Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Long Weekend in Scotland–getting there

Mid-August 2014: My daughter's birthday is in August and she was going to be pretty busy with work, so my wife and I decided we would pop up to see her.  Only this time I wasn’t going to drive. Instead we flew up from Stansted to Edinburgh and then rented a car at the airport.

We could have flown from Stansted to Dundee – which would have been more convenient. However the cost of the flights was going to be quite a lot more expensive, so we didn’t.  We did book parking at Stansted and the rental car through EasyJet which was convenient.

Our plane – ready to take us to Edinburgh

Of course when booking via Edinburgh I had forgotten that luggage can take a while to get from the plane to the terminal – which it did. As we walked out there was a stand to ring the car hire company, so I did. They told me to walk out the door and around 100m.  well if I had had my wits about me I wouldn’t have bothered with the phone call. Since I have been at the airport the previous month and knew where the rental hub was. As we strolled into the rental hub, which houses several car rental companies it was packed. It turned out that loads were waiting for EuropCar. I reckon we waited for around an hour before finally getting to the counter and signing up for the car.

What do they say about convenience – a moment on the web – an hour in person in a queue!

The chap at the counter was friendly and polite and did try to sell us the “excess” insurance. I turned it down. When travelling on business I didn’t really have to think about such things. When it is my money I do focus on it more.  It turns out what we could have done is buy independent Hire Car Excess insurance at a far more reasonable rate.  Suffice to say it made me far more paranoid both when picking up the car and when driving it and parking it – which was no bad thing.

There were some minor scratches on the car  when we got it along with a form describing them. I pointed out a few more that they had missed before signing the form.  In my paranoia I had forgotten that my booking form had mentioned AC, there was no AC in the car. Would I have to pay to get it fitted when I returned the car? I also took pictures of all angles of the car on my phone as well – just in case.

It was a pleasure to be on our way. The route up from Edinburgh is pretty straightforward and takes you over the Firth of the Forth, up the M90 and then across through Cupar. This time we were staying in St Andrews, a town with quite an old University. Once again we stayed in The Score Hotel.  If we had flown to Dundee we would probably have stayed at the Apex.

We have stayed at The cores a few times, is it me or do our rooms seem to get smaller each visit.  This time around our sash window would remain open and we propped it up with one of the tourist books hotels leave in their bedrooms. It blew out sometime  in the night, fortunately only onto a ledge.  People often think of Scotland as cold and not always blessed with good weather. Well in our experience over the last few years the weather can be pretty amazing.

I parked the car in a nearby long-stay car-park. It was free (this is Scotland) and closer than a short-stay car park in Cambridge,  I did take pictures of the car and the vehicles around it – again just in case.

We went for a walk around the town – to find the main streets closed to traffic – there was a fair. So we wandered through some of the more cloistered areas.  This is part of the University – St Mary’s Quad.

Evening Sun – St Mary’s Quad

This is another corner of St Mary’s Quad

After dinner we returned to our hotel along the Scores – the sun threw up a golden sky over one of the myriad golf courses.

Sunset – St Andrews

Sunset – St Andrews

Tomorrow we may visit the Isle of May – weather permitting!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Inconsistency, money and dogma–the enemies of cycling and cycle campaigning

Friday, 8th August 2014: There was only time for a quick spin as we are off to Scotland tomorrow. Fortunately we are flying which means way less driving, but also means I can’t take my Brompton up.  I could rent a bicycle when I am there, but I am not sure how much free time we will have.

Still as there are only two pictures I will try to focus on two issues that have vexed me over the last few weeks. (They will also help to unclog my Browser which has around 80 open tabs.)

Crime and Punishment and cycling

Now I am not a lawyer and won’t pretend to understand quite what is intended when wrong-doers are convicted.  My main experience of such things is from watching Reality Police shows on TV. There seems to be little rhyme or reason behind the punishments, although there must be because guidelines exist.

