Monday, July 22, 2013

Flowers in the Fens

Saturday, June 29th 2013: The weather has been gorgeous this last few weeks and so I have managed to cycle at least 20miles per day for 12 of the last 14 days. I even find myself willingly cycling up hills. (Note for non-flatlanders, we call hills what most others would call pimples). I am three weeks behind on my posts and there is also other stuff I want to talk about – but I better make this a quick post otherwise I’ll run out of time.

I’d better stick in a bit of news though – “Woman cyclist injured in collision with car in Cambridge”. (It happened this morning – real time). It happened at this roundabout – Milton Road and Elizabeth Way. Fortunately it doesn’t sound as if she was badly hurt – but it made me think. (Also lets hope the Ambulance didn’t take 46 minutes to reach her, it can be very scary coming off a bike and not quite knowing what hurts where and how badly.)

When I cycle to pick up my morning newspaper it is a short trip along a backstreet type or road, but there is school traffic and some rat-running. At the moment someone is having some work done on there house and so they have builders completely legitimately parked on the road (not obstructing the pavement). My anecdotal observations are that there are three types of motorist.  When I am cycling and on the opposite side to the parked cars and it is my right of way then:

  • They see me, slow down and let me pass though
  • They see me and speed up to force their way through
  • They either don’t seem me or don’t register me as a road user and drive on through. 

Now I am happy to “take my lane” and am fairly conspicuous however despite all that the result is that my risk level is higher if I assert my rights than if I were driving a car, or cycled more sheepishly. Pretty much every day I cycle that sort of anti-social behaviour takes place. Anti-social behaviour that has a real risk to cyclists. Although I have not encountered being deliberately pushed off my bike by a motorist I have had abuse and water (I hope) thrown at me. The trouble is rather than planning a transport system for the future we have seen a piecemeal development over the last few years. With gradually improving standards, a lot of the time those standards are quite meant, in the name of expediency.

We also find cycle routes are created that seem to go all around the houses, literally.  Those routes may require frequent changes of direction, being held up whilst motor traffic has priority, sharing paths with pedestrians, using paths that are overgrown and using paths that are longer than the direct route. I resent that. Don’t get me wrong, when I am cycling for leisure, then I thoroughly enjoy some of the Sustrans round the houses routes.  But why is the choice indirect and slow or direct and dangerous.

Cycling has myriad benefits for society and yet even where the are significant numbers of people already cycling lip-service is paid to the needs of cyclists by those holding the purse strings. The provision for cycling in Cambridge(shire) is crap I reckon. It always will be until it stops being so motor-vehicle-centric and someone has the b*lls to re-allocate the way money is spent.

It seems to me that the name of the game is for there to be a Consultation and then after a bit of to-ing and for-ing we end up with, at best, mediocrity. Something that motorists scorn and that does not create proper cycling facilities. An example is the Histon Road Consultation, it is worth reading the CCyC letter as well. It seems to me that this is another piecemeal change without a real plan.

The strange thing is that it seems that huge amounts of money (£28Bn) can be spent on roads, yet the strategy is unclear – with the introduction of road tolls in a piecemeal fashion.  I have been against road tolls as a yet another piecemeal tax which seems to benefit the rich. However I am beginning to wonder if that might be the straw that shifts us away from being so car-centric.

The strange thing is we tend to focus on the wrong things. In Ely apparently there a “High levels of toxic gas found in air around Ely Station”. The solution spend more money on roads (a bypass around the station). The cause is not the motor vehicles it is the congestion! Yeah right. Unfortunately that seems to be treating the symptoms and not the causes. Traffic pollution is dangerous – so how do we encourage more efficient use of transport? It is strange that GM crops or (unseen) radiation strike fear into the heart of many, yet no-one seems to give a toss about pollution.

Ah well, small wonder that when I cycle for pleasure it frequently takes me to the fens. I can’t quite remember my route, it started on NCN51 to Bottisham and then on the Lodes Way then to Upware and around the back way into Wicken. Back along Lodes Way before detouring via Reach and Barston Drove and then on NCN51 to return.

