SEPTEMBER 2016 - NCN 55 Stafford to Newport Greenway ride

Brian, Denis and Bob decided to have a ride along the Stafford to Newport Greenway i.e. NCN 55 today and meet up with Paul from the Stafford Rangers group who looks after it.

A bit of panic set in the night before the ride as it came to light that the first section was going to be closed for resurfacing work i.e. from Stafford to Derrington. So, a detour route was planned just in case we couldn't cycle along that section. As it turned out work hadn't started so we were able to cycle along it.

We met Paul in Gnosall. Paul cycled with us all the way to Newport where we had a nice cafe stop. Paul was very informative about the route and very interested in our 'Back the Track' campaign too.

We set off from Newport heading back to Stafford leaving Paul to catch us up after popping to a shop. After a few miles we stopped for a rest, that was when Brian realised he'd left his ruck sack at the cafe. We managed to ring Paul who said he'd got the ruck sack and was going flat out to catch us up with it!

It was a great ride, all 24 miles of it and Brian did really well to complete it especially as he doesn't normally cycle many miles. Well done Brian!



County borders


SEPTEMBER 2015 - The White Peak rangers stand in Matlock:

The White Peak rangers had a Sustrans stand in Matlock today. As they asked for help from fellow rangers i decided to 'pop up' to Matlock and give them some support.

They are a lovely bunch of volunteers and did a brilliant job of the stand. While there i also met Dan Robertson their East Mids volunteer coordinator. I had a really long and useful chat with Dan who is a very positive person and like me, is very keen on promoting Sustrans more in the future.

No doubt there will be more photos etc on the White Peak rangers blog soon. You'll find a link to their blog on right hand side of this page.

Clyde and other rangers manning the stand in Matlock.

The Tour of Britain race leaders speeding through Matlock.

FEBRUARY 2015 - NCN 55 Meet Up - Saturday 28th: 

This was a very special day! It wasn't just our normal annual meet-up with neighbouring ranger groups, it was to celebrate something quite amazing, something that doesn't happen very often!

Today's ride was to celebrate the completion of the NCN 55 missing link. A section of NCN 55 that was for the most part impassable for the majority of cyclists BUT not anymore!

After years of campaigning by the Stafford and Telford ranger groups respectively, especially Paul in Gnosall, NCN 55 now connects Stafford with Newport, uninterrupted!

It was a great days ride and the weather stayed reasonable for us. Lots of ranger groups were represented on the ride including Stafford, Telford, Stoke, High Peaks, Lichfield and Pelsall.

All i can say is thank you so much to the rangers involved in making the dream into a reality, you're all stars! Oh and a big thank you to Dave for organising the ride! 
The meet up in Martin Drive, Stafford.

The meet-up with Paul in Gnosall. 

Somewhere along the route.

The beginning of the new section facing towards Stafford.

The beginning of the new section facing towards Stafford again.

The beginning of the new section facing towards Newport.

At the end in Newport.

At the start of the new section on our way back with Paul facing towards Stafford.

And just in case anyone has forgotten, this is what it looked like before!

JANUARY 2015 - NCN 55 Meet Up - Saturday 17th: 

Paul Boston decided to have a mini workday on NCN 55 today. It was to clear up some trees that had been cut back by the council recently, then build logs piles with the larger bits.

As i was free i drove over to meet up with Paul and lend a hand. When i got to the car park next to the NCN 55 i couldn't see Paul so i asked a local lady who was passing if she'd seen Paul but she hadn't. Strangely enough, she said she knew it was a cycle route but had never heard of Sustrans and didn't know what NCN 55 was! 

After walking the wrong way towards Newport a cyclist said they'd seen Paul and i was going the wrong way. So, i marched back in the Gnosall direction and there he was. By this time Paul had already done a lot of the work but was still pleased to see me and get some help.

After sorting out the wood piles and chatting to other rangers who we met during the afternoon, we set off to look at the new section of NCN 55. Impressive or what, the work has been done to a very high standard by SCC. I'm sure all the hard work put in by Paul and his friends in getting SCC to do this has been worth it. I'm also sure the route will be used by even more people in the future.

Paul getting stuck in.

Paul and a couple of other rangers who we chatted to.

Further up the route towards Newport, this is what it now looks like.

NOVEMBER 2014 - Stafford Rangers - Friday 28th: 

It was the Stafford Rangers end of year social today but this end of year's social was a little different to the norm! The difference being that rangers from the Stoke, Lichfield and Pelsall ranger groups were there too.

