The Greenway
June 10, 2014, 1:04 pm
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Saturday 7th June 2014

This morning we were woken at about 6a.m. to a massive thunder and lightning storm – I’m sure our roof is only just hanging on!!!

Yesterday, I did manage to go for a cycle ride, at last. The weather was just fantastic; it was warm, sunny (with a little broken cloud) and a gentle warm breeze that was actually cooling as we cycled.  I say we, my 10yr old granddaughter came with me.

I had thought about going on a more strenuous ride but as Keira wanted to ride with me we decided to cycle along The Greenway, the old, disused railway track, now Sustrans Route 55, that we ride to get to Doxey Marshes.

The route is generally very easy going with just a small portion of cycling on quieter roads and back streets, all signed for the route. From Beaconside, Stafford, the route heads generally in a westerly direction for a good mile to Sainsbury’s in Stafford.  Then you use small roads to cut through to the Castlefields Estate, going over a small but steepish railway bridge to rejoin the cycle track another mile or so on. After rejoining the cycle track you can ride all the way to Newport and the A41.  Yesterday we just cycled through Derrington, having a quick stop at the Millennium Green then on to Haughton.

At the Millennium Green in Derrington, my wife and I have spent time in the past taking photographs but we have always missed the wildflower meadow in flower. Yesterday, the meadow looked to be covered in flowers so we shall return in the next week with our cameras.  It is also a splendid place to stop for a picnic whilst on a cycle ride.  A couple of years ago, Keira, my wife, me and my son and his partner, cycled there for a picnic, it was lovely.  I attached a cycle trailer to my bike and carried the food and drink in there so it didn’t get squashed or bashed around.

We returned down the cycle track as far as Sainsbury’s and then used the roads to take a ‘short-cut’ back home. Keira was getting tired, sunburnt and bothered.  We managed just over 12 miles and took a stately 1¾ hrs! and I burned over 600 calories.

If you do get chance to ever cycle this route, though not challenging it is a lovely route, full of wonderful scenery and wildlife; butterflies, birds, rabbits, squirrels and all sorts.

We did cycle back and for to school also, so add another 5.7 miles yesterday and our total mileage was about 20 miles.




No Cycling Today… Flying!

1st June 2014. You may have noticed that I haven’t been around for a week or so… life sometimes intrudes on our plans and takes us on other pathways. I’ve not ridden my bike since the last entry, though that doesn’t mean I’ve not been active, although I haven’t been overactive by any means!

During the week I’ve been helping out in the allotment; we have quite a number of soft fruits coming along nicely and I’ve been clearing out at the end of the right hand side of the plot where the raspberries had got out of hand and the weeds out of control. Fewer raspberries but more accessible than last year!

My wife and I have also been out walking over Doxey Marshes, taking a lot of photographs, and walking over Cannock Chase, mostly around Brocton Coppice – an area of ancient woodland.

We also visited the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust HQ at Wolseley Bridges, between Stafford and Rugeley, on the edge of Cannock Chase. We were looking for ‘hot spots’ for photography, and especially looking out for Kingfishers on the River Trent.

Another place for photography that we visited was Jackson’s Coppice, Walk Mill near to Eccleshall, also under the care of the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. On this occasion we had or 10yr old granddaughter who has really taken photography seriously since she bought her own Canon camera last year (April 2013). Unfortunately, a small tragedy happened whilst she was aiming to take a photograph of a bird. We were on the board-walk which is a circular route around the coppice, and keeps your feet out of the bog. As she looked up and aimed her camera she stepped back and fell into the bog, her camera lens got covered in dark, gooey mud. We rescued Granddaughter who had a thorough soaking but no physical injury thankfully, but her camera was damaged beyond repair.

My interest is photographing birds and lately I have been particularly interested in trying to photograph flying birds – hence the visits to the nature reserves. My wife got a cracking image of a flying Green Woodpecker. She uses a Canon 5D Mk.III with a 70-300 lens. She also got a few nice images of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker on a tree trunk. I’ve managed a few birds but still have a lot to learn.

Back to the cycling… I got on my bike today to take Granddaughter to school and collect her this afternoon, neither an energetic or long ride but in the glorious sun makes me want to go for a longer ride… perhaps tomorrow of the weather is kind.

