Thursday, September 29, 2011

Shock, horror Cambridge Railway Cycle parking Dire–lets get people back in their cars ;-)

Wednesday, 14th September: A day in London – means finding somewhere to park my bike in the dratted Cambridge Railway Station Cycle park(s). A car park so bad that it has an on-line Protest on FixMyTransport as I write this it has 159 followers and seems to have the largest group of followers of the 800 odd problems already reported. I won’t hold my breath.

It must be something to do with the economy, however whenever I cycle into the car park it seems to me that there are more and more free car spaces. Perhaps the success of moving more and more people from their cars onto bicycles is exacerbating the problem. Perhaps what we should have instead of the Cambridge Cycle Campaign (CCyC) is the Cambridge Car Campaign (CraP) to free up cycle parking spaces but getting people back into their cars.


According to Cambridge First – “Campaign to improve ‘dire’ cycle parking” there is provision for 333 bicycles, but the aforementioned CCyC survey last year found that there were 1,597 bicycles parked in the station area. It has been a problem for years and by encouraging commuters to cycle helps alleviate the traffic and yet no-one seems to give a toss. Who cares about second-class cyclists eh?

Mind you the problem is not just restricted to the station Cambridge first did a follow – “Your Say: Does Cambridge need more cycle parking?” The answer was yes.

It seems to me that there are more bikes packed into the Cambridge Railway Station cycle parks then even the “Rickshaw Graveyard” in Dhaka the capital of  Bangladesh.

Cycle parking must also be a problem for the Post Office as it is the “Last post for bikes as mail vans take over” in Cambridge.

The good news is that after a recent cull of “abandoned bikes” there are one or two spaces and whilst it is dry you don’t get muddy squeezing along the gaps between the rows of bikes. Here is my bike, with the bike bag on and there is a space to the right and to the front.

You do have to look hard for a space though. I suppose one “benefit” is that with so many bikes to steal the probability of your bike getting stolen is quite small. Which is a good job as you might have to be a do-it-yourself detective if you want to get it back.

You still see a lot of bikes that the owner has been unable to lock to a stand and had to leave it, at least in this case it is locked.

We also seem to have had a few accidents recently with a woman injured near the Milton Arms pub on Milton Road a man seriously hurt in Willingham after falling from his bike. A cyclist has also been assaulted on Jesus Green. Apparently we survey suggested that nearly 30% of drivers send text messages while at the wheel (that is steering wheel not bike wheel). Flip no wonder the EU is calling for “Crash helmets and warning jackets”. Perhaps we’ll soon need ECM (electronic counter measures) to jam text-senders as well soon.

So how come the Dutch don’t find it necessary to wrap themselves in cotton wool eh. For that matter neither do supermodels in New York like Helena Christensen.

Cycle Lanes–I despair sometimes

Tuesday, 13th September: This a catch-up post before my epic drive the length and breadth of the UK  - well nearly.

Winking smile

In preparation for the aforementioned journey I thought it was prudent to arrange for my car to be serviced and MOT’d – I could have waited until I got back – but although my car has a low mileage, I cycle more miles than I drive, it is a Land Rover – and has has its breakdown moments – just little things like suspension failure and failure to go into any gear but reverse. (Did I also mentioned that at one time the breaks would lose any power assistance – which feels like break failure – but if you push hard enough isn’t quite!)

My plan was to get the car to the garage early, they open at 8am and then have a gentle leg-stretching ride before returning home along with a similar ride in the evening to collect it.  I tend not to get out first thing in the morning, apart from when I pop to  my local shop to get the morning paper and so most of my pictures tend not to show the early morning sun.

This time around I headed out on the Newmarket Road to the P&R site intending to cycle  back along the NCN51 route into Cambridge.  Two things caught my eye, the first was the cycle lanes at the junction of the P&R car park and Newmarket Road as poor cycle lanes are a blight on the safe sharing of roads by cyclists and motor vehicles. Unfortunately I forgot to actually take any picture in the morning.

The second thing that caught my eye was that speed limits have been altered on the Newmarket Road – the last time I looked this sign marked the end of the 40MPH speed limit, it now showed a 50MPH limit – I wondered how far it extended for. So although my plan was just to take a picture of the sun rising I carried on a bit further.

Alright perhaps it wasn’t quite sunrise – the sun was quite high in the sky really – but it still looked interesting in the sky. In fact I think that it was really the clouds that created the interest fo rme.

