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.

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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.

York Cycle Rally

York Rally Badge 2018

I arrived home yesterday from my second consecutive weekend away at a cycling event. This time the York Rally, based at the racecourse in York. We just took the tandem to this event and we were surprised at just how many tandems were there. In fact there were bicycles off all sorts: tricycles, tandem tricycles, recumbent bikes – you name it and it was there.

What a wonderful weekend! More low-key than the Eroica Britannia last weekend, this was very much a leisurely family affair. There was so much going on it was difficult decide what to do.

There were various rides to go on from Friday evening pub rides to rides out of differing duration to visit interesting locations on both Saturday and Sunday. These often overlapped so some serious prioritising was necessary. Not being ones to frequent pubs very often we passed on the Friday evening offerings preferring to get ourselves organised on site and decide on our choices for the next day.

On top of that there was also lots of activities on site so there was no need to go off for a bike ride at all if you didn’t wish. These included trade stands, children’s activities, talks a bike jumble sale (known as the Saddlebag Sale), Grasstrack racing and Cyclo Cross.

Stopping for Lunch

Stopping for lunch at Benningborough

On Saturday we opted for what was described as “a gentle ride along the ‘Way of the Roses’ to the National Trust’s Benningborough  Hall” where we stopped for lunch. This was listed as being 9 miles each way but in fact was slightly more and as we detoured on the way back to shop for a few food items we had forgotten we ended up doing around 27 miles in total, mostly off-road through wonderful scenery.

The ride allowed us to return in time to attend the ‘Bicycle Poetry Workshop’ at 5.00pm led by Bernadette Cullen, a keen cyclist who was also poet in residence at Yorkshire Arboretum. She read some of her own poems and then gave us a few exercises to trigger our imaginations to come up with our own poems. Whilst I managed to write something for each of her prompts I failed miserably in the short time available (the whole workshop was only an hour) to produce anything resembling a logical poem, though there are one or two things in my jottings that I might be able to utilise in the days to come. In the evening we looked in on an excellent live folk music session with a group called The Foresters but it was crowded and hot so we only spent a short while peering in through the doorway.

On Sunday we joined a ride through the Solar System from the Sun to Pluto and back! This was another off-road ride along York’s Solar Cycle Path. Along this route there are models of the planets in the solar system set at the correct (to scale) distances apart as well as more wonderful scenery. When you arrive at Pluto there is even a sign that points to Alpha Centauri stating the appropriate number of light years! If you wished you could then cycle on a few more miles to visit a couple of villages. My husband decided he wanted to get back in case he missed the Saddlebag Sale so we made our own way back – a round trip of about 17.5 miles. Back at the sale he managed to pick up one or two ‘spare parts’ that he was looking for so it was worth the return, but he did miss the Q & A session on ‘Flying Gates and Framebuilding’ (Flying Gates being a rather unusual frame design) he had planned on attending, but as he had spoken to the people on their trade stand on Saturday this didn’t worry him too much. We had also intended to join in the Grand Arena Parade but somehow, through heat induced fatigue we missed that too.

An addition to the scheduled events was the landing of a hot air balloon in the early morning and then two also took off from the site in the evening, creating much interest.

This was a truly enjoyable family event and one we shall ear-mark in the diary for next year. Maybe we will get our eldest son and his family to join us – our grandson would love it.

Another Weekend

Another weekend away,
tandem our sturdy steed.
Much more relaxing with easier rides
at the York Rally.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Off again in the motorhome to a cycling event – the York Rally. Check it out at www.yorkrally.org

Whispering

Pumping
pedals turn
quietly whispering wheels,
bright lycra flashes past.
Cyclists.

Eroica Britannia

We have just got back from spending the weekend at the Eroica Britannia held near Buxton in Derbyshire. The three-day event is a celebration of classic bicycles, pre 1987, and all things retro-cycling.

Tandem preparationWe went up to the event on Friday and as it is only about 1.5 – 2 hour drive from home we were there by mid-morning. We chose not to camp at the festival site as we thought this was rather expensive and so were on a quite site up the road a bit (much cheaper). When we first booked a few months ago my husband said it would be 3 miles to the festival site. As the event approached the 3 became 4 miles but in the eventuality it turned out to be 5+ miles with a couple of steep hills to contend with on the way!

Friday was also Day 7 of our ‘7 Days of Cycling’ challenge so we needed to get a ride in.  We had taken our tandem as well as our classic bikes and used this to pedal down to the festival and back in order to register for the Sunday Classic Bike ride. This proved to be quite a tough ride! The photo shows my husband preparing the tandem. We spent a couple of hours having a quick look round before pedalling back. We just got back before it rained.

It rained off and on all night and much of Saturday morning but cleared by late morning so off we went again on the tandem to enjoy the festival. It was a cool day though I soon warmed up on the hilly route down to the festival site. The steep hills on this route were beginning to worry me that I might not manage the classic ride we had signed up for. There were three to choose from: 100 miles, 60 miles and 30 miles. We had registered for the 30 mile ride but even so I was anticipating continuous steep hill climbs and I’m not over fond of hills. Once we were at the festival there was much to see, stalls with bike bits, whole bikes, craft stalls, best in show competitions for bikes, fancy dress etc. and a fun-fair to name but a few. There were so many bikes around and so much going on that I completely forgot to take any photos, I even missed the penny farthings. We returned to the motorhome in the late afternoon and had no sooner got the tandem on its bike rack when it began to rain again.

