Monday, September 30, 2013

Trying out Thicket Path between Houghton & St Ives

Monday, 19th August 2013:There is no doubt about it – fine weather makes cycling so much more tempting.

The only snag was that the sun in the morning seemed to disappear a bit, having said that it wasn’t too bad and once the temperature is over 20oC it gets comfortable when cycling. The other plus point was that there wasn’t much wind.

The next question is where should I cycle. I hadn’t been able to get out over the weekend and so felt a slightly longer ride was in order.  I am always interested in new routes opening up on the National Cycle Network around me. Whilst I reckon that they don’t always provide a direct route for  leisure cycling they generally do provide a scenic route.

The snag is that Sustrans (as do many organisations) seems to have re-vamped its Website. So it certainly looks a lot snazzier, but I can’t seem to find what paths might have been changed so easily. In fact their own page on the Lodes Way has gotten the route marked in the wrong place. They seem to have put a dot on Kingfishers Bridge and not Wicken Fen.

I guess I am not really their target audience. I already cycle a bit. This time the info came from my wife she normally goes walking with friends once a week. This time around she had been along Thicket Path between St Ives and Houghton.  It is good to see that the Department of Transport’s Local Sustainable Fund has been used for more than just an advance stop light for cyclists on a motor vehicles go faster junction.

Anyway she reckoned is was a great improvement and that it made things easier for all users – she made no comment about speeding cyclists though.

So that became my destination, the route was easy – out along the old NCN route to Houghton (now the NCN24) and back along the new NCN to Cambridge (NCN51). Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link – it is 58Km/ 36 miles long. I was on a bit of a deadline so I didn’t take that many pictures along the way.

Although here is a bit of social history – the Red Telephone Box and the red post box. According to this undated document by Ofcom there are around 67,000 public call boxes and BT reckons that 6 out of 10 such call boxes (owned by them) are losing money. I am surprised that as many as 4 out of 10 still make money.  As you can see this one no longer takes cash. I would imagine that even fewer get used nowadays.

The trouble is many of us probably feel some nostalgia for the phone box. I remember the phone boxes that were around before Subscriber-Trunk Dialling (STD) and the public telephones had an A button and a B button. You put your money in and then dialled and pushed A to be connected and B to get your money back. The last link mentions a trick to get free calls, I had heard that when I was young – it never worked when I tried it though.

Next to it is a Post box again probably a sign of different times. During their day they were probably seen as permanent aspects of society. But here we are 30-40 years on and the world is so different. Two factors have affected the telephone, firstly as more and more households gained phones then our need to pop down to the phone box reduced.

However an even bigger trend has been the rise of the mobile phone, with 97% penetration in the UK. (Fig 1a. shows subscription by age here.) The idea of going into a smelly telephone box to make a phone call must seem bizarre to teenagers of today. I seem to remember they were smelly when I was a boy and things haven’t got any better.

Then we have the Post box – which is good for letters, but not for parcels. During the same period we have seen a significant increase in email and e-billing along with a substantial increase in Internet shopping. As a result some of the data being supplied as part of the Royal Mail flotation is a document by PWC – Outlook for UK mail volumes to 2023. Which forecasts letter volumes to declines by 55 per annum from 2013 to 2018 and then at 4% p.a. until 2023. Whilst at the same time Parcels will increase by 3% p.a. from 2013 to 2018 and then at 2% from 2018 to 2023.  Letter boxes will perhaps also become a thing of the past.

Where will it end? Well we are starting to see the rise of 3D printers, maybe we will print out our own “products”.

Whilst writing this I also came across this story about the Phone Box at Burrough Green – “Phone box ‘library’ is destroyed by arsonists” in June this year. Well all I can so is that whoever did it was a tosser(s).

This phone box is in Longstanton.

K6 Phone Box Longstanton

The route I took, a wibbly route out and a more direct route back.  I forgot to mention that the route takes the airfield road between Longstanton and Oakington. It is a route that is banned for most types of motor traffic (there are exceptions for access and public services and hackney carriages.)  When I cycle along it, given its status and the relatively poor state of the road I would like to think that there won’t be any anti-social motorists. There are of course and some of them speed along. Although if I stop and take pictures as they pass that tends to slow them down a bit.

Perhaps it is time for another crackdown. Girton Parish Council raise the issue with regards to increased traffic with the Northstowe development.

