It’s Spring! Everyone says so and the evidence was all there when I went for the first of a couple of really peachy longish bikes rides about ten days ago.
There were lots of tweety birds in the lanes, small wrinkly-fresh lambs cwtching up close to their mums in the meadows on top of Woolridge and a woman ostensibly taking two turkeys for a walk.
She was approaching me pushing a child in a buggy with two black and red turkeys strolling alongside.
I couldn’t help grinning.
“Yes, they’re still here,” she smiled back anticipating the obvious comment. The turkeys had the good grace to shift over for me to pass. They fanned their tails and gobbled sociably.
It made me wonder if perhaps we’re missing the whole point with turkeys. They are probably far more valuable and long-lasting as friends of the family than for just the one meal.
“A turkey is good with children – not just with stuffing”
“Turkey. Not just for Christmas but for hiking and general outdoor pursuits!
Discounted membership rates for turkeys in the Ramblers Association.”
“You’re never alone with a turkey”
Also, gives you more options in the event of an unexpected nuclear winter, being stranded miles from the nearest Tescos or needing some feathery hat enhancements.
Apart from the turkeys there were alarmingly low-flying buzzards, gaudy pheasants running all panicky along the hedgerows and a couple of confused partridges… but best of all there was sunshine.
Even the homeward grind along a busy road against the wind was ameliorated by the brightness of the countryside. It’s in the Spring and returning from a foreign holiday somewhere hot that you notice that this pleasant land is so very, blindingly green!
I didn’t see any other cyclists at all. Just me out riding for fun.
Yesterday in the snowy Forest of Dean, it was still Spring and I was still on my tod – apart from one cyclist in the far distance – but it was a very different kind of ride.
The sun dazzled intermittently, lighting up the fine tracery of snow lying on millions of branches, casting lovely long shadows across the trails.
I’d been suffering off-road withdrawal so yesterday’s ride only involved crossing one road and there was no-one about so I just followed my nose and took the paths less travelled.
A ride in the Forest is usually pretty quiet as long as the bike is nicely lubed – silence itself pedalling over a carpet of larch needles – but yesterday there was a constant ‘ssshhhhh’ of snow, loud crunchy-crackling of tyres on broken ice or the wet-splatting of tyres through slick liquid mud.
Sheltered from the prevailing icy winds it didn’t feel that cold – until the cycling shorts under the Ron Hills got saturated with mud and started to freeze.
Mud comes in many textures. Firm is nice, claggy sticks like glue, soft is ok although you’re going to ruin shoes.
Yesterday’s mud was inconveniently gloopy. It splashed up over my gloves on the handlebars, all over my specs and it must have been making a real effort because a couple of good-sized blobs made it into my eyes, making it impossible to see properly until I’d stopped and wiped them with a gloved finger.
Being on my tod, I didn’t chance anything risky. The mobile phone reception in the Forest is non-existent in places and I wouldn’t want to be stuck on the ground with injuries so painful that I faint off every time I try to stand up (2 yrs ago, pulled ligaments. Surprisingly disabling).
So it was all very pleasant (excepting the frozen ass) and the downhill blats were soo, so cold that I felt like my earlobes had turned to ice and would snap off and smash into a million sparkly pieces at any minute.
The thigh muscles were fizzing nicely – riding through snow is more exercise than you’d imagine so the overall effect was good.
But I have to own up here and make one big admission: the real, groany, “Oh-my-God-that’s-fantastic” thing about the ride was the hot shower afterwards.