Wednesday, August 28

This is why I love cycling......

We'll get to the point of the title later on, but first here's what I've done since this post on August 5th.

Sunday 4th - a really interesting ride round Oxford, led by the chairman of Wantage CUK, called "Oxford Urban Safari". A clockwise route round backstreets and canal and river paths, starting and ending at Seacourt Park and Ride. One of the other riders kindly picked me up and drove us both there. Part of me thinks that driving to a ride is cheating but I did it anyway! About 16 miles.

Link to the route -

Monday 6th - Shopping, normally 8.8 miles, but with an all-round-the-houses route home. 18.31 miles.

Thursday 8th - A Wantage CUK Family Bike Ride, 8 regular riders plus one mum and her 3 children, the youngest of which was only just 7. The ride itself was about 10 miles so she did very well! 18.93 miles total (that includes my ride to the start, and then a slightly different route home after leaving the group early on the return).

Monday 12th - a solo ride to Shrivenham, with the intention of trying out a cafe there that I hadn't been to (see review on my Cafes page) and also trying out a route for when I become a ride leader (that's all going through now - eek!). 22.53 miles.

Thursday 15th - missed my usual group ride as I had some shopping and a lot of other bits and pieces  to do. Bought a new adjustable stem for my Trek, to raise my handlebars up a bit, in my local bike shop Ridgeway Cycles. 10.17 miles.

Saturday 17th - I had a parcel to collect, plus I wanted to try out the new stem which Husband had fitted. I like it! 13.22 miles.

Tuesday 20th - Shopping. Also did a bit of exploring of a local path, again with the possibility of using it in a future group ride. Home a long way round, incorporating a local hill of some renown, which I usually manage on whichever bike I am on.  However, I find that sometimes when I approach a hill, even from a good distance away, I know whether I am going to get up it easily, or struggle, or not make it at all. This time was one of the latter, which is quite rare I'm pleased to say. It didn't help that there was a large vehicle coming up behind me which I knew would be edging to overtake me. I just gave up and got off! Sometimes one has to admit defeat.... 11.47 miles.

Thursday 22nd - another Wantage CUK Family Bike Ride, with the same family that came last time (3 children including the 7 year old) and another couple and their 10 year old son. About 14 miles for the actual ride (well done the 7 year old again!). Then I visited my daughter and baby granddaughter in Wantage, so my total was 27.89 miles.

And now we are nearly up to date, as we get to the Bank Holiday, Monday 26th. 

It was extremely hot.......... I had decided to cycle to a little village called Garford, in our local Vale of the White Horse. There were two reasons for this -

   1 To find and possibly ride a bridleway eastwards to Drayton and Abingdon. To get to those two      places in the past I have always cycled on what is known as Cow Common, a rather busy road from  East Hanney to Steventon. Recently while reading the map (I love reading maps!) I noticed this bridleway, and after looking on Google Earth found that it appeared to be more a road than a track. You can get on to it via Garford, with just a short stretch of the busy A338 in between.

   2 To find a footpath which goes from Garford across to Millets Farm, which is, apparently, "Oxfordshire's number one family day out for food, shopping and entertainment"!! Hmmm, well yes it is a nice place to go, and has a good cafe, where you get a free biscuit with your coffee (always good!) but as with all these places most people go by car. I have cycled there but that involves a stretch of road that, although not horribly busy, would be nicer avoided. This footpath would provide that alternative route. 

Well, I found the number 2, pushed my bike along it and easily negotiated two gates. But you never know with footpaths whether you are going to come across a stile or a kissing gate that's too tiny to get a bike through. I got to this bridge - [*]

Rats!! I tried to lift my (quite heavy) bike over but didn't think it was a good idea as I might hurt myself. I climbed over and walked a bit of the path, which even though not particularly rideable was  pushable. But there was nothing for it but to turn back. 

So, off to find the number 1. To cut a rather long and hot story short, I found the bridlepath that leads to said bridlepath that leads to Drayton..... but decided against going down it as it was very exposed and by that time Noel Coward's words about mad dogs and Englishmen were going round in my head. Mad Englishwomen too. 

So I left that adventure for another cooler day, and headed off back home. However, this particular mad Englishwoman hadn't had quite enough of exploring, and when I got to the little village of Lyford, I decided to veer off down another off-road shortcut to the village of West Hanney. I'd walked down here before and had it in my head that this was a bridlepath, and therefore legally rideable, and passable, with a bike, but after a mile or so I got to a stile..... and then realized it wasn't a bridlepath but a footpath. Oh dear, another about turn. Then I really did go home, but it was so hot that I had to keep stopping and resting in shade (which was rather lacking in this area) and both drinking water and pouring it over myself to keep cool. At the lovely little village of West Challow, about 3 miles from home, I paddled in the stream and took advantage of the cool bottles of water that I knew were to be had in the church - what a thoughtful gesture! I made it home, rather exhausted.

The thing about this ride was that I really did not enjoy it! This was mainly, but not entirely, because of the heat. Even two miles into the ride I wasn't enjoying it, although I thought things might improve, as they often do, but they didn't really. Why am I doing this I thought? But - as I always say, even the worst bike ride is pretty good! I did, after all, achieve what I set out to, which was to find those paths, even though I ended up not going on one of them. And I found two tennis balls! 24.87 miles.

And now we really are up to date, Tuesday August 27th - 

I had to go to Wantage today to get some elastic for a customer's sewing job. Our local sewing shop has been closed for holidays and the last time I bought elastic online proved to me that I need to see it first, or I end up with something unsuitable. I did other bits of food shopping too, returned some books to the library, and had free coffee in Waitrose, where I sat outside and enjoyed people-watching. (Interesting observation of the day - most women were wearing sandals of some sort, with bare feet, whereas hardly any men were.) It had hotted up since I left home at about 9, but wasn't as bad as yesterday. 

