Thursday, May 30, 2013

A wee trip to Scotland–part 2

Friday 17th May 2013: So that’s settled, I must find the time for an East Coast cycle ride, the weather has pretty much always been wonderful on the East Coast of Scotland – when I’ve visited. Unlike my childhood memories of summer holidays with windswept rainy beach at Troon. The only snag is I will have to ensure it matches with something or other my wife is doing. Or perhaps she could come with me, but take the train between my stages.

We started of with more sight-seeing – my daughter was pretty much packed and ready, but at some stage we were going to use the car to distribute some stuff  for her and so our plan was to load the car at the end of the day. The trouble is that exams were running and so getting hold of people was tricky. So we drove around with stuff packed in the car on the off-chance and instead did a bit more sight-seeing – first to St Andrews and then to Crail, a bit further round the coast.  (Next time we will have to check out to the North of the Tay,

The good news was that I’d managed to find a Bottle Shop selling Thistly Cross cider. the one that will hopefully show in this picture – Luvians. Although at the time I went in to check I had my hands full and so didn’t buy any.

Luvians Bottle Shop – St Andrews (and Cupar)
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Although as it happens we were visiting a Morrisons later in the day and they also happened to sell Thistly Cross Cider and as I had a convenient basket and a convenient car outside I bought six bottles of the original and one of the ginger. Although as I was driving around I didn’t plan on tasting it until we got back to the Flatlands.

We did have a wander around St Andrews and sat in the sunshine eating ice-cream from Jannettas. I had Turkish delight and Rum and Raisin flavour in a chocolate cone – delicious out in the sunshine. Although I had to eat it quite quickly because it was melting in the sun. (That’s my excuse anyway.)

Janettas – St Andrews 


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We sat down a bit further up the road on a bench where I had to take a picture of some parked bicycles. I am not sure what the cycling culture is like here – I guess students do and tourists and pensioners don’t. Still good to see the cycle parking around and in use.

St Andrews – cycle parking

At the moment there seem to be programs on the television about the decay of the City Centres. Well as my wife mentioned to me after another moan about the plight, after dutifully taking her mother to several towns to go shopping during a visit of several days, all the shops are the same. (My wife is not a keen shopper!) They are all the same and with the rise of Internet shopping it easier to do the “boring” stuff on line and have it delivered. So it was rather nice to visit a place like St Andrews that certainly seemed busy and had loads of different shops. Like this Artisan Butchers – Minick.

Minick of St Andrews – Artisan Butchers

After lunch in St Andrews – with loads of choice, we went along around the coast to Crail. Which turned out to be a delightful place to visit – although we gave the Crail Raceway a miss. It centres around a small harbour although the Raceway also has nautical connections as it was a Second World War naval air base – HMS Jackdaw or RNAS Crail. As you can see in the pictures the weather was wonderful and we had a wander around the town. 

This is the Crail Parish Church in the Marketgate, although it is named as Holy Trinity Church on the OSM map. I think that the Holy Trinity Church is on Westgate. The walled churchyard is splendid.

Not far from the church was a lovely house up for sale – if you have a spare £560,000 – The Old House, 9 Marketgate.

Crail Parish Church

To the North of the church is a small wooded valley you can walk through – Denburn Wood. There are some playing fields just behind as well. Although this picture of the path  the playing fields seems to show up a bit of dust on the lens.

Bow Butts Road playing field (Crail)

Denburn wood is delightful and has a stream flowing through along a gulley. (Well that is what we called them in Somerset.)

The contract between the sunlight and the shade of the wood was so great that even with multiple exposures the bluebells,lit by shafts of sunlight, got bleached out in the picture.

Bluebells in Denburn Wood – Crail

We strolled on around the Coastal Path and around to the Harbour.  The view across the Firth of Forth was wonderful, although the blue of the sea and the blue of the skies almost seemed to merge. This is the Isle of May, to the north of the outer Forth. apparently there was a priory there during the Middle Ages. There is an automatic lighthouse on the isle.

Isle of May – a National Nature Reserve

The same picture with a little less zoom – it lies around 8Km of the mainland. There are boat trips on the May Princess out to the Island.

Isle of May – a National Nature Reserve

As you walk around the Castle Walk there is a helpful Information Board. This says the Isle of May is 5.5 miles away, it also points out Dunbar of the other side, 17.5 miles away. To the extreme right is Cockenzie Power Station. According to Wikipedia it is closed (March 2013), but there are plans to build a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine power station in its place.

For our journey home I ignored the advice of my SatNav and took the coast road to Edinburgh and then followed the A1 around the coast and down to the flatlands. The weather wasn’t quite so nice but it took us past the Power Station.

Firth of Forth information board – Crail

Here is a view of Crail Harbour. There was no sign of a castle (on castle walk) but according to Wikipedia there was once a royal castle above the harbour.

Crail Harbour

Lobster pots stacked in Crail Harbour

And again, but at a jaunty angle. The sky was pretty much blue.

