Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Ride from Cromer to King’s Lynn–Part 3 Cycling from Cromer to Wiveton

Good Friday, 18th April 2014: Well I was so pleased to be cycling and I kind of know the area when the kids were small we used to dump the camping gear in the car at pop up for the weekend. Then my son and I would cycle off to a shop to get some bacon and eggs and that we start out Saturday. In fact one of the campsites was near the big railway loop. we would hear the train in the evening clanking  around with the wheels protesting.

So I barely glanced at the GPS until it beeped at me – telling me I had strayed and must ask forgiveness turn around. I had turned off the turn-by-turn instructions and managed to go wrong immediately.  The trouble was I was so ready to set off that I headed off in the direction that is would be heading, but of course Sustrans route prioritise quite roads and scenic scenes over main roads. I had headed up the Holt Road instead of the Hall Road.

I could see why Hall Road was so named, there was Cromer Hall just up the road – a private residence..

Cromer Hall

Here is the map of my ride. (Cromer to King’s Lynn.) You should check in case it has changed and or I have made a mistake, before using it though.  There were a couple of places where I found problems, which I have fixed. It is just under 100Km long and over undulating terrain.

Map of My Ride

Hall Road goes up and unexpectedly my GPS led me to take a footpath off-road. Such things aren’t unheard of on Sustrans routes where agreements have been reached with land owners. However there is signage indicating the route.  All I saw was the footpath sign and a couple of horse riders..

I zoomed out the trace on my GPS and realized the off-road section cut a short-cut across the road route. I had not checked carefully enough when I digitised the route. So I carried on up the road and soon reached the Hall Road Railway Bridge.

Hall Road Railway Bridge

After a tad more climbing, which felt good after the train journey there was a choice of route. I normally tend to take the longer option, but in this case the shorter route was through the grounds of Felbrigg Hall. Private roads trump longer country lanes.

Regional Route 30 – the Cyclists Way into Felbrigg Hall

The last time I had cycled here was on the annual Norwich 100 ride a few years ago.  I stopped for lunch.

Felbrigg Hall

The place was teeming with visitors, but it was still pleasant and I navigated through with the benefit of the map on my GPS.

After passing through it was back onto pretty secluded country lanes, I didn’t see any cows crossing though.

You get a better class of traffic in Norfolk – Park Farm

The weather wasn’t quite as nice as I had hoped, the views were good though.This is where the route joined the road between Aylmerton and Lower Gresham.

Moor Plantation in A Sea of Oil Seed Rape – Aylmerton

There was an unexpected sight along Osier Lane, a field full of various varieties of daffodils.

Daffodils – Osier Lane

I have seen this sort of sight in the Fens, in Holland, around Spalding, but not Norfolk  These are being grown for the bulbs.

Daffodils – Osier Lane

Wherever I cycle I see evidence of the push for sustainable power, which is a good thing in my view.  Clearly the subsidies work as and there have been changes as I have seen a switch from Wind to Sun.  Here is a North Norfolk review of solar farms with discussion on maximising the benefits to nature. Clear this scheme got approval as it is now nearing completion. There is also “permission” nearby for a wind turbine, which went to the Planning Inspector and is being challenged by North Norfolk District Council.

I think that the push for sustainable power is driven by three factors, since we import a lot of energy (oil, gas) this create political independence.  This approach also supports sustainability. However wind and solar farms can also be built more quickly and so to some extent hide the problem that the conventional power generation grid has not had sufficient attention and focus and there were predictions of power shortages in the future, with insufficient time to build new lag-scale power generation.

Bodham Solar Farm nears completion

As I made progress the countryside change, I was approaching High Kelling.  The ride passed close to the Holt Station of the Poppy Line. Unfortunately I first had to cross the Busy Holt Road, made busier by the Bank Holiday Traffic.  I enjoy riding these Sustrans routes – there are nearly always challenges somewhere on route with crossing a busy road.

Talking about challenges the weather was looking a bit dull, I know the seaside weather can influenced by the sea – but I didn’t sign up for a wet ride!

Fortunately I never really got caught by the showers although I did catch the fringes once of twice and found myself cycling along wet roads.

