Saturday 24 December 2016

Christmas (nearly)

More menace this Monday as Gozzard bikes were unable to fix the issues with my frame and it's bottom bracket threads. Bike has to be returned to Planet X via courier. Am not returning the forks though because they have a race face (?) 'thing' attached to them now. Oh, I do hope these problems get fixed soon. On a brighter note, I went cycling with Roger today. We just did a short route on his tandem, we cycled to Wedges bakery and back. Lovely egg and sausage sarnie! Am sure we will have more tandem adventures in the new year.
If Roger was my wife...
The only other day I ventured out was on Saturday (Xmas Eve) where I completed my 10th Parkrun to date. This was a nice run at Arrow Valley. Despite the 400ish runners, I only recognised 2 - a guy from tri-club and nurse Matchett which was nice. Where were all the other folk I know? Not a super fast time (sub 24 mins) but pleased all the same. I wonder if I will ever beat sub 20?
Best Parkrun in a while...
Merry Chrimbo all! 

Sunday 18 December 2016

Twisted Shakespeare Menace

Monday morning menace! Gozzard bikes contacted me informing me that my new frame was damaged - apparently the bottom bracket threads were threadless! Planet X were swiftly contacted who stated that the threads were there, it was just that 'paint overspill' was covering up the threads. Apparently nothing a threading tool cannot put right. Call back to Gozzard bikes who are happy to use said tool but want to charge me an additional £20 for the privilege. Pah! Pink stinks!

Tuesday was the day that my adventures for the week really started. Ron and I cycled around our village. It was like the good old days, we were cycling in wet weather and later than of late. We saw 3 deer running alongside the road before jumping over a hedge and into a field which was super nice. I thought the deer were joggers initially until my eyes became better accustomed to the dark. We visited 'The Bramers' later which was interesting because they now live in the house my old school mate 'Spencer Braithwaite' used to live in. Wow, must have been about 30 years since I last stepped into that house.

No adventure (as such) on Wednesday or Thursday. However, on my way into work I saw the most beautiful full moon. God's creation is truly awesome.
Friday was the big adventure this week. My plan was to cycle the Shakespeare 100 but to change the start and finish points to nearer my abode. Had a false start because now sooner had I started, I had to turn back and ensure I took some money with me. Once on my way proper I soon settled into what was going to be a relatively long day.

Very foggy/misty for the first couple of hours. I could see what looked like a brilliant full white moon - how could this be?! Well, this moon was actually the sun and awesome it was too. Throughout this ride I saw it change colour and my last sighting was it being a beautiful orange. 

First major climb was Saintbury Hill (was expecting Fish Hill) which was only as tough as expected. The ride itself was pretty undulating in nature but only 2 major climbs. Once I reached the summit of climb 2, a posh old chap pulled alongside me in his car and congratulated me for climbing said hill. He then had the cheek to ask me if I had gotten off at any point. Nice chap really and he was amazed how bikes had 'moved on' since his day. A bike with 22 gears - unbelievable!

Stopped for a bacon roll at a cafe called Wyatt's (I think). The roll was just ok and the cafe a tad over-priced. Was pleased that the accompanying tea warmed me up a little.
The route eventually took me into Stratford - being a Shakespeare route, I figured it had to. I stopped at a location to take a photo, which took, and then my phone died. This photo spot has seen 2 of my bikes here now. Ha! Not long after being in Stratford, my route ended, I had reached the finish. Not my finish, just the finish as recorded on my downloaded GPX file. The problem here was that my (Lin's) Garmin did not have maps so I was unable to pick a route to the official start. No bother really, I had cycled enough and was happy to head home.

