Wet, wild and walling.

 

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My walling partner John on the far side of the wall

Storm Brian (who makes this up?!?) and my DSWA ‘Introduction to Dry Stone Walling’ course coincided this weekend.  The two day course was held on a fell adjacent to Saddleworth Moor.  What an informative, fun and satisfying two days it was too.  Thanks to some heartfelt prayer, Brian held back the rain between 0900-1600 each day and saved his deluge for the night in-between.  I was teamed up with John, a retired telecoms engineering manager and we were allocated a 1.5 meter section of collapsed wall to take down, sort and then rebuild.

What a satisfying weekend.  We were pleased with our section…

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John / My section – ready for the next 100 years

…and to see a whole 20 meters of new wall build by the 14 people on the course with the able assistance from our three instructors.

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I’ve just started a sabbatical and hope to put my new skill to use on sections of dilapidated walls on a friends smallholding.  It takes years to become expert and fast, but I hope I can get a few meters of simple wall built for them by dedicating a day a week over the next three months – always assuming Brian doesn’t make a return visit!

Training ride…

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Preparation for our family cycle tour across France on the Canal des Deux Mers route is now in full swing with the arrival of Junior’s new accessory.  He can now contribute to progress with his own set of pedals.  He may only be 3 1/2 but I could feel his input.  I’d say it was around 10-20% easier than pulling him in his trailer and on this point I’d agree with Tesco’s…

…every little helps!

Planning for 2017

Mrs W is out at a Christmas party and Junior is now fast asleep, so I have some time to start looking into the proposed cycle tour for 2017.  The brief I set myself was to find a route which was both flat and interesting with the idea that with a flat route we could bring Junior with us.  As this point it is unclear whether this will be in a trailer or on a tag-along.

The route I’m looking into is the Canal des Deux Mers.  A chance to cycle across France with less than 400 m of height gain in ca. 7-9 days of riding.

Planning a cycling holiday is a great way to bring a little sunshine into a December evening.

Buckden Pike

Many people reserve their blog postings for epic tales of ‘daring do’ involving vertiginous climbs and wild camping in the wilderness. However with a 2 ½ year old in tow an amble in the Yorkshire Dales seems just as note-worthy. Well perhaps it was a little more than the average amble, as it involved 9 miles, 530 meters height gain and reaching the top of the fourth highest peak in the Dales. And not being in the top three meant it was relatively quiet which was really pleasant.

Our route started from Buckden and took a glancing route up onto Buckden Pike complete with Trig Point. Junior now recognizes them and shouts ‘a Trig Point Daddy!’ with the same enthusiasm I feel inside at seeing one of these iconic land marks.

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Sun Hat & Snow Suit – both required for a Spring Day in Yorkshire!

So taken with them was I as a youth that two of us set ourselves the challenge of finding all those on the Isle of Wight in sub 12 hours. There were around 110 as I recall (of the ca. 6190 in the whole of the UK).

As we reached the summit and enjoyed the view we could see a band of what looked to be rain coming towards us. All three of us wrapped up against this and started heading along the ridge only to find we were to be sprinkled with snow. Snow, in April? And this after almost unbroken sunshine on our ascent. Well it was better than rain and soon passed. Sections of the ridge were rather boggy, and each time one of us found a particularly soft spot it was accompanied by a little voice asking ‘What just happened?’ the most popular phase of the moment with Junior. Next time we will try the earlier descent from the war memorial to avoid this wet section.

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He slept for all the descent but woke in time to walk over the bridge over the Wharfe and then to ‘drive’ a mini-digger we found abandoned in a nearby field.

The final highlight was getting back to the Buck Inn for a pint of XB for me, tea for Mrs W and a hot chocolate for Junior (without the whisky chaser on this occasion).

Gear issues – Ortlieb panniers

An observation which is well worth noting. I’ll be checking my screws this weekend.

The Bicycle Pedlar

Ortlieb panniers on the front and rear, Ortlieb trunk bag and Ortlieb handlebar bag...we have them all! Ortlieb panniers, Ortlieb handlebar bag, Ortlieb trunk bag…

When we started this bike shop, we wanted to sell the waterproof and durable Ortlieb gear. We were like just about every other cycle tourist from every part of the globe who (it seemed anyway) knew the brand and either used the products, or wished they could!

