Friday, June 15, 2012

A slow cycle ramble along familiar off-road routes around Cambridge

Saturday, 9th June 2012: It felt as if I had not really spent much time on my bike during the week and being Saturday I felt the need to get a bit of fresh air. The only problem is that I still felt a little below par from whatever strange lurgy I had had. So my plan was to head out towards Bottisham Airfield and check out a track you can see on the satellite view. Then I would see how I felt – but my preference was to potter along byways and bridleways and preferably dry ones at that.

I cycled further than I had originally planned and also managed to take in a few byways and bridleways as well.  On the whole they were also dryer than I had expected although I did end up walking on one somewhere in the middle.  I also took a few pictures of the Wadlow Wind Farm, it is certainly visible.

Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link to the map below. It is around 68Km/ 42.5 miles in length and reaches the dizzy heights of 155m. I also cycled along a new-to-me bridleway. The first stop  was after leaving the NCN51 cycleway and before crossing the A14 on the way down to Little Wilbraham. The Wadlow Wind Farm is visible from the A1303 between Quy and Bottisham however to get support for my camera  I stopped at a gate on side of the Little Wilbraham Road. So far (at the time of taking the picture) three pylons and turbines are up, than angle of the picture causes two of them to look like one with blades facing both ways.

The picture was taken with a zoom of 140mm (which is 280mm in 35mm speak) so quite a zoom.  The straight line distance is 7.2Km/ 4.5miles.

Wadlow Wind Farm seen from the Little Wilbraham Road
approximately 4.5 miles away

Here is the map – unfortunately it does not include the area where the wind farm is located. One or two of the off-road bits have not yet made it to the OSM map and I did have problems with the BRT auto-routing on the stretch from Woodditton down towards the A1303, I had to turn off the auto-route.

Map of My Cycle Ride from Cambridge to Woodditton and back

As I mentioned I had planned to try out an old Bottisham Airfield road. If you follow the link there is an aerial picture of the former WWII airfield. When it was in operation the Little Wilbraham road would have run the one end (SW) of the runway.  It looks as if the track I was hoping to take ran to the Ammunition Dump! That notice with red lettering to the right of the gate say “PRIVATE NO PULIC RIGHT OF WAY”, so I guess someone doesn’t want people wandering off that way. So I didn’t.

Little Wilbraham Road – remains of the Bottisham Airfield – track to the ammunition dump?

A little further along the road I passed the other end, there was a car parked in the “lay-by” so I didn’t bother stopping to take a picture. Here is a Google Streetview link, the track looks a little rougher, but there is not a sign say maybe I ought to try that route the next time.

My next bit of exploring was along a stretch of bridleway leading from Frog End WNW towards the Quy Roundabout.  So I cycled down Primrose Farm Road to Little Wilbraham and then along the High Street.  According to Wikipedia the village has a population of 394. I still has a working phone box though. Well a phone box that looks as if it is working. The last time I used a phone box was in Burwell. I had punctured and didn’t have any a pump and patches or my mobile phone. So I had to make a phone call home to get someone to pick me up.

The Phone Box in Little Wilbraham

And just before the phone box was this house with its own post box!

High Street – Little Wilbraham – Post box in the garden

After a while the High Street becomes Fen Road – although that name is used all over the fens – I wonder why? You then follow the road almost to the end before taking to a bridleway.  On the OS map the area is Frog End and there is Frog End Farm at the end of the road.  Probably unsurprisingly although the bridleway starts off as reasonably cycle-able the it wasn’t far before I gave up.  The track was both very wet and rutted. I just didn’t have that much energy to even give it a try.

A wet and rutted Bridleway near Frog End. Little Wilbraham

It is at this point that there is a track up to the airfield road I was hoping to cycle along.perhaps next time I will give it a go. Not this time though. This time around I wanted to venture a little further afield.

The view from the Bridleway near Frog End. Little Wilbraham

The Dog Rose (Rosa canina)  looked rather nice in the hedgerows though.

Dog Rose along the Bridleway near Frog End. Little Wilbraham

In fact the recent wet weather interspersed with some sunshine has brought out a few flowers. There was Red Campion and Sticky Willy – that was not a name we used in Somerset I learnt it only last week from a local. We used to call it Cleavers and Sticky Weed. .

Red Campion and StickyWilly in the hedgerow of a Bridleway
Near Frog End. Little Wilbraham

After that thwarted off-road foray I thought I would head for the nearest byway – the Street Way leading from Great Wilbraham towards another bridleway – Heath Way heading to Westley Bottom. First you have to go down Butt Lane though. The byways around here can be bumpy but as the land is not low-lying tend to remain pretty dry and rut-free.  The worst bit is on the Heath Road (don’t think tarmac, thing grass track) just after crossing the A11. It runs alongside Bottisham Heath Stud and as if often the case with old tracks that never quite made it to roads there are aerial electricity cables running down it. How to give the countryside the urban familiarity.

