Swannington – Where Is Thy Sting?

I wanted, ideally, to do another 70 miles in September – which in practice meant today and tomorrow, because the weather looks rubbish on Wednesday.

I decided to do 40 or 50 after work today, then the rest tomorrow. Really nice weather for cycling this afternoon – sunny, low winds and almost warm. I set off at about 16:35, having reluctantly relubed the Boardman at lunchtime. I say reluctantly because I promised myself I’d clean and degrease it properly before lubing it again, and I didn’t. I gave it a cursory wipe and hosed out the chain with GT-85.

Decided to go up along Top Brand to Isley Walton then left to Melbourne, up over Swarkestone Bridge and west along the A road between Derby and the river. I got as far as Hilton then came back the same way. Starting to get quite dim by the time I passed Willington again, and I put a rear light and a front blinker on.

By the time I was going over the Bridge again it was properly dark, and I’d switched on the new equipment I’d brought with me – a chest (and back) lamp. This is a sort of chest strap with a powerful LED light on the front, and a battery pack with a triangular rear light on the rear of a strap that goes over the shoulder. I was really pleased with this – it’s quite comfortable, lightweight and unobtrusive, and the front light is a lot more powerful than I expected – easily good enough to illuminate the road in front quite a long way for cycling. Very handy for putting a bike away in a dark garage, as well. I actually bought it last year but never got round to trying it. Should have taken it on the 200 miler.

It’s quite odd to see a two metre shadow of your handlebars on the road in front, though.

Quite cool after dark. I stopped along Top Brand at a convenient spot for a wee, and it was so atmospheric out there in the inky blackness, next to the woods.

At the roundabout at Peggs Green, about three miles from home, I decided to come back through Swannington rather than Coleorteon. This is a shorter way, but involves a log slog of a climb. I haven’t done it for about three years and I felt sure I’d regret it, but it wasn’t that bad at all.

I listened to the footy on 5 Live. Disappointed that Fulham were tonked. I like Scott Parker but I think they’ll go straight back down again.

My right knee hurts slightly (nothing worrying) so I will give it a day off tomorrow and unless Thursday’s forecast improves, that’s a wrap for September. Today’s 45.94 takes me to 576 done this month. Coming home through Swannington did rob the September total of about 0.7 miles, but it allowed me to close the microwave door on a Tesco ready meal a few minutes sooner.



I may well go out tomorrow when conditions will be slightly warmer, so I only wanted to do 25 or so today. Set off with no particular plan. Started off by going through Coalville up to Belton, then across to the top of Top Brand. I reached the bottom after only 13 miles or so, so I took a right along the B5324 over to Church Town and Farm Town, something I haven’t done for quite a long time. From there I came down through Coleorton.

By the time I’d reached Ashby Road I’d still only done 14.6 miles, and was about a mile from home. On a bike ride, my house is a bit like a magnet in that its attraction is inversely proportional to the distance squared. I was quite tempted to go home there and then. But I resisted its lure and headed over to Packington. Still no clear plan for what I’d do, but I went down to Snarestone, then back home through Swepstone and Heather.

I wrapped up really warm with a thick fleece under my jersey and two layers on my legs, with a woolly hat. I was slightly too warm, but better that than too cold. The wind wasn’t too annoying except along Alton Hill. Beautifully sunny early on, but gloomy for the last half hour.

Back on 27.33 miles, and that’s 530 this month. Looking at the weather forecast, I think I can get that up to 600 though it will mean staying out after dark at least once.


Wet Twycrosser

The forecast for this afternoon was dry. I didn’t have that much time but I left work early, wrapped up warm and set off on the Tricross. A little windy, and definitely cold. Pretty dramatic difference from Monday. Feels like winter has arrived.

I did a shortish Twycrosser.

About three minutes after I set off, a light rain started to come down. But ten minutes later it had stopped, and I was rolling along dry roads. The temperature seemed to have climbed a couple of degrees as well. However twenty minutes later, a medium-light but persistent rain set in for the rest of the ride. My toes and fingers were uncomfortably cold.

