Saturday, September 22, 2012

A lunchtime meeting–a cycle to Reach

Wednesday, 5th September 2012: With centralisation of shopping and places to work and increasing urbanisation it can be tough for villages to maintain viability. There is also increased pressure on families to become multi-car owners.  Now I think the Internet has done wonders in terms of cutting down the number of shopping trips I have to make – whether for books, CDs, cycle parts or some clothes.  However not everyone wants to get everything delivered and even worse the rural locations tend to be the least well connected to the internet.

Personally I quite like the weekly shop, we go along and choose what looks fresh and interesting and available. One bargain was the liver we bought for a liver and bacon casserole, I think it cost around 80p – fewer people buy that sort of food and so the “laws of supply and demand” cause the price to go down.

Personally it seems to me that shopping is bound to transform. The cost of driving to a shop, say 10 miles away (so a 20 mile round trip) are between  £4 - £8 in running costs along with another £4.70 - £20 in standing charges amortised over 10,000 miles. (The range is based upon a car costing up to £12,000 and one over £32,000 and the figures are based upon the AA Motoring costs 2011.) The “standing charges” also tends to mean that once you have a car then you only consider the running costs when looking at alternate means of transport or delivery.

This still makes the delivery charge levied by Supermarkets for both doing and delivering your shopping a bargain for many. The £5 cost could rise to £15 though. Mind you if you do go shopping personally, you can tap into the bargains and buy when certain items are cheap or have bulk saving offers.

So one the one hand we have the Internet – changing the way we do things offering convenience – the carrot of change. We also have the stick fuel is getting scarcer and the UK doesn’t really have its own supplies – so the price is bound to go up in the longer term, unless world demand drops – which doesn’t seem to be happening. The other factor is that in this world were the focus is on making money rather than creating value the speculators are at play. Making heaps of money for themselves and perhaps a little for our pensions? One sign of that is that diesel costs 5p more a litre than petrol here in the UK although the wholesale price is the same.

The other stick we seem to be conveniently hoping will go away is that of Climate change with ever more pointers indicating we have problems ahead – such as the Arctic ice shrinking.

One response has been to develop alternative sustainable sources of energy such as wind turbines. (Note all of the Wadlow Wind Farm turbines now seem to be turning). We humans now occupy so much of the planet that any activity has the potential to make significant changes. Sticking wind turbines all over the place would slow the wind down and could have a major effect on the climate. Well the good news is that “wind turbines ‘could supply half the world’s energy needs with only minimal environmental damage’”. They would have to be spread out but could yield up to 7.5TW. In 2008 the world consumed 2.3TW on average.

So one response has been to develop electric cars – with subsidies to encourage their take-up. Here in the UK take-up is much lower than planned last year 1,052 cars were bought with a Government subsidy. The elephant in the room car is that the batteries just don’t have the energy density compared with petrol/diesel and on top of that they cost a significant amount more than a petrol tank (because that is what they are replacing) and they have a relatively short life-time.  It doesn’t bode well.

The trouble is we humans are relatively conservative, most of us don’t like too much change in our lives.  I think that is one of the reasons why there is such enmity between cyclists and car drivers. We are all busily trying to ignore all of these doom-laden scenarios being painted for us in a shrinking world. So when we are told we have to all cut our energy use, pay more for fuel and heating  and consider moving to electric cars (which many consider to be a large step backwards in terms of the utility they offer)  and stick up wind turbines all over the place we become ostrich-like and try to ignore the problems. This causes a build up of frustration exacerbated by the economic uncertainties and so cyclists become the populist lightning rod of the “Internet-complaining-comment-classes”.

We now have a society in which a  frustrated motorist (30) slaps an 81-year-old woman for driving at 5mph along a traffic calmed zone. How can that be right. I reckon that the roads are “infected” with more intolerance coupled with a fear of change to some new “transportation order”.  The tired echoes of this fear are heard in the  “war on motorists” and “defence is the best form of” attack on cyclists. Those poor hard-done by motorists are really scared that they might have to cycle on the lawless roads we inhabit. Where even the police don’t want to enforce the law – “20mph checks don’t work, say police”. (An amusing take on that link at “The Shallot Cambridge”.

