One advantage of cycling the Preston Guild Wheel on a Saturday is that the little docklands railway is often running. The Ribble Steam Railway runs on a stretch of the lines that come out of a branch from Preston Station. At one time there were extensive lines serving the docks, but now the only commercial use is an infrequent goods train supplying a local Total bitumen plant. I’ve only ever seen the preserved trains on their short stretch of line. Recently was a special occasion as it was the maiden journey of a recently restored Furness Railway 0-4-0 steam engine no 20. This was originally built in 1863! What a sight and sound as it trundled along the track pulling a couple of coaches filled with waving enthusiasts.
I ended up in conversation with a couple from Bolton who often bring their bikes up here to cycle the guild wheel with lunch in the wonderful Boathouse café on Preston Marina, a stone’s throw from the wheel. They also had stopped to watch the train and were trying to take pictures for their grandson. Like myself, they find cycling on off-road trails far more relaxing and safer than our busy roads. We end up comparing trails as one does with fellow enthusiasts, although I have to admit to being an amateur. I do however recommend to them the trails in the Lancaster area, which I’ve been using recently. I give them a link to the bikehike mapping website that I mentioned in my last post. They have family living up in Halton, just off the motorway, so seemed keen to explore a little farther afield. I wave them goodbye, expecting them to quickly overtake me, but I never see them again. Just one of those pleasant encounters.
My most striking conversation was today. I was taking a break on the bench opposite Broughton’s War Memorial, in the now traffic calmed Garstang Road. Next week will be Armistice Day and there will be a service here to remember the fallen. As well as listing the dead from WW1 and WW2 there is a plaque dedicated to a James Towers a local man who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in the first world war. He died peacefully in 1977.
As I said I was taking a break here when a young lady cyclist pulled up for the same reason and we shared the bench. I wasn’t prepared for the story she, perhaps reluctantly, came out with. She was cycling the Guild Wheel for the first time in ages to remember her partner who died of Covid this year. It would have been his birthday today. He had been a fit young man, a runner and a cyclist, but ended up on a ventilator for two months before he finally succumbed. I gave my, probably pathetic sounding, sympathy and complemented her ride on what must be a difficult occasion. The conversation continued, it turned out she is a nurse who has worked throughout the pandemic. She wasn’t allowed to see her loved one in intensive care because of the restrictions, and this must have been heartbreaking for her, as at times she was on the wards in the same hospital. Wow, I admire her bravery.
We talk about the continuing pandemic, it isn’t over yet as you may have noticed, and her present nursing duties. She is far less critical than I at how our government has handled the crisis. She does however state the all too obvious fact, seemingly ignored by our politicians, that the hospitals are at breaking point. This week, three patients on ventilators were airlifted from a NW hospital to Birmingham to try and create room for more patients with life-threatening illnesses. I can’t comprehend the dedication that young women like her show in continuing to serve their patients in these desperate times.
She goes on her way, and I am left to contemplate what life has thrown at her.