Saturday, April 28, 2012

My new/old bike is almost ready for service–just the crash test to perform

Sunday, 22nd April 2012:  Oops, a quick confession, I got the date, it should have been Saturday the 21st, ah well wrong in my last sequence of posts. I won’t go back and change them now.

I am practically a week late in writing up this post – a good job it is not meant to be topical news.  As I sit here the rain has been drizzling all morning although when I cycled down to buy a newspaper it was barely a sprinkle. If it rains I normally wear a coat and take a plastic bag to keep the newspaper from getting wet. I did neither and so cycled home holding the newspaper behind my back. It did the trick and such is my “oneness” with my new/old hybrid bike (aka Maisie Marin) I managed not to fall off either.

I must admit to reading the Time with a feeling of Christmas was I was a young lad. Why, well they had a feature – The Wild Cycling Guide, 20 great routes through Britain’s most beautiful countryside – just the ticket, new places to explore. Unfortunately it felt like I’d been given a pair of socks by an aged Great Aunt. You’ve guessed it the great Flatland of East Anglia (well Cambridgeshire) doesn’t have sufficiently beautiful countryside. Which isn’t true – but in a conventional sense I know what they mean, what’s worse we seem to be blighting bits and pieces all over.

It isn’t the Times fault though and I feel that there focus on Cycling  is a good thing, although it will take a lot to change the middle-aged male stereotypical thinking of some of those in power. Which either blatantly misunderstands what cycling can be or even when it involves someone who cycles errs on the macho side. I really enjoy the Josie Dew series of books and would recommend them to anyone looking for a bit of cycling inspiration. Indeed they gave me the inspiration for my somewhat less adventurous cycling tours (Bangkok to Saigon and India and LeJog). So I was interested to read the Cycling Lawyers take on the Transport Select Committee with input from Jon Snow and Josie Dew. If nothing else read his last sentence and no Josie  is still with us – but she embodies much of what cycling is really about.

Talking about inspiration here are some cycle trips to be inspired by: The Long Ride Home, King’s Cross to York and Cambridge to York (perhaps you can tell what I am thinking of doing!)

It does mean that as I look at these pictures from last weekend I would prefer random showers to continuous rain – at least when cycling. Still I must get out, I need some fresh air after lunch.  My son and his girlfriend are cooking us all breakfast burritos, although technically it is lunchtime, well mine anyway. I suppose as they have just gotten up it is their breakfast time.

Although I don’t provide a topical analysis of cycling related matters, here are some of the things that have caught my attention in the news recently. Apparently “Cambridgeshire tops crime fighting league table” – it must be all the crackdowns we have. Such as this “Police arrest 70 bike thieves in crackdown” which also informs us of crackdowns on “innumerable” cyclists

Whilst on the subject of crime Speeding drivers escape punishment in city’s 20mph zone shows just how car orientated we are.  Reading the article is like reading an excuse-fest. The issue is getting motorists to obey the 20mph speed limit along Maid’s Causeway.  The article reads as if the police really don’t believe in a 20mph limit giving many reasons such as the need for sped humps or education or larger signs or better speed guns or 2-MPH speed awareness course…   I suppose that it is tough enough catching criminals doing bad things whereas catching people doing anti-social things just earns them grief.  After all aren’t laws suppose to reflect the will of the people – without of course being unfair to minority groups.

It would appear that since I have started writing this Post the issue has mutated to “Police cast doubt on 20mph limit’s future” because speeding is the “norm rather than the exception”, a police chief said. Whilst that might be the case it is a rather dangerous and political argument for a police officer to make.  If, as so many commenters to cycle-related stories on the Cambridge News seem to think, cyclists jumping red lights is the norm does that mean there is another law that can be ignored. It would seem that any laws about vehicles parking in cycle lanes get ignored – and a lot of drivers seem to ignore the Highway Codes advice about driving carefully around vulnerable road users.

I wonder if perhaps the time has come to split the policing of the roads from the activities of catching criminals. Apparently “Staffordshire police officers crash their vehicles 48 times in a year – in their own CAR PARKS” but according to the article they number of accidents have dropped. It would seem that one of the problems is with Police stations often in town centres and with the increase in motor vehicle dependency they just don’t have the space to easily park all of their vehicles.

Which leads into Council ‘holding things up over parking problems’ apparently cars are clogging up the roads in Queen Edith’s and Coleridge and causing the residents problems. Whilst the roads are public it does seem that we often feel that if we live in a particular area then we should have preferential benefits – such as parking.

The ultimate argument in favour of better and more and wider roads always seems to be one of how beneficial it would be to the (local) economy. Yet more roads encourage more wasteful behaviour. A friend who runs a haulage company told me that since the concept of just-in-time struck then his trucks run less full. So “optimising” the use of time de-optimises other factors such as fuel efficiency.

Mind you this is the sort of job I would like – researching pubs.

Anyways – on to my cycle ride, once again dodging the showers as I cycled around Horningsea and Wicken Fen. I took my usual route – but this time cycled along Harrison’s Drove into Wicken Fen for a change.