My route took a final twist before reaching home. As I was using my gravel bike, I decided to add a nice stretch of off-road just for fun. Near Alcester I hit an off-road track that took me down to Coughton Ford. Only a few miles after the ford, I was home with a dirty bike, sore bum and tired legs. Altogether, a good day out!
Saturday saw me complete my 9th Parkrun and my 2nd at Hanbury Hall. I do like this course as it's all off-road and the numbers are smaller. Some folk were talking to me about Ironman (as I was wearing my Ironman top) which was nice. Hard to believe that I actually completed that event earlier this year - wow, certainly not that fit now. My run took me about 26 minutes, which was nothing to shout about and was near my expected time. This was the last Hanbury Parkrun before xmas 2016 but there is an Arrow Valley Parkrun next week which I might try and attend. Earlier in the year, I had hopes of completing a Parkrun in a time of 20 mins something (my PB is 21 something). Don't think I'll beat my PB this year and maybe my hopes will remain just a dream. Who knows?

Sunday was a day of rest. At least at time of writing it was. Should I have pushed myself to do something, then this last paragraph would have been re-written. Ha!

Sunday 11 December 2016


This weeks challenge was to run 4 x 5 miles. First run was on a cold frosty morning and saw me run along the towpath. I ran from Tardebigge (or 'turd-de-big' as my brothers would say) to bridge 47 and back. Sweet. Same evening, I cycled a 20k route with Ron. This was an on and off-road jaunt. Ron came off at one point as he hit some ice. How many times have I told him to invest in Top Contact winter tyres?!

Wednesday saw my second run. I ran 5 miles by weaving around the streets in my village. Found this run quite challenging, especially as I had landed myself another cold. Took my pink bike frame and 'bits' to Gozzard Bikes this day too and am awaiting a new single-speed bike to be built up - how exciting.

Over the weekend I ran 2 further 5 mile routes. The routes were essentially the same (not quite) but ran in opposing directions. My runs took me to the Slough and back, all on tarmac. Pleased I completed my set challenge.

And so ends another week. Still awaiting Pinky to be built up. Cold has gone.

Friday 2 December 2016

Tour of the Black Country 2015 in 2016

First venture this week was on Tuesday. Had planned to go cycling with my old pal Ron but he pulled out due to the freezing conditions. It was -4c in some parts and Ron didn't want a tumble. How many times have I told him to invest in some 'Top Contact' winter tyres (Continental)?! I chose to go for a run instead. My run was a cross country affair to Coughton Court and back. Running in the dark was a trifle menace as my visibility was so poor. I had a head-lamp but it was really quite naff. Frozen in parts and foggy/misty in others made for an interesting run. Ran about 5 miles in all and am challenging myself to run a further 5 miles before week is out. (Last week I challenged myself to run 3 x 5k so might just set myself a do-able weekly challenge).

My next adventure was on Thursday. I had wanted to cycle the Tour of the Black Country for ages and this was the day that I finally cycled my rendition of this classic. The plan was to follow the 2015 course which I uploaded as a GPS link from the internet. However, I chose to start my tour from the southernmost point (nearer home) and took wrong turns here and there because my new Garmin (thanks Lin) didn't have maps and this made navigation difficult.
Anyways, my adventure started on a cold winter day with much frost about. After layering up well, I mounted my steed (Winter bike) and started cycling some lovely quiet lanes. Rumour had it, this tour was like the Paris Roubaix and involved lots of cobbled sections. Well it wasn't long before I reached the first lot of cobbles and the only real hill of significance.
This cobbled section was lovely despite it being a little difficult to climb. The rumours were false though, this was the only real cobbled section of the whole tour. Ok, there was another short stretch of cobbles elsewhere but nothing compared to the Paris Roubaix and not '20km' of cobbled sections like one review suggested.

What there was a lot of was variation. There were sections of road, off-road, cobbles, gravel, single-track, dirt roads and bridle ways. Some really beautiful sections, some quite remote and all good for cycling with a gravel type bike.
Some areas were frozen and caution had to be exercised. Am pleased to inform that the ice didn't cause any mis-haps on this occasion. Such a beautiful ride.
The half-way point was Wolverhampton Velodrome. I didn't actually cycle around the Velodrome itself, but cycled around the velodrome just for nostalgic reasons. Being half way round was a good place to stop and eat my pre-packed lunch.
After lunch, I took a wrong turn almost immediately, but this was ok, I followed an off-road route until I joined the official route a little further on. The return route was much like the route in - lots of different sections, on and off-road. I took a tumble at one point, not because of the weather but because of loose ground. Thankfully, I didn't hit the deck - I landed in a hedge instead.

