@ 21:41:55 by ashtonboatman
I'm not sure exactly where the path left the old railway track, but parts of it became obviously too steep for trains. I suspect that the railway once went on to a now long demolished viaduct. The path ended at a gateway on to dreary industrial estates and roaring dual carriageways. I'm afraid Derby is a city that has never attracted me. It has always seemed too quick to replace the old and interesting with the modern and mundane. Perhaps I have been over influenced by accounts of the campaign to save the Derby Canal back in the 1950s. The canal had fallen into disuse and was one of the few that didn't get nationalised in 1948. The Derby Canal Company sold it to Derby Council who systematically destroyed it. Now volunteers are trying to get a least some of it ressurected.
I picked my way through a great greyness of light industry until I eventually found the city centre. Aside from the roaring roadways I found an old bridge over the Derwent with an old chapel of warm brick clinging to the far side. http://www.derby-guide.co.uk/bridge_chapel.html
The main reason for my excursion was to get an effective bicycle pump before the shops shut. I rode further into the centre looking for a pedestrian to ask. A woman directed me to the main bicycle shop and I started riding along the route that she indicated, but quickly forgot the details. I came upon a pedestrianised area and wondered about the legality of cycling through it. I was reluctant to walk because my foot was sore with plantar fasciitis. A cyclist rode confidently across the paved area, so I decided to do the same.
Turning a corner I noticed a small black skinned police officer. I don't know if they've abandoned height requirements for police, but this one was tiny. I doubt she would be much use breaking up a pub brawl. She waved me to a halt and politely explained that cycling was not allowed in this area and they were going to have a crack down and start fining people next week. It was the nicest ticking off I've ever received ( and I've had many). I wonder if this little arm of the law has learned to charm criminals into submission. Another cyclist came the other way as she spoke and she stopped him too. Luckily I remembered that the shop I sought was on Ashbourne Road, so I diverted her attention from my misdemeanor by asking directions. The way was straightforward so, giving my thanks to the smiling law enforcer, I hobbled round the corner before remounting.
The route was straightforward, though clogged with traffic and roadworks. It took me along Friargate, under the ornate bridge that once carried the railway near which I was to stay. It is now a bridge to nowhere as the continuing viaduct has been bulldozed away to make way for yet more roads. Apparently these are the arches that inspired Flanagan & Allen's famous song http://www.derbyphotos.co.uk/features/friargatebridge/ http://www.derbyphotos.co.uk/areas_city/friargate.htm
The bike shop was full of expensive space age bikes. I wandered round fascinated. I like bikes, and like to have a range of different types to ride. Poverty restricts me to only having the ones that others throw away. This is fine as many people are hugely wasteful. I was once given an almost new racing bike because its owner didn't want to be bothered fixing a puncture. This shop made me briefly wish for wealth. I particularly liked the ingenious hi tech folding bikes, lightweight and with a million gears but folding to the size of a briefcase. I felt a bit silly just going in for a bike pump,but it's hard to get proper ones nowadays.
I picked a suitable traditional pump from the display and paid for it at the till. Outside I went to pump my tyre but found that I didn't have the adapter to enable it to pump through a woods valve.
The Dunlop valve, (also called a Woods valve or an English valve) is a type of pneumatic valve stem in use in some countries, such as Japan, Czech Republic, India, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, the Netherlands, Germany, Britain, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and developing countries. It has a wider base than a Presta valve, similar enough in size to a Schrader valve to use identically drilled valve holes in rims, but it can be inflated with a Presta valve adapter. The inner mechanism of the valve can be replaced easily, without the need for special tools. The inventor was C. H. Woods. It superseded Dunlop's original valve for pneumatic tyres.
I must have left it with my gear at Breadsall. I had to go back into
the shop for one. The young assistant looked in vain through various
boxes of bits. "Sorry" he said, "but we don't seem to
have one", then added "I don't think we've sold a bike with
Woods valves all the time I've worked here". This was better
than the last whizzy bike shop I went into for a Woods valve where
they actually laughed at me. They are rather unfashionable it seems,
though a lot more practical and easy to use than any other type. I
asked directions to Wilkinsons as they sell adapters.
After running the gauntlet of traffic and roadworks again I found Wilkinsons, bought the adapter and, at last, got my back tyre properly inflated.
It was teatime. The shops were beginning to shut and my stomach was feeling empty. I had some bread and various spreads that needed using up, so I decided to consume these. I cycled around until I found a bridge under the railway that used to be for the canal, now a cycle track. I sat on the lawn between the old canal route and the river and ate my simple meal. Cyclists whizzed past, giving me odd looks as I dined. Trains whirred and rumbled over the bridge.
With the loaf finished, and the last dregs of coffee squezed from my flask, I decided to try to follow the line of the canal. This took me through some riverside parkland and under a concrete road bridge until I came upon the weir above which the canal used to cross the river on the level. Boathorses crossed a simple wooden bridge as they towed their boats. I wondered how they managed when the river was in spate.
I didn't feel like going home to my hedgerow, so I thought I would go and watch activity at the station for a while. I'm always fascinated by trains coming and going. I parked my bike at the bike rack. Every other bike there seems to have a noticed attached warning that it will be confiscated if it's not removed by a certain date. Some of them were very expensive looking bikes. The station was very active. I wondered what had become of the old Derby Works. I was just speculating about this when an Inter City 125 or HST set emerged from the works, which I think is now an East Midlands Trains maintenance depot. It passed the station, then cruised back on a parallel track with an orange boiler suited mechanic hanging out of the cab and waving like royalty to the passengers on the platform. It's odd that it seems like yesterday that these trains were the latest thing, but that was 35 years ago and now they are being retired.
I don't know why, but when I'm in a strange town on my own, which I like,I always imagine that, when I feel the need for company I can overcome my natural reserve, go into a pub and become the wonderful witty gregarious person that I always think I should be. This was what I thought to do next. I had spotted an old fashioned looking pub called The Brunswick, so I moored my bike to a convenient lamp post and entered. The interior was pleasantly traditional with lots of wood. There was a huge range of real ales, some brewed on the premises I understand. I was served a pint of one of these, can't remember what it was called, by a dour barman and sat in a corner. The beer was very pleasant, but there were hardly any other customers and I began to feel uncomfortably socially inept. I became very aware that I was oddly and scruffily dressed and a little dirty from my day's activities. I drank my beer and silently left to return to my hedge.
I unravelled the dirty blue tarpaulin that would form my shelter and tied it to the bushes. As I did this I noticed a wren hopping from branch to branch, almost within touching distance and showing a curious interest in my activity. At first I thought that I might be near its nest, but it showed no sign of distress, just interest. I dug some paper out of my bag and broke up some thin sticks for kindling. With a flash of flame from my lighter I soon had a good little blaze going and, with some bigger sticks added, settled the kettle on it. The wren continued to watch, though from more of a distance. The light began to fade and I poured the boiling contents of the kettle into my flask before extinguishing the fire and wriggling into my sleeping bag under the tarpaulin.