Sunday, 24 August 2014

Day 1 - Arrival

I'm sitting in my tent on the first night of my camping adventure. Fortunately, it's not too cold -I think about 10 or 11 degrees Celsius, maybe 12. It feels toasty warm in my tent anyway. I've had a very pleasant day. I made my way here after 4 O'clock, with a suitcase and bicycle in tow (crazy I know, but how else was I going to carry all my stuff?) This would by my heavy(ish) mountain bike to boot. Still, I figured when I got here and set up, I won't have to lug anything about for a few days, or so I hoped. The weather's not looking too bad, at least until Sunday night when the heavens are due to open.

It took around 15-20 minutes to get my tent up - not long at all really, but it took around an hour to get everything set up properly and stored away inside. First task was to get a cup of tea, as I was pretty thirsty after lugging my suitcase up the hill to where I would pitch my tent. Luckily, the wind wasn't so fast that it blew out the gas on my stove, so I had a cup of tea ready within 5 minutes, which I drank whilst savouring the view over the Edale valley.

After this, my first priority was getting some food, as my belly was starting to rumble. I headed down to the Old Nags Head inn, the oldest pub in the village (there's only 2), and dating back to 1577. The front room was open inside, which is not always, but is a rare treat when it is. Open plan and reaching up to the full height of the building, it feels all of it's almost 500 years. Incredibly, the inn now has a carvery, which is very welcoming as an opening night meal, as I couldn't be bothered to cook and there is limited choice in the village shop anyway (which was closed, since I got there after 5pm). The carvery complements the made to order dishes of yore, which are OK, but not as good value. Although still available, any hungry sailor (or cyclist, hiker, whatever) worth his salt would be hard pressed to resist this fine selection of foods, of which i had plenty, washed down by a pleasant local(ish) cider on draught. It was easy, sitting there in the old room with my food and drink, to imagine I was in one of the many fantasy novels I've read set in such medieval places, and I felt quite content at the notion of being in such surroundings.

After this, I walked the food off before heading back for another pint of cider, before returning tentward to contemplate tomorrow's agenda. Most likely I'll be cycling, but this depends what I feel like in the morning. Now it's time to go to sleep listening to the sound of wood fires crackling and sheep bleating. Good night!

Link to day 2:

Day 2 - Cycling (or rather hikling) up Jacob's ladder

Woke up very early this morning, about 5:30am, due to not having a very good night's sleep thanks to the rain. I got up and went to the toilet before heading back for a couple more hours sleep. As I was coming back from the toilet block however, the grey of early morning sky suddenly changed hue from grey to faint yellow - it was the sun rising. This was one of very few times I have seen such a thing occur (the other time was in the Świętokrzykie mountains in Central Poland), but none-the-less the effect is quite magical. The transformation is quite sudden, but the effect is spell-binding and almost miraculous.

After getting up properly just before 9am, I went down to the shop for some supplies (juice, breakfast items, cookise etc.). Although often in places such as this, where supply is often limited, most items are pretty expensive. However, in the general store in Edale you can get some very reasonably priced items for considerably less than a pound - cookies, flapjacks, toffees, beans, juice, energy drinks, especially if you buy the own brand products, which come highly recommended. In total, I spent less than £5 for everything I would need to snack and drink on.

Anyway, after a 'hearty' breakfast of sausages, beans and bacon (plus a few mushrooms) I set about getting ready for today's bike ride, which would take me from Edale to Hayfield, where the current TV series The Village is set. The ride would take me up Jacob's Ladder, a snaking route that literally seems to climb up to the heavens when seen face on. It's very steep in parts, and turned out to be most definitely not rideable, so my day's ride ended up becoming more of a hike with a bike as I pushed my +13kg mountain bike up and over the top. Admittedly, I was riding a rigid, but even with full suspension you'd need to have legs of steel to have any chance of cycling over such rough, steep terrain.