Considering our love affair with every piece of Ortlieb gear we own, imagine our surprise when we had an issue with our High-Vis rear panniers during our recent cycle touring trip over Easter!

We were only a few kilometres along the gravel road on day two of the trip when we noticed that the top corner of our front pannier had become unattached from the mounting bracket! How could this be?!

The screw was missing so we tied some nylon cord around the pannier to keep it on the rack and continued on riding. We were so rattled by this unexpected betrayal of…

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10,000 Reasons

Our church set us a challenge.  Based on the lyrics of the popular Matt Redman song “10,000 Reasons” can we collectively (the whole congregation) list 10,000 reasons why we are grateful to God.  To get us started the Sunday School groups came up with 1100 reasons.  This got me thinking.  Could I come up with 100 reasons which would not cross over with anyone elses?  Well taking a chemists perspective – here is how far I’ve got.

Of the 118 elements in the periodic table, 92 are natural and thus created by our God. Of these 70 are a blessing to my life and here is why…

  1. I’m grateful for H ions because they are the active part of acids which makes lemons tangy
  2. I’m grateful for He because it’s low boiling point allows it to cool superconducting magnets which enables MRI scanners to work.
  3. I’m grateful for Li because it is used to make the battery which gives my mobile phone and my camera long battery lives.
  4. I’m grateful for Be because when included in alloys it makes springs last longer. Great news for my hybrid bike.
  5. I’m grateful for B because it makes glass stronger so I can have Pyrex dishes which are ovenproof
  6. I’m grateful for C because it is the building block for all of life on Earth
  7. I’m grateful for N2 because as part of fertilizers it ensures that higher crop yields are possible which helps feed a growing world population
  8. I’m grateful for O2 because it allows my muscles to work and my brain to survive.
  9. I’m grateful for F because incorporating this into a polymer makes drugs more effective and also helps stop my black pudding sticking to my frying pan (Teflon)
  10. I’m grateful for Ne because it glows red in an electrical discharge tube and enables colourful displays.
  11. I’m grateful for Na so I can put salt on my chips
  12. I’m grateful for Mg because when added to aluminium it forms a much stronger more easily worked alloy making stronger bicycle frames
  13. I’m grateful for Al because it is strong and light and allows large aircraft to be built and carry me to amazing places.
  14. I’m grateful for Si because synthetic oils allow the engine in my van to run for longer between oil changes.
  15. I’m grateful for P because it enables matches to ignite
  16. I’m grateful for S, because sulphites are used to preserve my food.
  17. I’m grateful for Cl2 because it is used to kills the bugs in my drinking water to make it safe to drink.
  18. I’m grateful for Ar because it is used in double glazing to keep my home warm.
  19. I’m grateful for K because it is vital to controlling the electrolyte balance in all my cells.
  20. I’m grateful for Ca because it is the major building block of my bones
  21. I’m grateful for Sc because it is used to make ‘daylight bulbs’ to light film studios so I can relax watching a film at the weekend.
  22. I’m grateful for Y because it is used to make lasers and superconductors. There is a laser in my CD player and I love music.
  23. I’m grateful for Ti because it’s oxide absorbs UV light and is used in sunscreens to protect my skin
  24. I’m grateful for V because when added to steel it makes strong tools to work with.
  25. I’m grateful for Cr because it is what makes rubies red.
  26. I’m grateful for Mn because it makes railway tracks last longer.
  27. I’m grateful for Fe because it is the element that carries oxygen from my lungs to my muscles.
  28. I’m grateful for Co because it is used to make strong magnets that then protect my food from the containing nuts and bolts that fall off from food processing plants.
  29. I’m grateful for Ni because it is used to make hydrogen from steam which then enables ammonia to be made which is used in fertilizers – this in turn allows us to feed the world.
  30. I’m grateful for Cu as it is used to stop my fence posts rotting.
  31. I’m grateful for Zn because it stops the chassis of my van from rusting.
  32. I’m grateful for Ga because the semiconductors it makes enables my computer to work.
  33. I’m grateful for Ge which enables the glass of the wide angle lens of my camera to refract light correctly.
  34. I’m grateful for As because I love murder mystery novels.
  35. I’m grateful for Se because it helps keep me free of dandruff.
  36. I’m grateful for Br because it is used in the fire retardant that makes my sofa safer in the event of a fire.
  37. I’m grateful for Kr because it enables the bulb in my study lamp to last longer.
  38. I’m grateful for Rb because it gives the purple colour to fireworks. As an inorganic chemist, I love fireworks and purple is my favourite colour.
  39. I’m grateful for Sr because it produces the brilliant red light in fireworks
