Leaned to in Lichfield part twelve

The sunny weather makes it a pleasure to pop into town for a few bits and bobs on yer bike. Or was this elaborately staged, with colour coordinated shopper bike, by some young hipster doing the window display for Debenhams?

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This feature usually looks at locked up bikes but there are times when you just need to leave your bike propped up against a wall for a few minutes.

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And always that little flutter of anticipation when you return to make sure it’s still there. And it is, this is Lichfield after all.

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Alan’s Birthday Ride, Absent Friends and Remembering Maurice – 18th August 2013

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Well I promised to confirm a date (see previous post from 3rd July here). Sunday 18th August it is. Start from Cathedral west front at 10 am sharp as I have a family barbecue later if the weather is OK. A ride round the cathedral and a stop close to Maurice’s apartment to reflect for a moment on a gentle witty man, a true cyclist and absent friends. Then a ride around the lanes to the Mease Valley, stops for drinks/food at Rosliston and Fradley Junction perhaps, and detours maybe…

Old Lichfield CTC riders especially invited. But anyone is welcome who can manage 20 or so gentle miles of social enjoyment a la Maurice! I will be on a 1970 bike, none of your modern stuff for this ride for me which Maurice would do on his splendid old, even then, green boxlined Raleigh with Sturmey Archer gears if I remember correctly. If you can’t come then please follow the link below to remember Maurice and send Lichwheeld your own memories of the old devil at his best and worst!

By Alan.

NORTHERN NEWS Number 180 Oct 010

Guest blog: London Nightrider by Simon

Nightrider 2013

Late in 2012 I had a call from head office making me an offer I couldn’t refuse, “you’re doing a charity bike ride called Nightrider, OK?”

A 25 strong team representing several group companies was formed to raise funds for St Richards Hospice near Worcester and we were set to join the 4,000 or so other riders on June 8th. What is a Nightrider? – a 100km ride around London, through the night, following a route taking in most of the sites on its twisting journey.

Alexandra Palace or Crystal Palace are the two starting points, with riders setting off at 5 minute intervals. Our due start time was 11.30pm, our meeting point a pub, with burger and chips to power us round! The locals were somewhat bemused as we entered the toilets, one by one, returning to our tables in our cycling gear, one in particular upset it wasn’t the naked ride!

After collecting our bikes from the van and gear from the mini bus, we took the short ride to the start, which did not give us the greatest confidence as we got lost, but we soon found the first signage and rolled in to the start area to sign in and collect our bib. A well organised but relaxed start area saw riders setting off in groups when ready rather than at their given times and so we lined up for a group photo, said farewell to the van and minibus drivers, and off we went.

Two of us had a four hour target and so got straight down to pedalling and were soon passing groups of cyclists, it has to said that drivers throughout the night were great with only one or two showing any angst. At the first hill my riding partner flagged a little, at only four miles in and only a small hill I did wonder if he would be able to keep it up. We had been steadily passing riders, trying to find a group at our pace.

We duly caught, while they were waiting at lights, a couple of guys who looked like they maybe going for a time rather than to get round. As the lights changed this proved true as we soon were hitting 25mph, hanging on to their shirt tails to the first hill of note and the two leaders were out of the saddle with not a let up on pace. I hung on, my partner unfortunately now lost. I did think about stopping for him, honest, but my four hour target overtook all other thoughts!

We were averaging around 20mph on the first leg, but soon this was to fall as we found the city, skipping the first stop we carried on over Tower Bridge and the sights and sounds of London at night. I am a great lover of London and would usually be taking in all that it has to offer, tonight though it was pedal stroke after pedal stroke.

My two new friends had sussed me and round the closed roads of Canary Wharf suggested, with a flick of the hand, I took my turn. I hit the front from here on took our turns as the route meandered around the City. I would list the sites, but to be honest, apart from waiting for lights outside St Pauls and Piccadilly, it was mostly a blur. The cobble section slowed us up somewhat and we took advantage of the stop just after. A coffee, a comfort break, and off heading out of the City and picking up speed again. We were now getting close to half way, Alexandra Palace and the first real hill.

This was signposted by numerous cyclists on the roadside with cramp, it was like a fallen house of cards with bikes and riders on the pavements, leaning on lamp posts, generally looking in some pain. I was losing touch with my friends as the gradient increased and was grateful to see the entrance of a second stop for us, coffee and cake and more comfort!

Ten minutes and we were off, a nice downhill, made better with green lights at the junction below, but my nights only disaster occurred on the incline after, chain off and jammed … a minute or so swearing and off again, and now to catch up with my riding partners, justice for me not stopping to wait earlier! Another hill and I could just see the pair reaching the top.

I was riding all out and luckily rather than a downhill the road levelled and I was able to get back on their tail, but unable to assist at the front for a while. Heading back into the City I was flagging a little and sucked hard on my ZipVit gel, squeezing out the last bit and munched on some jelly babies.

