Monday, September 24, 2012

Planning a ride around the Deepings

Thursday, 6th September 2012: It is easy to get in a bit if a rut sometimes. I ride my bike because I enjoy it. Whether it be a ride to the railway station or to a meeting or Bangkok to Saigon. I grew up in the Mendips and probably like many in those days a bicycle was pretty useful for getting to and from school and it was not normal to rely on your parents for lifts – it was either the bus, shank’s pony or a bicycle.

In those days the roads were not as busy, a quick check suggests that there were we around 13.5m licensed vehicles in 1970 and 34.2m in 2011. That is quite an increase and whilst the total length of roads have increased. The total road length in Great Britain was  estimated at 245.0 thousand miles for 2010 whereas the estimate for 1970 200.3 thousand miles. Of course some roads have been widened and of course the real issue is that lots of people all want to travel in the same directions at the same time.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying things were different when I was a boy. Things are due for another change though, with climate change and diminishing stocks of petrol we don’t really have much choice. Indeed one of the issues will be that as those stocks diminish then it will become even more vital for countries without their own supplies of oil to shift to alternatives.

The trouble is our infrastructure has evolved to “capitalise” on the car and lorry as a primary form of transport to the detriment of other modes of transport (IMHO). As people are able to travel at their own whim we have had the rise in out of town shopping centres and the consolidation of things like hospitals.

Here in the UK we have a whole bunch of ways of taxing us to pay for everything from Government to the NHS, pensions, rubbish collection and roads. Apparently Government figures show a 50 per cent cut in fuel revenues by 2030 and Norman Baker has predicted a switch from Vehicle tax to pay-as-you drive tolls because of the growth in electric and greener cars. Now of course that is not a forgone conclusion since a different approach would be to tax electric and green vehicles instead of exempting them as they are at the moment.

Now lots of motorists feel that they pay for the roads and so should be entitled to more than say, cyclists. Now for one that is a spurious argument since the roads are paid for out  of all taxation and the overall cost of roads, policing, accidents, parking and pollution. One report suggests that Motoring taxes would have to triple to cover costs to society

One of those costs is that “Nearly 1 in 10 children get asthma ‘because they live near a busy road’”. (1.1million children live with asthma and more than 1,000 people died from the illness in 2009!).

I’ve mentioned before that cycling to school has decreased and driving to school has increased – well “Traffic nightmares will return if school does say residents” makes the point that getting kids to school by car doesn’t just cut the opportunity for exercise.

Now these are all theoretical reasons why I cycle – I do it because I enjoy it. I have also discovered that I enjoy it more if I am reasonably fit and capable of sitting on the saddle for hours at an end. This doesn’t come for free. To enjoy being able to cycle out for long runs means I have to keep up a base level of cycling. Now I am not talking about racing or some huge level of endurance, just being comfortable. I like to be able to consider riding for 100-200Km  (60-120 miles) when then the mood takes me. It means you can cover a fair bit of ground and see more stuff. I also rather like to see new stuff and cycle on pastures new from time to time as well.

So when I came across some rides in Lincolnshire on their Local Government website it piqued my interest. They have several rides here as well as cycling maps of various areas here. Now one of mu bugbears is that too often rides that are published are too short – yes I know I could lengthen. Anyway here is the leaflet (pdf) to one of the Lincolnshire Cycle Route called The Deepings. It covers a rectangular patch taking in Market Deeping, Croyland and Spalding.

As an aside I bumped into MikeC yesterday somewhere along Lodes Way. He showed me a new cycling map of the Ely environs produced by Cambridgeshire County Council. A quick check shows it is on the web along with this one of St Neots including Grafham Water.  I wish I had gotten the latter map for my ride out to Grafham Water and back last week (to come). 

Back to the Deepings ride – a quick check and there is a railway line through so I should be able to get a train out there. Now for a while I needed a gap, so I printed out the Deepings Map and left it on my desk in order to act as a reminder. An opportunity came up – my wife and daughter had planned a day visit to The Harry Potter Studio Tour near Watford. Now don’t get me wrong I’ve read the books, seen the films – but the contest was not great when it came to a cycle ride in pastures new. What’s more the weather forecast for the day in question also looked rather pleasant. (I might have gone on the tour if the weather had been less pleasant.)

