The Tarka Trail

Strawberry Line Bike

Floral Bike, Strawberry Line

I seem to have got my days and photos in a bit of a muddle. The second floral bike I referred to in last week’s post I actually saw on our second day on the Strawberry line so here belatedly is the photo.

After a day at Blue Anchor where we meet up with relatives we moved on again to a very nice campsite near Little Torrington in Devon, giving me a good chance to rest my battered body. Smytham Manor Holiday Park is situated right next to the Tarka Trail, our next planned ride, and is again roughly a third of the way along the route which runs from Meeth to Braunton, passing through Bideford and Barnstable.

At 30 miles, the Tarka Trail is one of the longest railway paths on the National Cycle Network following alongside the river Torridge and the Taw-Torridge estuary. It takes its name from the story of ‘Tarka the Otter’ by Henry Williamson which is set in this beautiful countryside. By the next day, when we set of to ride the trail I was walking slightly more freely although still with much discomfort. There is a half-mile track directly from the campsite onto the trail but this was very rough and slippery with loose gravel and was a steep downhill into the valley and up the other side, much of which we had to walk which was not ideal for me.

As we were starting part-way along we again decided to do it over two days, our need to go ‘there and back’ doubling the distance. So the first day we did the shorter section from Smytham to Meeth. We waited until the afternoon as there were frequent heavy showers in the morning. The track was a mixture of tarmac and compact gravel with some stony sections (the vibrations through the handlebars shaking my grazed arm quite painfully!), gates and road crossings but is relatively easy riding with gentle undulations. Towards Meeth it passes through the Devon Wildlife Trust’s Meeth Quarry with its clay workings before twisting through the oaks of the Trust’s Ash Moor nature reserve where we stopped for a bite to eat and a drink from our water bottles. We continued to the end of the trail where we came to a road section to take us down into Meeth village, which we decided not to do, so we turned back towards the campsite. There are various interesting sculptures along the route, many depicting Tarka himself. The weather was kind to us, though cool.  There were only a few gentle showers but we were able to shelter under the trees from the worst of this. In all this day’s ride was about 17.5 miles.

Tarka Trail seat

Tarka Trail seat

The following day my walking was still improving as we set off to ride the second section of the trail. Once again the track from the campsite to the trail was the worst part to negotiate. We had decided that we would only go as far as Bideford; there and back would be enough – being a somewhat similar distance to our ride the day before. The terrain was similar to the previous day, again stony sections causing me some pain, but the weather was much improved, warmer and drier. The scenery was beautiful. Here and there were rustic seats with statues sitting on them in various poses. The couple here seem to have lost the head of the baby sitting on their laps!  Most of these seats were placed facing some wonderful views and this one was no exception. as you can see from the photo below.

View from seat

View from Tarka Trail seat

Railway Carriage Tea-Room

Railway Carriage Tea-Room

As we rode in to Bideford we came across a railway carriage café and decided to stop there for a cup of tea and a bite to eat. We then rode in to Bideford where we cycled off to find a supermarket for a bit of shopping. Before returning to the trail back to the campsite we detoured to have a look at the famous indoor Pannier Market (so-called because of the ‘pannier’ baskets that the women-folk used to take their wares to market) which the Tour of Britain cycle race had ridden through a few days before we saw them in Cheddar. We returned to the campsite once more via the steep, rough track that I was beginning to hate – in all we cycled just over 21 miles this day.

We were moving on again the next day, down to Cornwall and more trails, so we still have about a third of the Tarka Trail to ride, from Bideford to Braunton; maybe we will finish it next time we come down this way.

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The Strawberry Line

The Strawberry Line is the first of the trail rides that we attempted during our recent two weeks away with the motorhome, cycling some of the Sustrans Trails down in the West Country. Yes, I know I should have posted yesterday but I have been a bit busy with one thing and another since we arrived home on Saturday afternoon. I think I’m going to be a day late all this week as I try to catch up!