  40. I’m grateful for Y because its compounds form superconductors which enabled the NMR machine I used as part of my Ph.D to work so I could study the mechanism of chemical reactions.
  41. I’m grateful for Nb because it’s oxide increases the refractive index of glass meaning my wife can have thinner more attractive glasses.
  42. I am grateful for Mo because when alloyed with Cr and Fe it produces a steel which is strong and flexible and is used to make the Reynolds 541 frame of my touring bike.
  43. I am grateful for Ru because it is one of the catalysts used to make acetic acid. The household name for this is spirit vinegar and I love this on my chips (alone with the salt, see No. 11)
  44. I am grateful for Rh because this was the metal on which my Ph.D was based which gave me the skills to carry out all the fascinating jobs I’ve had over the past 19 years.
  45. I’m grateful for Pd because it is in the catalytic convertor on my van meaning it’s emissions of carbon monoxide are minimized which is good news for our environment.
  46. I’m grateful for Ag because it is the basis of photographic film and I love photography.
  47. I’m grateful for Cd because it is used in the rechargeable batteries that power all my gadgets.
  48. I’m grateful for In because indium tin oxide is a transparent conductor that makes touch screen devices, like my smartphone possible.
  49. I’m grateful for Sn because it is used to make glass. Sheets of glass are formed on pools of molten Sn and my home and van would be much less pleasant without windows.
  50. I’m grateful for Sb because it is used in the hard alloy used in printing presses. Without this we could not have books and I love a good novel.
  51. I’m grateful for Te because it is used to make light sensors such as that in my digital camera
  52. I’m grateful for I2 because it is essential to the proper operation of my thyroid which regulates my metabolism.
  53. I’m grateful for Ca because it has a repeatable electronic relaxation time of just the right length to use in very accurate clocks – atomic clocks. These in turn are essential to the operation of GPS systems which I used to guide me when I’m out cycling or walking in the mountains.
  54. I’m grateful for Ba because Ba sulphate is the least soluble salt known to man and is very dense. This makes it ideal for radiological imaging. I haven’t needed it yet, but one day a barium meal might enable someone to save my life.
  55. I’m grateful for Hf because it is used for control rods in nuclear reactors. 20% of the electricity I use each day will have come from a nuclear powered power station.
  56. I’m grateful for Ta for its high resistance to corrosion. This enabled the first chemical plant I ever worked on to handle some very interesting materials – one of which was the catalyst that enables post-it notes to separate from each other.
  57. I’m grateful for W because the hardness of tungsten carbide allows all the other elements to be readily mined from the earth. It is the key to the most of the other blessings on this list.
  58. I’m grateful for Re because it makes jet engine turbine blades possible. This facilitates mass air travel and has allowed me to see the world.
  59. I’m grateful for Os because it gave me the chance to make one of the most significant scientific findings of my time in industrial science. Because potassium osmate is such a distinctive colour I was able to identify a new way to separate Os from Ru. This freed up Ru to make the high density HDD that made Classic iPods possible.
  60. I’m grateful for Ir because it makes the spark plugs in all my petrol powered garden tools last longer.
  61. I’m grateful for Pt because it is used to make silicon polymers which keep the flysheet on my tent both light and waterproof.
  62. I’m grateful for Au because it can be used to make objects of beauty.
  63. I’m grateful for Hg because it is the only metal which is a liquid at room temperature. This enables it to be used in level switches which enable my tablet computer to know which way up it is. It also enables the fluorescent bulb above my workshop bench to work and thus enable me to enjoy making and fixing things into the evening.
  64. I’m grateful for Pb because it is soft and resists corrosion and thus is a great material to seal the joins in the roof of our house so we stay dry.
  65. I’m grateful for Bi because it is used as it’s alloys are used as safety fuses in shops and hotels, meaning that sprinkler systems would kick in and keep my family safe in the event of a fire.
  66. I’m grateful for Po it is used to power satellites which enables me to know so much more about the world and to easily speak to friends in remote places.
  67. I’m grateful for Rn because of the role it played in helping Marie and Pierre Curie understand radioactivity. Knowledge we now use for many medical imagine and curative procedures.
  68. I’m grateful for Ce, because its oxide is what is painted onto the inside of my oven to enable it to be self-cleaning.
  69. I’m grateful for Nd because it can be used to make very strong magnets. These help my hifi sound great.
  70. I’m grateful for U because it is the basis of most nuclear power plants and electricity is vital to modern life.
  71. Finally, I am grateful for the extravagant variety of chemistry that stimulates my thinking, provides my career and enriches my life in so many ways.