Gorse and rain on the C308 – just past Salthouse Heath

This was an undulating ride and since it was a while since I had last ridden it and I was riding it backwards I spent chunks of the riding not quite knowing where I was but seeing lots of familiar place names.  As I cycled into Wiveton there were signs showing Cley next the Sea was just down the road.

There is a wonderful deli in Cley called Picnic Fayre, it was a must visit place whenever we were in the area, the kids loved choosing their picnic treats, one by one. Next time I will plan on calling in for my cycling lunch.

Just before cycling through Wiveton you pass over the River Glaven.

River Glaven – Wiveton

Apparently Wiveton was once a port. A wall on the East side of the church (St Mary) shows marks from the mooring ropes.

Church of St Mary – Wiveton

Next – a flippin puncture – twice (well I holed the tube the second time.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Ride from Cromer to King’s Lynn–Part 2 Norwich to Cromer

Good Friday, 18th April 2014: It was a pleasant run from Cambridge to Norwich, although it would be a little tedious if I had to do it too often. I was quite looking forward to the train journey from Norwich to Cromer. Although I have been on the route the other way around I think this will be the first time North to South.

Just to remind you – this is what it Norwich Railway Station look like – I was on platform 6. Actually I think I was in platform 6b.  No I was wrong I was on 6b.  Norwich is an important enough place that the station gets quite a few trains. Apparently there was an annual passenger count of  4.126 million passengers in 2012/2013.  Mind you Cambridge Railway station had more than double that number with an annual passenger count of 9.168 million in 2012/213.

So by numbering platforms 5a/5b and 6a/6b it means that two small trains can use the platform instead of one long one. Which increases the number of trains although not the number of passengers.  I reckon they also increase passenger uncertainty. Either I must look as if I know how to get about by train or most people find trains confusing, unless they are regular commuters.

Norwich Railway Station

The Bittern Line – from Norwich to Cromer

Here is a link to the Bittern Line guide.  I often think that I ought to do a little bit more homework when cycling. for instance the link points out some stuff to look out for along the line which I would have done if I had known. My tendency is to visit first, then read about where I have been and then re-visit with a little more knowledge.

The train that runs to Cromer (and beyond to Sheringham) is different from the Cambridge Norwich train, but does have a dedicated space for bicycles. Once again the cycling information indicates that booking is advisable, but I tend to make a go/no go decision on the basis of the weather and by then it is too late. If only you could easily book via the web, but I suppose then more people would book and it might be more difficult to turn up and go.

Although there was only a 15 minute gap between trains I was the first to turn up for the Cromer train, two other (lycra-clad) cyclists did turn up after me – I am not sure quite how many bikes will fit – our three were fine though. (There is also space for luggage – take note holiday makers.)

There is also a scheme called Greater Anglia Cycle Rescue Scheme which entitles cyclists to free assistance when they have a valid ticket for Greater Anglia Railways. Although I can’t find reference to it on the abellio website. It is mentioned in this leaflet – under Abellio Greater Anglia.

Maisie, my Marin My Bicycle securely on the Cromer train

It seems to me that the further from the main network the slower the trains run. The fast lines are lines such as the East Coast Main Line, most of it meets the 125mph criterion, or next the Cambridge to London line – 90mph max. Then we have the Cambridge to Norwich Line with an operating speed of 70-90mph.  Finally the Bittern Line with a line speed of 40-75mph.

This train seems pretty slow. The train I was on stopped at three places between Norwich and Sheringham. The first was Hoveton and Wroxham. Here you can alight for the Bure Valley Railway.

Although there is not a Sustrans route (according to the OSM) there is a cycle route to Reepham and NCN1, which in the middle gets close to the RR30 (as I should call regional routes).

This station looks a little like a garage – although there aren’t pumps under the Canopy.

Hoveton and Wroxham Railway Station

Next was North Walsham, (no cycle rou6tes nearby) this is apparently the busiest intermediate station on the line. Now something to remember there is a Motorcycle Museum opposite the station main entrance and railway ticket holders get a discount. There is also a dial-a-bus service offering free travel to Bittern Line ticket holders.

North Walsham Railway Station (although that looks like a bus shelter)

The train passes through Gunton Station where if the train were to stop you could alight for Northrepps International Airport.

Talking of bus stops – well despite Cromer being a seaside town with a pier and once upon a time having three railway stations they are now down to two.  Oh yes the station is pretty underwhelming for a seaside resort. They do have cycle parking though.

