Restricted Byways…

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After Sundays washout the sun decided to make an appearance on Monday so a quick change of plans and I was out and riding, coffee and stove stashed in the Carradice, camera charged, legs warming up.

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Figuring that the trans pennine trail would be wet and muddy after yesterday’s rain I headed out along the canal, surprisingly dry where the puddles usually are so I switched at Broadheath and had the trail to myself, the sun darting in and out of the clouds kept the temperature at a reasonable 18c making for perfect riding conditions.

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Arriving at our usual bench I was pleased to see it unoccupied, first brew of the day then, and a fig roll just to confirm my dislike of these horrible little things, the rest went to the ducks.

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Pointless lane was ridden with great pleasure, then out towards Great Budworth and the ice cream factory, I’d been thinking about a cup of tea and one of their amazing pork pies but was disappointed to be there too early, never mind onwards to the River Weaver.

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I had a spot in mind for early lunch, Dutton Locks, picnic tables and peace and quiet, the jet boil was soon in action, warming up my now favourite John West tuna and rice (with an Indian twist) the hot water then straight into the cup for a brew. I took my time here, reading the information boards, grabbing a copy of Towpath Talk (the UKs No1 read for all towpath users) for Paul because I know he’s gonna read every single one of the 136 pages! and enjoying the solitude.

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Contemplating my return it occurred to me that I had spied an over grown track last summer that had piqued my interest, however it was raining and dark last time I rode past so never followed it up.

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Today was bright and sunny, no excuses, signposted as Restricted Byway, it started off as a shady leaf covered double track, heading upwards towards the light, the greens intensity increasing as the track narrowed. Underneath was dry and dusty, again surprising given the weekends weather, steeper now and loose enough to spin out the three inch tyres traction, which caught me out resulting in a knee/bar end altercation, it is still throbbing now.

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Maybe four hundred yards in length?, this satisfying find eventually opens out into a double track to show off a perfect example of grass up the middle before joining a tarmac lane, there’s something very familiar about this last section, I have a vague memory of Nick answering a desperate call of nature one time along here.

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And then it was gone, not even half a mile, but another glorious and new to me piece of track that ticks all of my boxes, so nice that I turned and descended back down it so I could ride up it again.

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I started heading home not quite the same way, deliberately picking different lanes, and looking for future examples of restricted byways and avoiding the canal tow path now as the strava gangs will be rushing along from their day in the office, desperately trying to regain that strava section record.

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To top off my day nicely I realise that this has been my longest ride of the year, only 55 miles but given this years events I’m quite pleased with that, wonder how well I’ll sleep tonight!

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Words and pictures – Steve Makin.

No Shame No Gain…

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A Solstice SO24 Ride Fail Report

Steve’s suggestion of a solstice ride was a perfect opportunity to step up and contribute with some route planning and detailing. I had previous with the Roaches, having taken nine fellows out there to celebrate my 55th birthday a couple of years back. It had to be the perfect setting for an epic sunset and the more important sunrise, being south-facing and, with the current British heatwave, all was set fair.

Meeting at the Sale paper elephant, I came over all flustered on being presented with my enamel GUTM badge. Soon we were pounding out of the urban landscape, passing the airport’s chaotic roadworks through to the first substantial greenery – routing through the Carrs park on Wilmslow’s borders. A French-style coffee house served up decent coffee and pastries in the 27 degree-and-rising sunshine, then we were back at it towards Macclesfield for lunch. 

thumb_IMG_9752_1024Passing through Prestbury, we couldn’t resist looking into the new centre-of-all-cycling-as-we-know-it. Rumour has it that Prestbury will soon be the go-to destination for the discerning randonneur!

thumb_IMG_9756_1024A chance meeting with local bike mechanic Logchopper Paul and his mutt meant we shared sandwiches in his vast spannering space amongst the myriad ‘proper’ workshops of Macclesfield, walls bedecked with retro Saracens and other obscure brands. It was here I first noticed how hot the day was really getting, being still was way worse than actually riding, so briskly away we went towards the first planned highlight of the microtour – Wincle Brewery.

thumb_IMG_9760_1024Sure enough, the smell of freshly cut grass mingled with unmistakable brewing odours – a wave of hoppiness (sic) came over us, as we examined our tempting draught options. Outside the locals quizzed our journey as we basked and bevied in 32 degree sunshine. 

The last leg to the Roaches was dumbly extended by not being able to read the map on the phone screen in the brightness. Another increasingly long tramp upwards, which then became a push’n’grimace as the 1657’ summit of the Roaches hove into view – a delicious stretch of grass up the middle was the visual icing on top.

thumb_IMG_9768_1024With nearly 12 hours to while away until that significant sunrise, we rode across the base of the Roaches to squander time and money in the nearest pub, The Rock.  A spare pork pie washed down with Marstons Pedigree, then procuring a couple of bottles of wine for the evening meal.

