Coming up for air

So it’s been a while since my fingers have felt the need to dance on the keyboard and populate these pages. My apologies. I believe it’s euphemistically called ‘life events’. Normal service now returns though.

While gingerly fording a swollen river of emotional discord, you find out who your friends are. That fine fellow Tim from Life in the Cycle Lane came to my rescue and suggested we pedal from Chesterfield to Glossop and explore some unfamiliar sections of the Trans Pennine Trail.

Undeterred by the six inches of snow clogging the byways of Glossopdale, we caught a train to the town of the crooked spire, picked up the trail and headed across the backbone of England.

As is the norm on these Surly Trollfest adventures, we encountered sublime and ridiculous conditions, struggled in parts but managed to keep one another motivated. Celebratory beers were downed with that glow of achievement, despite not being able to feel my fingers or toes.

The pictures are from the phone camera so apologies for the quality…

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Surly Troll shakedown ride – Pennine Bridleway

The long weekend gave me an opportunity to take my newly-completed Surly Troll our for a shakedown ride.

It seemed appropriate to go for a rattle along the Pennine Bridleway. This runs near to my home and features a variety of terrain. While there’d be plenty of mud and snow following last week’s near blizzard conditions, rock-strewn tracks, filling-rattling cobbles and rotor-deep puddles would be the order of the day.

A shakedown ride it would definitely be… an opportunity to shake off one or two components along the way, too.

The day started along canal towpath but I was soon climbing above Walkerwood Reservoir. My initial plan had been to hit the Woodhead Valley first before heading back to the bridleway for a lumpy route to Greenfield.

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Dove Stones – keeping the festive tradition alive

In recent years the festive season has been marked thus: a ‘stolen day’ on Christmas Day when the other half and I get the chance to spend some time together, juggling various family commitments, making a festive pie and other ‘delights’ from leftovers, riding my bike as much as possible and getting into the hills (all the rest permitting).

The latter usually comprises some grand plan in the Peak or Lakes with an overnight camp. However, the weather and other commitments invariably get in the way and I settle for a trip around Dove Stones reservoir. Every year I grumble to myself that this is second best, every year it seems to offer something new. Continue reading

Cycling back roads

Thorn Audax on the lanes above GreenfieldCycling is a superb tonic. It allows you to pedal away from stress: the rhythm of the cranks and the rumble of tyre on tarmac provide a simple mantra for the mind while the sense of freedom can lighten the heaviest heart.

Motorised traffic can easily nullify this euphoria, though. As a road cyclist, cars, lorries and motorcycles are common currency but I do try to avoid them as much as possible and that’s where the back roads help me maintain that delicious cycling equilibrium.

In the south Pennines, there are back roads aplenty and they have one chief advantage over the minor roads I pedalled when living in Chelmsford, Essex. Continue reading

A Marsden circuit to Black Hill

Distance: 13.7miles. Total Ascent: 2,703ft. Time: 4 1/2-6 hours (or much more if very wet!).

Trotting across the bog can be hazardous, particularly after heavy rainfall. It’s been relatively dry for the south Pennines, so I was a little alarmed to be on the deck, chin and chest on the floor, my right leg having vanished pretty much to the hip in the peat.

This bizarre sinkhole had caught me completely unawares and it took me a good minute or two to extricate my now sodden limb. I almost lost my trail shoe, but with one last squelching heave, my right leg left this boggy socket and I lay on my back, thankful to have avoided injury. Continue reading

Manchester’s moors: planes, police sirens and pylons… but grand all the same

Saturday night should have been another in the bivvy bag. It seems silly to travel to the Lakes every time I wild camp as there are some perfectly good hills on my doorstep.

So, inspired by the idea of a mini-adventure, I stepped out at 5pm with the sun still shining. I walked a familiar route through housing and to open ground. The bruised foothills near my home soon gave way to a lovely secluded valley which led onto the moor. Continue reading

The importance of being early

The alarm clock warbled and I stealthily left the bedroom, trying to avoid disturbing the other half.

My clothes were laid out in the office, camera packed and ready. I carefully closed the front door, avoided slamming the car door and made good my escape.

I was only dropping down to my usual haunt… Dove Stones. The light had been fantastic yesterday and I didn’t want to miss out. I’d hopefully have the hills to myself for a precious couple of hours before the cry of the curlew was drowned out by quarrelling kids. Continue reading