My picture-taking started after turning off High Ditch Road onto Low Fen Drove Way and I was on the bridge over the A14. In the flatlands the bridges make for good vantage points. I didn’t look for any syringes this time – but syringe finds have been happening in Haverhill recently. This is the view looking back over the fields to Fen Ditton. The hedgerow on the other side of the yellow field follows the line of the old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway line.

Looking from Low Fen Drove Way towards Fen Ditton

The distance on the Bike Route Toaster Link is not precise as I got the route slightly wrong I took a slightly different route after the Lodes Way bridge of Swaffham Bulbeck Lode. It isn’t that different though. The route is around 54Km/34 miles it is still flat and pretty quiet – you do see a few cyclists though – don’t forget to wave.  Fell free to stop me and have a chat – I’ll probably be listening to my MP3 player – but don’t let that stop you.

Map of My ride around Horningsea and Wicken Fen

This is the view to the North of the bridge towards Horningsea again over yellow fields – stretching for some distance. You can of course see the pylons marching from Burwell to Cambridge and beyond.

Looking from Low Fen Drove Way towards Horningsea

About halfway around Low Fen Drove Way, after crossing the track of the Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line (now a private road). I stopped to take yet more pictures of yellow fields, blue skies and white clouds.

Yellow Fields from Low Fen Drove Way, Cambridge

Along the drainage ditches between two yellow fields were three deer foraging for food. They didn’t hang around waiting for me to take my camera out of my bag but did run along the gap before diving into one of the fields and then disappearing.

Deer between two Yellow Fields, near Low Fen Drove Way, Cambridge

This is the same view from without the zoom, you can’t see the deer in the field on the right, well I can’t anyway.

Invisible Deer between two Yellow Fields, near Low Fen Drove Way, Cambridge

At the end of Low Fen Drove Way, just before it reaches the Fen Ditton Horningsea Cycleway, the avenue of trees along Biggin Lane were showing a lot more leaf than last week. I do like the first signs of Spring, but forget just how spread out the “coming into leaf” season is.

Biggin Lane, Avenue of Trees (near Fen Ditton)

After that I cycled up through Horningsea, using the cycleway until it came to an end. Then shortly after passing through the village I turned off along a bridleway to Lode. Just after passing Allicky Farm I stopped to take a picture of some red cowslips in the drainage ditch alongside the track.

Red Cowslips in a drainage ditch near Allicky Farm, Cambs

And this is the drainage ditch in question where the majority of the cowslips are the more usual yellow colour. The track is to the right.

Yellow Cowslips in a drainage ditch near Allicky Farm, Cambs

Although we seem to have had a lot of rain it has been intermittent and fairly light rain so the track across to the village Lode (the old aforementioned railway track) was not too bad for cycling – although I did pay more attention to the puddles that have collected. Harvey’s Droveway at the very end was its usual muddy, rutted and puddled self. This is one of the delights of the countryside – getting away from traffic. This is the continuation of Harvey’s Droveway I think.

Two Horse riders and their dog on Harvey's Droveway, Lode

Once I reached Lode I joined the Lodes Way heading in the Wicken Fen direction. As I was reaching the end of White Fen Droveway/Sandy Road I noticed a burnt out car along one of the tracks that runs perpendicular to Lodes Way so I went back to have a look. The track doesn’t have a name but is just about where White Fern Drove jinks off to become White Fen Drive Way and Lodes Way follows Sandy Road – but straight on.

Burnt out car near White Fen Drove, Lode

A closer look suggests that this was burnt out further up the track, or at least somewhere else. You can’t see any signs of scorching where the sits – although it has been completely burnt out.

Burnt out car near White Fen Drove, Lode

After that detour I headed back along through White Fen, stopping briefly to admire the work of the volunteers who sorted out the mulch mats – between 1,000 and 1,500

White Fen, with newly sort mulch mats

I then cycled over the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode and a short way along the track to go round the back of Highbridge Farm. On the OS map the leg of the track heading to the farm is called Rail Drove. A common crop around here at the moment is turf – quite a lot gets grown and “harvested”. On the second leg of the detour was a field mid-harvest. 

Turf being Harvested near Highbridge Farm, Swaffham Prior

This is the track I took the last picture from, the turf harvesting was taking place on the right hand side. There is another field of turf on the left hand side. This track can sometimes get a bit rutted – these are working route for the farming operations – but it was fine this time around.

Turf being grown near Highbridge Farm, Swaffham Prior

At this point I thought as I hadn’t been up Harrison’s Drove for a while I would give it a go. It is a track through Wicken Fen and consequently suffers from drainage problems. It is also used by the NT for their operational management of Wicken Fen – they drive vehicles along it.  So it can get pretty bad. In places there are muddy bits that have had some form of underlay put down to help protect the track from erosion.

One thing about the activities of the NT, it has improved the interest in the Fens around here and the number of visitors has increased. Let’s hope that the appreciation of the countryside also drives an understanding of the need to protect it.

I should have realised that being a Sunday there might be more than the average number of visitors. Normally at most I see one or two people along this track. At the weekend I might see 5 or 6. This time there we 30-odd people. There was one group of 20 or so who, I deduce from observation of their behaviour, don’t know what to do when a middle-aged bloke comes puffing up behind then ringing his bell.

The ideal in such circumstances is they move to one or the other side, sometimes they will part down the middle. Occasionally I get some dog walker who wants to show me how well behaved their dogs are under voice control. (Not enough – some will chase my back wheel arghh.)  This group seemed to want to cross the track in front of me – some going one way, some going the other. They were more like panicking sheep.  Here is what the track looks like – I was not tearing along the track and do not have an air horn on my bile – just a single ting bell, although I quite like the idea having just looked at them.

I did say thank you once I had gotten through – crowd behaviour can’t be blamed on the individual. I was also quite pleased with my balance – the ruts in the picture might not look tricky but they are not that easy either. In fact I was so pleased that I had gotten through without dabbing a foot down that I decided I ought to to a crash test of my new frame.

I put my left foot down to stop, it rolled and twisted on a rock and it was either crunch my ankle or fall off – so I fell off.  I am getting better at rolling off and so the only thing that was hurt was my pride – still good to know I can do an unplanned and rapid demount onto my back from my new/old bike. And as you do you then think up a little rhyme.

I’d cycled down the road and I’d pedalled up the track
It wasn’t ‘til I stopped that I tumbled on my back

Harrison’s Drove – Wicken Fen – a rutted bridleway

After that excitement I cycle up the bank of Wicken Lode taking care not to test my bike again, although I could have wheeled up and rolled over onto my bike to amuse the walkers some more. Fortunately I really am getting the hang of the slightly different handling of my new frame. There was quite a substantial tree to the left of the lode and to the right if the post in the ground. It has been chopped down – I suppose to protect the integrity of the Lode-bank. I still think it is a shame when healthy trees get cut down. We seem to have so many trees under siege in the UK at the moment.

Wicken Lode

As I cycled along the bank taking care not to get my front wheel deflected by a rabbit hole and then into the Lode for an early bath.  I was able to test my rapid flying insect extraction and cycle handling skills. though.

I think I mentioned that when I got my bike back, with its new frame, the first time I indicated to turn right the bike swerved about as my left hand seemed to exert more pressure on the handlebars and there was no counter-balance form my indicating right hand. Well this time as I instinctively reached up to pull the thing buzzing in my mouth out despite being on a bumpy mud bank the steering hardly twitched.

It was a good job I didn’t tumble into the Lode as I would have been run over. There was a boat coming down from Reach Lode.

Boat on Wicken Lode

Although to be fair it wasn’t all that close and I wasn’t that close to the edge.

A boat navigating Wicken Lode

I passed a couple on their bikes who had stopped for a picnic, I didn’t think to see whether they were hire bikes (from the NT) or their own. This is the view from the Wooden “CockUp” bridge where Wicken Lode meets Reach Lode. It is strange how on the OSM Standard map the smaller Wicken Lode appears as a thick line a couple of millimetres thick and the wider Reach Lode is around 0.2mm thick – not intuitive. On the cycle map you can’t even see Reach Lode it has disappeared. .Although where it forks as Burwell Lode and Reach Lode – the Burwell Lode leg reappears. I would guess that (at least) two different people did the mapping.

Wicken Lode seen from Cockup Bridge, Reach Lode

Although it had sprinkled a few drops on me from time to time I pushed on a bit for the loop through to Upware and then back through Wicken Fen. Docking’s Lane was a lot more slippery than the last time.  It can be a bit disconcerting when you pedal, the rear wheel goes round and yet you don’t move forwards. You have to focus more on your balance as well as keeping the bike vertical to avoid the wheels slipping sideways – no dabs though.

There was rain around though and so I sped up back through Wicken and Wicken Fen. This is the rain behind me as I cycled along the stretch of Lodes Way between Newnham Drove and Reach Lode Bridge.

Rain over Adventurer’s Fen, near Wicken

I passed some cyclists as I cycled along Lodes Way but as it got lighter I decided I had escaped the rain and stopped for a drink at the picnic tables just after Swaffham Bulbeck Lode in White Fen.

Of course the cyclists I had passed then passed me – they had also seen the rain. So after swigging my drink I then re-overtook them and happed back.

Cyclists trying to beat the rain on White Fen, Lodes Way

By the time I got to Quy it was raining – although it wasn’t that far to go I figured I would shelter in the tunnel under the A14. When I got there another 8 or cyclists had also had the same idea. The thinking was that since it was more showers than prolonged rain it wouldn’t be long before the shower (quite strong shower) blew over and we could be on our way. It did, although I let others set off as I didn't quite trust the rain and they were wearing long trousers and I had shorts. I did set off a few minutes later and passed one of them group and then reached the group and was able to reassure them that their straggler hadn’t gotten lost.

Oops I nearly forgot, some pictures – a mystery Chinese sewer and the result of a nature photography competition.


  1. Great pics which I assume are HDR. What camera did you use and and what software to process them? Thanks.

  2. Hi,

    The Camera I generally use is a Lumix GH1, however my Sony DSC-W200 will also take bracketed pictures.
    The software I use is Photomatic Pro 5.1 - I am very pleased with it, despite having to pay money for it. (I generally try to use open software.) It is availabe from

    Hope that helps