Thursday, April 28, 2011

A b-u-m-p-y ride to Boxworth and back

Monday, 25th April: Easter Monday, blue skies and time for a cycle, there was a bit of wind about though.  Despite that it was better to get out for a ride than sit at home and moan. My daughter was back at school on Tuesday and needed to finish off some homework and my son was still in need of money and doing odd jobs.

I haven’t been out along the bridleways from Coton to Caldecote recently (Whitwell Way and Port Way) and although the popular routes tend to be busy around Bank Holidays it still surprises me how few people you see when you wander even slightly further afield. I guess the challenge is that a place like Wicken Fen provides a nice constrained circular walk with tea rooms at the end and a car park for the car, whereas following byways and bridleways requires a little bit more local knowledge and planning. That is of course why bicycles are so good, they are versatile, park anywhere (almost) and allow you to wander along both beaten and bumpy tracks.

This route makes use of the Cambridge Guided Busway to beat a hasty retreat home and also I managed to “explore” a byway I’d not been along before near a place called Battle Gate near Childerley Hall. The only reference I could easily find was to Battlegate Road, Boxworth where there was an ADAS facility. A Consultancy providing science-based and rural consultancy and contracting services. It was formed from UK Government agencies and known as the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service until it was privatised in 1997.

Here is a Bike Route Toaster Link to the map shown below it is just under 50Km / 31 miles in length and climbs from around 7m above sea level to 70m before returning to Cambridge again (and 7m). As I mentioned further up the track is pretty bumpy probably due to the very dry weather we have been having for a while. It is not one I will hurry back to, at least not on my Marin Hybrid.

I left Cambridge on the Madingley Road and headed to Coton and then along a no-through road to the bridleway which skirts around the back of a Rifle Range near Barton.  The direction of fire is towards the bridleway and the concern is that ricochets or bullets leaving the range in free flight could represent a danger. Apparently there are limits on the muzzle velocities allowed.

As you might imagine there are quite a few warning signs and the bridleway is pretty clear and not easy to miss. (There are quite a few yellow fields around as well.) The path was rock solid and imprinted with tractor tyre tread which made it fairly bumpy, nothing difficult to cycle on, just a bit rattily. I passed a few cyclists going back to Coton, also out for a rattle? Here you can see the path head off into the distance towards a patch of woodland where it emerges onto Long Road (roughly between Hardwick and Comberton).

There are convenient barriers on exit of the bridleway, for balancing cameras, which was necessary as despite the sun the woodland was quite shady and needed quite a long exposure.

The last time I cycled this way you had to head down Long Road a short way to get to the next leg of the bridleway (Port Way). There is now a permissive bridleway that allows you to cross directly and then along this path to Port Way, which runs along the edge between the yellow and brown fields. There is also a footpath that runs along the line of trees which is also the line of Bin Brook. I seem to remember seeing a reference to the kind people who allowed this Permissive path to be built but can’t find it. I did find a reference to the U3AC list of Spring cycle rides though, one of which used Whitwell Way.

When I went looking for the information about the permissive bridleway I did find a reference to one of my previous rides in these parts. I took a picture of this sign that time as well.  “No Public Access”, “Health and Safety Notice” – Health and Safety gone mad or a land-owner pulling a crafty one? This time around the track surface was pretty solid.  The bridleway (Port Way) does do a dog leg before it gets to this point through Starve Goose Plantation with quite a few tree roots and rabbit holes to watch for.  Then the path narrows and suffers from one or two areas where if it was wet then large muddy “puddles” form and you can see where people skirt around them. (This picture was taken looking back the way I had come.)

As you might expect there are quite a few yellow fields in flower along the way. Port Way crosses the road just below Hardwick (at 66m elevation) and then follows yet another dry bumpy track. This picture was made from three pictures taken side by side and still I didn’t get the entire field in. For some reason each of the separate pictures suffered from vignetting so before I used Photoshop to stitch them together I had to de-vignette them.   The results were a little uneven and so you can see the joins, sorry. It is still a wide yellow field.

