Sunday, July 14th 2013: It is possible to think of the area around Cambridge as flat and farmed – no hills and no wilderness. Well here is one of my favourite Cambridgeshire rides, it has hills and a corridor of wilderness – the Roman Road from Cambridge through to Balsham (and beyond). It is also a stone’s throw from Cambridge so very easy to get to and surprisingly you don’t see that many people on it either?
There is a group, Friends of the Roman Road and Fleam Dyke that came together in 2001 to care for the two areas which had failed to get support in the early 1900s because despite being Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Scheduled Monuments they weren’t sufficiently well know or used! (I says on their website.) I reckon that the reason is there isn’t a large car park to make it easy for visitors. Personally I think that is a good thing – but a bit of an indictment of our car-dependency.
The website also gives some history on the Roman Road – know as Worsted Street, Wool Street or Wolves Street it is part of a network of Romans Roads in the area. Apparently a gas pipeline was inserted along much of the length of the road in 1959.
Here is a leaflet published by the friends. Which I would suggest printing out and taking with you if you do this ride (or walk).
The road follows a chalk ride and so is relatively well drained, however there have been fairly deep ruts at the Balsham end. I would reckon to ride the track dab free 50% of the time. Well the good news is that the ruts have been repaired. There has been some work on the route which definitely makes it easy to cycle along. The loop I took was around 40Km/25 miles in length with around half on byways/bridleways. Most of the rest is on country roads with a short section near Bottisham in the A1303. (You can detour through the village instead.)
The route is undulating, the climbs aren’t strenuous, although cycle up hill on a loose muddy or gravelly track adds a minor extra degree of difficulty. I cycled to Fulbourn up the the start of the Roman Road – you can also approach it via Wort’s Causeway. The slope reaches nigh on 70m above sea level and is a nice warm up. You then cycle down through and avenue of Beech Trees past Wandlebury Ring.
Worsted Street (Roman Road between Cambridge and Balsham)
Here is a map of my ride – and here is the Bike Route Toaster link.
Map of my Ride – the Roman Road to Balsham (and back)
Although the road has wildflowers in abundance the fields around are farmed. At this time of year you get to see what the farmers are hoping will help them make some money. There seem to be more fields set with potatoes this year.
Potato Field – alongside the Roman Road Cambridge to Balsham
In the main the Roman Road is pretty quiet you do get a rude reminder of how noisy traffic can be when you cross the A11 (via a bridge) at Worsted Lode. There are information boards along the route pointing out details of the wildlife and the route. I take pictures so that I can read the info when I get home. They also useful when I am trying to identify wild flowers.
The Roman Road – Information board,Worsted Lodge
This is what I mean by wild flowers – when I see them they look familiar, but I can’t always recall the names. Looking at the board I reckon that is Wild Basil or Clinopodium vulgare. That is not a name I know (or can remember) from my childhood growing up in the Mendips.
Wild Basil – Roman Road
This doesn’t appear on the board. It looks like one of the Parsley family as in Cow Parsley – but yellow. I should have take a better picture – it is possibly wild parsnip (Pastinaca sative ssp). (This will cross-pollinate with the garden variety.) Wild parsnip gets a mention in the FRRFD newsletters.
According to the Wiki entry the Wild Parsnip can cause rashes. I wish I had known that when I cycled through this lot as I was wearing shorts. I didn’t have any problems though, well not with this I did brush against a few stingles though.
Wild Parsnip – Roman Road
A quick check of the map places the picture just after the Roman Road crosses the Hildersham Road – a reminder that pylons march wherever they want to.
Pylons Crossing the Roman Road
Another of the problems of living on our over-crowded isle. Getting rid of rubbish requires care and thought – we can’t just dump it anywhere – unless your a fly-tipping – aka TOSSER. The idiot who did this didn’t venture before tossing his/her rubbish. Thanks for blocking the path – not.
Fly Tipping along the Roman Road
I know this flower – from my childhood – Tufted Vetch. It looks far more striking in real life – my picture does not do it justice.
Vicia cracca on the Roman Road
I then turned off towards Balsham . It wasn’t until then that I released that the road was much easier to cycle along than the last time. The ruts had been smoothed out and sections of the track had been cleared to the edge of the road (track).
I was hoping that the short byway up to Balsham had been flattened as well. This is a working route and gets rutted and can be quite muddy. This time around it was ok-ish. It was not the easiest tracks to cycle, but it is not very long.
Icknield Way Trail – Roman Road to Balsham
As I reached Balsham it struck me how close the Wadlow Wind Farm turbines are to the houses on the East of the Village. I hope they don’t cause too much of a disturbance. Apparently the Wind Farm makes payments (from the Wadlow Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund). This website indicates it is £39,000 for the benefit of the community within 5Km of the site.
Wadlow Wind Farm Turbines looming over Balsham
I followed a route down through Fox Road along a byway. According to this history website it was called Fox lane and was probably the old Newmarket - Linton road. Which makes sense if you look at the 1930’s OS.
It passes to the East of WWF (Wadlow Wind Farm). This picture looks as if it is picturing the turbine blades rupturing the the air around them. (Really it is to do with the way I processed the picture.)
Wadlow Wind Farm
This byway also undulates a bit. (Perhaps I ought to call it Fox Lane byway? The weather was perfect for cycling – blue skies, warm, but not too warm. It only really got sunny in the afternoon.
The electricity company clearly took advantage of the route to string its cables along.
Route of the old Linton – Newmarket Road
Another view of the WWF
This farm appears on the map as Grange Farm – ( I was listening to the Archers as it happens).
Grange Farm – Balsham
This is the view to the left of the farm – wide open spaces, crops growing in the fields and blue skies with wispy clouds.
Blue skies above Balsham
As you reach the road the track has a different surface – as if there was a track or pavement at one point in time.
Fox Lane Byway
I carried along the byway crossing the Six Mile Bottom road (#1) and then turned left along the Six Mile Bottom Road (#2) Then up and over the hill from Lark Hill Corner to Mill Road into Fulbourn. I didn’t see any foxes this time.
It is a wonderful ride – I can highly recommend it.