Sunday, 12 September 2010

12 Sep: Afternoon ride to Wicken Fen and Ely

Today was a ride into the Fens north of Cambridge. This is a direction we rarely go, which sometimes surprises people who think that a completely flat landscape would be ideal for cycling. One reason is that it is surprisingly difficult to construct an interesting circular route of an appropriate distance which doesn't involve busy roads. However there is one such route that makes a perfect afternoon out from Cambridge: to Ely and back, and today was the ideal day for such a ride.

The reason why we were heading into the Fens today was the opening of the new cycle bridge over Reach Lode. I had explored this a couple of weeks ago (see the ride report here) but today was its official opening.

We had a good turnout for today's ride, with more than a dozen riders. I led the group east out of Cambridge, following the river as far as Ditton Meadows and then along the Wadloes Path to Fen Ditton. We continued via the tunnel under the A14 to Quy.


From Quy we followed the NCR 51 cycleway along the A1303 to Bottisham. Until now, the route to Wicken Fen would have continued via Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior, Reach and Burwell. However today we had a new route option: north to Lode.



Beyond Lode the road became very narrow and quiet, and we spotted several new signs showing that this was the new route of NCR 11.


We turned onto White Fen Drove and the path across White Fen which took us to the bridge over Swaffham Bulbeck Lode. This section of route opened a couple of years ago but until today hadn't opened up any new route opportunities. We continued along a series of quiet public roads until we reached the new bridge over Reach Lode.


As we approached the bridge we passed a dozen or two cyclists (and the occasional car) coming the other way. Presumably they were retuning home after having attended the opening ceremony at 1pm and the associated barbecue. However by the time we crossed the bridge everybody had gone and the only sign that there had been a party was a couple of portaloos.

As we approached the bridge, new National Trust signs indicated that this area is known as Tubney Fen.



(For more photos of the bridge see the earlier ride report ).

After crossing the bridge we followed a mile of completely new path to Burwell Lode.




When we reached Burwell Lode we dismounted and wheeled our bikes up the mown path to the top of the floodbank and lifted them up the steps and over the footbridge.


After crossing the bridge we met the road from Reach and the longstanding route to Wicken Fen. We arrived at the cafe at about 3.50pm. George and Clive were here but were just leaving.

Wicken Fen cafe is pleasant enough but the service is slow and it is relatively expensive, so whilst I had a coffee and cake here with about half a dozen others, Jacob led the other half of the group to Wicken Methodist Church, which was open for teas this afternoon.


We had only ridden sixteen miles so after tea we continued north to Ely along NCR 11.








We reached Ely at about 5.10pm. This was the half-way point of the ride but since we had already had tea we rode through without stopping, taking the road to West Fen and Coveney. After the slow tracks of NCR 11 it was nice to be on proper roads again and our pace increased, despite a westerly headwind. The sun also came out properly at last and stayed out for the rest of the afternoon.


At Coveney we stopped to admire the view back towards Ely before turning south towards Cambridge. We followed minor roads to Wentworth and Grunty Fen before joining the B1049 at Wilburton.

The B1049 is a long, boring road so I turned off it as soon as I could, which was just after crossing the Great Ouse. Here the group split: four riders stayed on the B1049 to Cambridge whilst the main group took a longer but quieter route via Long Drove to Landbeach and then through Milton to the cycle bridge over the A14.

With various people turning off in various directions, I continued down Milton Road to the city centre. We were back in central Cambridge by 7.15pm, after a mileage of 48 miles.


View this GPS track on a larger map

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