Thursday, May 31, 2012

Taking the scenic road home

Friday, 25th May 2012: Unfortunately we weren’t able to stay in Scotland any longer and had to bead back on Saturday, despite the fine weather continuing on. As you can see  in yet another shot up the Tay Firth towards the railway bridge the skies were blue and the morning didn’t start with any mist or fog.

My SatNav normally gives three route options, fast, short and a middle option. Since we had enjoyed looking around the coast I decided to take the slow short route which seemed to joined up the with medium route at Edinburgh.

The Tay Rail Bridge

this is where the route was going to take us – as you can see, no fog or mist. There have been building/road works along this bit of Dundee for at least a year – despite being the most recent map the SatNav still didn’t agree with where the road actually went. Whilst SatNavs are very useful you really have to pay attention to the road – after all the driver is responsible not the SatNav. You would drive on the wrong side of the road just because a passenger told you to, so why would you drive along the wrong route because a little box tells you to.

I notice with my SatNav that it will tend to position the car on the road, even if it isn’t. This means it can “think” you are on a different route to the on you are actually on. Generally it snaps back. The same happens on my Bicycle GPS so I have turned that particular feature off – because I cycle off road I don’t really want it to snap to roads.

The Tay Road Bridge

I took a similar picture last year – but couldn’t resist trying it out again. This is the underneath of the Tay Road bridge. As you can see form the way the beams are coated with green the high tide covers them.

The underneath of the Tay Road Bridge

A “zoomed-in” shot to the bright light at the end – seagulls and detritus collect on the concrete beams.

The underneath of the Tay Road Bridge

I assume that the numbers indicate the depth in exceptional circumstances. According to the official website it has 42 spans, with most being 55m in length but they span increases to 76.3m for the four navigation channels.

This bridge also used to be a toll bridge (like the Forth Road Bridge) and it cost 80p for cars until it was abolished in February 2008.

The underneath/side of the Tay Road Bridge

And yet another picture from underneath looking towards the Tay Rail bridge. You can just about see the Hilton hotel to the right of the picture. The original rail bridge collapsed while a train was passing over it on the 28th December 1879. The new bridge was a double-track design an d18m upstream of the original bridge.

The Tay Rail Bridge seen from under the Tay Road Bridge

And this is the last one – at least until the new year starts and we have to ship all my daughters stuff up again. As you can see it rises on the other side (to Dundee).

The Tay Road Bridge (the other end to Dundee)

Our route took us though St Andrews – but there was only time for a sneak picture of the Cathedral ruins (I think) with my long lens (100mm to 300mm or 200mm to 600mm in 35mm terms).

St Andrews – Cathedral Ruins

After that I discovered that the short route took us through Edinburgh which wasn’t as bad as it sounds. We didn’t get delayed much the traffic moved and I got to drive on cobbles. It did make me think about driving though. Driving in a busy city you don’t know really does require concentration and if you do it is fairly straightforward.  Mind you there are numerous things to pay attention to including painted instructions on the roads such as; direction arrows, bus lanes and cycle lanes, Advance Stop lines and sin bins. You wouldn’t be surprised at how many vehicles seem to ignore these markings.  You also have to navigate mainly from signs and obey traffic lights, many with multiple lanes and of course avoid the other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians around.

Is it impossible, now, but it does require focus and frankly I think there is  a problem with the people who know where they are going and so pay less attention.All of these factors require driving with due care and consideration and probably do slow you down a little. Roads would be easier to drive quickly along if there were no obstructions and pedestrians and cyclists – a bit like motorways. So motorists tend to blame the non-motorists for obstructing them and yet congestion is caused by motor vehicles. The M25 and A14 get congested because of the motor vehicles.

Mind you the design of roads could be improved – both in terms of their drivability and safety.  As a driver I am not keen on pinch points – but the golden rule is to hang back and not to try and dive in ahead of whatever might be front. On a bicycle you increase the risk of that happening if you do not cycle assertively and if you do then you run the risk of abuse or worse. That was really a way of squeezing a link to this rather good post by As Easy As Riding A Bike on Pinch points.

