Friday, August 12, 2011

The fruits of the Fens

Saturday, August 6th: The week ahead was going to be quite busy for me, which really translates as not much chance to get any proper cycling in. So my plan was for a gentle trip around the Fens on Saturday and then a visit to Cambridge Guided Busway which was opening on the Sunday (7th August).

The observant will notice that my Posts have gone for an out of order style and my Post on the CGB opening has already been written and posted – “The Cambridge Guided Cycleway (*& Busway) is now open”. It is definitely worth a look as it makes for a pleasant ride through the countryside and the buses are not too loud. Mind you like buses all over the world they did seem to only appear in threes.  (If anyone is looking for a Blog name there is one: “busescomeinthrees” or maybe “whydobusescomeinthrees”.)

So since I have mentioned the CGB, I thought I would round up the various tabs that have opened up on my Browser related to the CGB. The Cottenham Cyclist “Went to see the Guided Bus running” and unfortunately didn’t get to see one. he did report on problems buying tickets, although apparently “Guided busway ticket machine problems ‘now fixed’“. Apparently part of the problem was that the sheer number of people. Although if it fails on a Sunday with far fewer services what will happen on a normal working day. Or do they expect the same number of passengers spread out of many more buses?

The Cambridge News Cycling Blog also covered it – “Blog 15: Satin Ivo, almost” – with the final comment being about a family cycling – which I agree is what it is about. Apparently though there are others who feel that it is important to get bus passengers as well and Cambridge First reported that the “Busway clocks up more than 20,000 trips”. It also went on to say that the Trumpington to Cambridge stretch didn’t open until the day after the official opening, which was as I suspected. It would be interesting to look back and see what the targets were for bus journeys taken on the CGB were. That 20,000 represents 5,000 a day for the first four days.  The Cambridge News’ news also got reported in TransportXtra – “Cambridge busway wins praise”. Which pointed out that all of the comments on the Cambridge News report were negative.

A quick search has thrown up this Cambridgeshire County Council document (pdf) with a table on Page 61 suggests that their would be 11,424 trips in 2006 rising to 20,310 in 2016. Obviously this document is quite old – it it a Transport Assessment and appears undated. It was performed by Atkins, who are also the Consultants hired by the Council to oversee the work of the contractor BAM Nuttall. As a result of the time and cost over run the “Guided busway consultants’ fee triples to £9.6m”. As is the general way of things, our politicians seem to berate each other rather than get on with making the best of what we have got. Isn’t adversarial government a wonderful thing!

As part of the news-flow there has also been a “race between guided bus, car and bike”. Although in this case it was the car that won with the cyclist coming last. An interesting result, does it mean that the A14 can’t be that bad. So perhaps we have wasted £180m (or thereabouts) but saved wasting £1.2bn on an upgrade to the A14. Although the “race” was during the School hols so perhaps the traffic was not as bad as usual.

The other bit of news that I saw was about “Rural transport cuts put essential services out of reach”. It reports that the plan in Cambridgeshire was to “cut all all funding support for local buses, until a legal challenge forced a rethink”. it seems a little bizarre that the Council spends so much money on a bus system whilst then making it harder to village dwellers without cars to exist. especially as the bus system seems to be set up for car drivers (with Park & Ride).

For more information then there is NoGuidedBus (with another nice picture on the home page) and  Cast.Iron.

So back to my ride in the Fens, it was the usual ride around Snout Corner up to Horningsea, across to Lode, then Lodes Way to Wicken Fen and Harrison’s Drove to Upware. A short bridleway to NCN11 and back through Wicken Fen, Burwell, Reach and onto NCN51 back to Cambridge. Here is the route, without annotations and here is the Bike Route Toaster Link. It is a shade under 60Km/37 miles.

Ait seems to me that things are ripening more quickly this year. Although I have only my imperfect memory telling me that. I suppose I could go back through my photographs and check the timings, but I am trying to get this written and posted before setting out for a ride. My mother used to grow vegetables and kept a gardening diary of when things were planted and harvested and what sorts of yields she used to get. I think it was more to spur her on to get things planted at the right times.

Certainly the hawthorn berries seemed out in some force.

This is the A14 “bridleway bridge”

The sloe berries – Prunus spinosa (or blackthorn or sloe) was also out. It seems a bit early to be thinking about Sloe Gin.

The view towards Horningsea across the fields from the bridleway – the farmers aren’t resting.

