It was actually winter on Thursday morning. I had an appointment in Okehampton with my doctor for which I needed to leave at around 0945. Riding up Park Road, mind and body both agreeing this was no way to start a day, I found myself cussing at the steepness of the hill. Then I stopped fighting, gave into it, relaxed and the world instantly felt better. I noticed sheets of thin ice on the road surface for the first time this year. It crackled when I ran over it, much to my amusement and the cold air I sucked into my lungs was as fresh as clean laundry. Elevated high up onto the moor at Hatherleigh, relieved to have arrived on more gentle terrain, I glanced across to Dartmoor. From this distance, around 10km in straight line, it had a glistening white hew. The sun rose just a little, backlighting the giant bulk of the moor and an orange glow etched every cloud, lighting up the sky in a way that made me smile at witnessing this moment.
Springtime on Bodmin
I spent the afternoon of New Year’s day thumbing through photographs, most of which I have taken on the various cycle tours I’ve completed since 2010. It was like falling through a trapdoor in time to another realm, one where my memories are pin-sharp and smiles are kept by the hundred in bags. The more I looked the more I wanted to delve further and time seemed to warp as minutes became hours. There were moments when I felt I was seeing things, held here as a single moment and framed, for the first time. I half expected to turn my head and find the scenery moving with it.
It’s always good to have something to celebrate, and so it was on Saturday when the North Devon Sustrans crew turned up to support the unveiling of the new National Cycle Network sign for the Devon coast to coast: NCN27. The sign sits on the side wall of the loo block (convenient!) at the entrance to the car park at Ilfracombe harbour just a few metres away from Verity who guards the harbour entrance from sea monsters and other invaders.
When I was a youth, going cycle touring was a much easier affair than it is now. There was little in the way of choice for both cycling and camping. If you wanted to go away you took what you had and you went. If you got into trouble in a far flung place you had to dig yourself out again. That was all part of the joy and experience of travelling, even within the UK. Nobody worried about being away or being somewhere there was no phone signal because there was no signal anywhere. When you left home you were unattainable to the rest of the world unless you chose to make contact.
Off the beaten track
Night descends gradually in the summer. After a day of hectic activity: cycling, talking, navigating, shopping and all the other things that fill our waking time, it’s bliss to lay back in my sleeping bag and look out at the stars as they begin to appear in the night sky. One by one the birds fall silent. Little by little the background noise fades away, leaving me immersed in quiet, the one thing my noisy mind requires above everything else.
Memories of summer
Since I last posted on this blog the lanes around Hatherleigh where I do most of my cycling have changed beyond belief. Just last week they were relatively dry, sheltered by branches supporting leaves that were rapidly changing colour. They have recently bathed me in orange, red and yellow light, like a giant Kaleidoscope. Riding recumbent exacerbated the effect, making me feel as though I was sliding rather than rolling along beneath this natural masterpiece.
October sun. High on Dartmoor, UK
Autumn leaves are beginning to fall in Devon, a clear demarcation of the seasonal change taking place. The once green leaves, that we watched unfurl in the long-awaited spring, turn red and orange and shine like stars in the damp morning light before falling to the ground where they shrivel. Slowly they rot and decay eventually replacing the nutrients that once fed them. The new growth suddenly burst open last springtime, forcing us to crane our necks to see the utter beauty of another approaching summer uncurling in front of our eyes, translucent and fresh. Now they fall, marking the slow onset of winter, diminishing daylight and long periods of dark, damp weather. The cycle of life continues.