I must admit I naively reckon that what we want to do is reduce the amount of crime in the UK as it does nothing for the wellbeing of Society or the economy.  The trouble is there can be a whole spectrum of approaches.  You can punish perpetrators heavily, to the extent of locking the worst ones up so they can’t harm society. (e.g Marlon King jailed for 18 months for dangerous driving.) Many countries use a points system for driving offences, where a number of “minor” offences can lead to a significant punishment. Another approach is to educate perpetrators so they understand the consequences of their actions (Speed awareness courses). 

It doesn’t stop there though, you can place more responsibility on the “innocent” to prevent crime.  This can vary in degree from apportioning some blame on cyclists involved in accidents for not wearing helmets (even though the evidence is uncertain) to encouraging cyclists to lock their bicycles up securely.

Another step is to modify the infrastructure to reduce the possibility of such transgressions happening.  Again there a rang of examples from better lighting around cycle parks to well-designed segregated cycle routes.

A step further is to use technology either to monitor the law, for instance Bus Lane cameras (going live in Cambridge in November (2014)), or average speed cameras.  Of course you could also put the technology directly into the vehicle, either to monitor, alert the driver or control some aspect of the driving. From 1985 Tachographs have been used to monitor lorry drivers in the EU. Some insurance companies offer Telematics insurance where the driver is monitored in real-time and premiums adjusted according to the “quality” of the driving as well as what time of day the driving takes place.

So what – we know all of this you might say.  So what is the problem. Well the problem is inconsistency, money and dogma, not necessarily in that order.  They can combine in odd and unpredictable ways to resist change, any change.

Lets start with the sunrise and sunset, every year as the days get shorter we can find ourselves being dazzled by the sun as we drive. This shouldn’t be a surprise it happens every year. Also aren’t, we are taught to drive at a speed safe for the conditions. Apparently the “Autumn sun ‘kills 28 drivers a year’”. The article does point out that vulnerable road users are twice as likely to be killed if they are walking/jogging with their backs to oncoming traffic. The article suggests road users should be aware – why does no-one grasp the nettle(s).  Drivers are going too fast for the conditions, they should be driving more slowly and the infrastructure is failing vulnerable road users.

It seems that the law also treats the sun as a mitigating factor – rather than a bloody big sign in the sky saying slow down.  As in this tragic case.

But in the UK we seem to behave as if speeding in our cars is a human right. Apparently “One in five motorists thinks that driving 10mph over the speed limit is acceptable”.  You only have to look at some of the bizarre excuses given to Cambridge Police by drivers breaking the speed limits.  In this case of Britain’s oldest banned driver, who has been caught 5 times in four years the focus seems to be on the hardship rather than the danger she presented. The most recent offence was 48mph in a 30mph zone. It seems to me that she was either unaware (and therefore a danger on the roads) or arrogant (and therefore a danger on the roads).  Much of the latter part of the article focuses on the hardship a driving ban presents.

But hardship does sometimes seem to work as a reason to avoid a ban. This van driver who charged through a level crossing. He was training to be a truck driver and had spent thousands on exams – which just goes to show being able to pass driving exams does not equate necessarily to being a better driver.

Mind you even the motoring world does understand that better infrastructure can save drivers from their own stupidity. The Shepreth level crossing is to have full barriers to replace the half barriers in 2017.

It makes me think that the application of motoring laws is just too inconsistent along with the subsequent treatment of offenders.  Already we have laws about the speeds you can drive at that have been bent a little by ACPO.  Most speeding goes uncaught, whilst it is easy to focus on the harm that accidents that result from speeding cause there are other harms – such as causing problems for old and young wanting to cross roads.

Apparently “Cars to be banned from roads near 11 Edinburgh primary schools in pilot scheme”. Why – well if you have ever had the misfortune to pass a school around the start or the end of the school day it can be chaotic. If we really want to encourage children to walk or cycle to school then it takes something more drastic than yet another call for compulsory cycle helmets for children, apparently by Cambridgeshire County Council’s Cycling Champion. (Noel Kavanagh).

