Monday, October 31, 2011

Boats, cracks and dogs!

Saturday, 22nd October: Where else to go on a Sunny Saturday after a week of limited cycling but the Lodes Way – or at least some of the Lodes Way. Here is the route, I have taken it before – more than once. It is a shade under 60Km/36 miles long, flat and mostly peaceful, either off-road or on country lanes. Before I forget here is the Bike Route Toaster link. I have mentioned it a couple of times – but I also planned (and did) take a few more pictures of the cracks in the road long Headlake Drove. I reported the problem to the County Council, but got no feedback other than the matter was closed. Whilst the method of reporting the problem via the internet worked smoothly, the actual information content of the communications was minimal.

I know, I tend to say avoid cycling along the side of the River Cam on the weekend as it gets quite busy, yet I often fail to take my own advice. The path is fairly wide and generally walkers and cyclists give each other space. Mind you today the matter was slightly complicated by the rowers on the river. many of the boats have a coach who cycles down alongside shouting words of advice and encouragement. Some have to people cycling. What amazes me is how well they manage to cycle whilst not seeming to pay any attention to the path.

I am convinced that one or two of them must end up in the river each year. Although it was not super-warm it was sunny. Mind you it has reached the time of year when I now try to carry lights with me. I didn’t expect to be out after dark, however it only takes a fiddly puncture or two to delay me and then lights become necessary.

Actually I think that the river was ore crowded than the path. With the start of the new University year there always seem to be lots of new students trying out the rowing. There are four boats in the picture.

After Baits Bite Lock, you see large boats like this one. What did I say in ,y last post about trying to catch up (and pass) cyclists up ahead.

The same applies to boats as well – only to get a picture of course.

A bit of Cambridge graffiti – out in the sticks betwixt Horningsea and Quy.

The view back towards Horningsea – the crops are growing well in this field. It hardly seems any time at all that it was being Combined.

The path along here is pretty much either gravelled or concrete slabs, with the exception of a small bit of field.

Another field that has not long been ploughed – neat lines of plants popping up already.

The apples on this tree seemed to glow in the Autumn sun. I couldn’t capture that glow unfortunately.

After passing by Lode (the village) and over the Swaffham Bulbeck bridge along the Lodes Way the route passes along a road between Upware and Swaffham Prior. Although it is not the busiest of roads there are times when you get a few cars along it as well as agricultural vehicles and lorries. I think that is is used during the rush hour – although it is not a fast road and I am not sure what route is short-cuts.

What does worry me, especially as the daylight hours get shorter is that large cracks have appear on each side of this road. These cracks are wide enough for a bike wheel to slip into and potentially jam and throw the cyclist of his or her bike. The cracks are about 15-20cm from the edge of the road and where a cyclist might end up cycling in the face of oncoming traffic.

Elsewhere on this road there are “gullies” that have been created at the edge of the tarmac surface and one windy day I was blown slightly sideways into one and it threw my front wheel and I fell of my bike – so they can be dangerous. That time I kind of rolled onto the verge and apart from my pride nothing else was hurt. So I do feel that these cracks are dangerous for cyclists – especially on a route that forms part of the Lodes Way – a cycling route.

At least the Council is on notice, if a cyclist (or motorist) does have a problem then it will have to be taken seriously.  Perhaps I ought to put in an FOI request for the process by which they decide whether problems need fixing or not.

This is what I mean about how a bike wheel could sink into the crack – these are 25 tyres (1 inch) and certainly wide enough to grab the wheel.

I wasn’t that systematic in detailing all the cracks. I just stopped and took a few pictures.  I think that there are at least 12 wide cracks along this short length of road.

As far as I can tell they are only going to get worse.  This time around I have submitted a form to the CTC.The form has a few more details to fill in – which is reassuring, they also don’t pass on your details to the Council in question. Like all such automated systems I have an email letting me know that it has the report.

As you can see cracks and more cracks.

Here is the view from the bicycle – just imagine looking ahead as a car comes tearing down, you move to the edge of the road and then whoops, your wheel catches and you fall in front of the car. Actually it would be better not to imagine that at all.

You can see my front light – just in case my return home gets delayed.

After Headlake Drove crosses Great drove the road is actually slightly better. It is slightly surreal with a small “forest” of white sticks either side of the road.

