With the lead up to Easter, I hadn't done much riding so decided that I needed to get out and do a good ride on one day over Easter. Monday, 25 April 2011, isn't just Easter Monday for a Kiwi. It is also ANZAC day. Still I am not into celebrating events around wars so it was time to head off for a ride. The ride from Nottingham to Lichfield sounded like a good challenge. The first challenge is how to get to Nottingham and then back from Lichfield. The train was my chosen option but Lichfield isn't on the same train line as used by the Cross Country service to Nottingham. Two tickets rather than a return trip ticket. I had to swap trains at the University station on the way into New Street station only to find the train returned back to Cotteridge. Seemed a waste of time but the train didn't stop between New Street station and Tamworth so I had no other option.
On reaching Nottingham, I decided to head to Nottingham castle before heading off to find the cycle route. This took in a loop round the central city and back to the station. Once on the canal path and working out which way was west, I headed off in search of Route 6. There were no signs for the National Cycle Network along the canal path so with the terrain map in MotionX GPS having the cycle route on it, I used it to ensure that I didn't overrun the point where I needed to make the connection. The iPhone screen in the bike mount isn't easy to read partly because of the mount angle so it meant stopping at possible exit points to check I was on track.
The Nottingham canal path was busy with walkers and other cyclists so it was finally nice to get off and into some quite back streets. I find it easy to miss the signs when the cycle way is in a city. Part of this is because the cycleway sometimes takes narrow paths between houses and if you are like me, riding on the road, you don't always see the. Fortunately, I only did one such detour in Nottingham. Although there were places where the ride took me through parks, it seemed to take a long time before going over the M1 and finally clearing the housing of Nottingham.
The journey to Derby would follow Route 6. In Derby, I needed to change to Route 54 but the connection was labelled Route 68, 6. This proved a little confusing so I took a lunch break while trying to work out in which direction I needed to go. When I found Route 54, the signs pointed along the river heading north. Although some (not many) had place names, they tended to be local destinations rather than the more distant destinations that I would recognise. At this connection point, there seemed to be no signs pointing in the direction that I needed to travel in. Without the maps, I would have struggled to be on the correct route.
The mile posts were better at having more major towns or cities on them so they acted as a better guide as to whether I was heading in the right direction. These are scattered along the routes but not always a key decision points along the route. I didn't see any in central Derby when I could really have done with one.
There were too additional problems with the route marking. Some of the signs had stickers on them obscuring the route number and one had been turned to point in the wrong direction. Fortunately, I recognised that when it said city centre it should have been pointing in the direction that I was coming from making it easier to select the correct direction.
There were some interesting sections on this part of the ride and on the section between Mickleover and Etwall, I passed a Sustrans Volunteer talking to other riders about difficulties maintaining the cycle route. A lot of this section of the ride skirted around the edge of small villages. Some did have signed routes into the village centre.
Route 54 joins Route 5 at the back of Lichfield Cathedral. A quick ride around the cathedral and it was then off to the station to catch the train back to Kings Norton for the 2 kilometre rid home. It was nice to have the rest on the train and meet other cyclists who had ridden part of Route 81 in Wales. They had caught the train back from Shrewsbury.
The total journey distance including the ride to and from Kings Norton station was 94.1 km. I was on the bike for 5 hours 20 minutes and 12 seconds at an average speed of 17.6 km/hr. The photos on this journey were taken with my Canon EOS 300D. It wasn't as easy to carry so that I had easy access and for a lot of the journey, I held it in one hand while I rode. The more compact Canon SX210IS is easier to carry and keep in a camera bag strapped to my Camelback back pack strap.
One of my objectives on these rides was to meet people. I am not finding that this is happening. Apart from other riders or walkers, it is proving a lonely existence. Admittedly my current format, which means that I am fairly self sufficient and I don't stay anywhere along the route, means that I meet people on the way to the beginning of the ride or on my way back at the end. Occasionally, I have asked for direction but that really doesn't get you talking.
This ride took in some country lanes and paths across farm land. It also took some back allies or followed along beside roads through cities. In Nottingham, there was a section through a park were sports were happening. You do get to see a diversity in styles and standards of dwellings but if you want to explore some of the UK's heritage then you have to plan side excursions. The ride to Stratford took in some historic sites but the objective of the routes isn't to take in historic sites or necessarily scenic beauty (although there is some of that), the key objective is to have safe cycle routes that are free of heavy traffic flows. As a result, you end up on relatively quite roads or tracks that are traffic free. However, other than in areas close to cities or towns, they are also free of cyclists and pedestrians. Even in some areas close to cities or towns, the volume of users is extremely low.
I have found a way to put all of my rides on a Google map so that it is easier to look at the details of the ride. One of the options shows the cycle routes as well so I am looking at how I can adapt this so it can be accessed from the blog. It would also be good to be able to link back to the blog entries from the map / index. Another small project.