Monday, 17 November 2014

My First Wild Camp Trip

Way back in June, on the day I discovered I was pregnant, I set off to do my first ever wild camp. That had nothing to do with discovering the news, it was purely coincidental. I'd been planning the trip for a few weeks beforehand.

Stephen was not phased about his pregnant wife setting off solo for an adventure. Possibly partly because he was in denial about the news and didn't believe me about the accuracy rates of modern day pregnancy tests.

With lovely weather, I loaded my trusty Raleigh up with panniers & sleeping bag and headed off towards West Yorkshire initially. My destination was determined by an outdoors shop at Holmfirth where I'd be purchasing a Gelert solo tent to start out with. No point forking out a fortune on something to find it wasn't to my taste. I'd be spending less on the tent, roll-mat & inflatable pillow than I would on a b&b.

Most directions from home start with an uphill and this route was up the best of the lot. Up followed by chevrons and a climb that is challenging at the best of times, but with a loaded bike, short wheel base, hot weather and hot flushes from early pregnancy, this would be the slowest ascent with the most stops I'd managed. And I perfected leaning as far forward as possible to prevent my front wheel lifting off the tarmac. I may very well invest in front wheel panniers for future camping trips.

This is always one of my favourite roads to ride. I had a quick 'hello' to my Dad as I passed where we scattered his ashes and let him know my news. Before long I was about to freewheel down through Heptonstall where I would then pick up the Rochdale Canal and the adjacent tarmac cycle tracks that roller coster the valley bottom to Sowerby Bridge.

I'd arrived at my lunch stop and enjoyed a breather, a check in with Stephen who was in work whilst I was enjoying a monday of freedom and I consulted the map for which route to pick. I ended up plumping for following Route 68 as much as possible. The cyclist version of the Pennine Way that runs North South along the backbone of England.
I found the steepest hill I think I have ever come across in my life (and there are afew here in Calderdale) and I was heading for Norland and the wonderful views. I managed to make it up the hill without getting out of the saddle, but it was very hard. The roads now were all completely fresh to my eyes and I enjoyed them immensely. Towards Scammonden Water, I caught up with a couple of roadies out for the day and had some company for the next few miles. We chatted about the imminent arrival of Le Tour and one of the gentlemen asked about my hefty workhorse of a bike on these hills - I explained that a lighter machine would be less sturdy with a load and that I was not in a rush to get anywhere. They peeled off north and I continued on my southerly route towards the wonderfully named Netherthong & Upperthong into Holmfirth and towards the outdoors shop with plenty of time before it closed for the day.


I rejigged by panniers before the next leg that would send me towards the Peak District area via pretty, albeit ominously named Hade Edge, that actually was a bit of a plateau and some leisurely riding. I'd begun to think about camping spot options by now, but looking at the early time I decided to pedal on. The map showed plenty of reservoirs coming up around the Trans Pennine Trail and I'd thought this area may make a good spot, but as I traversed the hills I wasn't convinced by the views and exposure.

I spent some time pedalling up & down the flat TPT looking for a good spot, but nothing inspired me. So I stopped at a picnic site and enjoyed my butties and a drink. Lightening some of my load and planning the best direction to head in. I opted to follow the TPT westwards knowing that it would join up with the Pennine Bridleway which would be a good way to ride home the next day.

The next section was a lovely surprise. Afew months earlier, we'd driven to the RSF Autumn meet at Sherwood with club member and avid cycling nutter (like me), Ian who explained we were driving parallel to the TPT & I remember thinking how wonderful this area was. Very wonderful indeed, but not without hills. I climbed from the disused railway towards the Woodhead Pass. I felt wonderfully isolated here despite of the main road below me, there was little in the way of civilisation around here and I'd not seen another sole for ages.
I clocked a hill that looked like a good camping spot, but there were afew too many cows roaming, so I carried on a little way and spied an ideal crop of bracken with a brilliant view. The pitching site was instantly obvious to me. I began removing the flourescent guide ropes from the tent and was amazed by the ease of pitching this little coffin style tent compared to the 5-man tent that I usually lug somewhere in the car (my husband wouldn't camp any other way). I was set up for the evening so had a little wander to check out the lack of visibility of my camp and happy with my invisibility I enjoyed my semi-warm flask of soup for supper and sat in the tent avoiding the throng of midges that had come out to play.


