Saturday, June 30, 2012

Yet another Lodes Way meander–bumpy byways

Tuesday, 19th June 2012: (UPDATED with missing picture) How to make time to cycle, that is the question. Working from home as I do with the occasional forays to various parts of the UK – mainly London has its definite plus points. One thing I do notice though is when I had to “go to” work – it got me on my bike, no excuses, no “just nipping out for a spin dear”. It provided the underlying beat that got me cycling.

Now I am not wanting to start going to work, far from it. It saves time, but whilst catching the train to work or driving to work is definitely a waste of time, I have come to realise that cycling to work was not quite such a waste of time.

Even now I do find myself thinking how to justify popping out for a ride mid-afternoon when conventionally I should be working. The other factor that gets in the way is that I will sometimes plan on a late afternoon ride to use the non-commute brownie points, but it only takes a bit of wind and rain and I don’t go. Now that is my problem, but it does reduce my riding time.

There are several reasons for wanting to cycle regularly – I enjoy it is the main reason and the more bike-fit I am the more I enjoy it. Now being bike-fit for me does not mean racing, far from it.  It means two things – having the endurance to be able to cycle all day at a reasonable speed and having done enough cycling so that I don’t get any problems sitting on a saddle for hours of grabbing the handlebars for hours.  if anything it is the latter point that keeps me cycling regularly – otherwise I could easily become a fair-weather cyclist.

Mind you, cycling in the wind and rain can actually be extremely exhilarating – there is nothing like a battle with the elements to let you know you are alive.  Tuesday was a fair-weather day and I just couldn’t resist the opportunity for a nip around the Fens. despite all the rain we have been having our byways and bridleways dry pretty quickly so I did a bit more off-road riding on my trip out to Wicken Fen and back.

After NCN 51 out I then popped through Lode and White Fen, detouring slightly along a farm track to test my theory that the tracks were not too muddy. The weren’t. So this time around I cycled up Headlake Drove, rather than along Split Drove (the Lodes Way route.). I then came back down Straight Drove to reach around Burwell around Wicken Fen and then back along the Lodes Way.

As I understand it land-owners have a duty to maintain rights of way – this is a footpath along near White Fen. Quite a lot of the cross-field footpaths are at right angles, this one is not and so must be quite tricky to deal with. It looks as if  it has had some weed killer applied.

Footpath from White Fen Drove to Oily Hall

And here is the ma of my route – it is not a fast ride – Straight drove in particular needs care – well it does when I cycle along it. Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link, it is 56Km/ 35 miles in length and flat, although the byways can be bumpy.

A Cycle ride from Cambridge to Wicken Fen and back

After crossing Swaffham Bulbeck Lode I cycled up the byway alongside the Lode and then took the first right – a farm track of uncertain rights of way, but I have never had any issues cycling along it.  As you can see it was quite a pleasant day with blue skies.

Farm Track between Swaffham Bulbeck Lode and Rail Drove

Just before reaching Rail Drove I took a picture – looking North-West-ish. The crops are lush the skies are blue and the land seems as flat as a pancake. It is really great to be able cycle in such scenery – it may not be mountainous, it may not be wild – it still stirs the heart though. Rail drove is not named on the OSM map, but is the brown dotted line heading back from the centre of the map in  this link, to the bend in the road.

Wide-open fen countryside, near Highbridge Farm

After that I followed Headlake Drove past Split Drove and up to an unnamed road, which has seen better days and is now a very bumpy piece of tarmac. So bumpy that it is not uncommon to see the tractors drive along the ground at the edge of the field. On old maps the bit between Headlake Drove and the unnamed road was called Blinkers Hill, unusual since it is flat the the contour lines are at 0m at this point.

I was in two minds as to whether to cycle via Upware or down Straight Drove. This is what Straight Drove looked like. Fairly overgrown and rutted, ah well it would be a test of my cycle-control skills.

I am a great fan of OSM maps, not just because they are open, but also because of the way they present the data. Now some would claim that the inherent problem with crowd-sourcing is that it isn’t accurate. Well I noticed something strange about the OS map views of this area. The top half of Straight Drove, down to Split Drove is indicated as a byway on the small scale OS map and a bridleway on the large-scale maps.  Clearly both OS views can’t be right. I used GetAMap, you can also see the same effect on Streetmap as well. As you zoom in it changes from a bridleway to a byway.

On the Cambridgeshire County Council Rights of Way map – which, as shown on the Web is not definitive, shows it as a byway. The good news is that although I had one or two near misses I didn’t dab my feet down, well not on the first half. I did bang my paddles a few times and also got pretty close to the edge of the track with a drop into a drainage ditch. This ditch also appears to be called Commissioner’s Drain although it runs a right angles to the other one. I guess since they are connected they are all one drain.

