Complaints

Today the sun sulks
behind cloud cover,
tired of our complaints.
A brief respite from the heat,
but of the drought?
No end in sight.

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Tissington Trail

The Tissington Trail is a former railway line running from Ashbourne in Derbyshire to the village of Parsley Hay in the Peak District National Park, not far from Arbor Low stone circle. It covers a distance of approximately 13.5 miles a goes steadily uphill all the way. Just before it reaches Parsley Hay it is joined by the High Peak Trail which continues on from there up to Buxton. The trail is a walking and cycling route and part of the Sustrans National Cycle Network. Sustrans is a charity dedicated to creating and expanding a network of safe cycling routes, largely traffic free, around the UK down quiet country lanes and along off-road trails and paths beside rivers or canals and through scenic countryside.

We cycled part of the Tissington Trail many moons ago with our three then very young children. Our eldest son on his own bike, our daughter on a seat on the crossbar of my husband’s bike and our youngest son in a kiddie seat on the back of my bike. We had not been there since until we cycled part of both it and the High Peak Trail on our recent Eroica Britannia ride so, with our ‘new’ Mixte bikes, which we had specifically bought to do this kind of trail riding, we decided it was high time we rode the whole trail.

Site of former Tissington Station

Former Tissington Station site

Last Wednesday we packed up the bikes and took ourselves up to Ashbourne, the nearest end of the trail to our home since we had to do the ‘there and back again’ route and return to the car. It was a lovely warm day but as much of the trail is through woodland it was nice and shady. From time to time you come out from the trees to spectacular views over the surrounding Derbyshire hills and vales. If needed there are places to hire bikes at both ends of the trail where you can also get refreshments and there are several other places along the route for café stops as well – even more in the school summer holidays.  Our first brief refreshment stop was at the site of the former Tissington Station.

Parsley Hay Bike Hire and Cafe

Parsley Hay bike hire and cafe

Further up the trail Hartington Signal box is one of the picnic places where you can buy refreshments in the summer holidays but it was not open when we were there. Never-the-less we stopped for a drink and a muesli bar that we carried with us. Then it was on to Parsley Hay where we stopped for lunch.

Just by way of variation, rather than simply turn round and return the way we came we decided to turn off along the High Peak Trail where it joins the Tissington Trail just below Parsley Hay. This trail is not quite such a good surface as the Tissington Trail, being not as smooth with rather more rough gravel, though still a safe enough ride. To continue along the High Peak Trail would have taken us too far away from where we had left the car in Ashbourne so after only a short distance we left the trail to cycle up a short but very rough track in order to reach the road (I walked!) and then a couple of miles by road until we could once more join the Tissington trail at Hartington Signal Box. From there is was gently downhill all the way back to Ashbourne, with another brief stop at Tissington on the way.

Hartington Signal Box

Hartington Signal Box

Despite not yet being the school holidays we met quite a number of dog-walkers, hikers, other cyclist and horse-riders along the way so you do have to take a bit of care – in places it is quite narrow and passing can be a little difficult. I expect during the holidays there are even more people making use of this wonderful off-road facility.

All in all we did about 28 miles, half of which was the gentle uphill climb to Parsley Hay, followed by an easy roll back down again! It was a wonderful day out and with the warm weather and the climb we were pleasantly warn out by the time we got home. Perhaps another time we will do the High Peak Trail from start to finish. The first part up to Parsley Hay is only about 11.5 miles but if we want to go on to Buxton that will make it significantly longer and we may need to do it in two halves, especially as we will need to go there and back.

Promised

Today started cool
and overcast
with promise of rain
in the forecast.
Possibly anywhere,
maybe not everywhere,
still some uncertainty.
Now the sun comes
and all hopes fast fade,
along with the shade.
Rain somewhere today,
but not here.

Rain Dance

Brown and scorched the grass,
relentless the heat and drought.
Time for a rain dance.

White Horses

For as long as I can remember, when we were out and about, even when driving along in the car, if we passed a field with a white horse in it my mother would say “Bow to the white horse” and we all did. (Strictly speaking there is no such thing as a white horse as technically they are all greys.) This is a tradition I have always continued and today even when out cycling if we see a ‘white’ horse my husband is also primed to say it – “Bow to the white horse.” I never knew why my mother said this, I don’t think I ever asked, it was just something she said and we did. I don’t even know if she knew why or whether it was just something her mother said, and her mother before that and so on.

Lady Godiva Statue, Coventy

Lady Godiva Statue, Coventry. (Wiki)

When I was at secondary school we studied ‘Classical Mythology’ i.e. the myths and legends of the Greeks and Romans. It was only as I got older that I realised that here in the lands of the north we had our own mythologies – Norse, Anglo-Saxon and Celtic and I often wondered why we never learnt about those at school; myths that were surely more relevant to our own heritage. I know my father was interested, he had copies of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and the Heimskringla (Norse Sagas) but never passed on his knowledge to me, although I do now own his books and have taken an interest in these stories of our own tradition as I have grown older.

