Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cycling the cycle-able bits of Peddars Way–part 3

Wednesday 2nd April 2014: (Finding the Peddars Way and getting to Witsend!) So the cycling bit of my adventure began. I cycled out of the Thetford Railway Station  car park/roundabout with my route clearly shown on my Garmin GPS.

As I headed down Station Road my GPS bleeped at me – I had got the settings wrong and it was going to give me turn by turn instructions – ah well no real harm there. Now I am left-handed, which,as any left-handed person knows, means a life-time of persecution from the right-handers and the fact they have designed the world to suit themselves.  However there are times when I have to think about which is right and which is left – they sometimes seem to be somewhat arbitrary concepts.

Which is why I turned off along the wrong road and because the processor in my GPS seems to be pretty poor it took some time before it redrew the map and I noticed I was heading in the wrong direction.

Spot the deliberate mistake as I head away from Thetford Station

It must have put me in a grumpy mood because then as I cycled along King Street there was a no-cycling zone. Sorry Sustrans, but I think it is wrong to route chunks of a cycle route along a road you have to walk along when the are reasonable alternatives. I walked. Sometimes it is easier to just follow the GPS than to work around a duff route. In case you were wondering whether this was because the OSM route had not correctly followed the Sustrans route well they both go that way – OSM, Sustrans).

It wasn’t long before I was back cycling and then heading along the hopefully named Green Lane and it pretty quickly did turn into a “green lane” or in this case a somewhat sandy lane. This was no surprise – the soil is pretty sandy in these parts. My biggest concern was that parts of the route would consist of soft sandy tracks – with my relatively thin tyres they can be bl**dy hard work to cycle on. They can be particularly tricky in parts of Thetford Forest.

Green Lane – Thetford

Shortly after that I reached the outskirts of Thetford and there was a promising sign – for my ride – a field was being irrigated. Now I know it is a bit selfish – however it suggested that the byways and bridleways should be pretty dry and that there wasn’t going to be any rain soon, at least for the duration of my cycle ride.

Irrigation along Brettenham Road, Thetford (NCN13)

A little bit further along was a pretty common sight in these parts – pigs in a field. It is good to see them with plenty of space. Apparently biosecurity is a big issue for pig farmers. There are pig diseases in the US and Asia that they are concerned could infect pigs over here. I sometimes listen to the Farming Today radio program (on podcast) and one farmer had several areas where he keeps his pigs and he keeps dedicated equipment at each site. They also change their boots for each site. When pigs are shipped out by a contractor that lorry driver has to use boots provided rather than his own boots that might have been on another farm.

Norfolk Pig Farm – NCN13 – Brettenham

Spring has still some work to do – these Beech trees were barely showing any sign of leaf alongside the pig field.

Beech – barely any leaf – NCN13 – Brettenham

The Peddars Way route split from NCN13 as I reached Bridgham. My GPS bleeped a bit when I reached the turn.  Later on when I got home and uploaded my route and viewed it on Google Earth it seemed to have had problems locking onto the route. Now I usually turn off the facility that locks the trace to roads, because I don’t always cycle on roads and have found it can hunt from one road to the next. When turned off the trace normally just gets it right, when turned on well this is what happens. When I checked I had turned off the lock on roads feature.

A bit of experimenting later and I think it is related to the way it provides directions – I think either the processor gets overloaded or the decision about which road it is on and so which way it needs to turn causes the program to get its knickers in a twist (technical term for some sort of software issue).

Quantum Uncertainty Effects affect my position in Bridgham

I knew which way I was going and carried on down High Bridgham Road unfortunately I then stopped thinking about where I was going and just enjoyed the scenery and rode along admiring Brettenham Heath on my left.

Then I glanced down at my GPS and found I had gone way past my turn – what turn was that – I couldn’t remember a turn.  The trouble was I was in cycling on the road mode – and needed to start thinking about cycling on tracks.

Oops – I Missed my turn off from High Bridgham Road onto the Peddars Way

As I said, I think I was enjoying the cycle along the country lane so much I forgot about my route. I can’t blame the GPS or the signpost though. Although having said that the signpost doesn’t mention the type of path. (footpath, bridleway, byway). According to the OS map it is a byway. Although the byway it connects with the is the suspended byway through Brettenham Heath.

The Start of my Peddars Way Cycle Journey

This is the byway – what you can’t see is that you are heading for the A11. It looked good though – just the job for a bit of off-road cycling.

Peddars way – Byway off High Bridgham Road

On the other side of High Bridgham Road was a notice board for Brettenham Heath.  The orange bit is closed from the 1st of November to the 28th February. Which is perhaps why the byway across it was closed.  The sign also warns of adders and ticks carrying Lyme disease.

That’s odd I seem to remember from the Brettenham web page that it was closed from March to October inclusive.  Ahh I see my mistake the notice board actually says access is permitted to the orange bit from the 1st of November to the 28th February.

Brettenham Heath – National Nature Reserve – Notice Board

So without a care in the world (well you know what I mean) I cycled down the byway – the weather was good, the path was good, the woods around me were good – and then I ran into the A11. Well I didn’t actually run into it – if I had I wouldn’t have been around to write this post.

A particular hate of mine is when rights of way are effectively blocked by busy roads that are made busier and busier by widening and no provision is put in for people using the right of way to cross it.  This effectively closes the right of way for all but the foolhardy and bloody-minded.

For those that don’t know it the A11 is major road from north-east London to Norwich. Pretty much all the road in Cambridge and Norfolk is dual-carriageway with the last bit between Barton Mills and Thetford due for completion any time soon – well Winter 2014.

