Friday, September 14, 2012

Another delightful off-road route Cambridge to St Ives and back

Monday, 28th August 2012: At last I’ve got another Post out. The “problem” is nothing more than I have been doing stuff. I have had a wonderful day ride in pastures new – which will feature soon. Although as you might expect pastures news mean lots of pictures - 67 as it happens – with delays caused by trains and delayed trains as well.  I have around nine sets of pictures queuing to make it onto my Blog and various bits and pieces from the Internet, although some of those will probably have gone out of date.

Also in the past few weeks I have driven what seems like a gazillion miles taking my daughter back to start another year at University in Scotland – this time the air-conditioning in the car was working – phew. And finally my Mum is staying with us for a holiday and as she is not keen on joining me on my Tandem means we have been using the car to get around.

Although my mum still gets around quite well she does use a walking stick and it is a real eye-opener just walking around with her. If pavements aren’t flat it makes walking so much more difficult. This at a time when she has been visiting her sister who is suffering, having had an operation after falling down. When she crosses the road she simply needs more time – time that some motorists don’t seem inclined to give. yesterday when we crossed the road a car down the road must have been breaking the speed limit to reach us so quickly. They didn’t slow down as we almost made it to the to the other side but swerved without slowing down.  We passed an over-turned lorry on the A10 yesterday that appeared to have taken a roundabout too quickly.

We shouldn’t forget that we have all been in the vulnerable road user category at least once as children and most of us will end up there again as we get older.  Yet we tear around full of the importance of our own impatience to be somewhere.  Motor vehicles don’t just insulate us from the noises outside, or protect from the other tin boxes zooming around, they seem to blinker us to the frailty of the people trying to walk or cycle around us.

On Thursday as I cycled back from the railway station, having been in London for meetings I passed three vehicles blocking the pavement causing a woman using a mobility scooter to have to venture into the road peeping around the van to check for traffic – which in this case was me on my bike. After the Paralympics, which did so much to raise the issues of disability such blatantly thoughtless and selfish behaviour is still much in evidence.  Motorists don’t just claim the roads they seem to claim the pavements as well and I suspect many of us have thoughtlessly parked on the pavement to avoid blocking the road too much.

Anyways, back to the ride, in the rather drawn out series of really rather nice off-road rides around Cambridge this has to be up the with some of the best. There are several reasons why I like it, the main one though is that you travel were motor traffic can’t get. It runs, in part, parallel with the A14, close enough to see, but far enough away to be able to ignore. A quick check using Bike route Toaster and it appears to be around a mile (1.6Km)  away.

Here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the map just below the first picture. it is Just over 50Km in length (32 miles) and although the heights aren’t dizzy it does get up to 40m above sea level and so you get some views across the Cambridgeshire countryside.

The first thing is to head for Dry Drayton via Madingley and then head up to Fenstanton. I then returned on the CGB cycle way. If I had more time I could have extended the off-road by cycling to Elsworth and up to Hilton and across to Hemingford Grey.

The first picture was taken after I was out of Cambridge and just by the American Military Cemetery and Memorial.  The link is to the OSM map and that tin shed in the picture should be the building shown in the centre of map alongside the bridleway the route of my last ride.

A view from the 800 Wood across the the Girton Interchange
thankfully hidden by trees

And here is the map I will once again mention how for me cycling along the Gilbert Road is noticeably pleasant – as far as I am concerned the wide painted cycle lanes do the trick, along with the wide traffic lanes.

Map of my Ride – more or less off-road to St Ives and CGB Cycleway back

I haven’t really noticed before but the are labs in Madingley, well marked on the OSM map, just near the Three Horseshoes pub – that is a nice place to eat. A bit further along in Dry Drayton is the church of Saint Peter and St Paul.

Dry Drayton: St Peter and St Paul

There is then a cycle route from Dry Drayton to Bar Hill (Bar Hill Cycleway). I just couldn’t imagine living in Bar Hill it seems to have been stranded on the A14 with no way in or out unless by car – except for this route.

There is a gravel/tarmac path between Bar Hill and Lolworth, technically not for cycles but I won’t tell if you don’t.  The footpath climbs slightly and offers a view across towards the Comms Tower and Windmill on Gravel Bridge Road astride the CGB (Cambridge Guided Busway). The Tower is around 5Km/3 miles away, as the crow flies. In the near ground just “above” two chimneys is a white van – driving along the A14.

View from the Bar Hill/Lolworth Footpath

You cycle through Lolworth which has one access road from the A14… but paths/bridleways through from Bar Hill, Boxworth and Childerley. This is the the bridleway which sweeps round before passing the Manor on Manor Lane into Boxworth, which has two road ways in and out.

Bridleway between Lolworth and Boxworth

This is the view looking back near where the bridleway reaches Boxworth. As I am a flatlanders even these small rises look good to me.  You can just about make out the Comms Tower and Water tower on the horizon to the right of the picture.

View from the Bridleway between Lolworth and Boxworth

.This is typical of the track you cycle along – with the recent dryish weather it was fine on my hybrid. That is the view looking back towards Boxworth – it is made from two pictures and you can see the join. Well at least I did when I zoomed in to work out quite where I had taken it.

It looks hillier in real life than it does in the picture though.

