Thursday, August 9, 2012

Wind Turbines, poppies and byways

Friday, 27th July 2012: It was a Poets days and the rumour is weather forecast indicates that there is more inclement weather on the way so it would have been rude not to go for a cycle. Although the Wadlow Wind Farm has not yet been fully commissioned I thought I would get out that way and see what it looked like in all its glory. After that I went where the fancy took me – which turned out to be be delightful byways between Weston Green and Carlton.

Here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the route shown on the map below, it is 53Km / 33miles in length and reaches the dizzy heights of just under 120m above sea level.  Being a flatlander I had to take extra oxygen to cope. The OSM map is not quite correct on the byways between Weston Green and Carlton – but the route on the ground is quite easy to follow. (There is a third leg of to Willingham Green as well.)

On my way out of Cambridge I passed a Hercules (C-130J Super Hercules) along the edge of Cambridge Airport.  The various identification marks are pretty subtle, which is to make identification trickier under battle conditions. This one has the a fairly small reduced visibility RAF roundel two thirds of the way down the fuselage and the serial number 866 or ZH866 on the tail plane and along the fuselage.

The strange thing is that despite the reduced visibility with the power of the internet you can quite quickly track down all sorts of information, both crowd-sourced and from the RAF as well. This PDF document shows that this aircraft is part of either Squadron 20 or 30 at Brize Norton. Now I don’t know a lot about  but I would have expected to see a G-xxx marking – but didn’t. Here is the same plane coming into land – as part of 24 Squadron and as a diecast model.

Lockheed C-130J Hercules, Royal Air Force – Cambridge Airport

Here is the map of my ride, after Wadlow I rode where the fancy took me -  out to Carlton and back.

Map of my ride – Cambridge to Carlton and back by road and byway

It is at this time of year when you appreciate just how much land around here is used to grow crops, because England’s green and pleasant land turns brown as the various cereals and grasses ripen. This is the view of Wadlow Wind Farm from the Wilbraham Road, between Fulbourn and Wilbraham.

Wadlow Wind Farm seen from Wilbraham

Here is the same view, same lens, but at the other end of the zoom (14mm to 140mm – but equivalent to 28mm – 280mm in 35mm camera terms). With the vagaries of the weather the farmers to have to make hay when the sun shines – because there are loads of other crops which will also come ripe soon.

These picture illustrate the ways in which wind turbines can be made to look more or less dominant in a landscape. The truth when see by eye is somewhere between the two.

Hay-making near Wilbraham (Wadlow Wind Farm in the distance)

I have noticed how the Wind Farm stands out when driving past it on the A11. This is the view from Mill Road, where it crosses the A11.  You can also see the Camgrain facility.

Wadlow Wind Farm from Mill Road (on the bridge over the A11)

At first it can be a little intimidating if there are lorries around, but there is a byway between Cam grain and the Wilbraham Quarry Waste management Facility which takes you up on the hill where you get a good view of the turbines. There is a Plantation alongside the track called the Old Cambridge Road Plantation and another one called Cambridge Hill Plantation. (Plantation means a clump of trees rather some exotic crop such as sugar cane or banana trees.) It stands out more on the old maps and Wadlow Farm appears to have been called Wadloo Farm  as well.

Here are two of the wind turbines “up close”, towering over the Camgrain silos. The turbine on the right does have three blades only one was pointing right at the camera and seems to be missing.

Two of the Wadlow Wind Farm turbines towering over Camgrain Silos


Being chalk this byway tends to drain well, after long spells of dry weather the ruts fill with powdery chalk and can make cycling tricky on thin wheels. I have 25mm tyres which are a pretty good compromise, except on sand, chalky powder, fine peat and mud.

“Old Cambridge Road” – a byway to Wadlow Farm

To one side of the track one of the larger fields was being cut.

Harvesting alongside the Old Cambridge road byway

Although a lot had already been harvested there was still a fair bit to go. The cabs are filtered and have air-con, or so my son tells me. even with these giant combines a large field can take several hours. The Combine stores the grain and then every now and then a tractor and trailer will drive alongside and transfer it on the move..

