Thursday 31 December 2009

Pateley Bridge, Yorkshire for New Year

Snowy Times!!

(UPDATE: More routes and maps on this later post or just scan for Nidderdale.)

I'm up north in the delights of James Herriot country (1970s TV series All Creatures Great and Small) for New Year with a load of good friends, their adult children, friends of theirs, and generally loads of good peeps. This is the east end of the Yorkshire Dales in a delightful little homely town of Pateley Bridge. It includes the oldest sweet shop in England in a typically beautiful sandstone high street running down to the chocolate brown river Nidd at the bottom.

Today is the joy of preparing for tonight. As with a lot of days recently, spending the day just preparing for the evening seems very hedonistic, but I'm happy with it! Actually, I'm not doing very much preparing really. Only popping down to the rather good but expensive wine merchant on the high street to ensure enough decent wine and quite a bit of indecent stuff as well. However, with the day promising much snowy delights and the roads easily passable, the bike is calling! Dropping through town to check the shops closing time, and finding the surface absolutely fine for doing 25mph downhill it seemed churlish to go back up the hill again: so I didn't. I did find some hardy Yorkshire sheep on the recreational grounds.

Setting off up the Low Wath Road that goes past the main town school was also easy going. Plenty of grip underneath and a delightful snowy scene all around. Lots of 4x4s passed, many with genuine signs of offroad use and dogs in the back. Not something I'm always used to, but something very much partof this landscape.

I stopped opposite the infamous Silver Hill. This is it, going from the houses in the middle, diagonally up the the left and back to the right underneath the trees at the top in the middle.

In warmer times I'd cycle up that, but now it would be silly!

After passing the Bridge Inn and meandering up the valley past the hamlet of Wath, the georgeous Gouthwaite Resevoir appeared. This is slightly famous as it appears in the opening credits to the longeterm UK TV soap Emmerdale, but in a slightly warmer view to here!

It's a good mile or so long and topped and tailed by ice in the not-so-wavey shallows. The edge of the ice is broken up and curved against the damn with birds taking advantage.

At the top of the resevoir lies the resty little village of Ramsgill. It's dominated in a rather bizarre way by The Yorke Arms, a Michelin one-star restaurant. This is in the middle of nowhere. The nearest big town is 45-55 minutes away on a quick day. But it's custom is good and clearly works on the business of being so good you will travel to it. And it's on the opening credits of Emmerdale as well. So, now you know which soap has a Michelin One-Star in it, and I bet you wouldn't have guessed if I hadn't told you! The food is exquisite, I will say, having been taken there just after my fortieth. And the wine cellar, ah, the wine cellar, sigh. Nuff said.

Past Ramsgill the valley begins to narrow sufficiently for the road to start to meander up and down the steeper sides and not far after is Lofthouse, the top end of my ride today. Just past Lofthouse is a rather delightful waterfall.

As you can see, it's already snowing up here. I did have to gingerly slide up a very icy, ungritted, and closed private road to get here. It's normally open to the public as it's got the beautiful Scar House resevoir at the top. But it's just too dangerous now, so lots of warning signs and I'm not going to attempt going any further.

The journey back down the valley was even more fun, as the roads generally went downhill. I did take a turn through Wath that got me to the bottom of the previously mentioned infamous Silver Hill. The view from here is spectacular. I did a composite image, which is not that good, but this does give some kind of idea about the beauty of this part of the world.

The route was simialr to my summer version but didn't include the east side of Gouthwaite or the top loop to Scar House resevoir. That would have been mad.

Saturday 26 December 2009

Boxing Day Walk 2009

The Blewbury Boxing Day walk has been a tradition for around 40 years now. It started in the baby boom days of the late 1960s as a traditional walking race done in fancy dress. There were prizes for each individual stage in different categories for speed and costume. The stages were between the four village pubs with much beer consumed at each one.

As the years have gone by, two of the pubs have shut down and issues, arising from walking down the main (A) road, meant that this year a very different route was planned. A certain level of humour and some thought resulted. Who knows where this will go?

As one who traditionally gets up when they first pass our house, I never get to see the proper parade which starts the walk. This time even less so, as the previously mentioned route change meant we were missed altogether. It did feel very strange to not see it wandering passed, to only get to see the crowd outside the Red Lion pub. It didn't seem to make as much sense in a group like that.

