Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Visiting our cow Molly

Yesterday's short evening run
As we've had some very pleasant weather in the UK over the last few days, I decided to do something I haven't done for a fair while - I decided to take an evening bike ride after work. Nothing too strenuous as it's quite hard to do to much when you know you have to get up for work again the next day. So, an hour or so out and back seemed the perfect solution - hey, it's still miles in the legs right?!

I'd had my eye on cycling out to Bradfield near me for some time, as I knew you could form a nice 20 mile or so loop going up one road and back down the other on fairly quiet roads to rejoin the quiet but fast A57 back into residential Sheffield. As it was 7pm by the time I set off however I stuck to my plan of doing around 10 miles in the hour or so I had planned to be on the bike. The temperature had cooled down to a pleasant level by this time as well.

Which way to go?
There are myriads of unexplored roads close to where I live that lead to mile after mile of rural roads in gorgeous scenery. That being the case I headed down Walkley Bank Road which is sharp steep downhill segment that brings you out at Malin Bridge, one of Sheffield's tram termini. Coming out on the mini roundabout here you have two choices: turn left for Stannington, and right for Loxley. Both bring you out at Bradfield, you simply approach it from different directions.

Good to see buses come out here too.
As I had never been through Stannington before, and it looked less steep than heading into Loxley first I decided to head that way, knowing I would have a pretty smooth and sweet descent on the way back in. The climb up through Stannington is pretty constant, but never gets unbearable to the point where I felt the need to stop cycling. It wends it's way upwards as the B6076 before a deceptive but small sign tells you to turn right to head towards Bradfield and Dungworth (attractively named).

Suburbia slowly disappears.
The right turn leads through relative suburbia with a few general stores (Spar and Coop) plus a fairly standard looking pub before the houses drop away and the terrain becomes more rolling. As you crest the hill on the approach to Dungworth, an old style village sign indicates that Glossop is off to the left 21 miles away while Bradfield is just a few miles further on. Also to the right of this sign is a local family farm known as Our Cow Molly's selling ice cream and milk.

Hello sheep
I had seen their products in local shops in and around Sheffield but had never associated them with this place right on my doorstep. It's so amazing to live near to places where products are made right next to your house and makes you wonder why we ever source most of our products needlessly from miles and miles away. The farm is open 4 days a week and I made a point to stop off later in the summer as part of a long weekend ride out this way.

I pushed on and reached the end of the B6076 making a sharp right for the return to suburban Sheffield. Not long after the right turn the impressive Damflask Reservoir appears on both sides of a narrowish bridge. It's a beautiful spot and is worth a brief dismount from the bike to soak up the atmosphere of people on rowing boats rented for use on the lake.

Some kind of village green.
Pressing on I knew Sheffield was not too far away, and as a started to gain speed on the long straight descent another pub called the Nags Head Inn caught my eye on the right. You'd be forgiven for thinking I was cycling through Edale, home of the Old Nags Head pub but I wasn't! I made a mental note and pushed on for the rest of the thrilling descent down to the other side of Malin Bridge roundabout.

Nice to see signs like this.
I made a slight mistake on my exit from the roundabout, as I came off onto Walkley Bank Road I didn't realise that it splits and goes in two separate directions as effectively two separate roads. I came out at Rivelin Valley Road which is right at the bottom of Sheffield relative to where I live. I looked at my options on the map and knew whichever one I took I'd have some serious ascending to do over a relatively short distance.
The scenic and beautiful Damflask reservoir.
I opted to take the turning onto Rivelin road before a sharp right turn onto Waller Road which I knew would bring me out on a level close enough to mine to make me forget about any more climbing. Still, I had around 200m of climbing at around 14.8% gradient to contend with first. I stopped a couple of times to catch my breath and was cajoled on by a man in his 60's who cheerfully told me his 60 year old neighbour cycles halfway up that hill every day. I cheerfully replied that I might need to give it a few more goes to attempt it again.
The Nag's Head Inn - NOT in Edale!
I arrived home around 10 past 8 feeling very satisfied and not overly tired. I could easily have done more but with luck the weather will hold out this weekend so I can do a similar ride but over more roads. I crashed following my post-ride shower and finished up in bed watching a film before slipping into a joyful slumber.
Overall ride stats.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Remembering New York...and the return

Last night, I started planning my return to New York city, already pencilled in for May next year. Of course, I've nothing booked just yet, as I need to save money before I can consider doing anything like that again. Still, a few months of good old fashioned hard work and I should be good to go! The city must have really left an imprint on me to start planning my next trip as soon as I've got back.

Still, I know several people who say New York is just another city and they're not that bothered about visiting it. Perhaps they're right, and it isn't of particular importance for them. Still, something had called out to me for many years before I finally visited in May 2016, and I still feel immensely grateful that I've had the chance to see it.

I remember one evening when me and my Dad had been out for a drink or two in the city after dinner. We came back to the hotel and just started playing a random song or two, including some old favourites. It doesn't matter what the songs were, but somehow they formed a quintessential part of my New York experience and I hear those songs differently now since having returned home.

Ever since I got back two weeks ago, I've had instances where I simply think of the city and what I did there. Frequently about Manhattan, but mostly about Brooklyn. Don't get me wrong, Manhattan is cool, and is definitely where New York is at and where the most exciting sights are and stuff happens. Still I feel a strong sense of personal connection with Brooklyn and like that's where I feel most comfortable in New York.

It's exciting knowing that the beast that is Manhattan is literally right across the water, but Brooklyn seems to offer a down to earth retreat which feels much more real and grounded than Manhattan, whilst at the same time enhancing it's appeal and allure. Brooklyn is much more low rise, with cool local independent shops, cafes, bars and other attractions, particularly in Greenpoint and Williamsburg north of Central Brooklyn. This more than anything else makes Brooklyn seem more personable and attractive than Manhattan itself.

Having said that, it's these two sides of the coin that make New York as a whole so exciting. It takes little to no time to find a quiet secluded spot which can feel your own, even if just for a moment in time. Green parks, urban paradise (if it can be called that) and independent shops all vye for existence, yet somehow seem to exist in non-discordant harmony. Perhaps this is the real allure of New York city, and why I love it so much? Only 11 months 'til I see it again ;)