Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Retirement of Sandy Clark
‘A’ frames – We are not alone
We’ll be holding two Santa rides this year. Both are easy rides starting at 10.30am and you are welcome to bring your children or grandchildren with you. The first is on Sunday the 5th December setting off from Nostell Priory and the second on Saturday 11th December from Queen’s Mill Castleford. You are encouraged to decorate yourself and your bike in festive fashion. We are planning mince pies and a hot drink and hope that Santa will be able to join us.
Our last pre-pandemic Santa ride was rather damp so we’re hoping for better weather this year. Wet or dry, there will be a photo feature in our next newsletter. If you are planning to borrow a bike, why not turn up early with some tinsel to pimp your ride!
Not many turned up for the General Meeting of the Forum on Thursday 18th November apart from the committee and the proposed updates to the constitution were the only thing on the agenda. These were uncontroversial and had been fully explained in the notice for the meeting. The only amendment suggested was accepted without issue and the changes were then passed unanimously.
Thanks are due to all who attended and to Ackworth Parish Council who allowed us to use the meeting room.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
One of the respondents to the local authority’s questionnaire, mentioned in our last newsletter, outlined their difficulty in specifying how often they visit Anglers’ Country Park as they and their spouse only ride their bikes in the summer. I truly think that they are missing out.
I have already waxed lyrical about springtime rides and the transition from celandines to violets and from bluebells to buttercups, with blackthorn blooms followed by burgeoning may blossoms. In autumn, now the elderberry wine has been bottled, the plump sloes picked for gin making and the blackberries jammed into pies, we’ve still got the beautiful palette of autumn leaves to marvel at both in the trees and as we crunch over them. The sun seems lower in the sky and dazzles but in sheltered spots you can still feel its warmth. Myriad of migrating birds are more visible through the bare branches and fungi flourish.
It’s going to get colder and we’ll all put on pounds of extra layers to keep warm. We’ll enjoy wheeling through our winter wonderlands together, with or without snow, cracking frozen puddles, fuelled by coffee, cake, hot soup and the camaraderie of colleagues. Cycling truly isn’t just a summer pastime.
Dr Sandy Clark has let it be known that he wishes to retire from the committee of WDCF and to relinquish his post as Campaign Officer.
A trawl through our old newsletters reveal that Sandy has been with WDCF from the start. The beginnings of the Cycle Forum were laid in 2001 when a motion was passed at the Pontefract Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) annual meeting in Ackworth to start a campaign committee, which was to develop into a cycle forum. The founding committee members were Steve Kidd, Sandy Clark, Graham Lawrence, Bill Houlder, and Des Hampshire. The first action of the committee was to organise a set of rides to illustrate the good and bad points of what the council had done for cyclists. These rides started at South Elmsall, Castleford, Pontefract and Thornes Park. Council officer Andrew Fowler attended the first ride and with the CTC campaign committee set up the Wakefield Cycle Users Forum as a consultative forum to Wakefield Metropolitan District Council (WMDC).
The initial achievements of the Cycle Users Forum were under threat when the council, in 2007, decided to axe the Cycle Officer post, which the Forum had successfully argued for, and the healthy transport team. It was this action by WMDC that convinced Forum members that an independent Cycle Forum with its own constitution, volunteers and funds was needed. Wakefield District Cycle Forum became an independent organisation in March 2008 and its first newsletter appeared 6 months later. Dr Sandy Clark was chairman with David Keighley as vice chairman, a partnership that has continued to this day. WDCF was constituted to take on an active role to promote cycling in the district. They managed to ensure that the entire budget allocated to cycling in the Local Transport Plan was actually spent on dedicated cycle schemes.
WDCF began by looking at some of the existing cycle network and wondering if, with a little effort on the “missing links”, then perhaps a couple of tracks might be joined. One of these links would join a section of cycle track behind the Academy School in Crofton with a section of road running down to Yorkshire Water Treatment plant, under the short rail tunnel and out into Walton Colliery Nature Park. This would avoid cyclists having to ride on the road underneath a railway bridge which was always tricky for bikes and road vehicles to share. It would also provide a mainly off-road ride down to Sandal and Agbrigg station. Yorkshire Water were definitely against the move to open up the tunnel near their treatment plant and Network Rail had little interest in removing the barriers which had been placed at the entrance to the tunnel. WDCF enlisted support from the local MP Jon Trickett, Walton and Crofton Parish Council, local walking groups and Northern Rail. Although Jon Trickett played an influential part in helping to get the attention of Network Rail, Sandy Clark took a central role in bringing these parties together and as it turned out, he was the heartbeat which kept the project going.
