Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cambridge to Coveney (and back)

Sunday, 30th March 2014: My original plan was to cycle the Peddars Way sometime over the weekend – mainly because I wanted to – but also to boost my distance cycled in March. In the end I couldn’t make it – but the good news is that I will be able to do it on Tuesday 1st April – a couple of days from this post.  One of the reasons I chose not to was the weather – although it turned out better than expected.

Now as you can imagine having a minor expedition thwarted is annoying. Yes I know it was only a cycle ride – but there is the anticipation and planning and it was going to be the longest ride for me in a day this year.  Will my old bones cope?

So for my Sunday ride I sneaked of for a slightly longer ride in preparation, well that’s how I sold the idea to my wife.  I haven’t been to Coveney to the west of Ely for a while so that is where I headed. My route up was via Waterbeach, Landbeach, the outskirts of Cottenham, Wilburton and Wentworth. The route back was via Ely NCN11,  The Lodes Way and NCN51.

Here is the Bike Route Toaster map. The ride is just over 70Km/44miles and although not totally flat the lumps are not to bad, with a couple of 20+m hills and two smaller hills. The good news is that they are proper hills – you go up and then you get to go down. (That must be my third law of cycling – only take routes with hills that go up and down!)

I would usually cycle alongside the River Cam on the Halingway, which also happens to be a dead-end leg of NCN11. However being a Sunday I reckoned there would probably be quite a few people walking the route so I want up the B1047 instead.  In the main most motor vehicles passed me with good clearance. There was one idiot that clearly didn’t want to be held up whilst an oncoming vehicle went passed and so accelerated past me and swerved back into the lane forcing the oncoming car to slow as well.

I reckon that in most cases it happens because the driver is impatient and selfish – but not deliberately tying to harm me. I have been twice hit by a car when cycling – in both cases they didn’t see me (bright daylight, high-vis). The trouble is whilst the rational side of me knows that deliberate acts of harm against cyclists are rare – it does happen. (“Marden motorist jailed after cyclist rage as he headed to Tenterden” – shocking.)

As it happens this dead-end leg of NCN11 seems to have had a potential route on the map for ages – but no progress.  Which often leaves cycling visitors somewhat confused and lost.  There is a cycle path alongside the A10 from Milton to Waterbeach – although too noisy to be one I would head for.  Note to road planners – cycle routes need to be direct, but not alongside noisy fast roads  without some sort of screening – it’s just wrong.

What is right is when different transport systems can be integrated – like rail and bicycle – you know it makes sense. Which is why I despair when there is clearly a need yet in the dsytopian way transport is organised in the UK it can take ages for the penny to drop.

Waterbeach used to be like this with bicycles parked along a fence near the station and relatively sparse cycling parking. The first picture was taken in March 2012 and the second taken in April 2012.

Demand for Cycle Parking – Waterbeach Railway Station

Well it has got it… Or at least a bit more.  There are another 12 places and it is covered. It would appear that the Car-parking can only paid for by phone – but at least they include the convenience fee. Now there is a fine bit of marketing – surely it is done for the convenience of the car park operators – it saves having to come out and get the money out of the machine!

According to the current details provided by National Rail the parking area has 40 spaces for cars and 12 cycle storage places.  I had to go to another website to find the cost – this website indicates that the capacity is 69!  This chap had his catalytic converter stolen from the car park.

If you check out Page 25 of the Waterbeach Spring 2014 Newsletter it would appear that these facilities are underused. Perhaps because of concerns about theft!  Cyclists are choosing to leave their bikes along the road – which makes them more visible and harder for a thief to load them into a van perhaps. (There are plans afoot for an extension of the car park  - perhaps it needs CCTV as well – Page 5.)

Apparently the locking up of bicycles to the railings alongside the Lodeside Caravan Park has been a source of annoyance. Personally I find a lot of car-storage on public roads to be a bit of an annoyance too. 

Recently Extended Cycle Parking – Waterbeach Railway Station – but underused apparently

May of my ride – a loop from Cambridge to Coveney and back

After crossing the A10 the route travels along some country lanes to the outskirts of Cottenham.  Crossing the A10 isn’t that pleasant when busy – but on a Sunday afternoon it wasn’t that bad.  It probably isn’t the sort of thing you would be happy for young-ish kids to do though.  When I was a boy we would roam the countryside of Somerset pretty far and wide – but  in those days roads weren’t as busy and we didn’t seem to be as hemmed in as villages are nowadays.

Whilst checking on the map I see that there is a proposed housing development for Cottenham near Long Drove.  The proposal indicates 50 houses and 110 parking spaces, with two entrances from Long Drove.  Yet more traffic either down the B1049 into Cambridge or across to the A10! Then think of the extra traffic when they build the development at Waterbeach on the barracks (8,000 homes) 

I avoid the B1049 from Cottenham to Wilburton as much as possible – it can be a very busy road – narrow and fast – two things that don’t go together well for cyclists.  I cycle along a road parallel to it – Long Drove that pops out just before the River Great Ouse on Engine Drain.

I probably ought to mention that Long Drove goes up one side of Donarbon Waste Management Park – it sounds nice if you call it a park!  The site is 400 acres in size with extensive landfill capacity. It does smell along Long Drive sometimes.

There is an old brick shed adjacent to the B1049 and Long Drove

There is a “climb” up to Wilburton – not much (unless you are a Flatlander like me – a shade over 20m). Wilburton also benefits from a extensive solar park – my choice of word. When it was connected it was one of the largest solar farms in the country (35 acres). (As it happens Chittering Solar Farm is the other side of the A10. (Farm another bucolic word!). An extension to more than 100acres  is mentioned but I can’t see if it has been granted or not.

This is what it looks like from the road – I am surprised that there hasn’t been a need to screen it.

Wilburton Solar Farm

There are Solar panels nearer the village – perhaps this is the new bit. (You can fly over it in the Vimeo video.)  Whilst I know that the Wadlow Wind Farm pays money into a Community Trust - £39,000 per year). It is not clear to me whether Solar Farms also have to contribute to to a trust.

Wilburton Solar Farm

Haddenham Water Tower – overlooking Wilburton Solar Panels

After passing through Wilburton and down hill along Station Road there were lots of yellow fields.  Although despite the name of the road there weren’t any railway stations. The Ely to St Ives Railway has long gone. As was common in those days the station wasn’t in the village but one mile north.

The Farm in the picture is called Grunty Fen Farm on the map. The railway line would have run from left to right a few metres from where I took the picture.

Grunty Fen Farm

As I made my way to Wentworth I passed this field – was it a poor yield of Oil Seed Rape – or self-seeded Oil Seed Rape form last year?

Self-Seeded Oil Seed Rape

Ely Cathedral from Coveney

The road into Ely from Coveney – apparently you cycle twice as far as the crow flies. You probably bump up and down a fair bit as well. Once again you have to cross the A10 – it took a while on a Sunday – rush hour must be awful.

Busy roads are barriers. There need to be reasonable ways of crossing them for vulnerable road users. eg. Bridge recommended to prevent cyclists and pedestrians crossing “extremely active” A505.

Ely next

After Ely I got my head down and headed home on the NCN11/Lodes Way/NCN51 route – no busy roads to cross (without assistance, apart from the A142. Although that will change – with the Ely Southern Bypass – supported by the Dean!