Friday, August 24, 2012

Sunny, Sunday, Summer cycling–picnicking, haymaking and snakebites

Sunday, 12th August 2012: I ought to be burbling on about various bits and pieces of cycling –related stuff I’ve been reading bout in the press. The trouble is I’ve been to London twice this week and I have been having some gadget issues.

I record pretty much all my rides on my Garmin Edge 605 GPS. I rarely use it for finding my way about and I use it even less for mapping rides for routes I have no idea of where I am going. Although for both purposes it is excellent and really helpful.

A few years ago (3) I cycled from Hull to Cambridge over a couple of days and it was really excellent. I used it to highlight the route, created using Bike Route Toaster, it was especially useful cycling in towns (Hull, Lincoln Boston) and finding the places I was staying.

It has had its foibles over the years and I have updated the firmware a few times. The model is out of date but I would certainly strongly consider buying another Garmin GPS, although I would look around first. The battery life is good it seems reliable and I keep a record of my rides. I don’t use it for training – because I don’t do training. At one stage I used to run both a simple speedo and the GPS at the same time – but I no longer bother – the information was redundant and the GPS is probably more accurate.

One of the foibles is that well before the memory fills up with recorded rides it starts reporting a memory full error and I have to to a hard-reset and then reprogram a small number of settings. What I didn’t realise is that it will also occasionally record corrupt data.  This tends to happen if I set off before getting a proper satellite fix. I did look at editing the XML files it creates (and downloaded FirstObject) but I found it easier to just delete the corrupt laps – which were generally  my short trips to the shop in the morning to pick up a newspaper. So i didn’t lose much distance from my overall log.

What I did learn though was how to edit the Registry settings for the Garmin Training Center as if it opened up the window on a corrupt file it would just shut down again. I also learnt that it would sum the distances cycled – so for the week 13th August 2012 to the 19th August 2012 my total distance cycled was 194.64Km (122 miles) and since the 21st October 2008 I have cycled 40,586Km/25,366 miles. So over the last 4 years I having been averaging around 6,340 miles per year on my bike. It is not as much as I would like, but I am not complaining.

The good thing is I have removed the dodgy data from my cycling database and learnt a bit more about how it works. I often complain about Microsoft Path updates – but the last few seem to have been straightforward – although there have been quite a few patches.

What I am dealing with at the moment is a change to Google Chrome. I used the Beta version – there are neat things that you can do that appear first on the Beta. They have just “improved” the way it handles the mouse input – which has basically meant that it just doesn’t work with my Wacom Pen and Tablet. I find the tablet and Pen very useful for photographic work and no problem for any other “mouse” input. I have filed a bug report so hopefully it will get dealt with.

Back to rides – this was my usual Sunday catch up with the Archers and any other Podcasts that have accumulated. Talking of the Archers there are some scripts that have  come up for auction of episodes that are so early they were first broadcast not only before I started listening to the show but also before I was born.

When I say usual it involves a ride around Low Fen Driveway and then off-road from Horningsea to Lode and onto Lodes Way. I circled Wicken Fen and returned via Burwell, Reach and then up to NCN 51. All in all it is about 52Km/ 32 miles with some paths that can be a little tricky when wet (or dry) as I found out. Here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the map where you can download the route of zoom in as you wish.

This is the Low Fen Drove Way bridge over the A14 – unfortunately this route seems to be a favourite for some fly-tipping tossers. Apparently fly-tipping cost Cambridge residents £100,000 to clear up last year and there was only one fine. Whilst it is easy to moan at the Council it is the fly-tippers who are the real culprits. Mind you I do think that there are some very mixed messages about the importance of recycling from poor recycling points through to rules about how to dispose of things like lithium-ion batteries or CFLs (Compact fluorescent light bulbs) – which contain a small amount of mercury. There are a small number of little-publicised collection points (IMHO).

It is not unusual to see vehicles parked up on the other side of this bridge, almost as if they were “hiding” – there was a van from one of the National Breakdown Services here this time along with a car a bit further down (dog-walking perhaps).

