Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A mid-mid week ride

Tuesday, 19th August 2014: At the beginning of the year I set myself a target for my cycling.  Why? Well certainly not in a some uber-athletic attempt to shave a few seconds of my time-trialling, because I don’t time-trial, or indeed race or cycle that quickly. What I do know is that if I cycle regularly it makes all my day-to-day cycling so much more pleasurable. I also know that I feel better generally and whilst I could do with losing a few pounds (in weight) the cycling does help in the battle.  So by having a target it encourages me to cycle even when I have no other reason to do so, in fact even when I feel like being lazy it helps me get. The result is that I always end up thinking how enjoyable that was – even when it is windy and sometimes even when it is wet, windy, colder and dark.

When you are cycling and it is raining you have to resign yourself to getting wet and once you do it really isn’t that bad – it can be exhilarating.

Mind you with my new 29er I am still in the phase where I need to tell myself not to just go out for a quick spin, because my rides tend to meander. Just like this ride. Here is the Bike Route Toaster link, it follows a loop, Lode, Bottisham, Exning, Burwell, Wicken Fen, Upware and then back to Lode. I cycled up Harrison’s Drove to Upware and then back down the other Harrison’s Drove to the Lodes Way.  Although I did loop around Wicken Fen.

The route is just over 40Km/30miles with a reasonable  mix of byways, bridleways, cycleways and country lanes. Some of off-road tracks can get soggy and/or overgrown depending upon the time of year. The byway alongside the A14 gets encroached by brambles and I do get the odd scratch from time to time. I didn’t plan this route I just followed my front wheel – that kept insisting on going off-road.

After setting off from Lode I headed along the Lodes Way to Bottisham and then onto the A1303 briefly. It is an “A” road, but not that bad, sometimes I use it when I want to remind myself what it is like cycling up a short hill. The bottom is at 13m and the top at 52m, which is just long enough for me.

This time I wasn’t looking for roads I was looking for tracks. There is a track that heads across the fields off the A1303 that does a bit of climbing and can sometimes the going can be a bit soft for me on my hybrid (Maisie – 25mm tyres). With my 2.3” tyres on my 29er it was a breeze bit better. To be fair the ride was a lot better, only there was still a hill to climb, which the tyres don’t help with.   Although according to the map it only gets to 34m on the track. This picture was taken from the track, across towards the Swaffhams. It always surprises me how much woodland there is on this particular horizon.

A view from the bridleway – between the A1303 and Heath Road

A view of  the bridleway

Just past a farm track towards Chalk Farm was a planting of Lacy Phacelia (at least that is what it looks like), used as a cover crop. As you can see that is quite a chunk of field to give up for crop growing.

Lacy Phacelia near Chalk Farm

After a short ride along Swaffham Heath Road and just before you come to a bridge (over the A14) you turn down what likes like a private drive past some cottages and then take a right angle bend along a byway which runs alongside the A14. It is pretty noisy and out of sight does not equate to out of mind in this case.

The track is quite narrow and rutted, but a lot easier to cycle along on wider tyres. There are brambles and sludgy bits as well. So you have to keep your wits about you.  As I cycled along I did wonder whether I ought to wear my cycling helmet.

Byway to Exning – along the A14

In places it gets very narrow.

Byway to Exning – along the A14

The byway carries alongside the A14 for around 2Km and then joins a Heath Road (a common name around here). It also happens to be the NCN51 Cambridge to Ipswich route. The after cycling through Exning the route follows North End, a no-through road to a bridleway called Haycroft Lane.

This track also varies depending upon the time of year. It is less easy to cycle on when it has a lot of growth or when it has been wet and the horses have been through. Having said that my 29er made it a lot easier.

Fittingly there were stacks of hay in the fields.

Fields of freshly stacked bales – Haycroft Lane

Although the farmer wasn’t hanging around the hay was being taken off by lorry.

Fields of freshly stacked bales – Haycroft Lane

Fields of freshly stacked bales – Haycroft Lane

The last few pictures were all taken at roughly the same spot, but in different directions.  A fair few hay bales must have been carted off.

Freshly Combined Fields  – Haycroft Lane

Haycroft Lane – fairly muddy, fairly grassy

Now I might usually head through Burwell and back, but after cycling along Howlem Balk another track, but with a crushed stone surface and quite a few potholes and puddles) I turned off to Wicken Fen. I did a circuit of the fen and the as I was heading back along Lodes Way I turned up Harrison’s Drove. This starts as a “road” made of concrete slabs – somewhat broken up, but ends as a track that can sometimes be a quagmire.  Fortunately it wasn’t.

The route then follows alongside Wicken Lode on the bank. This was repaired a while back and re-seeded. Just after seeding it was a very soft surface, not is it just uneven.  It isn’t that nice to cycle on – but 29er = good.

Looking Across Wicken Lode

The track alongside Wicken Lode

it isn’t that bad, it isn’t that good (for cycling)

The Bridge over Wicken Lode – nice bike

Then again on a whim I cycled down the other Harrison’s Drove.  They were harvesting beetroot.

Beetroot Harvest – Harrison’s Drove

Beetroot Harvest – Harrison’s Drove

Same picture after the Google+ auto-awesome treatment.

Beetroot Harvest – Harrison’s Drove

Not all the fields had been combined and the hay baled though.

I wasn’t the only cyclist who couldn’t resist a mid-mid-week ride. These two where heading down Split Drove towards Wicken Fen.

Cyclists on Lodes Way

More evidence of the recent gales, tree damage on Little Fen Drove

As I headed back along through White Fen – someone else having a mid-mid-week ride.

Taking the dog for a walk – White Fen