Fairly miserable run out on the whole, but I did enjoy an interview with Rob Halford on 5 Live. He always seems such a nice, humble, down-to-Earth guy.

Naturally, given that the BBC is a broadcaster obsessed to the point of psychosis with race, gender and sexuality politics, rock music’s Stately Homo was mostly asked questions relating to his status as a gay man. But it was all good, all very interesting.

Home on 24.13 miles. 502 this month.


Willington and Weston

Really nice weather: sunny, warm(ish) and low winds. Left work at about 15:45 and decided to start off by heading up to Belton. But after about a mile I changed my mind and looped around. I’d decided to do a run up towards Donington, turning left for Melbourne at Isley Walton, then up over Swarkestone Bridge and along the flat A road for a bit. So I did that. Stopped after about 19 miles near Willington, and turned back. I was on call, and getting slightly nervy. One day I’ll get caught out.

The idea had been to come back the same way but I kept on past the bridge, toward Weston. Usually I would keep going through Aston, Shardlow to Donington, but I assumed, or hoped, that I’d be able to turn southward without going all the way to Donington.

However, when I consulted Google Maps at Weston, I realised that I couldn’t. There’s a large river in the way, so options for travelling south are limited to the bridges, and the next one was Cavendish Bridge, which would take me down to Donington. By this time it wasn’t really worth turning back – it wouldn’t have got me home much quicker – so I decided to get on with it and pressed on to Donington, from where I came home the usual way through Isley Walton, Griffydam, Peggs Green, Coleorton.

Home on 41.66 miles, about 20 minutes after sunset. Another ten minutes and I’d have had to break out the head torch, but I was able to see the road by the last vestiges of daylight.

A couple of years ago when I asked my physio if she thought it likely that I’d be able to do long rides again following my knee injury, she told me that if I could manage 40 milers on consecutive days, I would probably be able to. By this time I’m not really concerned about that because I’ve done a few 100+ mile rides this last year, but for the record – that was the first time since my knee injury that I’ve done 40+ miles on consecutive days.

Really lovely out there, especially just before sunset with the sun glowing like an orange ball in a haze of dust kicked up by combine harvesters.

Saw a guy on a Boardman like my (red) one. Don’t think he’d done many miles on it though, because the white bar tape was nearly pristine. Unless he’d replaced it, but few people would replace white bar tape with the same again.

I’ve finished the third Reacher novel now, so I listened to football on 5 Live. Sheffield United had a man sent off after 12 minutes, but Villa didn’t make their advantage count until well into the second half and even conceded a penalty (which was missed) in the first. Nice to hear Kieron Dyer summarising but huge credit to Arlo White, the match commentator who was stung by a wasp in the neck but carried on as if nothing had happened. What a trooper.

I’ll give Reacher a rest before plunging him into his next adventure, I think.


Wymeswold and Rempstone

Wanted to do about 40 today – not too far, partly because it was a windy day and secondly because conditions are pretty much ideal tomorrow. With the wind blowing from the east again, I decided on a run out in that direction. With the thought that winter bike weather is not far around the corner, I took the S Works.

Interestingly the headwind was not as bothersome as I expected on the way out – I think it may have been a bit more sidewind-ish than the weather forecast had led me to believe.

Got as far as the junction past Six Hills and decided to take a left to come home the “old way”, through Wymeswold and Rempstone. Took this pic at Wymeswold. I removed a shadow of myself holding the camera from the bottom left of the image.

Cool when I set off at about 11:15, so I wore a light fleece under my cycling top. Much warmer a couple of hours later, so I took it off and stuffed it into my backpack.

Came back through Diseworth and down Top Brand. Listened to footy on 5 Live, Newcastle were tonked by Brighton. But mostly I listened to my Reacher audiobook. Nearing the conclusion now. Very good.

Back on 47.68 miles. Another 30 or so tomorrow after work, hopefully.


San Giovanni

Another mostly pleasant day. Windy but mild and sunny. I went on a cycling pub trip with ‘er indoors. The idea was to go and sit in the beer garden at a pub at Ratcliffe Culey like we did last time, but as we approached Sheepy Magna I had the idea to go to a restaurant there called San Giovanni which has tables outside overlooking a lake. So we did. Ordered some beer and perused the bar menu when we got there.