A Ride to Houghton and back from Cambridge

One of the bug-bears I have is what seems to be the random way in which some pavements are designated as shared-use and some aren’t. Even worse some of those that are seem to lose their signage and so it all becomes unclear. Then we have the PCC treating it as the crime of the century. Surely if the roads were safer then fewer cyclists would be driven of the roads onto the pavements.

Even worse, in this case a whole bunch of give-ways have been painted on the pavement. So who has responsibility in the event of an accident, especially if it is a youngster. Cycling infrastructure – puh. 

Mill Road – give way alley

The worst bit about this route is crossing the A1096 at the roundabout.  It is tricky as the sight lines are not good and despite the area being quite built up cars whizz along. The route then ambles along through the Hemingfords, where it seems that at the posh end a lot of new building is happening. Then the route turns off down to Houghton Mill and you get to try out the Thicket Path.

According to the OS map Thicket Path is a footpath, however it seems to me that it also long been used by cyclists as well. For the record, I didn’t see any thigh-bulging Lycra clad cyclists on the route and never have. Personally I think it is a great improvement, my wife and here walking friends also think so. As I (mis)understand it footpaths don’t have the same legal status as pavements and so you can’t get a ticket for cycling along a footpath.  Or maybe there are secret cameras and the PCC will use it to bump up the crime detection rate.

Thicket Path, St Ives to Houghton – and jolly nice too

It isn’t totally clear quite where a cyclist can go to get through the centre of St Ives, although I use the route shown on the OSM cycle map down Crown Street and the Pavement. There is then quite a wait at the traffic lights to cross Harrison Way, clearly optimised for the traffic I reckon.  Then you enter the Guided Busway area. The Park and |Ride car park has been extended.  The car park has been increased from 500 to 1,000 spaces.  The park and ride  also has 50 cycle spaces. Although this link indicates there are 500 parking spaces at St Ives. Ah well I could count them, but life is too short.  Perhaps they got lost in the budget mistake.

St Ives Park and Ride – Guided Busway

This is a panorama view – with the busway to the right and the car park to the left.

St Ives Park and Ride – Guided Busway

It was a very pleasant and quite fast (for me) ride home. I only stopped the once. Some interesting graffiti on the bridge under the Gravel Bridge Road. The message could have been a little more uplifting.  It also made me think about graffiti and say telephone boxes or pieces of art strewn along a trail. This isn’t bad although I am sure there are some councillors who might splutter at the thought. However the thought was really one along the lines of there is loads of visual 3D graffiti from Wind Turbines through to Telephone boxes and Pylons.

So why is Government Graffiti allowed and citizen graffiti not? As another citizen I asked for neither.

Work Eat Sleep Repeat

Mind you if I had done this one I would perhaps added exercise and then used pictograms for each of the activities?

Exercise Work Eat Sleep Repeat

Friday, September 27, 2013

Mid-week ride +1 :-)

Thursday, 15th August 2013: Sometimes you have to “get it while you can”. So on the basis that Summer doesn’t last forever I have been trying to sneak out more often during the summer on the basis that a short ride is better than non.

Harvest is in full swing at the moment in the Fens and so this was a reasonably fast (for me) ride pretty much on the tarmac out ti Wicken Fen via Upware and back along Lodes Way (not tarmac but not bad).

A Turf Harvest

A bicycle is an ideal way to get to where you want to walk. Although I think I would have locked my bike up before walking. |Which makes me wonder how did this bike get here?

Bike to Walk – trusting cyclist

A Field full of Bales near Wicken (in the background)

Cuboid-Baling near Priory Farm, Wicken Fen

Shared-use Cyclepath – near Lode – pedestrians, cyclists and car parking

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mid-week ride

Wednesday, 14th August 2013: Being late in my posts means that I tend to look on the pictures and bemoan the end of Summer. At the moment many of the fields are a freshly-ploughed dark brown or black (in the peaty fens).

Whereas in these pictures it is all go as the wheat, barley, oil seed rape and flax is harvested. (Which reminds me I saw my first clamp of sugar beet of the season yesterday when out for a ride.)

The other problem is that I am not getting out and cycling quite so much as I did in July and August the pictures make me reflect on summer cycling versus the winter cycling to come. Ah well, take each day as it comes is the advice my Mum would give.

This was a figure of 8  ride, out along NCN51 up to Swaffham Prior, across to Reach of Black Drove Way. Then up to Reach Lode Bride on the reach Lode underbank and then to Upware via Straight Drove. The route back was down Harrison’s Drove to Lodes Way and back through to Bottisham and NCN51.

The saying make hay while the sun shines was evident – literally.  Although really the resultant bales would be straw rather than hay.