This delightful trail runs from Yatton to Cheddar in Somerset and is so called as the route follows a former branch of the Great Western Railway which was used to transport the sweet Cheddar strawberries to market. Now-a-days apples are the most noticeable fruit along the route, which passes through the Thatchers Cider orchard although this section was saved for our second day.

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

We arrived at our campsite near Axbridge, about a third of the way along the 11 mile trail, around midday on the first day of our holiday and that same afternoon we decided to cycle the shorter loop into Cheddar and back which was about a 6.3 mile round trip. I was unable to take any GoPro footage of this section of the trail as the battery was flat, but we cycled on through the village of Cheddar to the start of the Gorge where I took a few photos with my phone.

Cheddar village was something of a disappointment, a quaint village entirely spoiled by commercialism and tourism although I was delighted to see the floral bike outside one shop (photo below).

The following morning we set off to cycle the remaining two-thirds of the route to Yatton and back, GoPro now pressed back into service. To reach the track we had to ride along the road from our campsite for about half a mile and I had assumed we joined the track at the same place. As I bumped up the shallow, sloping curb onto the gravel by the track entrance my front wheel slipped away and I was deposited heavily onto the gravel – my own stupid fault for taking the curb at too shallow an angle. In fact I had not needed to go up the curb at all as we had to ride through the village of Axbridge to pick up the trail further on. In the event I badly bruised the top of my left thigh and grazed my forearm, it took a moment or two for me to get up and when I did I could barely walk, having considerable pain in my groin area.

Hubby asked if I wanted to return to the campsite to bathe my wounds but I knew if I did I would not set out again. So I washed the graze as best I could with the High5 rehydration drink I had in my bottle (no pure water!) and carried on – a 19.7 mile round trip it eventually turned out to be! I actually found I was okay cycling but walking was torture. Having passed through the Thatchers orchards and some other wonderful scenery we stopped at Yatton Station, the end of the line, for a cuppa in the Strawberry Line Café and I washed off my wounds a bit better in the cloakroom. It was not until we returned to the motorhome that I was able to clean up properly and put a dressing on.

Cheddar Floral Bike

Floral Bike, Cheddar

The next day the Tour of Britain cycle race was due to go through Cheddar and on up through the gorge around lunchtime so we decided to cycle in to Cheddar again, by road this time, to watch – about a four mile round trip, but enough for me in my sorry state as I was even struggling to lift my foot up onto my bicycle pedal. Chris Froome and Geriant Thomas were both participating in the event but I defy anyone to pick them out as the peleton whizzed past en masse. Having recharged my GoPro I did actually get some footage of this and maybe when I get to grips with editing I will be able to slow it down and perhaps pick them out, but don’t hold your breath.

Later that afternoon we moved on to Blue Anchor Bay in order to meet up in the evening with our nephew and his family who lived not too far away. After they had gone I decided it was time to remove the dressing on my arm, which was now well and truly stuck. I had to soak it in warm water to remove it but at least a load of ‘gunk’ came away with it and I was satisfied that it was clean, air now being a better cure for it.

Fortunately the next day we were moving on again so it would be a day of rest for my battered body, hopefully being sufficiently refreshed for our next ride along the Tarka Trail, the subject of my post next week.

The Mickleover Trail

Mickleover Trail Route Map

Mickleover Trail Route

The Mickleover Trail is a short cycling and walking route, just 6.5 miles long that runs between the pretty little village of Etwall and the outskirts of Derby. As it is not too far from our home we decided to cycle this short trail on my birthday last week. We had celebrated with a small family gathering the previous weekend as my eldest son and family would be away on the actual day and so I had my presents early. My husband gave me a GoPro video camera and receiving it a few days early meant that I had time to sort out how it worked and could play with it on our ride along the Mickleover Trail.

We parked at the local Leisure Centre and had short ride along the road until we picked up the trail. The route was an easy ride, being mostly flat or only gently rising and descending. It consisted mainly of well compacted gravel with some tarmac sections, especially where it went through open parkland. There was also a nature reserve on the route and several places where we had to negotiate gates, which needed opening and closing, and a few places where there was just a narrow gap, just about wide enough for a bike but which prevented motor vehicle access. Once or twice the there was a short road section before picking up the trail again.