Lobster pots stacked in Crail Harbour

Further up I was rabbiting on about how nowadays towns have become dominated by the same chains of shops – well not Crail. This is the local chemist – Crail Pharmacy. What attracted us was the  Pestle and Mortar which seems to be in a pharmacist’s style.

Crail Pharmacy

Afterward we managed to re-locate the stuff that wasn’t needed back in England and load up the stuff that was. Then the next day after a hearty breakfast we set of for the long trek back to the flatlands. Around Durham and Newcastle there were torrential rains and floods and incidents as a result. The A1 remained pretty go though and we made reasonable time.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A wee trip to Scotland

Thursday 16th May 2013: It was the time of year for my unpaid job as a removals man. A job that I do twice a year, my daughter attends a Scottish University and so at the beginning of the academic year we cart her stuff up and at the end of the academic year we bring it all back.

Because her accommodation changes from year to year and because she gets quite a long summer break (15+ weeks) it isn’t that convenient to leave all her stuff behind. (To be fair she has quite a lot of text books and uses them – they are flipping heavy.

Mind you even with the holidays she gets by the time she finishes University she will have lived in Scotland for longer than I have, I don’t remember leaving Scotland but it was somewhere between 1 and 2 years of age.

It does mean that we visit more than we used to. As a boy we often spent out summer holidays in Troon with an Aunt or elsewhere on the West Coast places such as Oban, Largs. I have also cycled through Scotland when I did the Land’s End to John O’ Groats cycle ride and last year had a late Summer holidays touring around by train.

It is quite a long way whether by train of car so we try to have a couple of days up there when we go up to do our removals work. We have stayed in the Hilton in Dundee a few times but this year when we went to book a couple of nights there were offered other places. Further investigation and it turns out to have been closed. It is being demolished as part of a $1bn waterfront redevelopment. Well in the last couple of years we have been travelling up that redevelopment seems to have been taking its time.

So this time around we went upmarket, courtesy of one of the late booking websites and stayed at the Fairmont in St Andrews. I say in St Andrews, it was a mile or two down the coast – which put paid to my ideas of a gentle stroll in the town to enjoy the various foods and refreshments to be found there. The place is called the Fairmont St Andrews Resort and sits in over 500 acres. Mind you it would seem that a reasonable chunk of those acres is given over to the gentle art of hitting a ball into a hole with a stick. Golf is something I have never gotten into. Apparently I had an uncle who was a professional golfer in the US (before they made lots of money). My brother plays.

I can see that to play “well” probably needs regular practise and I don’t really have any spare time, so if I did play it I would be rubbish and that would probably annoy me even more.

The advantage of being this side of St Andrews was that we got a completely different view (and certainly different form the views when staying in Dundee).

The view of St Andrews from the Fairmont

This is the same view but with less zoom, there are several Golf links (Fairmont golfSt Andrews org) between the hotel and the town.

The view of St Andrews from the Fairmont

I guess there must be something about playing golf on the coast there do seem to be a lot of coastal golf courses in this part of the world. The place where my Dad grew up is Troon,  famous for the Royal Troon Golf Club. There was plenty of yellow Gorse (Ulex) about and the odd water trap as well.  According to Wikipedia Gorse is a fire-climax plant.

Not a putting green

Although I am not sold on golf I do like to visit the coast. The flatlands of East Anglia are quite far from the seaside and now the kids have grown up I seem to have less excuse to visit the Norfolk Coast. I do sometimes cycle to Cromer and catch the train(s) back or alternatively catch the train to Kings Lyn and cycle around the coast to Cromer and back by train.

It seems to me that despite the complaints my daughter has about the weather on the East Coast of Scotland whenever we have been up picking her up/dropping her off or visiting her the weather has been wonderful.

The rocks are rugged – but the see was blue and calm.

Rugged Coastline Rocks – St Andrews

A lot more of that fire-climax plant – Gorse.

Gorse along the cliffs near St Andrews

The sea looks inviting although I have never swum on this coast up in Scotland. I have swum in the sea quite a lot as a boy on the West coast of Scotland. The water is eye-wateringly cold. When we were kids my Dad to my brother and I swimming in the Troon outdoor pool. It was fed by the sea and we reckoned there must have been a refrigeration plant hidden away it was so cold. My brother and I slipped in slowly. My Dad just dived in without trying the water, I guess he’d forgotten how cold it was. He let out a bellow and swam the length of the pool and got out and wrapped himself in his towel around.

St Andrews Coastline

Looking at the map it would be fun to cycle along the Scottish East Coast – perhaps from Inverness to Newcastle I must see how far it is.  The Fife Coastal Path passes this way and describes the cosmopolitan atmosphere of St Andrews and the small fishing villages of East Neuk. I don't think I would do it using a unicycle though.