Talking of which “shock, horror” there is a “New stealth tax attack on drivers of the greenest cars”. Let’s face it shipping loads of people around most of them single occupants of rather large tin boxes doesn’t sound the most sensible way of running things. Motor traffic has costs – road, policing, accidents, health, pollution to name but a few we shouldn’t really be subsidising it. Personally I would add more cost to the bigger, more polluting less efficient cars (like my Disco). Every little bit helps me to stick with my bike rather than drive my car.

Actually I should have mentioned the Forth Road Bridge before we got into Edinburgh – and the rail bridge I really ought to get a picture or tow the next time I head up that way.  A new replacement bridge is also underway – costing between £1.45 and £1.6 billion. It is interesting that the new bridge (2016) , on the other side  to the railway bridge, is replacing the Forth Road bridge (1964) whilst the older Forth Railway Bridge (1890)  is going strong.

Talking of bridges the proposal to build a £1.5million, pedestrian and cycle crossing over the River cam to serve the new Chesterton Railway Station has come in for criticism. Why is it that we can’t seem to develop multi-modal transport systems. Just look at Cambridge Railway Station to see how important cycling is for rail users.

And finally before leaving Edinburgh (and Scotland) an rather nice shot of Manhattanhenge. Something must be possible with the St Andrews Cathedral Ruins.

I tend not to stop too often when driving, food and wee stops come often enough without too many other gratuitous stops. Which is strange because I stop all the time when cycling to admire the view and take pictures. That is one of the many downsides of driving.

I did stop at the border though where St Andrew’s Flag was flying.

St Andrew’s Flag on the Scottish Border - A68

I used to visit Scotland for Summer Holidays as a boy and I spent the first year or so living in the Glasgow area. However is is a few years since I last visited and toured Scotland on holiday – probably around ten years ago when I did the LeJog. The biggest change I have noticed is the myriad wind turbines that have popped up all over the place. Far more than I see in England. This perhaps arises from the goal of making 100% of the electricity from renewable sources. As we travelled down the A68 ones we had not seen the last time came into view. Just to clarify we also saw them on the way up. Here is a map for July 2011.

You do see solar panels on some house roofs but not as many as further south (IMHO). I have yet to see a solar farm in the UK. According to the article it takes 30 acres to keep 1,400 homes powered in Oxfordshire. The Wadlow Wind Farm up near Great Wilbraham has 13 turbines and will supply 15,000 homes  I can’t find out how much area the plot occupies though.

Wind turbines do have their own environmental concerns – they do affect the landscape in a big way. In my cynical view it then becomes easy for the many living in cities to impose the burden on the few who live in rural areas. Fair? The Norfolk Broads has seen one “victory over wind turbines”. In am not quite sure how I feel about all of this – I have a sneaking feeling that if we were to be a little less hooked on burning so much petrol and diesel driving around each day our overall energy needs might be more manageable. Some might say that different sources aren’t interchangeable – conceptually they might not be but in reality they are.

There are wind turbines on the horizon on both sides of this picture.

Scottish Borders – not the flatlands

I rather like cycling in Norfolk – gently undulating is good – from memory I enjoyed the cycling in the Scottish Borders.

Scottish Borders – the borders

As you can see here there is both the rough and the smooth. The agriculture is mixed and when we were up near Dundee there were loads of raspberries and strawberries under plastic.

Scottish Borders – the borders

I winder if all the wind turbines will reduce the appetite for growing wood.

Scottish Borders – the borders

And there was also a big stone showing we were about to enter England. On the other side of the road there was a piper – there is nothing like the skirl of the pipe – and some might say that there is NOTHING like the skirl of the pipes.

Leaving Scotland |entering England

We had a pleasant run down the A1 (connecting London and Edinburgh) , the only fly in the ointment was how much the grass seemed to have grown in the few days we were away – that'll be Sundays job before the Grand Prix. Fuels costs – over £200 – motoring ain’t cheap and why should it be.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sunny St Andrews

Friday, 25th May 2012:  As is often the way my daughter had stuff to do so my Wife and I decided to spend some of the predicted glorious day being tourists. Mind you when we woke up we couldn’t see the Tay Road Bridge as there was so much mist around. It stated clearing.  This picture was taken through our bedroom window which is why there is a faint double image. You can see the fog at the other end still lingering. It was bad enough that my SatNav warned us about it and the normal 50mph speed limit on the bridge was reduced to 30mph.

