Sunday, July 3, 2011

The best laid plans…

Thursday, 30th June 2011: Not having cycled as much as I would like recently, by Thursday I started the day thinking I would have the day off and cycle over towards Bury St Edmunds and then up towards Thetford and then back again (since I wasn’t planning on staying there!). The day started nicely the weather looked good and my plan was to leave around 10am having dealt with any email that needed dealing with. As often happens stuff gets in the way, the good thing about leisure cycling is that you just adapt to the circumstances. Sometimes it is great to be out there all day, but even a few hours is enough to recharge the batteries.

I am taking a leaf out of the Cottenham Cyclist’s post and this is going to be a non-moaning post. What it made me realise is that cycling is fun, but reading many a cyclist’s blog, including mine you’d probably assume that cyclists are a curmudgeonly lot. Well it isn’t true, most cyclists I bump into are a social bunch and are only too happy to talk about favourite routes. Yes we might well shake a hand at a motorist passing by at high speed with inches to spare but cycling really is good for those endorphins. The link talks about runner’s high but do a search on “cycling endorphins” and you’ll see that cyclists are also endorphin junkies.

Perhaps it is karma, we feel so good when out cycling that to balance it out we have to have a grumble in our posts.

Winking smile

Here is the ride that I eventually headed out on and here is the Bike Route Toaster link. As you can see I didn’t get out to Bury St Edmunds, I didn't get out on my bike until the afternoon. I did set off in the right direction and en route bumped into MikeC who came up with an excellent link for the Speedwatch statistics in the area – thanks Mike. But since that'll probably get me moaning I’ll leave it for another post.

I ended up cycling into Newmarket on a modified NCN51 route – it skips the hill around Swaffham Bulbeck and skips Reach entirely. I then headed towards Snailwell before heading up to Isleham and then over to Soham using the secret National Byway route. There are signposts up, and fortunately parts of the route appear on the OSM Cycle map. This link should point to an OSM cycle map showing the route from Isleham through to Sutton.

I then used the byway/bridleway route back through to Wicken Fen and then Lodes Way to return to Cambridge. Although there was the possibility of rain it was actually OK and got quite warm towards the end of the ride. The ride is 72Km/45 miles, it is surprising when you cycle in short segments how far it can take you. Some of the route is even on roads that haven’t been designated as National Byway routes or National Cycle routes, but apart from taking care when you cross the A10 into Soham there is nothing that springs to mind to complain about.

As I mentioned earlier I bumped into MikeC in Exning and we stopped and had a chat about brakes and braking distances, he knows far more than I do. I have just had a quick look at the Wiki entry for Bicycle whilst doing a quick search for braking. It says that:

“Drop handlebars "drop" as they curve forward and down, offering the cyclist best braking power from a more aerodynamic "crouched" position”

An interesting take on drop handlebars “offering best braking power”. The Wiki article on Bicycle brake systems does not perpetuate this odd statement though.

After Exning I cycled into Newmarket, but departed from the NCN51 route through the middle and cut through to the A142 (Fordham Road) and then cut back on the Snailwell Road. You might think that this was not a very logical route. You’d be right. I was still planning on heading out towards Bury St Edmunds on NCN51, although not all the way and when I went past the Snailwell I thought why not got that way instead for a change. You pass a lot of horsey places with Stud Farms and race tracks in view.

In the same spirit of trying to cycle along roads that are less travelled by me I cycled out of Snailwell on the Fordham Road to Fordham, not logical and because it wasn’t logical it meant it was a route I would not normally ever take. You see there was method in my madness.

This detour took me into Fordham where on the busy bit of the road there is a shared-used path first on one side of the road and then when you get into Fordham on the other. This is in fact that bit of shared-used path. It is so shared use that even cars get to park on it. Fortunately they had left a gap and despite wobbling my handlebars didn’t clout the door mirror. No prizes for guessing who they were – builders – who are allowed to park on pavements wherever they are doing a job so that other motor traffic isn’t impeded. (I think I’d better move on otherwise it might start turning negative!)