This is the track, there is a bench a little further up for weary travellers. You can see how dry the ground is as there are cracks running along the length of the path. If it gets any worse then I’ll have to make sure my wheels don’t get stuck. At this point I was cycling slowly and stopping to take pictures (my excuse) and three young girls also out on their bikes caught me up.   Here is a Cambridge News article “Meadows must bank on rise in rainfall” discussing the exceptionally dry weather we have had recently.

A little bit further along and I could hear shooting, a 4x4 was parked and the occupants must have been out for a bit of “hunting”. Whilst checking Where’s The Path to see where they were hunting I noticed that the “satellite image” had caught a small plane in the picture.

The track then does another dog leg where you can either take a byway into the village of Caldecote or head further south past Hardwick Wood.  I had intended to take the short cut and then carry along a byway to Bourn, I missed the turn and cycled past Hardwick Wood instead. The track was unpleasantly bumpy, the wood was full of bluebells. The Wild Life Trust information on Hardwick Wood suggests it was referred to in the Doomsday Book (AKA Domesday Book.) The information also calls the path along the West side the Mere Way although I thought that the Mere Way followed the line of the A10.

Here are the bluebells.

As I had taken a different route to my planned route and was a little tired of bumpy bridleways I cycled up through Caldecote on the road (Main Street) stopping at the local shop to get a drink. (I did have some lemon squash, but it had gone warm, I wanted something cold.) I cycled up and over the A428, now a dual-carriageway and onto the old road (St Neots Road). Cars whizz along this old road pretty quickly so pay attention. It is not bad, but cars do seem to speed along it. Bourn Airfield is to the South of the new dual-carriageway and there seemed to be a Bank Holiday market on.

A short way along the St Neot’s Road is a byway to the right past a couple of large storage tanks, marked as a Reservoir on one scale of OS map.  The byways are often more noticeable because of the No tipping signs rather than the byway signs. Talking of which another Cambridge News item reports on “Fly tippers fined after junk found in village”. The two involved were fined £500 plus £375 in costs and £800 and £375 in costs – pretty steep.

Although the byway doesn’t appear to have a name it heads to Bird’s Pastures Farm and is a route I have taken to Childerley Hall before. This time I took a different bridleway towards Battle Gate – it was a route I had not cycled along. It was actually a good track (it serves the farm), in fact the ride up from the St Neot’s Road was all pretty cycle-able  The map indicates that the road was at 64m elevation above sea level.

I seem to have taken so many pictures of yellow fields that I am a bit tired of them (Phew I hear you say!).  This one was odd there were two semi-greenhouse structures in the middle of the field.  At first I wondered if they had been left in the field and drilled around – but of course not.  So there must be some sort of trial taking place. (ADAS is just up this road.)

As I was cycling along I noticed another byway to explore – Thorofare Lane to Knapwell. Although it is called Thoroughfare Lane in this report by the Cambridgeshire Local Access Forum.

These minutes of the British Bryological Society do refer to Thorofare lane – “A broad attractive trackway lined by broad hedges. The best find here was Aphanorhegma patens…” They also refer to a sign that I must watch out for when I venture that way. I did not know what the Bryological Society does – follow the link if you are interested.

After a short while the track turns to road (Battle Gate Road) and passes the ADAS facility on the left with Boxworth Experimental Husbandry Farm on the right before entering Boxworth. Although there are some interesting bridleways around here I carried on through Boxworth on the road, over the A14, past Tipplers Road (a byway), a route I have cycled along but can’t find the relevant post. Ah yes I can here it is.

As I passed through Swavesey I noticed a bridleway near the church and thought I must check that out on the map. (It heads to the CGB). Nearby was this rather nice tree. Also the elevation is now down to 9m. I can’t recall cycling down any hill back there!

When I got to the CGB it was busy, there were family groups out cycling, walking and in this case riding.As I rolled across the road I was preparing to dismount, my bike of course, but couldn’t help over-hearing the two kids getting reminded not to ride two abreast and so block my way through. I can also see how the half-barriers were designed to work with horses in mind.  The lad seems to be waiting with his horses nose up at the barrier. Presumably this minimises any risk of the horse being startled and nipping over in front of a car.

A bit further along I passed three generations of one family all out cycling - Grandmother, mum and two daughters. We all agreed how lovely it was being able to cycle along such a quiet and safe track in the countryside. There were one or two families with teens cycling as well. I think that for many people, for whom cycling is a leisure activity they really don’t want to deal with noisy and potentially unsafe traffic they want a hassle free path without too many foibles. When you are cycling with young kids or in a social group twiddly cycle paths can lead to upsets.