It was quite some years later that the ‘penny finally dropped’ as they say. References to white horses are everywhere in our lives and in our stories. Witness the number of pubs called ‘The White Horse’, our heroes are ‘knights in shining armour’ riding a white horse such as St. George, King Arthur and even the wizard ‘Gandalf in Lord of the Rings’. Lady Godiva rode a white horse through the streets of Coventry as recorded in the nursery rhyme “Ride-a-cock horse to Banbury Cross to see a fine lady ride on a white horse…”.

White Horse of Uffingham

White Horse of Uffingham (Wiki)

There is also Rhiannon of Welsh legend and we cannot forget the ‘White Horse of Uffingham’ an ancient chalk carving in the Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire. I could go on, the list is endless.

The White Horse is of course a reference to Epona, the Celtic goddess of horses and maybe also a fertility goddess, who often appeared as a white horse or is depicted as riding a white horse. Interestingly she is probably the only Celtic goddess who was retained by the Romans when they ruled the British Isles. Usually they either discarded the local gods and goddesses, absorbed them into their own equivalents or adopted them by giving them a Roman name. Bowing to the white horse is obviously a nod to the worship of this ancient goddess. My mother may well have known this or maybe not, but long may the tradition continue in my family.

Biff, Baff

Biff, baff,
splat…OUT!
It’s Wimbledon time again.
Exhausting to watch,
the weather’s so hot,
so far only one stop for rain.

Delivery

Expecting a delivery
I hear a bang
like the slam
of a van door.
Through the window
nothing, no-one there.

Then I see it;
the splat,
the smear of blood
on the pane.
I find no sign
of injured bird —

but oh
how it must have hurt.

N+1…or 2

I have written before about N+1 in the context of bicycles, where N is the number you already have and you are asked how many you need, so now I have a confession (or 2) to make. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our participation at the Eroica Britannia (here), what I didn’t mention is that we bought a bike. There were several trade stands at the Eroica, selling bike parts as well as ‘vintage’ (i.e. Eroica suitable) bikes.

One particular stall, which we visited on the Saturday and which also hired out bikes for the event, had for sale a Claude Butler Mixte bike. For those who may not know what it is, a Mixte (pronounced Mix-tee) is a sort of cross between a ladies step-through bike and a man’s crossbar bike, they have a downward sloping pair of thinner tubes rather than one thicker tube, which gives strength to a lighter weight bike. Often considered a ladies bike they are really unisex and multi-purpose. We were rather taken with said bike, which was in excellent condition for its age and my husband offered to buy it as it wasn’t very expensive. I was tempted but eventually said that I didn’t really need it so why buy it? However, overnight I thought about it and decided that it would be useful to me as a winter bike and for some minor off-roading as the tyres were fatter and more ‘grippy’ than the skinny tyres of my race bikes. So first thing Sunday morning, before our Eroica Classic ride we went back to buy it – it had been sold!

Henry Burton Salmon MixteThe stall owner showed us another bike he had, a salmon-coloured Henry Burton Mixte. Now Henry Burton bikes were made in Stafford not far from where we live, (the shop is still there but they no longer make their own bikes); indeed the bike I was riding for the Eroica was a hand-made Henry Burton bike. He suggested we thought about it on the ride (we needed to get to the start). While we were out I saw a girl riding the bike having hired it for the event and I spent a little time talking to her about it. To cut a long story short we bought it. Then we had the problem of getting it home as we already had two bikes and our bike rack couldn’t take any more. Fortunately the seller’s business premises were only about half-an-hour’s drive from where we live so we arranged to collect it from him once back home.

We collected it on Tuesday afternoon and not being one to hang about my husband began fiddling with it straight away. On Wednesday morning he went to our local bike charity shop ‘Back to Bikes’ in Stafford to find some bits for the bike. What did he see there but another similar Henry Burton Mixte, this time in a sort of aqua-cum-pale green, which had only just come in and not yet been through the workshop. It is built to a higher specification than the salmon one, having amongst other things 18 gears as opposed to the 10 of the salmon one, and was cheap – half the price! So he had to buy it didn’t he? After all he is quite capable of doing the necessary refurbishment himself. I came home from my visit to the local supermarket to find him fiddling with a bike I had not seen before. His suggestion was that he did them both up and then I could decide which I wanted to keep and we would sell the other.

Henry Burton Green MixteHaving done some minor work on the second one he decided to try it up the road to see if it was okay. Fatal! He came back saying that he thought he might keep it for himself, for the same reason as me – it might be useful for ‘roads, tracks and trails’ riding such as we did at the York Rally last week.

So there you are, we now have N+2 and we hope to try them out on the Tissington and High Peaks trails next week – providing he has fitted my new chain and got the gears working properly. I’ll let you know.

Cradled

Cradled gently in my hands
I release the butterfly that flew
through the summer-open door
to flutter ineffectively
against the window pane.
I watch it fly away.

Draining

Hot,
the sun
on my skin,
draining all my energy.
Lethargic.

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