So I rode the Isabel trail, and it really wasn’t the physical challenge I was expecting. I’m a little tired, sure, but I managed it with no problems and could have gone a mile or two further if I’d needed to. The feeling is a mixture of anticlimax and achievement, although by most cyclists’ standards it’s a fairly short ride of just four miles.
The route’s rather nice, starting out with views over Doxey Marshes, from which you can just about see the wind turbines near Junction 14 of the M6. I know a lot of people hate wind turbines but I quite like the look of them. Then through the graveyard by Eccleshall Road you enter a cutting section which you stay in for the rest of the route. Since there was no-one around I couldn’t help making a few “chuff, chuff, chuff” noises pretending to be a train. The trail is essentially flat but I was caught out by a couple of subtly humped bridges over streams.
Coming up to the Stone Road bridge I was rather surprised not to find any trace of the station I mentioned in my last post. I looked quite hard for evidence but it just wasn’t there. I pressed on and found that I had simply made a mistake – it was by the NEXT bridge! The bridge taking Common Road over the cutting, next to the VW garage, and you could see in the brickwork of the bridge where the station used to sit, with stairways either side leading down to the platforms. The platforms are still there either side, one hidden under brambles and the other still poking out. Sometimes being wrong can be quite exciting!
The trail comes to an end at Beaconside, with a fence blocking the way under the bridge. There’s a sign on the bridge cautioning of falling masonry, which is a little alarming considering the road it carries is in constant heavy use. I picked up the cycle lane on Beaconside, having to dodge the lampposts past RAF Stafford. I know it’s now more properly called MOD Stafford, but I’m old enough to remember the Gloster Javelin gate guard that the current Harrier replaced, and it’s hard to kick the habit. It’s rather like the way you can date the vintage of F1 fans by what they call the hairpin at Monaco.
There’s a long steady incline followed by about a quarter of a mile where I just free-wheeled downhill. Quite a curious experience that – no fuel, no effort, just totally free movement, like perpetual motion. There was the usual complement of dog walkers and also a number of runners, who from their get-ups appear to be training for the Stafford half-marathon. There was one lady in particular who was surprisingly old for a jogger, late 60s at least, but jolly good luck to her!
I then got horrendously lost in Gladstone Way. I know there’s a shortcut through there somewhere, and could find it easily going the other way, but I rode all round the estate and couldn’t see it anywhere. I gave up and went the long way round, and it wasn’t too bad. Nice to have that ride under my belt, and nice too to know I had a little left in the tank.