Zigzagging Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament the group of three grew to six or seven, the largest we had been. We had a few people stick with us for a mile or so, but then drop off. Heading to Abbey Road and the famous zebra crossing, I was well and truly at the back of our group and unable to help, our average was around 15mph and we were now heading into the last few miles. A small incline saw it back to the three of us and I was truly hanging on.

At this point a lone cyclist sailed past us and with just a few kilometres to go this was the first cyclist to pass and leave us. It was just the tonic, 4,000 riders over 100km and we had been passed by just one rider! (Two start points and staggered start taken into consideration!)

Dropping back to Crystal Palace and the finish in 4 hours 10 mins, so just a little over what I wanted. The three of us nodded and we melted into the crowd and to find the tea and bacon butties. As I stood enjoying my reward at just gone 3.30am, among a crowd of chattering cyclists on bikes from shoppers, MTB`s, full blooded carbon racers and everything in between I did have to smile. It was a great event, well signed and it was possibly the most fun I had ever had on a bike. Really it was a blast and would highly recommend giving it a try.

As I stood tea in hand, I noted that how few orange bibs there were among the sea of yellow ones. At the same time, a young lady stared across towards me “why have you an orange bib?”, (maybe she thought I was a Celebrity!) “I started here at Crystal Palace, we had orange, if you started at Alexandra Palace you had yellow” I said. “Oh”, she paused “so you’ve finished?”, “Yep”, “But are we only half way?”, she asked. “Yep”.

The last of our group rolled in at 8.30am, and I have to say waking up the minibus driver at 5.00am when the second of our group came in was not best welcomed! As we returned home, you may have thought sleep was on order but each persons different stories from the night kept us going. We raised over £11,000 for the Hospice and so all in all a worth while event.


Simon lives in Lichfield and is attempting Fifty 4 Fifty, undertaking 50 events and challenges to celebrate his 50th birthday year. Some of these may seem very ordinary, some little more than holidays, but some should be real challenges. During the challenges Simon will be raising funds for Regain and The Alzheimer’s Society.

You can read more on his blog here.

A Justgiving page for Regain can be found here.
A Justgiving page for Alzheimer’s Society can be found here.
All funds pledged will go straight to the charities.

Park Life

Holiday time and with the little uns increased range on the bikes, it means we can get to parks other than Beacon this year. Setting off from North Lichfield we made our way across town to Saddlers Wood off Roman Way, Boley Park.

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A charming little wooden playground, good swing, lots of grass and open space and scope for imaginative play.

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Found this little car in the long grass.

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Just over the road is the Co-op and we were mostly eating reduced fruit and baguettes.

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We took them to the little playground at the end of Darnford Lane.

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An under 5’s play area so not much for ours here. New noticeboards being used by local campaigners against the forestation of Darnford Park.

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While the kids were occupied I continued through Darnford to Tamworth Road and the newly filled section of canal.

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Volunteers are there working on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

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This bench had just been freshly concreted but I resisted the temptation to sign the wet stuff.

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Back into town with the aid of motivating Minstrels.

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I had noticed the little playground in the new development from the train station platform. Turns out it’s for residents only, compensation for having no gardens at all by the looks of it.

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The covered bike racks were in use, but some looked like they hadn’t been moved for a long time.

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Bladders were filling rapidly so we made our way to the comfort of Beacon Park.

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No go carts today, still clearing the torrential rain of the day before.

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A quick play then home, about six miles in total. Think we’ll try the park at Shortbutts next time but it’s going to be hard to beat Beacon.

A missing link on route 54?

Apologies in advance, but this post is like its subject: long, dry and hyper local.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was shocked with the quality of the surface on a section of National Cycle Network Route 54 at Green Lane, between Alrewas and Barton Under Needwood, Staffordshire.

I am examining this spot in detail for two main reasons. Firstly it is part of the route for the September Cycle Rides For All from Lichfield to Barton Marina and back. This ride is seen as the longest and most challenging ride for many of our riders. We structure the programme so that there are shorter rides that build up to the late summer 23 miler to the marina. It’s one of my favourite rides to do, with the exception of the track we are looking at.

Secondly I thought of those cyclists following route 54 who are passing through the area and wanted to consider how they might experience the lane. Recently I followed on Twitter the exploits of Renee on her Crafty Dutchie Tour, 272 miles from her home in Wolverhampton to her parents home in Warmenhuizen, Noord Holland. The UK section to Hull being entirely on Sustrans routes. Renee is a self described minor Sustrans minion and was raising money for the charity as well as doing the ride to celebrate her 30th birthday.

