Vote till you Boak*

April 18, 2017

Lunching with the other half today, I admitted to feeling a bit weary. There’s a lot of bitty stuff to do at the moment, not just with last-minute preparations for Pedal on Parliament but particularly with the ongoing We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote campaign. The good news is that we are getting lots of candidates signing up in support of our three ‘asks’. The less good news is that each one involves a little bit of work – finding the relevant tweet on Twitter, or replying to their email, finding and updating the relevant record, trying to turn a politician’s words into a firm actionable promise… nothing individually too arduous, but it is all starting to feel a bit relentless.

The long road home

The good news, as I told the other half, was that it would all be over in a few weeks. And even better, I was off to meet a couple who have agreed to take of the role of community council secretary. Their house happened to be on the reservoir road, which leads to one of my all-time favourite rides, the reservoir loop. It wasn’t exactly on the direct route home and it involved many entirely unnecessary feet of climbing, but I needed to be away from my computer for a while so I took the long road home.

Stone dykes

I got home much refreshed, ready to face the last two and a half weeks of election campaigning, happy in the knowledge that, whatever happened, there wouldn’t be any more elections after this one for at least two years.

bike on the long road home

* The #votetillyouboak hashtag has been going the rounds on social media as a way of explaining the voting system for the current local elections where it’s most effective to put everyone in order, all the way down to the person you absolutely don’t want to get elected … Unfortunately, it seems Theresa May misunderstood


World of Woodcraft

June 5, 2012

We’ve had visitors up from that London for the weekend – hoping to get away from the nation’s temporary jubilee insanity, while enjoying such particular rural delights as a non-functioning Rayburn (long story), wood-burning stoves (sadly still necessary), peace and quiet, and hot and cold running views. At 12 and 14 their sons were mostly plugged into various screens and headphones but gamely, if reluctantly, joined in with most of what the adults considered might be fun for them. Long walks, epic bike rides (including the reservoir loop – 12.5 hilly miles – on a Brompton: chapeau), mountain biking, checking the level of the ford, making friends with local ponies, farmers’ markets, aviation museums and landscape art were all, on the whole ‘OK’ but not really as good as whatever it was they were doing on their iPods. But there was one activity which had the youngest leaping off the sofa at the merest mention of it at any hour of the day or night. It turns out that hitting lumps of wood with a real axe – a real axe that has been freshly sharpened, to boot – is even better than Minecraft. And that is praise indeed, apparently.

We’ll be inviting them up in the depths of winter next time, I think

Accounting for Goats

July 3, 2011

So yesterday was the council’s big bike event, a bit of a fun day with family rides, the usual trick cyclists, music, a best dressed bike & rider competition* and, most importantly of all, the debut of Bigtown’s brand new cycling campaign.

After a fairly patchy spring and downright miserable early summer, you might have expected it to be a washout. But no, the day dawned bright and as it wore on it proved to be well-nigh perfect cycling weather: sunny, but with just enough of a breeze in the air to keep the temperatures down. Nobody in the council was admitting to anything, but it does make you wonder under just what budget line you’d put ‘goat sacrifices to the weather gods’. Other, probably

And today, the goat sacrifice not having quite worn off, we decided to take a picnic and ride our favourite route – the reservoir loop. Summer cycling, on these rare hot days, is always a fine balance between going slow enough to keep your straw hat on your head, and going fast enough to outrun the flies. Stopping to eat may have been a mistake in that respect, but we got high enough that we weren’t driven entirely mad by the flies once the breeze picked up. Then it was just a matter of whizzing down the hill (having given up all hope of wearing the hat by this stage) and home again, tired, happy, and a little sunburned.

Looking through the reasons for not cycling in our entirely unscientific survey at the event, I saw that ‘the weather’ featured quite strongly (after lack of joined up routes and fear of traffic).

‘Not much the council can do about that,’ I said to the other half.

‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘They could always increase their budget for goats.’

Well, I suppose it’s cheaper than building proper bike paths would be.

*judged by – don’t laugh – me

Cycling: the Downside

June 7, 2010

So the other day, I set out with my cycling buddies on a gloriously sunny day with a light breeze and scattered clouds. We went on one of my favourite rides, the reservoir loop and we’d brought sandwiches (although for some reason we’d omitted the lashings of Ginger Beer*) so we stopped at the top for lunch and sat in the sunshine and admired the view and the rufty-tufty farmer who drove past in his rufty-tufty pickup truck with his little, not-at-all rufty-tufty West Highland Terrier sitting on his lap. And when we’d finished setting the world to rights, we got on our bikes and whizzed down the hill and thought about stopping to look at some plants in a nursery but didn’t and decided to go back and have a look later, and stopped off at Noticeboard Tree to put a sign up, and then sat in the garden and had a long cool drink and a gossip before meandering home.

And it was only then that we found out that while we’d been doing all this gadding about, someone had stolen a car, and torched it in the bit of clear-felled woodland near our house, and the fire brigade had come and put it out, and then someone else had come along and removed the car and by this time there was nothing left but a burnt patch on the ground.

I mean, this is quite literally the MOST exciting thing that has happened in the village since we moved here and I missed the whole thing. Cycling, bah, what is it good for?

