Friday, June 22, 2012

Wadlow Wind Farm and the Roman Road–off-road cycling around Cambridge

Saturday, 16th June 2012: I am slowly catching up with my backlog of Posts. It is good to have some in reserve, because it means I have been cycling.  However I don’t like the time gap between the ride and the writing to get too long, otherwise I forget the details.

Mind you I tend to be a bit less verbose with my posts as well – so maybe that is a good thing. (I have always assumed that verbosity related to the spoken word – but according to the link it also works for the written word.)

Since the construction of the Wadlow Wind Farm started it has become one of my regular places to cycle past.  At the moment they seem to be putting up two wind turbines a week. As you can see it from some distance it does make its presence felt. It still surprises me how the building of this Wind Farm seems to have slipped under my radar.

Given how tight planning is and the controls on the heights of buildings within Cambridge it seems amazing that something like this which can be seen for miles around seems to get through so easily.

Although checking the Web I see that the planning permission was applied for back in May 2006. The link points to a Press Release with one local villager waxing poetically about “graceful soothing wind mills”. Mind you it took several years to get the go-ahead – “Wind farm plan gets the go-ahead” - November 2009. Where one protester commented that “it will be visible from Essex, Hertfordshire and a vast area of Cambridgeshire”. It also turns out that Barclays (as in the bank) bought 85% of the Wadlow Wind Farm project. The first turbine finally went up in June 2012 – “Protester’s outrage as turbine goes up”.

So this week there are five turbines now visible. This time I cycled past Cambridge Airport through to Fulbourn. Then up to Wilbraham and along to the main entrance to Wadlow Wind Farm. I then cycled around on the two byways to Balsham. The down to Worsted Street and back to Fulbourn and down through Teversham for a change.  (Worsted Street is the name of the Roman Road from Cambridge to Balsham and beyond, a byway).

I rather like Fulbourn and find that the traffic-calming in the middle of the village, a raised table at the junction near the church does seem to slow the traffic down quite well.  The only problem is that the High Street seems to be a car-parking magnet. So much so that the road can be narrowed down to a single lane. In such a situation cyclists rarely get given way to. This time around as I cycled up the High Street a chap swung open his large car door and jumped out of his 4x4 and looked at me as if I’d just magically appeared. Being a long-time cyclist I do try to steer clear of the door-zone.  Although it can cause driver behind to get impatient.

I once saw a young student battered to the floor when a motorist swung his door open suddenly in front of her.

Now Highway Code Rule 67 (in Rules for cyclists) includes the following:

You Should

look well ahead for obstructions in the road, such as drains, pot-holes and parked vehicles so that you do not have to swerve suddenly to avoid them. Leave plenty of room when passing parked vehicles and watch out for doors being opened or pedestrians stepping into your path

And Highway Code Rule 239 (Parking) includes:

you MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door – check for cyclists or other traffic

The clue is in the Should and Must. The cyclist is advised to and the Door opener is legally required to. In the case of the student the driver started berating her whilst she lay stunned on the ground. Fortunately a good Samaritan came to her aid.

Back to the ride; I checked the FRRFD website which has more information about the rather delightful Roman Road (Worsted Street). It seems that the Friends of the Roman Road and Fleam Dyke organisation have revamped their website since the last time I visited. Judging from the missing pictures I reckon that the revamp is a work in progress.

All in all 45Km/ 28 miles with a climb of almost 100m – that is the only problem with Wind Farms they build them on hills. Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link to the map.

My first real sighting of the Wind Farm was when cycling along from Fulbourn through to the Wilbraham. There are now five turbines standing on the hillside.

Wadlow Wind Farm seen from the Fulbourn to Wilbraham Road

Here is the map (and the link again). The nice thing about this route is that much of it is either off-road or on shared-use paths.

A Cycle Ride from Cambridge to Wadlow Wind Farm and back

Talking about shared use paths, this is a video taken standing on the Airport Cycleway. One of the main reasons I dislike cycling along fast roads is because they are so noisy. What’s worse is that noise is quite a high pitched noise.