Straight Drove

This is the bit of Straight Drove between Split Drove and Reach – it looked more reasonable. What I discovered though is that there were thin ruts hidden by the grass that caused my wheels to slip unexpectedly. No dabs though.

I also spent less time concentrating on the track, ‘cos it looked easier and more time looking around. I am not quite sure what happened as I wasn’t paying attention but I shot of into the long grass – but managed to stay upright and moving. Mind you I had been planning my fall and how to roll.  I wasn’t too worried as the grass was long and hopefully soft – I was more bothered about bashing my camera. Which was in its bag.

Straight Drove – from Split Drove to Reach

As this was a sneaky ride I kidded myself that by taking fewer pictures it was much quicker and less frivolous. Mind you after cycling through Burwell and around Wicken Fen I stopped and the way back on Split Drove to take a picture of the poppies along the edge of the road.

Poppies along the edge of Spilt Drove

In my haste to finish this post I missed out on including one of the pictures I had selected. More poppies in the verge/drainage ditch along Split drove. You can also see the volunteer oil seed rape plants which seem to come out later than those being grown in the fields – presumably they no longer get the “benefit” of all the chemicals.

Poppies in the Verge and Drainage Ditch along Split Drove

A view of the freshly mown grass on White Fen. Is it a coincidence that cycle routes seem to be destined to run alongside Pylons or Sewage Farms. Or am I just imagining things.

Fresh mown grass on White Fen

You can’t beat a good cycle ride and that was a good ride. Just don’t ask me to define exactly what that means.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The tragedy of lack of road safety

Thursday, 28th June 2012: I started of this sentence with “as a cyclist”, but that pigeonholes me, I have been toddling since about two, cycling since about four and driving and motorcycling since about seventeen, I still regularly use trains and buses. Over the last few of those years I have felt an increasing sense of unease when using the roads. That unease has been fuelled by the lack of common sense and courtesy shown on the roads.

I often see motorists holding and using their phones when driving, I see vehicles and cyclists jumping red lights, I see tailgating I see speeding, lane-jumping, vehicles using bus lanes – the list is endless. Fortunately I rarely see accidents and indeed, for some time the message has been a that there is focus on improving road safety and the data has supported that here in the UK.

My feeling is that the improvement in road safety has been focused on the making motor vehicles safer in the event of a crash – safety belts, ABS, better energy absorption in the event of a crash. There has also been notable success in terms of controlling the speeds at which motor vehicles travel through detection (speed cameras) and punishment (speed awareness courses, fines, points).

Two things have worried me, one is the resistance to improving road safety measures by labelling it as a “war on the motorist” or a “tax on the motorist”. The second is a systematic failure to recognise that the potential for harm in 1,000 to 3,000Kg of glass, metal and rubber far outweighs the protective abilities of a thin bit of expanded polystyrene on the head and a yellow jacket.

Why have we been so protective of the right to drive motor vehicles badly? – I don’t know. Why have we been so willing to accept that accidents happen because of excuses reasons like “the sun was in my eyes” or “I didn’t seem them/him./her”. Or “I didn’t notice any warning signs of bollards” just before crashing into one in Emmanuel Road, Cambridge.

This might all be the fanciful imaginings of a raving cyclist – except the data shows “Road death toll rises for the first time in a decade with worrying increase in cyclist and pedestrian fatalities”. I am pleased to see that the Motoring Groups say “figures should be a ‘wake-up call’”. Slightly worrying is the quote from Robert Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Committee for Transport Safety (PACTS)

“Pedestrian and cyclist casualty figures were particularly worrying, pointing to the rise of the ‘born again cyclist’”

Which implies (Boris-Johnson-like) that the roads are fine for hardy-cyclists, but what is the difference between born-again and young cyclists. The message seems to be that the roads are dangerous and we don’t want new cyclists on the road because that increases out statistics. We are not statistics we are people.

Does the Government recognise this – well we have fine words – but “fine words butter no parsnips”. But hey the Transport Minister Norman Baker said this week that “£15 million would be made available to local authorities outside London to fix cycle injury blackspots”. But motorists were thrown a £500m bone with the “freeze on fuel duty until the end of the year”. What sort of message?

I feel that the motor vehicle has become such a “national institution” that our whole system seems to have a blindspot about the  failings of motor transport and we systemically excuse those failings. I am not saying no cars, or stop driving – just let’s level the playing field, I want to be able to carry on driving safely as well as cycling in safety.

