Taken from a Ride

New Year, more Winter Sunday 20th January 2013

Not many of us would have gone out on two wheels today but Peter Witting did & here's the report he posted on Facebook:-

After days of sub-zero temperatures and snow, with more to come, only treated roads were usable today; so Shane & I had decided to meet at Rugby for coffee. The snow restarted shortly after I set off to Lutterworth, but the roads were clear of lying snow. At the Whittle jet island I checked the traffic on the main road, and chose the direct route to Rugby. Only the road outside the Rupert Brooke required me to walk through the snow. I was drinking a warming coffee shortly after 10.30, being joined by Shane by 11am. No one else had ventured to join us, the beer was the usual JDW boring bitter, so we decided to seek lunch elsewhere. Shane was on his ATB, and my tourer sped away downhill past the rail station. Climbing up the next hill I could not see Shane, so pushed on ...back to Lutterworth, as Shane was aiming for Wood Farm Brewery. The cold headwind and steady snow turned my mind to thoughts of lunch – The Chandlers Arms at Shearsby! The back road had not been cleared, so I made my way via the main road. Once I spotted the Sarah Hughes Ruby Mild on draught, I knew I would stop to eat. When I eventually set off for home the snow was settling on the previously clear roads, but traffic was still very light. I was buzzed by a Buzzard which swept over me out of the falling snow, taking a sideways look before making off over the hedges. I arrived home after an interesting and challenging 40 miles.

A Taste of Winter Thursday 6th December 2012

Thursday 6th December. Awoke to see a thick white frost covering outside and a temperature several degrees below freezing. Obviously a tricycle morning and my winter machine had been prepared the previous day for just these conditions. Should I try the Trice? Perhaps not, it would be rather hard work and could be a problem with motor traffic on icy roads. The roads certainly were icy, but that's all as I rode through Rushton and up to Pipewell. I even managed to stop for several vehicles at the Desborough road junction. Beyond Pipewell there was quite a change, I was now riding on hard-packed snow and this continued all the way to Middleton. The overnight weather had evidently been more severe "up north".

All but two of the bicycles at the clubroom were secured on cars and there was a lack of urgency about leaving the roaring fire and venturing into the chill outside. Mark Tipping made the first move and set off for Leicester and home. Peter Witting had only to return to his parked car at the Raven and rode off next. I stayed snug until noon and then plodded up Cottingham Hill and headed down the valley to Rockingham. There was some thick ice on Brick Hill so I followed the usual action on an open hill by just letting the trike go. With a back wind this seemed recklessly fast and certainly very cold. The road up Rockingham Hill was clear but quite a struggle on a relatively high gear. I was reminded of why it's being a main road is not the only reason for avoiding this hill. The biting wind blowing down it didn't help either.

It was warm and cosy in The Raven but we couldn't stay there all day. I took a direct route home through the centre of Corby and also into the strengthening wind. I was reminded of when I used to cycle home from work on the Earlstrees Estate and of the occasion one wintry night when I was knocked off my trike at the Cottingham Road roundabout. Safely negotiated this time but the Oakley Hay roundabout was less forgiving. The ride round this wide open circuit was hampered by a sudden flat tyre on my drive wheel. I managed to exit into the Rushton road before the outer cover started to come off the rim, allowing the inner tube to wrap itself round the rear axle. Changing the tube was no fun, on a patch of mud exposed to the wind and with heavy tipper lorries roaring by on their way to the Rushton recycling tip. When I eventually managed to pump the tyre up, with my not very efficient pump, I was puzzled and non-too pleased to find that part way round it was rock hard and bulging whilst the rest of the tyre was quite soft. This is a phenomenon I've not experienced before.

There is a very severe camber on most of this road and riding with a lumpy sideways motion was a slow and unpleasant business. Also just after I began to ride again there was a huge explosion as I approached a Range Rover parked alongside the road. There was no corresponding violent lurch towards the verge so no tyre blow out for me. The cause was the farmer from the car blasting rockets into the woods. Perhaps someone can explain this strange behaviour? He didn't look like a terrorist. I arrived home later than expected, frozen, with a face like old parchment, streaming eyes and a blister on my left thumb. I don't really enjoy this sort of thing any more I decided but I expect I shall do it again.


Springtime in Rutland Sunday 10th April 2011

A lovely Spring day was in prospect but it was still cool when four of us left Rothwell rather later than planned so it meant a direct route through Pipewell and East Carlton. A real treat awaited us as we crossed the Welland north of Cottingham. The rough road surface of Northants gave way to smooth machine-laid asphalt up the climb to and through Bringhurst. Leicestershire County Council contractors have been working on this stretch for several weeks “haunching” the verges and finally resurfacing the road so now we can enjoy the result.