So I had another look at the map and it looked like Peterborough railway station would be a good jumping off point  as it wasn’t far from one of the corners of the ride.  So I used Bike Route Toaster to map the route and used parts NCN12 from the station and NCN21 back to make it a bit more scenic.

The Deepings ride was shown as 50Km/31miles on the leaflet and although I followed I tended to use the cycle routeing provided by the OSM cycle map the main difference was that the cycle map showed an alternative to the Peakirk to Crowland road route  along a track (NCN12/NCN21) so I followed that instead.

Here is the link to my route on BRT - Deepings plus Peterborough as you can see the summary estimates it as a more respectable 82Km/51miles and flat apart from a 30m late pimple at 70Km.

Although I don’t use my GPS to navigate that often I also figured it would make getting in and out of Peterborough much easier and safe time map-checking if I did download the route to my Garmin EDGE 605. The only snag was that is was quite  while since I had last done that fortunate I blogged about it  when I cycled from Hull to Cambridge over a couple of days and it was very useful. There is also a very useful site on the Edge 705 – which is similar to the 605 and I did have to check the Edge 605 manual again.

As it turned out just to be on the safe side I downloaded both a gpx file and a tcx file as files as there were errors when I tried to do it direct to my GPS. I stored them “manually” on the GPS in the Garmin drive – the .tcx file to courses directory and the .gpx file to the GPX directory.

For some reason i decided to catch the train from Ely rather than Cambridge – well I had the day for cycling so why not – it was only another 70Km or son on top. Actually it meant it broke my ride up with a 30minute train journey in between. I could have used a more direct route that would have knocked 40Km-ish of the total round trip – but for leisure give me traffic-free cycling and day – although another 50% distance – that’s the lot of cyclists.

So on the day I started a bit later than planned owing to email that needed to be done – the weather was good and looked as if it would hold. I wore shorts plus top and fleece and packed a shower-proof just in case. I wore cycling shoes and socks as well. There was a bit of a breeze forecast and I don’t like cold toes.  I stocked up on two water bottles with water – well why not. (They are slightly insulated) I also took a couple of cans of diet coke and some jelly babies and for some reason some long-fingered gloves. Although as it happens I wore my fingerless mitts for the journey – the long fingered gloves were ballast.

I took a somewhat more direct route to Ely out on NCN51 then through the Swaffhams – cutting out the hill before in Swaffham B and heading  via road to Upware from Swaffham P picking up the NCN11 route to Ely. I was in a hurry so decided no pictures – why is why the post is so full of words….

I still missed the train I had planned to catch though. The return ticket as £11 so pretty reasonable really compared with the real cost of driving.  So took a few pictures whilst I waited. One of the slight challenges faced when taking a bicycle on a train is knowing whether there will be space or not and where on the flipping platform you need to be in order to be near the right door. Now for me if the worst came to the worst and there wasn’t space then i could always wait for the next train.  Trying to find out what the provision is is tricky because it depends upon which train – different operators ply the same route – I gave up.

It looked as if another cyclist was also catching the train (platform 3) so I hung around in the same area and hoped she knew what she was doing and that there were spaces.

Cyclists waiting to catch the train from Ely to Peterborough (platform 3)

As all the passengers were waiting at my end of the platform I am not sure whether we were being sheep or he knew something we didn’t

Lone passenger waiting at the other end of platform 3, Ely

I waited until a couple of trains had gone taking passengers with them before taking this picture - it might look as if the station isn’t well used – it is actually quite busy. What does impress me is the number of bicycles parked here – clearly rail-bicycle works for the inhabitants of Ely. It also saves a chunk of money for car parking as well and those bikes are on the inside of the station.

Cycle Parking – Ely Railway Station

At last the train arrives and I am near the door marked with a bicycle – the other cyclist did know what she was doing. Being chivalrous I let her lead the way – let’s hope there is some cycle space on the train.


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