Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Sunday Circle - a ride around Cambridge

Sunday, 16th March 2014: If you look at the map (2nd picture) then really this ride is nothing like a circle.  I suppose I could have made it more of a circle if I had taken a short-cut to Fulbourn via Teversham, but I didn’t, it was a bit of a meander.

I chose this ride, partly as I rode it and partly to check out various places along the route. There is a lot of development going on around Addenbrookes for instance.  Also there are road works around the Girton Interchange.

I also wanted to check out this Horse-chestnut tree (Aesculus hippocastanum) in Great Wilbraham. It seems to me that this tree is one of the first deciduous trees to spring into leaf in the Cambridgeshire area. As you can see, by the 16th of March it was pretty green, ahead of most trees in the area.

First Deciduous Tree in Leaf in Cambs
A Horse Chestnut in Great Wilbraham

Here is the link to the Bike Route Toaster map, you can also click on the map to take you there as well. It is just under 60Km in length  with one moderate hill out of Fulbourn to around 70m and down, and then a second rise near the American Cemetery (40m).

Although, for the most part the ride is either on country lanes of cycle paths there is a dangerous crossing at the Girton Interchange.

A ride around Cambridge

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I cycled along the Addenbrookes -  Great Shelford Cycleway – well a new road has popped up – Dame Mary Archer Way.  As you can see there MCLs on each side (Mandatory Cycle Lane). However the NCN11 cycle lane separates and runs its own course, which is a good thing. To truly boost cycling in the UK we need to encourage cyclists by providing high quality routes that are both direct and with some separation from the motor traffic, particularly for longer journeys.

Dame Mary Archer Way

I don’t know if there are plans to build in all the available spaces, but for now the cycleway takes a more scenic route.

Addenbrookes – Great Shelford Cycleway

And just for completeness the view back towards the hospital.  Given how cycling is viewed as one of the key ways in which the UK might tackle obesity it really is a shame that the roads weren’t built with cycle lanes with a physical separation from both the roads and the pavements.

Dame Mary Archer Way

As it happens it would have been quicker for me to take the DMA Way, (Direct memory Access!). However I was cycling for pleasure not speed. I then headed down Francis Crick Avenue, that was closed for roadworks.  I wasn’t clear whether the closure was intended to stop cycles as well. So I cycled down to the CGB link. Which doesn’t currently appears on the OSM map, except as a cycle track. As I approached the CGB link I saw a car start to drive up it, having been fooled by the road closure, the driver realised that they would have problems and reversed back  and towards Robinson Way.

The CGB bridge over the railway line provides a good vantage point – here is the site of the new Country Park. Why do they plant in such rigid lines? It is totally unnatural.

Great Kneighton – Country Park – in the making

This is the view looking back towards the Addenbrookes site across the railway line.  That building that looks rather like a multi-storey car park is indeed a new MSCP – under construction. It has capacity for 1,228 cars and will serve the new Papworth Hospital (if it doesn’t get side-tracked to Peterborough.

New Addenbrookes Multi-Storey Car Park

I then cycled along the CGB Cycleway to the Trumpington Park and Ride car park.  Clearly there is significant demand for cycle parking here. I have wondered quite how it is used. Are these stored here for Park & Riders to park during the week and then cycle to their work in Cambridge?

Cycle Parking well utilised at the Trumpington Park and Ride

Getting out of the Trumpington P&R and then heading down the Hauxton Road into Cambridge not that straightforward on a bicycle. The pavement is shared-use – but  the signage is random and the junctions seem a bit random from a cyclist’s point of view. The lines you end up cycling are not that obvious, well not to me. The Waitrose junction doesn’t seem to be light-controlled for pedestrians and cyclists. Even worse the junction into Trumpington Meadows has a traffic island with a dog-leg in the middle. I found myself having to brake hard as I approached the kerb. (Here is the Cyclestreets view of the junction and here is another.)