Once again for us this was an out and back route and since the Leisure Centre wasn’t quite at the start of the ride we went on past our first access point to complete the trail which brought us out on a major road from where we had to negotiate our way back to the car. In all we did just over 13 miles. On the way out along the trail we had noticed a BMX track beside the route near the park, so on the way back, seeing no young people on the track my husband decided to have a go himself – slowly! I filmed it but not really being prepared for such a video clip I wasn’t standing in the best position and lost sight of him for a fair bit of the course. I refrained from having a go myself, but in hindsight wish I had done as I could have filmed as I went.

A gate on the trail

One of the gates

The day had started cool but quite sunny and it soon became fairly overcast and rather chilly but it did not rain. We saw several other people on the trail, walkers, dog, walkers, parents with babies in pushchairs and a few other cyclists but these were few and far between and the trail was by no means crowded. Fortunately we had dressed expecting it to be cool so all in all it was a pleasant ride. A got some good footage on my GoPro, which I was well impressed with. The downside is that I didn’t actually take any photos of the ride so until I have learnt how to edit my footage and extract stills from it I have nothing to share. The above map of the route comes from our Sustrans book about the cycling trails in the UK and the photo of the trail is courtesy of Google Images.

By the time you read this I shall be off on holiday for a couple of weeks. We are taking our Motorhome down to the West Country with the aim of riding some more of the trails detailed in our book and which are too far away for a simple day ride – I shall be taking my GoPro and we’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll find time to get to grips with editing the footage so I can share videos with you but this time I’ll be sure to take photos on my camera as well. At least is will give me plenty to write about after my leave of absence.

 

The Monsal Trail

Monsal Trail, Bakewell end

Monsal Trail, Bakewell end

Just over a week ago our eldest son and his family rode a fair chunk of the Monsal Trail, so that our grandson could finish his ’50 miles’ challenge (see last week’s cycling post here). This is yet another old railway line that has now become a traffic-free cycling and walking route which runs through the Peak District National Park from Bakewell to near Buxton in Derbyshire. It has been on our to-do list for a while but we were unable to join with them on their ride so we took ourselves off to cycle it last Tuesday.

It is a bit further away from our home than most of the other recent rides that we have done, being about an hour and a half’s drive. The trail itself is about 9 miles long but again we would have to go ‘there and back’. We actually started from a car park at the former Hassop Station, a mile or so out of Bakewell. Bicycle hire is available here for those who need it and there is also a café and craft shop. It was very busy as it was a half decent day, if a bit cool, after a wet spell and nearing the end of the school holidays.

Approaching a tunnel

Approaching a tunnel

We rode up the trail to its further end at Wyedale, where there is a similar ‘End of Trail’ sign to the one pictured above and you can go no further. Here we had a drink and some of our packed lunch before the return trip. This trail has a much better surface than many of the others we have ridden, being mostly tarmac, it is also wider and probably had two rail tracks rather than the single rail of the others. It is very popular with families and children as, not only is it an easy ride, but there are several tunnels to go through (which are lit, though not very brightly). How I managed to get this photo with no people in it a can’t imagine as there were many people about, families with small children riding bikes with stabilizers included. We also passed horse riders making use of this wonderful off-road route. It was impossible to cycle at any great speed – not that we wanted to as part of the purpose is to enjoy the scenery.

View from the trail

View from the trail

After passing through Chee Tor tunnel,  the longest tunnel on the route, you come to Miller’s Dale Bridge, where a group of youngsters under instruction were abseiling down to the banks of the River Wye below – not something you would catch me doing. The trail also passes over a viaduct, which our book tells us is one of the most impressive viaducts in Britain. Unfortunately you can’t actually see the viaduct itself when you ride over it!

When we arrived back at Hassop Station the car park was even more crowded. We had another drink and a bit more to eat before setting out to ride the remaining section of the trail, to its Bakewell end and back. The round trip was about 18.5 miles.

