A Breath of Fresh Air

How I'm getting back out into the countryside whilst living with MS

Archive for the category “Tandem rides”

Hibernation

I’ve decided to place my blog into hibernation. I started it as I wanted to share the difference in outlook that our tandem had brought to my life, now that MS is part of it. I hope that I’ve been able to get across how it’s helped me, not only to get outside again, but to actively try to be out in as many different ways as possible. And not just to be outside but to be immersed in the countryside once more, to get muddy and rained on and to smell the grass in sheep-nibbled fields again.

enjoying a summer evening

enjoying a summer evening

I don’t want to become repetitive so I thought I’d take a break. I shall only be taking a break from writing the blog though – definitely not from having adventures! We shall continue to cycle, bumping along uneven paths, to track down more bird-watching haunts and to splash about in the canoe. I might even try something new again if something catches my eye. I know it would be worth my while.

by Hebden Water

by Hebden Water

In the meantime, I’ve loved hearing from other people who have tried out new ways of adventuring, be it by adapted cycle, tramper or horse riding.

a little damp on the Camel Trail!

a little damp on the Camel Trail!

We have a weekend away coming up with EMpowered people which I’m looking forward to. It will be good to mix with others who have similar tales to tell again, and to swap our experiences. There are many more Lakeland tarns to glide across and the wheelchair is getting used to being pushed along unlikely paths.

muddy Pennine paths

muddy Pennine paths

Then there’s the Paralympics coming up soon, and when I start to feel a little bit inadequate in the face of their superhuman efforts, I can remind myself of just what I am achieving. Just as the Olympics inspire people to try something out, the Paralympics remind me that I have adapted my life to get out there and do something – there will be no hibernating for me!

tandem happy amongst the sheep

tandem happy amongst the sheep

On Top of the World

The North York Moors always feel like a slightly forgotten area of the country. It really shouldn’t be! It’s an area of beautiful open moorland where your eye can wander for miles, getting lost in the heather or soaring high with the curlews into wide open skies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

North York Moors

Pete has had a plan for some time to get us back there with the tandem and, now that we had our invaluable bike rack, we had finally made it! There’s an old railway track that cuts high across the moors, above Rosedale and skirting round Farndale. That was our cycle route for the day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

old railway track, above Farndale

We parked close to the Lion Inn at Blakey, which sits high and lonely, looking across Rosedale, a lone building in a sometimes unforgiving landscape (it’s often cut off by snow in winter). We had tried to stay overnight there but were told that it was booked up until September, weekdays and weekends alike! – it’s right on the Coast to Coast footpath and is a popular stop for tired walkers (we can vouch for its charms after a long day’s walk!).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

looking across Farndale

Enjoying memories of aching feet, limbs, hips … everything (!), we set the bike upright, with panniers slightly fuller than usual, and headed off on a new adventure amongst the moors. Since we were travelling a little further than usual (17 miles there and back) and were in a more isolated landscape than usual, we had packed a very small lightweight tent for emergencies – in case Pete had to leave me and go for assistance. I’m pleased to say there were no emergencies!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

sheep on the track

As we cycled along, the odd grouse bustled out of the heather, looked at us in a startled way, then scuttled off across the path and back into the heather. Above us a group of skylarks swooped and twirled in high spirits. There were layers of moors as far as the eye could see; and the cry of a curlew and the distinctive silhouette of lapwings overhead confirmed that we were definitely out in the wilds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

western edge of the North York Moors

Our destination was the Ingleby Incline at the western edge of the North York Moors, where the Moors drop away down to the Cleveland Plain. We stopped at Ingleby Top, where the railway line took a steep drop down to the valley below. The line was used from the 1860s to the 1920s to carry locally mined iron ore to the furnaces of Middlesbrough. As wagons containing the iron ore descended the Incline, they pulled up empty wagons, using a wire cable wound round a large drum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ingleby Top

Now nothing of this huge operation remains, save for a few foundations, hidden by nettles, and, of course, the track which is now a bridleway and open to cyclists to use!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

nettles taking over!