After a bumpy bit at the end of Split Drove you reach a rather large new sign – “Caution Low Bollard" Ahead” – actually it looks like a load of bollards to me. Presumably short bollards allow agricultural vehicles easy passage, I wonder if my Land Rover would clear them.


One of the benefits of the Lodes Way is that it has opened up some countryside for people to enjoy – the downside is that it seems to be attracting cars as well.

At the top of Harrison’s Drove, alongside Wicken Lode I took a picture of this solitary tree.

I also took a picture of this digger – somewhere in Wicken Fen, I was expecting to see it from the other side – but didn’t.

As I was about to get back onto my bike some people were coming down the bridleway with a couple of dogs. Now I pass lots and lots of dogs when out cycling. Normally owners with troublesome dogs tend to grab them and let me past. If the owners don’t appear worried then I tend to assume that the dogs will be fine. Unfortunately that was not the case this time. Before I even got going the dogs started snarling at me, one ran round the back of me and then went for my leg. I felt what seem to be a jaw grab my leg, but no skin was broken and finally the owners grabbed their dogs.

Is it unreasonable of me to expect people walking their dogs in public places to be in control of their flippin’ dogs. If I’d been cycling one of those dogs could have jumped up and caused me to fall into the Lode – I wonder where the law stands on responsibilities for damages – such as to a broken camera.  These are those dogs.

As I wended my way through to Wicken I stopped to take a picture of this reversible plough by the side of a field. I should have taken it from a different angle – the edge of the plough and the sky coincide.

After crossing A1123 passing down Docking’s Lane (a track) and joining NCN11 I headed back to Wicken. I was a little surprise to see some irrigation in the distant field.

As the nights draw in it will make it harder to take pictures, mind you there is still time to take pictures of the sun setting. I got this picture of the sun low in the sky just before reaching Black Droveway after passing through Reach.

Black Droveway has recently been flattened which makes it much smoother, but actually harder to cycle along whilst it is soft. I know us cyclists are a whingeing lot.  This time I took an alternate route to the side of the main path. By the looks of things so do quite a few other vehicles.  You can see how low the sun is – my shadow is pretty elongated.

I am still cycling in shorts, the weather hasn’t gotten that cold yet. I did have some long-fingered gloves though – my fingers are the first thing to feel the cold. I was wearing my cycling sandals, but had put on some socks as well.  So as the sun started setting I tried to maintain a bit of pace. Once I joined the NCN51 route in Swaffham Bulbeck it was a case of heading towards the sunset. This is the sun somewhere between Swaffham Bulbeck and Bottisham, sinking into the horizon.

Although there was time to take a picture of this plane jetting across the sky to the US (I am guessing).

Apparently the fine weather will last over the weekend so I will visit the CGB to see how the cycle way works between St Ives and Swavesey are going for my Sunday cycle.

Strange weather!

For me cycling is a pleasure, I am not into the racing side of things, possibly because I am not as fit as I would like to be. Generally physical activities are better done than watched tends to be the way I see things.  I cycle because I enjoy it and as a result also use cycling as a way of getting to work (commuting), viewing the countryside, getting exercise, getting out of my comfort zone, going on holiday and so on. The important thing is I enjoy cycling. Mind you there are times when after cycling into the wind and the freezing rain and you get your umpteenth puncture and the patches won’t stick you can get a little despondent. However I just remind myself that I like cycling.

I probably also ought to mention that I do find myself trying to catch up the cyclist in front – well it would be rude not to. I also have to admit I did find myself inspired by the Cottenham Cyclist’s post on his First Thetford Race. The race is from 8pm to 8am around Thetford – it sounds wonderful.

The Bike Shown on Resonance FM is broadcasting a talk by Patrick Field earlier this week. There were some wonderful sound bites (and I don’t mean that in a negative way). Several stuck in my mind, but the whole talk is worth listening to.  I have paraphrased because I can’t actually remember them exactly.

“If you buy a second bike, your first bike won’t mind”

"Your bike won’t mind being dirty when you ride it”

“Don’t love your bike, save your love for something that can love you back”

The weather is certainly very changeable as we transition from Summer (such as it was) to Autumn and then to Winter. As i was eating my breakfast the other morning it was still and the skies were blue and there was a Virgin Hot Air Balloon in the sky – not bad for October.

