Thursday, 15 June 2017

Blackpool to Fleetwood

Here in Derby we are pretty well in the centre of the country and about 100 miles from the sea, so cycle rides like this are not easy to access.  However, here is one which, admittedly involves  a fairly long train journey, but can easily be done in one day and at reasonable cost if you have a Railcard and can book well ahead on the Internet.

By booking a ticket well in advance, you do get the best price but have to take a chance on the weather, and on this occasion it turned out to be a rather lively day with gale force winds coming across the Irish Sea to hit the Fylde Coast with some force, and although there was no rain I was soaked several times by heavy spray from waves crashing into the concrete breakwaters.  Also a camera malfunction limited the quantity and the quality of photographs at the Fleetwood end.  Sorry about that.  Nevertheless, an exhilarating ride, and one which I will repeat in (hopefully) calmer conditions.
The ride is about 11 miles each way.

It goes South to North so we need to alight at Blackpool South Station, having made two changes of train en route, one at Crewe and one at Preston. Adjacent to the station is an Aldi Supermarket, very handy for stocking up with snacks for the ride, although there is no shortage of eateries in Blackpool. Aldi's sandwiches are very good value and a personal favourite of mine.

             Turn left from the station and ride towards the Promenade.

Here is the Prom just North of the South Pier with Blackpool Tower ahead. This is a telephoto shot, so the Tower looks much closer than it actually is. The following photograph gives a more realistic perspective.

To say that the Promenade is generously proportioned would be an understatement and it looks even more so with few people on it.
A lovely flat hard surface all the way to Fleetwood.

     Everything in Blackpool is larger than life, including these artworks. Not sure if they are normally vertical but yielding to the strong westerly wind.

                              Approaching the Central Pier.

                                          Blackpool Tower

And the North Pier.

Blackpool's trams are world famous and run all the way from The Pleasure Beach to Fleetwood, a distance of 11 miles. The tramway was opened in 1885 and these modern trams were introduced in 2012.
The older Heritage" trams rum at certain times.

The North Pier - high tide - rough sea.

The view Northwards.

In many places there are several parallel hard surfaced paths to choose from, the middle one here preferred,  as the lower one was too wet, and the upper one too windy. Several miles of this easy cycling in better weather.

The sea defences along the Fylde Coast are subject to some serious civil engineering work and so the Promenade is closed in places, but there are roads close by.
Video of the sea front in Cleveleys in processing. See later.

Return by the same route, and if in need of food or liquid refreshment, pay a visit to Wetherspoons (The Velvet Coaster) which is close by the South Pier and not far from Blackpool South Station.

Click HERE for dramatic drone footage of Blackpool Promenade including close ups of the top of the Tower.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Ely to Cambridge

Another fairly long but relatively inexpensive train journey from Derby takes us out to the flat lands of Cambridgeshire for a gentle ride across the fens from Ely to the City of Cambridge.
Ely itself is indeed a lovely place, so we start by taking a look around one of our smallest cities with it's magnificent cathedral standing high above the surrounding flat landscape.

                       The cathedral is known as "The  Ship of the Fens".

This is the house of Oliver Cromwell which is open to visitors.

The River Ouse - lots of boats and several waterside pubs.

                       We start the ride from the riverside path.

                      And follow it towards the road bridge.

We are following Route 11 of the National Cycle Network and The Fen Rivers Way. Ignore the mileages quoted.  From here to Cambridge is well over 20 miles. See later.

Turn left at the road and keep on the pavement for safety.

We have to cross the busy A142 here to access the path on the right.
Watch out for high speed traffic.
The path is on top of the flood bank ............................. good views of the surrounding landscape.

                                            E'll lead the way (;-)

See what I mean about the mileages? 

Follow the NCN 11 signs onto the country lanes heading for the village of Wicken. Turn left in the village following sign to Wicken Fen.

Here is the Visitor Centre which incorporates ..............

.... an excellent cafe where you can dine outside if the weather is suitable.

Follow the main path alongside the water.

 Several bridges carry the path over the waterways.

Pass through White Fen.
Much of this area is a large nature reserve and there are plans to extend it to cover most of the area between Ely and Cambridge.
Entering the village of Lode and ahead of us is the less attractive part of the ride which is the A14 main road into Cambridge, which fortunately has provision for separate cycle paths alongside.

Here we pass through this strangely named village.

Now onto NCN 51, we have only 4 miles to go with another off-road path through the large Park and Ride car park...............

...................marked by this giant bike archway to the Jubilee Cycleway

Opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 2002.

The return to Ely, assuming that you have a return ticket to Derby, is best by the frequent and inexpensive trains which run between Cambridge and Ely.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Stoke-on-Trent to Leek (Canal Ride)

This spectacular ride of about 15 miles each way takes us from the Potteries to the Staffordshire Moorlands by way of the Caldon Canal which is an offshoot of the Trent and Mersey Canal.
The Caldon Canal is close by Stoke railway station and there is a good rail service from Derby, costing around £8 for a return ticket if you have a Railcard.

An unremarkable start below the busy streets of Stoke.

In fact pretty grim looking concrete locks further desecrated by mindless graffiti, but stick with it - it gets better as we go on.

Improving .............................

....... but we're a long way from Derbyshire.

Lots of industrial buildings alongside the canal to remind us of busier times.

The tall locks remind us that we are heading to a higher landscape.
 In fact the canal rises by 150 feet by the time we get to Leek.

 We are following Route 550 of the National Cycle Network.

Etruria where there is an industrial museum alongside the canal.

Yet more locks!

And more industrial buildings.

Note that the path has an excellent surface and this continues for most of the way.

Passing Hanley Park. There are public toilets here, but not of a high standard. (Pretty grim in fact).

And bottle kilns, a reminder of the area's industrial heritage.

Now this is more like.

Nice gardens at these houses.

Approaching the flight of locks at Stockton Brook.

Unusual sculpture alongside the locks.

Above this lock we cross on the road bridge to the left side of the canal.

Into open country ............................

Canada geese with lots of goslings.

Here the canal divides, with the left branch going on towards Uttoxeter and the right branch going to Leek by way of an aquaduct.

The Uttoxeter branch drops down at these locks to pass beneath the Leek branch.

Only a grass towpath here for a short distance.

A sharp left turn here as we cross this bridge to access the aquaduct.

This is the aquaduct............

.........with the Uttoxeter branch below.

Back to the right bank again.

Some lovely places to live out here.

Here the entrance to the Leek tunnel, less than 400 yards long but no towpath, and whilst boats get through in only 3 minutes, land transport has to go over the hill. way of these steps, which fortunately have a bike wheeling ramp alongside.
In the days of horse drawn barges the animals would have been led over the hill on a bridleway path, which still exists.

Looking back down the steps we see the large lagoon where boats wait their turn to pass through the tunnel.
No steps on the other side, instead a very steep path down to water level. We are now almost in Leek and no doubt ready for refreshment.
Two recommendations -
Morrison's supermarket, just through the industrial estate.
And Wetherspoons which is the Green Dragon in St.Edward Street.

And a video of the first part of the cycle ride from Leek to the Tunnel

And a video of the locks at Stockton Brook