Tag Archives: Cycling

THE LOT. A HOLIDAY DIARY.

Puy L’Eveque on the Lot River.

I’ve just returned from three weeks staying in my friend’s house in the Lot Valley, France.  The weather as you can imagine, in August, was hot and sunny.

The first week was shared with the owners and their family, the second two weeks one of my sons came out with his family.

Here is a snapshot of daily life.

Day 1.  Hot air balloon. Awoke this morning to see across the vineyards a hot air balloon landing through the mist over towards Vire. They must have had a fantastic flight in the clear morning air. I don’t know where they launch from, an unusual start to the holiday.

Day 2. Men in orange. It turns out that this Thursday is a French Bank Holiday, we get caught out with the shops being closed.  This explains why the hunters are out in the combe, dogs try to flush out deer or wild boar into the open. Not a good time to go walking. Thankfully there were no shots heard this morning.

Day 3. Full moon. I seem to often visit whilst there is a full moon which shines brightly over the back of the house and garden whilst we are finishing supper.

Day 4. In the pool. The two young children make the most of the pool as the temperature sores into the 30s.

Children, father and grandma.

Day 5. BMF training. Saturday back home in Leeds is BMF training session in Roundhay Park so the exercises were recreated on the lawn. It all looked very energetic and powerful from my viewpoint on a lounger.

Day 6. French walkers. Each day I get out for a short walk, often before breakfast. My favourite is up the garden into the woods and then back down The Combe de Filhol. Today I extend my walk around the Orienteering Course in the woods across the way. I come across a group of French walkers, holidaying in the area, marching along with a map. Normally I see no one but today as I zigzag about I bump into the same group several times, they look a little uneasy as I keep appearing from the undergrowth.

Day 7. Hints of autumn.  On my walks I started noticing fungi pushing through the undergrowth. Unfortunately they looked poisonous, On the other hand, the mirabelles, small plums, were prolific and once stewed provided many delicious desserts with yoghurt or ice cream.

Day 8. All change. I take mine hosts back to the airport and await the arrival of my family group. They are quickly through passport control, how will this be next year after Brexit?   I drive them back with a short coffee break in Isseagac, a charming Bastide town.

Day 9. Garden games. A lot of time was taken up with games in the garden. Boules, table tennis, french cricket, croquet etc. The competitive spirit was well demonstrated in croquet where some most unfriendly manoeuvers were taken.

Day 10. On the bike. For some of my longer excursions, I took one of the bikes with me but ended up walking as much as riding due to the terrain and the bike’s gears’ obstinacy. One of my favourite trips which I hadn’t made for some time was over the hills to St. Martin le Redon in the Theze valley. Firstly over to Touzac then over the river Lot on a splendid metal bridge. Near here is a good swimming spot in the slow running river, popular in the heatwave, One of the GR routes is joined to go over another group of hills down into the Theze valley. St. Martin is a sleepy village but has gained a little cafe since I was last here; a welcome addition. In the valley is a string of limestone cliffs which I often climbed on in happier times. Hilly tracks take me over to Duravel and slowly back to the house.

Day 11. More exercise. As if last weeks exercises hadn’t been enough my own family started on more each day. Matthew and Lou’s seemed fairly casual but Sam was into serious workouts in between fast runs.

Day 12. Shush! there’s a deer in the garden. The orchard higher up the garden has numerous apple trees which drop their fruit at this time of year. It is a regular event for deer to visit the garden for this fruit and Alex spotted one tonight, well done; they don’t hang around long.

Day 13. Off to market. Sunday is market day at the nearby town of Montcuq.  There is a market somewhere every day but this one is very popular with locals and tourists. Every sort of stall [produce, clothing, antiques etc.] street entertainment and an interesting village to explore.

Day 14. The Poolman cometh. An ageing hippy drives up in his Morris Minor van, he has a collection of them, and cleans the pool.

Day 15. Snakes and glow worms.

Day16. More pool activities.  The weather was perfect for relaxing in the pool. One of the challenges was to do a length on the banana,

Day 17. Orienteering. In the woods I’ve set up a simple orienteering course. The family were keen to try it and being competitive split into two groups, I’ll call them the tortoises and the hares. They disappeared for an hour or so and needless to say the more careful tortoises came in first. This proved the hardest to find in a pile of stones in the middle of the trees…

Day 18. Eating in and out. We have mainly eaten at the house, two vegans to feed plus two picky ‘enfants’. Despite that, the family have eaten out at several local restaurants. Chips and salad is the best option for vegans in France. For a special occasion, I specifically booked the nearest place we could walk to. Le Caillau is a lovely courtyard restaurant with a reputation for good food. They told me they could cater for Vegans. My family appreciated the atmosphere and the food but I thought they could have been a little more creative with the seasonable vegetables, What have I missed out – wine tasting, Martignac with its Medieval church, lavoir and cazelle, Buzzards, Bastide towns, castles, mosquitos, kayaking and LOTS  more.

Day 19. Chez mois.  Je suis de retour a la maison maintenant, c’est l’Automne.   Que fait Boris?

 

A LOT OF WORK.

