Monday, 30th April 2012: It was one of those days that felt like it was made for cycling, despite not having spent much time in the saddle recently it was great to be out on a sunny day after so many drizzly days. Even though the wind was against me, it wasn’t enough to spoil the ride. So far I had followed NCN51, Lodes Way and NCN11 out of Cambridge to Ten Mile Bank. My original plan as to then catch the train back to Cambridge. However I was enjoying it so much that at this point I was thinking maybe I would catch it to Ely and then cycle home.
I was planning on buying a sandwich on the way, but I find that when I cycle on my own my tendency is to keep going. Despite stopping for a rest and some food being a good thing I don’t. Which is why I generally carry a drink and a pack of emergency rations (Jelly Babies) with me.
My plan was to snack up around Denver Sluice and then buy a sandwich at the excellent cafe in the Railway Station Building in Kin’s Lynn. Then I could eat on the train and not “waste” time. (And the sarnies are better there.)
So I set off up the road alongside the River Great Ouse, which is called Church Road at the Ten Mile Bank end. To some extent the small country lane was also slightly shielded from the wind which helped.
By now the river is quite wide and is would be unusual not to see boats on it. Today was not an unusual day – the boat looks lost.
A boat on the River Great Ouse near Denver Sluice
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.
This bit covers the Ten Mile Bank to King’s Lynn section – alongside the River Great Ouse and its Relief Channel!
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
This route criss-crosses the Cambridge to Kings Lyn Railway line a few times. It is not unusual for road routes to follow rail routes which followed river routes. The geographical features that create rivers and the tendency for people to settle near rivers means the dots have to be joined up and so the lines of communication did just that – with rail and then road.
Round here that means that the railway line has to cross a few rivers. This is the railway bridge over the River great Ouse (the road also passes under the line at the same place. The line then crosses the River Wissey which joins the river not far up and then a “Cut-off” channel which comes up from the River Lark in Mildenhall.
Cambridge to King’s Lynn Railway Line passing over the River Great Ouse
Ten Mile Bank
As I passed by Denver Sluice I couldn’t see any convenient benches to sit on so I didn’t stop until the village of Denver, just up the road. I stopped here on Sluice Road near this 5 bedroom manor house for sale - £650,000. The gardens are interesting (about one acre).
The road from the Sluice to Denver (called Sluice Road) also passes Denver Windmill – although the sails were missing.Apparently the last sail was removed in January of this year due to one of the others collapsing and the owners can’t afford to repair it.
Manor House, Sluice Road Denver – for sale
I had a drink and an emergency snack. These two jelly babies had a go on the bike, but would have preferred a Tandem, I am sorry to report they did not make it back tough. It’ll be interesting to see if anybody ever looks at this picture after a Google Image search. Brooks Saddles are certainly ones I would recommend highly.
Two Jelly Babies sitting on a Brooks Saddle in Denver, Norfolk
After Denver it isn’t far to go to get to King’s Lynn around 15 miles/22.5Km is what I seem to remember and tell myself if my enthusiasm wanes at all. The cycle route does go around the houses (and schools and supermarkets) in Downham Market though.
After that you pass through some small villages – Wimbotsham, Runcton Holme and Watlington before reaching King’s Lynn. I am usually feeling weary at this point and so although I know the route and enjoy it the places blur a little bit in terms of which village is which.
I was surprised to see that Wimbotsham seemed to have managed to get a 20mph speed limit – well done to them. There are also bits of the ride when you are close to one of the channels (The Great Ouse Relief Channel) but don't realise it because the bank shields you.
I think I took this near Runcton Holme, near the Church. Which is not marked on this map but lies on Church Lane.
Freshly Prepared Field – Runcton Holme, Norfolk
After Watlington I passed a lady who like like she might be a cycle tourist – we we both battling into the wind at this point – so swapped commiserations. When I reached Mill Road I popped over onto the bridge to take a picture of the Oil Seed Rape on both banks of the River Great Ouse Relief Channel. (This was looking South.)
Oil Seed Rape on both banks of the River Great Ouse Relief Channel
And of course it would have been rude no to take a picture looking North. The bridge you can see is Saddlebow Bridge and the buildings are the King’s Lynn Power Station (A Combined Cycle Gas Power station). I hadn’t realised it, but according to Wikipedia it was mothballed on the 1st April 2012 and confirmed by a BBC article.
The now Mothballed King’s Lynn Power Station
Of course the cyclist I passed kept up a steady pace and passed me – so once again I overtook her – I hope she didn’t think I was stalking her. that is the problem when you keep stopping to take pictures.
At this point the Sustrans route passes around the now-mothballed power station and alongside the River Great Ouse. However the OSM map has not yet caught up with these developments. So I turned off towards Saddlebow Bridge and then took the High Road- whilst the OSM cycle map show the route carrying along the Low Road (there is a song there somewhere).
The OSM Cycle map does show the cycle route (as a blue dotted line) it doesn’t label it as NCN11 though. The actual Sustrans route is far nicer and there are o issues with it being “off-road”.
You do pass some sluice gates but don’t cross them. There is a footpath across them and as you approach a disembodied voice warns you about the machinery.
Sluice Gates on the River Great Ouse Relief Channel
After that it is a shared-use cycle path virtually into the centre of King’s Lynn. You pass under the main road and over the “Free Bridge”. This is what that shared-use path looks like after passing the sluice gates.
You do pass this rather large operation – which took me a while to work out what it is – but I know now is Palm Paper. In this link there is a nice overhead picture with the River Great Ouse to the right. It can produce 400,000 tons of paper per year.
Palm Paper – King’s Lynn, just off NCN11
By now the River Great Ouse is very wide and although not full to brimming does look quite full. Mind you it is tidal as well so that will also affect how full it looks.
The view from NCN11 alongside the River Great Ouse as it passes King’s Lynn
Although it has probably significantly declined you still see a fishing fleet (and boats registered) moored in King’s Lynn.
Fishing Fleet moored on the River Great Ouse, King’s Lynn
As luck would have it the train was in the station when I arrived at King’s Lynn, there was also time to buy a sarnie (egg and tomato) and a drink before getting on the train. There are no special places for bikes, but for all stations to Cambridge the doors open on the left so if you prop you bike up on the right you will be ok. It does bump around a bit so try to wedge it. I have twice had my bike fall over over the years I have been doing this.
Train waiting to depart King’s Lynn Railway Station
One thing I hate is the introduction of ticket barriers – partly because the ticket needs to be introduced on the right hand side which discriminates against left-handed people like me and partly because there is only one wide barrier for push chairs, prams, wheel chairs and bikes, which discriminates against people like me. In this station the station staff also hang around the wide gate just to block it a bit.
News Ticket Gates at King’s Lynn Railway Station
Time to sit back, eat my sarnies and try not to relax. It would be so easy to have a little snooze, but I know it would at best make me feel grumpy and at worst miss my stop at Ely. (King’s Lynn to Ely - £6.30 for a single, no additional charge for the bike.)
I did have some calls to make and I also amused myself by spotting the places where my cycling route intersected the railway route. There is a small airstrip near Denver that I only noticed when cycling back from King’s Lynn to Cambridge when the wind was blowing in a Southerly direction. It is near Rookery Farm and you can see the windsock from the train. The strip is called Denver-Rookery Farm. The plane associated with the strip is G-RCTS Jabiru 430. Apparently one of a range of Australian light aircraft.
Well one thing the wind will be more in my favour on the ride from Ely.