Anyway, back to the walk this year. It seemed like fewer entries, as it always does. The idea is to have topical dress, so it becomes a celebration of the year in some senses. Also, it allows for a level of satirical humour that wafts round the village like a fast moving elephant on board a small piece of toast.

Limbo dancing as part of the circus performers. I didn't quite get the topical connection, but there again, I'm not that topical!

The crowd just mingles, full of the joy of beer.

Yet more beer consumed and participants mixing with onlookers.

We all know this song, so join in now "I'm a lumberjack..". The day is full of festive spirit, as well as beer.

A number of people can take costumes to the extreme.

Labelling is frequently used as a way to confirm the costume. Especially when otherwise it's just people out for a walk.

Ah, some hint of the walk route not being to all peoples favour.

Placards raised as the chant 'London Road' is aired high.

Zoe spots me taking pictures from across the crowd.

Final drinks before the next off.

Being dressed warmly does mean a slight amount of bagginess.

Or simply feel cold by looking. Brrr.

Simon Cowell looks quite a lot bigger than Cheryl Cole in real life as well, so I'm told.

Friday 25 December 2009

Christmas Eve 2009

A stream of twitter post pictures, as the evening cooking happened! I thought I'd fill in a narrative of the evenings mayhem.

#frys And let the chaos begin! (at 15:17)

The meat and the vegetables that will go into the main meal. It seems like a smorgasbord of dead animal with a avalanche of murdered fruit an' stuff. The pork is rarebreed Tamworth pig from my local farm in Suffolk, which means less than a food mile for it. Sausages were killed 2 days before I got them and made whilst I waited. Now that's fresh!

Yes, the big vat at the back is the homemade wine. That was full at the beginning of the week.

#frys Non-trad pudding of Mango, Lychees, Kiwi Fruit, & Strawberries all in a gin/Madeira/orange jus (at 17:49)

Yes, I know, it seems like a long time just to get a fruit salad together! By now the vegetarian nutloaf has been made, the meat all prepped and all in the oven. This was a brief restbite before starting on the final push with the vegetables.

Anyway, the fruit salad is a very good way of not having the traditional Christmas pudding, something that always seems to heavy after a large roast meal. And to really push the boat out, put as many food miles on it as your can. It's Christmas after all! The idea is to get the colours to force one to wear sunglasses. I think it works.

#frys Dining table set! (at 17:56)

Whilst I've been slaving in the kitchen the others have made a fantastic dining space for a feast.

#frys Moody dining room! (at 17:58)

The flash photography never really gets the mood and certainly not the beauty of candlelight. This gives that if not the actual view.

#frys Duck a l'Orange, Pork with Fennel, Guinea Fowl with Madeira! (at 19:48)

And at last the main course comes out to play. I used the sausages to keep the meat succulent which worked a treat. The fennel really does make a great seasoning for pork, which was beautiful all the way through. The duckbreast was a dark red all the way through, and fowl moist and light. Even if I say so myself, georgeous!

#frys And for veggies, a white nutloaf! (at 19:54)

This worked as well. It was a lot of work but browned perfectly and fell out of the dish with amazing easy. It worked as a sustitute for meat in the meal, going with all the other veg just fine.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

RT @Glinner: This is very, very funny. frys Hilarious!!
I'm now using to post to Twitter, FB, MySpace, Flickr, & my blog at the same time.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Favourite Photos

This is Lake Baikal in the Province of Irkutsk in eastern Russia. It's the largest body of fresh water in the world, mainly due to it's depth of over 1000 metres. It's a fascinating place with a whole separate eco-system, thanks to hundreds of rivers flowing into it and only one flowing out.

This is a sunrise view from the Swisshotel in Beijing. The level of pollution around is clear to see and creates some fantastic lighting results.

This is the first entrance to the Forbidden City taken from the north end of Tiananmen Square. I just get reminded of all the Mayday parades where dignitaries would stand on the balcony watching tank after tank. Tiananmen Square is mind-bogglingly big. It is the largest public square in the world and is over a mile long.

This is on the climb of Ax-Bonascre in 2003. All the contenders for the Tour de France that year are in shot. Now looking at them, now many have had drugs scandals?

This is at Crewe Hall in Cheshire. It just fell together with the bands of colour allowing an incredible focus on the subject even if occupying only a tiny part of the photo.

This was taken in Saxtead in Suffolk, UK around New Year 2001-2. The tracery is fantastic!

And finally, the favourite all rounder! This is taken in Cambridge looking across the Coe Fen at a June dusk. It was around 9pm and I was just driving home and saw it. I had to stop and get it. Total luck that the grass ended up caught in the sun!

