Sunday, 17 June 2018

Workday on the Ashby Woulds Heritage Trail

Anybody cycling along the Ashby Woulds Heritage trail between Moira and Donisthorpe over the last few years will have seen an improvement to the surface of the path.

Following a review of the route several sections were earmarked for improvement.  Being based on an old railway line is beneficial in terms of being traffic free and generally flat or only facing slight gradients.  However there are challenges in maintaining cycle paths based on railway lines due to the vegetation coverage that surrounds the embankment and cuttings. 

A section before the workday
Over time the vegetation fall onto the path and builds up and eventually turns to mud which when wet creates a poor surface.  Scraping the surface of the path is not easy and requires hard work, which has fortunately been done for us by Community Payback teams.  Certain sections have since been worked on by the Leicestershire County Council ranger team in terms of cutting back the vegetation to minimise the effect of the vegetation going forward.

This work has been done in-between Moira and Donisthorpe except for 1 small section just south of the Youth Hostel.  With Community Payback teams focusing on other areas of priority in Measham we decided to have a workday to resolve some of the problem areas on this small stretch used by cyclists, walkers and park-runners.
Plenty of tools needed!

We had advertised the workday amongst the local community and park-run to attract help and give people an insight into our work but ultimately it was our rangers Shawn, Robert, Alan, Megan, Chris and Myself that met at the Youth Hostel. We then walked down the path and worked around 2 areas of obvious concern although they had dried out since our last inspection.  Using shovels and spades we did what we could scraping the mud off the surface back to the gravel layer.
Alan, Shawn, Chris, Megan & Robert take a well earned breather

After the work.
We faced a challenge from the fact that the path seemed to act like a bowl on the embankment with no real for of drainage so a couple of small drainage channels were dug in where appropriate.  It would have good to have had some material to place back on the path to level it out but this is something to look into going forward.

After a couple of hours of graft and some words of encouragement from the passing public we then retreated to the nearby Youth Hostel Cafe for a drink, cake and a meeting.  We'd discussed how the scraping was difficult and had noted that there were sections of path which were currently ok but had early vegetative build-up that could be brushed or scraped away more easily.
The next project.

Shawn working hard with the brush.
We decided to put the theory to the test on some of the paths near to the Youth Hostel and Campsite at the junction of the Conkers Circuit.  This section is a good tarmac surface with a little build up of vegetation on the sides.  Armed with stiff brushes and more enthusiasm we started to brush back the build up.  Sadly Robert's brush didn't match his enthusiasm and came to a sad demise after a short time.  Within an hour though we'd made some good progress and will look to continue the work in the near future.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Moira Furnace Museum

As well as looking after the cycle routes through the National Forest we also like to promote the area and its attractions.  One of the attractions is the museum at Moira Furnace which is situated on NCN(63) in the village of Moira just a few hundred yards from Conkers Waterside entrance.

The furnace from the new path from Measham Road - a boat trip ready to depart.
I must have cycled past Moira Furnace hundreds of times and have wanted to have a look at the museum but been unable to find the time.  On returning from a family day out recently whilst travelling through Moira I noticed the loft doors open from a distance and decided to have a family visit to the furnace museum.

The Furnace Museum is only open between 11am and 4pm at weekends and bank holidays between Easter and September  and Tuesday to Sundays during the school holidays (Leicestershire) and is operated mainly be a team of friendly and helpful volunteers.  The price is a very modest £2 for adults and £1 for children.  Boat trips are also run from the museum along the Ashby Canal towards Donisthorpe again for a modest cost.

The museum consists of 3 main areas; The Loft, the display area and the World War 1 kitchen. 

Entrance to the loft
The Loft area is reached by crossing the canal on the footbridge and then walking up the ramp back over the canal.  The loft has several interactive
displays and follows the process of how the furnace was supposed to work(!) and also a display of what the area would have looked like in it's short working life.  There is also an area specifically for children - ideal for groups and includes costumes to dress up in.  The view from the top is worth a look too.
View towards Moira with new link on right

The World War 1 Kitchen is pretty much as named - a kitchen typical of the World War 1 period - well presented.
View towards Donisthorpe

A forthcoming event currently being advertised
The main section is the entrance and shop and has a presentation relating to when the furnace was used for housing and tells some of the stories from those who lived there.  There are also picture displays and a reconstruction of a dressmaking shop and a cobblers from the period too.

