Thursday, March 1, 2012

An Excursion to Exning

Sunday, 26th February 2012: The last few days have been fairly busy and so the work/life/cycling/blogging balance was skewed against Blogging. Mind you I have been out cycling and collecting pictures so I have three sets of pictures as well as this set to post. In fact Sunday seems so long ago that I had forgotten my trip to Exning and back on Sunday and started writing Monday’s post.

For a variety of reasons my son and his girlfriend were staying with us for the weekend and as she had to leave later on in the afternoon the meal of choice was a brunch or rather a belly-busting brunch. What could be cooked  for “breakfast”, was cooked for breakfast, with the exception of fried bread. Although it was labelled as brunch it turned out to be a late lunch. As I result I didn’t actually get out for a ride until 3pm-ish and of necessity I had to take it easy.

I have been on the Lodes Way quite a few times recently and so for a change I went along Lodes Way again. Although I did go a different way and I did some exploring. As I had set off late I also got to take a few pictures of the sun setting as well (on my way back that is.)

Here is the route, after MikeC’s comments about the Crowhall Farm bridleway I thought I would give it a go – and it was rather pleasant and although it was a grass track despite the recent rain the going was good for grass.

Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link, this route has a little bit of climbing, don’t worry about it though it is just to 40m above seal level. The distance is 55Km/34 miles and although a reasonable chunk of it was on bridleway it was pleasantly cycle-able.

The weather was pretty reasonable as well, it was not quite as warm as it has been so I didn’t go out in shorts, but I did take sun glasses. (I have just noticed that the Cambridge DTG website points to a map with recent lightning strikes – this is the first time I have noticed it, but it could have been there for a while.

Whilst I am mentioning the weather unsurprisingly it has been getting quite a lot of local and national press – well this is Britain after all don’t you know. The Cambridge crocus carpet gets mentions in both the Daily Mail and Cambridge News (along with the same picture).  The Daffodil industry also gets mentioned – Daffodil disaster (Mail) and Thriplow Daffodil Festival won’t be beaten by crazy weather (Cambridge News). Further down you will see my daffodil pictures around a bridge over the A14, they seem to be the first “wild” daffodils to pop up in these parts. I used to pass fields with daffodils growing on the road to Upware – but that hasn’t happened for a few years.

It is funny but I don’t consider myself as someone who suffers from the Winter months – although I know people who do suffer from quite severely from SAD. However there is no doubt that the arrival of Spring does put a spring in my pedal. There are all sorts of cues that seem to shout spring is coming. From the sunnier mornings to the birds singing and flowers and buds appearing.  Apparently we have had the warmest winter for four years! Mind you when the pipes froze solid what is only a few weekends ago at –10C it didn’t seem it to me.

Of course there are implications, we are now being warned of drought. Although given the rainfall that Britain gets, IMHO the problem is one of poor local infrastructure and lack of national infrastructure.  The creation of Regional water  companies doesn’t really seem to have improved the situation much either – where’s the profit for them – or am I being too cynical.  It was interesting to read that there is talk of building a £2.6 billion water pipeline alongside the HS2 rail line planned over the next 15-odd years. I won’t hold my breath then.

In a you read it here first exclusive it seem that the news of cracks in the road has spread to the nationals. The cause – yes you’ve guess it the drought. These flipping roads are a never-ending expense.

The main reason I cycle is for pleasure, not fitness or sport – so I won’t be switching to the ElliptiGO – although they do look like fun to “ride”. Mind you if you have a spare bike that you want to retire then stick it under the sink, I am not sure my wife would let me get away with that though.

For choice I would prefer not to see Electricity pylons all over the place. I accept that it is much cheaper for the power to be transmitted this way rather than underground. They are rather obtrusive. However they are sometimes visually interesting as well.  The way they march across the countryside. They are certainly not as obtrusive as the sound of motor traffic on a fast road. The next time you are out in the countryside listen – you’d be surprised how far away from roads you need to be to “hear” the tranquillity.

I mentioned these daffodils earlier, they grow near the Swaffham Heath Road bridge over the A14/A11. These seem to be amongst the earliest of the “wild” daffodils in the area.

