Turning Left in July

July 17, 2017

garden open sign

I do like it when plan and the weather forecast come together. As regular readers will know I am trying to do a new route on my bike each month so I was interested to note another garden was due to open this weekend – not too far away, along a lovely little road for cycling, and crucially advertising tea and cake for visitors. It was described as a hillside garden, which interested me because our garden is on a side of a hill too, and I hoped to pick up some tips for creating a more sheltered space.

turning left

The forecast – St Swithin notwithstanding – played ball on Sunday so off I set in gorgeous sunshine. Stopping for a few refreshments on the way (the wild raspberries have been incredible this year and I spent a good few minutes just shovelling these into my face. I also encountered some peach coloured ones which were even more gorgeous but I had scarfed the lot before I thought to take a photo).

wild raspberries

I have cycled some of this road before, but never from the new house, so it was a satisfying mix of route finding and rediscovering old favourites. It was a fairly gentle uphill gradient, and into a stiffish headwind, but I knew I’d get all that back in spades on the way home. And besides, I was going to have to earn my cake.

road ahead in July

It was only as I found the turnoff to the place itself that I remembered the ‘hillside’ bit. And noticed the road switchbacking up the side of the hill in question. And added one more stretch of road to the short list of hills that have defeated me in the area … still, it was worth it for the added kudos among the garden visiting crowd of having cycled there. And the slice of cake the size of my head that I ate with my tea.

hillside garden

Anyway, it turns out the answer to mixing a hillside site with sheltered spots is to have about two acres to play with and plant lots of trees. I shall just have to keep visiting gardens until I find one that’s a bit more to our scale.

garden vista

More garden porn below.

veg plots

I always make a beeline for the veg plots on these visits


steps and flowers

Next month will be a bigger adventure, with more cake, if all goes to plan. And the month after that too …

Exciting Food Miles News

July 14, 2017

On a somewhat frustrating shopping trip this afternoon* I passed a man burrowing in a hedge who turned out to be foraging for gooseberries. We’ve been enthusiastic pickers of raspberries and blackberries, but gooseberries in the hedgerow is a new one for me, and I was all set to pick a few of my own on the way back, but it turns out that it’s much harder to spot gooseberry bushes in a hedgerow when there isn’t someone picking them, and by the time I had worked out I had overshot I was buggered if I was going back down the hill to look again. Watch this space. Or, you know, don’t.

I also forgot to take out any cash, which means our planned expedition to the community-owned pub in New Nearest Village has had to be postponed. We’ve only lived here almost a year, and have yet to manage to actually get to it.

On the other hand, the stars (pound coin, need for eggs, remembering need for eggs, eggs actually present) have finally aligned and I have managed to buy eggs at the New Cottage That Sells Eggs.

Cottage that sells eggs

New Cottage that Sells Eggs. I feel those screeching tyre marks tell a story …

And they say cyclists don’t contribute to the local economy.

* The shiny new Aldi, which has an entrance off the cycle path, thus saving a frustrating wait for a standard Bigtown Issue toucan crossing which is designed on the assumption that people like nothing more than standing on an island in the middle of a four-lane road, breathing in fumes, and which also doesn’t require you to cycle past the exit of the KFC drive thru, but which does require a certain level of athletic ability, doesn’t sell pine nuts. Or Guardians. And now for the life of me I can’t think why I thought it might. Nice cycle parking though.

Summer Comes but Once a Year

July 12, 2017

Sometimes Twitter gets it bang on

As is traditional when we get a couple of days’ sunshine, I am currently stuck under a pile of All The Work, so I’ve mostly had to just sit and watch it out of my study window, but I did have an afternoon appointment in town.

summer clouds

You honestly couldn’t pay me to drive on a day like today, because it was my only real chance to enjoy the sunshine.

On my way in I encountered a friend, a photographer, who has started this little project on Facebook. After chatting for a while, she offered to add me to the roster of ‘humans’ and took my photo there and then,* and then we went on our way

It was only as I was riding home again later in the afternoon, that it struck me how fortunate we are to live in a place where one can have a brief photo shoot in the middle of the road, and not be interrupted by a single vehicle, and not even think it remarkable.

summer reflections

It scrubs up quite well when the sun shines, too.