The cows and sheep weren't too close, but I could hear them roaming about. The road was silent after the commuter traffic ebbed away. I had a moment of worry as a farm quad drove along the track higher up the hill. Was I going to be found and moved on? It carried on and vanished into the distance, not to return.
Pjs on, bed set up, I was plenty warm enough even when sticking my head out to look up at the clear sky of stars. I enjoyed a full night of undisturbed sleep with just minor dreams about being found in my tent, but nothing that woke me up. Once again camping on my own (last time had been on a campsite) I was surprised by how secure I'd felt.

I enjoyed the early morning view as I got dressed and my camp was dismantled in no time. This being my first wildcamp I'd not invested in any small stoves, so I would have a few miles to ride for breakfast. This would take my along the Longenden Trail into Hadfield. I pushed down the steep, stony descent before picking up the easy, flat off road trail and enjoyed the morning sunshine and fresh wind in my face that helped with the slight nausea I was suffering from.

I found a breakfast cafe in minutes followed by a bakery where I stocked up on goodies to keep me going. Then I headed for the Pennine Bridleway, the kind of terrain that I am used to riding on. However with a fully loaded bike, it is far from easy riding on the lumpy, hilly tracks. My bike was much more difficult to control, momentum uphill was non-existant and momentum downhill was terrifying. But I enjoyed the brilliant views and still managed to make better headway than the guy with an unloaded full-susp mountain bike who I spied behind me.

 As I started the descent towards Stalybridge with the view of Manchester in the distance, I made a decision to head for the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to make headway on the flat into the next valley rather than continue on the hilly bridleway.
I enjoyed some more cyclist company here as I passed Mossley and Uppermill. Here the gentlemen headed for a pub lunch & I carried on to Dobcross and Delph where I was meeting a fellow club member, Mick who would be riding with me for a stretch. Following lunch, his insider knowledge of roads came in great use. He took me on some quiet main roads that I'd have avoided if on my own (sometimes maps cannot give you any inclination of what a main road will be like), which made for some brilliant headway before returning to the bridleways around Piethorn that took me back into familiar territory around Hollingworth Lake.

Here Mick headed back towards home and I picked up the trusty favourite Rochdale Canal to Todmorden. Rather than take to the steep hills, I left the dark valley along the main road, its picturesque, but very busy with traffic, but the gradual climb had me powering along nicely and I was home in time to make Stephen's tea before he got home from work!

95 miles with 11,800ft of climbing under my belt it was a wonderful two days of exploring with a bit more knowledge about what to expect from future cycle wild camps.


Monday, 27 October 2014

Birthday trip to Llanberis

Last week S & I celebrated our birthdays, so as usual we booked the week off work and then I looked to find the least rainy place in the country that I could, which seemed to be North Wales. So we booked in at the YHA in Llanberis.

On my birthday we did a lovely little bike ride. Just 17 miles but with about 2700ft of climbing. Part of the cycle path around Llyn Padarn was closed, so we ventured off the main road and onto the tops to do a circuit of the valley. The only traffic we came across up on the narrow lanes was a postie doing his rounds. Alas there was no cat on his dashboard.


We stopped off in Llanrug to get extras to add to our packed lunch. The butcher/deli there is really good. Coffee is excellent, loads of choice and had we known we'd have just bought butties there. Well worth a visit. Then we cycled through Penisa'r Waun, which had been our first port of call back in April on our wedding tour. I'd thought at the time that I'd love to explore this area some more and here I was. At Brynrefrail we had a comfort stop at a 'caban' again this would have also made an excellent lunchstop if I'd known about the cafe there. From here we took a long steep climb beyond Fachwen; a guy walking was almost as fast as us (we were stopping to take photos though) and we joked about his Terminator like speed walk. Turned out he went into a house up the hill, so he must walk up here daily perhaps.
On the side of 'Electric Mountain', Eledir is an old slate mine which now has some heritage trail paths around it. They are footpaths, but it was quiet so we enjoyed cycling the area and amazingly didn't pick up any punctures. Phew. It was a fun descent with interesting terrain under our tyres and one of those headwinds that full on stops you despite going down hill!
The afternoon was a bit wetter so we visited the free visitor centre at Electric Mountain which is worth a look at to read about the history of the hydro electric station. Next time I fancy doing the full tour.

