Monday, December 5, 2011

Trying to catch the sunset along Lodes Way

Wednesday, 30th November: As I haven’t been cycling quite as much as I would like I felt no guilt when early afternoon the sky was clear and the possibility of an interesting sunset arose. My plan was to cycle out to Wicken Fen, part road and part Lodes Way and then back along the Lodes Way, hoping that I would either be around Baker’s Fen or Burwell Lode or Reach Lode to catch the sun as it slipped from the sky.

Of course I could look at the web to check when sunset was (15:52 according to UK Weather), then I could check the distance and work out a reasonable speed in order to get to one of those places at around the right sort of time. I didn’t of course, I just set off, when you’ve got to cycle…

The weather certainly was promising, although for me I tend to wear an odd mix, gloves, shorts, boots and a yellow fluorescent hat. The hat is not lined so it provides a bit of insulation, but not too much.

I didn’t hang around, although on reaching Lode – the gateway to Lodes Way? I did stop to take a picture of this newly renovated cottage. Perhaps that should really be newly repaired after a car ran into the National Trust-owned Grade 1 listed cottage. The news report indicate that the accident happened at the end of May 2011, and by my reckoning repairs weren’t finished until November 2011. That is around 6 months of hassle for the occupants.

As it happens my mother-in-law is going through something similar, after having her radiators replaced a pipe within the plaster, but near one of the new radiators, newly drilled brackets sprang a leak. The real issue is not the damage, she is insured it will get sorted, no the real issue is the hassle. She seems to be dealing with all sorts of people for what is a small incident in the scheme of things. Her (large) Insurance company forget the details from one phone call to the next. People (assessors?) turn up and whilst she has been told one thing they appear to have been told another. There have been some good people, the guy who came to sort out the drying process was very helpful. It is the hassle that has been caused that gets her down.

After passing through Lode and White Fen I turned off the Lodes Way (pdf) and headed towards Upware. Round here there is a lot of arable farming. Indeed one of the concerns about the NT’s Wicken Fen Vision is the loss of farming land, valuable for its food growing potential. Apparently the Global Warming is predicted to boost Britain’s farm crops by 10pc. I would imagine that there are some farmer’s who need all the help they can get – farming can be a tough and uncertain business.

One of the crops grown around here is turf – which probably surprises some people – it is not much of a food-crop. However the need for turf is probably an indicator that house-building is on the rise again, since turf-laying is one way that developer can make their building sites appealing to potential house buyers.

The only trouble is that you get moles and here is one mole heading for the sun (or rather his trail), I didn’t realise that moles were migratory.

A few fields further up the road and here is a turf field being harvested. I guess as the turf needs to be in reasonable condition to grow when it is laid the whole operation needs to be fairly speedy.

The River Cam flows around Upware and there are The Washes. As we live in an area downstream from a  number of rivers even in times of drought, water passes through the Fens and at this time of year many such places as this “fill” with water.  This is a popular place for bird watcher as well apparently – “Upware Washes with a new telescope” and “Cam Washes, Upware” are just two of the reports you can find on the web.

I also came upon a December 2002 Guardian newspaper item “Get you skates on” which is about the old tradition of fen ice-skating and mentions “Cyril West, 84, who farms on the banks at Upware with his grandson”. It also mentions that it takes three nights at minus six or below for ice strong enough to skate on to form. A search suggest he might have died Feb 2007 aged about 86.

A few more pictures from around the Upware Washes. Certainly the sunset was looking promising, there was a warm-looking glow as the sunset drew closer. Mind you it was a misleadingly warm look, it wasn’t freezing, but it wasn’t that warm either.

There are quite a few birds down in the grass if you look closely.

The last time I cycled past this car park in Upware I had a long lens on my camera and couldn’t really get a picture of the Birse Civils encampment into one picture - well here it is. I am still none the wiser as to what the encampment is for. I assume that some works are planned around the River area?

It seems that one of the beet clamps along the road past Upware is still awaiting collection. We’ve had a few early morning frosts already in the last few weeks so they need collecting. Slightly worryingly there appear to be clouds gathering which might obscure the sunset.

As I cycled through Wicken Fen the clouds were certainly building – mind you the sun lit them quite dramatically.  This is a zoon of the view from the NCN11 path not far down from the entrance.

This is the same view, but taken with a wider angle, you can see the path to the left of the picture and Wicken Lode. The is also the contrail of a jet in the sky.

When I stopped alongside Baker’s Fen I figured I was probably a bit late for dramatic sunsets with the sun dropping below the horizon as a disk of gold. Or rather the problem was one of clouds obscuring the sun.

On my way up to the footbridge over Burwell Lode there was a tractor in a field alongside the Lode harvesting beet. The Lode bank is just visible and runs alongside the right-hand side of the picture.

Some beet that managed to stay in the ground.

A view up Burwell Lode towards Upware. Either Wednesday’s aren’t so convenient for bird watching or all the voles have been eaten by the short-eared owls.

A view of the wide-open twilight skies of the Flatlands. The moon is to the left of centre in the picture. Considering how clear blue the skies were earlier in the afternoon quite a lot of cloud has built up.

After crossing Reach Lode there were a couple of cars about so there are still birds out to be spotted. As I left Split drove and headed along Headlake Drove I bumped into MikeC going the other way. As we stood chatting along came another cyclist who, after MikeC introduced him turned out to be the Swaffham Bulbeck Cyclist.  We had all been tempted out onto our bikes by the earlier clear and sunny skies. MikeC and SBC were both out spotting.

As the sun went down it was time to move on. One of the challenges of cycling is that a comfortable level of clothing for cycling can be too cold for standing around and talking. I headed in the same direction as SBC and we swapped tales of interesting places to cycle (around the Fens). There are always new routes out there if you are willing to explore.

By the time I got to Swaffham Bulbeck Lode it was getting quite dark. Although I rested my camera on the bridge which made this picture look less dark. It does look cold though.

As I was cycling along between Lode and Bottisham I took some pictures of how the road ahead looks when cycling at night. My light is an Exposure Maxx-D with three power levels as well as a flashing option.

I tend to reserve the highest power for off-road and oncoming cars that don’t dip their headlights!  This was taken on the lowest power setting – not bad considering. But you can’t see much beyond the main light spot.

This is on the mid-setting. I find that the beam spread is just that bit better – especially for places where there aren’t street lights. the route between Lode and Bottisham has a shared-use path. It is not brilliant – there is a ridge down the middle. In the light it is not a problem , at night it can be a little disconcerting when your wheels suddenly shift sideways as you cycle along.

Mind you I know these paths and there little foibles, it is worse when you are exploring new routes. As you can also see this is a pretty thin shared-use path. I think that funding for it was associated with cycling to schools as there is a school,  Bottisham Village College, just down the road.  This is not a path I would use when the school day starts or finished.


  1. Swaffham Bulbeck CyclistDecember 10, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    Good to catch up the other day. Am just back from another saunter along the Lodes Way up to Wicken via Anglesey Abbey. The main highlight (apart from seeing 3 barn owls and 7 short eared owls on Burwell Fen and Baker's Fen) was Headlake Drove- they've patched up the enormous cracks at last!

  2. That's great news - no mention of it on the CTC website.