Back in the Lot valley for a couple of weeks to ease me into Autumn. When we arrived the air temperature was up in the high 20s and more importantly was the pool temperature. As the days slowly passed the temperatures dropped but I was still swimming on the last day. This was the usual combination holiday of work and pleasure, heavily biased to the latter. My oldest grandson joined us for a week and it was great to reacquaint him with the pleasures of rural France, think food and wine. It was a bus-man’s holiday for him being on lifeguard duty by the pool!  Despite the usual post flight colds we managed a few local walks and cycles incorporating fruit picking, he was on guard as I picked. Bad example to the innocent younger generation. Light relief came from boules, table tennis, crosswords and whist – boring old farts.

Anyhow to get back to the subject of this post there was a lot of work going on at nearby Hauterive Chateau with the plums they grow alongside the vines A machine washed and cleaned the ripe plums, trays of plums are then loaded into ovens to dehydrate them into our breakfast prunes. As well as our boxes of wine we came away with handfuls of plums which provided desserts for many nights. Grape picking occurs later at the end of September.

The fields in the vicinity of the house had been harvested earlier and now they were being ploughed and harrowed. The size of modern machinery is staggering, the tractor turns up with a trailer which then proceeds to unfurl its long wings making quick work of the large fields. The last run must have been seeding as within a few days green shoots of Barley appeared.

One morning I woke to find a man on the roof cleaning the chimney in the traditional way. Apparently one needs an annual certificate of this work being carried out for insurance purposes.

We had our own work repairing the sit on mower but thankfully the helper is an experienced engineer. It did work later.On my daily circuit of the wooded hill and combe I spotted some trees that had their bases tarred and sticks placed against them, not as traps but possibly as markers for any boar or deer movements. The woods are hunted regularly. No one was able to give a satisfactory explanation.

Every night a deer came down the garden to feed on fallen apples so in an attempt to get a closer view I rigged up my hammock and laid in wait but of course I drifted off to sleep, too much wine, so probably missed all the action. There was a full moon which lit up the garden in the early hours.

A pleasant couple of weeks.

EASTER DISTRACTIONS ON THE GUILD WHEEL.

The garage where I bought my car from last year lies on The Guild Wheel circuit. When I phoned to arrange the yearly service I was surprised the appointment, they have become very clinical in garages, was on Easter Monday, so rather than waste the day in went the bike. The receptionist, very clinical, was taken aback by my Lycra and helmet and doubted I would be back within the 2 hours the service would take. I set off on the Wheel in an anticlockwise direction and after a couple of miles I was investigating the lock gates from the Ribble into Preston docks when a familiar voice caught my ear and there was one of my sons and his partner cycling the opposite way. They were visiting from Manchester and doing a quick circuit before dining with family. I was invited to join them and soon was retracing my ride past the garage I had left a short while ago. I meant to mention that this garage is part of a multi motor showroom complex – there are cars and salesmen everywhere.

The day was cool and dry, we made good progress around the northern half of the Wheel. I managed to keep up with their youthful pace but was glad of a coffee stop in, say it quietly, Starbucks.That reminded me of a picture I took in Bethlehem a couple of years ago.

Onwards and down through the woods at Redscar where the bluebells were just colouring up. Now the fact it was Easter Monday hit home as all the way through Brockholes the path was thronged with families enjoying the sunshine. Slow progress. The pace quickened on the stretch by the river and after that my companions took a different route up into Preston. From here the crowds thickened again and I realised it was the famousegg rolling day in Avenham Park so it was simpler and safer to dismount and walk with the crowds. There was a great party atmosphere – egg-rollers, fair goers, music and dance entertainment and general family happiness. I tarried to absorb it all.

Even after leaving the park the route through the docks was thronged with people, the steam train was running. I arrived back at the garage after three hours to collect my car, complete with its clinical diagnostic sheet. I complemented the receptionist on their efficiency and enthused how easily I fitted the cycle into the boot.

Everyone seemed happy on this sunny Easter Monday.

BEACON FELL CIRCUIT.

It was one of those out of body experiences – I was 11years and cycling as fast as I could around the Teesdale lanes getting strong for some time trialing; then I was in my teens touring various parts of Britain with my mates; now I’m 30 and exploring the Trough of Bowland and further afield doing 100 mile days; next I’m 50 and cycling across Europe on endless adventures. Now I’m off my bike and having to walk up a steepish hill onto Beacon Fell. Bugger.

Today’s circuit from home is about the same distance as the Preston Guild Wheel which I’ve been using recently but with HILLS – over a 1000ft of ascent. Your are on your own here.Still the roads are quiet, the sun is shining and I’m wrapped up against the freezing temperatures.

Beacon Fell is a local landmark and popular with strollers and families. It is one of my regular haunts usually walking as previous posts detail. I had forgotten how impregnable it was on a bike. Still the cafe is open all year. Despite the icy roads it was mainly fast downhill from here on the long way round to Chipping under the Fairsnape Fells. There were a few more hills I’d forgotten about!

and then I’m sprinting to the finish on the Champs-Élysées.