The 50MPH speed limit extended out to halfway between Quy and the Missing Sock.  I wonder why this was done – I am not complaining however it should help to make the road a little quieter. (NCN51 runs along here.)

This is the tree you can see in the last picture with the sun a white disk in the background – even when using HDR.

The sky looked quite unusual and I tried to take a 5 picture panorama shot – here is one of the pictures.

I couldn’t get them to blend and join properly though – see here is a Hockney-esque attempt at a form of montage. The problem was that there was not enough stand-out detail for the alignment of the pictures and it was also probably too wide a spread.

It wasn’t quite so nice by the end of the day when I went to pick up my car – I did remember to pop up to the P&R/Newmarket Road junction though to take those pictures I mentioned of the cycle lanes.

All straight on traffic goes through this gap – this appears to be a Mandatory Cycle lane although as the paint as worn off any motorist could make a good case for saying it wasn’t legal. In any case it is rather narrow. The handlebars on my Marin are wider than that.

Now the idea behind the MCL is that motor vehicles“MUST NOT drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line during its times of operation. Do not drive of park in a cycle lane marked by a broken white line unless it is unavoidable. You MUST NOT park in any cycle lane whilst waiting restrictions apply “. It is currently rule 140 in the UK Highway Code – although with revisions these number do change.  (As an aside it took me ages to find the rule in the on-line version of the Highway Code – the way they chop the Code into helpful sections did not help me. The section is found under Multi-lane carriageways, rather than rules for cyclists, which is logical but it is relevant to cyclists.

So back to the MCL – well I think that it is an MCL although the white lane has faded up to the stop point. However without looking at the RTRA 1984 or the Road Traffic Regulation Act in too much detail I can’t find a reference in it to Mandatory Cycle Lane – or variations, so I have given up, it is a good job I am not a lawyer.

So I can’t comment on whether this chap is committing an offence, especially since the white line has faded and the cycle lane is barely wide enough for a cycle.

Having said that this driver clearly felt that it was possible to drive in such a manner as to give plenty of space to the MCL – or should that be alleged MCL. Mind you it might also have had something to do with the fact that I was obviously standing there with my camera taking pictures of cars going through the traffic lights.

I do feel that this bus driver has an excuse though – the road is not really wide enough for the bus to get through without driving over the MCL. Which is my point – why was this put in if it is unworkable – all it serves to do is weaken the authority of such lanes in general. Mind you the bus lanes seem to be ignored by many motorists in Cambridge as well  - which clearly displeases the bus drivers.

My other concern with both MCLs and ACLs (advisory) is that they also “give permission” for motor vehicles to pass cyclists without the need to give extra room, which is in contravention of Highway code Rule 163 – follow the link and look at the picture – it is very unusual to be give that much space when being overtaken, although to be fair it does happen more often on fast roads.

I find cycling out of Cambridge on the road part of Newmarket Road further into town to be so bad I avoid it. The road has two lanes, the out for cars the inner a bus lane and within the bus lane is a cycle lane. Busses have passed me with inches (centimetres) to spare and you can feel the suction pulling you into the bus – I am not a light cyclist and I find it bl**dy scary sometimes. I think that sometimes cycle lanes are  stuck in by well-meaning traffic planners to raise the profile of cyclists on the road. I remember something I was taught by my parents as a child – if you are going to do something – do it right. Perhaps I ought to live in Holland. (My wife and I cycled around there on our honeymoon umpty years ago – we still haven’t caught up even here in Cambridge.)

View Larger Map

After my picture taking I headed back to pick up my car. I cycled along the left-hand shared used path rather then the right hand one (as you head back into town). That way avoids passing the Petrol garage which is both uneven and you are more likely to have to stop on a bike to give way for important motor vehicles.

As I reached Marshalls Garage this kind of said it all – cars on the shared-use path – stuff the pedestrians and cyclists – and for good measure the wooden post had also been knocked down.

Now I have mentioned that I had a Discovery – a rugged four wheel drive vehicle, with quite a low mileage in my case – except already a ball-joint is wearing and it might just last until next year’s MOT – apparently it will wear less on the Motorway. It must be all that driving to rugged areas to cycle that is the problem.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A bit of a rant about motoring

Back from my “hols”: I didn’t mean to be away from my Blog for quite so long, if I had I would have mentioned it. However as usual a variety of things have all conspired to keep my from cycling.  As is happening around the UK quite a few parents are seeing there children go of to study for the first time. In my case my daughter, worked very hard to achieve some excellent results to get to the University of her choice. Once the results came back then we went from not really having to think much about what next to full on planning. She confirmed her choice and then it was a case of working out what accommodation she was going to get and what stuff she would need for that accommodation.

