Twycross Bypasser, Warton Version

Windy. Not the best afternoon for a run out after work, but beggars can’t be choosers. I have a conflicting appointment tomorrow and it’s going to rain on Saturday.

So I wheeled out the X and set off at about 3:35pm. I was struggling into the wind before I’d got 50 metres from the garage, which I think is a first. I’d decided on a Twycross Bypasser, and I chose to do the version with an extension to the west that takes in Warton before rejoining the usual route at Pinwall.

Conditions were tolerable enough early on when the sun was out, but when the clouds rolled over the temperature dropped dramatically and it was awful out there in the cold wind. My fingertips were freezing, even though I was wearing a thoroughly creditable pair of cycling gloves. And yet three years ago exactly, on 6th May 2018, ‘er indoors and I went on a cycle ride and we were sweltering in the heat. I expect I documented it here. I know this because a pic from that memorable journey came up in my Facebook feed this morning.

To make matters worse, the rain started to come down about 6 miles from home. Misery. But it stopped with about a mile to go and the sun came out so I took this snap.

Passed a few polling stations on the way including one at a church, which strikes me as a good way to deter rational people from taking part in our democracy. Fortunately, I didn’t have to visit anything sillier than a leisure centre when I went to vote myself.

Back on 30.15 miles. Glad to have done them but I can’t say I would have if I’d known what it was going to be like out there.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5252469145

Doveridge

My wife often asks if I’m going to wear a helmet, just before I set off on a cycle ride. Usually, as was the case this time, the answer is “no”. Today I explained that it was too sunny, and I’d need a cap.

“It’s always either too cold, or too sunny”, she observed. Then she went for my soft underbelly, my vanity. “If you were a proper cyclist, you’d wear a helmet”, she continued.  But she missed the mark with that one, because I happen to think my habit of wearing unconventional cycling headwear lends my appearance a certain raffish, maverick quality. However – I decided not to bother with the explanation about statistics, and I agreed to wear my helmet, to give her a bit of peace of mind.

And I must admit, it was nice to have the proper uniform on for a change. Especially with sunglasses. I always think clear cycling glasses with a helmet look a bit nerdy.

Anyway – I wanted to do a Fondo today. Dry and sunny with a moderate wind blowing from the west. I decided to go south, down to Welford. But after about a mile, I changed my mind and decided to go west, along the flat A road south of Derby. So I did a U turn and propelled myself through Coalville, up through Belton and Isley Walton, to Melbourne. From there, up over Swarkestone Bridge. I stopped to take this pic, but actually decided to have a snack here – the wall looked comfortable enough to sit on. I ate two cheese rolls before setting off again.

The headwind was a bit annoying going west. By the time I got to Doveridge I’d done 35 miles, enough (I correctly guessed) to make my distance up to the requisite 62.14 miles if I came home the quicker way from Melbourne.

So much nicer on the way back with a tailwind. It was a bit warmer by then as well. I stopped at a pub at Hilton for a half lager and some food – they were only doing pizzas. Unusually, no doubt as a social-distancing measure, they were providing table service today which was ideal as I didn’t need to leave the bike unattended.

I was careful to wear a face covering.

A pleasant chap at a nearby table wanted to know how much the bike cost, how many miles I did on it and so on. He told me he was an ex Para and had buggered his knees, so he didn’t think cycling was for him. I told him that it might well do them a bit of good. He was impressed that I was doing 60-odd miles today as people often are when they ask, but of course it’s easier than it sounds. Got to be easier than jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft, even with a parachute.

Back on 65.09 miles. Nice to do that route again, I don’t often go as far as Sudbury and Doveridge. Not sure if it’s a Fondo distance if you take the direct route to and from Melbourne both ways. I don’t think you can really get any further than Doveridge unfortunately, without going onto a very busy road. I must check that.

Listened to 6 Music mostly – Cerys Matthews played some good stuff in honour of the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Then footy on 5 Live until Arsenal scored their first goal against Newcastle. Then the Reacher audiobook, Echo Burning which is unfolding nicely.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5231208693

Seaton and Hartlepool

The last run out in Hartlepool for a while. Quite a stiff breeze so I knew I wasn’t going far. Decided on a run along Seaton again, despite the certainty of a headwind on the way back.

But it was the temperature, rather than the force of the headwind I faced after turning north again that was particularly troubling. It was, in Teesside parlance, baltic.

