Friday, February 28, 2014

Saturday–catching up with the Archers.

Saturday, 22nd February 2014: I have hit my cycling target for the month (because as I write this it is the 28th, another month down).  Despite it being Friday it won’t be a POETS day – too much rain drizzle for my tastes.  However I am only a few days out since this ride was less than a week ago.

Which is good, not only am I cycling more I am also getting my posts out more regularly.  Although there are things I think I could write about that don’t get written about, I quietly shelve them in a corner of my mind.  Don’t worry there title of the post isn’t really that relevant to my rabbiting on – except it was a Saturday.

There is no doubt the weather this year has been quite interesting. We aren’t quite at the end of February, but have seen over three times more ran in Feb 2014 than in Feb 2013.  The average temperature last year in February was 2.70C compared with  6.30C this year. Apparently it has been the wettest Winter since 1766 and the fifth warmest since 1910.

There is no doubt it is feeling Spring-like with Daffodils and Snowdrops and Aconites and Crocus all in flower in the garden. They are forecasting snow by today in the South, but now I have gotten myself some studded snow tyres for my bicycle it will probably miss Cambridgeshire.

Whilst I tend to go on about how even in Cambridge the cycle infrastructure is really rather sub-standard there are signs of Spring – only signs mind you.  A new design of bus stop is to be installed on main Cambridge roads – the so-called floating bus stop.  You might be forgiven that this is being installed on the Cambridge Guided Busway because it floods so much, but no.  At the moment we have pavement/bus, then a cycle lane then the road and when busses stop at bus stops they tend to pull onto the cycle lane and stop, or pull across the cycle lane.  With a floating bus stop there will be the pavement, then a cycle lane, then the bus stop and the road. So people wishing to cross the road will have to cross the cycle lane. Essentially it helps to reduce the possibility of cycle/bus collisions – but does seem to increase the possibility of pedestrian/cycle interactions.

This approach will apparently make for safer cycling because better segregated cycle lanes can be built.  I guess, as with many things, it is the detail that matters. If the island is too small then pedestrians will overspill.  If the cycle lane kinks around then that might be tricky for cyclists.  Also if my experience of Hills Road is anything to go by, when school students swarm across a road they just do regardless of traffic.  (and why not – why should the assumption be that motor traffic gets the priority.

We are also going to see a redesign of the Milton Road and Gilbert Road junction  - to give cyclists more space. I assume that since Gilbert Road has been improved they are now patching up other bits along the route.

At the same time that there is a bit of piecemeal tweaking of cycle infrastructure, which costs tens of thousands of pounds plans to widen the M11 between Saffron Walden and Stansted Airport are back on the table. The last time they shelved it – 10 years ago it was costed at £171million.

Also Julian Huppert has been named one of the most influential people in UK cycling by BikeBiz. Although the list also includes Sir Bradley Wiggins and so the definition of UK Cycling is rather broad and only serves to confuse the difference between cycling the sport and cycling as transport.  Come to think of it Jenson Button wears a crash helmet when he is driving his race car -  um, therefore all motorists should wear crash helmets.

In the spirit of Crackdowns – although in this case now called a blitz, the cycle theft hotspot of the Newtown area of Trumpington is being targeted as part of the democratic priority setting by Councillors and the Police. Which I reckon is far more democratic than it being set by the PCC – perhaps we’ll see some evidence-based priority setting as well?

A study by Cambridge scientists reckons that Boris bikes boost health in London. Although it also reckons that they males riders over 45 are older riders – which I refuse to accept. Not when they keep putting my pension age up.

A stark reminder of why cyclists deserve better – the CTC Road justice website lists recent road traffic collisions involving cyclists and pedestrians across the UK.  It makes for depressing reading – the number of hit and runs… I also found this website – “How Many is Too Many?” which logs the ever-growing number of cyclists killed on the UK’s roads.

It isn’t surprising that so many parents seem to drive to schools to pick their kids up.  If I sneak out for a mid-afternoon ride and end up going past the Bottisham Village College School are kicking-out time it is pretty congested.  The traffic law also seems to change near schools – it allows oncoming traffic to force their way past parked cars in their line by coming straight at me and trying to drive me into the kerb.

Which is why “really safe” cycling places are more popular – the NT promotes Wimpole Estate as one such place.  This is good, a friend’s son is struggling to learn to ride because he lives on a road that is too busy and so relies on one of his parents going somewhere safe.

So I won’t talk about the cycling much – just comment on the pictures I took en-route (Upware, Wicken Fen Lode etc).

