I’ve still got a few kilos to shed but I’m not supposed to go to the gym when my muscles are still recovering so bike ride it is. By the time I persuaded myself to go after a Sunday morning routine of coffee, breakfast, gardening, reading (currently Norman Doidge – The Brain that Changes Itself), it was nearing midday so my options were limited to places a bit more local. When I search the Web for cycling routes, most that are presented are for road cycling but I have a mountain bike. I resorted to just opening up a map, scanning the area for green patches and found Rother Valley Country Park. I’m sure I’d been there before in my childhood. It’s a water activities centre and the picture of someone mountain biking on the homepage and the 20 min. drive there convinced me it was worth a visit.
It’s a very well-maintained park but I wouldn’t describe it as picturesque. It’s family-oriented with a nice paved path running around the lakes. I found myself weaving in between toddlers on training bikes and all the geese flocking to the families doling out bread. Why are people still feeding bread to ducks in 2019? It causes no end of problems and even algal blooms. The lake couldn’t be used for water sports because of the high levels of toxic algae – I’m not holding swathes of bread-wielding ecologically-ignorant families accountable; but it probably doesn’t help. There’s no way I’m stopping by to patronise the large large non-English speaking asian family congregating around the water’s edge with bags of cheap bleached white bread vehemently swung by toddlers waddling over to the expectant geese.
I’m not sure if educating people makes a difference anyway. How much education is required to not leave empty beer cans near benches? Also when you’re battling the perception that bloating wildlife with bread is someone’s divine right because that’s what they did as kids, it’s a battle. No, no, it’s easier to take note, come home and write about it on a blog that nobody reads. At least I haven’t made some generalisation about how disconnected Western behaviour is often detrimental to nature.
After a lap of the two lakes, I left the park and crossed the outskirts of Beighton (nothing noteworthy there) and had a lap around the Shirebrook Valley Nature Reserve (no website, just Tripadvisor page). I do love ‘proper’ nature but I have to admit this place felt a little disappointing. Perhaps it was because I was cycling and not walking. The paths were great for cycling but you come across a nightmare of a gate every five minutes. They’re the most pointless obstacles because you have to twist your handlebars awkwardly and shimmy through. The visitor centre was closed (on a Sunday in the summer?), the damn was, well, not really a damn; the dipping pools couldn’t really be seen with any view obscured by a large sign; and the amphitheatre was just a meadow that was roughly circular in shape.
I returned back to Rother Valley CP from the nature reserve. I called in at a craft shop and had a few moments sitting on the deck outside their cafe. A really good latte and (processed) lemon tart was very reasonable for £3. The ducks are obviously conditioned by people as they just seem to follow you about close to the waterline. I left the car park and managed to rip my mountain bike off the back of the car due to a height restriction barrier. Luckily the damage was only a strap broken – could have been so much worse. But oh no, I managed to top off my day by getting grease onto my brake pads when I was cleaning/maintaining the bike when I got back so that’s new pads.
I’d recommend Rother Valley CP if you have small kids and want an easy bike ride, barbeque/picnic – worth a visit and it would be a nice remedy if you’re ever unfortunate enough to have visited the abhorrent Crystal Peaks shopping centre, nearby. I reserve judgement on the Shirebrook Valley Nature Reserve – maybe if they had some sort of ecology open day, I’d stumble along but I probably wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to visit, considering the alternatives in the surrounding areas.