The next day was Stephen's 50th and since the winds were a bit lighter, we decided to climb Snowdon. We took the sherpa bus to Pen y Pas and then walked and scrambled on the Miner's Track. I was glad that the thick clouds meant you couldn't see down, my last view of the lakes beneath us made me feel very mortal on the narrow rocky path. I was also glad to be ascending this way- I think I'd have cried all the way down if I had to descend this track. There was an immense number of people up here to say it was a poor weather mid-week day out of school holidays.
It was incredibly blustery at the top. I loved that the cafe had a great mix of walkers and train riders to the summit. You could tell those who had climbed from those who had walked off the rack & pin train in their finest pristine walking gear.

There was an abandoned dog in the cafe who was trying to beg food off just about anyone. Stephen wouldn't let me take it with us.
The long descent down the Llanberis path made me pine for my bike as it slowly worked its way to the village. It just kept on going and going. I was glad we hadn't climbed this way up. By the bottom, both our legs were feeling it and we had a brew in a cafe who thankfully let us in before they closed for the day.


Our last day in Wales was a bit easier. We visited Portmeirion, the private village where they filmed The Prisoner. It was certainly an interesting little place. We cycled from the car the last mile down the lane and had a nice time pottering about, slowly because our legs were both super stiff from the day before. I enjoyed the gelato that they sell and Stephen enjoyed nosing around the shops there.

We wandered onto the beech and weren't chased by any giant balloons, so we managed to get home and our only issue escaping was the horrendous motorway traffic that meant a 6 hour drive home!!

So 5 months pregnant and still cycling and walking the hills with no problems. The only issue at the moment is agreeing on any names.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Half Commutes & short leisure rides

Last week was epic. It already feels a distant memory.

This week has been made of half commutes and short rides for the South Pennine Walk & Ride Festival.


 What are half commutes? Well every day this week Stephen has been out of the office in the morning, but in the office for afternoons. Simply I cycled in to work in the morning and chucked my bike in Stephen's car for the return. Yes I felt a massive cycling cheat, but when your commute is 15 miles each way it really saves some time at the end of the day & means you get your tea time at a sensible hour.

The weekend consisted of four short festival rides.

Another sunset ride saw the sun appear just in time for the ride. It was only four miles, but it's an enjoyable little route up to The Halo at Haslingden.



 


Saturday's family ride was beautifully sunny and yesterday was the two loops around Tockholes (which counts as two rides... I suppose the ride home actually makes it three for the day).


I'm planning my next ride for tomorrow, but am unable to get it under 50 miles. I'm trying to take things a bit easier since last week I was plagued by incredible sleepiness. The main issue with pregnancy cycling & my dream rides is keeping them realistic and trying to not take too much out of my body. I'm fighting off ideas for bike-packing trips before the end of summer, but it is tough, there's just so many lovely places to visit around here and I dont think riding through any frost this winter would be terribly sensible.
 My cycling daydreams will have to be confined to bicycle accessorising ie recovering my saddles to make them asthetically awesome for each bike and sewing up some nice saddle bags. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

200 miles in one week, second trimester

Long before I discovered I was pregnant, or even got in that state, I put my name down to lead around 9 rides for the South Pennine Walk & Ride Festival. Over the last few months I'd been wondering whether I'd be able to carry out the rides, now the festival is here, I have my answer! From the post-title, I'm sure you can guess it's a 'yes'.

The week began with an easyish RSF club ride that was due to have just one significant climb over Weets Hill and the rest around Nappa Flats returning by canal.  I was on my newly aquired second hand mtb - suspension for off-roading when pregnant is pretty sensible to avoid pain in appendages that don't usually bounce on my athletic frame.

The day was stunning, although the ride was marred by events out of our control that meant we were out for 11 hours solid and had to do some route backtracking and replotting. Thankfully it was dry and a lovely day to be out. The report from the day is on the clubs website.


Despite a whole day out, on Monday I'd decided that since I couldn't make Wednesday's club ride of the Trough, I'd do my own. Stephen had a meeting in Lancaster in the morning, so he gave me a lift up the M6 and my plan was to ride home through The Trough (a first time for me), over Waddington Fell & the Nic O Pendle.