Frankly I reckon that it is p*ss-poor design section of shared-use cycleway and symptomatic of the way in which cyclists and pedestrians are treated as second-class citizens.  I suppose one saving grace is that there is a Primary School – Trumpington Meadows – although I can't find anything on their website about cycling to school or what facilities they have for cycle parking and how they prioritise children over cars.

I then headed down Maris Lane to Grantchester. On a busy day it isn’t the most pleasant of cycle routes. I was following another cyclist down the road and we had a couple of cars follow us. The road wiggles quite a bit. To be fair to the driver behind he didn’t crowd me or lunge for impossible spaces. The trouble is such behaviour isn’t unusual. So although I am fairly long in the tooth as a cyclist and with reasonable number of miles under my belt I feel more intimidated on the British Roads than I used to. I think it is a combination of more congestion and busier people on the roads. I also feel that the attitude towards cyclists on the roads, amongst a small group of cyclists has become dangerously less tolerant.

Now this feeling may well be fuelled by the fact that I read about other cyclist’s near misses on the road and I am just more sensitive to the potential dangers. In general cycling is  a safe activity and good for you. However I do feel that there has been an increase in the aggression on the roads from drivers. The same also goes for careless drivers.  I wonder whether part of the problem is that the road-scape has become more complex.  Mind you this road rage driver seems to have a track record.

When I started driving there were fewer things to consider when driving. Nowadays the streets are more complex, for instance roundabouts have traffic lights, some part-time, some full time. There are junctions in Cambridge which are traffic-light controlled, however there can be multiple traffic lights facing in the same direction, although when they go green they have an arrow to indicate which lane can go. The roads have information painted on them. Although I am sure than many cyclists will point to hoe poorly maintained cycle path markings are.

There has been a significant increase in the number of road signs in use. Apparently there were just 10 signs in the second edition of the Highway Code. The first edition of the highway code consisted of 18 pages of advice, the 2007 edition consisted of 135 pages of advice.  There was a paper on Traffic Signs – Traffic Signs Policy Paper, DoT,  October 2011. Which looks are the issue. My concern is not strictly one of Street Clutter, but rather motorists are hit by information overload. Indeed the issue is one considered by scientists for jobs that require the processing of lots of visual information.

Apparently at least 10 cars a week have tried to drive along the guided busway in Trumpington after being confused by road closures.  This seems unbelievable (from a driver’s point of view) but it shows how drivers can easily suffer from information overload. The more stuff there is to watch out for when driving the grater the risk of having an accident. It is not unusual to hear about cars travelling the wrong way on majors roads – “Car spotted going wrong way on A14 near Newmarket”. Once might be careless but if it happens too often then surely the design of the road system has got to be improved.

We already know how dangerous it is to use a mobile phone when driving,  (although many people still do and some even get caught – >500,000). Eating when driving can also distract the driver with can result in tragic consequences. We also have more motoring laws to attempt to deal with inconsiderate driving.

I do wonder if the complexity of the modern road system is one reason for why I feel that as a cyclist I suffer from more near misses from motorists. When it happens it is awful and it definitely triggers the “fight or flight response”. Which is perhaps why you sometimes hear quite a lot of swearing from cyclists after a terrifying near miss.

I also wonder whether the way the roads are are policed and justice administered also need to be re-considered.  I can’t help but feel that the Police seem to take a car-centric view of the roads.  However here in Cambridge they are reported as indicating they will only carry out speed checks in Cambridge's citywide 20mph zone in ‘exceptional  circumstances’. We have “The Government committed to reining in over-zealous parking enforcement and unjust parking practices

We also here reports like this of “Father is allowed to keep driving with 16 points on his licence – so he can keep his daughter at private school”. I must has missed the bit where the right to drive was deemed an inviolable Human Right. We also have “people campaigning against Police Speed Traps”.

