In England’s green and pleasant land.

My title is from a poem of 1804 by William Blake which is often sung as a hymn entitled Jerusalem. On a day like today England fully deserves the eulogy. The temperature reached a pleasant 14 celcius and the sun has shone for most of the day. Perfect conditions for a mountain bike ride. I’m still awaiting the wheels for my Boardman, as I have for 2 months. The shop was again deserted yesterday but I’ve replaced the headset bearing of my Whyte JW4, now an elderly 17 years old, so took it for a trail ride. After my last ride, where I used some trails which I’ve rarely used before and some which were totally new to me, I went back to the area to ride them again.

I began by turning onto the Leeds/Liverpool canal which obviously sees very little rise and fall along the tow path. In our area the canal is very rural, passing through places you’d never see from the roads. The only note of caution is that you have to be alert and slow down some when you pass under a bridge. The canal narrows and you can’t see ahead. If another rider is speeding in the opposite direction you have to be ready to take avoiding action. I turned off in Adlington to ride along a river which I rode the opposite way last time. It’s nice enough but not exciting. It turns out to be the river Douglas, which flows from Winter Hill through Wigan and Parbold, the village I lived in from the age of 5 until I left for university at 18. I rejoined the canal and rode along to Arley Woods by Worthington Lakes for an off road section of trail which I rode last time. I starts with a good downhill then follows a small valley. Quite a lot of trail building has been done in the woods but I don’t see myself taking the steep ,short downhills and returning by tough climbs to session the trails. They’re not good enough for that.

Today I continued along the footpath to a road then back onto the canal. So many trees have fallen over the last year and I had to climb over a few which were too big to ride. I can only presume that the lack of clearing is another consequence of Covid 19. I dropped back into Arley Woods from the canal to keep the interest up and came to a very steep climb which I hadn’t been able to clear on the Proflex last time. The 3X7 transmission of the Proflex doesn’t offer such a low bottom gear as the JW4 so today I easily passed where I stopped last time. I was giving it everything to get to the top but stumbled on a tiny wooden step. Next time, maybe. I love a hard climb and the minor glory of getting all the way up. A 3X10 offers a lower gear than a brand new 1X12 generally does so may still be the best option if you do a lot of steep climbing, though you may struggle to buy a bike equipped this way, now. Back on the canal I took some pictures.

The dandelions are out now. Pretty enough but a pest to gardeners because the seeds float for miles. I reflected on the fact that I’ve always been happy to live in my area and have no ambition to settle anywhere else. I lived for my first 5 years in Yorkshire, to the east and spent 3 years in London in my early 20s. London definitely didn’t suit me because I disliked the urban environment. I’m privileged to be able to do a quality mountain bike ride or dog walk right from my house and couldn’t have it any other way. Some others, meanwhile, are always dreaming of moving to Spain or Florida. OK, the weather may be better, or is it? We may get more rain than we’d really like but at least it’s never too hot and rarely too cold for outdoor sports like MTB. As last year we are in a very dry period which is good because it’s dried the ground up after a cold winter. The last 2 days the temperature has finally reached seasonal norms after being cold since New Year. Is it any wonder that so many feel that Global Warming is about control and has no basis in scientific truth? The most terrifying thing about the GW theory is that we are told we can’t use oil any longer. The modern world, for over 100 years, has been driven by oil use. In this time the US has become the biggest economy by far on the back of oil. What comes next, we’re told, is to replace gasoline with batteries and who controls that technology? That’s right, it’s China. I don’t want to accept a world lead by an oppressive, freedom hating regime. Nor do I want a car which can only go 100 miles before a lengthy stop to recharge. In any case I’ll never be able to spend £40,000 on an EV and second hand is little better since the batteries last such a short time. Tesla have now admitted that if you fully charge and fully discharge you’ll only get 300 cycles. Dismal for £12,000 replacement cost.

I again used a trail from the canal which takes me through a woodland to Ellerbeck, the site of a former coal mine. It’s hard going with some tough climbs as well as roots and branches. It’s a useful addition to my local knowledge and a fun challenge. Ellerbeck was a favourite of mine in the mid 1990s and connects by trail to Duxbury Woods and home. It was an excellent trail ride and although I had no particular targets I got some good training in. There were plenty of very steep, if short, climbs and I worked hard for much of the 12 miles..

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