Combining on the outskirts of Bottisham

It is unusual to see a Combine Harvester parked up at this time of year – broken or waiting to a quieter time of day before taking to the roads?

Freshly Combined Field – Swaffham Bulbeck

One of the things I like about summer is the profusion of flowers, along with the fact that they come out at different times of the summer.  Cycling back long Harrison’s Drove in Wicken Fen it is surprisingly colourful.

At the time I took the picture I thought it might be a type of Willowherb, now I am not so sure, Centaury perhaps.

Pink flowers – Harrison’s Drove – Wicken Fen

Yellow Flowers – Harrison’s Drove – Wicken Fen

The view from Harrison’s Drove

Yet more Combining, this time a Claas Classic 98 – they seem to knock new versions of Combine Harvesters more frequently than car models. Apparently this one has a 6l Merc engine.

Class Classic 98 in action

Split Drove – Lodes Way

Fresh Bales – Lodes Way – Near Swaffham Bulbeck Bridge

I wonder if this field is being grown organically along White Fen Drove Wau/ Sandy Road?  A footpath also crosses the field somewhere?

Organic Barley?

A pair of cyclists out for a mid-week ride along Lodes Way (White Fen Drove Way)

I took this picture as a reminder.

Of the Quy Beer Festival – unfortunately I didn’t manage to go. Maybe next year.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Burrough Green–there and back

Sunday, 11th August 2013: Cycling serves a number of purposes for me, it is a convenient form of transport, is is eco-friendly, it is cost-effective, it is healthy and it is fun. Now it is not all of those things all of the time. Depending upon what I am doing I have to compromise. Personally the best cycle routes are away from traffic (quiet, safe, clean air), in interesting countryside and with good cycling surfaces and if I am going from A to B then relatively direct. When I am cycling somewhere for work-related purposes I tend to have to compromise most of those ideals because, even in Cambridge there are huge deficiencies in the cycle infrastructure, perhaps because the planners they bend over backwards to accommodate the needs of  car drivers.

The trouble is, here in the UK those sorts of routes are far and few between. Having said all of that there are some pretty good off-road leisure cycling routes, as opposed to hard-core MTB type routes which are not so prevalent.

This route starts off on Street Way, now a bridleway, which heads out of Great Wilbraham on a north-easterly direction. Although this time around I joined it from the Little Wilbraham Road. Comparing the 1930s map with the current map it looks as if it got a bit nobbled by the dualling of the A11.  The Street Way and a route that crosses  (between Bottisham and Westley Bottom – called Heath Road) are quite wide and straight, with hedge boundaries.  Although they are byways they are rather more like bridleways in terms of the cycling surface.

Despite the fact that both the A11 and A14 are nearby because it is flat you can barely so the dual-carriageways. You can hear them though.

Street Way

Here is the map of my route. I then headed out to Burroughs Green, which is more or less straight. The last but is a byway but has yet to appear on the OSM map. Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link. It is just under 42Km / 26 miles in length. There is a bit of a hill at the start (reaching 115m), but it is in the first half of the ride.

The only bit I don’t like is the bit around Newmarket. The B1061 is a straight and fast road, but not tremendously wide.  As you will see the route I chose this time in Newmarket highlights how crap some cycling facilities can be.

Map of my Ride

What was that said about the seclusion of the bridleways, at this time of year there are combines about. There were several about – this picture was taken as one Combine was crossing the kink in the Street Way. The Combine is a Class Lexion 660. To the right you can see the Wadlow Wind Farm in the distance.

Combine Harvester crossing the Street Way, near Little Wilbraham

This is the field the Combine came from. They had been running two machines but left this one behind to finish up. To the right you can see where the Street Way heads towards the A11.

Combining a big field – near Little Wilbraham

Here is the last scene with a bit of zoom. You can see on of the A11 Information signs.

Combining a big field – near Little Wilbraham

And this is the path running alongside that field in the last picture – pretty straight – more of a footpath now though.

Street Way – near the Wilbrahams

Here is the Combining (from the last field) powering up the hill. This one is a Claas Lexion 750.

Combining a big field – near Little Wilbraham

I must have liked the drama in the picture, ‘cos here it is again, less zoom.

Combining a big field – near Little Wilbraham

The Street Way then joins Heath Road.

Heath Road – looking towards Bottisham

These guys were working, here they were doing a bit of in-flight off-loading. The tractor driver has to vary his speed to ensure the whole of the trailer gets used.

Combine off-loading grain while Combining

The Wadlow Wind Farm again.They weren’t moving that fast – but had all neatly lined up.

