Monday, January 31, 2011

Lodes Way with a Long Lens - part 2

Although my plan was to cycle into Burwell and then back along Newnham Drove to rejoin Lodes Way I decided to pop up to the "old" Lodes Way Bridge over Burwell Lode. You have to lift your bike up the bridge if you cycle this way, although in this case I didn't bother as I was taking a long-cut via Burwell. This is the view up towards Upware, surprisingly there do not seem to be any cables highly visible.


The view from the Burwell lode Bridge towards the new Reach Lode Bridge is almost nothing but cables. The bridge is actually not that obtrusive, meaning I had to squint through the viewfinder of my camera to find it. I like the bridge both for the utility and the design.


As a cyclist I tend to focus on the tracks and roads, but we shouldn't forget that the Lodes themselves are a valuable transportation and leisure link for boats and canoes. Whilst taking the other pictures this small boat came up the Lode from Burwell.


I tend not to take many pictures cycling through Burwell - I am too busy minding the cars and vans, that are quite happy to barge you off your side of the road when their side is blocked by parked cars. To be fair not all of them do that, some actually seem to be paying attention and let me through.

Once out of the busy metropolis of Burwell I can relax again and head out towards Lodes Way on Newnham Drove. Which is what you see pictured here. Now the road is pretty much dry it is much more pleasant and safe to cycle along. If you look closely, well actually I used Picasa to enlarge the picture, you can see the gates at the point that Newnham Drove meets Lodes Way and also see the blue cycle route signs.


The Fens tend to dry pretty quickly, I suppose it must be the winds, a few days without rain (or snow) and the tracks have turned to solid mud again. Newnham Dove crosses Lodes Way and reaches Burwell Fen Farm (pdf). Although now it is more a loose collection of farm sheds, built using aircraft-hangar construction techniques.


One of the more surprising things you will meet on the Lodes Way is a Jedi, well that's what I thought he looked like. My apologies if you are the person in question. This view is taken looking towards Wicken Fen from the Newnham Drove/Lodes Way cross-drove. He was walking his dog - no points for spotting it.


The view looking to the Reach Lode way. It is a shame that the path has to be fenced in, I suppose there are good reasons. (Thinking about it one of the reasons might be to ensure the safety of horse riders using the Lodes Way. You can see yet more electrickery cables in the background and their associated pylons.


When I reached Reach Lode Bridge I did take some conventional pictures of the Lode, but also took some picture of these chaps out for a bit of shooting along with their dog and the Landrover Discovery. I presume they were shooting rabbits? (And yes more cables and telegraph poles in shot.)


This is a conventional picture looking downstream - towards Reach. The path is well-used, this is a popular walking spot. Did you notice the pylons ...


Where Lodes Way reaches the road, Split Drive, the road quality has suffered a lot just recently. It has taken a beating over the Winter. I stopped where Split Drove meets Headlake Drove to take this picture of Commissioners' Drain. One of the several cars parked in the fields (presumably part of the shooting party) stopped and the occupants got out to change their footwear. I should really have asked them what they were shooting.


Although I took my lunch with me, a bottle of water and a packet of Jelly Babies, it was such a pleasant ride that it wasn't until I got home that I started feeling peckish, and delicious they were too.

Lodes Way with a Long Lens - part 1

Monday 31st, January: Yesterday as I sat at my computer the sun was shining in so much that I had to lower the blinds to shade the screen. I had also attached the new camera lens to my camera, which was sitting patiently in ready for an outing. So I convinced myself that it would be a good idea to have a long lunch. One of the advantages of working from home is that I have a bit more flexibility on timings (and of course I save on commuting time). So after a quick change I loaded up the MP3 player with last weeks Archers podcasts and More Or Less, a Radio 4 program that drills into the numbers quoted in news reports to determine the "real truth". Then I popped some Jelly Babies in my pocket, a bottle of water on my bike, my camera over my shoulder and set off.

Although it wasn't warm, the sun was shining, so much that it felt wonderful to be out cycling. In order to give my new lens a decent test I went out to Wicken Fen and back to see what it was like using a "long" lens versus the one I normally use. The camera I generally use when out cycling is a Panasonic GH1 (the red one), it is a cross between a "proper" SLR camera and a compact camera. It uses electronics to display the picture either on a screen or in the viewfinder rather than a mirror and is smaller than an SLR, but it uses reasonable lenses that are interchangeable. The lens I normally use is rated as 14mm to 140mm - so has a 10x zoom factor. Because of the size of the sensor in effect it behaves like a 28mm to 280mm lens if compared with a 35mm SLR. That sort of range is pretty good and the lens is not that big either which is why I like it for my cycling photography. (I used to use a small Sony DSC-W200 for cycling but that has now been relegated for times when it would look a bit strange if I walked into a meeting with a camera slung over my shoulder.