The trouble is we cyclists become fodder for some journalists. Indeed in this piece “Invest in ‘active travel’ but make cyclists liable” the writer admits to admiring cyclists but being too much of a wimp to cycle amongst buses, lorries and tram tracks. She then goes onto berate cyclists for not using cycle lanes  because it makes it harder for motorists. She then berates cyclists for the way in which they use shared-use paths in parks. Some convoluted logic there? Any word on pollution – no. Any word on the number of pedestrians killed by motorists – no. Rather an attempt to divide and conquer – cyclists aren’t motorists or pedestrians and so should stay in their place. Actually I am all three – when I am walking I won’t want noisy cars – when I am driving I don’t want dangerous drivers and when I am cycling – actually I am insured, I don’t jump red lights and I despair of being cut up by drivers of tin boxes who don’t seem to realise just how vulnerable I am.

So as a driver I would sign up to the “We won’t build more roads until motorists start behaving, say Gov’t” – if only it were true.

Winking smile

That was all a convolute way of saying – working from home frees up time that allows me to cycle off to my lunchtime meetings with a clear conscience. What’s more I can do my bit for the rural economy whilst at the same time doing my bit for climate change and get some exercise into the bargain. What I do know though is that it takes some planning and commitment – that car out there in the drive keeps advertising itself seductively – drive me, I’ll whisk you there in an instant…

This time around the weather was good so I cycled – but in the main stuck to tarmac – mainly for time reasons. Although that didn’t stop me cycling along a bit of the Lodes Way to get to Reach and the Dykes End pub. Actually reach isn’t that remote – but found it necessary to develop its own Broadband capability – because – well villages are too much trouble and not enough reward perhaps.

I mentioned more wind turbines well – it seems that there will be more pylons popping up to connect everything together,  White Fen along Lodes Way already has two runs across it. Mind you perhaps the pylons might help sort out the broadband problem – one of the runs is having a fibre cable strung along the top and in some places it is being trialled for supplying better broadband to villages. The White Fen pylons run quite close to Reach as it happens.

Fibre Optic Cable being strung along Electricity Pylons, White Fen

It must be like buses – see none and then you see three. In this case don’t see anyone atop an electricity pylon and then you see several people on the same pylon.

Fibre Optic Cable being strung along Electricity Pylons, White Fen

As you can see despite aiming to make it a quick cycle to Reach I was drawn to taking pictures of the pylons. It looks as if they have a long job ahead of them.

Fibre Optic Cable being strung along Electricity Pylons, White Fen

I finally made it through White Fen, stopping to tale a picture of the water level in one of the balancing ponds. The OSM map mentions “Balancing Pod” there are two there through, one on each side of the cycle track, just before the slight ramp up to the bridge over Swaffham Bulbeck Lode.

Balancing Pond, White Fen, Lodes Way

After an excellent lunch, eaten sitting outside in front of the pub in what is a lovely suntrap it was time to wend my way home. Although the wending was not from beer I should point out. I cycled through Reach and then across Black Droveway which crosses from Little Fen Drove to Whiteway Drove.

For a while I have had a suspicion that conkers are ripening later in the year. Despite it being a few decades ago rather than a few years ago I seem to remember playing conkers towards the end of the Summer holidays and yet nowadays the conkers don’t seem to ripen until the kids have returned to school for the UK Autumn Term. But I’ve never really bothered to check.  Well apparently “Autumn could be running late as fewer berries are ripe and leaves aren’t turning”.  The Woodland Trust record the changing seasons and keep a calendar on the Web to record and view seasonal events that show the impact of climate change. Mind you the fruit are impacted by the weather during the flowering season as well as during the Autumn. Mind you I have just tried out their table of averages for Horse Chestnut Trees and the “full autumn tinting” seems to be getting earlier, I wonder if that is because of the Leaf Miner Mite? (I have also added the beech tree to the list and it is still difficult to see a pattern from 2000 – 2012 which is a far back as the data goes for those species/events.)

This year we have fewer apples and pears on our fruit trees in the garden (we have 5). This wild apple tree along the droveway seems to be doing well.

Apples along Black Droveway, near Reach

A late Summer sight – golden recently cut fields – the next stage will seem them turn brown as they are ploughed. That is a of the hill by Reach in the direction of Reach Wood. Barston Drove (byway) skirts around the bottom to Swaffham Prior. The hill is Church Hill. I presume because you can see the two churches of Swaffham Prior from there?

Church Hill, Reach

This is Black Droveway a well used bridleway.

Black Droveway

Some interesting pictures of a new cloud formation, the first new formation in 61 years and deserted US Motel Swimming pools – I like the retro look.

And finally some celebs on their bikes – Gisele BundchenArnold Schwarzenegger and daughter and Leonardo DiCaprio.

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