An overview by Sandi Kinkead
Riding the Rebellion Way by Neville Andrews
Round The Wheel by Malcolm Morris
It’s heartening to see the increase in traffic on our Facebook page over the past 12 months or so. Apart from our ride co-ordinator’s regular timely bulletins about upcoming rides or rare cancellations, you’ll find people posting about non-Forum rides they’ve been on recently, often with maps, warnings about hazards encountered on routes and requests for advice or assistance.
People post details of cycling holidays outside Yorkshire or even abroad and photos of Fun Days or their new tyres. Rather bizarrely, some-one complained about the number of photos featuring bikes. For them, here’s a photo of a collection of Austin Healeys whose drivers had assembled for a Rally at the first hotel we stayed at on our Rebellion Way trip.
Many of you will be familiar with our renowned Holiday Wednesdays, which take place every year at Nostell NT on each Wednesday of the school summer holidays. We publicise these on our Rides and Events leaflet and Facebook page, while the National Trust features them on its Nostell website. We also get emails from parents asking if we’re doing the skills course again as their child enjoyed it so much last year.
The event requires a sturdy cohort of volunteers to build and man the circuit with its well-loved features- the low barrier to duck under, the poles to weave between, the roundabout which some set off round the wrong way or miss out altogether in an attempt to improve their timing, the magic curtains and the rattly bridge, not to mention the two stop signs where bikes are abandoned, in the first case to rush over and move a cone from one rod to the other and in the second to run over and squeeze the horn to stop the time clock. Riders can claim a certificate showing how long it took them to get round or postpone asking for this until they are confident they can’t do it again that little bit faster. Youngsters compete against siblings, their own earlier time or some against their time recalled from the previous year, although we do point out that we can’t guarantee that the trail is identical to that put up the previous week let alone last year.
Apart from course construction, volunteers are needed to obtain riders’ details and parental consents, adjust and hand out bikes and helmets (and claim them back afterwards!), manage the queues, time the circuits, prepare and issue certificates, deal with chains that have fallen off and other minor mechanical problems and finally take it all down afterwards. We also hand out Rides Programmes, maps and advice, as well as colouring sheets for those resting between rides. Like swans swimming, it all looks serene but there’s a lot going on under the surface.
This year we also assisted the council with their Kidz Club at Thornes Park, setting up and manning a skills course for two sets of children and then leading groups on circuits round the park.
Malcolm was able to assist one young chap Noah (who’d just acquired his own bike but didn’t yet have enough confidence or experience to try the skills course) find his feet-or should that be wheels. By the end of the session, he had cheerfully covered two miles.
Apart from encouraging youngsters to cycle, we’ve also had stalls at various public events to publicise what we do and persuade people to join or support us. In July, a small group, consisting of Sandy, Meg and Neville, attended the Pontefract Liquorice Festival in the vain hope there might be some free samples.
Sandy did win a pina colada on the adjacent tombola stand of the housing charity MHA, which did clarify why ‘Methodist’ is no longer spelled out in their title. We had a number of visitors to our stand and gave away ride leaflets, maps and information. Many grandparents were interested in Holiday Wednesdays for their grandchildren and others took ride details for visiting adult children who are keen cyclists.
Finally, we did speak to people who were interested in coming on Forum rides themselves including some lapsed or rusty cyclists.
We also attended the Havercroft and Ryhill Fun Day in the grounds of the Community Learning Centre there. This is right next to the Havercroft Sports Centre from which our monthly rides start. We were able to publicise these, the final holiday Wednesday of the year the following week and, for more practised riders, our monthly WoW rides. Lou Galloway (Health Improvement Officer – Cycling at WMDC) came along to help and was able to point people in the direction of other assistance for would be cyclists that WDCF is not involved in. It was an overcast but hopefully productive day.
I did find out from the Wakefield District Housing stand that all new housing built by them now includes a bike shed capable of holding up to 3 bikes – a step in the right direction.
Having joined the Forum several years ago, my life seems to have been taken over with cycling. I have successfully completed my ride leader training and lead an Easy Ride from Agbrigg Community Centre as well as back marking a ride from Thornes Park. I have met many new friends and now even go on cycling holidays several times a year. It’s been an amazing adventure so far. The picture is of Cherry and me in the Cotswolds on a guided ride to Uffington White Horse and Dragon Hill.