I have been having one or two minor issues with my Garmin Edge GPS what I use to log most of my cycling.  They are pretty much my fault, one problem is that in the dark I don’t always notice whether I have “started” the unit tracking.  So there are a couple of recent journeys that I have used Bike Route Toaster to fill in the distance details for. To think it is not that long ago when you would have used a map wheel – now there is a thing of the past.

I have also been having problems turning the GPS on in the morning, the problem is again me. It takes quite a while to go from pressing the on button to bleeping to let me know it is starting. So sometimes I press the power button again and then it turns off and I start getting annoyed.  Whilst I accept my flaws this is also an example of less than perfect user interface. It should beep sooner in the cycle to let me know it is turning on.

The last problem is that the summary data for one ride group has been corrupted and if I try to “look” at the summary it crashes the program (Garmin training center (sic)).  Although they indicate that they use an open database standard I couldn’t readily find an editor for it – so my attempts to fix the database came to nought. Oh well it is not the end of the world.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Where does all the time go–finding a parking space?

After the last bit of Blog catch-up I thought I must try harder and I’ll try and fit in a couple more posts, but I don’t seem to have cycled for a week! The last post was dated October 14th and the next bunch of photographs I have uploaded onto PicsasaWeb are dated October 22nd. What has gone wrong.  Then when I check my Garmin Training Centre download of my cycle rides (as logged by my Edge GPS) it is true. There are a week’s worth of short rides down to the Newsagents and back to pick up a newspaper but no long rides until the following weekend!

Flip I know that time flies as you get older – and your memory gets worse – but it is totally unfair when they both happen together. Thank goodness for computers and GPS at least  I can go back and have a look. Well a quick check of my my diary and shamefully I have to report that I drove my car to the Cambridge Railway Station as I had a meeting in London.

Fate caught up with me. Regular readers will know that I often rant about how the shameful the provision of cycle parking space is down at the Cambridge Railway Station. I had to make a presentation and decided that I “needed” to drive to the station in order to avoid getting to hot and ruffled and to ensure I didn’t have the hassle of finding a space for my bike.

talking about the provision of cycle parking this is a useful article on “how bikes get abandoned” in Cambridge. Apparently 5,500 have been removed in the last three years. They do pass the unclaimed ones to a charity, which is a good thing. Just don’t leave your bike around with a puncture.

No guesses for what happened, normally when I cycle I get cross because there always seem to be more free car parking spaces than cycle parking spaces. Not this time. I ended up parking in the multi-storey up the road and getting hot and bothered walking in the rather pleasant sunshine back to the station.

It also cost quite a lot to park there – although actually I am all for realistic car parking charges it is not a rip-off, it has been too cheap in the past.. Please also provide alternatives. If I had thought about it I would have probably parked at the Trumpington P&R and cycled up to the station along the CGB. The buses along that section aren’t too plentiful though so a bicycle would be necessary (IMHO).  The good news is that the CGB is still getting more use than expected. At this stage it has been built so the best outcome for the taxpayers is that it gets well used as far as I can see. The first two months have seen 430,000 journeys versus a forecast of 150,000 a month for the first during the first year. Don’t read the link if political bickering gets up your nose though.

Apparently the busiest P&R site in Cambridge is along Babraham Road and it is to get a further 600 spaces. One of the more acerbic comments complains that “Addenbrookes’ staff are to blame” as they walk or cycle from there to work! Good luck to them – at least they are getting some exercise. Let’s hope it bucks the trend as apparently walking is going out of fashion.

It was sunny though. They also seem to have put the roof up on the new central platform being built – look at those blue skies. It isn’t quite as grand as I was thinking it might be – although it does look like the artist’s impression on the news item I linked to.

Fortunately the train was also not too busy – mind you I was prepared having read the “Art of train warfare”. On the train I am always an aspirant, on the underground I am normally happy to be a civilian.

As luck would have it I did manage to get to my destination in London on time. It was a place I had never visited before and a little of the beaten track. To add insult to injury when I got there I wished I had taken my Brompton with me. It would certainly have been easier at the Cambridge end and useful as I navigated the streets of London.

When I cycle I tend to map my routes more diligently – this time around I hadn’t bothered and had to check directions a couple of times on the way. (Which for a man is a difficult thing to do!)

