Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cycling the cycle-able bits of Peddars Way–part 1

Wednesday 2nd April 2014: (Planning) I planned my route the night before, along with what supplies I needed and I also checked what time the trains were running. My plan was to cycle to Cambridge Railway Station and take the train to Thetford and then follow the Peddars route that someone has kindly added to the OSM Cycle map. It is the diagonal light blue line that runs from NCN13, almost through Swaffham, and then up to NCN1.

There is a map on the National Trail website which if you click on the Cycling Info Tab and then select “Sections suitable for cyclists”  shows that much of the route Peddars Way proper is cycle-able and there are only a small number of detours. So I created a route using Bike Route Toaster and followed the blue line as shown on the OSM map. Since the update of the Bike Route Toaster interface I am finding the auto-routing a little idiosyncratic and had to use manual routing a few times. 

The distance was shown as 116Km on the Bike Route Toaster Map, not a bad distance, but it would be the furthest I had cycled in a day this year.  For some reason I didn’t even look at the elevation chart – after all Norfolk is rather pleasant undulating countryside so it couldn’t be that bad.

I don’t use my GPS to navigate that often so I downloaded both a GPX and TCX file from the Bike Route Toaster map as I can never quite remember which is which and life is to short to be bothered.  For choice I like to see the route highlighted on the map on my Garmin Edge 605.  The pre-loaded map on my Garmin is a few years out of date – but for guidance only.  I normally don’t bother with turn-by-turn guidance – I don’t cycle fast enough to miss turns.  Although I do go wrong quite often as I tend to glance at the GPS then start looking around and taking in the scenery, then I find I have taken the wrong turn.

For the start I followed the NCN13 route East out of Thetford, this take you past the Peddars Way (footpath) and takes you to Bridgham where you join Peddars Way near the A11. Whilst writing this Post and looking more closely at the map and where I have been there seems to be a bridleway from Brettenham through Brettenham Heath that might have been a reasonable alternative.  Although I can’t see it on Google Earth, it seems to have been ignored. It appears on the Norfolk Rights of Way Map as Brettenham BOAT 4.

It would appear that from these PC Minutes for Brettenham and Kilverstone BOAT 4 and BOAT 7 have been extinguished by Norfolk County Council (18b.). Further digging suggests that the use but not the right of way has been suspended (6f).  That BOAT 4 gets a mention back in 1931.  So I have filled in a form on the Norfolk County Council Rights of Way website asking for clarification on the matter.

There might be an alternative route along one of the farm tracks up to the path across Brettenham Heath.  Although by the looks of things much of  the Heath is closed during March to October because of the bird-breeding season. Although the western end is open. Perhaps that is why the right of way got suspended?  Although I am sympathetic to the protection on the wildlife I do think that rights of way get extinguished far to easily without alternative routes being made available.

My route plan for the other end was guided by a desire to see the sea so I went to the end of the route (as shown on the OSM cycle map). I chose my route to go both ways around Ringstead for the out and back parts. Well it would be rude not to. Then I used NCN1 for the route back to King’s Lynn.

I didn’t bother to spend much time thinking about how much of the route was bridleway and byway – the whole reason for choosing it was because I like to cycle away from the roads if possible. I did print out a sequence of OSM maps for the journey though, ten in all, just in case I had to bail out if the going got too tough, or I had a GPS failure, or bike failure and had to resort to some alternate means of transport home.

I also put my phone, GPS, camera battery and front light on charge over night – just in case it was dark when I got home. I got out a couple of insulated water bottles for the journey ready for filling  in the morning along with a packet of jelly babies for emergency energy. I planned on buying food and drink along the way.  I tend to carry money in my camera bag when cycling – enough for an emergency taxi ride – in this case I topped it up to cover the train fares and food.

For clothing I was going to ride in shorts, along with a t-shirt and fleece.  I took along a waterproof jacket and some long-fingered gloves although I was planning on using cycling mitts for the journey. The good think about the mitts is that it makes taking pictures easier as I can alter the setting on my camera more quickly. I also packed some loo roll (good for cleaning up after mechanical issues or in case a fall causes blood donation) and some sun-screen.

I also made sure that I had some tyre levers (3), two spare inner tubes, tyre patches, multi-tool, zip-ties and a pump.  These were packed into my Carradice Zipped Roll Saddlebag. The rest of my stuff went into a thick plastic bag on my rack held on by bungee cords. This approach helps me be disciplined and not carry (too much) unnecessary stuff.

There was one last thing to do – check the train times and what restrictions there might be on taking my bicycle.  I have taken my bike on both the Cambridge-Norwich and Cambridge-King’s Lynn trains before. But things change.

The easy bit was checking the train times – the direct train take a little over 40 minutes – the choice was between the 7.04am train or the 8.12am train.  I chose the later train – at this time of year I wasn’t going to be having issues with short days and the temperature might have improved a little.  (It was pretty good – in Cambridge at least on that day.)

The other issue of checking whether there were restrictions on bike carriage was a tad trickier. The summary page of train times on the National Rail website doesn’t give a clue, nor does the link on what provisions the routes are subject too. you have to go to the details of you chosen train/time. Then you see a page which indicates the train has First Class Seating and a Cycle Policy. This take you to a page of generalities – the summary is you might be able to carry your bike – but you needs to go to the Train Companies page. There you select the Train company (shown on the page showing the details). This brings up a summary page of, in this case Abellio Greater Anglia (LE) – where these is no mention of bicycles.

If you then guess and click on the On-board facilities near the bottom this give you a choice of two tabs – the clue is in the name – View cycle policy for this train company – which takes you to the train company’s page on Cycling with Abellio Greater Anglia.  Then you click on another link “Using your bicycle with Abellio Greater Anglia”. By a process of elimination the appropriate line near the bottom say “Local Services in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire – Free of charge, First come first served, Four cycle spaces per train.” Oh don’t stop there – just below it adds that there are restrictions on Greater Anglia Train arriving at Cambridge Station between 074 and 0845. (Oh yes – some more – Monday to Friday, except Bank Holidays.)

You wonder how foreign visitors to this country ever manage to plane cycling holidays to this country using the train.  I can’t help but feel that it feels like deliberate obfuscation. What happens if more than 4 cyclists turn up and you have a meeting in Norwich say.  (Which is something I do.)  Do you have to go several house early just in case?

So I reckoned I would take the 8.12am train, but get to the station early – just in case. Whilst for me I could tolerate an hour’s delay I didn’t really want to.

The Peddars Way – Cycle route

I finally went to bed – set my alarm and with a slight amount of trepidation went to sleep.  The reason for the trepidation was partly the uncertainty of getting there, partly of how easy the route was to cycle and partly would I be up to it!

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