Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An orbit of Cambridge–Satellite Dishes and Showers Pt 1

Saturday, 20th April 2012: My wife was off with some friends to a piano duet, so we had to get the shopping done early and as she was leaving before lunch it gave me the opportunity for a longer cycle ride as well.

The weather actually started off very sunny and so I bought sandwiches and some beetroot crisps and decided to set out late morning and have a “picnic” somewhere on my ride around somewhere.  So once we got home I packed up my nosh and some drinks, loaded up my MP3 player with the  week’s Archers and the various other radio programs I listen to and then had some decisions to make.

The weather had turned rather grey and grim. A look at the weather forecast suggested showers throughout the afternoon and the probability of those showers grew though the afternoon. (The forecast was about right here is what happened. It looks as if the Cambridge DTG had some problems with their equipment as the weather starts at 9am on that day).

So what would be suitable clothing?  I could have worn water proof leggings but they are too hot and sweaty except when it is colder so I decided to tough it out. I wore shorts, cycling shoes and waterproof socks and put a water proof jacket on top (plus a cycling top and a thin fleece underneath. That provided the right balance of warmth and waterproof-ness. I could balance my temperature and withstand the short sharp showers. My top was dry and bare legs dry pretty quickly. The only minor issue was my shorts which were not made of quick-dry material.

As I wanted to set off in the hope of not getting showered on too many times I didn’t look at the map for inspiration I just set off. In my mind it was going to be somewhere tot he South – preferably with some byways and bridleways and with luck I might even get to cycle on some new track or other.

In the end I as I was cycling in the City I thought about a trip along Cantaloupe Road past the satellite dishes of the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory (MRAO). I wasn’t 100% sure which was the way to go, the route featured a road and then track called Bridle Way somewhere near Trumpington. So I headed down the CGB towards Trumpington – fairly sure that was in the right direction.

Whilst it would be easy to be critical of the cycle way alongside the Guided Busway I personally think it makes getting out of Cambridge pleasant and efficient. The buses aren’t that noisy, not like some of the roads – try the Airport Cycleway into Cherry Hinton if you want to hear how loud the traffic can be, especially if the roads are wet.

I picked up the route at the Cambridge Railway Station – where getting onto the Cycleway is quite a pickle with works still taking place and no clear guidance as to where to cycle. After that you end up on a cycleway that seems to be less busy than the northern section, although I generally do see people on the route though.

This is the section that passes under Long Road, it follows the route of the old “Varsity Line”. It was once possible to catch a train from Cambridge to Oxford without going around the houses (such as to London). There are plans to re-open the line or perhaps suggestions from the Government. They would have to find another way into Cambridge now though. The stretch between Bletchley and Oxford would cost around £250m according to the report. Here is a slightly more structured report, but no mention of what happens at the Cambridge end.

A bit more digging and here is a more information – eastwestrail. Apparently the Central Section between Bedford and Cambridge presents the biggest challenge. In fact this bit will be “looked at to see if it can be similarly funded in future years”. Don’t hold your breath then.  Here are some pictures of the disused stretch between Bletchley and Oxford.

What makes for a good and practical cycle route – well not having to keep stopping at myriad road junctions for a start, along with plenty of room to pass other users whilst still maintaining momentum. You can join Long Road from the cycle way though. Cycle way users have to take the tunnel to the right of the main bridge to get through.

As this was a way I hadn’t been along for a while I also find myself taking more pictures than usual – which is why the Post has been broken into four parts.

The Southern Section of the Guided Busway and Cycleway
approaching the Long Road Bridge

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. I had a few problems with routing when creating the map in a couple of places I had to route manually (near the Carter Bridger along the bit of the CGB near the railway station). Also at the moment the new permissive bridleway alongside the Satellite track has yet to be added.

Map of my Ride around the Satellites of Cambridge

What makes a less good cycle route – well  ankle-biting poles in the middle of the track aren’t great, especially at night. As you can see white diamond shapes have been painted around these on the Southern Section of the Guided Busway Cycleway. The posts have also been painted green and appear to have reflectors on them – red on the light and “white” in the middle with the right hand post in the “gravel”. You might also see a bit further along markings that imply that cyclists somehow are meant to swerve to the right (when heading towards Trumpington and woe betide you if there is a bicycle coming the other way.