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thumb_IMG_9775_1024Riding back again, the vista was truly immense – a summery mist layered the distant trees and walls like a Japanese woodcut masterpiece, a distant reservoir glinting back at us. However, by the time we had got to the path that would lead up to the top of the Roaches, our intended cook-spot, a real wind had whipped up from the north east. It quickly gathered an ominous grey mist on the ridgeline, so we opted to cook down below in the intended wild camp spot.

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thumb_IMG_9806_1024And so it was love amongst the gritstone ruins – the wine and olives ambassador’s reception was quickly established, then a round of ‘Crit My Shit’ – where two or more bike packers reveal the contents of their boutique tourist bags – happily whiled away an hour. Then food, Steve rustling up some surprisingly tasty John West boil-in-a-bag stuff and I, on more traditional dried pasta and fresh runner beans. Being thus distracted we had not observed or respected that grey mist, becoming ever darker and threatening – by 2230 it really was looking like a rainstorm. Our recently audited kit list was built around the 30 degree plus days we had been having, so no tarps, no down jackets… we were being made to look like fools. About to be very damp, cold and miserable fools at that. In moments such as these, where time is of the essence, we made spontaneous agreement to do a runner to the nearest bunkhouse, of which we had seen a sign earlier. With the wind whipping us like scolded curs and visibility down to 15 metres, a hasty 30 mile an hour downhill with only one set of lights between two bikes, took on epic and life-saving proportions!

 

The bunkhouse was eerily dark and closed. On to the pub for advice – nothing round here at this time of night, we’d have to go into Leek town centre and try there. Another furious downhill for several miles had us outside Lenny Henry’s chain of motels after midnight, thankful that they had a room left. Fortunately we had a credit card between us, so we were soon in the room wondering what the hell had happened to the brilliant plan. Posh cheese and Pineau from the hip flask was some solace, but the lack of macho-outdoor endeavours complete with an epic sunset and sunrise was going to be hard to explain to our connections. Thoughts of downloading stock photography were seriously considered to alleviate the shame of credit-card camping, but 4200’ of climbing was about to take it’s toll…

No epic sunrise but a cooked breakfast and the reappearance of sunshine meant we could forget the regret and hit the trail out of Leek. A fabulous old railway line, complete with expanding narrow gauge track, led us to Rudyard Lake reservoir. With a surface of 164 acres, it’s a sizeable beast.

thumb_IMG_9815_1024My original return route was to be up Meerbrook, a pretty stiff climb. The flat route out of Leek beguiled me into thinking we might miss the climbing, but veering east toward Congleton soon restored the need for those low gears. Once on top of Dial Lane, the descent into Congestion was magnificent – the whole of the Cheshire Plain rushed towards us at over 35 miles and hour, breaking village speed limits as we went.

thumb_IMG_9822_1024In the centre, we sidestepped our brew gear again and took local refreshment in the form of banana milk shakes and egg custards. Onward to Jodrell Bank, now solely on cycle routes, through another fine park, spoilt somewhat by screeching children having too much fun. The last snorter of a climb and we were coasting all the way home. A fine lunch at the telescope, with various misshapen cyclists, then towards and through Tatton Park, only to be undone by more pop-up roadworks thwarting attempts to get to Dunham Massey. Why are roadworkers so shouty?

When such frustrations arise on a bicycle you can always reroute and restore equanimity in short order – in our case this meant The Greyhound at Ashley, where we could recalibrate our return to the homesteads by lingering over a few pints. The final revolutions on the towpath home had me reaching for an energy gel – as Mozzer once said, the last mile is the hardest mile….

Stats

Statistically, my plan had been for a 31 mile day one – with all the misty to-ing and fro-ing, this somehow became 44 miles (4,200’ of climbing) with day two managing to stay on budget at 47 miles, having slightly more climbing than I’d imagined with 2000’. I rode my Genesis Vagabond, shod with Sim Works Homage-to-Wildslippers tyres and Steve his trusty Shirley Straggler with Volvo daylights. 

Words and pictures – Neil Ruddock.

Black & white gallery pictures – Steve Makin.

