Saturday, June 29, 2013

Countryside–a rapidly vanishing “commodity”

Friday, 7th June 2013: Here I am getting later by the day with my posts. All I can do is plead work and a bit of time off. so I will make this a quick post.

Although I can’t avoid mentioning the awful news that “Deaths on the roads drop to a record low but number of cyclists killed goes up 10%”.  Or as reported by the CTC – “Risk of cycling still rising amid slashed policing and inadequate investment”.

We have our Government bleating on about obesity, we have pollution from motor vehicles in London amongst the worst in Europe and Parents are scared to let their kids cycle. So why does the government think that we believe them when they claim to be doing something about it. No that’s wrong, they are doing something – only it is not enough by a long way.

We have initiatives like “Think Cyclist” (£80,000) give advice that seems to be different from the Highway Code.  At the same time £100bn has been allocated to “rebuild Britain”. The substantial part is going to roads. Yet it doesn’t seem to me that motoring is going to get cheaper any time soon. Electric cars don’t seem to be an effective replacement. It seems to me that the Government is paying lip-service to the  future and backing old technology.

Yet at the same time apparently “Electricity might need to be rationed in the future” and the greenbelt built upon. Where is the strategy in all this?  Oh yes tough news for people living near the A14 – the “upgrade” has been given the go-ahead. The “green light” means a Toll Road so predictably people are complaining, about the cost. In my view either this road is important to the economy or it is not. I am personally against tolling roads – it becomes yet another form of taxation – another complication. Mind you I also think that building roads willy-nilly is also wrong. They blight the area around, more vehicles will be be attracted to and through Cambridge, which means more noise, more pollution and more health issues.

So here is a bit of countryside – and the Wicken Fen Vision at the rate the UK is going we will be an urban nation. (The Guardian does have Cambridge to Wicken Fen as one of Britain’s Best Bike Rides).  The more we urbanise the harder it will be to get into any real nature – and will get even more people driving their cars.

Reach Lode

Crop Irrigation

F15s practising the craft of war in the skies above Wicken

More Crop Irrigation

Walking the dogs along Wicken Lode

A Swan and Cygnets on Burwell Lode

Hedgerow Crane's-bill (Geranium pyrenaicum)

A rather imposing premium house for sale in Swaffham Prior, yours for £1,200,000.

Moving away from the rat-race of Cambridgeshire?

And finally stars on bicycles – well AnnaLynne McCord.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Saunter at the Seaside

Thursday, 6th June 2013: We decided to have a day at the seaside to take advantage of the nice weather that seems to have come our way. The trouble is Summer seems so uncertain nowadays that if you are not careful you end up missing it. Also as my daughter is home fresh from exams we took her along as well.

When the kids were small we used to keep a few plastic boxes packed with out camping gear and we would just pop up to either the Norfolk or Suffolk coasts for a weekend camping on the spur of the moment. After a tough week at work (when I used to commute in) there is nothing like the freedom of camping.  We have also rented holiday lets along both coasts as well in the past from Weybourne to Walberswick.  I certainly can recommend them as places to go with the kids. Mind you I can also recommend the Lake District as well.  Scotland is good – but quite a long way to drive with kids – “are we there yet” and just as you pull onto the motorway – “I need the loo” being two common refrains.

The weather was supposed to be pretty good although less sunny on the coast so our plan was to drive up to Holt and then use the North Norfolk Railway as a Park & Ride to Sheringham and then play it by ear. My original plan was to take a picnic but we decided to find a place to eat when we got there. Fish and chips was suggested – well it would be rude not to at the seaside.

Now we could have gone by train from Cambridge to Sheringham, the rail journey time is 2.5 hours though with hourly trains it was easier to drive.  When we got there we also changed our plan. We drove to Sheringham and used the train as a P&R to Holt. That way we could eat in Holt, do some window shopping (not my choice, not that I had a choice), and then head back to Sheringham once the cloud had burnt off.

(One thing we like to do is visit Picnic Fayre, Cley-next-the-sea and buy things for an ad-hoc picnic. The only problem is there are too many things to choose from and so choosing can be tricky. According to the Internet the business is up for sale - £795,000.)

Forgive me but most of the pictures are to do with trains and things as we didn’t really spend a lot of time in other scenic places. There was lots we could have done – a picnic on Weybourne beach with a walk back to Sheringham or a visit to the NT at Felbrigg or Sheringham Park to name a few.

