Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Lode–Exning Loop

Thursday, July 16th 2013: As you might have noticed I seem to be getting out on my bicycle a bit more. Well there are two reasons, the first is the glorious weather and whilst I might not wear a cycle helmet I do wear a floppy hat to give me a bit of protection against the sun. I also slap on the Factor 30. The second reason is that as my cycling gets more regular, my fitness and more importantly my bike fitness gets better and makes my ride even easier which makes me a little more adventurous.

Cycling is one of those activities best done regularly, if I stop for too long then the disappearing fitness and bike fitness conspire to put me off. It is probably in the mind, but can easily become a barrier. One of the things I notice is that if I haven’t ridden any decent distances for a while then I get more trivial aches and pains in my shoulders and hands. Conversely if I have been cycling then my body is conditioned to cope.

One of the things I like when cycling are flat smooth surfaces, you can really get the bike singing and it all seems so effortless. I also like byways where you have to pick you route and balance and control your speed. A challenge willingly taken is not really a challenge.

What I do hate are the unexpected bumps and potholes on “cycle paths”.  Quite a lot of shared-use cycle paths of a certain era seem to be built right alongside trees. The roots of those trees cause quite abrupt ridges in the tarmac. Those ridges make themselves known whit sharp jolts through the handlebars. Too many shared-use paths suffer from such problems, or if not that dangling brambles ready to pluck you eye out.

So this is another quick post – yet more blue skies, but I used a relatively new bridleway of the A1303, it only climbs around 30m in 0.5Km (6% gradient), but the bridleway is on the edge of a field – it is reasonably free of ruts, but the grass is springy and seems to sap energy.

But the attraction is you see the world (well the local villages and Cambridge from a new perspective. You also rarely meet anyone on the track. Access for horses along the A1303 is not really that pleasant. The route doesn’t really go anywhere rather it connects the A1303 and the Swaffham Heath Road. All this makes it good for a cyclist though.

Bridleway from the A1303 to the Swaffham Heath Road – crops under blue skies

The route I chose does actually follow a few bridleways/byways as well as the Lodes Way. The only downside is that one of the byways is alongside the A14 which is remarkably noisy.

Here is the map of my route and here is the Bike Route Toaster Link. The loop is 34Km (just over 20 miles) and at this time of year quite easy to cycle. According to the BRT summary it reaches the dizzy heights of 41m – which is a lot to a flatlander like me.

A Loop between Exning and Lode

Once you have climbed up the hill, which isn’t really much of a hill if I am honest the views are pretty good. (Hey in the flatlands even a small height gain gives you a fair view.) The line of tree in the mid-distance, running left to right is the Swaffham Heath Road. There was also some smoke in the far distance – somewhere near where Swaffham Prior is.

If you zoom right in, about 70% of the way along the from left to right on the horizon you can just see the twin church towers of Swaffham Prior.

Over the fields to Swaffham Prior

Looking in the Cambridge direction you can see a tower – which is I think on the Addenbrooke’s Hospital site and is the smoke stack for the incinerator. Although that will change with an Energy Innovation Centre! (EIC).  Apparently a decision is to be made in Spring 2013.  It will generate heat and electricity ( 6.8 – 7.5Megawatts of Electricity and a a total of  30+Mw of heat – although the note is not that clear.)  The current chimney will remain as part of the hospital ventilation system. Note the Wadlow Wind Farm can generate up to 26MW for 17,000 homes. According to this article, permission has been granted for the £36M project which will be operating by 2015.

When I zoom into the chimney it does not look straight, I think it is a combination of heat haze and the being near the limits of resolution.

Addenbrooke’s Chimney in the distance

At another angle (same spot) you can see St Mary’s, Swaffham Bulbeck, peeping out amongst the trees. It is at the South end of the High Street, although the High Street is that of a small village, not a bustling town.

St Mary’s Church, Swaffham Bulbeck

After that I just carried on cycling for a while. You can see I wiggled a bit in Exning, more our of curiosity than anything else. For a change I headed out to Landwade. It is a no-through road to cars and passes a small private runway – Exning 05/23 (on the OSM map.

Just before I stopped some Lacy Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia)  being grown as a cover crop in a field headland. Apparently it is one of the top 20 honey producing flowers for honey bees.

I headed along a bridleway which has been cleared over the last few years and although a bit rooty is a pleasant cycle. The track brings you out on the B1103, but before that crosses North End/Haycroft Lane. North End take you back to Exning and turned down Haycroft Lane.

A Cover Crop of Lacy Phacelia, Landwade

And the other side of the hedge was a cover crop of maize. (Used to encourage game).

A Cover Crop of Maize, Landwade

I didn’t actually plan the route it sort of just happened and I was going to head back along the NCN51, but instead used the Lodes Way to get back. Where Headlake Drove turns into Whiteway Drove quite a chunk of tarmac had been lifted and had left a large gravelly area. The sort of hazard that could tip off the unwary cyclist especially at night. So I have reported it using the CTC Fill that hole website – here.

I am also wondering whether the road down to Swaffham Bulbeck Lode bridge also needs reporting – the longitudinal cracks also seem to be opening up again. Personally I would use skinny tyres racing on the Lodes Way. The last time I cycled along White Fen with my son he was on his racing bike and punctured. Hover at 18mm width a racing wheel could easily get trapped.

Dangerous Lifting of Tarmac along Lodes Way

I stopped at the picnic benches in White Fen for a drink and saw some damselflies flying around. It took me ages to get a picture on one- I should have narrows own the focus system to one point – anyway I ended up with this.

Common Bluetail Damselfly (I think)

These seed heads also caught my eye – yet to blow one the wind.

And finally – celebs cycling – Naomi Watts, Alec Baldwin (pushing his bike), a thief, allegedly at the RideLondon Freecycle and finally a cyclist above a £76,000 Welcome to Bournemouth Sign.


  1. Hi Jamie,

    I went over the Swaffham/Chalk Farm bridleway on Tues (13th), it's a nice track to miss out some of the fast parts of the A1303. From there I went along the green lane towards the A11, and met a couple of cyclists on it -- first time I've seen anyone else there. Going over the Old Cambridge Road right next to the wind farm there was a mass of wild (?) oregano growing at the track side. The smell followed me for the rest of the afternoon. Perhaps because there was a good bunch of it attached to the rack-pack ;-)

    Nice weather for cycling at the moment.



    1. Hi Mike,

      One of the things I like about cycling when it has been really warm is the air has some rather pleasant smells around (except for near the science park). I have seen a few squashed beetroot as well - beyond reclamation though.

      I have managed to clock up quite a few more miles of late - the fine weather has been great. I have been around the Lodes Way area a lot - but have been using Straight Drove and Harrison's Drove a fair bit.