time can look alarming when seen “anew”.

The same picture but with the “benefits” of HDR (high dynamic range, assembled for multiple exposures). On checking that link I realised there had been an update to the Photomatix software so sorted that out.  Then I realised that Picasa had failed to upload the most recent set of pictures. Re-starting Picasa sorted that. These flipping computers, it is a never-ending “job” keeping them up to date.

My wife generally walks with friends on a Friday and she had seen loads of this ragwort about with loads of orange and black stripy caterpillars and impressed her friends with her knowledge. Apparently the moths were introduced in North America to control the poisonous ragwort.

At the moment there has been a significant increase in the number of tractors towing trailers around as farmers harvest their crops. Round here they frequently work way after dark, “making hay whilst the sun shines”. Although they aren’t always making hay and the sun doesn’t shine after dark. This is an oilseed rape field being harvested.

Apparently this has also been a record apple season with fruit coming six weeks early thanks to a bitter winter and scorching spring.

Another oilseed rape field after harvest. This one is alongside the Fen Ditton Horningsea Cycleway. (The two roads are at 90o but I have stitched three pictures together to make this one picture.)

More ragwort alongside the Lodes Way path in White Fen.

You sometimes see horses grazing here, I would imagine (hope) that the owners steer the clear of the ragwort.

As well as ragwort flowering there is quite a lot of “granny pop out of bed” as well. Or to give it its proper name convolvulus arvennsis (well it is one of the convolvulus family anyway).

How about this for a field of spuds, I can’t imagine it will be long before this field gets harvested. They depend on the right amount of rain at the right time though to get a good crop.

Potato alley.

Along Lodes Way Headlake Drove splits off onto another drove  - Split Drove. Split Drove is to the left and Headlake Drove comes in from the right up past where I am standing to take the picture.  The reason I stopped was to take a picture of the bridge. It is quite narrow for the farm machinery that has to use this road to get through and the last time I noticed various of the railings were missing – no longer.  The blobs on the picture are where raindrops landed on the lens (actually the filter) as I was taking the picture. It didn’t really rain much, but did start just at the wrong time.

Lodes Way is crossed by Newnham Drove which is marked as one of the roads between NCN51 and Lodes Way. It is a fairly bumpy “road”. It looks as if it started of life as a concrete road.  Just because the road isn’t that good doesn’t mean they don’t trim the verges.

It seems that the approach being taken by the NT is to create a series of air-locks, well not really, more cattle-grid locks to allow the livestock to roam freely around whilst providing channels for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. They have effectively closed off Newnham Drove at this point which is a bit of a shame as I used to like to cycle up and back. There are two gates to go through to get up to Burwell Fen Farm, in the mid-distance.

This is what I mean, livestock can move between the fields on either side of Lodes Way and people using Lodes Way only have a short distance  where they risk coming into contact with those deadly cows or ponies. The downside is that horse riders have two gates to pass through. It looks is if it might be possible to open the gates whilst remaining on horseback but they have also built mounting steps which suggests that it isn’t that easy to use those gates and remain in the saddle.

The gates have been branded just in case any gate-rustlers happen by. I wonder if they brand the ponies this way. Actually the NT could run gate-branding sessions to train people in the art.

As I was taking pictures, I saw two people I knew cycling up Lodes Way.  Since it has opened they have used the route and seem to be getting a bit further along each time. Which got me thinking, people cycle for various reasons, including sport, commuting and leisure, yet the thing that most cyclists feel is denied them is the sociable aspect of cycling. 

Very few cycle paths are set up to allow two cyclists to ride abreast. If you have ever tried cycling along a road two abreast then you will know that most motorists will hate you. In fact to such an extent that they are prepared to risk their bit of tin and your life getting by you at an inopportune moment (even in the Tour de France).

Yet sociable cycling is great fun, most all of my cycling in foreign climes has been with other people, cycling side by side chatting about this, that and the other. That is one of the reasons this couple were out on this track, it meant they could cycle together chatting as they cycled.

So my thought for the day is that if I look at successful cycling countries whether by chance or design cycling looks to be a much more sociable activity.  If, here in the UK, we want to see more people out cycling then good enough to cycle is not sufficient. Good cycling facilities must me sociable cycling facilities. 

