Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cycling from Hull to Cambridge over Two Days via Sustrans 1 - Day 1 Lincoln to Boston part 1

What follows is a bit of a picture-fest - the last third of the journey from Hull to Boston was delightful - this was Sustrans at its best. Once again most of an old railway line had been put to good use as a linear wildlife, cycling and walking path providing a safe route from Lincoln to Boston along the old Water Railway, more information is also available from Sustrans. As a result I have took loads of pictures on the way - some of which appear in this Post and in part 2 of this post. I put in so many pictures that my Blog editor - Zoundry had problems displaying them.

It was quite easy finding the route out of Lincoln using my SatNav and I soon found myself on the route - an old railway line. The surface was covered in tarmac - but was not too pleasant to cycle along at least at first. I don't suppose they want to encourage cyclists to go too fast and there is certainly a lot to see along the path.


Along the route there were loads of Information Boards giving snippets of local history and I must have stopped at every one of them. I took photographs of all of them so I could read them at my leisure - at one point I wondered if I would ever get to Boston there were so many things to look at along the path.

As is often the way rivers provided the first communication routes, with railways following on at a later date. Trains cannot easily climb steep hills and so river valleys provide ideal paths. I assumed, without checking that there was around 30miles / 48Km to go on the journey, as the sign says, before the railway was built in 1848 you could either go by horse and cart or take a Steam Packet boat to Boston. Apparently it took around 6 hours each way and free entertainment on board was offered it was so competitive. Sounds a bit like flying to New York now - it takes around 6 hours and they have in-flight entertainment.


The advantage of the railway was that it was much quicker the journey one way was just 1 hour and 20 minute and cheaper and more comfortable to boot. Not many people say that about the railways nowadays. Inevitably the existence of the railway line caused a slow decline in the traffic along the river, although good were still carried into the 1950s.


This photograph shows how the line split at this point - probably for sidings.


The bike now standing at the Bardney Station will leave after some jelly babies have been consumed.


The weather was pretty reasonable although a little overcast there were quite a few towns and villages just up past the river's floodplain.


This is a picture of Lincoln Cathedral looking back along the river.


Nowadays the river is once again being used for tourist traffic.


There were quite a few bits of art along the way - I am not sure what this is supposed to represent.


As I approached this "sculpture" I assumed that they were joined it wasn't until I took the photograph did I realise that they were separate stalks.


The Fishtail milestone raises its ugly, well Fishtail, once again,


There were some beautiful views out to the Lincolnshire countryside.


Another of the trail sculptures.


Bardney lock - even when the train was running depending upon which side of the river you lived on it was necessary to get a ferry boat as there were not that many bridges in those days.


A typical railway bridge of its day, although I presume that this was a single line rail it was common for there to be two railway tracks in stations to allow trains to pass and as this bridge was near to the station it had to accommodate two tracks.


The river provided an important source of food for the locals


Sheep grazing in the field mind you sheep normally prefer shorter grass to nibble on.


At one point the cycle route detoured from the railway line at Bardney - there appeared to be a Sugar Beet factory in the way. Here there were two options a wet and a dry weather route. For once the wet weather route was a bit shorter than the alternate route. A small deer dashed past me as I cycled along this track.


It soon returned to the course of the original railway line - but was presumably "shared" with local farmers and not surfaced.


Mind you that was not for long it then turned back into a smoother surface than at the start. Is that a pig in the distance?


A curly haired pig immortalised in wood! (There were two of them really).


This was Southrey Station that was. The platforms still in evidence.


I like the fact that they have left in some of the old Station signs.


One advantage offered by this route is that it was level - mind you so was the surrounding countryside - despite being at the end of a 100 mile / 160Km journey the route made it easy.


Although as it was so flat you could not actually see that far ahead as the hedges tended to obscure the view.


An interesting sculpture and apt choice of words - I did and I did.


A signal box just peeping out up ahead at Stixwould


The Signal box looks as if it has been turned into a bedroom with lovely open views across the countryside. The actual village is about a mile and a half away as was often the case with country railway lines.


A more organic piece of art,


Oops - better watch out for these sheep crossing the path.


Unfortunately the cycle route left the old railway line at the village of Kirkstead, Here is what was the Station/Station Master House.


he route then followed on some boring roads - not busy and easy cycling but without the charm of the Water Rail Way. It went from pleasant to tedious. I did stop to admire this radio controlled helicopter.


