Monday, October 29, 2012

Lodes Way Loops–Summer into Autumn, a time of change

Saturday, 29th September 2012: When I came to write this post I had to check the Bike Route Toaster map I had created and found I couldn’t match it against the pictures. I’d gotten it wrong. So a new map has followed and my Posts are only a month behind.

For me the weekends are times to catch up on various podcasts that I subscribe to during the week, including The Archers – I have not heard it for a while so hopefully it won’t be an everyday tale of rural misery when I do catch up. As I write this Post it is actually the 30th, October 2012 and for once here in the flatlands the weather is sunny and inviting so I will find some time to pop out for a spin.  I must remember that now the clocks have changed it gets darker earlier in the evenings and to take my lights.

In the run up to going on holiday various jobs also need to get done as well as trying to get a bit of cycling in, including mowing the lawn and packing.  The trouble is with packing is that we will be more limited in how much we can take this time around. However the weather was just too inviting.

As you can see a month ago and had blue skies and busy farmers.  This is a run I usually do once a week – as far as leisure cycling is concerned I much prefer not to be mixing it with noisy cars, lorries and buses which makes the Lodes Way a great place to cycle. At the weekend I often add a loop around Snouts Corner and then head across the fields from Horningsea to Lode.

For a change I have shown this route as a loop without the usual extra bit from the Green Dragon Bridge, a footbridge on Stourbridge Common. I have met a few cyclists who have come from farther afield to cycle Lodes Way getting their by car or train.  (Waterbeach is a nearby station, although the route to the Lodes Way is not that straightforward although in terms of the surface is not bad – there are bits where you will cycle along a grass track.

Here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the map shown below. The Lodes Way forms the spine of the route, with various loops added for my interest. It is a shade over 50Km/31 miles and flat (the altitudes vary from -1m to 8m).

Depending upon the time of day High Ditch Road can actually be quite unpleasant. It is a bit of a rat-run. It is quite narrow but cars do travel quickly and yet the sight lines aren’t that good with several bends and the old humpback bridge over what was the Cambridge to Mildenhall railway line (now no more).

Once you are past that bit of the route then the rest  is fine, either on genuinely country lane, cycle track or shared-use paths.  The byway (Low Fen Drove Way) from High Ditch Road round to the Horningsea Road can be a bit muddy in places and is certainly pot-holed after crossing over the A14 (by bridge).

I like it because it runs through the countryside, although there has been talk about moving the Cambridge Sewage plant out towards Snout Corner.  This field has been freshly drilled – two-thirds of the way down the field you can see a flock of birds snacking on the new seed.

Freshly ploughed and drilled field – Low Fen Drove Way

Here is the map of my route – three loops using the Lodes Way as the spine.

Lodes Way Loops – map of my ride

A little further along and here is some seed drilling in action. That is quite a complicated bit of kit, with various systems to ensure that the seed is sown at the optimum depth.

Seed drilling in action – Low Fen Drove Way

At the edge of the field is the machine that is used to load the seed drill with seed. Farming requires a fair bit of machinery – although I am not sure how the farmer will drive both back to the farm!

Seed drilling in action – Low Fen Drove Way

At the end of Low Fen Drove Way you cross the road onto the Fen Ditton – Horningsea Cycle way.  This is a route that makes it easier for pupils to cycle from Horningsea (no school) to Fen Ditton (with a school). The trouble is that this road is a rat-run into Cambridge and also onto the A14 (to from the East only). The route as built but without crossing provision for the ramps to and from the A14.

This picture shows a light-controlled crossing for the off-ramp, although without provision for the cyclists and pedestrians. The on-ramp doesn’t have any light-controls and is not pleasant. I very rarely cycle that way partly because the rest of the cycle path through Fen Ditton is a little bumpy and partly because of the crossing.

The school I mentioned is a Primary School – so I would imagine that leaving a chunk of danger along the route for young cyclists might be rather off-putting. Fortunately “Slip road crossings approved” will allow a toucan crossing to be installed (£275,000).  Although I do wonder how it can cost so much to install some lights and paint a crossing.  Mind you before the motoring lobby start whinging about the waste of money on a cycling project – they need to remember that this is only necessary because of the road – such schemes should always be considered part of the coast of road building..

