Sunday, 3 May 2020

Bridges for Cyclists (Part 2 ) Further Afield

Modern suspension bridges are probably the most spectacular bridges that we cyclists can experience.  They cover the major estuaries of the UK - The Firth of Forth, The River Severn and The River Humber.  

 When opened on 1981, the Humber Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world, and remains the longest that you can cycle across in the UK.
It spans the estuary of the River Humber between Hessle on the North bank to Barton-upon-Humber on the South bank. The span is 4265ft and the two concrete towers are 508ft. high.

 The cycle paths on it's extremities contribute to it's aerodynamic cross section which helps it withstand winds of well over 100 mph.

 A scary ride if you don't have a head for heights.

                  The cycle path approaching from the South.

Of a similar design, the original Severn Bridge allows for cycling over it's 3240ft. span connecting England to Wales, but the later Prince of Wales Bridge does not since it carries the M4 motorway.

Such suspension bridges are not so fashionable now, being supplanted by stayed cable bridges where a multitude of cables support the deck direct from high towers. Since each cable supports only part of the load, it can be adjusted or changed if necessary. The second Forth Road Bridge and the second Severn Bridge are examples of this type of bridge, so no cycling on those.

Some of the redundant railway viaducts on the National Cycle Network, may date from a previous generation of bridges, but are no less spectacular.  Most are made of stone or brick but our nearest (to Derby) is the Bennerley Viaduct which is constructed of wrought iron.  This structure is not yet open to cyclists as remedial work is required after years of neglect.

      The Bennerley Viaduct crosses the Erewash Valley near Ilkeston.

Here an example of a redundant brick railway viaduct now which now forms a link in the National Cycle Network.  It crosses the Don Valley near Doncaster.

You might think that you are cycling on a road here, as you cross the River Esk near Whitby ...............

     .........but you are actually 120ft up there on the Larpool Viaduct!

       With views of the River Esk and Whitby Abbey (marked X).
The viaduct was opened in 1885 and carried a single line of the Scarborough and Whitby railway until 1965.  During the construction two workers fell off the viaduct and both survived.  It is now a grade 2 listed structure.

This live railway bridge crosses the Mawddach Estuary near to Barmouth and alongside is a bridge built for cyclists (and walkers).

 This forms a vital link in the North /South coastal route.

If you cycle on canal towpaths you will occasionally ride across an aqueduct taking the canal across a river, road, or railway.

This is the nearest to Derby, taking the Trent & Mersey Canal over the River Dove at Clay Mills near Burton-upon-Trent.
You would hardly notice it, so here is photograph of it's surroundings.
On the left a concrete pillbox from WW2 built to defend the canal from German invasion forces and in the background the original Monk's Bridge which once carried the main Derby/Burton road over the River Dove. Now the A38 trunk road is carried on a modern re-enforced concrete bridge.

One of the finest aqueducts on the UK canal system is on the Lancaster Canal which crosses the River Lune a few miles North of Lancaster.

                    View from below on the river bank.

Of all the high level cycle routes, the Pontcysyltte Aqueduct crossing the Dee Valley in Wales must be the most spectacular at 1007ft. long and standing 126ft. high

The canal is contained in a series of cast iron troughs. It was designed by Thomas Telford and opened in 1805, truly a masterpiece of engineering, but the great man designed the towpath for the horses which pulled the barges in those days. rather than the bicycles we have today.  Another scary ride if you don't have a head for heights.

Click HERE for video

Thomas Telford FRS FRSE
Scottish civil engineer, architect and stonemason.
Designer of much of our canal system and it's engineering structures.
His was a world of horse drawn vehicles and boats, not of motor cars  nor even bicycles.

 Many of our cities were built on rivers, since the carriage of goods by boat was the best means of transport. Inevitably that created a need for bridges, and London is a good example.
To see a video about the bridges spanning the River Thames in London click THIS

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Bridges for Cyclists (Part 1) - Here in Derby

We would not get far on our bikes without the use of bridges.
They are everywhere, crossing rivers, roads, railways, canals, even estuaries, yet we may hardly notice them at times, yet some are so spectacular that they dominate the landscape.  Others were built centuries ago and yet can cope with modern day traffic.
Bridges come in a wide variety of designs and materials, successive generations of ingenious structural engineers using whatever materials were available at the time to satisfy their requirements.  Surges in the construction of bridges  have often coincided with transport innovations; the building of canals, railways and motorways and only recently have there been bridges built specifically for cyclists.  However the closure of many railways by Dr. Beeching in the 1960's left some bridges without a purpose and these now carry only pedestrians and cyclists predominantly on the National Cycle Network.
Locally in Derby, we have a variety of bridges used by cyclists and here we take a closer look at them.  Our main barrier to navigation is the River Derwent which flows Southwards from the hills of the Peak District to join the River Trent, which then flows Northwards from Nottingham to empty it's waters into the Humber Estuary and finally into the North Sea.

