Thursday, July 31, 2014

When the wind blows in the fens–the brown stuff starts to fly

Saturday, 10th May 2014: There is always something to see when I pop out on my bike.  This morning I was held up by a traffic jam – two combine harvesters and a grain trailer being towed by a tractor. (Pictures on my phone were taken and may well appear in a post at some stage.)

The trouble is. increasingly, I am subject to some pretty poor driving by motorists. At best it is discourteous and worst it is dangerous driving. I am not sure quite why, but it seems to be getting worse.

A recent poll by the BBC suggested that “Half of British adults believe that their local roads are too dangerous to cycle on”.  That is disgusting – people don’t feel safe to cycle on their local roads – yet we are also told that we ought to wear a helmet to “make cycling safer” perhaps. Although the irony is that it also gives out the clear message “cycling is dangerous”.  Then we got all sorts of disagreements about the stats as to whether it puts people off cycling or not. Which kind of misses the big picture – it we want to get this country off its arse (or America of its ass) we need to get loads more people feeling enthused about cycling as a safe and valued activity.

Whilst I welcome the move to 20mph limits in Cambridge City I do think that the villages need them as well. So it is great to see some pressure from a Cambridgeshire County Councillor pushing for 20mph limits in the villages. I welcome it, but despair when I read the comments. I just hope that they aren’t representative of the population.

The problem is that unless the rules are enforced then they will get ignored and then that is justification by the naysayers not to have the speed limits.  Or we get some weird and wonderful traffic calming that fails. Bring on driverless cars, or put GPS systems into all cars. Then start monitoring the quality of driving and have a scale of training/punishments for transgressions. The key to the scale would be that all transgressions would be caught, but that the in-car system would provide early warnings of speed limits and also warnings of breaking the speed limit.

I reckon that Average Speed Cameras have done wonders where they have been introduced because they track all vehicles.  The current system relies on a mix of systematic and random policing – which seems like a waste of police time and clearly does not have the right affect, in my view.

back to my ride – it was a conventional Saturday around the Fens ride- mainly off-road or country lanes. Being a Saturday I usually catch up with the weeks Archers as well.

Low Fen Drove Way – two little trees coming into Leaf

The March of the Pylons – Low Fen Drove Way

I think that motorists can be pretty intimidating for cyclists – so horse-riding must be even worse. All power to the organisations that push for more bridleways, it seems only right given how hostile roads are for horses.

Horse riding near Allicky Farm

Wibbly Telegraph Poles on Harrison’s Drove
looks a bit murky in the background

Wicken Lode Sparkling in the Sun

On the way back it was into a headwind and when there is bare soil about and it is windy well you get a fen blow.

Fen Blow across Reach Lode

Fen Blow across Reach Lode

A Pickup Van Driving along the bank – Reach Lode

Fen Blow – Blinkers Hill

I was glad get back it was quite a headwind.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cambridge – Boats and bicycles

Friday, 9th May 2014: We are planning on a trip around Scotland, this time in the Squealing Pig (My Land Rover Discovery).  However as seems to happen, having covered around 2,000 since last August it decided to have a problem.  The problem was that whenever I braked the front wheels wibbled. Which kind of suggested something was loose or warped.

As most cars driver know, cars do go wrong and when that happens the key requirement seems to be money.  I am not looking for sympathy here – it is my own stupid fault for owning a car, particularly when I don’t actually drive it that much. Over the same period of time I reckon to have cycled around 4,000 miles or thereabouts. However if it’s broke then get it fixed seems like a safe motto. So first thing I get up stick the bike in the car and then drive to Marshalls to get it sorted. Because of traffic I try to get there early to avoid the congestion.  Obviously I don’t have the same problem getting home as I have my bicycle.

So I got there well before the garage opened and went for a cycle.

I did take the opportunity to take a few pictures of the world passing by after dropping the car off. I sat on one of the benches along Stourbridge Common fairly close to Riverside.  The title of the post gives it away – there were lots of boats out on the River and lots of cyclists heading into Cambridge and here they are.

Congestion on the Cam?

Cycling to School

Cambridge Cyclists – people going about their business

Colour Coordinated – Purple

Not Quite So hard-worked?

Two-way Traffic

Purple Stands out!

Lit by the Sun

Formation Cycling?

Not everyone got the memo about wearing pink

Checking his Segment Time?

Social and Anti-social Rowing?

“Right Boat Block the River”

Being Caught by a Jogger?

Wrap-up Warm it might be cold!