Just as major housing developments now  provide S106 money for the community benefit then I reckon that roads need to more properly reflect the costs they incur to the communities they pass through – in terms of impeding pedestrians and cyclists, noise and pollution.  I find it quite appalling that some major dual-carriageways were built across public rights of way without making proper provision (bridge or tunnel) for those pedestrians and cyclists and horse riders wanting to use those rights of way – the A14 and the A11 are both places I have seen such problems.

Fen Ditton – A14 slip roads

The route does have a bit of cycling along the road from Horningsea (where the cycle way stops) up to the bridleway – I don’t think it is too bad though – there are bends that slow the traffic down a bit.

After that then the route over to Lode is all off-road – and in the main very cycle-able, with a bit of field track thrown in.  The last bit can also get very rutted and muddy as well (~50m). Some of it follows the route of the old Cambridge to Mildenhall line.

The old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line – near Lode

I was wondering why I had taken this picture – at the junction of Newnham Drove and Lodes Way – the route has had a bunch of reflectors added to the woodwork. MikeC mentioned them to me and I think it was his idea to colour code them (orange to the left, white to the right). I must look out for these after dark. The box to the right counts the “traffic”.

Cattle crossing – Lodes Way, Newnham Drove

On my way back around Wicken Fen there were a couple of signs warning of a hornets' nest and further back a wasps’ nest. The warnings were really if you had an inquisitive dog – as I cycled through I didn’t feel threatened. I also failed to stay still when I took this picture.

On the subject of flying insects apparently the boom in  amateur bee-keeping might lead to a shortage of bee food – with too many bees and not enough food

Hornets’ Nest – Wicken Fen

After looping around Wicken and then detouring down to Burwell it was time to complete the last loop by heading back up to Lodes Way via Newnham Drove.  This takes you past the Burwell Electricity Substation and there seemed to be a bit of pipe-laying taking place. At the best of times this is a very bumpy road, although there is tarmac it is well past its best. This time around there was also a load of mud on the road as well.  I met a friend for lunch at the Maid’s head in Wicken and he cycled along here – he was not impressed.

Newnham Drove – pipe-laying?

More farmers at work in the fields – I can’t see a seed drill so it must be doing a bit of harrowing. It is in the classic tractor colour of red – and a Massey Ferguson.

Tractor at work – along the Lodes Way

As I cycled down the unnamed road to Swaffham Bulbeck Lode Bridge I realised that the Spindle (Euonymus europaeus) was out. Or as the link points out an attractive shrub with bright pink berries. SBC pointed them out to me last year (on the 29th October 2011) I now keep an eye out for them. When you pay attention they really do look very pink – although when cycling along (even at my slow speed) they don’t always stand out from the  red berries the are more commonplace. I have spotted Spindle in a few places.

Spindle along Lodes Way

Although they still look pink at a distance they look less pink I reckon.

Spindle along Lodes Way

A little bit further along and before the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode bridge and there was a massive haystack, it is amazing how much straw comes of the fields.  This will take a few lorry loads to shift. I reckon that there are over a hundred bales and each bale is 5 or 6 times the size of the bales they used to make when I was a boy. I used to pop out and help shift the bales and we used to get rides on the trailer stacked with the bales – we  weren’t very commercially minded in those days. These are way to big to man-handle (or boy-handle).

Massive Haystack near Swaffham Bulbeck lode Bridge, Lodes Way

One of the East Anglian Air Ambulances passed overhead – although the tail rotor looks rather different. In fact this one looks more like the Magpas Helimedix helicopter also seen here. Which judging from the link has a different tail rotor system.

Air Ambulance – Helimedix?

A little later and another helicopter flew by – this is a Robinson R22 – G-TINK which appears to have been white at some stage but is now yellow.

R22 Robinson flying above Cambridge

After all the flying excitement there were also a couple of fire engines heading out of Cambridge on the Newmarket Road with sirens on and lights flashing.

Two Fire Engines dashing out of Cambridge along the Newmarket Road

And finally – some award winning nature photographs and finally I hope the weather isn’t too swale as I am going to sneak out for a ride.


  1. Hornets

    I've put a couple of photos of the hornets here:


    1. Thanks Mike - have the Wicken Fen NT got more pro-active in labelling their various nests of do they have more than usual? This year I've they had nests from bees, wasps and hornets on show. - well one of each.