Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sunny Saturdays were made for cycling

Saturday, July 2nd: Although I loaded up the pictures and the associated map onto my PIcasaweb (PW) space a few days ago, it has taken me a few days to get around to inserting them into a Blog Post. I am now using my laptop whilst sitting in a hotel bedroom in Manchester with a few minutes to spare and I thought I would write this Post, starting with sticking the pictures into the Post and then adding the words. Only I had uploaded the wrong map onto PW before I left.

Actually this post had been written in four stage stages, it had the pictures inserted first, then in a Manchester hotel room I started the words, I did some more on the train and am now finishing it off back at home.

The disadvantage of using different computers is that the correctly annotated map is sitting on the hard drive of my desktop computer. The good thing is that because I am using cloud computing/storage more in my workflow I was able to pick up the route from Bike Route Toaster and then “snip” it and upload the new one into PW Album.  Which is shown below, however I haven’t got a mouse with me and I find it almost impossible to add hand-written comments onto the map with the touchpad on my laptop, sorry. UPDATE: The annotated map has now been added, because I did not get time to finish the Post before getting back home so I annotated when home.

For the record my workflow is:

  1. Transfer pictures from the memory card into a directory with date and place visited for the directory name
  2. Download the route and timing/speed data from my GPS onto my computer (Garmin Training Center)
  3. Store the training data along with any comments about the ride
  4. Run Photomatix on the multi-exposure pictures
  5. Use Picasa to tweak and crop and select pictures
  6. Export selected pictures into a new directory
  7. Stitch any panorama shots together using Photoshop Elements
  8. Upload the relevant pictures into  Picasaweb (they end up in an Album with the same name as the directory)
  9. Use Bike Route Toaster to produce a trace of the route
  10. Take a picture of the BRT route and store as a picture
  11. Annotate the BRT route picture with anything that springs to mind
  12. Upload the annotated map picture to PWA in the same album as the pictures
  13. Start a new Blog post using Windows Live Writer.
  14. Insert the pictures
  15. Write the post (sometimes over a period of days)
  16. Re-read it – but whilst I can spot other peoples’ mistakes
  17. Post it.

So here it is.  On Saturdays I often catch up with any Radio podcasts that I subscribe to and that have downloaded during the week which means generally I want to find a route that is pleasantly quiet.  I make no bones about the fact I listen to my MP3 player when cycling. This fact added to my “failure” to use a cycling helmet and that I seem to cycle  for distances of more than a couple of miles sometimes gets looks of disbelief from non-cyclists when mentioned.

I wonder why that is?  If you have ever cycled in a town or city then the traffic noise can be really unpleasant. If you cycle out on an even moderately busy road you’d be amazed just how loud the tyre noise has gotten to nowadays.  At the same time it seems to me that car manufacturers are vying for ways to increase the quality and power of in-car sound systems.   There has also been a significant increase in the amount of sound-proofing to protect the occupants of cars from the nasty outside world.

So why do we nag cyclists not to listen to music/podcasts and yet seem to insulate car drivers as much as possible from their surroundings. Worse we blame cyclists for being reckless. Yet in practical terms just how dangerous is it to use earphones on a bicycle and why isn’t it dangerous to listen to music in a car?  I feel that it is once again that application of double standards. Motor vehicles are the majority cause of cycling-related accidents.

You would have to have your music incredibly loud not to be able to hear the sound of a car horn or even the noise of a car engine. Yet the presumption is that we cyclists must bear the responsibility for the danger on the roads that is presented by motor vehicles. Whereas we don’t say that car drivers must not listen to the radio and yet the consequences of a motorist’s lack of attention can be much more significant to those around them, particularly to vulnerable road users.

Just think what an outcry there would be from motorists about the “war on drivers” if radios were banned and fines handed out for transgressing. Not to mention the concerns from industry about protecting freedoms, but in reality being concerned about the loss of revenue from a decrease in sales.

There are circumstances when being able to hear something like the ting of another cyclist’s bell is important although even then that is generally caused by poor infrastructure. For instance on the cycle route between Mill Road and Cherry Hinton (The Tins) the bridge over the railway line is quite narrow and has a steep approach and a bend at each side.

Anyway back the ride and my diatribe on listening to an mp3 player when cycling – I mentioned it because when I do I like to cycle somewhere relatively quiet so that I can actually hear the music/program.  It was actually a very pleasant and sunny day on Saturday and I set off a relatively quick run out to Wicken and back. It was so pleasant that I kept tacking extra little bits onto the route and ended up cycling through Soham and Exning and then back along the road/byway that runs alongside the A14.

Here is the map and here is the BRT link. It is a reasonable 65Km/40 miles and was quiet enough for me to catch up on the Archers. Regular readers will know that I tend to go through phases of following certain routes or bits of routes quite a lot. Just recently I have enjoyed cycling up Lodes Way and then just after crossing Burwell Lode popping up Harrison’s Drove and up to Upware. I also like the byway/bridleway route between Soham and Wicken. Well this has them both.

As I was cycling to the turn off to White Fen I struck me how much the weed had grown in Bottisham Lode. In the event of a flood, which does look unlikely at the moment, the speed with which the water can be drained away depends upon how clear the ditches and drains are. Of course it also represents a lot of work.  Although I live around here and probably pay more attention than many to the drainage of the fens it is quite a network and impresses me. The lode is so overgrown you can’t see the water in it.