The route is so steep and rocky for most of the way that I must have spent 4 or 5 miles walking and pushing the bike uphill. None-the-less, some of the views are tremendous. The going did not get any easier as I reached the crest of the hill, as the path downwards seemed to consist of nothing but huge, freshly laid stones, making even walking difficult and uncomfortable. Still, I arrived in Hayfield in good time, sufficiently to have a look around some of the village.

The village really is like a step back in time, containing a butchers, greengrocers, cafe and various other stores. the greengrocers is even done out in authentic 1920's style, complete with stuffed animals hanging outside (presumably for filming). Anyway, I bought some nice sausages, fresh potatoes, a yoghurt and some beans, so knew I could look forward to a hearty dinner when I got back tonight. Even better, the whole lot came to under £3.

My dilemma now was the best way to get back to Edale. If I went back the way I came, I would face even more hills and rocky paths, and if I took the main road, the distance would be twice as long and probably be very busy with traffic (not really what you want when you come away to the country for a few days). So I opted instead to cycle along the Sett Valley Trail, a pleasant and traffic free woodland route passing through nature reserved and pleasant forested area, which would bring me out at New Mills Central train station - I had decided to take the train back. The hills and rough surface had beaten me after only 12 miles (it felt like 112).

Once back at the campsite I had a much needed shower, followed by a brief downpour, and then set about preparing my dinner. It's no mean feat cooking potatoes, sausages and beans with only one gas ring, but I did and this is proof that you don't need all the modern conveniences we have in our homes these days - my gas stove only measures around 30 x 45cm! Still, I probably couldn't do this every day - otherwise where would the fun in that be? Now all that remained to do was choosing whether to go for a guided night time walk in search of bats, or to view a local art exhibition in the church later in the evening.

Link to day 3:

Full route details:

Day 3 - A short (but steep) walk and home

I decided not to do the bat walk last night, as when I arrived at the visitor centre about 7:30pm, it was full of parents with their children (as I should have expected). As I was tired from the day's adventure on the hiking trails with the bike, I took the easy option and went to the pub for another drinks - in the Old Nags Head of course. There's nothing wrong with the other pub, it's just a bit more modern and not quite as cosy - and the food is not as good. Still, it's worth a try if you haven't been before! Anyway, back to today.

I slept much better this time, as there was no heavy rain in the night and I was asleep almost instantly from the day's exertions, so I got up about 8:30am to a cup of tea and a breakfast of the the beans I hadn't eaten the night before - waste not want not! The plan for today was to do a bit of a walk that would take me up above the Edale valley looking down, nothing too long and arduous, but something that would stretch the legs.

Before setting out however, I cycled down to the visitor centre and left my bike there to collect on the way down later - rather than walk back down with a suitcase and bike in tow, I would only have half as far to walk with both things, so figured this made sense. Inside the visitor centre I picked up a book of walks around Edale. I know most of them already, having been coming here some years, but I figured there may be something new in there I haven't done before, such as a new route, and I simply couldn't resist the colour coded map in the back showing all the routes over-traced on a pristine white section of Ordnance Survey map.

After finishing at the visitor centre I turned right onto the road and right again to cross the little river that passes Fieldhead campsite - a truly wonderful spot which never fails to inspire me with it's grassy glade next to the running of the stream. I headed out across the field towards Ollerbrook farm, before turning right then left again into open counry - this was a gentle but continuous ascent towards Ollerbrook Clough and Blackwell Plantation. However, I made a left turn through the heather-strewn field towards The Nab, which crests a ridge with fantastic views over the Edale valley and Heardman's plantation.

The switchback of the usual descent brings you back out at Grindsbrook Booth and Grindslow House. However, I took the alternate route which is a bit more direct and involves scrambling down a very steep banked pathway back down into the heart of the valley where Edale Village resides. Once again, the views from up here are sensational, and it's important to have both hands free as you slide down the bushy slope. Still, it's well worth it for the view it affords over the other walkers making the more traditional way up towards The Nab. Still, you'd be very hard pressed to ascend this way, as it's tough going and even on the way down gravity is always threatening to pull you down to ground level. Still, it makes for a fascinating and thrilling downhill run.