Maisie, my bicycle have a rest, Cromer Railway Station

To enhance the bus stop chic the platform sports what looks like a bus shelter.

Cromer Railway Station

Don’t worry it also has a brick built shelter as well. There is a brief delay to allow the train driver and guard to swap ends.

The building to the right is a supermarket, apparently where the large good yard used to be.

Train bounds for Sheringham – Cromer Railway Station

There is also some advertising – although only to those already on the platform and presumably catching or alighting.

The Bittern Line
”The Line for all seasons, a ride for all reasons!”

Reassuringly the line does have what looks like a proper signal box. It isn’t in use though. The line was re-signalled in 2000. There is a committee that has undertaken its restoration. You can join and contribute.

Cromer Signal Box

The first thing to do before all the picture taking was to power up my GPS and then load the route – all of which takes a fair bit of time which is why there are a few Cromer Railway Station pictures.

I had a drink, glanced at my GPS map and set off – the wrong way..

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Ride from Cromer to King’s Lynn–Part 1 getting to Norwich (Cromer was next)

Good Friday, 18th April 2014: I enjoyed my ride along the Peddars Way so much that I felt I had to return to Norfolk at the earliest opportunity. Fortunately we are at the time of year when Bank Holidays come thick and fast slightly more often that at some other times of year. Even better, the weather forecast didn’t look too bad and my wife had arranged to go walking with her walking buddies. Which meant I could have a guilt-free, day-ride under the matrimonial law of reciprocal hobbies.

So where to ride?  I have ridden on NCN11 (Cambridge to Kings Lynn) and beyond on NCN1 /NCN30 to Cromer. I’ve also ridden from Cambridge to Thetford to Norwich (NCN13/NCN1) and from Cambridge to Thetford to Cromer (NCN13/NCN1/NCN30). A while ago my son and I rode from Norwich to Cromer (I chose the route – there are loads of country lanes). I have also ridden from Cambridge to Norwich over a few different routes. 

Choices, Choices! In the end I decided go for a seaside ride. I have not ridden from Cromer to Kings Lynn (NCN30/NCN1) before and the route has changed since the last time I cycled the other way.

So I created a map on Bike route Toaster (Cromer to King’s Lynn) – just under 100Km/60miles, it was lumpier than a ride around the flatlands – but pleasantly so. My general rule of thumb is to estimate an average speed of 20Km/h. Sometimes I am faster, sometimes I am slower – but I do want to be able to stop and look around (and take pictures).  I sometimes I lose my way, even when following my GPS, when I am too busy looking around and not paying attention to the route – or rather assume I know where I am going. I also occasionally enter the route incorrectly when using Bike Route Toaster, again through not paying close attention.

When plotting a route I generally go for the detours and scenic routes. In this case I chose to cycle through Felbrigg (recommended). (The numbering seems to go a little awry on the OSM Cycle map – 30 and 33.)  I also chose the detour through Wells-next-the-sea – which was a mistake on a bank Holiday. I did enjoy riding through the Holkham Hall Estate though.

But the ride will come later, the next thing to do was check out train times after all it was a Bank Holiday and trains have a nasty habit of turning into buses on bank holidays and apparently then not able to take bicycles.  I say apparently because on a previous ride to Cromer I caught the train to Norwich to find that because of Engineering Works on the line there was a bus link to Thetford.  As it happened two of us prospective passengers had bicycles – the bus driver was actually driving a coach and slid them into the luggage bays without any hesitation.

I knew there was to be a change of trains at Norwich, the real question was how long would it take? The answer – 2 hours and 18 minutes, with trains from Cambridge running every hour at 12 minutes past.  The “additional info” confirmed that they took bicycles and the gap between arriving at Norwich and leaving Norwich was 15 minutes – not too bad. So if I caught the 8.12am train I would reach Cromer by 10.30am. I did think about catching the earlier train – but by starting slightly later in the day I hoped the weather would be slightly warmer and it was a Bank Holiday after all.

