Tuesday 12 June 2012

Wimpole Folly and the Three Cams

A short trip round the west and south of Cambridge

It's an excuse to explore some of the off-road tracks to the west of Cambridge, a little bit of rough country, followed by running round some pleasant roads on the flat at a reasonable speed.

The Route to Wimpole Folly

Wimpole Folly sits on the hill above Wimpole Hall in the corner of Cambridgeshire. I'm going to do the 12 miles to it from central Cambridge 75% off-road, and most of the rest on quiet country lanes.

View Wimpole Folly and the Three Cams in a larger map

From the station, there's a quick traffic-limited route to the end of Brooklands Avenue. Here, a rider should dismount to cross Hills Road onto the shared path all the way down to the Coe Fen. Crossing Coe Fen is pleasant, but look out for young cattle, along with dogs and pedestrians! After Coe Fen most of Fen Causeway can be done on the side. I choose to come off it to avoid pedestrains but can always switch back on if the lights are against me.

My photo from cyclestreets.net of cattle on the Coe Fen.

The next bit can be done off-road, but it's very slow, so I opt for the road round to Sidgwick Avenue. A few more quiet residential roads and the West Cambridge Cyclepath beckons. This is a solid route out of town that really gets the miles going. At the end, Coton village offers a mile of quiet roads, then it's back onto the rough "Harcamlow Way". I'm sure the Ordnance Survey map people made that up!

After the first section of this, there is a very useful permissive bridleway. A local landowner has turned over a small amount of land that means anyone traversing this way does not need to go on the road at all (normally for 200 unpleasant yards). This is much appreciated, although probably with horses in mind. Still no nasty fast cars to deal with!

My photo on cyclestreets.net. of the permissive bridleway entrance opposite the previous section of path.

Still going on, the track is rough but wide, a bit damp but not muddy! It doesn't take long to get to Caldecote. There's a lot more evidence of horse use here. Quite a few paddocks and stables to go with the horse-shoe markings on the paths.

South on a quiet road downhill with a small section of the B1046 before heading up to Kingston, another pretty and quiet village.

View Kingston larger

Exiting Kingston by taking Crane Lane up to the final track up to the top of the hill. More good views as I climb to the highest point of 78metres. Not very much, but I did cross the Coe Fen at about 10metres. There is a very strange arrangement along this track. There seems to be a wide path right next to it. And it's on the map as well. The track is mostly dry apart from a short wooded section. Then a bit of slipping but nothing serious.

The View from the Top

Finally at the top. I could stop and play, but I'm more into heading on, losing two-thirds of that gained height over a short mile or so at up to 35mph. Anyway, this is what the folly looks like.

Wimpole Folly

The Three Cams

Well, I hit the local plain floor and head towards my food stop in Orwell. The roads here do have some traffic, but most are having a pleasant day at Wimpole Hall and are in no mood to rush around in a bad temper. They are much more likely to pass wide, clear, and going a lot slower. Crossing the A604 is not so easy. Again there's a useful side path, but it's not designed for pedestrians and bikes, so I move to the road quite quickly, despite the 60mph cars. I'm sure they could do better for the short 200 yards that it's needed.

View A604 larger

Still, once past that, the centre of the village of Orwell is very pretty. I have a bit to eat to keep energy levels up.

Food stop at Orwell Church

And a summer pass showing a Pannier Market!

So, onto the Three Cams. Well, a bit of license here, but these three rivers define the shape of the valleys up water from Cambridge. They all flow through Cambridge as the river Cam. The Rhee and the Granta meet at Hauxton Junction just above Byron's Pool. Just up the Granta branch it amalgamates two rivers again, this time called the "river Granta or Cam" and the "river Granta". Wikipedia has the orginal name for Cambridge as "Grantebrycge", hence the river name.Thus the 3 rivers above Cambridge have 3 names, but 2 names can mean 2 different rivers. Hmm, give me calculus....

The river Rhee goes through the villages to the west all the way up to Ashwell just in Hertfordshire. This is the first river I'll cross, just after Barrington. I notice that my speed on the road is much quicker than the previous track experiences, but then I cross the Rhee and my speed drops! Even what looks to be flat around here, isn't so much. Do note that people here call the river the Cam. Hmm.