Once back down in the heart of the valley, I descended the steps crossing the stream and climbed back out the other side to Grindslow House before heading back to the campsite. I borrowed a tin opener for a third time from a third person in order to cook the soup I'd bought yesterday, rather than eat out or leave food here that I didn't want to carry. I decided to cut my losses and go home early, as all the signs from the weather forecast seemed to suggest that by early evening and tomorrow morning the rain would really be hammering down. I was taking no chances and decided to pack up before nightfall so as not to be packing everything up in the rain. Fortunately I packed up in good time and had time for a nice milky latte at the little cafe by the station before catching the train home. It should be noted here that the cafe near Edale station is nice and pleasant, but has now been taken over by the National Trust. It used to be owned by a woman and her dog who used to cook things from the menu or anything else you may fancy - whilst the choices from the menu are still good, it seems to have lost that 'one-of-a-kind' and homely feel it had before.

Still, nothing stays the same forever, but fortunately the village itself and most of the things that make it appealing haven't changed in the least. The village shop still has products in it that look like they've been on sale since the early 1990's, and the visitor centre still has videos to watch (if not still in the same format as they were when I was a kid). All in all, this has been a fantastic trip and somewhat different to the usual caravan adventures, where I'm almost always accompanied by family or friends. It had been nice just to be on my own doing things in my own way, living an independent yet simple life even if only for a few days. And best of all, I still have the Bank Holiday off tomorrow! Rejoice.

Full route details:

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Sunday ride and the Doncaster Cycling Festival

Date: 1 June 2014
Length of route: 44.5km/27.8 miles
Route: Doncaster-Turnholme Wood-Thorpe-in-Balne-Trumfleet-Haywood-Holme- Cusworth-Sprotbrough-Doncaster

Difficult level: Easy-medium

Well today was an interesting today of cycling and bike-related things. Today was yet again the day of my intended ride in the Peak District. However, it appears that for one reason or another I am ill-fated not to do this ride. First of all it was the rain, then yesterday I was hampered by inner tube problems - today it was the turn of train's not running to Sheffield day, from where I intended to start the route. Since I had no intention of cycling all the way to Sheffield and then starting the route, I decided to give upping my mileage a go in Doncaster and around instead.

Fortunately for me, today was the day of the Doncaster Cycling Festival - the first in 25 years! Of course, it's no Tour De France/Giro D'Italia, but it made a nice change for Doncaster to have something interesting going on, whilst also giving the Council an opportunity to put the new 'Cultural Quarter' into action as June begins in earnest and the sun shines down on our heads. Basically, the festival was a series of races for different age/ability groups doing a number of laps around the town centre on closed roads, with a series of stalls nearby promoting cycling and offering a number of freebies (free drinking bottle, anyone?).

There were plenty of people at the festival strolling around in cycling gear, training on turbos and also a few of the local cycling clubs out and about in force, which I have to say makes a nice change from the usual Doncaster crowds. Anyway, enough of that and onto the ride.Almost as soon as I left the house my vision was assaulted by a couple of cyclists ahead of me, who I overtook in my earnest to get going. Whilst stopped at the red light out onto the main road however, they caught me up and I discovered that these were two female cyclists in their late 60's/early 70's (as far as I could tell).

They asked me very politely if I could possibly tell them how to get to the Doncaster Cycling Festival, as they had attempted to find it twice already and had failed. Fortunately for them, and me being a jolly amiable soul, I told them I was going that way and just to follow me, as I was headed into that direction. I imagined them saying 'What a nice young gentleman he was.' after we parted ways, however I decided not to dwell on such arrogant thoughts and after a brief look round the stalls and watching the racers go by, I headed on my merry way.