I won’t even mention how uneven the application of the law seems to be – such as in this tragic case of a driver being cleared of causing death by driving without due care and attention because of the blinding sun.

So maybe there needs to a re-think, a lot of technology in cars seems to be focused at getting us out of trouble or mitigating it – such as Traction Control, Electronic Stability Control, Anti-Lock Braking. and air-bags. Maybe there needs to be more emphasis on it stopping us even getting there in the first place. Isn’t it about time that car systems were able to track and ensure compliance with the speed limit.  I’d like to see compulsory black boxes in cars and more effort on helping us to be better and calmer drivers. (Mind you I also reckon that there needs to be more emphasis on making cities car-free and a renewed focus on more efficient and effective forms of transport.

In the meantime how are cyclists lives being “protected” – posters.  There are of course reasons why the Government Cycle safety posters are returning to Cambridge.  Apparently the first outing was a success, although the success was based upon drivers reporting it reminded them to look out for cyclists, rather than a reduction in the number of accidents.

I can’t help but feel that the success was it was a very cheap way for the Government (and the Department for Transport) to appear to care and to get a good soundbite.  The trouble is that cyclists are vulnerable road users and whilst motorists moan about potholes damaging their cars, the effect for cyclists can be horrific – such as this schoolboy who broke his collar bone, or this man who broke is elbow.

Talking about signage, this short section of the Coton path is one of the few segregated cycle / pedestrian routes in Cambridge. There seems to be a reluctance to provide dedicated cycling facilities. Even the path alongside the Guided Busway is a shared use path.

The good bits are that it is segregated and in my experience cyclists stick to their bit and pedestrians to theirs. The two paths are marked  with a ‘cycle’ and ‘pedestrian’ – although the markings never seem to last that long. On this stretch there are also four poles with signs showing which side is which. There are also lampposts.

The challenge comes because this also provides an entrance to the Cavendish Labs and so their is a very mild speed bump – plus ridges set in the direction of travel. Am I the only cyclist who detests these – especially in the wet. They make my wheels skit all over the place. The best approach is to travel over them at speed – which seems to be counter to the intended effect of slowing down cyclists.

It is only 0.5mile in length though and the bit round th4e bend towards the M11 bridge is rather rutted and needs a bit of care on a bicycle. 

Coton Path – segregated cycle and pedestrian paths

I then headed out towards the American Military Cemetery and a bridleway towards Girton. this is a beautiful bit of slightly undulating countryside.

The view from Madingley Wood

The view from Madingley Wood

The route is a track, as I mentioned along a bridleway,for horses, but bicycles are permitted.  Apart from it being close to the A428/A14 and M11 this would be a great place to renovate and turn into a place to live – I’d plant a fair bit of woodland in the field with paths and cycle tracks though.

Bridleway to Girton Interchange

The bridleway take you over the A428, with a reasonable bridge – so although only been pony-trekking once in my life I could imagine it is possible. Then you carry on to a tunnel under the M11 and the A14 feeder road. Rather stark and as often is the case a target for a bit of urban graffiti.  I am ambivalent about graffiti – I dislike it on trains or in my face, but the odd bit of remote graffiti on what is a rather stark construction in the first place adds a bit of colour.

Bridleway under the A14

This is rather stark graffiti mind.

Bridleway under the A14

Amusing but unaspiring graffiti. They ought to take a leaf out of the Girton Youth Project.

Bridleway under the A14

Now bridleways are rights of way, by foot, horse or cycle. Unfortunately although the bridleway seems to extend to the far side of the interchange. It isn’t quite clear - check out this Streetmaps view which shows it stopping.  It still means that even to get to the end of the bridleway a horse rider would need to cross the Huntingdon Road to A14 feeder road – which would be pretty tough even with a perfect horse. Clearly most riders would even dream of doing it.

If you want to walk the route, there is a pavement on the far side – which you can see here. Although there are also roadworks taking place. I do use it and cycle across and I will admit to cycling on the pavement. Why – well I personally reckon that it is too dangerous a stretch of road to hang around on and so I head up to Washpit Road.

