We depart from Derby on the 09:57 Virgin Voyager service to Birmingham New Street
from where we catch the 10:48 Virgin Pendolino train to Wolverhampton. On Leaving
Wolverhampton station we start our ride to join the Wolverhampton Main Line Canal
tow path and descend through 25 locks to Aldersley Junction….
So read the introduction to the Ranger ride of 25th October 2005. Two Birdys, a Brompton
and a Mountain bike were thus tempted to partake of the offer advanced by Peter Ford
one of our Local Rangers.
The day dawned grey but with the offer of a little sunshine. The previous two days
had seen torrential rain so the paths were going to be a little moist! However we
left Derby station in great spirits, and the Virgin train and its smaller brother
did the business of trains with impressive punctuality, so a few minutes past eleven
found us cycling through Wolverhampton to the Canal locks -There are 25 locks in
a continuous decent, the paths of which were very steep and made of brick formed
into deep corrugations, this to give grip to the horses of yesteryear. They were
also I thought, a little treacherous, being covered with a smattering of autumn leaves.
However, there were few people about, and with a very strong tail wind the decent
of the locks was made in better than excellent time.
Soon, after Aldersley Junction, the path deteriorated into pebbles and grass, and
later, as Peter had forecast, we hit MUD. Exceedingly slippy mud with dark puddles
that could contain tree roots hidden below the muddy water. Martin became the first
victim of the day with his Brompton slipping to the right and he falling to the left
in a grand manoeuvre that had him landing on the only patch of non muddy terrain
for yards. He was unharmed but Peter, in the interest of safety decided on a deviation
from the 'muddy' route that would take us down the Kingswinford Railway path. This
path was originally to be a part of the route but we were to join it a little earlier
than planned. A good move because the path was elevated and comparatively dry, not
that it did not have its muddy moments.
The Railway path led us to the first stop of the day at the tea shop located in the
former GWR railway station at Wombourne, Staffs. A truly fine cup of tea with sugary
cakes at an acceptable price - highly recommended. However we were soon off again
because the soft ground and a couple of mobile calls received by Les (our Liaison
Ranger) about problems on the Route 54, had already made us behind schedule. In fact
we were never to make up the lost time, for in spite of some further energetic riding
we were forced to make the decision to have lunch in Swindon at 1.30pm because we
could not make Kinver by 2.00. (The time most decent hostelries would be closed).
First stop requires a map consultation!
It was after this things took a turn for the, shall we say, more testing experience.
By now we were bowling along side roads in fine style when an unintentional turn
took us up a two and a half mile series of rising hills, with the additional joy
of a severe headwind. Severe enough for me to have to peddle down the other side
to catch up the ever swift riders ahead. It was with some relief therefore that I
spied the welcoming entrance to the Staffs and Worcester canal towpath with its flat
if stony paths. Little did we know that it was the prelude to the ambush of the dreaded
flail. Yes the paths were soon covered in thorns from the hedge cutting that had
obviously taken place a little while before. Three punctures later our schedule was
abandoned. The return train booking would have to go. I had repaired a puncture in
the front wheel, and now had a slow puncture in the rear wheel which would require
pumping up every few miles. We were going to have to limp home as best we could.
Nervous pressure was now mounting, the evening was drawing on and lights would soon
be required. Even so, I eventually had to call a total halt. My rear tyre was now
completely flat and there was no alternative but to use my precious spare tube. You
can imagine my surprise when the tyre just peeled easily from the rim using my fingers!
Then all became clear. The wire inside the tyre wall bead had broken and penetrated
the tube. No way would the tyre ever fit to the rim and I was not going to ride anywhere
without a new tyre, thus I found myself sitting in a taxi heading back to Wolverhampton
station. Folding bicycle in the boot, whilst the rest of the ever swift riders were
going even more swiftly up the final part of the Staffs and Worcester canal towpath,
before the dreaded darkness would finally descend.
The truly amazing end to this eventful day was that we all travelled back from Wolverhampton
station in the same train. For, although I was riding in the taxi, the traffic towards
the town centre was very heavy making progress slow. However fear of the dark (try
a swift journey down a canal towpath on LED lights) added momentum to the tired legs
of the rest of the party and they arrived on Platform 3 a few minutes after me. We
all arrived back at Derby at 8.15pm. An hour and a quarter behind schedule. Tired?
Nervous pressure mounting? most take to drink
The smaller picture above is of the offending wire protruding from inside the tyre.
Pictured above is the Birdy after the ride, note the rear wheel!