A cold morning but no rain forecast, light winds, it was sunny and I wasn’t on call – all of which added up to an irresistible case for doing the January Fondo.

As I ate breakfast I had a quick look through my Twitter feed. My MP, the redoubtable Andrew Bridgen, was urging people to “stay local with your exercise”. Two of my fellow constituents were given £200 fixed penalty notices after driving five miles to take a walk at Foremark Reservoir, just a few miles from here.

I set off at 10:24, a bit later than I wanted really. But I got up later than I expected, I couldn’t find my cycling glasses (ended up using an old pair of varifocals) and I had to lube the Tricross before I set off, having neglected to do that yesterday.

The plan was to go up through Coleorton, over Swarkestone Bridge and west along the trusty, flat A road, keep going until I’d done a bit more than 31 miles, then turn back and come back the same way. However I don’t usually go much further west than Hilton or (less often) Hatton, and this route called upon me to remember a couple of turns before pedalling through a village called Marchington. As it happened though I missed a turn near Sudbury. Didn’t realise I’d done this until I found myself running out of proper road and having to take a cycle path adjacent to the A50. But I wasn’t overly bothered as I’d done about 30 miles by this time anyway, so I just needed to keep on for another mile and come back the same way.

The cycle path joined a proper road going into Uttoxeter. I’d done 31 miles now so I decided to turn back at the next roundabout.

However, the next roundabout had a sign to Marchington – so I thought I’d follow that, and come back the way I’d originally intended. A bit of an adventure. I did that. A bit hilly but really a lot of fun doing impromptu navigation on hitherto undiscovered roads.

I had to use the phone a few times to find my way through Marchington itself, but after that it was pretty much plain sailing. Sunny and pleasant for the first few hours, but about an hour before sunset a damp murk descended and the roads were a bit wet. I thought I might be back after dark and I was, so I’d brought lights.

No pub stops of course and I didn’t use any shops. I took a backpack with plenty of food in it including a very sticky cinnamon bun that I bought at Tesco yesterday.

Back on 64.39 miles. Really a nice bit of exercise. Ticked another ‘neighbouring counties’ box as well, Staffordshire.


Cold Melbourne

It was a dry afternoon, although the roads were a bit wet. I set off about 20 minutes after sunset, which was a slightly more tolerable 16:07 today. No fixed idea on where I wanted to go. I thought of going up over Swosser Bridge and west, but by the time I’d done the first few miles up Top Brand, I’d decided to keep it down to 20 miles or so. Too cold and damp. I went as far up as Tonge, then turned left along Nottingham Road to come back down.

As I reached the turn off for Melbourne though, I thought to myself – why not tick the Derbyshire box?

I thought I’d go up toward Melbourne as far as the Derbyshire border, scoot over it for a few metres then come back. I knew there was a ‘Derbyshire’ sign along there. And yet – I pedalled past it without noticing it. By the time I’d reached the top of Rotter’s Rise I knew I must be in Derbyshire but out of bloody-mindedness I decided to go down it and right into Melbourne anyway. Then I turned back, and came back the usual way.

I noticed the Derbyshire sign on the way back easily enough. How I’d missed it, I have no idea but as it happened coming back up Rotter’s Rise wasn’t too bad. I seemed to warm up a bit as well and I quite enjoyed my run out to Melbourne in the end.

Back at about 7pm and it was definitely below freezing by then, with a layer of frost having formed on car windscreens.

I used a rechargeable head torch that I’ve had for a couple of years and I must say it’s really impressed me – it’s very light, has a powerful beam that lasts for hours and it wasn’t expensive, either.

25.44 miles.


Twycross with Warwickshire Extension

Nature abhors an empty spreadsheet, so with that in mind, I mounted the Tricross at 12:45, to get the 2021 campaign off the ground. I thought I’d do 30 miles or so. I quite like that my average ride distance is 43 miles over 2020, and I’d like to keep that going. But the weather wasn’t great (cold and a bit windy) so 30 seemed a decent enough start.

I decided on a Twycrosser, with a slight extension to the west, to take in a bit of Warwickshire. One of my recurring yearly goals is to do all of the neighbouring counties. As it happens I take in Warwickshire dozens of times each year without particularly trying to, but I wanted to tick the box early.

The Warwickshire detour involved me ascending the “ski slope” at Austrey, which I hadn’t done before. It looks worse than it is. Slightly more demanding than Alton Hill but nowhere near as bad as Bastard Hill near Ticknall, or Rotter’s Rise south of Melbourne. You can just see it on the skyline in the following pic.

Came back through Shenton and Bosworth, which I haven’t done for a while. It was sunny early on, but an unexpected heavy drizzle descended north of Bosworth for about 20 minutes.

Listened to Newcastle vs Leicester on 5 Live.

Gave the bike a bit of a clean and GT85-ed out the chain when I got back. I’ll have to lube it tomorrow or on Tuesday. Back at about 4:30, roughly 25 mins after sunset. Considerably lighter at that time than it would have been a couple of weeks ago – the daylight hours have started to stretch out a bit.

Despite the drizzle, an enjoyable run out. 35.54 miles.


Just had a thought – could I devise a route that would take in all seven neighbouring counties of Leicestershire in the same ride? I’ll have a look.