That isn’t the problem though, the problem is that there seem to be a million rabbits living and burrowing along the track so it is pretty bumpy, It is not that unusual to see people on the track though. This time I passed a dog walker – but I have also seen other cyclists use it.

The Heath Road (track)  towards Westley Bottom

The byway continues across the road (A1304) as a byway, but marked Westley Road on the OSM map, past Westley Crossing Cottages and over the DIY level crossing (Cambridge to Ipswich railway line). The group of buildings is part of the Westley Lodge Farm, Farm House and Farm cottage. Yes those things in the background are the Wadlow Wind Farm Turbines – well two of them anyway. It looks closer because it is – 2.65Km/ 1.65 miles.

Wadlow Wind Farm looking down over Westley Lodge Farm

After crossing the railway line there was no choice but to climb up  Westley Bottom Road (apart from turn around and go back the way I had come). I hadn’t been straight on for a while (or rather through Westley Waterless) so I did. It is a small village with a few houses, a church and a phone box (working, I think). 

The Phone Box in Westley Waterless

The next place along the route was Burrough End – on a bicycle you can go straight on along a byway, which is wide, but has a gravelled path to one side. Then you cycle left down the road and onto a byway to the right.  Neither byway appears on the OSM map, but they are marked on the OS map. The first byway is pretty easy, the second can be trickier as it gets wet and appears to be well used by horses. I had to dab my foot once.

The most tricky is the third byway which skirts around Stetchworth and alongside a small stream. The bridleway is marked on the OSM map although not the stream, it does appear on the OS map but with no name. As a result it seems to be wtter than other paths around and about.

I had to walkand walk a short section a bit further along was well. The mud was pretty sticky and gummed up the wheels and brakes on my bike. What usually happens on muddy paths is that people walk to the side (and cyclists cycle to the side for that matter) to avoid the muddier areas – in the picture you can see a slightly flatter line to the left of the path. The trouble is I was wearing shorts and I have been programmed from a young age to avoid brushing up against stingles (Stinging nettles). However as you cycle into the mud you have to work harder to maintain momentum and balance whilst at the same time, in this case, my right leg was wanting to lift off the pedal to avoid the stingles.

It wasn’t too bad though, although when I walk on mud I have to be careful to avoid slipping off a pedal. I used to use  clipped pedals all the time (SPD) but with my photography and cycling I tend to find  myself stopping so often that the benefit is not great. This is one time when I do miss the cleats in my shoes. (I still buy the footgear that takes cleats and have cleats on my waterproof cycling boots.)

Bridleway Cross Green, Dullingham

A little further along the path was a blown-down tree, fairly recent as the leaves still look fresh.  It meant a slight detour through the longer grass though.

Evidence of the recent gales
Bridleway Cross Green, Dullingham

The path then emerges onto a small road between Stetchworth and Woodditton. I headed right up to Woodditton and then turned left down a track past a water tower. The route then takes you along Dane Bottom, first past a farm, actually it goes up around to the right of the farm along a grass track. As i was cycling around the farm a woman was walking ahead of me, I tinged my bell and then as I go closer I tinged it again. She almost jumped out of her skin, which caused me to jump out of my skin.

Bridleway along Dane Bottom near Woodditton

In the last picture, further along the track you can see a deeper green field. This is that field looking to the left. The Devil’s Dyke runs through the woodland from Stetchworth to Reach. It is a footpath, which is a shame as it would make a pleasant and straight cycle route. I have only walked along it once, when my son was a Scout.

Looking across Dane Bottom – the Devil’s Dyke runs through that Wood

You then cross a road and continue down another track and reach the B1061 alongside a Pumping Station. The B1061 has to go into my top ten list of roads I really don’t like cycling along but do. It connects Balsham to Newmarket, but this stretch is straight and moderately wide. Now all the cars that past me as I cycled towards Newmarket gave me plenty of room, except one.  If you look on the map you will see that there is a level crossing on the road, which crosses at an angle. On a bicycle you have to be careful with ruts in the road, that are at less than 90o the closer to 0o the more dangerous they can be. As I approached the level crossing a car overtook me and then swerved back in front of me because there was a car coming the other way.

Technically the driver was allowed to overtake me despite the double white lines because I was cycling at less than 10 mph / 16 km/h.  Except it wasn’t safe as there was a car coming the other way.  The trouble is speed is everything now when people drive their cars. Anything that impedes their speed is seen as an affront.

Highway code rule 129:

Double white lines where the line nearest you is solid. This means you MUST NOT cross or straddle it unless it is safe and you need to enter adjoining premises or a side road. You may cross the line if necessary, provided the road is clear, to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a pedal cycle, horse or road maintenance vehicle, if they are travelling at 10 mph (16 km/h) or less.

As you can see the level crossing is on a slight rise which increase the difficulty in seeing oncoming cars. the county boundary is just near the Dullingham Road Crossing.

