Beyond Willington

I’d given up on doing a final 40 miles or so for October by this morning, when the weather forecast threatened rain all day. But it didn’t rain that much and by 4pm when I downed tools for the day, the BBC weather site was claiming that it wouldn’t rain again until ~9pm. So I swiftly attired myself for cycling activities, and mounted the Boardman.

I went up through Swannington, unusually. If I remember correctly I was going to go eastward for a bit, but changed my mind. Up Top Brand, up to Isley Walton, left to Melbourne and up over Swarkestone Bridge, west along the usual A road between Derby and the river. I’m glad I discovered that one, it’s very pleasant and easy; well-surfaced, flat and more or less a simple straight line. It was dark by the time I was crossing the bridge.

Back pretty much the way I came except that I bypassed Melbourne via Kings Newton, and came back through Coleorton instead of Swannington.

I was back by 8pm. It didn’t rain, and it was pleasantly mild. My Garmin bike computer ran out of juice a few miles from home so I used my phone to track the rest of the ride, and concatenated the two tracks. Consequently I wasn’t able to see the distance I’d done. I was fairly sure I must have done 40 miles but I hadn’t; I’d done 39.89. The diversion around Melbourne cost me a bit of distance.

Listened to some quite touching tributes to Nobby Stiles on 5 Live from people who’d worked with him and knew him. Mark Lawrenson had some wonderful anecdotes.

Anyway, that’s probably a wrap for October. 487 miles, not bad considering the weather. 859 to go.

All Over The Place

On call again today, but I wanted to do 54, to bring my remaining distance requirement for 2020 under 900 miles. Set off at about 10:40. It had rained earlier in the morning and the roads were a bit wet here and there. I took the Boardman. Started off by heading over to Ellistown through Ibstock, but was impeded by a Road Closed sign and a set of roadworks. I detoured via Donington le Heath. When I got to Ellistown I decided to take a left along Beveridge Lane, past the huge Amazon distribution centre and other business premises.

Ended up riding round Coalville, Whitwick, Belton and up to Diseworth. Then back toward home until Sinope, where I tacked on a Twycrosser, coming eastward through Barton and Nailstone to Bagworth, from where I pedalled back to Ellistown then rode around Coalville and the various industrial / business estates again. Not what I usually do, but something a bit different.

Conditions were sunny when I set off but a very light rain set in an hour or two later. However it was dry for the last hour or so and I would have done another 8 or 9 miles to chalk up another Fondo, but by this time the temperature had dropped a fair bit and I was feeling a tad uncomfortable.

Listened to an interview with Wilko Johnson on 6 Music – he picked music by Neil Young and Dylan; would have thought he’d have gone for some frenetic Rock’n’Roll. Then I listened to a few chapters of the fourth Reacher novel – he’s being blackmailed by the FBI, can’t help thinking that won’t go too well for them – then the football on 5 Live (Southampton vs Everton, sounded dismal).

Home on 55.13 miles. 447 this month, 5315 this year and that’s 899 to go! If I can crank out another 100 miles this month, less than 400 to do in each of November and December.

Sinfin Lane

Didn’t feel I could afford to waste a dry evening, so I climbed aboard the Boardman straight after work with the intention of doing at least 40.

Started by heading up through Coleorton and up Top Brand, then left through King’s Newton and up over Swarkestone Bridge. From there I went west along the A road along the river, but not very far. I had a brief excursion along Sinfin Lane where I took this pic at a bridge over the Trent and Mersey Canal. Then, since I’m still on call, I came back.

I must admit the lure of home was quite strong as I passed within a couple of miles of Chez Moi but I’d only done 26 miles, so I resisted it. I went over to Packington, down to Snarestone and Swepstone then back through Heather.

For some reason a long stretch of Measham road was absolutely cobbled in clumps of mud, some of them a hazard to navigation in the dark. I felt the front wheel kick sideways a touch once or twice as it collided with them. Almost wished I had a cycle helmet on!

Realised I was destined to do a touch less than 40 miles as I neared home, so I did a lap of local roads. Home on 41.35 miles.

Melbourne and Ticknall

Only did about 23 yesterday, so I dutifully mounted the Boardman again at about 3:30pm today. Windy, but dry. Sunny, at least when I set off. And almost warm! 

