Wednesday 17th July 2013: The good thing about this time of year is that the daylight hours are long. I also find it much easier to wake up early and get to work (downstairs). Which means that I get to to be able to adjust my day to get out and get some kilometres and rays at the same time.
It was another sunny glorious day, just about reaching to 30oC in the afternoon and pretty sunny, although it dipped in the afternoon and it was not at all windy. So I slapped on the sun block, loaded up two water bottles with crushed ice and water and set off. The route I chose has some wonderful off-road cycling. Well I think so anyway. I enjoy it because the tracks are pretty decent and yet you feel to be miles away from civilisation. There are also a couple of small hills to climb.
The only minor downside is that the best bits are on the way out. Coming back always feels a bit of a drag, although much of it is along NCN11. More of it could have been, only I was on automatic pilot. Sustrans routes frequently get tweaked. I assume in Sustrans Central there are plans to move routes away from trafficy areas.
In this case the bit between Hinton and Sawston has been moved away from the A1301 and routed via Duxford. In terms of scenicity (I know I made it up) it has improved. The old route was 4.9Km the new route is 7.1Km a 45% increase in distance. Now will often take a longer route because it is nicer, but that is quite a hefty increase in distance. The other problem is that both routes require you to cross some busy roads (A1301 and A505). Without any real help – unless you call a traffic island on a dual-carriageway help.
I guess the question is how do non-cyclists view the trade-off between distance and niceness. My guess is that an unsafe road definitely puts them off – however an increase from 5Km to 7Km could also put them off.
Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link, the route is around 50Km (30 miles) and has twin peaks, reaching over 100m. I tended to stick to the shared-use paths on the way out towards Fulbourn. Although the one between Teversham and Fulbourn is pretty narrow you rarely meet any cyclists or pedestrians along there.
I cheated one hill by joining the Roman Road by cycling along the Babraham Road out of Fulbourn. Although the name of a road generally give you a clue as to its direction in this case the road does not provide a route for motorists to Babraham – thankfully.
Babraham Road, Fulbourn
Here is the map of my route. The red bits are the away from road tracks. I made up my mind to take this route once I had gotten going and so didn’t stop too often to take pictures as I was under a little time pressure to get back.
Cambridge – Gt Chesterford Loop
As I cycled along the deserted Roman Road it wasn’t just wild floers in flower – so were the potatoes. They were also in need of some irrigation.
Potato Irrigation – along Worsted Street
I soon reached the turn off to Linton. It was at this point I noticed that my GPS was not actually showing the detail it used to and the circle showing my location, which is an estimate of the location accuracy had a diameter of 500m. Now I knew where I was going and I had GPS on my phone and I rarely use my GPS for mapping/navigation purposes anyway. I did feel a little “lost” without it.
Whilst you should always look for the simplest solution it was tempting to wonder whether there was some test going on that was swamping out the GPS in the are. Although when I checked my phone that wasn’t the case. Whilst you might possibly want to mislead a super yacht, a lone cyclist is hardly going to be much of a target.
As I reached the turn off to Rivey Hill there were signs indicating it was a private road and not Chilford Hall. It did look a little off-putting though (this is the preview version of Google Maps so might not work). The track has a loose, soft gravel surface and requires a bit of effort to get to the top. Then just before you head down into Linton through the woods there is a deep section of pea shingle – you need a bit of momentum to get through it.
The slope down feels quite steep. (It is part of the Icknield Way.) You drop 15m in 430m which isn’t much at all. However there even in the dry spell we have been having there is water flowing down the track. Are the water tanks at the top leaking I wonder. So my back wheel skidded on the wet surface. Apparently the water comes from a spring.
As I headed down the hill the temptation was to let the brakes go and ride the roots. There was a chap walking his dog a little further down so I didn’t. I slowed down to pass them both and the man did call is dog over. Although I noticed it wasn’t on a lead. As I passed them both I had the man call out to the dog to come back, it had decided to chase my back wheel. So at this point I have to decide – outrun the pooch and hope it doesn’t get caught in my back wheel and I don’t slide on the wet surface or stop and hope it doesn’t decide to bite me.
The last time I stopped when chased by several small dogs I was bitten, so I sped off. The flipping thing carried on chasing. So I flung caution to the wind and put my foot down. At this point I could see that the track was clear. (Funny how I use a motoring term to describe going faster!)
The route is a bridleway, although I wouldn’t be tempted to ride a horse down that track. The advice from Natural England for dog walkers is that dogs should be under control. Which means either on a lead or in sight and you should be confident it will return promptly on command. Sorry mate your dog failed that test – it should be on a lead. The owner may be liable if the dog causes an accident.
In my mind the hierarchy of danger goes Lorry –> Bus –> Van –> Car –> Cyclist –> pedestrian. I am not sure how dogs are seen in the list – personally I think they can are more dangerous than cyclists and should be under control with that presumption.
After that bit of excitement I then cycled through Linton and into the CamGrain are – keeping a sharp lookout for lorries and then onto the track. Apparently their speciality is malting barley. Although it feels odd to cycle through a working yard I have never had any issues.
The route starts out as a farm track – the gravel is loose but not wheel-sucking bad. Mind you as you reach the Catley Park area the track turns up and I admit to puffing a bit by the time I reached the Summit – well 104m is high for a flatlander – I could have needed to take extra oxygen. Here is a Post on Catley Park – or rather a previous ride through..
Icknield Way – heading from CamGrain to Gt Chesterford
After Catley park the track (bridleway) becomes a grass track alongside a field and then down through a small wood. A bit of care was needed – it has been so dry there were long cracks in the mud track.
I was hoping to drop through the wood without a dab – brambles and hoof prints saw me become more cautious. I also got stingled (stung by some stinging nettles). Fortunately not by a horsefly – they are painful but I didn't realise the bite could be fatal.
Track from Catley Park to Cow Lane
The track after the woods has been well maintained by the owners of Crave Hall Farm so I didn’t get stung again. It brings you out on Cow Lane and then you drop down to Great Chesterford.
After that it was a pleasant ride back along the old NCN11 route, I was on automatic pilot and had forgotten the route had been changed. I carried on through to Addenbrooke’s and then along the weirdness that is the Cherry Hinton High Street traffic calming. Has anyone ever really studied how traffic islands work in practice. They are pinch points and the Cherry Hinton High Street is full of pinch points and I cringe sometimes as I cycle along there. I was getting tired though and wanted a short route – despite the added danger. (More fool me.) It is going to be changed though.
I finish with a cartoon although not about speed cushions: