Monday, March 12, 2012

Lodes Way in the Sun

Sunday, 11th March 2012: Sunday was a glorious day here in the Flatlands. According to Cambridge DTG the temperatures got up to 15C by 2:30 and stayed there until 17:00. So we didn’t quite hit the 17C that the Daily Mail suggests we might get this week. They do have some pictures of the River Cam at the bottom though. So as I haven’t been around Wicken Fen for a while and I wanted to catch up on the weeks The Archers Podcasts there was no decision to make.

I cycled along one of my fairly regular routes, detouring from High Ditch Road through to Horningsea and then past Stow Cum Quy Fen (Nudism can cause a fence). The up to Upware and back round through Wicken Fen and back along Lodes Way. Here is the map and here is the Bike route Toaster Link. It is flat and a shade over 50Km/30 miles. A pleasant route is to cycle alongside the River Cam on NCN11 (to nowhere) to Clayhithe and then back towards Horningsea. It can be pretty busy with people strolling so a sunny Sunday afternoon probably isn’t the best time to try it out, unless you have a bell and aren’t in a hurry.

It was such a lovely day that it had gotten loads of people out on their bikes. I counted around 80 or so outside of the City limits.I like this route because it is is either on cycle-ways, reasonable off-road or reasonable country lanes. That means I can easily listen to my MP3 player without having the noise hassle of motor vehicles.

Mind you on the narrow country lanes then this Volvo with outside airbags and a titling bonnet is, I suppose, one solution to the ever present need to make cars faster without increasing the danger to pedestrians. I know it sounds a bit cynical, but it seems to me that the focus is on motor vehicle throughput – read this Cyclists in the City Post on Vauxhall Cross if you don’t believe me. However we really need to stop and ask the question do we really need motor vehicles tearing around the country.

A Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety is suggesting that elderly drivers should be retested to ensure they are still safe behind the wheel. Apparently the number of over-70s that hold a driving licence was only 15% in 1975 and was nearly 60% in 2010. I have some thoughts, why is the percentage increasing? It might just be something to do with how impossible it is to get around without a car nowadays. So we make car ownership a virtual necessity and then stop all those “old fogies” driving – joined up thinking – non.

I found this Road Safety Research Report ( a pdf0– “Trends in Fatal Car-occupant Accidents”. Check out the summary – Section 4, page 42.  Here are some of the summary statements.

Of the drivers fatally injured, young male drivers are most at risk of death

• are more likely to cause a fatal accident than be innocently involved in one;

The fatally-injured older drivers (65 and over) have:

• fewer accidents than younger drivers but age-related changes mean they are
physically more frail; and

• a tendency to be involved in the more injurious right of way accidents, especially turning right.

So what about a strategy for Young Drivers, one that makes the roads safer for all? We talk about how “Speed Kills” yet many of the approaches/actions seem about increasing throughput (and so encouraging speeding) such as not enforcing 20 mph speed limits.  They are self enforcing – at least in York. – See How will speed limits be enforced?

Oh yes, those elderly ex-drivers – how do we help them – “Green man traffic light is ‘too quick’, say the elderly”. Still they might be lucky and be hit by a car with bonnet airbags.

Enough of that cynicism I hear you cry. What about the ride. Well despite the rain and time of year it was all quite cycle-able on my Hybrid Marin. It was also very sociable.

After leaving Wadloes Path, where one couple walking their dogs didn’t seem at all concerned as they got in my way it was a pleasure to be on the open byway. Actually even the open road was a pleasure. I passed three cyclists heading out along High Ditch Road, not that I was going very fast, its just they were going a bit slower. As a cyclist I really don’t enjoy sharing the path with lots of pedestrians. Shared paths are ways of keeping the costs down and pretending you care about cyclists’ safety. They are fine on many pavements in the countryside because so few people walk. Those that do walk try not to walk alongside noisy roads.

I am not arguing that pedestrians should be at the mercy of cyclists as they walk the pavements, far from it. I think that shared use paths are a lazy way of playing the cycling game for Councils. Imagine the uproar if a new A14 was built, but cyclists were given priority over it.

Low Fen Drove Way is a little prone to the wet from where it crosses the dismantled railway line to the point at which it passes the Electricity pylons near Snout Corner. What is also amazing is how quickly the mud dries out – I guess it is a combination of the wind and the drainage.

This picture was taken of the electricity pylons near Snout Corner, just before passing in them. Both sets of Pylons head over to the Burwell main Substation (BURW). The planning permission for the second line was made in November 2002 I think.

After Horningsea (and the cycleway – one that was purpose-built as a shared use route and doesn’t see a huge amount of pedestrian traffic) I turned off along the Harcamlow Way towards Lode.  I enjoy this route because you are quickly into the countryside and not too close to busy roads. In general the paths are wide (enough for tractors) and so the conflicts between cyclists and walkers is almost non-existent. The route is not totally obvious as there are several routes around there.