We did our good turns for the day – my husband never cycles without tools! We passed a group of three ladies, one of whom had a puncture and stopped to help. It tuned out the bike was a hire one, they had squirted in the ‘gunk’ provided to seal any punctures but it hadn’t worked. However they felt we probably shouldn’t do anything else and were trying to phone the cycle hire place for assistance but had no signal. They must have sorted something because they had gone when we returned that way later. We were more successful helping a family with a kiddie on a small bike with stabilizers. One of the stabilizer wheels wasn’t turning properly so hubby freed it up and also raised the saddle for them – the poor child was peddling with his knees nearly knocking his ears!

This was a lovely trail to ride and ideal for families but if you wish to have a clear run at it then it would be better not to go during school holidays, it is obviously very popular and well used. We took a different route home from the way we had driven out to Bakewell. This brought us past The Roaches where there had recently been wild fires which have completely blackened and ravaged the vegetation around this beautiful spot. The area was still closed to the public but at least the fires were out. Such a sad sight after the pleasure of the cycle ride.

 

Handlebars and More Trails

When we bought my Mixte bike it had drop handlebars. This is not normally a problem, both my road-race bikes have them. I find them very comfortable and like the fact that I can change hand positions to relieve any pressure. However, for some reason those on the Mixte were not comfortable. Whether this is because the bike is heavier or the reach is a bit further away I don’t know, but I was feeling a lot of pressure around the base of my left thumb, with considerable aching. My husband suggested changing the handlebars, so he removed the drops.

Haughton, Stafford Greenway

Haughton, accessed from the left, trail ahead

At this point we decided to go and finish riding the Stafford Greenway, a local disused railway line that we had already ridden in part, once as a family outing and a second section on our own. We had bought the Mixte’s for rides such as this, but with no handlebars on mine at the time we decided to take the tandem.

We picked up the route by riding through the lanes to Haughton, where we had left it on our family ride and headed up the trail towards Newport, the end on the cycle route. The track was narrow in places and there were quite a lot of dog walkers and joggers out, but it was a very pleasant ride, mostly through trees with a few more open sections, especially towards the end. At one point there was a cow on the track, obviously escaped from a nearby field. We left it to find its own way back!

Free bicycle pump, Newport

Free Bicycle Pump

When we came to the end of the route we were pleasantly surprised to find a bicycle pump fixed beside the track. I have heard of this sort of thing before but never actually seen one anywhere. We didn’t need it but it would be a godsend to anyone who does.

Leaving the track on the outskirts of Newport we rode through the town and made our way home via country lanes rather than retrace our steps down the trail. In all we did a round trip of about 27 miles.

Now, we had a set of ‘sit-up-and-beg’ type handlebars in stock at home which needed shortening. My husband suggested I tried these on my Mixte, so he chopped an inch off each end and put them on the bike. I tried it round the block, a scant half-mile, but I found steering very jelly like, I didn’t like such an upright riding position. Also, I didn’t feel at all secure and I had difficulty in squeezing the brake levers, as the angle of my hands on the bars put strain on my painful thumb when I needed to brake and there really wasn’t any alternative position. On top of that we both decided they looked dreadful, not at all in keeping with the bike. Back to the drawing board.

Hubby’s Mixte bike has straight bars, to which he has added some bar-ends (like Viking helmet horns) which gives him some alternative hand positions. We also happened to have some spare straight bars in stock so my bars were changed yet again. We then got some similar bar-ends and put those on along with some foam rubber handlebar covers.

Last Tuesday, my eldest son had the day off work and we went for another family ride, (without our daughter who is back in Spain). We had decided on another trail ride, along the Biddulph Valley Way – a good chance to test my new handlebar configuration. Yes, this is another disused railway route, running from Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire to Congleton in Cheshire.

