29 November 2006

It's not very often that we have a lot to shout about here in Derby when it comes to football, but tonight Derby won again!

Six wins out of six in November - 18 points in the bag! Let's just hope they can keep it going!

At least we will not be reading the same old story in the papers... "If only we had done better before Christmas!"

After tonight’s win Derby are now just one point away from the top of the table. Fingers crossed for the rest of the season!

28 November 2006

Not much going on but here’s a quick catch-up!

Saturday was a day off work so Lynda and I took a quick trip into Derby - haircut for me, moved some money around different bank accounts so I can pay for the PC I had back in January (I love interest free credit!) and also purchased some new insoles for my walking boots. With a bit of luck the insoles may help with the damn blisters I get on long walks! I’m not holding my breath on that one though!

By Sunday morning, the heavy rain and strong winds of Friday and Saturday had passed so it was all go for a walk around Carsington Water. The plan was to meet Mel at 9:30AM - I arrived at just after 9:15AM and expected a long wait - time keeping IS NOT something Mel does! Much to my amazement by 9:35AM, we had started walking! Guess there’s a first time for everything.

Even after all the rain we’d had the paths around the reservoir weren’t too muddy with only the odd place or two that had us picking our way around areas of deep mud. For the first hour or so, the weather was a little dull and overcast but by around 10:45AM the sun was starting to break through. The rest of the morning was bright, and at times, even a little warm.

The new insoles in my boots seemed to work OK - a longer walk when my feet have fully recovered from the BHF walk will be the real test though, - but just under a mile from the end of the walk we did have to take a little rest, at the Miners Arms in Carsington village! A swift pint of bitter shandy and I was ready to face the last little bit of the walk!

The sailing club - before the sun or the boats came out!

Looking back towards the dam wall.

The sun starts to appear and so do the boats!

Turning into a nice day now.

An old dovecote in Carsington village.

Stone mile post in Carsington village.

22 November 2006

Fully fit

It is just over three days since I completed the BHF walk and I am now “fully fit” again! The blisters have gone, my legs feel fine and still no trouble with my knees.

On Monday, I took the easy option and went to work in the car - thought it best not to push my luck and I left the bike at home!

Yesterday I felt happy enough with both my fitness and the weather report and it was pedal power again, it actually felt good to be back on the bike.

Today, I chickened out and used the car again as the weather forecast was not good! As it turned out, I could have gotten away with cycling as the rain had eased by the time I finished work.

Tomorrow, it all depends on what greets me as I open the curtains! The forecast is for heavy rain and very strong winds tonight plus, Lynda is off work until Monday and needs the car! Guess I’ll be on my bike then!

If this stormy weather has blown itself out by Sunday, I will be out walking again. The plan is to do a lap of Carsington Water with Mel, a walk of around seven or eight miles depending on what route we take. More on that after the weekend, if we do the walk that is!

19 November 2006

Damage assessment!

The final damage check is…

One very sore little toe nail - last year it was two! (and I lost both of them in the end!)
Three blisters - last year it was two!
Two aching legs - same as last year
And, so far, very little trouble with my knees - last year they both crippled me for at least two days!

So, some pains added, some taken away - all in all a very good day's walking!

The day started for me at 5:45AM when the alarm went off, and then it was a breakfast of sausage, scrambled egg and spaghetti on toast. By 7:15AM, I was on my way out of the house and heading to Cromford for the start of the British Heart Foundation High Peak Trail Walk.

Once at Cromford I met up with my friend Paul who was to take part in the walk with me. Now, at this point I need to explain very briefly about why it was just the two of us! At 7:00AM, I received a text message from Mel, who should have been with us, to say that her friend had had a fall whilst sorting out her things for the walk! The end result was Mel taking her to hospital for what turned out to be torn ligaments in her shoulder! Get well soon!

The start point.