I wonder if the waterways ever had the same problems – I guess most of the traffic was of a similar size. I ought to ask my son, he used to canoe on the River Cam, he never mentioned any hassle.  This is Reach Lode, with well signed routes to Wicken Fen, Reach and Burwell. With a lock to the River Cam not far behind the spot where I took the picture. There is a rather nice wooden bridge which crosses over Wicken Lode, just after the line of boats.

I have not paid attention to it before – but you can see the land rising in the background – I would guess that it is in the Moulton direction up behind Newmarket.

Reach Lode at Upware

I reckon that the farmers are getting impatient – there is a lot more activity at the moment. Here a farmer is spraying near Split Drove.

As I cycled through Lode I saw this East Anglian Air Ambulance head away from Cambridge towards Burwell. This is a Eurocopter EC135T2e – G-HEMN.

East Anglian Ari Ambulance

Not much later an it was on its way back, at the time I assumed to Addenbrooke’s Hospital but it might have been to Marshalls?

On their Missions page there was this one – which was to attend a Pilot of a Micro light who landed an Newmarket.

Talking of Helicopters – the other Emergency Helicopter Service in the Area – MAGPAS/HeliMedix seems to be trialling with the GMC  a PHEM training scheme. (Where PHEM means Pre-hospital emergency medical care.) The Helimedix helicopter is orange although I can’t easily find a picture of it on their website…

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mid-Week Ride–The CGB cycleway is well flooded ;-(

Wednesday, 26th February 2014: After a lot of moaning about how I didn’t want to cycle up the CGB Cycleway (Cambridge Guided Busway) ‘cos it was blocked at far end, and I don’t like there and back trips on the same route trips, I changed my mind. The good news was that the wind wasn’t too unkind and almost behind me on the way back – sometimes. The other good news is that it was pretty sunny which always makes the CGB Cycleway run a rather pleasant excursion into the countryside. Even the very short hail storm whilst I was cycling of up to Milton Road didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. Although the hailstone that dropped down the back of my neck must have been the size of a golf ball – it was literally flippin’ freezin’.

The route has been flooded for nearly 8 weeks apparently. Well although I have paddled through the floods a few times (May 2012May 2012, July 2012) I didn’t give it a go this time. Instead I tweeted a picture and got the biggest response to a Tweet with quite a few re-tweets in my Twitter life. Here is the tweet.


I rather like my Galaxy Samsung S4, it makes a great backup camera and is useful for those about and about Tweets. Now I normally use a Lumix GH1 with a micro four thirds camera with an electronic viewfinder as well as a screen, which makes it much easier to take pictures with gloves and in sunlight (and without obscuring the picture).  This was the first picture I took for the Tweet, the sunlight was so bright I couldn’t actually work out what had gone wrong with the picture. It was only when I got home that I realised it was my glove (fluorescent yellow). I have cropped the picture shown here – the glove obscured a bit more of the picture.

The only problem is that I never seem to be able to send those Tweets until I reach civilisation, they spend for ever sending and then don’t go!  This isn’t really a Samsung problem, it demonstrates either the Twitter app has shortcomings when sending larger amounts of data or how unreliable data transmission is out in the sticks, or both?  For reference I am with Vodafone and it is great in a City – but my Tweets rarely send first time when cycling in more secluded places.

It is often said that transport facilities attract users. (cf. M25). Well the shared-use cycleway alongside the busway certainly has attracted users, both for leisure and transport. Which brings me to my second observation – once you attract users, you can’t just turn off the tap and expect them to go away (or another way). Whatever you might say about well-signed alternative routes.

This stretch is adjacent to the Trout Pond.  As you can see cyclists and walkers have worn a path  alongside the Concrete tracks. I don’t see this as some sort of mindless law-breaking – this is a practical protest against the crappy design that allows the route to be flooded for too much of the year. As I stood taking pictures and old boy came up, he had walked up from Swavesey. He told me that he and his wife have had a walk earlier and he reckoned that it was better to walk along the concrete track, keeping an eye out for oncoming busses and then to step aside briefly. Who would want to slip and tumble into the freezing water!

We both bemoaned the situation in which so much money could be spent on the Guided Busway and yet for a relatively small additional cost the shared use cycleway could have been made usable for pretty much all but the most extreme events as well.

Shared Use Path Flooding – Cambridge Guided Busway

Here is a more successful attempt at the picture. I couldn’t quite believe how much flotsam and jetsam (which apparently should really only be used in a maritime sense, but you know what I mean).  A little further behind I had cycled over some of this where the path had flooded but dried out. You have to keep you wits about you – it doesn’t make for pleasant cycling on my hybrid bike – I’d hate to cycle over it on skinny tyres.

