Wednesday 10 December 2014

Tour de France 2014 Yorkshire Stage Two

After the joy of watching Stage One in Masham, the next day was to the joy of the first climb of the day, Côte de Blubberhouses (the Guardian's take on French Yorkshire climbs).


The journey there this time managed to get more convoluted than stage one's in that we tacked on a walking section. I was keen to ride, having a penchant for off-roading, but when I saw the height of the bracken I sharply changed my views.

View Pateley Bridge to Blubberhouses in a larger map

The car journey was quite dull, apart from going up past Two Stoops on Naught Bank Road. Luckily I've got that here from another time, just so you don't get to miss out.

The really useful thing here is that the nearby Thrusscross Reservoir has a visitors car park. It wasn't quite full when we got there, just because many people where using the verges for the next mile until the road closed sign. And there was even a car park at the end of that. We stuck to our plan, always a good idea not to dither! It was only a short hill to start!

Click on the square box bottom right to get full screen, well worth it!

Again, our seven year old make short shrift of the slope. Then, lots more parking space! In fact so much, one of our cars is here. Cars are passing, along with faster riders. None too fast or close making it a great riding experience.

And then, the end of the cars! Stopped cars get passed and we head up towards the race through the road closed signs. Although that didn't seem to stop some car drivers, not quite sure why, but heh, still slowed considerably by lots of walking people, also our main concern. I'd suggest that we are still quicker than any car passing us by now. We'll get to the viewing points much quicker than them!

We had scouted out a good place to see the race. Not right on the road side but with a view of over a mile of racing up to the King of the Mountains line. The hillside was scattered with people who'd also thought the same thing. Luckily it was a big hillside! And the whole place came alive, much like yesterday in Masham. People where cheering, despite there being no chance of it carrying to the road side. Except that it was loud enough with enough people that it did.

Anyway it was a short while until the publicity caravanne made it's way along our section. I'm not sure if quite such a bizarre view has been seen nestling in the Yorkshire ferns.

Right click to get full screen, well worth it! Full directory on Flickr.

Then onto waiting again. Lunchtime, talking, a picnic, games, it seemed to become a day out with friends on a summer's Sunday. Surrounded by thousands. Also in the bracken. With a lot of bicycles.

The mela was punctuated with the odd "Ooo" and "Ahh" as vehicles passed on the below road. I did that "I know what's happening, no need to do anything yet" nonchalance and lounged around with a pork pie for company. Well, that and the others trying to get at the pork pie.

Time passed easily and, taking me by surprise, the escapees appeared.

Right click to get full screen, well worth it! Full directory on Flickr.

We watched the few riders and plethora of support cars as they raced for the top. Well, raced-ish. It wasn't a fantastic challenge as the riders seemed to focus on trying to get all the way to the finish and not waste energy on scraping for the morsels of a category 4 climb.

And back to waiting. This time I stood and surveyed the horizon. This time I'm looking for helicopters, the first sign of the main race coming through. Then, three dots appeared which rapidly swelled to five rolling around the countryside. Now, four of these are carrying VIP guests, only one is the TV. It becomes obvious with it's positioning and a big bulb under the front housing the camera. As it passed it went right over us, filming the crowd on the hillside. It was close!

Right click to get full screen, well worth it! Full directory on Flickr.

In fact it was so close as can be seen from this video from the other side of the road. We're near the rock opposite down the valley, and the helicopter is just above us!

Yes, yes, I know, there's a biek race going on, what's happening. Here they are coming up the valley.

Right click to get full screen, well worth it! Full directory on Flickr.

And finally cresting the King of the Mountains.

Right click to get full screen, well worth it! Full directory on Flickr.

And with that, it was just time to head back. This time as everyone wanted to head back at the same times, the roads were a little crammed. It was great to see so many different bikes, in slow motion. Notice that the real way to clog up a road completely is to use a car when there's so many others around. They are going at walking pace slowing everyone. Simply, they would have got out quicker by pulling over, waiting ofr it to clear, then trying.

Click on the square box bottom right to get full screen, well worth it!

And back in the car, at the end, where the roads have opened up. Everyone else stayed up in Yorkshire whilst I hit the A1 south to get to my home town of Cambridge to see the joys of the start of Stage Three. Another adventure to come! Last thing that day was this sighting on the way home.

Right click to get full screen, well worth it! Full directory on Flickr.

Tour de France 2014 Yorkshire Stage One

As the days get colder, it's worth thinking back through this year and remembering happy times.

This year, of course, we had the fantastic visit of the Tour de France that seemed to light up the country and Yorkshire in particular. I know, I know, what am I saying as someone who was massively involved in the Tour de France visit to Cambridge. Genuinely, both places had a fantastic few days, I'm going to talk about Yorkshire for now. Well, talk, eh, I've got 5 videos and a myriad of photos!