The Tay Road Bridge

After breakfast the sun was shining even more brightly. We had a stroll alongside the water. (The Hilton is on the waterfront). The bridge in the distance is the rail bridge.

The Tay Rail Bridge

As it was so hot we headed back to the seaside – I know Dundee will just have to wait for a rainy day. Not being too familiar with this area we headed back to sunny St Andrews – a pleasant place for a stroll.  It also gave me the opportunity to take pictures with different lighting.

Footsteps on the beach at St Andrews, Scotland

Another view of the ruined castle, look how blue the sea was with nary a cloud in the sky.  Although it was a hot day the air coming in off the sea was rather pleasant. Mind you the seaweed gave the area a distinctive seaside smell.

St Andrews – Castle Ruins

We didn’t go for a paddle, although some did.

Paddlers on the beach at St Andrews

It would appear that there is still a bit of fishing that takes place.

Fishing boats in the Harbour at St Andrews

Another close up of the castle ruins – that looks to be a secluded beach.

St Andrews – Castle Ruins

And a close up of the boats along the harbour edge.

Fishing boats in the Harbour at St Andrews

As we walked around there seemed to be ruins in all directions – this is the cathedral.

St Andrews – Cathedral Ruins

As travelled about we also saw a fair number of cycle tourists – well I did. There appear to be some interesting cycleways and country lanes in this part of the world. There is a website – here are some route searches I did. How about Ceres, St Andrews and Pitscottie – only “19.4999998808” miles long. (or 31.4Km).

To finish I mentioned the Virgin survey of the UK’s cycle-friendly cities, it has already kicked off some comments on the web as to their methodology. Thanks to the CTC here is the Virgin Money press release.

Here is a rather nice aerial view of Yellow Britain.

Some celeb cyclists I have heard of – Bar Refaeli and Kelly Book.

Some interesting cloud pictures and some volcano river of fire.

And finally I was reminded how we take our virtually rabies free status for granted. A British woman contracted rabies in Southern India after being bitten by a dog and subsequently died here in the UK. Having cycled in Kerala it is a sobering thought. One of my son’s friends had a gap year in Peru and was given rabies immunisation shots before heading out there.

when I cycle abroad I always consult my local surgery in advance to ensure I am up to date – cycling is nothing like taking a business trip.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Haggis for Breakfast

Thursday, 24th May 2012: I can now look at the Wikipedia page for the A14 road, or rather I can now see it when I go there. I was on Chrome Beta – 19 but it has been updated twice since then and am now on 20 something. Which is good since the A14 is one of the”major” roads in these parts and so noisy and busy and polluting.

It also turns out that “Google Chrome has knocked Internet Explorer off the top spot as the world’s favourite browser” – well in the Week of May 14-20 anyway.  I’ve also weaned my wife off Internet Explorer. As I am responsible for the IT Admin on her laptop I have installed Chrome, it still annoys me when IE9 appears after a program install though. The trouble is she has gotten used to the way IE9 operates. The rest of the family use either Chrome or Safari (both are on her machine) and so quite often she has just carried on using Chrome because it was left open. Well she allowed me to switch to Chrome as the default browser which will make my life easier and her browsing faster.

It was also good to see that there was some fine weather coming along – about time too. It is also amazing that the time has come to go and pick up my daughter and her stuff after her first year at Uni. How time flies – although it is really one year – the Summer holidays ago.

Since last year I have also updated the maps on my SatNav, although the roads are always changing and any long-distance journey will probably have changes. The good news is that the Squealing Pig (what I call my Discovery 3) doesn’t seem to have a suspension problem – what it does have though is a problem with the air conditioning (or Climate Control as it is rather grandiosely called in the manual).  We had a good journey up, the A1 is a pretty good road and I just set the cruise control to 70mph and we rolled on up. 

Perhaps I ought to warn you despite this being a Blog about my cycling and photography there won’t be much cycling featured over the next few posts – sorry. Although I was sorrier, I was going to take up my Brompton – but it didn’t look like there was going to be enough room in the car on the way back – and there wasn’t. (I seem to remember my son taking his kayak and a bicycle the first year he went to Uni.)

