Life, Travel

Cycling to Malpas – and Back

Note to self: do more pelvic floor exercises, or ‘kegels’ as the Americans call it. That final section, back on the tow path to The Cheshire Cat, was bumpier than it had felt on the way out. But it was also nearly the end, and that was something I was ready for.

I didn’t have enough charge in my phone to take stats properly, but this is a close gestimate of the route.

Given that I had done around 38 miles on the bike and that I managed to keep up with the main group, after a year of no cycling, was a pretty good feeling. It was around this time last year, that I did the four day trip from Lincoln to Liverpool, and since then I had big intentions to keep the cycling going but ended up doing a whole sweet nothing.

Thinking back, I’m not sure how I managed to get in the saddle at all on day two of that trip. This time around, knowing that I had finally committed to a ride with PROBs, I pumped up the tyres the day before and cycled to the River Park where I volunteer. That was only two miles each way, but it was enough to give me some bruises in the undercarriage.

I didn’t realise until the following day when I clambered on my metal steed, to do the short mile to Port Sunlight station, that I was sore. I nearly gave up then, especially as it had started to rain, but I womaned up, and set off.

A few days prior, I’d put a post on the Facebook page for the group, that I was catching the 09:31 to Chester, mainly to let them know I was going, and also to see if anybody would be on the train too, but no-one had replied to the affirmative. Then, as I got into Chester station, the one person I’d spotted in a carriage further down, had nimbly lifted his bike up and down the steps of the footbridge and pedalled off ahead. I decided to still cycle to The Cheshire Cat, the official starting point, and figured I could at least have a cup of tea if no-one was there.

The towpath is really close to Chester Station but I managed to overshoot the entry and had to double back to find it. This section of the Shropshire Union Canal was built in the 1770s, joining the Dee estuary to Nantwich. Back in the day it must have been a busy thoroughfare carrying various goods from the port, inland on the barges, but today it’s a sleepy backdrop. There were a few, moored boats, and one or two put-putting along lazily, but there was more action on the towpath, as I weaved past dog walkers and a couple of buggies, and skilfully managed not to fall into the canal.

Rolling into the grounds of the pub, I needn’t have worried about being billy-no-mates, as there were about twenty bikes leaning on the garden furniture. A few guys were milling outside but the rest of the crew were inside having teas and coffees. I even spotted the guy on the train. He hadn’t seen my post and didn’t realise I was part of the group.

Lots of cyclists outside the back of The Cheshire Cat
The women aren’t visible here as they’re inside drinking coffees (or being late – Sue)

I think I’ve mentioned this in another blog but PROBs stands for Pensby Runners On Bikes. This offshoot group has been going quite a while and a few of them don’t run at all now but they meet most Thursdays for a day’s cycle ride, and for occasional longer excursions. They’re a varied bunch, made up of retirees or people who can work flexibly. And their cycling abilities range from very good to amazing.

From the pub, the official route was a circular 35 miles to Malpas and back, but some of the group had cycled from home. The ride leader, Mark, a retired Paediatrician, had cycled all the way from Wallasey (I think?) which would have added another 20+ miles on each way! And another guy who introduced himself, Ali, did a whopping 94 in total. That would have been seriously intimidating but luckily a lot of the group had put their bikes in the car and driven over. My route along the tow path added another 3 to the base total, so that was a little extra.

There is something wonderful about cycling in a group when you’re not a confident road cyclist. It feels so much safer, given how impatient English drivers tend to be, and I knew that if I had a puncture or anything, I wouldn’t be alone to fix it. It was all the more lovely yesterday, as the rain, after that first fall, held off, and the roads we went along were nearly empty. I was at the rear at the beginning where Janine gave me company, but as I warmed up, I was pleased that I wasn’t holding the rest back, and I was getting up some of those hills a lot better than I would have done a year or two ago.

