Pilatus in Switzerland. Another excellent running area and it must play host to the highest blackbirds or crows in the world. These birds just simply allowed me to get my breath back and get the camera out and take a photo of them. Really bizarre.
The cable car station.
Were they tame or what. I dont know but they just didnt budge. As you got near them they just hopped around the edge wall.
This wasnt taken with my current camera and I was no further than a few inches away from the bird.
Im not great at taking pictures of wildlife ( THEY KEEP MOVING Arrrggggghhhh ) haha. But these I like.
This photo was rather apt bearing in mind that I spend hours and hours driving on the Motorways of the UK. With all the snow we have had its been slow going. I took this photo of tower crane sections stacked up in HTCs crane yard at the side of the M1 near Meadowhall shopping centre. It just seemed to sum up the state of Britain's roads in the snow.
A sight I have become familiar with over the last few weeks but now the snow has gone its just a memory. My fell shoe and Badger's paw prints. You could see our tracks for days at times and now its just mud. Ah well maybe we will get some more yet otherwise it the memory will have to last a year.
A rare trip today down to the land of White Gold. The clay pits around St Austell are in one word massive. Ive been going there for many a year and Ive got lost everytime. The moon like landscape has been created over the last 250 years as clay miners have battled to extract the precious clays from the earth. The pits clays are the purist in the world and uses include tablets, papers, ceramics, and make up. But in reality everything you touch on a daily basis probably has some form of clay in it as a filler. The problem comes in extracting it. A ratio of 1 tonne of clay to 11 parts quartz, mica and a zillion other minerals make it very very expensive to remove and it is highly abrasive. Ive worked in mineral extraction for 25 years and nothng else comes close to the way this stuff wears things out. So today I went to inspect some work with a view of providing a quotation. A slight problem of a 600odd mile journey but hey ho. So 3.45 am and 5 hrs later I arrive in Nanpean known locally as Namps. The Eden Project is here but I cant help look at the devastation hat has been inflicted on the countryside with the urge to dig out this highly prized mineral.
Nanpean in the heart of the Clay Pit Districts
If you dont sign in and collect your miners tally from the operations office you will never be allowed on site again. No excuses. Safety is paramount in the Pits.
Collect your green tally on entry and return it when you leave
The pits make exciting mini mountains all around the area but the devastatin on the land is immense It would take an infinity and 100s of millons of pounds to reinstate the spoil pits. Eventually they will be moved as more of the precious clays lie directly under the heaps.
Some of the smaller older heaps look like pointy hats. The larger more recent spoil piles are more stepped and tiered to stop landslides occuring. Two very old heaps that have re seeded themselves and are now green. Thousands of trees are being planted to try and reinstate the area.
Years ago thousands of locals were employed by ECC minerals and then Imerys. Nowadays a fraction of people work in the pits. Places like Roche, St Dennis, Nanpean all relied on the pits to sustain them. Not anymore.
I doubt if there are more than 400 people employed in the whole area.
Some of the pits are 150metres deep and Im told not one Pit has ever been bottomed or worked out.
In an area of about 40 square miles is the worlds most purest, richest prized clay.
So I visited Mercian Cycles today to order my Winter bike. Well not really its just an excuse for another bike. Well no I will be down to three machines when this one is ready as my lovely Bianchi will be stripped of its faithfull Campagnolo parts to be re used on this frame and fork.
Mercian have been building bikes since 1946 and to own one is really to enter into cycling legend. They are world renown for there craftmanship. I couldnt afford one years ago but ive decided to take the plunge. I was expertly measured and id written a few measurements down prior to visiting and they actually wasnt quite spot on but near enough. Im very small and the frame size will be slightly under a 52cm frame. This is near to the smallest frame that Mercian can supply without having big toe overlap problems. Anyway Ive decided to go for a Strada Speciale in dark blue with white headband and barbershop pole stripes down the seat tube. The lugs will be highlighted in white and I might have the forks chromed if I save a bit more money up before its built.
The famous Mercian headtube badge
The Strada Speciale lugs
It takes a while to get a frame and forks, normally a few months but it gives you time to save up for your dream bike.
By using parts off another machine it can be a lot more cost effective. I will just get Mecian to fit the Veloce bottom bracket and put the chain on then the rest I will re fit myself.
Tomorrow sees a trip to Mercian Cycles in Derby. I purchased my current bike in 2007 and it is a Reynolds 953 tubed stainless frame made by Rourke Cycles of Stoke On Trent . Ultra light and in my view walks all over a carbon framed bike. The ride is unreal, amazing. I rode Bianchi Bikes for a few years and started saving for a custom made bike in 2002. So five years of putting away the pennies and I put a deposit down on my frame and forks and a couple of months later collected the fully built bike. A large amount of money and some people have said to me that the amount of money I spent wasnt realistic BUT I work hard and wouldnt have purchased it unless I didnt have the money. Rourke Cycles is a quality bike shop. Custom builds are there speciality. I was in the shop with Brian for about 5 hours with him ensuring that I recieved truly top notch machine. Ive ridden up to 157miles on it. Whether im doing a 40 odd mile fast time trial training ride to Matlock and back or riding a 100mile sportive this back just does what it says on the tin.
Problem is its tooo good for winter so im buying another steel frame and fork which will be my bad weather hack.
Ive always wanted a Mercian bike from when I was younger but at the time I ordered my 953 they were not in the position to offer me one. So Im going to order a Reynolds standard 631 frame and fork. This will give me a more softer ride for those winter days when you are not going flat out and just want a steady plod. Mercian like Rourke offer custom builds but like I say this comes at a price. These bikes are not mass produced and are made to measure. I can virtually tell the framebuilder what size I am but its still a good idea to be measured up correctly for your frame. This biggest cause of riders not enjoying riding a roadbike is incorrect fitment of the bike to the rider. A rider cannot be made to fit a bike, the bike must be made the proper size. Companies such as Rourke, Mercian, Dave Yates, Bob Jackson are masters at this.
A true flying machine.
The deep rims that I selected have been good but can be difficult in high winds. But if its speed thats needed this bike delivers. Custom builds are not cheap but this bike will last me out easily. So in the long run very economically sound. Roll on summer
Summer of course, seems a long way off doesnt it. I took these pictures in Switzerland in the Alps. Ive never seen mountain flowers like it and probably never will again. With all the snow in Britain at the minute I thought Id post these to bring a memory or two of summer.
The last job of the year saw a quick dash out to British Sugar at Newark. I get to see loads of places and the sugar factories have to be visited a few times each year. The hardest job is getting in. Sign in , Induction, Safety Video, Pass, etc etc. So I took a few snapshots.
Nice sign and a big employer in Newark. British Sugar seem a good employer There season is in full swing. The CAMPAIGN as its commonly known starts in Oct and runs through until May. Thats when the sugar in the UK is made. The sugar beet trucks stacked up with loads of sugar beet awaiting procesing.
Safety is paramount inside the plant
It was a bit murky once inside but the smell was sublime. The Molasses plant is a treat.
It still amazes me how much goes into the manufacture of a bag of sugar
There are not so many Sugar Plants left now within the UK but I still manage to get into the few that are left once in a while.