Fife Coastal Path (one small bit near St Andrews anyway)

Across the bay is an airbase – RAF Leuchars, which has an interceptor role. One of the planes flown from RAF Leuchars is the  Eurofighter Typhoon. What makes it recognisable to me are the canards. It is also very loud. I guess if you are going to intercept an incoming plane then you want to get out there pretty quickly (here is a picture of an intercept of a Russian bear).

Here is an interesting collection of pictures for plane spotters, taken from the LAX runway. (No Typhoons but they do have a Raptor.)

Eurofighter Typhoon

Good news – I found a shop in St Andrews that sells Thistly Cross Cider – I will buy some before leaving town. It was mentioned as a good cider in Ped’s outdoor diary – who has the pleasure of living in these parts – well down the road in Dunbar.

And finally someone else’s pictures – England on the cusp of Summer (although why not Scotland!) Check out the bluebells in the Lake District – beautiful. The natural beauty of Madagascar – that would be an interesting place to visit – any Sustrans tracks there? Lightning strikes in the Grand Canyon and Lanterns in the sky.

And finally Communist Russia, eerie Alaska and a wonderful Wisteria.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Cycling

Sunday, 12th May 2013: It was a Grand Prix weekend, which meant fitting chores around Practice and the race. What’s more the BBC were deigning to show it “live”. I refuse to buy Sky just so that I can watch Formula 1 on TV. However I personally felt that the BBC and the powers that control Formula 1 short-changed us in terms of not continuing to making the program free to air. Apparently this trend is continuing in Europe. I for one will stop watching it if it gets any worse than it is.

This race was in Spain and was shown live on the BBC though. I did sneak out for a late afternoon trip on my bicycle. I also took my long lens as it would have held me up to change it.

This was a short loop. through the Swaffhams, across Black Droveway to Reach up Straight drove to the Lodes Way and then over to Burwell Lode and back via Burwell and the Swaffhams and NCN51.

On my way through Bottisham I was surprised to see a convoy of old tractors – so surprised that it took me a while to stop and get my camera out to take a picture. There was a fair queue of cars behind them.I have had a quick look at the National Vintage Tractor & Engine Club (East Anglia) but can’t find a reference to it. Perhaps it was a Road Run.

Convoy of old Tractors  - NCN51 (Bottisham)

I suppose as we live near a private but significant airfield (Cambridge Airport) and several US airbases it is not surprising that we get a fair number of different types of aircraft. We also have a major hospital nearby – Addenbrooke’s so we also get  Air Ambulances fly in. Here is the  an East Anglian Air Ambulance helicopter. (Heading either towards the airfield or the hospital (my guess).  They have recently been granted permission to fly emergency missions at night.  Mind you we also have another Helicopter medical team – Magpas Helimedix as well.

East Anglian Air Ambulance above the skies of Reach

Having stopped (along Black Droveway) I also took a picture of the two churches of Swaffham Prior. They stood within one churchyard but served separate ecclesiastical parishes.  (And the famous Pylon of St Electron in the background.)

Swaffham Prior – Church of St Mary and the Church of St Cyriac and St Julitta

UPDATE – I missed a picture out – I followed these two up the first bit of Straight Drove. They then headed left in the Cambridge direction along Lodes Way, whilst I headed right. (Forgive my alliterative picture title – I don’t normally use the term bicyclists – it seems a more popular term in the US.)

More byway bicyclists


I stopped on the bridge over Burwell Lode as it is a good vantage point and took some pictures.

A cyclist on Lodes Way – near Burwell Lode footbridge

It would also appear that two boats have moored up ear the footbridge – a car seems to park nearby as well. I don’t think that these are official mooring points. Perhaps they are Wild moorings.  This tells me that the footbridge has a headway of 2.7m.

Wild mooring on Burwell Lode?

After that it was a fairly brisk cycle home – I was hungry!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lodes with a Long Lens

Friday, 10th May 2013: This was a POET’s day ride that was held up in the pipeline. For a change I took my longer lens with me. I usually use a 14-140mm lens (which equals 28mm to 280mm in old 35mm SLR speak). It is a surprisingly versatile lens.  My longer lens (both physically and in zoom terms, is 100mm to 300mm (or 200 to 600mm in 35mm speak).

I find it hard to adjust to the longer lens, partly because it doesn’t have the larger ratio of the shorter lens and partly because I forget and get too close to whatever I am thinking of taking a picture of. It might be quite good for wildlife, except at maximum zoom I am not fast enough to focus in on moving objects such as birds. In fact I sometimes find it a struggle focusing in on larger moving objects such as planes.

I guess that the large ratio comes at the compromise of quality, but given the way in which I take pictures that is probably not too much of an issue for me. I must remember to clean both lenses though,. they acquire dust particles in my travels, which can show up quite badly when taking picture in sunlight (an effect made worse by the HDR processing).

