Thursday, June 26, 2014

Three for the price of one–Scenes from three rides around the Lodes Way

Sunday, 27th April 2014: I have several choices to make if I am going to try and write my posts around the time the rides they describe happen. I will either have to dump a load of rides and perhaps focus on the interesting one. Or spend my time blogging, but that means less time riding. Or take fewer pictures, or try to get more posts out per day or combine posts.

Well for now I have decided to combine a few posts and cut back on the words. Which is a shame, there are things that need to be said in support of cycling and I feel I am not spending enough time saying them.

Normally I find motorists on country lanes to be more courteous than in urban and suburban areas. I was pretty horrified, when cycling round this bend in the village of Lode (and part of the Lodes Way. Why, well a youngish bloke in a BWM decided that I wasn’t going fast enough for him, so despite me taking the lane and cycling at a reasonable pace he overtook me going around the bend.

Fortunately there was nothing coming, because whilst he was only risking a scratch or two on his shiny phallic symbol he was threatening my person not to mention any other vulnerable road users round the bend. (Which he was – round the bend).

It makes me wonder just what idiots that I am forced to share the road with.

Yesterday I was cycling through Cherry Hinton joining Teversham Drift from Teversham Drift - - weird naming convection. Again I was cycling at a  reasonable pace. I was going to turn left. I had my arm out and there were no cars coming in from the right. There was however a car coming in from the left at some speed. If I had carried on at the speed I was travelling that car would have hit me just as I turned right.

Obviously I didn’t, otherwise I wouldn’t have been here to write this. I slowed down and she (yes female this time) whizzed by without a noticeable blip of the brakes. She glanced at me as she went through, with a slightly guilty look. 

Two points, she was approaching the mini roundabout as if it didn’t exist and she wasn’t paying any attention to the road I was on. That would have been a serious crash. I can just imagine her reaction – “the cyclist came from nowhere”. 

Now she got caught by the traffic lights however under the bizarre traffic calming scheme cyclists going straight on get to bypass them.  As I went by I looked at her – she couldn’t meet my eye – she knew she’d screwed up.

Maybe I am getting older and the good news is that in 2013 there was a drop in cyclists killed or seriously injured, however I find near misses happening more often that they used to – what is happening to driving standards. Or are we seeing institutionalised bullying of cyclists on the roads. Cyclists Stay back stickers are a disgrace, if buses and lorries have such terrible blind spots then they shouldn’t be on the road in the first place.

Which is why I am pleased to see that the cyclist traffic on and around Lodes Way seems to be growing and is not all MAMILs.  I quite often see older couples out on their bikes, families with young teens are common and how about this – a Tandem plus trailer heading down Harvey’s Droveway.

Taking to the byways Tandem and Trailer (with child on board) Harvey’s Droveway

It seems to me that Bottisham Lode was running fairly fast – but clear.

Bottisham Lode

For a change I cycled down Rand Drove. I wouldn’t normally cycle down here unless I was on my MTB with fatter, gnarlier tyres. I did on my 25mm tyres and only had one unplanned stop, the rest of the time I managed to plough on through the soft peat.

Rand Drove – squidgy peat makes cycling tricky

Someone else had cycled here recently – although with much fatter tyres than mine.

Rand Drove

Having cycled down Rand Drove I then cycled up Harrison’s Drove towards Upware.  There was a couple and their young family (of seven) crossing the road, so naturally I stopped completely.

Young Family Crossing Upware Road

As I said, usually the traffic on these country lanes is very courteous as was this Audi driver.

Traffic Waiting Patiently for Vulnerable Road Users – Upware Road

Reach Lode – Still Water – Circular Ripples

Cyclists of all types use Lodes Way

Monday, 28th April 2014: So much time has gone by that I’d forgotten that the leaves were only just on they way.

