Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Linking Cottenham to Cambridge Research Park

East out of Cottenham is Landbeach Road.  It is a useful route, linking to Landbeach and Waterbeach where there are many shops, a train station connecting to Cambridge and London. From Landbeach is a cyclepath heading towards Milton, then into Cambridge. From Waterbeach is Wicken Fen, plus the River Cam, a popular riverside and traffic free cycle route into Cambridge.  There are plenty of reasons to want to link Cottenham and Landbeach and parish councils on both ends are keen to see a cycle path built.

There is no significant money on the table to achieve a cyclepath so I wondered if an offroad route was viable.  In September 2013 I met with David Jenkins and Council Officers to see what might be possible.

The first idea I proposed was linking existing tracks in the fields south of Landbeach Road.  This route was difficult to achieve, needing at least a bridge, and negotiation with a large number of landowners.

My second idea links Long Drove to Cambridge Research Park.  It's certainly not direct or ideal but might provide a recreational route, and summer commute route to the research park.  This is currently inaccessible by bike unless you are prepared to cycle on the A10 trunk road. Some Cottenham residents work there. Plus it has a small nature reserve.

The pictures below show the current state of the route.

Gravel Pit Drove links Long Drove (white road) to the south side of Cambridge Research Park lakes. Link to OSM.

Gravel Pit Drove (highlighted)

The first section of Gravel Pit Drove from Long Drove is a reasonably surfaced track.  This gets you half way to the lake entrance. This is facing south-east.

Gravel Pit Drove as seen from Long Drove. Facing SE.

The next picture looks back from the end of the track north-west facing back towards Long Drove.

Gravel Pit Drove looking SW towards Long Drove.
From the same location but looking east, you can see that there is a field, separated by two different crops.  The track used to continue along here.

Gravel Pit Drove currently ends here. Facing SE.

In the previous picture there are trees in the distance.  This is the start of the nature reserve with water.  The next picture shows from the tree line, facing south-east.

Alongside the nature reserve (ex gravel pit). Facing SE.

Following the edge of the nature reserve joins you to an existing bridleway.  Turning left (now facing north-east), there is gate, with a track on the other side leading to the nature reserve entrance and research park.

Bridleway from Beach Ditch to Cambridge Research Park. NE.

Beyond the gate is an interesting surface which is used on many tracks in the local area.  It has a concrete base (or very hard packed gravel) which rolls very fast and remains mud free during winter. It blends in well with its rural surroundings.

Hidden concrete surface.

The following picure is a screen shot from Where's The Path.  It is showing OpenStreetMap on the left, centred on Gravel Pit Drove, with an old out of copyright Ordnance Survey 1:25k map (~1950?). It shows that the track used to be much longer, at least to where the gravel pit was (now a water filled nature reserve).

Comparing OSM to old OS 1:25k

My proposal is to effectively reinstate Gravel Pit Drove to its former length, joining Long Drove to the bridleway at Beach Ditch. From the end of currently tracked Gravel Pit Drove to the bridleway is ~400 metres. The total length is ~700m and would be better if the whole length was improved but not entirely necessary. A concrete base as pictured above would be ideal for recreational purposes and some summer commutes.