Thursday, January 30, 2014

There may be trouble ahead

Thursday, 23rd January 2014: Well it only seems like yesterday that the Advertising Standards Authority , a quasi-QUANGO were banning a Cycling Scotland advert advising motorists to treat cyclists with care than there decision is now under review! You can also read about it here – on Bike Radar – which when I look at the webpage is advertising a Jaguar car. Clearly Jaguar must feel that cyclists are a target market. (Or someone has been using my computer to look at Jaguar cars – not me though.)

Whilst quasi-QUANGOs might had a rather unaccountable accountability it would seem that with the weight of various cycling organisations (CTC), the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group and petition. Now this is only a review of their decision – they might still uphold the ban…

I am sorry if my cycling is a bit boring to read about at the moment, I am easing into gently. I consider cycling good for my back, but I also want to re-build strength in my back and leg muscles.  So I am not doing too much stomping on the pedals at the moment and avoiding hills. Although it is probably more difficult finding hills than avoiding them here in the flatlands. I am also keeping away from too much mud (byways and bridleways) and flooded Guided Busways – which means I have been cycling the Lodes Way on a regular basis.

One of the good things is that the weather has actually been quite kind to cyclists. I have been managing to get out every other day so far (my plan) and have managed to avoid serious wind or rain.  A quick check of the Cambridge University DTG (Digital Technology Group) shows that during January 2013 we had 26.7mm of rainfall and during January 2014 (to date – 30th January) we have had 55.2mm of rain. So despite twice the rainfall I have been lucky…  Apparently parts of the UK have had the wettest January since records began.

For this ride I went up to Upware and around through Wicken into Wicken Fen. It was another fine evening, with blue skies and the sun setting through the clouds. Where crops are being grown it looks pretty green at the moment – partly temperature and partly rain? Another look at the DTG website shows the average temperature for January this year as 5.9oC (range –2.0oC to 12.7oC) whereas for January 2013 it was 3.1oC (range –9.4oC to 14.5oC).

Setting Sun – near Upware

I couldn’t resist popping up to the Upware washes to take a picture of the sunset.

Upware Washes – Sunset

As was mentioned in the Rangers’ Blog (there are more than one – rangers that is)  they have been trying to do something about the shared-use cycle track alongside Wicken Lode. The path seems to be set lower than the ground around and so puddles collect.  The drainage ditches have helped – but I reckon the path itself is the problem.  I am glad I have mudguards on my bike at this time of year.

NCN11 through Wicken Fen alongside Wicken Lode

If you look at that last picture then the skies were starting to look less promising.  I stopped on the Burwell Lode Footbridge to take some pictures. The weather to the West didn’t look too promising.  There was low cloud.

Burwell Fen

A closer look and some of the cloud seemed to had fallen down on the horizon. It looked like there was a rainstorm ahead. I hoped it wasn’t going my way. Although I was heading in that general direction.

The cloud that fell to earth – there may be rain ahead

Once I had cycled along Split Drove it was pretty clear that I was heading straight for the storm.  It suddenly seemed to get much darker with the wind whipping in horizontally. Fortunately I had a hood which protected my face against the hail and the rest of me was covered. Despite it being warmer this year than last I hadn’t switched back to cycling in shorts.

As I cycled towards White Fen the wind was so strong I was worried it might blow me off the road or off my bike. Cycling past gaps in the hedge was worst. I had a waterproof top and gloves so wasn’t feeling to bad. Actually once you accept that you might get wet then cycling in a bit of a gale can be exhilarating.

As I crossed over Swaffham Bulbeck Lode I swapped greeting/commiserations with a cyclist coming the other way. He had resorted to pushing his bicycle it was so blustery.

Dark Clouds over White Fen ahead

Almost as quickly as the wind had brewed it died down again and the hail turned to rain and not too bad rain either. It was nice to get home despite the invigoration – the soak in the bath was also very welcome.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lodes Way & the ASA

Wednesday, 22nd January 2014: Well by now many cyclists will have read about the bizarre decision by the ASA to ban  an advert because it shows a helmetless cyclist, riding more than 1m from the kerb. Yes how dare that cyclist behave in such a carefree manner.