I have been meaning to cycle along the path in the dark to see how well solar lights work – you can see on on the left side of the path in the picture. All the flooding put me off though. I wonder how waterproof the lights are?

Shared Use Path Flooding – Cambridge Guided Busway

I also took a similar picture with my Lumix GH1.

Shared Use Path Flooding – Cambridge Guided Busway

I reckon that this shows how bad the powers-that-be are at actually finishing anything cycling-related in Cambridgeshire. A massive compromise on what could have been one of the better cycle routes in the County. It is either contemptible of incompetence I reckon.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Are the byways and bridleways still soggy?

Friday, 21 February 2014: I was going to call this post POETS: day – where after the recent spate of not so good weather it was a nice sunny day. In fact it was so nice I couldn’t resist going out for a Push Off Early Today’s Sunny spin.

In my naivety because it was so nice I forgot all about the recent rain and decided that by now the byways and bridleways must have blown dry. I was quite hard resisting the call to pedals as the sun shone from 7am onwards, it dipped around 1pm which had me worried.

Although before I waffle on about stuff read this Post – “1000 Words” from Magnatom. he starts with a picture and very eloquently demonstrates why Cycling Facilities (that the powers that be probably think we should be grateful for)  fail to be, well Cycling Facilities.

With the current need/desire for more housing, for a variety of reasons, there will be more congestion in our towns and cities. Yes we can build more roads, but too often the infrastructure that is needed comes as an afterthought. Too often we see villages being create and the facilities come along as an afterthought. This news item on the proposal to build 3,5000 homes in Bourn makes the argument to justify scaling back the development and instead building a further 2,000 in Cambourne,

The long-heralded Northstowe (10,000 homes to the North West of Cambridge) seems to have been a struggle to get going. Apparently the Council had wanted the developers to contribute £65m to the creation of infrastructure (schools, roads, sports facilities). After much haggling work by lawyers the amount was agreed at £30m.  Then the developers successfully argued that the first 1,500 homes would be “unviable” if the target of having 40% of the houses as affordable was stuck to and the target was cut to 20%. Let’s hope that the sustainable ideals are lived up to – which in my mind means proper segregated cycling facilities – make it safe and easy for kids of all ages to cycle to school.

It makes me wonder quite what is the demand for all this housing. The trouble is demand changes with the price – the law of supply and demand. The need might be there but at what social cost.  At least there is the CGB and cycleway from Northstowe into the Science park. Checking out the route on Cycle Streets here show that at 51/2 miles it is a convenient and flat distance at just under 30 minutes. What’s more the Fastest, Balanced and Quietest routes are all the same, so it is a route with little compromise – which is what you need if you are trying to encourage a switch to alternate modes of transport. Let’s hope that Northstowe facilitates the route (think could a 4-year old do it with their parents).

The alternative is that Travel Times will rise (by 46% in a decade) as indicated in the Cambridgeshire Local Transport Plan  back at the start of 2011 – so only another 7 years to go. The signs are there that some change is afoot with  parking charges being raised in Huntingdonshire, “Residents support for swapping car bays for bike racks in Romsey terrace in Cambridge”.  I do worry that it is all way to tactical and piecemeal though. Look at our stop-start bus lanes in Cambridge, look at the narrow shared-use cycle paths. Look at the Cambridge Guided Bus – with congestion issues in St Ives and  Cambridge. Nothing seems to get built with a long-term view in mind.

Ho-hum, enough of that. For my POET’S day ride I ventured back onto the Low Fen Drove Way from High Ditch Road to the Horningsea Road and then across from Horningsea on the Hundred Acre Road (et al) to Lode before hitting the Lodes Way.

As soon as I had crossed the bridge of the A14 it was time to gather my wits – the first bit of the track has loads of potholes and they were flooded which means extra care is needed.

After passing the Dog’s Kennels the track is one of compacted mud – usually quite pleasant for cycling. After the rain it was pretty pretty soggy, where I had to pedal further than I travelled as my rear wheel slipped. At this point I began to think I should have wither put my snow tyres on the bike or at least gotten some more knobbly tyres for my riding. As you can see the winds have winnowed the trees.

Low Fen Drove Way – Still pretty muddy

It was pretty much muddy all the way around to the NT section of the old railway line (Cambridge to Mildenhall – check out the video – you get to see a train’s eye view of all the stations on the line, in 1959 – Quy at 4:30min, Bottisham + Lode at 5:30, Burwell 7:30).

Old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line

As you can see from this zoomed in picture there are preferred cycle routes around the puddles.