The shop sells a selection of local books and also drinks and ice creams.  Aside from the museum there is also the country park surrounding it and also the lime kilns a couple of minutes walk away.  There are toilets and a cafe within the park close-by and parking is free too.

However, as the Furnace is situated directly on NCN(63) cycling is certainly an option for travelling. With the link to Hicks Lodge soon to be completed the cycling traffic through the area should increase significantly.

It is certainly worth nipping in to have a look around.  More details can be found via

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Improvements at the Heart of the National Forest

As what seems like the longest Winter in living memory slowly turns in to Spring we have been out and about on our local network in the Heart of the National Forest.  Despite the recent poor weather there have still been some developments of note.

In direction of Measham Road
View back towards the swing bridge and furnace.
Firstly is the link from Moira Furnace to Measham Road in Moira.  This will form a link between NCN(63) and the National Forest Cycle Centre at Hicks Lodge once the housing development o on the other side of Measham Road is complete and a link is provided to Newfields Road and the current link to Hicks Lodge.

The link is constructed from tarmac and is a decent 3m width.  We are now awaiting construction of the new estate to finish before the cycle link is complete.  Once the link is complete we will sign the link from the NCN to and from Hicks Lodge.

A much lighter canopy over NCN 63
Meanwhile back on the Ashby Woulds Heritage Trail there has been quite a lot of work done by a volunteering group led by the local ranger from Leicestershire County Council.  On a section north from Donisthorpe Woodland Park to Moira some significant work has been done to cut back vegetation.  Most of this section has already had work done on the path by payback teams in recent years but this further work will help to avoid further build up of vegetation and keep the path surface mud free.

There is still a small section in Moira that requires attention near the Youth Hostel and we are intending to work on this section on 29th April.  We are inviting members of the public to join us.  For more details read this post.

A  much wider path now greets users at Measham
Further down the trail near Measham Library a payback team has made a start on the Measham to A42 section.  This section is very muddy in places but some vegetation work has improved it over the last couple of years and a sustained period of work on this section of the trail will lead to a much improved experience for most users.

Currently I'm sure that Mountain bikers enjoy the section but for those using the path as a leisure or commuter route it is difficult to pass during damper times.  Hopefully the whole trail will see a large improvement over the coming year.

Path Clearance Day on Ashby Wolds Heritage Trail

One of the many activities available to Sustrans Rangers is a workday.  This is where we get together to work on a section of our network.  Workdays can focus on litter picks, sign cleaning, graffiti removal, vegetation work or path widening.

In this area we are relatively lucky that we don't have some of the issues faced by our more urban colleagues so litter is not as much of a problem and graffiti less so.  We are also fortunate that there are several other groups nearby who focus on vegetation so our activity mainly focuses on path widening.

We are planning a day in Moira on NCN63 on the Ashby Wolds Heritage Trail.  This is part of a popular cycling and walking route and is also part of the Conkers Parkrun.  We are inviting members of the public to join with us so they can learn more about our work, enjoy a volunteering experience and hopefully help us improve a section of the trail.  Details are on the poster above.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Cycling Session and Led Ride at Easter

Do you have a child who wants to ride a bike but perhaps needs a little help?

Are you a family looking to start riding together but need a little guidance?

Well on Tuesday 27th March during the Easter Holidays there are 2 events at Maurice Lea Park in Church Gresley as advertised in the poster below.  Details can also be found in the new What's On Guide which can be picked up at Swadlincote Tourist Information Centre, Swadlincote Library, SDDC offices or online by clicking here.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Taking the beloved bike on the train

Part of my volunteering with Sustrans includes attending events away from my local area.  In the last year I have attended events in places including Bristol, Birmingham, Stafford and Leicester.  I always try to cycle to events if possible if they are close enough or use public transport if they are not.  How easy is it to do this?

Luckily most events are held within reach of the train station where the event is held so in most cases I will leave my bike at Burton Station, where there is currently ample storage on the platform with CCTV covering the area.

The events in Birmingham are usually a 10-15 minute walk into Digbeth from New Street so there is no particular need to ride a bike at the Birmingham end.  The event in Bristol was a bit further away from Temple Meads but over a 20 minute brisk walk I was no more than 5 minutes later than a fellow ranger who had taken his Brompton.