I have to say driving hundreds of miles is no longer my cup of tea. I might have once looked upon it as an adventure, but no more. The first time I drove to Scotland I had an old Austin 1100 and various gears started failing (1st, 2nd and reverse) and no I wasn’t a member of the AA or RAC. It turned out to be the way the gear stick saw screwed down and once I had twigged the problem it was easily remedied. I also remember that on the way up, just as I passed a lorry, one of its front tyres exploded.  That driver did an amazing job of controlling his lorry and bringing it to rest on the hard shoulder without incident. Motor vehicles travelled with more separation than they do now I think.

One thing I rather like is the bright yellow of the oilseed rape growing in the fields – apparently “Rapeseed’s on a relentless march across the country as farmers cash in after price of crop’s oil soars”. Although I didn’t do a survey my sense is that there is less this year than last.  I know people complain about it not being traditional – but let’s face it all farming is a necessary imposition on the countryside and has been for a long time. Well necessary if we want to be fed.

We passed over the Firth of the Forth Road bridge alongside the iconic Forth Railway Bridge – that could receive World Heritage status. If the journey had been shorter and with not so many miles before our destination I would have stopped to take some pictures. (Here is a more sombre item on another iconic bridge - the Golden Gate Bridge which celebrates its 75th anniversary and also commemorates those who had jumped from the bridge.)

Once again we stayed in the Dundee Hilton – it gets my vote as a good place to stay with lovely views over the Firth of Tay and very friendly and welcoming staff. We had gone up slightly earlier, partly to get a few days break and partly to ensure we could get my daughter’s stuff all sorted. It meant we were able to do a little bit more sightseeing.  Despite saying in last year’s post that we wanted to go see more of Dundee the lure of the countryside was strong and we headed over the Tay Road bridge.

The Tay Road Bridge

I had taken a couple of lenses with me since I wasn’t allowed to take my Brompton. Although even through Bromptons really do fold up into an amazingly compact space they can’t fit into cup holders which camera lenses can and did.

Another hazy view across the Tay Road Bridge

As we explored along the coast we came to St Andrews. Living in the flatlands is about as far away from the seaside as you can get in the UK so I probably took too many pictures of cliffs and sea.

St Andrews Coastline

And here is the harbour pier – although I am more used to piers that are on stilts and have amusement arcades along them.

St Andrews Coastline and pier

A bit more gratuitous sea – it was very calm the day we visited. Norway is somewhere out there.

The sea at St Andrews

It seemed to me that St Andrews had been a bit careless with its heritage – there was a cathedral in ruins and St Andrew’s Castle was also in ruins – albeit picturesque.

The Ruins of St Andrews Castle

And finally a bit of technology. That slightly odd shaped tree is in fact a mobile-phone base station – but designed not to be a blot on the landscape.

Mobile-Phone Base Station in disguise

It was a good job I had my cooked breakfast that morning – Haggis is a good way to start the day. After the drive of the day before and the fresh of today I slept well. I find that when I drive for a few hours I am mentally tired but not physically tired and my brain takes a little time to wind down from the necessary concentration levels.

Monday, May 28, 2012

May in May–a ride around Wicken Fen–I missed a bit–The Bells

Saturday, 19th May 2012: I must be getting senile in my old age. After cycling down Green Lane and into Swaffham Prior – the place of the two churches in one churchyard.

Green Lane, Reach

The bells were ringing, so I stopped recorded the sounds. I used to ring bells in my youth and have a soft spot for the peal of bells.

You might have noticed that the titles are random and it ends a bit abruptly – sorry I got a bit fed up with Premiere Elements 8.0 and just downloaded it in the end.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May in May–a ride around Wicken Fen

Saturday, 19th May 2012: Here I am over a week behind and trying to catch up on my posts. So I will make this a quick one. Although there are also loads of things stacked up on my Browser, some I will comment on now and some at the end.

In now particular order, but since I refer to their news items a lot – “Cambridge News is named daily regional newspaper of the year”. Well done – it can’t be easy running a newspaper in the age of the Internet. Despite my constant use of the Internet I still buy a daily newspaper – the experience is not better of worse just different.

And surprisingly in YAS (Yet another survey) “Cambridge not one of UK’s bike-friendly cities”. I had a quick look to see if I could learn more, but if I am to get this Post out realised I’d better just get on with the Post.  Apparently Cambridge’s position – 60th, was “dented by bike thefts and cycling accidents”.  I wonder if these numbers were totals or per 1,000 cyclists so that they give an idea of the scale. Whilst the Council ought to take note, I think that having cycled in Greater London (56) , Norwich (2)  and Ipswich (8) to name a few Cambridge does not rank 60th in my opinion.

