Monthly Archives: November 2014

Remembering Gareth Hobson

Remembering Gareth Hobson

I was idly cruising Twitter the other night when I thought “I wonder if Julia is on here yet?” A quick search told me she wasn’t (she is now @julialikesbikes), but it did turn up an article from Total Women’s Cycling Magazine telling the story of Julia Hobson and her Gareth. The first picture in the article is Julia in a full face helmet, standing at the top of yet another awe inspiring vista whilst Gareth, also in a full face helmet, pecks her on the cheek. An image that illustrates rather beautifully Gareth and Julia’s multi-tiered relationship,  I’m not sure I’ve known two people so intended for each other, so meant to be together.

Julia Hobson Twitter

A search for “Julia Hobson” on Twitter

I first met Gareth in the Harley on Glossop Road in Sheffield in 2001. He was sporting a pot on his leg and went into some detail about the amount of metal work in his ankle and how it had no articulation whatsoever, “completely fused” I think were his words. He also told me about how pleased he was that he could finally do one arm pull ups and how he’d met this great girl called Julia.

Not being a climber or mountain biker my encounters with Gareth over the next decade or so were sporadic. We shared a circle of friends and would occasionally cross paths here and there. We had a fireworks party at some point in the late noughties and Gareth, a science teacher, turned up with home made fire works. There was much smoke and nervous giggling as fuses were lit and explosions ensued, oh how we laughed on the way to the burns unit.

It wasn’t until I told our mutual friend Matt that I was planning to buy a mountain bike that an inner circle opened up and I was welcomed in. Matt decided that we needed to have a discussion in a pub with Gareth as soon as possible.

It’s not that there was ever any deliberate exclusion from this circle, and if there was then it was completely justified. When you want to sit in a pub and talk about a subject at great length and in great detail it’s only fair to your uninterested friends that you save them from the tedium of discussions about stanchions and the virtues of different brands of tyre. So I found myself in The Wick at Both Ends on West Street, Sheffield, talking about mountain bikes with Matt and Gareth.

During that evening there was never a put down or an elitist comment, they both listened to my naive ramblings about what I wanted, how much I could afford to spend and whether I should try and build it myself with great patience and good humour before gently steering me down a route that would lead me to buy a sensibly priced bike that would stand up to what they were planning to do to it. When it dawned on me that I was likely to need to spend about £1000 on a bike and get this purchase signed off by my wife Gareth simply said “Just tell her it’s a matter of safety… That’s what I do.”

Gareth was not one to rest on his laurels or let his fused ankle get in the way of whatever he intended to do. There wasn’t much he couldn’t ride up and even less he wasn’t prepared to ride off. That said, the limit on No Excuses Thursday has been two pints since Gareth’s 8 foot plummet into the darkness of a river bed following three pints in The Sportsman at Lodge Moor, he did land it though.

Rivelin Valley

Rivelin Valley

It was on a sunny No Excuses Thursday Evening that Matt, Gareth and I set out from Hillsborough along the Rivelin Valley, a jumbled intertwining network of paths and moss covered millstones reminiscent on a Lord of the Rings set. It was my second Thursday night ride on my then new On One 456 and I was feeling pretty pleased with myself as I’d just ridden down “the big steps” without incident, a far cry from the previous week.

It was the second set of Rivelin steps that were my undoing and half way down I found I was too far forward and not carrying enough speed. I briefly unicycled on the front wheel before it buckle under the unusual load being applied to it. I landed on my shoulder and the bike sailed across the footpath and came to a stop in the river.

It was while Matt and I were scratching our heads and glumly looking at a bike with two bent wheels that Gareth came pootling back along the path having been unaware of the calamity unfolding behind him. “You’ve folded that up well.” He said chirpily and proceed to beat the front wheel straight on a roughly hewn log bench. He then turned his attention to the rear wheel and within 15 minutes I had two “straight enough to ride” wheels again. I don’t think it occurred to Gareth that this was, in most people’s estimations, a ride ending accident, it was just a problem in need of a solution. I was grumpy and disheartened and yet I got back on my wobbly wheeled clown bike and 15km and two pints later finished the ride in good spirits thanks to Gareth’s infectiously positivite outlook and can do attitude.

