Monday, July 16, 2012

Flowers in the Fens

Sunday, 8th July 2012: Sunday, a day for quiet contemplation, a cycle in the countryside and the doom and gloom of The Archers. Let’s just hope that the tale over everyday witness intimidation sorts itself out soon otherwise I will have to do my catching up on a Tuesday or Hump day, what my wife calls Wednesday – by then you are over the hump of the week and it is plain sailing, downhill until the weekend. (To mix a few metaphors.)

This was a gentle ride out in what was a gap in all the rain and showers we have been having. It was also my first proper ride since the Monday before – almost a week without cycling anywhere. It also happened to be the Bike Bike Ride – but I am sorry to say I wimped out, although the weather was kinder than it might have been. Severe weather warnings seem to be a routine part of the news nowadays.

As it happened I was in Cambridge for a meeting on Friday, 6th, but it was such persistent rain, as you can see from the Cambridge DTG link,  that I caught the bus. In terms of convenience it was great, it obviously costs more than cycling in and it didn’t have the door-to-door convenience either. However although not good as certain in timing as my bike it was pretty good and of course cost me nothing to park. (Which did save me money.)

The trouble was the bus wasn’t dry. I took an umbrella with me rather than wear a coat – and the bus leaked. Water seemed to drip down inside the bus. Whilst I appreciate that buses cost money to build they don’t do themselves any favours when compared with their competition – cars. If you want really do people to switch their mode of transport then you can’t just rely on the stick – there have to be some carrots too.

This was a ride along NCN51 then onto the Lodes Way before cycling the “wrong way around Wicken Fen, down to Burwell and then back onto the Lodes way via Newnham Drove before heading back via Swaffham Prior and NCN 51. Once again I used my long lens (100mm – 300mm) for a different perspective.

In this modern age of intensive farming it is unusual, but that rare to see poppies growing amidst a crop of wheat or barley. I reckon that it is deliberate – by growing the wheat and poppies together then it combines the ingredients for poopy seed rolls.

Poppies in a Field alongside White Fen Drove

And of course where would we be if we couldn’t see any pylons eh.

Poppies in a Field alongside White Fen Drove

This field seemed to have them on the headlands so I assume that the farmer had been deliberately less intensive on the field margins. Apparently it could be a disaster year for butterflies as it is so wet – so they need all the help they can get. (Although the rain is good for Bee Orchids – which were discovered in 1940 and became nearly extinct in recent years)

Poppies in a Field alongside White Fen Drove

This field seemed to have a red streak down the middle.

Poppies in a Field alongside White Fen Drove

A track leading off White Fen Drove (the recent scene of a burnt out car) was a show of white with one poppy plant interloping.

Cow parsley on a track off White Fen Drove

This is White Fen Drove – a tarmac road of remarkable smoothness since it only goes to some fields. That looks like Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris) in the verge.

White Fen Drove

One of the flowers I particularly like at this time of year is Tufted vetch (Vicia cracca) – it is bursting with colour.

Tufted vetch – White Fen Drove

This is Swaffham Bulbeck Lode – full, lush but not yet bursting.

Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

The view of the “old” footbridge down towards Swaffham Bulbeck.

Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

After passing the bridge and dropping down onto the road signs of the drenching we’ve had – the tracks in the crops were water logged.

Water-logged fields

Surprisingly the bund-surrounded Fen does not seem to have benefitted from all the rain we’ve had. The dilapidated Burwell Fen Farm lies at the end of a dry track.

Burwell Fen Farm

This is the view of Newnham Drove looking down towards the Electrickery sub-station. That is not such a smooth piece of tarmac.

Newnham Drove

This is one the bits of Lodes Way that was especially constructed through the fen. At first I was worried that the gravel surface was prone to getting rather soggy and difficult to cycle along – it seems to have compacted quite well though.

This is the view looking back towards the gates and cattle grids of Newnham Drove.

Lodes Way between Newnham drove and Burwell Lode

And this is an attempt at a montage of a bunch of pictures taken of that same view – I don’t think David Hockney has anything to worry about.

 Winking smile

Then I cycled around Wicken Fen (the wrong way) and back down into Burwell and than back up Newnham Drove. I stopped near the Sub-station to take a picture of these Poppy seed pods – I was tempted to scratch them to see what happens. But sense overcame experimentation.

Poppies along Newnham Drove

The early part of the Drove, the Burwell end, looks seductively smooth – it ain’t

Poppies along Newnham Drove

After returning to Lodes Way I stopped on the Reach Lode Bridge.

Cows along Reach Lode

I then stopped at the point where Split drove and Headlake Drove meet and took this picture looking along Commissioners’ Drain in the direction of Reach Lode. It is looking a bit overgrown.

Commissioners'’ Drain

For a change I then cycled down through Swaffham Prior and followed NCN 51 (more or less). Although I did stop to take a picture of these Harebells. (Campanula rotundiflora)


As you can see there were quite a few.

Harebells along NCN 51 – Swaffham Prior

One thing did surprise me – the roads and lodes (and Lodes Way) seemed empty, it wasn’t until I got home to find my family watching some tennis match or other did I realise – Wimbledon finals I think.


  1. stunning photographs!
    i've just started writing about leisurely rides around the Fens inspired by the sheer beauty of the flat surrounds, and this blogpost is very much a testament to that! :)

  2. Thank you - I will check out your blog and add it to my list.