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Escape to Oakham!

7 Aug

Rutland WaterLockdown has eased a little, and it’s time for an adventure! A chance to escape and see some countryside. A brief escape on the bike and a stop overnight near Rutland Water. My favourite campsite hasn’t opened for campers yet though (Covid precautions), so it’s a hotel today. The hills haven’t changed since I was here last time.. it’s still like a folded bedsheet on the way over.

Checked the weather. There might be gentle showers in the afternoon. Didn’t mention the fact that the heavens were going to completely open. Wasn’t 100% certain I wasn’t going to actually drown.

At least I could get a shower, warm up, get dry again. That wouldn’t have been so much fun in a tent. Of course, I hadn’t packed spare shoes to save weight, so I had to squelch out to the restaurant. Which was some of the best Nepali/Indian food I have had in a while.

Given the cloud cover, there was no chance of me seeing meteors tonight.. I will have to reserve that for another day!

Photo 2021-07-31 19.35.02And then back home in the morning. I had a pupper to look after while her Mummy was playing American Football and her Daddy was coaching the team! Thankfully, no rain. A ride along the side of Rutland Water and then back home with a brief stop for breakfast at a roadside café. Nice.

A chance to think, to solve some of the things puzzling me at the moment, to wonder, ponder, dream. Happy days.

(If you’re wondering why Ripley is wearing a T-shirt, she got attacked by a German Shepherd recently, and the shirt stops her worrying at the stitches)


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Rutland Water–pandemic style

11 Oct

Rutland WaterOne of my favourite short breaks is to take a bike ride out to Rutland Water (it’s about 25 miles) and camp for a couple of nights. The pandemic has closed my favourite camp site, but I thought it would be good to go over anyway.

And this time I could save on the camping stuff.. result! Booked myself into a little hotel right in the middle of Oakham, and I was off!
The first problem was that I forgot where I was going straight off the bat. Headed out of town in the wrong direction – a rookie mistake that cost me around 5 or 6 extra miles.

Flying Insects | Barrettine Environmental HealthThe second mistake was opening my mouth when a wasp flew towards me (or I rode towards the wasp, the end result was the same). I swallowed the wasp, but not before it had had chance to sting the inside of my throat. Ow!

Over to RutlandAnd then of course, I had forgotten the hills. South of Rutland Water is a series of folds in the landscape, as if someone has forgotten to iron a shirt that’s been screwed up in the bottom of the linen basket for three years. I managed most of them, but I will confess that one of them defeated me, and I had to dismount and walk up. Uppingham School were out for cross country.. they didn’t seem to be enjoying the hills any more than I was.

I diverted off my usual path, which found me on the Uppingham-Oakham main road. That is one HELL of a hill. Downhill. I have never been so fast for so far on a pushbike. The sheer rush was worth every minute of the agony of the hill climb the other side. I could almost feel the wind rushing through my hair. Or perhaps that was my imagination.

Three hours after I started, I rode into town. Time to soothe my aching legs, and soothe the savage throb in my throat with a couple of pints of the local IPA. Oh, yes, I slept well.

Oakham CanalThe next day I awoke to a street market under my window. Worth a little wander round – it’s all a bit strange with face masks and everyone taking care to avoid each other. A little diversion North of the town found me cycling down an old canal – all very tranquil and pretty.

And then, time to return. I wasn’t looking forward to the hills so I decided to take the long way round – which very pleasantly had me riding through the woods and gravel trails around the North Shore of Rutland Water. It was weekday quiet, but a few hardy souls were riding, jogging or just walking round the shoreline. A pleasant enough diversion that again added five or six miles to the total, but left me with a far smoother route home. Not flat though – this ain’t the fens out here where Rutland, Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire all vie for mastery and Leicestershire and Cambridgeshire want to get in on the action as well. They may be rolling hills, but it’s a lot easier rolling down them than it is rolling up them.

No wasps, no punctures, no need to dismount.. all in all an excellent ride home – just in time to get out and walk a very excitable lurcher before dinner!

Getting a bit cold for camping trips now – but looking forward to next year being back to some sort of normal…

Down by the water

25 Aug

Photo 2017-08-16 17.36.19

As regular readers will know, I regularly take a trip out to Rutland Water for some down time. It’s one of my favourite places to be, and it’s not far away from home.

For those of you who don’t know, Rutland Water is a huge artificial lake in the middle of England (the biggest by surface area in the country), created by flooding the Gwash valley. Down under the waters are a couple of villages, flooded when the dam was built.

