Oh to be in England now that April’s here*

I’ve been quite lazy this week. I didn’t do any riding from Sunday until yesterday, which considering I’m on holiday is a bit lame. I had a short break in Warwickshire on Monday and Tuesday with my fiancé, and we visited Warwick Castle (which was bloody expensive – £25.20 per person plus £6 parking) and the British Motor Museum (much more reasonable, with more Jaguar XK120s and considerably fewer spiral staircases). 

Yesterday I rode into town the long way having to dodge many a dog walker, and had a look around before I rewarded myself with a coffee. I popped into Henry Burton’s (Stafford’s bona fide old-fashioned bike shop) to buy a new bell, as my old bell has got a bit loose and rattles constantly. They didn’t have quite the bell I was looking for but I got something that looked reasonable and doesn’t rattle, and fitted it to the bike. Sadly I failed in my search for a Paris-Roubaix style cobbled street – they’ve only gone and re-paved it all, with nice flat bricks and no juddering whatsoever. How inconsiderate! It’s a pity the trail out to Derrington isn’t as smooth…

So off I set back along the Isabel trail, turning off to ride down Common Road towards the lane out to Marston. I got overtaken by a few lorries which was a bit heart-stopping, but I survived. It’s all a part of building my confidence riding on the roads, and I’m getting a lot better. There was a nasty moment when 2nd gear abruptly turned to neutral just as two cars were overtaking. It’s not by any means the first time this has happened, always second and always uphill. I think maybe the gear cable needs replacing too as despite my very best efforts my cable just doesn’t seem to hold its setting. 

By the time I got to Marston Lane I’d already done 10 miles in the day, but I had a lot of Easter eggs to burn off so I determined to push on further than I’d gone last time. I still felt pretty fresh and in no time I’d reached my previous mark and pressed on. It’s curious how distances feel longer when it’s the first time. The route for cyclists is nicely signposted and every now and then there’s a blue cycle sign, and while I don’t know to what extent this would actually modify drivers’ behaviour, it’s reassuring to know they’re being reminded to watch for bikes.

England really is the most beautiful country when Spring arrives. Rolling countryside broken up by trees and hedgerows and the odd farmhouse. The sun was out, the road was empty and all I could hear was birds and the occasional cow. The road seemed to keep descending downhill, which troubled me a little as I didn’t know how much energy I’d have in reserve to climb back up them, which meant I stopped earlier than I probably should have. I reached a crossroads where the signposted cycle route turns left, and stopped for a drink and a moment to take in the countryside. Up to this point I had yet to encounter a single car on the lane.

photo 31-03-2016 04 57 52 pm
I turned back and the hills weren’t so bad, I managed most of them in top gear. I did come across a couple of cars, and one or two cyclists, but there wasn’t any drama to speak of. I got back to the main road and rode back down Beaconside, then decided I hadn’t had enough yet so turned out along Two Waters Way to Baswich. It’s incredible how much flood water there still is lying about on the flood plains. As I crossed the narrow bridge towards the railway line I made way for a sorry looking cyclist doing the long walk home on a flat rear. Then a long freight train went past and like I used to as a boy I was counting the wagons: 29!

I got home hoping to have a nice shower, but the water was cut off while they do some work on the mains, meaning there’s a lot of large holes in the road and plenty of fencing to negotiate to boot. I’d been led to believe the water would only by off until 2, and got home at 5, but it wasn’t until 8 that the water actually got switched back on. Still, I’d done 20.62 miles in the day, a new record for me and the first time I’ve done more than a week’s quota in a day.

Today I popped into town and back, and there was also the usual journey up that damn hill to my fiancé’s. It never gets any bloody easier! I am getting better at dealing with it though, pacing myself better and staying outside to cool down for a bit before I go inside so I’m less of a dribbling sweaty mass. Doesn’t create the best impression with the future in-laws, that. Anyway, that was another 8.54 miles and I’m now more than a third of the way to my target, and fully a month in profit.

*reference to a classic British comedy called School for Scoundrels. A beautiful woman is introduced to Terry Thomas as “Miss April Summers” and he replies in typical caddish fashion “Oh to be in England, now that April’s here!”

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