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.

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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.

 

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

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