So back to the new lens - effectively 200mm to 600mm which is really quite long, a smaller zoom factor but quite a magnification at 600mm. I didn't take any other lens with me - that way I had to use the new one. I took the same route out of Cambridge along the NCN51 until Swaffham Bulbeck and then cycled back to Lode on the Longmeadow Cycleway (I made up the name) and then out to White Fen, Upware, Wicken Fen, Burwell, Lodes Way, Lode, Bottisham and finally Cambridge. I didn't stop until I was out of Cambridge (well except for the odd junction and red light of course.) This was a scene I took the last time - a partially flooded field between Bottisham and Swaffham Bulbeck. This part of NCN51 is not shown on the OSM Cycle map as a shared used path, but is shown as traffic-free on the Sustrans map. Basically it is a fairly narrow pavement that seems to support tidal-flow use - school-kids cycle into Bottisham in the morning and out in the afternoon. If you are with the flow it is fine, are you aren't it isn't. When I cycle along the route, if it is clear I generally use the shared-use pavement and if it isn't clear I use the road. (Although the way some motorists overtake I sense their disapproval - or maybe I am just paranoid.)

Back to the picture - it was hard keeping the camera still, but you get to see the sheep in the field behind the trees. One common theme of many of my pictures is that the electricity cables are evident. It is quite hard avoiding them when taking pictures around the Fens it seems.


Just before cycling into Swaffham Bulbeck I heard the noise of a couple of helicopters, but deeper than the normal. They turned out to be Apache Helicopters, if my identification from this hurried photograph are correct. They were flying very low and I only just managed to get my camera to get this picture as the second one dipped below the trees. They are twin-engined which I guess gives them their distinctive sound. It just goes to show how far the anti-cycling lobby will go to get bicycles off the roads.

Then cycling into Swaffham Bulbeck I noticed a brightly coloured blanket on the verge. It was partially covering a deer that looked as if it might have been hit by a passing car.


This is the route into Lode from Swaffham Bulbeck. Here the shared-use path is slightly wider and it is easier to pass pedestrians and oncoming cyclists. Although I found myself passing an oncoming lady and pram on the right hand side which feels odd, but it seems that there are no established rules of the shared-use path. Anglesey Abbey is just past the crossroads on the right- where they are worried about getting their snowdrops stolen apparently. Yes there is a car halfway across the path - and just behind the Traffic Island Warning sign on the right is a speed-activated "Slow" sign, I guess it must be more visible from the road.


The Lode Meadow Cycleway (TM) had suffered a bit of cracking recently - I think that road repair lorries had "parked" on the pavement. The cracks have now been repaired though, which is good news - they looked as if they could trap your wheel. Unfortunately with my zoom lens on it was quite difficult taking a picture of the repairs. I should have gone past and taken the picture from a distance.


The next photostop was after passing through White Fen when I stopped on the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode Bridge, built as part of the Lodes Way path development. This bridge is around 240m down-Lode. The good thing about zooming in on it was that it cuts out the pylons than run across in the background. I like the way the vertical posts clearly reflect, but the horizontal rails don't.


This is the view up the Lode from the bridge. The zoom lens tends to compress the perspective, enhancing the effect of the bends in the river (Lode).


I almost stopped at Upware, but was enjoying the cycling too much. My average pace was faster the it has been, which is a good feeling. After not cycling for a while it is a bit depressing to find yourself cycling more slowly, conversely when you find yourself speeding up a bit it feels really good. (Not that I was going that fast you understand.) The next stop was down a byway just past the the village of Wicken. If you follow this link to an OSM Cyclemap view it is in the centre where the brown, yellow and green tracks meet.

This is a picture of Ely Cathedral, just over 10Km as the crow flies (I used BikeRouteToaster to measure the distance.) It was nicely lit by the sun, it is just a shame that there are telegraph poles (and cables) in the way.


In the same location I also took this picture of a tree alongside Church Road (between Wicken and Soham) it was very hard keeping the lens still and my multiple exposure shots were all over the place - I like the way the sun seems to make the tree glow though.


The next stop was in Wicken Fen, I was surprised to see that the "long-awaited" new Wind pump was in place and here it is. I didn't try cycling over it though! I guess I was expecting something a bit more substantial, but judging from the blades it is a high-tech design to maximise its efficiency whilst minimising its "footprint". The fact that the blades are close together should also help to prevent birds and bats flying into it.


This is a picture of one of the bird hides in Wicken Fen - this one is a tower and gives a good view across the area. The pathway is NCN11 as it passes through Wicken Fen. I forgot to mention that there is a big metal container at the entrance to the path and the surface is not very pleasant to cycle on (of the path, not the container!).


At this point I got of my bike and dumped it alongside the bridge over Monk's Lode (not dumped permanently you understand.) Why - well I had to walk down Wicken Lode to get a bit further away from the new Wind pump in order to make it easier to get a picture of it. The route is pretty muddy though, I was wearing my MTB cycling boots, but I prefer not to get too much mud on them as it clogs up the pedals. This is the route I was heading down, after a short way down the bank it was not so muddy.


Even after walking down the bank away from the Wind pump it was quite hard getting a shot with something other than the pump in the frame, perhaps I should have walked even further down the bank.