As luck would have it we parked in the car park next to the Sheringham Station to see the train departing for Holt. It gave us time to buy our tickets and stretch out legs and work up an appetite for lunch.

There are two stations in Sheringham the old one – now part of the North Norfolk Railway and it looks like my expectation of a railway station. There is also the National Rail Network Station which looks like a bus shelter, except it is next to a railway line. After being disconnected for 46 years they got reconnected in March 2010 for occasional use. The North Norfolk line is sometimes called the Poppy Line and the line from Norwich to Cromer is known as  the Bittern Line.

There is also a movement trying to create a North Norfolk Orbital Railway but as you might imagine it will need a lot of support and money.

Back to the old station – it has a lot of items around to set the scene.

North Norfolk Railway – luggage

There is a sign of a bygone era – the era of film cameras. Yes I know they still exist but you have to look under Digital Camera Accessories on the Boots website to find film for sale – they have three offerings – how things have changed. I have plenty of space on my memory cards though thank you.

North Norfolk Railway – luggage and trolleys

I didn’t know what this was until I looked it up – Malt extract. I do remember my Mum giving us some sort of sweet treacly like stuff when I was younger though.

Virol Sign (Malt Extract)

Another sign of the times – fire buckets. When working in an office I once took up the role of fire marshal – it was great fun. We used to learn how to put out various types of fires by, well,  putting them out.

Fire Buckets – Sheringham

Fire Buckets – Sheringham

We strolled into town, unlike many of the old stations this one is conveniently close. We bumped into a Dalek, but managed to escape.

Sheringham Dalek

The NNR has different timetables during the year, we were in luck they had both a Diesel (Diseasel) and Steam train running. I was hoping to get to ride on both. Just for the record I this is as far as my interest in trains goes – honest.

Look how well they have dressed up this Diesel to look like tried-old British Rail rolling stock. It is apparently a Class 101 Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU).

NNR – Class 101 DMU

Whilst they keep the rolling stock rolling I am not so sure that they pay the same attention to the bicycle rolling stock. These b9ikes could do with a bit of TLC.

NNR – Bicycles

They all have bells. That one has a pushrod brake as well.

NNR – Bicycles

After reaching Holt and strolling into town past Gresham’s School (ah Grasshopper) and strolling around in the Sun we had lunch (fish and chips and in my case scampi and chips). I discovered that the window-shopping plan had been revised to visiting shops and buying things shopping. I stood out in the sunshine for what seemed like an impossible amount of time to browse. In the end two purchases were made. We then had a pleasant stroll back to the Holt Station to wait for our train back to Sheringham.

Holt Railway Station – where’s the train!

I was surprised not to see more people waiting for the train, when we watched the stream train depart in the morning it was pretty full. Although Holt Station is only about a mile or so (actually 2Km) from the town centre I guess that it is enough to encourage some passengers to either not get off at Holt or to get off on some of the more scenic stops along the way.

We heard a whistle, saw some smoke and the train appeared.

LNER B12 8572 arriving at Holt

In this shot you can also see the water feed to the right of the picture.

LNER B12 8572 arriving at Holt

The driver pops his head out to check that he is right distance away from the platform as it comes in – no embarrassing “mind the gaps” here.

LNER B12 8572 arriving at Holt

And then train came to rest, briefly so that the locomotive could be uncoupled at make its way to the other end. Here is a link to some more info on the locomotive.

LNER B12 8572 arrived at Holt

The Loco will pop up the line and reverse down the other side. They don’t have a turntable so it pulls the train backwards.

LNER B12 8572 arriving at Holt

My news Phone (Samsung Galaxy S4) which I chose because of the camera has a bunch of features, some look more useful than others. It will make animated gif recordings (no sound) and still pictures with sound. I have not worked out how to use the stills with sound yet in my blog.

As you can see, I hope this is the animated gif. The version downloaded from the camera goes backwards and forwards. I ended up downloading GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) to edit it. It seemed to be the simplest approach. I chopped it up and was also able to reduce the image size. The original was 15Mb, which is  around 5only around twice as big as one of the image files I create for the other pictures.  The next picture is 7Mb.

The real problem is that if I use Picasa to download the picture it gets converted from an animated gif to a jpeg picture – no animation. I have to download the picture using Picasaweb instead.