At this point I will mention that my bike Jose is a non folding hybrid.  I have looked into buying a folding bike for these occasions but they are not frequent enough at the moment to justify spending the money on buying a decent one that is easy to fold and has gears.  Never say never though!

In October this year I attended an all day event in Stafford which included a led ride around Stafford.  As I was leading the ride I really needed to take the bike!

The last time I had taken the bike on the train I had come back from Nottingham via Beeston Station and was unable to get my bike on the first train towards Derby as it was a 1 coach East Midlands Trains service that already had a bike on.  I will say that I had not planned my journey in advance that night and the next train back was a 3 coach Cross Country Service which took me back to Burton without any further issues.

Previously back in my youth I had taken my bike from York to Sunderland on train and despite making a reservation that day I was turned away from my Transpennine service due to lack of space.  Luckily I was more then welcome on the next train to Newcastle where my bike fitted in well in the huge driving van trailer of a GNER service.  Taking my bike to university was a pivotal moment to my love of cycling so getting it there was key.

Waiting at Burton.
My journey to Stafford was shorter than the above but I was still anxious to ensure I could get my bike there and back.  This journey involves 2 short journeys using 2 different companies - Cross Country and London Midland.

The ticket booking was easy enough as always but the information for making bike reservations was more complicated and contradictory at times.  For my outgoing journey from Burton to Tamworth I was able to book a reservation for which I received confirmation from Cross Country.  However there was no reservation necessary for the return journey.

On London Midland I could not find any useful information on cycling reservations other than services that you definitely could not take a bike on.  In order to double check about reservations I used the contact page on the website but disappointingly did not receive a reply.  I have used the much maligned London Midland service several times for family trips to London and have found them to be of excellent value.

Storage on Voyager type train
Whilst at Burton station I observed the announcements as usual - the stations the trains were stopping at, whether there was food on board and the all important announcement of where first class is situated.  Interestingly there is never any announcement about the location of cycling or disabled access so you have to work it out quickly when the train arrives.

The journey from Burton to Tamworth was on time and very smooth.  As I had set off very early the train was nearly empty.  The service was a long distance one using a voyager unit which had 3 designated and secure cycling spaces.  It was a shame that the journey was only 10 minutes long.

On arrival back in Tamworth I was then able to use a lift between the 2 platforms on different lines before a 20 minute wait for the service from London to Crewe which formed the once hourly service via Stafford. I had seen a train pull in on the opposite platform so had an idea where the best place might be to board.

Again the service was on time and I was able to find a space in the disabled area - which fortunately from my point of view, was empty.  I was relieved to be able to get on the train without any reservation.  The journey was smooth and around 25 minutes long with just a small delay getting into Stafford.  The conductor was very knowledgeable and was dealing with a number of customer issues further up the line with good humour.
On the London Midland service

After a good day in Stafford I eventually returned to the station at around 4.50pm so was once again relieved when I saw there was space for my bike, although it was busier than earlier.

At Tamworth the change of platforms was slightly more complicated due to the position of the lifts - this time requiring 3 lift rides.  The Cross Country service on return was the Cardiff to Nottingham service using a 3 car unit with cycling storage near the disabled area - which was probably why I could not make a reservation for this part of the journey.

So while my journeys were all on time and I was able to fit my bike on all of them, I feel that it was rather by luck and the fact I set off early.  Even on the voyager long distance service there were only 3 spaces (although I understand Cross Country are bringing in more of the older Intercity 125s which have more space).

I found the reservation system to be inconsistent and open to interpretation and I think there needs to be more information at the stations as to where the cycling facilities are on the trains.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

New Cycling Sessions in South Derbyshire

The New Year often heralds changes in our lives.  Many people use new year to choose to get fit and cycling is one of those activities often chosen.

For some it is often difficult to start cycling or to get back into it.  South Derbyshire District Council are looking to rectify that by running 2 different types of sessions as seen on the posters below.

Whether it be a gentle ride around the paths within Maurice Lea Park or a couple of bikeability sessions at Rosliston Forestry Centre, if you or anyone you know might be looking for help in riding a bike then contact the council as shown in the Posters below.