One of the important facets of Cycling here in the flatlands is the connection with nature, however you connect  with it. What all cities have in common is cars and very few have routes that are free from the noise. However at least there are routes out of the city to places where it is possible to avoid cycling cheek by jowl with motor vehicles.

Although Cambridge is under pressure apparently the “city could take 25,000 homes by 2031 – but only if green belt surrendered” – here is a map of the potential development sites.  Although we are not far from London I can’t help feeling that we are being (over)ruled from afar. Unless you are rich London is a crappy city to live in – and the thinking seem to be lets make the other places around us crappy as well. The trouble is the countryside is not really a sustainable resource- once it has gone it has gone and then a bit more gets nibbled away. Is it any wonder that some Scottish people want home rule? (Cambridgeshire does have one of the least deprived areas – Comberton, I wonder how long before it gets subsumed by the City?)

Why does it all matter – well as petrol gets more expensive so will hauling food all around the world. Let’s face it we import petrol, so it can only get worse as it gets scarcer. A recent headline – “Cost of motoring soars above £6,000 per year for the first time as fuel prices go through the roof”. Why are we surprise? Transportation costs will rise and so local agriculture will become more important. With both agriculture and cities clamouring for more land the wildlife gets squeezed out. (I originally wrote clammering – but not in the clam hunting sense of the word.)  Look at the plight of the bees.

A short while ago SBC mentioned a nightingale in the area – well they are an endangered bird – numbers in the are have crashed and there is now a project to track them. Personally I think that there is a tension between the “mono-cultures” that help deliver the food and the needs to natural diversity. Of course the beaches are also important – so well done to the volunteer army cleaning up 60 miles of beaches.  Even grass verges play a part – shame on BT and Virgin.

Just as we need the fields of such crops as oil seed rape we need trees, bushes and grasses and …  There is an old leaning open barn in the picture too (just off Station Road, by the bridleway, Quy)

I also was asked the way by a couple of cyclists heading towards Anglesey Abbey. They wanted to avoid the main road but felt that the detour through Bottisham was too much of a detour and they didn’t want bumpy bridleways. Anglesey Abbey is not the easiest place to cycle to from Cambridge.

Yellow Fields and Grey Clouds – Station road, Quy

And here is my route, and the Bike Route Toaster link. I must have cycled this way before, but perhaps not exactly. There are all sorts of route choices that can be made for a cyclist willing to take to the byways and bridleways around these parts. I would like to see more dedicated cycling routes with decent surfaces and direct routes, but not to the detriment of the bridleways and byways. As for distances – well 56Km/35 miles and it avoids the heavy lifting of the Burwell Lode footbridge along Lodes Way.

Map of my Cycle route around and about the Lodes Way

As I cycled from Lode to White Fen my heart sank a little – although I was not going to be cycling that way during the roadworks I can’t say I am a fan of surface dressing. People who don’t own their motor vehicles don’t seem to mind whizzing along such routes and it ain’t pleasant getting struck on the leg by a chipping kicked up by one of those motor vehicles.  Mind you that wasn’t really going to be a problem here – the road is single track with an unforgiving Lode alongside most vehicles slow right down.

Roadworks soon on Fen Road, Lode

it sounds stupid but I have never really thought about May blossom except to admire it as it peppers the hedgerows. It is actually hawthorn, so why May, well it comes out in the month of May – pretty silly of me really. This track leads from White Fen to the NT wild camping area, near the patch of green to the top left of the link.

May (Hawthorn) in May - .just of the Lodes Way, White Fen

the last time I took this picture I thought I should not have cut off the edge of the pool. So this is a panorama picture, stitching two pictures together. Mind you I also suffered for my art – as I moved about on the bank I got stung (stingled)  by a stinging nettle – or stingle as well call them in our family. It wasn’t that painful and you quickly forget about the sting until sometimes I find when I get into the bath after a ride I can just feel a little tingle as the hot water covers the stung area. In case you were wondering, what are the 10 most painful stings on the planet – here they are. I have suffered from numbers 6 and 5, I like the description for 5. There is no mention of jelly fish and horse flies – and yes those can be very painful, from first hand experience.

