The Sunday Gang

An earlier trip out with ‘The Gang’ on our previous tandem (we’re the ones in white)

The Sunday Gang is the nickname my husband gave to the cycling group we have often ridden out with in the past. It is not a club, just a group of friends and acquaintances who enjoy cycling together, no strings attached. It is organised by Bill (not his real name), in so far as it is organised at all – he co-ordinates the group, arranges the routes and e-mails round to let everyone know. They ride at the pace of the slowest rider so no-one gets left too far behind and usually cover around 20-35 miles with a café stop.

Several of the regulars also go out on a Wednesday when they ride further and at a much faster pace and we have joined them on a couple of occasions. I have to admit to never being very comfortable with the group as I have often been the only lady and at best there has only been two others, both of whom ride faster than me.

The group meets in the morning and we have a 7-8 mile drive in the car with the bikes on the back in order to join them, then on the return we have to re-load the bikes and drive home. This all takes extra time so sometimes, when the group has been heading out in our home direction we have arranged to meet them on route and then peeled off later where convenient ride home again.

We haven’t actually ridden out with them since my husband had his mild heart attack about a year ago. Recently, having got his heart problem and treatment thereof under control, he has expressed an interest in joining them again, especially if they are heading out our way and we can meet up with them on route and peel off when it suits, so he had indicated to Bill that he would like to receive notification of the rides once more.

Yesterday we were planning on going out for a ride on the tandem and hubby had been checking his emails the night before to see what ‘The Gang’ were doing. No messages. Then he picked up a message in the morning to say they were coming out our way and describing the route although there was no timing given. The nearest point to our house was barely a mile away at a crossroads so we made the decision to ride out in the hope of meeting them there.

We arrived at the crossroads where the group should cross in front of us, but of course we had no way of knowing (not having Bill’s mobile number) whether they were still approaching or had gone past. On the basis that if they had already gone through we would never catch them we decided to turn up the way they would come in the hope of meeting them. We didn’t. We retraced their proposed route for a few miles and there was no sign of them. So, knowing that they were making their round-about way to Stone, a town nearby we headed off towards Stone where we knew they often had their café stop at ‘Morrison’s’. We decided against the detour round to Morrison’s having no idea what time they planned to get there, and instead chose to pick up their route into Stone by going up Bury Bank, which we knew they would be coming down. We could always stop at our eldest son’s for a cuppa as we would pass nearby on our way home this way.

Bury Bank is a killer! It is a long drag of a steep hill. (Coming down, of course, is a wonderful freewheeling ride.) We have ridden up it maybe three or four times in total. The first time I rode up it I had to get off and walk. About three-quarters of the way up there is a layby and we usually stop there to recover before doing the final stretch. After levelling out for a short distance our route towards our son’s house requires us to turn left and then climb another steep hill into Swynnerton before freewheeling down towards our son’s.

Sure enough, as we went up Bury Bank we met ‘The Gang’ coming down! They didn’t stop, they were having fun freewheeling. We exchanged greetings and carried on to our son’s, only to find that he was still out on his own bike ride. Our daughter-in-law gave us a brew and as we left some time later our son still hadn’t arrived, but true to the day’s form we passed him a short distance from his home as we were going in the opposite direction. We stopped for a few words of greeting but as it was getting cold we soon headed off again. In all our ride was about 18 miles.

Later hubby e-mailed Bill to let him know we hadn’t picked up his message in time to make proper plans but had hoped to meet them out and about and when we did we were on the way home. Bill e-mailed back with his apologies that he hadn’t remembered to let us know earlier and said that he was amazed to see us riding UP Bury Bank – he said we must be mad, nobody in their right mind rides UP Bury Bank! But we did and we didn’t bother to stop for a rest in the layby either.


‘Bertie’ Bike News

It’s a few weeks since I wrote about cycling so it’s about time for an update. I should say that I haven’t really had much of interest to write about lately on that front as we haven’t been out on any more trail rides for a while, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been out and about on the bikes. Although the days are getting shorter and the weather cooler we have still been out for our normal road riding jollies of varying lengths and recently I have had cause to re-test my classic road-race bike ‘Bertie’.

I have written a few posts about Bertie in the past. You will find the most recent here, and if you follow this link you will also find links to earlier posts about the rest of Bertie’s story.