I believe that the junction is being upgraded – will this be another example of how roads, through feature creep, gradually close off routes for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, by intimidation? Perhaps as part of the upgrade there ought a safe way for the area to be crossed – bridge or tunnel say?

I can’t readily find a plan of the work – but it will add another lane to cross. Will this remove the pavement? the works will last until November 2014. Ah here is a link to the “new improved” Girton Interchange map.  No-one seems to mention what will happen to the bridleway though? Speed the cars through but stuff the locals seems to be the message!

Roadworks on the Girton Exchange – will it seal off the paths across it?

Washpit Lane (Girton) – going nowhere?

If you look at the map, I did cycle back via Butt Lane, I can’t say that I am impressed with resulting cycleway, which is sort-of finished. Butt Lane is a fast road, despite the speed limit, the shared-use path isn’t very wide at the Milton end and frankly it is pathetic.

If we are going to have cycle ways alongside roads like that then there needs to be a safe separation. I can’t see this encouraging parents to get their children cycling between Milton and the school in Impington. Although to be fair I haven’t actually checked it out during the school run hours.

I cycled back via the route alongside the River Cam. It was supposed to be NCN11 from Cambridge up through Ely. It seems to have been an aspiration too far as the last bit between Waterbeach and White Fen has not been completed. Ah well even on a busy weekend the River Cam section makes for a pleasant ride.

Rowing on the River Cam

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lode–Fordham Loop–the byways they are a’ dryin’

Saturday, 15th March 2014: It was one of those days when I just had to go a little bit further afield, at least compared to this years cycling so far.  It was a lovely day, with sun all afternoon and temperatures getting up to around 16oC.  So I ventured a bit further out, although I still made use of the Lodes Way on my return.

Here is the Bike route Toaster link, the loop shown is 44Km  and essentially flat. It is a combination of shared-use paths, byways and bridleways and  some country roads. The country roads are from Burwell to Exning (NCN51) and Exning to the A142. Coming back I did check out a byway from Tollgate Farm to Broads Farm – which helps avoid the unpleasant-ish Ness Road. The road isn’t that bad – but it is quite wide and it seems to encourage some fast driving.

This is a picture of the wide open skies, just before Exning. As Spring is getting ready to bounce there is a lot of activity in the fields as farmers catch up after the wet Winter.

Wide-Open Blue Skies near Exning

Map of My Ride – around 44Km/28miles

The OSM Map doesn’t show the building over to the right-hand side of the picture – it is called Morby’s cottages on one of the OS maps. A cycle path has also appeared on the OSM cycle map call Heath Path which runs under the A14 – I will have to explore that.

Wide-Open Blue Skies near Exning

I cycled out of Exning along Cotton End Road, past Landwade. There is quite a bit of warehousing alongside the A142, making use of the proximity to the A14/A11.  There is also a railway line – the Ely to Bury St Edmunds line – there is quite a bend where it joins the track. From the looks of things there was another track so that trains could run directly into Newmarket Station – but the track is no more – although you can see it on Google Earth.

As you can see this bit of the line has two tracks. As part of an investment to increase freight capacity along the route the line between Soham and Ely junction is being duelled. Apparently the work is part of reducing the number of HGVs on the roads each year – by 225,000 (on roads such as the A1, A14 and A47).  Elsewhere in the Wikipedia article is suggests that 750,000 lorries would be taken of the roads. (For reference 225,000 lorries per year is 616/day.

Ipswich to Ely Railway Line south of Fordham

I took a few pictures as the train headed under the bridge and towards Ely – but the information display in the window seems be in stealth mode I can’t tell what it says in any of the pictures.