Wadlow Wind Farm

The Heath Road (byway) then crosses the A11 by way of an accommodation bridge. This bit of the byway is the worst. They seem to have suffered a plague of rabbits you have to keep you yes open for holes along the track.

After crossing the A1304 the track becomes a gravel road down to the Westley Crossing Cottages and the Westley Crossing.  This is a DIY level crossing. The track is part of the Ipswich – Cambridge line.It is a poor relation of a railway line with a single track and has not been electrified. Apparently it is is useful for 6th Form students getting to Hills Road and Long Road though.

The Samaritans sign was new, the Samaritans and Network Rail have formed a partnership. The link indicates that of the 5,608 suicides in 2012 around 210 took their lives on the railway.

Westley Level Crossing

The “climb” part of the ride is next, although the route becomes a road and a very quiet one at that.

Whenever I cycle past this dilapidated farm building on the outskirts of Westley Waterless I can’t help feel that it would make a nice location for a house. Although I think that old farm buildings have a certain charm given the shortage of housing it could be put to better use perhaps.

Dilapidated Farm Building – Westley Waterless

The is the view that “house” would get looking down towards Cambridge.

The road then hits a T-junction where it meets the B1052. There is a wide track with a tarmac path to the left where you carry on and soon meet the B1061. (The byway isn’t marked on the OSM map). Turn left and then you will shortly come to another byway to the right (again not marked on the OSM map). It also forms part of the Icknield Way Trail.

This track starts as gravel but soon become grass – it can get wet and muddy but has been cleared a bit recently. This comes out on Dullingham Ley which is a no-through road (the other way). I head down it to a bridleway, again on the right.

This is more of a bridleway in terms of quality as well.  Despite all the dry weather we have been having this path varies between very muddy and muddy. This time around it was just muddy. Muddy enough for the ground to be pretty chewed up by hoof prints. The map shows a stream along its length.

This map of Dullingham shows it is called Watery Lane – too true. (Here is another Dullingham Map – village maps are often more interesting than the OS maps, this one shows disputed paths.)

The trick is to maintain good momentum and I tend to head for the edge of the path. Although this time I got stingled.  There must be a source of water somewhere around.

Muddy Bridleway near Burrough Green

After emerging on a road the route turns right and heads to the Water Tower (Ditton Green) and takes another bridleway along Dane Bottom.  The route detours a little around Camois Farm, try to avoid scaring the horses, they are a bit skittish. Perhaps they don’t see many cyclists.

This route runs parallel (ish) with the Devil’s Dyke and the views are wonderful.

Dane Bottom – an ancient symbol in the wheat!

How about that – a track open views – the first time I cycled along here is was uplifting. I still enjoy the view.

Dane Bottom

After crossing a road the track continues.

Until it reaches the B1061. More combining was happening. The other feature of this part of the world is the the countryside has gotten a little lumpier, in a gentle sort of way. This is yet another Claas Lexion – a 580+.

This was a slightly smaller field with some odd angles. It didn't stop the grain being off-loaded though.

Another Combine off-loading grain while Combining

I think I ought to have been a bit more selective and chosen one of these two pictures – ah well too late now.

Another Combine off-loading grain while Combining

The same could probably be said for these two pictures as well. Same subject just different framing.

The close-up view.

At least this is a bit different – you can almost see the white’s of his eyes.

Apparently the cabs are the best place to be with air-con and dust filters.

I mentioned crap cycling facilities – well heading out of Newmarket to Exning there are shared-use path. Ordinarily I wouldn’t use it it isn’t worth the trouble. You have to stop where roads intersect and of course wide paths provide parking opportunities.

Parking on the shared use path on Exning Road, Newmarket

It gets worse. You also have a chicane to deal with – that is barely wide enough for my bike. Of course this time around I can’t blame Cambs County Council Newmarket is in Suffolk. Although there are some that would like to join Cambs.

I then cycled along NCN51 out of Exning along the “back way” to Burwell. You pass another farm building that I reckon would make a nice house.  Although MikeC told me that there has been a consultation about building a Solar Farm on this neck of the woods.  Here is more on the Exning Parish Council Minutes – Appendix A.  The minutes indicate that it would be a 5MW installation on 10Ha of agricultural land, currently owned by Anglian Water.

It is funny how we call such things “farms” -  Wadlow Wind Farm, Solar Farm. It will make this bit of the NCN51 route a bit unpleasant during the construction phase I would have thought. (If it goes ahead.)