This is the bridge over Monks Lode that NCN51 crosses over on its way through Wicken Fen - my bike was just to the right, out of shot. Yet more electricity cables visible in the background


MikeC mentioned previously that work was planned along this track, which is where NCN51 leaves Wicken Fen. It looks as if the path will be fenced in with routes through at each end for the ponies and cattle. I assume that this is to address concerns about the ponies "intimidating" walkers and cyclists, or maybe to stop the ponies becoming to accustomed to humans. Whenever I have been along this path with the ponies across it they get quite inquisitive - although never threatening. Mind you it can be a problem with horese riders getting unwatned attention from the stallions..

This is the end of the path next to Priory Farm, the tractor is powering a pile driver. The path is blocked and you need to walk around the netting area.


This is the view of the path looking back towards Wicken Fen where cattle grids are being built alongside the pathway. I am not sure whether the path will be fenced along both sides or not.


They don't hang about in the National Trust - well not around here anyway. There is quite a lot of work going in to making the Lodes Way a decent route.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Tis the season for snowdrops - well at least we have them coming out in our garden. I must get over to Anglesey Abbey which shows the season as being from the 24th of January to the 27th of February. Although obviously the weather plays a role in precisely when they will be out. Apparently in 2009 the snowdrops were two weeks late - the latest for a decade. Anglesey Abbey has an amazing collection of snowdrops (Galanthus). Apparently of of the more expensive snowdrops is Galanthus plicatus 'E.A. Bowles' which cost £150 for a single bulb, In 2008 someone paid £265 for G. nivalis 'Flocon de neige'.

It wasn't until it was rather too dark that I popped out to take any pictures of the ones in my garden so I am afraid this one picture is rather blurry and taken from a less than flattering angle. Still, they will last a while so I can pop out later in the week. I think I might take a tripod with me as well.


My Christmas present this year was a new lens for my camera. Instead of buying it from one of the usual suppliers I chose a cheaper supplier. It is a 100mm to 300mm lens for my Panasonic camera. Despite ordering it three weeks before Christmas it was "delayed" by all the snow and I had to chase them up to find out where it was. Then when it arrived (mid-January) the UV filter I had ordered at the same time, to protect the front of the lens, was delayed further. After chasing them up they then sent that the next day, so as a supplier they are responsive to emails, just not proactive in communicating what is going on. Anyway I now have it and have fitted it to my camera and being a compact lens the whole caboodle (camera and lens) nicely fits in my camera bag, which I sling over my shoulder when cycling.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Yet more cycling (yet fewer pictures)

Friday, 29th January: This week seems to have been dominated by meetings in Cambridge, which although often means a shorter cycle ride it does get me out cycling. Unlike the day before I allowed myself plenty of time today and was able to cycle at a more sedate pace. So I didn't arrive all hot and sweaty. Actually it felt very cold when I set off despite the sun and blue skies, so I found myself having to cycle a bit faster just to generate some warmth. It wasn't windy though which was good. A friend's three-year old did wonder, perhaps rather hopefully, whether they could go to the seaside for a paddle it was so sunny. I like that sort of optimistic thinking.

I also managed a bit of a detour route because I was early and popped up, almost, to Quy. On the way there were trees laden with Catkins and they seemed to glow in the sunlight - I took this picture on the way back into town, near where NCN51 crosses High Ditch Road. It reminds me of two things. The first catkins of the year were always put on display, in the little village school I attended as a boy and I think the pupil who brought them in was awarded a star, we had a red, silver and gold star system to help keep us motivated! The school only had about 60 kids in two classes so it wasn't unruly. Although in those days the ruler was use to maintain rule - a sharp rap across the hand was one of the punishments used. We did have one lad who couldn't settle and sometimes got tied to his chair with a skipping rope - it didn't work though.

The other thing catkins herald is Spring, along with the snowdrops that are popping up in the front garden. Unfortunately I have to remind myself that Spring can still be some way off. A point that was more obvious when I cycled home at the end of the day. I'd let my hands get cold before putting my gloves on and setting off - as a result it took ages for the tips of my thumbs to stop throbbing.


I prefer to cycle along dedicated cycle paths and out in the country. It is more peaceful and I can spend more time looking around rather than having to look out for traffic. It also seems that we cyclists are 'unaware of the risks of pollution'. Apparently we need to understand it so we can make informed choices about where and when we cycle. Humm, if you have to go to work you have to go to work and generally you don't want to go all around the houses wasting valuable sleeping time. I guess I would like to see more informed choices for drivers so that they don't drive and so create less pollution. It highlights not getting stuck behinds a bus as one way to reduce the impact of pollution on cyclists.

Personally I would like to see more dedicated, high quality cycle routes, but I also feel that a cyclists right to use the road should be jealously guarded. We are unlikely to see, in my lifetime, a dramatic increase in direct, accessible and plentiful cycle routes so we do need to ensure that cycling on roads is not discouraged. Drivers need to maintain their awareness of more vulnerable road users and expect to share the road equally with such users. A more detailed analysis of the idealogical issues can be seen on the Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest website.

One issue that I have been following is the Government's consultations on its (our) ownership of English forests. I do like to cycle through woodland and we have Thetford Forest on our doorstep here in Cambridge - it would be awful it the freedoms to walk, cycle and ride in such forests get curtailed. (After all we own them at the moment.)