***

As an aside I passed several laneside garages long since abandoned, they were a feature of the countryside 50 years ago. They were never open when you needed petrol  on a Sunday afternoon but their skilled mechanics kept the locals cars and tractors on the road. No plug in diagnostics in those days.

 

 

 

 

New Year Miscellany.

Several days have been sunny and cold but windless – perfect for a spot of bouldering at Craig y Longridge. There have been a few more brave souls out on the rock. The crag is owned and managed by the BMC [thankfully for now this acronym has outlasted the suggested change to  Climb Britain] and the climbing fraternity have done us proud, with no antisocial behaviour or littering. However at the parking spot some ‘part time builder’ has found it easier to dump his rubbish in the road than take a trip to the tip.     Happy New Year.

I noticed the above whilst cycling past on a circuit of Longridge Fell roads, much harder than the relatively level Guild Wheel. Thankfully I was alone, I was so out of breath conversation would have been impossible.

Back to the Guild Wheel I was on it again New Years Day, this time walking part of it with a friend who was plotting a short walk in the Fernyhalgh area for his monthly walking group. We found a decent dry circuit with plenty of interest. Passing on route at Ladyewell the old Fernyhalgh School building [now a private day nursery] – my children attended there in the 70s when it was still the village primary, only to be closed against local opposition. There is still evidence of Boys and Girls separate entrances. Nearby is a memorial to local lads lost in WW1, quite an ornate cross for the five.

Ladyewell Nursery. Wikipedia.

Ladyewell Nursery. Wikipedia.

With the same friend a circuit of the Longridge Fell tracks was completed on New Years Eve, we were glad to be in the trees out of the cold wind. The only other people met were dog walkers. A few of the poorer days have been spent at Preston Climbing Wall in a vain attempt to steal some fitness from the season.

Preston Guild Wheel again.

In my last post I mentioned there were a few issues with the ‘Wheel’ but as we were in the Xmas season of goodwill I left them till now. Today has been bright, sunny and freezing with no wind – perfect for another circuit to keep the momentum going. Well wrapped up I cycled from Longridge thus adding an extra ten miles to my clockwise route. Brockholes nature reserve was busy with family parties strolling around and serious telescope wielding birders. There did seem to be a lot of wildlife on the lakes. Onwards again in the parks families were enjoying the good holiday weather. This brings me to the first issue, that of sharing the ‘path’, there are a multitude of users – cyclists, strollers, pram pushers, dog walkers, joggers. On social media there have been unfavourable comments directed at cyclists for their selfish and at times dangerous behaviour. The main issue being speed. I must admit on my visits the majority of cyclists proceed in an orderly manner with due respect to pedestrians. There are only a few head down speedsters. Being old fashioned I have a bell on the bike and use it when approaching walkers as a warning, this seems to work well and we all pass happily. My grumble here is that a significant number of walkers are plugged in to some sound system, don’t hear and tend to stumble into your track becoming a danger to all. Touché.

The Guild Wheel has been a great success as a recreational route since its inauguration in  2012

For walkers and cyclists it is mainly traffic free but recent developments are threatening its viability. There are several new housing developments in the northern section which will, apart from the inevitable loss of open countryside, increase traffic on the presently quiet lanes. Local residents are as much up in arms as the Guild Wheel users. I believe that sections of ‘cycle to school’ lanes are also affected.                                                                                                                      In another area the construction of The Broughton By-pass cuts right across the Wheel and endangers users. I have not seen the proposals for pedestrians and cyclists on its completion.   It is interesting to read correspondence between Guild Wheel campaigners and our political representatives on the County Council. I will leave it to your interpretation as to whom to believe, time will  tell. There is a petition to sign if you have strong views.

Back home warming up in the bath I’ve a warm glow of satisfaction from today’s ride – physical and mental – long may it remain possible.

 

 

 

AROUND THE WHEEL, IF NOT THE WORLD, IN EIGHT CAFES.

      The Roman Soldiers on Preston Guild Wheel have dressed for the festive occasion.

The most clicked page on my posts in the last few years has happened to be the Preston Guild Wheel map –

– it seems to be a popular ride.

This is no blow by blow account of today’s festive ride, I’ve done that before here and there.

Better to look at one of the many YouTube videos of a speeded up trip around the circuit, they remind me of the London to Brighton film shown on the BBC as an interlude back in the days, along with the potter’s wheel.

Anyhow to get back to today’s ride, anticlockwise from Red Scar on a sunny but cold afternoon.  I didn’t have time to call in at all the refreshment stops but made a mental note for a future caffeine indulgence. Other beverages are available.                                                                     [These are the establishments directly on the Wheel, there are several more within a  hundred metres for a grand slam circuit.]

Starbucks. Bluebell Way.Jpeg

The Guild Merchant.  Tag Lane.

Ancient Oak.  Cottam.

Final Whistle Cafe. UCLAN Sports Centre.

The Beach Club Coffee Shop.   Preston Marina.

The Continental.  Riverside.

The Pavilion Cafe.  Avenham Park.

Floating Cafe. Brockholes.There are some ongoing issues with the Guild Wheel but I’ll leave them to a later date.

 

… so a seasons greetings to you all.