Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cycling around Cambridge–bridleway under the Girton Interchange

Sunday, 26th August 2012: The last week or so has been a bit of a nostalgia trip for me – I’ve been re-visiting some of the nicer bridleway/byway routes around and about Cambridge. Yesterday I didn’t get out for a ride, my son and his girlfriend have now found themselves a place to rent that suits them both and so we helped them move on Saturday.

I don’t have a load carrying bicycle such as a bakfiets. It would have been great when the kids were a lot younger as well as a convenient way to go shopping. The trouble is it would probably have been seen as too much of an indulgence. We did have a bikeseat on the back of my wife’s bike, which is unfair, but did seem practical at the time and then later bought a Tandem, which was (and is) great for a bit of social cycling.

However on Saturday, 25th August 2012,  we had some torrential downpours. it you follow the last link to the Cambridge University weather station one showery period went of their scale. In total we had 30.08mm or rain – which is quite a lot. I don’t mind a bit of rain, but it would have been too much for me. Roads all over the place were flooded and shops were closed. Apparently Little Wilbraham was still having telephone and broadband problems seven days after the floods. Even in the car the rain was still pretty overwhelming – it was one of those days when a 4x4 made sense.

The problem was a combination of the very heavy rain and the water not being able to drain away quick enough – either because of blocked drains or not enough drains. Now perhaps this is one of those ‘Thirty year events you can’t build drains for’ or maybe there is climate change afoot… Talking of which there is concern that the rate of “Climate change ‘will reduce bio-diversity because global warming is happening too fast for animals’

So my choice of ride had two parts, the first part was to check out the flooding on the NCN51 tunnel under the A14 and then I thought I would cycle to the Girton interchange, not by road, but by bridleway, providing they were not too soggy…

I headed out on the NCN51 route – I was surprised at how little flooding there was compered with the day before and how much rain had come down. The tunnel under the A14 was both flooded and treacherous. I did cycle through it – the mud was very slippery and thick and I suppose the water didn’t have anywhere to go. There is a small grate at each end of the tunnel but this end is the lower end and was not draining.

NCN51 Tunnel under the A14 approaching Quy

the observant will notice that the last picture is not what an HDR picture usually looks like.  That is because the tunnel was so dark and the outside so bright that even with 7 exposures the inside was still under-exposed and the outside over-exposed. When I processed the picture (using Photomatix) this is the result. The software had to work so hard to pull detail out of the tunnel walls it looked like someone had lined the tunnel with green strip lights like some sort of Theme Park Ride – “The Cycleway to hell” perhaps.

NCN51 Tunnel under the A14 approaching Quy
HDR Version

After that bit of nosiness I then headed back into town and over to the American Cemetery. Here is the BRT link to the map below. It is quite a short run – only 32Km/20 miles – which is a shame because the bit over between the American Cemetery and Girton makes for a delightful ride.  although be warned crossing the A14 is dangerous. (It also reaches the dizzy heights of 50m above sea level as well.)

Map of My Ride – Visiting the Girton Interchange

As I like to avoid using the same route for going and returning I cycled back along High Ditch Road – it is quite an uneven road at the edges and cars tend to speed along the middle of the road. Google have it marked on their Cycle map as a Bicycle Friendly Road – it isn’t my idea of a bicycle friendly road I’m afraid.  I did retrace my "”pedals” through Ditton Meadows though – it is so much nicer than any road – even on a Sunday when people walking their dogs seem to think it is funny when their dog roaming free makes a suicidal bid to get run over by me.

The cycle path through the meadows also has a short-cut. I never use it when cycling – I leave it to people walking – although today it was showing the effects of the previous day’s floods.

Flooding on Ditton Meadows

it was a pleasant ride alongside the River Cam through Cambridge and there were fewer signs of the flooding than I had expected. I cycled to the footbridge over Jesus Lock and then along the Chesterton Road and up the Madingley Road.

