I always knew this would be a day of ups and downs, but I probably didn’t expect the emotional rollercoaster as well. It was to be a lesson in planning, in having contingency plan A, plan B, plan C, and knowing when to put them in to action!
When I mentioned at Faireys which bands I’d be heading to next, one quick witted individual said “well it’s all down ‘ill from here then int it?” – If only! This was always going to be the toughest day. Some big climbs, long descents, lots of mileage and a deadline to meet. To make it worse, I was starting around 5 miles back from where I’d planned and at the bottom of another big hill. Plus it was shrouded in cloud so I couldn’t even enjoy the view!
I’d also needed to get a bit of maintenance done on the bike after last nights near trip-ending disaster. The b&b owner was very helpful in providing hot soapy water and sponges to wash the mechanisms down with before any more mud could take its toll. Not that it lasted long; after picking up the trail in Hadfield, there was plenty more finely gritted mud to splash around in alongside the reservoirs.
Then the trail reaches Woodhead, where the old railway line disappears into a tunnel where electricity cables now run through. A very steep climb up on to the moors followed. I have no shame in saying I got off and pushed for the first of many times. I wouldn’t normally, but for this trip I just consider it another way of getting there. Turned out to be a good tactic, as it relieved the strain from my pedalling muscles, and shifted the weight from off the saddle.
I left the Trans Pennine Trail at Winscar reservoir, and was sorry to do so. It is a brilliant off-road trail which is incredibly well maintained and well used. I picked up the Pennine Cycleway, which turned out to be a little more strenuous than I’d imagined. This seemed to be more suited to your ‘Tour de France’ type riders, for which sections were used recently according to the graffiti left on the road. I followed this through Holmfirth and up to Blackmondsfoot, but realising that I wasn’t going to make up any ground on my schedule, decided to kick into a different strategy and follow the road down into Huddersfield.
At this stage, I was thinking I wouldn’t make it to Queensbury on time. A more direct route would help me make up some time but I was feeling the strain.
A brief and unexpected stop in Huddersfield brought back some memories. I’d met Tom and Will Watson here for the first time doing a recording, where I was a guest with Milnrow band. It believe it was also where Rod Franks came to junior music school, and from where he received an Honorary doctorate (if memory serves).
I reached another place of significance shortly afterwards (and over another hill). As their roundabout monument outside Tesco in Brighouse states, Brighouse and Rastrick band are a world famous outfit. Rod played here at one point too, as have many other legendary figures. Unfortunately, not the ones I am interested in for this trip, as my next stop was to be found at the top of an almighty hill in Queensbury.
I climbed for about an hour continuously with very little respite. It was relentless 7 miles to the top. Half way up I was passed by car tooting its horn, I looked around and Prof Nicholas Childs was on his way to rehearsal where he was expecting me. My only thoughts at this point were, ‘who in their right mind builds a mill at this altitude?!’ Nick later answered my question – it was for the quality of the water within the dyke which was used to wash the textiles, the mill being a wool spinning and weaving specialist and a very successful business in its day.
I made it up that hill to rehearsal on time. For most of the day I didn’t think that was going to happen, but the contingency plan worked. The band were very welcoming, appreciative and supportive of what I was trying to do. It was a place I had to come to, the connections between Jim Watson and Rod Franks are too great to have not come. Many pictures of the band still hang on the wall in Jim’s former office at the Royal Academy, amongst other memorabilia. He obviously had fond memories of his time here, and the band also still hold him in high regard. Nick explained that his predecessor had made some critical decisions which have paved the way for the band to continue to be so successful, and that they still fondly remember some of his catch phrases and remarks. He takes a prime spot on wall of fame in the old bandroom amongst an incredible collection of photographs, winners certificates and banners, and general memorabilia.
After hearing the band, who like Faireys were in top form and making some spectacular sounds, I began my descent into Shipley. From here I was strategically placed to cycle on to Leeds in the morning. Until then, it was time to rest weary legs and refuel with a tasty curry – a local speciality nowadays!