We did meet a few cyclists – including one who had just cycled up the Incline! However, the overwhelming feeling was of having these wonderful moors to ourselves. And it was the tandem that got me there, so far from the built-up world; I could nestle amongst the heather and watch the scraggy sheep with their wool coats hanging half on, half off, who stared back at me in a slightly disinterested way. This is living!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

towards Westerdale

Up, Up on to the Moors!

The weather promised dry and clear, so we simply abandoned the house and all those tedious jobs to escape to the hills. It felt long overdue. Mind you, it wasn’t quite so simple for Pete who had to pedal the heavy tandem up steep paths to get there, even with the help of the electric wheel. Respect!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

steep start over tricky terrain

Our journey up through Crimsworth Dean took us through woods flecked with bluebells, and trees stretching skywards out of the steep valley. We climbed steadily until suddenly we could spy the hills up ahead. They were still above us but gradually the path’s gradient eased a little.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

bluebell haze

As Pete toiled in front of me I took time to appreciate just how lucky I was to be able to be travelling like this through the heart of the woods and beyond. I felt like I was in a modern day sedan chair, gliding along above the path, able to take in the woodland flowers, the smells, the sounds; even more so, now that the crank shaft has been adjusted so that my legs move round minimally.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

looking up towards the hills

Then we were beyond the tree line and out on to open fields, empty except for the odd flock of hardy sheep. I heard a curlew and knew we were out in the wild. Magic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

collecting spring water

We had travelled as lightly as possible – even excluding water – as there was a spring where we could fill our bottle to be able to make some tea using our portable stove (of course that was an essential item!).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

suitably rugged-looking tandem!

We sat sipping our brews and enjoying the views oh, for ages! There was an occasional plaintive cry from a sheep. The curlew circled above, and the sun lit up different parts of the hillside as the clouds came and went.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

enjoying the views

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and in this direction!

Eventually we got back on the tandem and took the now descending, stone-strewn path over what cyclists call a ‘technical’ section. Very hairy, more like! The tyres slipped and slid over the loose stones and we very nearly came a cropper at one point. A bit too exciting!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

escaping sheep!

We stopped at the bottom by Grain’s Bridge to enjoy a last tranquil stop and look back over the route we had travelled. A couple of lambs stared at us from a safe distance but hurried off behind their mother when we (Pete!) made a sudden movement. We had the place to ourselves again. The only sound was the water flowing below as we dangled our feet over the bridge. Contentment!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

at Grain’s Bridge

Camel Riding

start of Camel Tail, Padstow

start of Camel Tail, Padstow

… along the Camel Trail in Cornwall! We have just taken the tandem on its longest journey away from home yet. We were staying in Padstow, which is at the start of the cycle route along the Camel estuary.

low tide in the Camel estuary

low tide in the Camel estuary

We went on a ride from the beginning of the trail along to Wadebridge, following an ever-changing view as the tide gradually ebbed, revealing many levels of wet sand, and rivulets heading out to sea. We sat and watched oystercatchers foraging about in the shallow water, and even saw a little egret – we were very proud of that sighting!

little egret

little egret

The trail was popular, not only with cyclists of all ages, but walkers too, many of whom had their dogs scampering along beside them. And all along the route there were many primroses – more than I’ve ever seen before! I’m used to seeing the odd cluster half hiding under a larger bush, not banks of them splashing the grass bright yellow.

banks of primroses

banks of primroses

close-up!

close-up!

We supped a refreshing cuppa bought from ‘treats on trikes’, a portable bike kiosk by the side of the path. The weather was somewhat cooler than we had hoped that morning and the warming tea was most welcome!

It was five miles to Wadebridge and a good place for me to have a longer reviving stop. Unfortunately, the weather had deteriorated when we got back outside for the return journey.

'treats on trikes'

‘treats on trikes’

At this point, the electric wheel came into its own – Pete pushed the magic button and we whizzed back in double-quick time! The rain splashed sharply on my cheeks as we went along but it’s always a good way of knowing you are definitely outside!

The extra adjustment of the crank shaft was also noticeable, both in reducing the rotation of my legs so that I was using significantly less effort, and in the increase in comments that ‘hey, you’re not pedalling at the back!’. I used to think they were just jokes but now I’m beginning to think it’s a genuine cry when they see that my legs are moving so much less than Pete’s!

bridge at start of trail

bridge at start of trail

I should add that we had some lovely sunny days whilst we were in Cornwall too, and the views were glorious!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

high tide, in sunshine

Water, Water Everywhere

It wasn’t raining, it wasn’t snowing and even the wind had dropped.  We really were able to go for a tandem ride!