Thursday 3 December 2009

Hills Road Railway Bridge, Cambridge

UPDATE at bottom of post....

Hills Road is under considerable development as part of the renewal of the transport intrastructure in Cambridge, specifically the public transport hub at Cambridge railway station.

One aspect of this is to sort out the combination of vehicles going across Hills Road railway bridge. It is one of the busiest routes in Cambridge and is used by public and private transport, bicycles, and pedestrians in great numbers.

One of the issues is safety of cyclists. It has been a notoriously bad spot, with many cyclists opting to illegally use the footpaths on either side rather than stay on the road. The police have turned a blind eye to this mostly, as they are concerned about the safety of cyclists here. However, this does leave pedestrians badly off, especially with careless cyclists.

The amount of motor vehicle traffic on the bridge is also a big issue. It is one of only two routes out of Cambridge to the south. The bridge is butted at either end by junctions that require 2-lane access to keep traffic flowing.

A trial solution to these problems is running from September 2009 for a few months. The concept is to have the inside land dedicated to cyclists when travelling up the bridge, then mix the traffic at the apex into two lanes so that motor vehicles can flow through the junction at the end quickly.

Here is a cyclists-eye video travelling from the north (or from Central Cambridge out of town).

The space afforded ot the cyclists on their slower journey up the bridge is a blessing in comparison to the space offered before the bridge. It allows faster cyclists space to pass slower ones. And, car drivers, being stuck behind a slow cyclist is as infuriating as it is in a car! It gets the cyclists off the pavement. It allows motor vehicles to pass cyclists easily and safely. As a cyclist and a car driver, this really ticks the boxes.

The downslope allows traffic to mingle. If there is a lot of traffic it is usually slowing as the junction will be full of vehicles. This allows cyclists to mingle safely at slower speeds and doesn't hold up motor vehicles any more than they would be by the junction. If there is less traffic, there is lots of space for motor vehicles to get through the junction at higher speeds whilst not interfering with cyclists trying to take their choice of exits.

Here is a cyclists-eye video travelling from the south (or to Central Cambridge from out of town).

Again, the same benefits of being separated apply.

The approach is a little problematic though. I've no doubt that it's to clear up the road in front of the Sixth Form college near the junction.

My approach, as a faster cyclist (probably around 20mph here) is to merge with the motor traffic rather than stay on the cycle-path. You will see that I do this safely, by checking there are no nearby cars when doing this switch of lanes.

So, all in all, the bridge system is fantastic, but the approaches need some further consideration.


The bridge has changed considerably over the past year or two. Plans were rapidly implemented in 2010/2011. This is the new experience going south.

And here is going north.

Much larger lanes are a reflection of just how many people cycle across this bridge (around 5,000 a day, near bottom of this).

The down-side of the bridge still has motor traffic crossing the cyclelanes, which does led to conflict. What to do?
  • Make most of the lane raised (but still crossable, just not attractive)?
  • Or move lanes back to sides?
Not sure what can be done, but I'm sure examples from northern Europe may show the way!

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Addenbrookes Cycle Path, South Cambridge

The Addenbrookes Cycle Path was built to connect the south side of Cambridge to the nearest village of Shelford and connects on to other villages along the Granta valley. It also marks the ten thousandth mile of cycle path with Sustrans involvement. With the combination of sponsors, the path has been marked with just over 10,000 colour stripes, representing the genetic code for a very important human gene - BRCA2, which was sequenced at The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in nearby Hinxton.

This video journey starts in Shelford and heads north into Cambridge. The first part is in Shelford itself and goes alongside the railway from the housing estate around Chaston Road up to the Granham Lane level crossing. The level crossing end is very poorly sighted due to limited space. The route itself goes completely across the road. If the barriers are down, it's very obvious and easy to proceed, but otherwise it involves losing all gained speed.

Unfortunately, I'm missing the first part of the next section, where there is a sculpture which makes the path special. There again, there also is rather a sharp drop which spoils this end.

For the mid section, it's flat, even, and wide enough for 2 cyclists. What a joy! The best bit is the central rubberised section which makes for an incredibly smooth surface and excellent for riding. Of course, everyone should take care of other path users and not just stick on this at all times.