Is it me or do some drivers pass cyclists using the road more closely when there are shared-use footpaths alongside the road. I do wonder have I become more paranoid since being knocked of my bike a few years ago. Are they drivers who feel that a cyclist on the road must be confident and less prone to wobbles and so can be passed more closely without any danger of scratching their car or are they drivers trying to teach the cyclists a lesson about their roads. I wouldn’t like to guess.

There are some interesting buildings along both sides of the road, that’s for sure. Shortly after passing the Madingley P&R and the M11 I turned off along the Cambridge Road to Madingley. Just after you pass the American Cemetery  there is a delightful bridleway on the other side of the road. if only it could be longer.Before turning off down it I stopped to take this panoramic shot (4 pictures I think) of the view towards Cambridge. Strangely enough this is a slight hill (yes here in the Flatlands) and the vista seems to have a lot of trees in it.

The field has recently been Combined – but the view is either green trees or golden fields.  The Flatlands do provide a lot of food and the recent rain has devastated 100 acres of sugar beet up near Littleport.

You would think that farming was a straightforward business, albeit with weather and pest risks, However it would seem to be an honest way to earn a living. Although that does not seem to be the case then the WBankers get their hands on it. “Barclays accused of making £500m out of hunger after speculating on global food prices”.  To my simple mind investing is an oxymoron in its own right. Some investing looks more like gambling or speculating as it is more “respectably” called and if you make money then someone else has had to lose that  money.

Looking across the fields to Cambridge from the American Cemetery, Madingley

Although the clouds looked a little dodgy it was a dry day. The bridleway runs along the other side of the hedge.

Looking across the fields to Cambridge from the American Cemetery, Madingley

Although the bridleway isn’t the smoothest of paths and has the grass has grown you can’t see the surface that well there is a slight downhill run. You pass a set of dilapidated buildings built from corrugated iron. This is the view from a bit of woodland close to the A428 dual-carriageway, looking back up towards Madingley Wood and 800 Wood.

The 800 Wood was design and implemented to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the University of Cambridge. So if you look closely at the picture you can see that what looked like a field at first glance is actually populated with small trees.

Views of Madingley Wood and the 800 Wood

After crossing the A428, thankfully by bridge there is a short bridleway before you reach the Graffiti Underpass of the Girton Interchange.

Girton Interchange from the bridleway that passes under and through it

This is the route under the road that connects the two parts of the A14. The second bridge carries the M11 shortly before it becomes the A14.

Graffiti under the Girton Interchange

Someone wanted to make a bold if usually unseen statement.  Once you has passed under these two bridges then you have three fast roads to cross. You can just make out a car passing in the picture.

Graffiti under the Girton Interchange

You have to cross fast roads linking the complex junction which also catches a lot of drivers out. The path takes you to a small stretch of shared-use pavement and then onto Washpit Lane to Girton. After Girton I cycled through to Histon on a small bridleway that has not yet made it onto the OS map used by Where’s The path (which comes from the Ordnance Survey – although is only copyrighted 2010. So perhaps they only supply out of date data for semi-free use? It does seem a bit self-defeating.

I’ve just checked the OS Get a map service (which requires free login – which is why I hardly use it – why bother with YAP (yet another password). No it is not on that map either.  The map is copyrighted 2012 – strange then that it is out of date. It is on the Cambridgeshire County Council rights of way map marked as a regular bridleway (127/20).

I have to say that the map(s) of choice are the OSM map and OSM cycle map (which can be accessed through the first link.)  I do wonder why I call it the OSM map – since that works out as Open Street Map map… The Cottenham Cyclist has recently posted about OpenStreetMap on you Garmin which does what it says on the tin.

Bridleway between Girton and Histon

On my way back into Cambridge I cycled down the Histon Road and then along Gilbert Road. Both roads have cycle lanes marked on either side. I think that the Histon Road is narrower than the Gilbert Road and the cycle lanes on Histon Road certainly are. My impression cycling on those roads was that motor vehicles certainly get closer on the Histon Road and they don’t reduce their speed to compensate for the increased risk that results.

Gilbert Road certainly feels a lot more pleasant to cycle along in comparison both to Histon Road and how it used to be.


  1. Ugggh, what hideous overcooked HDR pictures. What's the point?