It was this can do attitude that has left us what is in my opinion one of Gareth’s greatest legacies and it stared with Gareth asking Matt if he wanted to “play cable cam”. The answer was yes and the video below is the result.

This was filmed by rigging a rope slide with a home made camera platform between the trees on one of the Peak District’s most iconic descents, The Beast. The objective was to chase the camera and get a third person view of the descent. At 1:13 you can see Gareth has released the camera for Matt on the second straight, then set off and actually catches him up from a standing start. Quite impressive.

The last time I saw Gareth it was for fare thee well drinks at The Forum on division street. He was embarking on a trip of a life time to Canada and the US where he and Julia intended to ski, ride and climb everything for the next year or so. So committed to this project was Gareth that when the school he was teaching at declined to authorise his sabbatical he handed his notice in.  We finished our drinks and I handed Gareth $20 Canadian dollars that I had kicking around from a trip to Montreal a couple of months previous. He thanked me and said “I shall buy a case of beer with this and sit down to build some bikes.” That was the last time I saw him.

I know it was November when Gareth died because Matt came around to tell me sporting a ridiculous Movember handlebar mustache. Maybe this type of face furniture should be mandatory when delivering bad news as it does have the effect of deflecting the impact somewhat. We sat and we talked, utterly winded and bewildered by the news, our hearts breaking for Julia’s loss.

Three years on and Gareth’s name often crops up in conversation in the pub on his Thursday night ride. As time passes the sadness drifts and we can more easily share our memories of Gareth with fondness and laughter. For me Gareth’s legacy is a call to lethargic desk jockeys and weary teachers to get off the sofa, pull on some Goretex and face the rain, mud and fog, possible injury and certain beer that is No Excuses Thursday, all in the pursuit of adrenaline, camaraderie and fun.

 

Taxpayer Funded Vandalism of the Peak District

Taxpayer Funded Vandalism of the Peak District

Like many other Twitter agitators I received a tweet with a link to a DCC page. This was in response to my tweets to Derbyshire County Council about the destruction of the Chapel Gate / Rushup Edge bridleway. It looked like this:

dcc-tweet

I will be reproducing the full Derbyshire County Council post at the bottom of this page in unalterable, Rosetta stone, screen shotted jpeg format for these things have a habit changing (£70K dropping to £30K for instance) and previous statements being denied. In this post I will address and expose the specious and facile arguments put forward by DCC.

Derbyshire County Council Chapel Gate

Derbyshire County Council Chapel Gate

As you can see from Derbyshire County Council’s own illustrative photograph, this bridleway is down to bedrock. the rocks you see in the picture are stable and are not going anywhere.  Let us look at what Derbyshire County Council have deemed suitable to resurface Rushup Edge with.

#rushopgone

If this is what Derbyshire County Council do in the name of safety I dread to think how they behave when they are being negligent.

To give you a sense of perspective the smallest of these rocks is the size of a large fist and when you ride a bike over them they undulate like a carpet of marbles. If this is what Derbyshire County Council do in the name of safety I dread to think how they behave when they are being negligent. Now imagine the surface area of a horse’s hoof. Does this in anyway look conducive to the safety and comfort of a horse or rider? My concern is genuine because it highlights the only real question I want Derbyshire County Council to answer: Who are you doing this for?

Walkers?

This is a wide group that encompasses young and old from every section of society. Walking is a unique human trait, one of the cornerstones of our evolution as a species, freeing up the hands to develop the fine motor skills to use tools, write down lanugage, share ideas, poetry and pass on knowledge to the next generation. Walking transcends class and financial means, to do it in comfort costs no more than the price of a waterproof jacket and a pair of boots. The one thing that we can safely assume, without fear of contradiction, is that everyone in this group can walk.

