Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Almost to Ely

Wednesday, 11th July 2012: So where to start?  The Olympics – no done that -  although I will mention that the evidence suggests that while Elite sport might get those who do participate in sport to do it more often it generally doesn’t get those who don’t participate to do so. Mind you I am pleased that there has been an “MPs call for cyclists to be able to use the Games Lanes”. Although even motorists seem to have to deal some pretty strange “roads to nowhere” as a result of the Olympics Lanes, it looks rather like a zip.

What are we reading about in the Press at the moment? Well headlines such as “Sedentary lifestyle can kill” and “Inactivity ‘killing as many as smoking’”.  (Here is a more detailed summary and link to the report. We have also learnt that there has been a 7% increase in the population of England and Wales to 56.1 million people. This leaves England as the most crowded major country in the EU or G8 with over 400 people per square kilometre. Perhaps that is why people have become so resistant to new developments – “Facebook campaign against plans for 760 new homes” – Godmanchester.

As a society we also have built a strong dependency on the car as a means of transport both for work and leisure. I was interested to read that “Seven million motorists have concreted over their front gardens to make space for their cars.” (The article suggests that this is the equivalent of 100 Hyde Parks – a well known unit of measurement. The RAC Foundation seems to think that this is the fault of money-grabbing Councils charging for parking and a shortage of spaces.  The article also mentions that there were 2 million cars in 1950, 28.5 million in 2011 and there will be 32 million cars in the next two decades.

(Already there is concern that concreting drives exacerbates flash flooding what will more roads do?)

What do we do – well the conventional wisdom (make that lack of wisdom) is to build more cars and car parks. Indeed even in these straightened times the Government which put spending on infrastructure projects on hold has now “announced a program to guarantee loans to start developers building again”. This is to generate jobs and stimulate growth. This seems to be magic as the Treasury said that there would be  “no rise in public spending, and no impact on public borrowing”.

What might this mean for the Flatlands – “£1 billion A14 upgrade - including tolls – announced by Government”.  The idea is to build some new bits of road and have parallel side road for locals to get to work and toll roads for the through traffic. Of course there are the predictable “isn’t this great aren’t we wonderful” types of comments. However what happens when you build more roads – they attract more traffic. Why is it so wonderful to be trying to burn our diminish stocks of fossil fuels even more rapidly? Cars also pollute directly and indirectly – there is even going to be a special law to deal with littering passengers the problem has gotten so bad.

Although I understand why roads get more money it does seem to be rather short-sighted that most money subsidises cars and we don’t invest in decent train and bus facilities (and cycling links to them). Mind you there is a plan to invest in a railway junction upgrade around Ely – which would allow the frequency of trains between Cambridge and Norwich and Kings Lynn to double- a pity it has to wait until 2014.

Let’s face it none of us would want to live near busy roads – so why are we building even more isn’t it about time we got a bit smarter in the way we plan our society – capitalism might be good at creating “tactical competition” – it won’t plan the future for you though.

So whilst I am pleased to see that there are calls for our Government to “Get serious over cycling” or more politely from the CTC – “a lack of Government leadership on cycling”  (Here is the CTC evidence.) I can’t help but feel we need “societal leadership” what sort of place do we want out children to grow up in – a polluted concrete jungle with a sick and sedentary population surrounded by rusting cars that we can’t provide fuel for anymore.  Building more roads will just mean more of us will be stuck on them driving further and further to work.

The trouble is at the moment the situation seems somewhat piecemeal, everything from health care to road safety seems to be down to a “Post code lottery”. One of the positive stories is how South Cambs has a Bike Bank for young people to help them access work, education and training.

The issue is about society, not cycling, let’s face it times change. I remember getting a mobile phone back in 1991, it worked in the car and as a handset. Nowadays mobile phones are two a penny. Thirty-nine per cent of people in the UK have a Smartphone, used for email and Social Networking.  Texting has overtaken talking in the UK. The times are changing – lets plan for the future not the past.

Why don’t parents feel comfortable letting their kids cycle to school? Could it be that “Animosity is the biggest killer on the roads?” That is a problem for society.