“Well just go a different way”, I hear you say and we will try and do that later on, but if you take a look at a map for the area there are precious few alternatives. There is a road that runs around Green Lane to Bar Lane but that is a private road for Wychnor Park Country Club. If, as suggested by Brownhills Bob in a comment on my previous post, that Green Lane is permissive it is important to handle any discussions with whoever gave permission carefully as withdrawal of permission to use the lane would not be desirable, should a better alternative not be possible.

The section of route 54 from Lichfield to Alrewas involves pleasant country lane riding, some cycle paths and village roads. Leaving Alrewas the pleasure diminishes as you face the section alongside the A38. This is probably the worst time of the year to tackle it as the grass is long and on the day I passed very dry, growing out of the middle of the path in places. Further up there were moments when I needed to go one handed, feet up off the pedals or head down to avoid branches, stingers or thorns. Along this section there is generally a verge between the path and the kerb but it can be disconcerting to feel the turbulence from the passing HGV’s and speeding motorists if you are not used to it. I believe Renee refers to it academically and succinctly in her blog post: ‘yuk’.

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The path takes you to the Wychnor turn and bridge number 42 over the canal. Sustrans have recently rerouted over the pedestrian friendly bridge just before the road bridge. A good move I think as on the road you are in the hands of drivers who misjudge their speed for the very tight turn off the A38. Turning left down the lane you eventually come to Green Lane, a right turn opposite Church Lane.

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Green Lane is approximately 1500 metres long, joining up with Dogshead Lane at the north end. In the past I have only been down this lane in dry weather, its length was a baked mud track with a few ruts and small stones on the surface. I imagine in wet conditions it would be muddy and challenging to cycle down. The lane is used by farm machinery as it passes between fields of crops with farm buildings at the north end of the track. The first couple of hundred metres are as before and then you get to the first re-laid patch.

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The top surface in places looks like it is made up of broken tarmac rubble and for two or three hundred metres is so lumpy and bumpy I thought it wasn’t worth cycling over and decided to push.

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Further on it is possible to ride again, the new surface is laid in patches to fill old holes and dips and there is a thin smooth desire path emerging through cycle use.

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I cycled up until the last 400 metres or so where the track is classified as footpath. Of course in the past cyclists would just keep riding over the last bit.

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From the cyclists dismount sign though, that is not possible as the surface is even rougher, with house bricks as obstacles in places.

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Towards the end of the footpath the new surface ends and the old mud path continues past the farm buildings to the road.

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The experience for the family cycle rider or the touring cyclist is not very good. Most likely they will dismount and push along some or most of the lane. Where the footpath is we can’t really complain as we should be pushing anyway. I have been told that the new surface should settle although I suppose that depends on heavy machinery using it for that to happen quickly. A few brave souls may ride a thin path of least resistance in the meantime.

Green Lane has always been an unsatisfactory route for me and I know the Sustrans rangers would like to improve or reroute it. So, what of the alternatives? At the end of Dogshead lane I turned right and cycled back to the A38. At bridge 41 there is no access on to the towpath so I cycled against the traffic along the footpath on the A38. Facing the oncoming vehicles and without the verge between me and the road the draughts were immense though the path is only a few hundred metres long.

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Back at bridge 42 at the Wychnor turn I dropped onto the towpath and headed back north.

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The grass is cut short and there aren’t any weeds encroaching near the path so it feels nice and wide. The path is fair but small and little used but there are few problems with tree roots and it is fairly flat. Back at bridge number 41 you can see there is no exit to the bridge unless expensive work was done to make one.

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I continued further on the short distance to bridge number 40. Here there was a grassy hill up to the bridge and this one is not used by traffic as the Armco barriers block any turn from the A38. It’s just a hundred metres from Efflinch Lane and a quick ride up into Barton, it seemed a much better route to me.

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On Efflinch Lane I spoke to a man outside the first house I came to and he told me that he regularly cycled with his family from that bridge, north towards the marina but not south as the path wasn’t so good. It wouldn’t take too much to establish a better all weather surface to ride on this section of towpath, I measured it at about 900 metres.

If I was on my own I would be tempted to skirt up the short distance on the A38. If I was with family and the weather was good I would drop onto the towpath from bridge 42 to 40. For the Cycle Rides For All, the volunteers will go out and risk assess these options but I think they may be discounted and a tackling of Green Lane will need to be devised, probably involving a combination of pushing and riding, however unsatisfactory this may be. A more radical alternative route would be out of Lichfield through The Sittles towards the National Memorial Arboretum, along past Catton Hall and into Barton over the A38 at the top end of the village, though it is a few miles longer.

For the touring cyclist passing through, unless they have a decent map or a sense of adventure, they will have to go up Green Lane. Without local knowledge it would be difficult to go off route with much confidence if you are following the blue squares and arrows with 54 on.