This isn’t a Health & Safety snafu, this is the Nanny State gone mad and disagreeing with itself. There is a petition you can sign here on (current at 1,677 1,682 supporters). This seems to be a battle of the Quangos with the losers being us the public. You might also notice that a number of the Bloggers I follow have also taken issue with the ASA ruling. Their ruling cites the Highway code for its guidance, so perhaps that is where there needs to be change.

Roads are dangerous because there are big heavy motor vehicles on them being driven a speed. If we want cycling to be safer (perceived and actual) that is the elephant in the room that has to be dealt with. If you go down the route are requiring cyclists to be armoured then don’t be surprised that you end up with more cars (armour) and more congestion and pollution and noise and cars parked on pavements and roads being difficult to cross.

There are already too many drivers who believe they have an entitlement to the road over that of any cyclist – the type of approach by the ASA just adds fuel to that fire.

Whenever I cycle through Lode I am always amazed just how large the car-park at Anglesey Abbey as become and just how busy it is.  There is a real demands for open green space I reckon and if you have got kids one, without dog poo all over the place (actually even if you don’t have kids).

The snowdrops are early this year so get your self down there soon if you want to see them. the Winter Garden is also looking really good according to my wife.

Snowdrops along the roadside – Lode

Windfall of Apples – roadside Lode

Take care when on Lodes Way when passing through the cattle paths – they are chewed up and rutted and slippery at the moment.

Lodes Way – muddy and rutted by the cattle passes

You lookin’ at me – Burwell Lode Bank in the background

An RAF Helicopter in the sky over Burwell Fen

I hadn’t noticed until MikeC pointed it out to me – there have been large lumps of concrete placed at the end of Split Drove where you head up to Reach lode Bridge.

The View from Reach Lode Bridge

This is why – the slots for the low-level pillars to lock into have been vandalised – presumably to put the barrier out of action

Vandalism along Lodes Way

One of the road signs along the way has also been knocked. – vandalism or a large vehicle. Interesting how the cycle information and the motor traffic information are “complementary”.

Damaged Sign post along Lodes Way

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Mists and the Washes and cycling statistics

Monday, 20th January 2014: At this time of year you have to be careful, the low-lying sun seems to allow some drivers to speed along and then blame the sun if they crash into a cyclist. I was taught that drivers had to drive more slowly, in accordance with the conditions prevailing.

At this time of year we are also accustomed to crackdowns on cyclist without lights. It seems that cyclists without lights are a danger to themselves and everybody else. Although there seems to be little quantification of data that supports this idea. Check out this excellent post – “Visibility in context” for a bit of an eye-opener on the subject. Is it just me or is it that PCSOs always seem to be the ones doing the crackdowns on cyclists?

I wonder who is it that decides what out traffic laws should be doing and then ensuring they do just that?  certainly the DTI pumps out lots of statistics and considers all sorts of aspects concerning transport.  However who checks to ensure that our traffic laws are doing the right thing. For instance we have speed limits – although those limits are both limits and not limits.  We have ACPO publishing guidelines with leeway regarding the limits and reasons why there should be tolerance. One example being if a road looks fast and the signs are very good! Another reason appears to be if it is impractical.

There are many drivers who would of course consider themselves safe drivers and that going a little above the speed limit does not cause any significant additional danger. There are others who would consider that lower speed limits are “more dangerous” and that driving under the speed limit is also dangerous.

An RAC survey suggested that 92% of drivers consider themselves to be law-abiding, yet 65% admit breaking the 70mph speed limit on motorways. If so many people do it why is it wrong?

Well for my take on the matter let’s look at a recent Times article concerning motoring and cycling accidents: “Motorists and cyclists create army of walking wounded”. Now let me quite the first few sentences:

Motor vehicles kill five times more pedestrians than cyclists, but figures show risk of serious injury is similar relative to distance travelled

Cyclists are almost as likely as drivers to cause serious injury to pedestrians, analysis of official figures shows.

The data, revealed by annual road casualty statistics, provoked calls for responsible cycling and the construction of dedicated facilities to keep cyclists out of conflict with other road users.

When serious injuries are measured as a proportion of distance travelled, cyclists injured 21 pedestrians per billion km travelled in 2012 compared with 24 pedestrians injured by drivers.

Read that and it looks like carnage on the pavements – whew, those bicycles must be really dangerous eh.

