Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wicken Fen Wander part 1

Monday, 16th April 2012: In a departure from recent tradition I decided it was a push off early kind of a day.  Not because of the weather, it wasn’t a bad day, although it started with a frost and barely made it to 10C, the only really good thing was there wasn’t much wind. However it wasn’t a day that had me champing at the bit to pop on sandals, shorts and t-shirt.I wasn’t being nagged to get out and get more exercise – although according to the Daily Mail “Nagging is good for you: Over-30s can benefit…”. I am not so sure about that but I can conform it does not work well on teenagers.

I had stuff to do and a mountain of email – which probably helped me decide on getting some fresh air. It was also my old/new hybrid Maisie Marin – I just wanted to go out for a ride on my sort of new bike. As you can see from the map it wasn’t a super-long ride although it wasn’t bad – I managed to get in 54K/33.75 miles.

Although it was cloudy, at least when I went out I only felt a very few spots of rain. I also managed to cycle along routes some tracks that I haven’t been along for a while. I also managed those tracks without any dabs – which I link to think is me at one with my machine, but is more likely because the tracks were solid and not too rutted.

I set out along the NCN51 to the East – but didn’t really stop (except for red lights and pedestrians) until I was up around the back of Swaffham Bulbeck. I generally follow the NCN51 route up Quarry Lane and back down Heath Road. You can avoid the hill by taking the straighter route through Bulbeck but then you have to cycle with traffic around two 90o bends.

As I cycled towards the Heath Road corner this field of yellow stretched out in front almost to Swaffham Prior.

Oil Seed Rape growing in the fields between
Swaffham Bulbeck and Swaffham Prior

Here is the Bike Route Toaster map and link. For the first time in a while I cycled along Swaffham Bulbeck Lode from Cow Bridge and I also cycled along the byway – Straight Drove from Reach to Upware although in two parts.

Map of my Wicken Fen Wander

Another view of the Oil Seed Rape field, you can just about see Green Bank Road (the B1102 from Swaffham B to Swaffham P). I am not entirely sure what the construction in the middle of the field is – I must go and check it out when the field is bare.

Oil Seed Rape growing in the fields between
Swaffham Bulbeck and Swaffham Prior

It amazes me how quickly the fields turn from green to yellow. I also saw a snippet of Countryfile the other night where they reckon that putting a few bee hives close to the field can boost the yield by 8-10%. Presumably that is if the bees can find their way back to the hives.

The fields are quite striking and have quite a distinctive smell as well – I don’t mind it but some find it overpowering and others  feel it causes respiratory illness in rural dwellers. Here is a close-up of the flower – a member of the mustard or cabbage family.  Loads of it is grown in these parts and I can’t recall anyone mentioning it being a problem. I guess that is often the nature of allergies – some suffer and some don’t.

Brassica napus aka Oilseed Rape in flower

I cycled briefly along Green Bank Road and then down Abbey Lane onto Fen lane past Commercial End and The Abbey and remains of a Priory (for Benedictine Nuns) As it was a still day farmers were out spraying. There are rules about how still it must be before they spray.

Farmer Spraying his crops in a field near Swaffham Bulbeck

Once I reached Cow Bridge (built in 1927) I cycled along the byway alongside Swaffham Bulbeck Lode past Cowbridge Farm and Speyside Farm.  Next to Speyside farm is an old railway bridge built to carry the Cambridge to Mildenhall railway line. The track had a level crossing at this point which was presumably why Speyside Farm was built. You can just about see on the bottom right of the bridge that there is a path under the bridge so that people could pass the line without waiting for the crossing keeper to open the gates.

As you can see the bridge seems to stand above the land either side of it – apparently there were low embankments on either side which have since be ploughed away.

Old Railway Bridge – Cambridge to Mildenhall Line

A little further along the byway past Speyside Farm was this field – looking like it has been recently prepared for growing spuds. Crow Hill Plantation lies behind and to the right.

A field of Potatoes? Near Swaffham Bulbeck

A little bit further up Swaffham Bulbeck is this old footbridge. Which still connects one side of the Lode with the other. There is also Hundred Acre Droveway running parallel with the lode leading past Red Tile Farm and onto Forty Acre Droveway and back towards the road near Cow bridge. It is a pity that some of the Droves are footpaths rather than Bridleways.

Here is Maisie Marin – propped against the old metalwork so you can admire her curves. The rack pack looks a bit unsafe there.

Maisie Marin on an old footbridge on Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

The view down the Lode from the footbridge. The track was quite pleasant – sometimes it can be a little slow when the grass is long – but not this time. There are three rights of way – footpaths on each bank and the byway runs along the under bank on the left hand side.

The view down Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

The view North – you can just about see the bridge that was built as part of the creation of the Lodes Way.  The tall wooden sides are to ensure that it is suitable for horse riders.

The view up Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

Here is that new bridge in close-up. The leaves are coming out nicely on the trees. You can also see that it was quite a creation with appropriate ramps either side and fences alongside the ramps.

The Lodes Way Bridge on Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

At this point I wasn’t sure where to head next – I was going to go straight up, but then decided as I hadn’t been on the byway (Straight Drove) which sort of runs parallel with Reach Lode that I would do go there next. It also seems like a nice idea to do it in two bits.

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