The Journey There

I go up to Nidderdale regularly (as if that's not obvious from all the posts). The route from the A1 takes me through Knaresborough and up the valley to Pateley Bridge.

View A1 to Nidderdale in a larger map

Travelling up on Friday 4th July, the valley had gone to town on decorating all their houses, pubs, cafés, shops, restaurants, bridges, in fact, any space that could seemed to have something stuffed in it. This video pulls in views of some of the more obvious.

Knaresborough was well decked out with yellow bikes and little knitted jersey bunting everywhere. Also, French, English, and UK flags flew from many flagpoles. The pièce de résistance was the polka dot Royal Oak pub! Someone spent a lot of time and effort getting that done. And it still is like that months afterwards. The next small town, Summerbridge, also had a lot of decoration, mainly with yellow bikes. Finally, on the approach to Pateley Bridge the bikes appear again, and the High Street was sufficiently decorated to require two passes!

Click on the square box bottom right to get full screen, well worth it!

Pateley Bridge High Street

Right click to get full screen, well worth it! Full directory on Flickr.


So, Saturday dawned, the day of the first stage. We had decided to see it in Masham, the location of the famous Black Sheep Brewery as it would have plenty of entertainment on tap, as well as the beer. The journey was pretty easy, straight up the valley and straight over Masham Moor, the only moor crossing for 20 miles. Can you see how I've tried to mislead you there? Equating "up the valley" with "straight over"? Did you fall for it? Ha!

Anyway, setting off in the car.... Now there's no need for that is there, a car is a valid transport device. It was for a party of 12 (including 2 toddlers and 1 young child), most of which would not be able to ride the moor section. We planned to drive until a few miles away then ride the last bit into town.

So, setting off by car, there already was a big bike presence on the roads. Clearly many had identified this way of getting to various locations along the route. This first day, the actual TdF route almost completely encircled Nidderdale, going up Wharfedale to the west, crossing into Wensleydale to the north, before coming back south through Uredale to the east. We'd left plenty of time to allow for traffic snarl ups on the small road network. Luckily, these didn't materialise as most people had stayed out of Nidderdale, unless on a bike.

Click on the square box bottom right to get full screen, well worth it!

The sheer number of riders going up over the moors was impressive, even if many had dismounted for the dreaded 20% Trapping Hill. Do note that I took great care over passing riders. I only did so as far over to the right as I could when they'd acknowledged my presence and adjusted their road position to indicate passing was okay.

After passing the top, the descent had great views across Wensleydale (or Uredale?) until Leighton Reservoir where farms, fields, and villages started appearing dotted across the landscape. As we descend, more roads join in "draining" traffic from dead end valleys. Finally we stop in the idyllic village of Fearby. Despite there being no parking restictions here whatsoever, we are persuaded to park in a field donating to the village greens cause to do so.

So, onto bikes! All kinds of cycling abilities within our bunch from a very energetic and capable 7 year old, to newly-returned riders, to toddler carriers, to heavy old-schoolers like me. This way was easy, pretty much all downhill.

Fearby Stopping place

Right click to get full screen, well worth it! Full directory on Flickr.

Click on the square box bottom right to get full screen, well worth it!

We got into town to "Road Closed" signs. Just not for bikes yet! There was an incredible turnout in town. Everyone was out enjoying the festival atmosphere. Either biking, walking, cheering, drinking, eating, there didn't seem and end to the smiles.

There were big screens to watch the race, a massive amount of stalls selling food and anything else that'd go, open park space for running around and relaxing, and easy access to the road to make sure we had spots for the Publicity Caravanne.

Big Screen, park, and stalls

Right click to get full screen, well worth it! Full directory on Flickr.

I decided to wander around town to see if I could find the local tourist board who'd twittered with me about the joys of having the race come through, and a slightly odd story about the council asking locals to take bunting down as it might damage lamp-posts (radio on YouTube). I was slightly trepidatious in case my addition to the debate was taken badly. And this might go some wat to explain the little jerseys in front of screen above. I've brought Cambridgeshire knited jerseys to Yorkshire. SHOCK HORROR!

The town was highly decorated, even more than previous standards. Just the lengths people had gone to get something, often huge, onto the streets was astounding.

Tour Decoration in Masham

Right click to get full screen, well worth it! Full directory on Flickr.

Of course, the place with the radio bunting discussion had managed to make sure they had bunting up.

Tour Decoration in Masham

Right click to get full screen, well worth it! Full directory on Flickr.

Of course, once found, the welcome was fully open! Tessa and I laughed about the whole ridiculous thing that seemed to want media people to pitch us against each other. We both loved that we'd done so much to promote the Tour and our local area.