Old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line

This is the line approaching Lode. It was less muddy. You can see why I couldn’t resist going out for a spin!

Old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line

A familiar picture – Wicken Lode

Wicken Lode – sparkling in the sunlight

I got home tired, but it was thoroughly enjoyable, it was harder work that usual – but not too hard.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mid-Week Ride

Wednesday, 19th February 2014: One of the reasons my riding has gotten stuck in a rut is the rain/soggy conditions.  When I go for a ride I also like to avoid going there and back on the same route.

There are some rather nice rides around Cambridge, such as along the Roman Road to Balsham or on the CGB Cycleway (CGB – Cambridge Guided Busway) and various of the bridleways that run parallel to it, to name but two.  However they bridleways can be unpredictably soggy and the CGN cycleway has been flooded along at the St Ives end.

Several times I have considered cycling at least part-way up the CGB Cycleway but frankly the flooding has put me off. Well according to the Cambridge News the flooding closure is now reaching the eight week.  Apparently it has been flooded for 51 days so far, compared with 48 days last year. The claim was that it would flood 29 days per year on average. I am not sure I ever saw a prediction for what the likely spread of days flooded. The article also quotes a council spokesman:

“There are readily available alternative routes which are signposted, but we apologise for any inconvenience.”

You can’t really base a prediction on two points, but this raises three points in my mind:

  1. Why is it that from the start were cycling facilities constructed with high (1 month in 12 on average) levels of unavailability.  Let’s face when new facilities are built it tends to attract users – which is a good thing, so why is there surprise when cyclists walk up the baking to get past the flooded areas.
  2. Do we still believe the original predictions?  I can’t say that I have much faith in them.
  3. A Council that understood cycling as transport would not make an inane comment about signposted available alternative routes.  When I cycle somewhere when commuting I don’t have hours to waste on some whimsical detour. Just because I like cycling doesn’t mean I want to add another few miles to my journey.
    The motoring equivalent would be to tell all the A14 whingers to stop whining about how bad it is and tell them that there are plenty of other signposted available routes through Cambridgeshire.

Too often alternative forms of transport to the car are the poor relations – which isn’t good enough if we really want to cut congestion, pollution and improve public health.

Talking about facilities attracting people and being second-class. Well much as I like the NCN11 route through Wicken Fen I think it is a victim of its own success. Over the last couple of years the Lodes Way  has definitely increase the number of visitors to the area and Wicken Fen plays an important part of that attraction.

The trouble is the path alongside Wicken Lode and Monk’s Lode is too narrow. Wicken Fen is a good place to take kids to help them burn of a bit of energy and get out into the “wilds”.  The increase in the area car park shows that it is popular.  This document suggests that the place has 50,000 visitors per year, which I assume is pretty recent, whereas this spreadsheet on Tourism suggests that there were 32,522 in 2004 and 36,135 in 2008.  The old adage build the facilities and they will come  rings true and you then need to re-invest in those facilities.

It can be a nightmare getting through by bicycle on a sunny weekend afternoon. As it was a half-term February Wednesday afternoon was tricky.  The drainage isn’t the best along the path and so in places the path and verges are getting pretty chewed up.

As it happened I just cycled slowly behind the group in this picture and passed them near the cattle grids – I was not commuting and was in no hurry.

Normally I ting my bell as I approach walkers, most step to the side of the path and I slow down to pass and say thank you. this time one couple with a dog or two ,looked round at me and grimaced and stood their ground and let their dog dart in front of my wheel. The inference was clear – they felt I was a nasty cyclist on their path and they were not wanting to share it. Fortunately for the dog although I had to ride on the muddy grass I was ready with hands on both brakes and avoided skidding. However I wouldn’t have wanted to cycle through that sort of route with my kids when they were young.

The Narrow Shared-Use paths though Wicken Fen

As it happens once you are are few 100m away from Wicken Fen the numbers of walkers you encounter drops off considerably – so I am not arguing that the entire path needs to be re-worked. Although a note for cyclists with young kids – the cattle grid areas can be a bit dodgy on a bike, especially for young kids so warn them.

However for those driving into Wicken Fen with their bikes in the car and then wanting to cycle into the countryside your options are limited for alternative, signposted routes.

 Winking smile

This is the bit of Lodes Way passing through Burwell Fen. A couple of times I have seen a (Short-Eared) Owl perched on a fence post. Although I only notice it as I pass, we stare at each other and then before I can get my camera out it flies off. So this time, I stopped early with my long lens – but no Owl.

