Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A POETS day Wicken Fen Wander (by bike)

Friday, 4th May 2012: I am perhaps a little bit late with my comment – but “May the Fourth be with you”.  I Txted my daughter, probably slightly too early, the message “Happy Star Wars day”. She was having a lie-in, but the Txt woke her and then she pondered what on earth was I on about and then couldn’t go back to sleep. Sorry. Although students are reckoned to have a cushy life she does have exams coming up and in order to get a space in the library has been getting there at opening time (7am) which is pretty good.

It would appear that the flooding along the Cycleway alongside the Guided Busway has been receding, but in one of the nearby villages – Holywell (map link)  a “Luxury car owner loses vehicle to floods”. A reminder of the power of flooding water. There was also a landslip on the railway line between Audley End and Cambridge. Mind you the outlook even included a chance of snow. There was even a “twister in Bicester”. (Which rhymes as Bicester is pronounced “Bista”.) The beaches were empty though.

Although the Welney Washes looked pretty dry when I went through, they have subsequently flooded although “Motorists cost a snook at closure signs”. (Which is what I did when I cycled up to St Ives for a paddle (yes I did mean paddle) on the cycleway). All credit to this student who has braved the floods and a train journey to get to her work placement.  It is a good example of why cycling is so important in the countryside with fewer buses around.

Talking about water, here we are in a drought, although it seems as if we have had every day for the last month and a half. Perhaps it is the 3billion litres of water lost by the water companies – who are apparently bleating that if we want them to fix the leaks then they will put the bills up. “Targets (for reducing water leakage) are set five years in advance to give confidence to shareholders” – thoughtful long-term planning there – stuff the customers – make it easy for the profiteers investors. A quick look at the Anglian Water Services Ltd accounts for the six months ended September 2011. Turnover £581.1m, Operating costs (£210.0m), Depreciation (£128.0m) Operating Profit £243.1m.

Friday was nothing special in terms of the weather here in the flatlands. We had no sun and bits of drizzle during the day. It wasn’t windy though and so the rule of POETS was applied and I popped out for a ride. Although some of you will probably be thinking buts that’s what you often do on a Friday.

I sometimes wonder if I am the only person who thinks trunk roads have become much noisier than they used to be. Apparently there are no specific legal limits on road noise, although noise levels may be taken into account when planning to build new roads and houses and offices near roads. Apparently “Living near a motorway hikes your risk of dying after a heart attack”. The study suggests that as well as air pollution exposure to noise could also be a mechanism behind the increased risk.

I’ve mentioned before that I like cycling away from traffic because of the noise and the small but definite risk that some idiot in a tin can might have a momentary lapse of concentration. Or might be driving a ‘death-trap’ using cheaper second-hand tyres. Or, indeed, night have had one too many steak and ale pies! Or maybe an overweight lorry – but there is a crackdown coming on the A14. Not to mention our weak necks – according to AA President Edmund King “We have fewer crashes than all of Europe but more claims. We either have weaker necks --- or there’s more fraud”.

Don’t worry though - £16m cash boost ‘will create 12,000 jobs’. Although it is actually a cash injection for infrastructure projects.

Ely bypass, the Huntingdon link road, Haverhill Research Park and the expansion of Babraham Road park and ride site on the outskirts of Cambridge all secured funding".

Other projects getting cash included the Future Business Centre at Cambridge Regional College which will provide space for new companies, utilities improvements at Northstowe, the 10,000-home town planned on the RAF Oakington site, and a cycleway from Babraham to Abington.

Why is it that we are so hooked on the idea that roads are vital? As it happens the Ely bypass alone is set to cost £28m as it is currently envisaged. This is perhaps a strategy of spend a bit and once it has been spent it will be harder to stop the rest from being spent.

Whilst on the subject of Ely I came across the Ely Cycling Campaign – good luck to them. (What’s more I learnt that there is to be a Sustrans Portrait Bench near the Lodes Way Bridge on Reach Lode.

There is hope though – as a survey suggests that boy’s still rate a park kickabout or bike ride as among their favourite things. It is a pity that open spaces are filling up and roads are becoming more unpleasant for cycling along (IMHO).