Yet later on we see that in 2012 one pedestrian was killed by a cyclist and 78 seriously injured, whereas 253 pedestrians were killed by drivers in urban areas and 4,426 were seriously injured.

I can immediately think of several issues here.

  1. Why present the data as injuries per billion Km travelled?  It makes bicycles appear more dangerous, yet actual deaths and injuries caused by cyclists are a fraction (0.4%/6%) of those caused by motor vehicles. Surely what really matters is the numbers of people killed and seriously injured.
  2. This ignores the fact that much of the motoring is done on roads with very few pedestrians – motorways, dual-carriageways etc. Whereas cyclists and pedestrians are frequently intermingled.
  3. The definition of Seriously injured is very wide and can vary in the UK. 
  4. A major factor determining the seriousness of injury in an accident is the energy in the collision and the associated acceleration/deceleration. What would you rather be hit by a car at 20mph or a cyclist at 20mph.  Both would be unpleasant – but the energy in the cycling crash is significantly lower.  (The Kinetic energy is 1/2 mass * velocity2 ) So even at the same speed the energy is likely to be around 15 times as much in the car accident. Of course if the vehicle is a bus or a lorry or even a van…
  5. If bicycles are that dangerous why do so many Councils positively encourage shared-use paths?
  6. We need to consider how often something occurs, the probability of an accident occurring and the consequences if such an accident occurs. Whilst the probability of an accident occurring from one instance of speeding might be small, speeding occurs so often that an accident somewhere becomes very likely. (There is the additional factor that increased speed reduces the thinking time and the energy of a collision.)

Sorry I just felt that the Times article was statistical diarrhoea – with the main headline being bollocks. The number of walking wounded caused by cyclist/pedestrian accidents in 2012 was more like a small battalion. 

What I do agree with is that motor vehicles are way more dangerous than pedestrians or cyclists. Cyclists are having to share the roads with motor vehicles or share the paths with pedestrians. We need to develop cycling specific infrastructure, especially in congested cities.

Fortunately accidents like this – “Cyclist hit by flying shed” are very rare. Unfortunately scenes where cyclists get attacked are becoming less rare. A person with such a short fuse on his/her temper should not be permitted to drive IMHO. (Yes in this case it was the passenger – but the point remains the same.)

Back to another ride – the advantage of the short number of daylight hours is that there is more opportunity to get pictures of the sun low in the sky.

Low sun over a water logged field near White Fen

This field is just across the track from the last one – dry and even the sky looks totally different.

Field next to White Fen

Upware Washes

There are quite a few areas where people live alongside floodplains. The Fens were waterlogged not so many years ago. The trouble is were have pressure to build more houses, which can lead to land more prone to flooding being used. We have changing weather and we have more urbanisation which can put pressure on our existing waterways and drainage channels.

The Cambridge Guided Busway heads through a floodplain and various estimates were made for how often the cycle track alongside the raised busway track were likely to be flooded each year. It seems to me that those calculations woefully underestimated the likely flooding.

Willows and Washes of the River Cam – Upware

Upware Washes

Bird Tower – Wicken Fen

Setting Sun – Fens

As the sun set mist began to form/

Mists forming in the Fens

These Mists seem to be coming from Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

Mists rolling across the Fens

Mists rolling across the Fens

Once I was the other side of the Lode in White Fen the mists had gone!

White Fen

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sunset in the Fens

Saturday, 18th January 2014: Apparently “Cyclists are considered more intelligent, cooler and desirable, finds British Heart Foundation Research”. Much as I might like to think it is true – this is really another piece of PRience.  In this case drumming up cyclists for the Cambridge to London – a ride that is well worth doing, fun and quite manageable. Cycling can be very sociable – but I have never, ever chatted someone up on a ride.

Commissioners’ Drain (Split Drove)

Burwell Lode – the wide open skies of the Flatlands

Despite the weather I am managing to get out without getting wet at the mo!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Yet another tootle around the fens

Thursday, 16th January 2014: I will probably regret saying this but last year when cycling in the snow (at least I think it was last year), SBC mentioned he had invested in some snow tyres. Now I like cycling in snow, it is very satisfying cycling around on a sunny, crisp day through virgin snow, gently crouching under wheel. On full alert for any tell tale slippage, especially a front wheel washout.  In fact is must be something about the necessity of being alert that makes the whole snow-cycling experience so good.

