What a week weather-wise. I hope you have all survived the wind and the rain that?s been thrown at us. Monday was particularly windy with Tuesday and Wednesday being the gloomiest and wettest days up here in Sheffield.
A quieter week overall work-wise. Monday, and I was up early and spent the first part of the morning finishing off putting my picture selection from the National ?10? TT championships to the FTP site. With the racing pictures on their way I put together the pictures and tech details of the ?Bike of the Week? subjects I?d managed to get done on Sunday.
As I mentioned in my opening, Monday was particularly windy with some really damaging gusts. By late afternoon the winds were still pretty strong but I still decided to venture out on the bike. I started by heading up the Mayfield valley with the intention that I might do a couple of hours by finding a low level circuit that offered some shelter from the worst of the gusts. As I climbed up out of the Mayfield valley the wind was from the east so giving a straight tail wind which made things feel better.
By Ringinglow I decided I?d risk going over the tops to Burbage and down towards Hathersage. There were cross winds as I headed past Higger Tor but as I descended in to Hathersage it became more sheltered. Rolling along the tree lined valley road towards Grindleford it became evident how windy it had been over the day. Leafy twigs and the occasional branch of a tree littered the roadside.
From Grindleford I climbed up to Eyam and then out the back of the village to Foolow and on towrads the main Bradwell to Tideswell road. Turning right at the junction with the main road I descended in to Bradwell and was now riding in to a head wind. My route back was via Bamford, up to Ladybower and over Moscar which gave for a good stiff workout in the conditions, particularly over the tops. I arrived back home with nearly 36 miles on the clock. Quite enjoyed the change of route.
Tuesday was miserable. Low cloud and varying degrees of rainfall gave for a gloomy damp day. I literally spent the whole day writing my blog which turned out to be probably one of the longest I?ve written to date.
Wednesday started much like Tuesday with damp and gloomy conditions. By mid-day things seemed to get slightly better and so I thought I?d go out on the bike what ever. I had only got a few miles in to my ride before it started to rain once more. Intermittent bursts of heavy rain gave way to lighter rain making you think things would perhaps improve. How wrong I was. By Matlock it was torrential. At the millpond in Cromford the resident Canada geese were resting on the pond edge. There was one mother bird with a couple of golden downed youngsters on her back. They were sheltering under her wings and all you could see were their little heads poking out. It would have made for a great picture.
By Froggatt I was absolutely soaked. The road was a river. I was drinking rain water as it ran down my face. A section of road near Whirlow Park on the way in to Sheffield was flooded and as I ploughed through it, it must have been nearly to the depth of my bottom bracket. My 53-mile Matlock run turned in to a bit of an epic but at least it was warm.
Thursday was my birthday (42, for the record) and I decided to take a trip out to Bempton Cliffs on the east coast, just north of Bridlington. I?d seen the weather forecast the previous evening and a fine day had been promised, particularly the further east you went. It?s around a two hour drive to the coast and I arrived in the RSPB reserve car park just after 10:00am. The weather was indeed glorious, blue skies and sunshine. What a contrast to Wednesday?s weather.
The RSPB reserve at Bempton is home to thousands of seabirds that nest on the high, vertical chalk cliffs that characterise this part of the east coast. In fact it is stated that the reserve is England?s largest seabird colony. April to August are the best times to make a visit with the greatest numbers of birds seen from May to July as the breeding season is in full swing. Fulmars, Gannets, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Puffins and Razorbill all nest here. By late August, early September a good number of the birds will be leaving, or have left, to spend their winter months out at sea.
With cameras and binoculars at the ready I strolled down through the visitor centre and joined the footpath down to the cliff top footpath.
All seems relatively quiet on the walk to the cliff tops and you think, ?Where are all the birds?? It?s not until you reach the cliff tops that you really get to hear and then see the thousands of birds that are nesting along the narrow chalk ledges below. The sheer cliff faces seem to buffer the noise from travelling further back over the cliff tops.
Five safe, purpose-built viewpoints offer spectacular views of the sea cliffs. They are all named and I headed to ?Staple Newk? the one furthest to the right from the visitor centre. It offers the best view point to part of the largest mainland ?Gannetry? in Britain. Gannets are a signature bird at Bempton and these large, sleek, brilliant white seabirds with jet black wing tips, buff coloured head with forward pointing blue eyes make for a superb spectacle.
There is constant noise as resting birds on nests acknowledge their partners and neighbours that pass overhead. Higher up the cliffs Kittiwakes are nesting along with Fulmars (pictured below), Puffins and Razorbills.
The Fulmars are superb flyers and seemingly just fly for fun. They just let air wash under their wings and use their feet as air brakes as they momentarily become stationary in the air for a second before dropping a wing and gliding out to sea on their stiff wings. Fantastic to watch.
I spent the morning and part of the afternoon just at that one viewpoint before moving north up the coast to the other viewpoints. From the others you see more Kittiwakes and Guillemots nesting. Red Campion carpets the cliff tops at this time of year and is a favourite with the Bumble Bees.
By four o?clock I started heading back towards the visitor centre and spotted a Marsh Harrier, Skylarks and finally a Sedge Warbler (below) which was being very vocal in the hedging near the centre.
A fantastic day out and a place I can recommend for a very accessible and unforgettable seabird spectacle.
The weather was closing in as I left Bempton. Grey cloud was blanketing the skies and as I got to Sheffield it was starting to rain. I spent the evening in ?La Luna?, the little Italian restaurant I?ve mentioned, with mum and dad. A nice end to the day.
Friday I spent catching up on work related things. Sent a few pictures to the office which had been requested. Got a call from Fixation to say that my two flashguns had finally been repaired and serviced and were now ready for dispatch. I?m expecting those back on Monday now.
The overnight rain had continued through the first part of Friday, but by the afternoon things were looking better. Went out on the bike and did a good tempo ride over my Matlock route. At almost 18mph average I feel there is a bit of form coming through.
On Saturday I just went to Bakewell and back and didn?t really intend to make it as brisk a pace as it turned out as I was still feeling Friday?s ride in my legs. It turned in to a bit of an interval session with me putting in three good blocks of effort, the final one being up Froggatt as I did battle with a young guy I caught. He was going well and it took quite an effort to get up to him just by the Chequers Inn. I took the front there and he dropped on to my wheel. I settled in to a rhythm and then started to try and get a gap.
Dropping a gear, I picked up the pace over a couple of hundred metres and got the desired effect. Settling back in to a more comfortable pace I sensed I needed to make another dig and did so as the road comes out of the trees and turns up towards the Grouse Inn. Kept it going and saw another rider ahead which helped further concentrated my effort. I?d got a reasonable gap now and was closing on my second ?quarry.? He too was going well and I eventually caught and passed him well after the Grouse Inn.
Lifting the pace gradually over the last section of the climb it was good to reach the summit with the feeling of having put in a quality effort. Easing the pace I dropped back to have a chat with the second guy I?d passed. As we pedalled together along the ?Flying Mile?, the other younger guy came flying past. We lifted the pace and we just edged past him again before the crest for the descent back in to Sheffield. A good bit of friendly rivalry.
Popped up to mum and dad?s in the afternoon as my sister and brother-in-law had driven over from Manchester to see them. We all went up the Mayfield Valley for a stroll. Spotted the resident Little owl out hunting and as it came to settle in one tree a Wren rather noisily protested about it?s presence.
Not much to report for Sunday. The morning was a washout but dried out towards the afternoon. By then I?d found a few other things to do which included making a start on this blog. Just before I sign off, I?ll just give an update on the two pairs of Swifts that are nesting under the eaves of my neighbours house across the road. There has been much activity over the last couple of weeks. Small family groups gather and zip and chase round the roof tops with their screaming calls. The nesting birds skilfully dive under the eaves to the nest entrances at break neck speed. They then reappear a minute or two later, just dropping towards the road, narrowly missing the telephone wires that run across the street before shooting skywards. It?s great to watch and hopefully all will continue to go well.
This coming weekend (June 8) is the National ?25? TT near Sawtry, Peterborough. I?m quite looking forward to it as I have a feeling it could be quite a close call to who takes the title.
News of the ?25? and more next week.
Andy Jones is Cycling Weekly’s resident photographer, and has covered pretty much every major cycle race there is, from downhill mountain biking to the Tour de France. You can see many of Andy’s photos in our online Gallery section.