Combining alongside the Old Cambridge Road byway

On the other side of the “road” is the Wadlow, or should that really be Wadloo Wind Farm. Apparently “Energy bills to soar by more than £300 a year because of obsession with wind power”. I haven’t read the report so  perhaps it is not quite so damning as the DM suggests. It does suggest that CHP plans would be more effective,  (Combined Heat and power). Certainly these giants generate less power than you might think. The trouble is fossil fuels are a diminishing resource and more importantly a diminishing resource that we have little of in the UK as the North sea bonanza comes to an end. So the UK needs a fall-back in the event that oil and gas prices become a hostage to fortune. We have already seen the Russians cut gas supplies to Belarus over debt..

Poppies and Wind Turbines – Wadlow Wind Farm

There are thirteen turbines in total – here are most of them – some only just visible. This was a multi-exposure picture and so some of the moving blades seem to leave dotted trails in the sky.

Poppies and Wind Turbines – Wadlow Wind Farm

You can just about see the electricity pylons in the background. Which is one of the factors that make this site more cost-effective. One of the problems is that the Grid Network operators must pay for electricity generated, even if there is no demand for it.

Poppies and Wind Turbines – Wadlow Wind Farm

Meanwhile on the other side of the “Old Cambridge Road” the farmer was still driving up and down the field.

Combining alongside the Old Cambridge Road byway

This is the view of the “Old Cambridge Road” byway from alongside the Plantation of the same name – brown fields everywhere. This byway had many more puddles the last time I was up here.

“Old Cambridge Road” byway

After passing Wadlow Farm I re-joined the road and went up past Spike Hall (called Linnet Hall on the old map? My route took me into Weston Green where I thought  I would try out the byways, either to Willingham Green or Carlton, depending upon how wet and rutted they were. Although the byways were much drier we have had a lot of rain recently.

You get to the byway, shown as Clamp’s lane on the OS map, by passing down Horseshoes Lane and then crossing the River Stour – there is a ford and a small concrete footbridge. Discretion as the better part of valour here, I wimped out and used the bridge. The river was a full as I have seen it for a while. The route has also had barriers put up and has been temporally closed to motor traffic to reduce damage.

I haven’t actually seen any 4x4s on the route, it is quite popular for dog walkers and horse riders though. The lane is called Horseshoes Lane on the OS map and Horseshoe Lane on the OSM map, a quick web check and both seem to appear in equal measure.

Ford on the River Stour, Horseshoes Lane, Weston Green

Although the track was closed to 4x4s it was still quite hard going on my bicycle – it was still fairly rutted and had quite a few horseshoe indentations as well. I did manage to cycle it without many dabs, but it was tiring and I had to focus on picking my route rather than looking around for pictures.

The track then changes direction and heads back towards the River Stour. This might still be Clamp’s Lane or could be Brook Lane, I am note sure. On checking the Streetmap map one of the different scale maps shows Clamp’s Lane taking a different route (similar to the OSM map).

This must be a popular route for horse riders – and I am not surprised, the countryside is nice, there is a choice of routes and it is more than a few hundred metres in length.

Clamp’s lane meets Brook Lane (Weston Green area)

At this point I went right rather than through the Ford – although I would have cycled through this one, maybe.

Instead I cycled along Roodhall Lane to Carlton.

Brook Lane (byway) Ford on the River Stour

After Carlton I headed over to the B1061 and then to Dullingham and then out towards the Station and over to Swaffham Bulbeck and NCN51. There is a Polo Ground on the way. This is the view of the Polo Ground and Wadlow Wind Farm from the road.

Dullingham Polo Ground and Wadlow Wind Farm

On the other side of the road there had been more haymaking – the hay bales are a lot bigger than they used to be in my day. There are some odd zig-zag tracks past those bales.

Extra large hay bales – opposite Dullingham Polo Ground

As you can see it was actually a large field – the bales were waiting for collection.

Extra large hay bales – opposite Dullingham Polo Ground

After that it was a pleasant ride home. It is a pity there aren’t more motor-vehicle free tracks around. I choose them because they are traffic-free and rural, not for their ruggedness. All the recent rain has been them a bit too “rugged” aka wet, I am glad they are drying.

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