Tessa from Visit Masham

Right click to get full screen, well worth it! Full directory on Flickr.

Returning back to the big screen, and the Publicity Caravanne was due. I've explained this many times. It's a series of oddly shaped cars that drive past with dancing music throwing out freebies. It lasts about 20 minutes and keeps kids busy chasing after absolutely anything. I've bought back many a haul from France. Mind you, that's an 8-visit, 2-person haul. And in places that had fewer people. Masham was heaving, and the passing caravanne riders looked shell-shocked by the sheer number of cheering people. A few things came my way, but I found everything anywhere near and this bloke right in front of me was snatching out of the air. I laughed after a while and muttered something about a goalkeeper. Yes, he was. For the local team.

Publicity Caravanne

Right click to get full screen, well worth it! Full directory on Flickr.

So, that was it, yes? Ah, yes, a bike race. That's why we were here! We moved up through the Black Sheep Visitor Centre, where we'd locked up the bikes, to get to a place with a better view. As we waited, the crowd humour was just amazing.

I don't think I've been in such a cheery crowd, laughing at everything and cheering absolutely nothing, all the time. This was it. The time had come home to roost. Everyone was beyond excited and wanted to share it with every single neighbour, stood next to them. Whether they knew them or not. IT was electrifying that just got stronger and stronger as time passed and the race got closure.

Suddenly, after the 25th false dawn with a passing motorbike, the race charged through. Here's the pictures with riders listed next to them in the four photos that I picked up numbers.

The Race!

Right click to get full screen, well worth it! Full directory on Flickr.

Afterwards, although the race had passed, the crowd as still cheery. It just couldn't be help back. And I wandered across the road for the trophy I'd spotted earlier. Can anyone see the thing that's in the photos above that's not in the one below? Clue, check out the blue lamp-post!

Fin de Course

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Slightly embarrassingly, I'm a bit early as the Fin de Course is just passing, and I've got my trophy!

Anyway, this is where camera batteries died and thus my story runs out of media leaving me with the humble word. We travelled back as easy as going. Our ride back up the hill was fine with everyone coping admirably. It showed that actually it's not too difficult to ride these hills, the bigger issue is sharing roadspace with vehicles. Every so often on the car journey we stopped to make sure stopped riders were okay. A few punctures and loose chains, but plenty of good humour!

And so, to food, beer, wine, and bed, knowing we had a whole new day on stage two to do it all over again. Oh, and watching it all over again on the PVR box!

Sunday 7 December 2014

Mill Road Winter Fair

Another delightful day at the Mill Road Winter Fair. Thousands wander the street unimpeded by cars, enjoying the music, stalls, shops, and each other. This is how a community comes together and creates a vibrant happy place, whilst building up local trade in local, independent businesses.

In super HD, click on the square box bottom right to get full screen, well worth it!

And that's a really important point. The current Communities Minister, Erice Pickles, believes that the best way to encourage shopping is allow people driving cars to go where they want, park where they want. This demonstrates that doing exactly the opposite does far, far more. Just try to imagine this amount of people trying to shop here, but in cars. It's just not physically possible.

By stopping people driving here, two things have been created.
  • A pleasant place that people on foot or bike want to come to
  • Many, many more people can fit in the space
So, the real question here isn't whether it should or should not happen, by why doesn't it happen more often, even once a month.

Anyway, here's a proper speed version of the fantastic @jacquiandgeoff playing at @OutspokenCycle powered music, showing how well biking and music fit!

Click on the square box bottom right to get full screen, well worth it!

Tuesday 2 December 2014

The Squabbling for the Bottom that is Destroying Our Transport System

So, after the last post (possibly the appropriate piece of music), where the Tories announced billions of pounds of going backwards, repeating the same mistakes expecting different results, we have Labour going the same way. As before, the soundbite riposte:
    "Building more ‪#‎road‬ lanes to solve ‪#‎congestion‬ is like loosening your belt to solve obesity. "
After a lifetime of voting Labour they've managed to thoroughly put me off. As they squabble for the 15% of ill-informed vote by trying to out-UKIP UKIP, many more, like me, are deserting them because they fail to engage intelligently.

Where are the speeches that set the agenda rather than follow it? Inspiring people to be better isn't a bad thing. Because, as they do fight for that lowest ground, the only people who win are those who truly peddle it, UKIP.

Here's a report on the actual costs of motoring from the IPPR. For a slightly easier read (with pictures), try this iPayRoadTax article.

Currently, motoring is still subsidised by the taxpayer, and continues to ensure we are held back from helping our economy grow and trap ourselves in an unsustainable system that mires the health of the nation.

Driving cars is the least efficient road space use