Category Archives: Sporting events

Another year, another River Carnival on the Wye.

The stretch of river that runs between Hereford Rowing Club and the Victoria Footbridge was once again the setting for the main attraction of the Hereford River Carnival –  the parade of a dozen or so colourful floats.  For reasons I am not privy to – but probably to do with access points along the bank – the floats first have to be towed upstream along the same stretch of river before they set off downstream again. There was nothing for it! The crews had to brave the water and it looked pretty cold!!  Then it was a case of just pulling against the current – and let’s face it – carnival floats aren’t usually built with good handling in mind! The more unwieldy the craft the more resistance it put up,  but the crews were having none of it! The river was not particularly high, but weather conditions weren’t ideal –  a wind had got up and rain clouds were gathering – again.
Amongst those organisations represented  were the Alzameimers Society (I’ve forgotten how to spell that) , Aspire, Harrison Clark Rickerbys, Hereford Food Bank, Hereford MIND, Newton Farm Community Association, the Sea Cadets, Strong Young Minds, Horizon Training, local health food shop, Fodders, Sheila’s Wheels,  and two local pubs, the Barrels (representing aforementioned Wye Valley Brewery) and the Vaga Tavern.
I positioned myself on the footbridge and watched as our water babies slogged slowly upstream to take their starting positions. It looked like hard work!
The support dinghies and canoes were manned by members of CHAR (the River Wye Charity Raft Race organization) and local sea cadets  (always seems strange to me that a landlocked Midlands county, as far away from the sea as you can get in the UK, should have a unit of the sea cadets, but we do – I suppose water is water!) Anyway, they were out in force, expertly manoeuvering their kayaks and dinghies to escort, aid, and lend support and encouragement where needed.
Ever get that sinking feeling?  A few sticky moments here for the castle.

The green and yellow craft below looked tiny in comparison with some, but maybe small is beautiful in these conditions.


She hugged the bank and made her way quietly up to the start.

Then came  ‘the Fried Egg   (I’m assuming this was Hereford Food Bank)

All the crews did whatever it took – towing, pushing, pulling, wading through the water tmentalHealthogether.shirleysWheelsThe efforts of the Wye Valley Brewery crew were nothing short of heroic  – I have to say the design of their float didn’t exactly help – It looked heavy with 4 barrels on a square platform – it was always going to be a handful!  barrels8Eventually they towed it under the footbridge on the first part of its journey upstream – our hero had hold of the rope attached to the support boat and manfully hung on!
Only a mile to go!
Eventually he could hold on no longer and decided to attach the rope under the raft. Success! And applause from the crowd above! Away they went. Further upstream another snag – the brolly started to catch the breeze so they jettisoned that and at last disappeared into the distance.
barrels5When the floats finally started to reappear on their way back, as I looked down the length of the river it struck me that they were bunched a bit like horses in a  race – some hugging the near bank,
some the opposite bank
and some coming straight down the middle.
Whether they were following instructions, or just being carried along by the current I don’t know. As they moved falteringly along, the escorts were still doing a grand job, weaving through the water, ever watchful, ever ready to move in , and giving much needed reassurance to our wobbly wayfarers.
It was easy to see that coming downstream is a doddle compared to going up!
castle4 And relax!
cygnet2A cygnet in tow! Cute!
downstreamTime to tip our toes in!
downstream2 This is more like it!  Shame the sun’s not out! Could work on my tan!
swan I’m gonna get there first!
Now, you see that? It’s a stone pillar! Paddle round it! bridgeInSight Okay, boss!
intheWaterNot sure what’s happening here but I bet he’s glad of that wetsuit.
And – under we go……….
All using the same technique – no collisions – and the end is in sight.
For the trip back downstream the ‘Fried Egg’ has acquired a sharply dressed captain!underBridge
This wasn’t a race, but I believe there was a prize for the best float. I don’t know who won.  You be the judge. Here’s a reminder of the gallant participants in the 2016 Hereford River Carnival Parade.bananaMan

Muscle power! La Vuelta Ciclista a España 2015

Last month I had my first experience of seeing the Vuelta Ciclista a España  at close quarters – close enough to see the effort on the cyclists’ faces, witness the strength and endurance of those participants as they pushed themselves to their physical limits – it was amazing to think that just days earlier some of them had taken part in the Tour de France as well!
Here’s a run down of all the stages to give you an idea of just how arduous this cycling game is: (game! sorry, lads!)