This is where the A14 and A11 join up before splitting again on the other side of Newmarket. On my annotated map for a while the route I take alongside the A14 has been missing from the OSM streetmap and OSM Cyclemap. I was pleased to see that it was not on the Cycle map. But I’ve just noticed that it doesn’t appear on the OSM Streetmap in the last link, it does appear on the OSM Cycle map though.

I did notice that the Bike route Toaster course creator didn’t really route along it though. I had always assumed that the underlying road/path data on the OSN Cycle map was from the OSM streetmap  - but it would appear that is not always the case.

And here is a picture of the path alongside the A14/A11. It is noisy, there is only a hedge and verge to separate the two – but it is a route. I was expecting more difficult to cycle along than it was. The hedgerows each side have been cut back and so it is possible to cycle in the wheel tracks as well as the middle track. I did have a near miss with my front wheel sliding as I braked, luck rather than skill stopped me taking a tumble though.

After a while the track then joins up with the NCN51 route from Burwell to Exning on the Heath Road. There has been quite a bit of work in the fields getting them ready for drilling. The skies were blue as well.

There are parts of the landscape around here that remind me of The Brecks – it is a combination of the lighter coloured soil and straggly pine trees I think.

My route took me through Exning and onto the North End (dead-end road) where it is not unusual to pass horses being ridden. I gave a ting of the bell some distance away to alert the rider and horse to my presence.  Sometimes I say hello but the ting carries a little better. It did its job they were alerted rather than startled. Let’s face it I hate something creeping up on me when I am cycling – so it is good to treat other road users with the respect you’d like to be shown. North End take you up to a byway called Haycroft Lane. I was worried that it might be very unpleasant being soft and a popular route for horse riders. It wasn’t too bad – the bike did squirm about a bit on the muddier parts but I kept going. (It certainly warmed me up.)

I then headed down to Crowhall Farm on the B1102 – a road that I generally avoid because although it is a minor road it connects Burwell to Newmarket and is wide and fairly straight – which means you get high speed motor vehicles. Some drivers seem to think that they only need to leave a few inches (2.54 * few centimetres) to spare.

There are places where the road has been straightened out, I presume. If you follow this link to the Where’s The Path website you can see the new OS map alongside the 1930s one – this layby was once a kink in the road. (Assuming you can see the OS map alongside the 30s OS map.)

Some tosser couldn’t be bothered to dispose of their rubbish – in fact they didn’t even care that they were blocking the layby.

The Cambridge Mildenhall Railway line used to run parallel to the B1102 and if you do follow the link it also shows that there was a Cement Works near the Crowhall Farm bridleway. Presumably the railway line was used to transport cement?  According to the link it closed in 1929 and that there was a spur from the railway line.

After a short ride along the B1202 I turned onto the Crowhall Farm bridleway where it weaved its way through a wood before heading out through open fields.  This is a view looking back along the bridleway towards the B1102. The wood to the left of the track is the aforementioned wood that you weave through.

The path is marked with discrete poles – you can see one in this picture, where you turn.

It turns out that this is a Community Woodland and is planed on land owned by Cambridgeshire County Council’s Farms Estate – they have around 43,000 acres and 500 tenant farmers.

There has been new planting although clearly this is still also a working farm and there are signs asking people using the bridleway to keep out of private areas.

Towards the end of the loop as you head back towards the Ness Road the bridleway meets this very clear stream. I can’t find a name for it on the OS or OSM maps but on the noticeboard it is called New River.

This route seems reasonably new although the information board was produced in 1996 and so it has been around for a while. It was most definitely worth a detour and I can well imagine that it provides a welcome route for horse riders. It is certainly fine for my hybrid bike

I then headed back to Burwell on the byway through Ness Farm. I was expecting this bit to be terrible. it is a working route for tractors and gets easily churned up when muddy. However it was dry and solid and not that rutted. I guess the winds tend to dry it out.

I then headed up towards Wicken Fen along one of the  NCN 11-51 link routes on Factory Road. There was a family out for a Sunday afternoon ride – heaving their bikes over the footbridge. The metal channel does not seem to have been as effective as some might have hoped.

I had a chat and the Mum carried the kids bikes but let her husband carry the adult bikes over the bridge. This bridge does act as an impediment. Later on I passed a woman out with a bunch of kids – near the reach lode bridge – she looked a bit harassed then, I hope she knew what was in store for her at this bridge.

Here they are back on their bikes – heading towards Wicken Fen.

