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Sunday, 23 June 2013

A Circular Ride from Ely

Taking a bike by train Eastwards from Derby is always attractive since fares remain at bargain prices, providing that you can travel off-peak, and the flat terrain of East Anglia makes for easy cycling.
So it was, after another Internet search, that I booked a return ticket to Ely for £9.20 and duly boarded an early train last Thursday, complete with Dahon bike and wet weather gear, for the forecast was not good in spite of a short spell of long-awaited Summer weather over the preceding days.
Bang on cue, the rain came down as I left home and on arriving at Derby Railway Station I was already wet through, but dried out during the 2 hour and 48 minute journey to find on arrival that it was not raining in Ely.

The Cathedral, with it's strong octagonal theme, (designed shortly after the invention of the 45 degree set square), stands proudly above the picturesque City and The Isle of Ely.  Nearby is the home of Oliver Cromwell who was "Lord Protector of England" for the short period in history (1600 and something) when England was a republic.

The surrounding landscape is not only flat, but generally not much above sea level, and most of the
pretty Cambridgeshire villages are built on what passes for hills, and were in fact, islands set in the marshes until Dutch engineers were brought along to drain the fens five hundred years ago.

My planned ride of  45 miles was taken from an excellent Philips book "Cycle Tours Norfolk and Suffolk" although most of the ride was actually in Cambridgeshire, and from Ely went NE to Chatteris, returning by way of the many small villages to the North of Ely.  Cutting a SW to NE  swathe across the circle are the drainage dykes and canalised rivers which drain the land into the River Great Ouse and on to The Wash at the delightfully named village of Wiggenhall St. Germans, South of  King's Lynn.

The Hundred Foot Drain/ River Delph/ Bedford River have few crossing points, so no chance of short cutting the route, save that of pole vaulting across as suggested by a "friend" (?).

Most of the villages have these beautifully crafted signs on the village green, this one, in particular, at Sutton, illustrating the heritage of the village standing on an island surrounded by marshland and having lots of wildlife.

The first bridge was at Sutton Gault where these horses were grazing beside the water.
A picture for Mavis and Yvonne.

On then towards Chatteris, the largest village/town on the route, passing enormous fields of arable crops, some growing enough potatoes to supply all the chip shops in the UK for months.
Irrigation of the growing crops is evidence of the low average rainfall in these parts (but not today!).

Expensive high tech automatic irrigation equipment increases the yield on this gigantic field of potatoes.

Flags out in Chatteris to welcome me, but not many people  (:- ( 
 Lunch here with food from the small nearby Budgons Supermarket.  Note small solar charger on handlebars which is (hopefully) charging GPS - when the sun shines.  More on this later.

After lunch the forecast rain returned and it was a miserable journey via more nice villages and NCN Route 11 to cross once more the Hundred Foot Drain and the rivers back to Ely. The cathedral would normally be a welcome direction and distance indicator, but on this day the horizon was shrouded in mist and the long straight roads coupled with the rain and a headwind made for poor cycling.
Time in hand for another look around the lovely city of Ely and to partake of a meal before catching the train back to Derby.  Lights were required for cycling home in spite of the following day being the longest day of the year!


Littleranger said...

A great report Les, and so exciting to read about Ely and area again having returned from there two weeks previously. Particularly like the photographs of the horses. Hi tec looking equipment on your bike; we had to make do with a map!

Les Sims said...

I found that the route directions and OS-style mapping in the Philips book were more than adequate.
Good feature of these books is the spiral binding so that you can fold it back and fit it in an A5 transparent bag to keep it dry.
Rymans have these A5 bags (I think that they call them "pockets") on offer at present 3 for 2 at £1.75 each.