Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A cycle loop to Ely and my 1st puncture for a while pt 1

Saturday, 7th April 2012: I know this is a bit late – but I did mention in an earlier Post that holidays make it harder for me to cycle – unless it is a cycling holiday. And this one wasn’t.

There is some good news and some bad news. I mentioned in my last post that I discovered a crack in the seat tube of my Marin San Anselmo. I popped it back to Ben Hayward Cycles, and they confirmed that it was cracked. They also checked when I had bought it and said it might  well be covered by the Frame Warranty. To cut a long story short it was. A replacement frame has been sent to Ben Hayward and I should have my bike tomorrow (Thursday).

I have seen the frame, it is darker than the one it replaces – but hey – that is great no quibble service. The bad news – well I had talked myself into looking at new bikes.  So no new bike – but excellent service from both Ben Hayward and Marin.

Talking of good news and bad news – well it seems that petrol is still going up in price – “…as petrol hits £1.50…”. The good news is that cycling is a sure fire way of cutting your petrol and gym costs. Perhaps it is even time to think more radically and sell the car? Although I personally am OK with just using my car infrequently at the moment.  If that is really to hard – then why not just drive more carefully and become a hyper-miler!If that sounds too difficult why not a half and halfer – park and ride.

You don’t need to replace the car, or get a fancy MPG readout – here are some tips – the author went from 50 mpg to 65 mpg – or to put it another way assuming 10,000 miles a year at £1.5/litre which is £6.83/gallon. So that is around £1,366 driving badly or £1,051, a saving of £315 or 23%. So why don’t we all do it? As a cyclist and pedestrian I would certainly welcome calmer roads and as a driver I would as well.

The trouble is we have all been sold on cars as the fastest way to get around. As a lad I used to check out the top speeds on cars – although my flawed approach was to look at the highest speed on the speedometer – well I was a young lad at the time.

Although this post is not about the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) just after I had written and published my post with pictures of the CGB it gets two mentions in the press. The first suggests that the “Guided bus court case won’t start until 2014”. They are going through disclosure at the moment, or edisclosure.

The second bit of CGB news relates to a school bus – “Busway sparks new fight for school bus”. Apparently School Authorities (Cambs rules here) allow pre-16 year-olds free bus transport if they live more than three miles from their secondary school (2 for primary schools). Also the three mile route must be reasonable.  (Such is the case for pupils travelling from Milton to Impington. There is a cycleway being built along Butt Lane, but it is not of sufficient width and so the “free” school bus will not be withdrawn.) Now that seems a little bit crazy, they are building a cycleway, but it doesn’t meet the “safety” rules and so the County will still foot the bill for the school bus as well. That tells me we aren’t really serious about building cycle routes in Cambridge.

In this case it would seem that the addition of the CGB Cycleway has brought the safe distance to less than 3 miles. Interestingly the news item even refers to the Cycleway as the “maintenance track” – which hardly sells it at all.

My kids are adults (well over 18 anyway) which makes it more difficult for me to try and empathises with the good citizens of Oakington. Here is the OSM streetmap of the area (although WLW doesn’t actually show it, so I will need to check it after publishing").

View Larger Map

The map shows the area and here are Cyclestreets suggestions. The distances are between 2.5 and 3 miles in length and the journey times vary between 15 to 20 minutes. (When I was at my secondary school the distance was 1.5 miles although somewhat hillier.)

So my initial reaction is that it is perfectly reasonable to expect kids to cycle between the villages. Indeed I wonder whether the issue is one of: perceived safety from either traffic or predatory adults, outrage at the loss of a free service or concern as to what the kids might be up to when out of sight for so long?

Let’s face it cycling to school is not as popular as it once was, even here in Cambridge where visible steps are being taken parents are not keen.  According to this Post from Cyclists in the City cycling to schools in London is on the decline. (Note the link he refers to has been moved and is this pdf I think – “Cycle to School A review of school census and Bikeability delivery data march 2012”  (is it just me or does the Government info seem to bounce around from place to place?). Check out Table 3.2 on page 6. The average mode share for cycling for the journey to school has  from from 1.9% in ‘06/’07 up to a high of 2.02% in ‘/07/’08 back to 1.97% for ‘10/’11. Here in the East it has gone from 3.3% up to 3.8% and was 3.6% last year. To put that into context in Denmark he (C in the C) suggests that in Denmark 55% of children cycle to school.

