Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cambridge–Exning Loop

Monday, 22nd April 2013:With so much time not cycling this year I reckon I deserve a bit of time in the saddle, not so much to catch up as even the balance. Especially now that Spring has finally started springing.

A quick update on the Get Britain Cycling petition – 43,388.  Get people petitioning.

Also Cambridgeshire has bid for an £8.2m cycle improvement plan.  It sounds a lot, but it is peanuts compared to what is spent on the roads, which basically just encourage more motor vehicles out there to pollute and intimidate and burn money. Instead of wanting cheap petrol we ought to be wanting to be able to work closer to home or from home – productively. Here is a bit more detail from the Cambridge News and here the the Cambridge Cycling Campaign link.

Also the Sustrans Ranger who kindly looks after Regional Cycle Route 30 between Thetford and Brandon is back on his blog – welcome back. He does update his blog regularly with Route Inspections. .It is a very pleasant route – if you are looking for something different then give it a try. (There are also convenient railway station in the area to extend the ground covered. Talking of Stations work to expand the Ticket Hall at Cambridge Railway Station starts soon. Lets hope it makes it easier for cyclists to use. At the moment I tend to avoid it.

I like cycling, I don’t like noisy traffic, which perhaps makes this route an odd choice since it involves cycling alongside the A14 (where it joins with the A11) – albeit shielded by a hedgerow. I do wonder just how many people realise how noisy lots of places have become with the constant thrum of traffic. Around the flatlands it takes a bit of work to avoid it.

The trouble is I also like cycling on byways and bridleways and this route throws in a few of those. The map is shown just below this picture and the route is just under 50Km, with not a lot of climbing, although it does get to one metre below sea level! Here is the Bike Route toaster link.

It heads East out of Cambridge on the NCN51 and then detours when you reach Swaffham Bulbeck along Swaffham Heath Road (aka Newmarket Way once upon a time). Not far along the Heath Road I stopped – the Wind Turbines of Wadlow Wind Farm were pointing in an odd direction. (South-westerly according to the Cambridge DTG charts.).

Wadlow Wind Farm from Swaffham Heath Road

And here is the map the track alongside the A14 runs for about two-thirds plus of the length, then there is a small country lane into Exning.

Map of my ride to Exning and back

As you can see the Oil Seed Rape will shortly be “lighting” up the countryside with chrome yellow fields. I sight I rather like personally. It is a pity that more of our crops don’t have a bit of colour to them. Although I know it is not everyone’s cup of tea.

The field headlands are generally the first to come into flower. Which is counter intuitive – to me anyway. Perhaps as yields are lower in the headlands then they crops don’t have to compete as much and so grow more quickly?

Oil Seed Rape – just about to come into flower along the Swaffham Heath Road

This is the byway alongside the A14, it starts are byway, has a bit of bridleway near the Devil’s Dyke  and then ends as a  byway before reach the Heath Road (between Burwell and Exning).

The byway was great for cycling along – the mud tracks were compact and not too deeply rutted. In addition the hedgerow was cut back last year and so you are not in danger of getting scratched as you cycle along.

Notice how the hedgerow in the right is so much further along with leaf than on the left. It seems to glow with Spring vitality.

Byway alongside the A14 – to Exning

The winter has lasted so long and the recent change in the weather has brought a few more flowers out – along the path were some Wild Violets. At least that is what I thought, however my Collins Complete Guide to British Wild Flowers shows that wild violets have 5 uneven petals. These look like they have 4 uneven petals.  After a trawl through the Botanical Keys website I reckon it is Ground Ivy, or Glechoma hederacea.

Ground Ivy

I feel I should have known this and I see now where I have been using my Collins book incorrectly – petal arrangement seems to fit into the Labiates.  Like quite a few plants it has been used for medicinal purposes, although its safety has not been established scientifically.

Ground Ivy

A bit more of the track as it wends its way towards Exning. The May blossom (as I know it) although this picture was taken in April stands out.  The blossom has come out before May, despite the late Spring.

This must be a fairly well used path, although I rarely meet anyone along it. Both the vehicle tracks and the middle walking track are well worn.

May Bloosom in April!

The Heath Road swings around into Exning along Lacey’s Lane. It would seem that many villages around the area are under pressure to build loads of houses – cos we need more houses – although no-one seems to want to address the issues of where they will work and shop and go to school.  I reckon that any significant house building needs to take a more self-sufficient approach and to create communities where multi-car ownership is not a necessity. Exning unfortunately is no different, the land-owners don’t mind they can make a significant profit when land switches from agricultural to residential use.

Perhaps that gain needs to be taxed, after all it is almost at a bureaucratic whim, and that tax goes to ensuring the area as a whole benefits, a bit like S106 money.

As I cycled along Chapel Lane I stopped to take a picture of this horse in front of the Wheatsheaf or should that be the W eatsheaf.

Rather oddly if you go to the main Website page for the Wheatsheaf - you end up with a page with an adress and a contact number but no further linjks as far as I can see.. A search shows that there are more pages below the main page – like this one -, altho0ugh some of the links on that are broken.

The Wheatsheaf Inn - Exning

My preference is to leave the village of Exning along a no through road – North End up toward Beechings House. Where, without knowing it you cross the route of the now absent Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line. I do wonder if it was renamed Beechings House because Dr Beeching closed the line.

The route continues for cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians, it must be a restricted byway – on the map it is called Haycroft Lane. It too has been cleared – quite significantly.  Again I tend not to see many people using the lane, however when it was overgrown all traffic was forced to use one muddy track – which when it was wet meant cycling on a track pocked with horse hoofprints. Which isn’t comfortable.

Haycroft Track - Exning

A bit further along – the lanes name sake – well a load of hay – or perhaps straw from one of the many local stables.

Haycroft Lane - Exning

A common sight around these parts – a US plane flying circuits – I think it is a KC-135 – probably flying out of Mildenhall.

KC-135 flying above Exning

After crossing the B1102 I carried on on Howlem Balk and then to Newnham Drove and back via the Lodes Way. Just before reaching the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode Bridge I stopped to take a picture of this field being ploughed.

And finally some pictures – tilt and shift pictures of pyramids and palaces, pictures entered in the 2013 Nature Photographer of the Year competition, and finally a year in the life of a lighthouse.

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