Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Riding in the Rain

Tuesday, 10th July 2012: Last week was not a good week in terms of getting out  and cycling. I also went for a week without stretching my legs. So I allowed myself a bit more time to cycle this week.

The only problem was the weather wasn’t cooperating.  Rain and cycling are never as bad as you might think. certainly around here in the Flatlands I very rarely get caught out in the rain on my bike.  The trouble is I tend to remember the odd occasions when I do get very wet.

One morning I was cycling to the station to get an early train to London and although it was showery I decided against wearing rainproof leggings and just wore a rainproof jacket. All was fine until with only a few 100m to go the clouds opened and I got soaked. the journey to London was most unpleasant as I dried out. I was pretty much dry by the time I got to London, but did I mention I was on my Brompton, I made it almost to the office and it poured again.  I had a meeting first thing and although I was tempted to dry my trousers out on a radiator I was not sure how I could hid sitting behind a table for the meeting. It would have been rude not to have stood up to shake hands for instance.  After that lesson I used to keep a few spare clothes in the office – just in case.

Back to the ride as you can see from the Cambridge DTG weather graphs for that day in question it rained pretty heavily around 12 and then 4pm. The forecast was for heavy showers, however when I set off for some reason I was hopeful that I would be able to dodge the shower. Mind you as well as being hopeful I also took my cycle cape with me. I always used to think such things were the epitome of uncool and frankly only what old cyclists used.

However one of the problems I find with rainproof jackets and leggings is that unless I slow down to a snail’s pace then I can get just as wet from sweating as I can from the rain. So I decided I ought to try one out and it went on the list of things when I was asked what I wanted for Christmas. (They are pretty reasonable in price as well I reckon and being yellow you get seen.)

Although for all those motorists who feel that cyclists being it on themselves by not wearing high-viz and helmets and what-not when I was knocked of my bicycle a few years back I was wearing high-viz – did the driver see me – non! Did it hurt – oui! I certainly don’t count myself as a vehicular cyclist – although for most journeys that is the only option

So my rain cape was my back up plan if it did rain. The only slight snag was that I have never used one before.

It wasn’t long before I was looking up at the dark skies – although not because of the rain rather one of the planes that visit Cambridge Airport for a Marshall's Tune-up.

Lockheed C-130 Hercules (RAF)

Although I had my long lens on the camera (100mm- 300mm which is 200mm to 600mm in 35mm speak) it was not that easy to get the plane framed and focused and steady. Well that’s my excuse anyway. This is an RAF plane, the plane’s markings are really quite small.

Lockheed C-130 Hercules (RAF)

As the weather has been so wet I have become less adventurous in my cycling – the Lodes Way (area) is one of the few away-from-motor-vehicles routes that doesn’t get too soggy. (The Cambridge Guided Busway almost qualifies – except it floods up a the St Ives end.

This is Harvey’s Droveway – the last bit of an off-road route from Horningsea. I am glad I did choose that route today.

Harvey’s Droveway – Lode

I haven’t noticed any Heron’s out this way for a while – but there was one. I think it was nesting on the bank of Bottisham Lode. They tend to fly at the slightest disturbance – well whenever I cycle past anyway.  They tend to fly away to a “safe” distance.

Heron flying above Bottisham Lode

Mind you even at a safe distance they seem extremely wary. This was at maximum zoom.

Heron on the bank of Bottisham Lode

The sky was dark in the direction I was cycling and I had hoped that if it did rain I might get to the Reach lode Bridge culverts and shelter there. I didn’t, however I did find my cape pretty easy to put on. I am not sure I have completely mastered the operation of the cape – but it did the trick. The hood kept the rain from running down my neck – a problem in torrential rain when wearing a rain jacket. I wasn’t quite sure whether to drape the cape over the handlebars or thread them through holes in the cape – or put my hands through those holes. The trouble is my handlebars are pretty wide.

It kept me dry although I couldn’t easily reach the  gear changer at first. What’s more the cape effect when wearing shorts is rather pleasantly cooling. When I stopped I had to take the cape off. As I watched the rain I took a few pictures form the shelter of the culvert.

Rain across the Fens (looking down towards Reach)

It was quite a long shower which meant I took a few pictures.  Apparently all these wind farms will require a vast network of pylons to connect them up.