It was even good to be rooting around in the cupboards for warm woolly jumpers, waterproof trousers and gloves – it meant that we were actually going out!

All along our route there were signs of the months of rain, from the numerous full puddles to the water seeping out from under walls at the foot of sodden hillsides. Everywhere, extra streams criss-crossed the ground. It really has been a very watery winter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

swirling water

Just in case we were missing the rain (and we weren’t!), we were treated to a sharp shower but it was swiftly followed by a splash of sun  … and some blue sky! We couldn’t believe it!

We weren’t the only ones enjoying the drier and brighter weather. The woods were thronged with people; families with their children, dogs and their owners and young couples. The cafe was heaving, and pots had to be quickly washed to keep up with demand!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

sun shining on the woods

The stream through the woods was more like a river. It swirled and ran at speed before us. There were clear signs that it had been even higher from the flattened grass along the sides. The stepping stones were submerged beneath the swollen water.

As we headed back I noticed daffodils growing amongst the trees – no flowers yet but the promise of them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

submerged stepping stones

This had been a refreshing outing.

Also, on a bike-related note: Pete has shortened the crank shaft further since I was last aboard and now my legs make even smaller circles as we cycle along. So, although I now look even more like I’m not pulling my weight at the back (which might be true!), I have even more help.

Wet Weather Cycling

The beautiful autumn came to an abrupt end precisely as we headed off to Castleton in the Derbyshire Peak District for our annual ex-student walking club gathering. And this year I wouldn’t be able to spend my day in teashops whilst the others got wet on the hills. No: we had brought the tandem with us. There would be no escape!

Fortunately, we had brought lots of waterproofs too.

Winnatts Pass, Castleton

Winnatts Pass, Castleton

We listened as our friends and companions planned walking routes before they set off along various paths. Meanwhile, we got into our car and drove up Winnats Pass out of Castleton. We parked near Mam Tor and removed the tandem from its lovely roof rack. It was wonderful to be able to bring the bike with us and to have our own adventure at the same time as everyone else – in the same weather!

The advantage of our starting spot was that we began by going downhill. The disadvantage was that the weather was wilder at this height. At least I knew I was outdoors!

We stopped just before the road descended steeply into Edale, and looked out over damp hills. They were very pale but at least they hadn’t disappeared behind clouds.

road into Edale valley

road into Edale valley

As we arrived in the tiny village of Edale (which nevertheless has its own railway station) we were pleased to find that the rain was so far keeping to a minimum, even if the wind was sharp. Even so, it was impossible to pass through without stopping in the village cafe.

It was a good move. No sooner were we safely inside with a warm mug of tea than the rain started to lash against the window. A second mug of tea seemed appropriate.

clouds clinging to Kinder Ridge, Edale

clouds clinging to Kinder Ridge, Edale

Our timing proved excellent. The rain stopped as we left, and the next section of our journey, along the valley bottom below Lose Hill then looping back into Hope, was dry. This was highly unexpected after what the weather forecast had predicted.

We cycled along this flat five-mile section at a good speed. It is so much faster cycling along a road rather than on bumpy footpaths as we usually do. However, I was quite happy to avoid any (no doubt) muddy and puddle-strewn footpaths.

We passed wet fields, wet cows and wet sheep – one sheep stared hard at us. (I don’t think it knew what a tandem was.) The roadside trees looked a little bedraggled – their leaves were half gone, so that they were no longer dressed in their full golden colours, but they were not yet sharp black winter silhouettes.

wet valley views

wet valley views

The village of Hope provided another teashop stop. This is a very important part of the day (not just for the cups of tea!). Besides providing sustenance, it also enables me to pace myself.

Then it was a short hop back to Castleton and (you guessed!) another teashop. Mind you, these small chunks of cycling all added up to 10 miles (including cycling up and down Castleton in search of a teashop – I can report that it has several pubs, not many cafes).

