Friday, May 4, 2012

Cycling from Cambridge to King’s Lynn–part 2 WF to Ely

Monday, 30th April 2012: I forgot to mention that I seem to have taken quite a few pictures on the ride and so have split it into 5 sections. This partly balances out the pictures per post and also helps me to write it in chunks. This chunk cover the ride from Wicken Fen up to Ely.

Whilst I remember the warm weather and the recent rain also seems to have encouraged a lot of flying insects to come out. I spent quite a lot of time brushing the larger ones of my jacket and in what must be a record almost swallowed three. The first one practically made it down my throat and took quite a bit of coughing up to get rid of it. My reflexes improved with the second and third ones and they were much easier to spit out.

There is a lot of plastic out in the fields although some of the crops under plastic are now being harvested and some of the plastic looks like it might have tried to escape in the wind. The route from Wicken Fen to Ely starts of on a single-lane country road and ends up off-road partly on farm-track and partly on a shared-used path.

The single-lane road is a no-through road, but there is a private link and you get quite a few farm vehicles using it along with a school bus. I try not to impede the farmers, they have work to do – I can’t recall any problems though – they slow down as they pass and generally wave their thanks.

This is a freshly prepared field near Padney and very small collection of houses.  You can see the “plastic” fields in the distance – that is quite a bit of plastic.

Freshly prepared field – near Padney (NCN11)

A quick recap: The first leg of the journey is just under 96Km/60 miles and pretty flat, in fact to anybody but a flatlander like me it is very flat with the height varying between –1m and 34m above sea level I pretty much followed the Sustrans routing – although I need to check the bit around King’s Lynn power station when I get to that stage in the post. The route I took goes around the back and alongside the river – but on the OSM Cycle map it shows a different route.

Here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the first map and here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the second map.

This bit covers the Wicken Fen to Ely section – Lettuce fields and cows!

Map of my route from King’s Lynn to Ely on NCN51/Lodes Way/NCN11

The second leg of the journey was even flatter and 35Km/22 miles long.

Map of my route from King’s Lynn to Ely on NCN51/Lodes Way/NCN11

And this is that single-lane country road – you can just about make out a tractor in the distance which passed me.  This is a great cycle route (IMHO).

Padney Drove, near Padney, NCN11

After passing through Padney and along the bit of road that is private you reach Goose Fen Drove and find you self cycling past road-side signs in many languages. G’s  (Cambridgeshire Farmers for 50 years) has a base in Barway (Barway on the map) and a hostel for their workers, who come from all over. The last link shows 8 different languages. Apparently the hostel has a bar, internet cafe, gym,… 

After passing through Barway the route goes off-road and you pass some of the fields which I assume G’s farm.  Not so long ago these were covered in plastic – no they are picking the lettuce – I guess they strip the outer leaves to ensure they conform top whatever standard is required of them. To ensure the quality this is labour-intensive. There are seven pickers walking with that machine. The fields look pretty soggy – it must be hard work, bending, picking, trimming trudging, bending…

The machine has the sign VHS on it which suggests it was made by Vegetable Harvesting Systems of Spalding.

Lettuce Harvesting (I think) near Barway

As you can see they have a lot of lettuces to pick (if that is what they are). The plastic covering has been tripped back to the sides. The darker patch just before the plastic on the left is another variety.

I guess they are trying to make hay cut lettuces while the sun shines.

Lettuce Harvesting (I think) near Barway

And when they have finished that lot there are further swathes of crops to pick. It looks as if the wind has lifted the plastic in places though.

Salad crops under plastic, Barway

This sort of farming is very much more high-tech than it used to be – they have an AWACS plane to check out the crops and ensure the workers are picking their fair share of lettuces.

Although if you could zoom in you would see that the fuselage has U.S. AIR FORCE on the side. The undercarriage is also down although there isn’t a convenient runway of the appropriate length in the direction they are heading. Even zoomed in I can’t quite make our the markings on the tail plane though. My guess is that this is from RAF Mildenhall and that the plane is a KC-135 Stratotanker part of the Air Refuelling Wing. (ARW).

KC-135 flying near Ely

After a while the track passes over a cattle grid and onto a fairly narrow shared-used tarmac footpath. Where the NCN11 route runs alongside the River Great Ouse. This was taken by the spur in the middle of the map, I think. Blues skies, blue water and lush green vegetation. Although the  marsh in front is much wetter than usual – there is a lot of water flowing down the River Great Ouse – it has breached its banks elsewhere.

And to show you what the path is like here is a picture. Did I mention that cows also graze along here. The trouble is both sides of the path are so when that the best grass is to be found on the slopes near the top. I’ve mentioned this before, but I grew up in Somerset and am used to wandering through fields of cows. If you don’t have a dog with you then there are no issues. Although as I tried to get through this lot didn’t seem at all frightened and didn’t seem to want to yield any room whatsoever.

Also one of the cows was somewhat bigger and differently equipped – there was a flipping bull in the field as well. If you not sure how to tell it is the fifth one from the left. From time to time you will hear of farmers being killed by bulls. I seem to remember Charolais cattle became the fashion in Somerset (there is a British Charolais Cattle Society) and a farmer was killed by a Charolais bull. However bulls are are generally accepted as being less aggressive when in a field with cows. That is the theory.

Yes I have been chased by a single bull in a field and yes I have walked through a field with a bull and cows and not been chased – but not quite as close as through the gap you see there. Clearly nothing happened as I wouldn’t be writing this in quite such a jocular tone. I could have reached out and grabbed the bull by the ring in its nose though.

A bulls with Cows grazing near the River Great Ouse, Ely

After that bit of excitement it was time for another lettuce picture – for the record I have never been chased by a lettuce. Those pickers are going to be busy the lettuces seem to stretch along the track of over a kilometre.

Salad crops under plastic, Barway

As I cycled into Ely I hadn’t made up my mind whether to cycle along the NCN11 past Welney Washes or via Littleport and along the other side of the River Great Ouse straight up to Ten Mile Bank along a road called Ten Mile Bank.

The wind was not being as co-operative as I would have liked and was blowing towards the west, which would mean struggling against it if I took the NCN11 official route – still it was a nice day and I had the time – NCN11 it was.


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