Lodes Way – Burwell Fen – Sometimes an Owl perches on one of these posts

Reach Lode Bridge (taken at the Newnham Drove/Lodes Way Cross Roads

Burwell Fen Farm

A Birder + Telescope + Dogs walking along Mill Road (Burwell Fen)

Burwell Fen – a nice piece of wetland

Monday, February 24, 2014

Men at Work–in the Fens (could be women?)

Monday, 17th February 2014:  Having a bit of a goal is not a bad thing in life. For me after a cycling lay-off during the last couple of months of last year I have found it easier to cycle more regularly this year by setting myself a target in terms of cycling distance (per month).  A subset of my goal is to try and cycle, on average, every other day.  I have been flexible about when I cycle so that I can’t use the weather as an excuse.

Talking about excuses I was pleased to see the forthright statement by Chris Boardman about cycle helmets – “I think the helmet issue is a massive red herring. It’s not even in the top 10 of things you need to do to keep cycling safe or more widely, save the most lives”. Yet you often here people talk about the need for cyclists to wear helmets as a self-evident truth.

“There’s a better solution to the problem of cycle safety, Boardman said. In the Netherlands, just 0.8 percent of cyclists wear helmets yet the Dutch have the lowest rate of cycling head injury, thanks to segregated cycling infrastructure. Thirty percent of journeys in the Netherlands are made by bike, he said, and 50 percent of children’s journey to school.”

Here in Cambridge “Give more space on Cambridge roads to buses, cyclists and pedestrians, say 75% in survey”. The choice gets pretty stark, either we will need to knock a bunch of Cambridge buildings down and build more roads or we have to make use of more space efficient forms of transport. There is no alternative! Interestingly South Cambs residents were less in favour – perhaps because the further you have to travel the less appealing it becomes. Public transport can be pretty dire unfortunately -  “Cambridge rail companies ranked ‘worst’ for traveller satisfaction”.  When improvements are considered they tend to be in the future and focus around the Cambridge London rail link.  This is not necessarily wrong, nut you won’t encourage changes in work transport choices. Indeed with all the flats being built in central Cambridge the emphasis seems to be on Cambridge as a Commuter Dormitory.

The trouble is we all have a love-hate relationship with motor vehicles. We don’t like the noise of other peoples cars, we don’t like the congestion of other people's cars, we don’t like the cost of running a car – but we like the convenience. It seems that the cost becomes the issue as “Sunday pay and display parking charges set to be in introduced in Central Cambridge” – well it has now been approved as well.  Whilst at the same time they are also going to charge for the park and ride car parks.

However the choices are either to catch buses, or to cycle in. Stagecoach has been complaining of congestion in the City.  You might say well they would wouldn’t they – however slow buses don’t really encourage drivers to switch from their cars, because buses have their downsides.

I guess the mixed messaged we seem to be getting from our local political process is because it is, well political and rather piecemeal. “£37m cuts and tax hike approved by Cambridge County Council as last gasp concessions break deadlock”.

Apparently the other week the Cambridgeshire Police tweeted to ask drivers to take more care on the roads after 4 RTCs.  With the huge increase in housing development in and around Cambridge it will only get worse. When the A14 gets upgraded it will get worse.

That’s enough doom and gloom for now. Whilst it does make me a little cross that most of the cycle routes that we have are rather piecemeal at least they exist and it is possible to get out of Cambridge.

Bird Watching off White Fen Drove?

This car was abandoned and burnt a while ago – the trouble is because it is on private land as I understand it the land owner then has to pay to get it removed. Which seems unfair. I would have though that it should be covered either by the perpetrators or owners insurance? (or the MIB). Actually I might be wrong there – Cambridgeshire County Council will remove a vehicle from private land if it can be picked up without difficulty. The South Cambs website is less clear and indicates that a fee is payable.

Rusted and Abandoned Carr of White Fen Drove

Pastel Skies above Swaffham Bulbeck Lode Bank

Given the reasonable weather I imagine that there is pressure on the farmers to get working on the land  - but fields are soggy. So there has been quite a lot of drain clearage. Here two tractors are working in series.

Concerted Ditch/Drain Clearing near Great Drove

A Walker and Dog passing Burwell Fen Farm

As I cycled down Split Drove there was more drain clearing – in this case Commissioners' Drain. I reckon it was probably this chap who cut a drainage channel on Headlake Drove to allow the big puddle near the bridge to drain. Thank you if it was.

The digger is marked “Swaffham IDB” or Swaffham Internal Drainage Board – it was originally constituted in 1853 and deals with an area of 524ha. This is a link to their map.

Drain Maintenance – Commissioners’ Drain

Drain Maintenance – Commissioners’ Drain

I guess that the Swaffham IDB also maintains the various sluice gates such as this one between Headlake Drove and Great Drove.