Well, last month, on the 16th, I decided to record aspects of my cycling including the mileage I’ve done and how much I had saved in pennies cycling instead of driving wherever I could. Well, I completed 28.12 miles otherwise or normally done in the car and saved £5.91. But more than the pennies saved is the knowledge that I’m not polluting the air, I’m not putting wear on my car, I am getting exercise and I am seeing the countryside around me instead of ‘racing’ through at 50mph!

Win Win, I’d say…

Monday 19th May 2014.  I woke this morning to a heavy outburst of rain.  It is still very warm but after the last few days of strong sun and heat I’m sure the gardens will be grateful of the water.

On Friday I went for a ‘stroll’ on the bike to Doxey Marshes in Stafford, a wildlife nature reserve owned by the Staffordshire Wildlife trust based at Wolseley Garden Centre near Rugeley.  The weather was just grand, humid, broken cloud, warm and still. Overall I cycled a recorded 5.33 miles, using The Greenway cycle-path to get there.  It was no race and I stopped to several people whilst on the Marshes to chat. 

One older chap I spoke to was using a Garmin GPS unit similar to mine so we exchanged a few thoughts on the unit.  I had a brief chat with a couple of younger Polish blokes who were just out to enjoy the scenery and sunshine.  And I also met an elderly couple who were walking the Marshes to litter-pick.  Fortunately, most people seem to respect the Marshes and there is little for them to pick but The Greenway is another matter.  The ‘litter-pickers’ also had very strong views on immigrants who seemed to be blamed for the litter (and job-taking, and they also had strong views on the Roma Gypsies, or Irish Gypsies (they couldn’t make up their minds) who were being evicted from a local car park and had left an almighty mess to be cleared.  To be fair to them, they did suggest the ‘Poles’ were a good lot who came to England to save money in order to buy a home back in Poland. 

My actual ride was very comfortable and I thoroughly enjoy cycling the Marshes.  Two highlights were seeing a pair of Great Crested Grebes on the last-but-one lake, and hearing what I think was a Grasshopper Warbler in the shrubs.  Also, the constant ‘raving’ of what I think is a Sedge Warbler is always pleasant for me to hear.


The only cycling I did on Saturday was to cycle to town, 5 miles return, to get some shopping.  The car costs around 21p per mile to drive, plus the cost of parking, so if only taking into account the running costs of cycling, it all adds up to a saving.  But the wider benefits of cycling are much more rewarding to me than the simple monetary costs. Win, win I’d say :o) If there was a downside to cycling for shopping is that there is a limit to what you can carry.  My pannier rack broke some time back so I was unable to use my two large panniers. I took my rucksack but milk (and other things) don’t half get heavy.  I have got a trailer to connect to the bike but I wasn’t buying a lot and I also get concerned about the security of kit when I’m not with it.  I had a front wheel stolen a few years ago and it cost more than I had bargained for to replace it.

At this point, I’ve decided I would start keeping a tally on the blog as to what I am doing, so here is my first..


Perhaps I’ll keep a chart per month and do an accumalative total for the year.  The money savings could be interesting!


The New Dawn

After recently getting back onto my bike after ‘time out’ (aside from taking my granddaughter to school and back) I decided I needed to get back out.  In the beginning it was just short trips out with my granddaughter, a mile here, half a mile there, into town fo a little shopping and that was it.  Then I felt the need to break away from short trips and regain my previous fitness, stamina and, most importantly, enjoyment in cycling.

Not far from where I live, on the B5066 out of Stafford, there is a ride of just over 5 miles return, that includes a jolly good hill.  I thought that I could start using this road to improve my stamina and fitness, increase my speed and build some hill strength without having to go very far from home.  On the 21st April (2014) I took my mountain bike out (Specialized Rockhopper Pro) to just test the hill and get an idea of time and speed – and to check on my ability!

I set my Polar HRM (Heart Rate Monitor) RS800, and my GPS unit (Garmin Oregon 550t) up and was ready for the off.  Because I was all excited (and anxious) about the ride I didn’t record the ride accurately, but having said that, it was a success – I did it and I felt good.  Roughly, I managed 15 mins 14 secs on the outward journey, and 18 mins on the return journey (no break on this trial run).

Then, on 1st May I did the ride on my road bike (Specialized Secteur Sport) and the following images show my results.


The above image is an edited screenshot taken from Garmin Connect.  It shows my outward journey.


Above is another part of the same Garmin Connect page showing the conditions and speed of my ride.



The two images above show the return journey.


This final image above shows an edited screen shot from Polar Protrainer 5, it is showing the elevation of both the outward and return rides together with my heartrates.  Just a reminder here that I am 57yrs old and weigh around 11 stone.

