After Sunday’s Hell of St Neots route recce with Tim, there were still a couple of sectors I wanted to check out, so over lunchtime I took a break and went out for a ride.
First on the list was the sector linking Shelton to Yelden via Chelston wind farm. I had a hellish cross wind riding out of Shelton, but it was a good road, climbing at a steady and gentle gradient to Lodge Farm. The road eventually gave way to a rough, but rideable track, then reverted back to tarmac. Here you can either carry straight on to join up to the B645, or turn left, opening the gate onto the road through Chelston wind farm. I went left and immediately regretted it. I was riding into 25mph headwind, howling through the wire fences bordering the track. Several times opaque dust clouds blotted the view ahead as they rolled towards me then left an earthy taste in their wake. I didn’t enjoy the sector and the wind made it worse. I’m not instinctively opposed to wind farms, as a landscape feature I quite like them and when I see NIMBY campaign posters stating their opposition, I find I’m getting an increasingly strong urge to add “we want a waste incinerator instead”, or perhaps, given the current policy of what promised to be the greenest government ever, “frack me, quick!” may be more appropriate. But, up close, beneath these turbines, this was an ugly landscape and the road was just a bit, well, boring. Yes it was rough in places, but it was flat and straight and just not that interesting. I think I’ll revise the route to take the longer route round to Yelden, via Chelveston; it’s lumpier and with the state of the Caldecot road, it may as well be an off-road sector.
Next I wanted to take a closer look at Melchbourne and the back route into Riseley. We did a part of this on Sunday, but the OS map held the promise of a more interesting and longer route. I turned right on to a concrete road, opposite the Upper Dean turn, and head toward Melchbourne Park. Melchbourne Park looks to be a superb route, but I’m not clear on the status of the track through it. The Stately House to which the Park once belonged is now split up into luxury flats and, I’ve yet to discover who owns the land to ask for access permission. However, there is a bridleway skirting the edge of the Park and Coppice Wood, so I gave that a go. From satellite imagery it looked promising and the ground truthing revealed it was mostly good firm grass, although there were some difficult areas where horses have dug divots into the path. So, rideable on my Langster, I never needed to walk, but tough in places, especially the climb.
While I had been trying to find out more information about the Park’s ownership, I learned that between 1943-45 it had been home to the US 2003rd Ordnance Maintenance Co. 8th Air Force Service Command. When I got up to the top of Coppice Wood, I noticed lots of private property/keep out signs. Most were old and faded, hanging on trees at the junctions of crumbling concrete pavements which seem to be laced through the wood. But around one corner the signs held a more sinister warning. Behind a barbed wire fence was an old Ministry of Defence sign, with the warning “Keep Out Poison Gas”. Newer signs had been attached to the fence. The wood is still in MOD hands and it makes me wonder, just what type of WW2 ordnance the Americans had there and how much of that legacy is still present? I think I’ll keep this bit in, but, don’t go getting lost, it might not be healthy…