Ipswich to Ely Railway Line south of Fordham
Passenger Train heading towards the camera (to Ely)

I quite like the changes to Bike Route Toaster, it also seems to auto-route faster. I still find that there are some routes that it won’t follow, so I switch of the auto-routing and then trace them.

Although the A142 is a busy road there is a shared-use path along into Fordham and just before Fordham it bypasses the village. Once you are in the village then it hops around a bit. I don’t always bother when cycling since the hopping (crossing the road) seems a bit pointless when there isn’t much traffic around.

The blossom on these trees on the way into Fordham was amazing.

Welcomed into Fordham – stunning blossom

This is the shared-use path after the first hop, it was on the right-hand side of the road. Shared-use paths aren’t too bad when connecting villages. The trouble is as soon as you get into a residential area then motorists also feel that they are entitled to share the pavement for parking.  The trouble is the law about pavement parking is a mess. Now this might sound like I am complaining as a cyclist – well I am not. This sort of thoughtless  behaviour makes the pavements very difficult for wheelchair users or people pushing prams or using walking aids. The pavements can be difficult enough for wheelchair users.

I think that England should follow London and make pavement parking illegal, except where the Council makes an exemption to allow pavement parking.  I had to cycle on the road and then back on the shared-use path.

Why does this matter, well if we want more people to cycle then we have got to make it easier and safer for those who don’t cycle to start cycling and both feel and be safe. It would seem that although London has seen a surge in cycling over the last ten years it has been pretty stagnant in the rest of the UK (in terms of growth). The article also points to intimidating road conditions as being the reasons that cycle commuting is primarily the preserve of young men.

The situation is not helped because schools, which should be ideal places to kids to cycle to and from and really quite hostile because of the school car run.

Mind you this pavement is hardly ideal for sharing in any case. It isn’t wide enough, there are lamp posts and gratings along it and it undulates.  So for the young cyclist what with focusing on balance and steering this is an assault course already – without the added danger imposed by cars parking over the pavement.

Over Shared-Use Pavement – Fordham

As it happens when I reached the other end of the village (having hopped onto the other side again) there was more over-sharing.

Over Shared-Use Pavement – Fordham

Mind you when you get to Soham there is a massive bridge over the roundabout to ensure that kids can get across the main road safely. The trouble is the rest of the route is a massive compromise. This bridge makes a good vantage point though. 

This is the Downfield Windmill on Fordham Road and is on the Heritage At Risk Register. Mind you is it being restored.

Downfield Windmill, Soham, being restored

After heading North I turned South again, along a track and down Cockpen Road across the aforementioned railway line. The line runs along the left edge of this field. You can tell the weather has been pretty good recently. The Oil-Seed Rape in this field has started flowering. This corned of the field must be a bit of a sun-trap.

Oil-Seed Rape coming into Flower – Cockpen Road

After a brief ride along the B1102 (called Station Road at the Fordham end, I passed between Tollgate Farm and Ness Farm along a well-used byway. I say well-used – I have only ever seen farm vehicles on it (apart from my own bike). It heads back North but the track then turns left towards Burwell (Broads Road).  This is not the track but the stub shown on the map as heading towards Burwell Lode.

I hadn’t noticed it before but there is a sign showing a footpath in the picture. The sign I think signifies where the footpath crosses the railway line.

Farm Track – leading from Ness Farm

This is the bit of the track that is a byway. Fortunately it was not too muddy – it was fairly rutted though. I managed to cycle along it without any dabs, this time. Mind you the next time I cycled along here a few days later I almost fell off had an unplanned dismount. I was sticking to the dry ridge and on a narrow bit my tyres slid down the side of the ride.

Byway Leading to Broads Road and thence to Burwell

I too the long way back and headed towards the Lodes Way.  Although I stopped to take a picture of these pylons marching from Burwell Electricity Sub-Station off into the distance.

Pylons Marching Across the Fen Farmland from Burwell

At the top of the road near Priory Farm I took another picture of the wide-open Fen skies. The soil was dark and the skies were blue.  You can just about make out a straggle of house on the left hand side of the picture – the edge of Wicken village. (The pylons can also be seen behind them.