Beeston Castle entrance. Two round towers connected by a walkway and a door beneath.
Entrance to Beeston Castle

Not long after passing Beeston Castle, we stopped for lunch at The Bickerton Poacher. I was peckish so only ordered a starter of garlic mushrooms and a chunk of posh bread and was heading to sit outside with Janine and Sue, when we saw Seta sitting on the floor being given some Coke to drink. Apparently she had fainted some moments before which was worrying. But within our party we had a retired doctor and a nurse, and by the end of the hour she was feeling well enough to carry on.

I was hoping that we had passed halfway by lunch time but as you can see from the map it wasn’t quite. It had been an hour and a half’s good riding to that point and I was feeling bushed already. But after lunch we had another two hours to get back, and our highest hilly bits as we headed into Malpas.

Malpas is a small and very pretty market village, existing before the Domesday book records of 1086. It has some lovely buildings and a mediaeval church, and once upon a time contained a castle to ward off those marauding Welsh. The first castles along the border were constructed quickly by the Norman conquerors of England, out of wood, and only some were converted to stone later. Malpas was not one of them.

We were travelling in one largish group of about ten and a couple of smaller, speedier groups. Run leader Mark was doing a brilliant job of whizzing off ahead to wait at the next junction so we didn’t get lost. Occasionally he would pootle along with some of us at the back. He seems a serious fellow, not one for idle nattering, but kind and attentive. I was explaining about my Creative Writing course to him and foolishly offered to send him my first chapter of a piece I’ll be developing in my second year. I’m not sure he’d like it, as it isn’t written in a serious vein, but I’ll give it to him anyway.

I had felt really sluggish when I had got on my bike after lunch but had gained a second wind for most of the journey back. However, by the time we passed through the village of Saighton (how is this pronounced?) I was seriously flagging. When I recognised the final section, and knew we were close to The Cheshire Cat I was relieved although I was in desperate need for another wee.

Sue, en route, had very kindly offered to give me a lift back home, and although I could have carried on the extra three miles to the station, once she’d asked I was psychologically done for the day. As the last few of us finished the occasion off with another round of teas and coffees, Seta looked very well I’m pleased to say, and everyone around the table had that nice post-exertion glow.

I really hope I get my act together to jump on to more of these Thursday rides as it was a terrific day. I was exhausted, but in a nice way, and although my buttocks are still very bruised, I just need to remember how quickly you forget the pain once you get going.

Life, Travel

A Week in Norfolk

Sea Palling, a small village on the north Norfolk coast, used to just be called Palling. But a little re-branding took place in the Victorian era, to entice the growing number of tourists looking for coastal escapes from the big industrial smoggy cities. Like Staithes, on the Yorkshire coast, where we visited last weekend, this place also has a history of being a smuggler’s cove, with tea and other, more intoxicating, beverages being particularly popular.

We took a dip in its waters on Monday, this week, during our own little sojourn by the sea. When I say ‘we’, it was mainly me, although my brother’s wife, did venture quite close to the breaking foam. And when I say ‘dip’, I meant only my feet as it was the North Sea after all. I did manage to submerge my ankles for a few seconds, but had to channel my inner Wim Hof, to breathe through the freeze. What Sea Palling also had was a clean sandy beach where I could build sandcastles with my two year old niece. We never quite got to fortress level as, after each castle was built, it was summarily demolished so that she could enjoy the squish of the sand in her hands. And who could blame her, as this was her first ever experience of a warm sunny seaside.

We’re back home now and our garden has grown wild in the week we’ve been away, so Anne’s been pulling up some of the weeds while I’ve done a little mowing. We’ve left some of the grass long, but just cut paths through it, to encourage a few more insects and things. Actually, that was one thing we noticed when driving around Norfolk. There were definitely more splats on our windscreen than we’ve seen in a while. I rarely have to fill up the squirty water thing in the car any more, as the rate of windscreen kill has gone down, even in the last ten years.

However, I digress. I should not be writing this blog at all really, as my final assignment of the year is due this Thursday and I’ve still got tons to do on it.  But we had such a lovely time in Norfolk that I need to get it down somehow, in order to retain the memories.

