Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Bottisham Floods

Monday, 1st October 2012: I’ve mentioned that I would be going away for a  a late Summer holiday, ore perhaps it should be called an Autumn holiday. It would not involve any cycling though – which I used as an excuse to nip out for a cheeky ride whenever I could.

This ride was a loop out along Lodes Way a detour through Upware to Wicken Fen and then and back via NCN51 from Burwell. The loop bit was a shade under 40Km/25 miles.  The main attraction was that it avoided too many impediments such as bridge I had to carry my bike over (Burwell Lode bridge) or very rough road surfaces (Newnham Drove). The country roads are also undulating which tends to keep the traffic from speeding and there are a few tractor movements which on a single track road also tends to keep the rest of the traffic honest.

I did take my camera – but I wasn’t planning on taking many pictures I didn’t think that much would have changed since the last time I cycled around the area. That was until I swung into Bottisham ready to cycle along to Lode. There had been a bit of a flood. As I got closer I realised it was a flood still in action.

Flooding in Bottisham – a burst water pipe

The footpath was still passable, however the road was pretty wet with the flooding stretching across it.

Flooding in Bottisham – a burst water pipe

It also appears that Anglian Water are trying out a new method of leak mitigation. Rather than all that tedious digging just drive you car over the hole and block the leak with your tyre. Although it didn’t really seem to be slowing down the leak that much. Alternatively he might have been just giving his van a wash from underneath.

Anglian Water trialling a new method for fixing leaks in Bottisham

As I set off it seemed that the leak was right in the middle of the great Bottisham Divide as the water was flooding in both directions. The Lode Road just by the school was also flooding.  I waited for a gap in the cars before cycling through. When I learnt to drive it was drummed into me that driving through puddles in the road that splashed pedestrians was a major no-no. From what I have seen that concern about splashing pedestrians is not so strong nowadays. (Another sign that motor traffic has been imbued with some sense of priority and superiority over other roads users.)

Flooding in Bottisham – a burst water pipe (Lode Road)

After that excitement I then rode steadily through Lode along Lodes Way before turning up to Upware. I even managed to get through Upware before stopping. I spotted some more Spindle(Euonymus europaeus) in the hedgerow, halfway between Upware and the A1123.  Spindle is like buses you see none, then you see several.  (It was first pointed out to me by the Swaffham Bulbeck Cyclist and I have now seen it in several different locations in the county, but it is not as widespread as I might have thought. Or perhaps I am just not very good at spotting it.

Spindle near Upware

One of the reasons I tend not to see it is that although close-up the berries are obviously very pink when seen amongst the green foliage they somehow look redder.

Spindle near Upware

I have not really thought about it but fly-tipping tossers also seem a bit like buses, you see none then you see a bunch. Perhaps fly-tippers are seasonal as well.

Fly-tipping on the roadside near Upware

On my way through Wicken Fen I must have had a reason for taking this picture, but I am not quite sure what it was. I have already mentioned the addition of reflectors – perhaps the blue Sustrans sign is new?

Wicken Fen Lodes Way cattle pass

Another sign of the autumn is the way beet clamps pop up. Apparently the logistics for getting the sugar beet delivered to the factory are quite complex. The farmer has got to be ready for his/her delivery slot so that the factory can be continuously supplied. But a frost will reduce the quality of the beet (and so the price it can be sold at) so the farmer will want to protect it.  The other challenge is that depending upon where the field is it might be inaccessible by lorry.

Beet Clamp – Burwell

Cambridge University has recently (2009) celebrated its 800th anniversary, well it turns out that Reach Fair beat it by a few years.

Plaque commemorating 800th Anniversary of Reach Fair

As I cycled back, somewhere between Swaffham Bulbeck and Lode I passed the field where last time the farmer had been harvesting the grain – the bottom five pictures. Now it was being drilled.

Drilling in the fields along NCN51
between Swaffham Bulbeck and Bottisham on NCN51

Not long before my hols – must think about what I need to take and organise the getting there and back travel. We are going to Scotland and could drive, fly or take the train. There have been flooding and major road and rail closures though ( a 30-mile stretch of the A1 in North Yorkshire)  – so which way? Bottisham didn’t get the flooding so bad after all.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lodes Way Loops–Summer into Autumn, a time of change

Saturday, 29th September 2012: When I came to write this post I had to check the Bike Route Toaster map I had created and found I couldn’t match it against the pictures. I’d gotten it wrong. So a new map has followed and my Posts are only a month behind.

For me the weekends are times to catch up on various podcasts that I subscribe to during the week, including The Archers – I have not heard it for a while so hopefully it won’t be an everyday tale of rural misery when I do catch up. As I write this Post it is actually the 30th, October 2012 and for once here in the flatlands the weather is sunny and inviting so I will find some time to pop out for a spin.  I must remember that now the clocks have changed it gets darker earlier in the evenings and to take my lights.