Came back into Hartlepool by a different route again and rode round some old haunts. I ventured along Oxford Road, which was a part of town I very rarely frequented even when I lived here, despite it being a main thoroughfare. Didn’t even know where I’d find myself when I came to the end and was surprised to emerge on Catcote Road.

I also had a pedal round the little suburb next to Ward Jackson Park that I’d more or less forgotten existed. Must be a lovely place to live, very secluded and quiet with some lovely old detached houses hidden among the trees. I went to a friend’s birthday party along there somewhere in 1969 or so, and I’m not sure I’d been back over that way since until this evening.

Back on 13.51 miles.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5209269597

Headland and Elsewhere

I would normally have a day off between rides but since yesterday’s climbing didn’t seem to have caused undue knee trauma, I decided a nice flat route along the coast again wouldn’t hurt. However, I found myself in the wrong lane in the town centre – what used to be a nice simple roundabout was replaced by a confounding traffic system, some time in the ’90s – so I pedalled off in the direction of the Headland, instead.

The Headland itself is very nice, with a pleasing view across the bay to Seaton Carew, Hartlepool’s nuclear power station and industrial Teesside. But it’s a very urban route to get there. I didn’t stay there long. I rode back to the town centre, where I took the appropriate road for Seaton Carew.

I had a brief excursion along a road leading to North Gare Sands and what looked like a little chemical works – a company called Frutarom that (I’ve just discovered) makes artificial flavourings and scents. I turned back to join the main coast road and got as far as Seal Sands road, where I turned right toward Wolviston, then after a mile of that, turned back for base. I stopped at Seal Sands to enjoy the view for a minute or two and actually saw a seal surface for a few moments. Then back into the town. I took a different route from Seaton this time, and went to have a look at my old school, then Hartlepool Grammar School for Boys, now Hartlepool 6th Form College.

Years ago I could have pedalled in and had a look round; now there’s a huge gate with an imposing arch stretched over it reminiscent of the entrance to Auschwitz, though thankfully as you can see it bears a message considerably less sinister than Arbeit Macht Frei.

As I took the pic I realised that I first entered those grounds fifty years ago this summer.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5189264869

24.01 miles, 358 this month which is comfortably over target. 1378 done this year.

County Durham

Out and about in Teesside again today and this time I decided on a run inland. Going along the coast offers a very flat route, but the inland option involves climbing, especially over the first few miles. I raised the saddle a few mm first, using an Allen key set I’d bought at Halfords yesterday. I also changed the handlebar angle slightly. I looked for a small bike pump while I was at Halfords, having forgotten to bring one (I also forgot to bring a mirror, annoyingly). But I decided they were too expensive and bought one at Tesco for £5 instead. This turned out quite nicely because it’s made of black & yellow plastic and matches the bike.

I set off up to Hart, a village two miles away where I’d often go for a beer on a Monday lunchtime, 40 years ago. Then west through Station Town and Wingate.

Wingate especially looks very run down – the road running through seems somewhat neglected, with potholes galore. And the shops lining it look like they haven’t had a lick of paint since the 1950s in some cases. I kept on until I hit the main road to Durham. I followed it for a couple of miles before I decided it was too busy. Shame, as I did a ride from Hartlepool to Durham in the summer of 1989 on my Raleigh Routier and probably took that same road. It was no doubt quieter back then.

I took a left and looped back toward Hartlepool, but took a road to Trimdon, to hook back west a few miles later. I got as far as about three miles west of there before I found myself looking down a steep bank that I didn’t want to pedal back up. So I turned for home. That might actually have been the route I took to Durham, 32 years ago come to think of it.

Really a great view from up there though, with a massive Amazon fulfilment centre a few miles in the distance. I suspect those things would probably be visible from the Moon with a decent pair of binoculars.

Turned right onto Coal Lane on the way back and came through Elwick, where I used to visit a pub called the Spotted Cow in my late teens. It’s still there, but I didn’t stop. The state of Coal Lane was awful, really a rough road surface despite being decently wide and decorated with a white line. But it’s probably used mainly by farm vehicles. I had to lift the bike over the crash barrier to cross the A19 – there used to be a gap there for traffic, but it’s closed now. But I didn’t mind that at all. Made it easier to get across each carriageway, not having to worry about vehicles using the gap to turn.

Nice weather, not cold and mostly sunny. A bit blowy.