We were there in a cottage with my brother and his family. It was more of a town house than a cottage but really well furnished, and sat with a small group of similar houses on a farm near Great Yarmouth. On-site facilities include an indoor pool, a huge play and games room, two BBQ areas, swings and slides and a generally massive field. So with a two-year-old and a nearly five-month-old there was little need or desire to go out and about too often.

So we didn’t. We only ventured out twice. To Sea Palling and later, to Cromer.

Cromer is a much larger seaside resort and, evidently, has a history of Victorian gentility, given the architecture. It has been going as a small town since at least the mediaeval times but really came into its own in the nineteenth century, even getting a mention in Jane Austen’s Emma, as desirable for ‘sea-bathing’. I do like a nice pier to watch the deeper waves crashing around from a safe closeness, and it has one of those. Not as long as Brighton’s but much calmer, as it has no crazy fairground rides.

Norfolk has many coastal resorts, and, of course, the Broads, for landlubbers like me to get excited about. I think we found two, contrasting but excellent examples, that certainly worked for us. The rest of the time, we relaxed at the cottage, had some friends come round who were local, played with the kids, and ate and drank very well. Anne got her pencils and paints out to do a little more sketching and I had brought my coursework. But most of all we were just enjoying spending time and getting to know our little niece and nephew, and their parents were just enjoying having a bit of a rest. The pool was a regular activity as it was warm, so we could even take the little one in.

On the way back, the two of us popped into Norwich, to have a little stroll around the Cathedral. There was an interesting art installation based on the life of Edith Cavell, a local woman and a hero of World War I. I had not really known her story before, but it is definitely worth looking up. Although I found the cartoonesque art work a little strange, her life sounded inspiring. She was executed by a German firing squad, and the night before her death she was quoted as saying,

Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.

The last four paintings in the series about Edith Cavell’s life

Those words just seem to cut through all the propaganda and jingoism that whip up countries into war time and time again. A fascinating woman.

Life, Travel, Walking

What I’ve Done (Lately)

As I lift my legs higher on a cushion after today’s long run, I realise that it has been two weeks since my last blog. Well that sounds like the beginning of a confession, so I had better get it all off my chest (fully recovered since the chaffing incident, in case you’re wondering).

Life, despite my best intentions, has been a little hectic of late, and I’ve barely had time to think, let alone sit and think about blogging. I have had the laptop open, but only to hammer out a few more words for the final essay on my OU course. It’s due in a couple of weeks and then I am done and dusted. Until next academic year that is, because I’ve decided to definitely do the second year and turn my Post Graduate Certificate into a Masters. I’m not sure whether it will translate to any writing jobs in the big wide world, but I’m enjoying the learning process, so I will carry on for a bit longer.

Also the WIFI went down for several days last week, which is, in this day and age, a bit of a catastrophe, and wasted half a day for Anne when she was passed from pillar to post on the phone, as they took an age to agree that it wasn’t just a case of switching it off and on again. We actually had to watch real time TV occasionally, which consisted of a random episode of NCIS and The One Show. The only good thing about this infringement of our human rights, was that I was able to work on my essay without getting distracted, but finally, the day came when a tall young man from Openreach with the most amazing long blond ringlets, sorted it out for us, by correctly reconnecting a cable on the outside of the house, that had been badly set up in the first place, only three weeks earlier. But at least we’re now back in the land of the living.

We also celebrated our grandson’s 3rd birthday last week. Anne made him a dinosaur and volcano cake as the boy is a walking dinosaur encyclopaedia. And earlier in the week, we took him to his happy place at Chester Zoo, where, in between watching the animals, he ran the legs off himself, and me. He had his first experience of the Bat house, and was not freaked out by the darkness at all, but was gutted that he couldn’t see the bats faces as they were too far away!