This is the field adjacent to Harvey’s Droveway, just before Lode. There is a footpath to the left that heads towards that barn and Lodemoor Drove – which runs parallel with Harvey’s Droveway. From there you can either head up on a footpath parallel with the Bottisham Lode or towards Stow cum Quy Fen.

Perhaps this could be called the Burwell Electricity Pylons route – here seen striding across White Fen – look at the blue sky. It looks as if the ground has been cleared of scrub, presumably to give the shrubs and trees some space to grow.

At the end of White Fen, just before the Swaffham Bulbeck bridge is an information board that has seen better days. The frame is fine the paper looks as it is has been sunbathing. The sign shows the “hoped for” link from Bottisham Lock to Lodeside – which unfortunately hasn’t come to pass.

I like the message at the bottom of the frame though

Space to breath for people and wildlife 

Space to think about our environment and out future

Space to explore on foot, bike, horse and boat

As land becomes more sought after for homes then so will land like this become more precious.

As I cycled up to Upware I had to stop to admire the freshly drilled peat fields – ready for the plastic coating to accelerate the plant growth.

I had read in the Cambridge News recently  that “Hundreds of fish die caught up in pumps”near Upware. This is the view down Commissioners Drain. I wondered whether this building to the right of the shot might have been one of the pumps, but there are other buildings which sit by the Lodes/Drain pumping water into the River Cam.

As you can see on the map I cycled along Docking’s Lane to avoid cycling along the main road. I managed it without dabbing my feet down – but only just. it was hard work. You never quite know what is going to be at the bottom of the puddles – sometimes it can be very sticky mud.

Wicken Fen was busy – the car park looked to be pretty full. In the time I’ve been visiting it the place has certainly grown and been able to attract many more visitors.  It is also part of the plan to encourage more of us to consider a staycation. Whilst I normally cycle around it my kids loved to visit. My mother enjoys a walk around the boardwalk and my wife and her walking friends like to eat at the cafe when walking around the area.

I look forward to them sorting out the very loose large bit of the path covered with rubble – it is very unpleasant to cycle along and normally I wouldn’t but there were quite a few people walking along it. Even the walkers don’t like it.

Now what was it sign in White Fen mentioned – ah yes exploring by boat. As I clambered over the Burwell Lode footbridge on my way back there was an exploring boat!

As I mentioned I saw heaps of cyclists out and about – all over the place – not just along Lodes Way. I’d overtaken this group but I decided to sit and enjoy a snack. I’d bought some Jelly Babies and a drink. Now how about that for a cycle route – good for families and their dogs. Even better the man is doing the towing.

When my kids were small the baby buggy used to be on my wife’s bike – mainly because it was more convenient for her – honest.

As you can see two more cyclists seem to be powering along. I passed them just before Priory Farm – as I said there were loads of cyclists around.

Having been inspired to take a self-portrait – here it is. I don’t quite have the sartorial elegance.  I had been planning on taking a picture whilst on my way through Cambridge to a meeting (in jacket and tie) but the right moment has yet to come up.

So I took the opportunity whilst there was a convenient bench, bike stand and fence post. For some strange reason I’d not really twigged that it was going to be such a warm day and I was over-dressed. I took the yellow jacket off at this point and stuffed it into my rack pack. Why I wore leggings I don’t know.

In fact after all the faffing around with clothing I forgot to have a snack and a drink and set off to the bridge.

Although first I tried out my panning technique. When taking pictures of fast racing cars a technique is to move the camera around to track the car’s movement – if you get the panning right and have a slow but not too slow shutter speed, you end up with a sharp picture of the car against a blurred background. This gives a great impression of speed.

Now you might have spotted some flaws in my thinking – bicycles don’t actually move that fast and when I took these pictures I didn’t have time t check my shutter speed. Which judging from the click was too short. It was 1/125s which was a little fast but not as fast as I had thought.

Ah well nothing ventured. I keep meaning to sign up for a Photography course at Hills Road – and even engaged in some dialogue about the level of the intermediate one. The trouble was I wasn’t sure whether I could make all the evening lessons.

I hadn’t noticed the plume of smoke in the background until I got home and scanned through my pictures to see which ones were going to end up in my Blog.

The route this family are taking is Hightown Drove, one of the many tracks around this area.  Which reminds me I haven’t been that way for a while. When cycling with a family you really do need to be able to take long- or shortcuts. The amount of stamina a child has seems to be totally unpredictable, although my daughter was able to go for miles being drip-fed sweeties.

When we used to cycle together on our Tandem she was also quite competitive and rather liked it when we overtook other cyclists. Fortunately she was also prepared to do her share of the pedalling.  She also though it great fun to try to exceed 30mph speed limits on the tandem. I hope she doesn’t do that now shoe has a driving licence.