The reason so many rangers were there was because this year Paul Boston of the Stafford Rangers was the West Midlands region winner of the Sustrans annual 'volunteers award'. 

Lisa Hartley our regional volunteer coordinator presented Paul with the award which had been a well kept secret from him, apart from being in the 'movement' magazine which fortunately Paul hadn't got around to reading before receiving the award!

Riverside Art Gallery & Cafe

A bit of 'outside the box' thinking

And Paul receiving his award from Lisa

OCTOBER 2014 - White Peak Rangers - Thursday 23rd: 

It was the White Peak Rangers workday so Bob decided to pop up to meet them and help out if needed. It was a bit of a jaunt from Pelsall, all 49 miles of it, but well worth the effort!

We met up on the NCN 68 car park at Sparklow, near Hurdlow, 14 miles north of Ashbourne. The scenery was beautiful, the people really nice and the job in hand an interesting one, to sign a 2 mile long on road 'alternative route' of NCN 68. Although this 'alternative route' is on Sustrans maps, it's never been signed before!

We started work in the car park at Sparklow and worked our way to the end at Wheeldon Trees, using Dymo Tape to show it was an 'alternative route'. After completing all of the 'alternative route' signs we did a bit of maintenance on the NCN 68 signs, some of which had been removed by people unknown!

With the work completed we went to the Red Lion pub for refreshments and a natter. What a lovely day it was!

At Sparklow car park, L to R: David, Maldwyn, Catherine, Ian (the Regional Liaison Officer in red), Bob, Jim and Paul. 

Bit of a climb

Repairing some signs

Nails and adhesive might help stop these being pulled off again

A bit more signing

And on the way back more signing

And what the workday was really about, the Royal Oak pub at Sparklow lol. Clyde is in red on the left.

OCTOBER 2014 - Ranger Groups Meet Up - Staffordshire Rangers - Thursday 2nd: 

Just as planned we all met up at Stafford railway station. That's Pete K, Peter D and Bob from Lichfield rangers, Dave from Stafford rangers and Mike from North Staffs rangers. Amazingly Mike turned up 5 minutes before his train... because he cycled all the way from Stoke and beat it!!! Unfortunately Paul from Gnosall had a last minute problem and was disappointed to miss the ride.

We set off with Mike leading the way through Stafford so that we could check Dave's signing... and it was good. We only found a couple of problems which is much better than when people have checked Bob's signing! After leaving Stafford we started the recce for extending NCN 5 to the south side of Brocton. The recce went well and we all agreed that the route was a good one and much needed in order to reduce the length of the NCN 5 'missing link' across Cannock Chase.

Near Brocton we met up with Jean who was waiting for us there. On meeting Jean we stopped to admire some deer in the woods, or maybe it was to catch our breath after that nasty hill at Brocton lol. Onwards and upwards we set off for the Springslade Lodge café where we discussed a few things like the 'missing link' route and Sustrans publicity. Oh, we also had some refreshments, well all that chatting was hard work lol.

After the café we split up. Jean kindly lead Pete K and Peter D on some off road route towards Rugeley railway station. Mike decided to do a 'little' tour back home via Penkridge. Dave and Bob cycled back to Stafford and did another recce of the 'missing link' route along the way.

It was another really enjoyable and useful 'Staffordshire Rangers' get together. So, thanks to everyone who came and made it such a nice day.

Stafford railway station with the photo being taken by a young lady seeing us struggle with our cameras lol.

Bob fixing a sign that was pointing the wrong way in Weeping Cross.
Ah... the real reason for the ride... food and drinks lol.

The hard work of discussing the 'missing link' route. 

 And with the food and drinks, i mean the disscussion finished, it's time to set off home.

 On the way back to Derrington Bob spotted a sign that seems to have been turned around a little.

SEPTEMBER 2014 - Ranger Groups Meet Up - Staffordshire Rangers - Friday 12th:

What was a last minute visit by Jean and Bob (Lichfield group) to deliver something to Paul (Stafford group) turned out to be a sort of mini group meet-up. This was mainly because it was the last chance to take a look at NCN 55 before SCC start work on their final improvements near Gnosall.

