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).

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