Pen-Y-Mynnydd Cycling week

Some of you will have enjoyed holidays at Pen-Y-Mynydd and may have enjoyed some cycling there into the bargain.

However, now we have a new concept for you – a fully catered cycling week with guided rides everyday.

Our catering consultant, Alex Lee, will provide nutritious meals especially geared to cycling every day. Meanwhile, your humble self will provide the rides. I am a certified Cycling UK Group Leader with over twenty year’s experience of leading rides.

The start date for this trip is 7th October.

If you’d like to be reminded what a fab area this is for cycling Click Here and Here.

The booking form is here:-

A tale of Three Stations

4 New stations have appeared on the Northern network in recent times. I took time out to visit three of them in one day to see what the connectivity with the cycle network was like. The one I missed was Apperley Bridge, simply because I didn’t realise that had opened too!


A mad dash to Sheffield station saw me on the 09:05 to Nottingham, dropping me off at 9:45. Before this station was opened Ilkeston was the largest town in Europe without a rail station, it’s not that long ago that this honour belonged to Mansfield, not that far away. The station can be accessed from station road alongside or a smaller road leading to the drop off point. There is a short section of shared use pavement avoiding a narrow section of road and the station bridge serves as a shared use route as well. Wheeled access to the platforms is by ramps. All day car parking costs £3 – the car park was not well used.

There are a useful cafe and pub nearby and a sign pointing to a cafe in a nearby mill as well.  I feel sure that the opening of the station will lead to regeneration in the area.

Once out of the station, a short trip up Station Rd leads to the Erewash canal, a link off route 67, but the access to the canal is by steep steps. An alternative route is via a footpath off Wentworth Rd. This has a good surface going north  as far as the edge of town. Heading south, you can get to Trent Junction, or Nottingham or Derby by getting on NCN6 at Long Eaton. There are uncovered cycle stands on the drop off area – no bikes were there although there were plenty of cyclists around. I took the canal up to Langley Mill which took about half an hour at a decent pace, the poor towpath surface slows you down and there are a lot of barriers. There is no signage to the NCN from the station.

It’s always a bit strange to pass through your home town on the train without getting off and this time was no exception. The “Trent – Aire” Nottingham – Leeds train however makes this  possible.  (One day this may be Trent-Eden or even the  Trent-Clyde, who knows…?)  I had about 10 minutes in Leeds to grab a coffee and carry on to…

Kirkstall Forge.

This station is served by Northern Electrics on the Leeds – Ilkley run (you’d need to change for Skipton). The station has already attracted developers with an office complex going up adjacent to the station. Access to NCN66 is on the west side with a good quality path leading to the Leeds-Liverpool towpath – there were a lot of mums with pushchairs using it so it is clearly thought of as being safe. There is no signage to the NCN to or from the station. There was one bike to be seen locked up to the stands and the owner had wisely removed the front wheel and locked it to the frame – you shouldn’t really have to do this when you leave your bike at the station though.  Access to the platforms is by lifts. Lifts or ramps are fine by me as a bike-rail user but there is something pleasing about being able to get your bike to the platform under your own power. You shouldn’t be expected to have to carry your bike up and down stairs in this day and age and we have this in common with disabled station users. Car parking at this station is free – the car park was busy but not full. The Kirkstall Bridge pub is nearby should you be in need of refreshment.

Walkers and cyclists peacefully co-exist on Route 66 and it has a good surface as far as Apperley Bridge, where it becomes variable. The link from the canal to the Shipley Greenway is under construction and a little hard to follow.  Once on, however, this is a pleasant route through green space leading on to quieter roads as it approaches Bradford City Centre. It’s good to see the long-promised redevelopment of the City Centre has taken place after Bradford was brought to it’s knees by a Tory council under Eric Pickles.

 Aire Valley Greenway (NCN66)  I saw 3 “Bike&Go” users on the Aire Valley Greenway – someone’s using ’em!

I took the train from Interchange up to Low Moor   – the next train out was the Grand Central London service which has a compartment for bikes which is kept locked, but the guard suggested I pop the bike into a flexible space area for this short run, which I did.