LNER B12 8572 heading off to reverse down the track

If you want a sure-fire insomnia cure then my recommendation would be to walk around Holt and then catch the steam train back – it ambles along at a gentle pace, puffing along. The carriage rocks gently – it was all I could do not to fall asleep.

When you get back to Sheringham then the Loco decouples and heads to the other end of the carriages. Here it is having reversed down the track and is waiting for the points to be changed.

In the background you can see the gates which open to allow the train onto the main line.

LNER B12 8572 back in Sheringham

LNER B12 8572 back in Sheringham ready to roll

We then had a stroll around Sheringham and an ice-cream – the place we stopped at was trying to bring in some new flavours to help differentiate themselves against the competition. I had Jaffa-cake ice cream and  Turkish delight flavour ice cream. They worked for me.

We then headed home;

Monday, June 24, 2013

A cheeky Stroll around Anglesey Abbey

Tuesday, 4th June 2013: Sometimes I don’t use the time I save not commuting by cycling, instead I go out for walks with my wife and in this case my daughter. Her exams went well – so she can now enjoy the loooonnnnnggggg break.One of the places my wife used to take the kids to when they were toddlers was Anglesey Abbey.

There is loads of space with gently rolling slopes that make it ideal for young ones finding their feet. Also they don’t allow dogs, I know that sounds harsh. But anyone who has had young kids will know how prone they are to getting dog poo on themselves and how unpleasant it is to remove it.

Finally, in my sales pitch for Anglesey Abbey,  that same expanse of grass can also be used for a picnic, which is ideal with young kids. Now this time around we didn’t take a picnic, nor look around the house – we just had a very pleasant stroll around the grounds. It was late in the day and not at all busy – perhaps because there is so much space.

But first, a short while ago I was moaning that there were going to be trials for an 80mph Motorway speed limit and I basically felt the whole thing was a waste of time and money and it would seem that the Government agrees with me and has ditched plans.  I think the RAC quote says it all:

The RAC said it was disappointed with the decision to drop the speed limit increase. Motoring groups had argued that 80mph is a safe speed in a modern car, providing drivers leave enough room between vehicles.

Anyone who drives will know that tail-gating is a real problem. Many times I have taken pictures form various bridges over the A14/A11/M11 showing tail-gating. My daughter was asked about the rhyme to help motorists ensure they leave an appropriate gap in her theory driving test.

Answers on a postcard … yes it is the Two-second rule. You ought to try it out next time you are in a motor vehicle. You start saying the rhyme “Only a fool breaks the two second rule” when the vehicle in front passes a static marker of some sort. Of course you should use a normal speaking rate and if you pass the marker before you have finished you are too close. According to the Wiki article some suggest that it should be three seconds and under non-ideal conditions anything up to six seconds.

It still surprises me how many vehicles tail-gate.  Given that 50mph is 80.5Km/hr then every two seconds you travel 45m  - pace it out. Apparently the average step length is 32”, which is 80cm. So 45m is 56ish paces. Clearly the smaller you are the more paces it would be.  It is quite far isn’t it.

Even driving at 30mph (the usual UK street limit) the gap should be 0.4 * 45m = 18m or 22 paces. Quite a distance and necessary.

The trouble is as motorists we all have sympathy for the plight of other motorists when we pass some sort of incident. The thought is probably “there go I but for the grace of god”. The trouble is that “accidents happen” mentality is what leads to such poor standards of motoring. Here is an example of a Judge using the term “could have happened to anybody”, in a cycling fatality.

It seems to me we get hung up on sins of commission and sins of omission, to borrow a phrase. Clearly if someone deliberately steals from a shop say, then most of us would agree that is a crime and deserves some form of punishment. (I personally think that the “punishment” should also focus on helping the individual get off the treadmill of crime.)  The same may also be said to be true in motoring terms,. If a person were to drive along a street with a 30mph limit, at 100mph then that would appear to be a deliberate act and it is easy to think that it should be punished in some way.

Where most people probably get a bit less certain is in the case of a driver straying over the speed limit – say driving at 32mph instead of 30mph. How should that be punished – well ACPO guidelines would  appear also to consider that “accidental” and only recommend a charging threshold of 35mph (and summonses threshold of 50mph). Some of the reasons we drivers give is that modern cars are so much safer and have better brakes and are so much more powerful that it would be more dangerous to have to keep looking at the speedometer rather than look at the road.