Almost as soon as I left the seat I stopped to take pictures on the bank of Reach Lode. Which strangely enough doesn’t appear on the OSM cyclemap but does on the OSM map. Since the data is there this must be about display9ing relevant data – generally cyclists probably don’t care about Lodes. Mind you Burwell Lode does appear on on the OSM cycle map.

This is produced with a bit of tweaking to the levels.

This was what a simple “allow the camera to choose” picture looks like. I rather like the silhouette affect.

Although this picture has less information you can immediately tell they are looking out across Tubney Fen – well not that that it is Tubney Fen, but you can see them looking out trying to spot something.

I was thinking about parking under Reach Lode Bridge and having a look around but as I did a hand waved out at me. It was MikeC, so I changed my plan and cycled on up to have a chat. He showed me an excellent map that the NT have produced showing the area and places to cycle and eat – including the Red Lion in Swaffham Prior. I have had a look but it would seem that the NT publishing skills don’t extend to arranging for the same excellent information to be available on their website.

If it is their I apologise – their Search facility wasn’t working when I looked.

I have also found out where the “airfield” near Exning is that Mike referred to in a comment recently.

As we chatted heaps of cyclists came through including one lady who had cycled up to Welney and although originally planning on catching the train part of the way back had cycled instead as it was such a nice day.

Another chap stopped to check the route through to Bottisham and Mike was able to give him a Lodes Way map.

We also talked about how Burwell Fen doesn’t seem to be flooding very quickly. For many years a lot of people have worked hard to drain the fens and reversing the trend is not that easy. Mind you it has been dry and apparently we are due a hosepipe ban in the area – well those on Anglian Water’s supply – the  Cambridge Water area won’t be.

On my way back through White Fen I stopped to catch a reflection of the electricity pylons in one of the balancing ponds created when the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode bridge was built Look how calm the water was – no wind is good for cycling.

Another indicator of low wind is when you see hot air balloons flying in the sky, which I did.

There was only one – but I rather like the way the sky almost looks as if it has been painted on after this picture was “tweaked”.

I took this picture just to show how even a short distance away from the Fens (on the NCN51 near the Missing Sock) the soil is quite different.

A bit further down the road, near the Quy Mill Hotel this freshly drilled field was feeding the birds.

Although they moved a little bit when I stopped to take the pictures they didn’t let it spoil their dinner.

Another Spring sight – the hedgerow blossom – near the other end of High Ditch Road. (on NCN51).

As I have often remarked farmers tend to get on with it the work when needed – this field is being sprayed on a Sunday – partly because it was so still I imagine.

Look at that the cycle park at the Newmarket Road park and Ride is full – there were bikes chained to lampposts.  I can only assume that quite a few people in the villages have cycled this far and then switched to the bus – because of the dangerous roads?

I just hope the fine weather carries on – and next time I must remember to wear a little less when cycling, providing the weather stays good.


  1. I like the self-portrait! - I'm glad to have inspired the attempt. Excellent photos on this post - I particularly like the drilled peat fields.

    Best wishes,


    1. Thank you, I should have put the bicycle on the other side of the stand I think.

      My next challenge is doing something similar but more soberly dressed.


  2. Now if you really want to become an OpenStreetMap geek (err like me) ...

    Reach Lode is tagged as waterway=drain
    Burwell Lode is tagged as waterway=canal

    Descriptions here

    Drain is described as: An artificial waterway for carrying storm water or industrial discharge.

    It looks like the cycle map choose not to draw drains on their map. I like to see them on some maps, because they are not that easy to cross unless you like pole vaulting.

    Great pic of the balancing pond BTW. Interesting lines, colours and reflection.

  3. So I wonder if the person or people responsible for doing that bit of mapping made a conscious decision based upon the navigability of the two lodes. Although I have seen boats on both Lodes. So I am not sure they should be different.

    Occasionally I do find myself cycling along no through roads because it looks as if there might be a way through, so like you I would be a bit upset to find a drain of that size in my way.

    I seem to be taking quite a few pictures of pylons at the moment, if you can't beat them join them!

  4. Strange as though it might be to comment on your own Blog here is one. When I bumped into MikeC on the bridge I wondered if he had seen the Swaffham Bulbeck Cyclist since his cycling accident. So if you are reading this SBC I hope you have recuperated and back on your bike.

  5. Swaffham Bulbeck CyclistMarch 14, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    Hi JME Many thanks for your kind thoughts - I'm fine now although the shoulder is still quite painful. Think I might need a bit of physio. The Police aren't going to do anything more with regards to the driver as my witness has failed to provide a statement which is disappointing. Still- I won't let it stop me enjoying my cycling and I need to get some training in sharpish as I hope to do a Lands End- John O Groats ride next month. Hope to see you out and about soon.
    Thanks again, SBC

    1. I am glad to hear you are OK. It is a pity about the witness, but you do have LeJOG to look forward to. I was thinking about doing it this year as it is 10 years since I did it. It was a most enjoyable holiday and a wonderful way to see England, Wales and Scotland.

      Good luck