Here’s my most recent post from the Rivers Ride blogs site:
I’ve tweeted about this a few times, but a little blog post won’t help either:
I’m doing the Jennings Rivers Ride – Big Ride Out on Sunday 15 September, in aid of the Cumbria Community Foundation, and all the good work they do for community groups in the county.
The ride is a 75 trek through West Cumbria, taking in some of the rivers that flooded a few years ago. The route takes in three challenging Lake District passes – Whinlatter, Newlands and Honister – and all of these come in the last 20 or so miles.
As you may know, I broke my back about six months ago when cycling.
Thankfully, I am now more or less fully recovered, and enjoying my cycling again. However, the Rivers Ride will still prove a challenge for me. It’d be a challenge if I hadn’t broken my back, but it’ll be even more so now.
But it’s a challenge I want to take on as part of my recovery and to support the Cumbria Community Foundation’s great work.
I wanted to blog about my recent cycling experience over Hardknott Pass in Cumbria. If only because if I don’t, there is a risk the rose-tinted spectacles will alter my memory.
And as the title suggests, the clue is in the name. Hardknott Pass, really is the hardest climb I’ve ever undertaken, by quite some distance.
Having recently successfully conquered (I’m using that word very loosely) Cold Fell, Newlands and Whinlatter and Outrigg, perhaps I was feeling a little blasé about Hardknott. However, the signs at the start of the pass, and the view as soon as you are on it soon bring you back down to earth!
Recognising it was going to be a difficult ride, my friend and I decided to head straight to Hardknott from Beckermet, rather than a more meandering route we might ordinarily have chosen.
My first error was not fuelling up for the ride. I had a light lunch earlier in the day, long before this evening ride, and all I had to keep me going en route was water and a Crunchie. It turns out that wasn’t enough.
Those who have completed Hardknott, or have attempted to do so, will know that it is split into two steep sections with a flatter section in the middle, for some respite.
I’m pleased to say that I made it up the first section. It was incredibly steep, and had me making some crazy routes across the width of the road to try and make some of the switchbacks. At the halfway point, I felt ok. I deliberately kept myself moving slowly so as to not use the last of my rapidly depleting energy stocks.
However that soon changed, almost the instant I got to the second steep section – which I think is the steepest on the whole ascent. As soon as I started to ‘pedal’ (or stomp on the pedals), I realised that the sick feeling in my stomach was a worrying lack of energy.
At this point, I chose to take a few seconds rest. I say this was a choice, but it wasn’t really – I couldn’t have made it any further.
Feeling in no way refreshed, I set off up the hill and got as far as the next corner. It became apparent at this point that I really must have a longer rest, so I busied myself with taking the pictures you see on this page. It became apparent because I nearly pulled my bike up on top of me, just trying to grind my way up the hill.
A few minutes later, I set off again.
Or I tried to. The steepness of the section I was now resting on made this quite difficult. I almost fell off the bike, but managed to gain enough momentum to crawl to the top.
And that’s when I realised that Hardknott is so extreme that getting up is only part of the challenge!
The way down involved speeds of around 4MPH, applying the brakes throughout. One section of the road has been washed away, with the interesting and entirely sensible decision to replace it with gravel.
That’s actually a good thing, because it scares you enough to slow your speed further, which is helpful for the next section of descent where your bike, amusingly, skid its way down!
And a few corners later, that was it. The Duddon Valley, Birker Fell and Irton Pike all paled into insignificance, by comparison.
I felt battered and bruised, but I made it through the experience. And an experience is exactly what it was.
I’ve never seen roads so steep, where you need to think not only about how you’ll pull yourself up but also which parts of the road you must use to do so. Get it wrong and it’ll simply be too much of an incline to climb.
The ride definitely gave me something to think about, both in terms of my training and potential future routes, but also in terms of fuel on rides. I left myself short for this climb, and that meant the result was a foregone conclusion!
Apologies to anyone who is sick of hearing my story now (I know I am!), but there is something in Saturday’s News and Star about my blogging for the Jennings Rivers Ride.
You can read the story here.
