Today is World Mental Health Day, a day to raise awareness of mental health issues. I have been struggling with my mental health this year, but I have found that getting out into nature for a bike ride helps to clear my head. Today was a perfect example.
With trips away planned for the coming weekends, today was going to be my last change to get out for a big solo bike ride in October, all I needed to do was fix my rear brake. But I had been having a rubbish week and could not drag myself out to the garage to work on my bike. That wrote off my plan to travel to Llandegla to ride the new trail there. Instead, if I was to get out, I had to fix my bike this morning and ride somewhere nearer to home. So, with fixed brakes, I drove to Cannock Chase. Even the drive there, in the cool sunshine, listening to the HKT Podcast started to make me feel better.
I was later than normal getting to Cannock Chase and had to park in the overflow parking – I had never seen it so busy! The first few sections of the “Follow The Dog” trail did not seem any busier than normal though. It was only when I cut across to section four of the blue trail, now officially known as “Perry’s Trail” that it seemed busy. Busy with families riding with kids, which I see as a good sort of busy! After all, Perry’s Trail is great with kids – Owen and I have been enjoying it all summer! I managed to wait and find a gap in the traffic, so got a good run through the jumps and berms, before continuing back onto the Follow The Dog and straight up “Cariac Hill”, the toughest climb on the trail. By now I was well in the zone and decided to ride all the way down to the railway crossing at the bottom of the hill, and up the other side to “Lower Cliff”. I probably could have done the full “Monkey Trail”, but I was out to enjoy myself and wanted to take in the views, as the forest was looking magical, with the autumnal colours bathed in bright October sunshine, so kept to a shorter ride.
At the top of Lower Cliff I stopped for a snack, and to take the mandatory photo (at the top of this post) before dropping in to the longest and fastest descent on my ride. A few seconds in I realised that I had not switched the clutch in my rear derailleur back on, after the bike maintenance this morning. I do not know why I did not notice it on the earlier trails, but maybe it was because I was trying to take in as much of the sights and sounds of this descent as possible…
Something else that I had never spotted on the trails at Cannock Chase were toadstools! As I was hurtling down Lower Cliff I started to notice them by the side of the trail. At first I thought they were plastic as they looked so bright and perfect, but I then noticed some damaged ones. Lower Cliff was not a sensible place to stop and admire the flora, so I carried on back to the railway crossing, glad that my chain stayed on (and remembering to switch on the clutch at the bottom of the trail). On the slow climb back up “Kitbag Hill” I also took the opportunity to appreciate how the light was coming though the tall, straight pine trees. Checking my watch at the top, I realised that if I got a shift on I would have time for a bonus lap of Perry’s Trail before my car parking ticket expired.
I rode the next few sections really well, riding as one aboard my trusty Orange Four. I later learned that I had set quite a few Strava PRs on this part of the ride. I also started noticing more toadstools by the trail, and felt like I was getting a Super Mario style speed boost each time I passed one. Just after “Hugh’s Bridge”, a section of trail I helped build, I spotted some particularly photogenic toadstools at a sensible place to stop, so pulled off the trail to grab some photos.
I was three minutes past my target time to go for a bonus lap. But went anyway, on the basis that it was probably my photo stop that delayed me. I had a fun lap of Perry’s Trail, although I did have to reign myself in at one point, as it is easy to carry too much speed. Interestingly, by the time I got back to the van, albeit a few minutes after the two hours parking I had paid for, all the other cars around me had gone. The forest is such a great place to spend time in nature, especially on a glorious autumnal afternoon that I could help but maximise my time there and bank those happy feelings and views to help me through darker days.