Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Long Way to Wicken Fen, with a Long Lens part 1

Saturday, 30th March 2012: I like to carry a camera with me when I am out. When cycling I prefer to carry it on me rather than in my bike bag on the bike rack. That way the camera doesn’t get so rattled around – I think. It also means that I can get to my camera quicker if a picture presents itself. I do have a camera bag that goes on the handlebars – but I tend to only use that when touring. It is slightly better spring and probably protects the camera if I fall off – compared with carrying it on a strap around my neck.

The trouble is I am less inclined to carry around additional lenses for my Panasonic Lumix GH1 camera. Actually I only have two – a 14 – 140mm zoom and a 100 to 300mm lens. Which in 35mm speak would be 28-280 and 200-600mm. For some reason when I got my first SLR camera, a Canon AT-1 I coveted long zoom lenses, but they were always out of my reach. I did have a 50mm Canon lens, a Tamron 28mm lens and a Vivitar 70-210mm lens. The one I used the most was the 70-210 zoom, it was pretty good and I wanted to try an even longer lens. I guess I hadn’t quite twigged how a very long lens can be quite limiting.

All this means that  when I am cycling I tend not to carry my 100-300mm lens so much. It has its uses, no doubt, but is less flexible. So every now and then I make a point of taking it out. It does mean I have to think a little more about the pictures I want to take and I often find myself taking more than I would on a normal ride. Which is a long-winded way of explaining that although on a regular ride around Horningsea and Wicken Fen I have split the post into two.

I have also put the map picture second in the post as a picture looks more interesting than a map, I think, when seeing summaries of Posts. I am also going to try and label my pictures as I have found it tricky sometimes finding pictures in my Blog. I assume that Google Images associates nearby text with a picture. That kind of works but I have found some rather odd pictures popping up when searching my own Blog. There was a program run by Google to enlist people to use Google Image Labeller to label pictures as a game. I did try it once, but that was a few years ago – it ran from 2006 to 2011 according to the Wikipedia article.

So this ride started as a cycle around the Stow cum Quy fen area and then up to Wicken Fen. I do try to avoid following the same route every time though and since it has been dry I tried out a route I haven’t been on for a long time.

This is the start of the route out of Cambridge – Wadloes path (see Under Construction) it connects Howard Road with Fen Ditton High Street. Whilst it might look as if it is a mini-road to teach youngsters the highway code in their pedal cars the white lines do serve a purpose. As a shared-use path for cyclists and pedestrians it is rather narrow. In my view the white lines tend to encourage better sharing between pedestrians and cyclists. They also show up more when you cycle along here at night (with lights of course). I guess it is a bit shaded to make solar-powered led lights feasible.

Here is the Bike Route Taster map link to the map shown below, it is 54Km/34miles and hovers between 7 metres above sea level and  1m below sea level.

After passing through Fen Ditton I cycled down High Ditch Road to Low Fen Droveway and onto the A14 bridge. This is the view looking further down the track from the bridge. As I stood there there 4x4s cam zooming along – surprisingly fast for a road that has such potholes in it. They waved as they went by.

Apparently we do have a more general problem with our roads – which have been damaged by the drought. Apparently the County Council is asking for a hand-out emergency funding from the Government to the tune of £9.9million. I guess we will all have to drive and cycle more slowly until that happens. All things said and done I would rather my car got damaged than I got thrown off my bike though. Damage to wealth is better than damage to health (IMHO). The Fen areas have been worst affected – which doesn’t surprise me.

As I stood by the side of the bridge I also noticed some syringes discarded on the verge.  I suppose we should be grateful that the users had put caps on the end to minimise the risk of needlestick injuries. It makes me wonder who uses this bridge and when.

I cannot imagine that the syringes were left by walkers or pedestrians and are just another example of how motor vehicles cost society more than we might at first think. Now, clearly very, very few car drivers will also use syringes, but I do see a lot of general rubbish by the roadside. The A14 layby near the Crematorium (near Bar Hill) gets mentioned as an eyesore. Apparently the County Council spends £20,000 a year picking litter along the A14.  That is just wasted money paid out of our taxes and would be far better spent on public transport or care for the elderly. Unfortunately due to selfish and thoughtless behaviour it is a story repeated up and down the land.

After skirting around Snout’s Corner I came to a gate that blocks a bit of concrete path, next to the bridleway. It is normally closed – I wonder who opened it and left it open? As I cycled down towards the Horningsea Cycleway I noticed that the trees on Biggin Lane were just starting to come into leaf, with the ones nearest the road leading the way.