Trans Wales 3 days…

image1Over recent years my riding preferences have changed subtly. A love of singletrack shifted to spending more time on road. This then began to move again into seeking out routes that got quieter and quieter, usually as the surface became less and less forgiving for a 25mm slick. Still enjoying travelling longer distances but not being restrained by smooth roads. And Im not too proud to admit that it lines up perfectly with the rising trend for adventure bikes, gravel road, road plus, gnarmac, niche it what you will. With wide tyres, disc brakes and dialled geometry it seems like bike technology has finally come up with what I want, or Ive swallowed the marketing hook, line and sinker.

image2The other two I was riding with may have had different reasons for wanting to ride but a big part of my motivation was to see how much derring do could be fitted into three days. Trail centres can be lots of fun, as can completing a big loop, but sometimes different is better. The lofty ambition of crossing a country seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

image4Any plans have to be tempered by needing to work (as a freelancer its hard to say no to offers) and having a young family I dont want to leave them for long either. But cycling is the itch I cant leave alone and on occasion needs must to keep sanity if nothing else.

image7Various plans were bandied about but the final one that kept being mentioned (largely by Andrew who had a bikepacking book with a route) was a trans Wales route that roughly followed the border and Offas Dyke footpath. In the book it was suggested as a 4 day tough ride. We decided that if we shaved a little here and there we could turn it into a 3 day tough ride. Sadly staring at numbers on a route planning website and a wiggling line along a map we didnt realise how tough. That would come when it was too late to do anything else but ride on.

image8I’ll have to admit that I quite enjoy the lead up to these kind of rides. Lots of faffing on email, discussions over what was needed and what was not needed. We’d already decided we weren’t camping as we didnt want the extra weight and reduced “fun” riding that that would bring. So we’d pre-booked a Premier inn for Prestatyn, a pub in Welshpool and a posh bunkhouse in Glasbury. After a long days riding I was happy not to be roughing it too much (scallops starter and venison main course on Saturday night for the win).

image10Leaving work slightly early on Thursday the three of us met at Euston station (Dean on his Jones space frame with new Revalate panniers and 650b plus tyres, my brother Andrew on his 2.1” 650b Open U.P. and me on my Mason Bokeh with 2” 650b wheels). It was still just about light as we rolled out of Prestatyn to the Premier inn on the edge of town where we dragged our bikes into rooms before getting some sleep.

image11Day one of the route was the biggest, compressing most of the books first two days into this one.

IMG_7939It was meant to be 79.4 miles and over 9100 ft of climbing.

IMG_7972Looking at these figures now I feel a bit foolish, but at the time I thought we would be flying with a nice coffee stop mid morning and a hearty lunchtime. It was pretty quickly apparent that this wouldn’t be the case. Leaving Prestatyn the gradients swept through single digits, well into double and that put a halt to any race pace aspirations. But the pay off was the landscape that began to open up. The flat ground at the start soon reared up as we climbed onto the first ridge. From there there was no flat ground for the rest of the day. It is also soon apparent how much variety of terrain there is to ride over on a 10 hr ride. Kind of obvious but its testament to how quickly the terrain in the UK changes that we can see so many different types of path. Narrow road gives way to broken tarmac, field edge to open moor, dappled bridleway to rock strewn path. So much variety that even the massive climbs usually got broken up into a few different sections. Not something I usually see on my SE England rides.

IMG_7974The first scare came at mile 16 when Dean started spraying sealant from his new monster back tyre. Thankfully it closed itself up and we spoke no more about it for fear of jinxing our luck. Along with Andrew burping some air from his tyre on day 2 that was the only mechanical grief we had. I really do love tubeless (once its up).

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.09.07It soon started to become apparent that we were behind time. Or at least my reckoning as to where we should be. The amazing independent store/ coffee house at Cilcain arrived nearer lunchtime than the mid morning pick me up I had thought it would be. We then headed out towards Llandegla. There was a bit of a disconnect between the trails on the ground and those plotted on the GPS programme. Almost predictably we ended up riding the wrong way round a trail centre (it would probably have made a lovely descent rather than a lung busting climb). And then a drag up to the high point of the day. Elated to make it this far (albeit a bit late) we prepared for a huge descent down to Langollen. It was not quite as planned as the suggested trail was a tiny heather lined rut that required walking pace speed and total concentration. But after a while it opened up a little and the trail began to flow, it turned into a farm track and then into a stunning rollercoaster of a single lane road. Each change allowed for an increase in speed and and a wider grin. Now we were cooking. Now we were in Llangollen. Now it was time for lunch. Now it was half past three. DAMN.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.09.48The leisurely lunch in the sun was cut a little shorter as we balanced the need to relax and refuel with the need to get going. With spicy meat foods stuffed down it was time to crack on.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.10.07Next up was my biggest mistake. I thought I could shave off a little distance by taking a slight short cut Id noticed on the map (Im sure theres a lesson to be learned but I doubt Ill remember it next time). Instead we had a scramble with our bikes up a rock field of a path. I genuinely cant think of anything that would find enjoyment on this. Maybe it could be a short very gnarly DH track. It certainly made for a hellish ascent as we dragged our laden bikes for about half an hour to the summit.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.11.02From here there was a scorching descent and another tough (albeit rideable this time) climb. At the top we could see that the day was running away and that we still had quite a distance to go, with no idea what the terrain would be. Already we’d been shown that the suggested road could range from great to not actually visible. It was time to take stock and work out a quick way to Friday nights pub. Google said the shortest quiet road route was “only” 2 hrs riding. Our spirits were still pretty good as we just accepted that this was the only way to do it. There were no bail out calls we could make, no public transport, just get on with it. Keep chatting, keep spinning and keep listening out for a phone saying “turn left in quarter of a mile.”