So as a result of her choice of University I and driven what seems like miles and indeed was around 1,500 miles over the last week or so.  We had a weekend away helping my daughter settle in – which actually means acting as Sherpas to carry her stuff up a couple of flights of stairs to her room.

Because it was convenient we then broke our journey back to call in on my mother and stay with her for a night and then bring her to Cambridge. She stayed for a week and I took her back yesterday. So last week I had a little break – she is still active so we enjoyed some nice weather and became tourists (in our own city). 

Mind you before all of that I did have to go to London a couple of times and when I find a minute will post the pictures I took. during this “break” I have also had a new rear wheel built by Ben Hayward Cycles along with a bit of fettling on my Marin to prepare for the Winter weather.

So I will get around to those “back-fill” Posts but I thought I’d post about the two most recent things on my mind. Of course one of those has to be the Cambridge Guided Busway Cycleway – or should that be the CGB Cycleway or even the CGBC.

I claim you “read it here first” – Cambridge First reports that Skaters put “Guided Busway to good use” with students using the smooth tarmac surface to train for an upcoming race. I suppose the second bit of CGB news was bound to happen with “Two cars driven onto guided busway in one day”.  It would appear that in one case a pensioner made a mistake and managed to avoid signs, guides and car traps to find herself on the concrete tracks. In the second instance a woman followed a bus onto the tracks.  It would seem that the CGB was somewhat more resilient to those problems than a proper railway would have been – mind you you would think it would have been harder to drive you car onto train tracks.

I have been meaning to check out the progress of the Cycleway works between Swavesey and St Ives for a while – but stuff got in the way. Fortunately the “Travelling the Cambridgeshire guided busway” Blog has a post – Cycle path Swavesey to St Ives with an update and pictures. It is good that there is work taking place.

Finally – for now anyway, having drive a gazillion miles the length and breadth of this country – well it certainly feels like it I have been thinking about our roads. Rather I have been thinking about the quality of driving, the congestion on the roads and why (I think) we need to revolutionise our thinking.

Yesterday whilst taking my mother back we travelled along the A14, fortunately it wasn’t that congested going west. The eastbound carriageway was however chock-a-block. Although we didn’t actually survey the traffic a large number of cars seemed to have a single occupant.  In fact it seemed that as many as 3 in 4 cars had a single occupant. Despite all the moaning about petrol prices being so expensive we still prefer the convenience and “solitude?” of our cars.  Perhaps if more people did share then it would be cheaper and quicker.

On the way back I also passed the results of an accident on the A14 which caused huge tailbacks on the other side. – “Family ‘lucky to be alive’ as lorry and caravan collide” at the same time there were reports about an accident on the M11 involving three cars and two lorries. Also another recent accident was reported on the A14 – “Seven vehicle collision closes A14”. Also when my Mum and I were heading up the A14 we passed a lorry with a tyre that had started to disintegrate.

So what are the common denominators?  Well lorries seem to be involved in all three accidents, tyres seem to have been involved in one of them and in the lorry problem I saw.  I also saw a lot of lane switching by cars (and lorries) as they jockey for position.  Under such circumstances it only takes a slight mistake to create a serious accident. In my view busy roads call for better driving standards. Having said that I am not surprised to see suggestions to raise the speed limit on Motorways to 80mph. Whilst it might raise the accident rate slightly I think it is careless driving under packed conditions that causes motorway accidents.

I also found that motorway driving was easier when all the vehicles moved at a uniform speed. without any evidence I find that now we have average speed cameras on road works on motorways it creates a smoother flow which makes driving much easier. When there were road works but no average speed cameras then the traffic flow was much less even – turbulent even.  Which reminds me you see a lot of tail-gating on motorways as well. Another factor that increase the probability of a serious accident in moments of inattention.

I started writing this yesterday, but even this morning there are reports of two lorries crashing on the A14. Interestingly another news item  - “Business boss blames ‘sever overloading’ for A14 delays”, which talks about the problem but not about the solutions.  The A14 is in my mind a dual-purpose road, on the one hand it is an important haulage route and on the other there are hotspots of commuter congestion (between Huntingdon and Cambridge).