Balancing Pond, White Fen – beware the Stingles

As I cycled along Great Drove I came across a cyclist walking in the opposite direction. It turned out he thought he was heading to Ely to catch the train back to Cambridge. He had lived in the are a while ago and had borrowed a bicycle to cycle around the place again.

However he was actually heading back to Cambridge, probably the better bet since Ely was 18Km/11 miles and Cambridge was 18Km/11 miles – oops we were in the middle. I did offer to help him fix his tyre. But the bike had a strange hub gear system and he was not too comfortable removing the back wheel. I did offer to try to fix the tyre by just lifting the tyre of the rim at the point of the puncture. But he carried on. I suggested that if it was not a fast puncture that he might pump the tyre up and then cycle and then pump it up.

An example of how agriculture has become a business that needs to be driven – fields are covered in plastic to accelerate the growth of crops to ensure good pricing – or as good as possible with the oligopoly of the market. Where a small number of Supermarket hold a significant market share, along with a larger number of suppliers into the market.

Plastic being lifted from crops along Great Drove, near Upware

And what the NT give, they also taketh away.  This is the path from Monk’s Lode to Priory Drove. It used to be open, but caused real concern for horse riders and cyclists and dog walkers, because of the cattle and Konik ponies grazed in the area.  I never found it to be a problem on my bicycle, the ponies were quite curious though.

As a result the NT created a fenced path with with crossings at each end. The crossings used cattle grids to prevent the ponies and cattle  taking to the path. Well it seems that the crossings at each end are to be replaced by a single crossing in the middle. Here the crossing nearest Monk’s Lode is being dismantled.

Maltings Path, Wicken Fen

And here is the new crossing halfway along the path. I presume it is re-using the materials from one end. Apparently the current crossings cause bottle-necking (blogs are a good thing – they give a personal insight- this is Lizzie’s Blog – a volunteer Grazing Warden). I should have check the Blog before.

Maltings Path, Wicken Fen

after detouring through Burwell signs of another road closure along Weirs Drove near the Electricity sub-station.

Weirs Drove Burwell

I hadn’t realised that the road will be closed for so long though, well not until I checked the picture of the sign. It will be closed for almost a month. I wonder if this will get flagged on the Sustrans web site? Here is more info from the County Road Closures website.

BURWELL, Weirs Drove
28 May to 29 June 2012
Electricity duct and cable installation works
Diversion via  Hythe Lane - The  Causeway - B1102 - Reach Road and vice versa.

They must be some ducts.

Weirs Drove Burwell

On the other side a sign for the Hannah 100, perhaps that is why I have seen a few cyclists around. I hope they all enjoyed their rides and raised lots of money. The only trouble is when you get sponsored for something like this you find yourself sponsoring many of your sponsors who go on to do similar things. I don’t begrudge it really.

 Winking smile

Weirs Drove Burwell – route of the Hannah 100

After returning to Lodes Way view Newnham Drove past some dogs (and their owners out for a walk) it did for me highlight the tension that exists between dog walkers and cyclists on shared use paths.  Cyclists are suppose to give way to pedestrians. Dog owners are supposed to have their dogs on leads. However when walking a dog you want to exercise them, which means quite often they aren’t on leads on shared paths or they are on long stretchy leads.

Highway Code Rule 56.

Dogs. Do not let a dog out on the road on its own. Keep it on a short lead when walking on the pavement, road or path shared with cyclists or horse riders.

This means tension when the cyclist feels ignored and the dog owner is worried about their dog. Having been bitten by a dog when on my bike I also find they can be intimidating. It seems that the stakes had been raised and dangerous dog owners could face a minimum of six months in jail. I am not sure I would have been comfortable if the little old lady whose dog bit me was sent to  jail for six months though.

Perhaps an alternative could be to teach old dogs new tricks and then cycle with them. The dog in question took 10 weeks to learn to ride apparently. I don’t really want a dog chasing along with me though – and certainly not for 1,100 miles.

I also saw the new Portrait Bench on the Lode side of Reach Lode Bridge.