I think that argument is slightly dodgy, since it implies a lack of driving skill, however one solution would be to make better use of GPS/electronic systems on cars. It wouldn’t be difficult to stick a few buttons on the steering wheel – say 20, 30 50 60 and after pressing them a warning would sound if the car was exceeding the limit set.

I was talking about this with my daughter, who has been driving for nearly three years (2 as a qualified driver) and she asked,  “given we have a 70mph speed limit why are so many cars able to go much faster”. A quick check on the web throws up various spurious technical reasons but the bottom line must be that is is a political reason. After all coaches are fitted with speed limiters.

The trouble is despite the huge accident toll on the roads with over 24,000 people killed or seriously injured in the year ending Sept 2102, the effect is distributed through the country and through the year which dilutes the impact.

The trouble is that we forget that whilst the Highway Code might well say all the right things in terms of driving more slowly around vulnerable road users or driving more slowly when the conditions are not ideal. The trouble is much of the Code is just that a code. For instance:


205 There is a risk of pedestrians, especially children, stepping unexpectedly into the road. You should drive with the safety of children in mind at a speed suitable for the conditions.

The trouble is this is not quantified and so whilst the Driving Test might well spell this out, pretty soon young drivers will find themselves tail-gated when trying to follow the spirit of the Code.

We do seem to vilify drink drivers, “Judge’s fury at busy day for drink drive offences”. Yet other offences are not seen in quite the same light. When I am cycling and get overtaken by a vehicle with hardly a gap I can tell you I feel pretty intimidated

The trouble is whilst fines are a mechanism for punishment they also become a target for cheap comments such as “milking the motorist”. Which does imply that a lot of motorists take the view that the rules are arbitrary – or perhaps should only apply to the other motorists.

Still enough of that – time for some of my pictures of Anglesey Abbey. These trees (Silver Birch) are along the Winter Walk, but look good in the Spring as well. Apparently they get power washed to keep them looking clean and smooth?

The Winter Walk

This looks more interesting than implied by my picture – well that’s what I think.  Wisteria growing up amongst other trees.

Wisteria in the trees


I wanted to get some in focus and some out – but didn’t change my depth of field enough.


I think of this as the Lightning Tree – it was a Redwood. I seem to recall the kids telling me it was struck twice.

Lightning tree

Avenue of Trees – Horse Chestnut

Game birds are not my strong point – but with the power of the Internet a quick look suggests this may be a Partridge of some sort.

Game Bird

Game Bird – sticking its tail feathers out

This chap has a boring job – counting out the visitors as they leave.

And finally some “famous” cyclists – “Zara Phillips”, Leonardo DiCaprio and “Philip Seymour?”.

And finally, finally some interesting pictures – post apocalyptic New York (courtesy of Apple Maps), the Windy City in fog and buildings abandoned by civilisation.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Giant flying butterflies above Swaffham Bulbeck Lode (and I mean giant)

Monday, 3rd June 2013: Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. For variety of reasons I have not been able to get into a regular cycling pattern.  Which is one of the problems with working from home. Mind you I am not complaining. Because it did mean that on this splendidly sunny Monday afternoon I could sneak off for a bit of tranquillity.

I almost forgot this is my 1K post (1,204). Oops that should be 1,024, you think by now I would have been able to get it right – thanks Mike


So I nipped out and as I headed out along NCN51 I decided to turn off at the Missing Sock along Albert Road, a reminder of the time when the Missing Sock was the Prince Albert. I didn’t actually pay, much attention to what was growing in the field – I assumed some sort of salad vegetable. Although it isn’t that clear to me from the picture. I assumed a lettuce, but on closer inspection of the picture I am not so sure. Perhaps it is beetroot?  What really caught my eye was the electric fence put up to keep the unidentified crops from escaping.  At the time I though maybe to keep rabbits out, but maybe deer as well.

Crops imprisoned in a field alongside Albert Road

The same view but paying more attention to the neat lines drawing your eye off to the horizon.

Crops imprisoned in a field alongside Albert Road

I then headed across Collier’s Lane (B1102) down Station Road – another reminder of bygone times. There isn’t a railway line or station in these parts. This link shows what it looked like.

Not long after crossing Stone Bridge over Quy Water there is a bridleway.  On the other side, not really visible is the rather splendid Quy Hall.  from this old map of Stow-cum-Quy in 1737 it appears that Albert Road was called Dunsey Cross Road, although the OSM map shows the corner as Dunsley Corner as does the OSM map. The land alongside Quy Water appears as The Slaps.

