Friday, June 22, 2012

The Lodes Way cycle route–quiet but not deserted

Tuesday, 12th June 2012: I believe that we all benefit from a bit of thinking time.  Whether it is to muse, or to think over a problem or to plan – it does you good. I also believe that it is better to learn to control how you think. One of the bad ways to think is to wake up in the middle of the night and let a problem go round and round. All you do is have a sleepless night, you don’t actually solve anything – indeed you can make whatever the issue might be worse.

I also think that it helps to be doing something slightly physical and repetitive, but that does not require too much brainpower to do. So musing on a problem whilst driving around the M25 is definitely not a good thing to do. Even worse please don’t drive and muse on a road I am cycling along either.

Personally I find cycling on off-road, but relatively decent tracks to be an activity conducive to thinking. In fact if there is nothing around and you can just pedal you’d be surprised how much distance you cover without really thinking about the effort you are expending. (When the same happens when driving a car then that is a cause for worry. I find it disconcerting when I am driving and realise that I can’t really remember that last x miles. That is a sign that I need to stop and get some fresh air.

Regular readers might have guessed that cycling out around the Lodes Way is just that ideal sort of route. Being flat you don’t have to divert much mental activity to pushing the pedals. It is quiet and so you don’t get distracted by noise and although you pas walkers and cyclists it is relatively easy to pass each other. Unlike some routes.

One of the advantages of working from home is I don’t commute, although I do have to go to meetings – normally in the environs of Cambridge or London. This means I save quite a lot of time and find it easier to start early and then pop out later afternoon for a bit of exercise and thinking.

This particular ride was a pretty straightforward one, I cycled out to Wicken Fen via Lodes Way and then after looping around Wicken Fen (out via the Maltings Path and back via the entrance to Wicken Fen I then cycled down to Burwell and back via NCN51. forgive me if I don’t include a map. I would guess it is around 50Km in total.

Being a Tuesday afternoon it was pretty quiet along Lodes Way and it wasn’t until I was into Burwell on the way back did traffic being to rear its ugly noise. I am amazed at how many cars heat out to Burwell and beyond at the end of the day.

My first stop to take a picture was White Fen – grey but not unpleasant.

White Fen – on Lodes Way – freshly cut grass and not a soul (or sole) in sight

Actually I did pass a runner at the far end, and with a nod of acknowledgement we passed each other, lost in our own thoughts.

A runner on White Fen (Lodes Way

After passing over the Swaffham Bulbeck Bridge I stopped to check out the road problems between Swaffham Bulbeck Lode and Whiteway Drove. This was flagged up by the Cottenham Cyclist who also reported it via the CTC Fill That Hole website.

My wheels are 25mm wide and could easily get wedged into the crack – which would cause a somewhat violent unplanned dismount. As the cracks have grass camouflage they are not too apparent. The sad thing is some much larger cracks were patched up recently, I wonder why they didn’t patch these up?

More Cracks of Doom on the Lodes Way

Along Headlake Drove one of the many turf fields being mowed. I wish cutting my grass was that easy – although I wouldn’t actually be able to get a tractor onto my lawn!

Turf being grown along Headlake Drove

A little further along past the cross roads and onto Split Drove a low-level picture of the road. Although it seems to go on for miles it doesn’t really – just to reach Lode Bridge.

Split Drove

I couldn’t resist yet another self-portrait near the Reach lode Bridge. Although this time i didn’t use the Portrait Bench, instead I used my Portrait Bicycle. If you check out the last link it is to a leaflet published by Sustrans about the Portrait bench. o I detect some photo-shopping on the Bridge picture!

The bench is getting used – here is a rather nice colour-popped picture of the bench in use. (Along with some more pictures of the area.)  Humm - colour-popping – that’s a rather nice idea.

I also think I need a haircut.

Portrait Bench on the Lodes Way near Reach lode Bridge

After crossing the Lode into Burwell Fen a bucolic sight – cows chewing the cud.  when I was a boy we used to reckon that rain was due when cows were lying down. In fact we used to count the standing cows and reckon that that gave some idea of how soon the rain was due. Of course the reality is that cows have to spend time chewing the cud in order to digest the grass they eat.

Cows chewing the cud on Burwell Fen

Mind you it did look pretty dark, maybe the cows were right and it was going to rain. Three of four were still standing.

Cows on Burwell Fen

As I was writing that last bit it occurred to me that I had also taken a picture to illustrate the advantages of the Ha-Ha in separating the cows from the path.  There is a ditch between the path and the cows, originally it was hoped that the ditch alone would keep the cows in. It has since had a fence put in along the bottom of the ditch. As you can see it is not visible.

There are also more standing cows in this wider shot –0 I should be able to get my ride in before it rains.

Cows Grazing on Burwell Fen

I know that a lot of townies probably imagine that road works only afflict roads – well not true. Here along Lodes Way just as you cycle along the Maltings path into Adventurers Fen (as it says on the NT sign) there are roadworks. Fortunately this wasn’t at rush hour so there wasn’t any congestion.

Road works along Lodes Way (Adventurers Fen)

Instead of following the NCN11 path through Wicken Fen I carried along the Maltings Path – look at that for a bit of single-track. Fortunately it wasn’t stingle-track as I was wearing shorts. It has a gravel surface and was good fun to cycle along.

Maltings Path alongside Monk’s Lode, Wicken Fen

I then cycled up to Wicken (the village) and back into Wicken Fen via the “entrance” and NCN11. I stopped on Normans Bridge It was a still day – which is good for cycling – here is the bit where Monk’s Lode meets Wicken Lode. There is some mooring here but I am not sure what restrictions there are. Only residents of Wicken village or duly authorised servants of the NT can go further up Wicken Lode though. (Clause 26).

Monk’s Lode from Normans Bridge – Wicken Fen

This is Baker’ Fen and it is usually dry at this time of year. As you can see this year has not been usual in terms of the recent rainfall.

An unseasonably wet baker’s Fen (Wicken Fen)

Some Common Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) along the edge of  NCN 11/ Monk’s Lode just coming into flower. Apparently other names for it include boneset and knitbone.  Which implies that at some stage it used to be used for bone fractures. I think I will stick with conventional medicine.

Common Comfrey along Monk’s Lode (The Lodes Way, Wicken Fen)

At this time of year everything seems to be growing and with all the rain the countryside is looking pretty lush. The various ditches, drains and Lodes are also looking a little less trim.

Monk’s Lode – in need of a trim?

I then cycled down to Burwell where Weirs Drove was closed.  There was a temporary bridge as the cable routing seemed to be partly across a field and then somehow past The Weirs. (What I believe the water course is called there?) It then took to the road (Weirs Drove) before seeming to head into a field.

I could claim I went round the detour – I didn’t at the time I went through there was no work taking place so I sneaked past the barriers.

Weirs Drove, Burwell – Road Closed

And finally a flower – they are coming out – this is Common mallow (Malva sylvestris) – pretty common around these parts. Apparently the glue-like sap from the leaves can be used to treat bites and stings.

Common Mallow – along the verges – NCN 51 Cambs

As is usually the case – the thinking time was good, I’d thought my thoughts, got some exercise, topped up my vitamin d and was allowed to have a beer with my supper. (I generally only have a beer if I’ve been for a cycle ride, or cut the lawn.)



  1. Greetings once again. Terrific photos. I like your variation on the self-portrait/portrait-bench photo.

    Warmest wishes from the colour-popped cyclist

    1. Both greetings and thank you and thank you for your photographs, as you might have noticed they certainly provide me with some inspiration.