Monday, February 20, 2012

Winter and the CGB - time for a paddle?

Sunday, 19th February 2012: It seems amazing that last weekend we had snow on the ground and now this weekend there is not a sign of snow and on Sunday we have blue skies, puffy clouds and sunshine. There was were only one two downsides, it was much colder again and windy.  As you can see from this report on the Cambridge DTG weather station on Sunday the temperature was around 6C until 4pm and it then started dropping. The wind wasn’t too bad but for most of the afternoon was from the North-West.

I prefer to cycle out against the wind and then back with the wind so the ideal trip for me was to pop out to St Ives and then return on the CGB (Cambridge Guided Busway) cycleway. As I have lost track of when the sun sets as I was heading towards St Ives I decided to cycle out along the CGB as well – that way there would be sunlight for taking pictures.

My original plan was to set off a little earlier and take the “old” Sustrans route through he villages and then return on the CGB Cycleway, but I had a few problems with my MP3 player. I have a small Samsung YP-Z5A 4Gb MP3 player which I bought in September 2007 and is now 4.5 years old. It has served me well and has been dropped (and flung) around because of cable snags as I have cycled along past encroaching branches of cycle paths.

I chose it because of the battery life which was reported as around 35 hours. As it the case with rechargeable batteries they slowly lose their ability to store charge and this one will now only play for around 4 hours. Which is long enough for most of my local journeys but does mean I have to make sure I plug it in after use.

The good thing is that my birthday is coming up and so a replacement will be the ideal present – something I want and will use. As you get older two things happen, you tend to have acquired the things you want and if you are anything like me and you become wary of owning too many gadgets.  The challenge is that given Apple’s  strong position on the market the competition has dried up since the last time I looked. Whilst the Apple kit looks nice and the form factor is good I really don’t want to get locked into iTunes – as it would become yet another piece of software that I would need on my computer (not to mention the WMA format music I have).

The problem wasn’t the state of charge though – my MP3 players seemed to have forgotten all of the playlists on it. To cut a long story short after re-setting the MP3 player,  and re-booting my Desktop computer it would still not “see” the playlists but I could see all the data in the file directories. So I deleted some stuff directly and uploaded a new playlist (the week’s Archers) and suddenly the old playlists became visible as well.  None of this was probably due to the age of the player, but it highlights the problems of owning too many gadgets. In this case I use Windows Media Player as the interface software. Another example of trying to avoid loading too many unnecessary software apps onto my desktop.

So I set off up the yellow brick road cycleway catching up with the week’s Archers.  The sun was shining and I was wrapped up against the cool wind. Here is the map and here is the BRT link. The observant might notice that the map below shows the end of the route marker somewhere near Histon. I only noticed it when I went to check the total distance and found that it was less than 2x the one-way distance. I must have deleted the last segment of the route without realising it.  The link is correct and points to a map showing a total distance of 42Km /26 miles which is correct. The cycleway length is slightly less – just under 20Km/ 12.5 miles one way (or 40Km/ 25 miles both ways).

I’ve stuck on a few intermediate distances onto the annotated map as well – the black text is in kilometres and the red text in miles.

As not much has happened since the last time I cycled along the CGB I just got my head down and cycled. One test of my fitness is to count how many cyclists I overtake and how many overtake me. On the ride up and down the cycleway I overtook 8 and was overtaken by 1. (In Cambridge I overtook another 6 or so and none overtook me.) Unfortunately I need to get in a few miles before I could consider myself as at a reasonable level for me. I am not a racer or time-trialler, but should be capable of a bit more speed.

As you can see the sky really was blue and there were only a few clouds hanging in the sky. There were really quite a few people on the Cycleway. I reckon the main users were cyclists –  families, couples, cyclists training and the odd Larry-no-mates photographer like me. I did pass a mother with her kids who were on roller skates and one lad and his mate with one skateboard between them. There were some walkers and dog walkers as well.  As it happens the occasional bus passed by also.

Mind you the “Frequency of guided busway services (is set) to increase”as Stagecoach as to buy eight new buses for the route. Which does suggest that there is a demand for the busway services. even on a Sunday the buses have a reasonable number of passengers.