What was a bridleway appears as a “road” up towards Stow-cum-Quy Fen. The hall does not appear to open to the public, here is a picture of the hall taken from a hot air balloon.

This is a picture taken looking along the line of the bridleway.  It lies on the other side of the hedgerow. I am not sure whether it would be called after the Drove Way it connects with or Dunsey Cross Way it leads from.

Line of a bridleway leading from Quy

I followed the bridleway to the route of the old Cambridge to Mildenhall railway line and then about halfway towards Lode turned off it along the path in the middle of the OSM picture on this link and in this inserted picture. (It is called Dam Drove) (Which I can’t see using Windows Live Writer – hopefully it will appear on the Post.)

View Larger Map

This leads to a track the meets the railway line near Harvey’s Droveway – quite a wide track as you can see here.  On this map on the Lode village website it is called Harvey’s Droveway.

Harvey’s Droveway – Lode

I also detoured towards Lodemoores Droveway. Apparently there were some cottages along the track, just behind where I was standing when I took this picture.

Lodemoores Droveway

I headed back towards Harvey’s Droveway, stopping along the way to take a picture of this Dog Rose in the hedgerow.

Dog Rose on Harvey’s Droveway – Lode

As I was cycling along Fen Road I stopped to take a picture of some yellow iris and a cyclist happened along.

Cyclist heading along Fen Road (on the Lodes Way route)

This is the Yellow Iris (aka Water Flag) – Iris pseudacorus. It grows best in very wet conditions.

Yellow Iris – Bottisham Lode

Just before turning down White Fen Road I stopped to admire this tractor drivers work. I assumed at first he was earthing up the ridges (spuds perhaps). It actually looks as if he was ploughing up a headland on the far edge of the field.

Ploughing along White Fen Road

Along White Fen Drove, where it becomes Sandy Road and White Fen Drove kinks off I stopped to admire a bit more ploughing.

Ploughing along White Fen Road

Another quick stop on the bridge over Swaffham Bulbeck Lode – a regular photo-opportunity for me.

Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

For a change I cycled up alongside the Lode towards Swaffham Lock and Pump House.  From a distance there seemed to be large ethereal creatures flying in the sky. Some recently removed field fleece seems to have been caught by the wind.

I guess the fleece has to be light to avoid squishing the crops it is protecting.

Flying Fleece – above Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

And to here is a less zoomed picture with the reeds alongside the Lode.

Flying Fleece – above Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

The track seems quite well used, by agricultural and EA vehicles as well as fisherman. The water level in the Lode is higher than the track.

Track alongside Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

Swaffham Bulbeck Lode Lock and Pump House

Quite a profusion of Cow Parsley in the bank. It amazes me just how quickly it appears, trying to beat the other plants I guess.

Track alongside Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

O then headed back to Lodes Way via Lord’s Ground Drove before heading towards Upware. Somewhere along the way was a recently de-fleeced field – not the source of the earlier flying fleece. The fleece seems safely grounded at the far end.

The trouble with the fleece is that it also encourages the weeds.

Salad crops – recently de-fleeced

I then headed back down the bridleway from Upware towards Wicken Lode an Harrison’s Drove. Here is a group having an electric boat trip from Wicken Fen – they are in the wider waters of Reach Lode.

NT boat trip from Wicken Fen

They made it safely back to the safe waters of Wicken Lode. the boat is called the Mayfly, although I resume the occupants would rather it didn’t.

They are now passing the Wicken Fen sign – which also seems to warn people that it is “Slippery when wet”. (And bees may sting, etc).

NT boat trip from Wicken Fen

After a bumpy ride back down Harrison’s Drove I cycled back along Lodes Way towards Cambridge. A boat had sneaked into the bank just near the footbridge over Burwell lode.

Wild-mooring on Burwell Lode

As I cycled back past Newnham Drove a car was heading down from Burwell Fen Farm.

Newnham Drove (Burwell Fen)

I cycled back via Swaffham Prior and between Swaffham Prior and Swaffham Bulbeck stopped to check out the noise levels of the cars on the road. (It was 83-84db – and the traffic wasn’t that bad.)

Oil Seed Rape (between the Swaffhams)  – it made hardly any noise