Am I the only one, if I have to admit it, I am not really looking forward to CGB buses running. I know they will and must, let’s face it a decent cycle path would have cost a lot less and too much has been invested not to benefit from it. However I have enjoyed this quiet route.

Whilst I am on the subject of the Guided bus – “it may hit £187m” apparently. Whilst reading the article I must admit the British adversarial political system does get up my nose a bit.  Can’t they work together for the pubic good, why does so much time and energy have to be spent scoring points off each other. Having two kids (now young adults), what I have seen is that they are turned off by the constant political bickering. If they had behaved at school like the scenes they witness in the Houses of Parliament they feel they would have gotten a good telling off.

A fine filly - and the horse isn’t too bad either – sorry it’s the old jokes that are the best jokes.

I have said this before and I will say it again if we want to encourage more cyclists to venture out then decent longer distance routes need to be provided. I feel that the current belief that cyclists can only manage a cycle commute of a few metres before they are tired out and have to catch a bus is wrong. If you expect a little you will get a little. More CGB-like high-quality cycle routes please.

And you know what – despite the wind – it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the ride one bit.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Sunny Sunday cycle to (Wentworth) Sedge Fen (part 2)

Sunday 24th April: For handy reference here is a copy of the map of the ride again and here is the Bike Route Toaster Link. In Part 1 of this post I was somewhere between Ely and Wicken Fen, but I couldn’t quite place where I took the last picture in that post.

I know where I was for the next few photographs. Having been exploring already and covered a reasonable distance I decided to take the Lodes Way route home without any variations. As I climbed down the footbridge of Burwell Lode (just after Wicken Fen) I bumped into MikeC on his way to Wicken.

As we stood talking some herons were flying around at one point there were three of them. Despite having my long zoom lens with me I did not really manage to get any good pictures.  Mind you the heat haze at the end of the day gave an atmospheric look to the countryside.  I hadn’t seen the bird in this picture until I got home.  Burwell Lode is to the right and it was taken looking towards Upware.

I did get two herons into one picture. One standing, one flying. The challenge is that if you have a lot of “zoom” then it is tricky actually pointing the camera in the right direction and if there is not much zoom then the bird appears as a speck in the sky.

I tried taking a few pictures whilst panning. By moving the camera and following the bird in flight you hope to get a sharp picture of the bird with the background a bit blurry. Or in my case with both the bird and the background a bit blurry. I also forgot to turn off image stabilisation that can also cause some problems when panning. It looks as it cows have been brought in to graze the grass.

This is one of the herons silhouetted in flight and that’s all the herons for this post.

Mike also gave me a few copies of the latest Lode’s Way leaflet. They are available at Wicken Fen (I presume) and also here as a pdf. The work taking place in Burwell Fen will help to create a wet grassland habitat. In places Burwell Fen is nearly 2 metres below sea level. If you see me cycling feel free to stop me and ask for one!

If you look more closely around Burwell Fen you can see that a low-level clay bund is being created. Bund means embankment or an embanked quay and comes from the Hindi-Urdu word band for embankment, levee or dam. If you pronounce it Boond then it also means rear end in Urdu/Punjabi!. (If you are a budding Fen manager here is some advice on Fen hydrology.)

The dark peaty fen soil is not that deep and has been subject to shrinkage and exploitation over the years. In Wicken Fen surface peat deposits lie over Gault clay. According to the link the depth of peat varies from zero on Wicken Breed Fen to around 4m on Howe's bank. Around Adventurers' Fen the depth of peat on the arable land is less than 60cm and clay is being ploughed up in places.

Two reasons for mentioning that, the first is that the diggers are digging below the peat layer to get to the Gault clay to help construct the bund. and also to illustrate just how fragile the eco-system is. It does make me wonder whether special farming techniques are used to minimise soil loss and if not why not.