We were lucky that on the day we were there they were doing maintenance to the White Horse and visitors were allowed to help tidy up the limestone lines and do a spot of weeding. As it was such a hot day, I left this to Cherry and our guide, Andy! I had a little rest in the sun!!
We had lots of great rides and the weather was sublime for the entire week.
We have also been on 2 holidays to Holland, one to North Norfolk and our next holiday is to Derbyshire and the Tissington Trail.
I can highly recommend cycling to anyone looking to enrich their lives physically, mentally and socially. Start small with easy rides and before you know it you will be off on many adventures.
We recently completed the Rebellion Way in Norfolk. This is a 232 miles circuit of the county along forest trails, bridleways and mainly quiet country roads with some sandy off-road sections. The weather was kind, the previous weeks scorching temperatures had subsided, and the torrential rains had not yet arrived. We were very lucky.
As this trip coincided with our 50th wedding anniversary, we did the route in style, staying at proper hotels and having the luggage moved between them by taxi. The longest day was 36 miles and some were considerably less. This left plenty of time for taking in the wonderful scenery and even some off track excursions to visit interesting churches, castles etc.. The route is not signposted and I would recommend downloading the gpx plot from the Cycling UK website. This only let us down on a couple of occasions and with a bit of common sense – no, we definitely don’t want to cycle up the driveway of that bungalow, we soon got back on track.
The normal start is from the railway station in Norwich but we chose Kings Lynn instead as it’s nearer and left the car at the spacious Knight’s Hill Hotel. With an afternoon to spare, we decided to cycle the RW route into Kings Lynn and back. I’m very glad we did, as by the time we got back from cycling the full RW route, we were happy to miss that bit out and go straight to the hotel for a well-deserved rest before heading home.
The first call on the trip was at Castle Rising, with one of the best preserved Norman keeps in the country, then on to Old Hunstanton via the Sandringham estate for an overnight stay at Le Strange Arms hotel, which wasn’t strange at all.
On the way to Wells-Next-The-Sea, we took a diversion to the pretty Ringstead Downs nature reserve. Unfortunately, we overshot the entrance by a mile. Fortunately, the way back was down the steep hill we had just cycled up.
Then followed a very long straight road through the extensive grounds of Holkham Hall – very reminiscent of Castle Howard, before reaching Wells and our next hotel, The Globe.
One of our concerns when stopping overnight was securing our bike. The travel company had been assured by all the hotels that secure storage was available. Generally, the hotels were able to provide some space for the bike but sometimes this just meant a room that wasn’t been used. In all events, we had no problems, even if sometimes the immovable secure object we fastened the lock to was a dining chair!
The next day we called in at Walsingham Abbey for a pleasant stroll through the grounds whilst the custodian, herself a keen cyclist, kept a close eye on our bike. People can be very kind. Lunch was at The Shrine of Our Lady where I had a bacon sandwich and Meg had proper vegan fare.
For our anniversary, we stayed at The Feathers in Holt. On going to the room, we found a very large box, a cake and a bouquet of flowers. So that’s why our kids wanted a detailed itinerary! Wondering how we were supposed to transport any large presents, the box was opened and three large helium balloons popped out. Although we strapped these to the bike next morning for a photo, it was so windy that morning they represented a hazard and had to be left at the Feathers.
Next stop was Sheringham, a very busy seaside town. It was especially busy that Saturday as there was a Morris dancing festival in full swing when we arrived. We had to push the tandem through the various groups scattered across the town, with some onlookers showing more interest in our bike than in the dancing.
After Sheringham, the trail goes uphill through the woods of Beeston Regis Heath. This was the only place where we lost our way. Almost immediately after turning right along Calves Well Lane, look for a narrow dirt track on the left going into the woods. If you are lucky, you may see a cardboard sign on the grass pointing the way. There are many criss-crossing tracks through these woods but keep going generally east and you will eventually reach Sandy Lane.
Lunch was at Felbrigg Hall after which I took the tandem for a walk around the garden while Meg explored the hall. Then on to Blickling Hall. Unfortunately, we were unable to stop and make the acquaintance of Ann Boleyn’s ghost, who apparently appears all dressed in white carrying her dripping, severed head.
A night at The Black Boys in Aylsham, reportedly named after King Charles II, was followed by one of my highlights of the trip: cycling alongside the Bure Valley Railway and being rewarded with the sight of a steam engine going full pelt.