It is bits of crappy infrastructure like that, that let down our planners down. The bridge ahead is where the Hauxton Road crosses the CGB.

Southern Section of the CGB – near Trumpington

I then made my way down through to Maris Lane and onto the Grantchester Road, hoping that ii was indeed heading in the right direction.

I did see this interesting vegetation growing in a field alongside the Grantchester Road. I have no idea what they are. Next time I must take a better picture of a single plant.

Stranger Plants growing in a field alongside Grantchester Road near Byron’s Pool

After wiggling through Grantchester I reached Bridle Way opposite Lacey’s Farm. Whilst I struggled to remember it was Grantchester I was supposed to be heading for when I set off it all came back to me as I approached Bridle Way. Indeed the tricky bit for me is remembering the place names, I can mentally  visualise random and remote tracks much more easily.

Bridle Way leads fairly quickly onto a bridleway and then over the M11. I didn’t hang around for long as I was getting peckish – but here are some cars – that last one definitely looks far to close to the one in front (in the outside lane).

The view from the “Bridle Way” as it passes over the M11
near Barton

After crossing the bridge you can either cycle  straight on towards Barton or turn left immediately after crossing the bridge. I did think about a change of plan – but I could remember where the benches were if I turned left so I did.

This is the track to the left that I took. It looks idyllic, but does have the noisy M11 just on the other side of the hedge.

A byway alongside the M11 near Barton

One of the pleasant aspects of this route is that is some of the land is part of Lark Rise Farm which is farmed using sensitive methods to be both productive and encourage wildlife.  what is even nicer is that they have created both walks and rides as well so that others can see and enjoy what has been achieved.

An Information Board about Lark Rise Farm

That map shows me at the bottom corner (or rather where I was) at the edge of Millennium Wood. Most conveniently there was a bench, so I stopped to have my picnic. It was very welcome, sandwiches always taste nicer in the open air after you have dine a bit of exercise I reckon. Fittingly I was also listening to the Archers – it helped block out the noise of the M11 and is about everyday farming folk (plus others). My route would take me up the map along the edge of the Farm’s land.

As I was sitting there every now and then there would be a few spots of rain – but nothing too bad.

A Bench by Millennium Wood near Lark Rise Farm (Barton)

And here is the bridleway, I think it is permissive and seems to be reasonably well used by horse riders if the ground is anything to go by. My fillings didn’t fall out although I did find a delicate part of my anatomy get perilously close to the  headset area of the bike when the front wheel dropped into a hoof print and the bike lurched to a stop.

A permissive bridleway Lark Rise Farm near Barton

And just before setting off as I was sitting on the bench a bee was foraging on this White Dead Nettle. Apparently rabbits are fooled by its appearance.

A bee foraging under the leaf of a White Dead Nettle

I could also see some satellite dishes of in the middle ground. There must be something interesting on TV they are all pointed in the same direction. Except for the one to the left – there’s always an odd one out.

MRAO Satellite Dishes seen from Millennium Wood, Lark Rise Farm, Barton

The bridleway then heads down through a small wood to Bourn Brook. I can remember the first time I cycled this way – there is always the thrill of cycling to parts unknown down a bit of single-track. You don’t know where it leads or what condition it might be in.

Short bit of Single-track through an Anonymous Wood – Lark Rise Farm, Barton

even when you do know as you have cycled along it a few times you have to pay attention – there could be trees across the path ready to bang the head of the helmetless and unwary cyclist. I saw it in plenty of time – but it is a reminder not to focus exclusively on the track you need to look along the path as well when out cycling.

Short bit of Single-track through an Anonymous Wood – Lark Rise Farm, Barton
with a bridge over Bourn Brook at the end

Ahead you can see a wooden bridge over Bourn Brook – a good place to stop and take pictures.

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