A fine day was forecast, a heady for August 23c and sunny outlook. I awoke to an ash grey sky however and so the day would remain. The bikes had already been stowed in the back of the car ready and waiting for the day’s challenge, that of cycling from the centre of Nottingham to Newark-on-Trent adhering to the River Trent.
My friend and I set off steadily through the late Saturday morning shoppers on Milton Street and the Clumber Street precinct and bore left to the quieter Lace Market district before reaching the landmark of Meadow Lane Football Stadium and its adjacent cattle market. Turning right over Lady Bay Bridge we were soon enthusiastically wheeling our cycles down the steps to our first view of the River Trent, under the nearby shadow of Nottingham Forest’s City Ground Stadium.
What immediately confronted us was what appeared to be a foot race along the Trent towpath of a long thin stream of mud-splattered individuals. Indeed, one or two looked as if they had been driven over by a tractor or perhaps spent the night residing in a potato patch. A good solid British fun morning out in the fresh air.
Very quickly the pleasant path took us brushing into the Holme Pierrepont Water Sports Centre with a brief sight of the cold, grey sporting waters before cutting over a rugby pitch and heading down the slightly eerily quiet Adbolton Lane towards Radcliffe-on-Trent. Curiosity and time on our hands soon saw us taking a short detour to have a peek at Blotts Country Club before we proceeded cheerily down the narrow lane towards The Green and onto Radcliffe’s busy main street.
A check of the map and a peruse of an estate agent’s illustrated front windows and we were passing Radcliffe railway station and facing our first and only hill of the whole journey. Energy levels were high as we steadily tacked up the hill to be faced with extensive views over the surrounding countryside. Very soon the prettily situated Shelford village came into view. In the foreground busy Autumn ploughing of the fields was in full flow with rapt and rabid attention from a flock of shrieking gulls. A long, steep descent and a speedometer reading of all of thirty miles per hour took us whizzing into the quiet little village with barely a soul to be seen on Saturday lunchtime.
An aim of our journey was to hug the river as consistently as possible and before long we were passing over the River Trent’s only crossing between Nottingham and Newark, the dependable looking Gunthorpe Bridge. The bridge, along with the upstream Gunthorpe Lock was opened in the 1930s being a project to create work for local people in what was a time of austerity. Prior to this time the main traffic ran directly through the little village of Gunthorpe towards an original bridge with its toll house standing sentinel next to it. The toll house still remains in the guise of a restaurant and upon close inspection both ends of the long-removed bridge can still be observed in the undergrowth.
Gunthorpe Bridges, old and new
It was high time for our first refreshment of the day as we steadily picked out way towards the patio of what was formerly a fairly basic tearoom at Gunthorpe Lock and is now a pleasant bistro named Biondi. Whenever I see this nice facility it reminds me of the days a few years ago when there nothing here apart from a car park for visitors. One winter’s day, cooling down after a long run along the Trent towpath a researcher, clipboard in hand approached me and asked what type of facilities might be provided in the area? ‘Somewhere to get a cup of tea’ was the first response I blurted out that day and it’s gratifying to see that this and much beyond has come to pass. Continue reading
Sometimes one just gets the bit between the teeth. Yesterday was just such a day. The day was not a particularly auspicious one as I toiled with the psychology report I am taxed to do. Administrative problems with the report were driving my blood pressure skyward and I really needed a complete change of pace and activity for the day. I had promised myself a longer run, all being well, for the day as it had been a few short months since I’d ran more than 11-12 miles in one session. This had nagged at me mentally and in truth was carving chasms in my confidence regarding running a marathon. At one time of day I was mentally strong and assured enough to contemplate any distance placed in front of me – not so these days. For the day I desired 13 miles as a maximum and would have been comparatively happy with that achievement.
So, head in something of a whirl with the frustrations of the day, I set off for my regular starting spot in nearby Woodborough and headed off down the lane pictured above at just after quarter past four. A pleasant afternoon was an encouragement as I hit the River, Trent side, at just after five miles and having passed through the pleasant villages of Lowdham and Caythorpe. Skipping through the cherry tree-lined path on the way to Gunthorpe I realised that I was doing pretty well today – feeling comfortable and about to settle into a long run. After six or seven miles I became fixated with the outlandish idea of running…yes, twenty miles.
Gunthorpe: running by the river
My footsteps were light and economical – always a good portent, and I flicked on through the unkempt riverside pastures of Hoveringham village, sunshine fortifying my way on to the powerful Hazelford Weir along the Trent. There was no going back from here.
The secluded, attractive and sleepy route of Gypsy Lane took me to my third water stop of the day at Bleasby village’s Wagon and Horses. Wandering in through through the pleasingly refurbished old county pub’s rear entrance I drank thankfully, thirstily and lengthily from the bathroom’s cold water tap. Now some twelve miles in to the run, Thurgarton village loomed as the next target, but yet some way off. Still a long way from home and a more familiar route. Mentally and physically I still felt strong for the challenge that I knew from experience was up ahead.
Tip-toeing over the quiet level crossings of the Nottingham to Newark-on-Trent railway line, Hoveringham and more water lay ahead. A peer at the GPS on my wrist confirmed the unfeasible length of time this run was beginning to take away from the ‘normal’. Hoveringham careered into my tired view and more welcome and highly necessary water in the shape of the beautiful Reindeer Inn within the village. Sated, I curiously paused a moment to look at the pictures on the quiet pub’s corridor walls of previous party times. So incongruous with the reason for my brief presence there today.
Re-emerging into now-greyed skies, I was now back on a more regular route and heartened and fortified by this. The country lane wound and wound as I kept a strict control on my head – rejecting any negative thoughts of tiring. The hamlet of Gonalston heralded a ‘final lap’ of around four or five miles. Passing the old blacksmith’s shop, past the diminutive cottages, even a mild incline registered on my legs and general posture. Straighten up. Straighten up. Gonalston has a long lane of the same name that leads to the next village of Epperstone. The historic rural area ahead often feels like a long drudge towards the end of a lengthy run but today – perspective of distances altered by a very long run – it felt good to be so near home.
Evening drinkers outside the Cross Keys eying the runner curiously I passed on, ever nearer my destination which I knew held two challenging hills at the end of the run. Why twenty-one miles? Well I arrived, bloody but unbowed, on Woodborough Main Street having registered 20.25 miles – to doodle around the village for a further .75 of a mile seemed to be the best, most perverse thing to do right now. I was extremely weary and slowing accordingly but I wanted to show that, yes, I can go that ‘extra mile’ – quite literally. Twenty-one miles. I was pleased to stop. I really was. Water, back at the car and an attempt to straighten my head.
Messages to my friends and a phone call home in which I realised that my voice had all but disappeared. A pint of water and a celebratory pint of beer in The Nag’s Head garden followed before a worsening chill saw me head back to the car and the short drive home. Sated, accomplished and triumphant. I had proved once again that I can do this thing. I will be taking part in The Nottingham Marathon in September.