Life, Travel

Northcote Hotel

I realised, whist reclining in the bath, during a one-night stay at Northcote, that I should have brought the pumice stone.

Handmade chocolates on a bed of cocoa nibs
Not the stone but handmade chocolates at the end of our meal. Something to entice the reader.

It’s a dark grey holey piece of rock (probably actually scoria rather than pumice) and looks like a torture device. It has sat sadly neglected in the drawer at home since we became shower-only, so on those rare occasions we visit an establishment with a bath we should bring it along.

Northcote Manor sits in the Ribble Valley between Blackburn and Burnley. It holds a Michelin Star restaurant presided over by Lisa Goodwin-Allen. She was the chef who won three of the six final dishes in the 2020 season of The Great British Christmas Menu, pretty astounding considering how many top chefs were in competition with her. We caught an idea of her star quality when on checking out the following morning, Anne saw a menu at the desk, with a request that the kitchen staff sign it!

When everywhere was closed during lockdown last year, Northcote started doing an uber-posh version of a ‘Deliveroo’ service and sending out rather sumptuous three-course meals, but I could never manage to bag any of them before they had sold out.

I don’t have expensive tastes, but I really, really enjoy eating, and every now and then, I like to try a little bit of the high-end stuff. So when they put out an offer of an overnight stay with a five-course menu last December, I couldn’t resist it. I used the excuse of our wedding anniversary to present the voucher to Anne, but you know it’s the perfect present when you can enjoy it too! We decided to book for October, partly as it was more likely to happen after all the lockdowns, and partly because at that time, October did not seem like a busy month!

Well, we drove up two days ago, on a journey that should have taken us under an hour and a half, but was nearly three as a lorry had turned on its side and across the central reservation of the M56! We saw it as we climbed the slip road at junction 10, and felt like terrible voyeurs but it is hard not to look.

Thanking our lucky stars that we were not involved, we continued incident free to the manor. It looks rather grand from the outside and our room on the inside did not disappoint. Old fashioned elegance and a really comfortable bed, so we had a nice afternoon relaxing and reading (Anne on the bed, me for bath no 1, and then the chaise lounge) before our meal.

A hotel bedroom at Northcote
Our bedroom for the stay.

For a very expensive restaurant, in the back of beyond, on a Wednesday night, the place was packed, and apparently, according to a waiter, this had been the case since they opened up again. We weren’t the only ones who had heard of Lisa, it seems. It was a late dinner, half eight by the time we got taken to our seats, so it was handy that we didn’t have far to go after.

This was possibly the poshest meal I’ve ever had, and I was grateful for the bread!

The thing about haute cuisine is that it’s beautiful, and the tastes, in this case anyway, are amazing, but it’s tiny! It did mean that we had space to properly savour each of the courses and Anne was sated on the just those. I needed the artisan bread and the home-churned butter to fill in the gaps and then I was good.

The following morning, I enjoyed another chapter of my book in the bath and that’s when I remembered the stone. Apparently Douglas Adams (of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame) spent a lot of time in the bath and had his most creative ideas there. That creativity obviously doesn’t work with me, if all I could think about was a lump of volcanic rock.

Life

O. U. Crazy Thing

Open University logo

So I’ve decided upon a course of action.

A few weeks back, as in the first part of September, I decided, after a half hour of deep consideration, to step up.

I’m putting my money where my virtual mouth would like to be, and going on a course. Specifically, an Open University Post Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing.

Because it’s a post grad, I had to dig out and send a picture of my original degree certificate to show that I had the credentials. Well, I almost had the credentials, as they preferred a 2:1 or above, and I’d barely scraped a 2:2 for my non-efforts at the time. However, because of my entire nine months’ worth of consistent blogging which showed that I’m going to be more serious about my education this time around, they have actually let me on. Perhaps I should be taking the undergraduate course, but that costs way more and you have to commit yourself to longer than a year and I really need to take this thing one step at a time, so.