Fly-tipping on Low Fen Drove Way – Bridge over the A14

Here is the map of my ride – there were loads of cyclists (and walkers) around and about. Although the byways and bridleways are not as dry as they might be at this time of year they aren’t too bad. I went the back way around Reach – to my cost – as I punctured hammering down a rather gravelly track – it was a snakebite – so called because it is caused when the tyre hits a stone at speed and squishes the inner tube back onto the rim – which cuts the inner tube each side and looks like a snakebite, apparently.

A ride from Cambridge to Wicken Fen and back – using either cycle paths or byways and bridleways

It was a glorious day to be out cycling. What could be nicer than cycling on a track like this next to the fields. (Which have been recently combined.) This is Low Fen Drove Way as you near Snout Corner.

Cycling along Low Fen Drove Way, near Snout Corner

At this time of year – when it is sunny and dry you often see dust plumes in the distance as farmers are busy making hay whilst the sun shines.

Combine Harvester in the distance kicking up a dust storm

Heading back through to Lode along the course of the old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway line the Maize (Sweetcorn) was looking good. Maize is sometimes grown as a cover crop for game birds at the margins of fields. This was a main crop.

Maize in the field at the back of Anglesey Abbey

I am not sure whether it is the “Olympic effect”, fine weather or the Lodes Way effect, however there were quite a few cyclists around. As I cycled through White Fen both picnic tables were in use.

White Fen Picnicking – standing room only

As I have been on this route many times recently I tended not to take pictures from all of the bridges en route. This picture was taken as I headed down to Burwell along Little Fen Drove. In the background is the Burwell Main Electricity Substation. In the foreground round hay bales.

Freshly baled hay being watched over by Electricity Pylons

The same picture but zoomed in.

Hay bales in the field

As I cycled down I also noticed one of the ingredients of Sloe gin – sloes – ripening. It is Prunus spinosa (if I am right) or Blackthorn.

Sloe in the hedgerow near Burwell

I cycled through Burwell using the scenic route along Anchor Lane and alongside Burwell Lode and joined the NCN51 route to Reach. It avoids the traffic by the two shops as you reach the Causeway.

I then cycled up Clunch Pit Lane and across to Green Lane and then back down to Barston Drove. Although this is a high spot in these low-lying parts and reaches 14m above sea level according to the map. As a result I took quite a few pictures of straw in the fields.

This was a bird of prey, hovering in the sky, that is until I got my camera out and then it decided to move on. (That is an odd term if you think about it – Bird of prey.)

Bird of prey hovering above the Fens

A typical fenland countryside scene- farming in the foreground – pylons on the background.

The Fens near Reach

I did warn you there were a few pictures of freshly combined fields. Here is another one. What drew my attention was both the lines of straw and the way the trees in the mid-ground are so green amongst the brown fields.

Freshly cut straw – waiting for baling - Reach

As fields have gotten bigger and bigger and as the land has been turned into a large farm there are few trees dotting the hedgerows. Which is why I took a picture of this one twice.

The first shot has it to the left.

Tree in the “hedgerow”, Reach

This picture has it to the right. I couldn’t make up my mind.

Tree in the “hedgerow”, Reach

And this picture misses the tree out altogether! I should have looked out for Wadlow Wind Farm. Apparently Wind farm developers ‘use camera tricks to make turbines look smaller than they really are’. The Wadlow Wind Farm certainly looks huge at one end of Burwell and is quite visible from places like Fulbourn and Wilbraham. In fact from the A11 which runs nearby it looks huge as well.

The trouble is we are  dependent on external energy sources. Mind you I was surprised to see that the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has recommended putting petrol taxes UP. I actually agree with them. I do feel that non-car methods of transport are given a second –class status.  I also feel from a macro-economic position the UK needs to secure its own sources of energy to reduce the long-term risk.

The trouble is I am not convinced that electric cars are really the answer – at least not without rethinking the issues of transport from the ground up. One question to ask is do we need to transport so many people about the UK every day – what value does that really create? Apparently one electric car ad forget to mention it also had a petrol engine.

Mind you according to this article some Energy Companies are gaming the  system to make more money from supplying the electricity network.

Combined fields near Reach

After taking a few pictures from the top of the hill I went tanking down the hill – I must have been inspired by seeing the Olympic mountain biking. The track was quite gravelly and despite the minor drop in height I managed to pick up enough speed to cause my front inner tube to pop.