One focus could be on the lorry traffic, we could switch it onto the trains, or perhaps use a concept familiar to electronic engineers and go do TDM (time division multiplexing) and close the road to lorries during the working day and perhaps offer inducements to overnight lorry usage.  Haulage is more important to the economy than many of us all taking up space in our single-occupant cars. The trouble is lorries and cars don’t really mix on very busy roads  and when lorries crash it has a large impact.

The other focus needs to be on removing the cars. Commuting to and from work has to be one of the worst ways to burn up the resources of our planet, waste lots of time and pollute it at, all at the same time. Do we really want to build more and bigger roads when already the countryside in the UK is under pressure. We also need to sweat our assets and make the “corridors” we do have more efficient and effective at moving people. We really ought to try and ensure the roads are there for those essential journeys and off-load the rest.  There needs to be a revolution in our approach to work. We either need to get people closer to where they work (Cambourne?) or make it easier to be connected to work, whilst at home. 

I personally would also like to see more safety systems in cars and other motor vehicles.  A classic case is that of the door pillars in cars, they used to be thin and small making it easier to see vehicles at junctions, especially motor cycles. Nowadays those pillars have been made thicker so that the car is much safer in the vent of a crash. The trouble is that compromises the drivers view at junctions increasing the risk of a SMIDSY (Sorry mate I didn’t see you).  I have experienced this both on a motor bike and on a bicycle with a car pulling out in front of me and then the driver freezing as I suddenly “appeared from nowhere”.

So the safety focus should be on making drivers safer for the benefit of those around them, not just for their benefit.  GPS loggers could track and warn speeding drivers, do it too often and you have to go back to driving school.  I am also in favour of moving in from the points system of driving penalties and onto a training for drivers, hit them with time penalties and encourage them to learn as well. We all have a duty to other road users – especially those who don’t drive large “armoured” high-speed luxury wagons. (And yes although I much, much prefer cycling I do have a 4x4 – so I am not totally anti-car.)

The next post will be more bicycle themed, I promise (with my fingers behind my back, just in case).

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Lodes Way Loop (no 21 as it happens)

Saturday, 10th September: It was my chance to get out and cycle – there was a Grand Prix tomorrow and Hurricane Katia was on its way. Chores were done, oh yes it was also time to catch up on The Archers. (Mind you the misery being visited upon Bridge Farm means I have to be feeling pretty positive to go through with it and yes I do know it is not real.)

I have also bought a new pair of sunglasses, I know that sounds odd at the end of the Summer – but my old ones (Tifosi – something like these) are looking pretty battered. The rubber on the nose bridge has pretty much “rotted”. I liked them and felt they made for comfortable cycling sunglasses that were also OK for general use. I don’t blame them for the problem with the wasp getting between the lens and my eye either. However sometimes a change is as good as  a rest and by buying at the end of the season there is the chance of a bargain.

Now a bargain is only a bargain if you actually need the item you buy – well I am still using sunglasses at the moment – there are way too many flying things around not to. So I bought some Rudy Project sunglasses instead this time – they don’t have a frame all around and I wonder whether that will help reduce the problem of the lenses steaming up. (Although the Tifosi sunglasses were pretty good in that department.)

So when catching up on podcasts a good route is one of the permutations of the Lodes Way Loop. In the end I went for Number 21, just under 60Km/37 miles in length and  with a good mix of reasonable tracks and the occasional country lane. One or two of the bridleways do get a bit water-logged, but I didn’t think they would be too bad as we have not had much in the way of sustained rain for a while. Unfortunately the Cambridge DTG website has experienced a failure of their rain sensor over the last week so it is not really worth looking at their historic data.

Here is the map of the route I took, no annotations as it was an uneventful ride, still pleasant though.

The first stop was on the old railway bridge over what was the course of the Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway line on High Ditch Road. (On old maps the road has the annotation Fleam Dyke alongside and clearly I hadn’t put two and two together and realised this is the same dyke as runs parallel with the road (pdf) between Fulbourn and Balsham, but near the Fulbourn end.

I quite like the old steam trains, I think it must because they were still around when I was a young (very) lad. As a cyclist I do think that it is a great shame that all  old railway lines weren’t converted into decent (as in with a tarmac surface) cycle routes before they were reabsorbed into the countryside.

