Friday, August 31, 2012

Cycling from Cambridge to Over and back, with two cameras

Sunday, 19th August 2012: I was going to title the Post “The last weekend of Summer!”. The temperatures we once again at the point where we Brits start moaning about it being too hot. I can see why the Ozzies call us whinging Poms. Personally I thought it was glorious and it definitely called for a leisurely bit of riding in the countryside. When I use the word leisurely it tends to mean I don’t want to have to cycle off into another county – although there is plenty of nice countryside around this county.

I reckon that one of the best off-road routes around Cambridge is Worsted Street, also known as the Roman Road from Cambridge to Balsham (and a bit further – Horseheath). It runs parallel to the A1307 – but is straighter.  By best I mean for general getting out and about cycling. The track can be tricky in places and muddy in others, but generally it makes for a pleasant, undulating traffic-free route along a “green road”.  However I have been there a few times.

Another excellent off-road route leads from Coton to Cambourne along a loosely interconnected bridleway. It is less straight than than the Roman Road and runs parallel to the A428.  It can be rather bumpy in places though and in places the path can be rather overgrown.  Another rather nice route is from Dry Drayton to Conington – but I digress.

The route I took, another of the unexpectedly good for  easy, off-road cycling starts at Histon and can take you as far as Aldreth, or across to Earith and then to Over. I didn’t go quite as far and went through Willingham to Over and then back along the cycleway alongside the CGB. The route I took was 46Km/ 29 miles and passes through some lovely countryside – although the tracks run semi-parallel to the CGB cycleway they undulate more and you are not quite so isolated from the countryside. Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link to the map below.

As it was a Sunday I took the long way to Histon and cycled up through Horningsea to Clayhithe and then back down alongside the River Cam before turning off to Milton and then along Butt Lane. The track out of Histon is a bridleway called Gun’s Lane. The first path is a heavily pea-shingled path which takes a bit of care and a low gear. After that you have a hedge either side.

What does surprise me is how rarely I meet people on this path since it is so convenient.

Gun’s Lane, just outside Histon

Here is the map of my route – it seems that the planned cycle way along Butt Lane has stalled. It has only made it halfway. I seem to remember it relied on some developer money. I can’t easily find any recent information here is a note form January 2011.  Although reference to it in Cambridgeshire County Council minutes go back to 2009.  Here is a link to a map  on a pdf document. Although you might think that half a cycle way is better than none I doubt that parents would allow their children to cycle along Butt Lane in the dark – it can be scary in the light.

Map of my ride – Over the field to Over and back on the smooth tarmac of the CGB Cycleway

Gun’s Lane is used by farmers to get to and from fields, some of which don’t have gates so you feel to be pretty close to the countryside. This wheat was ripening nicely – although I have no idea what the moisture levels were. Apparently modern Combines continuously monitor such things.

Wheat ripening alongside Gun’s Lane, Histon

As you can see it was rather like cycling between seas of wheat it seemed to spread for miles.

A Sea of Wheat ripening in the fields – Histon

As I have mentioned before what is also amazing is how little weed there seems to be in the fields of crops. Although there were some thistles near the edge of this field. There are various rules (and payments) associated with how farmers deal with the field margins.

Weeds along the edge of a field of otherwise uniform wheat

After Gun’s Lane you reach a road (between Westwick and Oakington) where the crossing is called Lambs’ Cross – which I assume was because sheep were herded down this route to market in Cambridge?

At this point the track becomes a byway and is called Rampton Drift. After passing a farm you climb a little bit. (The contour lines on the map are only at 10m so don’t worry.

A small climb, Rampton Drift

To the left you can occasionally see the Guided Buses “sailing” though the fields. Further off in the distance you can see the Communication Tower that stands alongside the CGB on Gravel Bridge Road. (I took two cameras with me because I wanted the long lens on my Lumix Camera – Micro Four Thirds (like and SLR but not),  I don;t really like swapping lenses in the field (literally in some cases) so but I like to have a wider angle lens with me as well. So I took my small Sony DSC-W200 for the wide-angle pictures. The first of the Lumix pictures is the previous picture and this one.

Gravel Bridge Road Communication Tower in the distance

After climbing the “hill” you drop down – although the track becomes even easier to cycle along.

Rampton Drift – “down the hill”

There were two things at this spot that appealed to me – the tree in the middle of the wheat field – this taken with the Sony. (Focal length at 17.2mm

Tree in a Wheat Field

This is the same tree – but taken with the Lumix and the long lens. As you might expect there is less in view, although the telegraph poles do stand out a bit more in this shot. (Focal length at – 100mm)

This is the other thing that caught my eye – a giant thistle (the afore-pictured tree is in the background. It looks rather like a Giant Ornamental Thistle.

Giant Ornamental Thistle

The same thistle – but looking down tre track.

Giant Ornamental Thistle

And yet another picture of the Thistle this time taken from a few metres ways and with my Lumix camera. (Focal length 177mm or 354mm it adjusted for a 35mm film). It nicely blurs out the background.

A view back the way I had come – the small lump in the ground – it looks steeper because of the longer lens though.

Looking back along Rampton Drift

After a short distance the track becomes Cuckoo Lane (named for the nearby Cuckoo Farm?). There used to be a pipe over the water the last time I cycled along here, Beck Brook.

Cuckoo Lane alongside Beck Brook

As I was cycling down towards Reynold’s Drove there was a man with a very large aggressive dog – he looked as if it was going to break free any minute. He pointed down the track as said go straight on in a way that made me think we was fearful the dog would break loose any second and attack me.

I did go straight on as that was the way I was intending to go  and then turned down Reynold’s Drove and then along a route that doesn’t yet appear on the OS map on WTP but is on the OSM map – a bridleway to High Street Rampton.  At this time of year it is quite overgrown.  I can’t remember getting stung but there were some thistles along the way.

Bridleway to High Street Rampton

I did think about going up the Aldreth Causeway, but wimped out and cycled through Willingham to over and then back down the CGB cycleway. There were loads of cyclists and quite a few walkers  out on the CGB path.

As it is a route I have taken lots of pictures of I just got on with the ride home – apart from this one picture of the miracles (what my sun used to call sunbeams many years ago).

Miracles beaming down onto the ripening wheat

I’d certainly recommend that route for a gentle ride out into the Cambridge countryside.

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