Friday, October 16, 2009

Cambridge to Kings Lynn by Sustrans 51 and 11 and back - letting the train take some strain

Two weeks to go before my son and I fly out to India for our cycle tour and my bike has not yet been finished - oops. When I cycled from Bangkok to Saigon last November '08 I hired a bicycle for the journey, unfortunately that turned into 4 bicycles. With problems such as breaking chains, non-functional gears, zero brakes it wasn't until the fourth bike, supplied in Vietnam did I have a reliable bicycle, albeit slightly small. So this time I have decided to take a bicycle with me - I have decided upon a Titanium frame, with S&S couplings and hub gears. Why - well the Titanium frame is both strong and flexible and rust free. The downside will be if it does break it is not easy to to fix as titanium welding is not easy (compared with steel). The S&S couplings allow the bike to be split into two to make it easier to ship around the world without paying exorbitant extra fees to the airlines for the privilege. Finally why hub gears, well they are internal and so tend to be affected by mud and grime less. There might be a small loss of efficiency, although some would dispute that. I found my derailleur gears getting clogged very easily on the muddy tracks of Cambodia. In the end I was having to wash the gears using water from my water bottles which in the heat was quite a sacrifice. If you have been following the latest Round the World cyclist - James Bowthorpe, then he used a hub gear for an 18,000mile cycle ride. There are probably some reading this who when thinking of the hub gears remember 3 speed Sturmey Archers gears of 40 years ago are starting to get some tears in their eye. Those 3 speeds were tricky to set up and would occasionally slip, which if you were standing on the pedals at the time resulted in rapid and intimate contact with the bicycle top tube.

The good news is that the bike might even be ready tomorrow - once it is a post will of course follow.

The weather was a bit gloomy yesterday, but I really needed to get a longer ride in, in preparation for the tour. Although we will only be covering around 640Km/400miles over the two week period there will be heat, altitude and jet lag to contend with. I want to be fit enough to enjoy it and not struggle (hopefully). On the longer days we will cover around 120Km/80miles so I decided to cycle from Cambridge to Kings Lynn, I could not set out first thing so to create a manageable ride for the return journey I caught the train from Kings Lynn to cut the overall length of the journey and provide an opportunity to get some lunch and catch up on emails/calls.

It was a dull and gloomy day - but not too cold around 15C was predicted so I was able to avoid wearing a jacket, I did wear socks with my sandals though. The route I took was the Sutrans Route 51 to Burwell and then the Sustrans Route 11 to Kings Lynn. I do not normally follow the bit between Ely and 10 Mile bank, I either head through Ely to Littleport or to the side of Ely and then to Littleport as the roads are pretty reasonable as the A10 takes most of the non-bike friendly traffic. However for this trip I did because it was slightly longer. I also took my Longstaff Tourer since the purpose was to get a few miles in.

This picture was taken at Lode End Bridge, on the off-road section of Route 11 between Barway and Ely. It is Soham Lode and you can see how gloomy it was.


Ely Cathedral is also visible from here and stands proud on the Isle of Ely, the River Great Ouse and the Railway line are down on the plain in front.


The route out of Ely is indicated as off-road on the Sustrans map and follows the Downham Road, I assume it means that you can cycle on the pavement, but the pavement crosses over and is not clearly signposted as a shared cycle way. Mind you the road was not too busy. the sustrans map also shows that a track that runs parallel to the road is going to be the the future Sustrans Route (Hereward Way) . I stopped to take a picture of the Cathedral from the other side, at a height of around 17m. The sky provided an interesting backdrop. To the left you can see a spire of another church (which appears to the right on the previous picture.) I think it is St Mary's, Ely. The route heads out towards Pymoor and then runs alongside the Hundred Foot Drain. As it was not windy I was able to maintain a reasonable pace (dropped handlebars help) and then had a tow from a tractor. I did not literally grab hold but followed one for a few miles up the roads using it as a windbreak, he generally drove at 20-25Mph/32-40Km/h which makes for good progress. He turned off at Bank Farm near to the Welney Wildlife Trust, I gave him a thank you wave.


As the day was it bit gloomy I did not take may pictures but my eye was caught by the power Transmission Lines . They start at Walpole St Peter to the North and end up in Burwell. This is the South view with the darker skies. There is a bend in the track before they reach Burwell though.


This is the North View.


The route then turns left at Ten Mile Bank. There are automatic traffic lights at the Ten Mile Bank crossroads, my bike does not seem to be able to trigger them though. it also appears that the road sensors have not been placed correctly as they are sighted in a keep clear area of the road. I normally come in River direction from Littleport and use this as a stop and refreshment area - there is a bench near the river. This time around I had not bothered with any food/drink or even Jelly babies so carried on up towards Downham Market. This view is looking back along the River Great Ouse, where the Kings Lynn/Cambridge railway line crosses


This picture was taken from a similar spot but across the river, the water was pretty still so the reflections were good.


There were a group of Canoeists paddling down from Denver Sluice.


The Sustrans Route is well signposted although it does go around the houses in Downham Market - it them meet with Sustrans National Route 1 (Hull to Fakenham) near Wiggenhall St Germans. A little bit later I noticed the smoke rising from a fire. You can see there is not a lot of wind around by the random way the smoke has risen.


The Sustrans Route goes off-road when it reaches the Kings Lynn Power Station. There has been a lot of building work taking place by the River as it reaches Kings Lynn. I am not sure what the building is for - but they are clearly planning for global warming - they have planted some Palm Trees out front.


No reason for this picture apart from the fact I liked the reflections. You can see another Palm tree on the left of the window.


The route then gets into Kings Lynn via the docks, here are a small number of fishing boats presumably still plying their trade from these docks.


The sea is to the North of Kings Lynn.


I like Kings Lynn Railway station - it has a small town feel. Unfortunately I arrived 5 minutes after the train left so had to hang around for an hour for the next train. It gave me some time to buy and eat some late lunch though. Unlike Cambridge Railway Station there are plenty of unused cycle racks here. Mind you I don't think there a restrictions on taking bike on the train in rush hour here either. The single ticket to Ely was £5.40 and the bike was free.


I was not the only one taking pictures of the station, a lady born in these parts had come back for a visit 60 or so years on and was also taking pictures. The Station looked pretty much the same as when she was a girl - although it had been given a lick of paint.


The journey to Ely was quite quick and a number of bike were on the train, at Ely loads more people got on with bikes. The railway line is used by schoolchildren who go to school in Ely but live closer to Cambridge. It was starting to get dark when heading back, fortunately I had taken lights with me. Unfortunately my front light must have turned on somewhere along the way and the batteries were flat. Most of the remainder of the journey was on paths though and it was still not lighting up time. Must remember ti put some new batteries in them. Despite the gloom it was a really pleasant cycle ride 128Km/80miles in all and so I treated myself to two bottle of beer with my evening meal.

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