Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tell me why I don’t like Mondays–I slashed my ankle!

Monday, 27th May 2013: As Mondays go this was actually pretty good. It was a Bank Holiday and the weather was good, with the temperature almost reaching double figures. Which made it ok for cycling.  (Shorts and sandals, were a good idea, wearing a short-sleeved shirt and a fleece was overkill.)

Keep signing the Promote Cycling Petition – if you haven’t already. It stands at 66,655 – good but not as good as it ought to be.

Why do motorists want cyclists to wear helmets?  Common-sense perhaps, or concern or is it to salve a guilty conscience. It can’t be the latter, look at august bodies such as  BMA and Brake supporting  helmet use.

Personally I still think that it the cycle helmet (or lack of) is a way for the motorist to transfer their responsibility for safely driving a significant machine at significant speeds onto the cyclist. Many motorists consider cyclists to be a rolling blockage. The reality is that if cyclists switched form bicycles to cars the roads would be even more congested and slower. But many motorists live in the moment – a cyclists in front is a blockage to be cleared. If they get clipped then that is just one of those things, an accident, of relatively minor consequence. (A post of that subject A Culture of Responsibility.)

The trouble is clip a car and it gets a dent, clip a cyclist and they can easily end up in an ambulance.  If you don’t know what I am talking about check out this Post from the Cambridge Cyclist on how bad it can get in Cambridge – And this is where I could have died today… As a cyclist the effect of a near miss is visceral.

So if, hypothetically, cars users (in Sweden) say needed more hospital days for head injury than any other road user group well head protection would be on the agenda for car occupants.  Except it isn’t hypothetical and yet head protection for car occupants isn’t on the agenda. Why is that?

The trouble is just as bicycles did many year before car ownership become and icon for personal freedom – drive the open roads, go on holiday, pop to beach.  Unfortunately so many of us wanted to have that “freedom” that we get in each other’s way. Even worse many of us end up in the commuter slog – our freedom-carriage now ends up taking us to Jail every day. (with time off at the weekend for good behaviour). (Alright many jobs are actually enjoyable – but you get what I mean.) (As for public transport – High fares . old trains – the big railway rip-off – yes another DM article).

Even the DM talks of Motoring Misery at a 25-year high, although rising petrol prices, speeds cameras and potholes are to blame. No it is nothing to do with the sheer number of us wanting to drive. As you might expect these are all rather selfish ways of looking at the problem.  Although to be fair the evolution of our society has probably made us feel more reliant on our cars, (Lack of public transport, out of town shopping, centralisation of services such as A&E.) I wonder why there is not a mention of the more tragic 24,860 people killed or seriously injured  in a year (year ending Sept 2012).

The other morning I woke to hear the news on the Radio and heard something about Speed cameras save lives.  Later on when looking at the DM website I saw “Speed cameras ‘increase risk of serious or fatal crashes’: New RAC investigation raises doubts over their usefulness”. I wondered how I could have misheard the news item so badly. The I saw the Grauniad’s report on the same item “Speed cameras reduce serious road accidents, study finds”. Both based upon the same report – but the latter report perhaps more balanced.

Before I get onto my ride, the drove way between High Ditch Road and Horningsea and then over to Lode via Hundred Acres Road. Here is a post on the Top 10 Cambridgeshire Hill Routes.

So as I made my way along High Ditch Road G-Tink flew overhead. It is a Robinson R22, here in different colours with Helicentre, Liverpool on the side. I have no idea whether the aircraft id numbers stay with them or get moved around. However it is the same type of helicopter, so perhaps it has changed hands. Here is one  Post of a person’s first sol in G-TINK.

Here is a reference to G-TINK by Aeromega which would appear to be available for hire and they are based in East Anglia. The R22 is available for hire at £375/hour ex vat, plus landing fees.

G-TINK An R22 flying into Cambridge Airport

Whilst I am thinking about it some pictures of the Eurofighter Typhoon – not mine but some of for the Typhoon Owner’s Workshop Manual. Here are some pictures of a Vulcan, the last airworthy one. My son thinks he saw it the other day.

I also forgot to mention that I was using my long lens (100mm-300m which is equivalent to 200mm to 300mm in 35mm speak). So when standing on the bridge over the A14 I took this picture of a house in Quy across a sea of yellow. Forgive the cables and pylons and cellular base station that all now seem to make up the background of the British vista.

Quy across a Sea of Yellow

As I reached the Horningsea cycleway I took a picture of what I think is Wildfowl Cottage which sits alongside Baits Bite Lock. It is in the RIBA Regional Awards East shortlist for 2013 (bottom picture). Here is a better view of the room that has been created – and fine it looks to.

Wildfowl Cottage – Baits Bite Lock

A view of the cycleway. This is one of the wider shared-use paths around Cambridge having been constructed fairly recently.  As I wasn’t moving at all I don’t think I terrified that pedestrian into walking right at the edge.

One of the rationales behind this construction was to make it easier for residents of Horningsea to get their children to and from Fen Ditton without resorting to car use. (Cheaper, healthier, less congestion at the School etc.)