I did come across some of the London Cycling Superhighway or at least what I thought was CS8 (pdf opens up on this link) – ‘cos that was what was marked there. Indeed it was and it would have been jolly convenient too, especially on such a sunny day. Oh well next time.

Mind you I think that you also need to pay attention to the traffic around you and here is one very lucky lady who was hit by a lorry and whether you call it luck or judgement certainty had the right approach and instead of getting run over managed to brace her feet against the lorry’s bumper and was pushed along on her back. Quite rightly though she should not have needed luck – it is worrying just how such a situation can develop.

In a rather tragic “co-incidence” the first cyclist to be killed on the cycling superhighway network (CS2) was reported a couple of days ago.

A bus driver was also pictured driving his bus whilst turning the pages on a newspaper, not the sort of motorist I want to share the roads with or be near to when walking on the pavements. I am not sure about drivers with 32 penalty points either.

Read Blog 20 of the Cambridge News’ “Perfect Cycling Weather” – a kind of I told you so, the bicycle won out on a journey to London.

Interestingly the whole business of car ownership is so entrenched that companies and corporations pay “car allowances” which seems to encourage private cars to be driven around London. There is a neat bit of statistical analysis in the link – but don’t let that put you off reading it. (As it happens I have in the past been in receipt of such an allowance, I seem to remember that it required I had a car, with 4 seats and that I kept it clean!)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Back at Downing College

Friday, 14th October: I had to be at the College even earlier so in the space of two days I got to cycle in the dark in the early morning and the later evening – although not both on the same day. (Sunrise 7:22am).

Here is a link to the Landscape Photographer of the Year pictures in the Daily Mail – I can aspire.

As I mentioned in my last post cycling in the dark can be quite pleasant – I was wearing long-fingered gloves though.  I had a brief potter the wrong way just for the fun of early morning cycling and even got this picture of the sun rising.

Even with my detour I had some time before I needed to be at the College cooling down so I cycled round the block – along Regent Street, down Downing Street and then back round along Trumpington Street and Lensfield Road. To be honest I think that I could easily have left a little later and not actually had to cycle in the dark  - but I enjoyed it and beat the rush hour.

As I turned down Downing Street a lorry unloading was there to greet me force me out into the oncoming traffic along with a car tucked in behind as well. This is not an uncommon problem judging from this article (and this one)  on the Cambridge Cycling Campaign and this page of pictures.  These are probably the same drivers who complain about cyclists jumping red lights.

cycling back along Lensfield Road you can see that autumn is definitely upon us alongside the Department of Chemistry.

Although I started earlier I also finished earlier – POET’S day ruled.  This is the view looking back along from the re-working of the area along Riverside.  This is looking from Riverside towards the city centre and under the Elizabeth Way Bridge.  It used to be possible to park under the arch to the right – I am not sure if that has now been stopped as it certainly affects the sight lines.

The view along Riverside – blue skies and the occasional bike stands.

I mentioned recently that there is a footpath between Stourbridge Common (Friends here) and Ditton Meadows that takes a short cut and via a footbridge over the railway line. Here is that footbridge.

The chestnut trees turned brown quicker than most of the other trees.

For exercise I headed out along NCN51 and then back down High Ditch Road into Fen Ditton. This is the bit where NCN51 crosses High Ditch Road – loads of berries – is it going to be cold?

A last link – Lawson Cypress trees are apparently also at risk from a deadly fungus.

More Meetings in Cambridge

Thursday, 13th October: I had pretty much a full day out of the office (well my study at home). I was doing some stuff on one of the Colleges – Downing as it happens. Although as I cycled from Parker’s Piece onto Regent Street I was on automatic pilot and turned right and headed off towards Downing Street.

View Larger Map

As I was there all day I was going to be returning late in the day and had taken cycle lights with me just in case.  I hadn’t actually checked to see what the state of charge was like so I took my largest re-chargeable light. It never surprises me how quickly the nights draw in and I certainly needed my lights. According to this link sunset started at 18:10pm.

It was quite a full on day and with returning in the dark I only took a couple of pictures. I arrived early and sat in the garden to cool down before changing into some smarter clothes. That allowed me to take a slightly longer route in order to get some exercise.

The lawns had recently been mowed.