In that vein I bought a small publication “By Rail to Mildenhall, The Story of the Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway” by Peter Turner. (It is a Mildenhall Museum Publication, published in 1978. What I really wanted it for was the old pictures to see what I could glean about the areas I now cycle through. I was hoping to get a sense of the land around the old railway bridge over Swaffham Bulbeck Lode – which is referred to in the book as No. 3 Gate House, Swaffham Prior. (Here is an article on the web about the line with pictures – pdf)

The reason I stopped here was that the leaves look like they are just about to turn autumnal.

Although I come along here fairly frequently I missed this – it looks like a stolen car was abandoned and burnt out. But such things don’t hang round for long in these parts, although clearing up after fly-tippers does not come cheap.

As I have said before, farming isn’t a business where you hang around – once one crop is up you have to be working on getting things ready for the next. This farmer was working on a field just around from Snouts Corner, on the other side of Low Fen Drove Way.

Talking about putting old disused railway lines to good use here is the route of the aforementioned Cambridge to Mildenhall line – it makes a good route for farmers, walkers and cyclists.  The fields either side had linseed in them – once harvested the farmer didn’t hang around.

After reaching the road I stopped to take a “dramatic2 picture of this haystack with a “rake” in the foreground.  Farming equipment is multi-purpose – sometimes it is used on the fields and other times it is used to block the field entrances.

I’ve always felt that the “shed” on the left is an old railway truck that has been put to a different use.

After passing through White Fen and Swaffham Bulbeck Lode I passed this field that had been fallow this year – with some very nice poppies in it. It looks like it has had enough rest.

On the other side of the road this field had beetroot growing, it hardly seems anytime at all it was harvested – now the next crop is showing.

A bit further on evidence of the stronger winds we get at this time of year. Although there are no hills the wind can be troublesome for cyclists.

A bit further along and there was another tree down. Part of the tree had been blown down a while ago so it was probably only a matter of time.

At times it seems that the NT can move very quickly to get something done, at other times things seem to move at a snail’s pace.  The route up to Reach Lode bridge has had various bits of work done with this concrete apron being the most recent. It should stop idiot car drivers from trying to drive over the bridge though (when it is finished that is).

Along Lodes Way the clouds were looking a little like there might be rain. On my way around I had felt a few spits of rain – but nothing more. (This is where Newnham Drove and Lodes Way intersect.)

Another picture taken in the same place, yet more dramatic clouds.and partially finished gating.

There were no Tandemers to assist on the footbridge over Burwell Lode and as it has been dry Harrison’s Drove was dry. Strangely enough despite it being Saturday there didn’t seem to be anyone around where the boats are moored near Upware. 

A bit further along on Docking’s Lane (a byway that can get wet and muddy) it was dry. This gate didn’t seem to fir the field quite so well.

As I approached Reach this field was back in flower with Winter Oilseed Rape. As you might expect the track between Reach and Swaffham Prior was also bone dry and remarkably easy to navigate. Not in a getting lost sort of way though, just in a slipping and sliding and dabbing sort of way.

As I cycled into Swaffham Prior the sky was a reminder that the nights are starting to draw in and time for a bit of sunset photography. I love the lemon sky lighting up the silhouette of the treeline.

You can’t beat a cycle ride through the countryside – it certainly helped to offset the doom and gloom of The Archers – Jack Woolley had a stroke.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sun, Sting, Spoke & split

Saturday, 3rd September: They say bad things come in threes, well Saturday was delightful. Although if you follow the link you will there was also some wind, but it was so nice I must have forgotten all about it. I just remember it as sunny, warm, but ideal for cycling day.

I was planning to pop up the CGB (Cambridge Guided Busway) to see how they are getting on with raising the area of cycleway that floods up near St Ives. In fact I have been meaning to visit that area of the CGB for a while. But I didn’t it was such a nice day I wanted to get out into some rolling countryside. Which around here means heading out to Suffolk, well there other places, but perhaps not quite as near to Cambridge.

I took a fairly direct route out of Cambridge, first along NCN51 and then pealing of along to Six Mile Bottom, more or less in a South Easterly direction. Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link. I was actually planning to go a little further – the route on the map is around 65Km/40 miles and I was originally thinking that I would cycle for 80Km/50 miles. But events conspired against me. Looking at the elevation trace of the route I could have called this the Twin Peaks ride – although that might be construed as false advertising unless you are a flatland dweller. The route does take you up to 120m, twice, but the dip between the “peaks” only drops to 75m or so.

