Home from Derbyshire

I’m home: Here’s the track of the whole trip:

GPS route map

After buying my beef for dinner, I headed off via a couple of diversions and a stop for petrol where someone in what seemed to be a huge white van (converted into a mobile home) reversed inches away from my bike. I made the decision that an extra hour or so (4 as opposed to 3) on the slightly less boring A1 compared to the thoroughly boring M1 was not worth it so headed off for home down the motorway. I made one stop at Watford Gap Services with a mass of humanity:

Motorway services do not show humanity at its best (though nearly everyone was wearing masks) but I found some shade next to a bush to eat more sushi.

After spending an age on the hot (it was 35 degrees) Euston Road underpass in stop start traffic I made it home by 2.30. As a stand in for what would have been a more satisfying trip to Spain (I wanted to ride some of the TET in Spain) this short holiday was OK. For my next trip a new bike would be a good idea. Maybe by the time of my next trip there will be a vaccination against Covid-19 and the world will be breathing a slight sign of relief. At the moment most things seem uncertain.

More from Dale Farm

30th July

I just remembered looking at a YouTube vid of an intrepid Norwegian wild camper last night in my sleeping bag who says a luxury he takes on his trips is a filter maker for coffee. What a good idea. A simple small plastic version and a supply of filters would be lighter than my metal expresso maker. And make the coffee I like. It’s almost worth going on another camping trip to test it out. 

Later (pictures and vids to come)

My un-parking and setting off this morning was tricky, full of fear and stuckness and in the end I had to ask a passing camper (my quiet neighbour who happened to walk by eating an apple) to help me by pulling me backwards so I could turn round and get going. Looking at my vid I see that I was trying to move the bike for 8 minutes but was stuck! Oh for a light bike with a low saddle too. I’ve been worrying about it all day and what to do. 

Now, today’s events. The Ride Bikers Britain routes are quite good but getting on to them with my GPS is a bit hit and miss. I must go on a Garmin course so that I am no longer being hit and miss. Some attention to detail on this would really enhance the experience… and in terms of courses I must do more slow speed practice to boost confidence on the bike. I hate the phrase ‘all the gear but no idea’ but it might fit. 

Now today’s events again. Where was I? I selected (I thought) one of the rides, number 40, and headed off to Glossop. It was meant to be a circular route but I was taken onto the amazing Snake Pass on the way when I was expecting to come back that way. But anyway it is indeed a beautiful route spectacular in places. A fair amount of traffic but not too bad. Glossop or the slice I saw was ok but as I said before everywhere is crawling with people. But the riding was mostly fun and when the sun finally came out as it is now my slightly flagging spirits lifted. Once there I set the controls (not for the heart of the sun) for Ashbourne again where I knew there was somewhere with ample parking to shop for dinner. As I returned to Belinda parked carefully in the shade a couple pulled in next to me driving a bright red open top Morgan. I thought all Morgans are vintages but I found out that they still make them. We engaged in mostly car but also motorcycle conversation for quite a while before they left and I sat on the grass and ate some Co-op lunch – I think it was some sushi. 

On my return to this lovely campsite I asked our host if I could park somewhere flatter and I think he understood my problem. The solution which was very flexible of him was to suggest I part on an unused grassy flat terrace near the bottom with the proviso I’d have to move to another option if someone turned up late and needed the space. its a nice touch that not everyone would have agreed to. Luckily they didn’t so my manoeuvring and packing up and finally driving off in the morning went without panic on my part. I keep asking myself whether a KTM 690 would end up feeling just as heavy as the BMW once you’d got used to it – but its nearly 100kgs lighter. That’s two years travels in a row I have come away thinking about a lighter bike – after experiencing tricky terrain that is almost impossible to manoeuvre a big bike in.

The temperature had risen during the day and was mid to high twenties with now a fierce sun, so previously welcome the last couple of nights here when it was getting cold by 6 or 7pm, but this evening it became something to try to hide from. I’m reading Dhalgren, bought for me by my son. Its not exactly a page turner in the way that another science fiction gift from him, Snowcrash was, but is still good. Everything is so murkily described that it is hard to imagine the characters. I read in my sleeping bag till about 9 when, unbelievably for me, I closed my eyes. 

Friday 31st July

I woke around six, stirred by the cows talking to eachother, maybe saying ‘good morning, we’ve been spared for another day’. The beautifully restored and maintained and lit and cleaned amenity building was surprisingly busy at just after 7 – but waking early is the stuff of camping especially with crying tired toddlers of which there were a few with admirably coping parents (actually mostly mothers I think). 

I rolled off after buying a frozen pack of their beef in their little shop. I expected a smiling person taking my money and advising me on how to cook, but instead there is an instruction up on a blackboard how to join the site wifi and a PayPal address to put the money for any item into. And a large security camera pointing at you – so it is a kind of honesty principle but not quite. As I fumbled with my phone looking for my PayPal app, I noticed there was also a glass jar and a notebook – a much easier option for a slightly frazzled traveller (as I often seem to be when on the bike). I was wondering how many days it takes to properly relax and get over the tension about little things. So a fiver in the jar bought me a pack of beef (cut unspecified).