Here are a few links to Websites for those wishing to explore Norfolk by bicycle:

  1. Visit Norfolk
  2. Norfolk Coast Partnership
  3. Broads by Bike (PDF map)

On the morning of Good Friday the air temperature was cool, but the skies were blue. the sun was shining and it wasn’t windy. It was a wonderful ride into the station – being a Bank Holiday there weren’t many cars around. When I arrived at Cambridge Station, as most people would expect, except the powers that be, there were loads of bicycles around. It was sad to see that the trees around the cycle parking area have been massively cut back.

Cambridge Railway Station – as was

I don’t know whether it was because the trees needed it or as part of the overall re-development – but sad none the less..

Cambridge Railway Station – as is

.Here is a map of my train-ride – well from Cambridge to Norwich – which is known as the Breckland Line.  According to Wikipedia the line is getting some investment with modernisation of the signalling and sections of the rail being replaced and capable of 90mph running!  There are quite a few stations on the line – but the regular Cambridge to Norwich train does not stop at all of them – I would have to had caught an earlier train  - the 7.04am it seems to call at a few of the smaller stations – such as Eccles Road and Shippea Hill.

I have marked the stations that the train stopped at – journey time – 1 hour 18 minutes.

Route of the Cambridge to Norwich Railway Line

I have taken my bike on the train down to Penzance and from Inverness to Cambridge and up to Hull and down to London. The one thing you do know is that you never know quite what is in store for you.  When I went to Hull I booked a seat and space for my bike – only for the train to be cancelled, fortunately a Virgin Train (I think) let me on.  Some trains are forbidden during the rush hour, others have special areas. When going long distance I generally try to book a space, well in advance. For these day rides and I tend to turn up and hope.

The best plan is to turn up early – which is what I did (and bought a bacon roll).  At the moment the Cambridge-Norwich trains have a dedicated space for bicycles – although only one of the carriages. It is usually marked on the door – but I tend to recognise it from looking through the windows. As the Cambridge – Norwich train originates from Cambridge – which means it hangs around for a while rather that doing a stop and pick-up it is less of an issue. Catching a train at an intermediate station can be a lot more stressful, I usually ask a guard and sometimes they point me at the right on the platform to stand with my bicycle.

As you can see I generally travel light. The drinks bottles have some insulation, so I generally fill them with crushed ice, lemon squash and topped up with water. They won’t last all day but it keeps the water cool for a few hours.

My Carradice Saddle bag is a Zipped Roll  in Green with Honey Straps.  It goes with the Green Leather Brooks Saddle. I can’t actually remember which one it is – but I’d definitely recommend it. It contains the things I reckon are necessary for running repairs. In my case there is a set of tyre levers, puncture repair kit, two spare inner tubes, a multi-tool, zip-ties of various sizes.  The multi-tool includes a chain tool.  I have just added some cord – thanks to MikeC. (I borrowed some from him a while back to tie my jacket onto my rack, now I have some of my own.

Although in this case I have use a plastic bag and a couple of bungee cords to carry some additional items – Jelly babies, sun screen, and space for my waterproof jacket – which I hope not to have to wear.

Maisie, my Bicycle on the Cambridge to Norwich Train

The first stop after Cambridge is Ely with the Bike and Go bikes ready and waiting on the platform. There are 10 bikes there – I wonder how many they have.  The concept seems to have been rolled out at quite a few railway stations – Stowmarket and Ipswich are to more in the region.

I quite like the Ely Railway Station – it has a convenient layout with a tunnel under the platform so it is convenient for cyclists and luggage-luggers and wheelchair users alike.

It is open to the winds but sheltered, there is a shop and you can get food and drink there. Also the railway station is just off NCN11.

Red Bike & Go at Ely

As we headed out some of the fen fields were covered in swathes of fleece. You can see why I call this the flatlands.

Fleece-covered Fields of the Fens

The next stop was Brandon, where the railway station conveniently lies next to the local Sustrans Route 30. This station looks a little down at heel, but it does have Friends. The station is mode from Victorian Flint built in 1845 – but apart from a single signalman there have been no staff since 1967.

What there are though are murals. Clearly the murals all have some local relevance – now I recognise some of the relevance – but not all. So I will leave it to you to consider.

Brandon Railway Station Mural

I have seen a red squirrel in Thetford Forest.

Brandon Railway Station Mural

The next stop was Thetford. Did I mention that another cyclist joined the train at Cambridge – he wasn’t a trusting sort and locked his bike to the frame – I hope he remembers his bike when we all get to Norwich.

