Saturday, January 16, 2010

Muddy byways around Soham

The last few days have been spent sorting out a Windows 7 hiccup. For some reason I could no longer print - I re-installed the HP print drivers - but it seemed to get worse. So I ended up restoring the computer to a previous day and then loading up the latest version of HP software. It is easy to write - but took ages to sort out. It seems to be working now and seems to be a later version that the software I had installed - despite not indicating any need when I ran the HP software update program. I think it was the fact that I removed all of th e old driver software before installing the new version that helped.

The I had problems with my Wacom Pen/Pad not behaving properly. In the end I did the same - I removed the software and re-installed it and this time it behaved itself. Despite the Windows 7 checker indicating I should not have problems it seems that there are some latent issues that require the classic "remove all the software and the re-load it sir" approach. Once again I can use my pen to annotate slides or word documents or to hand-write emails. Not a big deal - but surprisingly annoying when you can't do it. I find that pen input is really quite useful and not just for tweaking.editing photographs.

For some reason I am finding it harder to pop out for a spin on my bike at the moment. Although it is warmer and the roads are not at all icy the grayness of the skies and the rain are less inviting. So I resorted to have a look at the map to see what tracks I might still have to discover in the local vicinity. A good website, well I use it for sussing out routes is "Where's the path". You can use it to compare two views side by side. I generally look at an OS 1:50000 map on the left with a Google Satellite view on the right.

I decided to take a byway/bridleway from Wicken Fen to Soham which I have cycled on before and instead of returning by road, take another byway that returns to a spot by an electricity pylon. Whilst checking out the map I noticed a symbol that I was not familiar with on the OS map:

otherpublicaccess.JPG After a look for a key, one is here, it turns out to be an ORPA - "Other route with public access". The latest OS maps also show cycle routes and traffic-free cycle routes. (Green dots and green circles.) I am not sure when these where introduced, but I have noticed them for the first time today - there are a couple of so-marked roads going nowhere out to the North-West of Reach. (For those who read my Posts about cycling along the route of the Cambridge Guided Busway - the OS maps show no path - they still show a disused railway.

As I have not ridden my bike for, well, 24 hours I was surprised to see the chain was quite rusty - the salting to clear the roads takes its toll on metal. (of the rusting variety.) So I spent a little bit of time oiling the chain. The Marin is in serious need of a service - the front and rear mudguards have both broken (thousands of miles on rough tracks is no picnic). The brakes need adjustment and possibly replacement and the gears need a slight tweaking. But needs must - a quick tighten of the brakes at the levers - which only had a small amount of adjustment left and an application of oil and I was off.

My route took me along Headlake drove. There has been a lot in the Press about the problems of potholes - caused by the freeze/thaw weather we have been having. Apparently it costs £30 to fix a pothole. I was a little surprised to find that this road - Headlake Drove - has had a pothole "fixed". Although I am a bit concerned that they used rice crispies to fix the whole rather than tarmac - but with the minimal levels of traffic let's hope it doesn't degrade too quickly.


After Headlake Drove I crossed on an unnamed/unmapped piece of rough tarmac and joined Harrison's Drove - there seemed to be a Lamentation or Eyrar of swans half on the road and half off. I've always been told to treat swans with respect - their wings can easily break a grown man's leg! Fortunately for me they wandered off the road as I approached - it appears that the reason for the gathering was a dead swan. With Wicken Fen nearby there are quite a few birds in the area and the electricity cables on along this road have dangly bits - presumably to warn the birds - it looks as if this swan was short-sighted. Later on my way through Wicken Fen a small deer crossed the road in front of me - presumably after the cold snap animals are out foraging again for food.

In Wicken Fen I cycled along down to Drove Lane which because of the recent snow and thaw was really quite damp. Here it is - the tyres on my Marin are really quite smooth and thin - I found that I ended up pedalling a lot more than I travelled - the rear wheel spent quite a lot of time spinning. As long as you maintain some momentum you can keep going though - it is just a lot more tiring. I really should have taken my MTB with gnarly tyres - but hey that would make two bikes to sort out after the nasty winter weather.


The last picture was a composite - although not really necessary - but the sky was rather weird - a blue line and then nothing - here is one of the source photographs - it was a strange sky.


The path then got really muddy I managed to cycle most of it - but had to stop and unclog huge amounts of mud from the brake/mudguard areas, at one point when pushing the bike both wheels were jammed and sliding along the ground. I did take the route I had planned though. I just had to walk along chunks of it - stopping to wash the bike wheels in puddles. At one point I noticed the pickup for my speedometer had detached and unfortunately used brute force to re-attach it - which of course broke it. I really will have to do some bike maintenance on my Marin. Of course when I got home after giving the bike a wash - nothing like the knowledge that you will be working on it to encourage some cleaning.

As a minor postscript to the problems of lack of joined up thinking - two pieces of recent news: BBC: "Plan to Improve Cambridge Cycleways" and Cambridge Evening News: "How finding a secure place to park (at the railway station) is a headache for cyclists". With one hand there will be investment in improving the cycleways, presumably to encourage more cyclists whilst the Station will not allow more cycle parking - because they make less money than from car parking. Yes the Railway companies are more interested in making money from car parks than trains - not surprising there are issues!

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