Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A circular ride: Cambridge to Over and back part 1

Saturday, 14th April 2012: I own a few bicycles and I cycle more than I drive, although I still drive a car regularly and even worse it is a 4x4. Why do I have several bicycles, well the more I cycle the better it is for me and the planet and my wallet and other drivers. According to the AA figures for diesel cars the running costs for a diesel car are between 20p/mile and 30p/mile, depending upon the size of car. This means if I can cut my driving from say 10,000 miles per year to 5,000 per year I get to save somewhere between £1,000 and £1,500. That isn’t bad and makes it easier to justify me buying the occasional bicycle ever few years. (Actually I reckon to save more motoring than that on a good year.) It would be even better if I got rid of the car, I could probably quadruple the saving!

I tend to use one bicycle for much of my general purpose cycling though – a Marin San Anselmo: shown here. I can’t quite remember how long I have had it and as is the habit of cycle manufacturers it has changed over the years. Mine was the second one the first got stolen from Cambridge Railway Station one night. With the power of desktop search I can track down the age – the first one was stolen in September 2004. So this one will be around 7.5 years old.

As you can see it dates from the era of straight “tubes” and has had a few extras, and replacements. Both wheels have been replaced several times, the seat post has been replaced and it has a Brompton saddle. Or rather all this needs to be in the past tense. The seat tube developed a crack and to my surprise when I took it along to Ben Hayward Cycles they indicated that it would be covered by the Marin frame warranty and I would get a new frame. Less than a week later and they had moved all the old bits onto the new frame. Now that is service – well done to Ben Hayward Cycles and Marin – top notch customer service – I didn’t even have to ask.

So on Saturday I decided on a shake-down ride – not too adventurous, but not too easy either. It was partly to check out the bike and partly to get used to the slightly different riding position. As you might imagine they don’t hold stocks of old frames and they don’t make a men’s bike under this name at the moment so I got a close equivalent a San Rafael frame – also known as a City Bike, although the ones I have seen have front suspension.

My Old Marin San Anselmo 2004 bicycle and no more!

There were two reasons I wanted to try out the bike. I had noticed that the bike behaved quite differently when I popped to the local shop for a newspaper that morning. When I took one hand of the handlebars it caused me to swerve quite heavily. I had also developed a spot on the sole of my foot, at first |I though it was a bruise but it made walking unpleasant, but was not where the pedal pushed against my foot so seemed ok for cycling.

So here is my route – it started off with a gentle ride along NCN51 towards Wicken, however when I got to Lode I decided to try out some flat bridleway/byway routes, or rather try the bike out on some tracks. I then just carried on in that vein really switching between road and track. despite my earlier concerns about the handling it didn’t seem to be a problem in the end. In fact it was a joy to get out on my bike and just cycle here and there.

Here is the map of my route – and here is the Bike Route Toaster link. It was 56Km in length/35 miles and flat – well this is the flatlands after all.

A map of my ride around Quy, Cottenham, Over and Histon and back to Cambridge

After heading past Anglesey Abbey along the route of the old railway line (Cambridge to Mildenhall) I turned off along The Drove Way – this track in the picture. Although there were some damp patches it was pretty dry, it won’t be long before this turns green.

The Drove Way – near Allicky Farm, Quy

As it happens the bike felt fine, with both hands on the bars, straightaway and having only just been “rebuilt” was pretty much silent with no squeaks and rattles. It was rather pleasant to be cycling away from the roads. As it was Saturday I was also catching up with the weeks Archers podcast and as I cycled down past Allicky Farm the story line featured a helicopter flying in to take pictures of Ambridge. Now I have recently gotten a new MP3 player – Cowon S9 it is quirky, but has excellent battery life (55 hours music) and excellent sound quality. As I was cycling along I couldn’t stop myself from looking up to see if there was a helicopter overhead – despite me knowing that one featured in the program.

So having stopped along the track and took a picture of a green field and puffy white clouds in the blue sky. Although it wasn’t terribly warm it was great cycling weather.

A green field, blue sky and white clouds near Allicky Farm, Quy

After passing under the pylons and turning up the field I was a little surprised to see a car driving down towards me. As this was a bridleway there is no right of way for motor vehicles so I assume that they were associated with the farm?

After cycling along the edge of the field I reached the track and fields of oil seed rape rapidly coming into flower.  This is the view along the track to Horningsea.

Yellow fields on the Way to Horningsea on the Harcamlow Way

The yellow fields seemed to stretch on for miles.

Yellow fields on the Way to Horningsea on the Harcamlow Way

As the track nears the main road it passes over a small stream/drainage ditch. I rather liked the way the channel snaked up between the crops of Oil Seed Rape. The field on the left looks as if it was drilled slightly later than the one on the right. (This is the view North).

More Yellow fields on the Way to Horningsea on the Harcamlow Way

And this is the view South the ditch didn’t seem to have any water in it, although I didn’t look all that closely. As you can see Oil Seed Rape has been planted in these two fields as well.