Just after that I have the first level crossing experience. Luckily not a long wait, unlike the Tour de Suisse the day after!  The villages of Shepreth, Fowlmere, and Thriplow are all pretty, the latter especially during it's daffodil festival. The roads between are fast but dull, barring the horrible crossing of the A10.

Daffodil festival by Rouguesgallery17 on Flickr.

In Thriplow, taking a back lane finds the recently upgraded Drift Track. It's now a bridleway, so open to people cycling and is a convenient way to get to Whittlesford.

In Whittlesford, a local footpath has been converted to a new cyclepath to the large village of Sawston. This is mostly to do with school children, as the latter has big schools for the local area. There is some concern about the lack of signage for this path. And you see that I don't take this route. I've always found Church Lane more pleasant, although this isn't the main route and again is confusing with the signage.

Photo from cyclestreets.net looking back towards Whittlesford.

A certain amount of amusement can be had from the "Slow Pedestrians Ahead" signs with the lack of comma after "Slow". But it is a massive improvement on the "Cyclists Dismount" sign, which is it's equivalent. Just to note, the "Cyclists Dismount" sign is not an instruction/order (it's a blue sign) it is a request.There have been a number of campaigns against the misleading wording of it.

At the end of this path is the crossing of the "river Cam or Granta", altogether more pleasant than the crossing of the Rhee. This river is the biggest of the three and goes up beyond Audley End. My Saffron Walden route covers this well. I canoed down from above here the Easter when I was 11. I got wet, and during overnight camping, it froze. Needless to say, not the happiest experience.

Anyway, the second level crossing experience happened just after this. Again, not a long wait. After the crossing, there was a distinct lack of signage. The route actually goes to the right of the road and onto the pavement. But that's not clear, there are no signs.

In Sawston the cyclepath quickly disappears. This wasn't too much of an issue on a Sunday afternoon. I just wonder what schoolchildren experience going along this road at just before 9am on a weekday, at the same time as many, possibly rushing, people driving?

Again in Sawston the signage is a bit lacking. A route continues on the pavement up north from the main crossroads. It's not easy to get onto it if you've missed the previous dropped kerb with the only nearby drop right at the lights. This route north isn't too bad. It is a bit thin, a bit rough at times, and has some unnecessary conflict with bus passengers. It's better than being on the road here, though.

When rejoining the A1301 it does the most ridiculous route. It actually crosses one more road than necessary. Why?!

Extra unnecessary road crossing in less sunny times from cyclestreets.net.

It then does these series of close wiggles designed to slow people cycling down. Of course, the result is lots of off-road cuts where people cycling have just given up and smoothed the corners. I guess the principle is that theyy should slow down to stop before crossing the more dangerous A1301. And, given people driving blast along here at 60mph (and more!), it's possible to understand that point. However, with the clear lines of sight, the loud noise of traffic on the roads, I can't see any person cycling missing the danger of this place.

After this the cyclepath goes into Stapleford. The path is separated from the road, but still narrow and shared with pedestrians. It does have a nice little side route away from the road whilst crossing the "river Granta". However, getting onto this from the other direction is a task, and sharing with pedestrians is not ideal either.

My Photo from cyclestreets.net.

The "river Granta" follows the valley up through Linton to Haverhill. Again, this appears on my Saffron Walden route.

Through Stapleford on route NCN11, up Church Street and along Mingle Lane, passing the village church.

View Larger picture

Then onto the Addenbrookes cycle path and south Cambridge Guided Buway Cyclepath, which I've written about before!

Full Video Clip

This shows the full trip at 8 times speed. Key points are as follows.

00:13 Cross Hills Road
00:28 The Coe Fen
01:27 West Cambridge Cyclepath
02:44 Off-roading from Coton
03:31 Permissive bridleway
06:42 Kingston village
08:44 Wimpole Folly top
09:32 A604 path for people cycling?
09:57 Food stop in Orwell
10:55 Barrington
11:09 Crossing river Cam or Rhee
11:29 Level crossing
13:36 The Drift
15:19 Whittlesford Cyclepath
16:28 Pointless road crossing and slalom
16:43 Crossing "river Granta"
17:19 Addenbrookes Cyclepath
18:02 South Cambridge Guided Buway Cyclepath

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