I had decided to head out to the country lanes to the west of Doncaster on a similar route to that me and my friend took a couple of months ago on our 120 mile/four day 'epic', as the roads round there tend to be very quiet and free of traffic. I somehow managed to take a wrong turning and therefore ended up going across som gravelly sections of tarmac and through a rather dark and mysterious forest - luckily the terrain wasn't anything I couldn't handle and I emerged into daylight on the other side to find a very wide and large brand new bridge (that somehow didn't fit with the area at all) to take me across to the quite farming villages that populate this area of the country.

Arriving in the small village of Thorpe-in-Balne, at about the halfway point of the ride, I had a snack and looked at my phone to find that unfortunately my Strava app had crashed, and I would have to start recording from scratched. Luckily the ride data were safe, but I couldn't carry on recording from where I left off. I set out again taking another turn off which informed me the road ahead was closed at the level crossing. So I took another left that I knew would bring me out at the same place but over the crossing. Unfortunately I had to turn back as some guard dogs began barking at me and I didn't feel too comfortable attempting to out cycle them on such a narrow country road. Back the way I came then!

I decided to make my way up to the level crossing rather than go round the houses as I thought there might be some way I could get across being just a bike - there was a manned signal box there, where I asked the guy inside if I could possibly get across, since the sign seemed to suggest the engineering works had come to an end, and the crossing simply not reopened. Fortunately, he checked the train schedule and let me across, where I eventually came out on the busy A638 main road leading back into Doncaster. Rather than carry on this busy and unpleasant road, I saw a sign not much further along pointing to Brodsworth Hall and Cusworth.

Since I knew this was a way I could get back home whilst adding in a few hills, I decided to go that way, thus avoiding more traffic. My legs were starting to feel slightly fatigued by this point so I stopped by the road side for a final snack and turned off before reaching more familiar territory and an excellent downhill (right before a nasty curving upward slope) before reaching home. I managed the hill much better than I used to and I'm pleased to say I resisted any urge to go into my lowest ring, as I really don't reckon it's necessary in almost all of Doncaster. I arrived home in one piece to take a refreshing shower and reflect on a pleasant days cycling. Here's to finally making it to the Peak District for a ride in the near future!

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Training route with new tyres

Date: 31 May 2014
Length of route: 23.83km/14.81 miles
Route: Doncaster-Centre-Edlington-Wadworth-Doncaster
Difficulty level: Easy

First posting for a while, as I went out on my bike on a trial run today using my new tyres which I had delivered recently - Schwalbe Lugano Rigid Road Tyres, bought for £11.49 each online. In order to match my bike, I went with the tyres with red edging, in order to

brighten up an otherwise dull area of the bike and, ironically, to give my bike an edge. I had originally planned to ride in the Peak District today, but given that I had spent 2 hours trying to work out why I couldn't get the rear tyre to stay up (despite having tried two inner tubes) I gave it up for the day and just decided to head to town and back, pick up a new inner tube and then go on my usual loop out into the country lanes not too far from my house.

So, how did the 'training ride' go? Well, although at 305/325g (weight given by Wiggle) the tyres are not the lighest, they are narrower than my previous tyres, being 700 x 23c as opposed to my previous tyres which were 700 x 25c. As such, I noticed a definite performance increase, given the wheels have less surface area contact with the road, and therefore better rolling resistance. I was able to cruise at higher speed than I had previously and certainly found it easier to fly up the few 'hills' on my route. The elevation ultimately isn't significant in my area, but I could definitely tell my time going up them has improved (either that or I'm just getting fitter).

So now, I feel all ready to attempt a longer and more interesting ride in the Peak District tomorrow. I haven't chosen a fixed route yet, but have got two in mind - so will be sure to post about these tomorrow! In the meantime, enjoy the photos of my fancy new tyres in my oh-so-nice garden..


Friday, 21 March 2014

Day 4: 20 March 2014 - Whitby to Scarbrough (20 miles)

This was our last day of cycling, and was not really with the aim of getting somewhere, but just an excuse to get a few more miles in the legs before catching the train home to rest up over the weekend. We ate our breakfast and left the hotel around 9:30, in order to allow plenty of time to make our train home and, if possible, allow time for lunch in Scarborough.