I would venture that most parents worry about their kids getting knocked of their bikes by motor vehicles – accidents that cycle helmets weren’t really designed for. Such a call makes it clear to me that our Council is only paying lip-service when it comes to  genuinely encouraging more active travel to school.  Despite the fact that boosting cycling levels would save the NHS billions. If you can’t get them into active travel when they are young then what hope do you have when they are older? Apparently “One in six deaths is due to lack of exercise: Now Britain is worst in the West for inactivity” – shameful.

In Cambridgeshire – one parking ticket for parking illegally outside a school is considered a “crackdown”. In another “Primary School the lack of a lollipop lady is a ‘recipe for disaster’.” We need a joined-up approach from the County Council, the PCC and the Schools – not one man!  

Mind you Cambridgeshire Council is the same one that charges for Park and Ride and has seen a 10.6% drop in users driving more cars to park on the streets.

It is also the same County where despite protests from cyclists pinch-point traffic islands get built. Perhaps the plan is to make it more dangerous for cyclists and intimidate them off the roads.

Or maybe put them in the picture with a bit of cycle training – like Glasgow is doing. What is it with the powers that be, they seem to find it so difficult to build infrastructure, yet training is ok – ah maybe it is cheaper!

The trouble is even when we get infrastructure we seem to get style not substance. Well if a recent crash at the roundabout at the Radegund Road and  Perne road junction is anything to go by. It is “Dutch-style” or “Dutch-inspired” and in theory allows cyclists to take a different route from motorists. Now this road is not a route I take regularly and like many I still find it difficult to believe how much road works/improvements can cost – in this case £410,000. Apparently Noel Kavanagh (mentioned earlier in the post) has “full confidence” in the re-design. Although was that before he started advocating mandatory cycle helmets for children?

Here are some local bloggers’ views – RadWagon –Perne Road … and Cottenham Cyclist – Pernre Road ….  Both posts point out the flaws and indeed in the second post David Hembrow comments on his discussions with the designer of the roundabout. (“Cheese sandwich without the cheese”. Even worse as this Post indicates – Easy as Riding a Bike –” The Perne Road roundabout design” was funded using “£240,000 from the DfTs Cycle Safety Fund, £70,000 from the European Bike friendly Cities Project and, and the remainder from Cambridgeshire/Cambridge City Council’s cycling budget”.  It seems to me that these funds get treated more like slush funds that public money.

So was it Dogma or Inconsistency that seems to have won out and compromised the design of the roundabout?  You might say that in this case it was a hit-and-run driver, a special case. Except that that is flawed, one a cyclist has been injured the problem has occurred. Just because the driver does a runner afterwards doesn’t absolve poor infrastructure.

In fact just recently there have been a number of cycle accidents – “Cyclist ‘seriously’ injured in collision with car in Witchford Road, Ely” and “Cyclist ended up injured in bush after hit and run as Cambridgeshire police launch hunt for driver” and “Cambridge police launch hunt after cyclist injured in hit-and-run in Sawston”. Now these cyclists were injured, however it appears that just having someone knock on you car window can be terrifying. “Cyclist hunted by police after terrifying road rage attack in Cambridge”.   Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone losing you temper when cycling or driving or walking. However if the Police were to launch searches for every time I and other cyclists have had abuse shouted  whilst cycling then they wouldn’t have time for anything else.

Personally I reckon that we need to re-think the whole business or roads and transport and policing and health. 

For a start we need to focus on where the potential harm is done. there is a difference between assault by a balloon compared with assault by a bullet.  It is cringingly obvious, so why don’t people understand – mass and speed are major factors in potential for harm..

  1. The faster a vehicle travels the more dangerous it is. (Check out this graphic on Twitter – at 40mph 1/10 pedestrians survive and 20mph 9/10 pedestrians survive)
  2. The heavier a vehicle is the more dangerous it is. this BBC news item indicates that from 2001 – 2009 there were 18 pedestrians killed in cycle accidents and 3,495 pedestrians killed by cars.


