Monday, March 19, 2012

Flat battery shortens cycle ride

Thursday, 15th March 2012: As I mentioned in my previous post, it was just too nice a day not to get in a few Kilometres (miles). In case you are wondering why I use Kilometres but live in England where the general unit of road distance is the mile it all goes back to s Speedometer I bought that was tricky to switch so I didn’t. So all my distances were recorded in Km from then on. (Just to remind you it was pretty much sunny all day, not very windy, no rain and the temperature got up to 16C.

I did think about going out riding all day, it was very tempting, which is what led me to checking out possible routes. In the end I was undecided and set off with half a mind to cycle out to Ely and Isleham. However after setting off in that direction as I was cycling through Lode to follow The Lodes Way I had a change of mind and decided instead to cycle over to the Aldreth Causeway, which is a lovely off-road route through some delightful countryside (albeit a bit flat).

For a change I thought I would head up to Haddenham over to Aldreth and then return via the Causeway. So I headed over to Horningsea form Lode via the old railway line and over though Waterbeach and Landbeach to Cottenham. It was when I stopped to take a picture of some willows along the River Great Ouse near the Twenty Pence Marina that the problems started. Now to be fair when I set off I did have a fleeting thought along the lines of “I wonder when the last time I recharged my camera battery was?”.

It was as I was taking a picture – as a bracketed set of exposures (AEB)  for conversion using the Photomatix HDR software that my camera had a little glitch and instead of taking one set of 7 pictures it took 2 sets of seven pictures.  This surprised me and just before taking the next picture I realised that the battery warning indicator was flashing at me. So I took a picture and then switched the camera off.

There is nothing worse than being out and about and seeing something interesting and wanting to take a picture and have a camera with a flat battery.  In fact it is better not to have a camera than to have one that won’t take pictures. So I decided not to visit the Aldreth Causeway, just in case something photogenic popped up along the way and instead decide to head over to Wicken Fen and back to Cambridge via Lodes Way.

It wasn’t until I got home and produced the Bike route Toaster map of my route that I realised that I’d ended up adding a reasonable distance onto my journey – just to avoid something photogenic. Here is the Bike Route Toaster link of the map below. For a Spring ride it was not a bad distance just under 68Km/42 miles and flat. Looking at the map quite a lot of the route follows the A1123, but the first third to the Stretham roundabout  has a cycleway. Although it does not appear on the OSM Cycle map. I sometimes wonder whether those admirable people who compile the OSM maps either consider the shared-use paths to be so sub-standard they don’t qualify for inclusion in the OSM map.

It may also be that the paths are poorly marked as shared-use paths and so the map compilers err on the side of caution. It wouldn’t do to inadvertently appear to incite civil disobedience by sending hordes of cyclists onto pavements. Another example of a shred-use path, that is sub-standard and does not appear on the OSM Cycle map (or OSM map for that matter) is the NCN51 route between Bottisham and the outskirts of Swaffham Bulbeck.

Whilst checking out the various maps it seems to me that finding any maps of this type of shared-use path cycle routes is pretty difficult – only  the major NCN routes appears on the OS maps as far as I can see and so the OSM (and OSM cycle maps) are invaluable sources. The alternative would be to check out county cycle maps. I couldn’t find anything between Stretham and Wilburton though and it does not appear as a shared-use path on the Sustrans Map either. (is it me or is the Sustrans map getting very slow and unreliable – it seems not to draw the map tiles all the time or when it does they can be very slow.)

On the plus side I did find a reference to it in this Mereham Public Inquiry so I don’t think it is a figment of my imagination. (The inquiry was into a development of c 5,000 houses in the area known as Mereham.). I also noticed a track that cuts back around Wilburton – first along Cut Bank and then Mill Field Lane so I must give it a try.

Anyway on with the ride – my first picture was taken after passing through Lode and heading over to Horningsea along what was the track bed of the Cambridge to Mildenhall railway Line. This field looks like it has been worked using a tractor with tracks rather than tyres.

It is funny how different things look when you are going the other way to your normal route Which is I suppose why this caught my eye – Stow-cum-Quy Fen is in the distance to the left.

As I was taking the last picture I also noticed this person walking up the line of the old track bed in my direction. Although most people use a dog as en excuse to get out for a walk (or a bike in my case – for a pedal) this is quite a pleasant area to tramp around. The morning started of misty and hadn’t totally burn away.