And now for something completely different. I almost cycled to Ely – to make up for my lack of cycling the week before I have bunked off a few times this week. the trouble is the bridleways and byways are a bit soggy after all the rain – so I have tended to stick with the Lodes Way – which is pretty off-rad and not too soggy.

I cycled up via the Lodes Way and back via NCN51 from Wicken Fen. – I will leave planning the route as an exercise for the reader.  There are route planners out there – I tend to use Bike Route Toaster, but there is also Cyclestreets and even Google Maps – although the last time I looked they had not gotten NCN11 around Barway mapped in (Goose Fen Drove). I have reported it and received an acknowledgement email.

Somewhere along the way, but before I reached Lode (the Lode Road I think), I saw an Apache – of the helicopter kind.  They certainly have an air of menace about them. Perhaps the Police are borrowing one and that is why their use of police helicopters has dropped by 80 per cent.

Boeing Apache Helicopter

As during my last ride in these parts (Fen Road) the weather was predicted to be showery – judging from the dark clouds ahead those showers were going to be sooner rather than later.

Dark Clouds over the Fens (Fen Road)

You can’t take many pictures of the countryside round here without pylons getting in the way. There looked to be rain in the air as well. It was a good job I had my trusty rain cape with me.

Dark clouds over White Fen (and the pylons)

As I have been this way quite a few times recently I have been a bit more sparing in my photography. I almost made it to Burwell Lode before the next picture.

A long boat on Burwell Lode

You might have noticed I was still using my long lens – and I didn’t manage to haul my bike over the Burwell Lode footbridge without a picture of Burwell Fen Farm. I did have to put my cape on though. The paths around the bridge were also very muddy and slippery.

Burwell Fen Farm

This is Goose Fen Drove, near Barway, part of NCN 11.  It has not yet made it onto the Google Cycle maps but it is a route and very pleasant. I did have to make way for a couple of tractors on Padney Drove – but no big deal.

I had to cycle someway past these roses before taking a picture (because of the long lens). The smell was wonderful. They say our sense of smell is one of the more evocative of our senses.  There are certain smells on the road that lift the spirits. This is one of them,  the smell when cycling through dry pine woods is another.

The delightful smell of roses on Goose Fen Drove (Barway)

They also provide a delightful splash of colour.

The delightful smell of roses on Goose Fen Drove (Barway)

After Barway the route takes to some farm tracks and then a tarmac shared path alongside the River Great Ouse. There is a pumping station at Soham Lode Bridge. The track was rather “puddly” – I passed a few cyclists though.

NCN11 – A farm track between Barway and Braham Dock Drain

G’s has a hostel for their farm workers in Barway, these are some of the fields they work in I assume. These are more salad crops and the second harvest this year.

Salad crops being harvested – between Barway and Ely along NCN 11

Of course one of the icon sights in these parts is how Ely cathedral rises up from the Isle of Ely.  I wonder if this view will be the same when they build the bypass?

Ely Cathedral

As this is peaty fenland the ground is prone to shrinkage and movement – very few of the electricity poles around have stand upright. This one leans more than most though.

The Fens around Ely

I rather like the way the crops create lines and contours in the fields.

Salad crops being harvested – between Barway and Ely along NCN 11

As the season (some call it Summer) progresses different plants (weeds) come into flower – this is Common Ragwort, I think (Senecio jacobaea)

Common Ragwort

I took a few pictures – just in case I struggled to identify it. I should really have included more of the leaves really.

Common Ragwort

As it had been raining on and off and the way was soggy I didn’t bother going all the way to Ely and stopped and headed back again, although there was time for one more picture of Ely Cathedral – just in case this view is going to be obscured.

Ely Cathedral

At this time of year the wild flowers are pretty abundant along the field margins and provide a nice bit of colour amongst the green.

A bit of Fence in a field near Ely

This is the track heading back to Barway – pretty good really – the gravel has been nicely bedded in. the River Great Ouse is just over to the right up above the level of the path- ish.

NCN 11 alongside the River Great Ouse

And almost finally – some shaky footage of three of the Wadlow Wind Turbines spinning from NCN51 near The Missing Sock.

And finally some pictures of the Northern Lights as seen in Northumbria and two celebs on their bikes.

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