Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cycling through the Fens with a long lens

Monday, August 1st: This Post is not out of order, the last one was. I decided that since the Cambridge Guided Busway was topical and more importantly my biggest fear about it had been allayed then I’d get that post out there.  In case you are wondering, my concern was that noisy buses would spoil the pleasure of cycling along the Cycleway alongside the busway – well those buses aren’t too bad at all. The smooth concrete surface helps reduce the tyre noise significantly and the deeper noise of the bus engine does not seem to carry as far. (There is a video in the post – the wind noise dominates it really.)

I am a little bit behind on my Posts though, with three other sets of pictures already up and waiting on PicsasaWeb for me to add the worms words to them.  I won’t spoil the “surprise” but I did have an experience in one of them that I hope never to repeat…

This ride was one of those “I saved up enough hours not commuting rides” to get out late afternoon for a trip round the fens. I wasn’t planning on taking too many pictures, I just wanted to get out for a bit of fresh air and thinking time so I took my long lens. (I have a Panasonic GH1 camera body and whilst I usually use it with a 14mm – 140mm lens (which is 28mm – 280mm in 35mm speak) I also had a 100mm – 300mm zoom lens (200mm – 600mm in 35mm speak).  The real challenge is that I find myself getting too close before I stop to take pictures with the long lens as I forget just how powerful the zoom is.

I took one of my regular routes, out along NCN51 and then High Ditch Road, over the A14 along a byway round back to Horningsea and then across to Lode – Lodes Way Wicken Fen and then back via Burwell.  Here is a link to the Bike Route Toaster route. It is a shade under 60Km/ 36 miles. I last took this same route in June and here is the map: but the flax (aka Linseed) flowers have long since turned to seed pods.


This is the view from the Low Fen Droveway bridge that crosses the A14. The bridge counts as a hill in the flatlands and is quite a good vantage point. You can also whizz down the other side and pretend you are mountain-biking the the tarmac bit stops and you cycle through the potholed gravelly bit. Just at the bottom is the fly-tipped rubbish as an added obstacle. One thing that you can’t seem to avoid are the electricity pylons and cables that converge at Snout corner.

This route is shown as  two bits of road connected by a bridleway in the middle. Don’t expect too much of the road, it is great for cycling  as it is not really that suitable for cars.  This is the bit after snout corner heading towards the Horningsea Road.

The farmers are trying to get as much combining in as possible.  They only combine when the moisture content is appropriately low otherwise there are storage and drying issues. However given the uncertainty of British weather showers can easily throw their plans awry.  So it is not uncommon to see them working long into the night, making hay whilst the moon shines.  As a result even if I pass by a field frequently it can appears to have been combined overnight, with the stubble left behind.

When I was younger famers would burn the stubble to get rid of it, now they plough it in. At this time of year you would see fields on fire and plumes of dark smoke rising up. Apparently stubble burning is still legal in Scotland, but strongly discouraged.

This is the bridleway leading off from just past Horningsea (it is the Clayhithe Road). the fields round here have yet to be cut.

Off in the distance, to the North, there was a Combine busy running through the field in a cloud of dust and heat haze.

The same viewpoint but this time focusing on the wheat in the foreground.

The odd thing is that when I look at these pictures I do think humm that is some nice cycling country, (No cars and a reasonable track and a rural aspect are all it takes to keep me happy).  This is the view looking back along the track to the road.

Off in the distance the dust was still spilling off the Combine chewing its way through the wheat. The barns are up at Clayhithe and 1.33Km/ 0.8 miles away.

All good tracks come to an end, although in this case the route then follows the bridleway along the edge of a field. This is a little bumpier than the track, but generally it is kept in good nick by the farmer and is not unpleasant. The track does carry along as a footpath towards Stow cum Quy fen.

That bit of field bridleway seems to connect two “gravel roads”. This one leads past Allicky Farm, which you can see at the end of the track. I don’t seen farm vehicles moving along this bit of track and when I do they often drive along the grass to the side to give me space.

The same track, but looking back form where I had come from. The trailer is the one you can see on the grass in the last picture.

The route continues as a “gravel road” although as a series of interconnected straight bits.  That building is part of Allicky Farm at the end of the first straight after the farm.

This was taken back at the end of the second straight, where it crosses the disused railway line. (Cambridge to Mildenhall).At the point where you can see the two people walking the track goes left past Allicky Farm or straight on to Stow cum Quy Fen.

Talking about the disused railway line, this is it, again looking back the way I had come. The line of the tree on the right it where the bridleway heads.

Here is another picture taken from further along the disused railway line neat to Lode. The fields either side have Flax growing in them.

The trickiest bit from Horningsea to Lode is the very last little bit, seen here as you can see one of the girls is walking her bike. This is quite a well-used bit of track and so tends to get chewed up quite quickly, especially when wet.  I was once cycling along this bit, hugging the edge to try to stay out of the muddy puddles and I caught my foot in a branch and went over the handlebars of my bike.

Somewhere between Lode and Burwell Fen (Newnham Drove) I must have stopped to take a picture of this plant. Actually I think it was along that bit of track in the last picture. It is St John’s Wort, although I am not totally sure which one, probably the common one – Hypericum perforatum.

This is what I mean when I say that when using the long lens I get too close. There is some work on the gate between Newnham Drove and Lodes Way. Only I was too close really. I took this picture standing on one of the horse mounting blocks. What you can’t see is that a concrete base had been laid and provision to put in removable poles.

A picture taken looking the other way. At first I thought that the houses were along little Fen Drove . In fact they are lie at the East end of Wicken village. The pylons gave it away.

Oops, having just gotten to the end of this Post I realise that I took a different route I didn’t go along Harrison’s Drove, instead, for a change I went along the Malting’s Path and then back through Wicken Fen along NCN11 and then down to Burwell.  So it is a bit shorter than I claimed at the beginning.

This windmill sits on Back Lane that runs parallel with the High Street through Wicken.

The rest of the route is as I said, I just checked the GPS trace, sorry.

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