One of the reasons I like cycling in the countryside is because you see some of the UK’s wildlife around. So it was depressing, but not surprising to see that a “Wildlife stocktake” has highlighted far too many of the UK’s species.  The trouble is there are a number of reasons from rising temperatures to habitat degradation. However the hedgehog is one such create on the decline. I am never sure that just because I see less of a creature that is because I live in a different part of the world than I did growing up, or perhaps I pay less attention. (I do a lot less roaming about fields and woods than when I was a boy.)

The estimate is that there were around 36 million hedgehogs around in the 1950s and that there are now fewer than 1 million. That should ring alarm bells, the trouble is we are all to busty to care. They don’t know what is the cause of the decline, but put it down to:

“habitat loss, poor management of hedgerows and fragmentation of habitat, due to roads, housing and other developments. Tens of thousands of hedgehogs are killed by road traffic each year.”

The report also suggests that more than two animals and plants a year are becoming extinct in England.  What an appalling legacy to leave future generations. It makes me realise that it is not my lack of attention.

I guess it is yet another reason for choosing the bicycle over the motor vehicle we tend to slaughter fewer animals than motor vehicles.  Although I have swallowed a few flying thingies in my cycling travels and did once run over a rabbit's tale down on NCN51 near High Ditch Road.

The other aspect of our countryside that is changing is that of the trees we see. I have shown pictures of leaves from Horse Chestnut tree leaves after attack by the leaf-mining moth.  The Ash tree is also under attack along with the Sweet Chestnut tree.

Does widening the A14 look like such a great idea now?

Perhaps that is why I find myself cycling along byways and bridleway a little more – sub-consciously seeking out wildlife that is on the decline?

This ride took me out along the bridleway alongside Swaffham Bulbeck Lode from the village of the same name. The along Lodes Way and then down to Black Droveway. For a change I went around Reach on Green Lane then back down the middle onto Great Lane. then along Straight Drove to Upware, back down Garrison’s Drove and then to Burwell and then back via NCN51.

It was a grey day and I didn’t take that many pictures, although the blame lies with the photographer and not the light or the lens. This was taken from the corner of White Drove Way and Fen Lane looking North-West. It was the silhouette of the trees that caught my eye.

Oil Seed Rape in full bloom, between Swaffham Bulbeck and Long Meadow

This was taken cycling along Black Droveway, at first I though I must have taken the picture twice. The pylon seems to have been duplicated. There are two pylon runs leading out of Burwell running in parallel. In the distance you can also see a Wicken windmill (and another run of pylons.

Seeing double – pylons marching from Burwell

On my way to Reach I stopped near the Swan Lake Grain Store to take a picture of this ditch and had a chat with a walker. He was told by his Doctor to exercise for 30 minutes five days a week and this was one of those days.  After we finished chatting about local pubs and the like I wished him a pleasant return walk to Reach and it turned out he didn’t enjoy the walking at all. Which seems a bit of a shame. I suggested he should by a camera and take pictures along his walk.

Although this part of the world tends not to get huge amounts of rain the ditches are pretty full. I guess it is partly all the rain last year and partly because the Drainage Boards are keeping water in the system to facilitate irrigation. (Well that’s my guess anyway.)

This ditch is Catch Water drain and passes under Barston Bridge.

Catch Water Drain - Reach

I got a little bit of extra exercise by cycling up round the back of Reach on Green Lane. It isn’t that much of a climb though – from nigh on sea level to 14m is hardly a pimple – except in the flatlands.

I cycled through Reach onto Straight drove, with a slight detour along the Reach underbank and back by the Lodes Way bridge over Reach Lode. I stopped briefly to take a picture looking down Commissioners’ Drain. The bridge in the distance if the Headlake Drove bridge.

Commissioners’ Drain from Straight Drove

I After popping up to Upware I headed back down the side of  Reach Lode and down the bridleway to Wicken Lode. I stopped on the wooden bridge over Wicken Lode (called Wicken Lode Bridge on the OS map) to take this picture of Wicken Lode. It is a reminder that although I might like to think I am in the middle of nowhere – it ain’t really the back of beyond.

Wicken Lode – being monitored

From the same vantage point – the view down the Lode to where it splits at Pout Hall Corner. The signs indicate Burwell Lode to the left and Reach Lode to the right.

Reach Lode splitting into Reach Lode and Burwell Lode

This is Pantile Lane in Burwell – it is only just wide enough for a car to pass – but it has its “regulation” yellow lines in case drivers decide to park there and so block the lane. Although it seems that the road is also wearing out and taking the yellow lines with it.

Pantile Lane – Burwell

I headed out of the village on NCN51, which weaves about a bit until I reached the B1102, Swaffham Road. On the outskirts of Burwell the pavement magically becomes suitable to be a shared-use path. I don’t really like this path, but come this way for a change.

Although I don’t like the shared path I do use it – it is preferable to close overtakes on the road. Generally you don’t seem many people using the path, either on foot or bicycle When you do the path is barely wide enough to pass a single oncoming pedestrian, let alone a cyclist.

