A Breath of Fresh Air

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

Archive for the tag “Rochdale canal”

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!).

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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!

Two Day Eventing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA promising weather forecast left me spoilt for choice as to how to spend the last weekend of November … a tandem ride or a spot of archery? Well, not one to shy away from the risk of overdoing it, I opted for both (not at once, I hasten to add – though that is quite an image!)

We headed for the Rochdale Canal on the Saturday for a flat cycle along the tow path. We set out around the middle of the day to maximise the chance of the low sun reaching us over the hillsides. However, we hadn’t factored in the angle of the hills, and the first part of the journey was a little chilly … not helped by someone (naming no names!) forgetting the lovely warm flask of tomato soup he had prepared (oops, might have let slip there!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll along the canal, shiny copper leaves coated the water. The day felt on the cusp between autumn and winter, which was quite apt as the month was on the turn, and the air was invigorating once we became acclimatised! We stopped at a lock to take in the view and imagine drinking the soup. Eventually, the sun found us.

The route was very peaceful; it felt a long way from the bustle of people doing their Christmas shopping. We passed various allotments, rising out of the rough scrub at the side of the path, often next to a dilapidated canal barge. The only sign from any of the barges that they weren’t abandoned was the odd curl of smoke escaping from a stove as we cycled past.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe plan was to travel along the canal to Todmorden, have a good rest (and refuel!) and return the same way. Unfortunately, as we discovered, the towpath was closed about a mile outside Todmorden, so we had to do an about turn and complete the last part of the journey along the very busy road – we had found the Christmas shoppers! It felt even busier in comparison to the canal, and wasn’t fun. We decided to return home that way though rather than messing about switching routes, and it did have the virtue of being quicker!

The next day, although I still felt a little tired, I headed off to the archery field. There, I spent a happy hour or two shooting arrows, chatting, drinking tea, watching my form deteriorate and generally enjoying being outside.

I did spend the afternoon very quietly … and the following day … !

After Sun

Hmmm … it looks like I’ve been getting a bit over enthusiastic with the tandem. The temptingly flat French cycle paths have come back to bite me. I’ve been feeling in need of a holiday ever since I got back from my holiday!

We have been out on a pleasant five-mile-jaunt along the Rochdale canal but after a couple of miles I was saying that I couldIMG_0829 do with a stop shortly, quickly followed by a request that we stop right now! Oooph! It was still a lovely afternoon out, and very peaceful; we didn’t see many people all the way to Sowerby Bridge. It’s a very green and wooded stretch, partly following the river Calder. The route is less IMG_0825scenic where it follows the railway, but at least we got to cycle over a railway bridge, and, more scenically, the river.

However, that ride and more general exhaustion mean that I have had to reluctantly admit that I might have been overdoing it. Not enough rest periods in between being more active. But who wants to be sensible on holiday?! So, not having been sensible on holiday, I’m having to be sensible now I’m back home. Otherwise known as leading a very dull life – for much longer than I really think is a fair price to have to pay.

So, it’s back to little drives out to wooded cafes and sitting on the doorstep, catching any last moments of summer sun. Could be worse, I suppose! IMG_0833

The Tandem Goes West

Whilst Chris Froome was powering up the last mountains of the French Alps en route to victory in the Tour de France, we were in the middle of our own epic adventure … 13 miles along the Rochdale canal. Now, let me quickly add, that was the longest trip we’d ever undertaken by tandem!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was relieved that the temperature dropped for us, as I’d not even been able to leave the house the previous day due to the heat! There was a fresh breeze, perfect for cycling, and we made good progress along the tow path.

We really appreciated the electric motor for all the sudden inclines around each lock (and there were quite a few!) Otherwise, the terrain was varied; occasionally smooth, often bumpy, sometimes bone rattling as we crossed the many overflow chutes that looked very quaint and cobbled but, ouch! They really hurt!

the highest broad lock in England

the highest broad lock in England

I even managed a summit! I haven’t got to the summit of anything for quite a while, and wasn’t really expecting to do so that day either. Well, we reached and crossed the Highest Broad Lock in England, no less!

The route was peaceful, and the surrounding countryside was wild and empty. The odd barge gently glided by and we passed a few walkers, a couple of fisherman and several other cyclists – even another tandem! It was great to be just another cyclist (obviously much better to be on a tandem though!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We did encounter a few challenges towards the end of the journey, west of the Highest Broad Lock in England. Suddenly, we were expected to negotiate very narrow “gates” to continue on our way. Other cyclists could either just about wriggle through the tiny gap or hoick their bikes above their heads and walk through. That wasn’t so easy with a tandem, especially one with a weighty battery on the back!

the tandem-unfriendly gap

the tandem-unfriendly gap

We managed to jiggle and haul the bike through a couple of them. Then we were met by the third: this one had the added twist of being at right angles to the path, which wasn’t very wide. We managed, but it was a struggle. The irony was that there were gates on either side of these narrow gaps … which were securely padlocked! A notice stated that you could unlock them with a RADAR key but who would think to take one there, even if they had one?!

Ah well, with these obstacles safely overcome we were soon at journey’s end: Hollingworth lake – and a cafe! I was then able to hop on a train back to the start, and pick up the car which I’d left at the station. Meanwhile, Pete rode home along the road – he didn’t fancy tackling the squeeze-through gaps on his own … or the long flight of steps we’d had to descend along that section of the route.

cricketers by the canal

cricketers by the canal

The following day, I was distinctly aware of the efforts I’d made as I was aching in quite a few places! But, mainly, I was feeling very pleased with my achievement!

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