As I type this I am still not 100% sure quite where I took the picture – there are farm buildings on the horizon that could be Yarmouth Farm, between Lolworth and Boxworth. I have just checked the trace of my ride on Google Earth and I reckon those buildings are Yarmouth Farm - the satellite view for the farm buildings the other side of Boxworth would have three silos in view.

Bridleway between Boxworth and Lolworth

Once again there is a crossroads to cross – if you blink you miss it in Boxworth and again more bridleway to follow. I have cycled this route a few times and so tend to rely on my imperfect memory. It isn’t hard to follow but the route is only a grass track running alongside a field. This time around the field was being Combined This the bridleway between Conington and Boxworth – the going was good to soft.

Bridleway between Boxworth and Conington

And this is the view looking toward Papworth Everard (where the famous Papworth Hospital is).  I can see the pylons that run to the south of Papworth Everard. Although I can’t see Papworth Everard itself!

The view South-ish from the Boxworth Conington bridleway

As I got closer to the Conington Road I reached this stretch of field. I assumed that the farmer had intended the bridleway to run between the fence and the hedge.

Bridleway between Boxworth and Conington – close to the Elsworth Road

Here is a closer view of the “path”. I felt disgruntled and headed around the offending field. When I got home I realised I might have jumped to conclusions and assumed wrongly that the path was between the fence and hedge whereas it really ran alongside on the left hand side of the fence and all the farmer was doing was ensuring a decent boundary to ensure his livestock didn’t wander.

Bridleway between Boxworth and Conington – close to the Elsworth Road

So I took a detour, fortunately because of all the Combining activity the margins of the fields had recently been flattened by tractors and Combine Harvesters. So my detour wasn’t too bad and fairly quickly bought me to the Elsworth Road., just a bit further away from Conington than I had planned.

Did I mention what a lovely day it was – blue skies and puffy clouds.  There was also a fairly direct route to the road and an open gate lading onto the road. I didn’t have to drag my bike through a hedge or over a ditch.

A detour from the Bridleway between Boxworth and Conington
Close to the Elsworth Road

When I was on the Elsworth Road I cycled up to Conington passing the point where the bridleway came out. Looking more closely at this picture back along the bridleway made me think my original view about the bridleway being too narrow was wrong and that I should have cycled in the field with the sheep – ah well I still made it to where I wanted to get to.

View of the Boxworth – Conington bridleway from the Elsworth Road

After that I cycled up through to Fenstanton passing under the A14 through a small rathole pedestrian tunnel where I joined the old NCN51 route to St Ives. Just before the Jones Boatyard there was a Speedwatch team monitoring road speeds on Lower Road.  There is a large sign further up the road warning motorists as well as the two gentlemen on the right recording the speeds (and number plates) and the big illuminated sign showing the speeds of passing vehicles.

So I thought I would see if I could get a picture of a car speeding – as you might expect the first car through seemed to have been doing 37mph in a 30mph area – despite all the warnings. It is a good job this stretch of road ahs a shared-use path – although it is only about 2 inches wide. (5cm for those in metric). (If you want to volunteer.)

Speedwatch in Operation on Low road, St Ives

As I crossed over the bridge into St Ives as passing boat lured me into taking a picture.

Boat on the River Great Ouse (taken on the St Ives Bridge)

After that I had a pleasant run back down the CGB cycleway, although I did stop just by the Fen Drayton Nature Reserve for a drink and a few Jelly Babies.  There are bike stands for visitors – which were pretty busy.

Fen Drayton Nature Reserve bike stands  alongside the CGB

The view from the wooden shelter, where I was sitting.

Dramatic clouds above Fen Drayton Nature Reserve

After that I had an uneventful ride home, except where I almost fell off. This is where the Cycleway crosses the road in Histon. it might not look like much, but the paving slabs have separated and my front wheel got stuck in the gap.  I admit I was riding one handed at the time – I was adjusting my sunglasses,  when I wobbled hugely. It was one of those moments where time slows down and you start thinking – this might hurt – fortunately I didn’t fall off. I am going to add it to the CTC pot hole data base though.

Oops now I feel guilty there are already two reports – #60819 and  #61609 although they were reported in October 2011 and November 2011 – it looks as if the Highway Authority has done sod all about it though.

Dangerous paving slabs for cyclists on the CGB Histon


I have added another reminder (plus the picture above) since the first two seem to have been ignored – I could have had a nasty accident. i don’t think non-cyclists really understand just how dangerous these “innocuous” little gaps really are to a cyclist. My tyres are reasonably wide as well – for a racing tyre even smaller gaps can catch you out. In hindsight a poor design for its intended use.


  1. Hi there,

    My name is Lucy Ross-Millar, I am a reporter for Cambridge News.
    I wondered whether you would be willing to discuss your thoughts on the above cycleway, please drop me an email at or call 01223 434440.

    Many thanks,


  2. Hi,

    Although designated as a footpath cycling is allowed on the path between Lolworth and Bar Hill (or was last time I looked). It was surfaced as a millennium project for cycling with permission of the landowner. There is (or at least was - I've not taken much notice recently) a sign to this effect at the Lolworth end of the path.


  3. Thank you - I must admit I have never been sure. One of the problems when cycling around is that signage indicating rights of way for bicycles can be very haphazard and finding definitive maps for cycling routes can be tricky. I have just checked and the OSM cycling map does show it as a cycle-able route.