Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lodes Way – Misty Fens and Bird Watchers galore–part 1

Sunday, 20th November: With time short my cycling seems to have fallen into a pattern with a trip to St Ives and back every couple of weeks and some route around Wicken Fen every week.

Although I forgot to mention that when I was cycling back from St Ives on Saturday as I cycled up to the Swavesey CGB stop I head bells sounding from the Church – St Andrew’s, Swavesey. This picture was taken in August last year. When is was younger I used to ring Church bells, it is good fun, our Church tower had gas lamps with mantles rather than electric lighting and to quote Wikipedia  “a bell-ringer is a person who rings, tolls or peals a large bell, usually a church bell, by tugging on a long rope”. There is more to it than that. The bells are usually left hanging down and in need to be rung up in preparation. This involves letting the bell swing and tugging on the rope to make the swing larger each time until it almost swings over the top and rests against a wooden bar.

Then to ring it you tug on the rope let in swing and ring and then you can either let it stop against the bar or let it ring again. It all depends upon the way you tug the rope. If you want to learn more here is a Discover bell ringing website. When I first started I found the ringing quite easy, it was the stopping leaving the bell in the up position that I found difficult. Usually you ring a series of changes, essentially a permutation of the various bells. (“We had a fine peal of 8”. So we would ring out a permutation, but then one bell would carry on dinging – my bell as I struggled to “park it”.

Listening to the bells I was reminded of that and thought – hum Ill take a video and see if they have the same problem. No sooner had I thought it than the peal stopped and then dong, dong, dong – one of the bells carried on ringing. Whoever it was has my sympathy. I wish I had also been a bit quicker with my camera.

Whilst talking about sounds ringing out, so to speak there must have been a game on at Cambridge United and sufficient attendance to make themselves head over near Stourbridge Common as I got back into the City.

St Andrews Church, Swavesey – August 2010

Anyway back to the ride – I couldn’t find an exact previous map match, although I am sure I’ve been on this route before. As the weather gets colder and despite the lack of sufficient rain there has been some and so I find myself not cycling much along the Harrison’s Drove Bridleway and alongside  Wicken Lode. Instead I stick to the more solid paths, especially at dusk. So here is the route and here is the Bike Route Toaster Link. Just of 50Km/30miles in round numbers.

For a change I also took my long lens with me – 100mm to 300mm which give 200m to 600mm in 35mm terms.  When out cycling I only take one lens that way if I fall off then I don’t risk damaging too much of my camera equipment in one go.  And yes I do fall off from time to time, a combination of my inattention and slippery, rutted bridleways usually.

I was hoping that with the longer lens if there were some short-eared owls around Wicken Fen still then I might stand half a chance of getting a picture or two. I’d set off later than the previous day so tried not to hang around too much and didn’t take any pictures until after the first leg along Low Fen Droveway around Honey Hill and Snouts Corner.

when I did stop and took out my camera I did realise just how different the lens was compared with the 14 – 140mm (28mm to 280mm) lens I normally use. With a long lens you need to think more about the picture you are going to take before you get there. Still I managed to get this tree into the picture just.

Around Snouts Corner there are two runs of large pylons – which all look a bit confused here. The leaves have pretty much dropped from many, but not all of the trees.

Along the track towards Allicky Farm – a typical picture of a farm with stacks of hay bales and farming equipment “lying” around.

As it was a Sunday I passed quite a few people walking, some with dogs. I use a bicycle as an excuse to get some fresh air and exercise, dogs also provide a pretty good excuse. On these regular paths the dogs are usually well behaved – at least they leave me alone as I cycle past. This is the route of the old Cambridge – Mildenhall railway line where it used to run behind Anglesey Abbey.

With my long lens the pictures tend to be a bit different – which is of course the reason I use it. This is Lodes Way as it passes through White Fen up to the purpose built bridge over Swaffham Bulbeck Lode.

I think that the development of the Lodes Way has definitely opened up new places to go for families (as well as regular walkers and cyclists). This time I passed a family with Dad towing the youngest. They have stopped to look at something I would guess. The Mum and older child have already disappeared out of sight. When I passed the first two the child was busy pedalling nineteen to the dozen (which means like mad). Also other path users have to remember they don’t really understand that there are sides to cycle and pass on. In addition as they pass they are so busy smiling and generally having fun they can sometimes head for you. It is great to see.

I did stop on the bridge for the obligatory pictures up and down the Lode.

The old footbridge “down” the Lode. They knew how to save money in the old days.

As you can see there was quite a lot of cloud cover and it was also getting misty.

My next stop was the Reach lode Bridge – although it is by no means obtrusive, it does provide a slightly higher viewpoint than the rest of the flatlands around. This is the view down the Lode towards Reach.

And yes, by the looks of things there was also going to be a lot of bird-watcher activity. It looked as if the serious bird-watchers had driven in – later on you’ll see what sort of expensive and equipment they use. Or as we say there was a fair bit of expensive glass dotted around Wicken Fen.

There were quite a few cyclists also on the bridge – parked a bit closer.

As I cycled along Lodes Way there seemed to be people with binoculars and/or cameras with huge lens all over the place – clearly the short-eared owls had not exhausted the snack supply (voles).

Long before I got there I remembered to take a picture of the bird-watchers on the Burwell Lode footbridge. I think that bird-watching has some elements in common with fishing. You spend time waiting and then for short bursts you get to see the object of your attentions.

I mentioned that the stretch of Lodes Way between Newnham Drove and Burwell Lode had earth Ha-Has to keep the cattle out. Except they didn’t because the earth/mud tended to break down. The last time I cycled along they had put fence poles in the ditches on either side of this path. Well now those fence poles have gotten fences as well.

There was also a notice on one of the gates about an incident in which a dog walker’s dog had been killed by another persons two dogs. If you can’t control you dogs you shouldn't have them is my view. Dog’s become part of the family and so to lose one in this way can be incredibly distressing. Unfortunately this seems as if it is not an uncommon occurrence, in this link the dog owner also got mauled as she went to defend her pet.

At this time of year it is not unusual to see some lode bank maintenance taking place – this is one of the banks of Burwell Lode

Ah – something has been spotted – the chatting has stopped and everyone is focused on something.

No they weren’t looking at this plane in the sky, even with my long lens (by my standards) you can barely make out much detail. (Not as long as that lens on the bridge though.

In case you are wondering there are some excellent pictures on the Cambridge Birds club website – here are some pictures including a Barn Owl and some Short-eared Owls. The Short-eared Owls were taken on the 20th November on Burwell Fen. So on the same day that I cycled through – the wonders of the Internet eh.

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