Generally when cycling on snow I tend to be going less quickly than my usual, not that fast pace, so even if I come of the bike it tends to be more of a controlled dismount that a tumble. Now the last time SBC mentioned it there was snow around and snow tyres were scarce. So maybe I ought to buy some now. They are more expensive though and larger. Using Sheldon Brown's tyre sizing chart they should fit my rims, but I am not so sure about the mudguard clearance. Although they can be removed if all else fails.

There are two choices (on Wiggle) for Schwalbe tyres, with more or less spikes. I have gone for the regular (more spikes).  Let’s hope we get some snow now! It might not feel like it but we don’t get that much precipitation here in the flatlands. Although at the moment we have had rain and wind throughout the month. Although I could imagine this wish coming back to bite me – beware in case what you wish for comes true.

So this was a ride on the roads and Lodes Way track that isn’t too bad – except Headlake Drove can be very puddly and the track near Monks Lode is also pretty bad – even with the extra drainage.

Wet Fields of White Fen Drove

It is pleasing when things work. In this case the CTC Fill That Hole website has delivered multiple times. I reported splits in this road last year and here they are fixed. Thanks to the CTC and Cambridgeshire County Council. Mind you when I read the garbled comment I left I really ought to check what I type.  The only minor issue is that the the CCC don’t seem to report back when something has been fixed.

The shadows are still long at this time of year. Currently the sunrise is 07:40 and sunset is 16:35. An improvement of just under an hour from the beginning of the month!

Hazard 91309 – Fixed on Headlake Drove

Tis the season for ensuring drainage ditches are clear.

The Field Side of Headlake Drove

A favourite place for a picture – Baker’s Fen looking from NCN11 alongside Monk’s Lode

Baker’s Fen

This is my favourite picture if this lot – It was taken from the Footbridge over Burwell Lode. It is a zoomed picture of Burwell Fen Farm with Reach Lode Bridge to the left.  I like the colours and you can see that the plan to turn Burwell Fen into a more watery area by building a Bund around it is working. I also like the pastel colours of the setting sun.

Burwell Fen – nicely watered

Whilst looking for a link I came across this one – Cambridge Cycling Group on

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fix or Replace

Tuesday, 14th January 2014: In the run-up to Christmas it suddenly seems important to get things done. Some things are probably more important than others. Our oven and hob are both around 13 years old and both started having problems. You’d think that the only question to consider is whether to fix/get them fixed or replace. The problem is the oven was built-in and the hob was nameless.

They were fitted before we bought the house (by the previous owners), but we did get in touch with the company that fitted the kitchen.  They were helpful, but their records didn’t go that far back. The trouble is that you can get significant call out fees before you even start and our oven was one of the less popular makes. The problem was the oven would stop heating, but pretend to be on! Which can be very disappointing when you think a chicken has been roasting – but it hasn’t.  The demand on the oven would be even greater over Christmas with visitors and guests as well.

A health check for this particular manufacturer was £250 (inc. VAT) plus the cost of any parts although it seemed to cover more than the oven was capable of – gas checks when our cooking is all-electric for instance.  Some places don’t even quote a cost although I am sure I could have gotten it for less somewhere – but access to spare parts?  So our dilemma was – do we get it fixed but then find it breaks down with some other problem. Or do we replace it.

We investigated replacing it, but the Manufacturers seem to be phasing out built-in ovens for their particular range.  They were available at John Lewis though – mind you after some issues with buying a fridge/freezer from them I’d said I’d not buy similar white goods from JL ever again and would go direct to the manufacturer.  Issues about not knowing when it was going to be delivered, being told by JL that the old fridge/freezer would be taken away to have the delivery company say no it wouldn’t. After phones calls JL then told us it would cost extra. It seemed to me that the only role played by JL was a piggy-in-the-middle, value-subtracting one. There fridge/freezer came with a cash-back and extended warranty – but you had to claim after getting the appliance and finding where to claim on the web was not easy and then the cash-back was via a Cash Card… Argh – shopping does not need to be so difficult.

