Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dodging the clouds on Lodes Way–almost successfully!

Saturday, 27th August: During the rest of the year – when it isn’t supposed to be Summer I somehow find it easier to cycle even when the weather is grotty. I stick on my waterproofs and just go out and cycle. The trouble is waterproofs are also pretty effective heat insulators and so in Summer you can get very hot and sweaty wearing them. On a hot day a bit of rain is not a problem as you quickly dry off. unfortunately August hasn’t really been hot enough to dry of comfortably when wet and yet too hot to wear water-proofs. This all turns into a big excuse not to cycle – well not for pleasure anyway.

I have thought about getting a waterproof cape and trying one out – they used to be very popular when I was younger although I have never owned one. Sustrans have them on their web site and it would also be useful when cycling in working clothes. I’ve always thought of them as the sort of older persons cycling gear – I guess I must be getting there.

Mind can triumph over matter though and despite the prediction of showers I decided I just had to get out for a ride and although I packed a showerproof coat I didn’t put it on. Although I did go through a few showers – they were all very light and I didn’t bother using my jacket and I did dry out when the showers stopped.

For me Saturday is for catching up on the week’s Archers on my MP3 player. Although I must admit the current story-line  about the E Coli contamination in their dairy and the subsequent drip, drip, drip of problem after problem after problem is getting me down. Although in their case problems seem to come in more than threes. I guess I listen to The Archers as a bit of escapism, after all it is a soap. I don’t mind story lines where there is a bit of a down, it makes the highs better by contrast. But this one is relentless. I have to remind myself that it isn’t real (which I know is kind of weird).

So back to my “plot line”, in order to listen to the Archers I prefer to be away from noisy traffic and I often start with a different podcast to give me time to cycle away from traffic. So despite my belief that it is better not to cycle on the River Cam tow path on the weekend that is where I headed. Then I cycled across the bridleways to Lode and up Lodes Way, looping around Wicken Fen and then back via Reach, the Swaffhams and Lode before nipping across to re-join NCN51.

Whilst typing this I also realised that the map wasn’t annotated as I wanted it. I had labelled the A1303 as noisy – which it is but I meant to label the B1102. So I have fixed that and put in the new picture. Only to make the editing easier I have just added a comment that the B1102 is very noisy, which it is. The trouble great thing is that there are loads of different roads, tracks and paths between Cambridge and Wicken Fen and despite the fact I probably cycle in the area once a week I have yet to write about the common variations.

Although I am sure that I have created one or two duplicate maps, still they are in the cloud and storage is “free”. I started using Bike Route Toaster the end of July 2010 and the map I  created was  was number 159187 the latest map (this one) is 306752 and in the tam I have created over one hundred and ten maps. Whereas over 145,000 maps have been added by other people in that time. I started adding maps to my blog as annotated images and started using a mapping service after the idea was suggested by TomC in July 2010.

This is a picture of Baits Bite Lock as you can see there were some serious looming clouds around, but is was also a pretty still day (and so good for cycling). (as it happens the towpath is also called the Halingway.

There is something about cycling alongside a river in the country. Somehow it makes the countryside seem different. I guess it is both something to do with being away from traffic, being fairly flat and the sinuous winding nature of rivers. I’ve been along this river quite a few times and I still find the views rather striking. Which reminds me of another of my prejudices (not the angling one, I’ll come to that later), no the one about having a holiday on a long boat.

I’ve always though of longboat holidays for older people. but as I cycled up the river I though – hum that’d be rather pleasant travelling along rivers in the middle of nowhere, stopping of for a pint and a meal every now and then and I could take my bike with me. (Flip I really am getting more mature.!)

Angling – well my brother (younger by 18 months) has always enjoyed a bit of fishing, i would occasionally go with him, not for the fishing, but for the ride out to wherever he wanted to fish and the sarnies that we packed. I tended to find the rest bit in between the ride there and the ride back too long though. As it happens it was on a fishing trip in Godney that the English currency was decimalised – 15th February 1971.


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Anyways – here is that scenic view – somewhere between Clayhithe and Baits Bite Lock.

This is a busy time of year for farmers and on the routes I’ve been cycling along they haven’t hung about. This view is taken on the concrete standing after leaving the Clayhithe Road and heading out along the bridleway. Although it had rained earlier there was quite a bit of blue in the sky.

This is that concrete standing and a reminder that kids will be going back to School next week.  It seems that every year people moan that kids exams are getting easier and that the kids forget everything in the long holiday. Mind you one of the reasons for the long holiday was so that the kids could help with the harvest – which is no longer the case. Having said that and seen the work my daughter put in to get her grades there is no doubt she had to work harder than I did when I did my A-levels and it is a bit of a slap in the face when after working hard and getting good grades you hear all these “oldies” whinge on about the exams getting easier. Well whose fault is that – not the kids I can tell you.

