Cycling and Other Stories

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Cycling to work.

While the majority of my colleagues long for “yellow, green or red week” which means they can park their vehicle in the car park for 5 precious days, a small but growing band have discarded the services of the petrol engine and have started to cycle to work.

It makes a lot of sense.

You can park right outside the front door of the building every day of any week no matter what colour it is.

When the Beatles played Doncaster Gaumont in 1964 they stayed at the Regent hotel opposite the theatre – the hotel for many years (and still probably does, I don’t get out much these days) displayed the hotel register, which asked for name, place of birth and nationality. It read –
Paul McCartney – Liverpool – British
John Lennon – Liverpool – Green
Ringo Starr – Liverpool – White
George Harrison – Liverpool – Red

Clearly the Beatles were not only pop innovators but had also predicted the car park of the future.


The fine art of walking, worms and wind after the deluge………

Got up early Sunday to a grey windswept morning with just a glimmer of faint spring sunshine trying to force itself through fast moving clouds.

I decided to do the “Tour de quatre Chateau” and visit the Halls of Cusworth, Brodsworth, Barnborough and Sprotborough. Of course only Cusworth and Brodsworth still stand. Both Sprotborough and Barnborough halls were demolished in the 20th century, and only the experienced eye can catch the remaining shadows and echos of those buildings.

I live in the shadow of Cusworth Hall, which looks down on my humble home from its lofty perch on top of the hill.

The squalls of rain were nothing compared to the downpour that must have occurred during the night. The road was covered in worms trying to escape drowning and large puddles still filling from the stream like gutters. As I turned to climb Cusworth Hill I saw a young man, running down the road. He was obviously training and had the look of a natural athlete.

So up the hill and past Cusworth Hall – the roads quiet and still, no curtains stirring from the sleepy cottages. Then on to Marr and as I reached the higher lands the wind was blowing hard from the west, The open fields and country roads reminded me of Flanders and the afternoon’s race – good, the wind would favour the hard men.

Concentrating on keeping the bike in a straight line with the gusting cross wind I sang a song “Johan Museeuw, Johan Museeuw will win; Johan Museeuw we will all start to sing, Johan Museeuw will win the RVV, Johan Museeuw will go down in history!” (to the tune of “Roll out the barrel”).

Turning west past Brodsworth Hall it would later be apparent that my ability to pick race winners was equal to my ability to cover the undulating climb to the top of Hangman Stone Hill. The wind and road sapped my legs and I was fast running out of gears. A man walking his collie passed, “morning” we said. I struggled on.

Through Marr and out into the open fields I went past the Roman Villa. Of course it has long gone but ariel photographs show its outline clearly. Such Latin thoughts fell away as I struggled to the top of Hangmanstone Hill. The war against the wind was worth it. It is a magnificent view from Hangmanstone. Not that there is a stone there, or even an area steeped in folklore, a tale to tell how the point got its name. Your imagination must provide the answer to that one.

To the west is the Dearne Valley, to the east The Lowlands. The Dearne Valley was once an area famous for its beauty.The rich gentry (including George III) built Halls and summer houses overlooking it. Then they discovered coal. The Hall owners kept the mining rights but moved on away from the now pit-filled valley. Not that I could see much of it, the wind was making my eyes stream.

In the still small fields that snuggle to the base of the limestone scarp once stood Barnborough Hall. In the 1960’s the National Coal Board knocked it down since they no longer required it and turned the site into a small van depot. Now the National Coal Board has gone, the pits are closed and the only remaining trace of the hall is the huge stone dovecote which still stands.

And it still has doves.

As I neared the bottom of the descent near to Denaby Ings a saw the young runner again. Same pace, same expression he must have covered 7 miles in the time it took me to ride 15. You have to admire that, not only talented but also determined, half past seven in the morning and he had already run further than most people do in a year.

I turned to climb Cadeby Hill and immediately ran into trouble. I hit a scree of pebbles and small stones on the bend, and my back tyre punctured. Fortunately I knew exactly where my repair out fit was. Unfortunately it was on the kitchen table.

Bike over shoulder I started the long walk home. The overnight rainfall had washed away part of the slag heap next to the road and it was like walking up a river bed for a while. Walking is slow and tedious, and naturally it started to rain.

Through Sprotborough village and past the site of the last Hall – Sprotborough. Once a place so fine that its had a steam engine pumping water straight from the River Don to power its fountains and water features. Now a suburban leafy suburb, the Hall sold to a property developer, only the lodge house remains. I trudge slowly by the lodge house and remember a tale from some years back.

A friend of mine had been cycling down the hill toward the lodge when he saw a darkly dressed old man lent against the wall. He glanced to the road for a second and when he looked back the man had gone. Disappeared. He stopped and searched for where he could have gone. But he had disappeared. It was a mystery.

As I neared homed the first signs of life started to emerge on the once sleepy roads. Range Rovers rushing to the newsagents and a chain gang of veterans, all wind capes and mudgaurds. “Need a hand," shouted the leader.

“Nearly home, ta!” I answered. Cheery wave and the 8 riders pushed on. Bet they carry a pump and repair outfit I thought, indeed, looking at a couple of the saddle bags I reckon they could have undertaken a little light engineering job.

I got home made a cup of tea and sat on the back step.
“Cycling 10 Walking 0” I thought.


Writers block

i rode the long way home today
wind behind my back
pushing big gears
bad crash on the rise to hangmanstone hill
cars in fields
and me
pedalling slowly up the sharpest section
for once
every one gave me the right of way
patience recycled by the stupidity of cars.
just for a moment until the sirens stopped wailing i was the king
of the road
the conscience of the motorist in a solemn time
i gotta lift
from Trish the dish once
she avoided that stretch of road
"its wicked down there!"
she said
no matter i had the wind on my back and the legs
to cycle
but sadly no words come upon my page
i am suffering from writer's block
whitby may sort that out
but it is time to go
to scarborough fair


Croix de l'Homme Mort / Hangman Stone Hill

There had been snow showers, sleet and hail that day.
and that was before dinner time.
The increasingly strong north easterly wind was blackening the first buds of the cropped and silent trees.

i had just read that stage 4 Paris Nice had been snowed off.
time to cycle home
i like my locker room at work
when i first arrived there i was the only person to use it - now we have three lockers, two showers and a full bike rack
i use the 1 kilometre of cycle track leaving work and nearly manage to crash into a road sign.

i start the ascent of sticking hill and pass a wooded cross - a tribute to two teenage boys who killed themselves in a car on this stretch of road. Indeed accidents are frequent. My legs are not good today. i grovel for a few gears then plod over the steep rise.

The short descent is not pleasant since the wind is full in my face and snowflakes swirl.
The charge across the valley turns into a slog against the wind but as i cross mill bridge i notice another little pile of flowers.
Another tribute to car crash victims.

The ascent of hang man stone hill was just painful. Cold wind in my face. i briefly pondered on the similarity of the names of the hills - Hang man stone and snow bound Croix de l'Homme Mort.
And decided there were probably more dissimilarities.

Through High Melton and heading home i pass another roadside bunch of flowers. For a 12 year old girl killed by a car.
i am nearly killed by a car and see lots of them. I see about ten cyclists.
i prefer to be with the ten.

Fine Art of Walking
Queen Jane
Journalist Gone Bad
High Melton Hill
Girlies Never Apologise

Pegleg Joss
New Route

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