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.11.25It was nearly 7:30pm when we got to the Royal Oak at Welshpool. Due to the arrival time it was shower, beer, meal, beer and sleep in pretty fast succession.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.11.34Day two was planned as 75.6 miles with over 7600 feet climbing. My legs were feeling fairly leaden as I got up and opened the curtain. The weather report was spot on. It was battering it down. Not exactly the perfect motivation but at least it was what we expected. It even began to ease up as we span long the 10 mile canal towpath that links Welshpool and Abermule. The flat ground and fast spin had spirits back up to full. We decided over breakfast that we were going to change the next section of the route. Instead of heading out to Clun over what could have been any kind of terrain we would head along some quiet roads and join the route a little later. This still meant considerable climbing through the Shropshire hills but at least the road made it rideable.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.11.46Picking up the trail at LLoyney we began a five mile offroad section that took us into some really remote countryside. In the hinterland between better known countryside, where any tourists might be drawn, this was just big, open and stunningly bleak. With the drizzle settling in and a conversation on the difference between Smoy and Dreich we winched our way up through the hills. Soaked sheep started at us like we were the idiots as we were here by choice.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.11.59We descended and then began the multiple sections that made up the biggest climb of the day. The weather had decided it was going to turn to rain and looked to be settling in for the foreseeable future. Nothing else to do but get on with following the route and ticking off the miles. By this time we’d settled into what seemed the best way to ride a trip like this. Semi-laden bikes didnt encourage excited sprinting or quick direction changes, so it was more a case of steady as she goes. Keeping energy to be slowly released through the day and letting the bike choose the line it wanted to take.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.12.20The top of the climb was a huge anticlimax. The trail had disappeared into a bog and it was only by following a very vague sheep track that we were able to push our way to the trig point that was just visible through the mist/ cloud. After reaching this we had even less clue. The GPS track didnt exist on the ground. We had a rough direction but no trail. Nothing to do but push, pull, fall and drag through the clumps of boggy plant. At this point we started passing time by listing our least favourite walks we’d had over the first two days. This kept us going till we found a field edge, a sheeps track, a possible path, a definite path and then a mud filled farm track to follow.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.12.47As ever time was slipping away and by the time we had made it to our lunch stop it was gone 4 oclock and the kid serving at the bar was only able to sell us hot chocolate to help thaw out and pork scratchings to refuel. I imagine this is what team Sky deploy in their musettes on a big Pyranean TdF stage.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.13.05From here we once again had to defer to Google maps and the quickest way to Glasbury and the bunk house. An hour and a half this time and we spun through quiet roads to get to our destination. The poor bunk room we had was quickly trashed as puddles of muddy water began to pool. Clothes were squeezed in the hope of drying for the next day and semi dry clothes pulled out of what was meant to be dry bags. But all it took was a shower, some food, a local ale and a bit of Welsh Whiskey and we were feeling human again.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.13.40.pngAll that remained was one more day of riding.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.13.54.pngDay three was meant to be the easy spin down to the coast. 61.8 miles and over 5400 feet of climbing. And it was the day that had no tinkering from the original route. So with this in mind we were feeling cheery as we spun out of Glasbury, with only slightly damp shoes from the day before. All the clouds had lifted and it was as if Saturdays deluge hadn’t happened. From the start we knew that this day had the biggest climb at the start, and it didnt disappoint. The only real mountain climb of the trip was from Glasbury up to Gopsel pass. The first part shot straight up the foothill at a savage angle. Even seated it was hard not to spin out while climbing on road. I think that with my double ring I had a slightly easier gear than the others, and I was more than happy to slip into this and try to twiddle away. With varying degrees of success. Once the viscous drag was done the climb proper opened out. Im not used to climbs that get started after the first climb is done. But I kind of like the mentality that it requires.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.14.16.pngAlthough long, this was actually one of the easier climbs. It had an alpine feel to it that brought back memories of climbs like the Croix de Foix. You could tell that we were now in the popular part of the Brecon Beacons. There were far more riders that we’d seen all weekend. The usual selection of far too serious and nice and friendly. Cresting the pass we were treated to the kind of decent you really dont often get chance to see, give or take a few bumps it is about twelve miles long. From flat out, eyes streaming, huge grins at the top to a gentle gravity assisted spin alongside the Afon Honddu river towards the end.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.14.47.pngWe’d switched the route a little as we were no longer confident in what terrain the original route would take us on. But the quiet roads were perfect for our weary legs. It gave us a chance to spin and chat as the miles ticked off.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.15.01.pngSoon enough we were in Monmouth. It was our planned location for a lunch stop and for the first time this trip it was also actually lunchtime as well. The sun was out and life was good, even knowing that there were still two fairly stiff climbs left as we were now following the planned route for the rest of the day. Its testament to how quickly you get used to long day riding as there was no grumbling, no real trepidation just a case of rolling down the road and seeing what surface you’d find when it started going up. Thankfully in this case however steep and narrow it got it was still just about rideable. Penultimate climb ticked off we were plunged back down to the river Wye and the valley floor. A beautiful route along took us on the opposite bank to the A road. It really was a great route keeping the cars zipping along one side and us traveling in the same direction but at a far more sedate pace. Finally we didnt have to clock watch and we were even afforded a break as we sat by the riverbank shooting the breeze. But somehow we missed seeing Tintern Abbey which I think we must have ridden past.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.15.13.pngIt was with satisfyingly beat legs that we got up the last climb (which of course had a missing path followed by a steep rock strewn push) and we were on the final stretch. Sweeping down hedge lined roads hoping that nothing was coming as quick the other way. A quick cheeky nip along the final footpath to get to the end of Offas Dyke and we were done. As is often the case it was a bit of an anticlimax, not helped by the fact that we weren’t in Chepstow but in Sedbury on the other side of the rive Wye. But rolling into Chepstow itself we realised it wasn’t much more exciting, so we changed our plans and decided to chance it by getting an earlier train to Newport and seeing if we could get an earlier train back to London. A new ticket and a lucky break that no one stopped our bikes being loaded on meant that we were able to get a train that got us back two hours earlier. Getting in at 10 o’clock meant a far better nights sleep once I’d unpacked as much of my bike kit as really needed to be done.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.15.25.pngRose tinted lenses take very little time to colour your opinions of a ride. Already I was forgetting all the pushing and the amount we’d bitten off more than was possible. All I could remember was how much different terrain we’d covered in three long days of riding. Swooping, powering, gingerly mincing. How good it is to ride with old friends who get the same from a trip like this as I do. How the weather had been exactly what Id expect from a weekend in Wales in June, absolutely everything. The weekend had been a total success as it had proved that you can indeed fit quite a bit of fairly wild adventure into 3 days even without having to head to the Lakes or to Scotland. The bit that you usually drive though on your way to a trail centre is well worth a visit.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 08.15.56.pngIf you’d like to ride the route we did then let me know.