Although I have ridden ‘Bertie’ (now more usually referred to as ‘HB’) many times, including at the Eroica Britannia, I have always had a slight problem with the bike. More specifically with the gears. HB (Bertie) has the gear shifter on the down tube in the old style and there are only five gears. At least in theory there are five gears but in practice I have, more often than not, only had 4 or sometimes only 3 as No.5 and sometimes No.4 refuse to co-operate. Fortunately with at least four gears and given that it is the top not the bottom gear that has given most problem the bike has still been a pleasure to ride.

More recently though all the gears have been slipping. Sometimes I have changed down when going uphill only to have the gear lever slide its way back up again and changing gear had become somewhat imprecise. So hubby decided it was time to have a serious look at the problem. First he tightened up the gear lever. This was an improvement, it stopped it changing gear of its own accord, but made it rather stiff to operate.

Simplex Derailleur

New Simplex Derailleur

He had been mumbling for some time that the derailleur was not the best it could be and that perhaps he should change it, so finally last week he did just that. He tells me that the Simplex derailleur he has now fitted is not only in better condition than the old one that was on there when we acquired the bike (I think it was a Shimano – a good make but mine was rather worn!) but that it is also more in keeping with the age of the bike, or more age-specific as he termed it.

A  few days later we went out on a test ride. After a 16 mile ride I have to report that the problem seems to have been solved and HB’s gears seem to be fully operational, which is absolutely wonderful.

On this ride hubby rode his newly acquired hand-built Henry Burton bike, which he also declares to be a joy to ride. This he bought from Henry Burton’s shop in Stafford, now run by his son. The bike had been built by Henry for a local man in the 1960’s. The previous owner has now died and his family asked Henry’s son to find the bike a good home and along came my hubby!

This is not the only Henry Burton bike my hubby has recently acquired, he also has a slightly more recent model which was made by Falcon and branded as a Henry Burton (they stopped making their own bikes when Henry retired) which he obtained from our local bike re-cycling charity Back2Bikes and which he has just finished refurbishing. This, with our two Mixte (also branded Henry Burton but built elsewhere) brings our total of Henry Burton bikes to five. I think that is probably enough don’t you?

Flying Visit

Star Gazing Hare, CotswoldsLast week my daughter came over from her home in Spain to attend a course in the Lake District (not cycling related). She finished at lunchtime on Friday and wasn’t flying back until Sunday so with a couple of days to spare she was able to pay us a visit, which was wonderful and especially so as we didn’t know until almost the last-minute. She arrived mid-afternoon on Friday in her hire-car.

On Saturday morning we were able to fix her up with a bike (we’ve got plenty) and some cycling gear (she’s a similar size to me though taller and slimmer!) plus a spare helmet and, together with our youngest son we went off for a lovely bike ride in the morning. It was mild, fine and cool without being cold – a lovely Autumnal day. Our route took us around the lanes, through some local villages until we picked up the Stafford Greenway trail in Haughton and followed it along to Gnosal before once more taking to the lanes in order to return home. Becky had done the Stafford to Haughton stretch with us before (see here) so this was a new section for her. Maybe next time she’ll get to finish the trail!

The interesting thing about this bike ride is that daughter Becky (who blogs at Mad Cycling in the Midday sun), hubby and I all had cycle computers on our bikes and our son was using his Strava ap. – so when we got home and checked our mileage I made it 16.7 miles, Becky made it 17.9 and hubby made it 18.5. While hubby would like to believe his computer I think on balance mine might well be the correct reading since our son’s Strava ap. gave the same reading and since the ap. works on GPS ought perhaps to be the more accurate! It just shows how inaccurate these computers can be when there is a 2 mile discrepancy in the readings!

We finished off the day with the rest of the family – eldest son, daughter-in-law, grandson and youngest son’s girlfriend – enjoying an Indian take-away with us followed by apple crumble and custard for desert as requested by Becky, who obviously doesn’t get it very often back home in Spain. She left us again very early Sunday morning to catch her flight home from Liverpool airport.

Typically none of us thought to take any photos on our little bike ride so I have none to share with you, hence the handsome chap at the top of the page. The photo was taken in the grounds of the Cotswold Motor Museum at Bourton-on-the-Water, the venue for our ‘Old Pals’ reunion that I wrote about last week.