Arrival followed by fish and chips.
We left Whitby by climbing up the fearsomely steep (and cobbled) road leading up to the abbey, before winding round the back for the very windy road that would lead us to Robin Hood's Bay. Right from the start the wind was against us and it was a real effort to keep cycling. We eventually reached the main road before rapidly turning off again to join the B road to Robin Hood's Bay where we just missed the turn-off we required. Fortunately, we realised before attempting the very tempting 30% downhill gradient down to the beach front, which we would have surely had to climb up again had we had the wherewithal to go down it in our error.

The harbour at Whitby bay.
Fortunately we caught ourselves in time and turned back to head back to the main road for our next turn-off. On our way back to the main road, we saw the turn-off for the Whitby to Scarborough cycle trail that we had previously noticed before arriving at the main road. We decided to give it a go to shun the presence of cars and in the hope that it would provide us with some much needed shelter from the horrific wind that seemed to be following us everywhere we went. Although not ideal terrain, being built on a former railway and being surrounded by trees, we were sheltered from the wind in large part and did not have such fearsome gradients to contend with, as railways inevitably can only manage gradients of a certain degree.

The steep climb out of Whitby.
We carried on in this manner for some way before coming out at Ravenscar, where we needed to decide between carrying on the cycle trail or rejoining the road way and feeling tarmac beneath our feet. I decided we should head back on the roads for a bit, which I briefly regretted given the wind going against us again, but at least we gained a small amount of speed back to allow us time for lunch in Scarborough.

On the coastal trail from Whitby to Scarborough.
We approached Scarborough eventually with time to spare, but with some real effort being put in due to the endless wind meaning we had to use the path at certain points to avoid being blown into an oncoming vehicle! Fortunately, being midweek, the roads were not too busy and we were largely free to enjoy the roads for ourselves.We stopped briefly by the Welcome to Scarborough sign for a photo opportunity showing we had made the trip (and survived) before cycling three miles further on to Scarborough station to park up the bikes before heading into town for some lunch.

View round the headland. 
Upon wandering into town, we found a pleasant little cafe by the cliff-top lift that led down to the seafront, which was both affordable and decent food to keep us going for the journey home. Tiredness was clearly getting to us however, as I asked for luxury chips and a home-made hot chocolate, rather than the other way around - I even had a little laugh to myself, so the woman behind the counter must have thought I was a bit crazy. Still, having cycled 120 miles or so with no effort other than my own two legs, she'd probably be right. Having eaten our fill we dragged ourselves up the hill back to the train station and boarded our train with time to spare. As much effort as it took to get up some of those hills or ride into the wind, I wouldn't change a moment of it and am already planning the next one. Here's to our big bike ride in Slovenia! Until the next one, Clifford.

Day 3: 19 March 2014 - Thornton-le-dale to Whitby (24 miles)

We got up even earlier for this our third day of cycling, with our main destination 24 miles ahead of us following a gruelling ride over the moors with no rain but some wind to keep things challenging. With a planned route via Dalby Forest and Goathland, we knew there would be no short of energy required today, so we left the guesthouse in good time following a hearty breakfast, knowing we would need every ounce of fuel we could muster.

Going Ape in Dalby Forest - looks like fun!
Things started off in high (or low) gear right from the off, with a brisk climb towards Dalby Forest testing our legs right from the off. Fortunately, our turn-off came sooner than we anticipated and we passed through Dalby Forest enjoying the long straight smooth road. We in fact enjoyed it so much that we missed our (admittedly easy to miss) turnoff and headed round to the right before we realised we wouldn't be reaching our destination any time soon that way. Having passed Go Ape (an airborne assault course that looks like GREAT fun) we turned back towards High Dalby house where our turn-off just so happened to be a mud track heading over the river that fortunately was reasonably cycleable to begin with.