Following a quick photo shoot at the start line, we set off to cover the 17.5 mile walk at 8:05AM. Forty-five minuets later, we were passing our first time check at Black Rocks. This first, very steep, section of the walk had taken exactly the same time as last year. From Black Rocks it was uphill again for another mile and a half until we reached Middleton Top. By this time we had made up 10 minutes on last year! So far so good, even the weather was dry, bright and sunny.

After the drinks station at Middleton came the longest section of the walk, 6.5 miles to Minninglow where the “soup kitchen” would await us! It was along this part of the trail that the weather took a slight turn for the worse. A hill fog came down for around 45 minutes. It wasn’t too thick but was just enough to reduce our visibility and also cover our clothing with a film of water. By 10:15AM, the sun was out again.

A quick time check on arrival at Minninglow showed that we were now just over half an hour up on last year's time and, more importantly to me, I was having no knee trouble! Minninglow also gave us a chance to sample the free soup and bread rolls that were on offer here - very nice they were too!

Time for lunch.

On the way again and a short 2.5 mile walk to Friden, our lunch stop. By now the sun was getting quite warm and, in the more sheltered sections of the trail, the temperature felt more like mid September than mid November. I even took my treasured scarf off! Our lunch break at Friden took just under 20 minutes, another time gain on last year. Setting off again reminded me that stopping isn’t always a good idea as my legs took a few steps to get going again! Still, at least my knees were working fine which is more than they were at this point last year!

Parsley Hay was now our target a further 2.5 miles down the trail. This was the section that really started to tell on me 12 months ago and, to be honest, I was just a little worried how I would get on this year. In the end I didn’t suffer too much at all, my knees still felt OK, the blisters that I had felt starting on the balls of my feet were no worse than they had been for a mile or two and we were still overtaking one or two of the early starters. That said, we didn’t stop at Parsley Hay and chose to carry straight on for the last two miles of the walk. It was at Parsley Hay last year than I wondered if my knees would hold out until the end and the pain almost became too much.

Right now, a beer would be good!

We covered the final 2 miles or so in half an hour, finishing at 1:25PM, a total time of 5hrs 20 minutes - 50 minutes quicker than last year. So, will I go through it all again next year? The next day or two will decide that, right now I’m too busy looking at mountain bike rides that the British Heart Foundation organise!

The rest of the walk photos are HERE!

18 November 2006

Looking forward to tomorrow...

By this time tomorrow, I will have completed my British Heart Foundation sponsored walk. Well, I HOPE I will have! As I write I have sponsorship of almost £400, not quite the £500 that I would have liked to raise but still a fair amount I think.

I’ll be joined on the walk by my good friends Paul and Mel, that I walked with last year, and also a friend of Mel’s that has decided to join her on the walk too. We have arranged to meet at 8:00AM, half an hour before our official start time. With a bit of luck we will be able to get away a little early and avoid being part of a large starting group for the narrow first mile or so of the walk that follows the Cromford canal.

The weather forecast for Sunday has been getting better each day this week. On Wednesday, the outlook was for heavy rain and very strong winds. On Thursday, the forecast was for heavy rain clearing during the morning and still very strong winds. Last night the TV weather presenter admitted they had the forecast wrong! It now looks like it may be dry for most of the walk, depending on which internet site you look on and whether you choose Derby or Buxton as the search area!

Mostly sunny.

Wind from the South/Southwest at 13MPH.

Temp. high 8°C / 46°F

Rain/Snow showers. Possible sunny spells later.

Wind from the South/Southwest at 13MPH.

Temp. high 4°C / 39°F

I think I like the Derby option myself and will be walking in those conditions! Please!

There is still time to sponsor me if you haven’t already. Either by adding your name to my sponsorship form or by going to - www.bhf.org.uk/sponsor/richardcrooks/

With luck, I will have some photos from the walk uploaded here tomorrow night.

15 November 2006

Just a quick rundown of what has been going on these past few days…

Last Wednesday Lynda & I finished work early, rushed home, packed the car and headed off to Andover for a long weekend. We were visiting Lynda’s aunt and uncle.

