Tuesday, May 13, 2008

13 May: A bike ride, a walk, and some dyeing

We enjoyed the fine weather at the weekend. On Saturday DH took his newer bicycle in for some adjustments, and we decided to give the old bikes an airing.

Some time ago, we got some maps of cycle paths in County Durham - beautifully produced, nice clear mapping, lots of routes shown. So we thought we'd try out one or two of the local routes.

One track had been spotted because of a tempting sign pointing down it, advertising it as a cycle way. Well, all fine and good if you want to cycle to a gate in the middle of some fields. To go further involved squeezing through a gap too narrow for the bikes (they had to be lifted over), then riding along a ridge across the middle of the field to the main road. Definitely better for the all-terrain bike than for our road bikes.

Then the return from the main road was shown as a "Linking Route", with part of it "off-road section". This bit had clearly been labelled as such by someone at County Hall with a map and a twisted sense of humour. Apart from the extensive and extremely muddy pools of water under the railway viaduct (just by the sewage works - euuwch!), the first part was fine.

Then came a new bridge, with what looked like a dead end. Closer inspection revealed that the path went left from the bridge at sharper then a right angle, and up at about 1 in 4! The narrowness of the following steep and sharp zig-zags and the steps didn't help either.

Anyway, above that was a lovely bit of woodland, which opened out further on into fields of sheep (you didn't think wool was going to be absent, did you?). There were several field gates to be opened and closed, but at least they did. Anyone familiar with country paths knows about the gates with broken hinges and binder twine fastenings.

This brought us to woods we know, so we knew about the steps down to the narrow concrete beam (no handrail) across the stream, and the very steep path up the other side, but we found that the fallen tree across the path, noticed on a previous visit, had been removed.

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Encouraged by this activity, we went to Hamsterley Forest early on Sunday morning, for a walk. We intended to do one of our regular routes, but found there was some horse orienteering going on, so turned off up a track we didn't know. One inviting path led to another, and instead of being home for coffee, we returned to the car park about 8 miles later, after 1 o'clock, to find it heaving with barbecues, games of football and tennis, and many acres of unsuitably exposed flesh.

A few miles further into the Forest, we'd seen a deer, a jay and 2 buzzards; there were hundreds of violets out, and a whole field of cowslips!

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And yesterday I turned my attention back to the fibre. The local SDW Guild has been asked to do a demonstration at a Durham Wildlife Trust event next month, and I have volunteered to spin. I thought it might be more interesting to spin some coloured fibre, rather than just plain white, so I dyed some Blue Faced Leicester.

The green and the apricot (behind) were dyed with acid dyes, and the red and orange (at the front) were dyed with food colouring. The original fibre was not white, but "oatmeal", and the rest of the ball is at the back for comparison.

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