Suddenly, week one has finished and I’m already a little shocked at how much actual writing I’ve been expected to do, on top of the reading. There. Is. A. Lot.

My main discipline is going to be ‘creative non-fiction’, as I’ve realised in this past nearly-year, that it is far easier to not have to make stuff up. Although, that assumption is quickly being dispelled now that I realise just how much research one needs to do to, like, do it properly. Luckily the one page sound bites I put up as blog posts don’t need much in the way of prep as it’s just basically what I’m thinking of in that moment. But apparently, if you want to do something a little more meaty, you need to actually work at it.

There will also be a minor dabble in fiction too, as you get to pick a secondary, so I can dip in my toes and see how that goes.

I’m basically saying all this in order to explain why I may not be writing my blog as often as I have been, but I won’t be stopping completely, because this girl still has to run sometimes, and occasionally may even travel.

So wish me luck, and if you notice an improvement in the calibre of my posts please do let me know.


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Life

Sunrise on Leith

Dawn beyond the apartment blocks and docks

I didn’t get around to posting this on the day we had a chance to be tourists around Edinburgh but I’m getting it out there now, for completeness. The title is a riff on that beautiful song by The Proclaimers, ‘Sunshine on Leith’ and the musical of the same name, which used many of their songs, and is a joy of a film.

20th September 2021

Having had about two hot baths in the aftermath of the race yesterday, I woke up early and my limbs felt nicely mobile, but, to be absolutely sure I had another quick one this morning. We got rid of ours at home when we renovated the ‘bath’room a few years ago. Ever since then, whenever we stay in a hotel, I feel I need to make up for lost hours, or something.

Anyway, it was lovely and restful, and I got out in time to see the sun coming up behind the flats on the water front.

I’m not normally up with the lark but I had almost fallen asleep at the restaurant table last night much to Anne’s amusement and we’d had to take the rest of the meal to go! So I was blissfully snoring away by about 8 in the evening.

Leith, or the part of it that we were in, has a lovely European vibe going on, especially when the sun is out, which it kindly was for us. There was water all around us with the small river, docks and canals. And the cafes and restaurants had a good footing on the pavements creating a convivial atmosphere along the streets.

A view from along the bridge

If we come back in a year or so’s time, the tram link will have been set up. Currently there are road works all over the place here as it gets laid. If a vocal minority of Leith had their way then it wouldn’t get built at all. They consider Leith to be a town in its own right and not just a ‘burb of Edinburgh, which is what inevitably happens to the satellites of main cities.

However the ease of getting in and out of the city will definitely make our life as tourists a lot easier. This morning though, after a fine breakfast in a local café, we walked, the fairly straight road into Edinburgh. It’s not really that long. You could speed walk it in under 40 minutes, but we leisurely ambled and later puffed up the last hill to the Palace.

We had tickets for a little tour around Holyrood, one time residence of the monarchs of Scotland, and still an occasional bolt hole for Queenie and her progeny. I’d never been inside it before so I was looking forward to seeing a bit of the history and be a voyeur on how the other 0.05% live.

The tickets included those handy little headsets to give you a guide to each section of the building and gardens. It is worth taking a couple of hours to stroll around the place if you like a bit of history. They ham up the murder of David Rizzio, the secretary of Mary Queen of Scots, by her husband, Lord Darnley, which happened near her rooms (you can still see the bloodstain on the floor!).

A 'blood stain' on the floor where David Rizzio was murdered.
How often does this stain need to be touched up?

Her own chambers, we found, were absolutely tiny, compared any of the other rooms in the palace. Mary is definitely the most intriguing past resident of the Palace and made me want to go away and read more about her life.

Because the day was so warm we were able to finish off the tour with a nice bit of coffee and cake sitting outside, at the Palace Cafe. I was definitely ready to put my feet up by then so we ordered an uber. We picked it outside the Scottish Parliament building which stands splendidly next to the Palace grounds. Apparently, there are guided tours here too so maybe one for us next time.