I’d actually intended to take the Tricross, which has a magnet driven bike computer so since I was only going to do 20-odd and my phone happened to be full charged, I decided I’d track the ride on the Android Strava app. Because I switched to the Boardman on a whim at the last minute, I wasn’t able to see the distance done while I was riding. But I knew I’d done 5 miles by the time I reached Gracedieu Lane, and thought I must have done about 14 as I hit Melbourne.

I was going to go up over Swarkestone Bridge and left along the river again, but just before Stanton I took a sharp left to Ticknall, instead. I’m not sure if I’ve ever done that road to Ticknall before. It was quiet with nice views, but a long uphill grind. I came back the usual way (or a variation thereof) from Ticknall. I believe I let out an involuntary whimper when I saw Bastard Hill looming in front of me.

Getting a bit dark as I rolled through Ashby. I guessed I’d probably done 25 when I arrived back at my garage. Actually 27.44. I noticed that the garage door was spotted with rain, but I hadn’t been rained on myself. Lucky.

351 this month, and just 782 miles to go to reach my target of 6000 in 2020. But I’m starting to think 6214 (10,000 km) is doable.

Kirkby Lane

I wanted to do 40 or so after work today. I’d felt tired all day, and a bit debilitated from incautious cocktail consumption at a restaurant yesterday. Nonetheless I manfully mounted the Boardman wearing warm clothing and a woolly hat at 16:45.

I was, as is far too frequently the case at the moment, on call. I decided I’d do the southbound route as far as Kirkby Mallory, then west to Sutton Cheney, then I’d wing it from there. However, I didn’t do that. I got cold feet (only metaphorical, fortunately) going along Kirkby Lane, starting to worry about being too far from base while on call. So I did a U turn and came back mostly the same way (I detoured Bagworth again like I did on Saturday).

A couple of miles from home I was still wondering how I was going to extend the ride to 40 miles, but shortly thereafter the Cycling Inverse Square Law kicked in, the force of attraction being exerted by the prospect of an earlier dinner (and possibly a beer) being inversely proportional to the square of the distance from my house. I came straight back home from Ibstock, and finished on 22.87 miles.

However – if it’s not raining, I’ll do another 20 tomorrow.

Husbands Bosworth Airfield

I woke at about 0600 this morning and briefly entertained the idea of getting up and setting off on a bike at about 0700, but fortunately I fell asleep again and didn’t get up until 0945.

Didn’t seem the best day for a bike ride, really. A bit cold and gloomy. But I wanted to add at least 45 to the October score. I wrapped up warm and set off on the Boardman at about 1130.

Low winds today so I had the unusual luxury of heading off in whatever direction I fancied but in all honest I didn’t really fancy any of the usual rides much. I think I’ve done them too often recently. I decided to pursue the southbound route, maybe as far as Gilmorton (24 miles away) then turn back. But by the time I got to Gilmorton conditions had brightened up nicely and I’d decided to make a Fondo of it. I was somewhat too warm by this point as well. But I stopped for a snack on a bench and stuffed my nylon outer layer into the back pocket of my jersey and was completely comfortable after that (though I suspect that the temperature dropped a bit as well).

I pressed on along the usual route down to the Northamptonshire border, but rather than going down that way I took a left to take me past Husbands Bosworth Airfield. I thought I might see a glider or a light aircraft taking off or landing. Shortly after I took the following pic, a small aircraft came in to land and taxied past the gate. The pilot and a young lad in the back both waved, so I waved back.

I’d done a bit more than 31 at this point so I turned back. I stopped at Gilmorton again seven miles later, donned a face covering and acquired a sandwich, a pasty and some chocolate from the village store. Annoyingly, their coffee machine wasn’t working, so I bought a diet coke instead for my afternoon caffeine shot. Not sure how much of a hit you get from that (actually quite a lot less than coffee, just googled it. Maybe I should take Pro Plus with me for use in similar emergencies). They still haven’t redeployed the tables and benches outside, but the bench across the street was very adequate.

I had thought that I knew the route well enough to do it without using the eTrex but nope, I took a wrong turn on the way back, which I realised when I found myself approaching Lutterworth. I stopped on the outskirts and consulted Google Maps, then plotted a new course that would take me up to Ashby Parva and Frolesworth. This turned out to be quite a fortuitous mistake because I really enjoyed exploring the five or six miles of new roads – a really quiet, pleasant diversion. I’ll have to fashion a (more coherent) route that comes back that way.