It was warming up nicely now as we climbed from Great Easton and then plummeted down to the Eyebrook reservoir, looking really inviting in the sunshine. Bird watchers were scarce this morning so we guessed that the rare birds that are often an attraction here must have “flown”. Joining the B664 briefly we shared the road with motor-cyclists who just love this winding and undulating route. At the junction with the Horninghold road there was a prominent sign indicating left for 100 miles or right for 100 kms. We had merged with the route of a sportive. Although their 100 mile ride passed Sweethedges only two other cyclists appeared at the tea room where we joined the rest of our group for (half-past) elevenses.

Ruth left us to make her own way to Harborough and home but we now numbered five for the climb up King’s Hill to Uppingham. Not an easy climb for those of us who pedal, it was no obstacle for the constant stream of motor cyclists passing on their powerful machines. The view from the top of the hill is always spectacular and today was no exception. The fresh green of new foliage on the trees and the hedges, with occasional bursts of blossom was really something. Even the fields of rape were showing more than a hint of yellow.

The one-way diversion in Uppingham caused some confusion. Richard, intending to leave us here, had made for the bookshop, accompanied by Peter. Three ladies appeared from behind us, participants in the sportive, with no idea of where they should go next. There were no signs at the junction and, rather unbelievably, they had no maps or route sheets. The answer to this problem was, no surprise really, the mobile phone. We made sure they established which villages they were to pass through next and were able to direct them to Ayston and Preston. The sportive organisers appeared to have overlooked the fact that B664 doesn’t pass straight through Uppingham from the south. Meanwhile we had lost Peter who, it later transpired, was riding furiously away trying to catch those of us who were actually behind him.

Crossing the A47 we plunged rapidly down into the valley and then up into Wing passing the hall campsite, which now offers a Veranda Cafe Bar (Phone No. 01572 737090, one to be sampled for the refreshment map). The direct road to Lyndon was closed at the rail bridge and we were assured by a local villager that this even included pedestrians so we had to divert through Pilton to reach our destination, where Peter awaited us. Lyndon is a quiet little village, off the beaten track, with a bench seat remembered from previous rides but now in a state of some decay. The grass was dry enough for us to sit with our sandwiches and even the church offers picnic space here. The ride home took us through Morcott, under the Welland Viaduct to Caldecott and into East Carlton country park for a mug of tea. On such a glorious day the park was packed with trippers from Corby, who really do make good use of this excellent local amenity. For us, a real Springtime treat; not many miles but plenty of quality.

An April day for fools? Sunday 3rd April 2011

The forecast for today was showers, appearing in the afternoon. We could be forgiven for being optimistic as we made our way, in glorious sunshine, in little groups to meet up at Aldwincle for elevenses. I followed a too familiar route eastward to Slipton but here turned north on the less often used lane to Sudborough. A couple with a dog, their backs to me and strolling along in the middle of the road, moved over when I said “Good Morning”. “At least you made a noise,” the woman said as I rode past, to which I replied, “yes, having a quiet machine, we need to,” but I knew exactly what she meant. Sudborough looked lovely in the sunshine as I descended from the hill into the village but it was full of parked vehicles when I arrived, dispelling the pastoral image completely.

There was a large group of us already sat outside at Peartree Farm when I arrived but only two of us decided to continue to the destination, Hamerton Wildlife Park. Heavy shower clouds were already rolling up as Pete and I rode, wind assisted, through Wadenhoe, passing the round dovecot on the Pilton road, and over the Nene to Lilford. We both recalled a time when the park was a tourist attraction, with exotic animals and a fine collection of birds of prey. The last of our short series of Harvest Rides camping weekends was held here in September 1990 but the park had already been closed to the general public, the collection having been sold off. The hall itself was already in a state of poor repair at that time but someone still looks after the park itself.

Two dead badgers on the Clopton to Thurning road showed how vulnerable these animals are with fast moving traffic everywhere. Although the wildlife park at Hamerton does have a very basic tea room, visitors are encouraged to bring their own picnic meals and we ate our pack-up inside before being entertained by bouncing wallabys, scuttling marmosets, swinging gibbons and equally athletic lemurs. The cheetahs didn’t even bother to get up and the Bengal tigers treated us with some disdain, as did the Bactrian camels, but the park is well worth the cost of a pensioner’s ticket. Somehow we missed the meerkats, for which the zoo is especially famed. This is part of red kite country and we watched as one wheeled around overhead before descending suddenly and reappearing with a tiny chicken in its talons. One of the zoo's residents was unlucky this time.

Dark clouds were building up in the west as we headed home through the Giddings and we were high on an exposed ridge when the first of several heavy showers struck us. The road was soon awash as we splashed back through Thurning and Clopton, easing as we continued into Titchmarsh and Thrapston but it continued to rain intermittently all the way back to Warkton. Here we parted company as the rain became torrential for my ride across the north of Kettering. Arriving home thoroughly drenched I paused only to make a mug of hot Bovril before stripping off and under a refreshing shower. 56 miles equalled my personal longest ride of the year so far.

