Saturday, 20th April 2012: Well here we are, the last post of this set. I think there are even more picture in this group. I did say that I find it hard to pick which pictures go into a post and which don’t. There is still one satellite dish picture but that is it, although I do finish with a helicopter. This leg of the ride goes through a Rifle Range – although not when in use.
I will start with a little bit of news – it has been rumoured that Raleigh were up for sale for a while – well it has been confirmed, it is to a Dutch Company.
Since I have been showing pictures of satellite dishes how about this for a camera – 32.billion-pixels. It will be used in the Larger Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile. If you follow the link, don’t make the mistake I did and think that is just a slightly larger than average lens. To the back and right of the first picture there is a man somewhat dwarfed by the lens.
As it is April I suppose we should expect April showers and that is certainly what we have been getting in the Flatlands and lots of them. It is welcome and whilst it won’t alleviate the drought I am sure the farmers welcome the rain at an important time for their crops. Apparently it could be the wettest April on record. Towards the bottom of the item there is a picture of the A14 in Cambridge with massively reduced visibility – although the cars seem to be driving far to closely for such conditions.
Tragically there have been quite a few accidents on the roads including a fatal accident at the M11/A14 junction. And also there has been the trial of a driver who went through a red light at DOUBLE the speed limit. It also resulted in the tragic death of a pedestrian. The driver was jailed for 43 months.
I know that the roads are safer than they used to be for cyclists, if you look back over time, but they feel as if they are getting more dangerous again for all road users. Which means the vulnerable road users are the ones that suffer more serious injuries. What is far worse though is that a Government Minister, entrusted with the responsibility for the Road Safety (Mike Penning) seems to have such a tenuous grasp how how to analyse safety data. He claimed that GB’s roads safer for cyclists than those in Netherlands. They are not safer in a meaningful way. In fact cyclists are significantly safer in the Netherlands. A level of safety that we should expect here in the UK.
So that is one reason I enjoy finding off-road routes, I also like the quiet of the countryside and you also see some interesting things – like satellite dishes. As I cycled along the Comberton Road I re-crossed the route of the Varsity Line. This is how it looks to the West. Services were withdrawn from the Bedford-Cambridge section in 1967, although not as a result of the Beeching Axe. So it is around 45 years since it was a railway line. What surprises me is how chunks of old railway line endure although not always unfortunately. Just think if someone had possessed the foresight to turn the old routes into cycle and walking routes how much better off we would be now.
One example that I remember is the cycle route through Glasgow – a hidden gem as you pass the old platforms. Of course the Bristol to Bath Cycle route is also an excellent example of old railway line re-use.
Looking West along the old Varsity Line from the Comberton Road
Here is a map of my route, which was a lot shorter than it felt. Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link, it is only 40Km long (25 miles) . It takes in a few bridleways though and a new (to me) one as well.
Map of my Ride around the Satellites of Cambridge
Of course I crossed the road to take a picture looking east towards the moving satellites. Once again it looked like I was managing to avoid the rain. If you zoom right into the picture directly along the track you can just about make out one of the satellite dishes pictured earlier.
Talking about re-using old railway lines it is a pity that this stretch between Lord’s Bridge and this bridge on the Comberton Road could not have been opened to cyclists and walkers.
Looking West along the old Varsity Line from the Comberton Road
This one was also featured in an earlier picture (I think). I propped the camera on the parapet, or rather I propped my elbows on the wall to hold the camera steady.
Yet another of the MRAO Satellite Dishes taken from Comberton Road
After the bridge the road changes its name to Royston lane and not long after passing over Fox’s Bridge, which carries the road over Bourn Brook I turned right onto a byway. There are two turns, one to Fox’s Bridge Farm and then the byway. All it really does is bypass Comberton. Although it looks like quite a hill the horizontal track is at 24/21m above sea level and the reaches the dizzy height of 28m so there is at most a 10m climb.
It also looked as if my luck was going to run out – there were some dark clouds ahead.
Looking North from a byway near Fox’s Bridge Farm, Comberton
The byway then passes the end of another byway – The Drift. This byway then turns into a footpath which seems a little odd. There appears to be rain to the east as well as the north.
Looking along the byway near Fox’s Bridge Farm, Comberton
The start of the Drift, as you can see is quite a track and in reasonable nick for cycling. I passed a family and a dog walker. The dog walker was very good at hanging on to her dog as I went past. That is what a 10m climb looks like. As you can see oil seed rape features in the agriculture around here as well.
