Tuesday, 18 September 2007

18 Sept: Senior Cyclists' ride (car-assisted) to Harling Drove

Peter Rowell writes: I first organised this run for the Cambridge D.A. in 1958 when I lived close to this route. It was then approx. eight miles off road. In fifty years it has changed, trees that were fairly small then are now very large. the route was regularly used then by farmers and forestry workers but is now overgrown in places but still passable. One three mile stretch has now been made a hard road linking Mundford Road with East Wretham, it is very quiet and pleasant. Whilst the east end of the drove has improved, the Peddars Way has deteriorated and become overgrown.

I decided in 2007 that I would organise this run again for the Tuesday pensioners group, in the event there were only two of us. I put the bikes in my estate car and drove to Santon Downham Forestry Office where we parked and then cycled north to the Harling Drove (Norfolk Route 30). Turning East we started on the Drove Road which runs in an easterly direction for about eight miles. George was riding his Mercian with 28mm tyres and drop-bars, totally unsuitable for loose sand and after a short distance he decided to turn back and go to the lunch stop (The Nags Head, East Harling) by road. I gave him instructions for the road route and he arrived five minutes before me.

I continued on to the Mundford Road junction, I was riding my Abbey Mixte with downhill bars and 32mm Schwalbe Marathon tyres. The Shimano Megarange Superlow gears were a great asset.



Crossing the Mundford Road


The end of the difficult part


Start of three miles of hard surfaced road
I started on this stretch which was very pleasant with little traffic.


Looking back at Croxton New Buildings


Start of the off-road section to Langmere (Croxton/ East Wretham Road)
This doesn't look promising, but it gets better.


Looking back along the drove at Langmere


Your first view of Langmere
When flocks of sheep were driven along the drove to East Harling market, this would have been one of the few watering places.


Wildfowl on Langmere


Wildfowl on Langmere


The way forward to the Kilverstone/East Wretham road


Ringmere, to the south of the route
(Kilverstone/East Wretham road)

There is a phenomenon with this lake, it can be full in a dry summer and empty in a wet summer. It is believed that it has a fault to the substrata.


Looking back along the Drove
It is a good hard stoney road at this point. It crosses the line of the old Thetford to Swaffham Railway here.


This is the road to the former Roudham Junction, now a dead end


The way forward to Peddars Way

Going on to Peddars Way and Shadwell Crossing (formerly known as Roudham Crossing), I was surprised to see how overgrown it had become. Whilst the road through Roudham Forest is a good hard gravel road, Peddars Way would hardly qualify as a cart track (it would be difficult to get a horse and cart through it).


Peddars Way (Cyclists are OK)


Peddars Way

I carried on to Bridgham and East Harling, where George had arrived five minutes before me. We had lunch at The Nags Head and then both did the return journey to Santon Downham along the drove with the exception of the loose sandy bit where we did a detour around it (we turned right on the Mundford road then first left to Santon Downham).

We had a very pleasant day, thanks to the Forestry Commission, and a very good lunch at The Nags Head.

The only snag was that when on the way home on the A14 we ran into a tailback of traffic at Newmarket, which moved very slowly (I think George would have got home
quicker by cycling the A14 and walking back up the Nine Mile Hill slip road and into Cambridge that way). We carried on to the A11/A14 split and found the A14 was closed. All traffic had to use the A11 so we went to the Great Wilbraham junction and turned off. We found that the road into Cambridge was also jammed with traffic. We heard on the radio that there had been an explosion at the Girton interchange, A lorry carrying industrial gases had turned over, caught fire and cyclinders started exploding. I took George to the Park & Ride so he could cycle home on the Jubilee cycleway, whilst I went back to Quy and spent a couple of hours at my cousins house waiting for the situation to cool down. I eventually got home after 8.00pm (should have been home by 5.00pm). Peter Rowell

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