Now halfway round the RW, we spent a pleasant couple of nights in Norwich at the Maid’s Head. We enjoyed a full day in Norwich on foot and explored the cathedral and the fascinating castle museum. There was slight panic in the morning when we were about to resume the trip, as the bike wasn’t where we had left it, in the ‘secure’ meeting room. The hotel had needed the room and had managed to move the bike, with a locked back wheel, down two flights of stairs and around a 180 degree passage. Secure indeed!
From Norwich, we cycled the longest day of the trip at 36 miles, to reach The Bell Inn at Rickinghall. Slightly off the main RW route but the accommodation was worth the detour.
This section of the route crosses the infamous Wacton Common. On our visit this was dry but covered in knee high grass, which necessitated a messy clean of chain and sprockets.
We also chose not to wade through the ford at the River Waveney but instead took the narrow bridge a little way upstream.
On the way to Thetford, another slight diversion to see the Tympanum in the nave of St Margaret’s Church in Tivetshall St Margaret. This was created in the reign of Elizabeth 1 in 1587 and is one of the earliest examples in England. The painted boards stretch across the church, wall to wall and from the top of the rood screen to the roof.
Crossing Middle Harling Heath caused a bit of a problem with two kissing gates. The first was very deep and surprisingly easy to negotiate. The second, however, wasn’t deep enough to allow the gate to swing and we had to take off the panniers and front wheel to get through. None of the three kissing gates we encountered on the RW would open fully so the Radar keys we brought were no help.
Thetford is the home to Dad’s Army and the town boasts several lifelike murals on various buildings. This area was also the powerbase of Boudicca of the Iceni and the spectacular Thetford Treasure, now in the British Museum, was found nearby. The stopover was at The Bell Hotel, yet another old coaching inn.
From Thetford the RW passes an active military training area, Grimes Graves – closed at the time of our visit and the Desert Rats memorial with a Cromwell tank on a plinth. Then to the village of Oxburgh with the moated manor house of Oxburgh House (NT) nearby.
At Castle Acre there is a choice of two attractions, that of Castle Acre Priory and the castle itself. Both splendid sites but due to lack of time we opted for the priory and its audio tour. This is a well preserved Cluniac monastic site dating from 1090 with a small but interesting museum.
Then on to Swaffham for an overnight stay at Stratton’s Boutique Manor Hotel which was slightly odd with two ceiling height wooden pillars in the bedroom, but very welcoming.
The next section to King’s Lynn proved the most challenging of the whole route, possibly not helped by the fact that this was our 10th day of cycling – something we had not previously attempted. Just after East Winch there are sections of deep sand, some of them uphill and, after nearly coming off a couple of times, we resorted to pushing the bike. No photos – too tired. By the time we reached the ruined church of St James at Bawsey, the track, although sandy, was firm underfoot and we made good progress.
Thankfully, that section was soon over and we carried on back to our original hotel for an overnight stop before heading home.
We both thoroughly enjoyed doing the Rebellion Way and will look to doing some more long distance routes in future. It’s a fantastic route which most people seem to do in 4-5 days, but we did like the extra time to be able to branch off or linger whenever we felt like it. We didn’t see a single A-frame in all our time in Norfolk.
We can thoroughly recommend the company that organised this trip for us. CycleBreaks sorted the hotels and luggage transfers and even provided a detailed daily itinerary which included points of interest.
Neville and I have recently taken our tandem on a couple of Open Country rides. Both we and they want to improve access to the countryside for all and we support each other’s efforts to obtain the removal of barriers on Wakefield’s cycle routes. Having published their posters seeking voluntary pilots for their tandem rides in previous newsletters, I thought it might be helpful to know a bit more about what is involved.
Our first ride started well from their base near Thornes Park. Their tandems are Orbit, like ours, but blue not black and with no electric assist. We set off to Pugneys and cycled from there to Newmillerdam, finishing up with a circuit of Rabbit Ings, before returning to the start along virtually the same route. Unfortunately, when we’d got about half way, the heavens opened and we were all thoroughly soaked, despite some of us having waterproof jackets and showerproof gloves. The pilots tended to be better protected than their passengers but no-one complained.