We had a glorious time away, this weekend just gone, with old work colleagues and most of the folk who walked the Coast to Coast with me back in 2015. Only John was missing from the original Six Pack. The weather, near the village of Appleton-le-Moors where we stayed, had promised to be dry but overcast. In the end, the sun came out in such a way that we could enjoy a very pleasant eight+ mile walk on Saturday including two pit stops at the beer gardens of some very fine public houses. On Sunday, Anne, Helen and I left the others doing another walk, and we ventured into the tiny but picturesque town of Staithes, on the east coast above Whitby. The previous day Helen had given Anne her first art lesson, and as we sat on a bench with our teas and coffees, there was another impromptu lesson. Watching the two of them, I got inspired and attempted to draw what I saw in words. It was just a basic description but it was nice to record the families on the sand, the two dogs gleefully gambolling in the waves as their humans threw them a ball, and the boats bobbing lazily up and down. I feel I need to do this kind of thing now more often, whereas before I would have enjoyed the day and then promptly forgotten about it.

That same Sunday morning, which also happened to be Mother’s Day for most of the rest of the world, my grandma, who last year had celebrated getting a telegram from the Queen, peacefully died, just two weeks short of her 101st birthday. I wrote a small piece about her last year, and, of course we’ll miss her, but she has led such a long and remarkable life that we won’t feel sad for her, just for ourselves. That evening though, we raised a glass to her.

So in amongst that whirlwind, I’ll bet you’re wondering how my running is going? Even if you’re not I’m going to tell you anyway. Not all that brilliantly, unsurprisingly. I’m still trying to get one long run each week, and then I’ve managed about two more quickies in the week. The length of the long run is getting harder, and I think it will take a few weeks to stop my legs getting bushed. I can’t even say it’s going to pick up again next week, as we’re currently in the middle of packing to go on holiday. Again. This time with my brother and his family, for a week on the Norfolk coast. That was the reason I got this week’s big one completed today: a slog of a twelve miler. Tough but it’s in the bank.

Life is hard, but although I’m not getting out and about in my trainers all that much, my final piece of course work is actually about my marathon running experience, so I will get my fix one way or another.

Life, Travel

A Night on the Town

In Downton Abbey, they always used to talk about going ‘up’ to London, even when they lived in Yorkshire. I have read somewhere, and it may even have been true, that this was to do with the start of the railway lines. Even though the first trainline built in the UK was between Liverpool and Manchester, the original ‘main’ lines emanated from London. The ‘up’ trains travelled to London, while the ‘down’ trains travelled away.

I pondered all this while we sat stock still on the M6, last Friday, waiting for an accident, a few miles down the road, to be cleared out of the way, thinking, a train ride would have been a better idea. I was also wondering if I was going to miss my birthday present.

Anne had given me just a card on my actual birthday, but written inside, in her loopy letters, was a description of what I’d be getting. A night in the West End, with tickets to see a play and hotel nearby so we didn’t have to navigate the tubes or buses back to her son’s in Mill Hill. Excited much? I’ll say.

As we watched the cars on the other side of the barrier flow freely by, I attempted to reconcile myself to the possibility of missing the play: we would still have the hotel; we could still go out for a meal; I can’t really miss what I haven’t seen. I had almost got to a point of zen when the traffic finally started shifting and we did, just, get to town in time.

The Gielgud Theatre is a beautiful baroque style building, on Shaftesbury Avenue in the West End, and just a walk away from our hotel in Holburn. As we don’t get out much, the crowds on the street were a little overwhelming. But many of the Christmas lights were on, or maybe it’s this sparkly all year round, so we started to feel the spirit of a Friday night in London.

Christmas is coming

The play we came to see was The Mirror And The Light, adapted from the Hilary Mantel book, the last part of the Wolf Hall trilogy about Thomas Cromwell. We had seats in the stalls with excellent views of an excellent cast, including Ben Miles as Cromwell and Nathaniel Parker as Henry VIII.

I haven’t watched many adapted books on the stage and I find it intriguing to see how it’s done. Obviously, great swathes of the book, which is the longest of the three, were removed completely. Many of the characters were also dispensed with, or given a token appearance, to move the plot, or highlight the underlying politics. They gave more prominence to Cromwell’s ghosts and making his father the axe man in order to allow him to say the star line was clever. Plus they began the play near the end of the book which worked very well, starting in medias res (in the midst of things), a term I’ve just learnt on my course so I can bandy it about proficiently.