Arriving in Dale Farm, Derbyshire

I’m not writing much on this short trip. Partly because it seems so inconsequential compared to travelling to Spain and compared to my flickering dream of Siberia. I’m in Derbyshire now in the Dales in Dale Farm campsite a very different model to the large field with tents around the edge. Here the site is narrow sloping and terraced with a stepped series of generous grassy plots each for one large tent and car leading up to a broader field at the top where there are four plots under Ash trees and two yurt type tents just higher up. We say hello to each other here. I knew it felt comfortable after being here just a few minutes. Down in Cuckoo Farm it was very different with large groups of a couple of families in little inward looking huddles. 

Note to self for my fiction: describe someone’s books as an alternative to describing them. 

There are cows here who moo loudly causing me to ask the Internet “why do cows moo?” To find each other is one reason. Also the wash building is an amazing very recently renovated barn amazingly white and scrupulously clean and brightly lit. It could be an operating suite. 

detail of the washroom

Of course many campsites feature difficulties for parking and un-parking heavy motorcycles. And this one because of its slope creates the need for some careful heaving upright without dropping the thing on the grassy slope followed by also careful paddling backward across bumpy terrain in an arc to end up pointing in a roughly down hill direction. All leaving me tense and colouring the first part of my ride with thoughts that I am not up for this and wouldn’t get very far on the route to Siberia.

Up on my avenue there seem to be two tents of two women who could be friends, partners or mother and daughter. And one huge and fancy tent over to my right that appears to house one solitary female walker. Then there are the two yurts opposite with young nice seeming families in each. By chance my plot with its pub table where I am sitting tapping this into my phone gets the evening sun which this event is beautiful and warming. Yesterday when I arrived it was cold and threatening rain.

And then some hills beyond. Now that the sun is out I can say that this is a very nice site. 

It’s good to be secluded here as out on the roads there were huge numbers of cars parked along the roadside at every beauty spot and the nearby town is heaving with people on holiday doing staycation like me. The Bike book route was ok and nice in places where I got into the zone of riding fairly briskly through a series of curves with double white lines down the middle. But overall I found it not that impressive as some of their routes definitely are, in Devon for example. 

Technically the new tent is good. It’s small and light and is a keeper. It’s smaller and more cramped than my Vango (am I repeating myself?) the porch part especially. It came with two too few pegs. But it does the job nicely. The snazzy Thermarest is thicker and more comfortable than the standard orange model but is slightly too long for the small tent space. It’s slightly lighter and packs down to the same size so is also a keeper though – for another trip where lightness is important I may leave it at home. Keeping everything charged is tricky with a mixture of plugging as much in while I ride and using a power bank in the evening. But I seem always a step behind and something is uncharged that needs to be. It needs constant thinking about. And the Sony helmet cam eats through batteries – and its clever remote controller does too. Campsite bathrooms don’t seem to have sockets any more perhaps because everyone was charging up their phones and bills were starting to climb. 

Tonight it will rain but tomorrow will be bright and much warmer than today. Hooray. 

First day Rutland and Derbyshire 26th July


This was always going to be a substitute holiday it started with a journey across London up to the A1 a road that has a history that most of the motorways don’t. A big jam up to Apex corner where I think the A1 starts delayed my arrival at Stamford Waitrose where I had planned to fish for my dinner and breakfast. The ride up the A1 was enjoyable no delays and I could have made even better time that I did. Stamford is stunning I had forgotten. In the days of coaches, before cars when travel had to conform to some natural world constraints and structures, it must have been a stop from London where they changed the horses. 

Cuckoo farm campsite is about 15 minutes out of Stamford. Its pleasant with a wide view across some gentle hills. The place is super clean perhaps due to Covid and I am pitched on a slight slope next to a field with gambolling lambs. 

As I’ve mentioned here at least once before, I’m trying out a few new lighter things, this lightweight tent for example. Terra nova starlight 2. It packs much smaller and lighter than my nearly ten year old and much travelled Vango Spirit 2. But it is definitely more cramped with a much more slopy vestibule and less versatile door. So far it’s workable and definitely a worthwhile trade off for being able to leave one top box at home. It came with limited pegs so I need to buy some more tomorrow – actually two short by design – they weren’t missing. I should have brought more with me. if I had tried putting it up before I left as everyone recommends.  

My dinner was some nice steak cooked with garlic, red pepper and fresh noodles cooked while sitting on those versatile Touratech panniers. My nearest neighbours here are one or maybe two Eastern European families with much calling after running off children but it is a great advantage not to be able to understand their conversation. 

The other new kit is a Thermarest inflating mattress slightly lighter than my old fave but actually slightly too long for the tent. The wind is buffeting the tent and as usual children are still running around playing while I am thinking about crawling into my sleeping bag and getting my head down. 

Tuesday 28th July

It’s payday today. I’m sitting on my Touratech metal box wearing my cap and waiting to leave Cuckoo Farm Campsite. Yesterday rained most of the day but today I woke up to bright sunshine, so the ground was dry as was anything else available to perch on. I’ve plotted a route up to Derbyshire to my next campsite Dale Farm.