Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mid-week ride–and Quy Fen

Wednesday, 10th July 2013: One of the things I like about cycling is that it gets you closer to nature compared with driving a car or catching a train or bus. Mind you I reckon that the Cambridge Guided Busway is probably a very pleasant trip on a Summers day, especially on the top deck of a double decker. As long as they clean the windows.

Now tramping around on foot would be even closer to nature – but takes longer and it seems to me that many walkers tend to drive to where they want to be. (including my wife who walks with a group of friends once a week) I do occasionally drive to a spot with my bike. Although I prefer to catch a train if I am going somewhere new to explore on my bicycle.

There is a trade-off when cycling as well. I like to cycle along the byways and bridleways. Though they can be pretty tricky on my hybrid bicycle (Maisie). They change with the weather and the seasons. At the moment the mud has packed down hard, but it has been so dry that cracks, wider than my wheels, are appearing, so I have to take more care. Some of those same mud tracks were also imprinted by tractors when the mud was more plastic. Now it has dried and become solid those tread patterns shake your teeth out.

I have gotten to know what to expect though and Low Fen Drove Way makes for a pleasant loop. It is a bit potholey at one end but for a track so close to Cambridge it is quite secluded. Although I have seen a small number of 4x4s driving along it. I followed one around Snouts Corner tis time around. There is one bit that is really quite rutted and as I followed him down it was really quite impressive just watching his Land Rover Discovery  navigate the ruts. (The important thing is to proceed at a slow pace.) He seemed to have some young kids in the car – perhaps he was hoping to lull them to sleep.

I sometimes get on my high horse about cycling issues, there are quite a few – try looking at #nicewaycode on Twitter for how to spend £400,000 annoying cyclists in Scotland. But I think I ought to catch up with the stack of pictures already on Picasaweb.

So this was a ride around Low Fen Drove Way and then back along Hundred Acre Road. Now I generally avoid cycling on footpaths. I do use shared-use paths, but don’t cycle on pavements. I don’t usually cycle on footpaths in the fields, they are usually deserted – but not quite as navigable on a bicycle. However occasionally I might stray of the path. This time around I visited Quy Fen – no naked people around though – Nudism can cause a fence.

This on looks a bit like Dipsacus fullonum, at one time they used them as a natural comb for textile processing.

A Teasel on Low Fen Drove Way

I was just starting to look this plant up when my wife popped by – Verbascum she said and it was or  mullein. It is not the best of pictures – possible common mullein. Both these two plants were around th4e area of the bridge over the A14.


As I cycled down Biggin Road (as it is known on the old map I passed what at first I though were caravans – it turned out to be a high-wire team working on the electricity pylons.

High Voltage Work

After popping up and through Horningsea I then headed along Hundred Acres Road – these peas looked nicely plump. Of course I didn’t try them – depending upon where they are in the production cycle they might have recently been sprayed. Apparently these peas will be cut when dry rather then end up in a fridge new you as sweet young things.

Peas in many pods – Hundred Acres Road

I carried on down the track past my usual turn towards Quy Fen. This field of barley was coming along nicely. It is easy to forget how much farming there is in this “high-tech” part of the UK.

Barley – Quy Fen

Then I strolled through to Quy Fen. Despite the good weather there were no other visitors around, clothed or not. As I have mentioned before the pits were excavated in the 19th century for coprolite (dinosaur dung). Apparently in Saxon times it was shared by the villages of Horningsea, Quy and Fen Ditton. I think I will buy the book and learn more (see link). Here is an interesting collection of books on local history – I can see myself buying one or two.

Strangely history and geography were just boring subjects I had to learn when I was at school. It wasn’t until I started travelling the world on business that my interest in geography grew. Similarly cycling around the flatlands has increased my fascination with history. Let’s face it digging dinosaur dung seems a little bizarre – but the 19th Century  not that long ago really – my late Grandmother was born in tail end of the 19th Century.  It makes me realise how narrow a view we tend to have of life now and how we expect it to continue – whilst at the same time things move on. (Personally I like change – it makes life interesting.)

This is the largest of the pits. The area is now an SSSI – Site of Special Scientific Interest and over 70 acres in size. Apparently villages used to picnic here in the summer.  It is surprising that more I don’t seem more people out this way. It is a delightful area to explore. I would have loved it when I was a kid – although the pool does have its dangers.

Quy Fen – the long pool

Another view of the long pool, with the water lilies standing proud.

Quy Fen – the long pool

Just in case you couldn’t see them – here they are in close-up.

Quy Fen – the long pool

On this ride instead of following Lodes Way along Split Drove I carried on up Headlake Drove and then turned right at Rand Drove towards Straight Drove. I must cycle up Rand Drove – although it tends to be a very light peat (dust) track and is rather like cycling on sand. It is much easier on my MTB with nobblies.  Instead of cycling to Upware I cycled back down Straight Drove to the Lodes Way again.

I took this form Swaffham Bulbeck Lode Bridge (I think) – potatoes being irrigation.

Agriculture around White Fen – potatoes being irrigated

Judging from the GPS trace there were no dabs when I cycled down Straight Drove – rutted, needs care, but quite doable, even on relatively skinny non-MTB tyres.

There is loads of this growing at the moment – I think it is Ragwort – or Jacobaea vulgaris – apparently of ecological importance but of concern to people who keep horses and cattle because of the alkaloids in it.


You can just see the Reach Lode Bridge in the left corner of the picture – normally I would have cropped it out – but I didn’t realise it was there. I does help me to identify where I took the picture though.

Farming under Reach Lode

As I often do when cycling lugging my bike over Burwell Lode footbridge I stopped to take a picture – there is a lot of weed growth on the lode.

Burwell Lode

The footbridge provides a vantage point – well the lodes themselves are above the general level of the fields and so the bridge is even higher. Lodes Way is a great leisure route. I have no idea how the traffic has increased – but I usually see cyclist and cvars parked up at various points along the way.

These two had carried their bikes down. I am not sure why she is walking – although it is gravelly and the is a large pothole a few meters on. She seems to be wired for hearbeat.

Cyclists on Lodes Way

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