With global warming and the threat of flooding, much effort has gone into flood prevention measures locally, one of which is the Cathedral Bridge, a most unusual design as it is designed to be swung aside, clear of the river, at times of high water. It carries only pedestrians and cyclists. It was opened in 2009 at a cost of £4.2m.

Only a short distance downstream is Exeter Bridge which carries road traffic and has dedicated cycle lanes, but it's low arch is susceptible to damage from high water levels. Many bridges over rivers and canals have high arches to permit the passage of boats, but Exeter Bridge is midway between two weirs, one at Evans Mill (Darley Abbey) and the other at the River Gardens, so only rowing boats are to be seen here.
Smart planning here by Derby City Council with a segregated cycle lane on Exeter Bridge.

18 May 2020 All changed
Flood prevention works to install flood gates on Exeter Bridge have changed the above view for the better. See below.

 The segregated cycle lane is replaced by a shared pavement.

And on the left a ramp has been installed alongside the steps which remain behind the wall on the right.

                    But these lads don't seem to have noticed.

A good local example of a redundant railway bridge put to good use is Handysides Bridge which crosses the River Derwent at Chester Green. It originally carried the railway from Friargate Station towards Breadsall and beyond, but the route was closed by Dr. Beeching in the 1960s.  Beside the double rail track it had a pedestrian bridge alongside - no longer needed when the main bridge was converted. It now forms a vital link as part of Derby's cycle routes.

This is another local bridge curiosity, known to Derby's cyclists as the Curly Bridge. It spans the A38 adjacent to Markeaton Park and sadly to be demolished soon with the widening of the main road.

It was never designated as a route for cyclists and would not meet current Health and Safety Regulations, so it has to go, to be replaced by a new bridge, unlikely to be so spectacular in appearance.

The Longhorse Bridge, which cost £1.4m when it was erected in 2011 allows cyclists and pedestrians to cross the River Trent at Derwentmouth near Shardlow where the River Derwent joins the Trent.  So called because it's predecessor was used by horses in the days of horse drawn boats on rivers and canals.

An important route for cyclists and pedestrians, linking our Derbyshire routes to those in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.

A new bridge, crossing the A52  (Derby to Nottingham Road) is similar in design to the Longhorse Bridge, and will soon be installed to connect Chaddesden to the the Wyvern Centre.  It replaces the old bridge which carried the NCN Route 66 Derby Orbital Cycle Route. Installation is later than originally planned due to the Corvid-19 crisis It will now be installed over the weekend of May 29th - June 1st.  It should be possible to view this on PC's and IPad's. It is costing £7.2m, weighs 280 tonnes, and will be brought on site by 12 lorries. One of the largest cranes in the country, which has a capacity of 1550 tonnes, will lift it into position.

This is what it will look like.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Cape Wrath

In a lifetime on two wheels, it has not been easy to pick out the most memorable ride, but after due consideration, this is it.
I have had no desire to climb Everest, swim the Channel, nor cycle from Lands End to John o'Groats, but I rather fancied cycling to Cape Wrath, which lies on the North West tip of Scotland.  Sounds reasonable, but there are no roads to it, and it is separated from civilisation by an inlet of the sea - the Kyle of Durness. It has been described as "The remotest place on the British Mainland".
The unsurfaced track to the lighthouse, though only 11 miles long, is bounded by an RAF bombing range and an Army firing range.
As if that weren't enough, it is 620 miles from Derby, but you don't have to cycle all that way to qualify as a member of the Cape Wrath Fellowship. However, you do have to cycle from the Kyle to the lighthouse. Over 2000 people have survived this journey, each being rewarded with a certificate and a badge, but most of all by the memory of such a wonderful experience.

Since our annual holiday was usually spent on the West Coast of Scotland, and we always took our bikes, I had a flying start.