And finally - here is one approach to the lack of parking many houses suffer from in cities. Although blaming a tailgater sounds a bit like an excuse for her boyfriend, who couldn't understand quite how she had done it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

No through Cycling

Thursday 27th January: Well despite not getting out yesterday I did manage a ride today, my third in the week. Once again it was a meeting that gave me the excuse for cycling. Unfortunately for various reasons I had to give my daughter a lift (in the car :-( ) this morning and the traffic was atrocious which meant that I got home late and so then had to dash out (on my bike) and cycle faster than I would normally do so when going to a meeting (2x faster). Despite the fact that the temperature was only just above freezing by the time I got to my meeting I was boiling hot. I wore a scarf and my new fluorescent yellow "high viz beanie hat". I can certainly vouch for its ability to keep your head warm, in fact the sweat was dripping out on the way home (I took a longer route). We met in the Michaelhouse Cafe - and I managed to lock my bike up on the racks alongside Great St Mary's Church. Which meant I wasn't late - but just in time!

As it was near lunchtime when I finished I skipped lunch (well I had a bacon sarnie in the Cafe - because I had also missed breakfast.) I headed out through Fulbourn, through the Wilbrahams and back along NCN51. Actually I hadn't quite planned it that way, I thought I would cycle up to the Railway Station and then thought why not have a look an the Tins path and so on.

Here is where the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) leaves the Railway Station area to go towards the Hospital - well at least it will leave when the CGB is up and running. It is good to see that the shared-use path is clearly marked - although as you can see it is not open at the moment, but will provide a route to the West of Addenbrookes and on to Trumpington.


Standing in the same spot but looking the other way you can see the new form of dual-purpose railing and cycle locking stand, there are also cycle locking poles, that can double as street lamps. Sustrans do not seem to have added these methods of cycle parking to their information sheet (pdf). The reality is of course, that there is a significant unmet demand for cycle parking at the station. As they increase the size of trains running between Cambridge and London it can only increase the need as there is not sufficient car parking for the extra passengers.

In the middle of the picture in the background you can see the cycle/pedestrian bridge (Carter Bridge) from Devonshire Road across the railway line to Rustat Road. Which is where I headed in order to have a look at the works taking place on the Tins.


Here is the way onto the Tins from Burnside. The sign says the route will be closed from the 10 January, 2011 for 11 weeks. It is going to be widened and a new bridge put in place. The path also crosses the Cambridge to Ipswich Railway line via a small bridge - apparently it will not be possible to sort that bottleneck out.


Instead of The Tins I headed along Burnside onto what I have always known as Snakey Path, and also appears on the OSM Cycle Map as Snakey Path. It heads towards Cherry Hinton following the (wiggly) line of Cherry Hinton Brook. In my mind this is less safe than The Tins, the path is narrow and there is not much of a verge before the brook. There appears to have been a fair bit of undergrowth clearance on the other side of the Brook though and it is lighter than I remember it. I passed three cyclists going the other way though and slowed down quite a lot.


As I was in Cherry Hinton I carried on out through Fulbourn and the Wilbrahams before heading back to town. I did notice that the crossroads in Cherry Hinton still seem to be confusing drivers. It used to be that if you were heading out of town (the road on the right) towards Fulbourn (the road on the left) you took the right hand lane, along with those turning right. This is not normally how these junctions work. There were road markings though to indicate what drivers were supposed to do. After some road works (pothole filling I think) the road markings were lost along with an ASL on the road for bikes. This means that some drivers take the left lane to go straight on and some take the right lane - today it caused a bit of handbags at dawn with beeping by two drivers both thinking they were in the right.

Perhaps instead of worrying about cyclists near Addenbrookes (see yesterdays Post) the Council could sort this out.

I mentioned recently the decline in wild birds - apparently Crows and Magpies are to be trapped. Also Brompton owners better beware of cycling at inappropriate times. But you don't need to worry about "most speed cameras".

And finally - yesterday, tragically a cyclist was killed near Burwell (and Reach) in an accident with a motorbike, I hope the biker makes a good recovery.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Newnham Drove - the rough with the smooth

Tuesday 25th January: Well despite my moaning and groaning last night after what was really quite a modest cycle ride I am pleased that I don't have any aches and pains the next day. What's even better is that there are some Snowdrops popping up in the garden - always a welcome sight, even though Spring is still some way off. And what is more - I had a reason to cycle again. I met with a friend for lunch, we discussed business things, but it turns out that we have also gotten to know our Local British Gas HomeCare Manager - he has also had problems with their service. Where to go for lunch, no contest the Dyke's End - Reach. It is a pleasant cycle ride from Cambridge and a very pleasant pub with nice food and they have their own beer back on tap and delicious it was too. (I had a Steak pie - also delicious!)

One of the reasons we need to support our village economies - "50 bus routes facing the axe as cuts bit". The more we make villages rely upon cars the more they become ghost villages during the day. When you need transport, it drives the "need" for multiple cars in the family and once you have the car you might as well use it, after which makes it difficult for local shops and Post Offices and Pubs to since quite understandably people tend to use out of town supermarkets or head to the town centre for entertainment. I have moaned for a while about how all the motor vehicles on the roads have increased noise levels which can't be good, well it is official "The stress caused by living near a busy road can raise risk of stroke".

