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.


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: 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.

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

Supporting the Printed Word

Read the Printed Word!