You can read the blogs on my site, and on the Rivers Ride blog site. There are excellent blogs on their from some of Cumbria’s finest, including the dry wit of Gary McKeating, Rebecca Watson‘s observations and many more.
Details on the excellent Rivers Ride can be found on their site. The four rides take place on Sunday 15 September and there are options for every level of cycling experience.
I blogged about my experience on here last year – as the months since the event pass by I am even managing to forget just how awful the weather was after about the first two miles.
This year, we hope to enter a team from my employers. We already have the names of thirteen unlucky volunteers, so it’s looking good. Fingers’ crossed.
A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to take part in a charity event which would pit men against women behind the steering wheel.
The thought of taking on a rally challenge, or perhaps the quickest lap of an F1 course, or even Maryport go-kart centre got me excited and I agreed.
It was a this point I found out what you have already gathered, that the challenge was actually somewhat different.
Local marketing maestro Michelle Masters had teamed up with the good folks at Stan Palmer Honda in Cockermouth (and in particular their enthusiastic sales manager Gary Redmond) to promote the fuel efficiency of their cars and raise some money for the fabulous CFM Cash For Kids appeal at the same time. The premise was simple enough – four boys would take on four women to see who could be the most fuel efficient on a journey across West Cumbria, only stopping for afternoon tea.
The questions were plenty: would the weight advantage the women have make all the difference? Would the competitive spirit mean that we would abandon the challenge for a straight out race? Would the afternoon tea reduce fuel economy for the latter half of the challenge? And how exactly do you drive efficiently?
In fact, I wondered whether my style of full acceleration combined with fierce braking for junctions, was really best suited for this particular event. Queue swotting up on just how to do it.
So did we do it?
I am pleased to report that the boys team (christened the ‘bad boys’ by Michelle) managed the narrowest of wins, beating the ‘good girls’ by just 0.4MPG.
I don’t know that much about fuel efficiency, but I do know that is close! It’s fair to say that the second leg of the ‘race’ was a tense and nervy affair – all played out at a maximum speed of 56 miles per hour!
The boys managed a reasonable 45.1 MPG in the Honda CRV, which was matched on the way back by the girls.
However our stonking 63.7 MPG in the Honda Civic on the return journey beat their slightly less impressive 63.1 MPG.
More importantly, we have a fabulous feed at Sella Park Hotel in Calderbridge thanks to their fabulous chef Jon-Robert Fell.
Sorry, I jest. More importantly, we managed to raise a few hundred quid for the Cash for Kids appeal and all had a good day in the process.
My main reason for writing this blog was to formally thank all of those involved who volunteered their time, cars, Twitter accounts, cake making skills and much more, so here goes:
Firstly, thanks to Stan Palmer Honda and Michelle Masters for organising the event.
Thanks to Sella Park Hotel and their chef Jon-Robert Fell and his team for feeding us.
Thanks to the impressive bad boys team who succeeded on the day (Daley Rodgers, Karl Connor, Keith McMean and me).
Thanks and commiseration’s to the good girls team (Anne Sowerby, Vivienne Tregidga, Jess Burt and Suzanne Burgess)
Thanks to everyone who donated and who got involved on Twitter to make the event such good fun.
And if you fancy giving a few pence to the cause, visit the Just Giving site.
If you fancy having your own go at trying to beat our MPGs then why not call Stan Palmer to book a test drive or even purchase one of the cars involved!
Admittedly, it’s not quite the same when the view is the walls of Whitehaven Sports Centre rather than the Eskdale and Wasdale valleys I’d became accustomed to, but it’s certainly a start.
I don’t often blog about work. However, next week, my employer – Copeland Borough Council – will take a significant decision on a project I have been involved in since the outset.
This decision, is whether the council should continue to be involved in the government’s Managing Radioactive Waste Safely process, and move to stage four, by taking a decision to participate.
A few colleagues, friends and other people I respect have blogged or commented on the subject, and I wanted to give a few simple thoughts of my own, and point you in the direction of some of these comments, so you can better understand the issue yourself.
