Reach Lode cycle bridge opens
National Cycle Route 11 has been re-routed to use the new Reach Lode bridge which opened on 12 September. The new route, which runs roughly parallel with the River Cam, links Wicken Fen to Anglesey Abbey on cycleways and tiny fen roads which carry almost no traffic. In addition, the verge cycleway between Lode and the edge of Bottisham village has been widened to create a link to NCN51 and thence to Cambridge. It hasn’t been surfaced well, however, the previous footway having been retained for half the width, and while the new route through the fen is a highly attractive option for everyone, the link to Bottisham is only for the wary, the road remaining the route of choice for most cyclists. However, the associated signal-controlled crossing of the Stow to Burwell B-road at Lode crossroads will be extremely useful. It is often hard to get across here just because of the volume of traffic.
The opening was celebrated by two groups of more than a hundred cyclists, one starting from Anglesey Abbey and the other from Wicken to meet at the new bridge. The bridge is an elegant arch, visible across the flat fen landscape for some way. All the lodes are higher than the drained landscapes surrounding them, so the bridge not only has to clear the water level for navigation, but also climb up from a couple of metres below sea level to get to the water level in the first place. North of the bridge, a newly constructed 1.5 km cycleway provides the link to Burwell Lode. The new cycleway is wide and smooth, though with fine gravel rather than tarmac. A couple of the tracks running east have also been opened up and signposted for cycling, thus offering many more links to the surrounding villages.
More to do
The new route has been named The Lodes Way. It is part of the National Trust’s wider Wicken Fen vision, to return to grassland and wetland a huge area between Wicken and Cambridge. This is a long-term plan – 100 years! We’ve reported on this in a couple of previous Newsletters.
The spine cycleway, however, is a much closer prospect. Two obstacles remain. Burwell Lode bridge is an old footbridge with nine steep steps either side. Channels have been installed to try to make getting cycles over easier, but it is nevertheless a struggle. Trailers and trikes would be very hard to manage, not to mention a wheelchair or on horseback. This is in hand, however, with some interesting designs for a new bridge on display. The National Trust anticipates being able to build this ‘in the next couple of years’.
More problematic apparently is getting NCN11 over to the Cam. The other end presently follows the Cam towpath north to Clayhithe bridge and would cross the river there. However, about a kilometre gap remains between Clayhithe and the White Fen Drove road. It seems the landowner here is uncooperative. Indeed, though there is a public right of way for walkers, several of you have told us that the landowner is positively hostile towards cycling and to cyclists using this route. Forging this last link in the chain looks like being a significant problem.
But let’s not leave this on a sour note. The new route opens up access to a previously difficult area and provides lots of scope for cycling away from traffic. Many people at the National Trust and Sustrans have put in much time and money into creating this excellent facility. I’d particularly recommend cycling from Cambridge to Ely and then getting the train back. There’s a café and toilets at Wicken Fen visitor centre, a little over half way.