Along the route I met up with four other guys from the club who shared the bulk of the ride with me and Ian rode the whole way to visit the Carradice Factory. He'd pedalled up from Southport to meet me at the start.



I was on my new vintage French steed testing it's hill climbing skills. I'd picked it up the other week and only done a couple of commutes. Ian and Steve were also on old vintage steel cycles.
It's an interesting little bike - google Claude Pottie` and you'll see that not much info exists.  The triple and lighter weight makes it much better on the hills than my 60s mixte and my only issues on the day were the fact I'd not done many hilly miles in one go recently for months. I pedalled up all the hills, and only needed to stop on the Nic for a few mouth fulls of malt-loaf, although the climb out of Sabden felt tougher than usual.
 


Still, I was very pleased that at 15 & 1/2 weeks pregnant, I'd done the 36 miles and over 5000ft of climbing that Memory Map tells me the route is. And had a lovely day in fantastic company.





Tuesday, Weds and Thursday were rides to my mum's and work, so no pictures of anything of much interest there.
On Friday we had a meeting in Chorley and it was Stephen who had brought up the option of cycling there. Not me! So a 15 mile ride to the office followed by a 22 mile blast from Rossendale to Chorley along some lovely lanes, but against the clock, so no dawdling and sadly no pictures. The sun was shining, but the headwind kept us cool. We met up with Geoff from the club and his good lady for a pub tea and our plans to ride all the way back were thwarted when Stephen had one too many pints to brave a journey that long. Instead we cycled to the train at Bamber Bridge, had a heart attack at the one way fare back home (£19.40!!!) and then enjoyed the uphill back to the house over the hill.

Saturday morning arrived with some leg ache, but the Walk & Ride Festival was here. The rain was torrential as we donned our wet weather gear and hats to meet Brian for the family ride from the park. Luckily the rain turned into a drizzle for the rest of the day.
Sandwiched between the family ride and the evening ride, I had a 2nd birthday party to pop into, so there was much rushing around, pressie buying and lugging up to and from Loveclough.

I had hoped nobody would turn up for the sunset ride and I did have two cancellations from people that had 'chickened out' - possibly due to the weather or perhaps night riding for newcomers to cycling is a bit daunting. But we were greeted by the warm smiles of Ian as we rounded the corner.

As we set off the clouds were still dominating the sky. We enjoyed exploring the tracks above Clowbridge Reservoir and at this time of night we had the place almost to ourselves.
By the time we were reaching the Singing Ringing Tree, the clouds were dissipating and a warm golden hue was forming across the hills.








As we turned to leave The SRTree, a blast of sunshine emerged from the cloud over Hameldon and we were gifted with a pretty amazing sunset.

From here it was mostly downhill and as we neared the reservoir, the skies lit up bright deep pink, illuminating the dark waters.


I was very glad to have enjoyed this little 5 mile loop and had a beaming smile all the way home.










So second trimester cycling is going really well. Better than the first, although that was hot weather, body overheating and then adding to that any cycling made it far too hot to be comfortable.

I have some handlebar adjusting to do soon - I think the forward leaning position on the mtb combined with pedalling motion pushing against my tummy really helped create some discomfort.
But I've had plenty of energy to keep going and the 'blooming glow' everyone keeps saying I have is far more to do with getting the sunshine on my skin than anything else I think.

I'm surprised that I'm managing to continue to keep up the miles without any problems and without really piling away any more food than I'd usually be eating.

Now all I need is a big Bump On Board sticker / flag to attach to my bike!


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Where have I been?

Apologies for the massive lack of posts recently. I have been getting out and about & have some wonderful rides to share with you.
The last few months have consisted of buying a house, getting married, starting a new post at work (well it's only a secondment but its very different) and now I'm 12 weeks pregnant, so it's been rather a lot of change in a very short time. Hence the blog has been somewhat overlooked.
So to whet your appetite, I'll be updating in the next few weeks with with:
the last post of the wedding trip
my first wild camp (solo)
Calder Aire Link
A mammoth few commutes for work meetings
A trip to Howarth
A couple of very enjoyable RSF rides


Sunday, 18 May 2014

Llangurig to Breacon

The sun was in full force for the next few days of riding. We set off from Llangurig heading southwards following the course of the River Wye as it traversed many smaller valleys. This made for stunning cycling with the view changing completely every few miles. Although we were following the river, the roads rose and fell along the sides of the valleys which was a challenging start after the previous day's massive climbs. But with a crystal clear blue sky & an early start we were both relishing the rollercoaster roads.