Another of my guilty secrets – I really enjoy watching Dad’s Army and will be first in the queue to see the new film that is rumoured to be happening. A lot of the filming was done in the area and there is a Captain Mainwaring Statue in Thetford. If you look closely you will see him on the map of Thetford.  (I probably also ought to mention that NCN13 runs through Thetford.) However I haven’t been to the Charles Burrell Museum which is just around the corner from the Dad’s Army Museum.

Thetford is hardly any distance from Centre Parcs, Thetford and yet I bet hardly any folk use the train to get there. Those that do are probably dispirited when they arrive at the station.

Thetford Railway Station – You are here

The next station that the train stops at is Attleborough, The Sustrans network doesn’t seem to have made it near here!

What I should have mentioned is that the Breckland Line runs through Thetford Forest – I saw deer grazing – they didn’t seem to bothered by the train passing.

Apparently a new Ticket Office opened in 2008 as part of a re-staffing of rural stations! Although I didn’t check and according to the National Rail Website there is no ticket office and no ticket machines and I think the customer services and Information is via a phone (help point).

It was opened in July 1845 with a brick Station Building and now the Station Master’s (as was) house is rendered.

Attleborough Railway Station

It isn’t the sort of station you would want to spend much time hanging around though. It looks dilapidated. Someone has put up a bracket for a hanging basket – perhaps the Health and Safety Police wouldn’t allow the hanging basket though.

I didn’t see this Memorial plaque to the men of 452ND Bomb Group (H) either.

The seats look robust, but (IMHO) out of place and promise little comfort.

Attleborough Railway Station

Across the track the view is no more attractive – although you could just imagine that window and brick surround in an Art Gallery somewhere as part of an installation.

I guess that the way railways are funded it is cheaper, at least in the short-term to allow buildings to slowly dilapidate. This is a former goods shed. The station looks worse when sitting on the train the in some of the pictures on the net. This Wikipedia one looks more open.  The platform canopy looks pretty scruffy in it though.

Attleborough Railway Station – Former Goods Shed

The next station along the line was Wymondham – pronounced as “Wind-ham”. This station as friends and its own website. It also has a Bistro – which is through the windows, it made me feel as if I had gone back in time to the golden age of steam.

Wymondham Railway Station

There is definitely a touch of history about this station with the old London &  North Eastern Railway signage.

Wymondham Railway Station

After that we slowed down and  just as I was thinking how we had plenty of time for me to catch my next train we stopped.  Apparently there used to be three railway stations in Norwich – now down to one.

The stop was because the line crosses the River Yare and the two tracks are reduced to one. Trains end up “reversing” out of the railway station area. The railway station was also the scene of a train crash in July 2013!

Fortunately the chap who had locked his bike up didn’t forget it and came back and unlocked it,so freeing mine in the process.

The Wikipedia entry for the Station is rather too heavy on train technical data.  The station also provided the scene for the opening of a Swallows and Amazons novel – humm I don’t remember that, I must check if we still have the books (It was Coot Club which makes sense).

The station befits the city and is quite large and opening although the dreaded ticket gates have made it. Fortunately it is possible to move from platform to platform without popping in and out of the gates – a blessing when you have a bicycle and don’t quite know where you are heading. However, as the station is the “end of the line”  you can easily move from, platform to platform without having to use bridges.

A few minutes later and I was lined up waiting to get on the Cromer train  -  it was there but not open. It did give me time to work out which door to stand by though.

Norwich Railway Station

What struck me about the Norwich to Cambridge line is how distressed some of the stations are.  Maybe I have over-romanticised the idea of train travel and should consider railway stations as being little more than glorified bus stops.  The Norfolk area is a wonderful place to visit, there is some beautiful countryside (the Broads to the Brecks), beautiful coastline and some great history and yet there is a hodge-podge of in some cases, tatty railway stations. Despite the branding of the Breckland Line even the nicer stations are a bit business-like (Cambridge and Norwich).

As you might expect there is an alliance looking to improve East Anglia’s rail network – NewAnglia. They have published a prospectus – “Once in a generation – A rail prospectus for East Anglia”.