Jean, Bob and Paul met up at Derrington and decided to cycle towards Newport on NCN 55. Of course, it was only just down the road at Gnosall that someone, I think it was Bob, asked about a café lol. Paul led us to one in Gnosall called The Gastronomy Shop. The café was brilliant and Bob's breakfast was done to a 'T'. While there we met up with a couple of ranger folk. First it was one of Paul's friends, then, unbelievably, it was Mike Barr and his cycling companion who Paul noticed riding past the café. Paul quickly ran outside to stop Mike. Well, it turned out that Mike was on his way home from an epic 600 mile tour. How weird is that, it must be a one in a million chance I think!

After breakfast we set off again and came to where a few hundred tons of base hardcore had been tipped. Then just around the corner, the place it's going to be used to replace the muddy section. Once this has been done the rest of this section, just over a mile it think, will be re-surfaced… Success and well done all those involved in making this happen! We continued cycling right up to the A41 at Newport to see the improvements made by T&WDC. We were impressed to find what was a field is now a lovely cycle track! Well done again to all those involved!

While chatting we all agreed we should have another Staffordshire Ranger groups meet up and Bob said he'd try and sort it out!

At Gnosall in need of a cafe!
Found a cafe.

 Met a friend.

 Then met Mike Barr, an amazing coincidence and a lovely surprise!

 This is where it gets bumpy and where SCC are going to re-surface the route.

 Hundreds of tons of hardcore ready for the muddy section.

 And here's the muddy section at it's best. Last year it was impossible to get through it.

 A foot in both camps... I mean both counties! This is the new track between the SCC's boundary and the A41 recently completed by T&WDC.

 Further along the new section from field to track, nice one!

And at the end of the route we found a new access to the A41.

OCTOBER 2013 - Ranger Groups Meet Up - Staffordshire Rangers - Saturday 19th:

Rangers from South Cheshire/North Staffs, Stafford and Lichfield groups all met up at 11am in Stone for another fun day. This time it was for a ride from Stone to Trentham Gardens organised by Mike Barr of the S Cheshire/N Staffs Rangers, to who we’re very grateful.

In the main it was to celebrate and test out a recently re-opened section of a canal towpath on NCN5. Work on the notoriously muddy stretch between Meaford Lock Bridge and the Plume of Feathers in Barlaston (bridges 98 to 103) got underway in February and had just been completed, ahead of schedule!

We cycled from Stone along NCN5 to Trentham at a leisurely pace. The resurfaced section was a pleasure to ride on, really smooth and not a puddle in sight even though it rained overnight. Once at Trentham Gardens it was a dash for the café, talking of which, I think we all owe Mike Barr a drink. The reason being, not only did he lead most of the ride but he also bought us all a coffee which must have cost him a bomb!

After refreshments and a good old natter at Trentham Gardens we all made our way home in different directions. The Stafford and Lichfield rangers couldn’t help but put up a few extra signs along NCN5 on their way back to Stone. The signs weren’t really needed for people on the route as it’s well signed in that respect. It was more a case of signs where the route crossed an access point i.e. a road bridge etc as we thought it would make locals more aware that NCN5 is on their doorstep.
Here we go
This is how it used to look
And this is how it looks now

 Nice signs too

A lovely canal sign on this section
What can i say, a free coffee and a lovely natter at Trentham Gardens, thanks Mike!
On the way back, the culprit admiring his handy work

 And a bit more handy work, not always by the same person but this one was. Oh OK, he's real culprit lol.
A bit of thinking 'outside the box' lol
Now for the last sign and this one was definitely not done by a male ranger, so that only leaves one person doesn't it Jean lol.
Oh well, this might be the last ‘ranger groups meet up’ before the winter sets in. Having said that, I think there is the possibility of a new stretch being opened on NCN55 very soon. So, who knows, we might just manage another ride together this year after all. If not we’ll just have to look forward to next year when hopefully we’ll be repeating this exercise more often.

OCTOBER 2013 - Ranger Groups Meet Up - White Peak Rangers - Thursday 17th:

We went, we saw and we liked. Only two of us could make it to meet up with the White Peak Rangers but it was enjoyable all the same. The workday entailed re-numbering the route along the 8 miles or so of the Manifold Trail from NCN54 to NCN549. The reason being this section is part of a loop around the Peak District. Being just that, a loop, in other words a spur off NCN54 it always should have been numbered as such, hence NCN549.

We all met up at 1.00 pm in the old station car park of Waterhouses and set off soon after this. The weather was great and we started by 'glueing' a plaque on the stations brickwork then made good progress along the trail signing all the way. Towards to far end it did rain for a short time but by then we were fast approaching the Hulme End tea rooms. You guessed it, we popped in for a cuppa and bite to eat lol. After a nice break it was full speed ahead back to Waterhouses. It was getting late by the time we returned to the car park, about 5.30 pm i think, so we made our way back home, in cars not on our bikes lol.