The return route passed through Kinver which was nice. It reminded my of my courting days with SJ. I didn't stop for a feed or a view of the rock houses on this occasion though.
As is often the case on many of my adventures, I spotted something a little unusual. This was a roadside tree with it's own brick wall built all the way around it. Odd, I thought, but neat. I wonder what's so special about this tree?
-2C and still wearing my sandals!
At the end of my tour, I had clocked just short of 100k. It was a splendid ride despite the temperature  being as low as -2c in parts. A recommended tour.

Finished my training (though do not know what I'm training for) for the week by completing another run and attending a sword fighting class. The sword fighting session was called Ryu Magai (or something similar) and I learnt how to do a few cuts with a wooden sword. The sword made swishing sounds which is apparently quite good. I don't think I'll be a regular attender though as I found the class just 'ok'. My run was 5 miles cross country style, thus completing my training week and completing my challenge. I do think I'll run again too.

Blog posted early this week because I am going away on a fellowship weekend with my family.

Sunday 27 November 2016

Shock shock horror horror pink pink

Rain, rain, rain is how this week started. The foul weather pixies stopped me playing out on my bicycle and prevented me from cycling the Tour of the Black Country. Was really looking forward to cycling them cobbled roads and I still plan to do so - just have to wait for the nice weather pixies to come out. In view of the fact I hadn't done any exercise for 2 weeks I pushed myself out the door and ran a 5k route following the Studley Triangle. My back continued to ache from the pulled muscle and my right leg was giving me trouble too. Maybe I'm just getting old? Perhaps it was best I avoided them cobbles?
Started a new job on Tuesday - working as a nurse in a crisis intervention / home treatment team. Same day, got offered a job working in a maximum security prison. What to do? - I think I know. Cycled the reed route in the evening with Ron and he helped me consider my options.

Wednesday was a relatively naff day. Only been at my new job for 2 days but not enjoying it thus far. Today the weather was pants and flooded parts of Birmingham which resulted in my journey home (car) taking 2 and a half hours. I'd like to cycle to work but have not been able to find either a locker or a place to get changed. Once home, could see that a big box had arrived for me - inside was my new frame (and it really is a shocking pink)!

Thursday and Friday were days where nothing much happened.

Saturday and Sunday fared better! On both of these days I ran around my village (Studley). Not long or far, but over 5k on each occasion.
Less work and more of this would be nice.

Sunday 20 November 2016


My trusty coaster lasted me nearly a whole year at BTP. Sorry I had to leave you behind...
Don't feel like I should really be posting to this blog this week, as I have done no exercise at all. Nothing. Nowt. Diddly squat.

So what have I done? Well, I have ceased to work as a nurse manager with the suicide prevention team supporting the fuzz. I had an interview for a job within a maximum security prison which went really well. And, I ate a lot! Oh, I sold Kay-O, my Iron Man bike too.
Leaving work bought a few surprises. I got some great gifts from Dashi and Richard. These gifts included an Iron Man cup, a voucher to spend on cycle gear and a spork (plus cards too). Maybe, am pretty sure, these gifts will inspire me to continue my adventures in the great outdoors. I will miss these folk. I will, however, not miss the fuzz and old lego head...
So long, farewell...

Sunday 13 November 2016

Falls, aches, pains, sickness, pants...