I later discovered from a free magazine that I picked up while we were there that he was part of the Cotswold Hare Trail. These hare sculptures were hidden around various villages in the Cotswolds and vary in size from five feet tall to less than nine inches. My chap is one of the five feet ones. The aim of the trail is to raise awareness of the Cotswolds AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). There were apparently 130 of them to find this year and anyone who found and recorded them all, taking a selfie with them, could enter a prize draw to win a blank five feet tall one to paint for themselves! This chap was the only one I found, and that was by accident as I was unaware of the existence of the trail. He actually seems to be from last year’s trail so was probably auctioned off then and is now a permanent fixture at his current location rather than being hidden. This year’s batch are due to be auctioned off this month.  Profits from the auction will be donated to Cotswold AONB projects.

Mixte Upgrades

As I mentioned when we first obtained our Mixte bikes hubby’s one had a somewhat higher spec than mine. It had been built with better components and had 6 gears at the back with a triple front chain ring, thus providing potentially 18 gears. Mine, in contrast had only 5 at the back and just a double chain ring so giving me just 10 gear options. Mine had also come originally with drop handle-bars and the gear shifters on the down tube, the brakes were also a little stiff. A while ago I reported that we had experimented with various options for the handle-bars (see here) and had eventually settled on changing the drops for straight bars with upright bar-ends to match hubby’s and everything settled down nicely for a while.

Updated handle-bars and gear shifters

Updated handle-bars and gear shifters

The gearing however was still an issue as I did not have as low a gear option as my husband and this was a noticeable problem while we were away on our recent holiday trail riding in the West Country and I constantly found myself struggling up hills. So on our return my husband decided to upgrade my bike. First he oiled the brake cables and replaced the outers making them considerably less stiff. He then obtained a Biopace triple chain ring from our local bike charity Back2Bikes. This is the same as the one on his bike and now gives me 15 gear options – still short of his 18 but considerably better than the original 10 and, he tells me, my lowest gear is now lower than his!

The Biopace chain ring is different from the norm in that it is elliptical and is a design that I believe has been favoured by Chris Froome, though I don’t know if he still uses it. I am no engineer or physicist but as I understand it the elliptical shape, with its larger radius on the downstroke, enables you to put more power down. I’m sure it’s more complex than that – maybe someone out there can explain it better. Suffice it to say that the jury is out about its benefits as far as I am concerned. The variation from circular is barely perceptible and it doesn’t feel any different so I’m actually not that bothered.

He then, from the same source, managed to find a pair of Shimano indexed gear shifters to match his own and which fit on the handle-bars (see photo above), so no more reaching down to the down tube and gentling the lever until you feel the gear shift. I had a short ride out with this new set-up just before we went away for a few days last week and I found the changes to the bike a real improvement

Horseshoe Church Gate, Cotswolds

Horseshoe Church Gate, Cotswolds

This most recent break away was to stay with a group of friends in a rented cottage in Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds from Monday to Friday. This was hubby’s fairly regular ‘old pals’ reunion (five couples and a widow), which has a different venue each time we gather. During the day we often do our own thing, together if it is something we all want to do and separately if so we choose. We then join up for sociable evenings in restaurants and at the house. Several of the pals are keen walkers and since hubby doesn’t walk well due to his knees (though he is fine on a bike) and I am still temporarily unable to walk very far we decided to take the Mixte bikes with us. We took ourselves off on the Tuesday and did a 17.5 mile tour around the countryside and through some lovely Cotswold villages with their mellow yellow Cotswold stone cottages. We encountered this fascinating gate, made from horseshoes at one village church. The area is quite hilly and although I did struggle a bit at times it really tested the new set-up and I found it a great improvement.

Birdland Penguins

Birdland Penguins

We also used the bikes on Wednesday around Bourton, visiting the ‘modal village’ in the morning and the Cotswold Motor Museum in the afternoon. On Thursday we went by car to ‘Birdland’, again in Bourton and occupying a nine acre site. This is an amazing place, with so much to see and we were even in time to watch the penguins being fed. We both managed to walk around the site, with plenty of rests on strategically sited benches, although we were both suffering from overdoing it afterwards. I have to say I am now mostly walking fairly easily although I am still aware of a few aches and pains and have to be careful how much I do without resting but I hope to be fully recovered before too long and can finally put it all behind me.

The Camel Trail

The last trail ride of our early autumn holiday was the Camel Trail which runs alongside the river Camel in Cornwall, from Padstow on the coast, to Wenfordbridge. The full route is about 18 miles, however the final miles, from Wadebridge to Padstow offer the best scenery where the sea and land merge into the sandbanks and salty creeks of the estuary.

