All sorts of thoughts pass through my mind when I’m out riding. It’s the best place to chew over problems and absolutely the best environment for getting things in proportion.
One thought that I had on yesterday’s ride was that actually, I really like cycling on my own. I don’t require company ever again. I like being able to stop without any good reason other than vague interest and put a spurt on or labour pathetically on a hill or explore dead end lanes without anyone saying “Remind me, why are we doing this, again?”
I suppose it boils down to the freedom to be gloriously haphazard – much like yesterday’s ride.
There was a very blustery, mischievous wind but for once I had a generous chunk of time allowance so it was good to be out and not have to look at the watch and figure out where to turn or which circuit would fit. I had the “long ride” playlist playing in one ear, wind and road noise in the other.
Windy days are always interesting. You can be spinning out on a nice road and thinking “oh gosh, this is a bit nippier than usual. I must be a bit fitter…” You round a corner and you are head down into a continual blast from hell’s hairdryer, having to dip low over the bars, elbows in (never, never stick out elbows) and try to make it look like you’re not struggling like mad to pedal!
Thankfully, the route was nicely varied; busy dual carriageway was proportionally minimal, there were some A class roads but I was mostly on country roads peering through my rubbish specs at historic old manor houses tucked away and flocks of geese flapping and honking noisily overhead.
It was when I stopped to watch the geese that I decided I never want to cycle with anyone else ever again. I really like being able to please myself, to turn off up a private drive to take a better look at an interesting old manor house (“Sorry? This is your manor sir? Oh my mistake – I was sure it was a bridleway…”)
They have resurfaced the lane which runs by a Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s Ashleworth Ham nature reserve which is part of the wetlands of the River Severn. Might even be a RAMSAR site. Must check. Hard to tell the species of geese with only rubbish specs but I reckoned Canada geese plus definitely a few Bewick swans and quite a few little brown ducks. Must take binocs next time.
I stopped, took a few pics with the phone, then pedalled on slowly, gawping at the birds through the winter hedge. You never know when you might see a fox or – yes I know it’s really unlikely but still – an otter. So that was when I spotted a BLACK SWAN.
I screeched to a halt, threw the bike (softly) into a hedge and went to the gate overlooking a scrape of water. Flipping Heck and Blimey O’Reilly, there they were. One of them looked as though it had white under its wings but the other looked completely black. I wasn’t close enough to discern whether they had the red beaks of the Australian black swans but I expect they did. There aren’t any others to my knowledge.
I just haven’t heard of them in the wild before. Were these the offspring of the Australian swans fifteen miles down the Severn at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge? Or was one an Australian/Bewick hybrid? Tthere was definitely a splash of white on it’s back which was evident when it raised its wings.
Anyway, I wasted some time watching them, hopped back on bike and continued ride, shaking my head sadly at digger driver destroying an old hedgerow (don’t they know that ancient hedgerows are valuable and disappearing habitat?) and then having my way back along the side of the Severn entirely blocked by a bored pony. I was more or less forced to stop and administer a friendly nose rub and some encouraging words Even though I didn’t have a carrot or an apple about my person, he seemed happy with that. He probably smelt the odour on my hands from the very short, VERY fat little Shetland pony who was had been standing at the gate of a paddock earlier on in the ride looking like a Thelwell version of sad-faced Eeyore. I’d had to say “hello” to him too.
It was hard graft on the way home – don’t you hate it when you have to pedal hard against the wind on what should be a whizzy downhill? But I did achieve 33mph somewhere along the line – no doubt with a following wind.
Just after the ride my legs were feeling it but my heart was buoyed with buzzy pleasure and I’m always thankful for the ability for my mood to be transformed from “pretty good” to “ridiculously happy” just by pedalling around for a couple of hours.