The first bit of the ride after NCN51 is not so pleasant. It is a straight, thin road but also a convenient way through to the A11. So you the cars really do whizz by. In places the road camber is also slightly odd and can catch unwary drivers out. Having said that it wasn’t that busy and most cars seemed to have heard of the Highway Code Rule 163. I have thought about getting a T-shirt with something along the lines of  “Highway code – 163 Do U Know it?” printed on the back – but I don’t think my back is big enough.

My daughter who has recently passed her driving test has observed how few other motorists seem to give cyclists their due overtaking space. (It was a rule I made sure she was aware of from the start!) The trouble is some cycle lanes basically give permission for motorists to ignore the rule (at all times). Ty cycling along Newmarket Road in Cambridge. As you can see there is a “car lane”, a bus lane and a cycle lane. Unfortunately the cycle lane just eats into the Bus lane. This means that the unwary cyclist can find themselves being dragged along as buses pass within inches. The trouble is that when a double-decker bus passes you even at say “only” 25mph the bus is so large and the gap so small the cyclist gets buffeted by the buses slipstream. It is so unpleasant that I rarely cycle this way.

In my mind this cycle lane is an example of how the danger for cyclists. It gives a false sense of security to the cyclist and yet gives permission for the bus driver to pass the cyclists with very little clearance.


View Larger Map

Six Mile Bottom lies on the route of the  Ipswich to Ely railway line, but the station closed in January 1967. I could have cycled straight on along the Brinkley Road but chose instead to detour down the A1304 and then onto the Six Mile Bottom Road towards West Wratting.

It is on this road where you get a better sense of the gently rolling countryside, especially as you have to do a little climbing yourself up past Lark Hall Heath Farm and on towards Lark Hall. This view is looking towards the North-East. Although I tend to think of this part of the UK as being more about arable agriculture with vast yellow fields of oilseed rape there are quite a few patches of trees as well. This picture was made from two HDR pictures stitched together using Photoshop Elements 9.

This is the view looking along the road, these conifers are quite a common sight in this part of the world. They look rather odd with their spindly trunks and I have always assumed they were there to provide a windbreak and were perhaps resistant to the winds. As you can see having climbed a little the time the rolling countryside – well rolls. When you reach Lark Hall Corner then it is definitely climbing time. There corner is at around 56m and you quickly “climb” to 84m followed by a longer drag up to 101m At this point the Icknield Way path crosses the road. It is a byway that I cycle between Balsham and a pumping station.

The next climb is “up” through West Wratting which takes you from around 100m to 120m. (There is an estate in West Wratting – West Wratting Park that looks rather nice.)

It was going down this dip that some sort of stinging insect somehow managed to crash through the gap between my sunglasses and my eye and sting me just under the eye and leave bits of insect debris in my eye. I think it was a wasp as it felt quite big as I pulled it out, but it wasn’t furry enough for a bumble bee. It was quite a shock to see reported in the press a few days later that a cyclist was believed to have crashed and died because of a fly in his eye. My condolences go to his family.

As is usually the case in such reports it mentions that he was wearing a helmet but did not have “protective glasses” and was travelling at just over 40mph when he crashed. The explanation for the wobble and crash was conjecture rather than fact.

The Highway code does make a point of the fact the cyclists can and do wobble from time to time – even the most experienced. I once got fly in each eye fortunately I was not on a busy road or going very fast and managed to stop on the grass verge. Apparently mosquitoes are on the rise so something else to watch out for.

It was a lovely day and so my plan was to carry on to Withersfield and then see about looping back. On the way through before reaching Withersfield on Skipper’s Lane you pass what looks like an old airfield. It used to be RAF Wratting Common and thousands of sorties were flown from this airfield. Most recently there was a Memorial event held there. Here is a more personal account of the airfield.

It would seem that one of the first casualties of the defence cutbacks has been the RAF website – its references to historical airfields seem to have gone.  Whilst I acknowledge that costs have to be cut it seems a bit of modern vandalism to delete that sort of history from the web.  Books cost money to store but there would be an outcry if in the quest to save money the RAF burnt all the old Airfield Log books.  I wonder if there is an institution that acts as a home for unwanted web pages?