The, the path starts to dip as it heads toward the Nine Wells stream crossing. Yet further flat surfaces and a steady slight incline make this a good speedy ride. The final sculpture, marking the end of the 10k-Miles Sustrans UK Cycle Paths, appears just before the bridge. This is a limited access wooden bridge that crosses the beginning of Hobson's Conduit going into Cambridge.

The next section is a trifle boring, although it does show some of the activities for the Addenbrookes Relief Road (detailed PDF). The path turns eastwards next ot a ditch before finally turning back towards the hospital itself. This second turn is over a limited access bridge which really does require losing a lot of speed to navigate. I can't help but think there might have been better designs, or is it simply to force everyone to slow down more than would be necessary to save the Health & Safety people.

The final section comes up to the hospital south side, alongside a ditch and wood. Again, less than exhilirating. The final approach to the road itself has previously been crowded by hospital employees smoking, as they had been banned from doing it on hospital land. Recently this has abated as the trust has seen fit to deal with the problem rather than sweep it out of their juristriction. The junction is very poorly sighted with traffic coming from a variety of angles. The road surface is also very bad, which is quite a shock after the past 1.6 miles!

Now, this is not the prettiest of paths. However, it is a very good example of taking a route well away from traffic and offering a quiet, smooth, very pleasant cycling experience. Bar a couple of poor spots mentioned above! However, all this pales into insignificance when you travel along it on a summer's late evening and you are guided by little fairy lights all the way in (still be properly lit!), totally awe-inspiring!


Tuesday 1 December 2009

Cycling Safety - Near Accident near Cambridge

This happened to me today on the Hardwick Road just north of Toft, Cambridgeshire. It's so close to an accident I didn't know what to do for a few minutes. Luckily, my legs do just have this habit of going round until my mind returns, so I found myself a bit further on.

However, that's not the nub of this blog. It's more a description and my analysis of what happened. It gives a pretty obvious reason why people don't want to cycle and some kind of ammunition to those calling for more resources to be put into making cycling safer.

So, first a couple of things to observe from the offset of this 20 second video. Note that my camera is mounted on the right hand side of my helmet (and at a slight angle!). It shows that I'm travelling along the edge of the road and in a consistent line. Also, there is clear sight of a lorry and 2 cars in the next 200 or so yards.

Now, listen to the skid that occurs at 4 seconds into the video. This is a car coming up behind me at speed looking to overtake me and finding, at the last moment, that they can't.

Quite what the driver was thinking I don't know. Perhaps they thought that there is enough space on the road for a bike and two passing cars? Looking at the space on the road, that clearly isn't the case. Perhaps they had only registered the lorry and was seeking to pull out after it passed only to discover the following cars? Again, these cars are fairly obvious. Possibly the driver simply wasn't concentrating on the road? Either way, I think most people would consider this driving to be appalling.

Now, the noise of this skid was considerable to say the least. And it was long enough for me to realise what it was, mentally calculate that it might not end before striking me, and take my heart to somewhere near my throat.

My state of mind directly after this was awash with concern. As previously said I went into auto-mode which includes continuing to pedal. However, my speed dropped, I kept trying to look round to see what the car behind was trying to do next. Somehow I was calm-ish, although still concerned that my life might end very soon.

As the car passed, you can see how far into the other lane the driver had to go to pass safely and avoid hitting me. I do remember seeing the driver with shoulder length blond-ish hair. You can't make that out on the video. You can make out the toy stuck to the glass in the back window indicating that the driver probably had a young child, not necessarily in the car. After the car passed it was clearly a small red hatchback (a Fiesta?) with numberplate Y246 WCB (or possible D last). I wish I could get a screenshot of the numberplate, it is quite clear on one frame, but my software isn't up to it.

Now, you may think that this is a one-off event, that cars rarely come so close to causing an accident. However, it's far from the truth. When cycling regularly, and I'm not cycling in the rush hour, it happens once or twice a week to me. Not necessarily the sharp breaking, mostly its missing my right hand by a few inches at 50-60mph. Roads like this one, Long Road north from Comberton, Coton Road north-west from Granchester, Hinton Way north-east from Great Shelford, and Lilm Kiln Road south from Cherry Hinton.

This can hardly be a conducive atmosphere for encouraging less short-range car journeys and more cycling. These are exactly the sort of roads from local Cambridge villages that need to be made safe.

Now, the other issue is should I report this? If someone had taken a pot shot at me with a small firearm most people wouldn't think twice. However, cyclists put up with this danger quite regularly without reporting it. Despite the scenario being any less dangerous and any less deliberate.