Sorry if my blog seems a bit late this week but there are a few changes being implemented in the coming weeks so my weekly blog update will now be added to the website later in the week.

It means you can now see my blog pop up on a Wednesday or Thursday of each week from now on. It should also mean I stay on the front page a bit longer before I?m scrolled down by new news updates!

Well, now to what has been happening over the last week. I hope you have all been able to enjoy some of the Bank Holiday weekend. A bit of a mixed bag of weather up here in Sheffield as it has been over this last week.

After getting back from my travels from Liege via the ?Weekly? offices last Monday it was good to be back home. Tuesday was spent catching up on correspondence and getting my blog written and submitted, which reminds me…

I meant to mention in my blog the other week that I saw an interesting sight on my travels around the Ardennes forests the other week. It was on the Thursday when I was doing the pictures for the website piece The Climbs of Liege-Bastogne-Liege. I was driving from Haute Levee to La Rosier and was driving through the pine forests there when I spotted two forest workers by the roadside. They were accompanied there with a sturdy looking pony which was all harnessed up so that it could drag the felled logs up out of the forest. I guess a pony is ideal for the job with it being able to weave through the closely packed trees and to cope with steeper gradients better than any machine. I wish I?d stopped now and taken a picture, it was like going back in time.

Another thing was when I was showing a few pictures to my cycling mates in the pub when I got back on Monday night, there were some interesting comments to the picture of Valverde?s race winning machine. ?Look at the position he?s got on that!? was the gist of the comments about the extreme drop from the tip of his saddle to the level of his stem and bars. I know my back and shoulders wouldn?t cope with a position like that for too long.

alejandro valverde bike

By Tuesday afternoon I was able to get out on the bike for the first time in a week. I just went to Bakewell and back as the weather was being a bit hit and miss. I set out late afternoon and I got caught in a couple of heavy showers. Fortunately it was not too cold and things started to dry up on the way back. Still , I enjoyed being out on the bike. Good to be back pedalling again.

Wednesday and I decided to use the morning for a pedal as the forecast was for more heavy showers over the afternoon. It was dry and mild in the morning and was out pedalling out towards Matlock by 10 o?clock. On Via Gellia out of Cromford I spotted a Dipper just below one of the small waterfalls that step the river down between some of the old mill ponds. It would have made for a nice picture had I had the camera.

As I rode along towards Bakewell I saw three riders coming towards me. At first I noticed the one rider in Sigma team kit and thought who could that be? It was Robin Sharman and I shouted a quick, ?How you doing?? It was good to see him.

Passing some hawthorn hedging near Thirteen Bends I heard this bird call that seemed out of the norm. It made me take notice and there on a good vantage point on the hedge top was a Whitethroat. They are another of our spring migrant warblers along with the Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers I?ve heard and seen during my travels.

My final spot of the morning was of the ?Whirlybird? variety. A sinister looking Apache helicopter cruising over the tree tops by the river between Baslow and Calver. I?d never seen one in the ?metal? before. They are quite angular and the radar dome on a mast positioned above the rotors makes it look quite odd. Of course it?s perfectly designed for it to hide behind tree cover with the mast sticking above the treetops scanning for possible targets to hit with its rocket and cannon weaponry.

Spent the rest of the day and late in to the evening sorting and retrieving pictures from my archive for the Tour de France Guide magazine that?s being put together at the moment. I?d done a lot of pictures whilst away in the Ardennes too, so they needed labelling and filing in to the topics to be previewed in the magazine. I got a lot done and ended the evening letting the folders send along to the office FTP site.

The weather over the week was slowly improving and Thursday afternoon?s pedal proved to be a pleasant run out to Bakewell and back in bright spring like conditions. On Friday things had improved further such that I didn?t have to put my overshoes on for the first time this year (apart from the one ride I did on Mallorca in January). There was, however, a point in the ride where I thought they may have been a good idea to have had on. As I approached Matlock I started to see cars coming towards me that had obviously been through a heavy rain shower. Fortunately as I got to where they had come from the rain had stopped and there was just a bit of standing water about. I soon passed through that to find drier roads again. It had just been one of those heavy localised downpours.