After passing through Withersfield I cycled to the “sleepy village” of Great Thurlow and thought I would cycle along Water Lane a BOAT. There is quite a steep hill into Great Thurlow  which my daughter and I have been down a few times on my Tandem.  I expect it would be possible to break the 30mph speed limit without much effort down that hill. It is a good job the brakes on the Tandem were in good nick.

It wasn’t long before I reached the Water Lane turn off after passing through Great Bradley after a short distance the road is crossed by the River Stour – there is a ford. There was no water in evidence when I went through.  I think that there passage for the water underneath the road, but when the river is high it overflows the road. When I was checking the map Water lane takes you up to Kirtling, but from the 50K OS map it was not that clear it was a right of way. The 25K OS map does clearly show it as a green dot road or BOAT though. (OS map keys – 25K, 50K, pdf).

You can get maps on the Ordnance Survey website – but I must be going a bit doolally it took me a while to find it – it is called getamap. (They have their old system still available here.) For some reason it doesn’t seem to be working at the moment. Cloud computing – great when it works. Oops after a few goes it is now working. I think I’ll stick with Streetmap.

What I did realise was that I had not actually followed the BOAT but diverted around the footpath along side Kirtling Brook to the left. I seem to remember doing that the last time as well.

Back to the ride – after crossing the non-existent ford I stopped to take a picture (the link is to a previous post when there was water) – again two pictures stitched together. The track – Water Lane is on the left  and I think that the woodland on the horizon is Bradley Park Wood. Although the link to the Great Bradley Walks seems to suggest in might be Great Widgham Wood. No it is Bradley Park Wood, here is a map – which also shows Water Lane as the Newmarket Cycle Way. (And so apparently is the Swaffham Heath Road.) I also found this interesting website - wet roads showing the locations of Fords around the UK.

As I sat back on the bike and pedalled off I got that sinking feeling the sort that comes from having now air in the rear tyre. It was completely flat. So I hopped off, took the GPS and pump, tyre levels and a spare tube from my rack pack and turned the bike over.

I found the split after a while – which thinking about it was because it was windy and so hearing the air coming out was quite tricky.  Try as I might I couldn’t find the cause of the puncture though. Normally I put patches on but in the interests of time didn’t this time. As I was fixing the puncture a lady walking her dog stopped and we had a little chat. She admired my small pump – great for carrying around, not so great for inflating tyres to much more than a moderate pressure though.

She also offered me help and let me know where she lived in case I had any problems getting going. That is one of the things I like about the countryside – people are generally much more trusting and friendly.

As I set off I did feel a little uncomfortable wondering if my tyre would deflate again, but it was ok, despite being a bit squidgier than I normally run my tyres at. The close look at the rear wheel also made me realise that I had another broken spoke. This wheel was a machine built wheel and whilst being inexpensive and a quicker way to replace my last wheel I can't help feeling you get what you pay for and decided to to have a hand built wheel to replace it. I have found that Ben Hayward Cycles hand built wheels have been much more reliable and far less likely to lose the trueness.

Kirtling Brook is actually part of a water transfer scheme used to transfer water from the River Ouse to the River Stour – and was first operational in 1972.  This system is being enhanced and instead of relying upon a brook this part of the transfer scheme is being replaced by a pipeline. By the looks of things the pipeline is pretty much in the ground and now being covered. This picture was taken near when I took the wrong turn on Water Lane.

As you can see, here in the close-up, the pipeline is being covered.

The last time I cycled this way I carried on along other bridleways, this time, because of being delayed after fixing the puncture and to cut the risks of another puncture I took a more direct road route back. I headed back through WooddittonStetchworth and Dullingham. Stopping to take a few pictures of the clouds in the sky on the way.

It’ll not be too long before the leaves start turning.

This is one way to stop level-crossing jumpers – the level crossing next to Dullingham Station is hand-operated. Which presumably means when it is closed the safety margin is longer and so it blocks the road for longer. These crossing gates look quite old, or at least the stone posts thy hang from look old.

The view of the signal box looking towards Cambridge. This is a district line and not electrified. Diesels run along here and there are only two sets of tracks around the stations (I think).

After Dullingham you pass the Cambridge and Newmarket Polo Club, so I pulled over to take a picture. First I took a picture of this haystack on the other side.

This is a picture of Polo in action, or perhaps practice – I didn’t stay long enough to work out whether they were playing or not.  There are 32 acres of tranquil open space.

After that I headed along the Swaffham Heath Road and took the NCN51 route back. The tyre was fine – there were no further mishaps.