And now the explanation for the title. I had taken my camera with me, and on the way home I stopped frequently to take photos of my usual route home to explain what went through my head as I rode, which was -

"This is why I love cycling......!"

And here are those photos - with a bit of farming information as well..... 

1 My route takes me down Locks Lane in Wantage towards the ford, then over across that wooden bridge over Letcombe Brook (a chalk stream - more than 85% of the world's chalk streams are found in the UK) - 

2 Up this path past a row of cottages. See the cat? I always say hello to passing cats - 

Up the main road for a while, and then I walked up a footpath, at the bottom of which was a man unloading firewood which was packed up very neatly in a wooden crate. None of your slung-into-a -builder's-bag sloppiness. This was a work of art! (Why didn't I take a photo?! I nearly turned back to do so.) I told him it was like an artwork and then from somewhere nearby came the voice of another man, unseen, asking -

"Is she in a rush?  We  could do with a hand.... "

I hesitated....

"Would tea and cake persuade her?" said the voice.

 I was tempted......

"Is she hesitating?"

Yes I was!

I replied that if I hadn't just had coffee and a Kit-Kat in Waitrose I might well have been persuaded!

3 Just past the school at East Challow - I think you can just make out 6.02 miles on my Garmin at this point. Just after this the road officially becomes a bridleway - 

4 Here the school is on the right. Look closer - see that apple tree? It has the most delicious apples ever! I tried one the other day - not quite ready yet. Even my husband likes them, and that's saying something! He's very fussy when it comes to apples. Remember this tree....there's more about it later. The solar powered light is recent and I can't see the need for it - just another light to spoil the dark skies.

5 Further along the bridleway wheat was being harvested; I just had to stop and watch as it took me back to the days when, during school holidays, I used to take my children to watch the combines, and the tractors carting the corn, on the farm where my husband worked. He would have been one of the ones driving a tractor.

This is looking back whence I'd come. I had watched the combine coming up the field and was waiting for it to flash its light to signal to the tractor driver that he was ready to empty his load of corn. Here in the distance he has just done so and the tractor on the right has moved into position -

The combine's auger is out now and the wheat shoots down into the trailer -

That tractor now leaves the field with his load of corn -

 And the other one that was waiting in the field drives over to receive the next load from
the combine -

Another tractor and trailer comes in to replace the one that's gone -

Here you can just see that the combine has gone back down the field, and the two tractors are awaiting their next loads -

 Quite a nicely choreographed operation really.

Now I'm looking ahead to the next bit of my journey. The Ridgeway is in the distance. Look into that corn field on the left - see a tiny dark spot? That is a hare running away as fast as his long legs will carry him! While I was watching the harvesting I was amazed to see him suddenly appear on the track in front of me, but as soon as I moved to take a photo he ran off.

6 I'm now in the village of Childrey, where I passed the time of day with a man who I often see walking, either on his own, or pushing his grandchild in her pushchair. Childrey not only has a lovely pond but a lovely VW camper van too! And a rather, dare I say it, upmarket village shop and cafe, which is very popular with walkers and cyclists -

The pond. There's just something about a village pond.....

This is my last downhill section, heading towards Sparsholt, where I have never yet managed to get up to more than 20 mph. Further down on the right hand side, there are some woods whence cometh the most lovely fragrance in spring.  Every time I cycle by I breathe it in and go "Ahhhhh.....". About 8 years ago I went walking with a friend who pointed out to me something called Poplar Balsam, and when I first noticed the smell coming from these woods I instantly recognised it as that. They say you remember smells even when you haven't smelt them for years.  My plan is to sneak in there and pinch a cutting and grow my own -

8  Oh, and here is the local library, in the phone box! I've read books from there and also donated some, as well as my Cycling UK magazines!

Remember that apple tree? I now have 7 trees growing from its apple pips I sowed last year!

Apple trees, with a side of orange buddleia.

The beautiful orange buddleia is one which I discovered growing locally, and took some cuttings from. It's Buddleia Weyeriana "Sungold". Buddleia is incredibly easy to grow and I love seeing the butterflies on it. Just today another cutting I took has come out in flower at the bottom of the garden.

This is just my very ordinary cycle ride to go shopping and although I couldn't ask for a much nicer route,  I wouldn't miss it for all the tea in China even in the winter. I could have used the car today as Husband didn't need it, but if I'd done that, I'd have seen none of this, as my route would have been all on road. No stopping to watch the harvesting, no sighting of that hare, no banter over the firewood artwork, no passing the time of day with the man with his grandchild, and certainly no exercise or fresh air.

So there we are, that's why I love cycling!

*Apologies for the change of font - I just couldn't get it to change back although as you can see eventually it did by itself!


  1. what a super post. I love that you are documenting your ordinary journeys
    Brenda in the Boro

  2. Glad you enjoyed it Brenda!

  3. Thanks, Lizzie. A great story about a great day out!

  4. What an interesting time you have on your bike, thanks for sharing. There are lots of ways of taking cuttings, my favourite is to break a bit off and stick it in a jar of water to root, its surprising what you can grow.

  5. As the gardener, do please tell me which ones root in water and which ones don't!

  6. What a charming post! I love your tempo - relaxed and casual, just why cycling is such a pleasure, eh? Keep posting and I'll keep reading. Cheers!

    1. Thank you very much! I re-read this post and thought - gosh, it was a bit long.... I am well overdue in writing a new post and hope to do so in the next day or two.


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