Sunday, 24 March 2013

Winter is hanging on tight

This time last year we had a heatwave, in fact March was our summer.  But I think this year I'm hardier than I have been before. The cold conditions have not kept me off my bike or away from the hills. I must be living up to the tradition of the Rough Stuff Fellowship ahead of my appointment as Lancs Area Secretary - which I think means I can't chicken out on rides when the weather is bobbins.

Blacko Tower from Clarion House

For those people at work who said that I have a 'healthy glow' this week - it's just wind-burn from cycling & walking in minus conditions with wind speeds in the 30s and gusts in the 40s.

Two Rough Stuff rides, two hill walks and some grotty commutes have kept me in check this week. I have been toying with the idea of aiming for some Audax achievements this year, so I'm getting myself in gear.

Last week I took a day off to play in the hills over Rossendale & Bury, discovering bridleways I didn't know about before. From up so high you can see the weather coming in to get you! We got lucky only had a short bust of snow.

Spring had threatened to spring early this week...

But that all changed... 

Newchurch in Pendle
 It does make for lovely scenery though.
Pendle Hill

Descent to Downham
Whalley Nab, Waddington Fell & Clitheroe Castle

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


Llangollen, Denbighshire was the destination of the second weekend trip for 2013.  After the success of the Lakes, the weekend had a lot to live up to. 

Friday morning, laughing about being off work, we set off and had our lunch break in Chester. I've never been there before and had heard much of it's charming Roman walls. We walked along the walls to the River Dee (the river we would be stopping next to all weekend) to the castle.

We lunched at The Falcon. I was happy to discover it was a Sam Smith's owned brewery - 6 different Sam Smith's brews on tap. I will need to go back when I'm not driving!

We set off again destined for the tallest single drop waterfall in England and Wales, Pistyl Rhaeadr Falls. The road twisted and turned until we reached the end of the valley, stopped by the waterfall. The place was deserted, even the tea shop was closed.

The climb to the top had lovely views, not to mention patches of ice and icicles on the waterfall.  You can stand right on the top of the falls, in summer I suspect this would be an amazing picnic spot.

Saturday morning we woke bright and early to a beautiful sunrise, eager to get some peddling miles in. 
River Dee

I have wanted to visit the famous Telford Pontcysyllte Aqueduct since the first time I saw it on tv, so I peddled along the Llangollen Canal (Route 84) smiling into the sunshine. 

Stephen was much braver than me - he cycled most of the way across, where it took me until almost at the end to brave putting any pressure on my pedals. It was giddying!

We cycled down to Chirk, around the castle, then back on ourselves to a lovely lunch in a Victorian style tea room. We were seriously under-dressed for the place - I wonder if that's why the waitress kept giggling at us (not convinced my jokes are that good).  We admired the vintage Raleigh bikes before we set off for the long climb ahead.

We climbed up afew miles, to be rewarded by a view of the aqueduct we had just left, the viaduct and road bridge in the distance...
count the bridges... view from Garth
...we thought it was the top of the hill.... it wasnt ...

but when we rounded the corner at the top, the view that enfolded was better than we could have imagined.

I looked at the time, 3.30pm - I knew this would be a worthy sunset spot, so we spent two hours off-roading at the very tops over Trevor Rocks, watching our shadows lengthen.


We watched the clouds come in... and thankfully some colours develop as the evening chill moved in. 

We had the road to ourselves by this point, so enjoyed a carfree/carefree freewheel down to the bottom of the valley on the twisty road. A perfect end to a day in the saddle. 

On sunday, we enjoyed a walk to Horseshoe Falls and then a wander round the town, enjoying plenty of the tastes on offer and picking up a Llangollen patch to sew onto the pannier. An ideal place to explore over a long weekend. 

RSF Tandem Guild Wheel Run

The tandem has had it's first proper Rough Stuff Fellowship ride. It has been christened (though still doesnt have a name yet).
Our RSF winter rides tend to be more in the Western areas of Lancashire (where it's a bit flatter) to avoid any adverse Pennine Winter Weather that might make a winter ride need to be cut short.  Although west Lancs winter rides can be very muddy, which can feel a lot like hill climbing... not on the Guild Wheel! The 21 mile route is well surfaced and signposted, so anyone can enjoy the route. 
Stephen & I have done the GW a couple of times already, so to make things more interesting we cycled to and from the meet, making a 45 mile round trip.

The lunch stop near Catforth

cyclists infront & more behind
For a cool, grey Northern day we had a great turn out and there were smiles for the whole ride.  Finally someone from my work took us up on the invitation to join a ride and I'm pleased to say that she was still smiling by the end. Phew.
Brian's pic of us all
One rider had come all the way from Derbyshire for the day! 

Other riders had cycled from Chorley and Southport. Cycle routes to the Guild Wheel are great from all directions (Sustrans mapping shows the National Cycle Network routes)
Brian's pic of S, me near the Docks

Brian's pic of W Lancs lanes

we said our goodbyes

After a leisurely few hours, we took the tandem back to the hills.  Last time we tried an off-road route home, which was not rideable on the tandem, so we tried a new route (to us) following part of the Lancashire Cycleway and were rewarded with some beautiful evening sunshine.
Lancashire Cycleway
It's slightly uphill
sunset looking towards Ribble Valley