I do urge you to read this Press Release (on Martin Porter, The Cycling Silk’s Blog) from Kate Cairns whose sister, Eilidh Cairns, was run over and killed on the 5th February 2009 by a lorry driver. He went on to cause the death of another person, running over Nora Guttman at a pedestrian crossing – June 2011.

No more systemic excuses please. Make the roads safer for all of us recognising where the harm comes from – don’t just talk about it.


A Swarm in June

Thursday, 28th June 2012:  (UPDATED) This is a short, one of two out-of-order posts, partly because I have got a presentation to finish and partly because the second one is a sombre but important message.

Anyway here is the first one post. Mid-morning we noticed that there was a column of insects flying around in the garden. After a short while they started gathered and formed a ball around a branch on a tree (a walnut tree as it happens). I have not had a bee swarm form up in my garden ever, before May this year (A Swarm in May) and almost like buses we get two.

At first they were pretty lively but as you can see they settled down. Whilst the idea of bees swarming around my seem to be the stuff of horror movies – actually they didn’t pay us much attention. Mind you we also didn’t go and poke at them either.

We certainly didn’t feel the need to cower or feel “Bee-sieged! The terrifying moment a buzzing swarm of 3,000 bees descended on florist as worked cowered inside”. Although my son did get stung the last time we had bees visit when getting close to get a picture. One landed on his arm and he brushed it off without thinking.  It was his first ever sting by a wasp or bee and he wasn’t too bothered. He reckons it was less painful than being stung by a jellyfish.

A Swarm of Bees in June on a Walnut Tree

I have no idea how many bees there were, but assuming the dimensions of the “cone” are a radius of 10cm and a height of 25cm , then the volume of the cone is:

V= 1/3 x π x r2 x h =  2,618cm3

Whilst I reckon that the volume of a bee can be estimated as a cylinder of 10mm long and 4mm radius.

So the volume of a cylinder of that size is:

V = π x r2 x h = 0.5 cm3

But let’s assume that packing density is half that (each bee occupies twice the space, so the number of bees there is approximately:

No bees = (Volume of Cone / Volume of a single bee) x 0.5

No bees = 2,618

Well it is an estimate, but higher than I had expected. Although it would seem to be quite a small swarm and smaller than the last lot. 

A Swarm of Bees in June on a Walnut Tree

So this time around I rang the chap who collected the last lot. It was going to be a little more complicated to collect this lot because the swarm was about 4m of the ground. So we would need a step ladder and probably some long pruning device. So he could climb the step ladder to catch the bees which would only drop a small height. I could remain somewhat more remote. We decided to leave it until the evening so that the bees would have gathered more.

However at around 7pm the bees had “decided” to move on of their own accord. It is good to to see such bee activity though. One of the reasons we think we have seen bees this year is that we planted a small patch of ground at the bottom of the garden as a “meadow” with wild flowers (the seeds we sourced from a proper supplier).  (The “meadow” idea was supported by the veg and flower gardener (my wife) and the grounds man who cuts the lawns (me) as a way of cutting down the amount of work needed as well as providing a wilder environment.

A patch of wild flower garden

At first it looks like Ox-eye daisies, but on closer inspection it has much more diversity from clover to vetch to ragged robin. The one in this picture is not one I recognise though. 

UPDATE After writing this and posting it  I then read about the Field of Dreams wildflower meadow in Somerset in the DM, now that's a meadow.

A patch of wild flower garden – an as yet unidentified flower

The other reason I think we have had two swarms is that patches of wild flowers are far and few between. We see flowers along the verge and assume that is diversity – well not necessarily and even when people go to the trouble of planting up verges they get mown. “Verging on careless: Council workmen decimate roadside flower display by mowing it down after if had flourished for 10 years”. Check out the before and after pictures – hardly a safety hazard, but I guess verge cutting is put out to tender and it is difficult to pay special attention when contracted out.

Also note the use of decimate, its origin goes back to Romans times when it meant to punish one man in ten, in modern terms it now seems to mean to an extreme reduction. I must be showing my age here – and yes when I was a boy at school Latin was compulsory and I gave it up as soon as I could.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A burnt-out Car near Snouts Corner and a Van on Reach Lode Bank

Sunday, 17th June 2012: It is a weird Summer we seem to be having – we are certainly getting more rain in the Flatlands than I can remember during previous Summers. Which is perhaps a good thing for crops growing in the field and the reservoirs and ground water sources that supply us with water. I wonder how the Water Companies do their capacity planning. All the extra houses being built around Cambridge will need water – it also seems to me that the more modern the houses the more extravagant the plumbing.