A century ago Burwell Lode was the busiest around these parts with Burwell Chemical works digging coprolites for fertilizer and by the early 20th century 10,000 tonnes of fertilizer were shipped out on barges each year. According the the Wicken Fen leaflet on Lodes Way Burwell Brickworks also manufactured 10 million bricks every year which were also shipped by barge. “By the 1960s the water borne trade had all but ceased”. Nowadays you will see the occasional boat making its way along the Lode, here is one passing along the Lode with Priory Farm in the background.

Mike also mentioned that cycle hire is being started at Wicken Fen soon. The website indicates that the target is April 2011 so only a few days left, perhaps the bank Holiday was the original date. Hopefully this will also encourage the NT to open up a few other cycle routes around the Fen, partly to reduce walker/cyclist “conflict” and partly to encourage more people to view this interesting patch of nature so close to Cambridge and Ely. Whilst the Lodes Way is a great cycle route clambering over the footbridge can be a bit of a chore.

Talking about clambering over the footbridge we also chatted with a couple who had cycled up from Bottisham. They had also bought a picnic – he was carrying the rolls she was carrying the sausages. Even though the sausages were probably heavier I think they were the right choice, more nutritious if they got lost! (The cyclists not the sausages.)

Along Lodes Way there has been an attempt to segregate the human traffic from the animals. Along the outskirts of Wicken Fen the path has been fenced in with some channels for the animals at each end and a series of cattle grids to allow the animals to move between the two areas.  The first half of Burwell Fen is open with pseudo-ha-has along each edge of the path. If you follow the Wikipedia link you will see that the one edge of the Ha-ha is sloped and the other vertical – to prevent the animals getting into a garden for instance. Yet at the same time removing the need for unsightly fencing.  However these “barriers”  seem to have two slanting edges, although I think in reality the edge near the path is a little more upright than the edge next to the field. So whilst the cows can enter the ditch they probably can’t climb up to the path.

On reaching Reach Lode Bridge I took a picture of the Lode – where on the right of the Lode you can see the Bund being created around Burwell Fen. There is quite a chunk of excavation taking place here – building a bund around Burwell Fen requires quite a chunk of clay to be moved. I am looking forward to seeing the changes in the countryside.

There are various farm buildings dotted around the Fens, as there are in any farming areas I guess. Not all of them are dilapidated and unused though. Across Sedge Fen at the end of Headlake Drove is a more modern barn that sees quite a lot of use. The haystack has warning signs indicating CCTV is in use.

Another slightly atmospheric picture across the agricultural fens.

Mind you depending upon the time of day and the direction you look in the view can be dramatically different. The previous pictures were looking more towards the sunset, this picture looking south along Reach Lode is much brighter and the grass on the banking looked quite lush.

I got home just in time – well just in time for supper, my exploring and chatting had taken a little longer than originally planned. What did surprise me was I saw cyclists all around, not just on the obvious routes such as Lodes Way.  Whilst it is tempting to think of the 9 miles of Lodes Way as being a good distance even a moderately un-fit cyclist will soon find themselves wanting to wander (pedal) a little further afield.  Of course there are other routes in the area and the NCN11 up to Ely is well worth a ride. I must have passed 15 or so cyclists on the Barway-Wicken stretch alone.

Talking about group rides on Monday, 2nd May Reach Fair is being held and the Cambridge Cycling Campaign is organising a a group ride to the fair from Cambridge. This year the Mayor of Cambridge (Sheila Stuart) will take part, let’s hope she doesn’t puncture as she also has to open the fair and it would not do for it to be late.  They expect around 500 riders so it should be quite an event so if she does puncture she should get plenty of help. Maybe someone will jump off their bike and hand it to her – Tour de France stylee.

A Sunny Sunday cycle to (Wentworth) Sedge Fen (part 1)

Sunday, 24th April: The weather over the Easter weekend has to have been the best ever, well in my memory anyway. Mind you Sunday was not as hot as Saturday, but it was still good cycling weather, albeit a bit windier as well. There has been barely a flicker on the rainfall graph - check out the Weather graphs for April.

This ride started out as a plan to ride up to Coveney (via Cottenham and Wilburton) with my long lens (100mm-300mm or 200mm to 600mm in 35mm speak) and was really a chance to get a few miles in whilst my son, who was skint and needed to earn some cash cut the lawn!  Especially as I had spent a good few hours driving to pick him up on Good Friday.