In the run up to going on holiday various jobs also need to get done as well as trying to get a bit of cycling in, including mowing the lawn and packing.  The trouble is with packing is that we will be more limited in how much we can take this time around. However the weather was just too inviting.

As you can see a month ago and had blue skies and busy farmers.  This is a run I usually do once a week – as far as leisure cycling is concerned I much prefer not to be mixing it with noisy cars, lorries and buses which makes the Lodes Way a great place to cycle. At the weekend I often add a loop around Snouts Corner and then head across the fields from Horningsea to Lode.

For a change I have shown this route as a loop without the usual extra bit from the Green Dragon Bridge, a footbridge on Stourbridge Common. I have met a few cyclists who have come from farther afield to cycle Lodes Way getting their by car or train.  (Waterbeach is a nearby station, although the route to the Lodes Way is not that straightforward although in terms of the surface is not bad – there are bits where you will cycle along a grass track.

Here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the map shown below. The Lodes Way forms the spine of the route, with various loops added for my interest. It is a shade over 50Km/31 miles and flat (the altitudes vary from -1m to 8m).

Depending upon the time of day High Ditch Road can actually be quite unpleasant. It is a bit of a rat-run. It is quite narrow but cars do travel quickly and yet the sight lines aren’t that good with several bends and the old humpback bridge over what was the Cambridge to Mildenhall railway line (now no more).

Once you are past that bit of the route then the rest  is fine, either on genuinely country lane, cycle track or shared-use paths.  The byway (Low Fen Drove Way) from High Ditch Road round to the Horningsea Road can be a bit muddy in places and is certainly pot-holed after crossing over the A14 (by bridge).

I like it because it runs through the countryside, although there has been talk about moving the Cambridge Sewage plant out towards Snout Corner.  This field has been freshly drilled – two-thirds of the way down the field you can see a flock of birds snacking on the new seed.

Freshly ploughed and drilled field – Low Fen Drove Way

Here is the map of my route – three loops using the Lodes Way as the spine.

Lodes Way Loops – map of my ride

A little further along and here is some seed drilling in action. That is quite a complicated bit of kit, with various systems to ensure that the seed is sown at the optimum depth.

Seed drilling in action – Low Fen Drove Way

At the edge of the field is the machine that is used to load the seed drill with seed. Farming requires a fair bit of machinery – although I am not sure how the farmer will drive both back to the farm!

Seed drilling in action – Low Fen Drove Way

At the end of Low Fen Drove Way you cross the road onto the Fen Ditton – Horningsea Cycle way.  This is a route that makes it easier for pupils to cycle from Horningsea (no school) to Fen Ditton (with a school). The trouble is that this road is a rat-run into Cambridge and also onto the A14 (to from the East only). The route as built but without crossing provision for the ramps to and from the A14.

This picture shows a light-controlled crossing for the off-ramp, although without provision for the cyclists and pedestrians. The on-ramp doesn’t have any light-controls and is not pleasant. I very rarely cycle that way partly because the rest of the cycle path through Fen Ditton is a little bumpy and partly because of the crossing.

The school I mentioned is a Primary School – so I would imagine that leaving a chunk of danger along the route for young cyclists might be rather off-putting. Fortunately “Slip road crossings approved” will allow a toucan crossing to be installed (£275,000).  Although I do wonder how it can cost so much to install some lights and paint a crossing.  Mind you before the motoring lobby start whinging about the waste of money on a cycling project – they need to remember that this is only necessary because of the road – such schemes should always be considered part of the coast of road building..

Just as major housing developments now  provide S106 money for the community benefit then I reckon that roads need to more properly reflect the costs they incur to the communities they pass through – in terms of impeding pedestrians and cyclists, noise and pollution.  I find it quite appalling that some major dual-carriageways were built across public rights of way without making proper provision (bridge or tunnel) for those pedestrians and cyclists and horse riders wanting to use those rights of way – the A14 and the A11 are both places I have seen such problems.

Fen Ditton – A14 slip roads

The route does have a bit of cycling along the road from Horningsea (where the cycle way stops) up to the bridleway – I don’t think it is too bad though – there are bends that slow the traffic down a bit.

After that then the route over to Lode is all off-road – and in the main very cycle-able, with a bit of field track thrown in.  The last bit can also get very rutted and muddy as well (~50m). Some of it follows the route of the old Cambridge to Mildenhall line.

The old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line – near Lode

I was wondering why I had taken this picture – at the junction of Newnham Drove and Lodes Way – the route has had a bunch of reflectors added to the woodwork. MikeC mentioned them to me and I think it was his idea to colour code them (orange to the left, white to the right). I must look out for these after dark. The box to the right counts the “traffic”.