At the start of the Classic ride

At the start of the Classic ride

Once more it rained intermittently overnight. We had an early start in the morning as we needed to cycle up hill and down dale yet again to get to the event ready for a 9.30 ride start (the longer routes started even earlier). I was having cold feet and finding the route to the festival really tough! Once we were underway however I found the ride, while not easy, not as tough as I had feared, but it was definitely a challenge. I’m pleased to say I wasn’t the only one by a long way that got off and walked up some of the steeper hills, even some of the men got off and walked before I did. There was also far more of the ride on gravelly tracks than we had expected (we knew there would be some) and this makes for some challenging conditions as the tyres slide away from you over the stones. A fair bit of walking was done on these bits too.

Lunch stop

Lunch stop

Half way round there was an extremely well organised lunch stop, complete with an excellent brass band to entertain us and a free packed lunch with loads of water, beer, iced coffee, fruit drinks or whatever you fancied to choose from to drink. At the finish we were greeted with our names announced over loudspeakers to clapping from the spectators and yet more bottles of water to rehydrate us. We got our ‘Road Books’ stamped up, (having collected stamps at the start and the lunch stop) and were also rewarded with a free beer. As I don’t usually drink beer I gave mine to my son on our return home.

This was a very well organised event with a very friendly atmosphere. We did our good turns along the way by lending an Allen Key to one chap to fix his wobbly saddle and a bicycle pump to another chap who needed to mend a puncture and I’m sure many others did similar good turns. It was not an overly warm day and although most people dressed up in era style clothing the effect was slightly lost due to the need to wrap up warm, but there were some in ‘fancy dress’ or tweeds and brogues and ladies in 1920’s style dresses braving the cool weather. We, of course, still had our taxing 5+ miles back to our motorhome to contend with. The rain had managed to stay away during the ride but once more returned just as we were putting the bikes back on the bike rack. We were cold and tired and welcomed a restful evening with the heater on!

This was the first time we have done this event and we thoroughly enjoyed it although we are not at this stage sure if we will do it again. Even my husband found it quite challenging, having to use his angina ‘puffer’ rather more frequently than usual, but it is great to be able to say we did it. Next weekend we are off again on another cycling adventure. This time to the York Rally, a much less taxing event we understand. I’ll let you know how we get on.

 

Near Miss

What is it with cars and country lanes!

We have been having a spell of glorious weather lately and have made the best that we can of it by going out as often as time allows on our bikes. Yesterday was no exception and we did a bit over 20 miles on our tandem, ambling along enjoying the scenery and the sunshine, much of it down lanes that were new to us or which we have only used once or twice before.

When out on the bikes we do try to avoid the main roads as much as possible, only using them as linking sections to a variety of country lanes. These lanes are generally quiet, scenic and a safe place to ride, being relatively free of any traffic. Mostly these lanes are little more than wide enough for one car and you do occasionally meet vehicles coming towards you or maybe catching up behind. Often it is almost impossible for those behind to overtake and so they have to creep along patiently behind us until we find a gateway or wider stretch where we can pull over. Most such drivers are extremely considerate and we always make a point of thanking them. Similarly many of those coming towards us do wait where the road is slightly wider if possible when they see us, or they at least slow down so that we can safely pass in a controlled manner. Again we always thank them.

Sadly to say, however, not everyone is so considerate. There seems to be a percentage of drivers who consider that country lanes are their own personal speedways, after all no-one else uses them do they? They are quite and empty aren’t they? Let’s face it this is their own short cut through to avoid traffic on the main road so why should they have to drive slowly and carefully? We met one such yesterday, coming towards us in a 4×4 with nowhere for us to pull off. Did he slow down? Not a chance! He came hurtling towards us regardless, so we had to jerk to a sudden halt and ram ourselves into the narrow stretch of grass verge while he hurtled past a hairbreadth away from us, without so much as a glance in our direction. We were lucky not to have been knocked off.

This set me to thinking. Whilst out on the ride we also passed first two people riding horses,  then a group consisting of mum and dad with two small children being led on ponies and later another group of about six horse riders. I dread to think what might have happened had said 4×4 driver hurtled round a bend and encountered any of these! The lead horse of the larger group actually shied and nearly stumbled onto his knees at the sight of us. Had we been a hurtling 4×4 it could have been fatal, the car might even have ploughed into the following horses, which were actually filling the width of the road as they came towards us (though they did move over and single up as we passed).

I’m sure none of you would be so inconsiderate, but just in case…. think about it and please always take considerable care when driving down narrow, twisting country lanes, you never know what obstacle might be round the next bend, after all other people are just as likely to consider the lane to be a quiet traffic free zone and themselves not be paying full attention or expecting speeding vehicles.