Despite being a little cooler it was actually very pleasant cycling weather and as I got closer to Coveney and passed a likely looking byway I decided to explore. There are quite a few byways and bridleways in the Mepal, Witcham and Ely area, but my limited experience of them has been that they are a bit of a Curate’s Egg – good in places. In the last few years the only time I have turned around on a byway and headed back to the road was on the Bury Road (a byway) out of Witcham.

Mind you I have just had a quick look on the Where’s the Path map + satellite image of the area and it does not look too bad. Perhaps I just wimped out too soon. So this time around, on a whim, I set off along a byway off Long Causeway alongside Catchwater Drain. Well at least that is where I discovered I’d been when I got home. As I was exploring I also managed to end up on a dead-end and had to back-track to find another suitable track to follow.

Here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the route I ended up taking, including the area where I got a little lost. The map is shown below. The route is around 75Km / 47 miles in length, although you could save yourself a little distance by not getting lost exploring like I did. The route is also flat although at the time Ely feels like more of a hill than the elevation trace for the route shows.

As I have cycled up to Waterbeach and across to Landbeach a few times just recently the urge to take pictures did not come over me until I reached Cottenham and was heading around the outskirts along Long Drove. It was the sight of Cottenham Church in the distance across yet another yellow field. It is the Parish Church of All Saints Cottenham.

As I had my long lens I could also take a “close-up” of the Tower. “It is around 100 feet high and was rebuilt in 1617-19 to replaced a previous steeple destroyed in a gale”. What was interesting to me is the Pinnacles on the four corners. It is the bulbous, ogee shape that is unusual – they almost look like minarets (a feature of Islamic mosques). (I didn’t know what “ogee” meant until I looked it up.)

This is the view along Long Drove, Two Bit Farm is somewhere up on the left. There are also gravel pits on the right which are being used (I think) as part of Donarbon’s Waterbeach Waste Management Park. Apparently it covers 400 acres and treats and manages waste. It also produces renewable energy and you can collect free compost if you pick it up yourself.

A picture I have taken before, the last time from the Aldreth Causeway – Haddenham Water Tower and Communication Tower. This picture was taken from the B1049, which although a “B” road is not the quietest of roads – however I must had seen around 20 cyclists in dribs and drabs going the other way. I did wonder whether there might be some sort of cycling event on.

I carried on ‘oop North past Wentworth and crossed the A142. A road that can sometimes be a little busy, today it was fine. (Actually there looks to be an interesting way across to Sutton from the Grunty Fen area on a byway and then on the other side of the A1421 a Boat). After crossing the A142 there were yet more yellow fields, looking almost like a large lazy river heading down towards Ely. Mind you a closer look at the picture and the map suggests that might actually be Little Downham in the background.

This is the tree to the right of the middle in the last picture, but taken down near the byway I ended up cycling along.  The byway had metal gates across it to make it a restricted byway and I used them to rest my camera on to hold it steady. Many of the byways in this area seem to have names, although not the one I cycled along – it was alongside Catchwater Drain (which is a common name for drains).

After a while I turned of the easterly-track to the north, along Old Fen Drove. I had in mind I wanted to head closer towards Coveney, although as I was not using a map I could only make judgements based upon what I could see. Mind you both Ely and Coveney are on hills and so make good landmarks.

These tracks seem to see reasonable use, but were not as chewed up as some I have seen and judging by the wooden “barrier” across this byway nothing large had come by for a while. The tracks, so far, were very pleasantly cycle-able, with only a minor amount of teeth judder from the shallow tractor tyre imprints.  

The byway wiggled a bit and then reached a long straight track – Wentworth Sedge Fen Drove, seen in this picture. Unfortunately this track seemed to reach a bit of a dead end. If I wanted to I could have struggled and found some sort of way through, but my intention was to cycle along the byways and judging from the lie of the land this was not a byway so I headed back to the last byway junction. When I got home and checked the map I could see what had happened, Wentworth Sedge Fen Drove was not a byway.