I managed to sit through the entirety of the evening meal this time, at a lovely restaurant called Fishers, handily a stone’s throw from the hotel. If you like seafood, which we very much do, I highly recommend it. The evening wrapped up a really enjoyable long weekend for us, and has me seriously contemplating doing the same again next year. Hmm, would be nice to try and improve on my time on the same course.

Life, Running

Pre-race Jitters

This bib coming through the post this week makes it official. Sunday (tomorrow!) is my first half marathon in over two years.

No more pretending it isn’t going to happen!

I don’t know if climbing ladders is good preparation for a race, but that is what I was doing all day yesterday. And although I knocked my knees a couple of times coming down ( oh my goodness, why does that hurt so much!), no lasting injuries were sustained. I’m building a wooden gazebo in the back garden, with the very kind (and honestly I couldn’t do it without him) help of my mate Gary. So far we have spent two and half days in total. But getting the days back to back has been problematic over the summer with both of us busy at different times. It is coming together as you can see, and I think one more day will sort this bad boy out and we have ourselves a nice, if somewhat airy, room on the outside.

Wooden gazebo with roof tiling half done
Nearly done but not quite yet!

At least I did something physical as I’ve barely run all this week or last. It makes me a little nervous as I find that doing a gentle 5k or so a day or two before the race ‘wakes’ (technical term) my legs up.

It is what it is though. I could have gone this morning but I still need to pack and do a quick tidy up before we get going, and, of course, knock out a quick pre-run blog. This doesn’t count though, as we always try and have a couple of cups of tea in bed and have a bit of reading time, so I’m focused on this for a concentrated hour.

I am looking forward to the big day though, even though the butterflies are setting in already. The course is apparently very scenic as we will run along the estuary. I have to think of it as a nice day out and not worry about the time. I have reconciled myself to the fact that I’ll take about 2 and a half hours but at least I’ll be well ahead of the sweeper bus, that will pick up people taking longer that 3 hours 15.

Plus Anne and I will have a lovely weekend in Edinburgh. We’ll be meeting up with family and have tickets to explore Holyrood Palace, erstwhile residence of Mary Queen of Scots, amongst other Scottish royals.

So, there is fun to be had this weekend. I will do okay on the day, and it can be my new baseline from which hopefully I will improve. Watch this space!

Life

A Send Off to the Sea

Our staghorn tree suddenly looks like its leaves have been dipped into crimson paint.

Staghorn tree in our garden with partially red leaves

Autumn is definitely upon us.

I think, alongside Spring, it is a favourite season of mine. By the end of Summer, the deciduous trees look a little tired and droopy, but then, as a last hurrah before Winter, they put on their firey display.

There will be nothing firey about my display when I do my run in Scotland this weekend coming, as I’ve slacked right off after August’s burst of energy. This is why I will never progress much with my running, as I’ll always find an excuse to scupper my flow. Be it weekends away or torrential rain. But still, I’m looking forward to a few days  in Edinburgh.

We had a long weekend away at the beginning of September, as first we had to drop off the cat to his rightful home in London. He never wants anything more to do with me as I was the one who shoved him into his little cage for the trip, but he loved being back home. From there we went up east to just near Skegness for a weekend with my siblings.

I have always denigrated ‘Skeggie’ without really knowing the place but I take it all back, because if you just go a mile or two away from the main drag of chip shops and amusement arcades, there are some pristine and nearly empty sandy beaches. To be fair, even the centre was clean and well stocked for the kids, with crazy golf, a little boating lake and buckets of Mr Whippy ice cream.

We weren’t there for this though; we wanted a nice quiet stretch of coastline to send our dad’s ashes to the sea.

Traditionally, in Hindu culture, the ashes would be given to a river. It can be any river, but the Ganges in India is seen as the most holy. Our mum’s ashes were taken to the river Avon, in Stratford, and originally we thought to do the same for our dad. However, all rivers flow into the sea and Dad, being a practical man, would have appreciated the more direct route!

