Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Daffodils on Burwell Fen

Tuesday, 7th May 2013: Apparently it is National Walking Month as well as hit the “Donate to my blog button ten times”* week. So here is a route which allows you to combine a bit of cycling with a bit of Fen walking.  I have really been enjoying my cycling just recently, the better weather and the Spring surge with leaves and flowers popping up out and up along with drier tracks has been all the encouragement I needed. Probably too much encouragement, as I seem to have been sneaking out quite lot on my bike.

This ride just happened, I didn’t have much of a plan and once again found myself exploring places I had never quite visited before.  Although I was a bit naughty and used my bicycle it would be a great bike and walk ride. Either if you were to cycle in from Cambridge or perhaps from closer by.

What I did was explore the Burwell Fen Farm triangle, not the whole triangle but half of it. The great thing about nature is that there is always something new to see. Now I have been walking and cycling in the area for quite a few years – but I saw a sight in the Burwell Fen area that I’d not seen before.

Here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the route that I cycled, I have just shown the loop, to give a sense of how far it is. Just a shade over 31Km. As I mentioned I did cycle along rights of way that are footpaths, which I don’t recommend. However there has been a fair bit of work in the area and so the “footpaths” were tracks that had recently been used by earth moving equipment or bank repairing equipment.

Although I have been most places on this route the area I had never really explored is around Pout Hall and from Pout Hall down to Reach Lode Bridge via the inner bank. A while back the NT decided to create a wetland area around Burwell Fen and built a bund around the area. (There are more pictures here.)

The bund would allow water to collect and it was going to be filled via Pout Hall Corner. The Wicken Fen Vision Warden’s blog suggests that it might take five years – mind you after the rain last year it looks pretty wet now. (Here is the Wicken Research Newsletter.)

For a bit of history on Reach Lode here is a bit form the village Website. Reach Lode almost found itself part of canal from King’s, Cambridge and London.

So my unplanned ride started with me heading out along the NCN51 through to Swaffham Prior. I headed off down Station Road, which then becomes Whiteway Drove. (It is interesting how road names endure many years after most traces of the Railway Line that gave a name to the road have disappeared. The last bit of the Cambridge to Mildenhall Line closed in 1965.

At this point I had decided to head along Black Droveway, Blackberry Droveway and Straight Drove to Upware.

Busy Famer applying a crop treatment along Black Droveway

Here is the Bike Route Toaster map. I find the way places get named interesting and also the way the names evolve. It seems to me the in the past bridges were of greater importance than we perceive them nowadays.  Just looking at the Reach map there are two small bridges – Barston Bridge and Delver Bridge that cross Catch Water Drain which leads into Reach Lode.

Map of my tour of the area around Wicken Fen

This time around I didn’t detour off Straight Drove onto Reach Lode underbank. There is an electricity sub-station at Burwell. Pylons lead off in multiple directions. Two sets run in parallel to the South-West. The OS map doesn’t seem to have caught up though it only shows one set (I have also checked on the unlinkable OS site). The OSM map does show two sets.  Perhaps the Ordnance Survey needs to get a move on – it is falling out of date.

Pylons on the March from Burwell

Although I didn’t take the slight detour I did pop in to take a picture of the pylons reflecting in the pool.

Pylons reflecting

After that I carried on up Straight Drove without a dab – even the mud tracks imprinted by tractor tyre tread weren’t as bad as the plastic strips on two of the wooden bridges on NCN51 between Cambridge and Swaffham Prior. Just before the end of Straight Drove the mud track becomes a gravel track. with a tarmac road that has seen better days heading to the left towards Blinkers Hill (as it is called on the 1930 map) .A precise search throws up several websites that have ripped off my Blog.

The Road to Blinkers Hill

Straight Drove runs alongside Commissioners’ Drain as you reach Upware. It looks as if whoever farms this field is not taking chances with lack of rain.

Preparing to Irrigate Fields – Commissioner’s Drain

This is the last bit of Straight Drove, a loose gravel track. I tend to cycle hard over to the right – it is flattest.

Straight Drove – the gravel yards

At Upware there is a pumping Station, at the end of Commissioner’s Drain. This area is part of Swaffham Internal Drainage Board, which in turn is part of the Ely group of Internal Drainage Boards.  A quick search on the Upware P{umping Station shows that last year “Hundreds of fish die caught up in pumps”. To the right you can also see Commissioner's’ Drain. The OSM and OS maps shows the Pumping Station as the Swaffham Pumping Station

Upware Pumping Station

On the other side of the road are the Upware Washes.

Upware Washes

At this stage I was still not too sure where I was heading – but since decent bridleway are preferable to even country roads I headed down Reach Lode.  If you are in a boat then those a water way signs – Burwell Lode to the left and Reach Lode to the right.  According to this website it called Pout Hall junction.

Pout Hall Junction

Upware has a bit of mooring – some boats seem to be in various states of repair. Here is a Blog I found of a boater’s trip to Reach – he recommended the Dyke’s End. This is their return journey – nice pictures from a different perspective – including the bridge over Wicken Lode and the Lodes Way cycle bridge over Reach Lode.

Moored Boats on Reach Lode – Upware

There is a waterway route to Wicken Fen – called unsurprisingly Wicken Lode. There is a wooden bridge which crosses it.  The wooden slats make it “easier” for horse- riders to use. I have never seen horses using it, do the horse riders remain mounted or not?

