Monday, May 14, 2012

Not quite the Jockey Trail (A Ride from Cambridge to Cheveley and back, by bike)

Saturday, 12th May 2012:A change is as good as a rest. Using a bicycle is both convenient and fun. You save money, get some fresh air and parking is usually much easier. It is possible to get into a bit of a rut though.  So it was time to get out and take a different cycle route.

There were two choices out towards Cambourne or the Jockey Trail (a road route). The Cambourne route is a rather nice one – but it is best cycled on the various bridleways and with the recent wet weather I thought I would give it a miss. Now I didn’t actually cycle the Jockey Trail, I would have had to print out the map as it is not a route I know well.  The route takes you around some of the villages around Newmarket. To the South of Newmarket there seem to be a maze of small roads so I just cycle around a bit. I try to head in a direction for a while and then at ninety degrees to the last direction and so on. Sometimes I skirt Newmarket and sometimes I pass though.

The countryside I rather nice, less flat and more undulating and wooded than the flatlands – there are also some interesting byways and bridleways as well. For some reason I tend not to cycle that way quite as often as some of my more regular routes.

Now I wrote the first few paragraphs, and now I have gone through and added the pictures to the post in order to write about them and I find that despite heading to paddocks pastures new quite a few of my pictures were taken on my wake back along Lodes Way – sorry about that. I think that it boils down to my preference for being away from roads. when cycling along roads I just barrel along looking at the view rather than taking pictures of it – whereas off road there are more frequent changes of scenery.

Before I start, today is being one of those days. When I annotated the picture of the map there seemed to be some subtle problem – something wasn’t right. Now as I do quite a lot of photographic and graphic work on my computer instead of using a mouse I use a Pend and Pad, actually a Wacom Medium Bamboo Fun Graphics Tablet (CTE 650) which has been superseded, but continues to work with Windows 7. I wonder whether there is a “lots of fun” version and a “no fun” version. I like it because it is easier to edit specific parts of a picture as the points on the pad correspond to the similar points on the screen. Also it is pressure sensitive and depending upon the application the pen is pressure sensitive and the other end of the pen acts as an eraser.

This time around as I added notes to the map – the writing didn’t start until after the pen had moved and the liens just appeared as thick black lines. It took me a while to realise it was ignoring the pressure sensitivity. Now I use Photoshop Elements 10 for the annotation. So I tried another program (Artrage) – the pressure sensitivity worked. So I tried another graphics program (Photoscape) – this time it didn’t work.

So to cut a long story short I checked on the web for reports of problems, I re-ran the Wacom install program, I un-plugged the Tablet…  Now I began to think that it was the result of the 25-patch update earlier in the week. That did cause my Tablet to hiccup but I saw a suggestion that it might be a problem with the incomplete loading of one of the drivers. The _ re-booted my computer and went to watch the Grand Prix (Spain) – jolly good it was too. when I returned my Desktop was stuck shutting down. So I forced the re-boot by holding the off button down and when it re-started it had turned into treacle. It had to re-check the Raid disk drives for errors.

Actually another problem has crept in I have started using Google drive – and on startup it kept complaining about a Hard drive not being available  20plus times.  That problem will have to wait. The good news is the pressure sensitivity and erase capabilities now work for all the graphics programs I use. But the computer will run like treacle for a few hours as it checks the drives that is the downside of 4Tbytes of disk space.

If you check out the map I joined the route at Swaffham Bulbeck although I took this picture somewhere between Bottisham and Swaffham Bulbeck on NCN51. Swaffham Heath Road runs along that (yellow)  hill.

Over the Hill and along the Swaffham Heath Road – behind the yellow field

And here is the map mf my ride – I missed out a chink of the ride near Moulton and I didn’t take and odd route to Cheveley. One that I wouldn’t recommend, well not at this time of year. Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link the map. It was around 68Km/42.5miles and reached the grand height of 117m above sea level. You never really feel like there any painful hills though – well not at the speed I cycle.

Cambridge Loop to Cheveley and back (via Lodes Way)

This is the view from the Swaffham Heath road, looking over towards Swaffham Prior (although the house to the left are Bulbeck houses) – the yellow field is a completely different one to that in the first picture.

The view from the Swaffham Heath Road (Cambs)

After cycling over the A14 bridge and over the A1303 and A1304 most the is a small climb just past a pumping station, with a nice row of trees coming into leaf. The strip of trees in the background is the Guvnor’s Belt and there is a Polo Ground on the other side of the road. The road doesn’t appear to have a name.