Saw my first Mallard ducklings of the year on a large pond on the road between Ashford-in-the-Water and the Hassop/Bakewell road roundabout. There were half a dozen or so tiny balls of fluff zipping to and fro catching insects near the surface of the water. They could only have been a day or two old.

On Friday evening I popped up to mum and dad?s for a spot of tea and then later went for a stroll up the lanes. It had been a while since I?ve been out that way and found that Cottage Lane and Woodcliffe Road to Carr Bridge had been resurfaced in pristine smooth black tarmac. It?s not come before time, as that section of road had probably one of the worst surfaces in the Sheffield area.

The walk up the nearby lanes was pleasant and I spotted a couple of brown hares in the fields. I think the badger sett I know of up there has been abandoned. Will have to see as the year progresses.

Saturday, and I made sure I went for a ride as the forecast for Sunday was not good. Did one of my favourite routes I?ve mentioned before by going out to Millers Dale. It was a warm pleasant afternoon and I took things at a nice steady pace. The legs were now feeling the rest of the week’s riding efforts. Not a bad week though with just over 200miles in the legs.

The warmth of the day gave for a balmy evening and I spotted my first Swifts in the skies over here. It was exactly a week since I?d seen my first Swifts over Liege. I expect to see and hear them chasing and screeching round the roof tops in the coming weeks.

Whilst on the bird theme once again, an update on the blackbird nest below my kitchen window. It would seem that it has now been abandoned. Either the young have fledged or have been killed by the local moggy whilst I was away last week. Saying that it could have been the resident fox as the other evening I heard him/her rummaging through the Mahonia bush obviously on the scent of something good. I could have done the cat an injustice but I still do not take to it. It?s always up to no good.

Anyway, the parent blackbirds still seem to be about regularly pulling up enormous earth worms from the lawn area in the back. Their flight path takes them away from the flats here and over the back in to shrubbery, so hopefully they have made a fresh start.

Got a quick walk in up the lanes again on Saturday evening. Spotted the little owl about on it’s evening hunting sortie. Also saw a good number of brown hares again. I’d taken my camera out and tried photographing the resident male pheasant but didn?t quite get it right. The fading light didn?t help either. Will have another go at some point.

pleasant pheasant

Sunday, as forecast, was a bit of a miserable day. Low cloud and drizzle in the air giving for spells of heavier rain. Spent the day tidying round the flat with the intention of decorating my bedroom. Had a quick trip down to the local Homebase store to get some paint and other bits and pieces to make ready for my planned start on Monday.

Sunday evening I walked up to Ranmoor and met all the Peak RC gang and their partners at the Ranmoor Tandoori. Steve Gibson, Simon Owens and Tony Grassby had all done the Nigel Meason Two-Day, so were feeling particularly hungry. A pleasant social evening over a Chicken Bhuna for me.

Monday morning and I was up early finishing off tiding and starting to move things around in my bedroom to make a start on decorating. My dad popped down too to give a hand which was much appreciated. The room had not been painted since I?d moved in to the flat some nine years ago now I?m embarrassed to say. Anyway, things progressed well over the day, with cracks in the walls filled, the damaged window frame secured, the ceiling emulsion-ed and the door frames, windows and skirting boards glossed.

Squeezed a ride in on the bike late afternoon, early evening. The weather had not started off that well but as the day progressed it had become a pleasant sunny afternoon, albeit the sun being a bit hazy. The traffic coming out of the Peak District was incredible with everyone having made the most of their Bank Holiday Monday. Enjoyed my quick blast anyway doing my regular 33 miles in under two hours with an average of 17.4 mph.

That?s it for now so hope to catch you in a week’s time with hopefully all my decorating completed.

Andy

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.