In 2013, Sandy Clark, still chairman, project managed the Chevet Branch Line Bridleway Project to turn a disused railway line adjacent to Newmillerdam into a bridleway with an all-weather surface for multi-user use eventually linking the Trans Pennine Trail at Old Royston to Newmillerdam Country Park and Wood Lane.
More recently, Sandy has led the campaign to upgrade the track between Agbrigg-Oakenshaw Lane to provide a traffic free route between a local community centre and Walton Country Park. He has been vociferous in his opposition to barriers on cycle routes, pursuing a claim to the Local Government Ombudsman which led to WMDC being ordered to consult interested parties and think again.
Sandy edited the newsletter for some time, which meant that efforts and achievements were attributed to the team as a whole and his name rarely appeared. He is keen that David Keighley’s contribution, particularly in regard to the routes over Lord St Oswald’s lands at Nostell, are not overlooked. He attributes much of his success to their teamwork.
Personally, I have found Sandy helpful and supportive. He is keen to encourage nervous riders and willing to divert from the route of a guided ride to take someone back by a gentler route or to lead a breakaway party on a more testing diversion. With Sandy’s encouragement you find yourself taking on more and more, starting with backmarking or producing items for the newsletter, progressing to ride leader or editor. The steps may be baby steps at first, with Sandy’s support in the background, but he’s happy to see you run in due course. I am told that he can be forceful and irascible at times, which may be what a narrow A-frame needs.
Sandy will still be a ride leader and (*spoiler alert for our younger readers) dress up as Santa Claus for at least one of our Christmas rides. We wish him a long and smiling retirement.
‘A’ frames – We are not alone
Jack Turston writing in Cycling UK’s October/November magazine on the Taff trail between Pontypridd and Cardiff, commented:
‘From Llandaff onwards there were many more people on the Trail. including lots of other families with young children – a sure sign of a successful traffic-free route. In Ponicanna Fields we saw side-by-side tandem quadricycles from Pedal Power, the Cardiff charity which maintains a fleet of specially adapted trikes and bikes for children and adults with disabilities.
One really good aspect of this section of the Trail was the absence of the kind of barriers installed by over-zealous local authorities to keep motor scooters from using paths reserved for walkers and cyclists. While a nuisance for people on standard bikes, these barriers are a disaster for those with non-standard cycles such as tricycles, tandems, handcycles, recumbents and cargo bikes, as well as users of wheelchairs and mobility scooters. The removal of barriers along our route has been a boon for people like Cardiff resident JP and his disabled son, who ride a Hase Pino, a semi-recumbent tandem.’
We wish that WMDC were as wise when it comes to the accessibility of cycle routes!
For the three month period from September to November, the Forum ran 29 guided rides with an average of over 11 cyclists per ride. The three most popular events were: –
Unfortunately, we did have to cancel one of our rides due to adverse weather conditions – snow & ice. However, thanks to the determination of the intrepid Ride leader, this event successfully ran a few days later and attracted nine hardy cyclists.
A highlight of one of our early rides this season was David Leigh’s 500th ride with WDCF. David regularly leads our steady ride from Queens Mill, Castleford and Tuesday’s steady ride from Pontefract Park. He is often on hand too to take over if some-one can’t lead a ride due to holidays or has bike problems. David’s support of the rides programme is invaluable and his work as membership secretary essential. He often leads us to unusual places like Councillor Henry Daley’s Memorial Garden in Walton Country Park Memorial shown below:
In November we arranged for Cycling UK to run a Ride Leader training course. Some of the concepts were new to those attending but under the watchful and patient eye of our trainer, we all soon became adept at the concept of ‘snaking’. Nothing to do with reptiles, just an efficient and safe way of negotiating junctions with a group of possibly not very experienced cyclists. The course was enjoyed by all even with the numerous short steep hills and multiple junctions. You should soon be seeing some new faces at the front and back.
Apart from the regular attendees, we do continue to attract new cyclists on our rides but we would like to reach a wider audience. Advertising is currently limited to the website and Facebook but we hope to reach more people once we can produce and distribute our events leaflet in Spring next year.
When asked if I’d like to take part in the ride leader training run by Cycling UK my first reaction was ‘I’ve already done ride leader training for Wakefield District Cycle Forum – why would I need to do it again?’ But, after a little encouragement from Neville and Sandi, I agreed to join in.