A nice bit of grass growing Surprised smile

Although it was dark on the way home it wasn’t cold and apart form not really being able to take any pictures I really enjoyed it, it was a pleasant change. I probably won’t be saying that when it gets wintry though.

Meetings in Cambridge

Tuesday, 11th October: One of the good things about working from home is that it free up time from travelling, mostly.  There are times when you have to meet people and the next few weeks seem to be quite busy for me, with meetings in Cambridge and London.  Which is why I am behind on my posting – yes same old refrain.  I also have been hit by a minor bug – which not to put too fine a point on things has caused a major liquidity event and no I don’t mean in terms of earning money.  The sort that has tied me to the house. I have also done some work, but the temperature I also seem to have has made sleep tricky. So I seem to feel tired all the time as well.

When I cycle for work, it is still a pleasure, however I generally only take a small camera with me. (My Sony DSC W-200, now out of date. but a camera I have been very pleased with – for its small size the picture quality has been good at 12 million pixies, battery life has been good and it has been reliable. I bought it to replace an earlier camera that had also seen good service including having its image sensor de-dusted using a vacuum cleaner. I passed it onto my wife and daughter, but the advent of smartphones in the family,  with half-way reasonable cameras, means that it no longer gets much use.

I had several meeting around Cambridge, switching between the University and cafes in town.  I was a little concerned that parking my bike might be a problem as I set of a little later than I should have done for my first meeting. It was OK though. I had arranged to meet at the Michaelhouse cafe just down from Great St Mary's. There is cycle parking alongside the church, but it gets pretty busy. As luck would have it I found a space straight away and actually got to the cafe on time.

The great thing about having my bicycle in Cambridge is that you can arrange meetings around and about the place without generally having to worry about parking and you can certainly get from A to B pretty reliably.

For one of my later meetings the person I was meeting tend to park at the Madingley Road Park and Ride and then ride around Cambridge – for the same reason.  There were three of us meeting up at the Hauser Forum and two had arrived by bike – that’s Cambridge for you. The cycle parking was also no trouble at all and what’s more the Sheffield racks had a reasonable spacing.

The trouble is all the to-ing and frow-ing meant I didn’t actually have time to take many pictures. I did notice a whole new crop of students cycling off to lectures though – the place was clogged with them at one point. It is good to see – let’s hope they carry on when they are titans of industry and government!

On the way home I did detour a little way up Stourbridge Common – the River Cam was empty.

I also stopped to take some pictures of cyclists at the intersection for the Green Dragon Bridge – a busy bridge and care is needed. This is really a cycle crossroad and is also the route of NCN51.

I didn’t hit it at the rush hour though and so it wasn’t that busy – you can see by the lean that this cyclists is moving quite quickly.

A deserted cycleway.

The bridge does have a cyclists dismount sign – it is quite a narrow bridge. The trouble is that pushing a bicycle takes up way more space than riding one – mind you most cyclists don’t seem to get off as it happens.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A real cycle ride– meandering along Lodes Way

Sunday 9th October: With October here there are only a few weeks left before the clocks change. It will get lighter in the mornings, but it will also get darker in the evenings.  The weather hasn’t really gotten too bad though, Sunday was not a sunny day, but it wasn’t cold there was a bit of wind around though. This was a problem for two reasons, the first was that given my choice of ride the wind would be against me on the way back. The second problem is that with HDR pictures the branches blow around quite a lot which causes odd grey patches around them in the pictures. I know I could just take ordinary pictures, but…

I wasn’t really looking for a speedy ride on Sunday so when I got out to the Lodes Way I took a couple of detours, one around Reach and the second through Burwell before returning on the Lodes Way after circling Wicken Fen. here is the Bike Route Toaster Link to the map shown below. It is a little over 50Km/31 miles and although it is flat the off-road bits can either be quite tiring or require a bit of concentration.

The Lodes Way is a cycle route between Bottisham And Wicken Fen and basically connects the NT properties of Anglesey Abbey and Wicken Fen. You can hire bikes at Wicken Fen so for NT members there is a good day out – pop over to Wicken Fen hire a bicycle and then cycle over to the Abbey have a look around and lunch and then cycle back and have tea and a look around. The cycling would be about 16 miles, for choice it would probably be nicer to hire a bike at Anglesey Abbey – but I am not sure that they hire bikes there, although food-wise the WF to AA route would be better. You do get reduced admission prices for arriving on bicycle, foot or public transport though (down at the bottom of the page). 

