Riding the Guild Wheel, by Clare Traynor
Sometimes I say the most bizarre things, almost like my mouth and brain are completely unrelated. No connection between the two at all, so when I suggest the ridiculous it would be really helpful if those close to me remembered this fact, nodded appeasingly and just ignored me completely.
Last weekend, motivated by the rare sight of a blue sky, we made a family decision to venture into the garage, oblivious to the gargantuan spider inhabitant, dust the cobwebs from our bikes and investigate Preston’s Guild Wheel, which we had heard so much about.
The Guild Wheel, completed this year to celebrate the 2012 Preston Guild, is a 21 mile multi use greenway, which encompasses some of Preston’s best assets. I confess that, despite living here for the past 13 years, I have not fallen in love with Preston on the whole so any opportunity to see the city in its glory appeals to my reasonable side.
Not having cycled much for a while we drove down to the docklands and picked up the Guild Wheel by the River Ribble, heading away from the city, towards Freckleton. After slight alarm (major melt down) at a section of the cycle path being next to the A583 (possibly the busiest and fastest road exiting Preston) (at which point I did question why they hadn’t just made the hard shoulder of the M6 a cycle path) we thoroughly enjoyed our taster session of 4 miles. So therapeutic to feel the wind in your hair (against your helmet) and was delighted by how friendly all the cyclists we encountered on our journey were.
Our venture took us along the canal, resplendent in its autumnal glory, and we cycled through a carpet of crisp, golden leaves, past Savick Brook, detouring slightly to head home via Haslam Park. We arrived home refreshed, rejuvenated and only slightly saddle sore. It was at this point, with an unjustified sense of achievement and an unusually elevated dose of serotonin coursing through my veins, I challenged my husband, Mick to complete the entire Guild Wheel the following weekend when our daughter, Amy went away with school. If woman challenges man it is inevitable that man will rise to challenge.
Friday arrived and Amy left for her activity weekend to Robinwood, with school. The first time our daughter had been away without us. It was bitingly cold but once more there were clear, blue skies and a challenge is indeed a challenge, so we wrapped up, packed a flask of coffee and some life saving snacks (bananas and Mars bars) and again straddled the saddle.
With hindsight I should have realised I was in trouble when my saddle soreness began after reaching the end of our drive (15 feet!) However this was woman against man and I would not be deterred. This time we cycled to Savick Road and picked up the Guild Wheel towards Cottam, passing the Millennium canal and UCLAN Sports Arena. Beautiful scenery led us to Preston Marriott and we took an old familiar path along Durton Lane. Slightly bemused I recalled how pre parenthood Mick and I used to cycle from Longsands to the Marriott, along Durton Lane, in order to have a good workout in the gym, followed by a swim and then would cycle back home.
Oh how times change and how much longer Durton Laner seems to be these days!! A gentle incline all the way along Durton Lane, not eased by the fabulous homes which grace it, I found this one of the toughest points for me. By this time the sun was bright and I realised that 24 layers of clothing was probably unnecessary, my bottom was agony, my fingers were numb and I was beginning to realise I was in no shape for a 21 mile bike ride.
We stopped briefly for me to remove a few layers of clothing and provide a couple of minutes respite for my weary bottom! As we resumed our mammoth journey I could not shake the feeling that death by Midgery Lane was inevitable.
At my fittest I struggled with its gradient. Maybe I should get a taxi up to the top? Sheer delight ensued when the path took us, not up the killer hill as I’d anticipated, but through Bluebell Woods to Fernyhalgh Lane and on through the woods at the other side until meeting Fulwood Row. Granted this part of the journey has its share of cheeky slopes, one of which I had to dismount and walk and at one point I was overtaken by walkers, but by and large this was a pleasant section, full of memories for us both of days walking a baby Amy in her pram when we lived in Fulwood.
A slightly less scenic section took us to the Crematorium and beyond to Red Scar Woods. The woodlands are simply stunning this time of year, with spectacular views over the horse shoe bend of the River Ribble.
At this point I confess I saw Preston in a new light and realised that sometimes we have to seek beauty for it is all around us even if it is not always blatantly obvious. Struggling uphill is inevitable for a slightly overweight 42 year old but even I was dismayed to discover that downhill can be equally impossible!
Still dismounting the killer hill through the woods, on a path made slippy by wet leaves, was a top decision, confirmed to me by the experienced cyclist who flew past me, smirking at me as I escorted my bike gingerly downhill, and fell off part way down, landing with his feet in the air, although thankfully not injured.
The woods took us to Brockholes Nature Reserve – this marked roughly half way for us and was the agreed point of rest and replenishment. A good meal and pot of tea restored our jelly legs to normality. Hugely impressed with Brockholes too I must add and will definitely be taking Amy down there.
By the time we were leaving Brockholes the temperature seemed to have plummeted and it felt positively arctic! My layers were donned once again and I reluctantly mounted my bike, which my bottom protested against on a massive scale and I now deemed as the evil enemy.
This was the point at which I began to grumble with a vengeance. Well Mick interpreted it as grumbling, although to me it was a mantra to get me through the next 10 miles or so. My rantings ranged from “Oh my bum” to “cup of tea and a custard cream”, repeated over and over. Mick kept a fair distance in front – I realise now so he could not hear me!
By the time we’d reached Avenham Park, having seen parts of Preston I didn’t know existed, I knew we were on the home stretch. I wish I could say that knowledge helped but, sadly, it didn’t. We reached the docks and I started to believe my coccyx may be unnaturally long, resulting in an injury which would require traction for the next 3 months.
Home for us is so close to the docklands it would have been very easy to have left the Guild Wheel at this point but instead we decided to stop for a coffee and plough onwards. Thank goodness for flasks! I took a big glug of the much needed hot, sweet, strong coffee, joking that the caffeine would see us completing the next 4 miles in record time. I spat it out in disgust – stone cold! Aaaaarrrrggghhh……new flask needed for sure.
Devastated I decided to make my seat more tolerable for the remainder of our trip. I wrapped my body warmer around my seat and secured it with the woolly hat Mick had been wearing. It was huge! A huge, round, monster of a seat, which looked like Mick’s head! Oh how I laughed as we set off cycling again.
The A583 nearly saw me throw the towel in and ring my friend, Kath, to come rescue me but as Mick plodded onwards so did I, repeating to myself over and over “I hate this, I hate this, I hate this”. Once we reached Savick Road we were only a mile away from home and it was the longest mile of our journey. Close to tears as we reached home I dismounted my bike and wobbled to the door.
We high fived for we had done something quite momentous – completed a journey neither of us was fit enough for!! Every ounce of us ached and we were completely exhausted.
I’m so glad to have seen such scenic parts of Preston and realise what beauty there is in this city afterall. I will enjoy parts of the Guild Wheel again once I get a suitable seat and my bottom has recovered adequately but I doubt I will attempt the full 21 miles again. In conclusion I have discovered I am more a downhill cyclist and that my bottom is the wrong shape for serious cycling……..so if anyone knows of a strictly downhill cycle way or a bucket seat for bikes I would be really pleased to hear from you.
Happy cycling guys and Victoria Pendleton you can rest assured I am no competition for you!!
Reprinted courtesy of Clare Traynor