We both ordered a sort of brioche dish with chopped tomato and herbs on top. Not bad but some cheese would have transformed it. Perhaps I’ll take a tube of Primula with me next time. Washed it down with a Margarita, nicely chilled with plenty of salt round the rim. Lovely.

We took the Orton detour there, but came back via Twycross and Congerstone.

A year ago I would have taken my old hybrid which had regular pedals, but I don’t have that option now. I should have brought regular trainers in a backpack. The bar is a fair distance from where we were seated next to the water, so I resorted to walking around in my socks. Not ideal for a trip to the gents really.

Anyway. 25.05 miles, taking me to 389 this month. The weather looks a bit windy over the weekend but ideal on Monday. Naturally, I’ll be on call again then.



Another day off work and, with a moderate breeze blowing from the east, I thought a run out in that direction was appropriate. Decided to do Eastwell and back.

I modified the route by taking in some of the new stretch I’d discovered on Monday evening, by taking a left from Cotes to Hoton, instead of a right to Burton on the Wolds. As I pedalled along the road between Hoton and Wymeswold, I found myself ascending a shallow slope pretty much the whole way. No wonder I’d found it so charming coming in the other direction, but I hadn’t noticed that I was rolling downhill in the post-sunset gloom on Monday.

Quite cloudy and overcast. I wore fairly light clothing, and was looking forward to the temperatures climbing in the afternoon. Unfortunately the BBC’s weather forecast turned out to be about as trustworthy as their news and current affairs output, and it was actually colder after midday.

Listened to 5 Live on the outward leg, including their coverage of Prime Minister’s Questions. Unfortunately the execrable Angela Rayner was deputising for Del Boy Starmer. It was all a bit like listening to a girl from the third year taking part in the sixth form debating society; really hackneyed class warfare material. To his credit, the PM rebutted her gently, with humility, grace and a bit of compassion. But it was getting embarrassing to listen to after 15 minutes or so and I switched to my Jack Reacher audiobook. Not much more realistic than Angela Rayner’s worldview, but at least less predictable.

My Edge 130 ran out of juice with about 8 miles to go, so I used my phone to record the rest of the track and stitched them together when I got back. The Edge had done about 110 miles since its last recharge, not bad.

I didn’t really enjoy that. The headwind was too annoying on the way out and I was cold on the way back. But that’s another 63.92 miles in the bag, bringing the September tally to 364 so far – not bad for the first half of the month.

That was the 24th Fondo of the year. I’d set myself an informal target of 24 Fondos in 2020; an average of 2 per month.


Old Dalby

Hot, sunny day yesterday. I spent the afternoon at a bar overlooking Stoney Cove, an inland scuba diving site that was originally a granite mine. Conditions were still quite warm at 4:40pm, when I set off on the Cannondale on the eastbound route.  I was determined to do at least 40 miles, which meant that I’d be cycling in the dark for some of the return leg, so I took lights.

I’d done 23 miles before I decided it was probably about time to turn back, not wanting to be too far from home in the dark. The sun was still above the horizon at this point, but would set in another 20-25 minutes. However I thought I’d go exploring for a mile or two first, so I took a left turn to Old Dalby. I turned back to the main route again about a mile later having done 25 miles exactly.

Just after Six Hills on the way back I saw a road signposted to Wymeswold, and decided to take that. The eastbound route used to go through Wymeswold before being replaced with a more interesting route through Stanford and Burton on the Wolds. But the older route has road surfaces better suited to riding at night and I reasoned that it might be better illuminated, albeit I’m not sure I was right about that – so I decided to come back the old-fashioned way.

Nice quiet road to Wymeswold, I’ll definitely do that one again. Curiously, I hit a pocket of cold air a mile or so after the turn – very sudden, like pedalling out of a centrally heated house out into the cold. I’m aware that cool air can pool in dips in the terrain, but that didn’t seem to be the case here. Quite surprising, and a few minutes later I emerged from it just as suddenly. Very pleasant, like sinking into a warm bath.

