A half term treat, going to Manchester on the train to catch a tram (and an incidental visit to the Museum of Science and Industry).
A half term treat, going to Manchester on the train to catch a tram (and an incidental visit to the Museum of Science and Industry).
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…
…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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
An observation which is well worth noting. I’ll be checking my screws this weekend.
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!
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…
View original post 424 more words
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…
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.
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.
Rolling 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.’
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.
So 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.