I rejoined the usual route at Stoney Stanton and came back the usual way from there (mostly – I did a deliberate detour around Bagworth incurring an extra mile or so, because coming back along that stretch always seems a bit of a grind).

I hadn’t brought a proper front light because I didn’t think I’d need one, and I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t messed up the navigation and added another six miles or so. It was getting quite dark as I got to Battram, where I took this pic, with about five miles to go. But fortunately the whole rest of the route along the B585, Ellistown, Donington le Heath then Standard Hill and home was illuminated by street lighting and the LED blinker on my handlebar was adequate.

I was quite annoyed by a succession of chavs in oncoming hot hatchbacks doing 70 or so in a 40 zone, through Newbold Verdon. There must be a strong case for bringing back National Service. Apart from that though, and an excess of mud on the roads, really an enjoyable afternoon.

Listened to the footy on 5 Live and Huey on 6 Music, then started the next Reacher audiobook. Different in feel from the first three interestingly and I think a trick has been nicked from Iain Banks’ Complicity – the second person narrative describing the villain’s thoughts or actions that pops up here and there.

Home on 68.09 and that’s a pleasing 301 this month.

Foston after Dark

I was able to leave work yesterday an hour earlier than on Tuesday, so I thought a 50-miler was in order. Set off at 16:05. Decided to go out through Coalville, Belton, Isley Walton then up over Swarkestone Bridge and west along the long road by the river, south of Derby. Got as far as Foston on 27 miles, which I judged would probably allow me to come back the quicker way after Melbourne and still clock up 50 miles, so I did a U turn at the roundabout and came back.

Properly dark by the time I came back through Hilton.

I have mental milestones on most of my routes – 15 miles to home from here; 10 miles from there – but I don’t along the Melbourne / Coleorton route until I hit a pub 2.2 miles from home. As I passed it I realised that I was on course to be home on 49.96 miles, so I only had a mere minimum of faffing around to do to get it up to 50. I went up Heather Lane for a bit.

Home on 50.20 miles.

I took the Boardman, mostly because I’d hosed the Tricross out with GT-85 after it got wet last time and hadn’t relubed it yet. Having taken the Tricross on the previous four rides I can say that the red one is definitely less sluggish. There’s something comforting about the Tricross when you’re out in the cold and dark; maybe because it feels more robust, perhaps just because it’s a slightly more comfortable riding position. Perhaps because the bigger tyres spare you from the worst excesses of the road noise.

But the Boardman has a slightly keener appetite for hills and that’s definitely a plus on the way back from Melbourne.

A little bit of light rain over the first hour; I was sort of expecting that from the scene I photographed near Belton (the clue being in the first four characters). But conditions dried up nicely after that.

I got three more hours out of my lithium rechargeable AAs in my DAB, thirteen hours in total. Exceptional.

233 this month.

Dark and Wet

Left work at about 5pm yesterday, determined to do at least 40. I took the Tricross; its fourth consecutive outing.

A bit cold, but not windy. I wrapped up warm. Decided to go east for 20 miles or so, then come back. An eminently simple plan. I went out through Coalville, Belton, Stanford, Buron on the Wolds as far as Six Hills Lane where after 23 miles, I turned back. But I came back the old way through Wymeswold and Rempstone, then closer to home through Peggs Green and Coleorton.

I pursued a belt & braces strategy of powerful lights on the bike in addition to the back / chest lighting harness. Both worked well. I put the bike front light (actually a powerful LED torch) on flashing mode initially, only to realise after 30 seconds or so that it was trying to communicate with other road users via the medium of Morse code. Apparently the flashing mode is actually SOS mode.

The only bummer with the chest / back lights is that you can’t actually tell if the back light is working. There’s no reason to assume it isn’t if the front one is on, but all the same you never know for sure.

I missed a trick, actually. I used my Garmin Forerunner to track the ride. If I’d used the Instinct I could have checked the time and distance done without having the chest light on; it has a neat feature that lights up the display when you tilt your wrist in the hours of darkness.

Unfortunately an unexpected light rain started to descend with about 12 miles to go. One reason I like cycling in the dark, miles from home is that it flirts with the boundaries of my comfort zone, but being rained on at the same time is definitely an excursion outside it. Another enjoyable run out spoiled by weather.