It isn’t cold When you work hard

Keep your lock handy

Or should that be keep you lock on your handlebars

Enjoying the view

Maybe there is something happening over there and I didn’t notice

People walk on this route as well?

After handing over my car for some lavish application of money, well that is sometimes how it feels I to a great cycle route home to make me feel better.

An ambulance came through the P&R junction on Newmarket Road

You can see the concentration on the ambulance drivers face as she picks her way through the traffic. Also, is it me or is that top traffic light looking amber when it should be red?

I get the feeling that the ambulance driver doesn’t trust her “fellow” motorists – I can’t blame her.

Without any fuss the ambulance continued.

A montage of the cyclists. Some wear helmets, some don’t, I can’t see any Lycra though.

The car needed a new disk at the front – the old one was warped. Plus other s and pieces such as a tie-rod…

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thought for the Week–Cyclists and Taxation–Pay me £2000 to register (and ride) my bike(s) and service and insure them

Wednesday, 7th May 2014: When out cycling I do a bit of thinking, it can be to do with cycling or work or something else. On this ride it was about cycling and the vexed issues of registration and taxation.

Now you might say the issue has been done to death. There is even a website dedicated to the issue – “I Pay Road Tax” – which points out a number of issues such as road tax doesn’t exist and since Vehicle Excise Duty is based upon the amount of CO2 vehicles emit then if a fee were to be paid it would be £0.00. There is another excellent self-help post from People’s Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire entitled “Questions for anyone proposing cyclist registration” to help those idiots people suggesting it ought to happen to work out the absurdity for themselves.

So here is my proposal, to try and move forward.

If you must (State), I will register my bicycle(s), and yes it will cost money, I would reckon that I will tax the State around £2,000 a year as a partial contribution to the significant benefits to society that would arise. In the spirit of generosity I would be happy for some of that to go to straight to my local bike shop (Ben Hayward Cycles) to pay for regular servicing of my bike(s). Heck I would be happy for some of that to go the CTC and then that would be my third-party insurance taken care of as well.  In fact add a bit more onto the cost of CTC membership and make it fully-comprehensive insurance – you really can’t trust motorists nowadays, so many are uninsured. (1.4 million as of April 2011 –

Why? Well put simply:

                                                             Cars                      Cycles

  • Congestion costs money:       create congestion      ease congestion
  • Pollution costs money:           create pollution          don’t pollute
  • Road damage costs money:    cause damage          don’t cause damage
  • Lack of exercise costs money: poor exercise            good exercise
  • Accidents cost money:            high speed & mass    low speed & mass

Note you could add buses and lorries to the list, but at least most lorries are carrying stuff and buses can (and should) carry lots of passengers. Which is why I singled out cars.

I could go on and on there are other things like: when I am cycling I am not driving my gas guzzler so given I cycle more than I drive I really ought to get back over half my Vehicle Excise duty. Also by using less fuel then it means the UK doesn’t have to import as much fuel – so it is better for the Balance of Payments. When I cycle it makes the roads safer for other cyclists – one less car rather than safety in numbers. Which should encourage more cyclists. Whilst my table has focused on cost, there are secondary factors such as the stress caused by congestion and noise pollution – which ultimately affect health and so cost money.

I know there are some practical details missing from my proposal like what would stop me registering my bike getting the money and then using another bike, or even worse not cycling at all but driving. But hey nothing that setting up an “Office for the Regulation and Operation of Pedal Cyclists and their Cycles” overseen by a mandarin couldn’t sort out, in the fullness of time.

So that is why although I have a decent ride up and around Wicken Fen I only have three pictures. With two of those the same, almost.  One thing I did notice what that I hadn’t realised that the national Trust had called this bit Tubney Fen. Tubney Fen does not appear on and older 25K OS map. I think of Tubney Fen as the bit down Little Fen Drove where the birds hang out.  When I say I didn’t notice, I mean I didn’t notice until just now as I was about to write this paragraph. See if you can spot the difference between the two pictures.

Tubney Fen, Reach Lode Bridge

Tubney Fen, Reach Lode Bridge

It was playing with the focus points. With modern cameras it is sometimes too easy to let the camera do all the hard work. I sometimes don’t realise that I might have gotten the wrong focus point until I get home and find that the picture I have taken is not what wanted.  Notice how the concrete lump just behind and to the right of the sign is out of focus in both pictures.

On my way back, because I was making good time, perhaps because I hadn’t taken many pictures I cycled the “back way” to Quy. The last bit is a bridleway onto Station Road in Quy. Look how the cow parsley lines the singletrack.

