Friday, May 4, 2012

Cycling from Cambridge to King’s Lynn–part 3 Ely to 10 Mile Bank

Monday, 30th April 2012: It was such a lovely day after so many dreary days that it lifted the spirits, well my spirits anyway. Especially as I had bunked off for a days cycling in the Flatlands. My plan for the day was to cycle from Cambridge to Kings Lynn and then depending upon how I felt I would catch the train back from King’s Lynn to a station along the way and cycle some home.

One thing I have noticed when I cycle longer distance is that my pictures tend to centre around the countryside rather than the towns. I guess this is because I prefer to be cycling in the countryside and so “steam” on through the towns along the way. I think that it is also in the mind-set of the cyclist to keep pushing on and making progress. Having said that when I have been involved in longer cycle tours we had fairly long breaks during the day, normally for eating. When I am on my own, although I do stop for a drink or something to eat from time to time, it is generally for no more than around five minutes.

Ely is on a hill – the Isle of Ely which on the way through you climb up and over. IN the scheme of things it is not much of a hill but it does allow the cathedral to look out over the surrounding lands.You climb up from the River Great Ouse to around 22m the drop down to around 5m on leaving Ely, climb up to around 15m then down and then over Little Downham just over 20m above sea level. These are not major climbs, they are not even minor climbs, but on this route they are pretty much the only climbs you get.

The view from Ely is not quite so accessible but as you cycle through to Little Downham is is more accessible.  There are quite a few byways and bridleways in the area as well and California and Dunkirk. The Sustrans map of the area shows one of the byways as a proposed route from Ely to Little Downham (Hurst Lane).

Today my route was the Downham Road from Ely to Little Downham. It is quite a fast road, although not that busy when I went through. I took this picture after crossing the A10, one of the Ely boundaries – back in the countryside.

Blue Skies and Yellow Fields – just outside of Ely

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  Ely to Ten Mile Bank section – in the flat and rural countryside!

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

The final leg of the journey was even flatter and 35Km/22 miles long – but we haven’t got there yet..

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

The route heads out of Little Downham to Pymoor and then bumps alongside the New Bedford River or Hundred Foot Drain having passed Grunty Foot Drain and Land Floods Drove. The is a bridleway alongside the Hundred Foot Drain from Mepal which then meets the B1411 alongside The Hundred Foot Drain, also the route of NCN11. I have cycled along it – and it was cycle-able, but a little boring – being straight and overshadowed by the river’s bank.

I stopped at the point where the cycle route meets the river and the bridleway. I had to read the sign twice as the sentence structure is a little convoluted – that’s legalese for you I guess.  These are serious parts of the drainage infrastructure. The New Bedford River is tidal at Welney, some 31Km/19 miles from the sea. According to the Wikipedia article prisoners of war might have built some of this – both Scottish and Dutch.

Warning Sign alongside The New Bedford River

This is the view from the same place, where the bridleway and road meet, but looking south. even the late trees are starting to acquire a green tinge and the weather was really wonderful. I know I am going on about it – but it really made for a wonderful ride, even against the wind. You wouldn’t believe how close this was to Dunkirk.

Look South from The New Bedford River 
near a waterway, a railway, a bridleway and a roadway

Just for the record here is the bridleway – I keep going on about underneath what you can see is a large bank alongside the New Bedford River. No damaging it – you have been warned. The consequences would of course be dire for the surround lands.

Bridleway alongside the new Bedford River, near Pymoor

A bit further up the road (the B1411) is the Hundred Foot Pumping Station, just about in the middle of this map link. As you can see the Hundred Foot Drain (or New Bedford River) is substantially higher than the surrounding land. So to drain the land water has to be pumped up and into the river.

When the drainage systems were first constructed this would have been by windmill. The windmills were replaced by steam engines and then diesel pumps with the capacity to shift 200 tons a minute of water (Here is a picture of a Ruston turbocharged diesel used int he Pumping House to pump water.) I have to confess although I grew up with “£ s d” and “lb and oz” I am not totally clear on the conversions.  I believe an imperial ton was 2,240 pounds and that it is around is around 224 imperial gallons. So 200 tons a minute is nearly 45,000 imperial gallons a minute.

The building is listed.

The Old Hundred Foot Pumping Station, Downham

And this plaque also sits further up. I really should have climbed up the bank to get a squarer view. (Here is a picture from someone who did.)