The turn-off we SHOULD have taken...
Having made it back to the main road, we headed slightly downhill to turn off to the pleasant and isolated villages of Lockton and Levisham. Into Lockton was a nice easy downhill whilst into Levisham was an even steeper downhill (20% gradient) with a wonderful downhill following a magnificent view over the valley. Heading down into the valley we were soon met with another punishing 20% gradient back up into the second village which we knew we weren't going to manage on our bikes, so off we hopped again before clambering back on following a brief rest at the top of the hill. Levisham is basically two rows of houses on either side of the village green, and is genuinely very remote but still has it's share of B&B's and a village pub.

Checking we're going the right way.
We headed out of the village onto open moorland, having passed a woman walking her dog who told us we could expect some wind out on the moor. Fortunately, this didn't prove to be the case, and we had a pleasant 3 mile saunter over relatively even terrain that none-the-less would not be optimal riding over a long period, but did allow us to experience some genuine seclusion. This brought us back out onto the main A169 towards Whitby which gave us our first proper downhill of the day.

Resting after a 20% climb into Levisham.
Following this good run, we turned off for the village of Goathland, famous for being the village where ITV's Heartbeat was filmed, and very popular during the 1990's. The village itself is full of souvenir shops and cafe's selling all sorts of Heartbeat memorabilia, and you'd be forgiven for thinking you were no longer in 2014. Our ride into the village was over open moorland was indeed very windy, and we were almost blown into some sheep a few times. Fortunately, we made it into the village and after a brief-rest stop, went on our merry way again.

The picturesque yet remote village of Levisham.
Leaving the village brings a fierce 1 in 4 (25%) gradient that even the best of road bikes would be hard pressed to manage. We passed the scenic North York moors railway (stopping for a photo) and then out of the village for the more gradual (yet still windy) incline that would lead us back out on to the main road for the highlight of our trip - the incredible downhill run that is Blue Bank.

Crossing the moor on two wheels.
Blue Bank is surely famed in this area of the country for it's sheer drop, as there is an escape lane 800 yeards in for cars that cannot handle it and need to stop in an emergency. Fortunately, being much slower than cars, yet able to get up to speed easily on the downhill run, Blue Bank is a cyclists dream, whilst being curvy enough to test your bike's steering and braking skills. Fortunately for us, we didn't need to stop once, and must have hit around 40mph before we got to the bottom and entered the village of Sleights. A nasty shock hit us when we realised there is a nasty uphill before us right at the bottom. Fortunately, we were able to turn off just before hitting any more ascents, with huge grins on our faces following the adrenaline rush gained on the downhill run.

The downhill run to the next village.
The right turn brought us to the pleasant village of Ruswarp, where we stopped briefly to decide whether to join the main road to Whitby or to turn right and find the Scarbrough to Whitby cycle trail that would bring us out in the centre of Whitby. We decided on the latter, following a brief but nasty climb that led us over an old railway line that gave us a good view of Whitby in the distance before planting us right in the centre of town. Having reached our destitution, we decided to buy some good old fish and chips before seating ourselves on top of the hill overlooking the town near Captain Cook's statue and simply savouring our achievement at making it 100 miles from home to here. In reality, with a few diversions and other distractions, I think we had actually hit 106 miles by this point, but as we had hit three figures, we revelled in our glory and, having eaten our fill, headed to our place of lodging for the night.

Last stop before Whitby - choosing which way to go.
Captain's Lodge where we stayed was a curious mix of old and new, but had a saving grace in the fact that there was a very comfortable sofa in our bedroom just begging for the weary traveller to relax in.  Having washed ourselves and relaxed for a while, we headed out to explore the town, before later on heading to a traditional 1940's pie restaurant where you can get a range of pies and mash for the humble price of £5.99, with a wonderful dessert of Jam Roly Poly to fill you up afterwards if you're hungry enough (I certainly was). After this we were flagging with tiredness, so headed back in to rest up for the night before the 20 mile trip down the coast to Scarborough where we would catch our train home.