Incidentally large tractors and other farm vehicles also totally fill the width of the road in narrow lanes, but I have never felt unsafe when encountering a tractor. They are working vehicles and their drivers seem to be well aware of the risks they pose, they do not travel at excessive speeds and are high enough up that they can see far enough ahead to react accordingly. Being large they can also be seen in plenty of time thus allowing bike riders, pedestrians or horse riders to wait at a convenient gateway or other passing spot.

Country lanes are not the place for driving at top speed. The only problem in country lanes are speeding car drivers!

On Your Bike

It occurred to me that it is some time since I wrote about my cycling activities here. That is probably because cycling has taken a bit of a back seat of late.

As regular readers will know we were away touring through France to Spain and back for a couple of months in the autumn last year. We took our tandem with us and whilst individual trips out were of varying lengths, some quite short and others longer, we covered quite a considerable number of miles peddling around with great enjoyment. It is an excellent way to see the countryside.

Since we got back however we haven’t been able to spend as much time on the bikes as we would have liked; an angina diagnosis for my husband, a sciatica attack for me, extreme weather (snow and ice) in this part of the UK and Christmas approaching fast all took their toll. When we did get out it was often separately as my husband didn’t want to go too far or too fast and was trying to avoid hills, just spin the legs and see how he got on. Although prepared to cycle up to usual speed I wasn’t sure how my sciatica inflamed back, hip and leg would stand up to it so didn’t want to ride out too far from home either. This meant that we restricted ourselves to the occasional ride of between 3-6 miles, weather permitting, until after Christmas. We have also interspersed these rides with short sessions on the turbo trainer in the garage – is it just me or is it really much harder work on the turbo? And it’s so boring!

Gradually things are settling down for both of us and we are upping our cycling activity again, making sure hubby doesn’t overdo it. Having done some rides of 8-12 miles over the last few weeks we went out on the tandem yesterday cycling a grand total of 15 miles, the longest distance completed since mid November. We are looking forward to better weather soon so that we can work our way up to our more regular distances before too long and perhaps go out again with the  Sunday morning gang.

We do have a few cycling aims on the plot for this year, depending on how my husband gets on. For the last two years we have been to Spain in the spring to take part in a cycling event for classic road racing bikes called La Pedals de Clip, however we have decided against doing it this year as the event is taking place a good month earlier than usual and this is not convenient for us due to other commitments, plus we have no guarantee that my husband will be fit enough in time. Instead we are looking at possibly taking part in a similar event in June here in the UK and we are also looking at participating in a sportive/fun ride event in May which starts and finishes, conveniently for us, at the marina where we keep our boat. If fitness is not an issue there is also usually a cycling event in support of our local hospice in April that we could consider.

We have not committed to any of these as yet as it all rather depends on how things go health wise. On the plus side at least my sciatica is now gradually easing up and I expect to be fully back on form before too long, especially once the weather begins to improve and spring wins out in the battle of the seasons. Fingers crossed I will soon be able to cycle off the couple of extra pounds accrued over Christmas and New Year!

Pedalling

On a bright and crisp morning
I pedal the cobwebs away —
me and my bike against the cold!

‘Bertie’ Bike

Typical isn’t it? Very shortly after I had published last Monday’s post (which you can read here) my husband finished the refurbishing of my ‘new’ classic road-racing bike, an original locally built ‘Henry Burton’. So here, to remind you, are the before and after pictures:

Henry Burton Bike

Before

 

Henry Burton Bike refurbished

After

As you can see the bike has had a re-spray. Various parts have also been replaced with era compatible components. (You can view the state of the bike when it arrived on my previous post here.) There have been a few teething problems with brakes and gears and some tweaking has taken place. I have taken it on a few very short test rides plus a first trial of about 9 miles and then yesterday a 35 mile ride. Unfortunately the gears are still not completely playing the game – there are only 5 (due to its age) but for some reason it absolutely refuses to go into 5th so at the moment effectively only has 4 gears! I’m pleased to say despite being the only lady amongst 10 men on the ride yesterday and despite my four gears to their (mostly) 16 options on their modern bikes I was able to keep up pretty well. The bike fits me well, has a nice light feel to it and is a joy to ride.

Hubby has had it up on the bike stand several times to try to solve the gear shift problem and all the gears appear to function smoothly but as soon as I get it out on the road 5th gear will just not shift. For the moment it has us puzzled but I expect it will get sorted eventually. Any bike mechanics out there with suggestions?

In case you are wondering, the red bow on the front is there because the bike is my birthday present and I was told to leave the bow in place until the day – it’s today (but I have still left it there)! I have also, you will have noticed, continued to call the bike ‘Bertie’ as the name seems to have stuck now.

Also of interest and something that I have not mentioned before, you may like to know that Henry Burton was a one-time racing cyclist (as was his son John). When he stopped racing Henry learned frame building from Ernie Clements, another ex-racing cyclist turned frame builder whom Henry worked for before setting up on his own. Our eldest son owns a lovely classic Ernie Clements bike which he has also refurbished – a very nice bike.

 

 

 

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