Border snack stop

Border Snack Stop

The whole route is 12 miles and would have to be a there and back again ride, which was likely to be rather much for our grandson, so we rode about 7 miles to where the route crosses from Staffordshire into Cheshire, stopped for a drink and a snack, and then rode back – a round trip of some 14 miles and which Tom could manage. This is a lovely route, some really smooth tarmac and some gravel tracks, a few road crossings which require care and some wonderful open views as well as a ride through a park with a lake in the early stages.

I’m pleased to say the latest handlebar swap seems to have done the trick, I survived this ride without any aches and pains around the base of my thumb and applying the brakes was much easier – always a good thing. The other good thing about this day out is that our grandson is doing a ’50 miles in the month’ challenge, for which he should get a medal on completion and he now only has about 4 miles left to do. Way to go, Tom!

Biddulph Valley lake

Biddulph Valley Way Lake

MTB World Championships

Rebecca Leaper

Rebecca Leaper

Last week I mentioned in passing that my daughter Rebecca had come over from her home in Spain to compete in the UK National MTB (Mountain Bike) Marathon Championships on the Isle of Man, where she won the Silver Medal. I also mentioned in passing that her next race would be the World MTB Marathon Championships in Italy in September. (See Recent Rides.)

Becky has a World top 10 ranking and will represent GB at the World Championships, however she has no funding from UK Cycling. Apart from her bike and kit from ‘Coluer’ and her wheels from Sixth Element she is entirely self-funded and this is a very costly exercise. She is looking for small sponsorship donations to help fund her expenses in order to attend the World Championships and have the opportunity to compete head to head with the world’s best. You may also like to check out her blog at: https://madcyclinginthemiddaysun.wordpress.com

If you feel you can make a donation, however small, please click on the following link and read her story. Every little helps. Thank you.

https://www.sponsor.me/rebeccaleaperMTB

Recent Rides

I keep telling people this is not a cycling blog. Mostly it is a ‘small stone’ blog but once a week a write about other things that interest me. Of late I admit that most of those ‘other things’ have been about cycling. That’s because it is summer and I am doing quite a lot of cycling at present. So now I am about to bore you with a bit more cycling.

Recently two things came together. First as I mentioned in my previous recent posts we have been exploring some trails listed in our Sustrans book and secondly our daughter Rebecca who lives is Spain and blogs at: https://madcyclinginthemiddaysun.wordpress.com. was over for a few days to compete in the UK National MTB Marathon Championships on the Isle of Man (she came 2nd) and managed to spend the odd day with us either side of her competition.

What connection do these things have? you might ask. Well we all decided that while our daughter was here we would go out for a family ride, my husband, me, daughter, two sons, daughter-in-law and grandson – all 7 of us. There is a local trail ride along a disused railway line that is not listed in our Sustrans book as a day ride although it is part of the National Cycling Network. The Stafford Greenway begins some 7 or 8 miles from our home and it goes all the way to Newport in Shropshire – about 20 miles.

We have never ridden this route. It’s funny how you often don’t visit the places nearest to home! Anyway we thought this would be a good ride for our grandson to tackle on his new bike so off we all went on Tuesday last week, drove into Stafford, parked the cars, unloaded the bikes and rode along the trail from the centre of Stafford to the village of Haughton (about 5 miles) where we left the cycle route to ride into the village for an ice-cream at a lovely farm park. Here sadly my grandson got stung on a finger by a bee which curtailed the ride as he couldn’t hold his handle bars due to the pain and swelling. So Dad (my eldest son) had to cycle off the get their van to pick up him and Mum while the rest of us made our own way back at a slightly faster pace. In total about 10 miles round tip for the afternoon. Someone kindly took a picture of us all on hubby’s camera but as he hasn’t yet downloaded it to share with me I can’t share it with you. The day ended with them all coming to us for dinner, finger well recovered by then and all smiles again; a wonderful end to the family day.

After our daughter returned to Spain on Wednesday hubby and I decided it would be nice to do a bit more of this local route, so on Friday we cycled into Stafford then we picked up the trail and rode along the route the opposite way to the direction we had gone before, right to the ‘end of the line’ at Beaconside on the outskirts of Stafford, then by various roadside cycle lanes and country roads in a big loop back home. A trip of about 20 miles.