Sustrans need to seriously think about the track because this small part is spoiling a lovely section of the route. I know the volunteer rangers have worked very hard on this and it would be nice to see the staff in the Sustrans hierarchy lend their best efforts. In the past I have been out and observed the work of the Sustrans Lichfield Rangers and know from speaking with them their frustrations over this section of the route. I understand why the landowners have changed the surface, but wonder if Sustrans have had any dialogue with them and Staffordshire County Council on the matter?

After spinning through the village I returned via Green Lane in the opposite direction.

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I noticed the Staffordshire County Council sign contradicting the cycle route signs. ‘No cycles’ is an unhelpful phrase. No harm in making it clear that bikes should be pushed for 400 metres on the footpath as other signs mention. I think that these unhelpful signs could be removed or replaced.

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I hope this piece is helpful in some way and any reply from Sustrans or Staffordshire County Council will be published. Let’s hope that the situation can be improved for all who use route 54, now and in the future.

Another Away Day – more from our Ireland correspondent by Fionntra

Well, greetings from the edge of the western world again. The weather has been unbelievable, as good as the Azores. Yesterday day was 25C on the coast. Costa del Dingle was wonderful. A friend of a friend here jetted off to Portugal last week for the sun and sorely regretted the expense. It is to be pronounced drought here shortly and there will be hosepipe bans if it doesn’t rain soon. 5 weeks without rain.


We will shortly miss the sea breezes as it is back to Lichfield for a month. Been round the coast on the Giant in the early hours before the coaches and tourists emerge. The back roads are awash with wildflowers and smell divine in the warm air. Honeysuckle, purple loosestrife and meadowsweet are dominant and the fuschia hedgerows are beginning to flower.


This morning was a local trip as the weather is breaking into low cloud. It inevitably went to a local beach and a stop. A man with a child perched behind was taking on the sands riding a Specialised hybrid.


Hopefully there will be fun at home too at the August ‘Rides for all’ and then a birthday ride later in the month, plus some little trips with the younger granddaughters. And my old friends the other bikes of course…


Tour de Fradley (again)

A few posts ago I mentioned the state of Green Lane on National Cycle Network 54, just before Barton Under Needwood. I had a chance to spin out there this morning to have a look at it again and get a few photos. More on that later in the week.

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As ever there is rarely a dull moment when out cycling and my camera was well used. First of all it was a beautiful foggy, mizzly morning. Hot weather isn’t my most favourite but this was a joy.

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On the way back I passed this traction engine, probably on its way back from Saturdays Alrewas show.

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I dropped into Fradley Junction as I had forgotten to take a bonk bar. Over an ice cream I pondered whether I needed to go or if I could hold it in and decided it was best to go. Glad I did as in exactly the same spot as on Saturday I found this Mario Lanza beer mat. Maybe it had been there since Saturday when I found the other one, or maybe AJW is in the area for a while?

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Finally back into Lichfield and a little job needed a little part from Tippers. An excellent place, an independent retailer carrying just about anything you may need on a huge or tiny scale.

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Truly Fradley Deeply

Spot of lunch at Fradley Junction was made truly memorable by finding of a Mario Lanza card by the elusive ghostwriter AJW, on the hand dryers in the gents. I’d heard of the Black Country Legend before who over 50 years has left thousands of unique hand drawn cards in shops, pubs and everyday places.

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Already spotted locked up in the car park was this wonderfully eccentric bike.

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Finally a stylish pair of Woosh electric bikes whose owners had trundled down from Barton Marina and were extolling the virtues. Always go for a 36V battery I was told, that looked so neat in the pannier rack.

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Sheriff for the day

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A few weeks ago I did a post about a Lichfield tradition that I thought it might be a good idea to update. I’ve had a spin round the city looking at a route for the alternative Sheriff’s bike ride in September, timed to coincide with the traditional horse ride around the edge of the city boundary. That ride lasts most of the day with numerous stops for refreshments and noses in the trough. The alternative bike ride will be entirely within the urban area and is just short of ten miles long, so should be done in a couple of hours. That includes a planned stop for a drink and a piece of cake for us too.

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I found a fascinating article about the history of the ride on the excellent Lichfield Lore website. The account of that route may be close to the original and I have tried to use roads that bear the names of the fields and farms that the old ride would have crossed. The modern horse ride begins at the Guildhall, but we will be using the original start point of Cross in Hand Lane, travelling anticlockwise through the estates of Lichfield before returning to our start point.

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The ride is open to anybody to join. No entrance fee, no dress code. Participate in our alternative version of this local tradition. No brownnosing or backstabbing required to be Sheriff, we will elect an honorary Sheriff for the duration of the ride on the day. Saturday 7th September is the date, meet at the end of Cross in Hand Lane for a 10:30 start. Bring your metal steeds and join us for part or all of our ride, or line the streets to cheer us on.

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