Back on 34.47 miles.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5183364776

Along the Coast and Teesmouth

I’m up in my home town of Hartlepool for a few days. Nothing to do with the upcoming Westminster by-election; so far the only useful work I’ve done for the party here is taking my mum’s postal vote to the post box.

A beautiful sunny afternoon and I thought a run along the coast was in order after work. I removed my bike from the garage here yesterday and inspected it – it’s picked up a little bit of surface rust on the shiny bits of the caliper brakes, and the stem bolts. I’ll replace the stem bolts probably and perhaps I’ll scrub up the brakes with a fine wire brush. I sprayed out the chain and the gears with GT-85 today, and relubed it. I also gave it a good clean with some heavy duty surface wipes – it was filthy! I had no idea standing in a garage did that to bikes, mine doesn’t seem to.

I gave the bar tape a good clean but within a couple of miles, as you can see in the pics, it was disgusting again. I’d made the mistake of leaving the bike gloves in my mum’s garage with it, and I suppose they must have absorbed a load of muck as well. Oh well.

At least it was running very nicely, when I climbed aboard after work and set off in the direction of Seaton Carew. I rode along the coast then inland a bit to Seal Sands, then hung a left toward Teesmouth. Very nice out there though the industrial landscape looks stark in the bright sunlight. But the headland across the bay looked beautiful, lit up by the sun.

Due to the aforementioned impending by-election, the 5 Live Drive programme to which I was listening was being broadcast largely from Hartlepool. They even brought Wayne Sleep on to reminisce about his childhood here; at one point he was actually getting quite emotional about it. And if I’d been listening in NW Leics as usual I’d no doubt have been feeling a bit homesick for my home town, so it was nice to be rolling through it on the way back in the spring sunshine.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5173559415

20.63 miles, 300 this month.

Augmented Twycrosser

Lovely cycling weather today. A light wind coming from the east would normally have suggested a Fondo over in that direction, but since I did one only two weeks ago I didn’t really feel like it. Also I’m away next weekend, so spending all day on a bike wouldn’t have gone down well. I decided to do about 40.

I had two ideas to do something a bit unusual. The first was to head off in the direction of a TV transmitter that’s visible in the distance from the road between Norton and Orton which is part of the “Twycross Bypasser” route. I decided to do that. I thought it would be fun to see if I could get there without consulting a map. But as I approached Orton and it came into view in the distance, I decided that it was probably a bit too distant for the distance I wanted to do today. I headed in that rough direction for a bit anyway, and continued on westward rather than taking the left for Sheepy. I’ve only ever done that stretch a couple of times and I’m not sure why really, because it’s delightful along there. Beautifully quiet and easy to tack on to a Twycross Bypasser.

I’m still not sure where the transmitter is and I decided to leave it for today. Perhaps I’ll try it some other time. But for today I decided to embark upon Plan B, which was to do part of the “Dad’s Army” route. I call it that because on the only occasion I’ve done it before, I spent most of the ride listening to old Dad’s Army radio shows. So I took a left along a road called Kisses Barn Lane thinking it would take me to Sheepy or thereabouts, but in fact it turned out to be a shortcut to the road I wanted (the B5000). So I rolled along that for a bit, enjoying the sunshine and the ambience of the countryside in spring, then I decided to go exploring for a bit. I followed a sign to a place called Baddesley Ensor. Unfortunately this mostly involved climbing up a hill for about a mile, before I decided I’d had enough and turned back to roll downhill to rejoin the time-honoured Twycrosser route.

I was surprised to see that the pub at Ratcliffe Culey was closed. Quite a spacious beer garden, but all the benches stacked under a shelter and no-one at home. I wondered if it had gone bust, but I’ve just checked their Facebook page and they intend to open on 17th May. I’d say they’ve missed out on a fair amount of business this weekend.

Back through Bosworth, Barton, Odstone, Burgoland, Swepstone and Ibstock. Really a very nice run out in delightful weather, glad to have done something a bit different. Back on 42.41 miles. Next time I’m out on a bike I’ll most likely be out and about in Teesside.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5149521453

North of Newark

The company I work for has organised a Great Virtual Ride for charity, the idea being that employees in all the various offices worldwide should perform some sort of activity to count towards a particular distance. For the UK it’s the distance between Land’s End and John O’Groats. Although the idea was for people to do a bit in their spare time through the week and add them up, I put myself down for 100 miles and took today off to do them all in one go.

