Monday, May 12, 2014

Playing hookey–getting lost in Huntingdon

Friday, 11th April 2014:  (Updated with map) Another guilty secret, I decided it was so nice that I would go out for a morning cycle ride – even though it was only Friday. After all after a refreshing ride my brain would be super-charged and ready anything I got thrown at me by my computer.

Of course in the true Boy Scout tradition of being prepared I also took some water bottles and some Jelly babies – just in case. (Although I never was a boy scout!).  I didn’t prepare a route though and set of with a relatively clear conscience to enjoy a couple of hours on the bike.

What actually happened was my bike led me astray and I ended up taking the day off; cycling, getting lost, exploring and thoroughly enjoying the day.  Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link – Huntingdon Loop.  he ride was just over 110Km, unplanned and although there were some good views at one point according to BRT it only got up to around 40m above sea level. I guess being a flat-lander they seemed like mountains.

Because it was unplanned the ride seems to have been on all sorts of routes bar a motorway. If I had known where I was going I would have avoided some of those – for instance I would have cycled through Warboys rather than on the A141.

It was one of those days where the wind was low and it was not too warm – just right for cycling – well it started that way. As I headed east out of Cambridge along NCN51 you could see the Wind Turbines of Wadlow Wind Farm were barely moving. I superimposed several pictures to create this picture – only the turbines to the right showed any movement.

Wadlow Windfarm – barely turning

Oops I forgot the map picture – here tis. Sorry

By the time I reached Lode my resolve to stick to a short spin had faltered and I thought I would change my plans and cycle up the Cambridge Guided Busway Cycleway (NCN51)  and then back along NCN RR24.  So I headed along the line of the old Cambridge Mildenhall Railway Line, past Stow cum Quy Fen to Horningsea. It is a pity about the missing line from Lug Fen Drove to Waterbeach!

Yellow Fields, Blue Skies, White Clouds
The Old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line, Anglesey Abbey

Although it had started out a little overcast the sun started shining pretty strongly.  This signpost is where the green, red and brown dots meet on the OSM. The signpost has four directions though, the OSM misses a foot path (here on the OS) to Horningsea.

Cross Roads in the Fens

The Missing Footpath to Horningsea

By the time I reached Hundred Acres Road I was sweltered, so I stopped to remove some layers and have a drink. On checking the OS map I have just seen that there is another footpath that is not shown on the OSM map leading North-East from the concrete pan in the picture.

Maisie Waiting as I shed some layers – Hundred Acre Road, nr Horningsea

The Missing Path: to the edge of the field – although it goes nowhere?

Having decided to head out along the CGB Cycleway I decided to get my head down and go for it – there was no time to waste taking pictures; so despite my ride taking me along to Clayhithe and down alongside the River Cam which is very picturesque I didn’t hang around.

I didn’t hang around in Milton either, more unusually I didn’t take any pictures of the Butt Lane cycleway. Frankly it appals me, as a piece of cycling infrastructure it is crap. I feel that this is a classic example of how money is squandered in the name of cycling infrastructure. It seems to have dropped off the radar and is a route that has been given up on and being “finished” to the bare minimum.  Although cross as I am about the route I didn’t stop to take pictures like I usually do.  This route links a Secondary School in Impington with a load of houses in Milton – ideal for kids to cycle to and from school – it gets a C- from me.

After winding my way carefully through Histon, where a few years ago I was SMIDSY’d, knocked of my bike and ended up with the classic cyclists broken collar bone. I joined the CGB Cycleway.  this is a 9/10 cycleway as far as I am concerned – well except for the bit near St Ives that floods for indeterminate amounts of time each year and that bit gets 1/10 so the overall average is 5/10. (No weighting was used in the average!)

Just after passing through Histon I stopped to climb a mound of Earth next to what was Oakington Airfield and is currently a bucolic scene and will become a place where 10,000 houses are built!  The CGB is of to the right in the picture.

Northstowe – a great place to bring your cows up

An old Airfield Perimeter Road – RAF Oakington (that was)

The CGB has been featuring in the press, although not as much as it used to before it finally got finished. However its troubles don’t seem to be over and if the CGB has problems then that means the County Council has problems with means problems for us taxpayers. “Fresh legal action against guided busway builder BAM Nuttall threatened by Cambridgeshire County Council as serious track faults discovered”.

