Saturday, 2 October 2010

Day 17 : Hope Valley to Shepshed, 50 miles, heavy driving rain all day

I set off for Shepshed (4 miles NW Loughborough) after 12:30 in the hope that the rain might ease off a little and there is little to indicate in this picture quite how wet and windy it was. However, the rain did manage to get the Ryder Cup in South Wales delayed for some hours so and I'm sure that was not just because, as a Scottish newspaper put it, the event was brought by money to a river valley in South Wales!
Nearly out of the gate! 
,,,,and I'm off (9 seconds later) via Calver, Baslow, Chatsworth House, Beeley, Rowsley, Matlock, Cromford, Wirkswater and Duffield to Derby
... another 6 seconds later on the road and I'm still trying to remember all the place names from Derby to Loughborough as I was determined not to open up any of my panniers and get everything wet.
Whilst I have no regrets taking the route I did in the circumstances, there can be no doubt that  the A6 on a Friday in heavy rain, with showers of spray and half the road flowing like a river 10% of the time was not much fun! I was particularly pleased with myself that I cycled the whole way up the hill out of Cromford, without stopping once, on the B5023 all the way to Wirksworth. This was partly to keep me warm as I was by now soaking all the way through - the water from the road having penetrated everything from underneath!
I took the opportunity, on the way down just after Wirksworth, to take off all my wet clothes and put new dry ones on. The icing on the cake was a £8 sheet of polythene, 'novadry' poncho that Decathlon sells for cyclists in these circumstances. It really looks awful but I had carried it  and thought that now was definitely the time to get it out. Apparently it is breathable but I think only to a point. Anyway it did the trick and I got all the way to my destination with only my feet feeling like they were in a bucket of cold water.
The upshot of all this is that I did not stop to take any photos, or to look at the soggy frontage of Chatsworth, or the historic mills and sites of the Peak District.
From Derby going south, I joined Route 6 and this was a real joy - 18 plus miles of canal rides seamlessly flowing into wide railway paths taking me as far as Worthington. 


The first section of route 6 out of Derby is called the Canal Path but some of the canal into Derby has now gone. At this point, just beyond the bridge, the end of a narrowboat can be seen indicating the adjacent Trent and Mersey Canal.
The Trent and Mersey Canal by Swarkestone Lock. The canal goes from the Bridgewater Canal, near Northwich and Sandback in the NW, across to Shardlow, where it links to the River Trent. The later point is interesting from Jane's family history as relatives of hers are Shardlows that come from this area. This bridge at Swarkestone dates from 1810 but original ones date back to the 13th century. The original river crossing marks the furthest point south reached by the Jacobite army of the Scottish Young Pretender Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1745. There is quite a flow of water coming through the culvert just below the bridge on the far canal bank.
The Canal path was wet but was a great ride - I expect in summer it can get very busy and as it is very narrow in places it might be difficult to travel at my 'cruising speed' of 15mph.
I took this photo to show the care taken in marking out the route and ensuring it is suitable for horses, walkers and cyclists. This disusedrailway line was particularly wide, the bridges in particular were very noticeably wider, and it could have had more than two lines.
Well signed, smooth and rolling country roads took me on towards Shepshed. I stayed at The Grange Courtyard which somewhat surprisingly has no front entrance and hides itself a little too discreetly behind the old red brick of the stable yard. Unfortunately, Shepshed appeared to have only one really good eating place within walking distance - a very popular, lively and fully booked Italian establishment. I dodged the numerous well lubricated gangs in the poorly lit streets to take home a huge Chinese take-away! Perhaps I now understand why the Grange Courtyard may prefer to hide itself away from sight. 
On a day that I thought I would have no photos I do appear to have taken some, even if the last ones shows signs that my camera was already a little wet!


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