Norbury Junction

Refreshment stop as Norbury Junction

On Sunday we decided on yet another stretch of the Greenway trail. We cycled via country lanes to the village of Haughton, picked up the trail where we had left it on our family ride and rode along to the next village, Gnosal, where we again left the route and made our way home via the lanes, which included a stop for a drink and a bite to eat at Norbury Junction beside the canal. Then we tackled the steep hill up to the village of High Offley (the hint is in the name). We have only attempted this hill 2 or 3 times before and I have always had to get off and walk the last part of it. On this occasion, I am pleased to say, I managed to get all the way up – it felt like a real achievement! The round trip this time was about 19 miles.

Chain ring tattoo

Chain ring tattoo!

When we arrived home I discovered I had acquired a tattoo! At one of our stops for a swig of water and a muesli bar I must have leant my leg against my chain ring, which my husband had kindly oiled for me that morning. Why me? This, I might add, is not the first time it has happened, nor will it be the last I do not doubt.

We thoroughly enjoyed all three trips along sections of this trail. The first was precious as we were out in force as a family and the third was enhanced by my hill achievement.

We have now decided that having neglected this lovely trail so close to home for so long we really ought to go and cycle the whole route – once we have worked out the logistics of getting to and from the start and finish. If we drive to Stafford we will need to get back from Newport somehow to pick up the car – a return trip of another 20 miles if we cycle back the way we went. If we set off from home by bike it will add another 7-8 miles to the start and another 9 or 10 miles back from the finish – we will need to pick a fine and fairly cool day when we are feeling energetic. No doubt if and when we do it I will report on the ride here!

Grafham Water

My previous post told of our cycle ride round Rutland Water last Saturday. On Sunday we packed up and set off down to Grafham Water, another reservoir constructed in the 1960’s in Cambridgeshire, also with a Sustrans cycle route round it. This is a smaller reservoir and so it is only a 10-mile ride, the route does not hug the shore-line quite so closely and there are more public road sections.

Grafham campsite

Shooters Hollow Farm Campsite

The campsite we had chosen was again quite close. It wasn’t the best campsite we have ever been to though in the photo is looks idyllic, and in many ways it was. However there were no facilities so we had to be self-sufficient, but we had the place to ourselves and it was very peaceful. What the photo doesn’t show is that behind me to my left was a line of caravans in storage, many of which looked as if they had been there for a very long time and were unlikely to move ever again!

At Rutland Water we were able to pick up the trail just down the lane from the campsite so we didn’t start at the ‘official’ starting point and didn’t pick up a trail map, just relied on the small map in our Sustrans book. This was a bit of a mistake as the signs were not always immediately obvious and after one short road section we missed the trail and ended up cycling through the village of Edith Weston to join the trail again on the other side of the (very picturesque) village. So this time, when we went for our reconnoitre on Sunday afternoon to see where we could access the trail we found that our nearest access point was in fact the ‘official’ start, about 1.25 miles from our campsite, and we made sure we picked up a trail plan from the cycling centre.

View of Grafham Water

View of Grafham Water

We set off for the ride on Monday morning on what proved to be a very hot day. You know the old adage ‘horses sweat, men perspire but ladies merely glow’? – rubbish. I sweated. Gallons. Especially under my helmet and from my forehead. The ride, however, was lovely; the trail was rougher, with more loose stuff than Rutland Water, but more gently undulating with more frequent shaded areas of woodland and also fewer gates and cattle grids to cope with which was great. The downside was that with the route using more roads and lanes and hugging the shore less the views of the lake were less frequent. Nature conservation and bird watching were still in evidence, there was also a sailing club but no beach or water park this time.

Grafham Church

Grafham Church

For first road section lead us through Grafham village and past the very pretty village church. There was a sign outside offering books for sale in the church porch so that was our first stop as my husband had just finished the only book he had with him. We were both able to find a book of interest and duly put our donations in the collection box. We were not troubled by midges this time until we crossed the dam near the end of the ride. Here they bombarded us in the face as we rode along and, although they don’t bite, there was a risk of breathing them in through mouth or nose. I held a handkerchief to my face for protection!