Nr Date Start and finish Length Type
1 Sa 22-8 Vuelta 2015 stage 1 Puerto Banús – Marbella 7.4 km TTT
2 Su 23-8 Vuelta 2015 stage 2 Alhaurín de la Torre – Caminito del Rey 158.7 km finish uphill
3 Mo 24-8 Vuelta 2015 stage 3 Mijas – Malaga 158.4 km hills, flat finish
4 Tu 25-8 Vuelta 2015 stage 4 Estepona – Vejer de la Frontera 209.6 km flat, finish uphill
5 We 26-8 Vuelta 2015 stage 5 Rota – Alcala de Guadaira 167.3 km flat
6 Th 27-8 Vuelta 2015 stage 6 Córdoba – Sierra de Cazorla 200.3 km finish uphill
7 Fr 28-8 Vuelta 2015 stage 7 Jódar – Capileira / La Alpujarras 191.1 km mountains
8 Sa 29-8 Vuelta 2015 stage 8 Puebla de Don Fadrique – Murcia 182.5 km hills
9 Su 30-8 Vuelta 2015 stage 9 Torrevieja – Cumbre del Sol 168.3 km hills, flat start
10 Mo 31-8 Vuelta 2015 stage 10 Valencia – Castellón 146.6 km hills
Tu 1-9 rest day
11 We 2-9 Vuelta 2015 stage 11 Andorra la Vella – Cortals d´Encamp (And) 138.0 km mountains
12 Th 3-9 Vuelta 2015 stage 12 Escaldes / Engordany (And) – Lleida 173.0 km hills, flat finish
13 Fr 4-9 Vuelta 2015 stage 13 Calatayud – Tarazona 178.0 km hills
14 Sa 5-9 Vuelta 2015 stage 14 Vitoria – Alto Campoo / Fuente del Chivo 215.0 km mountains, flat start
15 Su 6-9 Vuelta 2015 stage 15 Comillas – Sotres 175.8 km mountains, flat start
16 Mo 7-9 Vuelta 2015 stage 16 Luarca – Ermita de Alba 184.0 km mountains
Tu 8-9 rest day
17 We 9-9 Vuelta 2015 stage 17 Burgos – Burgos 38.7 km ITT
18 Th 10-9 Vuelta 2015 stage 18 Roa – Riaza 204.0 km hills
19 Fr 11-9 Vuelta 2015 stage 19 Medina del Campo – Ávila 185.8 km hills
20 Sa 12-9 Vuelta 2015 stage 20 San Lorenzo de El Escorial – Cercedilla 175.8 km mountains
21 Su 13-9 Vuelta 2015 stage 21 Alcalá de Henares – Madrid 98.8 km flat

