Friday Tuesday, 28th January 2014: The winds are back and having been out on my bicycle the last couple of days I am giving cycling a miss. Instead I am writing this post. For choice I prefer to ride away from traffic. It seems to me that it is getting noisier than ever. It completely drowns out the Archers when I am listening on my MP3 player. In fact the cacophony of sound drowns out individual vehicles as well.
You only have to cycle along some of the “faster” country roads with shared-use paths to realise just how bad it can be. One of the worst in these parts, I think, is between Lode and Swaffham Bulbeck particularly around the evening rush hour. The factors that affect the noise include the speed and type of traffic, the road surface and the proximity of the noise.
The trouble is at the moment most of the convenient byways and bridleways are pretty wet and muddy and I dislike cycling in mud as well. So instead of cycling around the lodelands – Lodes Way, I headed up into the hills.
I followed NCN51 out of Cambridge and then up around the back of Swaffham Bulbeck (Quarry Road) and along Swaffham Heat Road. This takes you from around 0m altitude up to the vertiginous heights of 40m above sea level. Then I turned off along unnamed byway, just before crossing the Newmarket By-pass (A14). On the Cuncil Rights of Way map the track is a byway, on streetmap it is a byway at one scale and a byway/bridleway/byway at another scale.
The trouble is this byway runs along side the A14, and it was noisy. It was also wet, but not thick stodgy mud so I gave it a go. I have hardly ever met anyone along here – but there is often evidence of human passage. Wet or dry those tracks are generally where I cycle. You have to be careful though as the edges of the tracks can catch you out if your front wheel catches the edge at a slight angle. This time around they were also slippery and I almost came off a couple of times. I didn’t though.
Byway alongside the A14 – to Exning
Someone has been to a fair bit of trouble to drive along this byway and dump their rubbish. I reckon it would have been harder getting here in a vehicle than visiting one of the local tips. Although the Council knows them as Recycling Centres, whereas in Suffolk they seem be Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs), although Newmarket’s HWRC is run by a charity and doesn't appear on the Suffolk link, although it does on the Forest Heath District Council. Is it just me or do others feel that there multiple layers of local bureaucracy seems to get in the way.
Let’s face you don’t recycle according to county loyalties you do. There was an old computer in amongst the rubbish.
Fly-tipping on the Byway alongside the A14 – to Exning
As I got towards the Exning end of the byway the going got harder. There has been some serious clearance along the hedgerows. This soft tractor tyre imprinted mud was hard work to cycle along. I was also worried that I’d end up with a puncture because of the thorns. I didn’t, the Schwalbe Marathon plus tyres were living up to their reputation.
Byway Clearance (alongside A14 to Exning)
It was a relief to get to the road and re-join NCN51. Although there was rubbish fly-tipped just on the corner of the road at the junction with the byway. Clearly the work of a lazier fly-tipper.
Whilst cycling along the Heath Road traffic was completely drowned out by the A14 traffic. Most overtaking vehicles gave me room one or two passed by with centimetres to spare.
I must have a short memory because as I was cycling through Exning I forgot how hard the cycling along the byway was and cycled out of Exning along North Road to Haycroft Lane. The good news was that the vegetation was short – the bad news was that the going was soft and quite a few horses had gone there before.
If you ever need a good cardio-vascular workout cycling along this sort of track is the way to do it. There is some some of Power Transmission plant there. Although it doesn’t get much of a mention on the maps. Perhaps it is supposed to be kept quiet? On the council map is it labelled GVC. It is a GAS Pumping Station. By that point the track was potholed with mud and muddy puddles and I walked around it as best I could. I was really pleased that I had worn my waterproof cycling boots. (A little while later I was even more pleased).
Haycroft Lane – the going was soft!
After Haycroft Lane I reckoned Howlem Balk would be easier. I suppose it was easier – but it was more nerve-wracking. It was not so much a track as a series of deep and wet potholes. Most of them I cycled though ok, one deep one had an unseen boulder in it that stopped me in its tracks. I had to put a foot down to avoid tumbling in the puddle. Thank goodness for my boots – my water proof socks weren’t even troubled. Some believe in a belt and braces approach I go for a waterproof boots and socks approach myself.
After that excitement I headed through Burwell and along Newnham Drove I hardly noticed the crumbling tarmac and ruts and ridges – it was almost a pleasure.
One of the fields alongside seems to have some new fencing and a new footpath in the making?
Newnham Drove – new fencing
As I cycled back along Lodes Way it seemed that an atomic bomb had been dropped somewhere over Cambridge. Fortunately it was just a large cloud, even more fortunately I didn’t get rained on.
Atomic Cloud over Burwell Fen
I felt that ride in my bones when I got home – not because of the distance – it was the slippery mud that did it.