They used to make lead around these parts, well, that is to say men who were indentured at a young age and who were very old indeed if they made it to forty dug the mines, hacked the stuff out of the ground, hauled it to the surface, stored and washed and processed the ore then smelted it, filling the valley with a toxic smog almost the equal of what the Inn-on-the-top-of-the-hill-bound classic car rallies of today belch into the atmosphere on their way to adding working on the basis of the drink drive laws that prevailed at the distant time in the past when their cars were manufactured to all their other motoring affectations of yesteryear. All of this was a very long time ago but the hillsides still bear the scars in the form of spoil tips, holes in the ground and the ruins of two hundred year old buildings and the large scale map of the area is a motherlode of mining terms; level, hush, shaft, tip, mill, and vein.

An even longer time ago other men turned the basest of base metals into gold but nowadays bike riders go for a kind a reverse alchemy where they take carbon, aluminium and whatever leg muscles are made of and ride and ride and ride until these valuable and rare materials seem to weigh the same as carrying all the lead flashing from the roof of York Minster on one leg and all of it from the stained glass windows in that big church in London where Princes Middleton got married on the other leg. Nobody knows why they do this, particularly when often there is no chance at all that all this effort will get them anywhere near a professional bike team, the black and white photos of some future coffee table book, an interesting anecdote or even the next size down of italian yak hide rapha belly button warmers.

Even quite keen bike riders themselves can sometimes not remember the reason they do this and that is when you find them going for long walks and looking down holes hoping for inspiration, self-understanding and a bit of warm weather.



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