Thursday, August 16, 2012

A rant about cycle parking and a leisurely Lodes Way ride

Monday, 30th July 2012: I cycle for pleasure and convenience. I find it a great way to get around Cambridge. In most cases it is also a great way to park in Cambridge – except of course for the Cambridge Railway Station where the Cycle Parking is Crappy.` The bottom line is that there is more demand than supply, the powers that be might try to excuse the lack of facilities by telling us that it is because there are abandoned bikes there. The bottom line is that there is insufficient capacity and no-one seems to care.

We do have a new Train Operator though, with Dutch origins and there is hope that they might do something.  There have been trials of double-decker cycle stands and this Sunday the Council will hold and event to allow cyclists to try out the stands. The trouble is the article suggests it will be for the new Cycle building – which will be some time off. It seems to me that meanwhile the Rail companies are going to manage the situation by decreasing demand for the trains by putting the prices up.

It does make me wonder quite how planning “works”.  Or is that an oxymoron? The more I cycle the more I have come around to the view that if we want more people cycling then they have to feel “safe”.  Safe is not just about statistics – in fact most people probably assume that if you have to use statistics to prove then cycling is safe – then it really must be dangerous.  The reality is that most people would consider a situation where motor vehicles and bicycles share the same bit of tarmac as both unpleasant and unsafe.  Over half of parents would not let their children cycle to school unsupervised once they reach the age of 12 and two-thirds of commuters think UK roads are ‘not safe enough for cycling’.

In my view if we want to see a big shift in the use of bicycles for transport then there needs to be a big shift in how we plan our transport systems – including decent, direct and not-shared,  segregated cycle routes. There also needs to be more planning to ensure that it is much easier to combine switch from between rail, bus and cycle.  The whole experience also needs to be more pleasant as well.

This is probably asking a lot – but let’s face it oil (petrol, diesel, gas) is going to run out. Indeed importing loads of it does not do much for the UK balance of trade. Apparently in 2011 our total net imports of fuels was £18.7Bn, up from £9.8Bn in 2010. (In 2011 our total import was £56.7Bn).  In reality the economy probably benefits more by generating energy more expensively compared to cheaper energy imports since the money stays in the economy.

Still enough of that – I cycle on roads unless there is a reasonable alternative, but for leisure I tend to stick to routes which  combine cycle routes and country lanes. This is yet another leisurely Lodes Way ride.  Although I started off on the Lodes Way I switched to the road route to Upware and then back along the Lodes Way.

Heading towards White Fen the clouds didn’t look too promising.

Dark clouds over Pylons and White Fen Droveway

Although the fields have turned light brown as the crops ripen there are still splashes of colour along the verges. Presumably these weeds wildflowers have managed to escape the chemical warfare that is waged upon our fields. Not that I blame the farmers – they have a living to make and the number of people needing to be fed in the world is increasing.

I do think we need larger tranches of unfarmed countryside though – a patch here and a patch there isn’t sufficient to support a diversity of wildlife.

Tufted Vetch on White Fen Drove Way

We see a rang of things grown here in the fens from peas to potatoes as well as a variety of cereals and turf.  One thing that I do notice is that fields are turned over much quicker than when I was a boy. Things used to happen to an annual rhythm, nowadays no sooner has one crop been harvested than the field is ploughed and drilled with something else.

Here in the fens that means what was once green or light brown suddenly become peaty- black – as a field is ploughed.

Freshly Ploughed back peat fen field – on the road to Upware

Some crops become fashionable and then fall out of favour, last year I saw loads of fields growing Linseed. A couple of years ago beetroot was in favour and it was common to see loads of escaped beetroot lying on the verges.

I haven’t seen much beetroot this year, either lying on the verge or growing in the fields, however there must be a field somewhere close, if this tractor pulling a trailer full of beetroot is anything to go by.

Tractor pulling a load of beetroot, heading to Upware?

Here is a field of spuds, looking pretty good at the moment – they need a bit of rain to grow but not so much that they sit in sodden soil. Whilst their flowers are quite as profuse as a field of oil-seed rape or daffodils they sill provide a bit of “colour” although these are white flowers.

A Field of Spuds in the Fens, near Wicken Fen

A bit further along was a field full of leeks or onions, I think the latter but I am not too sure. If it was leeks then perhaps they are supplying a leek and potato soup company.

Leeks (or onions) growing in a field near Upware

The peat fen soil seems to be used for salad and root crops in the main, a little further around and about cereal crops and oil-seed rape tends to dominate. This looks a little battered by the rain.

Battered Wheat ripening under a cloudy sky

After passing Upware the soil becomes browner and the crops more cereal. It was the clouds that had me worried though.

Dark Clouds over the Fens (close to Wicken Fen)

Although on the other side of the road the village of Wicken seemed to have been light up so there must be a gap in the clouds over there – which is where I was heading.

The village of Wicken lit by the sun

I did brave Docking’s Lane, as it means being able to avoid cycling along the A1123 to Wicken.  Although the fens tend to dry pretty quickly we have had quite a bit of rain recently. This byway was pretty water-logged with some pretty deep ruts.  I did manage to cycle along it without dabbing a foot down – I was glad it wasn’t too long though.

Water-logged Docking’s Lane

After that it was a pretty straightforward ride back along the Lodes Way. It looked like rain off towards Cambridge (but wasn’t when I got there).  I stopped at the Newnham Drove/ Lodes Way cross road. This  picture is a panorama picture and take in two adjacent legs of the crossroads (just).

Lodes Way – Newnham Drove crossroads

As I mentioned I didn’t get caught in the rain that day as there wasn’t much. My legs were a bit muddy though.

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