Good Thursday.

19°C, milky sin, warm dry with medium E breeze.
Gravel Roads: this route never strayed far from home but was a decent outing. These gravel roads may need tougher tyres, winter CX tyres are fine on wet grass but some of the stones are sharp.

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Whizz, two dead-ends

16°C, moderare E breeze, sunny and dry.

Tried some new routes towards Leyland. I made some mistakes and had to backtrack several times. The default Google map didn’t offer info on rights of way. That’s my excuse and I paid the price by riding on gravel tracks on 23c road tyres in the hope of picking up a decent ride soon. Quite a few of those rough track surfaces were bolstered by building Ribble. They were reasonably level bit glinting ceramic shards were visible. I feared a puncture.

Nevermind, it was one.ofnthose comfortable days where riding at speed was easy. Very enjoyable.

Perhaps tomorrow I should take the cross bike out.

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Fylde Coastal path.

6°C, E wind, sunny and dry.
Cold with a piercing E wind. The ground is hard now so a bike with some suspension would help. There are sections where the ridges in the dyke forced me to get off and walk. It’s gorgeous here with a feeling of vast space.

After this section, I headed along the Southport sea wall to the green machines. There are only 4 that I use. Anchor points are visible in the concrete ground, at least 4 have been removed over the years. I can’t imagine them being replaced even with a local coastal funding package from the lottery fund.

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DofE 4: Cannock Chase

4.1: intro and tuition, walking with the group all day and setting up camp with them. They were fit and able, my group of all lads.

The route was on familiar ground, both from previous DofE trips, visits from my old house. I even camped at the Scout camp when I was a little lad in the 70s. There were some recurrent problems with the group who had a tendency to split through differing pace. At camp, there were many problems with kit to solve. All of that meant I didn’t get my own cooking started until 20.30.

4.2: Day Two, all groups would walk by themselves with instructors doing remote supervision. My group sorted themselves out and started working as a unified whole. They met checkpoints at expected times and completed the day. After debrief, I was convinced that they’d sorted themselves out.

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Headwind out, rain return.

7°C, strong E,

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DofE 3: Bristol.

12°C, not a cloud all day, nor wind.

Gloucester Services: the only one worth 5 star rating. Teybay comes a close second but none is good enough to come third.

3.1; the camp was a chilly start in its wooded NW facing slope. Instructors met up at 8.30 and we headed over to the start in Nailsea where the kids arrived in cars. I chose groups 3 & 4 at random. The choice set the tone for the rest of the day.

Both were lively groups fortunately free from difficulty. In fact, they were really good fun. One was teaching me french which I will need for my summer expedition. The girls group made a big effort to get me to learn their names. All have been charming all day, even after I told them off for some unnecessary navigation errors. They had a tendency to natter and not to notice navigation clues. Like a scratched record, I emphasised the need for 2 or more clues for each decision. They still made some glaring errors.

It’s funny to think that I cycled down these valleys in the 90s hundreds of times, training and racing. Funny because of the places here I knew nothing about. The medieval hill fort was the best bit with its view out to sea.

3.2: remote supervision. We set checkpoints and the group’s plotted their routes after breakfast. The only real problem was early morning fog that was very dense. One of my groups soon made an error and headed north instead of East. They fixed it without intervention though. Both groups did well and finished on-time. There was a necessary discussion about splitting a group which probably happened in the confusion of many teams arriving at bottleneck checkpoints.

Finally, both groups were delightful, they were bright, optimistic and tremendous fun to spend time with. I felt priveliged to have their company for a couple of days.

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Ewe turned turtle.

10°C, brisk NW, bright sun.
Rode the RSPB route in vright sunshine. That SSW leg takes you through a field of sheep. They were all ewes, many with lambs, tiny lambs.

Then I saw one motionless, on her side. I stopped and she wriggled. She couldn’t get up. Her huge pregnant belly stopped her righting herself. Ewes can easily die like that so I got off. I walked round to her back on the downhill side right her. Now she really wriggled and kicked obviously getting distressed. Quickly with two handfuls of willy fur I turned her over and she got her feet. After only a short trot, she turned and looked back. Perhaps she thought she was a gonna.

Soon, a farmer came on a quad bike. He was grateful when I explained what happened. I did the right thing.

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DofE 2; Cotswolds.

10°C, after a chilly start.

2.1; met my group in the afternoon and took them out for an hour’s walk before dark. They’re quick and have retained a good set of skills. Bronze doesn’t require much from compass skills so this may be a focus. They seem very fit and confident.

2.2: a longish day of 11 miles. The route is fairly simple, punctuated by some fiddly navigation through villages. My group were superb. Their pace was good and navigation errors were few and small. All that despite one nursing injured knees.

2.2: Another slightly long day. R was still struggling with sore knees. She agreed to try a few things that may help. Their school was inclined to pull her out, erring on the side of caution. I decided to try a few tricks. I lent her walking poles and also gave her the job of navigating the tricky forest section. Pain control is more than popping a pill.

From a distance, her gait was natural and in closer, she looked okay. People in serious pain speak with a knot in their voice; she didn’t. Her expression was also neutral so I decided to encourage R to continue. She finished the day.

The whole group finished the day comfortably and in good spirit. Debrief was nice, a chance to heap praise on them all for their efforts. They were so confident and optimistic, a real pleasure to work with.

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Bannister climb

9°C, some sun, light S wind
This is turning into an regular route for me. Bannister Lane is a benchmark for my fitness. This year, I have only been up on 8 speed bikes, previously I rode up on the fixed gear.

I took no photos so here is some frogspawn in my pond. The frogs left last week but here is some promise for the spring. I say ‘left’ but there are plenty of herons round here.

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Hills and strong wind.

8°C, strong NW with a few showers. mostly sunny.

Round the back of Dalton are some decent climbs and sweeping descents towards Parbold. The Mustang is good on hills despite being heavy. The weight is not noticeable unless you ride with somebody else on a lighter machine.

That return leg was hard in sections exposed to strong wind. Though the thermometer said 9°, it felt much colder.

The cafe was heaving (and quite noisy). Nevertheless, the service was still excellent. Mmm, espresso!

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