Still there is a "Chink of light at end of busway" apparently "the end of the guided busway saga might be in sight" with the bridge near Addenbrooke's Hospital due for completion this week. Mind you it could be that "'Stupid' cyclists are risking lives - right outside A&E". Although from the tone of the article perhaps it Cllr Heathcock's blood pressure that is at risk. A poor cyclist generally risks his own life, whereas a poor driver risk the lives of others. I know which I think is worse. This article does not come across as concern for cyclists, in fact all it seems to do is raise the level of animosity against then - not constructive in my view.

Back to more peaceful things, a gentle ride in the Fens. I didn't have the time to greatly extend my ride there and back (to the Pub) and didn't even wear proper cycling gear. Well apart from my yellow gloves. I cycled out via NCN51 which takes you straight from Cambridge to the Dyke's End in Reach, well straight in a Sustrans meandering way, but pleasant. However on the way back, since it was early afternoon I thought I'd detour via Newnham Drove and then back along Lode's Way. I was planning on taking a few more pictures of the drove, but it as drizzling slightly some my best of intentions was slightly compromised.

Here is the start of the Drove, straight ahead is the "back way" into Burwell . The road to the right is Weirs Drove and the road to the left is Newnham Drove - well signed to the Lodes Way, although no indication of distance. As you can see it was a wet and grey day.


Whilst bumping up the Drove the desire to stop and document the state if the road left me and I didn't stop until I got to the Lodes Way. This is the view looking back down towards Burwell. The Electricity Sub-Station is to the right of the Drove. Just by the clump of bushes the road has been dug up and turned into loose rubble and a bit of hard standing rubble added to the edge of it. I am not quite sure why, perhaps it is a speed trap to slow down the huge numbers of cyclists. Actually I don't think I have passed any cyclists on the road, only a few cars/4x4s and one person jogging in the 30 or so times I have cycled the road.


Looking out from the Drove towards Burwell Fen as the NT have signed it although the Streetmap map shows is as Hundred Acres you can see the Pond works MikeC commented on yesterday. It will be interesting to see how this develops in terms of wildlife. Hopefully it will do its bit in helping to arrest the decline in farmland and woodland birds (well farmland anyway). Although there appears to be some dispute as to the actual reasons for the decline.


And that is the lot in terms of photographs, and the good news was I didn't ache when I got home either.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lolloping along the Lodes way (the pictures are back in town)

Monday 24th January, 2011: Sometimes there is little to Blog about and then at other times it all seems to happen all at once. For what seems like the first time in ages I had the afternoon to myself yesterday and the weather looked good - not too cold, not windy and not raining so it was time for a lollop along the Lodes Way and in my case certainly not the last lollop. To cut a long story short it all looks the same, but I still have ten pictures in the Post to prove it. More of that later.

There has also been a lot of cycling stuff in the news recently. If you are looking around for a bike, but don't want to spend too much then there is a Cycle Auction coming up to be held at the Cambridge Museum of Technology.

More worryingly is the headline in the Cambridge News: "MP's safer cycling call angers drivers" - Dr Julian Huppert the MP for Cambridge recently spoke in the House of Commons on cycling and the concern that too many drivers "get away with the excuse that they did not see a cyclist after an accident". Rather predictably, but also very worryingly, his comments were branded as "divisive" and "righteous" by the RAC Foundation, a charity (a righteous charity perhaps)! One thing he suggested was the introduction of "proportionate liability" where the onus in an accident is placed upon the larger and more dangerous vehicle. It seems to me that there are two things that tend to moderate bad driving, the law and, the consequences, and the problem is that in any motor vehicle-cyclist accident it is the more vulnerable cyclist who is likely to get hurt (and so suffer the consequences). Personally I feel that in the UK we tend to treat damage to property (such as a car) as more serious than damage to a person and that this is reflected in the way the laws of the road are manifested in practice.

There is an implicit presumption that cyclists should get out of the way of cars (and other motor vehicles) - if you don't believe me go for a cycle. This presumption also seems to allow the SMIDSY excuse and yet Motoring Charities do not seem to acknowledge the wrongness that implies. What is it that should allow a car driver to barge through? To my mind it is motorised bullying pure and simple (or perhaps even worse, motorists really do fail to see the cyclists they share the road with.)

The trouble is that just as with motorists there are cyclists who push their luck so we often hear about the RLJs (red Light Jumpers) and the pavement cyclists. Well I agree that such behaviour is pretty stupid. Mind you cyclists are treated with contempt and "expected" to stop at every piddly "junction" when on shared-use paths whereas the road-users alongside don't. I also wonder whether a lot of motorists have spent so much time driving and so little time walking they don't realise that in many cases cyclists are allowed on many pavements (shared-use). Apparently in the Cambridge County area cars are now so safe that many people don't use their seatbelts - "Hundreds of people caught without seatbelts" (actually 2,155 - and those are the ones that were caught!).