It was a mild afternoon and the sun shined, unexpectedly, for the occasion. We carved out ‘DAD’ in the sand, and added an extra ‘A’, as most of his grandkids called him ‘Dada’. We sprinkled his ashes into the letters and added rose petals to lay amongst them. Then we all waited for the tide to come in.

This was another reason why we chose the sea instead of a river. Here, we had the space to wait, and contemplate, while the tide crept closer, and eventually gathered in the remains of our dad.

It was beautiful and emotional and we were able to raise a glass later with lighter hearts.


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Life, Running

Remember the Yoga?

We are well into the second half of 2021 and far enough away from January past, as to quite forget our (or should I hold my hands up and say ‘my’) intentions set at the beginning of the year!

This is one of the several resolutions I made at the time:

·  New 30 Day Yoga with Adriene – followed by more yoga (5 times a week – or at the very least 3)

Back in January I did do that 30 day programme while getting a 100 miles run for the month. I felt great and my calves did not feel like the hard tight blocks that they would normally be with that amount of running.

Some people say that it takes a month to create a habit. Sadly, for me, unless it’s a bad habit, it hasn’t stuck so well even with the extra wiggle room I gave myself. The yoga has been happening off and on, but increasingly more off and there has been many a week recently when I have done nothing at all. However, I am back to running a fair bit.

And as I found out during the long run this weekend, it’s all tightening up again.

On Sunday I managed to get just over 11 miles. That was after stopping my app at just under 10 miles with a strong sudden tightening in my leg, probably cramp. I thought I wouldn’t be able to run any more that day but after a 100 yards or so of walking it seemed to calm down and I managed to do another mile before I called it a day.

Moral of the story?

Get back on the Yoga train.

I know it’s not just a simple balancing equation as  –  running shortens : yoga lengthens.

But, what I’ve found with Yoga (when I’m doing it regularly) is that it really starts helping me with my core, and I’m strengthening myself as well as giving myself a little more flexibility. Those three-legged dogs and single leg poses will eventually (once I get past the wobbling and collapsing stage) build the strength up in my arms and legs. Plus I know, from experience, that my lower back pain niggles disappear with regular practice.

And the other thing I have to remind myself of, every now and then, is that if I don’t look like the instructor, it’s completely okay. As Adriene constantly reminds people, it’s the process not the outcome that you’re looking for. For example, I can barely touch my toes but the act of gently trying regularly, will increase what flexibility I have in that area.

So, I’ve reset my intention and, at least for the full month of September, I’ll get some Yoga done every day and see if I can’t nail that habit this time!


Life, Running

A Cat-astrophe

We have been minding a cat for the last few weeks and whenever I try and get the laptop out he insists on sprawling himself on me. I thought cats would be more aloof and keep themselves to themselves most of the time, but this moggy seems excessively social and has a thing about plonking himself on my lap or chest depending on how horizontal I am.

So I have now perfected the art of stretch typing. Laptop all the way down to my knees and fingers just about reaching to the keyboard while said cat drapes himself around my middle.

Cat, sitting on me, between me and my laptop
Yes, I’m very comfortable here thank you very much!

Ironically it keeps me focussed on the job in hand, instead of getting side-tracked by news stories or Instagram etc, as it’s not the most comfortable of positions to write in.

It has also, by dint of the cat not being human and not giving a fig about my disappointment, been a little bit cathartic (cat-hartic??!).

I had planned a long and steady 10 (or, if I could manage it, 12) mile run this morning and everything that could be prepared, was. Oats were consumed at the right time, Vaseline was applied appropriately, gels were packed and the weather was pleasantly cool.

First slightly off sign was a forced double-back three-quarters of a mile out because I knew I needed the loo. It happens, especially for runners, but I didn’t let it get me down and just thought that I had the advantage of being over a mile up before I’d even set out the door (this second time).

Then I listened to my running app training plan, which suggested I do the middle 6 miles at a slightly faster pace than my usual slow plod.