It was so hot that stops to drink, eat muesli bars and cool down were frequent, wherever we could find shade. Again we were in no hurry, just ambled around at a comfortable speed. With the 2.5 miles extra there and back to the campsite we did about 12.5 miles in all; not a heroic distance, but it took us about 2 hours including our stops and again we were back at the motorhome in time for lunch. We spent the afternoon relaxing and trying to keep cool. Everything that opened on the motorhome was opened to let as much air through as we could. Fortunately the van was positioned so that one side provided shade and that’s where we sat, read, dozed and did as little as possible – I am not a sun-worshipper and the heat was about as much as I could bear!

Tuesday saw us packed up early to get a good start before it become too hot again and we were back home by lunchtime after another enjoyable mini-cycling adventure weekend. Now we have to decide where we are going next, and when, but that probably won’t be for a week or two yet.

Rutland Water

I’m a bit out of kilter this week having been away for a long weekend so no ‘small stone’ today. Last week, in my report on the Tissington Trail ride I mentioned the charity Sustrans, well earlier this year we bought a copy of a book produced by Sustrans called ‘Traffic-Free Cycle Rides, 150 Great Days Out’ and having done a couple of the trails at the York Rally and also when we did the Eroica Britannia we decided, especially now we have the mixte bikes, that it would be fun to do some of the others listed in the book.

Rutland Water through the trees

Lake viewed through the trees.

So on Friday we took ourselves in our Motorhome off to Rutland Water. Rutland is the smallest county in the UK for those of you who have not heard of it and Rutland Water is a large reservoir built in the 1970’s to supply the water needs of the East Midlands, with water pumped into it from the river system. It is beautifully landscaped and is largely a nature conservation area. As well as water activities such as sailing and wind-surfing there is also a ‘beach’ with swimming area and a water park, and includes the Sustrans route that we had set out to ride. This is nicknamed ‘La Tour de Rutland’ and is a cycling and walking trail around the lake, mostly along the shoreline but with some short quiet road sections, of approximately 15.5 miles. There is also a peninsula into the lake with its own loop of an additional 7 or so miles round, so of course we did the whole lot.

A wooded part of the trail

My husband coming along a wooded part of the trail

We did a short ride on our arrival on Friday afternoon to check how far it was from the campsite to the trail. This turned out to be no more than about half a mile downhill (we could see the lake from the campsite) so we continued for a short distance along the trail to get a feel for it – about 4-5 miles there and back.

On Saturday morning we set off to do the whole ride. It was an overcast but warm day with the sun breaking through from time to time. However it was  bearable – apart from the midges for the first few miles! We were in no rush, simply there to enjoy the ride and the scenery and we had plenty to drink and to nibble along the way. We stopped frequently to enjoy the views, take photos or to eat and drink and in all it took us about 4 hours to do the 23 miles – no prizes there, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise. We returned to the Motorhome in time for a late lunch.

Normanton Church

Normanton Church

One of the most interesting parts of the ride was the wonderful views of Normanton Church (known as the Lady of the Lake). The church originates from Mediaeval times though it was partly rebuilt during the 18th and 19th centuries. No longer needed, the church was de-consecrated and due to be demolished but public outcry demanded it be saved when the reservoir was constructed. It was then decided to turn the land around it into a small island with a causeway to the shore and the lower part was filled with rubble topped with concrete just below the level of the windows. It is now used as a venue for civil weddings, other events and concerts.

I have long wanted to visit Rutland Water and this cycle ride was a wonderful way to see it. The trail itself was much rougher than the Tissington Trail had been, with more loose gravel sections and it was also quite undulating with some steep climbs and descents. It made for a quite challenging ride, especially in the warm weather and we were glad of a relaxing afternoon.

While we were in the area we decided to move on the next day, further south to do it all again around Grafham Water, but that’s another story…..

….to be continued.

 

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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