Blue Fenland Skies over Wicken

Let’s hope we don’t get too much wind – with all these ploughed fields there is a risk of a fenland blow.

Yep 20 is plenty for me too

Friday, 14th March 2014: I’ll put my cards on the table, I think that  20mph speeds limits in residential areas are a good thing.  Or rather let me put it another way, why on earth do we think that ensuring that cars (and other motor vehicles) can move around as fast as possible in residential areas, with priority over other activities.

To some extent the motor car has become a victim of its own success. In the UK the number of motor vehicles is affected by demographics  in that we have an increasing population, with a significant percentage of that population living in urban areas (80%). At the same time there has been a de-emphasis on other forms of transport. Some of the change is economic and some political.

The trouble is the increase in motor vehicles does not spread it self evenly throughout the land, but focuses on urban centres, where people live, work and learn. There are physical limits on just how many cars you can get into a given space. Many of the worlds major cities suffer from congestion. (London is at number 5.)

Yet, so often we here demands for more and bigger roads. The trouble is, unless you can stretch the urban areas out, is that you can’t build more roads, all that tends to happen is that you get the odd by-pass here and there – such as the Ely Southern by-pass - but they just move the problem to the next constriction. Or you get bigger roads around the areas of congestion – two examples spring to mind. One is the planned A14 upgrade, the other is the M25 London orbital motorway. What happened with the M25 – well soon after it opened in 1986 traffic levels exceeded the maximum designed capacity.

Urbanisation and congestion go hand in hand, yet so often traffic planners seem to forget the reality and end up tweaking things more and more in favour of traffic throughput. The trouble is it doesn’t do much good for the throughput but does make live pretty horrible for all the non-motor vehicle users the inhabitants.  (An example of the urbanisation – “200,000 homes will be built on Green Belt land: Villages under siege, say campaigners”)

Look at zebra crossings – a system where pedestrians have priority over motor traffic when they wish to cross.  They are a dying breed, why, well apparently motorists seem to be reluctant to stop at them.  What we get in their place are light-controlled crossings which cost a lot more, which breakdown and which can be ‘too fast for the slow elderly’ and which are often slow to react to the pedestrian’s push of the button (up to 90 seconds in London apparently).

Things are changing, albeit slowly. There is a recognition that lots of traffic in urban areas is not very nice – it is noisy, polluting, intimidating and unsafe. One strand of the change is the move to lower the speed limits in urban areas to 20mph.  Such is the demand for this that many councils are going through the democratic process of introducing 20mph speed limits – check out the list on the 20’s Plenty for Us website. (The population count covered is around 12Million people!)

So what’s the fuss – well Cambridge is introducing them – and it takes some political will because it isn’t cheap - £600,000, because of the somewhat odd bureaucracy that associates with things to do with the highways it seems.  The problem:

As £600,000 scheme hits new problem, police confirm they’ll only carry out speed checks in Cambridge’s citywide 20mph zone in ‘exceptional circumstances’

Well gee thanks – is it any wonder that there is concern about trust in the police. Still we do have a new democratic method for setting police priorities – our Police and Crime Commissioner and he has said he does want the limit enforced and has warned the Chief Constable.  Sir Graham Bright has also called for the speed checks in existing 20mph zones to be a ‘priority’.

I am sure that the PCC would probably like a bit of written support for his position on enforcing the 20mph limit.

I have to say that this Cambridge News story doesn't help – ‘I thought it was an April Fool’s joke’  Perhaps they ought to follow it with another story – “Blogger couldn’t believe the Cambridge News used so much newsprint on a non-story”.

