You know how usually my posts are accompanied by beautiful pictures in glorious technicolor? Well, you’ll just have to do without those today. Dave didn’t come on my micro-adventure, and I was too busy biking to get many (any?) pictures!
A few weeks ago, I met up with my friend Kate Lockhart. Kate’s a serious outdoors girl, not least because she cycles the forty mile round trip from her home in Mansfield, to work in Ruddington (outside Nottingham) at least a couple of times a week. We were discussing plans to do adventurous things, and later I got a message on Twitter – ‘planA bike to Clumber Pk!’. I was full of misplaced confidence in my own fitness, and not really knowing where Clumber Park was, I agreed without hesitation.
Micro-adventures are something I’ve been reading about for a few months – the term was proposed by Alastair Humphreys, who has previously cycled round the world; he wanted to show that it is possible to do something interesting, challenging and exciting without needing it to be epic or involve frostbite! And more recently, a climber whose blog I read (Eliz Climbs) started writing about her attempts to have a tiny adventure every week – no need for vast wads of cash, intercontinental travel or world record breaking activities. With the comedown from Canada still fresh, I wanted to try and plan a few mini adventures of my own.
And so it was that, on a very windy day, I jammed my ‘newly purchased on eBay’ bike into the boot of my car and headed up to Mansfield. I was slightly disbelieving that we’d actually bike, but having given Kate a chance to marvel at my bike (its inordinate age, how heavy it is, and how much stuff on it needs replacing i.e. all of it) we swooped through Mansfield and out onto the A60. Here’s our route:
Despite only having five gears, I was feeling confident as the route seemed pretty flat, and cycling with someone who knows the area means, like skiing with a guide, that you don’t have to focus on map-reading or navigation, you can just focus on the motions. All very necessary, given it was my first time cycling with drop handlebars, and with the gear changer somewhere between my knees.
If ever you want to see the damage that a cold winter and cuts to local authority money can do to the roads, try getting out on a bike in early February! The potholes were immense, and I was grateful to peel off the A60 and onto the smaller roads as we approached the park itself. A former country estate (and with the house no longer standing), Clumber Park has 3,800 acres of greenery, with cycling routes, a walled kitchen garden and a manmade lake to enjoy. A flash of snowdrops in the hedgerow just outside the park brought a smile to my face, and although the wind was strong, the temperature was rather balmy – spring is on its way! We rode into the park, admiring the avenue of limes (here’s a picture that I didn’t take):
Photo by Lincolnian – Brian (BUSY) on Flickr’s Creative Commons
As Kate nobly bought us hot chocolate and packets of crisps, another visitor asked “have you ridden a long way?”. I had no idea, so said “Er, from Mansfield” and was gratified that he seemed to think that was a long way! It’s about 12 miles, it turns out, but I was feeling good and only once we started back did I realise quite how much the tailwind had helped on the way there. Having spent most of the ride out in the hardest gear, I was rapidly left in Kate’s wake as I struggled into the wind in the lowest gear.
Ah, an innocent smile as I’m thinking that the hard work has been done! Photo by Kate.
The wind increased, gusting to around 55mph, and on our final approach to Mansfield, I was beaten – with legs no longer obeying, we got off and pushed the bikes for the last mile. I can honestly say it was probably as quick as I would have been on a bike! And selfishly, it was a great chance to chat with Kate, talking about the challenges that places like Mansfield and its surrounding towns face as the recession bites, and the prosperity once enjoyed by the town ebbs away.
Despite my realisation of how far I have to go to regain something like fitness, the ride was really enjoyable and definitely felt like I’d achieved something with my Sunday. I rewarded myself with an enormous dinner and a bath, before falling into a deep and satisfying sleep. Now, all I need is a nice new bike and I’ll be off…