* As I have to write a few words before it gets put up, I may not be appearing there for a while

101 Uses for a Brompton: Ferrying Cake

July 8, 2017

I’ve long argued that the rural economy around here runs largely on tray bakes and our local summer bike rides are no exception – since we’ve started providing home baking as part of the package, numbers have gone from strength to strength.

There’s just one problem: much as I love my cow pannier bag, it’s exactly the wrong shape for carrying cake tins, so everything I bake has had to be robust enough to handle being stuffed into it sideways. There’s a reason why cyclists are so fond of flapjacks, which are effectively indestructible. This week, though, I was experimenting with iced lemon cupcakes* which meant a more civilised conveyance was required. I’m pleased to report that the cakes made it down intact, and the leftovers were also safely carried back up the hill to home, where I suspect they will not last long.

cake tin in Brompton Basket

*top tip: lemon curd combined with icing sugar makes a wonderfully quick and easy lemon icing**

** top tip no 2: don’t try and eat the surplus with a spoon when you make too much though. A little goes a loooong way

Very British Problems

July 5, 2017

So when you’ve told someone that you’re going to be late to a meeting because you’ve got another meeting beforehand and they’re eight miles apart and you are travelling by bike …

… and then your first meeting is effectively cancelled because nobody shows up …

… and it’s pissing down, and has been all day, and your waterproof trousers have proved Not Waterproof in Scotland, and your only spare gloves are your ridiculous winter ones …

path end

Do you a) cycle as quickly as possible to your second meeting and take the opportunity to dry off, because that would be the sensible thing to do?

interesting new signage

Or b) decide to add an extra couple of very wet miles to your route so that you don’t have to show up early having said you’d be late, a decision that appeared to make the most sense to me at the time?

At least option b gave me the opportunity to photograph some new cycling infrastructure…

Ride Leader

July 1, 2017

So, one advantage of how slowly I cycle up the hill on my way home is that if the cows are standing at the gate at the field near the top then I can start talking to them as I approach and – because they are cows and are generally a bit bored and possibly hoping for tasty cow treats – when I then tell them to follow me as I pass …

hello cows

… they generally do.

This probably amuses me more than it should.

Looking but not Seeing

June 30, 2017

I was in town today running various errands, and also hunting out poor on-road cycling infrastructure to use in the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain’s latest toy, Insert Loved One Here.

insert loved one here

Actually, one of the good things about cycling in Bigtown, it’s that we don’t have too much of this sort of thing. The Coonsil’s approach to cycling may be lacking – we may not have a joined up network and it may be shared with pedestrians and their extendadogs, and it may take a week to cross at the lights, and they may never grit the paths in winter – but at least they mostly recognise that slapping some paint and a poorly drawn bicycle onto a scary road isn’t going to help much.

Still, I knew that there was a roundabout near Morrison’s that had some ‘suicide’ lanes around the outside (funnily enough, it’s where half the cyclists in Bigtown have been knocked off their bikes, it seems) so I headed there and took a couple of photos, then joined the road with the worst cycle lane in Bigtown on it where I failed to take any photos because I was concentrating on not being squashed by left-turning traffic. That left the roundabout by the station, which also has a few faded bike lanes around the edge – but it was getting a bit late and I had things to do, so I decided the one photo I had would be good enough and headed home.

cycle lane

And it was only as I reached the turnoff at the outskirts of Bigtown that I noticed this beauty, a bike lane that I never use because of all the places where I may want to be on my bike, cycling right across the mouth of a road used by bin lorries and into the back of a parked car is never one of them. I must have cycled past it literally hundreds of times but its existence has barely registered on me, despite the fact that I spend far more time than is healthy thinking and talking about cycling infrastructure.

No wonder the drivers don’t see us. Frankly, as a species, we’re just very poorly adapted to driving something as fast and as dangerous as a car, compared to something like a horse which notices absolutely everything. You can forget the driverless car – when it comes to transport our real mistake was to persist with the horseless carriage.*

* Although, having cycled through the residue left by the horse element of Bigtown’s Guid Nychburris parade, I can see that there are some downsides to using equines for urban transport