Walking back, after 11pm, the multitudes were still milling. But, whether it was the interval wine, or the absorption in the play, we felt ourselves in concert with them, rippling out into the convivial night.

A side street, showing lots of people and red lanterns hung all the way down.
Party in the streets

It was a really wonderful evening, and definitely made me want to venture into the heart of the Big Smoke a little more than I have done. But maybe next time, we will take the train.

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, 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, Travel

Cycle Trip: Lincoln to Liverpool – Day 1

The day before, we were thinking about setting off on the first leg at just after 9. To let the rush hour pass but to make sure that we could get to the end destination while it was still light.

Then as the warm, sunny evening wore on and drinks were had, we thought around 10 ish would give us ample time to make our meandering way to Nottingham.

It turned out to be half 10 in the end, after bacon butties etc, before our gang finally waved us off, and some of the neighbours came out to give us a send-off too!

All the people on the road trip
Full team involved on the road trip including support crew

The morning leg was very picturesque. John lives in South Hykeham which is to the south of Lincoln, so the plan was to hit Newark by lunchtime and then end the first day in Nottingham. We wended past little villages, like Haddington and Stapleford (listed in the Domesday Book), instead of attempting the more direct and the more dangerous A46.

Map from South Hykam to Newark
None of the places I have mentioned are on this Strava map but they are there somewhere along the red line …

It was definitely worth the few extra miles for  the bucolic scenery, although as I admired one old church, John told me that it was completely gutted inside. So, perhaps all a façade, but a pretty one.

Newark-on-Trent, to give it its full name, is a strange town. Definitely lots of history about the place, possibly even as far back as the Roman times, and there were some lovely old architecture and many quirky little alleyways. But it also felt a bit drab, and insular. It’s a fleeting impression and I shouldn’t make such fast character judgements. I did, however, have a very nice spinach pie for my lunch there.

The second half was longer, but it was nice and flat, and the roads, generally, were smooth. We made good time again, although I did have a moment, while traversing a particularly busy roundabout, where my chain came off as I walked my bike across. I forgot to shout out, but luckily, the other two realised that I wasn’t bringing up the rear and came back for me.

Another highlight of this bit, was seeing four planes go overhead in kite formation. Absolutely inch perfect it was. Neither John nor Mike saw it as they obviously had their heads down grinding away the miles, but it was very impressive.

Map from Newark to Nottingham
21 miles ish for this leg. I will sleep well tonight

Our residence in Nottingham, the Jury’s Inn, has been besieged by stag do parties. So much so, that we’ve all be flung far and wide around the edges of the hotel so that we’ll not be too disturbed by the debauchery that will inevitably ensue. I will probably sleep through anything right now though as I am tired. And after exploring tomorrow’s route (to Buxton via Matlock) I need to get all the rest possible!

Today was about 35 miles in total in the flat lands. Easy peasy. Tomorrow I think, not so much.

Our fundraiser link:

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

Life, Travel

‘Will you cycle with us?’, they said

My idea of getting back to normal after the last few months is to fret about a bike ride.

My bike in the hallway.
My bike when I bought it, all shiny and new. Doesn’t look this clean any more.

It’s the one that had been arranged by Anne’s brother John (sometimes called Jack), way back last year. It was a way of raising money and awareness for Motor Neurone as their brother Mark was suffering from it. Sadly, Mark passed away, back in January, and following that, my Dad got sick with lymphoma and has also now died.

However the ride is still happening, and because I had said ‘I would’, all those moons ago, I’m getting in the saddle over four days, for the first leg which starts this Friday:  Lincoln to Liverpool.

I had written about a lovely ride I’d done with friends, just over a month ago. Nearly 40 miles, into Wales and back. I had intended to get a few more under my belt between then and now but it hasn’t been possible. I’m thinking though, how hard can it be to go from one day’s ride over a month ago, to four consecutive days now?!

I had pondered practising this week but I knew it would do no good, like cramming for your exams the night before, I wouldn’t feel the benefit of it, and on top of all of that, it’s just too darn hot!