Now that we have established that walkers can walk, and they would have to do a fair bit of it to reach Chapel Gate / Rushup Edge in the first place, I would like you to imagine this scenario. You are standing at the bottom of a steep set of steps that reach up meters into the air, they number 10, maybe 13 and they stand between you… and your toilet. How are you going to conquer this monumental barrier? One approach could be to contact Derbyshire County Council’s PROW department and they’ll pop round and turn your house into a bungalow, not particularly practical or cost effective but that’s how they roll. My point being that most people encounter steps no bigger than those on Rushup Edge everyday of their lives, to say that these steps are impeding walkers is frankly laughable.

Does anyone go walking in the Peak District expecting it to be smooth, even and flat? Isn’t the fact that it’s rugged, exposed and natural part of the attraction of these routes? In September 2014 I rode up these steps on my bike as part of the Hope Valley Moutnain Bike Challenge. I am not especially fit or talented so if I can do it on a bike, I put it to DCC that even those of below average fitness would be able to walk up them at a steady pace. These steps were not impassable they were a unique natural feature that has been carelessly destroyed.

The Peak District Sponsored By Stannah

If I can ride up Rushup Edge steps most people can walk up them.

Horse Riders?

The following is taken from www.peakhorsepower.co.uk and I believe reflects the positive ownership of responsibility felt by the majority of those who use these bridleways.

This is a VERY CHALLENGING but very rewarding ride. The Loop is rugged and strenuous in places so you and your horse need to be fit and prepared. Sections of the route follow rough paths across exposed moorland.

The bridleways used in the Kinder Loop are often stony and steep because of the very nature of the countryside they are set in.

This has been lifted verbatim from Peak Horse Powers website (capitals and all)  and what I find most encouraging about the statement is not the recognition that it is a “very challenging” ride but acknoledgement that it is “very rewarding”. This is language I can relate to. I know it would seem to many mountain bikers that horse riders are just ambling along but it seems to me that they enjoy pushing themselves and their steeds just as much as we do.

This one sentence gives me a renewed sense that horse riders and mountain bikers are on the same side despite attempts by Derbyshire County Council to pit our communities against each other with sentences like “Mountain bikers prefer challenging, rockier routes, whereas these might not be suitable for horse riders or walkers.” Hear that walkers and horse riders? DCC think you can’t handle the Peak District’s rugged terrain. Feeling patronised? You should be.

The fact of the matter is that if Derbyshire County Council genuinely want their resurfacing to ensure these bridleways can be “enjoyed by everyone” then surely they have to cater to the one group who are most impeded by these routes. The group they have failed to mention in their post.

Wheelchair Users

If we take Derbyshire County Council at their word and their resurfacing is for the benefit of “everyone” then surely this should mean making the bridleways so smooth as to not impede wheelchairs. To level bridleways sufficiently would preclude the use of rough cut aggregate and certainly involve tarmac or concrete. I doubt even the most ardent wheelchair access advocate would expect Derbyshire County Council to take such drastic action.

So I return to my original question, who are you doing this for DCC? Surely you must have some data? A deluge of correspondence or a petition for improvements from a group of users? A statistical spike in injuries on Rushup Edge that would perhaps support your claim that it is unsafe? What are you basing your decisions on?

In Summary

Before DCC’s resurfacing we had a bridelway that was suitable for the majority of users and loved by mountain bikers (who apparently don’t count). £70,000 later we have an unstable surface making it more likely to injure walkers, cyclists, horses and their riders. Further more, despite their claims to be championing the right of access to all users we still have a surface that is unsuitable for wheelchair users.

Your arguments and claims thus far Derbyshire County Council have been shown to be contradictory, false and lacking in supporting evidence. The work you have carried out has damaged the character of the Peak District and benefits no one.

Derbyshire Country Council’s Response to #rushupgone

DCC Full Post Rushup Edge

DCC Full Post Rushup Edge