On the road to Dullingham

According tot he map this is Gran’s Plantation. At this point you climb up to 88m (whereas the A1304 was at 45m) and then swoop down a hill over the Cambridge – Ipswich Railway line, just next to Dullingham Station and then road a sharp bend. In one of those inconsequential victories of man over gravity I managed the swoop and the bend without braking. I must have been going fast enough that the car behind me didn’t feel any need to overtake. Although as I have a GPS recording my every pedal I can actually report that I only reached 25mph going down the hill.

Gran’s Plantation seem from the Dullingham Road

After that brief bit of excitement I cycled through Dullingham, across the B1061 and then blipped up into Stetchworth and back to Woodditton. When I was a young lad knowing how to use a phone box was considered an important skill – in the days of Button A and Button B. Nowadays with mobile phones Phone Boxes are an anachronism. So much so that BT gives them away to good causes

In this case the local Council has been inspired by BT’s Adopt-a-Kiosk scheme and used this one for a Book Swop Kiosk. The news item suggests it is Saxon Street – but I reckon this one is actually along Ditton Green

Book Swop Telephone Kiosk – Woodditton

And using the power of my zoom lens I can tell you there is a book in there about Pregnancy – and another one “Is it just me or has everything turned sh1t” – the Encyclopedia of Modern Life. I am probably being picky – but it could probably do with another lick of paint as well.

Book Swop Telephone Kiosk – Woodditton

I turned left at the next T-junction (Saxon Street) and after a short distance noticed a bridleway. Now although I had just turned right through ninety degrees and should have carried on nothing ventured. I had not idea where it went and had never been along it before so why not. On the OSM map it appears as a footpath (red dots), but is a bridleway on the OS map.

A Bridleway to Cheveley past Saxon Hall

And a bridleway it was, a well-used bridleway – this is horsey country and I shouldn't have been surprised that this path was used by horses.  Ordinarily, on ta dry day it would have just been a bit bumpy. On a wet day it was bl**dy hard work. Give me a hill any day. You pedal at least twice as fast as the actual forward motion you manage to achieve. Which means that you go quite slowly, which makes balance something you (well I) have to concentrate on.

Now it was only around 1Km in length, but I didn’t know where I was going and every now and then it got worse with stingles (family name for Stinging nettles) along the sides. I was wearing shorts and although I wasn’t cold when I started I was flipping hot by the time I got to the end. However I did manage to cycle along it without dabbing my feet. I think it was not wanting to get my cycling shoes all muddied up tat incentivised me.

A Bridleway to Cheveley past Saxon Hall

As I finally got to turn through ninety degrees I headed down to Cheveley and along the High Street – where I stopped to take a picture of this rather nice church – with an interesting tower – St Mary and the Holy host of Heaven.  “It is cruciform with a fine central tower”. I was going to correct the perspective using the power of Photoshop but got fed up trying to sort out the Tablet.

St Mary and the Holy Host of Heaven, Cheveley

After that I cycled down the road where I should have turned right towards Moulton but wasn’t quite sure of where I was and so cycled along Park Road. Which I recognised as a road I normally cycle the other way along.

After that it was a pleasant run down towards Newmarket and along the NCN51 route which showed signs of recent flooding with a lot of mud all over the path along Sassoon Close. (If ‘d been earlier then I would have been better off in a canoe judging from the picture in the link.)

I’d forgotten where I took this picture – so I had to load up my GPS trace in Google earth and look for a stop with appropriate scenery. Of course as soon as I did it came back to me. I’d had decided to risk another byway, albeit one that has a restriction at one end. It was also one that sees a reasonable amount of horse traffic judging from the hoof prints you see along it. So I cycled out of Exning on the North Road towards Haycroft Lane (the byway) and stopped just where the road ends and a permissive bridleway crosses. To admire the yellow field, green hedgerow and blue sky dotted with white puffy clouds. This is the view to the North East from that point with the permissive bridleway running alongside the hedgerow.

The View from the end of North Road, Exning

The route of the Cambridge to Mildenhall railway also used to run this way, parallel with the permissive path, which at one tie looked like it was a road. On the OS map the house just where North Road crossed the railway is called Beechings House I wonder if that was a reference to Dr Beeching of the Beeching cuts.