There is a consultation taking place at the moment with various options up for discussion, including up to 25,000 new homes, including 12,300 in the green belt. The article suggests that the choice is stark “because many more homes are needed to rein in soaring rents”.  Well as far as I can see London is a big place with lots of houses and their house prices and rents seem to continue soaring even more than ours in Cambridge. So just building houses seems a simplistic solution. 

With news houses comes more cars – ‘which could create a nightmare for city drivers’ – which if you follow the article includes those commuting in from places like St Neots.

It also interesting that despite the “need” for more houses Northstowe got put on the back burner during 2008/2009 because of the economy.

It seems to me that Society is evolving. I have just read a book about one Fen village (disguised as Gislea):  Fenwomen: A Portrait of Women in an English Village. It is a village I cycle through and the book is a collection of interviews of several generations of women. It is both amazing and not amazing at how live has changed from cars, phones, roads, supermarkets to computers and the Internet.

It seems that we are sold on the idea that for the UK to become more prosperous it will be good for all and to drive that prosperity we need to expand. Indeed the subject “’Growth, not greed’ wins the day" was considered in a debate by the Union Society. The trouble is with the Growth Agenda, that I see, is that it seems to be sailing close to the wind of pyramid selling…

Why does the agenda focus on growth. Isn’t that what got us into our current economic situation – the UK has huge debts. I am not just talking about the “UK public sector net Debt of £1022.5 billion as of March 2012 – 66% of GDP” or the Unadjusted measure which takes into account financial sector intervention (bailing out the banks) and adds up to £2311.6 billion – 147.3 of GDP. No rather the total UK indebtedness – which includes household debts, company debts, government debts and bank debts – a figure almost 5x GDP.

When I was a boy people would talk about buying things ”on credit” as buying on the never-never. Then the UK went through a boom of home ownership and share ownership and increase in the prices of houses to the point where to go to University requires substantial personal borrowing. (average loan £53K – Aug 2011). The UK House price to earnings ration is also over 5 whereas it was around 4 when I first bought a house and dropped.

The issue of course with debt – whether personal, corporate or public – is whether you can pay it off – over the lifetime of the debt, The trouble is circumstances change and these three types of debt are interlinked.

So as a society we seem to have convinced ourselves that the agenda is growth. Yet I wonder that whilst we consider the benefits of growth we fail to consider the real costs of that growth. Even here in the flatlands where the employment rate is high – “Cambridge ‘is UK’s top-performing city economy’” I believe the the house-builders are being conservative (cf. Northstowe delay).

Now I do believe that it makes sense to build upon success and indeed Cambridge does seem to be successful in term of economic strength. The trouble is much of the “growth” thinking seems to be based on looking in the rear-view mirror.  Various towns and villages in the Fens are going through a Masterplan planning stage – including Ely, Soham and Burwell. The Issues document for Burwell has the following:

What would happen if we so no more growth for Burwell?

No further housing growth in Burwell would mean that over the next 20 years the population of the village would decrease. Lee people would mean a decline in the number of customers/users of the shops and facilities in Burwell. It could also potentially lead to an aging population as young people would be forced to move out of the village and families would be unable to move in, due to a lack of housing.

Now in the high-tech world that sort of “marketing” would be known as FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt. Now I don’t live there, so far be it for me to comment on what they might want. But it tends to imply that the only way is growth – and that is for at least 20 years  - the conclusion being that it is impossible to have villages and towns of a steady-state size.

One of the key questions I’d be thinking about is what is the future going to look like – what will transport be like – what would we like life to be like. Let’s face it 20 years ago we barely had the Internet and Email (WWW – 1989 Amazon – 1995, Ebay 1995). It has been ages since I last bought Music in a shop, or books – the times they are a changing. Perhaps one of the major parts of a Masterplan should be to put in some decent connectivity – real broadband – that is what’ll help towns and villages to be relevant in the future without having to have us all spend our time in congestion in little tin boxes.

Whilst typing this this news item appeared – “New residents’ parking zones planned for Cambridge”. We are all NIMBYS at heart – the failure is one of lack of strategic planning.

Whether we like it or not technology has been coming our way for some time – It can be a force for good, it can be a force for bad and it can just get in the way. It isn’t just technology that gets in the way though it is the way that is is designed. How many tickets does it take for a train passenger and her bike to do a round trip from Lees to Leicester on the train? – 14. That is a design failure in my view.

Technology can also allow many of us to work from home – “The end of the 9-5” discusses how Bosses are more relaxed about time-keeping as they know many of their staff keep in touch 24-7. Where might this take us – working from home.

We can also use technology to make our lives safer – although there is a fine line between upholding the law and snooping. The trouble is we tend to use fairly blunt instruments – speed most of the time and you are OK, get caught and it used to be points and a fine or even a ban. Nowadays there is the option of going on a Speed Awareness course for a first-time minor infraction. Which seems to be a good thing in my view.

