Tuesday, 10 March 2015


Truth be told, I've been in a kind of winter slump. No matter how much I think about getting out, I look outside, see the dark, windy, cold vista and snuggle up under the duvet instead. Of course I know this needs to stop, it feels like months since i've done any meaningful miles, and yet I can't get motivated.

This past weekend saw a change to my 'black dog' thinking. The moment had at last arrived when a longing for spring rides returned. On Saturday I set out with determined and purposeful intentions. A long ride over to visit my Mother in Barton under Needwood would be ideal to.... get the ball rolling - more aptly, get the wheels rolling.

It was overcast as I set off, winter has drained all colour from the landscape and somehow refuses to relent. Birds seem unable to settle, daffodil heads remain tight as clenched fists, I notice some catkins, scorched by frost, having paid the price for precocity.

My riding is slow and tentative, every incline seems a struggle but I'm happy, on my old bike, to merely pootle along without a care. The great advantage of an old steel bike with straight bars is that there's no pressure to perform. If I get overtaken by a slender racing snake no matter, its a hollow victory for him, there's no satisfaction in catching a bike like mine, I know, I've done it loads. If I'd ventured out on my carbon it would be a different matter; with that machine comes the overwhelming need to 'go fast', to catch and not be caught. It's a place I don't want to be. Not yet.

As I meander along dry, empty lanes I have time to look. Branches are bare, witches' fingers poking into the sky which is brushed with streaks of blue-violet. The air is cold but there's a hint of yolk-yellow sun, occasionally breaking through the gunmetal clouds to place a walk palm between my shoulders.

Its been months since I made this journey on a bike, but I'm surprised that I'm making steady progress. I get to halfway thinking I'm doing well. I try to up the pace a tad as I pass through Netherseal and up the slow climb to Grangewood. Through Coton there is a procession of ducks crossing the road in a line. I pause for a minute in a secluded spot, a palette of earth brown and bog black. The brook trickles like a silver ribbon through the shade. There is a sweet scent of water and the alarm call of a blackbird to break the silence. On the village green there is a flash of spring colour, scores of snowdrops and a smattering of upright daffs displaying a welcome burst of sunlight yellow. A willow tree is covered with clusters of lime green catkins, lambs-tails as we called them as children.

I make my way up towards Walton then its a welcome descent to the village and on to Barton. I spend a couple of hours with Mum and then set off for home. The return is much, much tougher. For a start there's a headwind and the route is definitely more uphill than down. I struggle, puffing and panting, to get the bike up the hill out of Walton. There's a brief respite before more hills at Coton, Snarestone and Congerstone. By the time I reach home my legs are complaining. But I feel refreshed and somewhat content, 43 miles covered at an average no more than 12mph. Slow and steady but at least its a start. Question is can I do it again?

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