Perhaps that was the reason? But I’ve managed doing similar tempo runs before. Perhaps it was just my head going Pfffffuuuh, or words to that affect, but whatever it was, I stopped at 7.5 miles and I just couldn’t will myself to get going again. I was tired but I could have carried on, albeit slowly. I just decided to stop the app, stop my running and walk the last bit back (nearly 2 miles going the shortest route).

So now I’m very annoyed and I’m not sure if I can reason it away or whether I just have to wait, stroke the cat a bit more, and let the feeling pass.

Cat on my lap looking at me.
Talk to the paw as the ear ain’t listenin’

It could just be the culmination of a slightly unusual week.

Anne had a run-in with a hidden tree stump on the edge of a kerb a few days ago and pranged the front of our car. Our lovely, hybrid automatic has been replaced by a little, petrol, manual Skoda courtesy car. I haven’t driven a manual in years. It has been strange, trying to co-ordinate my left foot and hand to do so much, but I can report that, after the initial abject terror, it does come back to you pretty quickly.

I also went to a funeral this week as sadly, Peter, one of our fellow River Park volunteers, had died. I didn’t know him all that well but he was a friendly chap, especially to dog walkers who frequently went past us as we worked.

A few of us went, to represent this aspect of his life, and I realised, when I heard his brother’s eulogy, that it was a very small aspect.

It is rather strange and moving to hear about the life of someone that you only know a little. I knew that he was autistic but didn’t know that he lived a pretty independent life. That he had travelled all over the world including places like Hawaii and India. That he had a strong Catholic faith, and that his parents were part of a group of parents who refused to pay their rates as the Council could not find provision for autistic children in the 60s and who went on to create The Wirral Society for Autistic Children, which still runs today (renamed Autism Together) and supports a huge number of autistic people on the Wirral.

Thinking and writing about Peter has put my little run-fail into context a bit more. I still feel like it will be an uphill struggle getting fit for my half, but if I don’t worry about times and just enjoy getting out there it will be okay. I think.

Life, Travel

Cycle Trip: Lincoln to Liverpool – Day 4 (The final day!)

The three of us in front of the Crow's Nest pub.
Last orders at the Crow’s Nest!

John first cooked up this idea last summer. A way to raise funds for Motor Neurone Disease research, and to have a bit of a challenge. When he asked who wanted to join the ‘fun’ I foolishly put my hand up . He said it would be about 30 miles a day over 4 days. Something I could definitely work towards.

Well I didn’t work towards it in the way that I would have liked, as life got in the way, and ‘about 30 miles a day’ was a bit of an understatement.

Today was probably the most urban leg of our trip but it ironically turned out to be the most cycle friendly one.

As it was Monday we figured that we’d need to start super early to try and get across Manchester without being mown down by the traffic. So at 7.30 am we wheeled out of the Premier Inn in Denton and got going.

The three of us cycling out of the Premier Inn in Denton
Setting off very very early

Mike has a whizzy woo Garmin computer on his bike but because it’s fairly new, he’d only just got the hang of the sat nav on it this morning. Perfect timing! Instead of taking the main roads that took us around the north of the city, as my Google maps was showing me, it took us the other way and through a gorgeous, green and well tarmacked path around the south that took us all the way to Chorlton.

The birds sang, a few runners, cyclists and dog walkers passed us but hardly any sound of traffic and it was blissful on this re-purposed train-line route.

We made such good time that Chorlton’s trendy cafes weren’t even open as we passed so we had to carry on further for breakfast: to a not so trendy Wetherspoons pub. It was just around 9 am and the full Englishes didn’t touch the sides. It was a little strange to see people actually ordering beer at that time of the morning but a couple of people were and hey, each to their own.

Having congratulated ourselves on a good first stint we carried on further west through Urmston and Irlam, all the way to Newton-le-Willows. We did have to do a little bit of walking around some farmland but generally it had been a lovely day. But we realised, as we stopped for a coffee, that we still had nearly 20 miles to do in under 2 hours and I was flagging in the sun.

Apparently this sun’s been shining here all weekend  but we only just experienced it now. All the way from Lincoln we have had slightly overcast and breezy weather which has actually been perfect for cycling. But now, since coming out of our green idyll this morning it began to get a little warm.

