I felt a bit crocked on Sunday, to be honest.
I had a bad back from frantic cleaning, a twingeing thigh ligament from last weekend’s yoga exercises (which was an ironic injury as I was doing it to relieve the bad back resulting from too much stupid housework and stupider furniture-moving).
On top of those ailments, I had an achey right wrist – the unwelcome legacy of hitting a nasty pothole at 30mph in the summer.
But hey, the sun was shining and I heard the words “Fancy mountainbiking in the Forest?”
It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, so I seized the carp, dosed myself liberally with ibuprofen and we headed into the Forest of Dean
For the first time ever, I wasn’t at all confident that I’d be able to actually get on the bike as it had been painful sitting, standing and bending over to tie shoelaces. Sometimes, after seizing it, the carp is quite difficult to hang on to. I took the camera just in case I couldn’t get my leg over, in which case I planned to wander about a bit among the trees pretending to be a photographer.
To my surprise and delight, riding the bike was totally painless – the most comfortable I had been so far that day. The wrist started aching after about 45 minutes and we’d only tackled quite tame trails because of my slightly decrepit state but it was still two hours of sheer bliss.
The bracken was spectacular russet-gold in some places, old-gold in others and the beech leaves shone metallic like pirate treasure that had been flung into the air and stuck on the branches. The mud was thick, gleaming-gloopy and quite deep in places but nothing like as bad as it can be.
There were a fair number of cyclists togged up for a brisk chilly ride but noticeably no children. The dog walkers were all friendly and considerate, then as we approached Kensley Ridge (every ride has to include Kensley Ridge) I could see about 20 people standing around.
They turned out to be members of the RSPB on a birdwatching walk. They were all facing the clear-felled heathland brandishing binoculars and cameras in search of a Great Grey Shrike – known as the Butcher Bird from his habit of impaling insect victims on the spikes of bushes.
The merciless little fella is seen annually in that particular area apparently. It’s his solitary winter home – apart from the cyclists and the birdwatchers. He’s been seen for the last four years and was seen on Saturday – hence the interest – but we didn’t hang around long. The shrike had long since shrunken from his audience and there was a whole load more golden gloopy Forest to enjoy.
Oh and I spend a bit of time pretending to be a photographer…