Tag Archives: cycling

Sitting in the Spinney

Riding due East into Aylesham my expectations were somewhat confounded. I had expected the gale to be on my back, but it was on my left shoulder, pushing me towards the middle of the road. There was noticeable relief when there was a hedge on the North side of the road, so it was encouraging to see new hawthorn slips bursting green from their rabbit-proof planting tubes. Relief for cyclists and protection for the land. The soil up here is quite thin over the chalk.

More relief when I branched off on the Southern road into the village. The Spinney shields most of this stretch, a woodland with beech, hazel and sweet chestnut. I stopped to sit on a branch and eat lunch. The bluebells are in fine leaf, as are wild arum and anemones, but what of wild garlic? I hadn’t long to search, I had an appointment in the village and I wasted time watching a brimstone butterfly, happy enough to be out of the wind, under the trees, enjoying the sunshine beaming through the bare branches. I found just one leaf, which I nobly left to grow. And I was happy too.

Let’s change that ‘I wasted time’ to ‘I spent time’, while I was watching the butterfly. Time well-spent!

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Through Another’s Eyes

The “Independent” newspaper interviewed an old lady in Tobago who had visited England after winning a competition (I’m glad someone wins them).

One of her abiding memories was of seeing an apple tree. We have eyes but we do not see. There are still a good many orchards around here, even if many have been destroyed; taken for granted, by me at least, till they are lost.

This spring I intend to look at them anew.

Here’s a story from a few years ago. Riding away from Ezra’s grounds I had to pass the orchard of russets at the top of the hill. The week before the workers had been winter pruning, leaving long twigs on the ground to be picked up later. The snow had fallen before that could happen and the rabbits that swarm thereabouts had discovered the feast of sweet bark. As I rode by there was a golden glow above the white of the snow: with all the bark stripped the twigs were bright shining as the sun.

Another day to remember.

Far behind?

jackdaws

More hints of Spring.

The coastal path was full of dog walkers till almost halfway between the two towns. Cyclist, slow down! Turnstones out looking spruce, waiting on the breakwaters for the tide to turn. Are these ones too far down the pecking order to haunt the harbour for easy pickings from the boats and fishmongers?

A quarrelsome synod of Jackdaws at sunset at St Martin’s church. I stopped counting at fifty.

A snowdrop and violet in bloom beside our front door; Mrs O’s Daffodils nose up above the ground, active buds on her elder and flowering currant.

And the flood was there again across the road at Bekesbourne. Rain and hail showers lashing cyclists this morning. At least one survived!

Is Spring that far behind – 3.

Yesterday was torn two ways. It had been raining on Tuesday before I photographed the sunset over the Downs. And real Noah’s weather yesterday when I was once more in Aylesham.  Then the change: by the time I’d finished working the sun was out in all his glory: 40 minutes waiting for the train or take a bike ride? No contest!

Brompton folders with their small wheels are not designed for country life, but all was well until Bekesbourne. With the ground already saturated there was nowhere for the water to go – except the Bourne, and that could no longer hold it all. The standard advice to avoid driving (let alone cycling) through water was not really appropriate if I wanted to get home. The water was deeper than expected and my feet got wet!

Last winter’s floods were more than a minor inconvenience; let’s hope the water level goes down, and people’s homes stay dry.

This morning, a violet in bloom and a snowdrop impatient to join her, right by the front door.

Overheard – a woman talking to her dogs

It’s an occupational hazard for those of us blessed with a grey-to-white beard! ‘Hey Santa!’ from teenagers, or a rather more awed approach from younger children. I once had a long conversation with a little lad in Gap, France, with his mother in the background, encouraging me to keep going; great fun for me as well as him.

Today was surprisingly different.

Cycling along the shared path by the river, I rang my bell to warn a lady with her two dogs that I was approaching; they were occupying the whole path. Smiling, she got out of the way, saying to the dogs, ‘There boys, it’s Father Christmas come to say hello.’

Car Free Sunday

It will never catch on, not when the traders rule the town, or will it?

We were blessed to spend Car Free Sunday in Bruges, after meeting family and friends for a

Jazz on two wheels.

Jazz on two wheels: Chassepatate

birthday celebration. Bruges is as commercial as anywhere in Europe, but most of the shops seemed to stay shut, there was dancing in the streets, a singer covering Elvis’s greatest hits, flea market stalls appeared wherever there was room to erect them, and people quite obviously enjoyed the streets on foot or else on an assortment of weird, wonderful or wildly impractical bicycles. No buses even in the Markt, just people. And free entry to St Johns’ Hospital gallery.

And in the background, as always – the bells. The carillon was playing two songs from the Great War, ‘Tipperary’ preceded by ‘Roses are flowering in Picardy’; sentimental perhaps, but we know all too well that, ‘the roses will die with the summertime, and our roads may be far apart’. How many who went out to fight in Picardy died far apart from loved ones?

It was good to hear the bells, and worth reflecting that even on Westminster Bridge, one cannot always hear Big Ben and his quarter chimes. Worth reflecting, too, that battles are raging across the world, drowning the joyful bells even deeper than traffic does.

Here is a link to the belfry’s web page in Flemish, which tells about the carillon movement and also a little about the tunes played at each quarter. http://www.carillon-brugge.be/WWW/de%20beiaard.htm