So this is a ‘new dawn’ in my cycling experience with more, much more to follow. :o)

Back on the Road…
May 15, 2014, 9:52 am
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Back on the road again!

Back on the road again!

I’m back after a break, this is my first post in a while so I have got to re-learn a few things and get better at this, so please excuse me.
I’d not been riding for about 12 months and then, about a month ago, I sat on my bike again and took a short ride out… nervous and excited, I set off. Once out there I was fine and I’m now building on the pleasure side of riding again, and hoping to improve my general fitness and reap the benefits of being out there in the open air.
I’ll write more as I get back into it but for now, onwards and upwards!

More Music Making
October 7, 2012, 5:35 am
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To those who were following my cycling and fitness training you may feel a little confused about seeing a blog about music making.  Sorry for that. But I am not really doing much regarding the cycling at the moment, and the fitness training is just bumbling along in the background whereas my music making is becoming much more dominant in my life.

I have always been surrounded by music since I was a small child.  My father played the piano and was quite good at it.  His favourite music for playing was written by Chopin.  He also played the violin in his younger days but I only ever heard him play a couple of times.   In his later years his style changed from classical to the more popular music of the 1960’s and 70’s, when he started playing the piano in pubs and clubs – when they used to have piano’s.   He moved onto playing the organ in the pubs and and developed his own particular style of playing which seemed to be very popular but was not for me.   He always had a piano though, and it is his ‘retirement’ piano that I have in my house that I play almost every day.

Mum used to listen to a lot of music on the radio.  Her taste was also for classical/serious music in the earlier days but then she found radio one and her musical taste changed.  She embraced modern music with her heart leaving the serious music behind her.  She did have piano lessons when she was living with her parents but I never remember her playing the piano at any time.

Both mum and dad passed away some years ago now.  There are lots of stories I coould write hear about their musical influence on me but I’ll leave that for now.

My eldest brother played the piano.  His style was, and still is, jazz.  As a teenager, after leaving school, he used to go fruit picking in Kent  during the summer.  With the money he earned be bought himself a trombone which he learned to play very quickly and got involved with playing with his friends in a small jazz band.  The following summer, again, from the fruits of a season in Kent, he bought me a trumpet.   Richard was highly influential in my music development.

My next brother, he also learned to play trumpet and later in his teen years would also buy himself a clarinet.  And as with the rest of us, he played the piano.

My third brother played the piano but didn’t get too proficient at it, not well enough to be able to play with others.  But I do remember that we would fight over getting to the piano first when we were going home from school.  It would come to literal blows as we were both desperate to be ‘on the piano.

After me came my eldest younger brother (no.5). He didn’t really get to play the piano, I suppose there wasn’t a slot he could ‘get on it’ with all the older brothers ‘fighting’ for time on it.  He did learn to play the guitar but purely for his own entertainment.

My next brother, number 6, he learned to play the cornet as a teenager, but that gave way to the guitar as he approached his 20’s.  He is now very proficient at the guitar and enjoys playing in clubs. He also sings when he plays – I cannot sing.  His style is folk, or traditional music.

I’ll end this blog now, but will continue my formulative years of music making in the next blog.


Pianissimo is Born
October 2, 2012, 10:43 pm
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Earlier this year, my brother had his 60th birthday.  For something a little different, he decided to have a ‘birthday bash’ of live music performed by a band and by any member of our family that wanted to play.

Richard played piano, Chris played guitar and sang, Phil played his harmonica, Mark played his ukelele and I played the trumpet, recorders and piano.  Very little rehearsal had been done, and we hadn’t really played together for over 20 years.  It went well, great fun.

From that evening, brothers Mark, Mike and I go an invitation from brother Phil to play the music at his wedding.  This was to be serious and classical music.  No add-libbing or jazz, no trumpet and no microphones.  We accepted the challenge and on 1st September Phil and Ziggy got married to some really good live music.  We three brothers really enjoyed the challenge and it went well.

‘Pianissimo’ was born.  The three brothers with the surname beginning with P made ppp, hence the name Pianissimo.

These two events have sparked some fantastic enthusiasm within our family, which is not the smallest in the world! and we are now planning to get together in the next couple of weeks to start some ‘serious’ practice sessions so that we can hopefully put some sort of folk music performance on somehwere in the near future.

So this blog is hopefully going to record some of the trials and tribulations, high’s and low’s, and anything else that seems worthy of scribing.