Great Drove – Trees Coming into Leaf

This smoke from a fire at the Pumping Station was visible (and smell-able) for some way

Round these parts you often see small planks across the ditches between fields – there was a time when I would happily have tried them out. I was a lot lighter then and the planks look quite weather-worn.

Walk the plan – Lower Road, Wicken

Monk’s Lode – Some leaves out, some not

Preparation for Reach Fair

Tuesday, 29th April 2014: The weather was getting a bit gloomier – but for a change I visited Oily Hall. (Mill Drove)

Mill Drove

Trees Coming into Leaf along Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

More trees in leaf than not. You can’t see it without zooming in, but there is also an irrigation spray beyond the trees.

Mooring at Upware

The repaired bank alongside Wicken Lode has returned to a pretty shaggy grass bank. It is quite hard to cycle along.

Bank Alongside Wicken Lode

Looking back towards Reach Lode there is an overspill section on the bank.

Rustling Reeds – Harrison’s Drove

More cyclists on Lodes Way

And Even More Cyclists

Monday, June 23, 2014

Saturday Cycle–catching up with misery in the countryside–nice ride though

Saturday, 26th April 2014:I like April – you can really start to see Spring, well springing. Mind you, the weather seems to have favoured the Oil Seed Rape, it seems to have flowered 3 or 4 weeks earlier that last year.

I usually try and catch up with the weeks happenings in The Archers, the misery levels seem to be increasing.  It is a good job that cycling cheers me up. I find myself feeling a little despondent at the end of a week’s catch-up.

Sill there is one good thing, knowing that I needed more cycling time to shake of the doom and gloom I extended my ride. The map is below and here is the Bike Route Toaster link. The loop distance (well two loops distance really) is 56Km/35 miles. It follows my “usual” radio ride of Low Fen Drove Way then across the fields (byways/bridleways)  from Horningsea to Lode and then along Lodes Way, but detouring via Upware on the way out. I cycled along NCN11 form Wicken to Barway via NCN11 and then back through Soham and across more fields (byways/bridleways) back to Wicken and then Lodes Way.

At this time of year some trees are in leaf and some aren’t. Along near Allicky Farm, the field was yellow and yet the trees were bare.

Oil Seed Rape in Flower – near Allicky Farm

The Map of My Ride

Closer to Lode and the same yellow fields and bare trees.

Just as I popped out of Harvey’s Droveway onto Fen Road I passed a family out for a cycle ride.  They were heading the other way – down Harvey’s Droveway towards Quy or maybe Horningsea. 

I reckon they are pretty confident cyclists (small one and all) the ruts and puddles on Harvey’s Droveway can be tricky – but if you are going to cycle with you family you want to be able to cycle together and chat about what you see. Which means traffic-free paths – free of noise and danger.

Given the benefits that the encouragement of cycling brings (more fitness, less pollution, less obesity, less noise etc) then there needs to be a strategy for cyclists at all stages of their life – form toddlers, getting to school, young families, teenagers,  middle ages, old ages.  I don’t see much evidence of joined up thinking in Government. Cycling isn’t all about MAMILS.

Riding Three Abreast – Safely and Socially – Near Lode

After that rant more of my ride. I carried on to Upware and then Barway, (recent scene of an arson attack on a car). when I can I tend to use Docking’s Lane to avoid cycling along Dimmock’s Cote Road. However if there has been a lot of rain then I tend to use the road.

For a change I cycle through the back streets of Soham across the railway line on Mill Drove and down Brack’s Drove. This is another route I would tend to avoid after lots of rain. I usually then cycle into Wicken Fen on Drove Lane, this time I slightly doubled back and then joined Horsefen Drove

This is the bit of the  bridleway/byway stretch that runs parallel to the pylons. Check out the blossom.

Blossom in the Hedgerow – near Wicken

this signpost points the way to Soham and Burwell – I headed up alongside the pylons to the A1123. There has been a bit of chemical warfare waged on the weeds along the field margin.