We decided to go down the A580 which would get us almost all the way and hoped that it would tolerable for cyclists.

Well we didn’t need to worry as there was a well maintained cycle path that ran alongside the thundering traffic, which meant we could make really good time, and we happened to be on the shady side of the road. Hurrah!

Our final stop before the end was Sefton Church where we were met by several blokes on bikes and one in running shoes. These were people who had been good friends with Mark and one of those friends had actually introduced Mark to his sister Carole all those years ago!

They will actually be doing a spin off Scotland ride in a week for the same charity. Just one day but 100k over some serious Scottish Hills!!

These fellas became our entourage for the last three miles and brought us in to the Crow’s Nest to rousing cheers and claps from everyone waiting for us there.

John led the way in, as this whole crazy tour was his idea. In fact he will be carrying on in a few days to do a further cycle tour in Ireland with family and friends for the Irish part of this journey so he’s a glutton for punishment but hats off to him.

Mike will be jumping on his super light bike again for the day in Scotland, and I will frankly be putting my feet up for a couple of days and then have to get back into the running fray to get training for my half in 8 weeks time!

Me on my bike in Crosby at the finish
Me and my trusty metal steed

Today we did 50 miles of cycling and a 1000 ft of going up a bit, so no wonder I was beginning to droop by the end. We did 160 miles in total, a little more than the 30 miles a day John reckoned. But all very much worth it.

Our fundraiser link:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jack-cunningham7

Life, Travel

Cycle Trip: Lincoln to Liverpool – Day 3

If you’d told me to get on a bike again after the end of day 2 I may have told you that I was throwing in the towel.

My forearms ached, my shoulders were sore and I couldn’t actually squat far down on my right leg before the pain kicked in. I won’t even go into how my backside was feeling.

Still, we had got over some serious challenges and we all knew that the hardest day was done. So this morning, as I was woken (gently) from my slumbers by Maureen, John’s wife, I downed some paracetamol and got into my kit.

Although there were some plumbing issues with our dorm of a room, I would highly recommend the Youth Hostel in Hartington. There are smaller, private rooms if sharing a bunkbed is not your style, as well as yurts and glamping tents on the grounds. The food and bar is pretty well stocked and it’s an excellent location from which to explore the Peak District.

We prepared for our ride with some hearty breakfasts and then wended our way towards Buxton at about half 9

Coming out of Hartington was a bit of an effort. I was pushing my bike twice up some steep gradients before we’d got to the main A515, and I realised that my quads were also grumbling at these excessive exertions.

We had hoped that the main road would be a little quieter, what with it being Sunday and all, but it didn’t feel like that was the case. Many cars were considerate and slowly overtook, giving us a nice wide berth, but not all. Mike said that I looked stronger, going up these hills, than the previous day. There may be an element of working myself into fitness but feeling the woosh of cars and vans whizzing past you can also help to keep you from stopping, and keep ploughing on.

Buxton, however wasn’t too far away and we decided to have a mid-morning coffee break. Another lovely looking town and one that I’d like to explore further. We didn’t get to St Anne’s Well to fill up our bottles with the local water but it’s apparently very tasty.

Originally we were going to stop in Whaley Bridge for lunch but as the boys had had the supersized English breakfast, and I’d polished off a lovely Portuguese tart in Buxton, we decided we would carry on to New Mills which was a few miles further.

The ride out of Buxton was slow going for me. Those hills that aren’t too steep but go on, seemingly, for ages. But plough on I did, and we were eventually rewarded with a fabulous downhill that also went on for ages. Again not so steep to make it scary, but a lovely, exhilarating, rest for a good couple of miles. The scenery too, was stunning, and I would mark this section as one of the most enjoyable parts of the ride so far.

