Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cycling the cycle-able bits of Peddars Way–part 2

Wednesday 2nd April 2014: (Getting to Thetford by train) I I have decided to chop this ride up into a number of posts – that makes it easier to split the pictures into themes and for me to write them.  I took loads of pictures – and 74 made it into the final cut. I know I ought to get better at being choosy about my own pictures. In fact I took nearly 500 pictures, but they do tail of towards the end.  Some have already appeared as Tweets.

So I woke up before my alarm – feeling energised. There is nothing like exploring pastures new. Yes maybe I have cycled around Norfolk a few times – but this was going to be a bunch of off-road that was new to me. It would be a good test of my own cycling-fitness – which for me is about endurance rather than speed. I don’t get fit to race, I get fit so that I can cycle loads and enjoy my exploring.

The first thing to do was have an energy-laden breakfast – which for me was an excuse to have some chocolate fridge cake  - it was yummy. Then I did a quick check that my bike was OK and that the tyres were at the right pressure. Loaded the bike up, lights, camera and action – I cycled to Cambridge railway Station. one of the slightly awkward things was having to join the ticket queue with my bike. I hadn’t taken a lock with me, unnecessary weight, so I had to wheel my bike up and down the ziz-zag queuing area.

Chocolate Fridge Cake for Breakfast - yum

The ticket was more than I had expected - £12.10, but I suppose that was because I was travelling during the rush hour. (I have just had a look on the web and Virgin are offering deals on Manchester to London for £12.50.). Still I was in time and the ticket seller didn’t say anything about my bike. (I don’t think that route has a rush hour.

Even better news although I was early the train had just arrived at Platform 5 (as it always seems to). So after the people got off I found myself to be the first to board.  The train had a dedicated area for bikes and my bike was the only one.

My Bike on the Cambridge to Norwich Train

As it got closer the to the departure time a couple of cyclists also boarded. I was first off so I moved my bike out of the way and then put it back on.  I seem to remember that another cyclist joined but help onto his bike.

Apparently the day before there were 8 cyclists, as you might hope the train company took a relaxed view and allow all on-board. A few years ago my son and I caught the train to Norwich with out bicycles and cycled up to Cromer and then back to Norwich for a day out.  Whilst probably most people think that a car offers door to door service a bicycle plus train can also offer the same service and depending upon parking at the other it can often be more convenient.

My Bike and two others on the Cambridge to Norwich Train

On the way we stopped at Ely, a more connected station than Cambridge, cycles do seem to be part of the transport mix. They have cycle parking on the platform. The town itself is not so well set up for cycling as Cambridge. There is the Ely Cycling Campaign working on the problem though. There seem to be 4 trains an hour to Cambridge and the journey time is 16 – 20 minutes, so it is a pretty good commute?

I haven’t taken pictures of the parked cycles this time, however there is a lot of in-station cycle parking and there is an underpass between platforms so it is much easier to get your bicycle around as well. The station info reckons there are 100 cycle parking spaces on platform 1 and 10 outside the station. (The annual rate for a station car park season ticket is £804.50.) Also the platforms are wider.

When I say that Ely is not so well set up for cycling I don’t mean that it is an awful place to cycle around, rather there are fewer dedicated facilities than Cambridge.  NCN11 passes through North to South and a National Byway around goes East to West.

As you can see in this picture – many cyclists are normal people, normally dressed who cycle.

Cyclist on the Platform – Ely Railway Station

When I plotted my route out of Thetford Railway Station there looked as if there might be a route heading out of the North side of the station. But I wasn’t that sure when looking at the OSM map zoomed in on the station. I checked the satellite view and could really tell what was going on so I picked a route heading out on the south side of the station.

I should have realised that the station was really just a two platform affair and so unlikely to have electronic gates for entry and exit.  Getting over the tracks can be tricky as well as the only way is often via a bridge with steep steeps up and over the tracks. You can see the bridge in question.  What I should have done was check out a map of the station, the green rectangles with what appear to be ticket gates show a picture of the actual area if you hover over them.

So as we pulled into Thetford Station I was curious to look around and see where I would be heading. I got off I switched on my GPS and set it to follow my route and whilst it was doing that, it takes a few minutes, I took some pictures.

By now I was feeling pleasantly excited – the weather looked OK and I had pastures byways and bridleways new to go out and explore and the whole day to do it.  My GPS had presented me with a route and I was ready to roll.

Thetford Railway Station

It amazes me how dilapidated some of the railway stations on the network look. Especially when you look at a station like King’s Cross.  This station is close to Centre Parcs in Elveden Forest. I reckon this station would be a bit of a downer if you arrived here for the first time on your way to the Parc for a holiday. I guess most must people drive to the Parc?

One common feature of many British Railway Station are some colourful flowers somewhere near by – Thetford certainly had them.

Thetford Railway Station – flowers on the platform

The next thing to do was haul my bike over the bridge to the other side of the station. The signal box looks like a relic from the past with boarded windows. I guess with the modern, centrally-controlled,  electronic signalling signal boxes are redundant.

I didn’t think it at the time, but as I look at the picture I do wonder where the is a green spot of weeds and grass growing down there.

British railway Stations could learn a thing or two from how the Japanese run their railways. Ours look rather tired and tatty.

Thetford Signal Box – boarded up

To be fair none of these thoughts sprang to mind when I go off and crossed the lines – I had a cycle route to explore. Now to find the Peddars Way proper.


  1. Swaffham Bulbeck CyclistApril 23, 2014 at 5:23 PM

    Hi JME,
    There are two routes from the Norwich bound platform at Thetford station. One is just past the bridge onto Station Lane heading north east (past that black car on the last pic - a bit out of your way on this trip) and the other is from the other end of the same platform. You just walk your bike along the path past the allotments and it takes you onto Croxton Road (itself a nice route out of Thetford). It certainly saves lugging your bike over that bridge.

    I agree Thetford station is definately in need of a little TLC!

    1. I think that I would leave and head past the allotments next time. It is surprisingly hard to work out that level of detail from the various maps that do exist.

      It is a shame about the station because it leads to some lovely countryside. I guess the coast tends to get the attention.