Friday, August 26, 2011

Variations on a theme – Lodes Way – not quite

Saturday, 20th August: Well I was going to write this without any reference to “mainly-cycling-related” stories that are currently piling up on my Browser. But those good intentions are going out of the window.  The tab-pressure is too great. Normally when I close my Chrome Browser it will offer to re-open them – but occasionally something goes wrong and they get lost (as a group anyway).

So a bit of Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) news to start. Talk about hype, I am pleased that the cycle way alongside the concrete “rails” is to be raised up to help reduce the flooding and then given a tarmac surface. But “even after the repairs some parts will be under water for an average 29 days a year”.

So you do wonder what is going through the mind of Cllr Ian Bates, the council’s planning chief, as he is quoted as saying “It is fantastic news that cyclists, walkers and horse riders will have such a high quality path to enjoy”. Is that really the definition of high-quality – or does he think that the under-water bits will add to the experience? 

I rather suspect that someone in their PR department actually wrote that bit of nonsense hype. I used to be involved in marketing – I tried to avoid ever being in a position where I might be quoted in a Press Release saying something that I didn’t believe in and I tried to ensure that it would sound like something I might say.

On the subject of the CGB the Cambridge News reports that “extra busway services confirmed”, starting on September 4th there will be a new timetable. It is good news that the Busway does seem to be attracting passengers. It does make me wonder that one of the reasons that a guided busway was chosen was that it avoids the bureaucratic governmental intervention that seems to be part of our Rail System. What I don’t understand is why our rail system needs such heavy subsidies and yet our fares are at the same time the most expensive in Europe.

Talking about subsidies “Bus cuts challenge withdrawn after council backs down” means that Cambridgeshire County Council will have to carry out an equalities assessment before it cuts bus subsidies.

The trouble is politics seems to be increasingly about lobbying and pressure groups rather than thought out longer-term plans. Well at least it seems that way to me. Something I’ve blogged about is the path between Over and the CGB cycleway. It seems to me that whilst spending significant sums of money on the CGB was fine – there was also penny-pinching on the non-car access to the CGB. Well the route from Longstanton to the CGB Park & Ride is also a major expedition. The path between the two locations is an “excuse for a path”.

We are concerned about obesity (“Global governments ‘must get tough on obesity’“ – and yet the actions all around us seem to favour the car as a means of transport of treat everything else as an after-though. What does appal me is that the Obesity measures considered for lifestyle changes even categorise “school walking trains” as higher cost measures. Flip what sort of world do we live in where because of the transport infrastructure we have developed walking to school is now a higher cost measure.

A place I would consider as cyclist-friendly is the Netherlands and we have a long way to go if we want to achieve anything like the same approach to cycling and yet they still focus on what it takes to encourage more people to cycle to work. The report talks about, amongst other things the attitudes of employers and colleagues and its effects of encouraging cyclists. The provision of indoor cycle parking and showers and changing rooms will encourage a more positive view of cyclists and cycling for instance – and of course the converse is true.

Yet too often we have disparaging comments about “Lycra-louts”, too often provision for cycle parking is rather grotty (I am thinking of the muddy crowded cycle parking at Cambridge Station).  The clear message is that cycling is second-class.  Mind you the sort of people who wear Lycra probably are MAMILs and so not really louts.

That’s enough ranting – this was the ride – a meander around the Wicken Fen area – but up and down various tracks that I haven’t been along much recently. Here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the map shown below. It is 55Km/ 24 miles in length and for a change tends to cross over and back along the Lodes Way route rather then actually use the route much.

For a change I cycled from Cambridge to Swaffham Bulbeck along NCN51 and then through Commercial End then round Fen Lane to Cow Bridge so that I could cycle alongside the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode. This is the view up the Lode from Cow Bridge. I think that the bridge is a disused railway bridge on the route of the old Cambridge & Mildenhall Railway Line. What is surprising is how much lower the land around the bridge is. Either there was an embankment along the fields that has been removed or the fields have shrunk.

There are other references to the bridge that indicate it was the old railway bridge and that pedestrians who did not wish to wait for trains to pass at the crossing, which was  to the right of the bridge could use a path under the bridge.

This is a sight travellers on the line might have seen in the Summer – well perhaps not the huge bales of hay. The railway line would have run to the right of the field just out of sight. There is a house just near the bridge which I assume was either the site of or was the Crossing Keeper’s house.

I liked the picture of the bales so much I took another picture.

The last time I came this way it was pretty hard going – I was exhausted afterwards. However I mentioned that to MikeC when I’d bumped into him and then a third cyclist had stopped to ask about ways to cycle back to Cambridge.  He thought that the track wasn’t too bad – well this time it wasn’t – I think I must have used it when the grass was long and after rain. This time around the track was firm and the grass was reasonably short. Swaffham Bulbeck Lode is to the left.

As you can see from the map I carried on past Lodes Way along the byway alongside the Lode.  This field looked pretty well cultivated.

The byway after crossing Lodes Way becomes a fairly decent track.

After taking the Lord’s Ground Drove route back to Lodes Way I carried along Headlake drove and up to what the old map calls Blinkers Hill.  This is a field of spuds getting irrigated, perhaps to make lifting them easier?

After Blinkers Hill the road gets a little more rutted and bumpy until Straight Drove where is deteriorates into a load of gravel with the odd bit of tarmac remaining. There were more fields with bales in them awaiting collection though. I think this was along the back way into Wicken. Although it could have been on the Upware Road. Come to think about it I think it was somewhere along the gravel road (Harrison’s Drove, but not to be confused with the Drove of the same name in Wicken Fen.)

It was official – I’d reached the halfway point. It probably was as well.

And that was when I must have neglected to take any pictures – I am not really sure why – it was just the greyness of the day I guess. I still enjoyed the ride out though, even on a grey day the Fens are worth riding through.

I will just point to this link with a rather nice picture of Burwell Station and bridge though, that is no longer there.



  1. Hi, just wondering if the routes around lode and wicken fen are suitable for 700x23c skinny tyres. Just don't want to break my back!

  2. Hi, I use 700x25c (Schwalbe marathon plus)which are fine for the Lodes Way and the byways and bridleways. My Son uses 700x23c which are OK on Lodes Way and around the roads (Upware, Wicken) but has had one or two more punctures and does find them a bit trickier on the loose stones. His racing bike is also less stable than my hybrid I guess.