It was also reported that fittingly for Cambridge, hi-tech is being used to catch cycle thieves. Bikes fitted with GPS have been used to track cycle thieves and already 11 suspects have been caught. Apparently bike thefts are on the increase at the moment. If you want tips on how not to lock up a bicycle then look here!

One of the benefits of cycling is that you get to cycle along routes not clogged by cars and vans, spewing out their exhaust. (Oops I am getting carried away here - I drive as well you know). It can lead to problems though as a cyclist was hit in an underpass in Bristol by two robbers. To be fair I have never felt threatened when cycling around Cambridge, even in the early hours of the morning. Mind you Cambridge is a pretty genteel place. I still consider motor vehicles as the principle source of potential danger to cyclists.

Sustrans NCN11 has several legs, one which runs alongside the River Cam between Cambridge and Waterbeach, where it ends. It seems that the East Anglian Air Ambulance was out again to aid a rower with a suspected heart attack. There is a lesson there that despite being fit you can still have unsuspected heart issues.

Which brings me onto my cycle ride - I really needed to get out to work on my "fitness". It was not too cold, around 6C and not at all windy so an ideal opportunity to get out along the Lodes Way. As this was my first longish ride of the year I did quite a lot of faffing around. The first thing was downloading all the Archers podcasts onto my MP3 player so I could catch up on the traumatic events of the last few weeks (Archers followers will know what I mean). Then I had to get togged up, I bought some new cycling gear before Christmas and wore my "Bib tights" without padding and a normal pair of cycling shorts underneath. (The tights in the link were similar, but I am not quite sure what I got in the end.) It was remarkably comfortable.

I also had to adjust my saddle on my Longstaff, it was not quite flat. I am not sure how it got that way, I think I adjusted it a while back when wearing different shoes and must have rushed it. This time around I got it flat then further tweaked the position on the journey.

I also failed to get my Sigma Speedo working, it is an older wired model and could be the handlebar mount - the contacts can get a bit corroded- although I did sand them a little bit. I am wondering whether to rely entirely on my GPS this year, which would cut down on the pre-cycle faff a bit. Then togged up and with my MP3 player rolling out the Archer's theme tune and my camera over my shoulder I set off - phew.

This time around I set off along NCN51 to Swaffham Bulbeck and then cut back to Lode and onto Lodes Way, then through to Upware and Wicken Fen and then to Burwell back to Lodes way via Newnham Drove. Then it was Lodes Way to Lode and I rejoined NCN51 at Bottisham for the last leg of the journey. as you can see it was a grey day - mind you crops are growing in the fields and you can see that there has been some rain recently. This field is alongside NCN51 between Bottisham and Swaffham Bulbeck - it seems to be prone to flooding.


There was time for a quick stop, just past White Fen, on Swaffham Bulbeck Lode Bridge for a photograph - a rather wintry sight.


Then I went up the Upware Road through Upware (as you might have guessed) - another quick stop to take a picture of the boats moored alongside Reach Lode as seen through the Lock.


Cycling along the Stretham Road (it connects Upware Road with Way Lane from a cyclists point of view) I was reminded how impatient motorists can be and how dangerous the Stretham Road is. I was passed by a car going reasonably quickly and as it went past Way Lane and approached the bend another car shot by me, overtook the car in front and only just made it back onto his side of the road before an oncoming car. In one stupid move a driver puts two other blameless drivers at significant risk. As it turns out there was an accident on the Stretham Road (near to Wilburton) that same evening. I can remember several accidents occurring on this stretch of road.

Then it was back through Wicken Fen - with a blue sky showing through near to sunset. I was quite surprised just how late is was and yet still light until I realised I had set the wrong time zone on my GPS. Having said that it was noticeable just how much later the sunset was, at the moment the sunset is getting later by just over 3 minutes a day. This is the blue sky reflected in Wicken Lode. Lodes provided an old form of transport and in the sky is a contrail - a modern form of transport.


Instead of carrying along Lodes Way I generally turn off towards Burwell and then back along Newnham Drove to add a little bit of distance to the journey. The road towards Burwell is just by a farm and as I turned the right-angle bend my bike went light on me. Having been doing more driving and some of it on ice just recently I must be more sensitive to slippery road surfaces. I am sure more by luck then judgement I steered out of the skid just before it really got started - although this meant I now wanted to start braking to avoid cycling over the verge and into a drainage ditch. Again more by luck than judgement I held off braking until my front wheel was straight and stopped just slightly on the verge. To an onlooker I probably looked like a pillock who hadn't realised there was a bend - I knew I'd had a close shave.

My wife "broke down" the other night in her car and nipping out to my shed to get some tools and jump leads I fell down three steps and slightly bruised my right hand side including the shoulder than took the brunt when I got run off my bike by a car. This time I managed to roll so didn't put any real shock into the collar bone. Perhaps that near miss also made be a bit more sensitive to problems occurring when cycling. As it happens her problem was a loose battery connection, I tightened it up and jump-started her car and marital harmony was restored.

My cycling tip for anyone thinking of using Newnham Drove - don't - unless you are on an MTB, it is not a pleasant road. There is quite a lot of peaty mud on it in places and there have been some road works at the far end reducing the road surface to a form of rubble.