This ride was more of a pootle than a purposeful ride, I didn’t have any exploring or distance or place in mind and when I reached Fordham that’s when I decided to cycle up to Isleham. On the outskirts of Isleham I cycled along Hall barn Road which met up with the National Byway route (NB).  I have to say they do pick some very pleasant roads – I have been along here before, but it does really feel like an isolated farm road although that A10 is not that far away.

This is the road, after Hall Barn Road it becomes Temple Road before reaching this corner and then it is called Common Gate drove. I did pass a van on the road – I pulled up to one side and got a very pleasant wave – you see White Van men are also much more courteous in the fens.

There are a couple of airbases nearby – Mildenhall and Lakenheath so it is not unusual to see a variety of plans flying around from Fast Jets to propeller-cargo planes.  Like this one leaving its trails of smog behind. To be fair you trails are more noticeable with the picture processing. It looks like a C-130 Hercules, although even with my long lens it was quite far away when I took the picture.

As I‘d stopped I also took a picture of some of the crops growing in the fields – I assume these are onions the leaves don’t look broad enough for leeks.

A bit of ditch work/repair taking place at the end of this field.

After turning off from Common gate Drove onto East Fen Drove a quick stop to take picture of these potatoes in flower.

They had been recently irrigated – apparently potatoes go through phases of being particularly sensitive to moisture stress.

After crossing the A10 and finding my way through Soham passing through East Fen Common on the way I headed towards Mill drove which crosses the railway line (between Ely and Bury St Edmunds). This took me onto Bracks Drove, a byway, which in the dry is quite passable although in places seems more like single-track than byway. (bi-way?). You do have to pay attention, this path is used by other cyclists and walkers. I passed a family out on their bikes. I have also have met young lads out on motorcycles as well in the past.

At one point you come to a concrete road which I presume was built by or for one of the local farms (Triangle Farm) perhaps.  Just in case you might be tempted there is a friendly warning sign.

I forgot to mention that you also pass horses on the path as well. I passed this lady leading a young girl along the path.  At the moment the path is so dry that the are longitudinal cracks that seem to draw the bike wheels in and make if feel a little like you are “running on rails”.

The byway becomes a bridleway before reverting to a byway again, only called Drove Lane. This is where the bridleway meets Drove Lane. That bit of byway seems worse than the bridleway.

I headed back through Wicken and onto Wicken Fen and the Lodes Way. I stopped at the footbridge over Burwell lode and took a few pictures, I have mentioned before that I seem to have thing about bridges and pictures.  In fact I took a picture of Reach lode Bridge from the Burwell Lode bridge. I do think that they did a good job in designing the bridge you have to look quite hard to see it as it doesn't really intrude unlike the electricity pylons.

This area is a popular walking spot as well - this lady hade come down the footpath alongside Burwell Lode from Upware. She looked well equipped for a long walk.

Whilst standing on the footbridge I took a picture of the Environment Agency’s tip-up bridge, or rather the reflection,  in its usual up position.

Another Lodes Way user – cycling up the new path through the fen.

I finally heaved my bike down the steps and set off back to Cambridge along Lodes Way. As I was using my long lens (100-300mm which is 200-600mm if adjusted for a 35 mm picture) I took a picture of the trees at the top of “Burwell Fen”, up near where Reach Lode meets Burwell Lode.

Another picture of Reach Lode bridge as I got closer.

This field is part of Swaffham Prior Fen and was harvested late and looked as if it was being allowed to lie fallow – I was wrong, a new crop was drilled and had started to spring up along Split Drove.

As I cycled along a helicopter was heading in my direction, but it turned off – I believe it is an Apache AH1 which is made by Westland under license from Boeing with modifications specified by the Ministry of Defence. A snip at £35million.  I had one of these appear over a hedge as I was cycling along a country lane – they are quite a fearsome sight close up “looking” at you.

To restore my inner peace and harmony I took some flower pictures. Here are some red poppies growing in the field margins.

And here are some “opium” poppies – perhaps that is what the helicopter was doing, it had mistaken England for Afghanistan.

As you can see there were loads of poppies growing as “weeds” in this field.

I almost forgot to mention, when I bumped into the Cottenham Cyclist the other day we saw some cyclists go by on vintage bicycles. MikeC also has vintage cycle interests and told me that it was the Veteran Cycle Club – V-CC. This particular outing was the Cambridge Fifty.

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