The way speed cameras and bus lane cameras probably doesn’t help = “The sneakiest camera in Britain? Bus lane snooping machine hidden behind a tree catches 1,500 drivers in a single week, netting council around £90,000”. the obvious answer is don’t drive in bus lanes. Mind you there are some badly designed bus lanes – the trouble is if the rules are not uniformly applied then it exacerbates the problem. If some use the bus lanes and some don’t then you get “turbulent” traffic flow and the probability of accidents is higher. It also create real problems for the bus drivers.

The step after enforcement is to increase the “intelligence” or rather automation of the tasks performed by the motorist. For instance “Jam-busting car that drives itself: Auto-pilot lets motorist relax in congestion”. It seems to me that roads and cars are not the best way to get lots of people to work. It also seems to me that people make mistakes that impacts on others safety.  (Personally I am in favour of Blackbox insurance as well unlike this person.)

Recent Department of Transport Free Flow vehicle speed data indicates between 2010 and 2011 the percentage of cars and motorcycles exceeding the 30mph speed limit increased to 47% and 50% respectively. Further data also shows that Pedal Cycle traffic increased by 2.2% between 2010 and 2011 and is the the fourth consecutive year in which increased. (It only includes estimates for cycling on roads as well!)

However what is serious is that Cycle casualties have increased sharply in 2011 despite the small 2.2% increase in pedal cycle traffic. In fact there were more car occupant fatalities (883, up 6%), more pedestrian deaths 453, up 12%), more motorcycle deaths (362, up 10%).

Sadly I read of an Elderly man on a mobility scooter who was killed after being crushed by a passenger bus. The “right” to mobility is seriously affected by the old-fashioned structure of our transport system.  It is interesting though that no-one talks about the punishment of drink-driving offences as being a tax on drivers. In fact it seems that informing on drink-drivers is seen as the right thing to do. (I think it is – but accept that we don’t perhaps want a nation of curtain twitchers.

Mind you as I have said many times what keeps me off the roads is not the danger – because it is still relatively safe, no it is the sheer unpleasantness of motor traffic in terms of noise and pollution.

However I do like to get out and get a bit of fresh air. So it amused me to read that our obsession with sport is so great that we have become a couch potation nation. Somewhat ironic really. Apparently we are only likely to be inspired to take up a sport by the sporting feats of others if we stand have a chance of getting close to them in terms of performance.

So this ride was a regular weekend run for me – cycling around the byways between Fen Ditton and Horningsea and then over the bridleways to Lode and more of less up the Lodes Way and back.  Here is the Bike Route Toaster map of my ride – 56Km/35 miles of rather pleasant fen land countryside.

What was I saying about unspoiled, well I wasn’t actually, around these parts which are flat and open objects on the sky line stand out for miles. As  I cycled along Low Fen Drove Way around Snouts Corner – you get a “good” view of the pylons. Apparently the “Energy reforms could see some of Britain’s most beautiful countryside ‘covered with hundreds of miles of giant pylons’”.  They do make their visible mark, but I suppose that they don’t actually make much impact on the land itself. They do make a bit of a noise in wet weather and windy weather though. There has also been some concern about the side effects of the electric fields and a recommendation from a Cross-part committee that houses and schools should be at least 60m away from High Voltage Overhead Transmission Lines).

What was around the Snouts Corner? A burnt-out car – with two lines of pylons in the distance. I could call this picture “End of the Road” – the car reaches the end of its life and hands over to electricity. It seems that whoever dug the ditch to bar the way had some foresight.

Burnt-out Car at the end of the road – near Snouts Corner, Low Fen Drove Way

Here is the map of my ride, this time around it includes a detour via Burwell and Newnham Drove. I was surprised that the Wadlow Wind Farm was visible from White Fen.

A Ride Around Horningsea and Wicken Fen

The small bit of blue plastic on the door indicates that Police are aware. It always surprises me just how much of a car seems to burn. Apparently the cars are burnt to remove any traceable evidence linking it to the people who stole it.

Burnt-out Car at the end of the road – near Snouts Corner, Low Fen Drove Way

At this time of year the poppies come out. It surprises me just how clear some fields are of any interlopers such as poppies – I suppose that is the power of the selective weed killer.  It also heartens me that they are allowed to grow and that there are fields when such powerful chemical warfare has not been waged. There are some rather nice poppies-in-fields pictures here – in a DM article telling us there will be more rain.

Poppies in the field – near Lode

There are also a few thistles as well and what does matter is diversity.

