he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother


“Do not exceed 25mph” is written alongside “Do not carry humans or animals” on the back of my BOB Yak; for the record, I’ve never carried any humans or animals in it (despite being tempted once or twice) but I have broken the first rule on several occasions, the most memorable of which was in the middle of the 2011 brewery tour, somewhere on the Tissington Trail.

From our campsite in Leek, we’d planned an ‘easy’ day down to Ashbourne but instead of just heading straight there, we went East and headed for NCN Route 54 and a stop off at the Whim Ales brewery; you can read more about that part of the trip here. After bagging our free booze, my brakes falling apart, getting a pinch flat after hitting a large pothole too hard and going the wrong way down a short stretch of the Manifold Trail, we eventually tied up with NCN Route 68 and the famous Tissington Trail which runs off road all the way into Ashbourne where our next campsite was located.

Lunching at a lovely spot in Hartlebury, we were starting to recover from the horror that was the White Peak Loop, the relentless hill climb up to Whim Ales and the roadside running repairs I needed to make in the equally relentless heat. A few miles up the road, through some very pretty cuttings in the hillside and we reached Hartington and one of the many access points to the Tissington Trail; it’s well put together too: Here at the old railway station, there are clean and well appointed public toilets, a tap to refill your bidons (that’s water bottles, by the way), an ample car park and the surface of the trail is just excellent all the way South. It actually continues North for quite a way too where it joins up with the High Peaks Trail but I haven’t explored that one yet.

We stopped for a malt loaf break in the beautiful little village at Tissington where we sat for a while, soaking up the scenery, the sunshine and the new found feeling of happiness we’d gained from riding side by side down the trail which, because it was slightly downhill, we managed to maintain one hell of a pace despite the trailside foliage slapping into our legs and small children occasionally getting in our way.

Incidentally, if you wanted to jump on the trail at Tissington, there are equally good facilities and car parking here along with lots of other things to see and do in the local area; it’s one of my favourite little corners of the world, Derbyshire.

At the end of the trail is the Ashbourne Tunnel, recently reopened to the public and surprisingly good fun to cycle through! Oddly, the trail comes to something of an anticlimactic end in a Sainsbury’s car park just outside Ashbourne town centre but, again, if this is your entry point of choice, it’s very accessible indeed. So, if you’re looking for somewhere really nice and safe to get back on your bike or you’re wanting to get your kids into cycling or perhaps you just want to defy the health & safety types over at BOB, the Tissington Trail comes highly recommended.

Incidentally, my riding buddy on the left here actually isn’t my brother but he also ain’t heavy… his Surly Long Haul Trucker is though!

i drove all night


OK, so technically we didn’t drive all night; we rode for an hour or so in the morning but let us not split hairs over such things.

It was June 2011, the height of the summer and we were on a bike tour around the midlands, planning to visit a few breweries along the way. For months I’d been training, loading up my BOB Yak with all my camping gear, riding a 20 mile route every night after work and spending my weekends searching out every hill I could find, pushing the training mileage up to ~40 miles.

After the physical, mental, mechanical disaster that was the 2010 tour, I’d learnt my lesson and bought new, lighter camping gear and had a new wheel custom built for the Yak in an attempt to make the whole thing go a lot more smoothly.

Yep, you could say we were in pretty good shape as we set off from Birmingham and headed for a rather pleasant 40ish miles on and off road to our first stop in Bewdley.

Day 2 was the long planned for, eagerly anticipated ride from Bewdley to Ironbridge via our first brewery at Cleobury Mortimer. To say that it rained that day would be like saying the Sahara Desert has some sand in it. We packed up the tents (in the rain) and enjoyed a hot breakfast (in the rain) at the rather pleasant Hopley’s campsite before jumping on the bikes (in the rain) and heading off for the short 7.5 miles (in the rain) to Hobson’s Brewery in Cleobury Mortimer.

We were shown around by a lovely guy whose name escapes me but I do remember he didn’t mind us dripping all over the floor! We got the full VIP treatment and learnt all about the brewing process, smelt and tasted various roasted grains and hops and took lots of pictures of large pieces of machinery; a good time was had by all. Then, we were asked “Would you like to try some?” to which I responded with something like “Is it raining outside?” or “Does the pope wear a silly hat?”. So, we tried some. And then, we tried some more. It rained outside. We tried a little more. It rained some more.

Originally, we’d gone there to try Postman’s Knock which makes a well deserved appearance in my ‘1001 beers you must try before you die’ book but we actually fell in love with their very understated mild which is simply sublime. We tried a little more and it rained a little more. A bottle of Twisted Spire was opened so, against our will, we tried some of that too.

Eventually, realising it simply wasn’t going to stop raining anytime soon (or perhaps just ever!) we bagged 4 bottles at a bargain price (in the rain), loaded up the bikes (in the rain) and headed off (in the rain) towards our next stop in beautiful Ironbridge. I forget why, but Geordie felt the need to whip out the hatchet and wave it around, in the rain.

Heading almost dead North, we managed to piece together a beautiful route through country lanes and even an off road stretch of NCN route 45 which is very well signposted, surfaced and nice and wide almost everywhere.

This is the rather beautiful Mercure Madeley Court Hotel, just outside Ironbridge where we eventually got out of the rain, wrung out our gloves, washed our luggage off in the bathtub and drank our Hobson’s ales whilst watching the grand prix which, through some bizarre twist of fate, was severely delayed due to heavy rainfall.

Despite it all, this remains one of my favourite cycling days, ever.