Sunday, April 29, 2012

A wander by bike around Wadlow Wind Farm: Part 1/3

Saturday, 28th April 2012: This “business” of cycling is interesting – well to me and I don’t actually mean business. I guess like anything there has to be a reason to get out on your bicycle. We each have different motivations and we each motivate ourselves in different ways. Sometimes there will be a key reason and sometimes there will be a set of reasons. I have also noticed that in my case there can sometimes be a barrier that stops me from cycling.

My main barriers to cycling  are wind, illness, cold rain and warm rain. At some point in the hierarchy time figures, but time is generally the issue it could be. For instance if I have meetings in and around Cambridge my bike is an ideal way to get around. If I have meetings in London then a bicycle is a good way to get to the station, although sometimes it can be very difficult finding a cycle-parking space. Although that might change sometime in the unpredictable future – “Countdown to next major stage of cb1 development” mentions the cycle park. Mind you the cycle park will now share a building with a hotel rather than a car park – I will believe it when I see it. It also includes plans to triple the size of the Cambridge rail station’s hall.

Another motivation is to save money, that is not why I cycle, although it is how I then justify spending money on my hobby. Apparently “One in three households forced to choose between ‘meals and wheels’’ after petrol costs soar”. The trouble is we have become so accustomed to a car-dominated society that it colours own views about what the roads are for. More importantly it also makes it very difficult for those without their own transport because cars win at the expense of public transport.  It was not a surprise to see the article “Why drivers can’t rely on those miles per gallon figures”. Once you have been sold the idea of a car as your “personal castle” it becomes very difficult to wean yourself off. We car owners become complicit and blame everyone but ourselves.

You only need to read the comments about cyclists and their supposed transgressions to see how resentful motorists have become and cyclists are an easy target. Yet, one more cyclist is one less car in front. if all the flipping cyclists in Cambridge drove instead it would be total and utter chaos.

There are resentful complaints about cyclists chaining their bikes up all over the place at the Cambridge railway station, just think if they were cars. We also seem to ignore the fact that car drivers do similar things. Apparently the Cambridge Council car park is to be closed to the public because car drivers were flouting the rules. Of course the reality is when a motor vehicle flouts rules it has more impact, forgive the pun, whether in an accident, taking up space or creating noise and air pollution.

The trouble is motor vehicles and pleasant areas to live are a contradiction in terms. Take a village like Fenstanton – it got chopped into two pieces by the A14 (the link is bare at the moment – not sure why – hopefully it will come back)  and local inhabitants have a major road running right next door.

So what inspiration did I use to get me out in the rain – we have “flood warnings” and I did think about a road route – but having recently read an update (in the Carpenters Arms, Wilbraham on the Wadlow Wind Farm I thought I’d check it out and see what sort of progress there has been. Interestingly a study has shown that Wind Farms heat up the local climate – by around 0.72C over 10 years. Mind you the flooding here has not been that bad so far compared with Tewkesbury.

On my way out I did see some me scooters which reminded me that I had seen this lot out  the week before but wasn’t quick enough with my camera.  Apparently they congregate along Bridge Street every Sunday, but they are now being moved along apparently the Council received complaints from local businesses. Although the News asked a couple of places and there were no complaints. It seems a shame to me that we cannot tolerate a little local colour. Perhaps it they spent the time wheelying up and down in might be a different matter – but it doesn’t sound as if they do.

I also noticed that the cattle grids on my way out of Cambridge on the NCN51 through Stourbridge Common and Ditton Meadows had been temporarily “planked” over, presumably for the “Riverwalkers to help Macmillan” walks on Sunday 6th May.

And finally a quick mention for another pub – I haven’t been in for a while but have been bother with friends and family – “New-look Bakers aims to whet appetites”. The last time I cycled through Fulbourn I noticed that works were taking place and wondered if that was the beginning of the end – but no it appears to be the beginning of another beginning. Here is a link to the map and here is their website, well the brewers website the Google search threw up an address that didn’t work.

At this point we had some mains glitches and after a short while my computer froze -  I had to hold the power switch to get it to turn off and reboot. When I do that the Raid disks perform a self-check.  I can still use the computer – it just runs like a drain, v   e    r    y    s   l   o   w  l   y…  Although I had to reload the pen pad drivers as it couldn’t work out the size of the pad is use instead of a mouse for drawing input.

Anyway on with the ride I headed out along the NCN51 and then dropped down through the Wilbrahams and up towards Wadlow Wind Farm – well the site of anyway.

I did stop just by Quy Church (St Mary’s Church) to admire these bluebells in the Churchyard.

Bluebells in the Churchyard – St Mary’s Church, Quy

Here is the Bike Route Toaster map and link of the ride. It is just 50Km/31 miles in length and as you might expect there is a climb, well for the flatlands anyway. Let’s face it you wouldn’t expect a wind farm in a valley. Don’t worry it is not that bad it reaches 100m above sea level – just and you start from around 7m.

Although it was great fun to get out in the rain I did find that the tracks and byways were a little slippery so after “discovering” an interesting route from Abingdon to Babraham I made use of various cycleways to get back.