theridejournal@hotmail.com

Although I’d suggest you made a few amendments before you head off.

Words and pictures – Philip Diprose

www.theridejournal.com

I rode to Sheffield and back searching for me chuffin battery charger…

Wednesday morning, a re-arranged day off taking advantage of the optimistic BBC forecast. I used to get really lucky with booking my time off work, seeming to always be out of the office on a nice day. My luck must have returned today!

20170614_134652-01With the sun blazing I thought I would dust off my trusty Canon G15. I used to take it on rides regularly to take landscape photography. Having moved home in autumn last year I had no clue where the damned charger was though! The pressure was on to find it as I’d been invited to take some images at a works event tomorrow night! The house upside down with no sign of it I thought I may have left it at my partners parents back in Sheffield. This was the perfect excuse to have a ride over the Trans Pennine Trail to check, and double as a recce ride of a route I was planning to do with the rest of the group.

20170614_140002-01The daily bike is always ready to go, it’s my trusty stainless steel do-it-all bicycle. 42mm 650b Tyres, disk braked and full mudguards (with large flaps). After faffing about all morning looking for the charger I was keen to dash off, so unfortunately didn’t bother packing stove gear for coffee in the hills. However I did call by the local bakery for lunch, 2 sausage rolls and a carton of Ribena. It’s probably not what the pro-teams eat when riding, but it’s what I fancied, and I am far beyond caring what is fashionable for ‘cyclists’ to eat! I hooked my freshly baked goods under the cargo net to let them cool down as I rode.