This justification document indicates traffic flows of 20,000 vehicles a day in 2004, predicted to rise to 24,500 in 2007. If you assume that 80% of the traffic is during the working day then that equates to 19,600 per 8 hours. Which means 2,450 per hour,  or 40.8 a minute or a vehicle every 1.5 seconds. Although that is a guesstimate it is in the right ball-park. It took me a while to get across.  (As the road has 2x 2 lanes and an island in the middle and vehicles group you might expect spaces to appear. However if you try to cross at a peak time!

What is frightening is that I crossed that road – if I wanted to carry on up the Peddars Way what alternative was there? A quick check on the web and there are quite a few moans about the crossing. – Taking a trek along Peddars Way being one of the many. This author mentions the awful crossing and then comments on an alternate route – Bridgham Warnings and Dangers.  In my view the crossing would be impossible with a horse.

Peddars Way – where it attempts to cross the A11

Ooh look, how thoughtful there is a refuge – although by the looks of things it is also used by motor vehicles.

Peddars Way – where it attempts to cross the A11
Don’t worry the is an “island” in the middle

I took a few pictures to show just how dodgy the crossing is – I then began to wonder just how long it would take before I would be able to get across. Just to add to the danger there is a car/lorry parking area adjacent to the A11 and Peddars Way. That has almost no slip-road and you can barely see it.  In fact any driver thinking about pulling out is probably totally unaware about the need to look left as they crane their necks to the right looking for a gap in the traffic.

Peddars Way – where it attempts to cross the A11
Beware the vehicles leaving the parking area to the right

It was quite a relief when I finally crossed both sides of the A11.  I was beginning to wonder where I would have to  detour through Bridgham and Roudham to find an alternate route. However thinks it is reasonable that a route like the Peddars Way should require people to cross a dual-carriageway needs their head examining. That is a very dangerous crossing and is bound to put people off using that part of the Peddars Way. In my mind it is a form of automotive bullying.  (This is what should have been built an underpass – they put one in further along  the A11.)

I was a little surprised how good the “track” was after crossing the A11 – it turns out to be a BOAT, somewhere between a byway and a minor country road. I soon came up on Shadwell Crossing where the Peddars Way crosses the Cambridge – Ipswich railway line. Strangely unmanned railway crossings get a very bad press whilst crossing the A11 seems to be acceptable. Technically it is the Ely to Ipswich line with a branch line to Cambridge.

The crossing was fine – I don’t thing there are that many trains on it.  After I had crossed I saw one train – this one.

Ipswich-bound Train approaching Shadwell Crossing – Peddars Way

Ipswich-bound train passing under the A11, near Shadwell Crossing – Peddars Way

If you are interested there are some houses as Shadwell Crossing – which using the Estate Agent vernacular are “UNIQUE PROPERTY in a UNIQUE LOCATION”. They also simultaneously enjoy convenient access to the A11 and are set deep in Forestry Commission Woodland! Yeh – right.

The is what you see after passing the houses at Shadwell Crossing. Despite my annoyance at the A11 already in a few short miles the country lanes and tracks have been great, good for cycling and through some interesting areas.

I didn’t notice it before I went, but looking on the map the railway line branched off just before Shadwell Crossing (West Side) at Roudham Junction – it was the Thetford and Swaffham Branch. Here is a link to a Thetford and Swaffham timetable – 1954 (45 minutes). Here is a bunch of pictures taken along the Thetford to Swaffham railway line (disused). Watton – a town along the way was famous for having a hedge alongside the platform clipped into the shape of the station name and a locomotive.

Despite my concerns about the tracks through the forest being to sandy and causing my tyres to bog down this was fine.  The weather was still good for cycling, as I rolled along, keeping my eyes open for any wildlife, there was a steady crunching noise from the grit on the road.

Roudham Heath

As I cycled the forest gave way to farming with lots of activity in the fields. The track also started wiggling a little more and began looking more farm track and less gravel road. The only reason I mention it is that I was a bit over-sensitive to the surfaces I was to be cycling over. So far the tracks had been very good – for my type of cycling anyway.

There are two tractors, a digger and a trailer in this picture and that was without trying.  This Standen-Pearson Uniweb is a soil separator (I think it does de-stoning as well).

Soil Separation and De-stoning along Peddars Way

The soil is pretty sandy – just the job for growing carrots I would think – although I usually see this sort of soil preparation used when fields are being readied for growing spuds. You can see a fair bit of fleece laid out on the fields in the background.

Fine, Sandy Brecks Soil – Peddars Way

The trouble is when I write my posts a week or two or three after the actual ride I sometimes have trouble working out where it was I took the picture.  This is the Illington Road. The route is still a BOAT at this point, but what stopped me was that the road I crossed seem to have an old railway bridge suggesting I was cycling alongside an old railway track – which I later found was the case on the map.

So I stopped to take a few pictures. As you can see the Peddars Way is well marked – albeit in a discrete style with wooden posts and signs.

Peddars Way – Illington Road

This was why I stopped –to see if the road bridge was a railway bridge – it certainly looked like it was once. What is it that attracts people to throw their rubbish over bridges?

Disused Railway Bridges are not rubbish dumps – Illington Road – Peddars Way

The road’s-eye of the railway bridge – I was at my Witsend (Farm)

Witsend Farm – Illington Road – Peddars Way

Well no complaints from me so far – (apart from the A11) the ride was certainly through some interesting and changing areas, and I barely started.

Next Stonebridge to Watton.


  1. Great pics. Currently walking the Peddars Way in "small doses".

    1. Thank you - I really enjoyed it riding it and have cycled along bits since. I read the blog of a chap who walked it and camped along the way in a bivvy bag!