In Castleton we bumped into some of the walkers. It turned out that we’d done better than them in that they’d been out on the hills when the weather had done its worst, not safely inside a cafe like us. I’m getting to like this cycling lark more and more … the hills are distinctly lacking in shelter and cafes, whereas cycle routes tend to pass through civilisation much more regularly!

In fact, I made a startling discovery about myself that evening, sitting amongst so many walkers, as we compared our days’ experiences – I am no longer a walker; I am a cyclist!

Exploring Welsh Lanes

And so the tandem joined us in Wales. It was great to have this option of freedom with us, thanks to the new tandem bike rack – details of which Pete has now had chance to add to the About the Tandem page. The trouble was that we also had our offspring with us – only joking! – of course it was lovely to have them with us. However, they certainly didn’t want to be seen cycling with us – especially on a tandem!

The problem was easily solved with straightforward bribery, and so we abandoned them for the day and escaped!

Criccieth, North Wales

Criccieth, North Wales

We were staying in North Wales, by the sea in Porthmadog, and discovered a cycle route that took us to Criccieth, a little further along the coast. It seemed to hug the edge of the line of hills behind the coast.

We set off enthusiastically and were soon on a lovely country lane, away from the main road. Unfortunately, it then started taking us uphill. And every time we turned round a bend, there was more uphill! Of course, it was fine for me, I just sat on the back looking over the hedges at the sea, trying not to weigh very much! It wasn’t quite so much fun for Pete!

Eventually, the lane flattened out and we knew that the rest of the way had to be downhill – much more acceptable! Before that though, we sat in a field, looking towards the mountains. It was more like the start of the moors than a field and was very peaceful.

peaceful Welsh scenery whilst picnicing

peaceful Welsh scenery whilst picnicing

The way to Criccieth after that was lovely, with lots of downhill and we were now both able to admire the views!

We had travelled more than expected when we got there (over eight miles) and we hatched a plan in the teashop for me to get a taxi back. However, once we eventually tracked down a taxi number, we were put through to an answerphone! Plan B entailed me cycling back with Pete – but this time along the more direct main road.

looking out to sea, Criccieth

looking out to sea, Criccieth

Despite initial misgivings, it worked out fine – we could use a cycle path for part of the way, the route was shorter and the views were still lovely. And I survived! I did an amazing 15 miles that day … and took it quietly the next day!

PS – I can’t resist telling this non-tandem tale of a contrasting day on holiday.

On one day, the rest of the family climbed the fearsome ridge of Crib Goch, to get to Mount Snowdon …

Crib Goch, Snowdon

Crib Goch, Snowdon

… whilst I spent a beautifully peaceful day reading by the shores of the lake at Llanberis.

Lllanberis

Lllanberis

How to keep everyone happy on holiday!

Cycling Along the Pennine Way

Well, it was just four miles each way along the Pennine Way, but still! There I was, on – well, amongst – the Pennine moors, with the wind really blowing on my face. It felt really good!

Pennine moorland

Pennine moorland

This new, exciting route was made possible by our new purchase: a tandem bike rack! We’ve been talking about getting one for ages and finally got round to it. It’s great! More details will follow when Pete is able to update the About the Tandem page, but in the meantime this is a peek of what it looks like.

the new bike rack

the new bike rack

It is going to open up so many more possibilities, not least taking it to Wales on holiday. I’m being distracted: back to the moors!

We had driven to the White House pub at the edge of Blackstone Edge, towards the end of the third day of the Pennine Way if you are walking the whole route. We were able to get on to a wide gravelly path that headed north, winding round to give us a different view of our familiar Calder valley in the distance.

looking across the Calder Valley

looking across the Calder Valley

It never ceases to amaze me how many views there are in this part of the world. The hills and valleys twist and turn so much that there is a new angle and a new view every few minutes. It’s extremely good value!

The path was flat and kind to us except for the several gates which we managed to open and close without either of us dismounting – quite an art! But worth doing as I find it tiring getting on and off, fitting my feet in and out of the pedal covers. We shuffle backwards and forwards with me holding on to the gate and giving it a firm shove once we are safely through – a bit tricky but quite satisfying!

gritstone outcrop

gritstone outcrop

I was very pleased to find a poem engraved on to one of the giant gritstone boulders that are scattered across the landscape. There are several poems dotted across the moors from Marsden to Ilkley as part of the ‘Stanza Poems’ written by local poet, Simon Armitage. I certainly hadn’t expect to be able to get anywhere near any of them! This was ‘Rain’ – apparently inspired by the weather. I’m saying nothing, except, well, it wasn’t raining when I visited!