The Drift – A byway near Comberton
As the drift nears Comberton the path narrows very slightly – it looks good in the spring with the new leaf and blossom in the hedgerow. If only there were more of these green lanes wouldn’t it be just wonderful.
The Drift – A byway near Comberton
After Comberton I cycled along the shared-use path towards Barton. It isn’t that wide and there were cyclists coming the other way – one – a granny didn’t seem to want to yield an inch (or cm) despite being well over on “my side”. Thinking about it perhaps her eyesight was a bit dodgy. She did more when she was closer.
Just before Barton and after the Barton Glebe Burial Ground I turned off along another byway to nowhere (probably curtailed by a rifle range). This one probably looks as if it might have reached Coton and indeed a look at an older map shows it as a white lane to Whitwell Farm. Fortunately there is a bridleway that intersects with a rifle range, which is shown as a Military area on the OSM streetmap but not on the OSM Cycle map.
There are some new, since the last time I cycled along here, sign boards. The route seems to be called Running Fox Walks (it is a bridleway as well though.) One of the reasons I like to learn a bit about the places I visit is that the maps sometimes omit interesting details. If you follow the link the Byway to nowhere, but was once to Whitwell Farm, is called Whitwell Drift, no surprise but still nice to know. The board gives even more info – “Whitwell is an ancient, well name, referring to a pre Christian White Goddess.
Sidehill Spinney, Running Fox Walks – Burwash manor Farm
I cycled from points 11 to 9 on the map past Side Hill, next time I must look out for the meadow flowers on the edge of Side Hill.
The Old Forest, Running Fox Walks – Burwash manor Farm
And this is a view looking back the way I came along Side Hill. The bridleway is on the other side of the hedge.
Side Hill, Running Fox Walks – Burwash manor Farm
There is then a slightly surreal cycle through the Barton Road Rifle Range, I’ve never been up here when it is in action. It looks as if they have sentries on the bridleway at each end to stop people going through when it is in use. I do check to make sure there are no rifles point at me. According to the link the range featured in the film Full Metal Jacket. the bridleway takes you to the Granchester Road and I headed left towards Coton and then turned off into the CPRE Coton reserve. Which has concrete “tracks” like this. You can also quite easily see the cranes of Cambridge in the background.
Concrete Tracks through the Coton Reserve
You can also park you bike here and walk as two cyclists did just as I arrived. On the 10th of May there is a guided walk with the Farmer.
Noticeboard and Cycle Parking Coton Reserve (Grantchester Road)
As I was cycling along it occurred to me that I had not really completed all my installation tests on Maisie – the name for my old/new hybrid Marin. I really needed to see what the bike felt like on ice, the trouble is it is not that time of year. Ideally such tests should also occur when I am least expecting it. Well the bike passed with flying colours and fortunately I didn’t do any flying.
As I cycling along the concrete track the front wheel “went light”. It doesn’t actually get any lighter but the contact with the ground reduces, as if it was slightly raised. This was just as I was supposed to be turning. I managed to stop myself from turning the steering, because the front wheel would have just washed out and I would have fallen off. I did touch the rear brake and yes the rear wheel skidded – the bike reacted as one might expect. You can just about tell from the tracks where the skids occurred.
Well the good news is that when something untoward happens the bike behaves well, but I can’t help feel that the change of balance makes it seem a bit more sensitive to slippery conditions. I will be glad when the testing phase ends – all that is left is a crash test, I’ll have to look for a suitable dummy.
Slippery, muddy tracks on the Coton Reserve
As I reached the Coton cycleway there were some notices declaring the last bit between the road and the track a bridleway – better late than never I suppose. The Streetmap version of the OS shows it as being connected up until the bridge over the M11, but the track on the University side dhows as a footpath and off-road cycle track. I can’t say I fully understand the legal implications behind the different rights of way for cyclists.
The Schlumberger Building, Cambridge, I have been past this build a few times and always meant to take a picture – but despite its interesting shape not really felt the aspect was right. In the end you have to start somewhere so here is my first attempt. The picture in the link is much more interesting though.
Schlumberger Cambridge Research Center
As we seem to be in transition as far as helicopters in Cambridge go, with the local Police dropping theirs and going for a sharing deal soon and Magpas sharing one, but now having their own I find myself taking pictures of any helicopter that goes by – for my library. This is a small one though – not really suitable for police or medical activities I would have thought.
A random small helicopter in the skies above Cambridge
I did dodge most of the showers – I only really got wet once and the rest of the time there were only a few sprinkles. I’d certainly recommend that ride apart from the A603 it was really rather pleasant.