No I am not anti-car – I drive a 4x4 (less than I cycle though), watch F1, buy stuff on-line (which means more vans). But car ownership is selfish really, so we’ve all got to do out bit I reckon. We can change behaviour without constructing speed humps and half-barriers all around the place at even more expense and that is what people want. The end of the “cartocracy”. (Which means more and better joined-up public transport and cycling and walking facilities.)

A shocking fact for some drivers out there - Cars will drive at 20mph without blowing up or breaking down.

And now for some pictures, yes around the Wicken Fen area - again. The next ride ventures a but further afield – Honest.

Reeds in Wicken Lode

Reeds alongside Wicken Lode

A Slightly More Successful Zoom and Snap picture of Wicken Lode
(Well I think so)

The Hedgerows are going green – yippee – White Fen Drove

The ditches are still draining – White Fen Drove

Monday, March 24, 2014

A new Cycle route to feed into the Lodes Way path?

Thursday, 13th March 2014: One of the challenges of some of the more scenic Sustrans routes is that they tend to go all around the houses. Now I do enjoy exploring on my bicycle and it is rather nice to see the countryside from a different perspective. However there are times when I want a more direct route, whether it be because I am on my way to a meeting and time is more important, or because I want to cycle and explore further afield.

Even getting to the Lodes Way from Cambridge can be a little tedious sometimes. When you reach Quy you end up detouring via Bottisham. According to Bike Route Toaster the distance form the Fen Ditton Cross Roads to White Fen Drove is 10.7Km, via Bottisham. The same journey would be 9.0Km taking the direct route form Quy to Lode along Colders Lane. If the route of the old railway line were still available for use as a cycle track then the distance would be 6.9Km.  It might not sound much but on a bicycle if you cycle at an average speed to say 20 Km/hr then 3.6Km would take an additional 10 minutes.

Given that the Waterbeach to Lodes Way link has been shown as a future route for what seems like ever I doubt how feasible opening the old railway line route up as a cycling path would be – but hey we can dream.

Having said that I was checking out the story about Cambridge needing Tour de France knitters – which is pretty neat and I also came across this website – Anglesey in Stitches, which is promoting the building of a cycle track between Quy and Lode.  As it says the “stretch of road is fast, dangerous, rarely braved by families and only braved by a few hardy commuters”. (Or should that be foolhardy commuters.)

I can’t easily find the route they are planning on – but as usual such a development is not cheap and there are negotiations with land owners (Near the bottom is a bit about the Cycle Path between Lode and Quy.)  I do hope it does not run alongside the road – it can get very busy especially during the morning and evening rush hours. There is a shared-use path between Lode and Swaffham Bulbeck. It can get very noisy and unpleasant and despite the convenience is one I tend to avoid.

I suppose that, in a nutshell is why Sustrans go “around the houses”.  With a limited budget and very limited political backing then perhaps scenic, but longer routes will get more users than noisy commuter routes. The most recent budget was a slap in the face for encouraging sustainable transport.  Despite what we might think motoring is pretty cheap, yet we know it pollutes and has balance of trade implications. With North Sea Oil being depleted and the uncertainty in Russia – there may be trouble ahead for a country so reliant on petrol/diesel. However there is still no annual cycle budget.

Having said that at least we are seeing continued development of cycleways around Cambridge. “Two cycleways near Cambridge costing £1.1 million set to boost rider numbers”.  I am not sure I don’t understand the Cambs cycling strategy though. It seems to be very tactical.

So fingers crossed that a better and more direct cycle route will be constructed from Cambridge to join up with the Lodes Way. One that will encourage families out for a day’s exploring in the Fens.

Crop Spraying – alongside Commissioners’ Drain

Black, Peat Soils of the Fens

I wasn’t planning on taking many pictures, I needed to make it a fairly nippy ride. However just for effect I did try to take a few pictures where on clicking the shutter you change the zoom. It can make the scene look quite dramatic. Unfortunately all I really managed with this picture of Wicken Lode was to make it look a bit blurred.