At Rhayader we joined the traffic free old railway route that took us into the always beautiful Elan Valley. It's easy to understand why so many cyclists mention this area as their favourite part of Wales.
Due to the long distance of this day's riding, sadly we didn't follow the River Elan upstream to the reservoir, instead continuing along the Wye.

A Sustrans sign warned us of muddiness and treachery ahead as we reached Ty'n-y-fon Wood. It advised that we could follow the A-road instead, but the track leading up looked fine for anyone in the RSF, so we merrily continued up the rough stones enjoying the view from this elevated position where we could see the A-road below, surely it didn't have quite such resplendent views.

The track became more challenging as we continued. It seems that this route is being 'sanitised' and two workmen, a digger & a huge heap of stones had been laying the foundation of a more modern surface. As the work is in early stages, the small stones made for very slow progress - a bit like pedalling through treacle. Every stroke of the pedal being some real effort your pushing through the cranks. And with the heat of the mid-day sun, we were eagerly anticipating the lunch stop at Newbridge-on-wye. Back on tarmac, we flew knowing the little town wasn't far ahead.
However when we arrived, there wasn't much choice and all we could find was a small snack to tie us over. It did give our legs that boost to push on to Builth Wells. It felt like forever snaking around the hills without much sign of civilisation anywhere, but then all of a sudden we were heading into a town and a view which seemed identical to a homely view of Pendle Hill & the River Ribble!
A quick circuit of the town to decide where to eat and we settled on CC's, which was perfect! Lovely salad & quiche and a cake and the couple (I think they were a couple) who ran it were so struck with out cycle tour, we got free brews out of it. A sandwich bar I highly recommend if you're ever in the town!!

We continued the course of the Wye on the opposite side of the river from the A-road. This section was fast going - that wonderful feeling on a tour when you really feel you're actually making headway. We hit the main road, but there's a shared use footway, we carried on a bit further than the signed route for a garden centre brew & cake stop before the last pull of the day. We took a quiet lane where a very small elderly lady was sitting on her garden wall with her slippers on, smiling. We stopped to say 'hello' and she was so delightful- still full of wonder at the world and where she lived, clearly loving watching cyclists go past her house. She praised how well we'd climbed the lane, but warned us that there was much worse to come!

As we climbed, we saw a radio mast on a hilltop. Well that climb wasn't so bad after all. We turned a corner at Talgarth and it kept climbing, ok it was steeper, but we could make it. Two ladies in a car descending the hill gave us a big Thumbs Up as we reached a junction. A good feeling. Then we turned another corner and wow, yep, there was the hill. And it was a Good Un!! I slowly chugged up the hill that stretched out ahead. Stephen decided to be sensible and get off rather than strain his old-man-football-worn knee that had begun to bother him. I was happy to still be pedalling my fully loaded steed as a mamil passed me on his descent of he hill on some feather light make believe bike ;-) (and happily for Stephen, for that last stretch, he had decided to get back on).
It was one of the harder climbs of the tour, but probably my favourite. The lengthening shadows & warm evening breeze were lovely.

There was a good chunk of downhill from here as we approached the town of Breacon. Again it felt miles from civilisation, but then we started to pass houses and people out walking & running. But the cycle route seemed to take an excessive detour to reach the town. We popped into the supermarket for provisions for the night at the YHA. We still had a few miles left to cover as we followed the canal out of town in golden light.


The area was charming, but we had a good hour left on the road. I was very sorry that the setting sun meant we pressed on quickly here and took the main road as much as we could rather than follow all the little roads of the Taff Trail.
The route took us right up to the hostel and we arrived in semi-darkness, with clear starry skies. The hostel duty manager was very excited to hear about our trip and she had just got married a few weeks earlier. We grabbed some supper and chatted in the lounge for a while before turning in.
We did discover that YHA Danywellant does NOT have self-catering facilities. I didn't even know there were any hostels that don't provide a kitchen for guests to use! I will remember to make a note of that for the future; it would have been very useful to have known before carting tins of beans & a box of eggs all that way. And only discovering that fact after the reception had closed so we had not ordered breakfast for the next morning...