To get across the waters of the Kyle you take your bike on the tiny ferry (which actually has no provision for bikes), with it precariously hanging on the side of the little craft as the asthmatic two stroke out-board labours against the wind.  Just noticed that there are more passengers than there are lifebelts (shades of the Titanic?).

It was May 8th 2006 and I was lucky to pick a good day with perfect weather, taking my Claud Butler mountain bike, by an amazing coincidence it being the Cape Wrath model. My deathly white legs had just emerged from Winter-long hibernation in long trouser tunnels, but soon assumed a golden tan in the sun's glorious rays.

                       What a day to be in such a place!

    A delight for photographers, cyclists and human beings of all kinds.

                        A few hills to climb but well worth the effort.

                            Stunning scenery on all sides.

                              At last, the lighthouse in sight.

                                        And here it is.

And to prove that it wasn't just a wonderful dream - here's the badge . Can't find the certificate.

Having chosen this as my No.1 Best Ride, I suppose that I should choose a No.2, and again this is not easy, but I have chosen the Mawddach Trail which runs from from Barmouth to Dolgelleau in Wales. This is already written up on this blog so take a look at August 2015 following after the Carsington post.

Sunday, 19 April 2020


The enforced travel restrictions imposed by the Corona virus lock-down have prevented further exploration of our beautiful countryside, but have given an opportunity to look back through thousands of photographs that I have taken over the years. As the saying goes - "A picture is worth a thousand words".
They are in no particular order, but all taken with the aid of my personal Two Wheels and a Camera.
Click on photos to enlarge to full screen.

              Sunset at Poolewe on the Northwest Coast of Scotland.

Rhoose Point at the most Southerly tip of Wales, looking across the Bristol Chanel towards Somerset.

 A spectacular coastal ride on The Cinder Track from Scarborough to Whitby via Robin Hood's Bay (marked X) and .......

................  you ride over the Larpool Viaduct at Whitby.

The Water Rail Way which runs alongside the River Witham from Lincoln to Boston.

The flat landscape is good for cycling and the route is never busy with motor traffic...........

...... and you can go as fast as you like

This is Boston Stump, the church visible from miles around over the flat landscape of the Fens.
Some of the streets of Boston are little changed from the days of the Pilgrim Fathers who left here on their way to America via Plymouth.

The Monsal Trail running from Buxton to Bakewell is a very popular ride, with several tunnels which have lighting ............

..................... like this!

Bakewell is a  nice place to visit. Here we are beside the River Wye.

 Canal towpaths are good for cycling being flat and traffic free.  Here we are at Swarkestone Lock on the Trent and Mersey Canal.

And here on the Chesterfield Canal ...........................

.................  where there is this excellent cafe at Hollington Lock

................  and you can get food like this here

At the New Inn in Shardlow on the Trent and Mersey Canal  ....

...... you can get a refreshing pint of Marston's  Pedigree (even better!).
On NCN Route 1 overlooking Berwick-on-Tweed

             Best ever holiday in the Western Isles of Scotland.

               No traffic, dramatic scenery and beautiful weather.

Camping on Isle of Skye

Isle of Eigg

                             Beside the Forth Railway Bridge.

    On the shore of Loch Maree with Slioch (3218ft) across the water.

NCN Route 6 near Melbourne.

Hen Cloud at the Roaches.

On Cannock Chase.  Unbelievably this was once a coal mine.

          Me (left) with cycling pals at Attenborough Nature Reserve.
Taff Trail alongside River Taff. Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff ride.

Lunch stop at Wicken Fen on Ely to Cambridge ride.

Imaginative archway dwarfing my bike on the path into Cambridge.

Melbourne Pool. A favourite local destination.

Penny Farthings at rally in Leicester.  Made the Guiness Book of Records.

At New Mills station here comes the train for Buxton and the Monsal Trail

A nice resting place for my bike on the Water Rail Way

And another resting place at this mammoth who is in Watermead Park in Leicester.

River Ewe at Poolewe in Scotland

En route to ride the Humber Bridge

The railway viaduct at Berwick-upon-Tweed

Alongside Loch Linnhe

Trent and Mersey Canal at Shardlow

The Swan Inn at Fradley -junction of Coventry Canal and Trent and Mersey Canal.

A steep climb (ie walk) up to the Cathedral in Lincoln