Or perhaps we should ban all car drivers from talking with their passengers!

I watched a program on television last night about the National Trust and Studland Bay and the conflict between the various groups that have a stake in the area. I can see that there is clearly a difficulty in balancing conflicting needs such as conservation, community and cost.

Why am I rabbiting on about the program, well I am in favour of the NT opening up our countryside as a general resource. Life is not just about computers and computer games. Although I don’t mind admitting I play them.  The trouble is in our car-centric society it would seem that there is an inevitability that attracting more people seems to mean attracting more cars.  For local village people more cars just means more hassle. Rural life has its downsides from a lack of local  facilities (post office, shop, Surgery) to almost non-existent broadband but one of the advantages is fewer cars polluting and clogging the poorly maintained roads.

How do we solve this problem?  There is no doubt that the opening up of Wicken Fen and the surrounding area has also attracted more cars deep into the area – such as this one. Now it is a public right of way, but do we really don’t want cars coming up here in their droves?

Once I was past Upware the weather improved and what was a field of ripe flax was now harvested and ploughed. This is a critical time of year for farmers – they have to keep an eye on the weather and factor in the amount of work it takes to bring in the harvest. Despite the mechanisation it is not uncommon to see tractors in the field after dark with their headlights on. (Ploughing their lonely furrow?)

After Upware and Wicken I headed out to Soham on the byways and bridleway.  It has been so dry that there seems to be a deep crack along the length of the bridleway bit.  The trouble is that is the bit that you cycle along as the grass is flatter. The crack is wide enough to grab your wheel so a bit of care is needed.

This is the bridleway looking back towards Wicken.

On my way out of Soham I cycled along a small residential road – Orchard Row.  Where I had the pleasure of encountering a driver who might well have been a steroid abuser. As I cycled along this small road and passed a parked car he beeped angrily and gesticulated at me. Why? Well despite the fact that I was in front of him as there was only enough space for either me or him to pass the car he had decided it should be him.

Thug boy seemed to have two other cars following him they also objected when the same situation occurred further up the road, this was a residential street and there were more cars legally parked. This is one of the reasons that cyclists feel that the level of perceived danger has increased. I also agree that all road users seem to be less safe, but if I had to have an accident I would rather a bike ran into me than several tons of car. Bad behaviour on the roads is far more catastrophic for cyclists.  The other sad thing is that this sort of poor driving behaviour makes it unwise and unsafe for people to let their kids play out. That can’t be right.

I was pleased to see that Sustrans are running a Free Range Kids feature – it ain’t just about perceived danger though, we all have a duty to reduce the danger.  The good news is that there was a drop in child casualties – with 19,569 child casualties in 2010. The bad news is that is still way too many.

I can’t help feeling that better cycling facilities would help.  I love to be able to cycle off the road. But many cycle routes seem to consist of a string of blind bends, right-angle turns, random posts, give-ways and angled kerbs.

All of which but a strain on on your bicycle – although to be fair I can’t blame me rear wheel popping one spoke with several other going loose as I cycled out of Burwell.  There was a “sprang” noise which when you have heard it once you tend to know the next time. It is different from a nut falling off (yep had that) or a stone bouncing up. I stopped and – found my rear wheel was somewhat wobbly with one broken and several loose spokes. My brakes were in severe need of tightening so the wobbly wheel didn’t rub. After cycling along the road for a bit I carried along Black Drove Way, trying to minimise the effect of cycling through the ruts. I still had some way to go.

The NCN51 route under the A14 near Quy, shown here, is certainly way better than cycling around the roundabout. One of the road peculiarities is that bicycles are expected to give way to the traffic from the left, whilst cars are not. What is that all about and what are the legal consequences?


View Larger Map

Actually I took the picture of the tunnel to show that the missing drainage grates at each end have now been replaced.  Although the one at the Newmarket Road end doesn’t seem to have made it all the way across?  Was this someone getting the measurements wrong or evidence of cost-savings at all levels.

Anyway – the theme for today – Make Cycling More Sociable.  That’s what we need to get more cyclists out there.

The wheel made it home and I took it off, and popped over to Ben Hayward Cycles (local cycle shop) the next day to get is sorted.

No comments:

Post a Comment