I have been getting a bit of creaking from my seat post/saddle area on my Marin and did remember to check it out before setting of. I re-greased the post which has quietened it down. I did notice what seems to be a deep scratch or crack at the top of the seat post. So I planned on calling into Ben Hayward Cycles to get their advice. They were busy so I carried on – it is the season to be cycling – no doubt about that and so some people’s thoughts turn to new bikes and I guess others turn to maintenance of older bikes.

When I turned off the road onto the bridleway to Lode I was amazed at how quickly the oil seed rape had come into flower. (According to Wikipedia it was grown in the 19th Century as a source of lubricant for steam engines.)

This is how responsible farmers ensure they don’t block rights of way. In this case it is a footpath leading off past Eye Hall Farm and on towards Bottisham Lode and the potential link between the River Cam NCN11 and Lodes Way.

This the bridleway route towards Lode. Better than some roads around these parts?

It as as I was taking pictures across the top of the yellow fields that I realised that I could see Swaffham Prior in the far distance. You can see one of the windmills, that water tower and some way off the the right of the picture one of the church towers.

This picture was supposed to focus on that prominent plant to the front and right. Apparently it is could be a volunteer or it might just be a rogue seed in the batch.

I am not sure whether it is just my poor memory – however I reckon that when I was growing up the tractor tracks in fields were more random. Nowadays they are set to ensure coverage with the various bits of equipment towed by the tractors in order to maximise yield .

This has to be one of the best bridleways around – although I am not sure I have actually seen any horses being ridden along it. Actually thinking about it the CGB cycleway is a bridleway for much of its length. That is probably the best one and is used by horse riders.

The route turns off down a field – well the cycle-able bit anyway. (From a right of way perspective). It seems to have acquired a new signpost – although perhaps we are preparing for war and the sign posts won’t actually be signed. This is where I turn right – Stow cum Quy Fen is straight on.

And this is the bridleway down the field that I shall be riding along. You can just about see two walkers at the bottom. There is a left turn towards Quy Fen there as well (for walkers). I carried on past Alicky Farm and the to Lode.

At Lode I joined the Lodes Way through to White Fen.  You can already see some trees coming into leaf  - the two smaller ones between the taller tress on the right hand side of the picture. The path is where Lodes Way wends through White Fen.

And just in case you didn’t see which trees I meant – here is a close-up – oh the joys of zoom lenses.

I ought to just point you at John’s blog – he is the Wicken Fen Vision Warden and has an update on the rough camping site being prepared near Oily Hall.

I usually turn off Lodes Way and head off to Upware, before looping back through Wicken Fen. Quite a few of the fields on Great Drove have been covered in “plastic”. I wonder how they decide which way they are going to plant their crops.

These are two separate fields – at least I think they are.

At the top of Great Drove I stopped, near the Little Chapel in the Fen. I tried out my panning skills when a furry two-headed rodent squirrel ran across the road. I definitely need more practice.

Where I grew up in Somerset is was our usual practice as boys to go off roaming around the countryside whenever we could. There is a lot to see and explore from potholes to gorges and old ruins. As boys were paid no attention whatsoever to footpaths and would roam across fields and climb fences. Most of the time we would obey “Private” signs, unless they happened to be randomly placed in the middle of nowhere.

It was also not unusual to see farmers out with their shotguns, both in organised shoots and presumably out to bag a rabbit for the pot. It was also not unusual to see where someone had taken a pot-shot at a road sign. I and a couple of friends also had a farmer wave his shotgun in our direction – the international sign for get lost – quickly I think.

Nowadays it would seem that as the UK has become more populated and there is more abhorrence of guns in general you rarely see much evidence of farmers out shooting. Although cover crops are grown around here and which I associated with cover for the rearing of game birds.

I was surprised to see that this road sign at the top of Great Drove had been shot (by someone using a shotgun). Judging by how little the pellets have spread whoever did it was pretty close. They were therefore likely to be using it form the road – which is illegal. Apparently this is a crime that is spreading – “shotgun-toting vandals a sign of trouble”. Here is a link to the website – Gunfire Graffiti -  which focuses on this particular type of crime.

As you can see not only is this a bumpy road is it also slippery.  (Here is my tale of hearing machine gun fire whilst out on a peaceful cycle ride.)


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