In 2008, the government published the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely White Paper. This white paper outlined the government process for finding a home for the country’s higher activity radioactive waste. The home would be a geological disposal facility – or an engineered underground repository for the waste.
As Copeland is home to over 70% of the country’s waste, in interim storage at the Sellafield site, the council expressed an interest in the process, and entered discussions with the government.
Cumbria County Council and Allerdale Borough Council subsequently joined the process and the West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership was formed.
This partnership, which met regularly for over three years, was set up to explore the issues involved in hosting a facility, to help the councils take a decision about whether to formally take a decision to participate in the process. This is the decision point we are at now.
The Partnership developed a work programme and worked to consider a range of issues including geology, impacts, community benefits, safety, planning and the environment and much more.
The Partnership also undertook a wide reaching communications and engagement programme, and it was this element that I was particularly involved in, as a member of the public and stakeholder engagement (PSE) group.
The communications and engagement programme we delivered was one of the widest reaching, intensive and coordinated campaigns ever undertaken in Cumbria.
Activity included a series of newsletters and leaflets; advertorials in the local press; advertising on phone boxes, on buses, and on billboards; public drop-in sessions; displays at public events; question and answer sessions; a website; e-bulletins; workshops; discussion packs; two films; and ongoing work with the media.
This work was successful in raising awareness of the Partnership and its work, and we undertook a robust and statistically reliable opinion survey which provided statistical evidence to support the councils’ in taking a decision whether to move forward. The engagement programme was award winning.
The current situation
In recent weeks, as the point where the councils will take their decisions grows nearer, public interest in the process and the decisions has grown. In addition communications activity from those interested in the decision has increased. This has included the formation of pressure groups, public meetings, newsletters, proactive use of social media and much more.
Much of this communication has raised interest in the work of the Partnership, and the decision the councils will take – which has to be a positive.
However in some cases, this activity has served to obfuscate the issues or even scare people.
Find out more
The main reason I wanted to write this blog was to point people to some useful resources and information on the process, so people can make their own decisions on whether we should move forward or not.
So before you make your mind up, why don’t you read the the following information, starting with the Partnership’s work and report:
- The West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely Partnership (and over 300 documents)
- The Partnership’s final report
The views of two Copeland councillors, one Labour, one Conservative:
As I mentioned in my last blog, I’ve not really ran for some time. So when a friend asked me to run on Wednesday evening, I felt I couldn’t say no.
Despite it being around two months since I last ran (and that run wasn’t one for the record books!), I managed a 6+ mile run.
I have to say, whilst I did find it pretty hard, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and I was pleased simply to be able to run that far, after so long absent.
Some facts and observations:
1) I can run further than I think, if motivated and with friends who will run that far. I’m much less motivated and impressive on my own.
2) Run through the pain barrier. I did that, and survived. It’s probably because it was of a mental barrier than an actual physical one. Perhaps it was the laziness barrier not the pain one. Either way, do it.
3) Hills seem a lot steeper than I remember them. Even the little ones that aren’t really hills. Hopefully that will go soon!
4) I will never be a runner. It’s not natural to me, and I always struggle. That said, I’ll keep giving it a go as the achievement does make up for the uncomfortable experience at the time.
The title mentions riding on, that’s because I am thinking that if the weather stays fine, I might complete the end of the Rivers Ride this weekend.
This would mean a thirty mile route from Braithwaite, over Newlands Pass, over Honister Pass, through Keswick and back.
It’s not easy, but it’s the challenge I need to complete, and ideally before the weather turns to winter!
I’ll let you know how I get on.
Incidentally, I lost four pounds at fat club this week. Not bad, but hoping for more of the same this week.
The only man in the room.
In my last blog I talked about two of the three exercise related challenges I have set myself this year.
This blog covers the third – my most recent – which I undertook yesterday.
I write whilst the wounds are still raw!
So to summarise:
1) Keswick to Barrow walk (40 miles)
2) Coast to Coast cycle ride (140 miles)
And now to:
And that is what it was. The race took place yesterday, and the weather was worse than I could have imagined – especially after a deceptively sunny start. That lasted as long as the first pint after I completed my ride!