Commissioners’ Drain

I took this picture to show where the Reach Large Solar farm was going to be sited, the proposal was withdrawn.

Spuds were grown in the field last year – it is remaining quite water-logged.

This is Little Fen Drove – again this would have bisected the Solar Park, as you can see fen roads are rather undulating. From a cycling point of view I think it helps to moderate vehicle speed with isn’t a bad thing.

Little Fen Drove undulating along

On my way back to White Fen this field has been freshly ploughed, ready!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sunny Sunday– Pavement Parking–Selfish

Sunday 16th February 2014: It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday and after all the windy and rainy weather people were out in their droves. Particularly in  the Lode area. Now I don’t think that they were here to see Lode, but rather to visit nearby Anglesey Abbey.   At the moment the snowdrops are on show along with a Winter Garden that is definitely worth seeing.  The snowdrop festival is running until March 9th apparently.

Why is is so popular, well I reckon is it partly to do with the fact that it is a rather nice, but “safe” bit of countryside (114 acres/46 hectares) to enjoy away from the hustle and bustle of the City. The fact they have a restaurant and shop there probably helps. Their webpage doesn’t mention quite how many parking spaces they have – but there are oodles. Also their webpage refers to distances in yards – to give it that old-fashioned touch – or because their visitors are from that era?  (Here is an analysis of the economic impact of the recent expansion of the visitor facilities at Anglesey Abbey  - it has become a “destination”.)

Somewhat inevitably this success also leads to an increase in traffic.  The Abbey is situated close to the A14 and Cambridge and so is very easy to get to. Now I don’t actually know whether this leads to Lode being somewhat overrun by cars or whether there were some other event on, however there does some to be a correlation with good weather, Anglesey Abbey’s car parks being full and cars parking along Lode Road in Lode.

It is a pity that whilst the Abbey is readily accessible by car (coach) it is not so easy to get to by cycling or public transport.  A look at the map and you will see that Anglesey Abbey is around 2 miles from the A14, the nearest train station is 6 miles away.  The Abbey isn’t far from the Lodes Way, there is a bit of a detour to cycle from Cambridge, via Bottisham to the Abbey unfortunately.  It is a pity that a more direct dedicated route along the line of the old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway line  couldn’t be created.

Why is it that transport links for cyclists can be so indirect and all around the houses. This is a local route which heads form Cambridge to Newmarket. It is NCN route 51, as this picture shows when you reach a T-junction in Bottisham there is the Sustrans route to Newmarket, turn left and it is 15 miles in distance. However turn right and it is only 6 miles as the car drives. Yep aren’t you lucky, cyclists you get another 9 miles of scenic loveliness. Now I buy into scenic routes that are perhaps not so direct, but bicycles are also a transport choice. Why should it only be motorists who get more direct routes. To get people cycling there need to be direct and dedicated routes as well as leisure routes. Assuming an average cycling speed of 12mph then it would take 2 hours 30 minutes to cycle 15 miles there and back, compared with 1 hour to cycle 6 miles there and back.  Why is it that planners feel that cyclists have so much time to waste.  I think that the false assumption is made that since cyclists are already accepting it will take longer then they won’t mind it being even slower. WRONG.

The trouble is that so much effort seems to go into making motorists lives easier, more parking, more roads, that they forget about everybody else. Worse still anything that might be perceived as impeding motorists is seen as wrong, or a tax. Well if the Daily Mail headlines are anything to go by.

For instance “Now Brussels forces 60mph speed limit on M3 Drivers”, including the sub-heading “New cameras will be hard-to-sport grey rather than bright yellow”.  Why – well cars pollute and pollution is harmful to people – not a bad reason – or perhaps the DM are more incensed that Brussels told us to.  You want another example – “Now they’ve found another way to mil drivers! Council unveils Britain’s first automated cameras for box junction offences”.  Yes – but it is those stupid and selfish drivers who try to push ahead that cause the flipping congestion and chaos.

Where was I, ah yes cycling into Lode for a calming ride around the Fens near Wicken, what was it I was saying about selfish drivers. The last few drivers have quite happily parked more or less over the entire pavement – to avoid their cars getting scratched by anyone trying to get through the village.  (Perhaps not happily, perhaps grumpily and complaining of lack of parking at Anglesey Abbey.) A little further down and they have parked on the road – good, but right by a junction  - bad. I don’t know about you, but that fats my definition of anti-social parking.

Lode – Parking on the Pavement

Fortunately as I passed through Lode I was back into the countryside and it was glorious and the skies were blue. The various field drains were also wet and presumably doing their job.  This was along Great Drove, looking South West, about half-way up.