Portrait Bench, Reach Lode Bridge, Lodes Way

As is my habit I was also listening to the Archers – the everyday tale of country folk – although that is probably not how they bill it. I personally prefer not to listen to depressing tales with unrelenting problems, I am a sucker for happy endings – well on radio soaps anyway. The Archers has become a little bleaker of late – it leaves me feeling down – perhaps I’ll have to take a break and hope they cheer it up. (Vicar’s daughter issues, Heart attack, brain damage, threats etc. are the sort of thing that I am talking about.)

Portrait Bench, Reach Lode Bridge, Lodes Way

At this point I detoured through to Reach and around the back and down Green Lane, just for a change – I think that the name of the lane was pretty descriptive.

Green Lane, Reach

And on my way out of Bottisham I checked out the shared-use path markings – there it is just by the Bell – somewhat faded and at odds with the County Council Cycle map (or was it the City Council map?).

At least the other radio podcasts weren’t quite as depressing and the countryside is rather special.

And some cycling celebrities – not that I know who they are: “In tandem – Olivia Palermo and Johannes Huebl” the rules about two on a bike must be less strict in New York – ‘cos it isn’t a Tandem. Here we have Kerry Katona and daughter on a charity bike ride together. Which reminds me I have to make a decision about the Cambridge Big Ride.

And finally some pictures – “Star trails from space” – it is always good to see other people’s picture ideas as sources for inspiration. I am not sure how to get my bike in Space though. In these pictures of a Solar eclipse in the US and Asia  the watchers have taken precautions.

It isn’t just space though, check out these “hanging monasteries” – I guess sometimes religion and paranoia are uneasy bedfellows. Or perhaps the desire is to be closer to the sky and what lies beyond.

Talking of Solar bodies these are neat pictures juxtaposing people and the sun, taking pictures of the sun can be dangerous though.

From the light of the sun through to painting pictures with light – I also rather like these night-time pictures augmented by light beams.

And really, really finally, the Al Gaddai dhow race (pictures).

A Swarm in May

An out of sequence post this. Yesterday I drove to a meeting, which is shameful as it was on the outskirts of Cambridge and easily reachable. It was important enough that I didn’t want to turn up a dishevelled mess though.  It is possible to cycle in decent clothes and avoid the mess scenario. I rarely get oil from the chain on my trousers, except when I really could do without it.  So I drove and thought – what a glorious day – I should have cycled…. Mid afternoon the meeting ended so I headed home.

Well I sat in my car aka The Squealing Pig aka Landrover Discovery to find that the air suspension had dropped to its lowest setting. Now I have a long journey coming up so the last thing I need is dodgy suspension (and it has had dodgy suspension several times before – during the warranty). After a drive around it pumped up, but to be on the safe side I popped over to Marshalls Landrover. They suggested seeing what happens overnight and although they are full and wouldn’t really be able to schedule a repair they would have a look at it.

So I headed home and my wife pointed out a load of insects flying around in cycles over the trampoline. I know that Heathrow suffers from congestion and planes have to circle, I didn’t realise that trampolines had similar problems. I assumed that the glorious afternoon heat wave had cause a load of flying insects to hatch after being delayed by the cold Spring weather.

A little while later my wife cam back as I sat working – those insects were bees and they were swarming.

Bees Swarming on a bush in May

So I went out to have a look and indeed they were. Here is the shrub they are on – it is quite well camouflaged isn’t it.

Can you see the Bee Swarm in May?

As it happens I remembered seeing something in a Newsletter about a chap who had moved and lost his bees in the move. So rather than call out a Pest Control company I gave him  a call. These were honey bees although I think we just assumed they were rather than thought about it.

Apparently you either have to leave bees where they are or move them a reasonable distance otherwise they will return to their first location. Although when they swarm hopefully it is a different matter.

The chap turned up and indeed they were honey bees and although they were docile, discretion is the better part of valour, and so he suited up and opened his box ready to take the swarm away.

Preparing to remove a Bee Swarm

A snip with a pair of secateurs and the swarm was “mobile” and he gently popped them in the box.

A Swarm of bees being boxed ready to take somewhere suitable

After boxing the bees he left it for a while to allow as many bees as possible to gather and then sealed it up and drove them to their new home.

He also mentioned that pest Controllers generally don’t destroy swarms but do get in touch with local beekeepers.

Oh and the suspension on the Squealing Pig – it was ok this morning, so fingers crossed. I will take it out again tonight though.