20170614_142722-01Leaving Hadfield I set off up The National Cycle Network Route 62 – ‘The Woodhead Line’ a disused railway, also known as The Longdendale Trail. The line was Engineered by Joseph Locke in the 1840’s, opened in 1845 to be used for well over 100 years until its closure in 1981. It must have been a rather scenic train ride from Sheffield to Manchester in its heyday – part of the reason I chose to cycle the route on my day off. The line cuts through the very Northern edges of The Peak District alongside the chain of 6 reservoirs; Arnfield, Bottoms, Valehouse, Rhodeswood, Torside with Woodhead reservoir at the top of the valley. This collective expanse of man-made water at its time of completion in 1877 was the largest in the world, and the first major conservation scheme in Europe. It’s taken for granted by the many thousands that travel on the A-road (me included). Both the road and railway kiss the waters shores with not many people understanding its importance for drinking water, as well as how the dams control river-flow downstream. It really is quite a feat of Engineering by John Frederick Bateman.

20170614_144021-01An assumption could be made that cycling the length of these reservoirs would take some time, but the miles pass quickly on the gentle gradient to Woodhead. Normal railways could never traverse steep hills, which makes for an enjoyable cycle route – until we get to the old tunnels…

20170614_144514-01The Woodhead line is also known for its tunnels through the hills which border Derbyshire and Yorkshire. 3 Bores had been taken through to Dunford Bridge allowing the passing of many trains back in the day, they are now used as glorified cable conduits with high voltage power lines strewn through them. Some may say that their closure is a great shame, I would like to see them open at least one for the benefit of cyclists. However there is a silver lining in that a bit of hike-a-bike to the top of the hill does offer an excellent view down the valley, a scenic place where I will eat my lunch. A brief stop to eat while I overlook the reservoirs and passing traffic on the main road below.

20170614_163843-01I continue on the NCN 68, it has stereotypical grass up the middle trails – Paul would be proud! The route I am now on is no longer an old railway, but is a historic pack-horse route. The trail runs parallel to the now extremely busy A628, a road not suitable for cycling in my opinion as shown by the heavy vehicles crossing near Ladyshaw Bridge, remains of an old Inn are still clearly visible here. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to have stayed here in winter time. The main road often shuts over winter here due to excessive snow. Back in the day it must have been bitter cold in the old stone drafty buildings.

20170614_182155-01I continue on my way to Dunford Bridge, the next village at the other end of the railway tunnels. Time is pressing and I still need to find my chuffin camera charger. I take this side of the trail for granted as I ride it so often, fuelled by my lunch and keen to get to Sheffield. I press on down the old railway, through Penistone, leaving to tarmac near Thurgoland. Although the Trans Pennine Trail on the Yorkshire side is still rather nice, it certainly doesn’t have the scenery of the Woodhead valley – no photos today apart from a snap taken in the Thurgoland Tunnel. No matter the temperature outside, this tunnel always seems to feel the same, summer or winter!

20170614_182654-01I arrive at my destination and quickly search the house – no charger and I need to get back to pick Heather up from the train. Turn and burn. I head back the way I came, making time for a few photo stops at Valehouse and Bottoms. The sun has gone from blazing, to a much more photogenic ambience. I get home in time for the train, and I find the charger in a box at home not much later! Never mind, a good excuse for a ride!

Words and pictures – Will House.

Plan C…

It was originally meant to be the ‘Un-meeting’ weekend. A weekend of riding on Anglesey with a wild camp in secluded coastal forest on the Saturday night, fish & chips, beers, good times, etc…

Not to be. A rapidly deteriorating forecast last week left Plan A in tatters! Plan B then…

Chop off the Saturday (gail force winds) head out to Anglesey early on the Sunday, ride all day, fish & chips for lunch, beers, good times, etc…

Not to be. Forecast deteriorating still further (heavy rain) Plan B, scrapped! Plan C then…

An early drive out to Glasson Dock, breakfast outdoors, ride the trails and lanes out to Sunderland Point (taking advantage of low tide across the causeway) over to Morecambe for a spot of lunch, beers, good times, back to the cars by late afternoon, etc…

Success!

Despite a (still) worryingly dire forecast we set off promptly at 7am (Steve, Jack & I) with Neil, Charlie & Ella due to meet us at the Conder Green car park for roughly 8am. I’m happy to say that apart from a brief downpour on the motorway and mainly heavy skies all day, the heavens remained closed. It was windy, but totally manageable.

