A Breath of Fresh Air

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

Archive for the tag “West Yorkshire”

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 … !

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A Grand Day Out

IMG_0909My patience has been rewarded! All those weeks of being sensible and saying no to bike rides have paid off: we had a proper off-road, hill-climbing, high-level, sun-kissed adventure at the weekend.

IMG_0908We cycled from the edge of Hardcastle Crags, near Hebden Bridge, through the wooded valley of Crimsworth Dean and up on to the open moorland above. This was truly a trip back out into the countryside. We were travelling along rutted pathways surrounded by gentle sloping hills.IMG_0891

It was a trip only really made possible through the power of the electric motor. There were steep climbs as we pedalled up on to the higher ground. I would have felt like a dead weight on the back without the motor and I don’t think Pete would have appreciated the ascent at all.

It was wonderful to be able to travel along the high-level track with open IMG_0910views all around, maintaining the height we had gained. We had several stops to fully appreciate our surroundings, and, as we had brought our own stove (the “pocket rocket”), we could have plenty of mugs of tea as we relaxed in the last rays of summer sun. When we ran out of water, there was a handy stream where we were able to top up our supply.

The mountain bike tyres and springy seat were also put through their paces – the descent was (a bit too) exciting! The bike bounced and slithered over rough stones whilst I gripped tightly on to the handlebars. I watched the ground intently and saw no countryside at this point.IMG_0905

At the bottom I gingerly dismounted and slowly uncurled my fingers from the handlebars. We had reached a bridge crossing a gently flowing stream and I flopped beside it. It was another perfect spot for a rest and we felt no need to move for quite some time.

Our journey finished with a terrifying ride down from Pecket Well to Hebden Bridge along next year’s Tour de France route. (The Yorkshire leg – honest!) Now I know just what Mark Cavendish and co will be experiencing!IMG_0915

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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