Daffs and lambs in Leicestershire Sunday 27th March 2011

It was unlikely that the shenanigans of last Sunday would be repeated when we set out from Rothwell on this quite chilly morning. We welcomed Charlie, a new member from Rushden and David, who had ridden up from Northampton, for the day. In Rushton, to confuse names, we encountered Colin just as Robert emerged from the main street to join us. The daffodils alongside the wall of Pipewell Hall were brightening things up but a lingering mist hindered our appreciation of the views from the hills between Wilbarston and Ashley. We met several small groups of riders before turning through Medbourne village, more daffodils but sadly no water in the ford, and headed up to Hallaton for elevenses. Here, aside from other members of our group, there were lots of other cyclists so we guessed there must be some kind of reliability ride or sportive in progress. Before we left these were replaced by a large group of motor-cyclists confirming that two-wheelers were taking over the roads for the day.

This later proved just a bit of optimism when we passed by Foxton Locks and saw the car parks full and people enjoying a walk on the towpath. By then we were on our way home having first ridden across through Tur Langton, where the old Black Bull pub looks more dilapidated than ever, and the Kibworths to Smeeton Westerby for our last scheduled pub lunch of the season. April will see the start of picnic lunches and, hopefully, the warmer weather to suit.

The meadows were full of ewes and young lambs as we climbed up to Gumley then plunged down to the canal and locks. As we rode through Lubenham we wondered if it might be possible to cycle along the old railway bed into Harborough, but chose not to try. The long climb from the Welland Valley up through East Farndon brought us onto the Jurassic and then the Midshires Way back into Rothwell. Charlie told us he had enjoyed his first ride and would join us again when family commitments allowed. We look forward to his company quite soon. David had another 15 miles or so to ride back to Northampton.

An enjoyable ride in Spring-like conditions but fairly uneventful this week.

A Bull and cock-up story Sunday 20th March 2011

Today’s arrangement was for most of us to meet up for elevenses at South Kilworth Rugby Club and to then ride further west for lunch. Richard T joined me for the start from Rothwell and we headed off directly through Harrington and Kelmarsh. As we approached the Naseby turn before Sibbertoft a long distant flash of bright colours, like a huge multi-hued caterpillar, passed in front of us. When we arrived at the junction a Cycle Race warning sign and a group of marshalls solved the puzzle for us. We had wandered into the middle of a cycle road race. In Sibbertoft village we paused for a chat with Mick A, marshalling for the Welland Valley CC, resulting in our arriving a little late at the golf club where the others were waiting. A corner cutting detour through North Kilworth village rewarded us with roadside groups of Spring flowers, unseen from the main road.

There being no set lunch place today just three of us decided to make for Catthorpe. Occasional glimpses of the sun made for a pleasant ride through to Swinford on the old main road to Rugby, now just a quiet lane, its origins marked by the quaint old signpost at the Stanford turn. We chose to ignore the short route through the nasty A14-M6 junction and continued through the pretty village of Shawell, where little small-holdings nestle alongside a stream that divides the village in two.

At Catthorpe Farm Cafe we decided to go the whole hog, in a manner of speaking, and ordered not only the roast pork lunch but also the soup and a dessert. A discussion on matters political and general kept us entertained until we remounted, first having a peep at the new lambs, and made for home. It was lovely to see the lambs in meadows along the road too, together with bunches of daffodils on the verges presaging the arrival of Spring. The descent from Catthorpe offered us views of a lovely pocket of countryside spoiled only by the noise of traffic on the M1 close by, a reminder that we are living in the 21st century.

Turning eastward from Lilbourne we now had the wind at our backs and we were soon entering Yelvertoft. Turning towards Elkington we were overtaken by a motor-cyclist who roared off up the hill but suddenly paused for no obvious reason. When we topped the first rise we discovered why when we were confronted by a black bullock standing solidly in the road, an unusual sight even for Yelvertoft. I passed it first and it gave me a baleful look, not moving an inch and Richard followed. When it came to Peter’s turn the animal lowered its head and charged at him, knocking him off his machine onto the verge. Fortunately it had no horns, or the incident could have been more serious, but Peter was shaken up and rather bruised. Regrettably neither we nor the bullock were quick enough to secure a photographic record. A little further up the road we met a farmer who assured us that the animal, now somewhere down in the village probably causing more havoc, was not his but had run straight through his farm and even over a cattle grid to reach the road.

The rest of the ride through Welford, Naseby, Hazelbech and Kelmarsh again was uneventful and we parted at Rothwell with 50 or 60 miles of quiet country lanes covered on a not entirely typical Sunday.

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