Friday, September 21, 2012

A pedal to Prickwillow (and back)

Monday, 3rd September 2012: I have been trying to cycle off my beaten path a bit more. It is sometimes all too easy to get into a rut (and then fall off). So I decided it was time for a ride into outer Fengolia, I haven’t visited the Prickwillow Phone Box Gallery for a while and neither had I cycled through Isleham were the women where given a voice in the book entitled Fenwoman. There might even be a chance to see the Fen Tiger which is back!

I was also careful to ensure I didn’t leave my bike unattended as there has been a spate of cycle thefts in Fenland.

Although before I start a few bits and pieces I have picked up from the web. Here in the flatlands we seem to have two charities that provide Helicopter emergency medical services – the East Anglian Air Ambulance and Magpas Helimedix. I don’t know quite how they interrelate and what overlap there might be in their services. I was surprised to read that one of them has been complaining about the other – “MAGPAS censured by ASA over ‘saving lives anytime’ adverts”.  It seems a little weird that two charities expend energy in what seems like infighting.

Although I feel that most cycling provision is second-best both in terms of cycle routes and cycle parking there is more enlightenment in Cambridge although it is still pretty crap given just how many people cycle here.  So I am pleased to note that there is a recognition of how poor cycle parking provision is in Cambridge. I know that lots of drivers will moan that it is even worse for them – but let’s face it cars, vans, lorries and buses are noisy,  polluting, deprive their users of exercise, take up space moving and at rest and are dangerous – to pedestrians and cyclists alike.

So “Up to 1,000 new cycle parking spaces could be installed in central Cambridge in a £500,000 project”. They “should be fitted by 2014”.  So a lot of weasel words “could”, “should” and “up to”. However given the survey indicating that 52% of Cambridge residents cycle at least once a week it all seems a bit off in the distance.  Although yet another miscreant is caught when a Policemen borrows a bike in Cambridge – perhaps they all ought to have bicycles?

In the middle of last month I cycled over the closed  Victorian railway bridge between Barton and Haslingfield. It was being renovated and was still open for pedestrians and cyclists. In a case of beware what you wish for the bridge has now been repaired and strengthened and so lorries will be allowed over it – which increase the danger for walkers and cyclists.

Mind you motorists don’t always get clear infrastructure – check out these 21 inch long double yellow lines (indicates no parking). Or this roadside white line left with a 15ft gap as the contractor didn’t want to move the road kill!

And now onto the ride – I cycled out towards Isleham and then Prickwillow and then back via NCN11 and The Lodes Way. Here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the route shown on the map below. The ride is 80Km/50 miles and the whole route is pretty much flat varying between –1m and 28m above sea level. I didn’t start taking pictures until Isleham,  partly because I wanted to get on and partly I tend to take fewer pictures when cycling on roads.

I cycled along some of the village roads rather than the main roads through the centre. I went down Hall Barn Road, West Street and Little London Lane. Little London Lane appears to go nowhere it does actually connect with  the B1104 via a byway on the other side of the village. The OSM map has not yet caught up.

This is Little London Road with some interesting topiary. If you look closely you might even see a dragon fly that was passing and just about got into the picture.

Topiary along little London Road, Isleham

Here is the map, I took short cuts through Swaffham Bulbeck and avoided the hill and bypassed Reach rather than follow  the NCN51 route – which is more pleasant but less direct. I cycled through the middle of Burwell and then along Broads Road and only joined Ness Road at Ness Farm – really to avoid cycling along Ness Road – fast and noisy although reasonably wide.

Map of my ride to Prickwillow and back

Here is a slightly enhanced view of the dragonfly, caught flying through the first picture – not very sharp I agree – but there none the less.

Dragonfly on Little London Road, Isleham

As I was cycling along the B1104 to Prickwillow just out of Isleham there seemed to be two mounds in a field on the left hand side (UPDATE For some reason this link reports problems – sorry.)  They reminded me of disk barrows, which were quite common in Somerset where I grew up. (Although Wikipedia suggests they are not so common except for the Wessex area.) I can’t find reference to them in the CCC report on Isleham. Perhaps they are spoil from the various reservoirs nearby.

Two mysterious mounds on Isleham Fen

The road to Prickwillow passes through agricultural land and runs parallel with the River Lark to the east side. As this is the fens there are a fair number of drainage ditches around.  I think this is Twelve Foot Drain.

Drainage Ditch along the B1104 between Prickwillow and Isleham

As you can see the skies were blue, it was another nice day for cycling and the fields had either been recently Combined or were being Combined as there were various dust clouds around. The River Lark runs alongside those trees. on the far side of the field. This is the view to the west with Twelve Foot Drain running just out the picture on the right hand side. In among the trees is Three Trees Farm, if I am right.

Blue skies and stubble alongside the Prickwillow Road

As you can see this is the road – the B1104 flat, but subject to undulations because the peat base of the fens leads to shrinkage and so movement of the road. There is a little brown National Byway sign on the middle leg of the road sign.

Prickwillow Road with Great Fen Road to the left leading to Soham

There are some interesting names along the road with The Oasis and Botany Bay appearing on the map.  If you compare the 1930s map with the present day map then the current B1104 didn’t go all the way up to Prickwillow.

As you get closer to Prickwillow you reach a drain running alongside the road – Black Wing Drain. A little along it was a new concrete bridge built to allow access to the field on the other side. This is the view south along Black Wing Drain

Black Wing drain looking south, Prickwillow

And this is the view north looking towards Prickwillow.

