Wicken Spine

This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 74.

map of Wicken Fen work

The buzzards that hunt in the fens between Cambridge and Wicken will look down on new sights this winter: JCB diggers, pile-drivers, path surfacing and by the end of March: a new bridge! Yes, work is starting on the National Trust’s Wicken Vision Spine Cycle Path.

Bridge at Wicken Fen

The new bridge will cross Swaffham Bulbeck Lode very close to the centre of the map. On the north-east side is a public road, and the field that connects the south-west side to the road from Lode village was purchased by the NT this spring. Construction of the new bridge means that Cambridge, Milton and Waterbeach can connect to Reach, Burwell and Wicken without using any busy roads, not even on tracks alongside them. There will still be some rather muddy stretches, and two bridges to carry your bike over at Bottisham Lock and Burwell Lode, but it’s an excellent start and experiments on economical ways to traverse the mud start soon.

After Swaffham Bulbeck Lode the next barrier is Reach Lode. Quite a substantial barrier too: the water surface is over three metres (10 feet) above the nearby ground level, and the bridge needs to be as high again to allow boats through. The cost will be over half a million pounds, which the NT piggy-bank does not hold this or next year. However, also involved in this Spine Path project are Sustrans, and Sustrans have a cunning plan…

This December, the National Lottery will award £50 million to the organisation promoting the best scheme, to be decided by public vote, in the Big Lottery Fund’s Living Landmarks: The People’s Millions competition. Sustrans have entered 79 cycling and walking projects under the collective title Connect2 and will pay for the Reach Lode bridge if they win.

So if you like the idea of cycling from Cambridge directly across the fens you should vote for Sustrans Connect2! Where? When? How?

  • Where: the programmes about the schemes competing will be broadcast late evening throughout one week on ITV1.
  • When: the last Friday in one week in December, and voting should continue on the following Saturday and Sunday.
  • How: we do not know yet. TV voting has been in the news recently and the format to be used has not been declared so far.
Construction at Wicken Fen

The next Newsletter should carry details of how to vote, and thanks to Mr. Editor Irving’s print schedule, and the volunteer deliverers, will land on your doormat a few days before the actual vote.

Next spring when you take a ride across the new bridge over Swaffham Bulbeck Lode, thinking about how your vote helped get the money for the next bridge, make a diversion to Tubney Fen, north-west of Reach. In late August, the National Trust opened a cycle and walking route across, and the first time I rode through a roe deer appeared from the undergrowth less than 3 metres away. And don’t forget to look for the buzzards.

Mike Causer