On this ride the passengers were largely blind or partially sighted, which meant that there was generally a constant stream of conversation with the pilot explaining the route, warning when to duck and urging the passenger to pedal hard when a steep bit necessitated this. The route taken avoided the nasty hills at Newmillerdam and we only came across two A-frames. The section covered by Barnsley MDC was easier in that the only obstructions were generously spaced chicanes which the tandems negotiated without difficulty.
It was all very friendly and good humoured. Both parties on the tandem seemed to get a lot out of it and the sodden clothing at the end didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for the next ride, although it did take 3 days for my shoes to dry out! The ride was just short of 18 miles at an average speed of 9 mph with no refreshment stop.
Our second ride was in Barnsley with Bob, after meeting up at The Ash Inn, Wombwell. It was Open Country’s inaugural ride from Barnsley and had 5 pilots, including Neville, and two stokers, including me, so one pilot stayed on his solo bike while the other two spares teamed up. It was the first ride out too for a brand new shiny red electric tandem. Our blind stoker Diana was always keenest to keep moving, urging, ‘Come on, what are we waiting for?’.
It turned into a pleasant run along the TransPennine trail to the RSPB reserve at Old Moor and then back along Manvers Way, a total of just under 11 miles. With all the tandems safely stowed, there was time for a drink and a chat in The Ash Inn’s beer garden. Open Country now have two electric assist tandems and would still like more pilots. They run rides from Newmillerdam, Thornes and Wombwell starting at 6pm and finishing around 9pm during the summer and early autumn, finishing when the clocks change. If you’re interested, you can find out more at www.opencountry.org.uk/wakefield-project/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org
WDCF offer rides of different distances from different venues over the Wakefield area, within the ride programme. Whilst the Easy Rides are the staple of the forum calendar, occasionally rides venture a bit further, such as the Thornes Park Steady + and The WoW Steady.
Whilst some of the rides touch on bits of the Wakefield Wheel route, there haven’t been any forum rides that have taken in the whole of the route for a few years now, despite it all being navigable. Prolonged wetter weather will probably make significant bits of this a bit dodgy but they are OK during the summer months.
Having ridden on and around it fully recently with a small group, to review the conditions and signage etc, we now feel able to offer this as a Forum ride once again. As the wetter wintry conditions will soon be upon us, we are going to offer the ride this year from Nostell NT just the once on Friday 8th September, starting at the early hour of 09:00, if you’d like to join us.
Depending on feedback and enthusiasm, it is currently proposed that this might be offered in 2024 as a ride for the 5th Saturdays, when they occur, for which there have normally been no rides planned.
It’s 38 miles, starting from Nostell, and heads out anti-clockwise, off-road, across the fields to Normanton. There is a short, on-road, section to head towards Altofts and out towards the Aire & Calder Navigation. It’s flat-ish along the tow-path to Stanley Ferry and on towards Stanley. Then the steady incline starts, up the path of the old railway line. It’s not too steep but it does go on a bit, so find a gear that you can push and wind away or be prepared to walk up the last bit of it at least. After Lofthouse Gate there is a nice winding country path through the woods ending up alongside the M1 and then down a quiet lane. After Carr Gate the route drops down into the valley and inevitably has to come up the other side, into Kirkhamgate. This is roughly ½ way around and feels like the top of the world. Don’t be put off by it, but it’s only fair to warn you that the loose and rocky surface on the descent, after going under the motorway, needs to be respected. It is passable safely with the speed and care that your bike type and line choice allow. If in any doubt, walk over the worst of it. The rest of the route is nothing like as uneven as this. It’s then another gradual incline until we get to Ossett and some very welcome downhill, but it is on the road until we go through the park. A few quiet roads and we’re through to Horbury and descending to Green Lane and the path along the Calder and Hebble Navigation towards Thornes Park. We turn back along the side of the A636 towards Pugneys and thread through the little park towards Slack Lane. I won’t fib, this is going to be an effort, as it’s steep, reasonably long and is probably nearly the 30mile mark, but, as Andy often says, “That’s all the climbs pretty much done!” 😊
A quick zip down the Chevet Line and back on ourselves to Cold Hiendly and up to Pugneys, and into Nostell NT via the new tree-lined path and that’s it. There’s even a special T-shirt available, for a very reasonable £5, to mark the occasion (I’m not on any commission, but I’ll be having one 😉).
Being such a large ride and depending on the needs of the riders, there are many café options and we might need several. See you at the start.