There needs to be a more consistent approach to Policing the roads. Look how haphazard the approach is to catching speeding drivers, no hidden radar cameras, cameras without “film” speed patrols that have to be clearly visible. Don’t get me wrong I am not suggesting we demonize those drivers who inadvertently find themselves doing 31mph in a 30mph speed limit.  I reckon we ought to not to be dealing with the consequences of speeding/poor driving instead we ought to be minimising the problems before they happen. We have the technology – we can monitor speeding, we can monitor poor driving, we can limit motor vehicles top speed. Why don’t we, I know people whinge on about their civil liberties, but what about the wannabe cyclists who feel to scared to cycle, the old people unable to cross the road because cars move too fast and crossings don’t stay on for long.

Finally we  also need better infrastructure to support the segregation of pedestrians,  cyclists, and motor vehicles. It needs to be done properly, and if it is then we might stand a chance of reducing the burden on the NHS (Obesity and pollution to name but two). We might also improve our cities. We might also save lives. We might also save money.

A reminder that cars are not  good – “Diesel car drivers ‘betrayed’ as EU cracks down on Britain over air pollution”. Boris has announced plans for an extra £10 London Congestion charge for diesel cars (that don’t meet pollution standards). Well I drive a diesel, (although not as much as I ride my bike…)  I’d rather have cleaner air, in fact I wouldn’t live in London, it isn’t a nice place to be so the charge is fine by me and those living and working in London deserve better quality air (and less noise). When will other cities follow suit?

Interestingly Cambridge Police had a “Stay safe on the roads” message on their website. Perhaps they should also campaign for better segregated infrastructure and more effective ways of getting drivers to drive more appropriately – technology.

Sorry that was way too long. Some pictures, from the Fens.


I took both perspectives to see which I preferred when I got home. I prefer the first picture.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Reasons for cycling–social connectivity

Monday, 4thAugust 2014: I was meeting some friends for lunch and as is my wont when that happens I use such events to provide me with an excuse extra reason to get out on my bike. 

Personally I reckon it is always easier to do something if you have some reason to do it. The alternative is to become a creature of habit and do something because that is what you habitually do. Which makes routine the reason.  I feel that it is best to keep an eye on “routine”, don’t become a slave to it, that is the slippery slope heading towards playing it safe and boredom and ennui.

Enough philosophy and a bit of a side-issue. I am listening to Boards of Canada and Tomorrow's Harvest at the moment. I got it after watching and listening to Coastrider cycling films (one of the blogs I follow).  My tastes in music are certainly a bit eclectic, but hey, you should like what you like.

Back to lunch – we were meeting at the Six Bells in Fulbourn. They have good beer (and cider), good food and a good garden. What more can you ask for on a sunny summer’s day. I took my usual circle route – in through the Wilbrahams and out through Teversham. Unusually I was slightly early when I arrived at Fulbourn, so I took a few pictures of the churchyard. Normally I find myself setting of a tad too late, then having to cycle faster than planned to catch up on the lost time, but then stopping and taking pictures along the way. It is surprising how much time gets eaten up by stopping/taking pictures/starting again.

The Church is one of only two in the UK dedicated to St Vigor. Apparently, although it is an Anglican church it is also shared with the Roman Catholic community of the village.  Phew the phrase “practicing what they preach” comes to mind – long may such things continue.

Churchyard – St Vigor’s – Fulbourn

Churchyard – St Vigor’s – Fulbourn

The next three pictures all come from the same photographic source, the first was taken using my Samsung S4 (in Rich Tone mode). I added a frame in Picasa

Gravestones – St Vigor’s Church, Fulbourn
Samsung Rich Tome mode

After uploading it Google+ auto-awesome-d it.

Gravestones – St Vigor’s Church, Fulbourn
Google Auto-awesome

I then added a frame.

Gravestones – St Vigor’s Church, Fulbourn
Google Auto-awesome + Frame

I forgot to mention they had some form of Scrumpy as a guest cider, well as someone who grew up in Somerset and whose first tipple was farmyard scrumpy I couldn’t resist. It was quite strong so I resisted the temptation to have a couple of pints and settles on a pint and then a half. It was delicious.

After a very pleasant lunch it was time to head for home, when I reached the roundabout at the corner of Cambridge Airport I noticed a small combine harvester. This patch of field was being used for running trials and each rectangle was separately combined and sampled to assess the efficacy of whatever they were trialling.

