The Hill (Part 8)

There have been many occasions I would imagine, occurring at various stages of the eleven mile climb from the bus stop overlooking the village green at the bottom (whose views down the valley, and proximity to the pub across the road from whose bar you can see the bus arrive, make it one of the nicest places anywhere to wait for a bus, which is just as well considering how long you might be waiting for one) to the junction at the top where the road takes you either south back down to the valley you just left or away west to the next one, when folks, myself included, must have wondered whether it was such a good idea to do this ride today but there are also occasions when you just seem to hook up to some imaginary bike tow, shout up ahead for them to start the pretend winding gear and just sit back and wheel up the hill as if someone turned the whole fellside to slope the other way, when the weather is not too hot, not too cold, not to windy, not too wet, and the snow and ice and biting north easterly of just a few recent months ago seem like distant memories of another country altogether and then you wonder what you could ever even have been worried about.


These bluebells are in a little patch of riverbank woodland raised a little above the valley road by a nondescript grassy verge. It’s a long weekend in England so there’s time to stop a while and they’ll be gone in a week or two for another year so I think they merit a moment out of my ride.


Nine months of the year the cliffs near a little village just north of Flamborough Head on the Yorkshire coast are just cold and windy but for a few weeks in early summer they are cold and windy and noisy and smelly as well as the equivalent of a small human city in seabirds rocks up on shore, the inability to lay eggs which float being the one of the key flaws in their otherwise perfect adaptation to a life spent far out of sight of land. One day natural selection will deal with this issue and the RSPB will have spent a whole lot of money on the new café at the top of the cliffs for nowt, but before then if I was a bird I’d focus on the acquisition of the cornerstones of human civilisation; agriculture, fire and the potato peeler because the other evolutionary failure faced by the seabird kingdom, being a diet based entirely on fish but with no ability to make chips, would seem much more urgent than having to give birth on a vertical cliff face whilst a whole bunch of people watch on with telescopes big enough to see what page of Cycling Weekly an alien is reading while he’s sitting on his Martian kludgie.

The Moss (Part 2)

The coming of spring is something about which I’ve always felt a touch of ambivalence. Much as those extra hours of daylight, ice free tarmac, and general celebratory atmosphere of the outdoor crowd are very welcome I miss the empty roads, long shadows and quiet certainties of the winter. Spring brings with it the need for even more kit than in winter to deal with the changes in weather from one day to the next, one hour to the next, one valley to the next, it brings holidaying drivers who’ve read the instructions for their roof box but not for the big round thing attached to the dashboard in front of their seat, and it brings normally placid moorland birds to a state of aggressive agitation towards humans on bikes riding near to the road-adjacent scrape in the heather they call a nest. One positive aspect of the spring however is the newly diversified cycling population as folks from other parts of the nation bring their bikes and brightly coloured gear to the dales. Today I passed a line of visitors coming the other way, grinding up hill in various shades of highlighter pen jackets and shouted half a dozen ‘morning!’s across the windy road which in every case was met with a cheerful reply. A few months of some not very cycling-conducive weather (it was still snowing last weekend on the moors where even the news that it’s not supposed to be doing that anymore now takes time to arrive such are we behind the times up here) and various other demands on time and energy which were unable to be addressed  by pushing two pedals in a circle have left your correspondent in not the greatest shape of their life right now but encountering folks spinning heavy bikes at little more than walking pace up a hill and yet still smiling makes a welcome change from my fellow year-round biking residents who ride around with the expression of someone with clothes pegs fixed to both nipples and present a reminder that cycling is supposed to reduce the pressures on us and not add to them. As the second most famous Dane after Inspector Lund once said whilst jumper shopping in the Elsinore branch of Benetton, There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy, heck, even cyclists who look like they’re having a nice time, so here are some pictures of Greets Moss which is a very lovely route between my valley and the next, which is mostly famous for cheese, and where I was having a nice time today, in between administering CPR to myself in a ditch every couple of kilometres.