Noisy Airport Cycleway, Cambridge 

After Wilbraham I stopped along the road, just under the pylons to take a picture of these Poppies growing in the field.

There was also some Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil on the verge or Lotus corniculatus (I think). Apparently a common English name is Eggs and bacon and in the language of flowers has a negative meaning – of revenge or retribution.

Common Bird’s Foot Trefoil growing on the verge – Mill Road, Wilbraham

And on the same verge just nearby was some Speedwell, a name that just dropped straight out of my childhood on seeing it growing there. To be honest I wasn’t even that sure, but on checking my Collins Complete Guide to British Wild flowers my memories were correct. Mind you I am less sure what type. I think it is Germander Speedwell – Veronica chamaedrys or a name that seems familiar – Bird’s-eye Speedwell.

Bird’s-eye Speedwell growing on the verge – Mill Road, Wilbraham

After that I crossed the A11 on the light-controlled single lane bridge – I hope it has been built to withstand the extra loads passing over it. Once you reach the Chalk Pit/Grain store area there is a byway up the hill over to Wadlow Farm. As the area is chalky it tends not to get water-logged on this side of the hill anyway.

It was a windy afternoon and the crops blowing around looked more like a green sea. The Cambridge University DTG group’s weather monitoring system have a bit of a problem on the 16th June 2012, but was working during the time of my ride in the afternoon. There were gusts of up to 40Knots. Which makes cycling harder when it is against you and HDR photography because in between the multiple-exposure shots (up to 7) the trees and bushes move all over the place.

I guess if you are going to build a wind farm then you want to pick a spot that is exposed to the wind.

Crops in the fields – near Wadlow Farm

And using the power of modern digital photography here is a video as well.

The Green Seas of the Flatlands (Near Wadlow Wind Farm)

As you can see from this picture there was still a bit of hill to climb before reaching the top and the descending to Wadlow Farm. The track was easy to cycle along though.

Byway to Wadlow Farm (near the Wadlow Wind Farm)

On the other side of the hill, with Wadlow Farm just below the bottom of the picture there was a nice view of the road I was planning on cycling up. It is called Six Mile Bottom Road and is the one opposite the farm – it looks much nicer in real life than on the map. When you aren’t in a hurry gently winding roads are more appealing than straight ones.

Six Mile Bottom Road – Wadlow Farm to Church End (Weston Colville)

At the bottom of the byway there were quite a few puddles – I tried the middle strip of grass but dabbed my feet down.

Muddy puddles – Wadlow Farm byway

At the top of the hill another view of the Wind Farm. The farm is at around 56m above sea level whilst the road take you up to 92m alongside Spike Hall, which is not marked on the OSM map. Spike Hall faces the wind farm pretty directly.

Wadlow Wind Farm from Six Mile Bottom Road

And this is the view back down the road I had just cycled up – it was actually a pleasant cycle despite it being a hill. It doesn’t take much to fool me it seems. There is something about this sort of open road that appeals to me as a cyclist.

Six Mile Bottom Road – to Wadlow Farm

A bit further up the road and another picture of the Wind Farm – I wasn’t stopping for a rest – honest.

Wadlow Wind Farm from Six Mile Bottom Road

I then turned right onto a byway to Balsham. It looks gloomier than it was – there was a puddle to cross first but then as I climbed up the muddy track was pretty dry. Once the byway turned towards Green End Farm it became more rutted and wetter – no dabs though. I crossed the magic 100m above sea level line here – I was surprised to see that trees still grow at this altitude.

Byway to Balsham from Six Mile Bottom road

After crossing the road by Green End Farm the byway is a little more gravelly and brings you around the side  Wadlow Wind Farm a small map). Here is another map showing the location of the Turbines – they are more or less in two rows.

Wadlow Wind Farm – Balsham to Green End Farm Byway

As I cycled towards Balsham I took more pictures. – here is one of the turbines – those blades are pretty huge.

A Single Wadlow Wind Farm Turbine

It was so windy that although the blades had been stalled they were still rocking in the wind – why is why the one on the right looks blurred at the tips of the blades.

Two Wadlow Wind Farm Turbines

A close-up of the generator unit.