Monday was a cold, cold day. No major worries, I had taken precautions ready for my work cycle commute. My feet were kitted out in thick woolly socks and I was wearing my neoprene winter gloves for the first time. Some say '13 is an un-lucky number', well, I'm not superstitious but after 13k I hit a patch of ice and crash, bang, wallop - I came of my bike. Obviously didn't take precautions enough! My usual mantra is 'clocks change, change tyres'. I hadn't changed my bike tyres over despite it being on my list of things to do. My winter tyres would have prevented this for sure. No real damage was suffered, just some more scuffing to my bar tape. I cycled slower from here on and my toes were a little chilly. Maybe my shoes needed some covers?! Oh, the neoprene gloves kept my hands warm enough but they were sweaty once I had taken them off. Neoprene gloves may be a menace on an audax type ride where they are put on and off a number of times.

As menace as Monday was, that was the last of my training for the week. No running, no cycling and no much looked forward to wild camping. My daughter Lunar got sick (was sick) and then passed the bugs to me and the rest of my family. Add to this cold and flu symptoms (despite having flu jab) and then a pulled back muscle and you get a rather pathetic week.

Sunday 6 November 2016

Twenty 1

Hippy Halloween
Terrifying start to the day! It was Halloween and Lunar greeted me dressed up as a werewolf with a big spider on her head. She reminded me of Max from 'Where the wild things are'. Wow, she looked just great!
Lunar the werewolf
With all the spookiness around, it was easier to run with bouts of increased speed. Monday was certainly the day to run interval style on my work commute! The towpath and train car park were bothy fully open so a good 10k run it was. I warmed up and cooled down either side of my intervals which consisted of 4 x 3 min run with 3 min rest. Spooky!
Melody the scary princess?!
Tuesday was a kinda duathlon day. I started with a run commute into work following the no.5 route. My day ended with a bike (with hike-a-bike sections) adventure with Ron. We went looking for my Garmin but it was nowhere to be seen.

Wednesday was a day of gluttony. SJ and I converted Tesco points into Prezzo meal vouchers. We, plus our kids, ate in style. I ate too much and have become muchus porkus.

Thursday was a day for adventure. This day was spent with Roger on his tandem. 'The Beast' had been equipped with a new chain following a recent service (£250!) and looked all sparkly and new. We cycled a trip to Whitlenge Tea Rooms and back. I loved this café and we had our usual breakfasts here - most delicious. Despite this day being very cold (was frosty at start of day), a whole bunch of cyclists had cycled to this café (not as many as at the Snowdrop/Sunrise audax though) too. What's more, a number of these cyclists knew or were acquainted with Roger. He really is a legend you know! I might have been feeling the cold a little today as I was still cycling in my sandals! Our route back from the café was a little hillier and helped to keep us warm.

Friday was another 'do nothing but work' day. Everyday, it seems, I like my current job less and less. Hey Ho, I'm leaving - no stress!

I would have liked to have ran a Parkrun on Saturday but no such fun because I was at work again. No real bother, I ran 5k or so before work. My feet took me around Canon Hill Park ... and then my car took me to Maccy D's for breakfast.
Would you wild camp here?
On Sunday, Ron and I went for a short walk. This walk was really a recce to check out our potential camping spot for next week. We made our way to the Lost World but it wasn't a viable camping spot. The ground was most uneven and it was the kingdom of the badgers. The area contained much bramble and nettles too. The donkey effigy was sign enough that this was not the place to be. Not to worry, another camping spot is in my mind.

Sunday 30 October 2016

When three became two

When four became three, I was not filled with glee. When three became two, I knew what I had to do.    