*The husband of one of them has rather meanly nicknamed us the Famous Five, because we go out on great adventures, despite the fact that there are only three of us, not counting the dog (who doesn’t get to go because she can’t run far enough) and besides we’d all want to be George, except for the dog, who’d want to be Timmy the Dog.

While the Sun Shines

October 28, 2009


The weather’s been fairly grim these last few days – blustery, cool, raining and endlessly grey. Today looked like it was going to be no better but as the morning wore on we noticed a strange light in the sky and then – my God – enough sunshine to cast a shadow. The forecasts suggested we should get out and make the most of it while it lasted, and so we did. ‘Fancy a bike ride?’ I asked the other half, and curiously enough, he did.

There’s no other option on a day like this: the reservoir loop. I never get tired of this ride, although I do frequently get tired on this ride as, curiously, no bike lift has yet to be installed. But that’s what cameras are for: an excuse to stop and rest while pretending to take photographs of my favourite breed of cow:


We were nearly at the top when we saw this:


(and if you’re wondering, that impressive looking junction with the give way sign is actually the entrance to a farm track). Recklessly, we pressed on, pausing only to, once more, fail to capture the view from the top:


Twenty minutes of descending later and we found the roadworks, but the long delays were on their lunchbreak so we whizzed past without stopping (they were fixing the parapet on a bridge).

Then a quick stop at the waterfall to give the bikes a rest, and home for our own lunch break.

Rain forecast again tomorrow… oh well.

As it Turns Out, it Was we Who Ate All the Pies

May 31, 2014

Well, I don’t know quite what happened there, but through some existential mix up with the weather gods we had the most glorious weather today, despite the fact that I had invited a bunch of people from all corners of the country to join me on a 45-mile ride. And despite the best efforts of my bike to scupper the outing by getting its chain jammed all but irrevocably behind the cogs, we made it to our lunch stop in reasonable time, where the ordering got a little complicated as we totally cleaned them out of pies.

setting off from the train station

Then it was over the hills and far away, via Papershop Village (naturally) to home, where they all but cleaned me out of cake.

cake remnants

And then, for the die hards, we did the final loop around the reservoir to make up the last miles and enjoy one of my favourite rides of all time, although now sadly bereft of its statues after one of them got nicked last year.

road ahead

All in all a good day’s riding, although by the time I’d ridden up the road and back to see some of my guests off I found I’d overshot a little…

GPS reading - 46 miles

There are worse mistakes to make. And worse ways to mark the passage of the years.

Anyone else make a point of riding their age?

Did It

May 6, 2013

I am aware – my timeline is full of them – that there are cyclists out there for whom a 44 mile ride is a mere jaunt, an easy commute perhaps, or a rest day. But for me it was two miles further than I’d ever actually cycled in a day before (and that was on some rather flatter roads). I had a vague plan that I would get out in the weeks running up to it and do some longer rides, but one trip to deliver POP leaflets aside, life rather got in the way. I was fairly certain that I would be able to do the distance, just not sure whether I was going to have any fun doing it, or whether I would be able to sit down again for a week afterwards.* So, apart from a last-minute recce on the Thursday before, when I managed a 28 mile loop of some of the roads we would cover, Saturday’s Anniversaire was a bit of a trip into the unknown.

Fortunately my companions were all up for a ride ‘at the speed of chat’ and, apart from a bit of a headwind, the weather proved kind with even a bit of sunshine to cheer us on our way. I was quite pleased with the way the route worked out on the day. We paused to ‘admire the view’ at the top of every significant climb and the only real hazard was negotiating round some straying sheep and their lambs on the way to the lunch stop. After lunch and a slightly grim bit of A road and a final climb we were rewarded with an incredible downhill run with the wind at our backs along a tiny road that we had completely to ourselves. The other half came and met us a few miles out from home and with the siren call of cake to lure us on, we lit off along the last rolling stretch like cyclists possessed. We got home with 43.6 miles recorded on my GPS so after refuelling I escorted my companions 0.2 miles back towards Bigtown, waving them off just before the first hill and then pedalled slowly back to collapse on the sofa for the rest of the evening.

Amazingly, the next day, I didn’t even ache too much and although I’d planned nothing more than some light gardening and a walk down to the ford, when a friend suggested a quick loop around the reservoir it didn’t take all that much arm twisting before I agreed. After a winter of mostly plodding down to the Papershop interspersed with plodding into Bigtown, it was good to be reminded that I do actually live in the middle of some of the best cycling conditions in the UK, if you don’t mind dodging the odd pothole and putting a few sheep back into their fields occasionally. Unfortunately, as my camera refused to co-operate and take any actual pictures, you’ll just have to believe me.

here's one I prepared earlier on the same route

here’s one I prepared earlier on the same route

So now all I have to do is work out a 45 mile route for next year…

* It must surely not be beyond the wit of man – or woman – to design a pair of trousers that don’t make you look like A Cyclist, but which don’t have a mahoosive seam right down the most sensitive part of one’s undercarriage, no? I refuse to go down the lycra route if I can possibly help it. A bit of room in the thighs wouldn’t go amiss either…