Cycling Break

Cycling in the early morning Gloucestershire countryside

Nothing spectacular – but it was special to me… It was billed as the longest bike ride I have done in many years, and easily the longest since we moved here to Gloucestershire early in 2012. A few weeks ago I had decided that July 11th was the day I was going to do a sponsored bike ride. It was for a good friend who will shortly be moving to the Philippines for a year. What could I do? My knees are not very good, nor is my hip, but I did have a bicycle in the garage and was just waiting for a challenge!

One problem we face in England is that the weather is never predictable. Set a date in advance and you don’t really know what weather you will get.  Summer had finally arrived and the week was set to be fine and sunny – but it was getting hotter by the day! That was both good news and bad news – unless I planned an early start.

I had been making my list of things to do and things to take – and the night before, I packed my rucksack – snacks, bottles of drink, sticky plasters, towel, camera and other odds and ends. My tyres were inflated to a good pressure, and my digital device set and checked to record how far I would go…After a good night’s sleep I couldn’t wait to get started…

A few minutes to 7am and I was off! My wife was still in bed, but a neighbour across the road waved me good bye. It was the very best of weather – a clear sky, but still cool at 12 degrees C. Invigorating! Within 5 minutes I was crossing Sodbury Common. A morning jogger passed me (coming the other way!) and we exchanged greetings. I was in the process of meeting up with a whole new fraternity of keep-fit fanatics and sport enthusiasts, mostly cyclists with far more elaborate gear than I had…

My guidelines suggested that I stop for a break every 30 minutes. My 25 minutes to Horton was therefore a good time to stop, take a picture or two, do a travelogue Tweet (with picture), have a drink, consult my map – and then continue in a northerly direction. This was new territory and I looked forward with great anticipation.

It was beautiful in that low, early morning light. The greens were brilliant, the birds were singing as the gentle breeze made the long grass and wild flowers bow gently in its caress. Aaaah! How privileged I felt. Could it get any better? Surely there has to be a God who has made everything so exquisitely beautiful!

The cycling was tough in places and I was thankful for my 12-speed – but sometimes got caught out going from a steep downhill to a steep incline that awaited me just around a blind corner…

curious cows

Curious cows

Cows always look so contented and philosophical about life. They viewed me cautiously as I advanced with my camera – and agreed to have their pictures taken! In the next village I was greeted by a barking dog, soon to be retrieved by its owner – and just across the road from one of those classic old, red telephone kiosks…  And then on my bike again heading west toward Wickwar.  It was still around 8am and people were heading off to work. the traffic was busy as I waited at the traffic lights.

I was following the Avon Cycleway (410) which generally avoided traffic and people. The roads were generally quiet, lined with beautiful houses and cottages built in that warm beige Cotswold stone. Very soon I had to go north along a fairly busy road so I took to the pavement (also known as the sidewalk) to avoid heavy tankers that passed within inches. It was a relief to turn off the busy road and enjoy the tranquility. More bikers passed me going the other way. We waved…

tranquility

Tranquility on the road

Very soon I figured I was just about halfway. I paused and stopped for some refreshment as my route took me over the M5 motorway bustling and noisy with trucks heading north. It was tempting to take a rather superior view – that I had found something better.

M5 view

A superior view

That was the furthest point and I turned south to head towards home. As it happened I missed a turning so this extended my trip by a few miles, putting me on to busy roads but more familiar territory as I neared home.

When I got home just before 11am I learned that only one of my photo tweets had got through – possibly due to lack of 3G coverage in the countryside.

What a fabulous morning! Not much sweat, no sunburn, plenty of exercise and fresh air – and heaps of lasting images. I share some of them here.  Who knows, but I may find myself doing it again!