This week saw me complete 3 run commutes into work. Each run was along the towpath. The first run was ran interval style and the other 2 were simple jogs. My pace got progressively slower with each run. My commutes to and from work are what I will miss most when I leave my current job.
After much menace (flat battery, power cuts and flat tyre) my buddy Chris rocked up for a Friday night adventure. For a while I had been excited about going on a wild camp and this was the night that we turned these jolly thoughts into action. Thankfully, Chris is as mad as I and was happy to drive all the way from Windsor so we could crash out in some local woods. We both loaded single-speed cyclo-cross bikes and cycled into the dark, looking for the 'Woods of Doom'. After some undulating tarmac we turned off-road, crossed some field, gently climbed some single-track and found a perfect place to set up our camp under a canopy of trees.
For an autumnal night, the temperature was great - it was really warm. So perfect was the weather, I was still able to cycle and walk around our camp in my SPD sandals. I had recently gotten a tarp (20 quids from Decathlon) but the weather was so great that it wasn't needed. Made use of the tarp though by using it as a ground sheet. We placed our bivy bags on top of the tarp and were able to dump all our stuff. After a quick snack we blew up our air beds and shoved them, alongside sleeping bag into our bivy's. We chatted and drank into the late hours of the night and wrestled with some spiders and other bugs. Rum was my drink of choice, Chris had this stuff that tasted like marzipan.

After a while we climbed into our bags, chatted more and looked up at the night sky. No stars were to be seen as it was cloudy and we were really looking at the tops of trees. The canopy of trees looked panoramic, it was as if I was in a 360 degree sphere like thing. Looking at the trees with the light back ground really felt like we were in a scene from E.T. We chatted until we fell asleep.

When I awoke, I needed to pee. I climbed out of my bag and struggled to walk about 10 paces ahead. I must have drunk a little too much rum. After my comfort break, I couldn't re-trace my steps and was disorientated and lost. After much faffing, I heard Chris call out 'Tim, I hope that's you'. Goodness only knows how I got to this side of the tarp without walking over it to get there. I was able to navigate my way back into my bag but strangely I had lost my sandals. Not the first time I have lost footwear on an adventure with Chris.

Relatively comfy sleep despite waking at often times throughout the night. Strange noises could be heard which was kinda spooky. We heard owls and what sounded like eagles and monkeys too. I could picture rats but these turned out to be squirrels when morning light came. At times, I thought I heard the sound of wolves but it was the barking of a roe deer. All kinda creepy, yet beautiful too. Don't think I'm ready for a solo wild camp just yet...
Needed a further comfort break as morning neared but I didn't want to walk around camp without my sandals. Took Chris and I ages to spot them some distance away. As dawn broke the tree canopy really looked like a kaleidoscope and leaves slowly changed from a grey colour into brighter yellows. Just beautiful. The now visible, sweet and active squirrels could be confirmed as the culprits making noise throughout the night and dropping tree litter from high above.  
Morning provided a great opportunity for me to try my new BRS 3000T titanium camping stove. A fantastic ultralight stove that weighs in at 26g, gets the thumbs up from Ray Mears and cost me less than a tenner (came from China, purchased on eBay). This was the first time I had used gas on a camping trip and it performed just fine. Much cleaner and quicker than my alcohol stove (which I love, just in a different way). My porridge tasted yummy and my green tea was just right. I used a Wildo original fold-a-cup (less than 3 squirrels from Pedal + Tread) which is, as the name suggests, a foldable cup (weighing in at 22g) for my porridge (instead of eating out the bag) which made stirring easier but it lost temperature quickly and left me with an additional item to clean. Cups are easier to hold than bags though and this made sure I didn't get burnt or drop my precious food and make a mess.
Despite this experience being mostly fantastic, my Garmin had gone AWOL which was a real loss. We packed up camp and spent a while searching for Garmin. We followed out tracks but my Garmin was never found. As we ventured home, rain started to gently drop. How great that wet weather stayed away whilst we camped.

Once back at Doo Little, my kind wife cooked us up some cheese on toast complete with Worcestershire sauce. Yummers. Oh, and much tea too. This fuel loading was what we required in preparation for our next adventure. Indeed, my brother Robin had rocked up with his new GT road bike and the open road lay ahead.

Contrary to the title of this blog, two had become three. Rob, Chris and I essentially cycled loops near my village clocking up about 20 miles. We cycled along country lanes in drizzly weather admiring the beautiful autumnal colours. We visited a cafe in Alcester and ate some lovely toasties before returning to Doo Little. A great end to my training week - cycling AND camping. Many thanks to Chris and Rob for making this happen.

