Thursday, August 30, 2012

Saturday a day for social cycling–chatting and Sustrans

Saturday, 18th August 2012: In yet another Survey, this time for the Government  “Cambridge tops UK cycle survey” as adults in Cambridge are more likely to cycle regularly than anywhere apparently with 52% riding their bikes at least once a week. So perhaps cycling facilities really do matter. I feel they matter way more than training. “Cambridge also fares well in offering alternatives to the car” in a survey by the Campaign for Better Transport.

One cyclist who might argue that the cycle facilities should be better policed is a former leader of Cambridgeshire County Council. She was fined for careless cycling after hitting a car parked partially in a cycle lane. That doesn’t really seem to be a very good message – I don’t mean her behaviour I mean not focusing on the illegally parked vehicle.  I hope there is an appeal.

Talking of local cyclists there is also an appeal for a cyclist who main have witnessed a fatal collision in June. It seems quite a while after the even to seek someone though.

Apparently despite recent news that the Police don’t want to Police 20mph limits they have cracked down on faster speeds. More than 200 drivers were caught in a week long crackdown. Apparently the Police were shocked, although I am not surprised judging from the behaviour of motorists I see – one way to get off apparently is to cry!  Police have also been able to catch a cyclist with cannabis – although it would seem that the cannabis is dulling the cyclist’s intelligence. A 14 year old boy has also become one of Britain’s youngest ever drink drivers. I am glad he has been caught but it is not that reassuring to think that 14-year olds drive at all. Mind you here is one 14-year old who calmly averted an accident – so they are not all bad.

It was a pleasant day, the chores were done and I had a week’s worth of the Archers and Ambridge Extra to listen to. It is no longer the “everyday story of country folk” but the recent story line menacing David Archer and his family seems to have resolved. Mind you we do have amniocentesis to go. Apparently the program is now a “contemporary drama in a rural setting” – so as is my wont I went for a ride in a rural setting to catch up. Maybe that ought to be my tagline – “contemporary cycling in a rural setting and Cambridge – mainly”.  At least I don’t have to worry about the price of milk although in a recent family survey I was the only one who knew the cost of a litre of milk. The Archers’ agricultural story advisor did hint that was going to be an issue  back in May 2011.

For me the rural setting for catching up tends to be a ride along High Ditch Road and then around  Low Fen Drove Way followed by a ride across the fields from Horningsea to Lode and then on, or thereabouts, Lodes Way to and from Wicken Fen. The precise route depends upon a bunch of things including the weather, both past and present and recent rides.

Before I forget – Lodestar Festival is on this weekend and check out these pictures of work on the Pylons near Wicken Fen. (It points to John’s Blog – the Wicken Fen Vision Warden)

My first stop was on the old railway bridge along High Ditch Road – there is no railway line now, it used to be the Cambridge to Mildenhall line. It was finally closed on the 19th April 1965.  What I have always found a little surprising is that despite the absence of any railway line – in this case for many years the bridges remain. I would have thought that it would be cheaper to remove the bridge rather than maintain it – but it would seem not. Apparently one of the issues is dealing with utility services that might run along the road and over the bridge.

This railway “line” is still  apparent, although heavily overgrown with various trees. One of the larger trees is an apple tree to the right of the picture. Although the apple trees at home don’t seem to have any fruit on them this one is laden. There used to be the Fen Ditton Halt here. I like to think the the apple tree has grown from the discarded core of one of the train’s passengers of yesteryear. UPDATE The Halt was not by this bridge so perhaps someone threw an apple core from the road or out of the carriage window).

High Ditch Road – bridge over the Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line – that was

Although I called it a cutting – given how flat it is around here the cutting is more rather organic.  This year’s harvest is well under way with fields combined and harvested and even ploughed – although there is still a fair bit to do.

I think that this is the view of Fen Ditton from the same bridge.

High Ditch Road Railway bridge

After crossing the old railway line again, just past the Dogs Home (but not shown on the map, Low Fen Drove Way becomes more of a hard-packed mud track – although we have had rain it quickly dries – although there were still some puddles. It doesn’t take much farm use when it is wet to cause the ruts to form though.

Low Fen Drove Way – near Snouts Corner

There is a concrete track parallel to the byway around Snouts Corner.  This is the view looking back onto it. The byway is the the right and the concrete track to the left. The byway gets extremely rutted and I think many people go via the concrete track – there is a gap to the right hand side of the gate.

Low Fen Drove Way and parallel concrete track

It was a surprisingly warm day and the skies were blue. I haven’t written about this picture, because I can’t quite recall where I took it – according to my GPS trace it might have been a picture where Low Fen Drove Way meets Biggin Lane.

Crops growing in the fields

After passing through Horningsea I was back  off-road, the fields both sides of the bridleway had already been ploughed.

Freshly ploughed fields in the Fens – late summer

There were quite a few cyclists and walkers around and there was a “traffic” census on Swaffham Bulbeck Bridge. Two people were asking users of the route various questions. “Where are you going” – which in my case was in a loop really, “how much exercise do you do”, “where are you from” and so on. They were quite chatty and we talked about the Lodes Way and how it opens up this lovely bit of countryside. I also suggested that having some more circular routes would be great as well. I could had stopped chatting all day except a whole bunch more cyclists turned up.

As it happened MikeC was just ahead of me and he had moved on when I turned up.  He then stopped at Reach Lode Bridge where I stopped for another chat. It was delightful standing on the bridge, the temperatures got up to 30C and as I sit here watching the rain now seems a distant memory.  There was also a delightful breeze blowing through as well.

Other cyclists came through and MikeC handed out Lodes Way maps. The two people in the picture also caught us up. They had stopped at the Census after me. They had come up from London for a night away and some cycling in the Fens. Originally they had planned to stay in Ely – but it was full so they were staying in Cambridge instead.

They had come up from London and had gotten off the train at Waterbeach (or cycled to Waterbeach from Cambridge, I am not quite sure). Having gotten to Waterbeach they then found themselves in no-cycling land, but managed to find a way across somehow. (I would imagine they came across from Horningsea to Lode). They were on their way to Ely. The NCN11 stub up through to Waterbeach is rather strange and does confuse visitors expecting to cycle to Ely and beyond.

Traffic Census on Swaffham Bulbeck Lode Bridge

It was a good job they didn’t serve beer on Reach Lode Bridge as I would have stayed there all afternoon. Mike and I cycled up to the footbridge over Burwell Lode and were joined by another cyclist of Mike’s acquaintance en-route. We said our goodbyes at the bridge and I went off exploring up Harrison’s drove. It was far worse than I had imagined – I thought there might be some puddles – but not warning signs. This is as bad as I have seen it.

I got off and walked – thinnish tyres and mud are not my idea of fun. I do appreciate the warnings though unlike these villagers who would prefer to have accidents it would seem. (There have been accidents as a result of the slippery ford – but it was a naturally occurring hazard.)

Harrison’s Drove, Wicken Fen – a mud track

I then cycled through Upware and along the main road before turning off along Way Lane and down Lower Road (NCN11) to Wicken Fen.

It turns out that although we seem to have had a lot of rain this year after the early drought in the US more than 35 states have declared disaster areas due to drought and bread, pasta and meat will increase in price. It is a good job the Fens are a productive area of farmland..

How about this for a summery picture.

Freshly bailed Straw - Wicken

All the chatting had made the time pass pretty quickly – so this was the last picture. But there are some  pictures in these links: Sarah Storey wins Britain's first gold in the Paralympics and a celebrity family out cycling  - although I don’t really know who they are! Here are some interesting “light” photographs as well – I can’t really draw well enough for that though.

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