It seems to me that the rail-network should be an important part of catalysing economic growth. Probably the most hype benefit  comes from Silicon Fen and interconnecting places like Norwich, Cambridge, Colchester as well as ensuring good connections with London. However we must also consider the importance of Tourism and Agriculture as well as better ways of dealing with the freight that passes from the ports through to the Midlands.

Whilst I am not a great fan of commuting an important strand has to be that of providing fast and convenient services between where people live and where people work at the times they want to go to and from work. This means increasing the speed of the railway lines as well as the number of trains. One hour 18 minutes from Cambridge to Norwich is not fast.

As for tourism, well the speed of the trains is not perhaps the biggest challenge. However I reckon that those that plan the rail networks have to some extent given up on tourists – dilapidated stations and tired rolling stock don’t add anything to a holiday trip that ought to have a touch of glamour.  There are green shoots – The Bittern Line Community PartnershipNorfolk Rail ProspectusThe Norfolk Orbital Railway, The Poppy Line

I have travelled by train fairly extensively in Japan, it is clean, punctual, fast and in places tailored to tourists. It builds on the holiday experience rather than subtracts from it.

Ah well – next stop Cromer.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Some Appalling Motorists–and Appalling Video

Thursday, 17th April 2014:  I had to drive over to Bedford yesterday, I couldn’t make the timings work for cycling, although my speed has gotten faster after a bit of regular cycling this year I am not that fast.

My second approach would be to cycle – but there is not a direct railway route either (Time – 2 hours 35 minutes – two changes). There used to be – but it got the chop. There is talk of getting it reinstated, eve the director-general of the CBI is in support of the Varsity line between Oxford and Cambridge, but things are moving way to slowly for my needs.   Cycling would have been ideal – since it would have been a convenient way to get to and fro at either end as well.

So I drove instead. Now I am pleased to report that this year I have definitely cycled more miles than I have driven my car, I checked. What it means is that when I drive I pay attention to the way people drive and way they treat other roads users.

I headed out of Cambridge on the A14, past the Girton/Histon roadworks – despite the dire warnings as I was not driving through during the rush hour the traffic kept moving at a reasonable and even pace. I reckon the average speed cameras are a real benefit to the smooth and safe running of busy roads, compared with other forms of speed limit enforcement.  (Although trying to find comparative information on the web is not so easy.)

Apparently when they upgrade the A14 a cycle lane is also planned to build on the success of the Cambridgeshire Guided busway (CGB) route (and its cycle lane). I hope this doesn’t mean that they will be arranging for it to flood. Which is the major flaw of the cycleway alongside the CGB. I would also hope that some attempt is made to to create a noise barrier. I am not sure many people realise just how noisy motor traffic has become. I find that tyre noise creates a relatively high-volume, high-pitch sound. However most people (in their right minds) don’t walk alongside busy roads if they can help it, nor do they cycle along such roads either.

There have been a couple of cycle accidents reported in the last few days (of writing this post): “Cyclist taken to hospital after crash involving car near guided busway amid rush hour in Cambridge” and “Ambulance called to crash between cyclist and van in Cambridge”. Personally I don’t feel that some motorists take their duty of car for vulnerable road users seriously enough. A driving licence is not a licence to kill -  but too often we see cases where poor driving seems to be excused.

Anyways, I carried on along the road which becomes the A428, but remains a dual carriageway until Caxton Gibbet.  All good so far, at this point the dual carriageway becomes a normal road. I had not issues there – there were a few cars ahead of me and then a lorry, but it was moving at a reasonable speed. I maintained a reasonable distance from the car in front – the two second rule is a good guide.

There was a bend ahead, and so a van lurched out from the car behind me and struggled past us both and dived into the gap I had thoughtfully left – with an oncoming car flashing its lights. The idiot carried on recklessly (IMHO) opinion overtake until past the lorry.  No sooner was that over an then a small car proceeded to do the say.  I sat there wishing it had better acceleration as dived into spaces, gain as oncoming cars flashed.

It turns out that “over half of drivers tail-gate on motorways despite 95% of drivers admitting it is the thing they most worry about on the road”. Now if there had been a very-slow moving vehicle ahead, then maybe I could have understood the impatience, although not condoned the recklessness. But that lorry was moving at a reasonable pace.