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Glasson Dock, or Glasson is a village just south of Lancaster sitting at the mouth of the River Lune. Commissioned in 1779 the dock was opened in 1787 and was devised due to the difficulty of navigation to the docks at Lancaster. ‘Entering the dock by boat is limited to short periods of time. The River Lune up to the dock entrance contains very little water at low tide, and the channel varies its course from time to time. Mooring below the dock entrance is not possible, and the dock gates are only opened for a period starting 45 minutes before high water and ending at high water’.

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Our starting point for the day would be the car park at Conder Green affording us a clear view of the docks and a conveniently placed picnic table to set up breakfast camp!

‘Conder Green is situated at the beginning of the Lune Millennium Cycleway. The path follows a disused railway line alongside the estuary of the River Lune where many interesting and contrasting birds and plant species may be seen’.

After safe arrival by all parties we busied ourselves with the days first important task, breakfast! Coffee with bacon, banana & maple syrup pancakes were served up first with Steve doing a sterling job of playing ‘Mother’ to myself & Jack. Then coffee and sausage butties for Neil, Charlie & Ella all lovingly prepared in Neil’s fully kitted out adventure wagon.

Awake (mostly) and fuelled heartily we set off down the trail towards Lancaster, heading for our first stop, Sunderland Point…

‘Sunderland, commonly known as Sunderland Point, is a small village among the marshes, on a windswept peninsula between the mouth of the River Lune and Morecambe Bay. It was used as a port for slave ships and cotton ships but its importance declined as other ports such as Lancaster were opened up.

Sunderland is unique in the UK as being the only community to be on the mainland and yet dependent upon tidal access. The only vehicular access to the village is via a single-track road from Overton 1.5 miles (2.4 km) away crossing a tidal marsh. The road is covered by water at every high tide. 

Strictly speaking, “Sunderland Point” is the name of the tip of the peninsula on which the village of Sunderland stands, but the name is frequently applied to the village itself’.

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The trail from Conder Green is an absolute belter! Tunnels of lush green give way to open views of the estuary and it is immediately evident why Steve has wanted to show me (all of us) another of his favourite places to ride. Mainly traffic free trails and lanes lead us north and onwards, following the flow of the River towards Lancaster.

 

A river crossing on the Millenium Bridge turned us right around to head back south, past the cycle racing circuit at Salt Ayre and on towards the village of Overton and the tidal causeway leading to Sunderland Point.

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Atmospheric to say the least, the tide was indeed out as we made our way across the barren yet beautiful landscape.

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Stranded boats, barnacled and rusted railings, old weathered marker stones, bands of kelp and seabirds a plenty.

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A magical place made all the more so by the moody skies…

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After a contemplative stop we made our way back across the causeway before the tide started to slowly creep back in, with a firm plan now to head for Morecambe and hunt down some lunch. A quick retrace of steps, and a brief stint on some larger roads brought us to the village of Heysham.

Heysham is a large coastal village overlooking Morecambe Bay. It is a busy ferry port, with services to the Isle of Man and Ireland, and the site of two nuclear power stations. There was however, something far more interesting that Steve wanted us to see…

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The stone graves in the ruins of the ancient St. Patrick’s Chapel, close to St Peter’s Church. ‘They are thought to date from the 11th century, and are hewn from solid rock. Local legend has it that St Patrick landed here after crossing from Ireland and established the chapel. However it has been established that the chapel was built around 300 years after Patrick’s death. These stone graves appear on the cover of the Black Sabbath CD, “The Best of Black Sabbath”.

This had Charlie and I very excited!

The grounds of St Peter’s Church contain many Saxon and Viking remains, and the church itself contains a Viking hogback stone. The purpose of these strange stone sculptures is the subject of much debate; they are found mainly in the Northern England and also in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and a few areas of Southern England with Viking links. Heysham also contains one of only three sites in Britain and Ireland that contain a pre-Roman labyrinth carving, the others being located at Tintagel, Cornwall and Hollywood, Co. Wicklow, Ireland’.

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It was, fantastic! Atmospheric, windswept and affording a fantastic view of Morecambe Bay despite the dull sky. It made for a perfect second stop and provided a feast of photo opportunities.

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From Heysham It was just a quick blast downhill to the long promenade, Morecambe, lunch and of course…

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A photo with Eric!

Sandwiches, fries and caffeine all round put smiles on faces and quieted grumbling tums. After a flurry of social media maintenance we settled in to a lengthy lunchtime chat and a good few giggles.

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The return leg back to the cars first required the negotiation of Morecambes busy main roads, but safely tucked in behind our tour guide Steve we were very swiftly, and safely, back onto traffic free cycling paths (an impressive network crisscrosses the area) and soon joining up with our original route. Retracing our steps back down across the River we stopped one last time for a well deserved beer. Catching a rare spot of sunshine in the beer garden as we chatted made a very enjoyable day out that much sweeter.