The Path has its Wicken Way

As I headed back along Lodes Way I took yet another picture of Reach Lode. I guess I have to haul my bike up the footbridge and having stopped it would be rude not to take a picture.

Reach Lode

This is NCN51 just before the Quy roundabout. The route sneaks under the A14 by a small tunnel. What amused me was the rather bombastic advice “RIDE SAFETY Never ride more than two abreast”. Which if you applied it to the family cycling along Harvey’s Droveway would possible be more dangerous?

Mind you shared paths can be so narrow it makes be wonder are there no standards for cycling infrastructure, or are they just totally ignored?  On this stretch of NCN51 it is barely wide enough for one cyclist – say that one used to carry the youngster on Harvey’s Droveway.

The problem is that our planners are such conventional thinkers – cycling infrastructure to them means conventional two wheeled bicycles – what about all the other types of bikes from trikes to recumbent to trailers?  It really isn’t good enough.

Oops I almost forgot – yet another App to encourage cycling and walking ViewRanger with 38 CCC routes.

NCN51 – Shared-use Path approaching the Quy Roundabout

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Walk on the Wild Side–the Bluebells of Lower Wood, Weston Green

Wednesday, 23rd April 2014: My “me-time” of choice involves cycling, I enjoy it, it’s a healthy activity, it is a cheap and reliable form of transport and I can combine it with my photography, it has a small footprint… The list goes on.

I also find cycling has the right range of speeds. Now I am not a super-fast cyclist, but I reckon that a bicycle provides the perfect balance between covering ground and being able to take in the ground you cover and accessing those difficult to reach pieces of ground.

Now that is just my personal view, my wife prefers walking to cycling, perhaps she likes to look more closely at things (which makes sense since one of her other hobbies is gardening). However when we are on holiday we do tend to go walking as that is something we both can do without too much extra gear.

There are some wonderful woods in the Cambridgeshire area and a friend sent us some pictures her family’s visit to see the bluebells in Lower Wood which is near Weston Colville.  Apparently “Lower Wood is a fragment of typical ancient woodland”. Now the bluebells looked lovely and what’s more I knew the area as there are some delightful byways and bridleways that I enjoy cycling along – “More green lanes to rattle your teeth out – Part 1” and Part 2. The first link even mentions Lower Wood by name, although I had never visited it.

As it was a nice day and my wife and I both had a bit of time to spare I thought we would strike while the bluebells were blue. It was a little far to walk and I couldn’t persuade my wife to go on the tandem so we drove (the shame).  We parked on Horseshoe Lane.  There was space, although I am always a little reluctant to park along village roads and clog them up.

Horseshoe Lane is alongside the Weston Green Cricket Pitch and along The Green (road) edge is a magnificent Horse chestnut Tree.  Enjoy them whilst you can they are falling out of favour as they are susceptible to fungal diseases  (bleeding canker can kill them)and the horse chestnut leaf miner – which makes them look as if Autumn has come early (the leaves go prematurely brown and drop off).  They were introduced into the UK in the 1600s so aren’t that old then (cf Cambridge University 800 years old).

The walk is roughly 4.5Km/3miles, so not far. We probably zig-zagged in the woods a little more than I showed on the map. Here is the Bike Route Toaster Map.

Horse Chestnut on The Green – Weston Green

Map of our Walk

We walked down Horseshoe Lane and then along the bridleway, which was a narrow, well-trotted path with hedges on both sides. If it had been wet it would have been pretty awful. What we hadn’t realised is that the owner of the farm track that ran alongside had given permission for walkers use the track.

Not all the wood is public and when went for our walk wood was being cut. Once you reach the wood the bridleway followed the edge of the field. There are two ways into the wood – only one if the public way.

Bridleway to Brook Lane (a byway)

Once we were in the wood I took a picture of the first bluebell I saw – just in case they had gone over!

Bluebell in Lower Wood

My fears were misplaced, there were still carpets of bluebells.

