It was 7am on a Saturday morning in the waning last week of summer. I decided to go on a challenging 100km cycle. I began in Didsbury and cycled to Bramall and went past the below phenomenal hall. See below the rest of my ride. I was pootling on at a good pace but simply had to stop for the below:
Next was the climb up Buxton. This was a gruelling two hill number which ended 552 metres above sea level. This was a stunning gentle but long climb. It snaked around and, as my fellow cyclist James said ‘it rises into the sky’. See below a humorous picture I snapped on the way up.
Once halfway up the second hill I was treated to a beautiful serene scene by one of the many reservoirs I saw on the trip. The reflection was quite moving. I listened to Live! by Fela Kuti and Ginger Baker and was so moved by this that I cried – I will admit it. I am often moved to tears listening to music but the combination of this and the scenery was just too much.
Below was the view going from this reservoir up the famous Cat and Fiddle Hill. This was one of the 5km climbs which rather knackered me on the other side. The downhill was magnificent. I topped out almost 60km/hour on the way down.
Once over the hump as it were I cycled through an idyllic little village in Cheshire. I spoke to a woman there who was raising chickens. We had a lovely conversation about the row of four houses in front of a stream, below a canopy of woodland where she lived. To me it was pure idyll. And they had the most wonderful plant pot (left bike).
See below a picture of the excellent photographer right before a 65km/hr descent. The last two hills were the toughest. 16% gradient steepest on the 1st one and 11% on the second. Both about 1km long and windy.
See below the map. I can’t recommend this enough. Even though I got lost in Macclesfield, the ride was stunning, quite challenging but ultimately immensely rewarding.
As summer and relative freedom loom, I thought it might be agreeable to share with you one of my favourite bike rides. Cycling has been a necessary pass time for me throughout the various lockdowns. Getting out on my own and seeing the beautiful sights quite close to home has given me the energy I needed to face week after week of confinement. My cycle, as you will see, is a road bike. This means I also have the thrill of worrying about being run over by an errant driver, which is refreshing in view of the more commonly petrifying COVID concerns.
I jest of course, generally speaking drivers are careful not to come anywhere near you. It is imperative to wear a good quality helmet, have blinking lights and high visibility outer wear, however. My directions will jump about a little, rest assured there is a satnav guide tour at the bottom of this post.
Our tour begins, as it must, near New Street Station. I would cycle up Holloway Head, turning onto Bath Row and through Edgbaston Park Road, taking a right onto Somerset Road then left onto Farquhar. Once at University there is a right turn down a leafy path which cuts through to the Barbery centre and then onto Quinton Road. From the end of Quinton Road, I would turn left onto California Way and take the third exit at the roundabout to get on West Boulevard. West Boulevard is a dual carriageway so take extra care here. After about two hundred metres turn left onto Woodgate Valley Country Park. This paved path, pictured above, goes on for some 3.5km and is delightful and traffic free.
St Kennelm’s Church
Now comes the difficult bit, Lapal Road South leads you to Manor Way, which is again a dual carriageway/ highway so be sure to take extreme care here. Thankfully this only goes on for a few hundred metres, the roundabout takes us off this dangerous road and through Blackberry Lane and Hasbury. The former has a punishing sudden incline so do watch out for that.
Onto the cause way and turning left onto Hagley Wood Lane, you will find yourself faced with a 11-12% gradient incline. this is the real test of the ride. I have so far managed to make it up 90% of this without stopping, hopefully with my new cleated pedals I will be able to do the full thing without difficulty. the views at the top, pictured, are staggering. Take some time to see Birmingham from afar.
Downhill most of the way from there. St Kennelm’s Road and Dark Lane, where I hope to live, are peaceful gently descending and ascending in turn. The legs may be a bit tired from the menacing climb to the top of Clent but otherwise the rest of the ride is pleasant. Old House Lane and New Town Lane are wonderful countryside roads. Yew Tree Lane and Egg Hill Lane the same. The latter has a sterling view of Bartley reservoir, which is not too far should you wish to have a brief detour. I have presumed that I would wish to do so hence have included it on the tour, embedded below.
From there, onto Shenley Fields Road and Gibbins Road, we begin to feel familiar territory. The Tour then takes us onto the protected Blue Cycle Path from Selly Oak to the town centre, where the trip began and will end.
Overall, this tour is a standard 40km tour which should take no longer than 2 hours if you are cycling at pace. I have found it to be uniquely freeing and challenging at the same time. This is an excellent way to get out of dodge and not have to go too far to see some truly stunning countryside.
If you are a keen cyclist, do download the Komoot app.
I think of all the suggestions I’ve made during my time at Warwick University, none have been repeated so many times as Excel Leisure Centre in Coventry.
I’ve spent countless hours here in the pursuit of the perfect body. I am grieved to report that I’ve yet to attain an Adonis like figure. My gym partner tells me my abs are coming. “They’re on the way, Cedric” he claims. Lies.
Each morning at 6am, I make my way to Xcel as I have done for three out of the four years I have been at this university. Above is a photograph of the stunning sunrise I see each day.
One signs in, greeting the friendly but overworked and underpaid staff. I put my things in a locker, usually locker 69 but I’m finding it increasingly less available. Perhaps the other patrons have as infantile a sense of humour as I do.
After a workout, one can mosey down to the swimming pool and do a few lengths. I aim for 40 but rarely achieve more than 38. Then, methodically on may visit the jaccuzzi; steam room and sauna before showering.
Now, my favourite part of this whole morning routine follows the inevitable shower. Breakfast. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, breakfast is included in your membership at Xcel.
Extreme relaxation does not look as good as it feels, apparently! Here I sat with the AquaBabes(TM) who frequent this gym daily at ungodly hours. I admire their resilience to all weather conditions. They are here without fail each day swimming and gossiping. Sometimes they even manage to do both at once. Not at the breakfast table, thankfully.
When one leaves at 9am, they feel refreshed and ready to take on a new day. This oasis is a stone’s throw from Warwick University. It confounds me greatly why it is not more known.
All of what I have described to you starts from the lofty price of £20 a month. And you get a free month if you sign up one of your friends. So go for it! Their January offer includes not having to pay anything until February. Memberships are a minimum of six months. As with all things, I would suggest you do not start if you do not mean to go on.