When I got to the village though I didn’t find myself at the usual main road, and I took a wrong turn, to a place called Hoton. Again though this was a really pleasant, quiet road and one I will reacquaint myself with some time soon.

At Hoton I broke out Google Maps. Rempstone was a short run up the A60 away. I was there in another six minutes or so, although I was putting my boot down a bit, as the light was failing now. I enjoy riding after dark, but not so much on unfamiliar roads.

Arrived at the familiar crossroads at Rempstone along a different road than usual and took a left. Back on a familiar old route. One of the reasons that route is deprecated now is that the road back between Rempstone and Zouch can be a bit of a drag on a long ride, especially in the dark. But last night in the warm air and with a very light tailwind, it was a joy. I didn’t feel tired – I think the large bowl of chips I’d eaten a few hours earlier had given me more energy than I needed. At this point I still hadn’t put proper front lights on, but the light western sky reflecting faintly off the road gave me enough visibility.

It wasn’t until I reached Long Whatton at about 8:15pm that, under the illumination of a street lamp, I fitted the LED front light that I’d thrown in my backpack to the handlebars. I also put on a head torch. To prevent the peak of my cap from interfering with it, I wore it backwards from this point. I must have looked the business.

I took the following pic there, scoffed a slice of pizza, then continued on my way.

I listened to a couple of hours of my Jack Reacher audiobook, then the footy on 5 Live. The third Reacher novel is a definite improvement on the second; much more coherent and believable. Probably stronger than the first, as well.

Back on 51.14 miles – My impromptu detour didn’t add much more than a mile, surprisingly.

That takes me to 300 this month, 4592 this year.


Spondon, Ilkeston, Donington

I wanted to do do a Fondo today. A 10mph-ish wind was blowing from the west, nothing unusual but it limited my options a bit. I thought of having a run out west to Bingley Hall. Didn’t really fancy it. I thought of doing a run down to Northamptonshire, Welford and back. Didn’t seem to be in the mood for that either.

But I’ve been feeling nostalgic for my first few years in Derby recently. Last night I had the idea to go and visit a pub / restaurant a couple of miles out of Spondon that I used to visit, usually on Friday lunchtimes with work colleagues, in the early ’90s. I haven’t been there since 1994 at the latest.

So I thought I’d do that. How I’d extend that to a Fondo I wasn’t sure. I’d have to improvise.

I set off at about 09:45, on the Cannondale. My idea was to go up over Swarkestone bridge, hang a left along the A road next to the river, then take a right into Derby along there and find my own way to Spondon. A bit of an initiative test. So after 14 miles I took a right along Stenson Road, and followed my nose. This took me, about 2.5 miles later, to Derby’s ring road, the A511, as I expected it would. Very familiar territory for me, from my years as a Derby resident. All very urban but I pedalled along happily, wallowing in old memories. The girl from chemical engineering I dated who lived just off the ring road. The older woman I fancied who worked at the petrol station near Allenton. Friday nights at the Rolls-Royce rifle club along there.

Anyway I got to Alvaston, then took a right toward Shardlow. I knew I’d be able to cut over toward Spondon past Elvaston Castle. I did that, then stopped and refuelled at a bench I sometimes used on rare occasions in the noughties, when I cycled back to Derby from Nottingham University.

However I took the wrong turn off Draycott Road, and ended up on the A52. This took me to the “Asda roundabout” and from there I decided the best bet to go to Spondon was to head over toward my old house up Acorn Way – then take a time-honoured route to Spondon from there.

I used to cycle up Acorn Way quite often in the ’90s. It’s a two mile, hilly road running past farms and open fields, leading to a modern housing estate – at one time the largest in Europe – called Oakwood, where I bought a house in 1991. Nice to be doing it again all these years later. It seemed easier today than it did then. From Oakwood I took a nice rural route to Spondon that I used to use very often in the early ’90s, because I had a girlfriend who lived there. I mostly drove that route but I used to cycle it sometimes, on my old Raleigh Routier.