Crops trials – NCN51 – Newmarket Road

To think I need a reason to go out cycling!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Messing about on the pedals

Friday, Saturday and Sunday – 1st, 2nd and 3rd August 2014: How time flies, and how I keep re-using the same old phrases in my Posts. It is inevitable though.  These posts are a diary of my rides, pictures and thoughts (about cycling) and whilst things often don’t seem to change when you stop to reflect they have changed a great deal and we take those changes for granted.

For me a bad start to the morning is when I get up and sit at my computer to find that the Internet is having issues. Which is what happened yesterday (Sunday in real-time). A friend pooped round at one point and he had been planning on getting some work done – only to find the Internet problems were thwarting him.

But when you stop and think, we haven’t had the Internet that long, even my kids (early 20s) remember not having it and we had a home network when it was still a dial-up service. I won’t go on about black and white TV …

What I will do is include my Summary of my cycling distance so far for the year but bear in mind that my Posts are a bit late – so this is for distance cycled to the end of July.

Distance Cycled  in 2014 - up to the end of July

Month Distance (Km) Distance (Miles)
January    503    315
February    610    381
March 1,085    678
April 1,150    719
May 1,066    666
June    719    450
July    870    543
Total 6,003 3,752


Friday, 1st August 2014: This was a POET’s day ride and I had time constraints so I popped out into the Fens along Lodes Way and back. There was not a lot of time to take pictures or rather I didn’t make time – this looks like a Snapdragon and a quick Google search (other websites are available – remember AltaVista!) and hey presto it is Linaria vulgaris – also known as Common Toadflax, Yellow Toadflax or Butter and Eggs…   I think we used to call it Common Toadflax in our Wildflower tests at Primary School.

Wild Snapdragon – Linaria vulgaris – Common Toadflax

There is always something to see and take pictures of.

Saturday, 2nd August 2014: this was a post-chores ride with things to do so again I only took a few pictures. I did ride my usual Podcast catchup route though which included Low Fen Drove Way once Pounds Lane and Biggin Road, Hundred Acres Road and variations on the theme of Lodes Way.

Low Fen drove Way starts off as tarmac, becomes a potholed gravel track, then flat mud and then rutted mud before reverting to a gravelled track.  About two-thirds of the way around the worst bit of the track has a short stretch of concrete track running in parallel. On the Satellite view the right of way is below the two concrete strips. Although you would be forgiven for thinking that the Public Right of Way (PROW) runs along the concrete tracks.

I guess whoever farms the area couldn’t rely on the passability of the heavily rutted muddy bit of track and by-passed it. The concrete bit is not a right of way.  As a byway motor vehicles can use the route and I have followed a 4x4 (Land Rover Discovery) down the muddy bit of the byway, despite the large ruts. I am not sure what the obligations are in terms of upkeep of the surface of the byway. Here is a link to PROW obligations, there is stuff about widths and encroachment but not about the quality of the track itself.

To prevent users of Low Fen Drive Way unwittingly encroaching on the private concrete track route an earth barrier was built (there is a gate at the other end).  It would seem that someone has decided to remove the earth barrier the farmer perhaps.

Low Fen Drove Way

Two Trees off Low Fen Drove Way in a field of Golden Stubble

Sunday, 3rd August 2014: There is still a lot of activity going on in the fields, despite it being a Sunday, farmers can’t hang around waiting for Monday before working the fields.

Dust Clouds from Combining – the grain tractor closes up for the next load

It is not too uncommon to see people ride horses around the area.  In fact over the last two weeks I have passed a few. In two cases the riders were on there mobile phones – not illegal as far as I know. I stop when using my phone on the bike – I do it to avoid too much panting down the line rather than because of the distraction – it can be a bit off-putting for the caller. they generally stick to the country lanes though. Motorists generally do pay attention to horse riders but can’t get too close before they realise there is a horse ahead. As a cyclist I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been passed by a car or van where they have clearly misjudged my speed and pass me close by but are still moving to the other side of the road after they have passed me.  The spirit was willing but their mental powers of computation were pretty damn weak.

