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.

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