The Hell of the North Cotswolds (HONC)

The HONC genuinely deserves it’s “classic” status, having been inspired originally by the “Hell of the North” Paris-Roubaix bike race, which takes place on the same day in Northern France. The challenge ride starts and finishes in the picturesque town of Winchcombe and uses a combination of tarmac, “white” roads and bridleways. Now in it’s 21st year, the event has grown in popularity year on year. The first event had only 13 entrants and Mountain bikes had not then been invented. This year, for the first time in it’s history, advance entries topped 1000, and had to close a week before the day. It’s a mass start event, with riders on everything from vintage bikes to brand new full suspension MTBs, with tourers, cyclo-cross bikes and more MTBs in between.After a neutralised parade through the town with a police escort the, the ‘event proper’ starts, and although the HONC is not a race, it’s every man for himself. I done this event a few times now, and I always make a point of being as near the front as possible, and giving it all I have up the first climb to avoid bottlenecks. After the first half hour the stream of riders thins, and small groups start to form. As we headed up and over Cleeve Hill, with the early morning sun on our backs, and a brisk tailwind, I found myself in the company of a small group containing Jack from the Numplumz team, Jack was to be our saviour. Continue reading

A great cycling weekend

Had a great cycling weekend. Carla and I put in the final push in our bid for cycling fitness in preparation for the HONC next weekend. We still found time to stop and get a few pictures though, and I’d like to share them with you.First is the Path through Puxton, the overgrown field on the left has been like that since I first moved to the area some 40 years ago. A lot of the surrounding land has been built on now, but this field remains, like some mad landowner had vowed, “Build on my land? Never!!!”, and left it unkept in a show of defiance. Anyway, this time of year that field has a smell, a fieldy sort of smell that reminds me of when I first moved here, at 8 years old.

Next is the entrance to Habberley Valley, another place that brings back happy childhood memories. There used to be a fairground in it, and a tea shop where you could go and get a tea tray for a picnic. The hut that used to be the teashop is still there, but the fair is long gone. I often ride through the valley on my way to Wyre Forest.

Which brings me nicely to the disused railway line that runs right through Wyre Forest. It’s a designated cycle route now, traffic free, and great for getting to the heart of the forest. It’s also a useful handrail if you get lost. Oh, and I found some of my favourite flowers along it’s banks.

Talking of spring flowers, spring wouldn’t be spring without Daffs, and there were some really nice one in the grounds of Enville Hall.

We stopped along the towpath that runs from Kinver to Wolverley to buy some duck eggs from a local smallholder. We rang the bell to get served, and while we waited I took a picture of the fantastic Spring Blossom in the cottage garden.

You remember I did some gardening work last summer? Well, I planted some of the plants I was given out in our garden, and some of them are starting to bloom. I cannot remember what this one is called, but I think it looks lovely.

OK, that’s all for now, I hope you liked.