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.

Advertisements

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

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!

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

Supporting the Printed Word

Read the Printed Word!