It made quite a bang, one I wasn’t really expecting, the first thought that went through my mind was to how to stay upright and which tyre was it. I didn’t slam the brakes on because I would have skidded, I did slow down a bit though. The puncture was a snakebite and so I worked out pretty quickly it was the front wheel that had punctured.

I stopped at the bottom by Barston Bridge and settled down to fix the tube.  I use Schwalbe Marathon plus tyres, which I find the best for the sort of riding I do. They are tight on the rim though. I managed to break two tyre levers in the process of fixing the puncture. I have to other spares in my bag as well though. plastic does get brittle over time and there levers live outside in all weathers so they have probably aged. I must get some new ones though.

I replaced the inner tube because it was a snakebite puncture and would have required two patches. The actual holes were slits several millimetres long. So it was quicker. I also had a drink.

Fixing a puncture on Barston Drove

Now I unashamedly tend to focus ion riding my bike rather than keeping it clean. My excuse is it saves water. I haven’t had a puncture for a while though and the threads of the valve were pretty gummed up. It was a struggle to get a grip on the ring that keeps the vale in place. I carry a few bits and pieces in my rack pack when cycling including zip ties. I slipped when on the nut and hey presto I was able to unscrew it.

I tend not to investigate the rack pack contents too often and so there was a mild moment of annoyance when I though I’d not brought a pump – I had and it worked. Actually that is something worth checking on a regular basis – pumps can lose their ability to pump.

Loosening a troublesome valve

As I sat there fixing my puncture a cyclist went by and asked me whether I was ok. It is always good to see the kindness of one’s fellow man (or woman) on offer. In fact I think that bicycle punctures do tend to bring out the best in people.

I then set off to Swaffham Prior along Barston Drove (the track not the road) – it skirts back around the Reach hill. I was up the top of that field taking pictures looking down – here is one looking up. On the map it is called Church Hill – perhaps because you can see the two churches of Swaffham Prior.

Church Hill from Barston Drove, Reach

This is Barston Drove – hard-packed and slightly rutted. I could cycle along this sort of track all day long, if I had the time.

Barston Drove, Reach

I carried on along Swaffham Road through Swaffham Prior. More and more villages are suffering from infill. Any gap that used to be a farm is being sold up for development and house-building. I am sure we need more houses and infilling towns and villages are one way to do it. It does have a massive affect on the character of a place though.

This is the sort of bucolic scene that is in danger.

Freshly cut field in Swaffham Prior

As I carried on down NCN51 (more or less) there was another dust storm ahead between Swaffham Bulbeck and Bottisham.

Combining a field – NCN51 near Bottisham

Time is in short supply when combining – it is always a race against the weather. So much so that they Combine keeps going and offloads the grain into a trailer on the move.  The tractor is in position to drive alongside the Combine Harvester.

Tractor and trailer ready to off-load grain from the Combine Harvester

I don’t know how they communicate – shouting, hand signals or walkie-talkie (or phone) but they seemed to know what they were doing.

Tractor and trailer ready to off-load grain from the Combine Harvester

And then as they both drove down the field the grain was off-loaded into the trailer.

Tractor and trailer  off-loading grain from a Combine Harvester on the move

As I passed the fields on the other side of the Quy church – the fields were empty of farm machinery – although there was still a bit of work to do to bale up the straw. I sometimes use the terms hay and straw wrongly – in case you were wondering this is the difference. (Or more succinctly)

A freshly Combined field - Quy

There is nothing that beats a cycle ride in Summer around the countryside. The puncture didn’t dent my enthusiasm one bit either. Mind you there is a tinge of sadness – as a boy once there was the Combining returning to school was not so far away!

Oops almost forgot the pictures and celebrities.  Some amazing cloud pictures. Jamie Bell and Evan Rachel on a “romantic bike ride”. Some cyclists from One Direction and cycling scenes from the TV drama The Midwife.  My Mum was a Midwife during her early nursing career and used to cycle around the villages where she lived in the Midlands. Her sister was also a midwife in a different part of London.

No comments:

Post a Comment