For some reason I seem to have included two very similar pictures.  Ah well they are in now I’ll leave them.

The field near Biggin Abbey  is going through the next phase of being ploughed and harrowed, it’ll be drilled soon at this rate.

Apparently after a field has been harvested and then the stubble ploughed in a base layer of fertiliser is spread to prepare the soil for the next crop. On this bit of concrete was some fertiliser ready and waiting. (Between Horningsea and Allicky Farm).

It did not seem to be the best of days for Combining as there had been rain, this was the only harvester that I saw out that day. I guess needs must sometimes.

On my way around I did venture up one or two farm tracks into the fields. This is up near White Fen. As I used a previous map they don’t actually appear on the map – sorry.  It is a linseed field, but the linseed looks a bit sorry for itself compared with some of the fields around and about

These deer tracks were visible though.

As a kid we used to have battles with these sticky burrs. You really don’t want to get them in your hair as they can take ages to get out and sometimes require the hair to be cut. I think it is Greater Burdock (Arctium lappa)

The field previously known as a beetroot field on the other side of White Fen is now ready for drilling. I guess the harrow has been left ready for the other fields that will need doing.

Instead of the road I went up the track alongside Swaffham Bulbeck Lode and then too the next track heading right. As you can see we have had a bit of rain recently.

I guess the harrow had been used on the field before the ex-beetroot field. However did this takes a pride in their work.

I like what the NT have done to make the Fens more accessible – however I think it is a shame that it means some folk need to drive in. We need natural spaces and reserves because we have too much space given over to roads and cars already, not to provide yet more parking space.

The last time I cycled down here my front wheel was jolted by a pothole, it doesn’t look that bad though.

This is Harrison’s drove, just after crossing Burwell Lode. It is a BOAT, although not whilst these cars have blocked it.

It doesn’t take much rain to make the far end of Harrison's Drove a bit more of a challenge on a bicycle. I made it without any dabs though.

The identification of this will have to wait until I have a little more time, the sun is shining my wheels are calling.

I think that Convolvulus are good subjects for HDR photography- it brings out the subtlety in the petals.

A bucolic scene on the back road into Wicken. The village in the background is Soham.

On my way into Burwell I stopped to look at the blackberries, they looked as if they could have done with a bit more rain.

After Black drove Way between Reach and Swaffham Prior the cloud formations caught my eye.

The mix of both dark, light and grey clouds was interesting.

As the sun set then the higher clouds were still in the sunlight whilst the lower ones weren’t.


  1. Swaffham Bulbeck cyclistAugust 14, 2011 at 11:01 AM

    Part of why I too love cycling along the Lodes Way and other nearby bridleways and tracks, is the absence of cars. There are so few such places around. It's a shame the area near the new bridge over Reach Lode is now a bit of a car park. Earlier in the year, as I was watching a barn owl from the bridge, one bloke actually drove over it! He then got stuck at the far and as there's a bollard, and had to reverse back - scared the owl away with all the racket! Idiocy and motoring often seem to go hand in hand.

  2. Swaffham Bulbeck cyclistAugust 14, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    Drove over the bridge that is - not the owl!(He said he was trying to get to Burwell)

  3. I agree - the Lodes Way is a great place for cycling away from the incessant traffic noise.

    The odd thing is that if he had enough local knowledge to know that Burwell lay over the bridge you'd have thought he would also have known how to get there sensibly. Perhaps he was relying on a poor man's GPS - a compass. It is also possible that his motives were nefarious.

    No wonder that many people are put off cycling because of the "perceived" danger. An idiot in a car is far more dangerous than an idiot on a bicycle.

  4. Swaffham Bulbeck cyclistAugust 14, 2011 at 8:50 PM

    Too true. The driver on the bridge was elderley and seemed a bit 'confused'! Went up to Wicken earlier and only one car by the Reach Lode bridge today (not on it this time). Loads of bikes out which was good to see.

  5. I was also out there this afternoon and saw the one car at the bridge. There were a whole bunch over at the Burwell Lode footbridge though. Pictures to follow!

  6. Swaffham Bulbeck cyclistAugust 14, 2011 at 9:28 PM

    Nice one- look forward to the pictures - we probably passed you at some stage! I noticed a lot of cars at Burwell Lode bridge too- lots of anglers there I guess. White van blocking much of the path too when we went past.