Saturday, 12 July 2014

A Week in Derbyshire; Tour de France, Landscapes, Butterflies and Orchids.

We have just returned from a brilliant week staying in our caravan at Bamford in Derbyshire.  We had joined my brother and his wife for the Tour de France.  Straight away though we found some twayblade in the small wild flower meadow that Pam, the site owner had established.  A good start.  On our first day we opted for a walk along the Monsal Trail a few miles away and a return along the River Wye past Litton and Cressbrook Mills.

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River Wye
Meadow Cranesbill
Cressbrook Station on the Monsal Trail
Hybrid Spotted Orchid
Cressbrook Mill, now luxury appartments with apprentices cottages behind.

Coming out of the Litton Tunnel
The River Wye from the Monsal Trail.
Litton Tunnel entrance
Twayblade, found on the campsite.
Saturday and Sunday were all about Le Tour.  Saturday morning saw up up early and heading up the M1 and A1 to Masham, where we were early enough to find a parking spot and walk down onto the Tour Route.  We were soon established in a good spot and settled down to enjoy the day's party atmosphere.  Crowds gradually built up during the day, many people entering into the festive spirit by dressing for the occasion.  There were union jacks aplenty and many wore the Tour colours of yellow, green or polka dot; even the local sheep had been dyed in the Tour colours.  In one field we saw a huge Barnsley logo with equally large daisy motifs; here the sheep had been dyed with black and yellow stripes to look like bees around the daisies when seen from the helicopter camera.  In the field behind us the local farmer had a barbeque in progress.  It didn't seem long before the publicity camera came through with it's amazing floats.  Soon after this we spotted the camera helicopters hovering over the riders as they rode though Masham and then round the corner came motorbike outriders and Tour vehicles with headlights blazing closely followed by the massed peleton riding at full speed building up for the sprint finish in Harrogate.  Sadly sprint hero of the Brits, Mark Cavendish was to crash out of the race in the sprint so I was dleighted to get a picture of him sitting on the back of his lead out train.
Waiting for the action to begin; BBQ behind
In Tour Colours
The reserve outfit bought from the Black Sheep Brewery.
Ready for the action.
Mini Fans.
Supporters bikes.
Selling Tour merchandise.
The police motorcyclist enjoyed high fiving the spectators.
Publicity girls.
Le Caravane est arrive.
The publicity caravan.
The massed peleton comes around the corner.
Mark Cavendish sits on the back of his lead out train (with the red peak on the back of his helmet!)
The Peloton with German champion Andre Greipel on the end of the Lotto train.
Sky rider Bernie Eisel and Trek's Andy Schleck .
Once the riders had gone through the team cars were hot on their tail and then it was time to move ourselves.  The drive back went well with none of the predicted traffic jams although we probably missed the worst by being south of Harrogate/Wetherby before the finish and Leeds would have cleared soon after the start.  After a quick pub meal we decided to gather up the necessary gear and drove the short distance to the next day's route to spend the night on the roadside amongst the campervans in order to get a prime spot the next day; not strictly necessary but all part of the adventure!
Settling down for the night.
Settling down for the night.
The Sunday dawned clear and bright once more and we looked forward to our day; our night's sleep having gone surprisingly well.  We had a relaxed breakfast, but quickly crowds began to build up so we gathered chairs and flasks and potted down to our chosen spot.  The day followed a similar pattern as Saturday but there were far more people here, it being a hilly stage and we were on the slopes of the Cote de Bradfield.  All day the crowds built with people again entering into the party spirit and cyclists riding up and down the route either to find a spot to watch or just checking out the route.  Once the riders arrived today, however, things were very different.  The tough hilly stage had split the peloton.  The main contenders came past in an early group with the remainder  following at intervals and the sprinters in the autobus some minutes after.  Again another excellent day marred only by the 3 hour traffic jam we had to sit through to get back to the pub for our evening meal.
An early arrival.
An empty road awaits the arrival of favourite Chris Foome.
Team Sky fans have been out painting the road to encourage the riders.
Va Va Vroome!

Local cyclist arrive to claim their spot.

Young contenders.
The crowds building on a favoured corner.
Decked out in Tour colours.
We're ready.
Le Caravane.
Le Caravane.
ICL sponsor the yellow jersey.
The lead riders including Chris Froome (2nd from right) and Alberto Contador (2nd left)
The winer on the day Vincenzo Nibali (centre).
Chris Froome surrounded by Sky riders.
The neutral Mavic car with spare bikes and wheels.
Team Sky car with spare bikes.
Time to go home.
After such a magical two days the only thing left was to test ourselves out on the route which Peter, son Thomas and myself did on the Monday.  We biked out from the caravan and rode some miles on the course including the tough Bradfield Climb.
Peter and Thomas on the lower slopes of the Cote de Bradfield.
Bradfield celebrates Le Tour.
Tuesday provided another day of excellent weather and we had a rather more chilled out day with a steady walk along the River Derwent to Hathersage to look at the well dressing and indulge in tea and stickies.
Stepping Stones, River Derwent.
Hathersage well dressing.
Hathersage well dressing.
Old Barn, Hope Valley, Derbyshire.
Old Barn, Hope Valley, Derbyshire.
Another fabulous day of weather for Wednesday which began with a ride for an hour and a half on the bikes with my brother and then off to Miller's Dale.  Either side of the Monsal Trail here are long disused limestone quarries.  The stone from these was burned to quicklime in lime kilns, the remains of which are still there to be seen.  It was then transported by rail.  Over the years the quarries have reverted to nature and are now protected as reserves.  They are rich in flowers, particularly orchids, and butterflies.  We had gone hoping to find a speciality here, dark green fritillaries.  We were successful in this and I was delighted to find a white letter hairstreak that had come down from the tree canopy and was nectaring on wild thyme.
The final day of a wonderful week.
Bee Orchid.
Bee Orchid
Bloody Cranesbill.
Common Blue.
Male Dark Green Fritillary.
Female Dark Green Fritillary.
Female Dark Green Fritillary.
Female Dark Green Fritillary.
Female Dark Green Fritillary.
Fragrant Orchid.
White letter hairstreak.

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