28 August 2007

Family bike ride in Tatton Park

When I arrived to the UK to settle down, back in 1998, Tatton Park is one of the first places of interest around Manchester to which we became sort-of-regular visitors. Then we had only one daughter, aged 2 at the time, and I had’t ridden a bike for many years. The possibility of renting bikes and a child trailer and going round the estate was considered several times - but it was always too late, too expensive, or we were with friends, relatives etc who weren’t up for it. Eventually the family grew and the idea of a bike ride around Tatton Park ceased to be practical altogether.

That is, until now. We have been gearing ourselves this year to hit the paths of the famous Cheshire estately home. Because our bike carrier can only hold 3 bikes – there’s 5 of us – we bought a cheap fold-up bike. We have also acquired, from friends and at a nominal price, a trailer bike for my littlest one, whose tiny bike with little wheels would be no good for this. These two things we planned to carry in the back of our Focus estate.

Back from our summer travels, a couple of weeks ago I prepared the bikes for the projected ride. Nothing much – a bit of cleaning, pumping some tyres out, replacing an inner tube in the brand new fold up bike, and of course installing and testing the trailer bike with attachements etc.

Alas, while the Saturday of these preparations was gloriously sunny, the Sunday when we planned to go we got terrible weather – rain, wind, dark clouds, the lot. The following Sunday was not much better, so again we cancelled. The following day, however, was decent enough, and I was to be in charge of the kids (as you do when summer holidays strke). So, my wife went to work, I loaded bikes and kids into the car, and off we went.

So, how did it go? On the plus side, we all enjoyed it, traffic didn’t seem a problem and I could sort of relax about children, road safety, etc. On the minus side, the trailer bike’s attachment doesn’t quite fit my bike and I’m going to have some more work to somehow adapt it – it works fine on a straight line, but a sharp bend will make the arm pivot around my seat post in a way it is not meant to, which results in the trailer bike tilting dangerously. As for Tatton Park, I wish there was more clarity as to where you can or can’t ride your bike. At the moment, it seems as if in theory the whole of the grounds is fair game for bikers – but so it is for horse riders, and I don’t think cycling down a narrow, quiet path in the woods and suddenly running into a group of riders would be that great, for either party. Some kissing gates are clearly pedestrian-only, which leaves you no option but to ride over the cattle grid on the bike – possible, but a little bit unnerving if you have do it with a trailer bike on tow, and then ask your children (esp. the one aged 6) to do it in their small bikes.

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