Now the lorry seemed to be moving at 50mph – which is permissible on a single carriageway (not more the 7.5 tonnes max laden weight). So rounding up the distance of the stretch of road from rom Caxton Gibbet  to the A1 to 9 miles the lorry’s average speed would have been say 45mph (two roundabouts, bends etc) so it would take 12 minutes.  If the car had exceeded the speed limit and averages 60mph (a mile a minute) then the car might have been able to do the same stretch in 9 minutes. Mind you that van would have struggled.

So at very best the time-saving would have been only 3 minutes. I just don’t understand the stupidity.

There aren’t many pictures on this ride – it was grey and I was on a time limit. I did stop to take a picture of a helicopter – not one of the Emergency Helicopters though – at least that is what I thought at the time – it has a different shape.

Helicopter above the skies of Lodes Way

Someone has been out patching Split Drove (Lodes Way)

On the way home despite being on a time-limit, or perhaps because I headed down the old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line Quy. I am not quite sure why – but I took this  picture with my Samsung phone. N i didn’t have a flat battery in my GH-1.

Oil Seed Rape – Old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line – behind Anglesey Abbey

For the last bit of the rough stuff – a bridleway into Quy I have an attempt at videoing it. I used my Samsung phone again.  The film is silent, as all you could hear was wind and me puffing away. I also didn’t actually check the screen to ensure it was pointed where it should have been. I really should have used a landscape view which would have been more forgiving – but it is quite hard holding the phone with one hand and steering along the single-track with the other.

The biggest fudge – the film also runs at double speed – which is the real reason for cutting the sound.

If this were my entry for the Eurovision Film Contest then it would be nil point. I would like to film some of my rides – but I don’t really want to wear a helmet and I am not convinced mounting a camera on the handlebars would have the desired effect.

Single-track to Quy

And finally some retro pictures of places I sometimes cycle (Norfolk area).

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Sun has got its hat on

Tuesday, 15th April 2014:  Every now and then I have to remind myself to take advantage of the long hours of daylight. In April the sunrise shifts from 6:35am to 5:32am and the sunset shifts from 7:33pm to 8:23pm.  Which means the hours of daylight increase from almost 13 hours (12h 58m 37s)  to almost 15 hours (14h 51m 36s).

The only snag is that the experts will tell you about the importance of establishing good sleep patterns and getting a good nights sleep. Also your boss will tell you about the importance of “putting the hours in”.  Personally I have always preferred to focus on getting the job done rather than being seen in the office.  When I was a regular commuter I liked to get into the office early as I am at my best then. The trouble is quite a lot of people would start later and then work later. (We were pretty flexible.)  As a result it is hard to not feel peer pressure to stay on.

I rather like the Spanish idea of a Siesta, although in my case not so much for sleep purposes as for cycling. Breaking up the day with a couple of hours exercise in the afternoon might be unconventional – but doing it has to be a good thing. If you are wondering, if I get a phone call I stop cycling to answer – although usually by the time I realise my phone is ring, stop, fish it out of my pocket, then take the phone out of its case it is too late.

I also find that cycling is great for thinking around a problem or issue or considering how best to shape a presentation. I also find myself thinking about the rather strange political situation here in the UK.  All of the parties annoy me – for my tastes they rely too much on sound-bites and squabbling and not enough on facts and consequences. I also feel that there is too much “do as I say” rather than “do as I do”.

I have been listening to Freakonomics podcasts and as a US show it tends to use US political examples – to an outsider they seem to be more polarized that here in the UK (and Europe) with the Republicans and the Democrats. You seem to sign up to a complete set of policies for good or bad. Whereas here in the UK the lines are blurred and change.

Take the issue of the need for housing here in the UK.  None of the parties really seem to have a good explanation of the underlying issues and what choices are faced by the nation. You just get, what seem like, random proposals. At one level it is a simple issue of supply and demand. The demand is high, in some parts of the UK, whilst the supply is constrained. So the price is high – which is what is happening here in Cambridge.

For instance there can be a significant variation in the price of the same type of house with the same land across the UK – because of supply and demand.  Such is the variation in living costs that higher salaries get paid under the London Weighting.   So what creates demand and why does it vary across the country. Well I guess much of it is driven by opportunity – which for many means where are the jobs – which leads to urbanisation.  Quite what level of urbanisation depends upon transport infrastructure (time and cost), amenities, cost of housing.