In this case the horse rider has a somewhat reluctant dog acting as the guard.  I wait and then from a reasonable distance either gently ting my bell or say hello. Once I have been seen I take my lead from the rider as to when to pass. Horses don’t really like to have a silent cyclist suddenly whizz by them.

Horse rider and reluctant dog our exercising in the back Lanes of Wicken

August is a great time to be out and about though.  I have never been on a canal/river/Lode boating holiday. If I did I would want to take my bicycle and explore a bit as the boat went from place to place. It must be a relaxing way to travel though and also generally away from noisy, smelly, polluting traffic.

Messing about on the Water
behaving appropriately on the Lode

Same picture after being got at by Google+ auto-aweseom.

Still Sunday Combining near White Fen

A look back at White Fen

You can’t beat cycling through the Fenland countryside on a summer’s afternoon.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Last ride of the month–on my new MTB

Sunday, 31st July 2014: I used to read MTB magazines and having owned an MTB for 20-ish years I have enjoyed riding my MTB from the flatland bridleways and byways of the flatlands through to the single-track at Thetford up to the mountains of the Lake District. However over the last ten years or so I haven’t used my MTB much.  Over the last 20 years I have also increased the number of bikes I own from one to quite a few.

At one point I bought a tandem to make cycling with the kids easier (and way more social). When commuting to London I got a Brompton so that it was easier to get from the station to the office in London. However the bulk of my cycling has been using my Marin San Sausalito. A hybrid bike I bought for general getting around in Cambridge, which was the right mix of robustness and not expensive should it get stolen. whilst also being pretty ok to ride.  It has its quirks, like all bikes but at one point when I noticed a crack in the seat tube I started thinking about its replacement and took it to Ben Hayward Cycles for a second opinion.  I bought the bike there some time ago. Yes it was cracked, yes it should be replaced and by the way they thought it had a lifetime frame guarantee, the confirmed the deal with Marin and then replaced the frame.  That is why I go to my LBS (local bike shop).

During the years I have also tried different tyres, I was looking for the elusive, super-fast, but puncture-proof tyre.  The right tyre (tire) also depends upon the type of cycling you do and where you do it.  At one stage I used to use Specialized Armadillo tyres (23mm) when I did most of my cycling on the road – commuting to and from work. It seems to me that the although the roads have their challenges I tended to get more punctures the more I cycled on shared-use or dedicated cycle paths (here in Cambridge).  So as the balance of my cycling moved off-road I switched to Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres. Of course the manufacturers do evolve the composition of their tyres. Although I have had flats with my Marathon tyres they are streets ahead.

Why am I telling you all of this. Well at the time of the ride in this post I have had my Trek Stache 8 29er for a couple of weeks and I was definitely enjoying it.  The change in MTB technology from front forks through to disk brakes and larger wheels made a huge difference to my grin factor when I went out on the local trails.

There is a downside to my new MTB though. Now when I go riding, I generally always take along something to fix punctures, including patches, tyre levers, pump, spare inner tubes and a multi-tool. Although I didn’t really think about punctures because I don’t get them very often.

So I set off – and headed out along NCN51 until I turned off along Barston Drove between Swaffham Prior and Reach. Farmers don’t hang around when crops are ripe they have to get to work, you can never rely on the weather – whatever the forecast. Unfortunately there was rain forecast for later in the day!

Golden Round Bales along Barston Drove

I carried along and Blackberry Droveway and Straight Drove/Reach Lode Underbank to the Lodes Way/Reach lode bridge. I then headed down Split Drove to Headlake Drove and then back to the line of Straight Drove and onto Harrison’s Drove.  My route then took me through Upware along the road and over Dimmock’s Cote Road and Docking’s Lane ( a short byway that can get pretty rutted) to NCN11. I headed back to Wicken and then to Soham via Drury Lane. There is a byway/bridleway/byway route to Wicken, along Drove Lane and Brack’s Drove. It can be a bit troublesome on my Hybrid (Maisie) but on Tillie it was no trouble at all.