Cattle crossing – Lodes Way, Newnham Drove

On my way back around Wicken Fen there were a couple of signs warning of a hornets' nest and further back a wasps’ nest. The warnings were really if you had an inquisitive dog – as I cycled through I didn’t feel threatened. I also failed to stay still when I took this picture.

On the subject of flying insects apparently the boom in  amateur bee-keeping might lead to a shortage of bee food – with too many bees and not enough food

Hornets’ Nest – Wicken Fen

After looping around Wicken and then detouring down to Burwell it was time to complete the last loop by heading back up to Lodes Way via Newnham Drove.  This takes you past the Burwell Electricity Substation and there seemed to be a bit of pipe-laying taking place. At the best of times this is a very bumpy road, although there is tarmac it is well past its best. This time around there was also a load of mud on the road as well.  I met a friend for lunch at the Maid’s head in Wicken and he cycled along here – he was not impressed.

Newnham Drove – pipe-laying?

More farmers at work in the fields – I can’t see a seed drill so it must be doing a bit of harrowing. It is in the classic tractor colour of red – and a Massey Ferguson.

Tractor at work – along the Lodes Way

As I cycled down the unnamed road to Swaffham Bulbeck Lode Bridge I realised that the Spindle (Euonymus europaeus) was out. Or as the link points out an attractive shrub with bright pink berries. SBC pointed them out to me last year (on the 29th October 2011) I now keep an eye out for them. When you pay attention they really do look very pink – although when cycling along (even at my slow speed) they don’t always stand out from the  red berries the are more commonplace. I have spotted Spindle in a few places.

Spindle along Lodes Way

Although they still look pink at a distance they look less pink I reckon.

Spindle along Lodes Way

A little bit further along and before the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode bridge and there was a massive haystack, it is amazing how much straw comes of the fields.  This will take a few lorry loads to shift. I reckon that there are over a hundred bales and each bale is 5 or 6 times the size of the bales they used to make when I was a boy. I used to pop out and help shift the bales and we used to get rides on the trailer stacked with the bales – we  weren’t very commercially minded in those days. These are way to big to man-handle (or boy-handle).

Massive Haystack near Swaffham Bulbeck lode Bridge, Lodes Way

One of the East Anglian Air Ambulances passed overhead – although the tail rotor looks rather different. In fact this one looks more like the Magpas Helimedix helicopter also seen here. Which judging from the link has a different tail rotor system.

Air Ambulance – Helimedix?

A little later and another helicopter flew by – this is a Robinson R22 – G-TINK which appears to have been white at some stage but is now yellow.

R22 Robinson flying above Cambridge

After all the flying excitement there were also a couple of fire engines heading out of Cambridge on the Newmarket Road with sirens on and lights flashing.

Two Fire Engines dashing out of Cambridge along the Newmarket Road

And finally – some award winning nature photographs and finally I hope the weather isn’t too swale as I am going to sneak out for a ride.

What is the problem?

Wednesday, 26th September 2012: Meetings in London are a bit like buses for me. There are none for a while and then several seem to come along together. As I mentioned the other day I try not to take the same route to the station each time – just for the change of scenery.

There has been a bit of a debate about Gilbert Road in Cambridge recently (Gilbert Road revisited & Gilbert Road Revisited – two different Bloggers). Which got me thinking and via the comments led to this blogger Bikemapper and his post A Strategic Cycle network which is further explained here.

It seems to me the first issue is do we agree on what we are trying to achieve? (and who is we).  Personally I feel that Gilbert Road has become a more agreeable road to cycle along for me. However much as I might wish it cycle campaigning is not and should not be about what makes routes more agreeable for me – although it might be about the same goals if there were enough “me”s.

In working out what we are trying to achieve then another way of considering is what problem(s) are we trying to fix? Well it seems to me that we have two factors to consider, the first is that the UK is under pressure to urbanise.  There are various factors that influence this including; an increasing population (52.4M 1960, 62.6M 2011) – more houses, cars, roads, increasing consolidation of services such as shops, hospitals, places of work – increasing daily distance we need to cover as individuals with the most growth being an increase in car and van travel. See Table 12.1 – Passenger transport: by mode (it downloads a PDF).

Billion Passenger kilometres

                           1971                         2007

Car and van                     313                          689
Bus and coach                  60                            50
Bicycle                               4                             4
Motorcycle                          4                             6
Rail                                   35                           59

There are caveats, but the picture is pretty clear, cars and vans account for most of the increase.  The trouble is that the motor vehicles need roads, fuel, they are noisy and pollute and are dangerous for vulnerable road users. I reckon that far from making life easier they have become a blight for many people.  (Note – my selection criteria for data is rather loose although official stats tend to win over other data.)

There are also  costs associated with these factors, whether it be health costs from pollution and obesity to UK economic problems because increasingly fuel is imported and so we are dependent upon external and diminishing external supplies for our energy.  Importing fuel to burn needlessly is basically like burning money. Of course all this driving around is good for the economy – right – well that is what some might say. However look at the Japanese, masters of whizzing people around willy-nilly – their economy is stagnant and has been for a while. ( A somewhat sensationalist piece from the DM which suggests the population of Britain will reach nearly 80million by 2050.)

So what problems are we trying to solve, well “quality of life” and the “economy” I reckon, we just don’t get it yet. Capitalism will work its effects ultimately – already energy costs are rising, if we don’t do anything petrol will get so expensive that it will limit everything from commuting to agriculture. We are already seeing rises in domestic energy costs. The trouble is country economies are a bit like super-tankers they taker a long time to turn and so long-term strategic planning is required. We need to start doing things differently now. Clearly the drive on sustainable energy sources is part of that change.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change monitors energy usage statistics and their data suggests that the household expenditure on energy (Solid fuels, gas, electricity, vehicle fuels etc) has increased by 50.9% from 2000 to 2011. That’s market forces for you – so we either get poorer or more effective in our use of energy.

Some hope that alternative sources of transport energy will be developed such as electric cars, whilst it might help cut imports  I reckon we need to be a bit more radical in our longer-term thinking and planning. On top of this we also have the uncertainties of climate change and an aging population to consider.

So back to cycling – well it would not fix everything, but it could and should be a big part of the change. The trouble is that we just don’t see it yet. We humans don’t really like change (except of the pay rise variety).  So I reckon our heads are in the sand on the role that cars play in society. 

Here in Cambridge, with its relatively high level of cycling (for the UK) the car is still king as far as I can see.  Just look at this article on the problems caused by bad parking by parents transporting their kids to and from school. There are loads of schools mentioned, the problem is endemic.  Although I would suspect that the issues are seen as more of the  “my car is being blocked by your car” variety rather than how do we change to transport landscape.

Enough ranting for now – what was it I was saying about car drivers and their expectations. My route to the station took me down Newmarket Road, this is the bit just past Meadowlands Road. I believe that this is a shared-use pavement, although it is not always that clear the Cambridgeshire County Council map shows the pavement bit as a link separate from traffic as well as the additional separate bus and cycle lane.

In case you are wondering about the pros and cons I would normally switch to the bus and cycle lane because this bit of shared use pavement is bumpy and has side roads along it as well as pedestrians.  The bus/cycle lane is ok except the lane traffic lights don’t go green for cyclists at the junction with Ditton Lane.

Many years ago, around 20, we were cycling along here with my son (6 or 7) on the shared-use path and he crashed into the bus shelter a little further along – causing me to do an unplanned dismount as well. Only pride was hurt fortunately, but it highlights the heritage of bad practice in providing provision for cyclists that still hangs over us.

Clearly this driver is far more important than us vulnerable road users – he probably didn’t want to get his tyres dirty either, so chose to block the pavement completely rather than chew up the grass.  This sort of thing is not unusual, it happens all over the place. As a consequence it might cause cyclists to switch over into the cycle/bus lane without looking properly or cycle on the grass, with the risk of skidding and maybe falling. Thanks Mr Motorist.

A Shared-use Pavement along Newmarket Road, Cambridge
being shared by a car!

As it happens I was a little late for the train and so had to concentrate on getting to the railway station. I got there in time and got a cycle parking space, but things went well. The train was on time also.  It seems to me that there has been a general improvement in the reliability of trains between Cambridge and King’s Cross, although there was a blip of problems during the Olympics.

My first meeting was in St Pancras – good to see a Brompton being used. Whenever I see one when I am in London I wish I had mine with me.

Brompton being wheeled through St Pancras

Both King’s Cross and St Pancras are looking pretty good nowadays.

A bit of PDA beneath the Clock – St Pancras

Later on in the day as I was walking to another meeting there was a bit of a kerfuffle in the rain. The chap on his bike in the middle of the junction had dropped something. Now most motorists seem to think that blasting the horn helps already ruffled road users get their act together more quickly – wrong. Cast you mind back to learning to drive, when you stalled as the traffic lights turned green did the irate beeps behind you make it easier to smoothly pull away without stalling again. Of course they bl**dy didn’t and neither did it help this chap on his bike sort out his load and get going.

Laden Cyclist – somewhere in London

As luck would have it the rain had moved on through Cambridge, when I got back to the station. I found myself cycling through loads of puddles home but didn’t get wet. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What is the ideal commuting distance?

Tuesday, 25th September 2012: I know I go one about working from home and how it frees up guilt-free time for cycling.  What I really mean is that it frees up time for a varied diet of cycling. One thing that commuting is quite good for, if you have a manageable distance to cycling is proving the impetus for five days a week cycling. Now that manageable distance varies for all cyclists and varies through the seasons and with fitness levels.

At one stage I used to cycle a round trip of 30miles, once I was in the swing it was great. Given the congestion here in Cambridge it was sometimes a delight to cycle on past and not be sitting stewing in my own exhaust gases.  The trouble is it didn’t take that much to stop me from cycling my daily ride and then it was quite hard to get cycling again.  The sorts of things that were worst were suffering from a minor lurgy that was not bad enough to spend the day at home, but bad enough to knock the stuffing out of me if I tried to cycle.

For me the sort of distance that is a no-brainer to ride is a round trip of 14 miles. It is enough to get some exercise and yet if I am in a suit short enough that if I take it easy then I don’t spend forever cycling and yet don’t get hot and sweaty. Anything less then it is no contest the bike wins every time – even when the weather is grotty.

One of the trips I have to make is to London, a few times a month. Apart from the fact that cycle parking there is crap it is an ideal cycle ride. There are a multiplicity of routes that I can use to extend my ride and avoid too much traffic from where I live. So I don’t get bored of the same routes and I feel energised by the ride and I don’t feel knackered by the ride.

Today was such a day, I had a mid-day meeting in London which meant I could leave my bicycle at Station Cycles and thus leave stuff with it and avoid the hassle of finding a place to park. Whilst I have been pretty lucky finding spaces to park my bike it can take more time than I would like. On top of that the queue for tickets can also be quite long. (in case you are wondering the opening hours of Station Cycles mean that I can’t leave my bike if I am on the early or late trains.

Normally when I cycle to the station I carry my small camera on a strap over my shoulder so that I can take pictures as the fancy takes me.  For some strange reason I didn’t on either the ride and from the station. So I only took one picture – of the Carter Bridge from the new platform to new platform bridge.

Carter Bridge – Cambridge Railway Station

So for me the ride to the station is an ideal cycling distance – it is reliable in terms of time, far more so than if I drive. I can choose a variety of different routes  This time around I cycled each side of Cambridge Airport. There are a bunch of reasons why it is better than driving – reliable, parking, cost and more scenic to name a few.  I guess despite the evidence of this ride I also take more pictures when cycling than when driving.

A ride along the Lodes Way in late Summer

Saturday Thursday, 22nd September 2012: As I sit here it is almost the end of another month and what’s worse I seem to be falling even further behind in my Posts. I could blame it on the end of Summer – 30% of the leaves had dropped off the trees around the garden and and now all over the lawn. The weather is grey and every now and then it seems to rain. I could blame post-holiday “triste” – but the real problem is catching up and dealing with the gazillions of pictures I took whilst away. It is taking me ages to “process” them.  So I have been playing with Photomatix’ batch processing. It works well, but has got me thinking about what effect I want from my pictures. I like the HDR painty look, but some of my Scottish Highlands pictures look too painty and so I have been experimenting with different settings. Hopefully something will turn up soon.

So I am going to try deal with the backlog quickly. I have already dumped the various bits and pieces of the Internet that I was going to talk about. Also in the run up to my hols I wanted to get some cycling in, as it would be a no cycling holiday!

So this is one of my regular leg-stretching trips around Wicken Fen. A quick check on my GPS log of cycle rides and it seems that I cycled out along Lodes Way to Wicken Fen along the Maltings path to Wicken and then back in through the Wicken Fen main entrance with a detour to Burwell and back along Newham Drove. An ideal ride when I am looking for a traffic-light bit of cycling.

What a difference a month makes – look at the blue skies,

White Fen, Lodes Way

After White Fen there is an unnamed road – nice lines in the field, it will get ploughed and harrowed again though. I liked the way the lines led to the Farmhouse (Highbridge Farm).

Freshly ploughed field, Lodes Way (Highbridge Farm)

Along Headlake Drove at the turning to Lord’s Ground Drove there was a bit of advertising. I would imagine that the recent weather has probably been pretty good for turf-growing.  My lawn has certainly been greener this year than for many a year.

Turf – Headlake Drove, Lodes Way

This freshly-drilled field lies adjacent to Little Fen Drove and Headlake Drove. 

Newly Drilled field – Lodes Way (Little Fen Drove)

One of my pet hates when cycling is wind – to be fair once you are out it is less bother than one imagines, well on a circular route anyway.  As you can see Burwell Lode is fairly smooth – there wasn’t a lot of wind about.

Fishing on Burwell Lode (near the Lodes Way footbridge)

Whilst on the footbridge there was time for a couple more pictures. I wasn’t the only one out on my bicycle.

Lodes Way seen from the Burwell Lode footbridge

As you can see  it was still shorts-wearing weather.

Cyclists approaching Burwell Lode – Lodes Way

For a change I went the counter-clockwise way around Wicken Fen which brings you out on Cross Green I then cycle down Butt’s Lane and Drury Lane and Chapel Lane and to the Wicken Fen entrance. This is the view from the Maltings Path. The windmill had been nicely lined up for my picture.

Wicken Windmill from the Maltings path

Although I detoured on my way back I returned to the Lodes Way route via Newnham Drove. Now there is a late-summer sight – bales waiting collection in the fields with the drains looking like they need a trim.

Commissioners’ Drain, Lodes Way

It wasn’t a long ride – but it was invigorating. I might had said it before – but by working from home I do get to swap commuting time with this sort of cycle ride.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A jaunt to Grafham Water

Wednesday, 19th September 20112: My Mother had been staying all last week and although she still gets around quite well she does suffer from a hip problem. So rather than do lots of walking we tended to visit Garden Centres – as both my wife and mother share an interest in plants and gardens. Apparently my Mum’s garden is full and she wasn’t supposed to take any plants home with her – but she did.

Unfortunately on the last day of her stay as we were walking to fetch the morning newspapers she had a slight dizzy spell. I offered to sit her down on the verge and fetch the car. But that suggestion got short shrift. I ran home about 150 or so and got the car out and my wife set of. Unfortunately she did fall over and banged her head. Several people had already stopped to offer assistance and a neighbour who has experience of care for the elderly helped us get her into the car. There was nothing broken, but she was quite shaken. It is good to see that there are good Samaritans willing to help the vulnerable.

We convinced her that we ought to take her to Casualty, but with the proviso that we wouldn’t let them keep her. When we got to Addenbrooke’s A&E she was assessed immediately and had various tests. In between several of the staff came to check she was feeling alright. In the end they glued her up and we went home. The NHS seems to get criticised, however my Mum was treated with respect, compassion and a bit of humour. Although she used to be a nurse, or maybe because she used to be a nurse, she did say she didn’t like doctors and the doctor treating agreed with her, he didn’t either.

It is not just humans that have to watch out – our trees are still under attack, the Ash tree is the latest one under threat.

You might also be wondering why I seem to have stopped posting for a while – well my wife and I finally managed to take a Summer Holiday – late and it was not the holiday we had originally planned. However it was really nice to get away.  So I am now in catch-up mode along with nearly 10 Gb of pictures, which is around 2,000 exposures, but as some of them are multiple exposures I reckon it will end up as around 500-700 different pictures. So I am trying to get those sorted.

I have also caught p with the various Blogs I read. It is amazing how much seems to happen over a couple of weeks and yet at the same time what happens appears to be more of the same. There are still problems with road layouts. Crap Walking and Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest touches upon Cambridge with “The context and implications of a photograph”. I rather like the third photograph down. The point is that even in a place like Cambridge with a significant number of people regularly cycling our “best attempts at cycle routes” are pretty abysmal compared with what can be achieved (cf Holland). (It also referenced a Blog I had not visited before – cyclist issues with “Guidance for motorists overtaking me”. check out points 8 and 10 both problems I have regularly encountered in Cambridge.

There is some advice on tyre choice and punctures provided by the Cottenham Cyclist. I use Schwalbe Marathon Plus (SMP)  – also down at the bottom of the post is a link to an excellent You Tube video on how to fit a SMP tyre – invaluable as they can try you patience when you do need to replace them.  (For non-cyclists we are now entering the puncture season – my theory is that the grit paste that ends up on the roads at this time of year more readily sticks to tyres allowing the tiny bits of sharpened flint more time to have their wicked way with my tyres.

As a;ways there are motorists transgressing, amongst other things by ducking level-crossing barriers (28-day ban plus fines), more and more are parking on double yellow lines in Cambridge (no surprise there then). They also complain if they are “spied on” for dodgy parking.

I have also been experimenting with de-blurring software from here.  Something I need from time to time. It has also turned gloomy and Autumnal here in the Flatlands. Mind you on my travels it was autumnal in other parts of the UK.

One other gripe I have since coming back. I use Picasaweb to store my pictures for appearance in my Blog. One feature offered by Picasaweb is that it shows the number of views of each of the stored pictures. It is an interesting way of seeing what pictures are popular and by comparing the number of times a post is read with the number of times a picture is viewed you can also see where pictures have been borrowed and in one case pages and pages and pages of my blog. Well Google have unilaterally removed the counter for pictures that have fewer than 250 views. No real explanation – it is an Update! It reminds me a a certain airlines style of marketing.

So having got that off my chest here, finally is the ride. I explored some pastures new, but without the aid of artificial transport. (trains, planes or automobiles.)  It is a loop around Grafham Water – or rather a loop from Cambridge to Grafham Water and back. I made use of the CGB cycle way (Cambridge Guided Busway)  to speed up the getting there. The route was essentially NCN51 to get through to St Ives and then along a road route South of the A428 to get back.

