Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mid-Week Ride–Slashers on Soham byway

Wednesday, 19th March 2014: For some strange reason after clocking up around 500Km in January and 600Km in February (on my bicycle) I felt I ought to push things a little more in March.   I mentally set my goal for the month to 1,000Km plus.  At one level it isn’t much – 32.5Km per day (or a tad over 20miles). Even at my sedentary pace it is quite achievable.  In the past when doing the Land’s End to John O’ Groats I clocked up 1,000miles / 1,600Km in two weeks.  The trouble is I have to ensure I am persistent. The best way for me to cycle a reasonable distance in a month is to keep at it every day.

In January and February I reckoned that by cycling every other day I could easily reach my target, so for march the best approach was to try and get out most days. Now even with working from home and being able to use my time flexibly there are things that get in the way. If the allotted (make that available) hour for my ride comes around and the weather is bad then whilst the spirit may be willing the flesh is weak.

Mind you as the Flatlands aren’t the rainiest of lands the place is drying out, which means the byways and bridleways will become cycle-able again. So for a change I thought I would cycle up to Soham and then back through to Wicken on the byway/bridleway route.  (Mill Drove, Bracks Drove, bridleway and then Drove Lane.)

Well the route was cycle-able – but it was quite a shock – what was once a rather bucolic narrow leafy track between hedges has been “cleared”.  Now there is a duty on landowners to ensure the hedges alongside rights of way are kept in a reasonable state.  I am also aware that some consider that flailing is not a bad way to cut a hedge – it can look brutal though.

Just to increase the sense of change of route I also went  the other way around.  I tend to circulate Wicken Fen in a clockwise direction. This time I headed out along NCN51 through to Burwell and then along Broad Road and up to Soham. Then along to Wicken via the tracks and then back along Lodes Way.

Much has been said about cyclists illegally cycling on pavements and the Police crackdown in Cambridge.  Which even resulted in a Cambridge cyclist receiving a criminal record.  A Cambridge County Council spokesman was quoted as saying

“Shared use footpaths are clearly marked and our advice to cyclists would be that unless the footpath is clearly signed as such they should not use it as a cycleway.”

Well, with all due respect that is a load of cobblers.  As I cycle around the villages the paintwork and signage can be very unclear.  The is the route of NCN51 from Bottisham to Swaffham Bulbeck. According to the Cambridge County Council cycle map the shared-use path leads into Bottisham on the Bell Road and stops opposite Howlett Way. The shared-use bit then resumes from Tunbridge Close. Well it isn’t made very clear when cycling through.  As you head out of Bottisham this seems to be the first sign indicating a shared-use path.

It is pretty narrow as well.  Two bikes can’t pass each other and pedestrians have to step onto the grass. (The OSM cycle map does not show it as shared-use – perhaps because it is poor.)  According to Google Street view the shared use path on Bell Road goes almost the length of the road stopping a the pub car park.  There is no sign of paintwork on the path along Tunbridge Lane/Tunbridge Close. There does appear to be a shared-use sign alongside Thomas Christian Way – lurking next to the hedge and another a little further up the road.  That isn’t my idea of well signed.

I must take some pictures the next time to see what it looks like now!

Shared-Use Path – Bottisham – Swaffham Bulbeck - NCN51

Here is the map if my route and here is the link to the map (you ought to also be able to click the map as well.) It is just a shade under 40Km (25miles). Most of it is on tracks/shared-use paths or country lanes. The worst road is a brief stretch of the B1102, between Tollgate Farm and Cockpen Road.

A Lode- Soham Loop

Remnants of  the Cambridge – Mildenhall Railway Line
between Swaffham Prior and Burwell

This is the start of the track from Soham to Wicken – called Wicken Way and Bracks Drove on the sign – Wicken is two miles away.

Bracks Drove – to Wicken

This bit of the route was just about ok. It was very rutted and a bit of care was needed to pick the “high ground”

Bracks Drove

This picture was taken looking on from Bracks Drove – where the electricity lines carry on and are crossed by the high voltage lines. Bracks Drove still wiggles on from here.

The view West from Bracks Drove, Soham

The newly cut back Bracks Drove

The newly cut back Bracks Drove

What it looked like in 2010. – Bracks Drove

Cowslips on Bracks Drove – Soham - 2013


Bracks Drove - 2011

After the bridleway bit there is another byway Drove Lane – that has also been cleared.

Drove Lane - Wicken


Drove Lane - Wicken

This is what it looked like in 2011

Drove Lane, Wicken 2011

In reality they were in need of cutting back, byways are supposed to be a public right of way for vehicular and other types of traffic. I would like to think that they are opening up a reasonable shared-use route between Wicken and Soham. It featured in a Wicken Village Vision survey (Q13).

Perhaps as a result of the hedge “trimming” I noticed this Pillbox alongside Drury Lane. Apparently it is of type FW3/22.  It is a regular hexagon in shape.

FW3/22 Pillbox – Drury Lane, Wicken

Burwell Lode (from the footbridge, Lodes Way)

This hedge along White Fen Drove has turned green since the last ride past it.

Rapidly Greening Hedge – White Fen Drove

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