Bracks’ Drove – betwixt Wicken and Soham

Bracks’ Drove – betwixt Wicken and Soham
after Google+ did its auto-awesome trick

A little bit further along – was this a snack delivery?  Although it looks as if he is getting out.

Combining in Summer – a short break

I then headed through Soham, planning on heading back through Burwell via the byway past Tollgate Farm and then to Broads Road. However the bike started getting sketchy. Hey no problem, I stopped on the track opposite Orchard Row and upended the bike.  I found the thorn in the front wheel – it was a teeny little thing and all I needed to do was pop the tyre of the rim and the appropriate spot and pull out the inner tube and patch it up and then pump up the tyre. I was pleased with my Lezyne pump – small but capable of pumping a reasonable amount of air per stroke.

I turned the bike over and flip, no wonder it was getting sketchy the back tyre was going down. So I did the same trick and flipped the bike over, after a short ride I decided wither there was another hole or my patching skills were crap. it turned out there was another hole and another teeny-tiny thorn. Wow these tyres look big and gnarly but they must be as thin as paper. I guess that is to keep the weight down. By now the wind was whipping up and I was having difficulty trying to pinpoint the hole so I called in the 6th emergency services (my wife) and more or less escaped the wind.

The first thing I did was research tyres when I got home. A pity you can’t get Marathon plus in 29”.. Three punctures in one ride. Not a record, but equal to my worst.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mid-Week Ride–Cambridge to St Ives–only a bit on the CGB cycleway

Wednesday, 30th July 2014: I was going to call this post Summer Time and the cycling is easy, because as I look back on the Summer now that Autumn is practically upon us I am wishing that it was still Summer. it might also be due to the fact that I punctured a tyre  again yesterday after a pretty muddy ride over the hills and far away to Great Chesterford. (My seventh puncture on my new bike and I am going to swop tyres despite the fact the old ones have a bit of wear left in them.  At a guess I reckon I have done about 1,000 miles as my total distance for July to now is 2,000 miles and I have been riding my new bike quite a lot.

This was a ride that turned out to be much longer than I had thought it might be.  I set off heading East of Cambridge but when I reached Quy sort of turned back and went across the fields to Horningsea and then up to Clayhithe. It was about here that I reckoned I hadn’t been up the CGB for a while and neither had I been up the Gun’s Lane or Rampton Drift/Cuckoo Lane/Reynold’s Drove. So I headed back down the track alongside the River Cam and then across from Milton to Histon.

One of the things about the UK is we do get seasons and the countryside is constantly changing – weather it is crops growing in the field, wildflowers in the verges or the flailing of the hedgerows.

Ads a result this ride meanders quite a lot – if you look at the map (second picture down) you can see it does move around a bit – it was more of a whim-driven cycle ride than anything.  Here is the Bike Route Toaster Map link, the loop is just over 70Km, ~44 miles and pretty much flat, not fens flat, but with a minimum elevation of 4m and a maximum elevation of 18m there isn’t any climbing.

That is a summery scene – the green verges are turning brown. This picture looks back along the shared-use cycle path, NCN51 heading east out of Cambridge alongside the Newmarket Road.

NCN51 – Shared-use path – Newmarket Road, between Quy and Cambridge

The map of my ride

After my “u-turn”, prompted in part by the glorious weather I turned back by heading through Stow-cum-Quy and along a bridleway called the Drove Way. The fields were being combined.

Golden fields – waiting for the baler

This picture was taken along Hundred Acre Road (as it use to be known)

Golden Field – waiting for the Combine Harvester

As I headed down the Haling Way (aka NCN11 – that stops abruptly at Waterbeach) alongside the River Cam the water was being oxygenated to safeguard the fish

The River Cam – improving the oxygen levels

This is the same picture – but as I store my pictures on Picasa (which has been subsumed into the Google+ system) occasionally pictures will be selected for extra processing – known as auto-awesome . It can be turned off – but I rather like the random nature and seeing what the results look like.

The River Cam – improving the oxygen levels
after the picture got the auto-awesome treatment

Gun’s Lane

Rampton Drift

I have taken a few picture of this tree in the middle of this field, along Rampton Drift.