And I have always been fascinated by Rutland.. this strangely named county that’s the smallest in England. And for someone who lives in Northamptonshire, the hills of Rutland are just that little bit more extravagant.

I am sufficiently crazy to want to cycle there – then I can cycle round the reservoir, see a bit of wildlife, get some exercise…

Photo 2017-08-17 14.02.05When God designed Rutland, for some reason she decided that all the hills and valleys should run east to west. For a poor soul on a bike, carrying a tent, a sleeping bag, camping gear and a few odds & sods necessary to survival, this means big hills. Long hills. Tire your thighs out till they burn kinda hills. On the upside, I am now toting a backpacker tent rather than the two man version that I had last year.

Photo 2017-08-17 17.05.35But around 35km later, I am happily at my favourite camp site overlooking Rutland Water, and my new tent is set up and coffee is brewing (thanks to a fabulous little gas burner which was a Father’s Day present from my son). There are few facilities here, but it’s peaceful and has fabulous views of the Water. I do have one final task for the day though.. cycle to Oakham cos I need some food. Back on the bike and an hour later I am making dinner. As the light dies, I can see an owl hunting over the field not 20 metres away.

The weather forecast was for a shower. This is, of course, England. At night the skies opened for a downpour, causing one of my friends to ask if I had been washed away. But the sound of the rain on the tent is calming, and relaxing, and the waterproofing holds. I am snug and dry, and deliriously happy.

Photo 2017-08-17 14.30.00The next day sees me back on the bike for a ride round the reservoir, taking in a few diversions on the way. The first of these diversions is to sit and ponder for a while in Costa in Oakham.. the other reason for the trip is to look at the next phase of my life. Lots of things are ending, and I am becoming freer to do different stuff.. so I am looking at what the reboot looks like. And more on that at another time.

Photo 2017-08-17 14.01.21
Photo 2017-08-17 14.01.21I’m also collecting bolts, for my other hobby, geocaching. Some madman has hidden bolts around the reservoir perimeter with numbers stamped into them. Collect the numbers on the bolts, put them in the right sequence, and the co-ordinates should lead me to a hidden treasure trove. Following these hides around the water leads me to different spots that I would not have otherwise found, and I find myself cycling down a broad road in the middle of nowhere, where the silence seems almost absolute apart from the birds and the roar of tyres on gravel.

Photo 2017-08-17 14.29.46A few hours and 36km later, I’m back at the tent with a few more geocache hides collected. And all the bolt numbers. Unfortunately, the calculation yields a location 12km away. Somewhere, I have gone wrong. I decide one of the numbers is wrong, recalculate it and cycle off in search of the final location. In the end it turns out that the cache setter has got one bolt wrong, and I am rewarded with a box hidden in the trees and full of odds and ends for the junior cacher. I log my find and rehide it, feeling suitably smug to have not only solved the puzzle, but done that when the puzzle is incorrect. Go me!

Photo 2017-08-17 15.26.39

Photo 2017-08-17 16.46.51

No rain tonight, but I am rewarded with a clear sky, and a beautiful view of the stars. The light pollution is low around here, and the Milky Way arcs overhead. It seems as if I can see the constellations leaping out at me – the Great Bear, Cassiopeia, all seem vivid and real. And I marvel at this incredible infinity spread out in the night sky… I am both awed and humbled at the sight.

Photo 2017-08-17 14.29.06The next day, I awake to a beautiful clear sky. It’s time to break camp. The tent’s a bit soggy, so that’s going to end up adorning my living room to dry out. And the legs are starting to tire. Those hills are going to be painful on the way home. My spirits are lifted half way by a fallow deer that crosses Photo 2017-08-18 09.30.06my path. And the views across to the Harringworth viaduct always lift my spirits.

And a couple of hours and another 35km later, I and my rucksack are back home. Inspection of my tyres shows that the rubber is missing – 122km of riding has finally managed to cycle the rear tyre down to the kevlar lining. On the up side, unlike my rather traumatic outing last year, I have experienced zero punctures. This is probably down to the kevlar and puncture proof inner tubes rather than improved riding.

As ever, I feel deeply tranquil and at peace.. my state of Zen has been restored, and some of the thoughts I have had will, I am sure, soon blossom into options for my future.

I’d rest and take it easy, but in around 3 hours I will have to lay a dance floor….

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