The earlier article on the Police using GPS bikes to trap thieves also suggested ensuring you have a picture of your bike to assist Police if it gets stolen - here is mine. In the background is a hoop for locking bikes to. Next to it was a wooden bench - that was stolen. (I have a picture of that somewhere if it helps.)


This is where Newnham Drove crosses Lodes Way - quite soggy at the moment. However I did notice that there have been drainage channels cut along the side of Lodes Way between here and the Reach Lode Bridge. it has noticeably improved the track surface, it is nowhere near as soggy as before Christmas.


A quick stop on Reach lode Bridge to take pictures. This is looking North - the water surface was pretty still.


This is the view looking South towards Reach. Just to the right of the picture you can see what I assumed was flooding in the field, but no I wonder whether it was designed deliberately to provide a habitat for pond creatures and plant life when the bridge was built.


At the base of the bridge there used to be picnic tables, also stolen.


This is the track towards Lode as it leaves the ridge, this bit is fine, when it reaches the road (Split Drove) it is rather unpleasant to cycle along with loose rubble and lots of ruts and peaty mud - take care.


One thing I did notice was how few cars there were around the Upware Road, I was passed by one on the way out and on the way back there were only two. By this stage I had switched on my front light - although this was a standard low power light, not one of my more powerful rechargeable lights. I was most surprised that as I cycled along Headlake Drove towards the turn down to White Fen two cars both stopped some distance anyway for me to pass the. It is reassuring to see courtesy on the roads, especially to cyclists.

When I got home I certainly felt the miles I had cycled - which is what comes of not cycling regularly. I was really looking forward to a soak in a hot bath. Although the water ran cold, so I waited for the water to heat up. I was a bit surprised that there was no hot water though. When I went back half an hour later I realised that, for some strange reason I had used the cold tap, no wonder there was not hot water. This cycling lark must be getting a bit much for me I certainly slept well that night.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A few pictures in the Bath area

At the moment motoring miles seem to be winning out over cycling miles. I normally reckon, well for the last few years anyway, to cycle more miles than I drive. So far this year my driving is way more than my cycling. I know I see meetings as an excuse to get in a bit of cycling, but the recent very mild lurgy has gotten in the way a bit. I have also had to got to Bath again and this time was not able to get down a bit earlier so I wasn't able to go for a spin on my bike when I got there.

I was hoping to cycle around to see some of the Two Tunnels Greenway activity. It is a project to create a walking/cycling route from the City through to the South utilising two disused railway tunnels - hence the name. The route provides a short-cut from NCN4 through to NCN24 with the advantage of cutting out some of the hills. (This should be a Sustrans link to the map - as a Mymap.) Next time!

So instead here is a picture of the Main Railway Line running through Bath, this bit is alongside Sidney Gardens. The Kennet and Avon Canal (along which NCN4 runs towards Devizes and beyond is just a little way up the road, running in parallel to the Railway line.


There have been a few interesting snippets of news, another fly-tipper has been bought to book, I am impressed that they were able to track the tipper. The was also a lesson for all those budding astronauts - "Astronaut loses place on space shuttle after cycling accident". The article does mention that the injuries were not disclosed for medical privacy reasons - sounds like an argument with the crossbar if you ask me!

Whilst getting the pictures off my camera I also found some I had taken the last time I popped down to Bath, earlier in the month. The weather was glorious and a useful route to avoid traffic when leaving Bath is to drive through Lansdown (along the Lansdown Road). The route then travels along Freezinghill Lane and crosses the A420 onto Gorse lane and then joins the A46 just below the M4 motorway. At the junction of the A420 and Gorse Lane at an elevation of around 200m is a picnic spot where you get excellent views across towards Wales. Here is the northern Severn Bridge (the M48) one, the Southern Severn Bridge is just out of shot to the left.


This is a panoramic shot from the picnic spot. If you zoom in you can see the two bridges in the distance. As you can see it was a sunny clear day.

Toghill grove Bath.jpg

And finally data that you have not got in three places is data you don't care about is a good maxim to follow. As we increasingly rely on computers for email, pictures and music, to name but three types of stuff we might want to keep it becomes more important to consider making copies of your stuff. Personally I always like to have two copies (as well as the original) Having had a warning over Christmas with a disk showing signs of failure I have overhauled my approach a little. I replaced my main storage system, two 500Mb drives as a Raid 0 configuration providing 1 Tb of storage with 2 x 2Tb disks in a Raid 1 format to provide 2Tb of storage with one disk being maintained as a mirror of the other. This means if either fails the computer can carry on operating and give me the chance to replace the ailing drive. I also back up the data on a weekly basis. I have now added an additional step and bought a new 2Tb drive (a different and more expensive one compared with those in the computer) and created a non-Raid clone of my computer's disk drive. This means if both Raid drives die I could put the clone in and it would boot and have all my programs and data ready right away. I will still keep my weekly back ups and then every six months update my "clone". The only problem is that the cloning takes around 8 hours during which the computer is not usable. Whereas if one of the two Raid drives breaks then I can carry on using the computer and once the broken drive is replaced it gets copied in the background.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Around and about in Cambridge - on me bike!

