Wednesday, May 8, 2013

England’s Yellow and Pleasant Land

Sunday, 28th April 2013: I’d better make this a quick Post, no digressing on the ways in which we allow cars to rule our lives. And yes I let mine “rule” my life – working to maintain it. Growing up your look to the freedom having your own wheels can give you. I also enjoyed tinkering, more with motor bikes, but I did do my own car maintenance as well. Then you find yourself with a job and kids and it would seem even less time or perhaps time becomes more precious.  Before you know it you are driving thousands of miles a year and become almost incapable of using other forms of transport.

And therein lies the problem -  we want rather than need a car, and yet little by little society evolves to the point where those without cars are inconvenienced by those with cars. Public transport declines, shopping moves out of town, for those  living in the sticks all sorts of things become tricky. Whether it is kids and schools or visits to the Doctor  or the noise and pollution and the danger.

We are told the the roads are important for the economic health of the country – although I have never quite seen that argument explained.  Don’t get me wrong some forms of transportation are important – but there is a difference between a farmer ploughing his field and a joy rider – burning up the highway. Whilst having a quick look here is an old Greenpeace article that debunks some of the myths associated with roads and economic contribution.

The problem is  we feel entitled to car ownership and so it becomes a political hot potato. Apparently the average commute is 75minutes a day according to the TUC  Which means that if the average working week is 37.5 hours we spend a further 16.7% of that time commuting. That is not a very efficient use of time!

Then we find we can stay in touch on the move – which means the temptation to use a mobile phone when driving is high, so people do. So then the police have an additional role – and there are fines and points. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t however in our simplistic world we assume that higher fines will do the job. So the fines get increased. So things like texting at the wheel are going up by 50% to £90 although the points a motorist receives will remain at three.

I do wonder just how effective this penalty system is. After all the fine is about the same as the cost of a tank of petrol. Is it a deterrent and what level of policing is required to make it an effective deterrent. I see a fair few drivers using their mobile phones when driving. My un-scientific sample would suggest van drivers and middle-aged women are the worst.

So not much of a digression – although one way of dealing with congestion would be to get a good chunk of those drivers out on their bikes. How would that work I hear you say. Well according to the National Travel Survey: 2010 the average length of a car trip is around 8.5 miles and takes 21minutes. What would it take to get that lot onto bicycles – think how much space it would save, and think how much cheaper it would be. Think how much could be saved by not building roads… (and so not losing countryside).

In the UK Cambridge is seen as a beacon for cycling – mainly because quite a lot of people do cycle. It must come as a surprise to visitors to the city to see what a rag-tag, hodge-podge collection of cycling facilities we have. How much is spent on cycling in the UK? Well according to this study The British Cycling Economy cycling’s proportion of the UK transport budget is less than one per cent. In London it is less then 0.45%. The trouble is when the amount spent is so low then the facilities created tend to be sub-standard.  (Yet according to this “Interactive chart” from the DfT the proportion of urban trips under 5 miles taken by walking or cycling was 39% in 2011 so why aren’t the facilities better.

Enough, back a a pleasant Sunday afternoon cycle. This is the time of year where we start to see yellow – whether it is the dandelions along the roadside verges or the oil seed rape in the fields.

I want for a ride around Low Fen Drove Way, Horningsea to Lode by field and  Lodes Way and NCN51. This is High Ditch Road, I was just about to swing off onto the bridge over the A14. That’s what I like to see – sociable cycling – our cycling facilities need  to support more two-abreast cycling. When I have been on cycle tours nothing passes the miles like chatting about things you see when cycling. Yet you would think that it was outlawed the way motorists get so uppity about it. And, let’s face it many shared-use cycle paths are barely wide enough.

Two abreast on High Ditch Road

Here is the Oil seed rape coming into flower. Apparently birds like pigeons feast on the new growth, but won’t land in the middle of a field, they want to be able to land on open ground and then feast away.

Oil Seed Rape alongside High Ditch Road

this is the same field seen from the bridge on Low Fen Drove Way over the A14. The open patches get bigger apparently.

Oil Seed Rape alongside High Ditch Road

The is part of Low Fen Drove Way – I reckon that pile of earth is there to do some repairs. The ruts are quite big. Also the recent winds seem to have blown one of two trees down.

Low Fen Drove Way

At the other end of  Low Fen Droveway is the road to Biggin Abbey. The Drove Way on this side used to be called Biggin Road. I rather liked the colour of the leaves  - almost yellow – it is a pity I wasn’t paying more attention to the horizon when I took the picture though.

Trees in Leaf Along Biggin Lane

After heading back towards Lode on the Hundred Acres Road I was a bit surprised to see two heads bobbing around in a field of Oil Seed Rape.  The person on the right is holding an SLR camera so must have been taking pictures. Behind them is what looks like a bird hide tower. I can’t see it on the Satellite view though.

Oil Seed Rape Field alongside Hundred Acres Road near Quy Fen, with two heads bobbing about

The route from Horningsea to Lode is along a variety of different tracks – from a hard packed gravel to tractor tracks along the edge of a field. It was all quite cycle-able on my Hybrid though.

Just near Allicky Farm were some Cowslips growing in a ditch. Or Primula veris to give them their Latin name. There seem to be also sorts of  names they are known by according to the Wikipedia link from cuy lippe to tittypanes. I didn’t know any of them.

Cowslips near Allicky Farm

This is that ditch – there were also some red ones – but they didn’t make it into the picture.

Cowslips near Allicky Farm

Having been this way a few times in the last couple of weeks there wasn’t much new to take pictures of. (This is the Reach Road into Reach). I did cycle along Lodes Way around Wicken Fen and then back long through Burwell and into Reach. However were was a sign of interest.

Roadside Sign – Reach Road

A beer festival – Wicken – on the 11th of May with free entry at 4pm. So if I timed my cycle ride I could just be passing – and well it would be rude not to sample the beer.


Wicken – Beer Festival – May 11th

For a change I cycled form Reach to Swaffham Prior by road. You pass over the route what was the Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line. There is quite a cutting as the route heads into Burwell. The effect is accentuated as it also cuts through the Devils’ Dyke.  It seems to be a popular dog-walking spot.

The Church Spire is  St Marys – Burwell. It is a pity there are so many cables in the sky – it would be a rather good viewpoint otherwise.

The route of the old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line cuts through Devil’s Dyke

As I said earlier this is the time of year that our fields turn yellow and Oil Seed Rape is a popular and presumably lucrative crop. Although the weather last year and this has not been kind. Apparently last  years crops yielded seed of poor quality and then conditions weren’t good for sowing and growing.

A Headland of Oil Seed Rape near Swaffham Bulbeck

This is the same field but looking to the left compared to the last picture.  That is not such an encouraging sight for the farmer. It looks as if the there is a trial in the middle or the farmer is trying to scare of the pigeons.

Same Field – sparse patches of Oil Seed Rape

Across the road Maisie Marin waited patiently for me. Although I am carrying less on my bike I hade added a placcy bag and some bungee cords to make it easier to carry a rain jacket.

Shared-Use Cycle park

Home James and don’t spare the pedals. I forgot to mention on  one of my rides I had an insulated bottle full of ice and lemon squash. Unfortunately I can’t have screwed the top on as it had gone missing and squash was splashing over my legs. If you see a 5cm diameter water bottle top with a drinking spout somewhere in the Lodes Way area – then let me know.


  1. That beer festival sign has just the level of amateurish enthusiasm that would guarantee my attendance. Wonderful photos.

    1. Sorry - your comment got caught up in the Spam filter there.

      I am still wondering how I can nip out for a ride when it is on!

      I will be looking for a place that sells Thistly Cross cider up in Scotland soon. I will be interested to see what it is like. Co-incidentally I am just reaching the end of a glass of the Henney's dry at the moment - my reward for nipping out for a POETs day cycle ride.