Map of my ride to Wadlow Wind Farm

One of the reasons I came this way was to get another picture of the brow of the bridge over the A14 where the Bottisham cyclist was knocked off – the challenge for motorists is that it has a slight brow and the edges of the approaches to the bridge have large “hedges”. From experience motorists really don’t like to be delayed by cyclist and most won’t wait unless they really, really have to.  The possibility of oncoming traffic doesn’t always seem to be enough reason.

A14 Bridge between Wilbraham and Bottisham

The road from Bottisham to Wilbraham is called Wilbraham Road – no surprises there. As you might expect there were also yellow fields – here is the view looking East-ish, if you follow the link you can see the line of pylons on the map – they look further way in real life.

Oil Seed Rape on the Wilbraham Road (Near Little Wilbraham)

After cycling through the Wilbrahams I turned off along Mill Road – it doesn’t look promising as it appears to be a rat-run road to/from the A11. You do find cars tearing along the road, but I guess it it probably worse during the rush hour(s). I stopped just by the railway bridge, which passes over the Cambridge to Ipswich line. Although my first picture was along the lines of pylons heading north-east. they do head over the area where the wind farm is being built so presumably it will be able to connect directly to the Grid.

Electricity Pylons heading north east after crossing Mill Road, Great Wilbraham

Of course I couldn’t, 2not2 take pictures of the railway track. Seen from here the cutting is quite deep and there are even hills in the distance. This is the view looking towards Six Mile Bottom.

Railway line heading east after crossing under Mill Road, Great Wilbraham

And since I had stopped I also took a picture of the much straighter view towards Fulbourn. if you zoom into the picture you can just about see where the Fulbourn Railway station was, it is now a grain company.

Railway line heading east after crossing under Mill Road, Great Wilbraham

After crossing over the top of the A11 this is the sight. The first time I cycled along in a while I thought they had done the road up because the area was going to be used as  a recycling plant. On reflection it might have been because they are using this route in to Wadlow Wind Farm. You can see the construction road carry almost straight on up the hill.

The Road from the A11 to Wadlow Wind Farm

And just in case you weren’t sure a sign point out Wadlow Wind Farm – up the hill.

Wadlow Wind Farm – straight on

The road becomes a T-junction although now you can also go straight on. Right takes you up a hill past the Old Cambridge Road Plantation and left towards West Wratting Valley Farm and Valley Farm Cottage. I wonder if they will here the thrum of the blades as they spin? The map shows Camgrain and Wilbraham Quarry Waste Management here. Camgrain is a farmer-owned storage Co-op. I think this link shows pictures of the operation.

After climbing some way up the hill I stopped for a breather to take a picture of the old quarry. Although it looks as if the quarry might still be in use?

Wilbraham Quarry

It is/was a chalk quarry and looks as if there is still some chalk around – although it could be to do with the waste management (they bury it?).

Wilbraham Quarry – a tractor

A bit further up the hill and you can see the ground works for one of the pylons.

Wadlow Wind Farm ground works

The track rises from around 35m to 75m above sea level. It was also quite muddy and had a few large puddles along the way. I made it with no dabs though. I think that group of trees is the Old Cambridge Road Plantation.

Old Cambridge Road Plantation, on the byway near Wadlow Farm

And this is the Cambridge Hill Plantation, on this link the triangular wood is the Old Cambridge Hill Plantation and the long thin strip to the south might be the one in this picture. Alternatively it could be The Pendant, another wood.

Cambridge Hill Plantation, on the byway near Wadlow Farm

And this is the rest of the hill to climb, muddy rutted and you have to pick your way – no dabs though. The back wheel also slipped a bit and the pedals hit the edges of the ruts. I blame the weather.

On the muddy and rutted byway near Wadlow Farm

There is a good view looking down towards Cambridge though. Well I think that is where I was looking when I took the picture. My computer is so slow it won’t load up Picasa so I can get a better look. Actually you can see what looks like the church at Six Mile Bottom, but I seem to remember looking in the Cambridge direction – strange.  You can see the pylons in the distance that ought to give me a clue. In fact I think it is Six Mile Bottom Church and in the very far distance I think I can make out Ely cathedral – which kind of hangs together. the cathedral is in the third pylon gap from the left.

Looking towards Six Mile Bottom from the byway near Wadlow Farm

This is much easier to identify it is Lark  Hall with Chilly Hill and Daddy’s Bush behind on the hill.

Lark Hall near Wadlow Wind Farm

And finally, well for part 1 of 3, the track finally heads down hill towards Wadlow Farm, with one of the barns just visible to the right of the picture. There was quite a big puddle at the end of the track, just as it reached the road. You can also see cowslips growing on the bank alongside.  The track was bumpy but speedy.

Down the track to Wadlow Farm

The only trouble was having reached the dizzy heights of around 75m above sea level the track dropped down toe 54m before climbing back up the road to the magic 100m above sea level. Actually there is nothing magic about it and it isn’t even that much – except to a Flatlander. Actually the road was easy, not because I am in any way fit, but just because the tarmac gave the wheels traction in it was easy in comparison.

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