A Carpet of Bluebells Lower Wood

There were patches of wood without bluebells – but as you walked around there were lots of bluebells to see.

Another carpet of Bluebells in Lower Wood

And Another

During the war scientists from Cambridge tried to create mutant rabbits to eat all of the enemies carrots – these are the last remnants of those dark experiments – mutant bluebells – whitebells.

What do you get when you cross a bluebell with a whitebell?

Did I mention the carpets of bluebells in Lower Wood?

There were loads of bluebells

At the edge of Lower Wood – Oil Seed Rape in Flower

When I was growing up I reckoned to know the names of the butterflies around – and here I am many years later wondering what they are called. Is it that I am getting old and forgetful or that I live in a different part of the UK and there has been quite a change in the fortunes of butterflies over the years. (The latter I reckon).  This is a Comma, I reckon, next time I must check underneath!

Comma – Lower Wood

To my untrained eye I reckon these are cowslips – but they could be oxlips? I should have had a sniff (apricots for cowslips). 

Oxlips – Lower Wood

These yellow flowers are what my son (in the farming business) would call volunteers – they are Oil Seed Rape plants from last year.

Oil Seed Rape Volunteers

We walked up the hill to Brook Lane ( a gravelled track) down to the River Stour – we used the footbridge not the ford.  The views across the countryside were wonderful.  Perhaps it is time for a Solar Farm or Road to be built. (Plans for Solar Farm – near Childerley – 405acres!). (A14 upgrade will hit a few scenic footpaths/bridleways)

The Highways Agency uses Google Maps on its website – which don’t show footpaths of bridleways – so you won’t always know what you have got until it’s gone.

Cambridgeshire Countryside


Orange-tip Butterfly (the clue is in the wings)

Agriculture in Action – Cambridgeshire

The bridleway back to Weston Green – one I cycle along.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Two for the price of one

Saturday, 19th April 2014: After the enjoyable trip around the North Norfolk Coast it was back to the flatlands for my cycling. I popped out the next day just to stretch my legs really. Well that’s my excuse. After that I had other things to do until Tuesday, where I also cycled around the Wicken Fen area. As I didn’t take many pictures I have put the two lots together.

I also caught-up with the week’s happenings in Ambridge with the every day tale of miserable country folk in the Archers). It was a good job it was a nice day.  As it was Saturday I cycled around Low Fen Drove Way and then over to Lode (almost via Stow cum Quy Fen)  before heading up to Upware and back via the Lodes Way.

Oil Seed Rape in flower early – behind Anglesey Abbey

Someone else was enjoying the fine weather – now I assumed it would be easy to find some info on the Ultralight (or Microlight) plane – but I can’t. I think the ID is either G-CHFC or G-CHEC and neither throw up anything on a search.

Ultralight Flying above Lodes Way

On my way back I did come across some thoughtless parking on the Lodes Way between Reach Lode Bridge and Split Drove.   I did wonder if the driver had tried to squeeze through the wings looked a little battered.

Thoughtless Parking on Lodes Way

I did bump into the Swaffham Bulbeck Cyclist who had also noticed the poor parking.

White Fen

Tuesday, 20th April 2014: A couple of days later and I was back again – look how the Cow Parsley has come out alongside Bottisham Lode.

Cow Parsley in abundance – Fen Road, Lode

Swans on Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

I though these were some sort of bird scarer – my son put me right – they are bird feeders for game birds.

Attracting Game Birds along the field margins – Lodes Way

It is the time of year when cyclists (and anyone else) can get Sunday Teas in Wicken at the local Methodist Church.

Methodist Church, Wicken – Sunday Teas for Cyclists

This part of the world UK doesn’t get that much rain, despite of the ditches and drains and rivers that run through. So it is common to see irrigate at the slightest drop of fine weather.

This field is growing turf – Lodes Way

Next – A walk in Lower Wood to see the Bluebells.