Rather disturbingly ROSPA’s review of “The Safety of School Transport” (pdf April 2003 rev) concludes that:

“casualty statistics indicate that fewer casualties occur to children traveling to and from school in PSV vehicles than amongst those who walk or are driven in cars.”

Our roads aren’t safe take to the buses!

As another “data point” – “On call 24/7: How parents spend 25 days a year ferrying their children around”. Apparently the survey indicated that “one third of mothers and fathers told the survey they spend between 10 and 49 hours behind the wheel every month bringing each of their children to school and social activities”. Phew – that is a fair bit of time and cost.(around £60 according to the AA).

So it was refreshing to also read to day that the National Trust has commissioned a report to get more kids visiting trust properties get out and about. (Me cynical?). I rather like the bucket list of things to do before you are 11¾ though. The interesting thing is that I probably did most of those things with my friends rather than my parents – not because my parents were stingy – but because they gave my brother and me our freedom to explore. Although we sometimes got told off – muds slides don’t always go down well with mums. Also we didn’t have geocaches when I was a lad, we did carry sheath knives for our “forest explorations” though. without even thinking much about it I have a couple of things to add to the list: make a throwing arrow and make a tree house. To be fair I probably did some of the stuff when I was a bit older as well – and also we didn’t have much “elf and safety”.

I must get on with talking about the ride – but first a picture.  We have a drought here in the East – although the aforementioned residents of Oakington might not have thought so with a road filled with water for hours. A quick reminder our some of our Water Companies also have responsibility for sewage as well – well Sea too dirty to swim in after heavy rain. suggests that things might not be too good on that front either.

Round here with so much agriculture the farmers have to work around those issues. Here is a field being irrigated near Padney.

Field being irrigated near Padney

And here is the map of my ride, I followed a reasonably standard route although cycled on the track around Barway rather than take the road. It does not seem to be a right of way but does have a Sustrans 11 sign on at least on pole along it. It runs alongside Soham Lode. Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link. It is 70Km and rises to 7 metres above sea level and sinks to 3 metres below sea level. I also managed to cycle along a byway that I haven’t been along before.

As you can see I didn’t start taking pictures until I got to Soham Lode – this is the view looking back along the track towards  Goose Fen Drove, I was standing on the bridge in the link. The bridge in the background is the one the road NCN11 route takes. One of the things I like about this time of year is the fresh green colour of the new leaves. A quick check on the Sustrans map doesn’t show this alternate route though.

Soham Lode

As Barway Bridge is one of the high spots, at 5m above sea level, I took a few pictures. Here is some more irrigation equipment set up and ready to roll. You can see the big feeder pipes laid alongside it. In the background is the Ely to Cambridge railway line.

Cambridge to Ely Railway Line, near Barway

Also at this time of year – in fact any time of year when the crops need water you can hear the chug of the diesel water pumps – like this one – with the exhaust just visible.

An irrigation pump, near Barway

And from the same vantage point a little way down the track was this old boy – he was metal detecting and seems to have detected something and was digging it out. I didn’t hang around to see what he had discovered though.

Metal Detecting – near Barway

After Barway the route continues off-road firstly along farm tracks and then along a tarmac path at the top of the bank alongside the River Great Ouse. At this point the route becomes the Fen Rivers Way which is a walk from Cambridge to Kings Lynn. Up ahead was the A142 – the route into Ely from Newmarket. This is the A142 crossing the River Great Ouse. There is a Marin at Ely and as I went by there were two boats passing under the bridge.