I  returned to what was a byway, called New Drove and then came to a T-junction with Sweet Hill Drove. It looked as if there was a byway that ran parallel with he dead-end byway which I turned onto. This was Sedge Fen Drove and ran parallel with Long Lane through Coveney. However the byway was at around 0m elevation and Long Lane was at 10m elevation.  You can see the houses along Coveney Main Street at the top of the Oilseed Rape field in this picture and what I think might be Manor Farm to the right.  (I could have been a bit further along though.)

From the same spot I could see Ely Cathedral  in the other direction, with the Flag of St George fluttering in the breeze. I’d like to be able to say that I waited patiently until the flag was nicely lined up for the picture – I didn’t it was just luck. the good news was that I would have the wind behind me on the way home. From here it seemed that everywhere else was up though.

As I carried on a young lad cycled past me, these tracks are certainly much safer than cycling on the roads, providing I suppose, that you don’t fall into a drain (ditch).

Sedge Fen Drove then reached Green Drove, a road, from Coveney to Ely, which is the way I was originally expecting to go. Despite it being Easter Sunday this farmer was “making hay” in the fine weather.  The top of the road is School Lane where it reaches Main Street, Coveney.

Just for completeness a view back along the byway I had just cycled down, I can’t recall seeing a “Byway” sign and you certainly can’t see one in this Streetview picture of the byway (it is though).

The road from Coveney then leads onto Ely where you meet up with NCN11. I skip the scenic route and cycle down Back Hill out of Ely onto the Stuntney causeway before re-joining NCN11 on the shared-use tarmac path alongside the River Great Ouse. I did stop on one the benches along the path for a few jelly babies, a drink and took a few pictures. This one is of the Ely to Newmarket railway bridge, which appears to be called the Newmarket Bridge on the OS Map. In June 2007 Eleven wagons were left hanging over the old railway bridge, which in the Newmarket Journal is called the Hawk Bridge. The effect was to close the line for six months

The other reason I stopped was to take a picture of the herd of grazing cows “blocking” the path. These cows only showed a mild interest as I squeezed my way through them!

Conveniently a cyclist followed through, as you can see the cows made way and a couple showed interest, but even with calves in tow there was no stress, for cows, walkers or cyclists.

Of course the other way of traveling in these parts is by boat on the river or by train. The Ely to Cambridge line is behind the river in this picture.

The shared-use path splits off at heads down to Barway, the Fen Rivers Way path carries alongside the river for walkers.

A bit further along and some serious irrigation was taking place. ( I can’t quite place where I took this picture – the pylons ought to give it away!)

It felt good though, cycling with my back to the wind and to be honest cycling out against the wind hadn’t been that bad either.

To be continued…


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A visit to the Phone Box (Gallery)

Saturday, 23rd April: After doing a bit of collection and delivery yesterday (picking up my son and his books and washing and bike and… and…) and sitting in the car for what seemed like hours (it was at around 7 hours) I was allowed out to enjoy the glorious Easter weather.  So where to go?  Well although it was not long since I had visited the Phone Box Gallery in Prickwillow it was another month and so there would be a new Exhibition on display.  When I checked the Phone Box link just now (26 April) it was still showing the information for March. Maybe I should have checked before I set off.  A quick look at the map and I decided to take a similar route to a previous visit. I overshot Ely and then cycled back down a byway alongside the River lark. 

I had unfinished business there as the last time I was intending to cycle down a route to along the south bank of the river but wasn’t too sure quite what was possibly a driveway and what was byway so I took the North byway which I had been on before. This time around I was not going to be put off until I found the right byway.

The other advantage of this route was that it was reasonably ok for cycling, quiet lanes and fairly reasonable off-road and only one unknown chunk of byway to explore. Most of the time byways are pretty reasonable, it is the bridleways than can be a bit unpredictable for cyclists. Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link to the map shown below. There is one bit of fast-ish road, it is straight but I found that cars tend to give reasonable room on it. The route is 86Km/ 54miles long and pretty flat even by the flat standards of the flatlands.  (It varies from 0m to 19m above sea level.) When I went out it was so sunny I put on some sunscreen and there was almost no wind whatsoever. This ride is not so good when it is windy as the Fens are pretty exposed, for choice it is better to cycle out against the wind and back with the wind.