The distance is around 92Km/57.5 miles. There are two bumps along the way at 40Km (57m) and 70Km (74m) but nothing to worry about – even for a flatlander like me. Here is the Bike Route Toaster link.

I rather like the CGB cycleway as a route to get to places or back from places quickly. It is pleasant and rural and the buses aren’t too noisy either. Mind you I would probably get bored with it if it was the only route I cycled. It also turns out that the CGB reduces anti-social behaviour.

Buses on the CGB near Milton Road

Here is the route – as you can see the CGB cycleway was against the wind – but with luck it would be with me getting home.

Map of my ride from Cambridge to Grafham Water and back

During the working day the CGB doesn’t seem to be that busy either, even on a pleasantly sunny day.

CGB Cycleway – blue skies and white puffy clouds

I stopped briefly at Fen Drayton Lakes for a drink and took a few pictures. This map names the lakes.

Map of Fen Drayton Lakes nature reserve

It was only  now that I realised that the reason there are a fair number of bicycles locked up here when I pass through is because it is used as a commuting bus stop. It goes to show that people are combining bicycles and the CGB for commuting. Even though this is a request stop. It suggests that the planners under-estimated the benefits of cycling and therefore the need to provide bicycle stands.

Commuter Cycles parked at Fen Drayton Lakes

A bit of the Lakes are history – quarrying started in 1941 to provide building materials for the large number of WWII airfields built in the area. After the war the materials were used to local farm tracks. In the 50s the building materials were used in Cambridge and as far afield as London (by rail – conveniently next door in those days.) Quarrying stopped in 1997 and the RSPB acquired the site in 2007.

History of Fen Drayton Lakes

Oxholme Lake

Although the Summer is on its way out there are still flowers along the verges including these, which I reckon is Chicory (Cichorium intybus).

Chicory along the CGB Cycleway

Some sort of inspection also seemed to be taking place – although they were dressed in suits so it could have been a group looking to build a Guided Busway in some other part come to check this one out – it is a “most innovative transport project” after all. In other CGB news it appears that the legal deadline for the Council to resp0ond to BAM Nuttall’s defence and counterclaim has been extended – because of the volume of documents submitted and the time taken for the documents to be made available.

Inspecting a “most innovative transport project” aka the CGB

I continued my journey along through St Ives and along Thicket Road and through Houghton to re-join the NCN51 route. Strictly speaking it is a footpath in parts, although I normally see more cyclists than walkers and much of its length it is a fairly wide road.

After walking through the Mill and before crossing the River Great Ouse I stopped to take this picture – tricky with the bright sun and dark shade.

Ouse Valley Way information board, Houghton Mill

The route crosses Hemingford Meadow along this tarmac path.

Hemingford Meadow

You then cross a parallel bit of the River Great Ouse and reach Meadow Lane in Hemingford.

River Great Ouse, Hemingford Abbots

NCN51 then crosses Godmanchester Common before heading  through Godmanchester via the Sewage Works. I then had to focus on the route which ducks and dives through Godmanchester and Huntingdon before heading out along the Brampton Road and through Brampton. The you cross the A1 and head up into the hills along a small lane which is called Grafham Road, I think.

Grafham Road (near Brampton)

According to the map the nearby hill is called Thistle Hill – I took it because of the shape of the tree – which looked rather strange.

Thistle Hill, Near Brampton

As I have come to realise there used to be loads of railway lines around the UK, whilst many disappeared in the Beeching cuts – they often left behind traces. This is marked as part of the Midland Railway, it joined the main line just below Huntingdon and passed through Kimbolton where it joined another mainline just below Kettering.

Disused Railway Line – Midland Railway near Brampton

After passing through the village of Grafham the route then headed off the public roads and around Grafham Water. I used Bike Route Toaster to create a track to follow and there were some deviations between the route I had captured and the route I cycled along. Mind you this might have been because I didn’t look too carefully as to whether the automatic BRT routing followed the correct path as there are a few footpaths around. I followed the route on the ground – as you would expect.

Cycling Track around Grafham Water

Grafham Water is quite big when you cycle around it. It was almost like being at the seaside.

Grafham Water

At the South-East end you cycle along one of the retaining walls which sweeps round.

Grafham Water

This is actually a reservoir, used to supply drinking water (by Anglian Water). So this structure is not actually a pier – although it looks a bit like one.

Grafham Water

A bit further around and there were boats behind bars.

Grafham Water – fishing boats

As you can see there were quite a few people fishing – a competition maybe?

Grafham Water – fishing boats

They appeared to be fly-fishing – although why you would want to catch flies is beyond me.

Grafham Water – fishing boats

After a bit more cycling the route then unexpectedly took to the grass. I had also not realised that HM Prison Littlehey was just a short distance away.

NCN51 takes to the grass at Grafham Water to head South

The grass track was a way of avoiding the B661 I reckon because the grass track brought you to a point where you crossed the B661 and headed off down another grass track. This is marked as both NCN12 and NCN51 and is a working farm track – well a bit further long anyway. This bit if the route briefly joins the Three Shires Way.

NCN51 Highfield Farm, Grafham Water

Just after passing the farm you join one of the working farm tracks. This was unexpected (in a good way), Yes perhaps I should had checked the route out – but I really enjoy cycling through the countryside along these sorts of routes. They might not be as fast as tarmac, they they are a lot more pleasant than roads with motor traffic on.

NCN51/NCN12 between Grafham and St Ives

How about that for a view – it was as if I had my own patch of blue sky and the clouds were all gathering over Grafham Water.

NCN51/NCN12 between Grafham and St Ives

This was the track, it had a bit of gravel and so some care was needed – but it was almost deserted. Apart from three dog walkers a cyclist and me.

NCN51/NCN12 between Grafham and St Ives

I tend to pass the dog walkers rather than hang around. In my experience some (not all) of the dog walkers who seek remote places to walk their dogs do so because their dogs can be anti-social, and more often anti-cyclist. They weren’t in this case though. I stopped and had a chat with the other cyclist who was touring with a couple of panniers.

NCN51/NCN12 between Grafham and St Ives

Just after my chat with the cyclist the route re-joined the public roads – a road I now know is called Ford End and this is why. This ford is perhaps the reason why it wasn’t busy. It runs between Hail Weston and Little Paxton. The river it crosses is the River Kym. If you follow the link Wikipedia doesn’t have much to say about it. Although the road surface under water can be slippery  |I cycled through – it washed my tyres.

Whilst thinking about it I forgot to mention that when cycling along the CGB cycleway there was a muffled click click coming from my front tyre as cycled along. I stopped to investigate and found a thorn digging into the tyre. I pulled it out – at this point what normally happens is the tyre goes down, for a change it didn’t I had caught the thorn before it had gone through.

Ford over the River Kym, Ford End

After that rather pleasant country interlude the route took me through St Neots. I didn’t precisely follow the NCN route – just more or less. Even with a GPS the routes can chop and change a bit, even at the slow speeds I cycle at. The problem is that the cycle routes are often grafted onto an existing series of paths and will turn through 90o unexpectedly.

Just as unexpectedly I came across another Sustrans Portrait Bench. To pass one is to wonder whether the Sustrans chappies and chappesses are a little weird but when you have seen one or two they are rather endearing. The tall man is James Toller (1795 – 1818) born in St Neots, he grew to 8ft 1.5inches tall. The cyclist is Cecil Paget – inventor of the weatherproof cape – well done that man. The girl playing cricket is a girl playing cricket. Here is a link to its unveiling.

(Part of the reason I take pictures on my rides is that it reminds me to check out things later one.)

St Neots’ Portrait Bench

I then headed out of St Neots along the St Neots Road to Abbotsley. I did stop to take a picture of these rockets. (Which is what my son used to call them when he was a young lad). They do seem to have a bit of exhaust coming out of them. The map calls them Power Station Gallow Hill (OS) and Little Barford Power Station (OSM). It is a 680MWe gas-fired power station. (Wadlow Wind Farm near Cambridge is a 26MW, 13-turbine farm.)

Little Barford Power Station

After wending my way through the villages along roads I turned off along a bridleway between Bourn and Caldecote – passing this wind turbine en route. I can’t recall it being here the last time I cycled this way – but that might just be my memory.

Wind Turbine near Bourn

This is the bridleway – quite a bit of fruit along the hedgerow.

Bridleway between Bourn and Caldecote

Blackberries ripening  along the Bridleway between Bourn and Caldecote

Rose hips ripening along the Bridleway between Bourn and Caldecote

As the Summer passes the harvesting comes to an end and the fields are ploughed an drilled with the next crop.

Freshly Ploughed field

I then headed towards Childerley Gate and past Hardwick on a road parallel to the dual carriageway that now passes that way. On the outskirts of Hardwick, more evidence that there ought to be more cycling parking at bus stops.

Hardwick Bus stop – more cycle parking please

Alongside the American Military Cemetery at Madingley there are some good views of Cambridge. If you look very closely there is the Linton Water Tower off in the distance on the horizon.

View of Cambridge from Madingley Hill

And this is the same view without the zoom. It is not actually called Madingley Hill on the map though. I made that bit up.

View of Cambridge from Madingley Hill

I can certainly recommend that ride – I really enjoyed it although I would prefer a different route back. It wasn’t bad just not very inspiring.