A Tree in a Golden Field, Rampton Drift

A Bridleway Bridge over Reynold’s Ditch

Combining – Rampton Road

Tractor ready for the next grain load – Rampton Road

Teasels along the CGB (Cambridge Guided Busway)

Clockwise from top left  (I think) – Rosebay Willow Herb, Convolvulus, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Mayweed, Ragwort, Great Mullein, Teasel, Thistle, Clover and ? – some sort of red berry.

Some of the flowers to be found along the CGB

After heading up the CGB cycleway to St Ives I returned on the Regional Cycle Route 24 (it used to be NCN51). I detoured through Fen Drayton Lakes though.

I didn’t know that the Gravel Bridge Road was closed – so I went along to find out what was going on. I wrongly assumed that the bridge over the CGB was being worked on, but was surprised because it wasn’t that long since it was built. It turns out that the bridge in question was Gravel Bridge. The re-building was taking 9 weeks because they were casting the beams on site.

Gravel Bridge – being re-built

As you can see I didn’t take that many pictures on my travels all things being considered, it was just a very pleasant ride. Somewhat longer that I would normally go for on a random ride – but you can’t waste a good summer’s day can you?

Although you probably can’t make it out the blue sign on the right leg of the traffic sign is highlighting, in a very subdued way, NCN51 – although the route now has a different number RR24. These things seem to hang around long after their sell-by date. The issue is that it can easily create confusion for cyclists passing through – it is wrong. Cycling really is a Cinderella form of transport and yet far more beautiful than the ugly sister of motoring.

NCN51 – well no, not any more

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Some pictures of farming in the fens when I cycle the byways

Saturday, 26th July 2014: Saturday is my catch-up day, when I listen to the omnibus edition of the Archers. Although it is getting to be a tough listen.  As far as I am concerned the ration of misery to everyday life is all wrong. I have also been listening to the Radio 4 drama Home Front, which surprisingly given the subject matter is less unsettling. 

As usual I tend to go for byways and bridleways, they are more pleasant, and I can actually hear my MP3 player.  I know that people moan about cyclists listening to stuff whilst on the move. How many of the complainers have actually stood as a pedestrian by a busy road and tried to hear themselves think.  If listening to music on the move is so bad why do motorists get to do it and why can car radios be turned up so loud?

Apparently “living within 100m of a major road raises the risk of high blood pressure by a FIFTH”. The cause is not known, but could be due to airborne pollutants, noise or both.

A not unusual sight on Low fe4n Drove Way – fly-tipping. It generally gets cleared quite quickly. Reports of Fly-tipping is also a fairly regular news item – “Fly-tipper who dumped 12 bags or rubbish in Cambridge Children’s playground ordered to do unpaid work”.

Fly-tipping on Low Fen Drove Way

its the time of year when farmers get very busy.  My son ended up doing some combining in a remote fields at 11pm using car headlights to provide extra illumination.

The Summer Harvest is underway – Low Fen Drove Way

Combining – getting in position for in-flight grain transfer
Low Fen Drove Way

I had a little peep over at Oily Hall Farm, this is a footbridge over Commissioners’ Drain.  Yep, that’s my 29er – it made short work of the various tracks.

Commissioners’ Drain Footpath

this is a view looing along the drain to the east, it is so overgrown that it is the colour of the vegetation than makes it visible.

Commissioners’ Drain Footpath

They are looking for volunteer “stewards” for the Fen.

Blue skies over White Fen

Monday, 28th July 2014: No ride on Sunday, but I did pop out on Monday.

Combining in Full Swing along Lodes Way

Mind you there are more than grain and beet grown in the Fens, beetroot, spuds, onions, salad crops and flowers all feature as well.  This must have been a bouncing beetroot.

Escaped Beetroot – Lodes Way

There is the beetroot on the left of the picture along the edge of the road.

Escaped Beetroot – Lodes Way

The River Cam passes alongside Upware and from the road you can sometimes see the boats mysteriously moving along the fields.

Boat on the River Cam – Upware

Interesting Clouds – Burwell Fen