I wonder if they will extend the route to the new Chesterton Station, which has got the go ahead. It is set to open in 2015. I’ve just read the Cambridge News report I linked to and the answer to my question is yes. Although what I really meant is will the guided busway bit be extended rather than will the Guided Buses drive along the road. Since the report suggests that the link with be with the Milton Park & ride site I am not so sure.

Over in the distance you can see a water tower, that is part of what was Oakington Airfield and is set to become the new town of Northstowe, with plans for a community of around 25,000 people.  I think there are some sour grapes because the A14 “improvement” was canned though. It will now be built in a phased approach with 1,500 homes no primary school and no shops. Sorry for my cynicism, it seems that homes get built first which requires travel to get to out of town facilities. Hopefully the “sustainability” aspect of this development will look at what it takes to allow the inhabitants to thrive and own one less car.

Rather cryptically the release (pdf) indicates that Phase Two will include a local centre, access to the town centre and a local secondary school site. The cryptic bit was the reference to access to the town centre. I read this as meaning Cambridge – but does it mean that the Phase one inhabitants won’t have good access to Cambridge's centre or they just won’t have their own Town centre – which of course means driving to the shops – how green.

The track record for Cambridge is not good – check out the Orchard Park area – “Build us more shops – or we’ll all get in our cars”. More houses and no shops means more congestion. When large developments are undertaken the developers can be asked for money to be made available for things like roads, community facilities, schools and the like This is referred to as a Section 106 agreement. According to this report in Cambridge First “£100,000 of city cash is returned to developers”. The good news is that Cambridgeshire County Council, NHS Cambridgeshire and South Cambridgeshire District Council spent all their S106 money. Is the City Council so flush with cash that £100k goes unnoticed?  Or is S106 money treated differently, easy come easy go?

I mentioned that I saw the occasional bus – here is one. There were people on the Cycleway – it is just most of the time I waited until there weren’t any for the pictures.

This is the derelict building just past the Willingham/Longstanton stop. There are two cyclists further along the cycleway. The sign on the lamp post warns against trespass on the concrete rails).

Clouds in the sky.

A bit further up the Cycleway you pass under Windmill Bridge with a Comms Tower on one side, and yes you’ve guessed it, a windmill on the other. I did try to get a picture of this cyclist passing by when I stopped to take a picture of the tower – he was moving so fast he ended up as a blur.

The clouds mark the way along the CGB.

And here is Windmill Bridge, the Comms Tower and the Windmill – which is what I stopped to get a picture of. The last picture was taken to pass the time whilst I was waiting for the cyclist to get out of shot. It is not the same as the one before the cyclist – I just hadn’t realised how similar it was until I wrote this.

What I hadn’t realised was how much later the sunset was so when I got up to Fen Drayton lakes the sun was quite high in the sky – although a passing cloud neatly obscured it so I could take a picture of the reflection in one of the lakes.

At the beginning of February the length of daylight was 9 hours 4 minutes, by the 19th the length of daylight has risen to 10 hours 12 minutes. (By the end of the month it will be a whopping 10 hours and 51 minutes.)

I should probably point out that since the route has had drainage and tarmac added there is much less water around. It is still expected to flood but there was no standing water this time around. So it looks as if the works have worked.  Gates have been installed to block the route if it does flood. On my way back I took a picture of one of them – the signs indicated “Flood” and “Path ahead Closed”. You might also see that they have left a gap to the right of the post should you wish to risk cycling through the flooding – or are walking through with wellies or waders.

They have also stuck in a few more obstacles along the Cycleway – this is why you will need lights on your bicycle when cycling along here at night. Hitting those at night would certainly sting in the morning.

As you can see, even on a Sunday the cycle shelters are being used.

As I passed through somewhere around Histon the sun has still not gotten near to the horizon – so you will have to put up with this picture with loads of hexagonal blotches from the internals of the lens ending up in the picture.

By the time I got back to water Street, just before crossing the River Cam by way of the Green Dragon Bridge there was some orange “sunset” in the sky – at last. I am not really complaining – I much prefer lighter nights.

And finally, some picture links – Ice, Northern lights and molten lava in one picture – taken in Iceland. At this point my big toe was pretty numb on my left foot due to the temperatures dropping after dark, however the forecasters suggest the temperatures will get to 17C later in the week!

And finally, finally, Fearne Cotton on a bike – pictures 5 and 6 I think.

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