'Rain' boulder

‘Rain’ boulder

The path follows by the side of two or three small reservoirs cut into the moors. They seem very ‘relaxed’ reservoirs somehow – there is a shoreline rather than a wall at the far side of them and they seem very much part of the landscape.

We were unable to travel further than four miles as the path became a walker’s footpath at that point. However, we were able to see across to Stoodley Pike before turning back – well worth it!

Stoodley Pike

Stoodley Pike

Back in the Saddle

It was one of those dull overcast days where you just wanted to stay in all day … preferably under the duvet! But we decided that the best way to counter this was by pushing through the heavy weather on the tandem. Looking up at the threatening sky, we did waiver a little!

In order for me to have a different experience and to get further afield, I drove up the valley to Todmorden, leaving the car at the railway station. Pete cycled there on the tandem (to the obligatory cry of ‘you’ve lost your passenger!’ from a passer-by).

Canada goose with goslings, Rochdale canal

Canada goose with goslings, Rochdale canal

We then found the canal towpath and headed forth. I soon felt better for being out, even if the weather was a little cool (in June!! Not allowed!). There were many Canada geese with fluffy goslings to enjoy, and a few other cyclists were also using the route.

Just on the edge of Todmorden is the highest canal wall I have ever seen. The train runs just beyond the top of it. It is an immense pile of bricks! More amazing Victorian engineering – I really am in awe of it all!

towering wall along the canal

towering wall along the canal

It’s a wonderfully rough and wild landscape, sometimes passing by the backs of people’s houses, their gardens stretching right down to the towpath. It’s unlandscaped, even scruffy in parts, but very restful.

We spent many happy minutes watching swifts (we think – they were very fast!) flying non-stop up and down the water, high and low, swerving, swooping, never still. It was quite mesmerising.

peace

peace

Our destination was Hollingworth lake, about eight miles away, on the outskirts of Rochdale – and after three miles that felt like a lot too far! However, we could only do half the distance along the canal as, from its highest point onwards (around the border with Lancashire), there are an evil set of narrow gates which make it practically impossible to take the tandem through, as we found out on an earlier trip that way.

It turned out all right in the end though as, although we had to cycle half the distance by road, it was a far quicker half and it left me much less time to worry about how I was feeling! I have to say that lunch at journey’s end was extremely welcome and it was a while before I felt like communicating!

Once I’d recovered, I watched the sailing boats jumping across the lake in the now brisk breeze, then went back inside the warm cafe to wait for the train.

sailing boats on Hollingworth lake

sailing boats on Hollingworth lake

The station at Littleborough is only a mile or so from the lake and I made it there without a problem, now fortified by food and a mug of tea. Pete waved me off on the train and had the task of cycling the whole way home by solo tandem. He used the electric motor more than usual due to the now very threatening clouds (or so he tells me!) and found out just how long the battery lasts … to the bottom of the very steep hill leading up to our house (ouch!).

Exploring the Monsal Trail

The tandem has just taken us on a new adventure: we’ve been on the Monsal Trail cycle route in the Derbyshire Peak District, which runs from near Buxton to just outside Bakewell. This is an eight-and-a-half mile trail along paths only useable by bikes, horses, walkers and wheelchairs, and which follows an old railway line along spectacular high-level viaducts.

River Wye at Blackwell Mill

River Wye at Blackwell Mill

Empowered people had organised the day and, importantly for us, took the tandem by trailer to the Peak District. It meant we were able to have a day’s cycling with a dozen or so other people who also really appreciated being there, especially in the beautiful sunshine we had that day (unlike on our last outing!).