The picture shows where the Devil’s Dyke was cut to make way for the Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line – I think it is one-nil to the Dyke.

Devil’s Dyke – with a cutting that used to carry the Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line

The road climbs slightly into Swaffham Prior – this is what Reach looks like from the “hill”.  It maxes out at 27m in the village. I tend to turn of into the village along Rogers Road, by this time I have had enough of the traffic.

Reach in the distance from Swaffham Prior

An update on the cycling petition – 63,624 people – get your friends signing up.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Traffic and mowing the lawn with David Hembrow

This is an out of sequence post which has come about for two reasons. The first reason is I had to transport or heavy piece of electronic equipment across town and for the first time in ages found myself stuck in Cambridge Congestion. Which gave me time to think.

The second reason is that whilst cutting the lawn I caught up with some podcasts.  One of the Podcasts I regularly listen to is The Bike Show by Jack Thurston.  In particular I listened to the interview of David HembrowWhat It Really Means To Go Dutch. You might see that David’s blog is one I follow  - A view from the cycle path. Like many I was somewhat shocked when he “deleted” his Blog – and then later reinstated it.

It has taken me a while to finish this post as I have been away and without and Internet connection, well one capable of blogging on anyway. So I thought I might summarise my thoughts.

1. Our transport system has grown like weeds, either no-one has bothered to think about it or  has the ability to do anything about it.  

I sat in traffic for an hour last week transporting some electronics across Cambridge. It was my own stupid fault, I am so used to cycling I forgot how bad traffic is in a car! (I perhaps should have gotten Outspoken Delivery to move it. The overall weight was around 30Kg, so too heavy to carry on my bike but not a trailer. Outspoken quote a maximum net weight of 60Kg and box dimensions of 650x570x510mm so it would have been cycle-able. Isn’t hindsight wonderful.

There was not anything out of the ordinary, it was just weight of traffic. Part of my journey was along Newmarket Road and the traffic was chaotic, with vehicles blocking junctions and using the Bus Lanes and doing u-turns. It seemed to me that quite a high percentage of the bus lane users were driving vans, what a surprise.

You only have to look at how the Newmarket Road has developed over the years to see how ad-hoc the development has been.  It seems to me that despite the long-term planning, it doesn’t really seem to have much benefit.

Whilst I have only skim-read read the Cambridge and Peterborough Long Term Transport Strategy (pdf) it seems to be rather unimaginative.  The Draft Vision seems to take a “more of the same”   with a bit thrown in for everyone approach.

As a digression I was surprised to see that Peterborough has seen a reduction in cycling, for journeys to work, of nearly 25% from 2001 to 2011. (Table 2) Yet there is also the statement that “Peterborough has an extensive network of over 250Km of dedicated cycleways, which are predominantly segregated routes.”  (Para 4.22)  What does that mean?

There is no bold approach and for a document that purports to take us up to 2050 it barely addresses what changes we might expect, the issue of Peak Oil and perhaps more importantly the Political ramifications of the UK being dependent on imports for energy. It all seems a bit head-in-the-sand with some buzzwords thrown in such as sustainable transport.

Our transport systems are networks, make a change in one area and it is bound to affect another area. Make the A14 more capable of transporting volumes of traffic and guess what more traffic will use it. Given that it is unlikely that we will see Cambridge re-built then more traffic will mean more congestion. Although talking about piecemeal development – there is to be a Massive retail development around The Grafton Centre – more traffic on the Newmarket road anyone..

It would seem that such Strategies also fail to look at the resilience of the network. Road works are a given, either to fix the roads themselves or to access the services that run under them, such as telecoms, sewage or water. (See Motorists face roadworks on key Cambridge route for up to three months.) Yet these sorts of events should not be total surprises.

Whether we like it or not it would seem that Government is foisting a hold load of new houses in this part of the world. Although it would seem that our schools “enjoy” the benefits of receiving  £600 per year, per pupil, less than the average already. How does that make sense? When places are built then there needs to be a complete shift in thinking away from more of the same.

Apparently there is a housing crisis in the region, with plans for thousands of homes (new town at Waterbeach and village at Bourn airfield being some of the proposals.) Well I reckon these will end up paying lip-service to the problems unless bold steps are taken. (Strangely enough in this crisis a friend lives on an estate where the builder has gone into administration – a crisis yes – but perhaps not the crisis implied.)

Interestingly what does happen is that there are complaints about the costs of houses, but then the government takes its cut of tax with stamp duty and S106 money all puts the cost of the housing up. Although I can’t help but feel that S106 money is dribbled away sometimes.  Also when you look at the various plans to build in the region – where are many of those people going to work – Cambridge – so unless infrastructure is plumbed into the travel from the start it will me more congestion.  (Not to mention air pollution, noise pollution and yet more people being scared to do anything but drive to school or work.