Poppies in the field – near Lode

A bit further along m ride. along Great Drove – grass has been cut for silage at least I assume it will be for silage rather than hay.

Freshly mown field – Great Drove

One a recent ride I took a picture of this field with freshly grown lettuces, when I drove past with my wife on the way to Wicken Fen for our walk it was full of pickers (cutters?) moving like locusts across the field. All that is left is the discarded leaves as the lettuce are beautified for their appearance on a supermarket shelf near you.

What was once a field of lettuce – Great Drove

For a change no pictures as I cycled through Upware across Docking’s Lane into Wicken Fen and into Burwell and back up Newnham Drove to Lodes Way. Although I will mention that St Mary’s Church, Burwell, has started a £1 million appeal with £46,000 already  raised from church members.  That is an impressive amount and it looks as iff the plan will help the Church evolve the building.

I for one am really pleased that the NT opened up the Lodes Way. Although I like cycling along byways and bridleways I also like to cycle through the solitude of the countryside on decent (for cycling) surfaces.

Lodes Way near Newnham Drove

As I crossed over Reach Lode (on the bridge of course) I was surprised to see a van reversing back along the bank (which is a footpath). Although the bank is maintained to allow diggers access (for bank maintenance and repair) it is unusually to see other vehicles on top. I wonder how and why they got onto the bank. They might have joined via Blackberry Droveway and got lost? Check out the pylons in the picture.

Van Reversing along the Bank of Reach Lode

Having stopped to take that picture – here is a picture of Lodes Way seen from the bridge, looking towards the White Fen direction.

Lodes Way seen from Reach Lode Bridge

Generally these parts are drier than most and the showers can be pretty localised, these clouds looked as if there might be a bit of rain in them along Split Drove. The spuds seem to be doing well.

Potatoes growing alongside Spilt Drove

As I was cycling though White Fen – a bit of mowing was taking mentioned by John the Wicken Fen Warden, perhaps he was driving the tractor?

As you can see this was only a little way down the road from Split Drove and there was a fair bit of blue sky showing.

Mowing the grass on White Fen

You can also see the Wadlow Wind Farm from White Fen  - presumably they can see our pylons. The distance, as the crow flies is 12Km/ 7.5 miles. (It was a full zoom with my 14-140mm lens which equals 280mm in 35mm speak.) I must have missed the protests about the Wind Farm – but it seems the this is one of “the biggest inland Wind Farm developments in the country”.

Wadlow Wind Farm seen from White Fen

As I reached the crossroads at Lode I sat down for a drink and a rest before the final leg home. I was surprised to see a group of cyclists out heading up the road from Quy turning down to Bottisham. It is not my favourite stretch of road to cycle along – although it is short.

Quite rightly they are taking the road and all are indicating as they approach the turn – this is important when there are pinch-point islands in the road.

Cyclists turning from the Quy Road into the Lode Road

As all cyclists know, but perhaps fewer motorists appreciate as you come to perform the manoeuvre you have to put both hands back on the handlebars. This is so you can use the brakes and of course for stability as you turn.

Cyclists turning from the Quy Road into the Lode Road

That first bike was a tandem – at first i though it was camera shake that caused the bike to be blurred. It wasn’t, the bike was actually moving quite quickly – tandems can be quite efficient you know.

Cyclists on a Tandem turning from the Quy Road into the Lode Road

And to finish – some Lost Britain aerial photographs – you can link through to the archives and see over Cambridge. And how about this for a camera – a gigapixel  camera. (It has 1,000,000,000 pixels – the camera I used in these pictures has 12,000,000. (o save you the maths there are over 80 times more pixels.)

Wadlow Wind Farm and the Roman Road–off-road cycling around Cambridge

Saturday, 16th June 2012: I am slowly catching up with my backlog of Posts. It is good to have some in reserve, because it means I have been cycling.  However I don’t like the time gap between the ride and the writing to get too long, otherwise I forget the details.

Mind you I tend to be a bit less verbose with my posts as well – so maybe that is a good thing. (I have always assumed that verbosity related to the spoken word – but according to the link it also works for the written word.)

Since the construction of the Wadlow Wind Farm started it has become one of my regular places to cycle past.  At the moment they seem to be putting up two wind turbines a week. As you can see it from some distance it does make its presence felt. It still surprises me how the building of this Wind Farm seems to have slipped under my radar.

Given how tight planning is and the controls on the heights of buildings within Cambridge it seems amazing that something like this which can be seen for miles around seems to get through so easily.

