Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sit, back, relax and continue to enjoy expert service–not

Thursday, 15th March 2012: The weather really picked up today, so much so that I ventured a little further afield than usual, but not the subject of this post, that will have to wait until I have written this one. However here is the Cambridge weather for the day. Indeed it was so nice that their weather system had a break around 4pm and stopped recording the data. The Daily mail reported it as the “Hottest day of the year…

Now I had already decided I was going to bunk of early that day for a ride – I had put in some evenings this week and it was just too good an opportunity to miss. So I sneaked in a look at various websites looking for inspiration – where to cycle. They have further maps and an interesting series of articles How to catch a bus in 6 parts.

I will mention the maps rather randomly as I followed things of interest rather than routes of interest.  I was quite impressed to see that Peterborough have some excellent cycle maps of the centre and surrounding countryside. As with all urban areas if you don’t pay attention to the cycle signs and indeed sometimes even when you are you can easily find yourself off the cycled path.

From there I went onto the Sustrans map page and it looks as if there have been some changes to the  cycle route between Southery and Brandon – Regional Route 30. The map used to indicate an off-road route around the back of Southery that I always found impassable and ended up going through Southery, The route shown is now the route that I follow on the road.

The route has also been simplified near Feltwell. If you follow this Where’s The Path Link you can see on the OS map that approaching Feltwell the route divides into an off-road path and and on-road path. The off-road route seems to have been removed. I guess that RR30 is probably not that well used and the off-road bit even less so, I think it is a shame though as the off-road route used concrete farm tracks amongst the fields before re-joining the road section near Whitedyke Farm.

The track follows Sallowrow Drain and I think this is a picture of the concrete track looking back towards the B1386 – it is much, much lumpier in places – but it makes a very pleasant alternative to the road route.

British cycling also have an Eastern “Where to ride” webpage with further links. I’ve stopped for a Jelly Baby snack in the round thatch topped building in the second main picture down in the link.

I also noticed that the Travelling the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway blog had a post on Cycling Improvements. Much as I appreciate the cycling routes in the immediate vicinity of Cambridge I do like to see the a bit further afield as well. (Although my definition of further afield generally means within a day’s ride or so. The Sustrans map of the area near St Ives has shown a future route from St Ives to Houghton. As it happens I have cycled that way once or twice to explore the route. The path passes through Thicket Wood consisting of Ash and Field Maple. (There is a picture of a cyclist heading along Thicket Path in this link, 6th picture down.)

I cannot find much referring to the work to take place, although this would seem to be an announcement of the route getting funding – “Extra funding for Huntingdon to St Ives cycling route”. Or maybe not I have also noticed a few other mentions of cycleways in the Huntingdon area.  There is to be a Wyton Cycleway and work has started along with two new pedestrian crossings which are shown no this map. There is also a Yaxley to Farcet cycleway in the planning works. Mind you plans for a Cycleway around The Causeway in Godmanchester have not been met with total approval.

It rather surprised me when I looked at the population densities of various English counties only to find that Cambridgeshire is in the lower third of the group. I can only suppose that it arises from the large amount of land given over to farming and the relatively small amount of public access land – which in turn leads to  lumps of population centring around Cambridge and Huntingdon and Ely. Since Cambridge seems to supply much of the employment this has resulted in hordes of commuters grimly taking to the A14 twice a day. Whilst commuters struggle to find their way into Cambridge and just as importantly to them a place to park.

So it seems to me that we have the Government pressuring us to take more people into the region, pressure to build many more houses and yet the inhabitants of these Flatlands already feel they have the disadvantages of loads  of people in the form of congestion and cost with none of the benefits. Which is why “Campaign army on march over homes” is happening – whilst the space, in the form of an unneeded Waterbeach Barracks is there the impact on Waterbeach is significant.

