Sherwood Forest

Last week we stayed at Sherwood Pines campsite which is part of Sherwood Forest. This is a recently opened campsite with great facilities, which gave easy access to woodland where there were many cycle tracks and a visitor centre with other attractions and a cycle hire shop. On the first day we did the ‘Maid Marion’ trail, which is the easiest of the trails and recommended for families. Our reason for doing it was that we were of course on the tandem and the visitor centre staff implied that doing any of the more difficult trails would not be ideal on a tandem due to narrow, and twisting tracks in among tree roots and other such hazards of woodland!

The Maid Marion trail was on more generously proportioned tracks. However the ride wasn’t very long, the whole ride including getting from the campsite to the visitor centre was barely 7 miles. About a kilometre out from the visitor centre on the return loop we managed to get a puncture and had to walk into the centre where we spent some time repairing this. The puncture was the result of not finding and removing a thorn from the tyre which had caused a puncture last time we were out with the Tandem Club but which we hadn’t found at the time. Having found the thorn this time we needed the help of the mechanics at the cycle hire shop to remove it.

The following day saw us going on a much longer ride, much of it again on trails with some road riding around Sherwood Forest proper, just over 21 miles, on what the boss termed ‘La Tour de Sherwood’. This took us up to the Major Oak, the most famous of the ancient oaks in Sherwood Forest. It is believed to be between 800 and 1,100 years old and many of its branches are now held up with wooden supports (see photo), however it is still thriving and supporting a wide variety of wildlife. Legend has it that this is the tree where Robin Hood and his Merry Men met, but sadly we didn’t see any evidence of them thereabouts. There were some interesting information boards nearby and I share photos of them here too, hoping you can read them!

The Major Oak, (note our tandem to prove we were there!)

The rest of the week saw us riding several different routes around the local countryside, between 28 and 33 miles, mostly on road but also occasionally on tracks. Amazingly they all seemed to pass a lovely cafe, the Daffodil Cafe, which we found in a village called Eakring, where we enjoyed superb coffee or tea and cake. One ride took in Southwell Minster (church) and another took us through the ancient village of Laxton, which claims to be England’s last ‘open field’ village where the fields are strip farmed as in ancient times. We also passed several times through a ford at a village called Rufford, well we went over the footbridge. The ford went past Rufford Mill, a local visitor attraction. Here lots of children lined up along the footbridge encouraging cars and vans to charge through the water at speed and send up a wave over the path, soaking the watchers. On one crossing we also got caught up in one such wave and got soaked! Fortunately we had pretty much dried out by the time we got back to the motorhome.

The weather was mostly good though overcast and cool at times with occasional showers but plenty of sun and we finished our last day with ice cream at the visitor centre. One thing we learnt is that there is an awful lot of interesting places to visit in the area, including wartime history. We will have to go back again and just maybe, if we do, we might catch a glimpse of the elusive Robin Hood?

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Another Break!

No, I haven’t broken any more limbs. I am taking another short break from the blog.

After a rather hectic few months we have decided to have some peaceful time to ourselves so we are off in our motorhome today until the weekend. My brother-in-law, who has been staying with us since Easter, has now moved into his retirement apartment and is settling in well and our youngest son will be here to look after things at home, watering the garden and so on, so we are going to Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire to recharge the batteries and enjoy some tandem riding along the forest trails (I’m not yet up to riding a solo bike, my wrist is still in recovery mode). I wonder if we will meet up with Robin Hood and his Merry Men! ‘ll let you know when I’m back next week.

Sunday Ride

Yesterday was our July Tandem Club ride, a circular route of just under 30 miles, starting and finishing in Ellesmere, Shropshire. An interesting and somewhat hilly ride though great scenery with the usual lunchbreak about half way round.

It was also something of a chapter of incidents! There were only three tandems out plus one solo bike – the ride leader whose wife was in Jersey, visiting their daughter and new grandchild (he’s going out to join them later this week). Just as we were about to set off from the car park said ride leader discovered he had a puncture.

How many cyclists does it take to mend a puncture?

This enforced delay while the puncture was fixed enabled me to have a good look at all the yarn bombing on posts and fixtures around the car park and take a few photos. Here are a couple of them.

Only a few miles into the ride one couple had their chain come off – something that happened to them several times throughout the ride. A bit later something similar happened to the second couple, which left us as the only ones not to have had a problem with a comment of ‘your turn next’ being stated.

So we stopped for lunch, which was excellent. On returning to the bikes, sure enough our time had come, we discovered that we now had a puncture (probably caused by the twigs and thorns on the road when we passed by a tractor doing hedge cutting) and yet again time was spent effecting a repair. So then we carried on again until… couple number two had a serious problem – a mangled chain wheel and broken crank. Fortunately we were only about a couple of miles from the end of the ride by this time so the chain was removed and only the ‘stoker’ (wife) able to pedal. Luckily they had an electric assist on the front wheel and, unlike ours, this worked independently from pedalling so they were able to coast along much of the time without anyone turning the pedals, just a boost from the back pedals from time to time. They were very relieved to get back to the car park.

This is the longest ride I have done so far since I broke my wrist and fortunately we were on our electric assisted tandem (the boss had wanted us to take the newly restored Mercian tandem, but this has no electric assist so I refused!). Having the electric assist made the hills easier for me with less pressure being applied to the handlebars. This was also the first time I have ridden without my arm in a sling, meaning that I could actually use my left hand on the handlebars when needed. However, I think this was a bad idea, it maybe made me feel slightly more secure on the bike but is also allowed me to use the hand more than I think was perhaps wise even though I avoided using it all the time. Today it aches like billy-ho! No hand exercises today, I just can’t face them. Hopefully it will have rested enough by tomorrow for me to resume the exercises.

The Breeze

(First draft…)

Cycling along oak tree-lined ways
I lift my face to the breeze
and listen to the song the wind sings
as it brushes through the trees.

Rustling through branches, it sings
of it's journey across the seas 
to reach so far inland, tells tales 
of how it plays with the ocean waves
far away on foreign seas.

I turn my back and the breeze 
plucks my clothes, eagerly pushing past 
on its journey to the next grove of trees 
to sing again its songs for them
of the tales that it weaves.

Busy

Well here I am, a day later than promised! We had a great time at the York Cycle Rally and in between volunteering duties (I was helping in the HQ Marquee – answering queries, selling badges and other promo items etc.) we managed to go on one ride along the solar system from the Sun to Pluto and back, all in one morning. This was around 18 miles of cycle route along which there are markers for the planets in scale with their distance from the Sun – a fun ride that we have also done on a previous visit to the rally. There were also some interesting talks and other events (another quiz – no we didn’t win that one either) to attend, also the weather was good although cool in the evenings, but only a couple of showers over night, so that was a bonus.

Things have been a bit manic since we got back. This morning I had a hospital appointment and Hooray! my plaster has been removed. The wrist feels very weak and is rather painful and I have been given a brace to wear to support it along with a sheet of exercises to do at least three times a day. I’ve had a go this afternoon and not managed them very well yet, but it’s early days and I have been told to take it slowly. At least I can now wash my arm and leave the support off when it is hot, as long as I am careful. It’s just a matter of more healing time now.

Hoping to have my ‘poetic’ brain working again soon!

York Rally

Just a quick visit here as we are off again in just a few minutes and once again I will not have my computer with me. This time we are going to the York Cycle Rally, just for the weekend so I will be back again on Monday (maybe not here until Tuesday).

I’m not sure how much cycling I will be doing as many of the rides are at least in part along gravel tracks and are also quite long – neither of which I can cope with at the moment. At least there will be plenty going on back at the campsite this time and we are also volunteer helpers so I will find plenty to do if I cry off the rides.

Two Wheel Tuesday

Yesterday evening it was Two Wheel Tuesday in Stone, one of our neighbouring towns. This was part of Stone Festival week. Motorbikes, motor Scooters and push-bikes, whether clubs, groups and individuals, are invited to come along to display their machines in the market square and enjoy socialising.

The event has been a regular feature at the Stone Festival and has gone from strength to strength but this year is the first time we have gone along – on the tandem, needless to say. There was an incredible amount of motorbikes and scooters in the square and lining the street in all directions. One of the features of the gathering is that there is a competition for Best in Show for each category and all the bikes were immaculately turned out and gleamingly polished.

Guess who won the push-bike category! Above is our a photo of our certificate and medal. We thought that was it, but apparently we also get a prize which is due to arrive in a week or so and is a framed photograph of our bike, which is rather nice.

In the past apparently there has been quite a number of push-bikes attending but I have to be honest and report that this year we were the only one! This makes me feel rather guilty about ‘winning’ which will undoubtedly result in our picture being in the local papers and magazines. Oh well, at least I can add another 12 miles to my slow upwardly-creeping total for the month.

Bliss

My arm in plaster
on the back of the tandem.
Cool summer breeze; bliss.
---------------------------------
Yesterday I went out for my first ride on the back on the tandem since we came home from the National Rally. The sun was quite warm, but it was cool when it disappeared behind clouds. My arm is quite uncomfortable when it is hot so I was glad of the cool breeze to cool me down. Roll on the next 10 days, when I hope the plaster will come off!