Back to the oven – it turned out there were none in the country.(I rang the distributor to check availability and whether the new model was the same size as the old one. Except JL had an ex-display one in their warehouse. So I went back on my word and the good news was that it would arrive in 3 days time and be fitted by JL people and they would take the old one away. The even better news was that we got nearly 40% of the list price. The even better news was that although it was a slightly newer model it really did fit the old space.

Getting the Hob fixed was not so easy. Some companies wouldn’t look at it if we couldn’t tell them the make!  In the end we went with a company based in the area called Main Appliances. With their help we tracked down the maker – who had gone into liquidation and then discovered who had bought the old stock (Leisure Products (Bolton) Ltd). So I bought a new regulator from them and Main Appliances came back and fitted it.  Voila – one hob with all rings working again.

I also looked at replacing the hob – but the holes they fit in are not all the same and this particular company was no more in any case. The last thing we wanted was to have to partially remodel the kitchen before Christmas. It was great to get it repaired though and both Main Appliances and Leisure Products (Bolton) Ltd were a pleasure to deal with.

I reckon that it is harder to get things repaired than it used to be.  Several times during the saga we were told we’d be lucky with fixing things over 10 years old because of the parts issue. I was also surprised how the sizing of various overs/hobs seems less standard than I had been expecting. So you end up with the bill for kitchen work as well.

With modern manufacturing and electronics we ought to be getting better at making products that self-test and are more modular and more fixable. There seems to be a combination of obsolescence, design (eg try replacing a batter in an iPhone) and constant production evolution.

I have a British Gas service contract (the source of many grey hairs) and after servicing my system they then produced a quote telling me how efficient my system would be with a new boiler. I later got a sales call trying to push the new boiler. They weren’t amused when I pointed out that their quote indicated an expected boiler life of 15 years and here they were trying to get me to replace my boiler at around 10 years old.

Yet at the same time we are, quite reasonably,  advised to “stop buying more ‘stuff and mend cars, fridges and washing machines”. To be fair cars can be kept going, my wife’s car was still in pretty good nick at 14 years old (Honda). I can easily buy parts for my Bosch dishwasher and Magimix whizzer-thingy off the web. I couldn’t get my Onkyo AV amp repaired four years after I bought it – fortunately (for me) I got a 5 year warranty from Richer Sounds and they replaced it with a better model. The good thing about bicycles is they are definitely in the fix-camp. Although a new bicycle is always nice.


I must admit I find the whole approach to re-cycling rubbish to be rather chaotic – we have councils doing their bit – but some of the rules are rather odd. Things that can be re-cycled change randomly. Here in Cambridge we have a special machine – except it broke down for 14-months. Yes 14-months, which meant extra waste being dumped resulting in a landfill tax – which was paid for by the company doing the munching (or not). Apparently the machine was made by BAM Nuttall (also behind the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway).

Now I see the landfill tax as more of a fine – and ultimately the general public pay the price with fewer council services. Fines – a slightly weird concept when applied to organisations. Often those that end up felling the pain are the ones responsible or in control.

Talking about weird councils – how about this one-mile country lane with 63 no-parking signs along it.

Now let me just say that I do believe that Climate change is real and that the world is warming and that it is due to human activity (New Scientist link).  There are attempts to re-dress the balance  - check out this satellite picture of the London Array with a maximum generating power of 630 megawatts.  The trouble is that it is a complex issue – the weather system is incredibly complex and so we get strong views for and against. However it seems to me that the world’s weather is changing, even here in England the weather has changed over my life-time. (Now I know that isn’t proof.)  It would seem that here in the UK we aren’t helping ourselves by over-development with cutting down trees, developing on flood plains and more and more concrete.

The concern is that by “blaming” Climate Change” we ignore that other man-made changes to our landscape. The even bigger danger is that everyone argues and nothing gets done. As I write this there are warnings of Gales of 80mph and heavy rain set to batter Britain (again).  There are also some wonderful pictures of the Somerset (where I lived for 15 years.

It worries me that  here in the UK there is not enough of a long-term view and plan – an example – whilst we are struggling with the roll-out of “superfast broadband 24mps and higher in Cambridgeshire” the Koreans are taking the long-term view and developing 5G – with speeds of upto 1gbps. Why well this not only benefits the general economy but also puts them in a leadership position to sell such technology around the world. The same seems to be true of many aspects of the government of the country.