For my own view I feel that such places need to be developed to hugely reduce the need for car ownership. I don’t (just) mean making it hard to own a car(s) but positively easier not to.  This means that schools, shops, surgeries  and spaces must be part of any planning process from the start.  If we are going to build 13,000 homes, then if the average cost is £200,000 that means a total cost of £2.6bn. It would seem to me that whilst adding one house to a village does not significantly burden the services – from roads schools. However building 13,000 is a different proposition and inevitably the price paid for the housing needs to pay for the significant infrastructure ahead of demand.

Whilst I am in this mood I can’t help but point out the issues that water-shortage is having in parts of the UK including the Flatlands.  I was irritated, in my grumpy old man persona, to see “No wonder we’ve got a hosepipe ban! Britain’s biggest water firm takes months to fix leak”. I am pretty clear in my mind that our water shortage is not a problem of shortage of water tumbling from the sky, no our problem is one of lack of investment in the infrastructure and lack of concern – it is treated almost as an act of god.

We seem to mix bureaucracy and capitalism – bureaucrapitalism so that the focus of many companies seems to be to milk the cow for the short-term benefit of the CEO and his (almost certainly) senior management.  Don’t get me wrong I prefer competition to control, but in the UK we seem to have conflated capitalism with greed it is about how much you get paid. “MPs want more money” Cambridgeshire Councillors voted for more money – but didn’t get it, not to mention Bankers’ Bonuses. With leadership like that why be surprised that it pervades all walks of life. Now I am not against reward for success, but I do believe that the reward needs to be shared and reflect long-term success, not reaching the end of the year with large losses.

Why am I annoyed, well Thursday evening I had popped to the loo and after washing my hands and turning the tap off could still hear water running. The toilet cistern was over-flowing. So first thing the next day I rang British Gas. We have a service contract with them, although they seem to consider it insurance. It took 20 minutes for the call to be answered, quite a while to work out who I was and what the address of my property was. I was put on hold so that the person I was talking to could check for an appointment  and the line dropped.

The good news was that it only took 13 minutes to get connected the second time, again the identification process and questions about parking. Phew this time I was given an appointment for a week on Friday – a delay of a week. What’s worse the chap on the phone said it was an all-day appointment as if that was of some benefit to me.

I’ve just received my Homecare renewal letter – “Sit back, relax and continue to enjoy expert service for another year”. I think I take issue with their use of the words “enjoy”, “expert”, “service” and “relax”.

Not wanting to waster water for a week, just as we are being asked to save it I though I ought to collect the out-drippings in a bucket. I reckon the drip is running at 5-10litres an hour. Which over a week equates to 840-1,680 litres ( 184 – 370 gallons). The buckets were filling to quickly to be emptied and stored. We do have rain butts but they are fairly full. In the end I dismantled some of the woodwork around the cistern and as my plumber had the foresight to stick valves in to the pipework many years ago I was able to stop the water flow. (So you can’t use the toilet! – but at least the water isn’t being wasted.).

To add injury to insult I decided to complain – they have a new website, you can report such problems on-line – well I think so, the user interface is a bit unclear and it crashed the first time. However when I checked if I had reported it on-line then I could have picked one of three times on Monday/Tuesday…Friday for a plumber to come round.  Their system also seems to have me recorded twice, which slightly different spellings of my surname.

I reported my dissatisfaction – I got a response at the end of the day, then another email asking me to withdraw the first email followed by another email.  It would seem that whilst they might be experts in some things – that doesn’t apply to being able to use email.

Phew that really is enough, I’d better cycle down for the Sunday newspapers and lower my blood pressure. I must also try to avoid learning the result of the Australian Grand Prix before the BBC deign to show the edited highlights. (As I finish this it is now Sunday morning – as it happens on the day I had a jolly nice ride around Wilburton – which will be posted.)

But first some Google map pictures and finally – The Cottenham Cyclist has also highlighted an excellent place to cycle in the region Thetford.  he has even got a map for you – I used to cycle there quite a lot with my kids when they were younger – you could and we did spend all day swopping around the single-track. More than once I have been asked the way by lost souls people walking or cycling. we just used to cycle around and so apart from giving them a general indication of the direction I wasn’t much use – now with the Cottenham Cyclists map things will be easier.


No comments:

Post a Comment