Low Moor

This long-awaited station is adjacent to the Spen Valley Greenway, again on NCN66, and while the route is signed all the way out of Bradford you might want to avoid the urban grime and start your walk or bike ride from here. The route is clearly signed from the station – access when I visited was by a short flight of steps but it looks as though a wheeling ramp is under construction. There is covered cycle parking with a Falco stand and 2 bikes were in evidence on my visit.  The station is served by infrequent trains on the Huddersfield  – Leeds and Grand Central Kings Cross  – Bradford routes . Access to the platforms is by lifts. Car parking at this station is free and the car park was about 80% full. 

Leaving Low Moor, I had a very pleasant run down the Spen Valley Greenway, including a chat with the local ranger and then linked in with the Spen Valley and Dewsbury and Ossett Greenways – sadly the Dewsbury greenways were in very poor condition, overgrown and litter-strewn.  I hadn’t done the Ossett Greenway before and this now leaves only a short section between Ossett and Horbury that you have to do on-road (albeit not a very busy road) before getting onto the “Rhubarb Route” into Wakefield, also part of the Wakefield Wheel.  Wakefield cycle routes are iffy but getting to Kirkgate for a Northern “Fast” service isn’t too much of a problem.


Tunnel on Ossett Greenway View From Ossett Greenway
 Part trackway, part road in Ossett The last remaining sculpture on the Rhubarb Route – the rest have been nicked. 

So which of these stations gets the “Golden Sprocket” award? For my money it’s Low Moor  – good quality cycle parking and easy well-signed access to the NCN.  It’s just a pity it doesn’t have more train services – I was surprised that Calder Valley services don’t stop there.  2nd prize goes to Kirkstall Forge, 3rd to Ilkeston.






Northern TARmac

I attended the Transport Activists Roundtable (TAR) meeting on 25/4 in York. The TAR has reps from right across the North, and as an example of how it can have an impact was the session with Bridget Fox, FoE’s Air Quality expert, at the previous meeting, my report on which led to Sheffield Greens setting up on the Let Sheffield Breathe campaign. This meeting wasn’t quite so impactful, but still a lot was discussed, so here’s my report.

Expected outcome of the General Election on 8th June: (and if you want to have a look at what is forecast to happen to individual MPs in your area look here said that there are some innovative tactical voting initiatives coming out of the woodwork so all is not lost just yet.

Mayoral Elections:-

Teesside – making a big deal out of buying Teesside airport which has 8 flights a day so not much revenue there! (It loses £200k a month)

Manchester – Andy. Burnham. Hasn’t said much about rail, does plan to put in more wilmslow rd type schemes.

Liverpool – removing bus lanes has been disastrous for buses (& cyclists) new mayor might put them back.

Air Quality.( AQ.)

Govt still trying to weasel out of the commitment to produce an Air Quality Plan. What rabbit will they pull out of the hat? Clean Air Zones?

Sheffield an example of what local activists can do while waiting for the govt. – mount a campaign, get your LA to join in the action against the govt. The private transport companies need to do more as well.

Leeds has £234m to spend on transport. Proposals are Better Buses – type schemes, and three stations that are not WY priorities. There’s an aspiration to reduce traffic in Leeds city centre but no concrete proposals to do this. However, these proposals have been nodded through. LA is concerned about Air Quality but doesn’t have a strategy. First Leeds are getting new buses partly funded by LA money but no requirement for these to be electric or hybrid.

The TAR will reconnect with FoE, Client Earth and CBT to liaise on this and review the situation in July.

Diesel Scrappage scheme may occur. Local Transport Today has reservations

Transport for the North  (TFN)

TFN Board is heavily loaded with govt appointees incl SoS for Transport . So much for devolution. There is no public access to Board meetings.

Consultations took place in January and some feedback has been reported.

It’s all turning into a bit of a stitch-up. The agenda is all about driving economic growth and not about sustainable travel. (They say they are focusing on connectivity between cities, not travel within the urban zones)

Needs an independent commission on decarbonising travel in the North. We make both electric buses and trains in the North – where is the procurement strategy? Strong feelings were expressed on this issue.

Trans-Pennine Tunnel – price tag of £10bn has been put on it but this doesn’t include associated road links, probably another £5bn. This isn’t a priority for the government -hence new “improvement” proposals for the A628 are coming through – dualling, climbing lanes.

The Sheffield City Region vision for transport was described as “absolutely terrifying”.

TAR members will have words post-election.

Bradford: Multi-modal study showed that CBA for Colne-Skipton-Keighley rail link was the same as Road (extending M65).

Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. (CWIS)

Although we had been waiting for this for a long time the timing was unexpected – something to do with the election perhaps?

TAR members hadn’t had time to digest the CWIS in full but it was seen as a faint ray of sunshine in an otherwise grim and dismal landscape. The first tranche of money coming from it is an invitation for organisations to bid for business funding.

This isn’t going to provide much infrastructure which is what is really needed. It looks as though LA’s are being cut out as well (there may be ways around this) Anyway, it’s the only game in town as far as Cycling and Walking go, so activists are urged to prod their local Authorities

Meeting ended early so I made it back to Sheffield in time for Yoga!

Brincliffe Edge Road

Brincliffe Edge Road has been give the Amey treatment and is now a pleasure to ride on. There has been controversy about the Amey PFI contract but I do think that they are capable of doing a street refurb sensitively and well, particularly in a conservation area like this. The introduction of 20mph at the top of the street will make it even better.



The Uphill Struggle

The Uphill Struggle –   Lenny Fairhall 21/11/2017

The road from Llanachaer in Cwm Gwaun over to Dinas Cross rises 250 feet or so in the first half mile, and the initial couple of bends are killers. Actually the next couple of miles are a challenge too, but at least there’s next to no traffic and the views are lovely. As the final stage of a very pleasant autumn run out to Strumble Head this was a great chance to try out a bit of hill climbing technique. There had already been hills on the ride, but not quite like this.

A couple of years before Id been cycling in the same area with the same friends and one had remarked that, instead of hating the hill climbs, you should love them. You have to go up them to get the best views, and the downhills are exhilarating.

So, maybe the hills are really about your head, not your legs and lungs. Of course the head isn’t everything, otherwise you’d end up rolling backwards and falling off. But having a positive attitude certainly seems to help in getting up them, and even more importantly in converting some degree of dread into anticipation. It can help to know what the hill ahead is like, and how long it has taken you in the past. In this case, I knew it was evil at the bottom, but the gradient becomes easier further up.


At an even more basic level, you should be approaching hills knowing that your tyres are well pumped up, your gear shifters are working, your brakes will work on the way down the other side, and the cables are in good nick.

My bike is a fairly standard hybrid (Giant Escape) with straight handlebars. The lowest gear is a 32 rear sprocket with a 28front chain ring. I’ve fitted bar end extensions so that I can hold the handlebars like Im holding a steering wheel, rather than gripping a trapeze, because it seems to be more comfortable like this. You can get a similar position with drop handlebars, holding the brake hoods and of course there’s a million positions available with butterfly bars. I also have strapless toe-clips on the pedals, which means I can pull them up as well as push them down. I can’t be faffed with cleats, and being strapless, the clips let my feet come off the pedals when I need them to.


The road out of Llanychaer doesn’t give you a chance to get a run at the hill. You’re into bottom gear from the off. I always try to get into the right gear a couple of bike lengths maybe before a hill really starts, or the gradient increases. Of course you can get off the bike and walk but then I wouldn’t have written this if  I’d decided that was always the way to go. On this particular hill, walking up is almost or as quick anyway.

So I started the climb holding the bar extensions, leaning a bit forward and staying seated. I find leveraging my legs by pulling on the bars with my arms and upper body helps. I never get off the saddle and pedal standing up. (The last time I tried this on a steep hill, the chain snapped and off I fell. Thanks for your concern, but I was unhurt.)

This is hard work, but 10 or 15 minutes of aerobic exercise is not excessive. You are allowed to stop and rest when the road gets a bit less steep and you know youll be able to get started again.

Having both a mental and physical strategy seems to work. Personally I also like an extra-strong mint.

A couple of us stopped to give the lost and slow a chance to catch up. While we waited we agreed another tip for the hills, namely to take it easy early in the ride and on long hills to give your body a chance to warm up, and you leave something in the tank for later on. It’s not a race…er…unless it is, but if you’re into racing, then I’m not writing this for you.

Riding a bike in any area like this part of Pembrokeshire is wonderful, and anticipating rather than dreading the hills makes it even more so. Love the hills!

Is this person actually clinically dead? – ed


Air Quality and Transport in the North

I went to the Campaign for Better Transport meeting with Bridget Fox, a national campaigner with CBT. She really had two big issues to tell us about so I’ll deal with them first. This is in semi-note form so please bear with me – anything you don’t understand please get in touch. 