A quick calculation means that they covered around 3,170 kilometres over the 21 days, not counting time trials, and averaged 175 km a day – not bad! According to the two entertaining Spanish television commentators, cyclists need to take in 6,000 calories a day to sustain this effort – well, the training might help as well, of course – they commented that the UK’s  own Chris Froome, who is held in high regard in Spain, was stick thin compared to some – unfortunately, despite being victorious in the Tour de France in 2013 and 2015, this year in Spain he suffered a mishap and fractured a foot. Inevitably, he had to drop out, but not before completing that stage.
The reason that this year’s Vuelta caught my attention was because Stage 18 would be passing through Riaza, a small town in the mountains in Segovia a stone’s throw from where my husband was born. I know this area well – been going there for 40 years, in fact. In the end we didn’t see the tour there, though – I was lucky enough to be taken to Avila to watch Stage 19 instead. I say ‘lucky’ because my ‘guide’ for the day was a nephew-in-law who is from Avila, knows the area like the back of his hand and is a keen cyclist – result!!  As well as that, Avila is a beautiful place, surrounded by an impressive – and intact – city wall.
muralla2   muralla3
The cyclists had to ride up the slope in the shadow of the city wall, over cobble stones – not ideal! But this was an excellent spot to get some photos – they had to slow down (a bit!) so you just had to make sure you stayed on the right side of the Guardia Civil, who were stationed along the road at intervals.
behindYou2 wallBackdrop
I have to say the crowds were very well behaved and the Guardia Civil are no longer that fearsome, gun toting bunch they once were – although they still look quite tough!
crowdRH downtheHill
When I looked at the shots I’d got – more by luck than judgement as they went past in a blur – what amazed me was how closely they cycled to one another – when you thought you were looking at one cyclist you realised there was another right behind him.
Of course this race – or any other – couldn’t take place without the veritable army of support vehicles, carrying spare bikes, spare parts, drinks, food, medical supplies  – in fact, everything but spare arms and legs, it would seem – and then there were the valiant cameramen perched precariously on the back of motorbikes to get those exciting shots for  television.
The scenery in some of the mountainous areas in northern Spain was nothing short of spectacular and when you realise that these guys have to cycle up those mountains – it hits you just what a monumental effort it must be to get that fit.
teamSpirit1That evening we made our way home to Madrid  on the ‘back road’  (I think that means we avoided paying a toll!) and we stopped to admire the wonderful view across the hills of El Escorial – the 16th century monastery built on the proceeds of 16th century ‘Spanish gold’ (’nuff said!) My photo doesn’t do it justice but it looked splendid nestled into the hillside at dusk.
I am more pleased with this one of the car headlights meandering up through the valley below us.
We saw the final stage of the Vuelta in Madrid – I left my camera at home because there were too many people and the pace of the race was too fast and furious to even hope to get a good shot. Up and down the main streets they pedalled – the pelotón streaked past us  – one giant mass of multi coloured logo covered lycra.
In the distance we could hear the excitement rising in the commentators’ voices  – the end couldn’t be far off – but we decided to savour the atmosphere from a ‘terraza’ with a ‘tinto’ or two. Down this end of the Gran Vía at least the world was starting to go by more slowly.

Yeay!! We made it!! Thank you, sponsors , for your support

bhf medal
Slight trepidation before the start but this event is so superbly organised, the marshalling is great, there were  15 official refreshment stops along the way
RouteCard1             routecard2
and many unofficial ones – offering free water and bananas or cakes and even a hosing down by two eager children  at one – at least they gave you the option to decline.
The weather was great for cycling until we got to the Ditchling Beacon – a monster of a steep hill which all but the fittest walked up (I walked, needless to say ) but what I wasn’t expecting was the howling gale at the top of it! As we toiled uphill we noticed some huge speakers in the hedgerow and a cable leading up to a van. Then an ethereal voice floated out over our heads …….’Lady in the pink T shirt! we can see you! (What, me?) ‘¿Quién me habla?’ I thought. The local Scout Group was manning this stop – they have to have their fun!
Jumper back on, it was downhill into a head wind and gratefully on to the coast. The hills on the South Downs are longer than what I’m used to – whether you’re going up or down – the down hill was fun – top speed for me was 30 mph but some of the youngsters were going down like demons. There were a few spills and the odd puncture – thankfully not for us, so, all in all, it was a great experience and if you enjoy cycling I recommend it  – but I’m glad I did some training first.
Of course, the whole point was to raise some money for the British Heart Foundation and thanks to YOUR generosity Team Dawe  (my brother, my nephew and myself) between us raised around £1,250  – so we are very pleased.
Thanks everyone.