The trouble is the job is only half-finished. There is a nasty on-ramp onto the A14 that you have to cross. I can’t seem many parents being happy about that.  There are plans to put a crossing in – but only this seems to be a characteristic approach to cycling infrastructure provision – leave the job unfinished.

Horningsea – Fen Ditton Cycleway

As this is a byway the advice is to keep dogs on leads – which is what this couple have done – thank you. Mind you that cyclist has moved over a fair bit. Whether we like it or not I reckon that dogs are perceived as being more dangerous than they used to be say 20 years ago.

Hundred Acres Road – Cyclists and Dog walkers (and Pylons)

After passing through Lode and White Fen I cycled down to Black Drove Way and without quite managing to avoid sitting on a thistle and brushing a stinging nettle I took a few low-level pictures.

Black Drove Way

I was playing with different points of focus.

Black Drove Way

Although I had forgotten I had stuck three in the post, two too many!

Black Drove Way

Then I headed of up Straight Drove and saw a bog oak. I think it has been recently lifted although I am not sure.  At one time there was an Oak forest and these are all that remain of them. The land around Wicken Fen has never been that amenable to farming. Pear was cut and ditches were cut – but the battle was never really won.

Then along came the war and the need to Dig for Victory drove further attempts to turn over more land to agriculture.  The reclamation was hard work as seen in this film of the Fens (35minutes of footage of the clearing around Priory Farm) in the 1941-1943 period. Apparently the Royal Engineers were called in to blow up the bog oaks such was the struggle. (Fire was used but that could also set the peat alight!

Alan Bloom (of Bressinghams) bought Priory Farm in 1938 to extend his Oakington Nursery but the war turned attention to food. He wrote a book about his struggles with the land and it seems the National Trust. The book was called the Farm in the Fen.

The  film also has shots of bog oaks being blown up. The text also suggests that Priory Farm was being considered as a bombing target!

Apparently the wood is over 4,000 years old and one can be seen at Wicken Fen. Here is an article on Bronze Age Log boats – with a similar timing.

Bog Oak – near Reach Lode

I then headed back down along the other side of Reach Lode at Upware.

Boat Moored – Upware

The route is a bridleway and not always very flat, in places it is quite bumpy. Especially where there has been work done on the Wicken Lode banking.  

It isn’t too difficult to cycle along, and you do meet the occasional horse rider, in this case enjoying a pleasant Bank Holiday.

Horse and Rider alongside Wicken Lode

Wicken Lode

Across the other side of the Lode you can see one of the several bird hides in Wicken Fen.

Wicken Fen Bird Hide

I am not sure why the rider stopped – something I must have missed when I cycled past.

Horse and Rider alongside Wicken Lode – stopped

As I was heading back – a picture of Burwell Fen Farm. Having watched the film of the area being worked it has taken on a new meaning. Now it is turning back to wetland. Apparently it was the hardest bit of land reclamation in England during the war.

Burwell Fen Farm

I have cycled this way many a time. It is the NCN51 shared-used path near Quy. This is somewhat narrower than what might be considered. I have never really though about this kink. You can see that there is the shade form a tree over it. So I guess that they avoided building the path over the roots of the tree to avoid damaging it.

A Kinky NCN51 near Quy

Just after Quy Church I stopped to take a picture of the orange windsock across the yellow field. It belongs to the Quy Mill Hotel – should you wish to fly your helicopter in and use their helipad.

Quy Mill Hotel Windsock

I should mention two things that occurred on my war around. I bumped into MikeC who was giving his recumbent an outing. So we stood at the Headlake Drove cross roads and had a chat. Whilst there we saw a few cars who seemed to be lost – as if they had wandered into the deep fens by accident.

I also checked with him what a small mammal I had seen running across the road might have been – probably a vole. I thought it was but I didn’t get that good a look at it. (The alternative was a weasel.  MikeC also reminded me that turf was not just a term for slabs of lawn grass but also peat. So when I saw a turf are on an old map  of Burwell Fen it was probably turf-cutting.

Now there is an old joke about a watch being guaranteed for life. When the mainspring breaks it cuts your wrist and you die. Well the sort of cycling I do on Maisie is general purpose. Sometimes I wear a suit and cycle to business meetings and sometimes a pair of shorts and bump up and down rutted tracks. So I generally stick mudguards on. My rear mudguard has been broken a while. This time my front mudguard got tangled with a stick and was broken, So what should happen – well I didn’t slash my wrist – just my ankle.

I thought it was just a scratch but the edge of the plastic mudguard was so sharp it neatly sliced though the skin to leave a trickle of blood – this is after cleaning it up.

Broken Mudguard slashes ankle

The mudguards wave safety release clips and not wanting to leave it to scruff up the countryside I brought it home with me. It was the detached bit, stuck on the rack that got me as I swung my leg over.

Another reason for bringing it home as that the various nuts/bolts are useful to have in the bits and bobs box.

Maisie and Mini (mudguard)

And finally some pictures.  A place where they have thunderstorms almost every night.  More yellow fields – but Buttercups this time.  Aerial images of beaches and raging storms.

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