With the help of Ron, I managed to sneak in a further ride in on the Sunday. Rob was still down, so the three of us went a-cycling. We cycled the Deer Route and had a great time. Bonus!

Sunday 23 October 2016

Will letters turn into numbers?

'Over the pain and I'm past the bleeding,
It's not the tracks, it's where they're leading.'

Attempted to start this week on a more positive note than of late. Didn't really work, think I set off on the wrong foot. Thing is, am not sure which foot I set off on. Ha! I decided I would run into work on Monday and had planned to run from Kings Norton Rail Station - this didn't happen as a truck was preventing my access to the car park. No bother, I parked up at Bournville and ran along the towpath from there. The towpath was still closed from Selly Oak, however, some 'rough neck' had removed the 'no passage signs', so off I ran only to reach a lack of suitable path near University. I was able to make my way through and around the big holes but suffice to say the towpath should have remained closed. The run itself wasn't too bad and for the first time in ages I ran interval style (6 x 1 min run, 3 min rest) with warm up and cool down either side. I ran this way just because I could. Mentally and physically I felt great but this was soon thwarted once I met with and had to deal with work related menace and nonsense.

Ran again on Tuesday, but this time avoided the menace section of towpath. Faced a different menace this day - the weather was quite vile and wet. No real worries, my Adidas top prevented any water seeping through.

Wednesday and Thursday were kinda rest days. No exercise took place. I head a real headache the one day and brain strain the next. My days of supporting the BTP are coming to an end. I would like to point out that I have never worked for the BTP but have supported them on a suicide prevention project for over two years now. Despite this 'joint working' venture, I think it's fair to say (in my humble opinion) that BTP have provided me with little in terms of support. Was it George Orwell who said "all pigs are equal but some pigs are more equal than others"? Yes, I think it was. Anyways, my brain became fried as I attended meetings to discuss my future role and was approached regarding a potential new project. Watch this space...
The only day I cycled this week was Friday. Nothing special. Just a commute into work and back.

Saturday came and I was rudely awoken by my daughter Lunar at 5 a.m. Early wake meant an early run. I ran a few laps of Cannon Hill Park clocking up about 6k. Is kinda weird to start running in the pitch black and continuing until it's daylight.

No rude awakening on the Sunday! However, still had an early start because I had to work this day. Early start means... yeah, you got it, an early run. Just like the previous day, I ran some k's around Cannon Hill Park.
So tired by end of week, plan to turn my k's into zzzz's....

Sunday 16 October 2016

P-P-Park Run

Should have been doing some of this myself. The girls above are Jackie and SJ, not my girls (who'd have guessed?)
Doom and gloom took up way too much room in my headspace this week. Just couldn't get myself to feel right mentally and as a direct consequence, I started to feel physically drained to. Paralysis of will, minimal motivation and 'whatever-it-was' messed with my head big time. I had plans but just couldn't put them into motion. I wanted to go camping but despite being excited about the prospect wasn't brave enough to go for a wild solo trip. Friends of mine were interested in camping too but were either ill, partying or otherwise engaged. A solo camp is definitely on my bucket list. I wanted to run but couldn't find my legs (what sort of an excuse is that?)! I wanted to cycle but my lack of sleep was making the effort way too hard each morning to even look at my bike. No exercise or training took place at all on any of the week days. 
Hanbury Park Run (5k)
Once the weekend came, I changed my game plan and felt a trifle better. Maybe having a work free weekend helped?! I decided to go for a Park Run! This Park Run was different to my previous 7 runs. This run was different simply because I chose a different venue. Instead of running around Arrow Valley, I chose to run Hanbury Park Run. This was an altogether different run - way less congested and off-road. I preferred this run and despite having a relatively slow time (25:47), it was still a PB, indeed my Hanbury PB! The social element was still here and I chatted some with a guy called Paul. Hayley from tri-club was also here, both running and marshalling, so it was great to see her and give her a high five. Felt great to run after a short lapse, even if it was only 5k and my shoes got covered in sheep poo. 
My beautiful Melody
Further adventure was had after my Park Run. My girls (SJ, Lunar and Melody) had a mini adventure at the Lickey Hills. Despite us not going long or far, we scrambled a little through the woods and climbed a tad too. Looking back at the photo's, SJ and I are so blessed to have a couple of beautiful little monkeys. 