View Larger Map

For a change I cycled clockwise around Newmarket along Hamilton Road. There was a byway I was hoping to check out at the far end with a track and tunnel under the A11. Hamilton Road was marked as a Private Road though. I wonder how you do get to that bridleway? It seems to be an odd stub of a bridleway. I made my way through to NCN51 on Cemetery Road and then out of Exning along North End and onto Haycroft Lane. I stopped halfway along to get a picture of the clouds in the sky over a lush, green, field.

Although this track gets used by horses and can get chewed up it wasn’t too bad on my bike.

The View from Haycroft Lane Exning

A bit further along and there seemed to be a lorry trailer parked in the field  It was really in the layby on Ness Road.

The view from Haycroft Lane, Exning (A layby on Ness Road)

After that I cycled up Howlem Balk into Burwell and “caught” the NCN (11)-(51) link  down Hythe Lane to check out the state of the road closure on Weirs Drove.  It is still closed and a big trench has been dug along its length and looks as if runs from the smaller Electricity Sub-station and then onto Weirs Drove and into the farm alongside?

There is a fence across the road but there was a gap and a chap cycled by so I assumed I would be able to get through to Newnham Drove.

Weirs Drove, Burwell – closed for cable laying

After a bumpy ride up Newnham Drove I joined Lodes Way and headed towards Cambridge, The recent weather has been changeable, but at least it has provided both rain and sun. The crops seem to be doing ok inn the fields. Look at these spuds along Split Drove.

Neat Rows of Potatoes growing along Lodes Way

And on the other side of the road – beetroot – it is quite a popular crop in these parts and when it gets harvested you often see squished beetroot on the road where they have escaped form the trailers.

Beetroot in neat rows growing alongside Lodes Way

At the same sot a picture of a ditch – look how things are growing – with a few poppies adding some dots of red.

Lush growth in a drain on Lodes Way

At the spot where Split Drove meets Headlake Drove some neat potato planting, following the curves of the edge of the field. It might not be quite so easy to plant and dig up, it looks eye-catching though.

Curvy Rows of Potatoes growing along Lodes Way/Headlake Drove

In fact wherever you look there are crops pooping up.  This is bounded by Commissioners’ Drain to the right and Headlake Drove to the left.

Commissioners’ Drain

As I walked back to my bike resting against the railings of the bridge over Commissioners’ Drain some of the sticky mud I picked up near Woodditton.

Mud trying to clog up my bicycle brake

I was also surprised to see a Range Rover head up Headlake Drove the tarmac runs out. However it looked like  a Dad and his young son – out for a bit of green-laning perhaps.

Range Rover heading up Headlake Drove

As I got closer to the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode I was surprised to see that the road had been patched. There were huge cracks opening up along here.  The trouble is that they didn’t seem to do a thorough job. As reported by the Cottenham Cyclist there is a crack tot he left of the patch wide enough cause you serious problems as a cyclist.  He has reported it through the CTC FillThatHole here.  The Highway Authority has updated the reference!

Cracks in the Road on Lodes Way near the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode Bridge

The trouble is the crack looks innocuous with a green tinge to it – the grass growing up from the bottom of the crack. As mentioned earlier if you are cycling along and you wheel drops into a crack you lose the ability to make the small inputs to the steering that keep you upright.  The outcome is likely to be a fall onto your face – not pleasant. I will keep taking pictures each time I cycle along this way.

Cracks in the Road on Lodes Way near the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode Bridge

well it wasn’t the fastest of rides and I felt absolutely exhausted when I got home, it was all I could do not to fall asleep in the bath. I thoroughly enjoyed getting away from the traffic and into the countryside though.

As I write this the hose-pipe bans are being lifted. Does that mean I will have to wash my bike?


  1. Hi Jamie,

    the cable being laid is 33,000V and is going from the Burwell substation (not the main station on the 400,000V lines), to Soham. Hythe Lane (between the shops and Weirs Drove) will be closed for a few weeks (3?), but because there are houses all along I expect that some sort of passage through will be possible.

    Here's another mud picture....


  2. I had a quick look for the route of the cable but couldn't find it. It is going cross country or along the roads?

    Mud picture: That is the trouble with mudguards or perhaps the trouble with mud and mudguards. Having lost two rear mudguards in the last couple of years I had not bothered replacing the rear one. Fortunately I have not really had to cycle on wet roads in working clothes.


  3. According to one of the guys welding sections of tube together the route goes cross-country once out of Burwell. How it gets to the edge of Burwell I don't know, but it pretty much has to go up North Street. I can't think of any other way. Of course North Street is wide enough to have sections of traffic-light controlled single lane operation and not be closed completely. In fact, looking at it does indeed go that way.

    Each weld takes about an hour to do, so once the two sections have been loaded and the machine started they have plenty of time to talk to passing nosey cyclists....

    1. I have tried checking on the East Cambs website and all I have found so far is a reference to the removal of some Poles and replacement with ducting around Dimmocks Cote Road Wicken. (because it is an SSSI)

      I have also seen references to the need for additional capacity in Soham and the dualling of the railway track between Ely and Bury St Edmunds might also require additional power.

      If they use the road route then I guess it isn't actually a planning issue.