On Thursday, we joined the Andover U3A Group for a walk around Upper Chute in Wiltshire. The walk took us just over 2 hours and covered a mix of open countryside, hedgerows and mixed woodland. The walk was very nice with plenty of things to look at along the way, especially the various fungi that we found! The end of the walk was even better - we had a rather nice lunch (with a pint and a whisky!) in The Cross Keys Inn, the starting point of the walk!

The Cross Keys Inn

More walk photos here!

On the Friday, we spent the morning bird watching at Langford Lakes nature reserve, again in Wiltshire. This was the first time I had visited this reserve and I was quite impressed. It’s not a huge place but, if it was local to home, would make a very good “local patch” site. In two hours, we saw 36 species including Kingfisher, Little Egret, Buzzard, Ruddy Duck and a single female Wigeon. A visit in spring could easily see the number of species doubled I would imagine.

Langford Lakes

After the morning's birding it was off to another pub for lunch again! This time is was The Rainbow on the Lake at nearby Steeple Langford. This was one of those pubs that I could have stayed in for the rest of the day! Plenty of original features mixed with a very pleasant restaurant area that overlooked the River Wylye and the surrounding countryside. The food was very good too!

Saturday and Sunday were “chill out” days before we had to, sadly, head back home on Sunday afternoon.

This week has been the usual so far… work, work and work! The weather kept me from using the bike to get to work on Monday, yesterday we FINALLY visited the gym again (must start and get back into the habit of going now!) and today I used the mountain bike for the work trip. I just about managed to get home before the rain started again!

So, that’s the past week or so! Next big thing is the British Heart Foundation walk on Sunday!

05 November 2006

Another bike ride!

As the weather is still so good at the moment, I took the opportunity to put in a few more miles on the old mountain bike this morning. THIRTY more miles to be exact!

I was out of bed by just after 8:00am, had a light breakfast, checked the bike over and then set off. The route I had planned in my head was very similar to last weeks but with one or two extra bits added in to take the mileage up a little.

I joined the National Cycle Network Route 6 just around the corner from home and headed off towards Melbourne. At Kings Newton, I left the trail and headed into Melbourne via the road, from there I carried on to Staunton Harold Reservoir and another traffic free ride to Ticknall. There, it was another short road section until I reached the entrance to Calke Park. The ride through the park was one of the nicest sections of the ride… the sun was out, the trees full of colour as the leaves start to change and a herd of Longhorn cattle were grazing by the driveway.

Longhorn cattle in Calke Park.

From Calke Abbey I rejoined the road again and continued on to Breedon on the Hill. The church at Breedon is a place I had never been so, as I was close by, I took the opportunity to go and have a quick look. Now that I’ve been up there, I don’t have to do the climb again on my bike! There are some great views from the top but next time I think I’ll go up in the car!

Priory Church, Breedon on the Hill.

After coasting back down into Breedon, I carried on along the roads and headed for the start of the Cloud Trail, at Worthington. This marked the start of the return leg, about another 13 miles to reach Derby. As the trail follows a disused railway line, it is easy going with a firm surface all the way. Time to pick up a bit of speed and push the legs a little! My plan had been to follow the trail all the way back to home - that changed about half way back!

When I reached the canal path, near Weston on Trent, I left the National Cycle Network route and instead carried on towards Weston itself. This was a little trickier than the Route 6 section, with a narrow, single track, path that meant a bit more concentration was needed. One mistake could have meant a trip into the canal! Still, it all added to the fun! At Weston Lock, I left the canal and took to the country lanes again, first going through Weston and then Aston on Trent.

The canal near Weston on Trent.

All that was left then was one final, small, climb out of Aston as I headed for the outskirts of Chellaston and then the boring bit of riding back through the houses to home.

All in all another very good ride out. Having plotted my route on Google Earth when I returned home I found that I’d covered almost exactly 30 miles (Google reckons 30.08 miles!) in 2hrs 45, including stops to take photos, have a drink and eat a snack bar!

The rest of the photos are HERE!!!!!