A quick look at Cathedral Marina, Ely and  there are quite a few boats available from a Wide Narrowboat at £110,000 with others more like the one in the picture. If you fancy living on a river then read this article on “Living life on the Cam”. It is not as cheap as you might think, mooring fees have risen by 7% a year whilst at the same time there is a freeze on council tax. Apparently it costs more in fees for living on a boat than a family would pay in Council Tax. (It is hardly free-loading as some might think!)

There doesn’t appear to be a huge amount of clearance under the bridge – the speed limit as you pass under and the bridge head into Ely is 4mph.

A boat under the A142 bridge on the River Great Ouse

And here is the second boat – the guy is wearing a yellow inflatable jacket and a Top Hat and appears to be speaking into a microphone it must be a river tour. Using the power of the Internet here it is – it is the Liberty Belle. According to this link there are regular 30 minute cruises at £5 for adults and £3.5 for children.

The Liberty Belle under the A142 bridge on the River Great Ouse

After that I headed down the shared use path to Stuntney and then just beyond the turn to Barway, which I usually take and instead down a byway. It appears on the map as Ely Lane and connects the Ely Road to Soham Cotes on the edge of Soham.

I was hoping to get a reasonable picture of Ely Cathedral, but there was stuff in the way. The telegraph pole is on the road into Barway.

I did pass a Land Rover Discovery coming the other way – so indicated the path was reasonably passable.

I also found that this byway has yet to make it onto the OSM Streetmap.

Ely Cathedral from Ely Lane byway

And it was, except that there had been some recent hedging and there were quite a few bits of spiky twig along the way. At this point it crossed my mind that I haven’t had a puncture for quite a while – no I am not superstitious, but what a stupid thing to think. As I reached the road the smell of a chicken farm greeted me.

As I cycled into Soham there was a tick-tick sort of noise coming from the back wheel – oh flip, probably a thorn. I stopped and checked the rear tyre – yep, there was a thorn sticking out of the tyre. Now what I normally do is pull the thorn out and then seconds later regret it as the tyre hisses and deflates. So this time, I thought I would just cut the thorn but leave the spiky bit in the tyre. I was hoping that it would not work its way in any further, and so act like a slow puncture rather than a fast one.

Hopefully I would then make it to a seat somewhere in Soham and be able to fix it at my leisure.

Ely Lane Byway, heading to Soham Cotes

As it happened I made it through Soham without the tyre getting softer and so decided to take the byway/bridleway route through to Wicken and then I would be able to fix my tyre and have a drink at the Wicken Fen cafe…

So I headed along through Soham over Horse Bridge and down Mill Drove and over the level crossing. All the while being hype-sensitive to any perceived squidginess coming from the back tyre.

I was hoping not to find myself down a muddy byway with a flat tyre – fixing a flat tyre is a nuisance, fixing a muddy tyre with mud and grass around is tedious – at least it wasn’t raining.

As I cycled to the end of the straight bit of Bracks Drove it was fine. Even when I got of the bike and bounced it. (An old Policeman’s trick I was told – it is no substitute for proper maintenance but you either here that something is loose or the bike doesn’t bounce properly and something is probably not right.

Having stopped I took this picture of a dandelion clock. It never ceases to amaze me – one minute it is winter, then spring comes around and suddenly the dandelions are in flower one day and seeding the next.

A Dandelion Clock on Bracks drove near Soham

I also took a picture of the top of the church tower of St Andrew’s Church  looking out over the trees.

St Andrew’s Church Tower – Soham

And still the tyre was staying inflated. by now I was wishing I had taken the thorn out, but it probably had worked its way in and so if I took it out now it would actually start deflating.


  1. Another route I have tried is 20p road - wilburton - witchford - Ely. I live in North Cambridge and hence Histon Rd is my first choice of getting out of Cambridge. With that said, it would be brilliant if 'people in power' can put an underpass at the A14 Histon Junction through Cambirdge Rd just like the one at Newmarket Rd/ Quy junction for us cyclists!

    1. After Wilburton I sometimes go through Wentford and Coveney and follow the National Byway route into Ely.

      An off-road option is to go over to the Aldreth Causeway and up to Haddenham.