View from Motorhome

Campsite view from Motorhome

In view of my recent backwards step after my accident we decided that we would just do this final short section of about 5 miles, which of course we would once again double up on with a there and back trip. So we drove up to a spacious campsite called Timaru, near Wadebridge. We had the place to ourselves and the views were wonderful. Although the campsite had no facilities we weren’t bothered as we were only planning on staying one night and we were able to be self-sufficient in the motorhome.

We got directions for the shortest route to pick up the trail from the campsite owner. This was a lovely ride along some leafy lanes of maybe a couple of miles, much of it steeply downhill; this was a slight concern as it meant the return would be uphill! We joined the trail a few miles downstream from Wadebridge and headed towards Padstow. The trail was an easy ride of mostly well compacted gravel with some slightly looser areas and some tarmac. Being an old railway line running along the valley it was pretty well flat. The day was warm in the sun but it was a bit windy, which made it rather cool in the areas the sun couldn’t reach.

The estuary was indeed very scenic and I did get some lovely GoPro footage but unfortunately still haven’t found the time to get to grips with editing this into anything I can share here. I must also apologise too for the fact that I didn’t take any stills on either my camera or my phone – hubby did but, typically, he has not yet downloaded them so I can’t share those either. On the final stretch into Padstow the trail crossed over a magnificent old railway bridge and once in Padstow there are fishing boats to be seen bobbing about in what is still a working port.

As usual, once we had reached Padstow there was nothing for it but to retrace our steps. However we chose not to leave the trail where we had picked it up and carried on to Wadebridge for the full extent of our planned ride. The trail here ends at a roadside café and bike hire shop and if you wish to continue on to Wenfordbridge there is a section of on-road riding before re-joining the trail once you have passed through the market town.

We made the decision here not to return along the track to our starting point but to return directly to the campsite along the main road out of Wadebridge. What we hadn’t taken on board, but should have been obvious and soon became apparent was this was up a very steep hill! Our Mixte bikes are not among the lightest bikes in the world and, as I have mentioned before, mine does not have the gear range that my husband’s does and my lowest gear is not as low as his. This, coupled with the difficulty I had of putting much power down due to my groin injury, meant that I had to bail out and walk up the hill. I’m not sure which was the lesser of the two evils as walking was agony and I had to stop frequently for brief rests. Eventually we did make it to the top where we found a supermarket and could stock up with a few nibbles for our journey home, or should I say hubby did while I waited outside – I couldn’t face walking round the store. Riding the rest of the way back to the campsite with only a few gentle climbs was a welcome relief. In all the ride was only about 13 miles but, due to the steep hill, it seemed much more.

Timaru Totem Pole

Timaru Totem Pole

The campsite was most interesting, with plaques up by the water taps and other fixtures displaying little verses and pictures of rabbits; a child’s paradise. Near the owner’s house there was a sandpit labelled as a “Fairies Meeting Place”, which I gather was intended to attract the rabbits, which are a real problem there, and keep them from chewing up the shrubbery – apparently it works and every morning there are several rabbits having their “Fairy Meeting”. There is also a magnificent totem pole by the entrance to the camping field, made by the owner as his wife wanted one and they were far too expensive to buy. It was a lovely campsite and we were almost sorry we were only staying the one night, but we duly set off after breakfast the next morning to return home.

We were away for two weeks and guess we did a bit less than 100 miles of trail riding overall; which, having fallen off and struggled to walk from only our second day out on the trails, can’t be bad. I have to add that we have now been home for about three weeks and I am moving about much better, although I still have some pain and some days are better than others. It’s frustrating but I’m sure I will have completely recovered before too many more weeks have passed.

One result on our return home was that my husband decided to modify my bike yet again to improve my gear ratios – more about this next time.


Coast to Coast in a Day

What? you may ask! Well this was down in Cornwall and it is one of the few coast to coast routes that you can do in a day. It runs from Portreath on the Atlantic coast  to Devoran on the estuary of the River Fal, near Falmouth. The route is part of the Cornish Mineral Tramways and is about 11.5 miles, however once again we would double up by going there and back again.