It was a great day out and we invited Clyde and his team down to Lichfield anytime they fancy a change of scenery. We also said we'd be back, hopefully with a few more of us next time as it really is a lovely place to cycle.

Here are the photos in the order they were taken on the way up the Manifold Trail.

The old station - Posing for a photo before we start - Notice the new plaque being hidden by Bob's bike!
The old station - Setting off
The old station - Signing the ramp

 Clyde - At a crossroads along the trail

 And after a bit of a disscusion

 Another sign added

 The group - Nearing the end

 I have'nt got a clue who's in these photos - and if i did i wouldn't tell you!

AUGUST 2013 - Ranger Groups Meet Up - Staffordshire Rangers - Saturday 31st:

The following day it was off to Gnosall to meet up with a number of our neighbouring ranger groups.

What was unique about this was that we had four ranger groups there: Stafford, South Cheshire & North Staffordshire Coordinators and Telford & Wrekin and Lichfield representatives! The weather was great and this amount of rangers from different areas enabled the ride to be a mini Sustrans networking and socialising event with lots of information and views being exchanged.

The ride could not go on to the County border because of the un-surfaced part of the route was plagued with puddles and lots of mud. So, we stopped just short of the border! After this we returned to the Royal Oak in Gnosall and there was a further chance for more discussions and networking, a great get to know day had by all.

NCN 55 near the start of the ride

A little further and we stopped to chat and pump up a tyre
Still further along the route and we hit the muddy bit so after a bit of pondering we decided to turn back
A good decision to turn back i think as we got extra time at the Royal Oak pub in Gnosall where this photo call was taken

If you fancy seeing the Gnosall Rangers blog page about this event just click on this link  Gnosall Rangers Post

JUNE 2013 - Ranger Groups Meet Up - NCN55:

The ride went ahead as planned and it was a brilliant one. Unfortunately several people who were looking forward to coming with me were unable to make it. Not to worry, these things happen and the best laid plans and all that lol.

Anyway I meet up with Paul Boston of the Stafford Rangers as planned and was I impressed, yes I was. Paul is one very active person. Paul is not only a Sustrans Ranger but a Parish Councillor too along with a long list of other activities he gets involved with. Paul has put a tremendous amount of time and effort into the route and his knowledge about such things is vast, so much so he puts me to shame!

As Paul doesn’t have a bike at the moment we walked instead of riding, quite a long way I think, maybe a couple of miles. It was fascinating, especially as I had a personal one on one step by step guided tour. I have to say NCN 55 is a ‘route of excellence’ as not only is it a scenic one it is also very well signed along with being exceptionally clean and tidy. In fact while walking with Paul for around an hour or so we only picked up a few items of litter.

The route is so good that I suggest we try and make another date for visiting it. I for one certainly wouldn’t mind going again. In the meantime I’ve posted some photos on this blog which I took of it. Unfortunately I completely forgot to take a photo of Paul who was well kitted out in his special Hi-Vis jacket and looked every bit the part of a proper ranger, never mind, next time!

Derrington, where I set off on my bike from. 

 Still Derrington.

 Overlooking the canal.

 A bench Paul told me all about.

 A very different way of living by NCN 55 in Gnosall, but a nice one I think.

 NCN 55 crossing the main road at Gnosall.

 Where the nice smooth surface ends and the rough bit for a mile or two starts.

 Staffordshire's rough bit.

 Staffordshire's very rough bit!

 A bit more of the rough stuff.

 Then Shropshire's rough bit.

 And at the other side of the field a nice tarmac path at Newport.

APRIL 2013 - Ranger Groups Meet Up - Fradley:

Lichfield rangers had an extra workday in order to meet fellow rangers from Stafford. It went ahead OK but unfortunately without Pete, Margaret and Mick from the Lichfield group who couldn't make it.

So Bob, Jill and Jean (Lichfield group) met Dave Powell and Lucie and Colin Mussellwhite (Stafford group) in the Kingfisher Café at Fradley Junction and chatted for a good two hours or more.

We swapped ideas and learned a lot from each other. It was a lovely meeting we intend to do this again later this year. In fact Bob thinks we ought to invite more local ranger groups to come along next time and make an annual event of it.

The meeting of Lichfield and Stafford Rangers.