Still – 46.00 miles, a decent boost to the October distance count. Just noticed that, despite being mostly a different route, the homeward distance was exactly the same as the outbound distance.

Road Salad

On the third dry day of October I wanted to do 48 or more, to see me past the 5000 mile mark this year. I set off on the Tricross at about 11AM. The roads were a bit wet here and there but mostly, just avoidable puddles.

I’m on call again for my sins, and a little more sensitive about it than usual because I was asked to intervene in an emergency yesterday. Fortunately it was raining and I was at home; I could easily have been 15 miles away on a bike.

So last night I devised a sort of disfigured starfish-shaped route with my house at the centre, intended not to take me too far from home. However this morning I decided it would be easier and more interesting just to wing it. So I did. I didn’t go anywhere particularly interesting. I performed a sort of compilation album of semi-coherently joined up bits of familiar routes. I won’t bother describing it; in the unlikely event that you’re interested you can always have a look on Strava. I went as far as Pasture Wood to the north, and Twycross to the south, looping back over myself a couple of times. A sort of road salad of meandering ranndomness.

Home on 51.13 miles, which takes me to 136 this month, 5004 this year. I suppose I should have done a bit more really; I had another couple of hours before sunset. But it’s hard to motivate yourself to do long distances when you’re faffing around close to home. A Fondo next weekend though, hopefully.

I saw a couple of photographers on camping chairs by the side of the road at the top of Top Brand, and as I came down there I saw a number of other cyclists, some wearing numbers on their backs. Some of them on slightly antiquated steel bikes. One chap was actually riding along in a dinner suit with a bow tie. When I got to Griffydam I saw a sign describing a charity bike ride for a cancer charity.

I had to contend with a long traffic jam at Heather – about a mile of cars waiting to get into Cattows Farm, where apparently a pumpkin picking day was in full swing. I steeled myself, clenched my teeth, and pedalled past it on the wrong side of the road.

Conditions seemed to cool quite suddenly at about 2:30pm. I thought I might have to contend with some rain. But it didn’t rain, and in fact the temperature seemed to rise again half an hour later, and the sun came back out briefly.

I listened to an interview with Nancy Sinatra on 6 Music, apparently recorded in 2015 but never broadcast before. Really interesting to hear her account of working with Lee Hazlewood, and her dad’s band. It turns out that Sugar Town is about LSD. After that, Guy Garvey had an interview with Steve Hackett. Then I switched to 5 Live to the footy (Rep Ireland vs Wales), but that was dismal.

I’m trying out some new, rechargeable lithium AA batteries in my DAB personal. Still on the full four bars after nearly five hours, so that bodes well.


Took the afternoon off to make the most of a dry day; only the second this month so far. Pretty good weather for cycling – sunny and mild – but a moderate wind coming from the west.

I wanted to do the October Fondo, The plan was to go up to Melbourne, then head west along the river south of Derby and come back the same way after about 31 miles.

I do have a route that goes west as far as Stafford and then Wales. I wouldn’t have gone as far as either but I missed a turn at Foston, and found myself at something of a dead end (the A50, I’m definitely not doing that on a bike) after only 28 miles. I parked myself on a nearby bench and withdrew the phone, to check Google Maps. Alas, I couldn’t get a mobile broadband signal and I haven’t kept my offline maps up to date, so I couldn’t.

I decided instead to go exploring for a bit to bump up the distance and I took a nearby, hitherto unknown road called Woodyard Lane.

This was an inspired choice; it went on for miles and took me through some very pleasant, quiet scenery. The effort:distance ratio went up a bit as it was a bit rough and hilly in places, but it was a pleasure to explore it. And at least I was on an appropriate vehicle for the stony / gnarly stretches, the Tricross being notionally a “gravel bike”.

I just kept following the road through farms and villages for about 5 miles, until I found myself at the top of a descent I didn’t fancy coming back up. I had no real idea where I was except that I’d passed through a village called Alkmonton. It turns out that I would have arrived in Ashbourne in another 6 miles or so.

I took this pic in Alkmonton; a curious Christmas Tree structure on top of a small commercial building there.

Once I got back to the main route, I went back the same way over Swarkestone Bridge to Melbourne but took a more direct route home from there. I was on call after 5:30pm.

Back not long after sunset, on 63.25 miles.

Very nice run out! I’ll definitely do that road all the way to Ashbourne some time if it’s not overly brutal.