There was the usual mix of electric bikes and ordinary bikes, as well as a hand cycle and a recumbent bike attached to another bike. And, of course, the tandem!

at the start of the Monsal Trail

at the start of the Monsal Trail

It really was a glorious day. Initially the route took us through woods and beside a stream. Soon there was a steep climb up on to the track – I had to dismount and hold on to the tandem for balance – it had the advantage of looking like I was actually helping pushing it uphill – I emphatically was not! That was the trickiest bit for our group but we were soon up on to the flat track and away!

room for everyone

room for everyone

The route is very wooded and peaceful. You really feel that nature has taken the land back. As it was so early in the season, we could see through the branches to the pale green fields beyond. Each time we went over a viaduct we stopped to peer down and across at the mellow views.

steep drop below

steep drop below

We passed families with small children on their multi-coloured bikes, walkers who used the route before crossing on to other footpaths, dog walkers, and many cyclists – it was too good a day not to be outdoors! At one point we even passed a group of schoolchildren abseiling from one of the high bridges!

abseilers

abseilers

And there were tunnels! Many of them! These were great fun except it was distinctly colder inside them than outdoors – the sun was very welcome each time we broke out again! Also, despite the lighting provided, it was quite dark and cyclists did appear out of nowhere quite close at hand once or twice!

approaching our first tunnel

approaching our first tunnel

inside the tunnel

inside the tunnel

It was wonderful to see these great feats of engineering still being used. There had been such a huge amount of effort put into building them, from the blasting through rocks to create the route, to the brickwork built to secure the cuttings and tunnels. It was strange to think that all those involved in building the railways could not have conceived of this use … not even of the bikes themselves!

Cressbrook Mill

Cressbrook Mill

Eventually we arrived at Monsal Head Viaduct itself – what a view! You could peer down into Monsal Dale (such a long way down!) and watch the tiny people below enjoying a stroll by the river.

Monsal Dale

Monsal Dale

We lunched at Hassop, a disused station, now providing welcome snacks on a terrace bathed in spring sunshine … bliss! Many cups of tea were required before I wanted to move!

It wasn’t far from there to the end of the line just outside Bakewell. I made it to the end then decided that stopping off back at Hassop was the end of the journey for me. I had cycled 10 miles, which was significantly more than I had managed for some time – and I could feel it! Pete headed back to the start with the rest and I got a lift back with one of the support team.

the end of the line

the end of the line

It was wonderful to explore a new cycle route and it was particularly good to be back in the Peak District as it’s part of our old stomping ground from when we were students, when we would spend Sundays getting away from the campus and into the hills. Now we were back – but doing something new, not trying to recreate something from the past. I think we’ll be back again!

back to the river Wye

back to the river Wye

A Sociable Ride

The weather was as wet as the forecast had predicted. It was no day for a bike ride. Unfortunately, we were committed to one!

We had agreed to join the EMpowered People group on a ride that was passing close to our home. So we could hardly back out! We found every piece of waterproof clothing we possessed and waited for the call to inform us that they were on their way so that we could join them.

signs of EMpowered riders!

signs of EMpowered riders!

Unfortunately, there was a slight breakdown in communication so that we could only catch up with the other riders at the cafe stop in our local woods. We tried our best to catch up before then but they were just too fast!

The rain was very sharp and cold against our cheeks. We were soon very much awake! Once in the woods, we were slightly sheltered by the trees and bounded along at a good pace. Before we knew it, we were descending to the stream as it flowed past the mill cafe.

Rachmi loving the hand cycle

Rachmi loving the hand cycle

We knew they were inside from the wide variety of bikes parked outside. It was good to see people again. There were about six EMpowered riders and a good number of support riders. Everyone seemed to be enjoying being out and no one complained about the weather – except to say they were looking forward to a warm shower when they got home!

ready for the return journey

ready for the return journey

It was great to cycle back with the others, being part of a group of riders. It made it all seem livelier and more sociable. In fact, it was all over far too quickly and we had to say goodbye as they continued on their way.

Their total ride was about 15 miles, and we cycled about 5 of them. I have to confess though that I realised that that was quite enough when I got home – I flopped for most of the rest of the day. But it was generally a happy flop (apart from the frustration to not being able to do anything else all day) and we certainly wouldn’t have had our adventure if we hadn’t agreed to go as part of the group. So the commitment definitely paid off!

our tandem is well guarded!

our tandem is well guarded!

