From our North-West Leicestershire Correspondent.
Bank Holiday Monday. I originally intended to make an 0630 start and string together some more local tracks, however the alarm revealed heavy rain streaming down the windows, so it was Radio 4 until 0700 and then the 3 S’s…
Downstairs I was greeted, not only by a snoring Irish Terrier, but the aftermath of a days entertaining the family, dominated by the new born who managed to alternately scream and nappy fill throughout the visit. Little consolation this morning to get a text informing us that ‘Esme had slept like a top for 8 hours’!
So it was a leisurely breakfast, a tidy up and a newspaper and coffee morning, but by 1100 the rain had gone and we had bright sunshine. Dog walk time and very pleasant too, hardly anyone about and blackberries bursting from the hedgerows – pick me, pick me they cried – so we did! #43 use of a cycling cap – hope the stains come out! Putting blackberries in a dog poo bag seemed – well, just wrong!
So, today, Tuesday, dawns bright, but with an early autumnal chill and a heavy dew. Chores first, so a quick trip for top up groceries and then out on the Fargo by 0930. Kids are back at school today, so much quieter on the roads. Cruising through hthe village I meet up with one of our local icons – he’s 75 and still a very competitive tester. Proof if proof were ever needed of the added years benefits of cycling! We ride together chatting for a couple of miles – an odd couple, me on a drop handlebar fat tyre adventure bike and him on a tall paperweight Cervelo TT bike, before our routes diverge.
I take one of my regular routes through the maze of back lanes created in the 1800’s when there were literally hundreds of small coal mines locally, providing the area with it’s coal mining heritage and the name of the nearest town, Coalville. Deep coal mining has long disappeared, replaced briefly by a number of extensive opencast sites, all now worked out and restored. The new National Forest is based here and these former sites are providing land for reforestation, new open access areas and also great leisure opportunities. You may have heard of Hicks Lodge (http://www.forestry.gov.uk/hickslodge) which is a prime local example of what can be achieved , providing facilities for walkers, cyclists and birdwatchers, together with an excellent cafe.
I leave the road to join a triangular network of RUPP’s, BOTAT’s and BW’s between Ravenstone, Packington and Normanton Le Heath, sadly the 4×4 brigade have dragged the farmers concrete beams aside to allow them to gain access – what a mess they make of previously smooth tracks. Thankfully its only for a couple of hundred yards before they dive off into the abandoned woodland and I’m able to relax without risking terminal pedal strikes in their cavernous ruts – bastards! The area I’m joining now is the most recently restored opencast site, its managed by the Woodland Trust, is open to all and has a large lake with hides, a network of guided trails and 450 odd acres of new woodland. I bible around some of the gravel tracks, stopping briefly to chat to some ‘twitchers’ – opening line “anything new today?” Always the same!
I slip through a side bridle gate onto the original track and through harvested corn fields, dodging the recently cut hedgerows! I follow the ‘Unsuitable for Motors’ (unless on an amorous assignation, it would appear!) track, passing through the farm now diversified into rearing deer and bison, but I wasn’t sure whether the flock (herd?) of Alpacas were kept for their wool or meat (or both?) A short spin on the road to cross the A511 before my final quiet lanes through Farm Town, Pegg’s Green and Swannington. Not a major expedition, just shy of 16 undulating miles and unusually for me – no cafe stop! (There’s grass to be cut, see?)
Words & pictures – Robin Fisk