On the other hand you have the supply-side issues – the cost of land, planning constraints, Community Infrastructure Levy (constraints and affordable housing),  cost of service connection (utilities, roads), cost of materials, cost of labour.

Add into the mix the need for politicians to get votes and you have various other factors – Capital Gains Tax Relief on your home, Mortgage interest relief, Government Help for Home buyers, buy-to-let mortgages, stricter mortgage tests and grants for home improvements. To name but a few. (Pretty much all the subsidies do is fuel house price increases – which is really inflation.)

You also have the problem that for many people their house is their biggest asset which they don’t want to see devalued. In fact most people want it to increase in value. Given we humans are rather herd-like in our behaviour it makes us want to live in places where house prices are going up, just because house prices are going up. The trouble is those not on the housing ladder feel left behind and are left behind. With house prices rising faster than salaries the gap grows – but because there aren’t enough houses there is still sufficient (some would say too much) demand which stops houses dropping in value.

So it seem that the Government tries to increase the supply of houses without hitting the pricing by encouraging Councils to allow more houses to be built on land hitherto protected. There is political benefit in ensuring that the houses are built in places where the housing market is robust and prices are strong – because it implies that the area is one people want to live in and it will not hit house prices too much. Although this doesn’t really help those who can’t afford to get on the housing ladder – it just stops the gap from getting much larger.

Of course house prices do drop from time to time, people are left with negative equity. So if the government were to succeed in in creasing the supply cheaper housing  it could lead to misery for those just about hanging on to their rungs with large mortgages.

What would I do?  Well much as it pains me I can see why there is so much development around Cambridge – it has employment, the housing market is currently buoyant. However if I ran Government I reckon I would buy suitable farm land on the open market, at agricultural prices, then use the value uplift to provide the facilities, transport links and ensure that the settlement was built to an decent sustainable standard.

Would it work, I don’t know – I don’t really know who makes the profit on such land at the moment – is it a windfall for the current landowner. Whatever it seems that by feeding the value-uplift back into the system then it might help a better development. I reckon that all the Community Infrastructure Levy does is add to the price at which a builder is prepared to move forward. Even worse I am not sure that whoever gets to spend the money does so in a way that makes sense.

Still enough of that for a change I went around Low Fen Drove Way and then through Horningsea and then to Quy Fen (here is a history). I don’t do it too often because the Fen does not have a byway/bridleway through it – although there is a byway at both ends.

As I was cycling I saw the East Anglian Air Ambulance – it is a sobering thought that every time this helicopter flies there is someone in dire need of the medical attention if can bring.  Their website details the missions flown so on the 15th April the website shows three missions. Unfortunately it would appear that on this mission they were unable to save the gentlemen.

East Anglian Air Ambulance above Quy Fen

I rarely see many people around, although on a nice do there are usual some walkers in the area – the “Fen spans about 73 acres”. Apparently the pits were excavated in the 19th Century for coprolite.

Quy Fen – main pit

A ditch along one hedgerow was coming into flower.

Ditch In flower

Apparently the white flowers on leafless stalks are Water Violets (Hottonia palustris).

Water Violets - Quy Fen

I can’t resist taking pictures when the Oil Seed Rape is in full flower – especially if the skies are blue.

This picture is focused on the two trees. They seem to be coming into leave, despite a fair bit of dead wood.

Oil Seed Rape in full flower

This picture focuses on the Oil Seed Rape at my edge of the field.

Oil Seed Rape in full flower

And finally what it looks like without zooming in.

Oil Seed Rape in full flower

As I headed over to Lode I passed a cyclist – whether you are heading from Lode to Quy or from Lode to Horningsea this is by far the quietest route – although it is not so pleasant when wet and muddy.

Cyclist on the old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line, behind Anglesey Abbey

Same general picture – no zoom or cyclist.

Old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway Line, behind Anglesey Abbey

A Peacock Butterfly (Aglais io) on the track

The Balancing Pond – White Fen

Horse Rider – Headlake Drove

An Inconsiderate Parker – outskirts Bottisham

When I got home I also took a picture of the blossom on one of our trees.

Tree Blossom – White Double Cherry Blossom