Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Circular (ish) ride around Cambridge

Thursday, 1st September: Now what is the saying – “ a pinch and a punch” go cycling after lunch”. My cycling is a bit intermittent at the moment. Which I tend to blame on various things, but I realise is a common feature of School holidays. Although my wife only works part-time in a School she still gets the holidays and my daughter has been enjoying a long break between leaving school and starting university. (The enjoyment was all the more after she got her results and her choice of University was confirmed.)

I guess I must be a creature of habit and cycling is part of that habit, break the habit and then all the things that follow on from routine then get less attention.  Mind you blue skies are always good to see in the sky and do tend to get me thinking about popping out on my bike. Although Thursday wasn’t spectacularly warm it was pretty good and turned out to be sunny for most of the day.

Of course the next question that has to be dealt with is where to cycle? It was a nice day and I didn’t want to spend too much time with traffic – nasty, noisy stuff. So I set off along NCN51, which is my default heading since it leads to some easily accessible away-from-traffic cycling. That’s when I thought why not circle Cambridge, there is not an ideal “bicycle ring road” and there aren’t too many good routes to the North and North-east (imho), but as you can see from the map you can create a pleasantly varied route.

Here is the Bike Route Toaster link, the route is just over 60Km / 38 miles in length and does include a slight climb on the Roman Road, only up to 70m above sea level so don’t worry about taking any oxygen you won’t get altitude sickness. As a route it is a bit of a ragbag. It features both the Southern and Northern Sections of the CGB (Cambridge Guided Busway), the aforementioned Roman Road aka Worsted Street, and ducks under the A14/M11 Girton Interchange. Just for good measure the route also takes in a run along the River Cam to the south of the city from Grantchester up.

As you might be able to see, there was no underlying plan I really just headed along some interesting directions. I wasn’t planning on taking the detour along the North section of the CGB – but with so much smooth motor-vehicle free tarmac it would have been rude not too! By taking that detour it meant that I then had a pleasant ride back along Rampton Drift (byway) and Gun’s Lane (bridleway). As we head into Autumn some of the tracks are going to start developing some new colour.

I also took a packet of jelly babies with me and a couple of cans of diet coke. I know that sounds odd, a mix of sugar and diet, but I prefer jelly babies to ordinary coke and on a pleasure ride I rather like fizzy drinks.

As you can tell from the route the idea of cycling back along the Roman Road didn’t occur to me until I had passed the Teversham turn, which meant heading along the Little Wilbraham Road – to be honest that is not the nicest road, it is straight and narrow (or at least not wide) and some drivers seem to consider roads like that fair game for haring along without really taking into account that it is really just a country lane. It isn’t that bad for an experienced cyclist, but is not a road I would take younger cyclists along.

Once you duck down through the Wilbrahams it becomes much more pleasant I was tempted to cycle into Little Wilbraham and then take a short-cut along some footpaths that emerge close to Fulbourn. I didn’t, I do think though that some of the country footpaths would make for good cycle paths in the same way that quite a few pavement routes have been made shared-use. I suspect that the legalities would be quite different though.

If I had taken the footpath it would have passed Hawk Mill Farm and then appeared along the track to the left and joined the road Wilbraham Road between Fulbourn and Great Wilbraham. As you can see the sky was blue with only a few wispy clouds. It was quite a blustery day though.

AI was a little surprised to see that Fulbourn had been taken over by aliens – or more precisely little green men as I headed to the level crossing on Station Road.  (on Ernest Doe & Sons.)

It looks as if they are trying to make themselves useful – although someone needs to tell him/her/it that flat roofs with bitumen surfaces don’t need mowing.

I then headed towards the Roman Road along the Babraham Road out of Fulbourn. Mind you this road doesn’t actually go to Babraham it stops at the Roman Road. It does point in the right direction and on my old map is shown connecting with the path past Copley Hill, known as Mile Road, but is now a byway. The route climbs from around 20m in Fulbourn up to the Roman Road at 40m and then the Roman Road climbs up to 68m where it meets the Wort’s Causeway.

I passed some cyclists coming down the hill, but it isn’t that long and there is something rather satisfying about cycling up a gravelly track (that isn’t too long). The route is also quite sheltered and so you don’t have to worry about the wind. It will look nice in the Autumn,

As part of my meander I cycled around Addenbrookes (along Red Cross lane) past the Rosie Maternity Hospital which is having an “extension” built. Both my kids were born there – one under emergency circumstances – but it all came out well.

I then cycled along Long Road and onto the Southern Section of the CGB. It is not totally clear if the route I took is open yet, as there are building works taking place nearby. It saved me having to cross the road though.