A light wind was forecast from the NE, and I decided to do Newark and back. I first did that route about a year ago and I believe that before today I’d done it no more than twice, which seems a shame as it’s an enjoyable run out. It takes in plenty of villages with shops, and benches and pubs. And it’s mostly flat. The disadvantage is that the road surface is a bit scrubby here and there, especially near Newark where it’s disgraceful with very deteriorated surfaces patched up with lumpy tarmac applied like giant lumps of dark grey chewing gum. It’s also a bit convoluted with lots of turns and junctions. It requires frequent reference to the eTrex.

And to make matters worse I discovered that the track I’d uploaded to the eTrex was over-compressed. I’d shrunk it using a GPX editor to reduce the size. GPX files are pretty small anyway but the old programmer in me likes to have everything at a minimum file and memory size. But in this case I’d overdone it and the subsequent jagged line representing the track didn’t follow the actual roads very closely. Like this:

Despite that it was a really nice run out, apart from Newark itself which was a bit busy with traffic. I ended up going right through Newark and exploring a bit, to places called South Muskham and North Muskham. Bought some food at a garage south of Newark on the way back and had a very pleasant lunch, including a strong iced coffee and a Bounty bar.

The return leg seemed easier, with a bit of a tailwind. But the headwind on the outward leg wasn’t overly troublesome. The temperature was supposed to be 3C when I left the house this morning but if it was, it was a tolerable 3C, although I’d wrapped up warm. I took off a layer from my legs after about 25 miles and thought I’d probably end up taking off a layer under my jersey as well, but although conditions warmed up nicely in the sun, I didn’t need to.

Passed quite a few open pubs with punters in their beer gardens, nice to see. I didn’t bother myself. Listened to my most recent Reacher audiobook, Echo Burning, and 5 Live.

Back on 107.84 miles, the eighth Fondo of the year. 237 done this month.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5126971439

Unusual Twycrosser

Went out to the garage with the intention of going cycling twice this afternoon before being beaten back by hailstones. I finally set off on the Twycross at about 12:50, when I’d decided that it had stopped. About a mile later I was riding through a fog of sideways-flying hail. At least they were small hailstones.

I did an unusual Twycrosser, taking in a quiet little country lane called Redburrow Lane that was recommended to me by a cyclist friend when we were out walking a week ago. It was certainly quiet, but a bit muddy and gritty. Any view there might have been was obscured by tall hedges on both sides.

The hail persisted on and off for the first hour but conditions were lovely later on – spring-like and sunny. I did pick up a bit of hail coming north from Bosworth over the last few miles despite it being still very sunny, but since I was riding into a headwind and blue skies with white fluffy clouds were up ahead I knew it wouldn’t last, and it didn’t.

Had to wait for a line of cows to cross the road between Sheepy and Twycross. You can just see them in the pic below.

Sad to see that a pub near Swepstone called the Odd House has changed its name to the rather more run-of-the-mill “Old Crown Inn”. But they had a marquee out sheltering tables and chairs outdoors, so I may go there for a drink tomorrow evening. I noticed that no similar preparations had taken place at San Giovanni at Sheepy, though that’s mainly a restaurant.

Listened to West Ham vs Leicester – a very significant game and Leicester nearly came back from a three goal deficit to level the game late on. But they didn’t.

Really a nice run out, eventually. Back on 31.99 miles.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5109576876

Twycrosser

Rain this morning but the roads were dry-ish by the time I left work. I withdrew the Tricross with the intention of doing 30 miles; the cosy familiarity of a Twycrosser.

A bit windy but milder than I expected. I took a DAB personal radio as usual but there wasn’t a great deal of choice; every BBC station was playing a simultaneous Prince Philip obituary programme. I imagine the Radio 1Xtra listeners were delighted to have an opportunity to listen to Sir Nicholas Soames’ memories of the late Duke from the 1960s.

The usual 5 Live presenters took over after the 5pm news, but even then Prince Philip was the only topic of discussion for the rest of the ride.

I could of course have listened to MP3s or an audiobook, and yet – while I wasn’t really that interested in the Prince Philip content – there’s something of value in listening to real time news during an important moment. There’s a sense of community.

Anyway – nice run out, especially when the sun came out, and despite the wind. I picked up a few spots of rain and it did start to rain properly, though very lightly, about a mile from home. Gave the bike a quick wipe down in the garage. Happy to have had a run out for only the second time this month.

29.66 miles.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5097915285