Wicken Lode – with an “arty zoom”

Wicken Lode – no arty zoom

Deer – Burwell Fen

Precision Drilling – Lodes Way (Headlake Drove)

Farming in the Fens

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mid-Week and the weather is easy

Wednesday, 12th March 2014: I am getting a little behind in my posting, but never mind, Spring is definitely springing, although as I write this, ten days later, the temperatures have briefly dropped to zero overnight. I have also been rain-dodging on my rides over the last couple of days as well, but I have managed to avoid the worst.

I have also slightly widened my cycling patch a bit, the tracks are getting better (drier), so I am venturing further afield, although not on this ride.

I did have a bad day the other day. When cycling through Wicken Fen I was scowled at by a women with two large black Labradors, which weren’t on leads. I had the temerity to ting my bell gently as I approached.  As sometimes happens, she either felt her dogs didn’t need to be restrained, or perhaps didn’t care. As I slowed and went past, one lunged for me barking loudly. The worst thing you can do is veer away – well on the stretch of track next to Monk’s Lode it is. I stood my ground and carried on slowly.  (To be fair most people shared the track well, I always try to say thank you and if there are young children on bikes then I generally stop and let them go by.)

The other thing that did get to me was as I was cycling down Great Drove (single track) towards Swaffham Prior I heard a motor vehicle coming up behind me, so I cycled on the very edge of the road, beyond the tarmac on a gravelly bit. The Land Rover went by, slowly and giving me space – I waved my thanks. What’s wrong with that you might ask – well the passenger in the front seat then leant out of the window and shouted “cyclist w*nker”.  The very definition of puerile, but not really what you want when cycling on a relatively remote road. It was a short wheelbase Land Rover painted in yellow with black strips.

Those sorts of situations are when I reconsider whether to use a video camera on my bike or not. I was going to a while back, but my kids felt that would be too geeky and teased me for even considering it. Although my son did buy himself a GoPro camera last year – although he claims it is alright because he doesn’t use it when cycling.

Fortunately such things don’t happen very often when cycling along country lanes.

One thing to remember is that although the first signs of Spring can appear pretty quickly it can take a while for Spring to really get going.  Blue skies and blossom can quickly get replaced by snow.  Still it is nice to see the blossom out. You can also see the moon in this picture – near-ish the top right corner.

Vibrant Blossom on the way into Upware

Another sign of Spring is the arrival of daffodils – this field was once used to grow them and they come back every year. – That is the back view of the Five Miles form Anywhere pub. There are a few different varieties of daffs growing.

Upware “wild” Daffodils

They are in good nick and seem to glow in the Spring sunshine.

Upware “wild” Daffodils

Much further along on my ride – heading back through Wicken Fen alongside Monk’s Lode more signs of spring as leaves emerge along the hedgerow.

First signs of Spring – Hedgerow leaves

After all the wind and rain over the Winter months it is wonderful to go out cycling when it is still. It seems to make me cycle faster (on average).  There was a slightly hazy feel to the sunlight – almost like Summer. It was pretty warm too – I was cycling in shorts and a fleece – it was almost 15oC.

Burwell Lode – Hazy Sunshine

Split Drove – more hazy sunshine

I like reflections, when I am in cities I often take pictures of reflections in the windows of big buildings. This time around it was so still that the White Fen balancing pond made for an almost perfect mirror.

Both the pond and the pylons are man-made. Although the Pond is to nurture nature, whereas the pylons are for human benefit.

Pylons reflecting in a Pond

Finally some pictures – some of the results from a Global Photography Competition. Some extra-terrestrial pictures Saturn from only 123 million miles away. Some sub-terrestrial pictures of mineshafts and sewers.  Life for a polar bear in the arctic.  Life for nomad tribes in Africa.

I have taken pictures of lightning – but would like to take more – but these are stunning lightning pictures. Mind you I don’t have any aspirations to take pictures of me being hit by different objects.

And finally – Posters not Pictures.