I have touched on this before – but apparently the average UK worker spends 41 minutes commuting everyday and ten per cent spend three hours or more per day (1.84 million people). Apparently a third of parents won’t let their children walk to school becaus4e of fears about speeding cars. If that isn’t a sign of a sick society then what is. Although I can’t help feeling that some parents use it as an excuse because they drive their kids to school.

Part of the problem is that when we are in our cars we seem to feel a misguided sense of entitlement. That can boil over into motorised terrorism. Don’t believe me then check out the tirade of abuse at this Leicester School from a driver to a BBC reporter. If Sir Graham Bright (Cambs PCC) wants to go after anti-social behaviour then perhaps he ought to target resources at traffic chaos around schools. (As they did in Brighton.)

I find it appalling that significant efforts are not directed at making a walk or ride to school for kids an appealing prospect.  Although you only have to look at Butt Lane to the north of Cambridge to see how not to do it. There was a plan for a cycleway between the villages of Impington and Milton. There was opposition because of the possible loss of the free school bus. (Parents – do they really want safe cycle routes?) to date half of the path has been built and it is mediocre at best. So money is being wasted on a school bus, half a cycle path and quite a few years have gone by. Incompetence?

What is worse is that this is in a city with a higher than average percentage of people who cycle to work. Yet we know the benefits of switching to cycling as a mode of transport – health, cost pollution and sustainability to name a few…

The trouble is the shift is against a backdrop of fear of the roads and failure to properly priorities the needs of the other road users – cyclists and pedestrians. The motorist’s expectation is that the focus is on their progress.  As demonstrated by this young drivers tweets. She apparently indicated that after knocking a cyclist of his bicycle “I have right of way, he doesn’t even pay road tax”. Fortunately the cyclist was not seriously injured. That attitude is not helped by the sub-standard cycle infrastructure that is created.

So onto the David Hembrow interview – it is well worth a listen. I subscribe to A view from the Cycle Path and perhaps like some thought it a little churlish when it was withdrawn from the web. I also feel that sometimes David can be a bit harsh in his criticism of cycle campaigners here in the UK, berating them for accepting second best, whilst “sitting pretty” in the Netherlands. Well listen to the podcast it all makes more sense and his frustrations understandable. He has seen what cycling can be like if it is done properly.

To me the issue is not about cycling – perhaps that is where we all go wrong – we focus on what many drivers might think of as a slow, tiring, second-class hobby to be fitted in around the grown-up business of motoring.

I think that the other thing we cyclists sometimes fixate on is the “joy of cycling” and how scared naughty drivers make us feel. Whilst both might be true they aren’t really going to appeal to many non-cyclists are they.

There is a saying that what gets measured gets done, the corollary is that if you measure the wrong things then the wrong things get done.  If we focus on how many kilometres of cycling infrastructure there are you can (and do) end up with all sorts of weird bits of paint on the road. (Warrington Cycle Campaign – Cycle facility of the month and one using Cyclestreets.)

So, why such a wordy Post, well I come back to the question what are we trying to achieve? Well when I look at the Cambridge and Peterborough Long Term Transport Strategy (pdf) I want to see a Strategy that puts people first, not the economy. That might sound odd, because I do believe a sound economy is important, but the danger is we stumble into  an inequitable distribution of the benefits from the simplistic pursuit of business.

I want to see a strategy that genuinely considers the long-term issues of transport – and  then sets some targets that can lead to practical steps.  Some of the steps will be short- and mid-term but others will be long-term. For instance one target should be to reduce the number of children driven to school. (Health, exercise, pollution, safety, cost). In the short-term this might mean better cycle facilities for schools and blanket 20mph limits that are policed. In the mid-term this means providing safe and segregated and accessible cycle routes with priority over motor transport. In the longer term perhaps we also need to address the way in which new towns and villages are built and how schools are “controlled”. At the moment there is this wonderful idea that we have choice of schools for our kids, well that choice doesn’t make the bad schools any better, it just means the middle-classes all end up shunting their kids around more.

Cambridgeshire County Council – pull your finger out – finish the Impington-Milton cycleway – properly – a wider cycle lane and priority for cyclists.

The signs are there that we need to change – when a newly qualified driver of 18 is quoted £33,000 to insure her £400 Daewoo it is a symptom of problems with our casual assumptions about motoring. Another symptom – new houses with garages barely big enough to fit a car.

There are also many positive signs that change is wanted – “Better cycle safety call for ‘suicidal’ junctions” and “Twenty’s plenty for city speed limit, experts say” or “Make more room for bikes on roads, cyclists say”.  There are also some signs of Council recognition – Ely is to be used a a guinea pig for a major survey which aims to improve the way people travel. Although my cynical view is that these consultations tend to somewhat narrow-minded. Mind you this news report of the survey suggests it is part of the county council’s transport strategy to encourage walking, cycling or use of public transport.

