Sunday, April 29, 2012

A wander by bike around Wadlow Wind Farm: Part 2/3

Saturday, 28th April 2012: They seem to have decided to build a Wind Farm in an area I cycle around. There are two decent byways that run along two edges of the new development. Last year I was amazed at how many wind turbines are being put up in Scotland. My wife and I had delivered our daughter to University. We went up on the east side and back and on the west. It seems that one of the Wind Farms we passed in Scotland will also build in some cycling as well.

There also also wind farms in the Norfolk area that I have cycled by, but not through.  It seems that there are concerns about them ranging from a blot on the landscape to problems of light and noise pollution through to causing problems for birds (either through collision of affecting their navigation).

To be fair I’ve have no real idea which of these is true, although clearly they do make a visual statement. The trouble is you want to site them well away from civilisation to minimise the impact, but you want to put them close to civilisation to minimise the costs of connecting them up to the power system. You also need them to be somewhere windy as well.

The hill chosen for this Wind Farm lies between Great Wilbraham and Balsham near Wadlow Farm – hence the name Wadlow Wind Farm. It will be capable of meeting the annual needs of 15,000 homes or 29% of the houses in South Cambs. I assume they have average out the generating capacity because sometimes the wind doesn’t blow. Apparently construction is due to start in earnest. There is a map on page four and a more detailed map on page 7 of this pdf document which details the Non-technical Summary/environmental impact.

It would seem that the Wind Farm will be particularly noticeable from the Fleam Dyke (part of the Harcamlow Way). Part 1 of this series of three posts got me to Wadlow Farm. After that there was an uphill cycle along the road from 54m to 100m above sea level to Green End farm where I turned off along another byway – this time to Balsham. Depending upon how easy this byway was my plan was to either return to Cambridge along the Roman Road or some other route that I hadn’t decided upon.

The first part of the track (which doesn’t appear to have a name on the maps I have looked at starts off with a reasonable gravel surface. I stopped to take a picture of the ground works of one of the other wind turbine areas.  They don’t look much at the moment but when the 13 turbines go up it will be clearer. I reckon this will be T6.

Wadlow Wind Farm ground works – Turbine 6 maybe

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

If you look closely, and even if you don’t you might see some similarities between this picture and the first in the Post and the next one two as it happens. I tried to take a panorama shot, which required stitching them together.  I couldn’t get the colours to match though so I abandoned the panorama.

Wadlow Wind Farm ground works – Turbine 8 maybe

And there is the post in the last picture a bit further along. I am sure I could do a better job of identifying which clumps of trees is which and from where I was standing which site is which – but that’ll delay the Post even more.

Wadlow Wind Farm ground works – Turbine ? maybe

As I mentioned earlier the byway starts with a reasonable decent gravel track to the left, almost as if there was a gravel pavement alongside the rutted track. At this point the rutted track is all that is left. he good news is that it does go downhill. I cycled along the line of mud hard alongside the left-0hand hedge. My tyres aren’t very gnarly so the main challenge was watching out for rear or more importantly front wheel slip. I didn’t dab once though.

Byway to Balsham alongside the Wadlow Wind Farm

On the other side through the hedge – a massive yellow field. What a surprise.

Oil Seed Rape alongside the byway to Balsham

As you can see the roads within the windfarm site appear to be in place ready for the deliveries of the masts and turbines. This is marked on the detailed diagram (page 8) as the “new track to run South of existing hedge”.

Wadlow Wind Farm – Site track

As with all down hills there is a price to be paid – in this case the track climbs up about halfway along its length. The trouble is that the ruts were deep and slippery. I picked the middle one – the puddles didn’t look as bad. The trouble is if you think to hard about keeping you wheel in the rut you end up having problems. The best thing to do is relax and pedal steadily only loosely steering the bike. That’s the theory, what happens is that you over steer whilst the rear wheel slips and then the front wheel gets knocked by the rut and at that point the best thing to do is dab you feet down. It is either that or risk emasculation (if you are a bloke).  I reckon dabbing you feet is the best bet personally.

After one dab I relaxed and managed the rest of this hill in the middle lane without anymore dabs.

Byway to Balsham – don’t veer to the left or right – veer straight on

it was this bit of track that convinced me to find a different way back to Cambridge. The track down from Balsham to the Roman Road is tricky at the best of times so I decided to head out towards Hildersham along the Hildersham Road. It isn’t too busy and undulates. You also get an interesting view of the old Linton Water Tower, a landmark standing on Rivey Hill looking over Linton. Rivey Hill appears on the OSM map, but not the tower?

It was quite a distance and I took seven pictures to create this HDR shot – it turned out better than I expected.

Linton’s Water Tower – a landmark on Rivey Hill

A bit further down the road is what looks like a rather wide hedge – it is the Roman Road passing along the undulating countryside. I could have turned along it – but the road made for easier cycling.

The Cambridge Roman Road seen from the Hildersham Road

After that the route dropped down into Hildersham a rather nice village with a ford. Although the road now has a rather nice white bridge with a pedestrian walkway. The post has “Headly Mill Road Cambridge” inscribed on it.

Hildersham bridge over the river Granta

And here is the ford – even with the recent rain it still seems quite tame – although I cycled across the bridge. The road surface can get a little slippery and I don’t fancy the ride home if I got wet. Although tragedies do occur – even river water can be a forced to be reckoned with. In the case in the link there is a suggestion that the GPS was to “blame”. Whether it was or not it is a reminder not to drive on automatic pilot.

Hildersham Ford across the River Granta

And like all good bridges it does have an “information board” although there are no pictures. It was a gift to the village and built in 1886. They built them to last.

Details of the bridge over the River Granta, Hildersham

And just in case you get the idea that I am a fair weather cyclist it was raining and you can see the rain drops as they land. At this point I though I would head to Abington and see whether the off-road route through to Babraham had been opened up – there would be another bridge to check out.

Rain falling into the River Granta, Hildersham

After crossing the rather unpleasant A1307 I set of to Pampisford. I have never heard of the River Pampi – or its ford! It used to have a station though – now under the A11.

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