The first pleasant surprise was to see some Linseed (Flax) growing in a field near Bottisham Village College on the Lode Road. It makes for a pleasant change from the chrome yellow of Oil Seed Rape. The flowers seem to close up under certain conditions, or perhaps the plants bloom in waves. The field can be blue earlier in the day and then there are no flowers at the end of the day.

Flax – Lode Road

As you can see I tried a few different viewpoints.

Flax – Lode Road

I was trying to capture the sense of blue that seems more intense when standing there than it does in these pictures.

Flax – Lode Road

In the end I think I like this view the best.

Flax – Lode Road

Pavement parking is a grey area – it is not always consistent. In London it is more tightly controlled elsewhere less so. Although  you shouldn’t completely block the pavement. At best it is totally inconsiderate. I think drivers do it to protect their cars from being damaged by vehicles passing through.  The nearer car has had the wing mirror folded in to prevent it from being clipped by passing vehicles – the owner was obviously less worried about pedestrians. The car further back has at least left a little room.

There is no thought give to people with pushchairs or mobility issues – another example of the car-centric society we’ve become?

Pavement Parking – Lode

As I passed along White Fen Drove – the farmer had cleared route through the potatoes. This is to allow irrigation equipment. Potatoes do need water to develop particularly at this stage so the loss of some plants is necessary.

Irrigation Channels – Potatoes – White Fen Drove Way

There are quite a few fields with spuds in them – depending upon the way the wind is blowing there can be a bit of water drift. Although it doesn’t look much passing through a fine mist on a hot day suddenly chills you right down.

Irrigation – White Fen Drove Way

All sorts of systems are used, with large bore pipes and a diesel pump somewhere in the system. This is a simple system than pumps water in a circle, the force of the water turns the nozzle around.

Irrigation – White Fen Drove Way


Lodes Way – White Fen

A lone poppy growing along side Lodes Way, just after Swaffham Bulbeck Lode Bridge. I seem to remember this field being full of poppies one year. They are grown for opium  for medicinal purposes.  Apparently the growing does not require a license, the production of opiate does. Presumably they are also grown for poppy seeds to sprinkle of rolls/

Opium Poppy – Papaver somniferum

Further up the road towards Upware another irrigation device – it also moves up the field, presumably powered by the water? Or perhaps it is a jet and preparing for take-off. (I have a water powered rocket.  I think it came from the Science Museum, it is a set of fins and valve that screws onto a plastic bottle. You put in some water and then pump air in with a bike pump and whoosh.

Bottle Rocket Take-off

It goes quite high, quite quickly. I am thinking of putting a flashing LED in the bottle and taking a picture at night (leaving the shutter open) and then using it to work out the speed.

Bottle Rocket

Irrigation in the Fens

A little bit further along the grass had been cut for either hay or haylage.

Grass drying in the Sun

After Upware I crossed onto NCN11 using the bridleway called Dockings Lane. It joins NCN11 between Ely and Wicken Fen, at the Wicken Fen end. Here are two cyclists heading along it towards Ely.  There is some irrigation in the background.

Cyclists on NCN11 between Wicken and Barway

I couldn’t quite remember where this was and why I took the picture. Well it is the Information Board on the ramp that will form part of the new bridge over Burwell Lode – when they find the money. I took the picture from the old footbridge and then enlarged it. It will also be suitable for horse riders and wheel chair users.

Information board on the Ramp alongside Burwell Lode

On the way back I cycled along Lodes Way and then down towards Reach on Little Fen Drove. The I cycled along the byway called Barston Drove to Swaffham Prior.

Barston Drove

There is quite a bit of Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca) in the hedgerows at the moment.

Tufted Vetch on Barston Drove

As it happens purple is one of my favourite colours.

Tufted Vetch

I stopped for a drink in Swaffham Prior, from my water bottle. Here is some history – what I call Black Droveway is Black Drove on the historic map.

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