Last week I was out the country with family for our warm holiday of the year. This is why I’ve been non-existent in terms of this here blog.

But before we went away, I booked an extra day off from work. Usually my mum does the school run on a Friday for our eldest, but Nanny and Grumps were away in the US of A this particular time (or rather on their way back from). I could have worked from home, but the forcast was decent and it gave me an opportunity to get a decent ride in on my bike.

Leading up to the day off, I had planned a couple of different rides using the Strava Route Builder tool. Strava is great, it’s free (unless you want the added perks) and it allows you to not only track your rides, but plan them too.

The particular ride I eventually went for utilised the trails around where I live. There are a few old mine railways which have been converted to trails for walkers, cyclists and horse riders to enjoy. Once I was happy with the route on Strava, I exported it in GPX format and imported it into Garmin Connect to link it to my Garmin. This way I would get turn-by-turn notifications and wont get lost.

After getting my bike and things ready I headed out. First off, I was heading to the Skegby Trail, a couple of miles from my house towards town. I’ve never used these trails before so it was all a big unknown for me. I didn’t know if there would be gates and I didn’t know the state of the trails considering it had been raining the night before.

Sign indicating the start of a leg of the Skegby Trail (track)

The Skegby Trail was actually a delight to ride on. It was a mix of a little bit of tarmac in places and hard pressed gravel. Plenty of people were using this to walk their dogs, so frequently slowing down to pass dogs not on leads was a must. But I didn’t mind, it was nice to be out on the bike and not be on the road for a change.

I followed the trail for about 2.5 miles before coming to a road that (on the map) would link me to the next trail, the Rowthorne Trail. After getting to the road I followed it up a couple hundred yards, but could see no trail. I noticed, however, I was under a bridge when the Garmin said to turn onto it. Hmmm – this means the trail runs over the road via the old railway bridge.

After scouting round the bridge a little, I found a steep ramp up the side that leads to a farmers building, but up at the top of the ramp and to the right was a step-over which got me onto the trail. Note to self – don’t always trust OS maps.

Sign indicating now on the Rowthorne Trail

The Rowthorne Trail I knew wasn’t as long as the Skegby Trail – not for the part taking me to my next destination anyway. Just a mere 1.5 miles was all it was, but it was 1.5 miles of what I would describe as a beaten path through a woods

But this is where the advantages of my bike comes in. It’s not a raod bike, it’s an adventure (or gravel) bike. So it’s similar to a road bike in that fact it has dropped handle bars, but I have nice think 38mm tyres and a more ‘relaxed’ geometry. Handy for stuff like this as long as I won’t be needed to complete any downhill mountain bike type obstacles.

Progress through here was slower than the Skegby Trail as I worked hard to avoid as many tree roots as I could and divots full of mud. Eventually I came to the car park for the trail and onto another quiet road. Now I kind of had an idea where I was and where I needed to go – even though Garmin was telling me exactly where to go.

A mile up a tarmac road and I found my next place of interest, the National Trust’s Hardwick Hall. It’s an old stately home which was where some important family lived many, many years ago. It’s the sort of place you can go in and see really old stuff if you’re into that sort of thing (for a fee of course). More about the Hardwick Hall can be found here.

But before moving on I followed good old Garmin and the pre-programmed route created on Strava only to be greeted by Hardwick Farm and no way through. Great, now what do I do? Well, I knew I could get to where I wanted via the otherside of Hardwick Hall, down past the Inn. So that was the way I headed – adding a couple of miles to my originally planned route.

The older of the two houses, mainly just the outer walls which are still standing

From there I headed a short way down hill to a really nice place, the Hardwick Inn. This pub at one time was brilliant for really nice, homecooked meals and decent ale. It probably still is just as good, I just haven’t been in there for the best part of a decade. Maybe next time I pass I should pop in.

Hardwick Inn pub

From here I cycled up hill for a good 1.5 miles, with an elevation of just over 180ft over that distance. That may not seem a lot over 1.5 miles, but when you’re hauling something the size of me up a hill on two wheels, it’s hard. But I kept going. I was determind not to stop and walk. When I got to the top the views over the fields were great.

Fields over the back of Teversal

From here I could get onto the Teversal Trail which would put me back on course with my original route, so not all is lost and I can complete my ride with only a couple of miles of detour completed.

Heading through the streets I knew would get me to the trail I expected to see another pub. I saw the car park and the football pitch across from where the pub used to be, but no pub. Obviously in the last 15 or so years it has been removed, but it’s been cleaned up fairly well, not like the site of another pub that disappeared near where I live (the Orchid).

Back on the trails I headed towards home, now nearly on the final leg. A mile on the flat open Teversal Trail brought me to Brierly Branch, which I knew would take me thorugh to Brierley Forest Park and then on home – as per my planned route.

Getting onto Brierley Branch, almost home!

By the time I’d come through Brierly Forest Park I had completed 15.2 miles. My planned ride was 15.2 miles, but I still had a couple of miles to get home. The 1.5 miles through Brierley Forest were hard, I was at the point of feeling I had nothing left. It’s the furthest I’ve been on the bike and I could tell.

But once out of there I knew the roads home were fairly flat and as it wasn’t even school pickup time yet the roads were still fairly quiet.

Eventually I arrived home after 2 hours and 53 seconds
(moving for 1 hour 41 minutes and 28 seconds), with a total distance of 17.65 miles. An average speed of 10.4 miles per hour. I was happy with that, as long as the average speed didn’t drop into single figures, I was happy.