Part 2 will follow ...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cycling from Hull to Cambridge over Two Days via Sustrans 1 - Day 1 Hull to Lincoln

After a pretty reasonable nights sleep I got up fairly early and nipped out to have a look round the area before breakfast. I found a Tescos and bought some water to fill my bottles and a sandwich for later. The hotel was not very busy so instead of a buffet the fried breakfast was freshly cooked and was delicious. Maybe not the healthiest of starts but since I had a 100mile/ 160 Km cycle ride in front of me I wanted some ballast. All the staff in the hotel were very friendly and when I checked out they retrieved my bike from the office it had been locked in overnight and wished me well. They also mentioned that it was not to hot, so good cycling weather. In preparation I wore a t-shirt/vest thing and a medium thickness MTB t-shirt. If I got too hot I could take one layer off. Since it was fairly overcast I did not bother with any sun tan lotion. I could always put that on when the sun came out.


The moment of truth - would my GPS Satnav show the route at all. I had split the journey into two courses and saved two versions of each - just in case. (For the technical a .gpx and a .tcx version). No this picture wasn't where I was supposed to start from - but I did head the wrong way before realising that the GPS was pointing in the other direction.


Rather than cross the "dual-carriageway" at the front of the hotel I walked up the pavement to the starting point. It was a good job I had got my GPS with the route on it as in my morning recce and whilst looking around it was not obvious to me where to start. There did not appear to be any blue Sustrans route signs around. I did take a picture of the hotel flags reflected in the window of one of the new buildings in the area.


This also caught my eye opposite the hotel.


After a short while I was on the right road and could see the blue Sustrans 1 signs. It took me a little while to follow the "course" on my GPS but I set the scale to 50m and cottoned on to following the route. As with many Sustrans routes in towns they wiggle all over the place. This one was no exception and followed a few non-obvious paths and went along no-through roads, for cars that it. One feature that was both useful and irritating with the GPS was that it bleeped when you went of the course. useful most of the time. Not so useful when you were following the course except the road and GPS data for the road did not match, which happened quite a few times.

As I cleared the immediate town this road had an interesting cycle path separated from the traffic by white lining. It worked very well buses and cars gave plenty of space and as you can see cyclists were quite happy staying away from the kerb - as you are supposed to do, away from the drains and rubbish.


This part of the route was also signed as the Trans-Pennine route (Sustrans Route 65) It is actually a route separately funded and managed. It finds its way across to Liverpool - so I might try this route another time as my mother lives across in the Wirral. After a short time I reached the Humber Bridge. At this point I followed my GPS which took me along a strange route into a park and up some stairs. as I used a mix of Google and Open Map data I think that I ended up plotting the route incorrectly - but it got me to where I wanted to be. There were other cyclists around - these two were heading in the Trans-Pennine direction. You can see the bridge cables behind the trees and houses.


The road up to the bridge passed over the main road into Hull and the main railway line. This place was called Hessle and was one of the places the train stopped the night before.


I had to stick two photographs together to get the full length of the bridge in shot. The span of the Humber bridge is 2.2Km in total and it took 8 years to build. As a boy I used to live in Beverly a few miles to the north of Hull, the bridge was not around then.

Humber bridge June2009.JPG

As you can see it was quite dull and the River Humber looked fairly muddy.


Out to sea it looked even murkier - I hoped the weather was going to be alright and as forecast.


Below the bridge on the other side was a swamp that looked a bit like some of the fields I'd seen cycling through Cambodia - perhaps the bridge was longer than I had thought.


Once on the other side I followed the Sustrans Route signs rather than my SatNav trace as they differed slightly. It looked as if the data was out by 50m or so. Barton on Humber was only a small place so I was not worried about getting lost and I could see that the Sustrans Route I was cycling along and the one on my Satnav seemed to converge on the other side of the village. In fact the signing had been very good with both small "1" plaques and posts give distances like this one. Is that all I had cycled! Quite a few more miles to go then.


This was the sort of road - pretty straight and very few cars. The cars and vans that did pass more all slowed down and did not cause me any concerns. At one point I passed a couple of tractors and they both slowed down and pulled aside to ensure I had plenty of room. A police car a few minutes later did not show the same courtesy and sped by.


Just before a place called Melton Ross where the country lane I was on crossed over (by bridge) the A180 was this blot on the landscape - a huge quarry - I wonder what will happen to it when it is exhausted - a huge rubbish tip perhaps?