The track into Quy

A shaky Video from a previous ride along it (A Silent Movie)

Monday, July 28, 2014

A quick ride to Barway and back

Tuesday, 6th May 2014: When I say quick, I don’t mean that I have suddenly gotten a lot faster, rather I cut down on the number of pictures I take. I cycled out on NCN51 to the Lodes Way, but headed to Upware and then a short cut, Docking’s Lane onto NCN11.

I returned via Soham and Orchard Road, Larkhall Road and Cockpen Road. I then took the byway next to Tollgate Farm onto Broads Road.  Beware Broads Farm, they have a small dog that likes to chase cyclists (well me). The I cycled up towards Priory Farm and took the Lodes Way route back.

Look at all the May Blossom on White Fen Drove.

White Fen Drove

An “alternate” route around Barway. I reckon the signage of the Sustrans routes has gotten much better. There seem to be fewer discontinuities.  you do sometimes see remnants of alternate routes. There are still NCN11 signs on this track. Which leads from Goose Fen Bridge to Barway Bridge.

Gravel Farm Track to Barway Bridge – Barway

I cycled up from Barway Bridge to the River Great Ouse, on the byway. If you look at the map you can see on the other side of the river is a road leading to Little Thetford. It is where the Little Thetford ferry use to ply its trade. The last link has a pictured dated 1906, on Wikipedia it shows a chain ferry dated 1905

I also took the opportunity to get yet another picture of Ely Cathedral from afar. 





Ely Cathedral

Whilst up on the bank of the River Great Ouse near where the ferry would have operated it noticed another example of a plank bridge.  You can see it on the ditch on the left hand side. they are surprisingly common around here – although I have never seen them used. The byway runs along the grass track.

Byway to Little Thetford Chain Ferry (when it existed)

Ely Cathedral

A sober reminder of mortality.  I see the helicopters of the East Anglian Air Ambulance and MAGPAS Helimedix in the skies fairly often. Which in most cases means they have been called to a serious accident/incident in the region.

On the day in question the EAAA website reported two helicopter missions, a cardiac arrest in the morning and a cardiac arrest in the afternoon in Isleham for a man in his 50s. He did not survive.

East Anglian Air Ambulance – a sign of someone in need of emergency medical assistance

Reach Lode – looking very tranquil

A boat moored just downstream (or should that be down lode) of the Footbridge


The Bank alongside Reach Lode

Another helicopter, but not close enough to get the identification sign.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

My New Favourite Bridleway (sort of).

Sunday, 4th May 2014: I enjoyed the morning’s walk from Wandlebury to Stapleford and back that I reckoned I’d better try out the  “new” Stapleford bridleway on my bicycle as well.

As I was on my own I was also able to take more pictures, when walking with my wife I sometimes detect a minor level of impatience if I stop and take too many pictures. Whereas Maisie (my Marin bicycle) waits patiently under all circumstances. (Hint that means this post has more pictures than the previous one.)

Here is the Bike Route toaster link to the route I took. It was a nice day so I went a little further than the morning walk, which is why I favour cycling over walking.  I have shown the loop starting/finishing from the Newmarket Road/Airport Cycleway. My general assumption is that you would cycle there. Although there is the Park and Ride Car park just up the road. It used to be free, but the Cambridgeshire County Council in their wisdom have introduced a £1 charge – “Cambridge park and ride charge queues prompt anger”.

Actually that charge is for up to 18 hours, then it is £10 for 18 – 24 hours, £20 for 24 – 48 hours and £0 for 48 – 72 hours (the maximum permitted stay).  The idea is that it costs money to provide the park and ride facilities and so they need to be charged for. Rather than keep it simple and up the cost of a bus ticket there is a separate charge. This requires additional monitoring equipment and payment facilities  which all cost money. It would seem that such is the ire of our esteemed councillors that some people might “park and cycle” or “park and walk” that the simple solution was ditched in favour of a more complex solution.

The trouble is getting to work on a regular basis is an activity that takes time. So you try to minimise the time wasted. Every time you have to switch from one form of transport to another adds to the time wasted. Adding extra steps into the process adds to the waste.

The cost of a standard P&R return ticket was £3, now users will pay £2.70 + £1.00 – that looks like a 23.3% increase so a single occupant P&Rer. Phew – greedy or what?

Back to the ride, it is a little over 52Km/32miles and goes up in the middle, which is how I like my rides. Gently undulating hills make for good scenery and cycling.