I’d never been to Pontefract Park before, and didn’t know the immediate area at all. When Sandi and I arrived our Cycling UK trainer was already at the bike stands waiting for us all. Sandi had given me a lift to the venue and had brought her own bike, but I borrowed one of the Forum’s bikes. We eventually altered it to fit me, but I found the limited gears a challenge on the hilly one-mile circuit we were to train on. Nevertheless, I managed to do the circuit a few times, even though I needed to stand up on the pedals to get up one of the hills!
Having done previous training apart from Cycling UK, it was the differences in approach that stood out to me. The main difference was Cycling UK’s use of the ‘snaking’ method of changing direction during a ride. In this the person who is the Back Marker becomes more of a Ride Manager. It is this person who will keep an eagle eye on the Ride Leader for signals in changes in direction, and then signals and moves out first to protect the people on the ride. The Ride Manager will also move up to the front of the group alongside the Ride Leader when the group needs to turn from a minor to a major road, to tell the group when it is clear for them to move out. This simple change in role from merely making sure no one falls behind to becoming a sort of ‘shepherd of the flock’ has a great impact on increasing the safety of people on the ride, and makes the Back Marker’s role a crucial one. The training route, though short, included all possible variations of junctions and turns; as our trainer said, ‘If you can lead/manage a ride on this route, you can do it anywhere’.
Our trainer was really calm and reassuring, and the perfect person for raising the confidence in ride leading for our group. I would heartily recommend Cycling UK’s Ride Leader training to all WDCF ride leaders and back markers, however long or short a time they have been with us.
If you read my previous article, you will know that I started off as a complete novice cyclist who knew nothing about cycling, for example where to go or who to go with. I was nervous of roads and consequently hadn’t been out anywhere until I discovered the Forum. I have gone from strength to strength since then and now go out alone as well as with friends who I have met through the Forum. I even know a couple of routes now!
However, I digress! This is about my experience of Ride Leader training. I decided to do this as it seemed to be the same hardworking people leading and back marking, week after week. I thought it was time I did something to help out even if it was only a little contribution, so was happy, but nervous to participate in the training when asked.
We first did an online training session from home which was ok, albeit I struggled a bit with saving and moving from one section to another. I got it done in the end.
Then there was the practical training which I have to say I was nervous about. I still feel fairly novice as I am not someone who has ridden bikes all my life so don’t know many routes etc. I have learned loads from going out on rides with the group, which helped a lot with the practical training.
We met at Pontefract Park and did a session in a quiet part of the car park first of all. This was all very easy. How to prepare riders for a ride, checking bikes and doing safety checks etc. Then a session round cones practicing what we would eventually do on a real road. That was quite good fun and the instructor had a smashing sense of humour.
So off we went, out into the real world. He said it was only a section of a mile long but gosh, it was quite a step up from riding round cones. To start with, we had to ride up a hill and stop at the top at a junction, turn left on a road which was on a slope, then fairly soon after, make a right turn!! Easy enough if you are on your own but with a row of baby ducks (fellow cyclists) behind to keep an eye on, not so easy. We had been taught that the back marker would see you signal right or left and then he/she would cycle up to the front to usher all the baby ducks across the road. Again, not necessarily easy on a road on a hill! There were lots of other quick turns and manoeuvrers after that so not a straight road in sight, much to my dismay!
Anyway, everyone did brilliantly but I have to admit I said I would like more practice before having a go which he said was fine. As I am going to be leading/back marking easy rides, hopefully I will be on routes with much less traffic until my confidence grows.
I found the training very helpful though and thoroughly enjoyed it.
At the AGM in September, Andy Beecroft was appointed Workgroup Coordinator. As things hopefully start returning to normal, Andy will be organising workdays to carry out maintenance on the cycle network. He will be liaising with Wakefield, Sustrans and TPT to ensure that we work in a coordinated manner. We will also carry out servicing work to our stock of bikes and equipment to ensure that it is in good order when required.
Andy circulates future workday details using a select list of members who want to be involved so if you feel like you would like to come along get in touch via email@example.com
Our bi-monthly work mornings restarted on 22nd November with the annual leaf clear in Barnsley canal cutting near Walton. Six volunteers turned out on what was a lovely sunny but cool morning. Conditions were perfect for the task which was completed in record time due to the current dry spell. The cutting is particularly susceptible to leaf build up which makes this section of the trail extremely muddy and slippery if not dealt with. There were several passers-by both on wheels and on foot who expressed there appreciation of our work. Well done team.