A Single Wadlow Wind Farm Turbine

And this is the path to Balsham – it does get rutted and there were puddles however for the most part there was a dry line – to the left heading down and then to the right closer to Balsham.

Byway to Balsham

At this point it is hard to see much of a pattern in the layout of the turbines though.

All Five of the Wadlow Wind Farm turbines erected so far

Another view – this time quite close to Balsham – in fact I was surprised how close the Wind Farm is to the outskirts of Balsham.

Wadlow Wind Farm turbines near Balsham

A picture looking down from the byway along the line of electricity poles.

Cambridgeshire Countryside near Balsham – almost unspoiled

After that I cycled along the road to catch the Roman Road back to Cambridge via Fulbourn. At this time of year the Tufted vetch (Vicia cracca) brings a touch of colour and shape to the edges of the Roman Road. Here some of the other flowers you might see on the Roman Road. They also have Bee orchids – must keep my eyes a bit more peeled.

Tufted Vetch on Worsted Street

Another inspiring picture – well for a cyclist who likes off-road cycling – the track is basically single-track and there are generally very few people out and about. It also undulates – what can be better than that.

Worsted Street looking towards Cambridge

And here is a helpful information board showing the map and what you might expect to find.

Worsted Street – The Roman Road – Cambridge to Balsham

As I got closer to the turn-off to Fulbourn  - some evidence of the recent heavy winds we have been having. It looks as if this was fairly dead had been overloaded by ivy.

Wind damage on Worsted Street

And a final picture of the Wadlow Wind Farm – standing tall, seen form the Babraham Road heading into Fulbourn.

Wadlow Wind Farm – seen from the Babraham Road, Fulbourn

Well I really feel that the lurgy has gone – although I am still getting the occasional cough. I do feel that we need to focus on using sustainable energy – but also less energy in total.  So I am still in two minds about Wind Power and the effect it might have on those living close to it. We will run out of petrol and it will get more expensive.

Sorry if my rides are getting a little single-tracked – they either seem to be Wicken Fen, Guided Busway or Wadlow Farm – ah well perhaps I’ll get my Tandem out and persuade one of the kids to go for a ride with me. that'll make a change.


  1. People get very angry about wind turbines but I kind of like them. Realisticaly they are another form of energy that is much needed and I seriously think they beat huge pilon lines covering the country.

    Do you dodge and burn to get your clouds to look like that?

    1. I agree we do need sustainable energy. Traffic noise is a far bigger issue for me. We have quite a few pylons running all over the place around here as well. They make for interesting pictures... I would imagine that many fen-dwellers weren't happy when "they" came with their windmills and drained the fens many years ago. (

      My "guilty" pleasure is HDR photography. When you look around at a scene your eyes adjust when you look at the clouds or into the shadows of the trees - so my thinking is that it is OK for pictures to reflect that. When taking picture I set my camera to bracket which usually means 3 or 7 pictures with different exposures. I then use a Program called Photomatix ( which recombines them to pull in the detail across the exposure range.

      It does make them a bit chocolate-boxy, especially when compared with non-HDR pictures - it is all art though :-)

  2. I live directly behind the new wind farm and is amazing how close they are to some houses, mine in particular! Watching the construction it has been a real shame to see so many hedgerows, trees and even part of a wood destroyed, we will wait to see how efficient they are, i hope they are, so that the cost to the countryside will not have been for nothing. At least the land owner will be happy with their arrival and the £225,000 annual rent he will receive for having them there! Which i believe the tax payer contributes to....Wonderful pictures though that you have taken and best of luck with your ride!

    1. When I first looked at the Wadlow Wind Farm (WWF) information it had not occurred to me just how close they would be to some houses. However when you see it in reality, they really do seem to dominate. I also feel that as more are built it increases that dominance.

      I suppose from the land-owner's perspective they are a way to "monetise" the land.

      There is little true wild countryside left and as those islands of wildlife get smaller it has a disproportionate affect on the wildlife. Which is why the Wicken Fen Vision appeals to me.

      I hope you don't find the turbines intrusive once they are in operation.