Well I reckon that one the one hand regular cycling is good for me and helps keep my blood-pressure low, unfortunately some of my posts seem to cause it to rise. At the moment I am re-building my fitness and generally pootling around the Fens every other day. I am also trying not to take too many pictures – since they will all be the same – except things do change. So here are pictures of my ride up to Wicken Fen and back mainly on Lodes Way.

As you will seeI also quite like a frame around pictures. Moons ago when using Zoundry to write posts it was easier to add them. My current work flow using Windows Live Writer means adding them at the picture editing stage (using Picasa). I will try them for a while and see what I think. Let me know what you think?

Look East from Fen Road (Lode)

Reach Lode (from the bridge)

Looking East from Reach Lode Bridge

Burwell Lode

The Sun Setting over Bottisham

It seems I returned by NCN51 – I do prefer not to cycle there and back on the same road/track.

Oops – meant to add some picture links. How about these flying drone pictures – a neat thing to be able to do. Talking about flying – pictures from an aeroplane as a regular passenger. I try to have a camera with me when flying as well.  And penultimately – iceberg pictures – well yes I have done some of that as well – down at the bottom of the post.  Finally a picture of Tokyo from a tower – some of mine here at the bottom...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A cold Sunday Cycle around the Fens

Sunday, 12th January 2014: It was a duller day than yesterday, but I did enjoy the fresh air despite the cold so I decided to set of around the Fens again, but avoiding the muddier byways and bridleways.

I was pleased to see that a motorist was reported for careless driving (or without reasonable consideration for other persons) under Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act. A young man splashed a group of primary school children and their parents as they made their way to school. I would be quite happy for his “punishment” to be driver training. The aim is to get more drivers thinking more about their driving rather than driving with a fear of fines.  I got splashed from head to toe by a motorist when on the shared-use path between Bottisham and Swaffham Bulbeck.

It would seem that driver training (an alertness course) is also being offered for some of the drivers involved in the Sheppey Crossing Crash in September last year in which more than 200 people received treatment at the scene and 35 needed hospital treatment.

For a variety of reasons I have been driving a bit more in Cambridge than I would like. Which predictably led to me sitting in traffic with my wife and daughter telling them that I had forgotten how bad congestion was in Cambridge and that’s why I prefer to cycle.  The trouble is Cambridge hasn’t got a lot of scope for creating new roads and yet there are significant developments in and around the city which are bound to increase the congestion pressure. 

Mind you there is talk of a £1bn boost for Cambridge Transport and housing leading to an underground transport network!  Apparently the mid-2009 population of the city was 119,100 and is forecast to be 151,800 by 2013!  However the congestion is also driven by the area around Cambridge city which is also predicted to grow.   Cambridgeshire and Peterborough had an estimated population of 773,600 in 2009 and is predicted to rise by 185,000 by 2031 to 958,900.  That is a lot of growth and a lot of people. Although at the same time the County is the worst funded of all 152 local authority areas in the country.

The trouble is there doesn’t seem to be joined up thinking in terms of the local and regional planning. Apparently there is an issue with funding of the Cambridge city 20mph limit. I can’t work out whether it is political with points-scoring the game or a bit of budget shuffling. Personally I think it is great and would like to see it become city-wide without higher-speed corridors – that would make it easier to change behaviour and police it and reduce the cost of signage.

Having driven and cycled and walked in some of the 20mph-limit areas that already exist such as Mill Road it has helped both from a safety perspective and it makes the areas more pleasant. I just wish that there was more emphasis on actually getting drivers down to the speed limit – 20mph.  Rather than whining about how difficult it is.

The sort of growth that is being foisted on the County will require a dramatic re-think to the transport needs – and I have even mentioned the problems off all the parking required for those cars and vans. It is also about time that parking on pavements was made illegal. That affects all road users from lorries to pedestrians. While I am on the subject – most forms of stupid parking need sorting out – near junctions, double parking, random stops in the road (particularly popular near schools). You get the idea.

Talking about fines for this, that and everything apparently a Head Teacher is to impose £60 fines on parents if their children are late for school… Although this looks a bit like the misuse of the rules associated with truanting. Perhaps this Head is trying to put off problem parents from even applying to the school?