I walk over pushing Maisie, parked up on the bridge in this picture.

The Bridge over Wicken Lode

A little further down Wicken Lode there were some cattle (highland) grazing on the other side of the Lode.Here is an NT article on the grazing approach being taken at Wicken Fen (pdf).

Highland cattle – Wicken Fen – You lookin’ at me?

The other thing I heard, for the first time this year was a cuckoo – actually there seemed to be more than one in the area. Here is a recording of the sound – you might need to turn the volume up. It was the Swaffham Bulbeck Cyclist who tipped me the wink when we bumped into each other and stopped for a chat.

Cuckoo – Cuckoo – Wicken Fen

The sound of a Cuckoo–Wicken Fen

I headed back along Lodes Way, stopping where it crosses Newnham Drove to take a picture looking down the bumpy drove. On the right of the road is the Electricity Sub-Station. Those blobs down the road are pigeons.

Newnham Drove

Having stopped there I thought I would pop up to the recently tidied Burwell Fen Farm. On my way up there was a deer paying attention to me. The ridge in the background is Reach Lode – somewhat higher than the land – you can just see a boat peeping over the bank.

Deer – Burwell Fen

Round these parts they go equipped when hunting for deer.  They (the planes) have quite a distinctive shape. I hope they don’t lock onto me by mistake!

F15 Strike Eagles – Deer Hunting?

What did surprise me was the profusion of daffodils across the fen. This bit is surrounded by a bund to allow it to become wetland – it seems to have encouraged the daffodils as well. I wonder if this dates back to Alan Bloom’s  time. I must dig out my copy of The Farm in the Fen and have a look. In this picture from the Ennion’s book there is a hand-drawn map of the area which he notes as Adventurers Fen. Turf was “grown” in those days as well.

Daffodils on Burwell Fen (or should it be Adventurers Fen)

Another picture – the daffodils are slightly sparser as you get closer to the Lodes Way – you can see Reach Lode Bridge in the background.

Daffodils on Burwell Fen (or should it be Adventurers Fen)

Although I wasn’t intending I carried on up the line of Newnham Drove to the top of the triangle.  This is Pout Hall Corner from which water is being abstracted to flood the bund area, you might recognise the picture in this blog!

Pout Hall Corner

there has been so much work in this area that there are well-defined tracks that make cycling easier. I then headed down the left bank of Reach Lode. The banks of the Lodes make quite good vantage points as they are higher than the surround land.

That is the carrot crunching building on Harrison’s Drove

This is Burwell Fen looking suitable flooded – I wander what the fencing is for.

The Wicken Fen Vision in action – newly created wetlands – Burwell Fen

It looks as if those jets were having problems tracking the deer and have called in an Apache AH1 Helicopter (flown by the Army Air Corps). It is a licence-built Apache built by AugustaWestland. The bulbous bit on the stalk above the rotor blades is a Longbow Radar.

Apache Attack Helicopter – hunting deer?

Back to farming matters – that machine is a de-stoner. It is a Reekie 350-SA being dragged through preparing the ground for spuds.

Field being de-stoned

That looks to be a neat job.

Trenches for growing potatoes – de-stoned

Across the way was one of the crops also being grown in the early 1900s – turf. I wonder if they need to damp it in preparation for lifting the turn.

Watering the grass along Lodes Way

It was clearly a day for getting stuff done down on the farm. A little further on was a Challenger MT845C  pulling a disk harrow (to my untutored eye).

Challenger Tractor

Despite cycling and walking in these here parts for quite a few years there is always something new to see.


  1. Swaffham Bulbeck CyclistMay 17, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    Lovely recording of the cuckoo- really pleased you heard it. By the way, if you see birdwatchers on Reach Lode bridge at the moment, it is because a rare (for the UK anyway) black winged stilt has turned up - see http://cbcwhatsabout.blogspot.co.uk/
    I have never seen one apart from 'Sammy', the lonesome BWS who adopted Titchwell on the Norfolk coast as his home for many years.

    No POETS day ride for me today sadly as I have to be in Ipswich for work later, (though a nice short cycle ride from the station there to make up for it) but hopefully I'll get over to Reach Bridge over the weekend.

    On another note, I like your description of the 'magic paths' in another post. The one between Swaffham Bulbeck and Bottisham is truly awful and I rarely cycle along it nowadays. You'll be amused to know that I have been yelled at by drivers to get on it, and by pedestrians to get off it! (even though I am always very cautious around them). Perhaps I should try levitation!

    1. Thanks and thanks for the tip on the Black Winged Stilt. I have seen a few more birdwatchers than usual. Although I am not really quick enough with my camera!

      I have been away for a few days doing my unpaid job of removals - Scotland seems to get further away each time I drive up. I did pop out on Sunday, 70+ cyclists out and about. I haven't been out for a few days. Hopefully there will be an improvement in the weather soon.

      That bit of road is not the most pleasant either.

  2. Hi Jme, I work at Wicken Fen and am working on some interpretation to go out on Burwell Fen. I came across your photos of the daffodils on the fen, and wondered if there was any possibility of using them? Im happy for you to email me at jenny.kershaw@nationaltrust.org.uk
    Jenny Kershaw