As I was cycling along Lodes Way at the point where it crosses Newnham Drove there was a bit of trail art. Actually it is the mould that will be used to build concrete horse mounting steps. I am not sure which routes work for horse riders around these parts. I would guess that just as I like to ride my bike on a circular route so do horse riders. The trouble is that a little bit further along there is only a footbridge over Burwell lode. Which is probably very tricky for a horse (it is tricky for a cyclist). So to create a circular route horses perhaps go down Newnham Dove.

I moan about the provision for cyclists but it seems to be worse for horse riders – if they do want to go this way they have to squeeze their horse through that small gap in the gate. I would also imagine that the road surface would be a bit dangerous in places. Perhaps the expectation is that they get of here and stop for a rest before heading back the way they came.

This is the view along Newnham drove up towards Burwell Fen Farm. It seems that there is more enclosure going on, there are now two sets of gates.  Strictly the bit of Newnham Drove that is a BOAT does end here and then a little bit further up the track there is a footpath that crosses Adventurers’ Fen and runs for a brief distance along the track. I suppose I am a little surprised that the NT has fenced it off rather than made it available for walkers (and cyclists and horse riders).

I bumped into MikeC on the bridge and after hauling my bike up we had a chat. As we stood there it was certainly good to see quite a few cyclists coming along, often in pairs. It was also pretty clear that some cyclists found it quite tricky to get their bikes up and down the steps despite the metal tracks.  That footbridge has pretty steep steps. Mike pointed out how the steps have tilted slightly as they have sunk into the bank, it is not easy building on the lode banks they have the consistency of marshmallow apparently.

It was so pleasant in the sun that if they been serving beer I’d have stopped for a pint and just enjoyed being out in the country.It does seem that the Lodes Way is meeting a need for safe and pleasant cycling.

After heaving my bike down off the bridge I carried along Harrison’s Drove. After the first half of broken concrete slabs it then passes through quite a marshy part of  Wicken Fen and after even the small amount of rain we’ve had recently the path has become water-logged in places.  It seems that in the past some form of matting has been put down to try to make the path less susceptible to problems – it does not appear to have worked.  from the looks of things recent motor traffic seems to have exacerbated the problem. I assume that NT vehicles were the culprits.

It is somewhat ironic that those charged with looking after this land are the ones that seem to chew it up the most. Perhaps the NT should go a bit greener?

Along Harrison’s Drove were some of these rather striking purple flowers growing along the edge. I have previously worked out the name of this flower, it is known as Vicia cracca or Tufted Vetch.

As I cycled along to the cock up bridge where Wicken Lode meets Burwell Lode (or maybe it is called Reach Lode) there was a long boat having a little bit of a struggle trying to get out of Wicken Lode and into the main Lode. They made it after a bit of toing and froing.  You can’t really see if from this picture, they had quite an audience watching from the bridge.

Actually I had passed another boat also heading out of Wicken Lode – here it is making its way to Reach Lode as it appears on the map – although I did think it was Burwell Lode.

I think the lad was having a “Titanic moment”.

On my way past Upware towards the A1123 there is a field of Flax, it is well past the flowering stage and now the fruit are ripening. Each of those brown blobs is a capsule and contains the seeds from which the oil is extracted. Actually the brown blobs are called bolls.

AI keep on talking about how I cut across to the back road between Padney and Wicken by crossing the A1123 when the Upware Road meets it and then taking a byway short-cut. The byway is called Docking’s Lane and, for me anyway, is a fair-weather short cut.  It runs along the edge of a field and as you might expect in an area where agriculture is important is a working byway. So there are ruts which can get muddy and sticky. This time around it was fine though.

The byway/bridleway route through to Soham can also get pretty muddy especially at the Soham end but at this time of year it makes a pleasant and quite popular alternative to the road. I then followed a byway from Soham onto the B1102 (between Burwell and Fordham.)  The byway meets Lark Hall Road and then turns down Cockpen Road.  (Next time I must look out to see if there is any evidence of the old Cambridge to  Mildenhall Railway line which used to pass both roads before joining with the still running Ely to Bury St Edmunds line.

How convenient, someone has kindly left a sofa by the side of the road for weary cyclists like me to stop and rest on.

This is the view from the sofa – except I didn’t really sit on a scruffy dumped sofa. I took the picture, which looks across to Fordham because I was surprised that Fordham was virtually invisible and how many trees there were around.

When I am not in a hurry I will generally take dry bumpy byways in preference to roads. So I headed past Tollgate Farm. This is another well-used track and there are some deep ruts and it is best avoided when wet.  I think this is the first time I have seen another cyclist on this track. It turned out she was taking a dog the size of a horse for a walk.  When she saw me she stopped and grabbed the dog. Although if it had wanted to get me I can’t see how she could have stopped it.

This is the view south from the track, a small rise from around 5m above sea level, where I was to slightly more than 15m at its highest.

On reaching the outskirts of Burwell I then headed to Exning via Howlem Balk and on crossing the B1102 Haycroft lane (both are byways. This is Haycroft Lane just after crossing the road.

This is a view form Haycroft lane somewhere a bit further down – I wanted to get the clouds in the picture.

As you can see I wasn’t really taking that many pictures, it was almost too nice. the detour via Exning was an afterthought and so was the ride up alongside the noisy A14, Boy it was noisy, it made a pleasant changer to cycle the other way along the byway though.

Then as I was heading towards Swaffham Bulbeck I cut across the fields along a bridleway and passed a dog walker and another cyclist. The fine weather was getting people out and about.

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