Back to the ride – a straightforward spin around the fens – mainly on roads and the Lodes Way, although I did cycle along Newnham Drove – still as bumpy as ever – but not muddy. Since I am using the Lodes Way area to re-build my fitness (well sort off) I am trying not to take too many pictures – ‘cos they will all end up being the same. I did notice this chap off White Fen Drove Way, with a camera I think, or perhaps binoculars. He was there the day before as well.  The byway the runs parallel (ish) to the last bit of the OSM map is still not visible.

I also bumped into MikeC and had a chat.

Bird Watching off White Fen Drove Way

The Wide-Open Fen Skies over Burwell Fen

A Highland Calf – giving me a hard stare

Lodes Way – deserted along Burwell Fen

It looks like the Sherriff has come to town. It would seem that the NT has decided to assert their ownership rights over some of the land near Newnham Drove.

The Sherriff of Burwell Fen?

A bit further down Newnham Drove a Tosser has been in action. The rubbish includes a fridge.

Fly-tipping Newnham Drove

There was a burnt-out car on the other side of the drove, with  “Police Aware” tape around it. This has been there since at least the 29th September when I took a picture of it. Usually they are cleated more quickly.

Burnt-out Car – Newnham Drove

The day started off quite cold, dipping below freezing from midnight to 8am and then rising to around 5oC during the afternoon. There was still ice around, although not as black ice fortunately.

Puddles were still icy along Little Fen Drove

Little Fen Drove Way aka Factory Road

Baker’s Fen

This time I got back feeling pretty toasty.  I could get used to this cycling lark – in the dry and sunny weather.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Week-end Wander on Muddy Byways

Saturday, 11th January 2014: Hay – my second post of 2014, which actually has pictures of a 2014 ride as well. I thoroughly enjoyed my ride to Reach and back earlier in the week. It felt so good to be out in the countryside, in the fresh air.

Now I am a bit of a creature of habit – it helps me to get things done that way. I go for a ride, listen to my MP3 player and  take pictures. Then when I come back I upload the ride details from my GPS, upload my pictures onto my computer and then generally have a nice warm soak. If I am in a hurry then I have to have a shower instead.  Then the next time I sit at my computer I sort the pictures, do a bit of tweaking and then upload them to my Picasa account, ready for inserting in my Blog.

I listen to a variety of programs, including Dr Karl, Chequered Flag F1, Medical Matters, More or Less and of course the Archers. But when I was resting from cycling I stopped listening to podcasts.  So before my earlier ride I stuck all the accumulated Archers MP3s onto my MP3 player. For some reason two hadn’t downloaded, but hey, you can easily miss one of two of the Archers series without missing out. There were around 50 programs, at ~15minutes per program -  or 12.5 hours. It was great the episodes just carried on and on. However the Reach ride was relatively short as I took a fairly direct route.

This time I though I would cycle along some of the byways and bridleways – more specifically Low Fen Drove Way, Hundred Acre Road and the Lodes Way. Now I would draw a map, but my favourite bicycle mapping website – Bike route Toaster is currently out of action. Google have changed the mapping APIs. The good news is that they are working on re-writing the application, so I won’t bother looking for an alternative, I’ll wait. I will use the OSM map by linking instead when I want to point out particular areas.

I was rather looking forward to going “off-road” or “on-byway”. I headed along High Ditch Road and then around  Low Fen Droveway, over what the OSM map has labelled the Cambridge Northern Bypass but I know it as the A14. Once over the bridge the track is rather potholed and this time around those potholes are full of water. They are pretty deep so I avoided them rather than splashed through them. You never know quite what hidden rocks are hidden and the edges of the potholes can be steep as well.

After crossing the old Cambridge - Mildenhall Railway line I remembered why I tend not to cycle along some byways in Winter.  As you might expect farmers have to get around to their fields and when the tracks are muddy they get churned up.  I tend to use the same tyres on my bike all-year round – Schwalbe Marathon plus.

They are the best tyre for the sort of cycling I do – some tread, but not very aggressive and a great resistance to punctures.  Puncture resistance is my main care-about, it is quite common to see broken glass on shared-use cycle paths, road edges at this time of year are full of crap and byways and bridleways can often had problems with thorns when the hedges are flailed.  (NOTE I don’t get any sponsorship or free tyre loans – nor am I looking for such.)

