Saturday, 9 April 2011

9 Apr: "Double Dutch" 200 km audax

Gareth writes: I know that the fens of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire are not to everyone’s taste, but I like them: the big skies, the big flat fields, the church towers on the horizon, the windmills, the drains and levels and rivers with their locks and sluices and pumping stations: the whole vast engineering accomplishment of it all. But they do have long boring roads, and visiting them once or twice a year is probably enough.

Martin Malins of East Grinstead Cycling Club organized a “Double Dutch” 200 km audax, starting at Huntingdon, and visiting March, King’s Lynn, Spalding and Whittlesey. He wrote, “This ride was inspired by two things; firstly my love of the flat terrain of the Fens in springtime and secondly by the Jonathan Meades 1997 TV documentary Even Further Abroad: Double Dutch which explores this unique region mostly reclaimed from The Wash by Dutch settlers who have left their mark in the landscape architecture and flora.”

The section from Stowbridge to King’s Lynn along the River Great Ouse was the highlight of the ride for me. On the low road through Wiggenhall St Mary Magdelen, looking up at the dike and realising how much of this rich farmland is slightly below sea level. Crossing the river and its parallel, canalised relief channel, watching the sun glint on the water. The cycle path behind the King’s Lynn power station along the top of the dike, with the two towers of St Margaret’s Church visible on the horizon.

The next section, up to Holbeach St Matthew, was a bit of a drag into the north-easterly headwind, but once we turned the corner we raced past the daffodil and tulip fields of Holbeach Bank with the wind at our tails.

Parts of Spalding are very Dutch: with a generous amount of imagination you could suppose that London Road, with its gabled houses lined up on both sides of a waterway (the River Welland) was in a suburb of Amsterdam.

South of Spalding there’s a very fine cycle path to Crowland Abbey that runs along a dike beside the River Welland. After Crowland, though, there was a long dull section on the B1040. When there’s 15 km or more to the next junction or landmark, the spirit starts to droop. But I guess this kind of thing can’t be avoided.

There were, I think, around thirty cyclists on the ride, and it seemed like they all must have overtaken me, some several times. (Accurate navigation for the win!) The sheer flatness of the route (not a countour line to be crossed, except for short sections near the start and finish) meant that fixed gear bikes were out in force. I rode with Tony and Gary for much of the ride as far as Spalding (apart from a navigational disagreement near King’s Lynn), and then with the Hertfordshire wheelers for a bit. Tony kindly rode back to Cambridge with me along the guided busway.

I had 270 km (168 miles) for the day.

The railway station car park, Huntingdon, in the shadow of the A14.

River Nene near Benwick (28 km).

Upwell Fen near Christchurch (54 km).

Popham’s Eau at Nordelph (62 km).

River Great Ouse at Stowbridge (70 km).

This relief channel running parallel to the Great Ouse between Denver Sluice and King’s Lynn doesn’t seem to have a name. At Stowbridge (70 km).

River Great Ouse at Wiggenhall St Germans (80 km).

The A47 crossing the River Great Ouse at King’s Lynn, with St Margaret’s Church (84 km).

The glamour of audaxing: picnic lunch outside Tesco in King’s Lynn (88 km).

The A47 near Sutton Bridge (105 km).

River Nene outlet cut at Sutton Bridge, loking north to the Wash (106 km).

A host of golden daffodils, near Holbeach Bank (130 km).

Afternoon coffee in Spalding (144 km).

Mute swans over the River Welland near Crowland (156 km).

Bridge over the River Welland near Crowland (162 km).

The county boundary runs along the River Nene north of Whittlesey (176 km).

View Double Dutch 200k 2011 in a larger map

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