Shooting pictures into the sun tends to highlight issues, my apologies but the filter on the front of my lens was a tad dusty, which is why there are some splodges near the sun.

Blue Skies and Greening Fields – Great Drove

A bit further along Great Drove and I passed some men at work on a Sunday (I didn’t look too closely so there might also have been women). This group were fixing the power cables strung along the edge of the road on wooden poles.  I think a tree had blown onto the lines causing some problems.

Although it was a Sunday the road was pretty busy (busier than during the working week).  You can also see how Fen Roads undulate with the shrinkage of the soil underneath them.

Electricity Repairs on Great Drove

I stopped at Harrison’s Drove to take a picture of the cables as they drunkenly made their way down the Drove.  I am not quite sure what the one on the left is doing as it is a single pole connected to the row on the right-hand side.  One of two cars slowed down, presumably wondering what on earth I was taking pictures off!

Harrison’s Drove – Wibbly Electricity Poles

I passed a reasonable number of cyclists and there were loads of people visiting Wicken Fen – so many that cycling along NCN11 through the Fen was rather tricky.  Most people tend to let a cyclist through with good grace – not all though. I reckon that they need to think about widening the path if they really want to encourage visitors to hire bicycles and go cycling.

Baker’s Fen

There were loads of people about, in the greater fen area as well. It is popular with Birders, walkers, dog walkers and cyclists.  There were loads of cars parked (~20) in the area near to the Burwell Lode Footbridge.  Some of the birders have some pretty big optical equipment which is pretty heavy and so welcome the various places they can access the area by car.

What looked like an air ambulance also flew overhead. It was a bit to high to get a clear picture though.

Air Ambulance above the Wicken Fen Skies?

As I passed Newnham Drove there were some large birds circling in the sky. Whilst I learnt the names of flowers when I was at Primary School  I’ve have never really been good at identifying birds – sorry.

Big Bird of the Skies of Wicken Fen

Did I mention that the skies were blue?

Blue Skies over Burwell Fen

There were quite a few birders on Reach Lode Bridge and I also bumped into MikeC. It was a very pleasant place to stop for a chat, with birds to see and various cyclists and walkers passing through.

There were also Birders sprinkled around the Fen, here was one a little further along the bank. As you can see they come prepared with binoculars and ‘scopes.  I had a quick look here to get a sense of how a Birding Telescope compares with  my 100-300mm camera lens  - but the terminology is too different for a quick comparison.

Bird watching on Reach Lode bank

This path crosses the Fen from near the Reach Lode Bridge across to Newnham Drove, Mike called it a name, which I have forgotten (Mill Road?), I’ll ask him next to I bump into him.  I think it runs along the line of Drainer’s Ditch. All three are looking at something through their binoculars.

Bird Watchers – Burwell Fen

After a while I set off towards Cambridge. Although we have had a fair bit of rain in these parts the wind tends to blow the roads dry fairly quickly.

Split Drove (part of Lodes Way)

As I rounded the corner onto Headlake Drove a pleasant surprise. Well ac6tually it wasn’t a surprise as Mike had mentioned it – but it was pleasant. Some kind digger driver had cut a drainage channel to a nearby drain. So what has been a small pond had more of less drained.

Headlake Drove – One less puddle (pond)

On my way back through Lode it seems that justice had been done – this car, parked over the pavement had received a ticket.

Pavement Parker Ticketed in Lode?

A little further along and I could see that another car had received a ticket. I assume that the other two cars weren’t there at the time the nearest one got a ticket? All red cars though!

Another Pavement Parker Ticketed in Lode?

This car on the other side of the road had also been ticketed.  A timely reminder on why such pavement parking is wrong – if those folk had been walking this way they would either have to struggle on the grass or gone around on the road. Pavement parking is rather selfish behaviour.

Another Red Pavement Parker Ticketed in Lode?

It seems that Ely isn’t the only place that has stepped up ticketing of problem parking – well done.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Rain Dodging in the Fens

Saturday, 15th February 2014: Despite the winds, that seemed to have been howling for ever I just had to get out on my bicycle after what seemed like of enforced non-cycling.  Most of the inactivity was due to the weather, mainly the wind, but also because it was my wife’s birthday and so we popped out for lunch a few times. (One of the advantages of working from home!). We had even done the weekly shopping the day before because the weather was so bad.

According to the weather forecast the winds were supposed to subside during the afternoon (the link shows what actually happened), so I broke my usual rule and instead of cycling out against the wind and back with the wind behind me I went with the wind, figuring that it would have subsided by the time I was heading home.

