Friday, May 27, 2011

No way out of the Hockwold Fens–Part 2

Wednesday, 25th May:A quick recap – lovely day, not much cycling for the previous few days, so time to explore the Hockwold Fens, via a few byways and a mid-morning start.  Not all exploring works though so I had to backtrack – where it says blocked and there are red dotted lines. The navigable route shown is available on this Bike route Toaster Link and is 130Km/ 81 miles long. In my case I went somewhat further because of my ride along half of the red dotted line and back.  There are also byways I would give a miss to next time.  (Sandy drove being one of them – see Part 1.) At this point I have cycled from Cambridge to a byway near Lakenheath railway station heading towards Brandon.

As far as I can see on the map the byway does not have a name, unless I use Streetmap at a 25K scale and then it is called Hereward Way and is a Long distance walk. After crossing the Cut-off Channel this is how the path looked. For a split-second I wondered whether I must have just missed a fleeting shower, but the skies had been like that for most of my ride – no showers there.  It was due to the irrigation taking place in the fields alongside the byway. Whilst this sort of path does not have the same evocative smells as riding through a hot pine forest it does make for very pleasant cycling. 

I did swerve to avoid the puddles though – you don’t know how deep they might be. I also passed a jogger making good progress heading in the other direction.  By the looks of things it ought to be possible to use a bridleway on the River Little Ouse which runs (wends its way) parallel to this bit of the Hereward Way but slightly to the north of the railway line. Perhaps that is the route the jogger will take.  Strangely that bridleway has short sections of footpath along its way near to Brandon and at one point looks as if it crosses the River Little Ouse, although there does not appear to be a bridge.

Hereward Way leads onto Chalk Road and then into Brandon past the church – the Church of St Peter. The flint dressing is typical (in my limited experience) of churches in this area. For a more detailed description try this – St Peter, Brandon.

After joining the main road through Brandon I passed over the River Little Ouse, a river I hoped to be cycling along later in the day.

After Brandon I headed up to Weeting, I had intended to take a track to the left just after crossing the level crossing called Fengate Drove but didn’t, I just overlooked it I think. It must have been the shared-use path alongside the Brandon road that attracted my attention. The shared-use cycle path met with RR30 on the outskirts of Weeting and I stopped for a brief rest and a snack. Although I usually eat jelly babies when cycling this time I ate the Tropical Island Mix thinking that it might be slightly better with a slower release of energy, I hadn’t realised quite how thirsty I was though and drank one bottle of lemons squash straight off. If you follow the Street view link the road to the right is the route of RR30 into Breckland – a lovely off-road route – but very sandy. As you cycle through the woods you sometimes hear a train nearby, but shielded by the trees.

I turned off from RR30 to head in a north-westerly direction out of Weeting along the B1106 to Methwold, but just on the outskirts, I caught the first available BOAT heading left (to the right of the gate in the link). I was a bit worried as to the type of surface, some of the paths through the woods can be very sandy, but it was great – a good surface along a track with hedgerow each side before popping out into the open.

And when I say popped out – it did, with a path that carried along open countryside.

There were ponies grazing in the fields alongside and they paid me no attention whatsoever.

As it happens I had popped out into Hockwold Heath, Tomorrow's Heathland Heritage (THH) has cleared 91 hectares (225 acres) of pine trees to create a new nature reserve. Heath’s are man-made and if left to its own devices it would revert to woodland again and needs regular grazing.

As the BOAT climbed up through it passed more forest area and the track became a bit sandier, although never really a problem. Alongside the track was what I thought was Broomrape growing.

So I stopped for a closer look, the bees were certainly busy. I think that it is actually Wild Mignonette or Reseda lutea. The first link says that it is much visited by bees.

The path then reached a T-junction meeting another BOAT. Next time I will go right and then head along a road left after a short distance. On my Marin Hybrid with 25mm tyres this sort of track is horrible to cycle along. It saps your energy and as the front wheel digs in the rear wheel slips sideways and occasionally you find yourself having to jump off.I even managed to bang my shin against the pedal on one unplanned dismount. For the most part I cycled along it, but did have to walk occasionally. I was going to loop around the back of Chalkhall Farm on a byway but figured carrying straight on to Hockwold was probably the shortest route into Hockwold cum Wilton. (Where the track acquires the name Mill Drift – I am surprised there weren't more sand dunes).

It was quite a relief to reach solid tarmac again as I once again re-joined RR30.  It is not just the churches that had the flint look, so do the pubs – The Red Lion. Unfortunately it looks as though this pub is up for sale.

As you can see here it appears for sale. Although the link indicates a 3 or 6 year tenancy or longer lease for this “food led” operation with scope to encourage the wet led side! I wonder if that includes the three red lions?

I followed RR30 out of Hockwold along Burdock Lane taking the first available byway to the left along Sluice Drove which passed over the Cut-off channel, looking somewhat larger and clear at this end. It does interconnect with the River Little Ouse just south of Hockwold so perhaps this is where the real drainage business starts.

The bridge is owned by the Environment Agency and they seem to be wondering what to do with the it?

This is the bridge, although the note didn’t really give a reference  for the bridge. According to the Local Council minutes they have been notified about maintenance works on bridges. (Also noted as item 17.7 on this word document.)

There are quite a few military installations around these parts and as well as the airbases at Mildenhall, and Lakenheath there is also a station at Feltwell, although it does not seem to have a US website it does have a wiki RAF Feltwell and has the home of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service’s sole furniture store in the county. It was also a former Thor missile base.  The furniture is stored in those spherical warehouses.

Next – The real “exploring” beings…

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