I also think that kids deserve a bit of time to get out and about learning is not just about what happens in School.  We seem so hell-bent on our consumerist society yet don’t seem to see any linkage with the level of mental illness in the UK with 8-12% of the UK population experiencing depression in any year.

After Lode and before White Fen I was reminded by the flag across the field that the Lodestar festival was coming up. (Unfortunately it is now over now that I have gotten around to writing this Post.)

Lodes Way is well signposted and as I was to discover maybe too well signposted (well not really).

Was this cloud over White Fen getting ready to rain on me? We do seem to have more than our fair share of pylons around here though – picturesque places seems to suffer from pylons. For those of you who like them there is an Appreciation Society. It does seem odd that green power is driving the march of the pylons in the UK. That is the problem is “what gets measured gets done” – there are agreed goals for reduction in Carbon emissions – ostensibly to save the planet – yet here in the UK in order to meet those goals we don’t seem to think it is odd that we are visually despoiling that beautiful countryside. It must be Stick Them in Someone Else’s back yard – STISEBY

Still you can look elsewhere and as visual pollution there could be much worse. this and the next picture were supposed to be one “panorama” unfortunately I couldn’t get them to match so they appear as two pictures.

There is a fair bit of straw still to be baled. The field is adjacent to Headlake Drove and Great Drove. I had to go back and check the GSP trace as I’d forgotten exactly were it was. In the end I loaded the trace into Google Earth and tracked it to the point where I stopped to take the picture..

My next stopping point was at the footbridge over Reach Burwell Lode (Thanks MikeC for spotting that error!). As a cyclist you have to stop to lug you bike up over it. My stop this time was a little longer though. A slightly more mature (than me) couple were out on the Tandem at at a loss to explain quite where they were. they had been using an OS map, which was showed NCN51 and as they were heading towards Burwell had seen the blue sign at the bottom of Newnham Drove and gone up it.

Since they had expected to reach Wicken Fen it was a bit puzzling to them to find a footbridge in the way.  So I pointed out the route they had taken on the map versus the route they thought they were taking and asked them what might suit them best. In the end I helped get the Tandem over the bridge. Although there were two of us the length of the bike made it quite unwieldy but we got it over without any mishaps. I pointed out the direction and confirmed that the track surface, whilst bumpy in places would be fine on their Tandem and set off.

As it happened my plan was to cycle to Wicken along the Maltings Path and then back around to the entrance to Wicken Fen and down NCN51 to Burwell. As I was heading back through Wicken Fen I got a cheery wave from the Tandemists.

The sky off in the distance didn’t look quite so cheery though. As I cycled back down towards the road heading out of Wicken Fen this was the view – rain of in the distance – although this was more to the North and I was heading East.

The view East didn’t look that promising either.  (That clump of trees is  Priory Farm.)

As I headed towards Burwell things things looked a little more promising – although it wasn’t that windy at ground level the high-level (cloud-level) winds must have been in my favour. That is Burwell Electricity sub-station in the middle of the picture, just follow the pylons.

Or maybe not as I cycled between Burwell and Reach on the Burwell Road it looked as if I was really going to get caught in the rain. I wasn’t really sure which way to cycle to try and avoid the shower and in the end went for Reach and Black Drove Way.

I didn’t avoid the rain, but I can’t really complain it wasn’t that bad, it was only a shower. Mind you Black Drove Way was pretty slippery I did come close to an unplanned dismount at one point when both wheels started slipping as I straddled a couple of ruts. I hung on though and managed to keep going without even dabbing my feet. I made sure not to ride the edges of the ruts after that though.

Once I was back on the road (Whiteway Drove) the shower had passed and the sky started clearing in towards the East (the Cambridge direction). They make the bales bigger than when I was a lad. We sometimes use to help our the farmer who farmed the fields around our house. I could just about manage to lift the bales they used to make in those days – I’d not be able to pick these ones up even though I’ve grown up.

For a change I cycled alongside the B1102 – between Swaffham Bulbeck and Lode, there is a pretty reasonable shared-use path although it is a little narrow it does have a grass edge to it. (Mind you there is also a ditch to the other side a little further back.) I took the back way through Swaffham Bulbeck down Abbey Lane.  Apparently the Abbey had recently been sold - £1.35m – for four bedrooms – but three floors and 6.78acres. (Note the picture is from Wikipedia).

Back to the noisy road – it amazes me just how much noise cars make – the noise is really unpleasant and that’s with earphones in.  Although I can’t hear anything when the tear past. – it is quite high pitched.

A reminder that LodeStar was coming up (but has now past). I would have liked to see CSS. (I do also have a vinyl record of a different group – CCS).

And finally – what is the cheapest bike you can buy? – A penny-farthing.


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