For a history here are a couple of Websites – No Guided Bus and How the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway came to Trumpington.  Frankly I think that sometimes we do things too much on the cheap, for political reasons costs are kept down and then we end up with white elephants, particularly where new ground is being broken. I still don’t understand why the decision was taken to build a Guided Busway rather than reinstate the railway. Apparently the Busway has carried 7.8million people from August 2011 (when it opened) to March 2014. (28 months which is an average of 3.3m per year). For comparison Cambridge railway station handled 8.8m in 2011/12 and 9.2m in 2012/13. Now the two statistics are different – Cambridge station handles several routes, but also many passengers travel through.

Here is a link Why Build a Guided Busway – short on data in my opinion.

I still feel that when major County decision are taken the general population is treated like children and that we don’t need to know stuff as it would go over our heads. Just try finding what Press Releases the Council has put out – it is pretty sparse and hard to find it is as if they don’t want old Press Releases hanging around to embarrass them.

It is also pretty hard finding information about Traffic Regulation Orders as mentioned by Richard Taylor in another council farce of Bus lane markings in Cambridge.  Open Government – non.

Still back to the matter in hand – is the Guided Busway crumbling, the Travelling The Guided Busway Blog has some recent examples of repairs. Here are some pictures I took – are they a problem – well I don’t know – but there must be stress across the beam for the crack to propagate.

Guided Busway – Cracks appearing


Guided Busway – Cracks appearing – across the track

On this section cracks have appeared and concrete is being lost

Is that a large gap?

CGB – Gaps on the line

The tarmac surface alongside seems to be holding up well – where it doesn’t flood. Mind you cyclists don’t cause much damage. The damage done to a road surface is approximately proportional to the fourth power of the axle weight.  In the US, according to this article a US car at 200lbs is 20 times less than a passenger car at 3000lbs.  Which means a cyclist does roughly 204 less time or 160,000 times less damage.

(Note – Most cyclists in Cambridge don’t look like this.)

Cyclists on the Cambridge Guided Busway Cycleway

Another Example of Significant Cracking along CGB Concrete Beam

I had read that the flooding has subsided on the cycleway near St Ives – it was good to see that was so though.The is quite a lot of debris still around from the floodwater though.

These two look more like typical Cambridgeshire cyclists.

The CGB Cycleway isn’t flooded for a change

As I got closer to St Ives, I started thinking how enjoyable it was to be out cycling in the fresh air and thought perhaps I will check out the Thicket Path, the new NCN51 cycle routing through from St Ives through to Godmanchester. Unusually the OSM Cycle map is a little out of date and shows the old NCN51 route through the Hemingfords.

I crossed the river back  to Common Lane and through Godmanchester Eastside Common, it is more pleasant, however the is a Thicket Road route into Huntingdon that looks ok on the map.

I stopped of at a Co-Op to grab lunch in Godmanchester, I was hoping for a hot pie but no luck – still it was food and drink.  There was an unpleasant amount of traffic though.

As I cycled into Huntingdon I thought why not cycle up NCN12 towards Peterborough and then cut across to March perhaps. and then across to Welney and down NCN11 to Ely and Cambridge. As you can see from the map I didn’t – I got lost in Huntingdon.

I find that following Sustrans Cycle route signs in towns can be a bit hit and miss – whilst I am busy making sure I don’t get run over I also have to check out the route – which can follow shared-use paths – and they can be on the other side of the road. They can duck and dive down odd alleyways and take you across various types of road crossings.

Now I have cycled through to Peterborough a small number of times, but for some reason as I cycled along Ermine Street I lost track of where I was and instead of carrying on up Stukeley Road after the traffic lights at the Railway Bridge I turned back and then up St Peter’s Road. It looked more like a cycle route as the path was shared-use and I didn’t notice any relevant signage. More fool me.

Mind you when comparing the OS and OSM maps the OSM map shows the route (NCN12) following the Stukeley Road, whilst the OS map shows it passing through Stukeley Meadows Linear Nature Reserve. Perhaps I lost track of it sooner than I thought.