So given that I don’t really like cycling amongst noisy, smelly, unpredictable cars where else but a pootle around Wicken Fen.  As usual I did take a few pictures. But it was grey and I have been around a few times recently. So there aren’t too many. The route – well NCN51, Lodes Way, but I went the “wrong” way around the Fen using Maltings path and then home via Burwell and the Swaffhams more or less on NCN51.

I am managing to get further before feeling the need to take a yet another picture of a scene I have taken pictures of many times before. But of course as I get older my memory isn’t what it used to be. I do know I have taken pictures in this area quite a few times. It does establish what a grey day it was and how full Swaffham Bulbeck Lode was. (And a reminder of how pylons do dominate.

Fen Road, Lode, approaching White Fen Drove
Lodes Way

Halfway down White Fen Drove is a small unmarked track (on the OSM map track with a burnt-out car halfway along it. The car has been moved though – this time I cycled up the track to find the scene of the conflagration. It only takes one prat.

(Oh flip my computer has just noticed 25 important updates – there may be trouble ahead.)

Scene of the crime – what burning a car does to the ground (off White Fen Drove)

The farmer has taken steps to try to avoid it happening again – partly because I believe that unfair as it may seem (s)he becomes responsible for  the cost of clearance and disposal. Unless of course they find the toerags, like they did with this fly-tipping. (Although we have been having problems in Cambridgeshire County with the Terminator. It is not re-cycling fast enough and so more rubbish is going to landfill costing an extra £1.45m in landfill tax. One of the routes I cycle along, Long Drove, passes behind Donarbon Waste Management Park – how picturesque – a park.)

How Farmers Block their tracks (White Fen Drove)

I took this picture without paying much attention, I has assumed the road closures were for more road works – but I had forgotten that Reach Fair would cause some road closures.

Notice Warning of Reach Fair Road Closures

No prizes for spotting the sign – but I wonder how many motorists stopped to peer at the sign as the drove past. It is the white thing at the bottom of the pole on the right of the picture.

Headlake Drove crossroads (Lodes Way)

As I cycled up to the bridge over Reach Lode I stopped to check out this pit that has been dug alongside the picnic tables having read the information about the Sustrans Portrait Bench being put in I assume that there are the foundations?

You can also see how thin the peat layer is on top of the clay layer. Apparently the peat varies from a few inches to more than 3m in depth across the Fens.

Excavation for foundations for the Sustrans Portrait Bench – Lodes Way?

As you pass through to Wicken Fen along Priory Dove you might see either the Highland Cattle or the  Konik ponies, you might also see some of the new foals. At the edge of St Edmunds Fen the Maltings path crosses over a bridge, and what  is called Monk’s Lode becomes New River. This is the view looking back form the bridge along Monk’s Lode.

Monk’s Lode, Wicken Fen

On my way back through Wicken Fen along the NCN11 route I passed over Norman’s Bridge.  Where I saw a character from one of my favourite books, if you’ve only seen the films then I’m afraid he didn’t make it.

Tom Bombadil on Monk’s Lode

After that I stopped just before Priory Drove to admire the Old Seed Rape. The ditch is there to prevent it from getting out.

Oil Seed Rape on Priory Drove (Lodes Way)

And that is it for pictures, well my pictures anyway. I cycled back down to Burwell, which has a Masterplan!

And finally how to waste money on cycle infrastructure – or dumbest painter of the year award? And on a cycle theme Graeme Obree will ride again – he hopes to achieve 100mph on a bicycle made from junk. Well that is what that article says. The bike is like a recumbent except you lie on your front. Whilst on the theme of bicycles – a Ferrari you pedal – it looks the part – sort of and is not for kids. And finally (well for cycles) Stars and their bikes and kids.

And the final paragraph, honest. Some eye-catching aerial photographs, some eye-catching seaside mosaics and why you need to be careful with your photography – it can spark a murder hunt. I seem to remember taking picture of my son for various School projects he was doing – including one of him in chains. (It was about slavery – for his sake I won’t include it in this post.)

Right – fingers crossed – time to re-boot my computer after the patch update.

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