The Music of Friendship

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I love music, many styles as long as they are melodic and stir the soul. I was returning some CD’s to a friend and it made me realise just how many of the bands I like and have within my CD collection are ones I have been introduced to by friends. When I thought about it, whilst I have ‘discovered’ bands via other routes by far the majority have come from introductions from friends. This means now not only do I love the music and it may bring back memories of a gig, it can also bring back memories of the person and the occasion when I was first heard their music.

Take the favourite band of my teenage years, Status Quo, whilst they had some singles in the charts in the mid 80’s it was my woodwork teacher, Jim Boyd who lent me his vinyl back catalogue for me to listen to and copy to tape. What a great teacher – I won the schools prize for woodwork and took away with me a love for music which should really have been 10 years before my time – I continue to love the music of the mid 70’s.

Getting into Queen from this period was thanks to my college buddy Jon who I used to visit regularly and listen to his music as a group of us tackled ever more complex and geeky board games. I first heard AC DC with Jon too.  He’s still in geek in a black T-shirt, heavy metal remains only on the edge of the fringe of what I now enjoy.

Move on a few years to my time at University. I spend many really mellow evenings with the guy who was to become one of my closest friends and best man. Goodness only knows where he got his musical inspiration from – it was (and is) eclectic to say the least. He introduced me to lots of artists new to me, not all of them stuck, but many did – ELO, The Saw Doctors, Mary Black, Nancy Griffith and Donald Fagen. Our tea cupboard has a greater variety within it thanks to Richard too.

More on a few years again and my flatmate Tony, now a man of the cloth, introduced me to Deep Purple. What a find, what a drummer – whose patterns I copy to this day (I wonder if the church family realises where they’ve come from?). A new friend, Chris, is the person who lent me Made in Japan which was new to me and prompted me to think about this link between friends and music in the first place. I’ve never much been into live albums, but this is reputed to be the best of all time – I have no reason to disagree with this, thanks to Chris I bought my own copy.

This introduction to new delights does not stop though – just a couple of years ago a work colleague invited Mrs W and myself to a gig to see / hear ‘Show of Hands’ – Another fine find – folk music for the modern age. If you haven’t heard their song AIG, go onto YouTube or Grooveshark and look it up.

Whilst it may be true that I have come to love some bands through what I have heard on the radio, it’s interesting to me that most of my music has come to be through friends and has enriched my life still more than their friendship.

Thanks guys!

