Friday 9th December Light to fresh SW
Mild, 12C, cloudy, some light drizzle but mostly dry.
There is a wonderful 94 year old man next to me at the breakfast table, John from Chatham, Kent and can he chat. John is fit and very conversational and it is a pleasure to listen to his stories about family and his life as an engineer. John has caught two coaches from his home town to come up to see his sister who is in a care home in Chesterfield. Gaynor, the proprietress of the excellent Acorns Guest House, tells me that John is a frequent visitor. John makes me feel as though maybe I am only two thirds of the way along my own life journey. What a fabulous inspiration.
An extremely rare thrush, a Dusky Thrush, from China has lost her way and is in a small village, Beeley, about ten miles from where I am as today's cycling is started. Will this incredible year ever stop throwing up such rarities. This must be the best year ever for rare birds and next year's Rare Bird Report in British Birds magazine is going to be a must read.
The road through the town negotiated, a turn onto a cycle path takes the bike alongside a large pool and into a small wood. My mood is extremely carefree today with songs and laughs and a stop to chat with a passing lady dog walker cheers her up. She says that she has been feeling extremely stressed recently and hearing singing and whistling from someone with such an unusual collection of friends has helped tremendously. Good deed done for the day, a collection of smiling people stop as a decorated Christmas Tree stops me.
Jo, Hugh, Christine, Pauline, Val, Laura, Nancy and Ian
The Chesterfield Nordic Walking Group are Nordic walking their way back into town; as lovely a group of people as one can meet. Laura seems to be their leader and she tells everyone the story of how a family started to decorate this evergreen tree in the wood and that it has become a local tradition ever since. It is gratifying to see how many decorations are on the tree and that no one vandalises it. With photographs taken and reasons exchanged it is time for goodbye and to carry on.
Through the village of Holymoorside, the hill to the west towards Beeley seems never ending; a rise of 600 feet in one and three quarter miles. At least the long push gives chances to watch winter Thrushes in the fields, hundreds of them with a lot of Starlings too.
More unusual is a fantastic male Hen Harrier that crosses the road in front of me before heading off southwards.
The quickest route to Beeley has a road blocked off for repairs. A car stops to offer advice, two young Chinese tourists, their English perfect, tell me that they think I will be able to get through.
The blocked off road descends towards the destination village and I am relieved when the two workers, sitting in their van having a cuppa, tell me that it is OK to cycle through.
Into the village, it is soon apparent that the Dusky Thrush is a very rare bird. There are birders everywhere.
Around eighty of them are gathered by the broken down dry stone wall of the village orchard. Fruit on the floor beneath the old fruit trees is attracting Fieldfares and Blackbirds, Redwings are flying overhead but there is no sign of the Dusky. A couple of hours pass.
Suddenly birders are on the move. Some walk, some run. I do the latter. Up a short hill, through a courtyard, negotiate a fence and ditch and into a field where around a hundred birders are gathered watching a distant mega.
Dusky Thrush goes onto the Green Year List, bird number 317. A lovely couple, Malcolm and Lynn lend me their telescope to get great views of a rlly beautiful thrush. It is just a shame that my camera isn't good enough to take good photographs at this range.
Happy after watching the bird for an hour or so and having had chats with birders, I need to head off to get a bed for the night. The first attempt on finding a bed & breakfast has me cycle on. I am sorry but I cannot afford £148 for the night.
11.11 miles 1138 feet elevation up 1070 feet down