Proper, real, honest-to-goodness summer with dusty trails, deep grass, bright sunshine and long, warm evenings. I only had time for just over an hour of riding so I hauled myself up the steepest back-lane out of the village, up to the catchwater, round above Meltham, and down Wessenden as fast as possible, holding my teeth closed in a fixed grin to avoid inhaling mayflies. Hardly anyone else was out, just the odd dog-walker. Lots of birds, though, catching all the insects; I saw a couple of curlews and a pheasant.
I rode down the steps on the west side of Butterley dam for a change, they’re a bit less brutal than the set on the east and don’t have a steep flight at the bottom. The trick is relaxing into a rhythm, keeping your weight back, and not grabbing so much brake that your wheels start to slip or your forks dive.
More paving on the packhorse road, the National Trust have now completely trashed one of the best bits of this trail, filling in what was an entertaining winding groove with rubble, and laying massive stone flags over the top. The section of path in the foreground here was a bit rough and rutted and was in need of a bit of work, but the stretch in the distance, where you can see all the stone bags, was to my mind a lovely bit of stable singletrack, and it is now gone forever.
This isn’t my biggest gripe with what they’ve done, though. By paving over the preferred line for mountain bikers instead of putting the flags off to one side, they have missed a massive opportunity to reduce conflict between users; indeed, they’ve actually increased the chance of conflict arising. To ride over these flags comfortably and avoid the sensation of having your fillings rattled loose you need to maintain a higher speed than was necessary or desirable before they were laid. Riders are now going to be covering these sections much faster, and the flags demarcate the path as a very definite single-file strip, so they’re going to be flying down the hill straight towards anyone coming up it. Walkers are going to freak out about “out of control” cyclists on these paths, and I can almost see the foam-flecked letters to the local rag already.