  • Air Quality


The big news is the successful Supreme  court judgement in our favour stating that the government is legally liable for its negligence on AQ.

The Campaign to support this should be nationwide  not just London

Cities are likely to be covered but what about smaller towns & rural areas?

What is the extent of the legal requirement?

BF – 80% of emissions are from vehicles. Rest is from old heating systems and diesels on building sites. Particulates can be from braking systems.

  • most buses in the North are diesel.
  • Linked to liveable cities, de-carbonisation.
  • Increasing numbers of players in the space.
  • Breathe Easy groups are growing
  • Large chunks of the country are failing to deliver on air quality
  • Current legislation is unenforced and lenient – enabling rather than mandatory.
  • Lead campaigner is Andrea Lee
  • Poor AQ is “Lethal and illegal”
  • Tests are not effective – see VW.
  • The regulators are In bed with motor manufacturers
  • A new Clean Air act is needed.

Q’s  what percentage of the problem is caused by buses, diesel trains?

  • over 50% in York.
  • Taxis are also a problem
  • HGV’s in particular areas

There are no financial incentives to buy petrol over diesel  (I’m not sure there should be- electric cars and bikes maybe.)

Light vans can be electric.

Hybrid tech is developing

This field could be a lever for regeneration of U.K. manufacturing

Cost is irrelevant in terms of the legislation.

  • It’s time to apply pressure onto LAs – please clarify with the government what they need to do to ensure compliance.
  • But risk that bus companies will cascade bus fleets to non compliant areas.

What impact will Brexit have? It is EU regulations that are being broken.

What was the impact of Black Friday, post-Xmas sales?

UWE report says that waiting for tech solutions won’t work.

  • councils are up against the buffers for revenue. (They could be raising revenue on polluter pays basis).

Air quality policy strategy  could be a necessary criteria for bail-outs (combined authorities)

Fleet procurement, modal shift, demand management.

Government strategy is about economic growth and jobs.

We must move forward with electric vehicles more quickly.

  1. Transport for the North.
  • is a membership body.

Strategy & vision comes from the Northern Powerhouse.

Formal consultation will be in spring 2018,

On the agenda:

Autonomous vehicles

Smart ticketing.




CBT – has been engaged to produce a challenges and opportunities report.

Focusing on strategic not local issues.

Carbon reduction

Air quality

Network connectivity and integration

There are positive challenges.

Hopefully this will be a positive process and involve local people.

Attitude to TfN may have changed with new govt.

Timetable for phase 2 – January start.

Landscape Quality is an important issue for the North – tourism, outdoor pursuits

Network Rail has run out of money and is disbanding the teams with skills to undertake rail development in the north of England. Resource is moving south so NR can meet their commitments on GWR etc.

Walking and cycling seems to be a long way down on TfN’s agenda.

Smart ticketing seems like one thing TfN actually could deliver.

Are the modes being equally dealt with? It would seem not and we should make sure we get that point made.

Best way to get views represented is to get them into Bridget ASAP.

In Jan/Feb, however, there will be another opportunity to comment. To Amy bcc Bridget.

Very short timescales which is not CBT’s fault.

Clause 8. – says that TfN  must have regard to the results of the public consultation

So far we feel that there has not been enough consideration given to the Social and Environmental impact of strategy. E.g. Carbon impact of new projects, A66/69

Climate Change Act.

What are the other (road) lobby groups doing? Grubby handshakes behind locked doors I suspect,

Is the TFN Board open to the public? AR will check.

DM Suggested we get a Client Earth person up to talk to us.

Exploring legal action to get LA’s to meet their obligations.

  1. Tees Valley – very poorly served by rail even by comparison with other Northern areas.
  1. Greater Manchester spatial strategy will be the template for other studies commissioned by the LEPs.

Study envisages massive house building.

Targets for using brownfield are lower than ever.

Andy Burnham has reservations – he is most likely mayor. This Shows the potential importance of having a mayor.

Manchester has unprecedented local powers on health and other areas.



Northern Cycle-Rail Forum

Friends Of the TPT

Cyclenation, Bike-Rail Rep.

Cycling UK Right to Ride for Sheffield.

Sustrans Volunteers Sheffield

University of Sheffield Cycle Forum)