The byway (Haycroft Lane) was not too bad, certainly not as wet and muddy as the bridleway near Cheveley.  All the rain has certainly made the crops in the fields look very lush. Looking at the map it appears this is where my route crosses from Suffolk to Cambridgeshire again.

Half-way along Haycroft Lane, between Exning and Burwell – lush fields

And Haycroft Lane (looking back towards Exning) was looking just as lush – with a choice of tracks to cycle along.

Half-way along Haycroft Lane, between Exning and Burwell – lush fields

Towards the end of  Haycroft Lane you have to pay attention to where you are cycling as it is a popular spot for people to come and “walk” their dogs as there is a convenient parking spot just off the A1102. Then you cross the A0012 and along another byway – Howlem Balk along to North Street in Burwell.

The view from Howlem Balk – Burwell

After that I joined up with the NCN 11-51 link and headed down towards Lodes Way, joining it at Priory Farm and then headed back along the Lodes Way. This is the view after hauling my bike over the footbridge over Burwell Lode.

The view from the footbridge along Lodes Way, Burwell Lode

The view from Lodes Way looking towards the cattle grids/gates where it crosses Newnham Drove. This stretch of the Lodes Way has “invisible” fencing along each side. There are Ha-Ha like trenches with fencing running along the bottom. This way people get to walk, cycle and ride and the cattle get to graze.

You can see the Reach Lode Bridge in the distance – but it is hardly obtrusive.

Lodes Way – approaching Newnham Drove

After crossing Reach Lode Bridge, Lodes Way follows roads, the first being a no-through road. The Cycle Map view of the route supresses the display of Reach Lode – if you switch to the Standard view it is a thin blue line- you need a bridge to get across though.

Split Drove (Lodes Way)

Split Drove then joins Headlake Drove just by one of the larger drains (drainage ditches) - Commissioners’ Drain. This is the view looking back towards Wicken Fen – the far field off to the left has been recently cleared of onions.

Commissioners’ Drain from Headlake Drove

The view the other way along Commissioners’ Drain, the near bridge looks like a sluice that is use to control water flow along the drain. (as well as provide a bridge between two fields). Beyond it you can see the road bridge, or at least the railings.

Sluice Gates on Commissioners’ Drain between Great Drove and Headlake Drove

And finally my last picture – this particular field lies alongside the Fen Road heading into Lode – I think I must have taken this view the last few times I have cycled this way. It is the intensity of the yellow and size of the field that catches my eye.

Oil Seed Rape in flower alongside Fen road, Lode

As usual when I haven’t cycled in a particular direction for some time I look at the map on my return and think – humm, must explore out there more often. (My Desktop computer has finished checking the disk – no more treacle.)


  1. Your blog provides me with no end of interesting routes, so thank you for writing it! I tried Lodes Way at the weekend and was quite impressed. I'd been looking for a decent route up to Wicken on and off for a few years, and had completely missed Lodes Way as it's not on my OS map. (It is now, thanks to the power of my pencil.)

    After that I cycled up through Coveney and then along the New Bedford River. The number and colour of the oilseed fields was quite impressive. I think they're yellower out there than they are near Cambridge. I didn't head all the way to Denver Sluice as you did, but forked off towards Feltwell before turning South to cross the river at Brandon Bank and Little Ouse. I have to say that I didn't enjoy cycling along the New Bedford River. The track was a little rough for my bike, but quite manageable. The real problem was the mosquitoes, which were so numerous that I couldn't really see where I was going. I had to stop several times to wipe them off my arms and empty my helmet!

    Other than that, it was a nice ride. When I next get a free day, I'll try heading out towards Newmarket.

    1. Hi Jacob,

      Thank you and thanks for reporting back on the track alongside the New Bedford River. It was a little rough the last time I tried it, but that was a while back.

      You had a a good ride though. You don't have to get to far to get away from traffic and despite it being flat the countrywide can be quite interesting.

      All the rain seems to have brought out the insects, I swallowed another fly on Saturday - I wasn't quick enough trying to spit it out.


  2. I would just like to point out that the book 'swop' is in fact in Saxon Street, along School Road.

  3. Thank you, I mistakenly assumed that the Phone boxes would be in the same positions as marked on the OS map (although that might be confusing for users of the map). So presumably the boxes were moved? Or do working kiosks still exist? If I had checked using Google Streetview then I might have realised. Here is the Streetview link to the Book Swop Kisok, which as you pointed out is along School Road.

    Thanks again.