‘bent over the Pennines 5th and Final Day : Holmfirth to Ilam – 60 miles

Life has rather got in the way of blogging, so the conclusion of my tour notes has been somewhat delayed. For this, dear reader, I apologise. However the distractions have all been good ones! When I left off I had just reached Holmfirth, stopping some 10-12 miles before my planned end point because day four had proved to be the meanest stretch that the Pennines would have to offer. The Holme Valley Campsite proved to be very good. That it was so quiet was not be expected from the map, falling as it does between two busy A roads. However not only was it a haven of peace, the staff were fabulous and hospitable too. Also their new shower block was nothing short of the state of the art – and no coin slots for the showers. What a welcome change compared to our time in Barnoldswick.

early_LOTSW_5Rolling back into the town centre was an easy start, but Holme Moss was there waiting for me. Once again the initial climb was very steep, but soon settled out to a manageable 1:7. The TDF went this way, but took the A6024 over the fell which was (once again) a slightly easier route than NCN 68. If I were to do it again, I’d follow the A road, as the support van reported that this was a pretty quiet road even at around 5 pm. On top of the fell it was a little misty, the first less than perfect weather of the trip. However I was soon down from height and barrelling down towards the Woodhead Pass (A628). Luckily I joined this on a downhill section (heading West) and so was able to keep up a respectable 38-40 mph and was thus not so much slower than the trucks. There were plenty of those and I was glad to get to the Torside Resovoir and onto the B road on the other side. The ride down into Glossop was both glorious and all but traffic free. I didn’t stop in the town, nothing invited me to do so and it was busy with traffic as usual. The really steep hills were now behind me, but there were still a couple of significant climbs ahead. The countryside rolled and swayed as I entered Derbyshire and apart from one navigational error it was an easy ride to my lunch spot. The wind had built up, and whilst this is not a big issue peddling a ‘bent, it did mean seeking cover for my lunch. The Pack Horse Inn filled my beer stomach nicely, and after a rest it was time to hit the road again. My hope (which turned out to be realized) was that this should turn out to be the easiest afternoon of the trip.   In terms of what I had seen up until this point, really there was only one more ‘real hill’ to get over that day. This was just outside Buxton. I deviated away from NCN 68 as my advice had told me that ‘off road’ section was far too rough for me. Sticking to the A5004 I thought I had ‘hit the wall’. Instead it turns out that Long Hill is aptly named. I could see that I was on the side of a hill, but not until the road snaked back on itself did I get to see where I had come from… And this told me that I was not running out of steam, I was instead battling up a very long [if gentle] climb. This was finally rewarded by a sweeping decent into Buxton and a trip to Gregg’s to try out a couple of their Danish Pastries. Two for the price of one, it would have been rude not to! Mrs W and the support van arrived in town just after me and together we had a fun conversation with a cycling cleric who wanted to know more about my Metabike. What a great chap he was and I was buoyed up for the final leg with the assurance that ‘there are no more big hills South of here.’

The Quiet Woman PH

10 miles outside of Buxton I joined the Monsal Trail. The surface was much better than I remembered from my last trip here in 2005. Perhaps it had been improved? The dry weather will have helped. Now the challenge was on; would I be able to complete the final 20 miles before dinner time / my own personal energy store ran low? A nice flat level trail really is ‘bent country, and apart from negotiating around dawdling grockels I was managing 20-22 mph all the way. This suggested that I would get to Ilam, my end destination within the hour. This is in fact exactly what happened. Whilst lacking in geological drama, the rail-bed route made up for this with bucolic views seen at high speed, or at least what is high speed for a long distance tourist at the end of a long day.

Our final campsite proved to be the delight we hoped it would be. The NT site at Ilam Hall. A little luxury and the chance for a couple of days family time at the end of the tour.

Ilam HallSo would I recommend NCN 68? A qualified yes… …the scenery was outstanding, the route quiet (apart from the Woodhead Pass!) and the sense of achievement massive. I’m glad I got the chance to do it ‘supported’ however and did not have the weight of touring gear. Given the hills on days three and four, very short days would have been in order had I had this weight with me. I would have added a day. However I had no weight, so for me it as an excellent route.  Pleasingly also, I can counter the misconception that ‘bents cannot climb.   It is true that a lot of ‘bents are built more for comfort rather than speed, but there are at least two designs out there which have the same / very similar mechanical efficiency to the standard diamond frame design and the Metabike is one of those. So it was a great route for a great bike – luckily I was on just such a machine and had great weather thrown in for good measure.