Even more Yellow fields on the Way to Horningsea on the Harcamlow Way

After reaching the road I headed up to Clayhithe on the B1047. Regrettably I found myself waving in annoyance at a fellow road-user coming the other way.  A guy (yes male) in a black Mercedes had decided to overtake a line of cars and either didn’t seem me, thought there was room or that he would make it back onto his side of the road. I did see him and didn’t think he would make it or that there was room and had to cycle onto the verge to escape. It is that sort of stupidity or ignorance or arrogance (take you pick) that deters people from cycling along what should be a pleasant country road – it is a B road.

No amount of cycling training makes that sort of encounter anything other than highly unpleasant. I knew I could get out the way – but it shouldn’t happen. The trouble is a;though they don’t usually end in tears when contact is made it can be very serious. I cycle between The Wilbrahams and Bottisham from time to time and was not surprised to read about this “Careless driver fined for injuring cyclist in collision”. He overtook a cyclist on the brow of a hill (the A14 bridge)  and a “van came flying over the top” and there was a “low afternoon sun”.

He pulled in and said  “I touched the cyclist with my mirror and she fell”. She suffered a fractured skull and memory loss and is still feeling the effects 6 months later and is awaiting an X-ray of her neck.

I do feel that there needs to be a general improvement in the way cyclists are treated by motorists, but I feel it has gotten worse. So it is no surprise that shared-use paths such as this alongside the River Cam are so welcome and in use. I would imagine that these two are having a reset and will head back the way they came. As I stopped to take this picture a family with youngish kids (on bikes) looked as if they were popping into the pub – The Bridge.

Whilst I consider the path alongside the River Cam safe there does seem to be concern about the Swan nicknamed Mr Asbo again, although he seems to be attacking rowers not cyclists. (The piece does attract a similar number of comments as a cycling story though.)

Cyclists resting on NCN11 by the River Cam

At that point I also switched to the shared use path, even for the short bit heading into Waterbeach. It isn’t the widest of paths, but I don’t tend to see many people walking along it either. It is rather nice to see the Spring leaf though.

NCN11 – just before Waterbeach Railway Station

Unfortunately the path ends at the Waterbeach Railway Station Car park – as you can see even on a Saturday the bike park bit was reasonably well used. There is space though, in Cambridge there are calls for a third bike park for the city, anybody who doesn’t believe it only needs to check out the usage of the first two and how many bikes there are still having to be parked on railings and the like.

Cycle parking at Waterbeach Railway Station

After passing the Station the route took me along Station Road – which tends to have quite a few cars parked along it – which restricts the width to one lane.  Unsurprisingly a car swept past me in then swerved back in front of me before we reached the thinner bit. Did it speed his journey – well no because he had to wait at the corner where there was another line of parked cars. He did hold me up though as I could had stayed within my lane and carried on past the line of cars if I’d wanted to. (Mind you I would have had to keep a sharp eye out for doors being opened in my path.

After that I headed over to Landbeach and then up through the village past All Saints Church to head over to Cottenham. I did stop to take a picture of their unusual and tall water pump though. (Also found on the Village Pumps website.)

Landbeach Village Pump

And having stopped I then took a picture of All Saints Church in Landbeach. A bit of a cop out on the name – can’t decide which Saint – well let be all of them then.


All Saints Church, Landbeach

As this point I thought I would head over to Cottenham, although an alternative would have been to head down the Mere Way byway towards Cambridge – but it was just too nice to stop cycling now and the bike felt fine.

As I took a few pictures this ride has been split into three parts – so parts 2 and 3 to follow…


  1. Swaffham Bulbeck CyclistApril 17, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    Hi JME- Completely agree about Ben Hayward cycles- I use their Horningsea shop as it's not far from me here and a pleasant trip across the fen to get there. They are always brilliant and enormously helpful.

    I'm off to Cornwall next week to start what will hopefully become a Lejog- not sure if this will work but my route is here http://www.cyclechat.net/threads/lejog-starts-next-week.100180/ (from a post I left on a cycle forum). They have proper hills there and I'm not sure if I'm up to it. I can get over Reach Lode Bridge without stopping though so hopefully I'll be fine!

    I think I passed you yesterday as you were leaving Swaffham B - hope to catch up again soon.
    All the best SBC.

    1. Hi SBC,

      It looks wonderful. I opened all the maps at once and along with the other 30 odd web pages open it made my computer crawl almost to a halt. It brings back memories of when I did LeJog, 10 years ago. My tip is pack some sudocrem.

      Will you blog it or perhaps Twitter it? If you do then let me know your Twitter name. I found the first couple of days hard going and after that it was fine. And just think how easy it will be cycling around the Flatlands of Cambridgeshire when you get back :-)

      Have a great trip and may the winds be in your favour.


  2. Hi JME
    Thanks for the tip! I'm not on twitter but will update what is a very amateurish attempt at a blog as and when I can! (See if you can recognise the location of the main pic!) http://gileslejog2012.blogspot.co.uk/