Charlotte’s Tandems

One of the most interesting talks at the recent Tandem Club National Rally was given by Alex Reeves, the founder of the charity Charlotte’s Tandems. Founded in 2010 and gaining charitable status in 2011 it provides free tandem hire to people with a variety of disabilities and special needs, from autism to blindness, stroke sufferers and so on, to give these people the chance to enjoy cycling with family or friends.

Tandems can be borrowed, with certain conditions (such as providing photos of yourself using it) for up to two months – or possibly longer if no-one else is currently requiring it – after which the user can decide if they wish to buy one for themselves. The charity does not sell bikes to their clients.

Charlotte, Alex’s daughter, after whom the charity is named, suffers from extreme autism and can only communicate by sign language. As a child she was often taken out cycling on a ‘tag-along’ bike which she loved. As she grew up she transferred to the back of a tandem and absolutely loves it, which inspired Alex to consider that other people with problems may enjoy the chance to go cycling, including many older people with eyesight loss or stroke sufferers who perhaps thought their cycling days were over.

The charity has many ‘volunteers’ around the country who look after the tandems, loaning out suitable bikes to clients and receiving them back after the hire period so most places in the UK should have access to one of these outlets.

The Charity did briefly also operate in the US, but due to bureaucracy and red tape eventually had to pull out again, however a sperate organisation with the same ethics is allowed to use the Charlotte’s Tandems name and does still operate in a few states. They did also start up in Ireland, but again had to withdraw.

The charity does not seek money, borrowing the bikes is free of charge, there is no real advertising budget so this is limited and much is by word of mouth or through social media (find them on Facebook). There are ways to donate if you wish – tandems do need to be bought and maintained, though most are bought cheaply second-hand. Please go to their website (above) to learn more or see what you can do to help spread the word or raise funds – maybe you know someone who might benefit, if so let them know!

Tandem Club Rally

We returned home on Saturday from our week away at the Tandem Club National Rally and I have been a bit busy since. I was hoping to post here yesterday but I didn’t find the time, jobs take twice as long at the moment – still better late than never.

The campsite for the week was the Rugby Club at Corsham , Wiltshire, a lovely part of the country. Cycling with my arm in plaster we knew was going to be a bit of a challenge. We arrived on Saturday and on Sunday we tried a short lap of the camping field – I was not happy, didn’t feel at all secure so the boss went out with a group on his solo bike that he had taken along just in case!

Monday saw a treasure hunt ride of a bit over 15 miles scheduled which I thought would be fun but it rained so rather than risk getting my plaster wet we didn’t join in. On Tuesday we thought it best to do a short ride on our own to see how I got on, so we did a 7 mile round trip to the nearby National Trust village of Laycock – a beautiful, unspoiled village which was used in the filming of Pride and Prejudice. We stopped for coffee there and on the way back had to shelter under a big beech tree while a heavy shower went through. I felt reasonably safe riding, though heavy traffic and road junctions were a bit scary. After that we decided to do our own thing as most of the arranged routes were far longer than I felt I could cope with. We did the treasure hunt route on Wednesday, solving most of the clues – too late for the competition anyway so no prizes. On Thursday we did a route of just over 14 miles, taking in much of Corsham itself, another interesting place with an unspoilt town centre, used for the filming of Poldark. Then on Friday we did a bit over 16 miles based on the treasure hunt route but with some variations.

Despite my handicap I did enjoy the week. We were able to renew acquaintances from previous events and there were some interesting evening talks and activities, including a killer of a quiz in which our team of 6 managed to come 4th. The weather was a bit unsettled but there was some good spells of warm sunshine and we managed to avoid most of the rain. However the evenings were quite chilly and the final evening’s BBQ with Rhythm & Blues Band was a bit of a wash-out as it rained quite heavily most of the time. I did take some photos on my camera (easier to hold then my phone) but I really can’t cope with downloading them just yet. Wednesday evening’s Tandem Club’s 50th Anniversary ‘party’ was a great success though.

We have the York Cycle Rally coming up in a couple of weeks, just a weekend this time. I was hoping I would be out of plaster by then but my next appointment isn’t until a few days after the rally -perhaps it is just as well, the wrist would still be week and I might be tempted to do too much. I’ll be glad when things get back to normal though, I think the boss is getting fed up with doing all the cooking, housework needs attention and the garden is in dire need of some maintenance! It will all have to wait.

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