The soggy weather has restricted my cycling recently, For leisure I prefer to stay away from busy roads, it just isn’t pleasant.  Although I don’t like cycling on thick gloopy mud either. I did consider cycling up the CGB Cycleway to St Ives – but I believe that the cycleway is flooded at the St Ives end so it was the Lodes Way again. I rather like cycling along Low Fen Drove Way, but that has been very muddy and the ride back along Hundred Acres Road and the old Cambridge to Mildenhall railway line behind Anglesey Abbey has similarly been very soggy.

The weather forecast also indicated that showers would blow through as well so with fingers crossed I headed out onto the highway NCN51 to the Lodes Way.  Now despite the fact I have cycled this way some twenty-odd times over the last few weeks there is always something to see (and of course take a picture of).

As I headed up to Upware along Great Drove I saw that some stupid git had decided to dump a load of broken glass and partially cover it with some matting in one of the passing places. You might also notice some tyres dumped near the sign, although I think they have been there for some time.

This is dangerous for whoever has to clear it up, it is dangerous for vehicles and cyclists – it is totally selfish, anti-social and dangerous. The countryside is already under pressure from development without it being used as a dumping ground.

Fly-tipping on Great Drove on the way to Upware

Although I don’t really like having to cycling into the wind having it push you along is another matter. You, well I can’t help feeling fit and energetic as I bowl along, rationally I know the wind is giving me a big boost but as the miles whiz by it still feels good.  It was quite a bight start to my ride, but there were plenty of clouds in the sky.

Fens – blue skies and white clouds – showers in store

Although the winds have been strong and there has been some wind damage in the Cambridgeshire area I didn’t seem that many trees down. Most of the tree damage as like this. Where a tree choked by ivy, and so having a large surface area had succumbed to the wind.  In fact most of the damaged trees were also along the verge.

Wind Damage – Upware Road (between Upware and Dimmock’s Cote Road)

As I headed down Way Lane and Lower Road to Wicken I realised the wind was still quite strong and that I wasn’t as fit as I “thought” I was. It was still pretty blustery as it blew me across the road. Hum it might be harder work than I though cycling back along the Lodes Way.

Wicken Lode

These two pictures were similar to the pictures I’d taken before – but this time I’d put on the 100mm to 300mm zoom lens on my camera  (or 200mm to 600mm in 35mm speak). They are in this post if you want to compare them.

Wicken Lode

As I cycled back along Lodes Way the wind was stronger than I had thought it might be. Also the view from Burwell Lode foot bridge looked a bit worrying – there were showers in the Cambridge direction.

Burwell Fen from Burwell Lode Footbridge

As I passed Newnham Drove I wondered whether I might have avoid the shower it appeared to be skirting to the north.

Burwell Fen Farm and Showers over Upware?

Just after setting off after the last picture before I realised it I passed an owl perched on a fence post by the side of Lodes Way, as soon as I stopped to take a picture it flew off, I must pay more attention.

As I got closer to Reach Lode the rain started spitting, I tried to speed up, but the wind was also picking up and agin me. So I took refuge in the culverts under Reach Lode Bridge.

It wasn’t long and the rain stopped spitting and started p*ssing it down. The rain was followed by the hail. With a bit of jiggery-pokery you can see the hail traces in this picture taken from the culvert.  The “pond” is one of the areas created from the bridge banking.  The water almost looked like it was boiling – except it was cold.

Hail from the shelter of the Reach Lode Bridge Culvert

With a little less processing, but a faster shutter speed here is the boiling pond and you and see some hailstones frozen in mid-air (forgive the pun).

Hail from the shelter of the Reach Lode Bridge Culvert

Hail frozen on the ground

As I waited a 4x4 pulled up and the driver appeared to be reading a newspaper – waiting for the rain to subside before taking the dog for a walk?

It wasn’t too long before the rain and hail had blown through. When I went to get my bike and set off it turned out that two walkers had taken refuge in the culvert next-door. 

Rain Blowing over the Bank of Reach Lode

The view ahead from Reach Lode Bridge – it didn’t look too promising there was more showers about. The is a view that would end up with solar panels if the Lapwing Fen Solar Park gets the go-ahead. (A bit of marketing in the name there – it makes it sound like a sunny wildlife park full of lapwings!).

STOP PRESS – Solar Associates has announced it will not be submitting its application.

So this view will carry on as usual!

New Gant Farm from Reach Lode Bridge

The Wide Open Fens from Reach Lode Bridge

The Wide Open Fens from Headlake Drove

And I didn’t get wet on the rest of the ride – and the wind dropped a little.