A bit further up the line, where it crosses a bridleway called the Drove way were the prints of a more conventional tractor tyre.

After a short cycle along the road over the River Cam and then along a short section of NCN11 that comes up from Cambridge and goes nowhere I arrived at the Waterbeach Railway Station. (This NCN11 route would have been more logical, but there you are that’s cyclists for you – they jump red lights, refuse to wear helmets, cycle on the pavement…)

Anyways as I cycled through the Station car park I did think about taking a picture to show how crammed with cars it was. Although by the time I cycle through there were one or two spaces as well as cars parked in non-spaces. I was quite surprised at how empty the cycle parking racks were  – there must be space for around 10 bicycles but 4-5 parked. Although the National Rail website mentions cycle parking it doesn’t actually mention how much. (There is space for 40 cars though).

So I was surprised to see this line of bicycles chained to the fence the other side of the railway line. I can only assume that if you cycle in from the village then it makes more sense to chain up and pop into the station than cross the tracks and cycle into the car park to find that there are no spaces.

After Waterbeach I cycled along the Cambridge Road and across the A10 towards Landbeach.  Despite the A10 being a busy road it always seems easier to cross that I fear. Then the route zig-zags though land beach towards Cottenham and I normally turn off along Long Drove which means I can avoid cycling along a good chunk of the B1049 Twenty Pence Road between Cottenham and Wilburton.  It is moderate in width and fairly straight – cars tend to whizz along it at some speed.  Roads like that are my least favourite. To be fair most cars leave a goodly amount of room when overtaking – but virtually every time I cycle along the road there will be one or two vehicles that are a bit close for my liking.

The only downside to Long Drove is it passes quite close to the Donarbon Waste Management Park and can whiff a bit.

Here is the view looking back along Long Drove – straight, long and pretty flat – there are one or two farms/houses along the road – such as Alborough Farm and Two Bit Farm but there is never much traffic. I seem to remember two or three cars and unusually two cyclists coming the other way. They probably chose it for the same reason I did – it is far more pleasant the Twenty Pence Road.

I stopped to take a picture of the Willows alongside the River Great Ouse, from the road bridge. You can just about make out the Marina in the distance. You can also make out my shadow in the water I think. it was at this point that the battery started causing problems and I had a change of heart about my intended direction.

The twenty Pence Road is around 2m above seal level, but there is a small climb up into Wilburton. It is hardly anything as it climbs up to 22m, but to a flatlander it seems to be quite a hill. As I mentioned the pavement is a shared-use path until you reach the A10 roundabout in the edge of Stretham. (At 6m above sea level – I can’t say I notice the descent though.)

You cross both the River Great Ouse and River Cam on the way back to Wicken as well as the Cambridge to Kings Lynn Railway line. This is the view looking back down the River Great Ouse, Taken as one picture not a multi-exposure – I took it quickly to minimise the amount of power used. At this point it was flashing without any energy showing.

At first I was going to cycle back towards Cambridge via Upware but decided on cycling through Wicken Fen and along Lodes Way. After passing the Upware Road I planned on cycling down Way Lane and along the NCN11 route into Wicken – the A1123 is not the nicest of roads to cycle along. As I got closer to the turn I noticed some new road markings along the middle of the road presumably to discourage overtaking on the bend. I have passed at least two accidents at this point. Both closed the road.

All I can say is the road markings don’t work a line of cars and lorries came towards me and a black Merc pulled out started hammering down the road – then the driver saw me – in my bright fluorescent yellow jacket. I am sure I saw a look of surprise on his face and he must have hit the accelerator even harder and shot towards me just managing to pull back onto his side of the road in front of the line of traffic.

I can tell you I had a moment of visceral fear – not something you tend to experience in a car, but unfortunately as a regular cyclist a feeling I am too familiar with. My life is in the hands of a complete stranger – it doesn’t feel good.

After that moment carried along the country lanes – thank goodness for country lanes and rather likes buses having not seem him for a while I again bumped into MikeC so we stopped for a chat and put the world to rights.

I think I must have been there longer than I realised the sun was starting to get lower than I had anticipated – mind you I did have lights with me – jus tin case I had wondered further afield. This is the sun as I reached Lode. The camera just managed a 7-shot auto bracketed set of exposures.

All I can say is roll on Summer it is really glorious cycling in such fine weather.

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