Back along the Millennium Cycleway and back through the magical tree tunnels, all the while with an eye on the raging brown waters of high tide. Back in the car park at Conder Green we loaded up the bikes, said our goodbyes and were home by 4pm.

Not the grand ‘Un-meeting’ weekend we’d had planned, but a great salvage job by Steve that made for a very grand day out.

Words – Paul Rance.

Pictures – Paul Rance & Steve Makin.

Two tramps…

8 days off work.

Straddling the end of May and the beginning of June, what could possibly go wrong?

I’ll say it, although I’m sick to death of saying it..!

THE BASTARD WEATHER!!!!!!!!!!!

Don’t get me wrong. It’s always lovely to be off work, and I have been busying myself with work around the house, tinkering with bikes, reading, etc; but to have had predominantly poor weather all week has soured my time off considerably.

As any parent will attest, its hard enough entertaining a child (on half term) at the best of times. My little boy Joseph is Autistic and our life is quite restricted because of it, add rain (and high winds) to the mix and it can be hard work finding ways of keeping him happy and occupied.

I did have some plans for riding this week…

Didn’t happen!

Lulled into a false sense of security by mostly glorious sunshine on my first two days off, I dove head first into some gardening and household chores happy to have plenty of time for cycling after these important duties had been ticked off the list. Sigh.

I did manage to get out on Sunday for a spin with Steve and Ella, but I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t really feeling it. The sky was gloomy, the wind cold and of course we headed home early under black clouds and drizzle. Not particularly enjoyable. It was reassuring to find that Steve felt the same that day as we chatted out the miles this morning.

Both desperate to get out on the bikes and seizing a break in the forecast we finally made a plan yesterday to stay local, take it easy and share a beer for breakfast! I’m sure Steve was half joking when he suggested it, but I decided to take it very seriously. A bottle of Vanilla Porter was dutifully packed into the Carradice the minute the seed was planted.

IMG_20170607_082852We talked, we moaned, we laughed, we dicked about, we even discussed ways of salvaging our seemingly doomed ‘Un-Meeting’ on Anglesey this coming Weekend, but that’s a whole other story…

IMG_20170607_104842Two tramps was the theme today and supping on that beer by the canal whilst putting the world to rights felt like the exact right thing to be doing. I got that buzz on the way home. The buzz from a good ride, but more importantly the buzz from having thrashed out the crap in my head with a someone of a like mind.

IMG_20170607_104752No epicness, no suffering, just a little much needed therapy for two tramps on their favourite lanes trying to figure it all out.

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Words and pictures – Paul Rance.

His & Hers bivvy…

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She’s been asking for a while now, why do you like sleeping outside?

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Its hard to answer really. Without trotting out a load of cliches about being one with nature, the birdsong, the sunset blah blah blah… best if you experience it yourself said I, thinking she’d never fall for that!

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Hmm, she called my bluff and a date was set, the forecast looked perfect and I set about preparing to make sure that everything was perfect, choice of food, warm sleeping gear, nice location…

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The day arrived and off we set, arriving via a fabulous lunch of prawn butties and earl grey tea, however it was raining, we sat in the car for a while, this wasn’t in the script.

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We decided to set off and see what happened, bizarrely bumping into an old friend along the way through the forest, the rain had lifted but the dark skies remained.

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By the time we got to the bivvy spot it was starting to clear up, I pitched the tarp so we could at least cook dinner without getting wet, the skies now clearing we (she) made a decision to camp, after all we were less than an hour from the car, if it went pear shaped we could pack up and head home easily enough.

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So dinner (boil in the bag Tuna and rice) was served, followed by sticky toffee pudding and gin and tonics watching the sun go down, it was going well, this might just work I was beginning to think to myself when I heard the first drunken shouts…

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It would seem that a gang of teenagers were wild camping a couple of hundred yards away, far enough not to be able to see them but near enough to hear them! fortunately for us a couple of the lads stumbled towards us and saw our bivvy, and cleared off back to their camp. They were decent enough to tone it down a bit and all was quiet by about eleven o’clock.

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Now, you need to understand that deep and fulfilling sleep is never going to happen when you are bivvying, there’s always something happening that disturbs your sleep but tonight was perfect, about 12c temps, no rain and a light breeze to keep the midges away.

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Until that light breeze turns to gusty wind and the tarp starts to flap in your face, well not my face, anyway, awake at 6 oclock, breakfast and coffee by half past and packed and riding by seven. She’s not yet asked about when and where the next one is but seems keen to tell her friends all about it, we shall see.

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Words & pictures – Steve Makin.