EMpowerment

You may remember that last year I took part in a cycle event round Anglesey, organised by a charity called EMpowered people. One of the things they do in order to help people with disabilities to cycle is to arrange Taster Days where you can come along and try out different types of bike and see which is most suitable.

One of these days took place locally at the weekend and I got myself along. Unfortunately, Pete’s (other) knee has been playing up so I went on my own and without the tandem.

spoilt for choice!

spoilt for choice!

It was great to see Simon, who set up the charity, and some of the volunteers who had come along with a couple of vanloads of bikes, as well as some possible new recruits for the next Anglesey trip in May.

There were hand cycles, trikes and even a four-person bike, as well as a bicycle for two where you sat side by side (a bit like a pedalo!). It was also explained to me that one of the hand cycles could be partially dismantled and reattached to another bike so that power and support could be supplied by a second rider. There was some very good kit on display, as well as some lovely helpful people to assist.

... and more!

… and more!

If anyone found a particular bike suitable, they could take it for a turn in the park then out for a little tootle, supported by someone from EMpowered People. Some people simply used an electric bike, or had toe clips fitted to stop their feet from falling off the pedal – that is distinctly a problem I have without a clip.

I spent most of the time chatting! I caught up with people I’d met on last year’s trip and a local chap who is aiming to come this year, having recently obtained a hand cycle through the charity. Look forward to seeing you there, Chris! He loves the bike but is very aware of the extra effort to pedal using his arm muscles rather than his legs.

I had a go on Chris’s bike and struggled even to steer it! I didn’t get chance to appreciate the extra effort needed as I could barely control it. Fortunately for all concerned, I was tightly supervised and, indeed, barely actually steered it since I would have cashed it several times if Richard hadn’t simply moved the steering column for me! There is clearly a knack to riding such a bike, something akin to learning to drive a car using hand controls.

side-by-side cycling

side-by-side cycling

I decided that it was much simpler to sit on the back of the tandem and let Pete and the electric motor do all the hard work! Though, I hasten to add, my legs do go round and round and provide me with quite enough exercise anyway!

It was lovely to be in touch with everyone involved in the charity again and it sounds like there will be at least double the number of EMpowered riders in Anglesey this time. In fact, we are completely taking over the hotel! I can’t wait … I may even have to do some training!

Canalside Cycle

It was cold and the sky was hidden under a solid bank of cloud. But it couldn’t be helped – we were definitely going out on the tandem. I’d not been able to get out properly for what felt like ages. Tedious reasons: Pete’s Knee and a virus. And whilst the snow was pretty (for a day, anyway!), it wasn’t compatible with using the tandem.

icy waters, Rochdale canal

icy waters, Rochdale canal

So, dull weather or not, we were going! We wrapped up well (I had on six layers, and three for my legs!). It was a while since we had made use of the canal and we decided that this flat route would be a good one to get us back out again. I left the car at the station and then we were off.

Signs of the cold spell covered the water – breaking ice stretched over many sections. I felt even colder. Several barges were moored along the path but there was little sign of life, just a few geese padding along the ice. The canal felt asleep, hibernating, but it was still beautiful and restful.

We cycled on, passing the odd group of few walkers. It felt like there were just a few of us who knew of this path. A couple of mountain bikers sped past, covered in mud (as they should be!).

homely barges

homely barges

My layers did a pretty good job of keeping out the cold – it’s a distinct concern when you aren’t expanding lots of energy pedalling. However, I was wearing thin footwear and the cold really got to my feet. It made me very aware I was outdoors, so there was some good out of it (she said desperately!).

But when we had our soup stop I held on to my cup very firmly. I felt the warmth extending down to my poor feet, and acting as a hot water bottle on my hands. Pete insisted on giving me one of his fleeces as he assured me he was warm enough after his exertions (so lovely!). It was the vital seventh layer! I was now perfectly snug and I did a good job of forgetting about my feet, cycling on happily and enjoying the quiet landscape.

canalside soup stop

canalside soup stop

After a tasty lunch in Todmorden we carried on for a couple of miles with the aim of dropping me off at Walsden station to get the train back to the car.

