Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Meeting of the Lodes Way irregulars

Sunday, 1st July 2012: A pinch and a punch on the first of the month. Although I do realise that I am over a week behind in getting this post out. I also realise that my experiment of not directly recording my cycle mileage in a spreadsheet has had a distinct effect. In 2011 I stopped keeping a spreadsheet up to data and monitoring my weekly mileage.  I also used to set “goals” for the mileage I would aim to cover in a year.

I believe it is good to set goals, but on the other hand I didn’t want to become a slave to my cycling. First and foremost I cycle because I enjoy it. Nothing quite beats the pleasure of getting about under one’s own steam. Whether it is to a meeting, to work, to shop or just to get out and enjoy the countryside (and take pictures). All the other benefits are icing on the cake – it is cheaper, it is more eco-responsible, it impacts my fellow citizens less, it is good for my physical and mental well-being.

I don’t think to myself – ah I must take 100 pictures a month, I either do or I don’t take pictures – er well actually I probably take 300 – 400 different pictures a month and that doesn’t include the multiple exposures. 

So why the fuss about mileage – well I am suffering a bit from the Micawber principle, not so much in monetary terms as in calories. As my mileage has reduced then so has my usage of calories, unfortunately my consumption has remained the same and the result is not misery but weight gain. The trouble is it creeps up on you over time. I reckon that a good balancing distance to cycle each week is around 200 miles (320Km). Of course I could just reduce my calorie intake but where is the fun in that. In fact being able to eat what you want has to be another great benefit of cycling.

So it has got to the point where I either need to rename my blog Fat man on a Bicycle, which is already taken, or do something about it.  Around 10 years ago, I damaged my knee and I saw a specialist surgeon who said I was a bit young to operate on and it would be better if I could get by, and cycling was a good way of “rehabilitating” my knee (with some provisos). Work was also taking its toll on my waistline and I changed things around and started working from home and set myself the goal of cycling from Land’s End to John O’ Groats.

I also wanted to be comfortable on the ride and enjoy it, so I lost weight and gained cycle mileage – as rumour had it the there are hills and even mountains in other parts of the UK. It was a great trip, one I’d recommend, Ten years or so on I’d probably be a candidate for the knee operation – but for the fact that is has benefitted greatly from my cycling. Anyway the time has come to take stock and re-consider goals and measurements.

The good news is that none of this actually reduces my enjoyment of cycling in the flatlands one jot. If I lived in the Lake District it might well be a different story. So I set off for a spin out pretty much along Lodes Way, around Wicken Fen and then back via Burwell, Reach and the Swaffhams, detouring of NCN51 to Lode and then back on NCN 51. There is no map this time – I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader – although there are many other posts in the Blog that do have a route.

I packed my long lens (100mm to 300mm) for a change of perspective and set off. The first stop was on the NCN51 just after Quy – Wadlow Wind Farm – ever growing and increasing its presence on the skyline. There are nine in shot – although one is almost hidden. This picture was taken with the zoom lens at 100mm

Wadlow Wind Farm – continuing to grow

The close-up was taken with the zoom at 300mm (the maximum). The turbines dwarf the pylons and the CamGrain silos are pretty visible.

There are plans to build more wind farms in the area – which are understandably exciting attention. There is one planned near the American base at RAF Molesworth, with the “Stop Campaign here and their summary leaflet here”. It seems to me that part of the challenge is that the Wind Farms are “sold” on the basis of how many thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide offset each year. Which to most people is a meaningless statistic.

What is surprising is the number of existing or approved Wind farms on the A14 corridor. The trouble is these are big changes to our countryside – but there is not really any communication of what the trade-offs might be. I can’t help feeling that we have Carbon targets set by Europe (with penalties for failing to reduce emissions), these then drive our planning system in a way that doesn’t actually give any real or informed choice.

Mind you the same could be said of roads – the constant thrum of traffic is something we just seem to accept nowadays. Perhaps because over 80% of the UK population live in urban areas decisions are made  by the majority and reflect what  that majority (Urban dwellers) put up with.  The trouble such decisions rarely reflect the pros and cons of urban and rural living. The danger is that living in the countryside becomes the lowest common denominator with an erosion of the advantages and no subsidisation of the advantages.

One trend is that these wind farms do seem to set up Community Funds – with the Molesworth  Wind Farm indicating that £1,000 per megawatt per year would be paid into a fund. (Leading to an estimated £375,000 over the operational life of the Wind Farm). In the case of Wadlow Wind Farm the benefit to a Local Community Fund is estimated at £39,000 per year. ((£1,500 per  MW per year). So there is money going into the community – but only to Charities within a 5Km radius of the farm and what looks like quite a bucket load of admin.

Groups offered a grant will be required to provide detailed information on how the funding was spent and to provide monitoring information to include a case study, pictures and a summary of the impact of the grant funding

The trouble is whilst it makes for good PR it doesn’t necessarily address the issues of lack of public transport or shops.

Did you know that according to the Wadlow Wind Farm website the East of England renewable energy targets imply 150 offshore wind turbines and 400 – 500 inshore wind  turbines along with a further 139,000 extra hectares to energy crops.

Which might explain why another Turbine is set for approval (despite objections). Now don’t get me wrong I am not dead against wind turbines, but there do seem to be stories about how they affect their local area.

Whilst on the subject of “wind” there is to be the World Pea Shooting Championships over at Witchford on Saturday.

Wadlow Wind Farm – continuing to grow

After leaving NCN51 and joining Lodes Way there was what I thought may be the first evidence of the Lode Star Festival as I trundled form Lode to White Fen.  But on second thoughts it is a bit early. I think it might be kite-flying.

Site of the Lode Star Festival?

This is a picture of the road leading up to White Fen Drove. That bridge you can see is  the route of a footpath, and one of the access tracks for Lode Star, I think.

Fen Road, Lode

As I cycled down White Fen Drove towards the bottom it was possible to see the Wild campsite peeping through the trees (with a long lens). I was using the long lens, not the wild campsite though.

Wild Campsite between Lode and Wicken Fen

The Lodes Way signpost – I must be heading in the right direction. Next time I ought to take this picture without the obscuring branch.

Lodes Way signpost – White Fen

Have a long lens – take pictures from a distance – this is Reach Lode Bridge taken from Headlake Drove after going past Split Drove.

The view up Headlake Drove, I turned around again as I thought I’d probably better make a move as there was rain in the air and, did I mention that the Fen Tiger might be on the prowl.

Headlake Drove

Another of those signpost shots – this is showing the route from Headlake Drove to Split Drove. The blue could do with being a bit more blue really.

Lodes Way signpost – Split Drove

As I cycled up to Reach Lode bridge I met up with MikeC and SBC so I stopped for a chat and then it did start to rain so we sheltered under the bridge. A rather neat multi-purpose bridge that one.

As we waited for the rain to ease off we chatted about cleats, spam cans, wild life and interesting routes to cycle along. Now I thought I knew what this was – a Tortoiseshell or a Painted Lady, I think the latter

Painted Lady underneath Reach Lode Bridge

Both MikeC and SBC are far more knowledgeable about birds and were following a Whitethroat (Syliva communis) about – it is certainly a warbler. Fortunately I had my long lens, although 300mm (600mm in 35mm speak) is actually not that long, well not for bird photography. This is the bird at maximum zoom and I cropped the picture in order to get a bit of digital zoom.

A Whitethroat on the fencing alongside Reach Lode Bridge

After that I popped up and around Wicken Fen, although I did take a picture of the Wadlow Wind Farm from the footbridge over Burwell Lode. At this point they are about 15Km / 9.25 miles away. Somewhat obscured by the electricity transmission lines. To the left you can also see the towers of the two Swaffham Prior churches.

Wadlow Wind Farm – just under 10 miles away from Burwell Lode

MikeC commented on how poppies must hybridise quickly since you see many colours around and about the countryside, yet not near gardens. So here are some poppies somewhere on the way home?  No-one seems to be harvesting them for their illicit connection though.

Poppies by the wayside – Lodes Way

I almost forgot to mention Barway, on NCN51 close to Ely got a mention in a national newspaper. It was commenting on the multi-lingual signs to be found there.

And finally some celebrity cyclist pictures – Katy Perry – showing how to carry your phone  when on a bicycle (if you have a cleavage). Jamie Bell and Evan Rachel Wood on a romantic cycle ride (you have to look a bit further down to seem them cycling). And finally Kelly Brook who is often seen in the papers because she is an ambassador for Sky Ride City.  Since everyday cycling isn’t dangerous she has chosen not to wear a helmet. However the DM gets a bit pissy about that and her smart clothes, rather than cycling gear. Come on DM, we don’t all get dressed up in fireproof overalls and crash helmets when we drive a car, only when racing – why should we get dressed up for a pootle on a bicycle!!!!

And finally, Cyclists with iPods hear the same as motorists listening to nothing. Yes really so why do car drivers get so het up sitting in splendid isolation when they see a cyclist with earphones  – have they lost touch with reality – well yes probably.


  1. Hi Jamie,

    thanks for protecting the identity of the "spam-can" jibe culprit ;-)

    Here is a photo of the aeroplane I most frequently get to ride in. And here is the importer handing it over to its owner. Not me tho', sadly.


    1. I've only once been in a two-seater, many years ago someone I worked with was keen to keep up his hours and in return for a contribution to the costs would demonstrate his aerobatic skills. His only condition was that if you were sick you cleaned up the mess.

      It was great fun with the tail slide being my favourite manoeuvre.


  2. ...and "progress" at the wind farm

    This evening (Weds 11th) two of the generators were turning. I could only count 12 units erected, but it looks as if commissioning has started.

    Can I commend do-the-math to this house, for a look at the numbers behind the various alternatives for energy production and use. Some mathematics is occasionally required, but nothing really beyond O-level (or whatever the GCSE equivalent is).


  3. Swaffham Bulbeck cyclistJuly 13, 2012 at 6:34 PM

    Good link Mike - my maths is hopeless as I only ever did CSE level and was rubbish at that so I'll see how much (or little) I can figure out!

    Great pics JME- the whitethroat in particular came out beautifully. I love the 'irregulars' description - and I look forward to the next meeting!

  4. Hi Mike, I have put of cycling over to the Wind Farm, it is too wet for me. I cycled along the byways from Horningsea to Lode and the tracks were as soggy as I've seen them. An interesting link.

    Hi SBC, thanks - it made me realise how patient some of the photographers are that visit the area and that they must have some pretty expensive glass.

  5. I drove near the Wind Farm today and saw some some of them turning. I think that there are now 13 in place. It certain got built quicker than the Guided Busway.