Flatlands

Starting with the route today, note I travelled the mapped route from right to left, whereas the vertical profile reads left to right.

Today was flat, very flat. It was sad to say goodbye to my family and head off again, I always enjoy seeing them and their pets, but it was onwards to the headquarters of my UK employers – the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) in Peterborough.

Ready for the off – Ella will have to wait for next time to get her ball-thrower from Scotland back again

I was seconded to Peterborough for nearly a year very early in the existence of JNCC as Head of Publications. This was for a number of mostly political reasons associated with JNCC being a UK body, while the constituent parts of the Committee were dealing with the four countries that make up the UK. There was also a desire by the then JNCC Directors to centralise in Peterborough and close the Aberdeen office. The latter was fiercely resisted (I think everyone would now agree that we were right to fight that) so I ended up commuting. A major benefit was that I could easily visit my parents in what turned out to be my father’s last year.

The River Ouse towards its mouth

The ride started in the Norfolk “uplands” and I promptly got another puncture – I blame Norfolk flints on the road – but once that was sorted, it was down onto the flatlands of the fens. For those that do not know, this was once a large swampy inlet of the sea that was drained several centuries ago by those experts in these things: the Dutch (attested to by places names such as Walsoken). One of the major rivers: the Great Ouse is canalised for most of its length and since it flows to the sea at Kings Lynn and a major tributary, the River Nene runs past Peterborough, I crossed rivers several times today.

The River Ouse
Fenland landscape – flat
Many smaller ditches mesh together with pumping stations to remove water from the fens

The routing today took me through a prison (!), past several sewage works (or at least that is what I assumed they were based on smell, past a rubbish tip and over quite a few level crossings of the railway across the fens.

A rather strange part of National Cycle Route 63 near March goes under a road, with steps at each end
The fine and productive fenland soil makes for productive agriculture.

One issue in the fens is that when soils and sub-soils are dried out, they shrink, but not necessarily uniformly. This has affected houses in many places, and consequently there are few houses or new developments on the fens proper. The roads also become very domed with both sides seemingly sliding off into the ditches on either side. This does not make for easy riding – I would often proceed carefully down the top of the dome in the middle of the road, and even that undulated considerably.

The River Nene near Peterborough (did I mention the flat landscape?)

Finally near Peterborough it started to rain, and I discovered that my so-called waterproof fluorescent yellow top was not waterproof…. shopping required tomorrow.

JNCC’s world headquarters – I always liked the way the architects subtly inserted the crosses into the frontage of the building – it overlooks the cathedral

I was greeted by my once boss, now Chief Officer of JNCC, Marcus – who appeared to be lurking waiting for me to arrive. Being a Friday afternoon, the corridors were not exactly thronging, but it was great to catch up with Marcus and those of my friends and colleagues who were still around. I was invited to the after work pub visit, and was very pleased to see a good turnout from many who I was meeting for the first time. It is good to see a thriving UK governmental body in these current times – well done all.

Old friends and new – Cheers

Totals: 91 km today, 1171 km overall. Ascent today (!): 183 m, 11526 m overall. 5 new tubs, one new bird species, one new live mammal – a fox that I startled in a ditch.

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