Black Wing drain, looking towards Prickwillow

And when I got there the cupboard was bare or rather the Prickwillow Phone Box Gallery. There are a series of exhibitions that have been held over the last few months, so perhaps it was a summer break. I like this recent on3 by Ouse Life - - a giant phone in a phone box.

Prickwillow Phone Box Gallery – having a summer break?

After Prickwillow I headed along the B1382 to Ely (Queen Adelaide). There are four rail crossings along a short stretch of road with three level crossings and one under the road. There us a loop in the line with three track heading in three directions to; march, Norwich and Kings Lynn.

Ely and Norwich railway line crossing the River Great Ouse

This is the River Great Ouse looking north the railway line and river run in parallel up to Littleport. Not only was in a sunny day – there wasn’t much wind around either, which is ideal for cycling.

River Great Ouse, Queen Adelaide

I bypassed Ely, although there is controversy with dogs being banned from a park in Ley’s largest council estate. Apparently not all dog owners clear up after their dogs – that is a surprise.

The other controversy is the blightpass to ease traffic congestion near the Ely Railway Station. A 1.7Km long carriageway (Route B) will be built which will cross the railway lines and the River Great Ouse and presumably the cycle way alongside the River Great Ouse. How much - £30million. Well I predict a lot more traffic will then head for Ely.  I wonder if there will be the equivalent of S106 money. It is quite a development and I reckon should be made to cough up some additional cash, say for better cycle routes around Ely.

It won’t reach this far – the Ely – Bury St Edmunds railway line as it crosses the River Great Ouse. This was the scene of a derailment in 2007.

Ely to Ipswich train passing over the River Great Ouse Ely

A view of Ely Cathedral from the same spot – the new blight-pass will get in the way – take your pictures now before it is too late.

Ely Cathedral

Here is the NCN11 route  as it runs alongside the River Great Ouse, vandals have been at work and destroyed the bench for passing walkers and cyclists. Evidence of vandalism is also present under the previous railway bridge with fencing knocked down.

Vandalism along the NCN11 route alongside the River Great Ouse

As the view will be gone – here it is again – only with a bit more zoom. The boat has made a bit of progress as well.

Ely Cathedral

As I was cycling along Goose Fen Drove there was a bit of ploughing in the fields.  It is a Challenger MT845C with a 15.2litre engine and a fuel tank capacity of 1,245 litres. (My Landrover Discover takes around 80litres.)

Tracked Tractor ploughing alongside Goose Fen Drove, Barway

As I was cycling back I was catching up with the Archers – a show that is currently heavy going with a story line concerning a character expecting a Down’s Syndrome baby. It was discovered after amniocentesis.  Which brought back not so pleasant memories of watching my wife have amniocentesis many years ago (and the discussions). It all worked out fine in the end although my daughter did end up being born 8 weeks early. Although this story about an engineer building a low-cost hand-held ultrasound scanner which works in conjunction with a PC was interesting and hopefully good for developing countries.

Back to the Archers there is also a storyline about badgers and the concern that they infect milk cattle with TB. In the Archers they are starting a vaccination program. It seems that in the badgers in West Gloucestershire will not be so lucky as a cull has been authorised.  It must be tough being a dairy farmer, although the cull seems a drastic measure.

A while ago I mentioned that The Wicken Fen Warden had spotted at work atop some of the pylons between Wicken Fen and Cambridge. Well as I cycled home near White Fen I saw them in action.

Here they are on the ground.

Electricity Pylon work near White Fen

And here they are atop a pylon, I reckon they are really playing some sort of fishing game. The Wicken Fen Warden’s blog mentions that they are putting a fibre optic cable along the to. The lines carry 132Kv – so I reckon they must have turned them off for the work. Although it is possible to do live wire work. Here is a Guardian article of the life of an overhead line engineer.

Electricity Pylon work near White Fen

And here is a close-up  the HDR processing does make the lines stand out a bit. I bet he gets a fantastic view across the countryside. As you can see there are two up the top.

Electricity Pylon work near White Fen

And the same picture with the processing. Let’s hope they don’t get stuck like these two Norwegian power line repairmen who got stuck in a basket above a Fjord.

Electricity Pylon work near White Fen (no HDR)

And finally some interesting pictures including the Space Shuttle Endeavour getting a ride on top of a 747,  some amazing lightning pictures. When i was younger my Dad and I tried to take pictures of lighting with a Kodak Instamatic 126 camera – my brother who is a couple of years younger than me was very worried we might get struck! We didn’t, nor did we get any pictures. Here are some competition-winning astronomy pictures. Here are some more award-winning National Geographic pictures (the second has a bicycle in it even.)  And finally – well almost, river boat racing, Bangladeshi style.

For a change a Politician on a bike – Andrew Mitchell – the Chief Whip – who might have been taking his title too literally.


1 comment:

  1. Dear JME - I'm not sure if my earlier comment was sent. This, however, is by way of a request. I came across your interesting blog by chance - through a photograph you took of the drainage ditch between Prickwillow and Isleham. I was looking for images of the fens to illustrate a lecture I gave at the Veerstichting Symposium in Leiden in 2016. It was a beautifully evocative image of the landscape about which I wrote my first study, called Fenwomen, in 1975. The lecture will now be published on the Veerstichting website - may I have your permission please to use this beautiful photograph - you will receive appropriate credit, of course. Thank you in advance - if you need to email, please contact or via Yours, Professor Mary Chamberlain