Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Cycling to Ely and back

On what was forecast to be the nicest weather of the week -- and turned out to be not too warm, but not particularly sunny either -- I thought I'd do another long ride, in a direction I'd never really explored before, using the council bike routes map that I'd used for the previous long ramble as guide. Now, when I checked with Google Maps on my tablet, it offered three routes -- the council one, another west of the A10 using the B1049 and part of the Ely bypass, and the shortest following the west bank of the Cam, with a detour around Waterbeach -- of which there was no sign on the cycle routes map.

Swaffham Prior Church

Swaffham Prior Church

Taking heed of the note about the Burwell Lode bridge, I picked up NCR51 on Midsummer common and just kept on going to Burwell to pick up NCR11 after the bridge. Alas, I miscounted the turns and took the one before the bridge instead, which was tarmac over broken concrete and felt like cycling down stairs. NCR11/Lodes Way is actually a solidly made gravel track, unlike some of NCR51 around Grafham, for example, with proper amenities for cyclists

Hitching post

Hitching post

The bridge is really not at all friendly -- a difficult drag up the steps, and it's easier to just carry the bike down, at least until the new crossing -- so far just half a ramp, fenced off -- is completed, whenever that might be.

The fun bit

The fun bit

New access sometime

New access sometime

Soon after that, the route passed through Wicken Fen, and you're out onto minor roads through tiny hamlets, until the last couple of miles

Ely cathedral

Ely cathedral

where you're on farm track and then an asphalt path on top of the levee.

Use or ornament?

Use or ornament?

At the end, you cross the road onto the dual-use pavement, then the route dips down alongside the river, the becoming non-cycling after the Cutter Inn, where I had lunch (I had intended to return to the Maltings restaurant where we'd eaten last time I took Karen to Ely, maybe 3 years ago, but it was clearly defunct/acquiring a new operator).

After lunch I inspected the end of the other off-road route indicated on the maps app -- and found it indicated a public footpath (signed 11 miles to Waterbeach); so, not wanting to play in the traffic getting to the B1049 and beyond, I headed back the way I'd come, only this time, rather than face the detour to Burwell, I braved the bridge again and followed NCR11 all the way to Lode, seeing no signs to indicate that the planned Wicken to Waterbeach section was yet in effect.

Waterlilies at Wicken Fen

Waterlilies at Wicken Fen

That aside, the rest of the Lodes Way section was easy going, with a much nicer bridge at Swaffham Bulbeck lode, featuring National Trust signing indicating that it was about 5 miles to the cafe at Wicken in one direction, or Anglesey Abbey in the other (or an hour by bicycle!). At Lode, I took the B1102, which wasn't being too busy, to rejoin NCR51 with least detouring, and so traced my route back the way I'd come.

Fen folk

Fen folk

While the going is -- of course -- mostly level, the path almost entirely all-weather usable, and the open fen under the wide sky is dramatic, the settled and more wooded country north of Wicken is rather less prepossessing.

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