It pretty much follows NCN51 through to Quy and then switches to the Lodes Way (via the disused railway line along the back of Anglesey Abbey)  to Wicken Fen and then NCN11 to Ely. I don’t like to cycle back the way I go so it then loops back down to Isleham, Fordham and then Burwell with a bit of off-road before re-connecting with NCN51 in Swaffham Prior.

As I cycled up to White Fen out of Lode alongside Bottisham Lode I noticed three cars parked where the road widens slightly to allow vehicles to pass. Rather strangely there seemed to be a line of people walking along the Lode – yes along in the water.  I am not sure what they were doing. They had walked a reasonable distance it the mud stirred up in along the lode was anything to go by.

I had passed them before my brain registered that this was a strange sight to behold and I really ought to stop and take a picture.  Here are a few more of the group, they had someone on the road taking pictures and the chap pointing at me seemed to be telling their camera person to take a picture of me. I had had a look on the web but can’t find any reference/pictures to this event.

A little bit further along Lodes Way the work to create a wet grassland habitat is making good progress in Burwell Fen.

The various diggers seem to be using the old buildings called Burwell Fen Farm as a staging post.

MikeC has mentioned that various of the gates on Lodes Way had been taking away for NT branding. Now you could be forgiven to think this meant some form of marketing – well here is one of the gates after being branded, I think that the Wicken Fen NT people ought to treat themselves to an “NT” branding iron.

As I walked over the bridge over Burwell Lode a quick reminder of just how clear the skies were.  The Lodes Way can be seen as the beige strip before it heads off to the right.

Another picture taken from the bridge over Burwell Lode, this is looking upstream. Look how smooth the water is – no wind.

After cycling through Wicken Fen and Wicken the route takes to a country lane along to Barway. Along the way there are fields of oilseed rape growing, edged by verges of cow parsley.

At Barway the route then heads along a track to join a tarmac path alongside the River Great Ouse. The last time I cycled by this field (the first after leaving Barway) it was still covered in plastic. The weather has been so warm the crops have shot up and strips of the plastic have been removed. (I am not quite sure what the material is really.)

On the outskirts of Ely I carried on along Queen Adelaide Way (opposite the place where NCN11 reaches Stuntney Causeway (A142). After a short while the road runs alongside the River Great Ouse after passing under a railway bridge and over a junction the road becomes very straight with the occasional kink. The first is past Clayway Farm Cottage and the second by Daisy Hill Farm. The second is where the River Lark joins the River Great Ouse. At this point it heads back down to Prickwillow. As I mentioned earlier there are byways on each side of the River Lark. This time around I found the one I wanted and despite the fact you seem to be cycling into someone’s drive you do actually pass around the house and garden.

The path was a muddy and solid track. It was slightly bumpy with some tractor tread imprints but not too bad to cycle along.  As you might have guessed this line of Pylons makes it way pretty much straight to the Burwell electricity substation and then onto another Substation at Stocking Pelham one of the Pelhams where if you follow the link an attempted theft of £20,000 of copper was foiled at the back of the National Grid (8th February 2011).

This is the byway, with the River lark to the left and Prickwillow in the distance. You can just about see the tractor tyre imprints.

As is often the case there were some dilapidated farm buildings along the way. There didn’t have a name on the OS map.

The map shows that the track is called Padnal Bank as you get closer to Prickwillow. An interesting house pops up on a search for Padnal Bank. The Ely to Norwich railway line passes over that bridge, also known as the Breckland Line. I have passed over this bridge quite a few times (on the train) but never put two and two together. It is surprising how different places look from the train compared with the road routes.

I stopped to have a look at the latest Phone Box Gallery Exhibition. The website does not seem to reflect April’s exhibition.However a couple of links pop up – Anglian Potters – Sonia Lewis and this one from the Craft’s Council - Sonia Lewis of the Old Pottery Prickwillow.

Here are some of her pots. It is quite tricky taking pictures through glass, especially on a sunny day when you get lots of reflections. Next time I will take along a polarising filter to see if that helps.

After that it as time to head home, not the shortest way, but via Isleham, I think I was late so needed to hurry up a little, which is why there are no more pictures. My notes do mention that I passed around 30 or so other cyclists once out of Cambridge and not just on Lodes Way – which is good to see.

I also almost swallowed yet another fly, but after much coughing and spluttering managed to spit it out. How can such a small insect cause such a problem.