One of the great things about this route is that you get the chance to appreciate lots of Victorian engineering – there are many locks along the way as height is gently gained. You can also spot the old lockkeepers cottages as you pass. Sometimes there’s a little hamlet around the lock, then it’s out into the wilds again.

railway bridge near Walsden

railway bridge near Walsden

Past Todmorden we were able to admire a wonderful Victorian railway bridge complete with turrets, crossing above the canal. And the sun came out!

We had to employ a slight change of plan regarding the train – there was only one train an hour from Walsden (with a long wait until the next one) so we headed back to Todmorden where there were two an hour – and one was almost due! We sorted a ticket out as fast as we could then I turned towards the platform … only to be confronted by a tower of stairs. There was no way I was going to get that train; it would be a very slow haul up the steps, especially after being on the bike.

Then a man who had just got off the train saw me and ran back to the guard to say there was another passenger on the way, and the guard waited the train for me. These kind acts gave me an extra glow to go with my tandem glow!

sunshine!

sunshine!

A Wild Ride

This is a post that requires the use of imagination! There are no pictures to accompany our first outing of the New Year … it should become clear why!

It was New Year’s Day and it felt appropriate to be getting out on the tandem. The only trouble was, the weather looked pretty unappealing. The forecast was for more rain later. As there wasn’t much rain at that moment, just a blustery wind, we thought we’d better get on with it.

Braving the elements

I was about to pack my waterproof over trousers when I began to feel drops of rain. I decided that it would be more sensible to wear them! I was glad I did. Although the rain continued to be light, the wind was cold. In fact, I was glad of all my layers.

We cycled briskly along the path, not stopping at any of the tempting scenic woodland views – not the moss-covered rocks or the crooked, bare branches, or even at the usually compulsory bench stop!

A welcome break

It was a case of pedalling on till we reached the cafe, then falling off and into its warmth. Much, much later, fortified by soup and tea, we braved the elements again, mounted our lovely tandem and headed home.

Goodness, the weather was fresh! A light rain and accompanying sharp wind kept my faculties alert. I reached home feeling much more awake than I’d left. In fact, that was the curious thing about this trip. I’d been anxious about going out at all as my legs had been feeling weak recently, probably due to less use as I’d been laid low with a cold. However, my legs certainly felt no less bad for the outing and my brain felt much more alive! (I even found the energy to write up A Christmas Walk!)

Thank you to the tandem

I am bouncing with energy, well, mental energy, but that’s a good start! And all thanks to the tandem – I couldn’t have stayed outside for as long without it (or had so much fun – yes, honestly!) and I know that the little bit of exercise from turning the pedals has done me a little bit of good too!

Meanwhile, outside, the weather really did worsen as forecast. It was wild! Lashing rain and strong winds hit the windows. I felt, well, I’ll be honest, quite smug! We had been out, been blown about and got safely home, all before the wild weather really began!

And an apology

Sorry that there are no photos – I think they would have been a letdown after this description (!), even if I had been able to stop and take any. Probably the pictures in the mind are better … and, who knows, perhaps more dramatic than the reality!

Back in the Saddle

We managed to get ourselves back on the tandem at the weekend – a long-overdue event. It’s funny how things get in the way.

However, just knowing that the tandem is there waiting for us makes all the difference – knowing that we can get out and will get out, that is half the joy of it … though obviously it’s much better to be able to actually get a ride out!IMG_1288

This weekend, we didn’t try anything too adventurous – just our little woodland route. It was beautiful! The weather still hasn’t realised it’s supposed to be thoroughly autumnal and chilly. Instead, the sunshine slanted brightly though the trees and warmed our faces when we stopped to enjoy our surroundings.

On the hillside across from us, the trees looked like softly brushed heads of hair. Vibrant reds snuggled amongst paler browns and greys where the leaves had softly departed – there have been few storms to tear them down this year.

It really did me good. I never tire of this route – it is always different and there are always other people looking equally happy to be out.IMG_1286

I’d forgotten how the sight of the tandem always brings a smile to people’s faces, as well as provoking some very poor jokes questioning whether I’m pulling my weight on the back (actually, no I’m not!). Children enjoy pointing out the strange bike with two riders and parents enjoy naming it for them. This trip we experienced a new first – the tandem had its photo taken! (I have to admit, it was looking particularly photogenic, leaning against a tree!)

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: