Sunday, 5th May 2013: Sundays are good days in terms of normally having a bit of free time. They are also days I tend not to want to over-exert myself too much. Alright that is code for I am feeling lazy and want a pleasant but not too strenuous ride. Now there are a few cycle-friendly routes that are really quite pleasant – except they can get a bit chocker with families and dogs out for a Sunday constitutional. I am not complaining – but I often try to avoid them. When I want some seclusion why look for crowds.
Two such places that I tend to avoid on a Sunday afternoon are NCN51 through Wicken Fen and NCN11 alongside the River Cam. The trouble is shared-use paths are all well and good for fudging routes to schools (not really). However with any reasonable volume of either cyclists or pedestrians they tend to get a bit chaotic.
Many shared-use paths don’t really encourage/facilitate following simple rules. Their simplicity is also their downfall, I reckon. There is a lot of talk about how good Dutch facilities are – well I think that apart from the well known benefits, they have built a cycle flow system, which people seem to follow and obey. Now it is a long time since I last went cycling in Holland. So I go by what I see written about Holland. I don’t know whether they “police” the cycle rules or it is just the weight of numbers that tends to cause cyclists to self-organise – but anyone who has tried cycling around Cambridge will know that many cyclists and pedestrians don’t seem to obey any rules of the shared-use pavement.
There are some who might say that this is a good thing as it acts as a natural speed limiter – but that is just a cop-out. Although I enjoy rambling on my bike there are times when I am using my bike as transport pure and simple (although it is a transport mode that I enjoy). If I have a train to catch or meeting to go to then I want to get where I am going smoothly and efficiently.
Interestingly it would seem that catching trains forms part of the Transport strategy thinking of our area. With trains, buses and bikes all cited as areas for more work. This is the report - (pdf) Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Long Term Transport Strategy - being presented to the Cambridgeshire County Council. Which is summarised as Trains, buses and bikes needed to stop traffic chaos. There are recommendations for new stations at Addenbrooke’s, Cherry Hinton and Fulbourn. It also mentioned more formally managing on-street parking in the city! An interesting comment here suggests that on-street car parking effectively subsidies residents massively in Westminster.
I am pleased to see some evidence of long-term planning – however it does seem to be based around lots of people being moved around.
Still back to cycling I pretty much used NCN51 and the Lodes Way to get their and back – the loop starts where Newnham Drove crosses the Lodes Way. here is the Bike Route Toaster Map link. The total journey was a shade under 60Km although most of my pictures focus on the bit from Wicken Fen to Soham then to Burwell.
To avoid the crowds I cycled on the right-hand side of Wicken Fen along a path known as the Maltings, but I have not seen that name on a map (well one that is to be easily found on the internet anyway.) From there I head along Butt’s Lane and Drury Lane to Drove Lane (a byway).
This is a route I would avoid in the wetter months – the mud can get very sticky – after a dry spell it isn’t too bad.
May Blossom on The Drove - Wicken
Here is the Bike Route Toaster map – with a few annotations – showing what is where.
Map of my ride to Soham and back
Here is the point where Drove Lane stops being a byway and the route turns into a bridleway! Which after a short distance once again turns into a byway. That has always struck me as a bit odd in terms of rights of way. Why would a track usage change like that?
Drove Lane stops and the route becomes a bridleway - Wicken
After a bit of a zig-zag of bridleway the route becomes a byway again – although called Bracks Drove. I passed both cyclists and walkers using the route. The road between Wicken and Soham doesn’t have a pavement and cars do speed along it.
There were a few cowslips growing along the byway. The byways are both enclosed by large hedges.
Cowslips on Bracks Drove – Soham
Those same cowslips, again picture from a low angle – bit more zoom.
Cowslips on Bracks Drove – Soham
As you get closer to Soham there are occasional gaps in the hedges and you get to see Soham – well the church – St Andrew’s.
The Church of St Andrew’s, Soham
After popping through Soham and down via a byway, Larkhall Road and Cockpen Road I detoured around the permissive bridleway around Crowhall Farm. It is a very pleasant route, following New River at the start – the water was beautifully clear. It wends through fields and woods. despite being o close to roads you get a completely different perspective of the area.
The going was good to soft (well I think that is how it is termed in racing circles). I would certainly recommend it for a bit of meandering variety. The cottages across the field of oil seed rape are called Breach Cottages. If you follow this WTP link you can also see on the satellite view the way the path wiggles through the wood next door to Crowhall Farm.
Breach Cottages, Crowhall Farm Permissive Bridleway
After crossing the road you have a hill to cycle and a wood to “wiggle” through.The hill isn’t large – except when it is the only one around it seems large. You then reach a road (Broads Road) which takes you to Burwell. This is the view of the “hill” I cycled over.
The “Hills” of Burwell
On my way home I was thinking how nice it is to see the various plants and flowers appear as Spring develops. Here is one from my childhood – the White Dead Nettle or Lamium album – as we didn’t call it. One of the first plants that you (well I) learn(t) about as a kid is the Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica, or Stingle as my son called it when he was young). Then you learn about plants that look like Stingles but aren’t.
White Dead Nettle
The White Dead Nettle was along the Lodes Way as you approach the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode Bridge. These two cyclists probably though I was odd taking pictures of nettles. So I pretended it was their picture I was really stopping to take.
Cyclists on Lodes Way, near Swaffham Bulbeck Lode
I almost forgot – an old (1840) map of Wicken. A couple of other links that caught my attention – super wheat being developed in Cambridgeshire – the old-fashioned way, sort of. I must look out for it. And finally some pictures showing how man changes the landscape.