Although checking the Web I see that the planning permission was applied for back in May 2006. The link points to a Press Release with one local villager waxing poetically about “graceful soothing wind mills”. Mind you it took several years to get the go-ahead – “Wind farm plan gets the go-ahead” - November 2009. Where one protester commented that “it will be visible from Essex, Hertfordshire and a vast area of Cambridgeshire”. It also turns out that Barclays (as in the bank) bought 85% of the Wadlow Wind Farm project. The first turbine finally went up in June 2012 – “Protester’s outrage as turbine goes up”.

So this week there are five turbines now visible. This time I cycled past Cambridge Airport through to Fulbourn. Then up to Wilbraham and along to the main entrance to Wadlow Wind Farm. I then cycled around on the two byways to Balsham. The down to Worsted Street and back to Fulbourn and down through Teversham for a change.  (Worsted Street is the name of the Roman Road from Cambridge to Balsham and beyond, a byway).

I rather like Fulbourn and find that the traffic-calming in the middle of the village, a raised table at the junction near the church does seem to slow the traffic down quite well.  The only problem is that the High Street seems to be a car-parking magnet. So much so that the road can be narrowed down to a single lane. In such a situation cyclists rarely get given way to. This time around as I cycled up the High Street a chap swung open his large car door and jumped out of his 4x4 and looked at me as if I’d just magically appeared. Being a long-time cyclist I do try to steer clear of the door-zone.  Although it can cause driver behind to get impatient.

I once saw a young student battered to the floor when a motorist swung his door open suddenly in front of her.

Now Highway Code Rule 67 (in Rules for cyclists) includes the following:

You Should

look well ahead for obstructions in the road, such as drains, pot-holes and parked vehicles so that you do not have to swerve suddenly to avoid them. Leave plenty of room when passing parked vehicles and watch out for doors being opened or pedestrians stepping into your path

And Highway Code Rule 239 (Parking) includes:

you MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door – check for cyclists or other traffic

The clue is in the Should and Must. The cyclist is advised to and the Door opener is legally required to. In the case of the student the driver started berating her whilst she lay stunned on the ground. Fortunately a good Samaritan came to her aid.

Back to the ride; I checked the FRRFD website which has more information about the rather delightful Roman Road (Worsted Street). It seems that the Friends of the Roman Road and Fleam Dyke organisation have revamped their website since the last time I visited. Judging from the missing pictures I reckon that the revamp is a work in progress.

All in all 45Km/ 28 miles with a climb of almost 100m – that is the only problem with Wind Farms they build them on hills. Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link to the map.

My first real sighting of the Wind Farm was when cycling along from Fulbourn through to the Wilbraham. There are now five turbines standing on the hillside.

Wadlow Wind Farm seen from the Fulbourn to Wilbraham Road

Here is the map (and the link again). The nice thing about this route is that much of it is either off-road or on shared-use paths.

A Cycle Ride from Cambridge to Wadlow Wind Farm and back

Talking about shared use paths, this is a video taken standing on the Airport Cycleway. One of the main reasons I dislike cycling along fast roads is because they are so noisy. What’s worse is that noise is quite a high pitched noise.

Noisy Airport Cycleway, Cambridge 

After Wilbraham I stopped along the road, just under the pylons to take a picture of these Poppies growing in the field.

There was also some Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil on the verge or Lotus corniculatus (I think). Apparently a common English name is Eggs and bacon and in the language of flowers has a negative meaning – of revenge or retribution.

Common Bird’s Foot Trefoil growing on the verge – Mill Road, Wilbraham

And on the same verge just nearby was some Speedwell, a name that just dropped straight out of my childhood on seeing it growing there. To be honest I wasn’t even that sure, but on checking my Collins Complete Guide to British Wild flowers my memories were correct. Mind you I am less sure what type. I think it is Germander Speedwell – Veronica chamaedrys or a name that seems familiar – Bird’s-eye Speedwell.

Bird’s-eye Speedwell growing on the verge – Mill Road, Wilbraham

After that I crossed the A11 on the light-controlled single lane bridge – I hope it has been built to withstand the extra loads passing over it. Once you reach the Chalk Pit/Grain store area there is a byway up the hill over to Wadlow Farm. As the area is chalky it tends not to get water-logged on this side of the hill anyway.

It was a windy afternoon and the crops blowing around looked more like a green sea. The Cambridge University DTG group’s weather monitoring system have a bit of a problem on the 16th June 2012, but was working during the time of my ride in the afternoon. There were gusts of up to 40Knots. Which makes cycling harder when it is against you and HDR photography because in between the multiple-exposure shots (up to 7) the trees and bushes move all over the place.

I guess if you are going to build a wind farm then you want to pick a spot that is exposed to the wind.

Crops in the fields – near Wadlow Farm

And using the power of modern digital photography here is a video as well.