Pau Amma on the pontoon

Pau Amma’s new home

We moved on down to Cornwall from Devon to a small campsite at the wonderfully named ‘Come-to-good Farm’. The site was very basic although we did have an electric hook-up for the motorhome. It was fairly near the Devoran end of the trail and we had chosen it as we wished to visit the people who had bought our small trailer-sailer ‘Pau Amma’ earlier in the year for their young daughters and who owned a boatyard nearby. We had also brought our little ‘pop-pop’ motorbike along on this trip but so far hadn’t used it so we pressed it into service to go and visit the boatyard.  Unfortunately no-one was there (we subsequently found out they were away for a couple of days – just our luck) however we did see our little boat tied up to the pontoon, she is the little blue one in the middle of the photo. Climbing on and off and sitting on the pillion was a tad uncomfortable after my little cycling accident some days before.

Our Mixte bikes at Portreath

Our Mixte bikes at Portreath

We picked up the cycle trail near the campsite just a bit inland from the estuary. It was a very hilly ride of about 3 miles to get to the trail, which we joined near a place called Bissoe where we passed the Bike Chain Café. I had made the mistake of assuming this was another disused railway line and this proved to be a big mistake. It was in fact more of a cart track that served the areas copper and tin mines. It was the roughest trail we have ridden, in parts very steep and very stony with patches of loose stones to ride through and we would have been much better off with proper mountain bikes with fat tyres! The rough ride jogged my injured arm painfully, was taxing on my groin problem and the constant attention to staying in balance was very tiring. There were a few short tarmac and on-road sections which gave some relief. On arriving at Portreath we stopped to reward ourselves with and ice-cream and admired the wonderful beach – it must be heaving in the full season and there were plenty of people there on a day that was warm and sunny for the time of year.

The Bike Chain Cafe, Bissoe

The Bike Chain Cafe, Bissoe

After a good rest our return was, unsurprisingly, pretty much the same as the outward one. We had found that there were plenty of others making use of the trail, walkers, families and other cyclists – mostly on mountain bikes it has to be said. Several cyclists actually overtook us and I confess I was going along a bit gingerly at times, especially downhill, having no wish to fall off again while still recovering from my previous fall. We were even passed by a Dad with his two kiddies on little bikes doing a short section of it and they were managing very well. On the way back we stopped off at the Bike Chain Café at Bissoe for a cup of tea and a bite to eat. Off to the right hand side of the photo there is a long line of bike racks but fortunately there were not too many people around. The café also supports a well stocked bike shop which we had to have a good look round of course.

Devoran, trail end

Devoran, trail end

Rather than leave the track at Bissoe, where we had joined it, we decided to continue along to Devoran so that we had completed the full trail. This section was easier riding and was flatter. It passes through the Carnon valley under the wonderful Carnon viaduct. The largest nugget of gold ever found in Cornwall was once discovered by tin streamers in this area. The last short section on-road brought us into Devoran. Then we had a long, hard, hilly ride back to our campsite. My Mixte bike isn’t as low geared as hubby’s and on one steep hill I had to get off and walk, but with my groin injury walking wasn’t something I managed very well. I found it very painful and had to have frequent rests, in fact I didn’t think I was going to make it but of course I eventually did and I was never more relieved to see the motorhome again.

In all we cycled about 27 miles. It was a pleasant day out but it was rather too much for me in my injured condition and I paid for it later. The next day should have helped me recover as it was a rest day for me while we moved on down to Sennan to visit various relatives in the area – or should I say they mostly visited us as I was completely unable to walk again and in considerable pain.

We decided that if it didn’t improve soon it was time I got properly checked out so a couple of days later we took a taxi to Penzance hospital – straight in to A&E, no-one else waiting to be seen! In turns out I have a severe groin strain which is likely to take some time to heal, but fortunately no serious damage. The advice was to try to keep moving, take pain-killers and carry on cycling as this is exercise without putting too much weight on my injury. I was given a powerful dose of pain-killers at the hospital then hubby’s cousin picked us up and took us back to his house where we spent a lovely time with him and his wife and I was even able to walk around their beautiful large garden without too much discomfort – and then the pain-killers wore off!

The next day we cycled a 6.5 mile round trip on road, to Lands End and back to our campsite. Lands End, like so many lovely iconic places is completely ruined and made into an expensive tourist attraction which you have to pay through the nose to get in – needless to say we didn’t, we turned round at the gates. We have been there many times in the past when it was open and free for all. I found myself wondering how the Lands End to John O’Groats brigade manage to start their rides without forking out the fee.

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.

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.


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