So after a bit of cycling around I found myself cycling along the King’s Ripton Road through the wooded bit just after Spittals Way – Sapley Spineys.

Bluebells in Sapley Spinneys

There appeared to be a small encampment in the wood as well.  According to Page 19 of this Local Development framework Plan for Huntingdon  it is a possible area for development though.

Bluebells in Sapley Spinneys

I had one last go at finding NCN12 by cycling back West and then along an unnamed country lane heading North (just to the East of the Railway Line).

I have become a bit reluctant to cycle along some country B roads. With increase in traffic and traffic speeds such roads have become the new A roads but without the width. Consequently that can be most unpleasant and the traffic can be intimidating and bl**dy noisy. It is part of the trafficication of all our roads.

There were a few cars – but it restored my faith in country lanes – although as it turns out it wasn’t a B-road. At this point I gave up trying to get towards Peterborough by NCN12 and decided to do a bit of cycling in either  an Easterly direction using my GPS compass so that I would gradually find my way across to somewhere I would have a better chance of picking a decent cycle route back from.

If at all possible I wanted to avoid busy A roads, the problem is most road signage kinds of assumes you will gravitate to major roads to get around. I only had a vague recollection of where places were in this part of the County, but it is fun to just go and explore sometimes. I always had both my Garmin GPS and Samsung Phone (with Offline Cyclestreets mapping to fall back on.)

So to recap my plan was to follow my compass and pick small roads that appeared to head East and South, but with more emphasis on the East bit.

Of course riles can be broken and I cycled into the rather nice Abbots Ripton, the location of the Abbots Ripton railway disaster. A little way into the village and I headed West (Station Road) – well it looked interesting and I could see on my GPS map that it turned North and I figured it would probably follow the route of the railway line North.

I resisted the urge to take the next turn east, but I found the road steering more to the West and that I was on a bit of a hill. As it turns out it wasn’t that high (40m) but it looked pretty good so after a few pictures  I chose the hill – Walton Hill. I guessed I would probably have to pay the for “free” energy but it was a nice day.

Walton Hill – near Wood Walton

I then headed west to Wood Walton (yes back under the railway line). After climbing to regain the energy I’d squandered a little way out of Wood Walton was a bridleway, more or less West with a bit of South so I took it. It was marked with a walker, horse rider and bike so why not. I didn’t have any idea where the place it pointed to was though. (Little Raveley – one of The Raveleys).

On the OS map it follows a small stream but I didn’t know that. It started off alongside a field full of rape with glorious views.

Bridleway – Wood Walton to Little Raveley

There are quite a few Wind Turbines visible in the distance although I couldn’t identify them – perhaps I ought to tag my pictures with what direction I was looking in as well. This one has at least 11 Turbines so is pretty big. It could be Red Tile, just south of Chatteris which has 12, although the data I used is a little out of date.

Red Tile Wind Farm near Chatteris (I think)

Another view along the bridleway – I think the Church Spire belongs to Little Raveley and is St James’ Church. But the church in Little Raveley doesn’t look like it and is now a house and here is the brochure.

So after a bit of scanning and looking at the map I reckon it is Warboys Parish Church – it lies in the right direction and has the same spire.

Bridleway – Wood Walton to Little Raveley
Warboys Parish Church in the distance

Bridleway – Wood Walton to Little Raveley – Cowslips

As you can see there was a lot of Oil Seed Rape in flower in the area.

Bridleway – Wood Walton to Little Raveley – The View towards Peterborough

Oh dear – losing a bit of height – I’ll be paying for this. This is looking back from whence I came.

Bridleway – Wood Walton to Little Raveley

I liked the way the farm house (I presume) was an island surrounded by yellow – There is a large haystack to the left as well.

That great belt of trees is a Nature Reserve – part of the Great Fen Project.  That is Woodwalton Fen – It was bought by Nathaniel Charles Rothschild in 1910 and was to be donated to the National Trust – but they didn’t want it as they found Wicken Fen was proving to be costly!

Bridleway – Wood Walton to Little Raveley – the view – Woodwalton Fen

Another view of Woodwalton Fen – the strip of water to the right is Great Ravely Drain (I think).