The Green Seas of the Flatlands (Near Wadlow Wind Farm)

As you can see from this picture there was still a bit of hill to climb before reaching the top and the descending to Wadlow Farm. The track was easy to cycle along though.

Byway to Wadlow Farm (near the Wadlow Wind Farm)

On the other side of the hill, with Wadlow Farm just below the bottom of the picture there was a nice view of the road I was planning on cycling up. It is called Six Mile Bottom Road and is the one opposite the farm – it looks much nicer in real life than on the map. When you aren’t in a hurry gently winding roads are more appealing than straight ones.

Six Mile Bottom Road – Wadlow Farm to Church End (Weston Colville)

At the bottom of the byway there were quite a few puddles – I tried the middle strip of grass but dabbed my feet down.

Muddy puddles – Wadlow Farm byway

At the top of the hill another view of the Wind Farm. The farm is at around 56m above sea level whilst the road take you up to 92m alongside Spike Hall, which is not marked on the OSM map. Spike Hall faces the wind farm pretty directly.

Wadlow Wind Farm from Six Mile Bottom Road

And this is the view back down the road I had just cycled up – it was actually a pleasant cycle despite it being a hill. It doesn’t take much to fool me it seems. There is something about this sort of open road that appeals to me as a cyclist.

Six Mile Bottom Road – to Wadlow Farm

A bit further up the road and another picture of the Wind Farm – I wasn’t stopping for a rest – honest.

Wadlow Wind Farm from Six Mile Bottom Road

I then turned right onto a byway to Balsham. It looks gloomier than it was – there was a puddle to cross first but then as I climbed up the muddy track was pretty dry. Once the byway turned towards Green End Farm it became more rutted and wetter – no dabs though. I crossed the magic 100m above sea level line here – I was surprised to see that trees still grow at this altitude.

Byway to Balsham from Six Mile Bottom road

After crossing the road by Green End Farm the byway is a little more gravelly and brings you around the side  Wadlow Wind Farm a small map). Here is another map showing the location of the Turbines – they are more or less in two rows.

Wadlow Wind Farm – Balsham to Green End Farm Byway

As I cycled towards Balsham I took more pictures. – here is one of the turbines – those blades are pretty huge.

A Single Wadlow Wind Farm Turbine

It was so windy that although the blades had been stalled they were still rocking in the wind – why is why the one on the right looks blurred at the tips of the blades.

Two Wadlow Wind Farm Turbines

A close-up of the generator unit.

A Single Wadlow Wind Farm Turbine

And this is the path to Balsham – it does get rutted and there were puddles however for the most part there was a dry line – to the left heading down and then to the right closer to Balsham.

Byway to Balsham

At this point it is hard to see much of a pattern in the layout of the turbines though.

All Five of the Wadlow Wind Farm turbines erected so far

Another view – this time quite close to Balsham – in fact I was surprised how close the Wind Farm is to the outskirts of Balsham.

Wadlow Wind Farm turbines near Balsham

A picture looking down from the byway along the line of electricity poles.

Cambridgeshire Countryside near Balsham – almost unspoiled

After that I cycled along the road to catch the Roman Road back to Cambridge via Fulbourn. At this time of year the Tufted vetch (Vicia cracca) brings a touch of colour and shape to the edges of the Roman Road. Here some of the other flowers you might see on the Roman Road. They also have Bee orchids – must keep my eyes a bit more peeled.

Tufted Vetch on Worsted Street

Another inspiring picture – well for a cyclist who likes off-road cycling – the track is basically single-track and there are generally very few people out and about. It also undulates – what can be better than that.

Worsted Street looking towards Cambridge

And here is a helpful information board showing the map and what you might expect to find.

Worsted Street – The Roman Road – Cambridge to Balsham

As I got closer to the turn-off to Fulbourn  - some evidence of the recent heavy winds we have been having. It looks as if this was fairly dead had been overloaded by ivy.

Wind damage on Worsted Street

And a final picture of the Wadlow Wind Farm – standing tall, seen form the Babraham Road heading into Fulbourn.

Wadlow Wind Farm – seen from the Babraham Road, Fulbourn

Well I really feel that the lurgy has gone – although I am still getting the occasional cough. I do feel that we need to focus on using sustainable energy – but also less energy in total.  So I am still in two minds about Wind Power and the effect it might have on those living close to it. We will run out of petrol and it will get more expensive.

Sorry if my rides are getting a little single-tracked – they either seem to be Wicken Fen, Guided Busway or Wadlow Farm – ah well perhaps I’ll get my Tandem out and persuade one of the kids to go for a ride with me. that'll make a change.