As I cycled out towards Stapleford, first there was Airport Cycleway, in the general scheme of things it is one of the better shared-use paths in the area. It is wider than many paths although not that wide. It also doesn’t have lets of side roads/entrances along the bit into Cherry Hinton.  Apart from one of two places where plane-spotters park to watch planes and sometimes partially block the shared-use path. 

When you get to Cherry Hinton there are two choices, take the direct round through Cherry Hinton (High Street) or take the by-pass (Gazelle Way). I went for the direct route, although I find the traffic calming anything but calming for a bicycle. The cycle route involves bumping over various “dropped” kerbs, being channelled into high-kerbed “alleys” and heading down the door zone. I am amazed it ever got built.  Apparently there are going to be improvements – but there is anger over the slow pace.

I can’t say I really like Queen Edith’s Way for cycling either. The pavements on either side seem to be shared-use although the signage isn't that brilliant. But the paths have lots of exits/entrances and are busy with people, yet motorists seem to think that cyclists don’t belong on the road. I usually cycle through the estate to get across to Red Cross Lane and join NCN11 at Addenbrookes.

The is a view of the hills rolling away from NCN11 somewhere between Addenbrookes and Shelford.

A View from a Cycle Path – NCN11 near Addenbrookes

The Map of my Ride

I rather like the name of the road – Mingle Lane. Now I wondered whether this was another name for Lovers Lane – except here they Mingled.  Apparently not – it is apparently so named because it is here that the parishes of Stapleford and Shelford mingle.

Mingle Lane, Stapleford

Stapleford Granary – where the bridleway starts

It is official, there is the bridleway sign.

Stapleford to Babraham Bridleway

Although on the other side is a sign from when it was “just” a footpath – FOOTPATH ONLY No bikes horses or vehicles.  Clearly someone didn’t like cyclists and horses.

Stapleford to Babraham Footpath Bridleway

I have to admit this path has been a bit of a magnet for me since I discovered it. It is a nice path and very quickly you feel that you are away from the unpleasantries of the infernal combustion engine.  It was probably also helped because although the path is not that long (4Km.2.5niles) you go through several different changes of scene/track.

Stapleford to Babraham Bridleway

A little way along the bridleway is a Dutch barn, at least that is what we used to call the barn near  where I grew up in Somerset.

Stapleford to Babraham Bridleway

Oil seed rape is the crop to grow around here.

Stapleford to Babraham Bridleway

Wadlow Wind Farm over the Hill

As you approach the Granta the track becomes more of a single-track, with a new bridge over and a ford alongside. Then the bro9dleway opens out and becomes Rowley lane. Although on the old 25K map is appears to be called Love Lane. Perhaps they mingled in Stapleford and then Love developed in Babraham on their way to the church,

Rowley Lane

Babraham Hall (Babraham Institute) from Rowley Lane

I cycled through Babraham and then crossed the unpleasantly busy A1307. It seems odd to me that in the name of progress busy roads are made even busier, with little regard for those that live along them to join the very same road. Although the Babraham Institute managed to wangle a roundabout for their junction with the A1307.

Once I’d crossed the road my plan was to cycle along the Roman Road from Worsted Lodge. I once got chased by a dog when cycling along here – it had gotten from from a garden. Sustainable energy generation in action – sun and wind.

Chalkhill Farm (according to the map) – Solar power

Another of my favourite, places to ride near Cambridge – Worsted Street. Sometimes it is wide.

Worsted Street

And other times narrow.

Worsted Street

And sometimes triple-track.

Worsted Street

A random picture of a helicopter above Balsham

Wadlow Wind Farm, near Balsham

I think that is the Balsham Church just peeing out over the trees.

The Bridleway between Balsham and Grange Road – more triple track

I generally find the middle track to be the easiest – it is narrower, but less shall and not encroached by the hedgerows.

The Bridleway between Balsham and Grange Road

This is another byway I like, partly because it it not too short and partly because it rolls.

The Bridleway between Balsham and Grange Road

May Blossom

I could have taken of more off-road route but I was a wee bit tired, what with the walk in the morning and all. So I cycled back by road. Which took me past Dullingham Railway Station.

See the “Discover Cambridge by Train this Winter” poster. Is that from last year or very advanced planning? Who knows, but what I can tell you is the poster is an Ann Reekie design. It certainly caught my eye. Although at first I though it was an offer for cyclists.

Dullingham Railway Station