By now I was comfortable reading the SatNav and set the scale to 200m - it did not show the detail of the roads I was on but the trace made it pretty clear in advance when I was going to take a turn. A good job really because when out cycling my mind wanders and of course I look around. Sometimes the posts can easily be missed - like this one - blink and you miss it and then you carry on cycling until you get suspicious that you have not seen a Sustrans post for a while and then have to backtrack. (Yes I have done that before my acquisition of the Garmin GPS.)


On this route there was a point where you have a choice of road route or "Summer" route - I took the one that warns it can get muddy when wet as it has been fairly dry. It starts off down a no-through road, before a fork with a choice of Farm entrance or grass track. My GPS made it clear that the grass track was the route - a good job as a big dog was roaming just inside the farm gate. There were other people on the track some horse riders and dog walkers. They were all very friendly and even on my drop-handled touring bike the path was not too tricky.


There was some evidence of mud on the track - a good job I was not cycling this at night - it would be quite easy to end up in the muddy ruts rather than by-pass them


By now it was starting to get sunny and so I stopped to put on some sun tan lotion and eat the chocolate that my daughter had given me for Father's Day At this point the track skirted a rather nice Beech Wood. I think this Sustrans sign was the first I had seen in a while - but I had not worried as the terrain and the GPS seemed to agree.


The track turned into a gravel road passing through the shade of some beech trees.


According to the GPS it followed the edge of the wood (it did).It was certainly a very picturesque route so far.


Although the route stuck to country lanes it did pass through some small villages. These were the first cyclists I'd seen since the bridge - certainly they are keen (they had clip-on pedals for instance). A nice Tandem, actually I have a red tandem which I go out with my kids one, one at a time of course.


The agriculture up here is mainly arable (crops) whilst cycling in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire purple-flowered potato plants seemed to be in favour - here they seemed to prefer the white-flowered varieties.


At this point I was about a third of the way along - if the way the signs were pointing down were to be believed I was also at the highest point. They weren't unfortunately.


There were not as many yellow oil-seed rape fields around as in the flatlands of Cambridgeshire, these also seemed a little way behind as they were still very much in flower, wheres in Cambridgeshire the flowers are over.


There were green fields as well.


I have a topographical map on my GPS which shows the contour levels, useful for mountain biking across unknown terrain. In this case it also gave me a warning of hilly roads ahead. I am not sure whether it was good for my morale or not - I had forgotten how tiring climbing hills can be, especially when carrying luggage. At least the map showed where the hills flattened out as well.


I think that this was the highest point of the journey, around 160m, the view was pretty good and so was the ride down into Walesby at the bottom of the hill. In fact I arrived at the 30MPH signs of Walesby at around 40MPH and had a bit of a moment with gravel on the road making slowing down a little precarious. In general I find that the Sustrans routes are pretty good at avoiding steep hills unless there is no alternative.

You would not want to clip this gate post driving your tractor into the field.


Just as there were poppies in the fields in Cambridge there were in Lincolnshire as well. I ended up taking quite a few pictures of this field - and here is one of them. I stopped for lunch after taking these, the route had started running close to a railway line and after crossing it three times, although only stopping once for a train I stopped had a drink and ate my sandwiches and finished off the chocolate.


It did not seem long after lunch that I came to the outskirts of Lincoln. I had used the Open Source cycling map to plot the sustrans 1 route and it gives up in a small village. What I should have done is use the website that shows a google map alongside an OS map, but didn't. So I picked a route that went across the top of Lincoln and in from the West. it ran quite close to this Veterinary College (Or Agriculture - I am not sure). Having just checked the route it seems that I followed a cycle path as shown on the OS map - but Sustrans 1 takes a different route. I followed my SatNav as I figured it would be easier to just follow it through Lincoln, since I was pretty sure it joined up with the Sustrans 1 route on the other side.


I also found myself on higher ground - I had not realised Lincoln was on a hill. This was where my path cross the A46 at around 60m in height.


Here is my bike having a rest above the A46.


The SatNav was great through Lincoln - it plotted a path that was straightforward to follow although I did have to cycle over these cobbles.


Lincoln looks to be an interesting place - but I was keen to be on my way. I stopped to fill my water bottles and drink an energy drink and some jelly babies before setting of on the last part of the day's journey to Boston. The journey so far had been very straightforward, through picturesque countryside on quiet roads - lets hope the remainder of the route to Boston is the same.