I arrived in Spondon a couple of miles later, but somehow I’d forgotten where her house was, despite having driven or cycled to it at least a hundred times. I was about to give up on that when I saw her walking toward me, on the pavement. I’m ashamed to say that I basically hid from her, by lowering my head so that the peak of my cap obscured my face, then pedalling right past her.

My overwhelming feeling about that person is: guilt. I started seeing her about one year after a relationship breakup that I still wasn’t over. She was a gentle and unassuming soul, but because I was basically emotionally broken and numb, she ended up being mistreated, in a big way. The worst thing I did to her was to get engaged to her. I strung her along for months after I knew I was never going to marry her. And when I finally did her the favour of breaking up with her, she cried her eyes out in my car for half an hour.

I should have stopped to talk to her. I last chatted to her in a supermarket in Derby in 2002, and that was pleasant enough. But today I couldn’t face it.

Anyway. Feeling humble, contrite and rotten, I pedalled over to the pub I remembered, called the Bartlewood Lodge. They used to do an exceptional banana split. I didn’t actually go in, but nonetheless – really strange to be there again, like a ghost from the future, re-inhabiting a previous life.

I kept going along the same road and ended up at Ilkeston. I would have gone a bit further but I’d been rolling downhill for a while, and the gradient started to become quite steep. In cycling, what goes down must come up if you’re coming back the same way and I didn’t fancy a steep climb for the sake of visiting a pretty uninteresting provincial Derbyshire town, so I turned back.

Back the way I’d come from Oakwood. I missed the turn to Elvaston but kept on to Draycott. I was about to stop and consult Google Maps to find my way to Shardlow, which I knew couldn’t be far from there. But I saw a signpost to Sawley; close enough.

At Sawley, I stopped at a bench for an impromptu late lunch, consisting of the rest of the food I’d brought. After a few minutes, an old bloke came walking by. He stopped and gestured with his walking stick.

For a moment I thought he was cautiously making sure I’d make room for him to pass on the pavement with adequate social distance, but in fact his intention was pretty much the opposite – he was asking if I’d shove along on the bench so he could sit beside me. Clearly this wasn’t the best idea in the present circumstances, so I hurriedly finished off my flapjack, stood and offered him the bench. After sitting down he asked me where I was going, and if the wind had bothered me. Nice old man.

I headed to Donington from there. As I passed the airport, I noticed an RAF plane – not particularly military-looking, apart from the ROYAL AIR FORCE designation painted on the side – looked like an A330, painted in matt grey. It was taxi-ing along the runway. As I continued, I saw quite a few cars parked up outside the perimeter fencing, on the grass verge. One or two families with camping tables and chairs set up, wielding binoculars. I took a snap of the aircraft at the roundabout; it’s not very clear.

A few minutes later I saw the same aircraft pass overhead. Bad timing. I should have stayed to watch it take off.

I came home the usual way from Donington. Back home on 67.40 miles.

Nice run out, part sentimental, part new territory. Cloudy and cool in the morning, warm in the afternoon. Quite windy though, and my cap blew off once while cycling into it along the A road next to the river. I had attached it to a retainer though for just this eventuality, and it dangled behind me in the wind like a parachute brake, until I recovered it.


Newtown Unthank

Much cooler day today, not much of a wind, dry, cloudy. Wanted to do about 30 after work, ideally. Normally the Planet X would have been the instrument of choice for those conditions, but I took the Tricross out of pure idleness. It was closer to the garage door.

Set off with no clear plan, found myself doing the southbound route. But I kept on keepin’ on past Kirkby Lane, thinking to continue to Desford. I haven’t been there for a while; it was part of the now-deprecated Northants route. At Desford I saw a sign for Newtown Unthank, and thought – why not? From Unthank I took a road signposted to Thornton, more familiar territory. I thought of continuing on to Markfield but got cold feet about being on call too far away from a computer, so I followed a sign to Bagworth instead.

After that I took a left along Wood Road on a whim, hoping that getting semi-lost might notch up the distance a bit, but I was in Ibstock in no time and just came home the usual way from there.

Nice run out, but only 24.49 miles.