Wow, a week with no cycling and only one run. I will get my mojo back and cycle some soon! I have booked a place on the Snowdrop Audax next year and am willing to try and get a place in the Rapha Prestige event next month. At least I'm not spending monies on bike bits right now....

Saturday 8 October 2016

Doom and Gloom / Finding Netherton

Lack of posting for a while because my life went a little topsy-turvy. Gremlins had messed with my head-space. My daughter Lunar told me that aliens had stolen the moon while she was sleeping. Don't panic though, Lunar informed that the aliens have put it back. Life resumes to a relative norm...
The furthest out great adventure I recall since my last post was when I caught up with my buddy Roger. Roger is my blind buddy who owns an old tandem called 'the Beast'. Anyways, we cycled his tandem again on this adventure. Our trip was a trek to a 'new-to-me' café and back. We covered about 60k and ate a real tasty bacon and egg bap.

Shortly after the above adventure, menace happened. I had numerous work related meetings and had to be interviewed for my own job. I was informed on a Friday that I would find out my fate that self-same day. I didn't. The powers that be informed there was an issue.
That issue was not resolved until the beginning of this week. I cycled into work on the Monday with a feeling of doom and left with a feeling of gloom. My job was given to another.

After the above menace, I think it's fair to say my week went a trifle wonky. My headspace became mashed up and everything that was right was wrong again. Argh!
Before the week was out, I figured I'd take my bike out in the hope it made me feel better.  I had wanted to cycle through the Netherton Tunnel for an age now. So, during the end of the week, I went in search of nether Netherton (see what I did there?)!
The 'off-road' start
My trip started from home. My bike of choice for this adventure was my commute bike - a Genesis single-speed cyclo-cross bike. Pretty awesome that my bespoke Alpkit frame bag fitted this machine (as it was made for my Cannondale). I cycled about 22k to reach Stratford where my of-road adventure began.
What a better way to start than being attacked by a big swan and finding a Maccy D's. The swan was real evil hissing at me. The Maccy's was delicious.
I figured I would follow the canal all the way to Netherton, just because I could. I had cycled and ran stretches of the canal network before (but never this much in one go). The canal network stretches for miles and I think further adventure can be sought here. The first real thing worthy of note was Edstone Aqueduct - this is the longest Aqueduct in England!
After about 21k along this canal I came to the first 'cross roads' (that doesn't sound right). At this junction the canal continued to Birmingham by either taking the Grand Union Canal or continuing to Kings Norton. The Grand Union could take one to Oxford or London too, I am led to believe.
On my commute run/cycles into work, I am usually facing the sign (above and below) from a different side. I had never followed the canal from Stratford into Kings Norton before. If one ran from Stratford to Kings Norton along the canal, it would just about be 2 miles short of a marathon!
Before I left the house, I informed Lunar that I was going in search of tunnels. The first tunnel I encountered was the Edgbaston Tunnel. Have ran/cycled through this tunnel many times on my way to work.
Much canal was followed into Birmingham. My next encountered tunnel was heading in the direction of West Bromwich. I think this was the Dalton Tunnel. It could have been Galton or Balton?!
Passed through the tunnel and it wasn't long before I reached Sheepwash. This was another fork or junction. Straight on would have led to Wolverhampton, but turning left would take me to Netherton!
Wonder where the name 'Sheepwash' came from. No sheep here. Ooh, but there was a rather neat looking tunnel straight ahead!
Yes indeed, Netherton Tunnel lay ahead. It looked very dark inside. How exciting!
According to Wikipedia 'Netherton Tunnel was the last canal tunnel to be built in Britain during the Canal Age. The first sod was turned by the Lord Ward on 31 December 1855 and the canal opened on 20 August 1858, providing a waterway connection between the Black Country towns of Netherton and Tipton. It was built to relieve the bottleneck of the adjacent Dudley Tunnel which is very narrow, has alternating blocks of one-way working, and had waiting times of eight hours or more, and sometimes several days.