I couldn’t resist some pictures of the footbridge – it wasn’t windy and the water was pretty still with the sun on its way down to the horizon.

I also took a few pictures standing on the bridge – this is one of the many drainage ditches that were dug to re-claim Burwell Fen -  if you follow it along you can see the Reach lode bridge, not quite topping the higher land behind. The pylons stand out though.

One of the pleasures of cycling is that you travel around and see more of the countryside and in my case take pictures of it. The trouble is I do sometimes get into a rut (metaphorically) and keep taking the same pictures each time I travel a particular way.

So this time I left my bike at the bridge and walked around a bit – although not that much. The is Burwell Lode, looking up towards Upware.

I also noticed this bush – “Barry’s Tree of Peace – despite the many, many times I have been along here, both on foot and by bike it was the first time I noticed it. An, admittedly, quick web search doesn’t throw any light on it.

As I had set off late it was getting darker as I headed back. I did get this picture of the sun setting behind the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode bank between two trees.

Clouds had gathered a bit in the sky as I cycled from white Fen into Lode.; The sun hadn’t quite set though.  You don’t miss the pylons though.

I mentioned seeing coloured seed on the floor in a previous post but couldn’t recall where. It was on Little Fen Drove into Lode. 

Despite it being a Sunday and getting late there was a farmer out in his tractor preparing the soil, presumably for drilling.

The sun had slipped below the horizon as I reached Lode – I rested my camera on a rail to keep it steady whilst taking this picture o the cloud patterns in the sky.

What I do like as Spring approaches is that combination of colour, warmth, wildlife and longer days – roll on Spring. (Not to forget the firmer byways and bridleways.)

Open-mouthed smile


  1. Roll on spring indeed ! Remember that feeling of the sun on your back?

    If there's one thing to like about winter, its being able to get up at a reasonable hour to see the sunrise.

    Re the track parallel to the A14. The two maps do share the same data, its down to their choice about how to draw the map. It looks like the track overlaps with the A14 when zoomed out. The Cycle Map chooses to draw the track over the A14. The default map priorities roads instead and draws the A14 over the track.

  2. Hi CC,

    Thanks for explaining why the two maps appear different but are based upon the same underlying data. It now makes sense. That data order might also account for problems I have when using Bike Route Toaster to route along path path alongside the A14. The router seems unable to "see" the path to route along and ends up picking around the houses route onto the road.

    1. Ah, the routing is a different problem. I looked in OSM and found a white road and track were not actually joined together, and to the routing software that's two dead ends. I fixed that in the database and it should trickle down to the routing software in due course.

      Keep 'em coming. There must be other OpenStreetMapper's watching because whenever you mention a problem, its always been fixed in the map when I look.

    2. It always impresses me how quickly things do get fixed and my thanks to all those who do contribute to the OSM. I find the OSM Cyclemap a great resource when it comes to having a look to see where to explore and then the subsequent route planning.


  3. Thanks for the pointer to the old cement works, I'd wondered why there seemed to be an old railway spur there in aerial photos. Must go have a look at that pit if it's accessible.

    That clear stream, "New River", rises at the Seven Springs in Exning, between the A14 and Newmarket Racecourse. It's clarity is because it's mainly water from the chalk springs, and seems to pick up very little from field run-off on its way through Exning and Landwade.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the encouragement to go and have a look in the first place. It is a pity that the bridleway isn't joined up with the Landwade Road - there seems to be a decent track though to the wood alongside New River from Landwade.

      Until you pointed it out I hadn't realised that the water also runs past Ducks lane in Exning

    2. You can nearly get through from Landwade to New River, but not quite -- and it's signed "Private" too, which I try to respect. Have you found the little airfield down there yet? I have seen small aeroplanes and a helicopter using it, but not one of the Marshall's/USAF C130/Hercules obviously.

      Did you know that you can get from Exning under the A14 directly to the Race Course, on a sand/gravel track? Where Lacey's Lane meets Ducks Lane take the track almost due south towards the A14, then through the tunnel and alongside the A14 for a way. Can be pretty muddy though.

    3. I've seen the Private sign, but not the airfield - I'm intrigued.

      When my son was in the Scouts he used to compete in a Scout cross country race that set off from Exning down Frogmore, but they used to turn before the tunnel.