Electricity pylons - Reach

It is quite difficult to take pictures of rain, so I was rather pleased with this one of thistles growing in a field. It really was throwing it down. (It might be easier if I were to check the pictures I take – but I tend not to until I get home.)

Thistles in the Rain

After a while I started getting bored and started betting on how quickly the snails would climb the culvert walls.

Snail on the wall of a Reach Lode Bridge culvert

In fact I got sufficiently bored that I decided the only thing to do was don my cape and with my super powers fly off into the sky cycle off. I also found a slightly more comfortable way to “wear2 the cape over the handlebars. The only snag was that it was hard to tell if the rain had eased off or not and I ended up taking the cape off and then soon after having to pop it back on.

I went the wrong way around Wicken Fen and was amazed at just how flooded the main NCN51 path is through Wicken Fen. On a bicycle it isn’t too bad as the puddle depth is ok, but it probably puts a lot of the Weekend walkers off.

On the way back past Baker’s Fen there was a lot of cloud in the sky.

Looking across Baker’s Fen

There was also a lot of water in Baker’s Fen – this is usually dry in the summer.

Looking across Baker’s Fen

The worst bit of  NCN51 is from the Wicken Fen entrance through to Norman’s Bridge. After that stretch the path doesn’t seem to get so water-logged. The whole area is pretty green and lush though.

NCN51 alongside Monk’s Lode, Wicken Fen

As I cycled towards Priory Drove the Konik Ponies were grazing in the field – there is a blog you can follow about the ponies and highland cattle – Lizzie’s Blog. The latest post shows how they use angle grinders on the cows!

Konik Ponies  - Wicken Fen

After the excitement of the ponies I detoured through Burwell and then back up Newnham Drove. There are still road closures around the back roads of Burwell and to avoid them on Hythe Lane I cycled down Anchor Lane and then alongside Burwell Lode up to Weirs Drove. it is quite a pleasant detour – although the bridleway was pretty muddy and slippery. There are a few boats down there in the Lode as well.

Newnham Drove has a signpost pointing the way – although I would probably also help to show NCN51 to avoid confusion.

Newnham Drove – this way to Lodes Way from Burwell (well one of the ways)

As I neared the Lodes Way cycling along Newnham Drove you can see evidence of the recent “showers” – the ground was steaming. That is Burwell Fen Farm in the background.

A Steaming Newnham Drove, Burwell

As I cycled along Newnham Drove I took pictures of the footbridge at Burwell Lode – the one you have to haul you bike over and Reach Lode Bridge.

Footbridge on Burwell Lode (Lodes Way)

Here is reach lode Bridge – I think the bridge adds to the visual interest – it is a shame about the electricity lines though.

Reach Lode Bridge (Lodes Way)

Another view of Burwell Fen Farm from closer to the Reach lode Bridge.

Burwell Fen Farm (Lodes Way)

I didn’t take any pictured from Reach Lode Bridge – which makes a change. Here is Split Drove – lines with puddles. A fine crop of potatoes in the field alongside, let’s hope they don’t get water-logged.

Split Drove (The Lodes Way)

When I took this picture, I did wonder whether I should have taken a few more to help identify it – but didn’t. So I think it is Common Mouse-ear (Cerastium fontanum), but I am not really sure.

Common Mouse-ear

Each time I look there seem to be more and more Wind Turbines – I think there are 12 in this picture which means there is one more to go. This is the view from White Fen.

Wadlow Wind Farm as seen from White Fen (Lodes Way)

As the day wore on more cyclists seemed to be prepared to dodge the showers – although this one was moving fairly fast, so by the time I took my camera out they were on the other side of White Fen near the bridge.

Cyclist on White Fen (Lodes Way)

As I stood there I though I could hear chatting nearby, it turned out that the Tour de France had taken a wrong turn somewhere and were coming down White Fen Drove.

Cyclists on White Fen Drove (Lodes Way)

As it happens they were speaking at least two languages.

Cyclists on White Fen Drove (Lodes Way)

I am glad I managed to sneak out for that ride – it washed the cobwebs and then blew them away. I reckon the cycling cape was a good buy too.

And finally – some rather interesting pictures showing children’s lives in the 1940s, Ali Larter and Matt LeBlanc on a tandem, and finally the pulchritudinous face of cycling Kelly Brook – in red and just posing on a bike.

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