John and Mike pausing a moment to get our bearings with the lovely Peak District scenery in the background
Mike getting our bearings while John and I appreciate the amazing vistas

From New Mills to Denton (east of Manchester) was generally straightforward and we got in quite handy at about half 3.  I definitely feel a lot better this afternoon than I did yesterday evening. Sometimes, it is worth doing a really hard thing just to make everything else feel a little bit easier in comparison!

Tomorrow is the final leg of the journey, and we are really looking forward to having a pint at The Crows Nest, Mark‘s local in Crosby, with family and friends.

Stats: 2000 ft climbing. Around 35 miles.

Rough map of our route from Hartington Hall to Denton
I managed to miss a chunk of activity on my Strava but this google maps pic is fairly accurate for the day.

Our fundraiser page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jack-cunningham7

Life

Cycle Trip: Lincoln to Liverpool – Day 2

Be careful what you wish for.

It’s a salutary lesson at the best of times, but today was an especial reminder.

We knew that today would be arduous. The projected routes and elevations on google maps, for both legs of the journey, left us in no doubt about that. After our flat and fast (for me anyway) trek yesterday

Mike suggested setting off early, around half 8, which turned out to be a very good idea when navigating your way out of a big city. It was fairly straightforward then but an hour later would have turned devilish with all the traffic.

Because of the early dart we didn’t have breakfast until later: MacDonald’s egg McMuffins and the like. Not quite sure when I last had a Maccies but it filled a hole today.

We had been travelling along a very busy road, the A610, for the first hour and hoped, after our turn off for breakfast, to find a more scenic and  quieter route but that didn’t quite happen straightaway.

Scenery of the Derbyshire landscape
A view from the hillls

When it did, we were into Derbyshire proper and the rolling hills and farms were beautiful to see. However, it appears that country roads are more undulating than the main roads. In order to see the landscape in its pastoral glory, we needed to climb some serious hills.

Mike was a machine and stayed on his bike pretty much all the way to Matlock. John may well have been able to but saw me walking, several times, and thought that he didn’t fancy putting in all that effort. And I? Well I ain’t no country chick that’s for sure. As soon as the inclines dragged on for more than a few hundred yards, I got off and pushed, and I didn’t feel at all guilty about it!

The ride into Matlock was a somewhat hair-raising descent. When we got near the centre and I pulled out my phone to check final directions, it asked me if I had been driving!

The support crew had found us a lovely spot in the back garden of a café and we refuelled with gusto as we sat and rested. Matlock is a lovely looking town and had more of a vibrant air about it compared to Newark yesterday. Apparently there is an amazing bookshop very near  there, according to John’s daughters, called Scarthin that has eight floors of books! Definitely a sign of a quality place.

We realised that the Buxton Youth Hostel we were staying in was a lot closer to us than Buxton was which was a bonus. It was in Hartington, and the hostel itself was actually in Hartington Hall, a rather grand looking manor house. It meant that our full day’s mileage became a bit lower than originally planned.

Our Youth Hostel, used to be Hartington Hall
Hartington Hall – now our Youth Hostel

To get there, however, there were yet more hills. Google maps actually said that the elevation was going to be more than the first half! We did want quiet country roads I guess.

One of the roads that Google suggested had a sign at the entry saying it wasn’t suitable for cars. But we were on bikes so that was okay.

An hour’s slog of a walk later, involving dodgy rocky ground and occasional mini lakes that needed traversing, I heard cars whizzing past in the near distance, and I did briefly love that sound. It had been a couple of skidding attempts at cycling, but more of a trudge. The guys were able to occasionally pick up their super light bikes, especially around the big mud pool but I had to push mine all the way.

So I say again. Be careful what you wish for. But, then again, without these winding country roads and occasional dirt tracks we wouldn’t have seen such lovely landscapes so it was worth it. I think!

The Hostel sign at the end was a joy to behold and I have to say that it’s one of the grandest looking hostels I’ve ever seen. Hopefully this was the toughest day as I’m not sure I had much more in the tank. But we made it to the end and I’m rather chuffed.

Stats: 3200 ft climbing. Around 40 miles.

Our fundraiser link:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jack-cunningham7