So I am fretting instead.

The group of riders, that was initially as high as six has been whittled down to three for various reasons. There is John, Mike (another brother) and me. So that means that I definitely cannot back out.

I’ll be fine once I get going. At least on the first day. But I know that, however cushioned my shorts are, I’ll be feeling it in the backside area when I start day 2.

But I just need to remind myself of the bigger picture. We’re doing this for the people that follow Mark in getting this terrible disease, for which, currently nothing can be done. A few extra pounds to go into the research pot to learn more and hopefully develop treatment and even a cure one day.

All the charities have felt the crunch during this pandemic with fundraising events having to be cancelled. We’ll do our little bit to refresh the coffers of one of them and hopefully get back to Liverpool in one piece.

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

Travel

Coast to Coast Day 14 – Grosmont to Robin Hood’s Bay (15.5 miles)

This is actually the day after as, well, who has time to write when someone’s handing you a glass of champagne or three?

I’ve been brought back to the west coast again in less time than the Tony Blackburn radio show. This automobile idea may just catch on. The first lot of washing is on and I’m slouched on the sofa. Back to normal then. So, one last report.

Yes, there are pictures of us all on Facebook happily dipping our boots in the North Sea but you know, it wouldn’t be like Wainwright to give us a straightforward final day. In fact, the way’d he’d planned it, we would have started in Glaisdale, thereby adding another 4 miles to our count for the day AND stopping me from climbing into the beating heart of steam train! But really, you can’t complain too much when the final leg of your journey takes you through moorland and woodland and along the tops of the cliffs, especially when it’s all on a beautiful sunny day.

We had all put on our Claire House charity t-shirts ready for the big finale. But before that my train had come. It was sitting idly on the platform smoking away and waiting for the starting whistle to blow.  I couldn’t resist asking the engine driver if I could climb aboard to have a look and happily he said yes! It was a brilliant start to a memorable day.

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We ‘climbed’ the road out of Grosmont, as that is the only way to describe tackling the 1 in 3 gradient.

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It took us back onto the moors and from the tops there I could now properly see the sea! En route though we lost sight of it again for a while but our path through Littlebeck hamlet and the Little Beck woodland nature reserve was a happy diversion. These woods felt even more magical than yesterday’s East Arncliffe Wood by Glaisdale, and that’s definitely saying something. It felt more ancient and tranquil and I could imagine, if I sat in one place for long enough, that I’d see so many different birds and animals. There was also a tea garden at the other end which looked really lovely but we had to keep walking, as we still had a long way to go 😦

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There was a signpost in the second half of our walk that said 3.5 miles to Robin Hood’s Bay.

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But we did, of course, decline this direct path. Wainwright began the Coast to Coast trail by taking us North West along the edges walking away from St Bees. Paul pointed out that it was a nice symmetry that we’d ended up walking South East along the edges down towards the Bay. I can say, having seen them both just the once that they are comparable in beauty (one slightly negative point about this side though was the number of flies that were about today. A hell of a lot, and all of a sudden near the end! Don’t know if it’s always like this on sunny days?). Sally was saying that she’d quite like to (but not all in one go) get around all the coastal paths of the country. Quite a feat if she manages it. 

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Eventually, and finally, we started passing the first houses in Robin Hood’s Bay. My feet were tired and they were telling me but as we walked down the streets I think we all started to get a little excited. I wasn’t sure where Simon and Heather were going to meet us as we passed both their cars outside the B&Bs but none of us could ring because the signal was pants.

The last street down is a very steep descent, probably on a par with our first street up this morning. As we came round the final corner some whoops and cheers erupted and there were Simon and Heather and some other people I didn’t recognise, holding up a big banner for the Six Pack!! What a welcome! I couldn’t stop grinning! As we crossed through their banner like champions through the tape Simon cracked open a bottle of champagne and started filling glasses. The ‘other people’ were John’s son and daughter and her partner.  They’d made the banner and come to surprise their dad and Simon and Heather had met them accidentally at the water front!

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It was the most amazing ending to an amazing adventure!