BLOG: ANDY JONES
It’s been a much quieter week for me since returning from my ten days away covering the cobbled classics. A welcome respite and a chance to catch up on things at home.
The weather on the other hand has been far from restful. We have had a bit of everything thrown at us up here in Sheffield over this last week.
With getting back from France at 04:30 on Monday morning last week I was feeling tired to say the least. I was up at around nine though to start getting my pictures sent along to the office. This seemed to take an age and realised that my broadband connection speed had dropped significantly. Not good.
As pictures ticked over to the FTP I spent time editing more pictures ready to be sent.
It was late afternoon by the time I decided I needed to get some air and stretch the legs. With not having been out on the bike for ten days I decided to just do a couple of hours by riding out to Bakewell and back to ease the legs back in to things. It wasn’t a bad afternoon come early evening and there was some welcome sunshine to lift the spirits. I wouldn’t say it was warm though.
Most of Tuesday morning and afternoon was spent composing my Blog from the previous weeks events. By late afternoon I felt I had it cracked and sent it along with a selection of pictures to go in to the text to Nigel Wynn so he could check it and post it on to the Cycling Weekly website.
The weather over the morning had been reasonable, but with the look of a shower or two ever present. I got myself kitted up and took myself out on the bike. It was gone 15:30 and thought I’d do three hours by going out to Matlock and back. It wasn’t warm and not helped by a stiff head wind all the way out. The threatened showers finally materialised and were mixed with hail for good measure. There was one point on the descent of Winster Bank that the intensity of the hail forced me to slow as I was having trouble seeing where I was going, partly due to having to squint with the pain of the ice balls hitting my face. It was cold enough to see your own breath on the air.
Between the showers of hail and rain it was reasonable and I did start to dry out so it could have been a lot worse. I have to admit to feeling my legs over the second half of my ride and with another heavy shower catching me near Bakewell I cut the corner so to speak by missing out Ashford-in-the-Water and riding straight out of Bakewell to Thirteen bends. By Froggatt my legs didn’t feel good at all.
The situation was helped though by me tagging along with a fellow cyclist by the name of Dave who was pedalling my way on his route back from work in Bakewell. He, it turned out, works as a legal adviser for Natural England an organisation that, as their website states, “Works for people, places and nature, to enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas; promote access, recreation and public well-being; and contribute to the way natural resources are managed so that they can be enjoyed now and in the future.”
It was good chatting to him as we pedalled our way up Froggatt. The legs were starting to feel slightly better.
As we descended towards Sheffield the skies darkened once again and rain started to fall along with more hail. Along Sheephill Road towards Ringinglow village we were passed by Malcolm Elliott. He glanced back and I shouted, “Hiya Malc, are you alright?” He replied, “Ok, but cold.” as he disappeared up the road. It was at that point the hail intensified and the surface of the road became a mass of small white icy balls. What weather!
Wednesday and my first telephone call of the day was made to Autoglass. I’d had the windscreen of the car damaged a few weeks ago when I drove up to see Richard Meadows for his ride story. Watching the TV on Tuesday evening there had been an advert for Autoglass which prompted me to do something about my chipped windscreen before it got any worse.
It was an easy process to book an appointment with the choice of one of their mobile technicians coming out to me or me going down to their local repair workshops. It turned out there was a workshop unit at Meadowhall in Sheffield and so I booked in for a 16:30 slot there. I was told it would be all done in half an hour or so and all while I waited. Perfect.
Did some more work in the morning with catching up on correspondents and sending along a few picture requests.
I briefly went out on the bike for an hour or so to stretch the legs which were I admit still feeling the miles from Monday and Tuesday‘s rides. The weather was much improved from the previous day, though it was still cloudy and cold. The stiff east wind was taking the edge of the temperatures. I just pedalled up the Mayfield Valley and out to Ringinglow. Went over to Fox House, down past Toad’s Mouth to Surprise View and dropped down the hill before turning right just before the Millstone Inn. Climbed up to the back of Higger Tor and dropped round Burbage Bridge and on to Ringinglow to descend back home. A ride of 16 miles.
I was back in good time to freshen up and take the car down to Autoglass. It’s been a while since I’ve been out to the Meadowhall side of Sheffield. I used to drive out that way to work everyday for over ten years when I worked at the Sainsbury’s superstore that used to be there. It’s always amazing to see how road systems change and buildings appear in such a short space of time. There were parts I didn’t recognise.
Drove in and parked up at Autoglass’s industrial unit workshop opposite the Meadowhall shopping complex. The reception was bright and airy and the people on the desk were pleasant and efficient. A quick check and assessment of the damage to my windscreen was made. I was told there shouldn’t be a problem and I signed for the work to be done.