These Fens oft times been by Water drown’d
Science a remedy in Water found
The power of Steam shall be employ’d
And the Destroyer by Itself destroy’d

Erected A D 1830

Plaque on Hundred Foot Pumping Station

I wonder what frightened the door? All this drainage costs money and an organisation manages the operations. In this case it is the Mid Level Commissioners on one side – who have recently put in some new pumping equipment at St Germans Pumping Station. This is apparently capable of draining 5 Olympic size swimming pools every two minutes. I can’t say I‘ve seen any around these parts though.

This side of the New Bedford River is under the management of the Ely Group of Internal Drainage Boards. (Specifically the Littleport and Downham Internal Drainage Board). There is a drainage levy like this one.

The Old Hundred Foot Pumping Station, Downham

I carried on up the B1411 although I stopped to take a picture of what I have now determined is Littleport. This map link shows a track pointing from halfway between the where the railway line crosses the B1411 and the A1101. That track is this concrete “road” as you can see Littleport is also slightly higher than the surrounding area. Before all of the drainage work it made sense chose higher ground for the settlements.

Littleport seen from the B1411

I took the last picture from the entrance off the road to the concrete track. This is the vie looking north along the B1411 with the New Bedford River Bank on the left of the road. You can see how the Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris)  has seemingly shot up over night on the roadside verges.

Cow Parsley growing along the B1411 near the Hundred Foot Pumping Station

After the B1411 you join the A1101 briefly – there are notices warning that it is a main and fast road – but you aren’t on it for long and you reach Suspension Bridge. I probably also ought to mention that when you join the A1101 you cross from Cambridgeshire into Norfolk.

I took some pictures from the road bridge – this is the view looking south down the New Bedford River – as you can see the water levels are pretty high. Although the washes haven’t been flooded.

The New Bedford River looking South from Suspension Bridge

I then crossed the road  to take a picture of the same New Bedford River, but looking North. It is hard to believe that this is the same stretch of water. Although it looks equally fill this water seems browner as if more silt has been swept into it. The banks also like slightly straighter.  The road to the right of the river is where I will be heading – Ten Mile Bank to Ten Mile Bank. The naming conventions are slightly weird – two names for the river but a name that is a road and a  small village and another road all within, well ten miles of each other..

The New Bedford River looking North from Suspension Bridge

As I made my way up, there was another familiar sight in the Norfolk (and Cambridgeshire)skies – a group of fast jets. Actually there were four of them, in two groups of two. They look like two-seaters and with the dual tail plane I reckon they are F15s which do fly from the nearby Lakenheath US airbase.

Two F15-Strike Eagles flying in the Norfolk Skies

As you can see from this map the route diverts from the New Bedford River and in this link it passes under a set of pylons.  This is the view North where they converge on Walpole Substation.

Cycling under the pylons on NCN11 near Ten Mile Bank

And this is the view looking South, here the pylons connect with the Burwell Main Substation (BURW). The skies really are wide open around here. The wind also seemed to be against me as well – but I plodded on with the thought that I would crack open my bag of Jelly babies for some emergency rations when I got to Denver Sluice.

Cycling under the pylons on NCN11 near Ten Mile Bank

The village of Ten Mile Bank is not huge with around 200 inhabitants and no pub or Post Office. It would also appear that they have lost a church as well. There was a “For Sale” sign in the window of this chapel, just up from and opposite the Ten Mile Bank Community Primary School. It is a “Former Primitive Methopdist Chapel”, although I think they might mean Methodist really. It is up for auction with a guide price of £50,000 to £60,000. It has a Main Hall, Ante Room and Outside Closet.

Former Primitive Methodist Chapel for sale – Ten Mile Bank

This is the only road crossing of the River great Ouse between Denver and Littleport it does have traffic lights which seem to wait at RED and then switch when you approach, although my bicycle does not always seem to get sensed. Maisie’s curves stand out in this picture.

My bicycle – Maisie Marin on the bridge at Ten Mile Bank

The water was doing a lot of swirling and was high although there was still some capacity left before it was going to overflow.

River Great Ouse seen from the bridge at Ten Mile Bank

As I had the railings to rest my camera on I zoomed in on the water tower in the village of Hilgay to the east, with a population of around 1,200 people but no website of its own, unlike ten Mile Bank. An historical reference to Hilgay describes it here.

The OSM map of Hilgay  seems to show an arrow shaped road on the lower right-hand side of the village. Although the roads are not arrow-shaped in the OS map nor on the satellite view. This WTP view shows the OS map alongside the OSM map – the arrow shape has tbc on it – “to be continued”.

Despite the breeze the pluses have far outweighed the minuses as far as the weather goes – next stop Denver Sluice and some Jelly Babies on the next bench.


  1. Would I be able to use your picture of the primitive methodist chapel on my website?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Sure, if you could credit my website please.