Such a strategy should also inform the actions of the PCC, speeding is anti-social and there is way too much of it in Cambridge (50,190 speed traps tripped last year). Such behaviour scares vulnerable roads users away. Apparently one motorist was clocked at 93mph on Gilbert Road in Cambridge and another at 81mph! That’s the road with cycle lanes – to encourage cyclists and make them feel safe!

I often see people driving and using their hand-held mobile phones on country lanes, particularly a junctions (prime SMIDSY territory). So what is anti-social behaviour –well that is. Although recently the label anti-social has been targeted at cyclists, the Cottenham Cyclist and Cambridge Cyclist have had a “minor success” in getting some change in that viewpoint. (BTW their words not mine, I think it is an excellent step forward.)

Personally anti-social behaviour is driving a lorry illegally, over over-turning your spud lorry or crashing on the A14 or blocking the Ely railway bridge. Holding up loads of other travellers is anti-social.

And finally – I made the Great Big Get out on your Bike Bike blog roundup last week.

Anti-social behaviour

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Daffodils on Burwell Fen

Tuesday, 7th May 2013: Apparently it is National Walking Month as well as hit the “Donate to my blog button ten times”* week. So here is a route which allows you to combine a bit of cycling with a bit of Fen walking.  I have really been enjoying my cycling just recently, the better weather and the Spring surge with leaves and flowers popping up out and up along with drier tracks has been all the encouragement I needed. Probably too much encouragement, as I seem to have been sneaking out quite lot on my bike.

This ride just happened, I didn’t have much of a plan and once again found myself exploring places I had never quite visited before.  Although I was a bit naughty and used my bicycle it would be a great bike and walk ride. Either if you were to cycle in from Cambridge or perhaps from closer by.

What I did was explore the Burwell Fen Farm triangle, not the whole triangle but half of it. The great thing about nature is that there is always something new to see. Now I have been walking and cycling in the area for quite a few years – but I saw a sight in the Burwell Fen area that I’d not seen before.

Here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the route that I cycled, I have just shown the loop, to give a sense of how far it is. Just a shade over 31Km. As I mentioned I did cycle along rights of way that are footpaths, which I don’t recommend. However there has been a fair bit of work in the area and so the “footpaths” were tracks that had recently been used by earth moving equipment or bank repairing equipment.

Although I have been most places on this route the area I had never really explored is around Pout Hall and from Pout Hall down to Reach Lode Bridge via the inner bank. A while back the NT decided to create a wetland area around Burwell Fen and built a bund around the area. (There are more pictures here.)

The bund would allow water to collect and it was going to be filled via Pout Hall Corner. The Wicken Fen Vision Warden’s blog suggests that it might take five years – mind you after the rain last year it looks pretty wet now. (Here is the Wicken Research Newsletter.)

For a bit of history on Reach Lode here is a bit form the village Website. Reach Lode almost found itself part of canal from King’s, Cambridge and London.

So my unplanned ride started with me heading out along the NCN51 through to Swaffham Prior. I headed off down Station Road, which then becomes Whiteway Drove. (It is interesting how road names endure many years after most traces of the Railway Line that gave a name to the road have disappeared. The last bit of the Cambridge to Mildenhall Line closed in 1965.

At this point I had decided to head along Black Droveway, Blackberry Droveway and Straight Drove to Upware.

Busy Famer applying a crop treatment along Black Droveway

Here is the Bike Route Toaster map. I find the way places get named interesting and also the way the names evolve. It seems to me the in the past bridges were of greater importance than we perceive them nowadays.  Just looking at the Reach map there are two small bridges – Barston Bridge and Delver Bridge that cross Catch Water Drain which leads into Reach Lode.

Map of my tour of the area around Wicken Fen

This time around I didn’t detour off Straight Drove onto Reach Lode underbank. There is an electricity sub-station at Burwell. Pylons lead off in multiple directions. Two sets run in parallel to the South-West. The OS map doesn’t seem to have caught up though it only shows one set (I have also checked on the unlinkable OS site). The OSM map does show two sets.  Perhaps the Ordnance Survey needs to get a move on – it is falling out of date.

Pylons on the March from Burwell

Although I didn’t take the slight detour I did pop in to take a picture of the pylons reflecting in the pool.

Pylons reflecting

After that I carried on up Straight Drove without a dab – even the mud tracks imprinted by tractor tyre tread weren’t as bad as the plastic strips on two of the wooden bridges on NCN51 between Cambridge and Swaffham Prior. Just before the end of Straight Drove the mud track becomes a gravel track. with a tarmac road that has seen better days heading to the left towards Blinkers Hill (as it is called on the 1930 map) .A precise search throws up several websites that have ripped off my Blog.

The Road to Blinkers Hill

Straight Drove runs alongside Commissioners’ Drain as you reach Upware. It looks as if whoever farms this field is not taking chances with lack of rain.

Preparing to Irrigate Fields – Commissioner’s Drain

This is the last bit of Straight Drove, a loose gravel track. I tend to cycle hard over to the right – it is flattest.