Bridleway – Wood Walton to Little Raveley – the view – Woodwalton Fen

It was the swirling patterns in the fields that caught my eye here. (Great Ravely Drain is to the right of the picture.)

Bridleway – Wood Walton to Little Raveley – the view – Woodwalton Fen

The bridleway connects to another at Poplar Spinney. This was taken having dropped down into the valley and then up the other side.

Bridleway – Wood Walton to Little Raveley  - Poplar Spinney

The view looking back the way I came. Potential energy had been restored. There was a bench so I stopped and had a drink and a few Jelly Babies.

Bridleway – Wood Walton to Little Raveley  - Poplar Spinney

The bridleway then became a bit soggy and with a hedgerow on each side. It is called The Butts. Nice, but a little energy-sapping. (A Butt is a small piece of land apparently.)

Bridleway – Wood Walton to Little Raveley - The Butts

I was pleased to reach a road the soggyness was a bit wearing.  There was quite a view across the fields though.

So at this point my journey followed the compass  trying for East and South.  The first village after Little Ravely was Broughton and then the A141 to Warboys. Somewhere along the way I took this picture – actually I think it was at the point the The Butts popped out onto the road.

The View from the end of The Butts!

Pentaglottis sempervirens – Green Alkanet

After Warboys I escaped from the A141 and headed towards Pidley on the B1040, a place I recognised the name of and knew a reasonable way to get home from.

to the north of Pidley, Red Tile Wind Farm was very visible and a useful landmark. I ought to mention that Pidley is famous for its Mountain Rescue team.

Red Tile Wind Farm seen from Pidley

After Pidley came Somersham. I know sometimes people say that the Fens are a little backward – well in Somersham it felt like I was definitely going back in time.

West End Garage Somersham

After Somersham I cycled to Earith – where the A1123 runs through the middle and the main street seems dirty for it. On the outskirts of Earith you pass over the Old Bedford River.

Old Bedford River, Earith

Now I used to live just down the road from Earith in Willingham and have cycled and walked  through Earith a few times. But I never knew that there had been collision between two planes during World War II.

Memorial to those killed near Earith during WWII as the result of two planes colliding

The road in Earith has recently been re-laid – so there are some Belisha Beacons without zebra stripes on the road.

Belisha Beacons – no stripes – yes flash

The reason there are two picture is because I wanted to see what pictures with and without the beacon “flash” looked like and to see whether they registered.

Belisha Beacons – no stripes – no flash

As you leave Earith you also cross the New Bedford River or Hundred Foot Drain

New Bedford River

I then cycled down to Willingham and across to Cottenham. Despite the Friday traffic the only unpleasant bit really was crossing the River Great Ouse to Shelford’s Road.  After Rampton there is a shared-use path to Cottenham – not the widest but I used it as it was off the fairly narrow road.

When I used to live in Willingham and work in Cambridge I used to cycle this way (through Rampton, Cottenham and Histon). It was busy but fairly congested so a bicycle made sense and cars generally weren’t whizzing around too much.

When I left Cottenham on the Histon Road it was horrible – far worse than I remember it. Some vehicles got far too close as they drove by – not deliberately – just ignorantly – which is perhaps worse.

I was very please to reach the shared-use path – that is a great improvement from when I used to cycle-commute this way. It is a pity it doesn’t actually reach Cottenham though. What is it with bitty cycle routes in Cambridge.

Cottenham – Histon Shared-use Cycleway

As you can see – for a change the path was made wider than some of the shared-use pavements around Cambs – so two cyclists can easily cycle side by side. I was able to pass these two with hassle. (I was going in the opposite direction.)

Cottenham – Histon Shared-use Cycleway

A rather odd sight on the outskirts of Histon, but with the power of the Internet (what did we do before it came along) and with one search, I can discover Tony Hillier Sculpture. They are also cyclists and have unlimited bicycle parking.


The shared-use path is pretty good until you get dumped onto Glebe Way just before the traffic lights in Histon. Can’t our road planners think in a more joined up way.

Well not the ride I set out for – but a reminder that it is good to go of my beaten track and explore. I will have to check out Woodwalton Fen at some stage.

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