The Netherton tunnel was built with a width of 27 feet (8.2 m) to allow two-way working of narrowboats; and is brick lined throughout. It has towpaths running through it, one on each side, which enabled horse-drawn narrowboats to be pulled through it. Chainage (distance) markers are still visible on the Eastern wall. The tunnel was fitted, from the start, with gas lighting over the towpaths, though this was later converted to electricity and it is now unlit.

The air vents that run along the line of the tunnel and provide ventilation, and a shaft of light into the canal, are known by the locals as "pepper pots", because of their shape. They are brick-lined and the openings are covered by an iron frame or grill. The wide bore and good ventilation mean that boats using the tunnel today are allowed to use the power of their internal combustion engines, which is prohibited in the narrower Dudley Tunnel.

The tunnel cost £302,000 as opposed to the £238,000 estimate prior to construction. The main reason for the project being overbudget was the extra works necessitated by the condition of the ground through which the tunnel passes'.
Seriously dark. Good job I had bike lights!
A 'pepper pot'
The tunnel was long, dark and far. Water was dripping down in places too. Oh, and in many places and for long stretches, the floor was flooded and un-even.
Woo Hoo! I had found Netherton and cycled through the Netherton Tunnel. All 2,768 metres of it. One day, I will take my kids through here too.
Once through the tunnel, I cycled a little further and studied my maps. I didn't know exactly where I was. I could see Dudley Tunnel was straight ahead. I stopped to ask a random fella for advice. He studied his phone and chatted with for a while but he didn't know where I was on my map either. He suggested I turn *that* way and head to Brierley Hill and check out the waterfront?
I followed the way the chap suggested and came across the above signage which didn't help me know where I was. I got talking to another bloke who quite bizarrely took a picture of me to show his wife?! I figured I'd carry on (especially as it was down hill).
Not sure if the above pic was before or after Merry Hill. I stopped at the waterfront (not waterfall) anyway and had lunch at a 'spoons pub. Delicious. Then, I cycled some more.
I had gotten onto the Staffs & Worcs canal heading for Worcester. Had to stop at Stewpony Lock to take the above pic. Not exactly sure what it was but it appeared to be some sort of whirlpool 'thing'. Very pretty and really quite weird.
Not long before I passed through another tunnel. This was Dunsley Tunnel and hardly a tunnel at all. Still, a tunnel all the same.
Was really kind of nice following towpath. The quality of the track varied big time from tarmac to gravel and at times single-track. Dirty puddles from time to time. A tree root here and there. Frequently uneven. But, it was quiet and peaceful following the canal and the sights were pretty. One day, I'd like to take a bivvy with me and camp out under the stars
The above sign made me smile. Another weird vortex thing (below) was encountered again. Oh, the sights you'd see if only you were cycling with me!
Another tunnel was passed through. Am not sure what this tunnel was called but think it may be Dunsley or Cookley? This was the last tunnel I cycled through on this wonderful adventure.
I left the towpath and canal network at Kidderminster and joined the busy main roads. I wanted to return home and see the wife and kids before it got dark. My route took me to Bromsgrove, then Redditch before taking me back to Doo Little. I cycled about 150k in all, mostly off-road and had a grand old time!

Happy New Year 2022

Happy New Year folks. I wonder what's in store for 2022,  - something crazy, something new? It's a shame Covid is still here and I&#...