I actually saw a bus on the Southern Section, they really are running there as well. Indeed I also saw a bicycle parked at one of the “stations” before reaching the Trumpington Park & Ride. A quick check of the electronic signs confirmed that buses seem to run every 40minutes, somewhat less frequently than they run on the Northern Section. I would have thought that a more frequent service between the Trumpington P&R and the Railway station would be a good way of reducing the car parking and traffic burden around the station.

The journey time from the Rail Station to Trumpington P&R is posted as 13 minutes and runs every 20 minutes. Trying to find the fare is trickier than finding the timetable and that was tricky. The CCC website was shown as experiencing difficulties. Mind you this website suggests that the Southern Section of the CGB is the poor relation, there are more frequent buses between Trumpington and the Rail Station that avoid the Southern Section. Now that is weird, perhaps they don’t want to hit the car parking business at the Rail Station?

Now the distance is just under 4Km so one approach would be to cycle from the P&R to the rail station. Assuming 16km and hour it would take  about 15 minutes, not far off the time it takes the bus and you could leave when you wanted to and not when a bus turned up. Oops I forgot you would have to add on the 10minutes looking for a cycle parking space.

I’ve given up looking for the fares – life is too short.

As I cycle around, I find myself building up a stock of pictures so that when I refer to a particular thing I have my own picture that I can use rather than an indirect link to someone else's.  Here is a Police helicopter that happened to be flying around –well it was a nice day wasn’t it. At least I think it is – it has the blue and flashes of yellow colour scheme and is the same type of helicopter.

After Trumpington I cycled along the Grantchester Meadows cycleway – although the road isn’t too bad.  It was teeming with cyclists I must have passed a several groups of cyclists. One group looked to be about 30 strong and some of them didn’t look too keen to clear the path so I could get through. It is a popular place though and there were picnickers and swimmers in the Meadows.

I then headed out along the Coton path past the part of the University – this is the Mott building. The Mott Building is on the right next to the Broers Building and then the Hauser Forum.

The Coton path, not the widest, but nicely flat with some shelter and apart from the bit where it crosses the M11 away from noisy traffic. Mind you there is building work to the right now taking place. There were also some people blackverrying along the path.

After passing the American Cemetery headed along a bridleway to the Girton interchange. There was a car parked next to the entrance but I didn’t have any dogs to contend with. fortunately. Having been bitten I am now tice shy. When I see dog walkers drive some distance in order to find a secluded area to walk their dogs it does make me wonder they are deliberately staying clear of people because their dogs are slightly aggressive.

I rather like this tin “fort”. That would make a nice location for a farmhouse and yet it is not far from the A428 dual-carriageway.

There is a bridge of the first major road (A428) and then two tunnels (I think) and roads to cross at the Girton Interchange. I’ve seen this person style elsewhere in Cambridge, although I can’t quite remember where.

The second tunnel, from here there are three very fast roads to cross – pay attention to the speed and direction.

After a short ride along the shared-use path alongside what is the A14 (where it connects the two different parts) there is a gap to cut through onto Washpit Lane to Girton.  I do wonder whether it is off-putting for drivers tearing along the road to see a cyclist just on the left, but coming towards them. Fortunately it is not long.

Washpit Lane feels like an oasis after the crossing and I followed a mum with two kids cycling up the road. One was on the back of her bike and the other one was cycling. There sorts of roads are ideal to short rides with kids. The mum didn’t see me as I didn’t bother overtaking, my plan was to sit on a bench just a little but further up and have a drink and a few jelly babies. The toddler on the back of her bike kept looking round at me though.

I took this picture looking back they way I had come (it is Washpit Lane).

After Girton I road along a short bridleway between the old NCN51 and the new NCN51, intending to cycle back down the CGB cycleway to Cambridge – it was too inviting not to cycle up the CGB towards St Ives instead.

There were quite a few cyclists in Lycra out as well as people cycling with young families.

In the end I cycled up to Reynold’s Drove which is where the chap is heading along.

Just after I took the last picture a more speedy cyclist went by on the CGB – that is some tarmac. I must check out how the works at raising the cycleway up near St Ives are progressing.

After that cyclist shot by it all went quiet. I did see a few more buses on this section compared to the Southern Section and the buses all seemed to be carrying reasonable numbers of passengers.

As I headed back to Cambridge I stopped one last time to take a picture of what were glorious blue skies and this recently harvested field.

Strangely  I didn’t take any more picture although I chose a beautiful route to cycle back via Histon along Cuckoo Lane, Rampton Drift and Gun’s Lane. A it another lovely “away from the traffic route”. Although it is somewhat less smooth than the CGB route it is still quite cycle-able on my Marin Hybrid.


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