There is nothing like a work excuse to get me cycling - well actually there are loads of other excuses that will get me cycling that are better - but ho hum, I'll take any excuse. At the moment meetings in Cambridge provided the perfect excuse to get out on my bike and cycle. Actually cycling in Cambridge is not so much an excuse as a necessity. It is tedious driving in Cambridge at the best of times and it is even more tedious when it comes to finding convenient parking. Having said that, any driving is tedious, gone are the days when I would relish driving out and about. For me now driving a car is a means to an end - at its best it is OK and most of the time it is rubbish.

The other factor is that quite often cycling can be quicker, no de-frosting is required, although I do wear some extra clothes (gloves and hat and yellow jacket) when cycling. My meetings were at places that didn't have car parks, but did have cycle parking with spaces, unlike the flippin' Railway Station cycle dump park. Providing I don't go too fast I can wear clothes that are sort of suitable for meetings. Actually I don't like wearing suits if I can help it. I lived a more corporate life once, with quite a lot of business mileage and suits and I rather enjoy not having to do that any more.

Now that neatly links into the following pictures, but before I do that I can't help comment on a recent Cambridge News item "One in 10 busway track joints could be 'faulty'". Phew, bumpy rides anyone! What would worry me is whether the uneven bumps could induce resonance in the steering wheels of the buses - which would I imagine would require slower speeds of operation. Here (.doc) is the report going to the Cambridge County Council on the 25th January 2011. Interestingly there is quite a section on shrinkage problems and in 3.12 the report also comments that the first half of 2010 was significantly drier than normal - it doesn't look good for the cycle path maintenance track linear swimming pool if that was the case. The report does talk of grinding back the faces of the concrete tracks to provide the required clearance. I presume this means that if 10% of the joints have the problem then it means that a bunch of tracks get lifted, ground and then put back. I have no idea quite how easy it is to remove a section of track and then put it back in the same place. Presumably it is not that easy otherwise the problem wouldn't have occurred in the first place. Will it require specialist equipment and does the CCC have access to it under the current contract?

Anyway back to Tuesday, in my eagerness to be on time and not too sweaty I tend to plan on travelling at half my fastest cycling speed. Which meant leaving my house at 9.15am. So I got up checked my email, printed out the stuff I had prepared for the day's meetings and horror noticed that it was nearly quarter past the hour and I needed to leave. It was only when I had gotten to my first meeting did I check the details, to find the room number and I realised I was an hour early. The quarter past I had reacted to was the wrong one. Still it allowed me to take a few pictures, get a coffee and get a bit more preparation in.

Despite Cambridge having quite a bit of formal cycle parking you still see lots of bikes chained to railings. If you live in a bedsit/small flat or shared house there is just not enough space to provide parking for bicycles as well.


The bicycle is also used to advertise on the streets of Cambridge and the advertising is not always related to cycling in any way.


Just by King's College Chapel, it is a popular thoroughfare for cyclists. With out even trying there are five in the picture. - it is not quite Copenhagen Cycling Chic, but you get the picture. (I am of course referring to the quality of my photography, not the cyclists!)


Whilst moving around Cambridge I tend to take the more scenic routes, it might take a little longer, but it really is more pleasant. This tree is alongside Midsummer Common, near Elizabeth Way Bridge (on Sustrans 51). I should have stopped to see what it was all about - but sorry I didn't so am not sure.


More Cycle advertising - in this case the advertising relates to the "billboard" - and of course this advertiser as well as using the bicycle also makes use of high-tech - The Bikeman.


I know these pictures are hopping around a bit - this is where Sustrans 51 passes under Elizabeth Way Bridge, alongside the River Cam. Actually the cycle and pedestrian route used to pass under the arch to the right, now closed off - I am not sure quite what is happening.


Newmarket Road in Cambridge is not one I travel along very often, either by bicycle or car. It is congested by traffic with lots of traffic lights and drivers who seem to think it is perfectly reasonable to block the lights or use the Bus lanes. On a bicycle, certainly heading out of town the cycle lane runs along side the bus lane and more than once I have had a moment with a bus whizzing by me causing suction to draw me to the bus. So I don't cycle along it.

However I have been meaning to take pictures of the graffiti along the town end of Newmarket Road. This has been sanctioned by the developers . Although the Police have probed it! Apparently some people don't like it, but as someone who doesn't live there I think some of it looks pretty good. This picture looks a little odd because I was shooting towards the sun and the coloured blurry bits at the bottom are reflections in the lens.


The picture remind me of a sort of adult version of the art that decorates some of the Disney rides at the Paris Disneyland. (What springs to mind is Smallworld - they seem to use a paint that glows in UV light.)


Mind you some of the glowing effect might be because these are HDR pictures. I took them with my small pocket camera which only takes three different exposures.


I also popped up Sustrans 51 a little way just past Fison Road - there is a pool/lake there. It was very still and the area is sheltered so the reflections looked pretty good.

S51 nr Fisons Road_Panorama.jpg

I forgot to mention it was pretty cold that morning, with temperatures around 2C and a bit of a ground frost. I wore a hat and then got too hot and took it off and then got too cold and so on. It was a pleasant suny day though.