The only trouble with an all-rounder is that when conditions bet more extreme it can be problematic. Well I did slip and slide about in the mud, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I did end up pedalling more than the distance I moved forward though – as the rear wheel slipped. The other way to look at that is a bonus bit of exercise.

The other end of  Low Fen Drove Way has a better surface – well not mud so my brief additional exertion didn’t last long.

As I passed the farm shed I noticed a burnt-out car.  Apparently they are stolen, used for joyriding (amongst other things) and then abandoned and set alight – to remove any fingerprints etc. What a waste (and what a load of pollution) – it looks rather like an old style Range rover.

Burnt-out Range Rover – Low Fen Drove Way

It amazes me just how flammable cars are.

Burnt-out Range Rover – Low Fen Drove Way

I then crossed onto the Fen Ditton-Horningsea Cycleway and headed to Horningsea and up to the bridleway that was once called Hundred Acre Road. You can tell that when I have to work harder because fewer pictures appear. In this case the first bit was fine, just a few puddles, however the bit around Allicky Farm and on to Lode was a bit muddier. So I just got on with the cycling.

My next stop wasn’t until the corner of Headlake Drove and Great Drove to take a picture of the sun low in the sky.  It can be particularly blinding when driving a car – which means, or should mean, slowing down. Unfortunately it seems to me that drivers do use the low sun as an excuse when in what can be a tragic accident – just slow down, please.

My camera is not an SLR, but has a small digital screen in the viewfinder – taking pictures towards the sun is generally not a good idea. The sun wasn’t this big – it was so bright that it white-out a larger area.

Sun Setting – Headlake Drove

With the picture zoomed in it becomes even larger. The colour of the light is rather nice though.

Sun Setting – Headlake Drove

The next stop – was along Lodes Way, after crossing Reach Lode, when I bumped into the Swaffham Bulbeck Cyclist – who I haven’t seen for a few months – because of my self-enforced rest. It was good to catch up. Although I had slightly foolishly gone out in my cycling shorts and worn relatively thin gloves. (Water and wind proof but not super thick). With the sun going down in the sky I thought I would be better prepared the next time I went out.

My plan was to get some setting sun shots so we set of in our separate directions. Although SBC had mentioned that NCN52 through Wicken Fen has been badly flooded, however they have cut some drainage channels now. So although I was feeling tired I thought I would check it out. My originally (lazy plan) was to turn down to Burwell along Factory Road rather than actually visit Wicken Fen.

Crossing Burwell Lode
Even dragging my bike over the footbridge felt harder

I am glad I did cycle up to Wicken Fen, the sun was perfectly positioned over Baker’s Fen.

Sunset over Baker’s Fen – (Wicken Fen)

The NCN11 path through Wicken Fen – looking much better compared with the pictures pre-drainage.

Wicken Fen – NCN11 – extra drainage channels

This wind pump was installed to pump water to ensure Wicken Fen gets less acidic water. Not in use at the moment though.

Most Recent Wicken Fen Windpump

On the way back I took another picture of the setting sun – getting lower in the sky

Sunset over Baker’s Fen – (Wicken Fen)

I cycled back through Burwell and up to Swaffham Prior and then joined NCN51. I forgot to mention I did take lights with me. This might look like a pavement – it is in fact a shared-use cycle path – although it is barely wide enough for one bike let alone two to pass each other.  The picture looks different in this app than when viewed using Picasa?

One of the Windmills of Swaffham Prior

As you can see the sky was pretty clear – it was  going to be a cold night. I turned down Rogers Road and to the low road through Swaffham Prior. If you look closely at the left edge in the horizon you might be able to see a sail on the other windmill in Swaffham Prior.

One of the Windmills of Swaffham Prior

I have upgraded to the latest version of Photomatix. It has more versatility so I started playing with it. I think the time has come to one down the brighter aspects of my HDR photography – much as I like the painterly look .  This does resemble the scene I could actually see somewhat more closely.

One of the Windmills of Swaffham Prior

And finally the same scene in  black and white.

One of the Windmills of Swaffham Prior

It was pretty cold when I got home, partly because I am not so fit having been resting from cycling and partly because I was rather foolish in my choice of cycling gear. Warmer gloves and warmer socks next time. Mind you lying in a hot bath when I got home was bliss.