Straight Drove – the gravel yards

At Upware there is a pumping Station, at the end of Commissioner’s Drain. This area is part of Swaffham Internal Drainage Board, which in turn is part of the Ely group of Internal Drainage Boards.  A quick search on the Upware P{umping Station shows that last year “Hundreds of fish die caught up in pumps”. To the right you can also see Commissioner's’ Drain. The OSM and OS maps shows the Pumping Station as the Swaffham Pumping Station

Upware Pumping Station

On the other side of the road are the Upware Washes.

Upware Washes

At this stage I was still not too sure where I was heading – but since decent bridleway are preferable to even country roads I headed down Reach Lode.  If you are in a boat then those a water way signs – Burwell Lode to the left and Reach Lode to the right.  According to this website it called Pout Hall junction.

Pout Hall Junction

Upware has a bit of mooring – some boats seem to be in various states of repair. Here is a Blog I found of a boater’s trip to Reach – he recommended the Dyke’s End. This is their return journey – nice pictures from a different perspective – including the bridge over Wicken Lode and the Lodes Way cycle bridge over Reach Lode.

Moored Boats on Reach Lode – Upware

There is a waterway route to Wicken Fen – called unsurprisingly Wicken Lode. There is a wooden bridge which crosses it.  The wooden slats make it “easier” for horse- riders to use. I have never seen horses using it, do the horse riders remain mounted or not?

I walk over pushing Maisie, parked up on the bridge in this picture.

The Bridge over Wicken Lode

A little further down Wicken Lode there were some cattle (highland) grazing on the other side of the Lode.Here is an NT article on the grazing approach being taken at Wicken Fen (pdf).

Highland cattle – Wicken Fen – You lookin’ at me?

The other thing I heard, for the first time this year was a cuckoo – actually there seemed to be more than one in the area. Here is a recording of the sound – you might need to turn the volume up. It was the Swaffham Bulbeck Cyclist who tipped me the wink when we bumped into each other and stopped for a chat.

Cuckoo – Cuckoo – Wicken Fen

The sound of a Cuckoo–Wicken Fen

I headed back along Lodes Way, stopping where it crosses Newnham Drove to take a picture looking down the bumpy drove. On the right of the road is the Electricity Sub-Station. Those blobs down the road are pigeons.

Newnham Drove

Having stopped there I thought I would pop up to the recently tidied Burwell Fen Farm. On my way up there was a deer paying attention to me. The ridge in the background is Reach Lode – somewhat higher than the land – you can just see a boat peeping over the bank.

Deer – Burwell Fen

Round these parts they go equipped when hunting for deer.  They (the planes) have quite a distinctive shape. I hope they don’t lock onto me by mistake!

F15 Strike Eagles – Deer Hunting?

What did surprise me was the profusion of daffodils across the fen. This bit is surrounded by a bund to allow it to become wetland – it seems to have encouraged the daffodils as well. I wonder if this dates back to Alan Bloom’s  time. I must dig out my copy of The Farm in the Fen and have a look. In this picture from the Ennion’s book there is a hand-drawn map of the area which he notes as Adventurers Fen. Turf was “grown” in those days as well.

Daffodils on Burwell Fen (or should it be Adventurers Fen)

Another picture – the daffodils are slightly sparser as you get closer to the Lodes Way – you can see Reach Lode Bridge in the background.

Daffodils on Burwell Fen (or should it be Adventurers Fen)

Although I wasn’t intending I carried on up the line of Newnham Drove to the top of the triangle.  This is Pout Hall Corner from which water is being abstracted to flood the bund area, you might recognise the picture in this blog!

Pout Hall Corner

there has been so much work in this area that there are well-defined tracks that make cycling easier. I then headed down the left bank of Reach Lode. The banks of the Lodes make quite good vantage points as they are higher than the surround land.

That is the carrot crunching building on Harrison’s Drove

This is Burwell Fen looking suitable flooded – I wander what the fencing is for.

The Wicken Fen Vision in action – newly created wetlands – Burwell Fen

It looks as if those jets were having problems tracking the deer and have called in an Apache AH1 Helicopter (flown by the Army Air Corps). It is a licence-built Apache built by AugustaWestland. The bulbous bit on the stalk above the rotor blades is a Longbow Radar.

Apache Attack Helicopter – hunting deer?

Back to farming matters – that machine is a de-stoner. It is a Reekie 350-SA being dragged through preparing the ground for spuds.

Field being de-stoned

That looks to be a neat job.

Trenches for growing potatoes – de-stoned

Across the way was one of the crops also being grown in the early 1900s – turf. I wonder if they need to damp it in preparation for lifting the turn.

Watering the grass along Lodes Way

It was clearly a day for getting stuff done down on the farm. A little further on was a Challenger MT845C  pulling a disk harrow (to my untutored eye).

Challenger Tractor

Despite cycling and walking in these here parts for quite a few years there is always something new to see.