I vaguely remember their pricing policy, but perhaps more could be made of it to help cut the number of cars driving in.

This is the crossroads where the Lodes Way crosses into the village of Lode. The path is shared-use and is not brilliant, but for a Sunday afternoon cycle ride was relaxed if a little bumpy.  The route has a light-controlled crossing with a helpful little sign to show the cyclist where to go. 

A while back this cottage in Lode was hit by an errant car driver early one morning (3.20am, 30th May 2011). As you can see, four months later and the repairs are still under way.

After passing through Lode and heading out along White Fen Drove I noticed this dog running along edge of the ploughed field.

Followed by this tractor doing the ploughing. That is one way to walk the dog.

If you followed the earlier link about it not being a Sunny Sunday you will have seen that the day was virtually sunshine-less. There was a lot of grey cloud about.

Although occasionally in the distance there seemed almost to be the promise of blue skies.  After crossing Swaffham Bulbeck Lode you can see that at least parts of this field must have been getting warm enough to germinate the seeds.

For a change I headed down towards Swaffham Prior and then over to Reach on the Black Drove Way bridleway.  This bridleway must get quite a lot of use as various paths seem to develop.  In the wet dips do develop and every now and then it seems to get flattened.  On Sunday it was flat but quite hard work as the soil was quite loss and my rear tyre kept digging in. If you look to the bottom left of the picture you can see how my tyre track veers off. At this point I stopped, took a picture and walked to some firmer ground.

I carried on over the road (Little Fen Drove) by the Barston Bridge and joined a byway, which at first looks more like the entrance to a nearby house, but is Blackberry Droveway and turns North-West to run in the general direction of Reach Lode.  It is called Straight Drove at this point and heads in the general direction of Upware (via Harrison’s drove).

I managed to cycle along it without dabbing my feet. Ruts have developed, but the verges have been cut back and you can also cycle in the middle as well.

On the way up towards The Lodes Way there was this dilapidated shed at the side of a field – it seems to be getting more and more battered each time I pass this way.

I grew up in Somerset was muck-spreading was a compulsory activity for farmers. (They have a lot of cows and so they generate a lot of “muck”. As I stood taking the last picture – that familiar smell immediately transported me to my youth. It is amazing how smells can have such a powerful effect on the memory. this is the field that had been spread – difficult to see in the picture – but easy to smell in person.

Looking back the way I came there seemed to be another brief gap in the clouds allowing a bit of sun for what looks like the people in Cambridge.

After re-joining the Lodes Way as I was passing Newnham Drove I thought I would head down there – it has been a while since I last cycled the bump drove.

This is the air-lock to keep the people from wandering of the beaten path (at the intersection of Newnham drove and The Lodes Way) but it still allows the cows and deer? through.

Bits of Newnham Drove are pretty beaten up.  A digger did some work at this point and it looked as if a passing lay-by was being built.  Now I am not so sure, it almost looks as if the concrete has been dumped alongside. 

Some labelled rubbish fly-tipped along the side of Newnham Drove, near the Burwell end.

I then cycled through Burwell up and around Wicken Fen and then back along Lodes Way (should it be The Lodes Way or Lodes Way – I’ve given up with too many “the”s).

Most of Lodes Way is pretty good with decent paths, this bit near the footbridge over Burwell Lode is not so good. As you can see it is a narrow mud path and likely to get muddier in wet weather.

There is a ramp to assist cyclists in getting their bikes over – the trouble is that is is a bit close to the fence for my wide handlebars and steep – even with both brakes on my bike skids down it.

One of the challenges of constructing bridges over the Lodes is that the banks are not solid in the case of this bridge it would seem that the steps have moved and the safety fencing has been loosened. The orange netting is there to warn you rather than save you I think – the metal fence is now pretty wobbly..

After that it was a “swift” ride back stopping only to take a picture of some more fly-tipped rubbish along the side of Headlake Drove (with the cracked edges). But I took this before deciding to take more pictures of the cracked edges – it makes sense if you read my posts about reporting road problems.

As you can see the rubbish has been logged and labelled and will shortly be removed- perhaps they ought to give the people who do this some tar and a roller so they could make a few impromptu road repairs as well.