I waited in the customer seating area in reception and watched a rerun of Midsomer Murders that was playing on the TV in the corner. It didn’t seem long before my half hour wait passed and the technician brought my car keys back to say all was fixed. I have to say the repair is very good and there is just the smallest of blemishes in the windscreen now which I was told to expect. The important thing that it’s now much stronger and safer than it was and should now last.
The weather overnight into Thursday took another turn. I pulled back the curtains on Thursday morning to see a covering of snow. It didn’t stay long and by midmorning it had all but disappeared. I took the opportunity to get out on the bike once again. It was bright and breezy meaning the roads were drying out nicely. It was still cold with the winds coming from the east. No sign of any snow, even on the higher ground.
Did the old faithful Matlock run, but still pleasant as there is always something new to see as the seasons change. The woods along Via Gellia out of Cromford are of note. The woodland floor is covered in the fresh green leaves of wild garlic and the garlic aroma wafts your way as you pedal by. There’s also wood anemone about too and their white flowers are just appearing amongst all the greenery.
The white garlic flowers will be out a little later. It won’t be long either before the woodland floors have the blue-purple hue from the carpets of bluebells that bloom in the woodlands there. I always think of bluebells as flowering in late April through to the first half of May. However, when I was on the Kemmelberg the other week I spotted the bluebells were in bloom there already. Not as good as the display I expect to see in my local Ecclesall Woods in a week or two’s time though.
Thursday evening and I finally got to booking my accommodation for next weeks Ardennes classics.
Friday was a rest day from the bike so it was a day of domesticity. Ironing, cleaning and hoovering. Started throwing out a few things too. It was no hardship being in the flat as the weather was grey and overcast with the still cutting east wind that has gripped us all week.
Popped up to mum and dad’s later in the day and stayed over for tea. Washed and hoovered out the car while I was there too. There was still Roubaix dust on the tailgate.
Saturday and still it was overcast and cold. All a bit depressing really. Got myself out on the bike and did my Millers Dale run which I’ve not done for a while. My spirits were lifted when I saw two pairs of Goosander along the river between Hathersage and Grindleford. I’d not seen any Goosander about for a while, so they were really good to see. Hopefully they will nest and there will be chance to see the chicks which are adorable, as I suppose all wetland and wildfowl chicks are. Robust balls of fluff ready to go straight out in to the wilds albeit under the watchful eye of mum.
Coming past the fields near Ashford-in-the-Water I heard and then spotted a Wren on one of the fence posts. Along with the Goldcrest, the Wren is one of Britain’s smallest birds but packs one of the biggest bird song calls. The tiny ball of beautifully marked brown feathers with upright tail, confidently blasted out it’s territorial call in to the cool morning air. It was another moment when you wish you had a camera to catch it all.
Sunday and a bad day on the weather front. Grey with low cloud and drizzle all day. Spent the morning writing this instalment of my blog as the thought of venturing out on the bike didn’t really appeal.
By mid afternoon there seemed little improvement in conditions other than the drizzle perhaps easing slightly. Decided I’d venture out and have a spin on the bike for some air anyway. Setting off up Ecclesall Road and the conditions didn’t feel too bad, perhaps a little milder than of late. Also, I noticed an improvement in how the legs felt. I rode over to Bakewell taking care on the damp roads which seemed to have a lot of diesel on them. It’s something that seems more common on the roads these days. More so than I seem to remember anyway. Climbing up Froggatt the low cloud really came in and a steady drizzle made for a damp few miles on the run in back to Sheffield. Still, quite enjoyed the ride as I was starting to feel that the legs were getting back to something like. It’s surprising how 10 days away from the bike can really dull the legs.
Finally, just an update on the blackbird nest below my kitchen window. There has been much activity all week with both parent birds to-ing and fro-ing with beaks full of worms. I’ve seen them on the grassy bank behind my flat straining and pulling as they winkle out worms. It’s amazing the effort they are able to put in. I’ve put out a bit of food, mainly bread to help them along, though it seems generally it’s only the best protein packed worms that go back to the nest.
Among the bread I’ve occasionally put out a little cheese which the local Magpies go mad for. They are always funny to watch as they will eat a few bits and then decide they are going to bury bits in the grassy bank to save for later. Whether they every find it again before it decomposes I doubt. Still, entertaining to watch.
I’d really love to take a peek at the blackbird nest and see how big the youngsters are getting. I’m away over the next week and worried I may miss them fledge. Hopefully I’ll be back in time to see them go. Would love to get a picture of the event too.
That’s it for this week. Catch up in a week with news of my Ardennes Classics week.
Andy Jones is Cycling Weekly's resident photographer, and has covered pretty much every major cycle race there is, from downhill mountain biking to the Tour de France. You can see many of Andy's photos in our online Gallery section.