First Puncture on the Leeds-Bradford Bike Route

My first puncture on the Bradford – Leeds Superhighway, due to a 1″ nail. Didn’t look like a deliberate sabotage since there was only one nail, and I managed to run over it! Well someone had too and the bang it made when the tyre punctured was perhaps worth the trouble. So my hardshell gatorskin met its match, though it is a couple of year’s old now. Didn’t take long to throw in another tube, though I will mend the old one. I’ve been using the ‘superhighway’ for just over a year, on and off, and I can’t say usage has increased at all as far as I can tell. It’s generally lightly used in Bradford, more heavily used during the rush hour in Leeds. Most people don’t cycle and Bradford is a tough place to start. Superhigway is a misnomer, it’s a discontinuous strip of tarmac alongside a roaring mass of metal and fumes. Miss Marple would not venture forth. The Thornbury area usually has some parked cars in the cycle superhighway just for extras!

I’m always amused by the people that walk in the cycle way while staring at their phone and listening to music on their headphone. These are people with a serious disconnection problem, though they think they are super connected. In my current Jean Giono book, Les Trois Arbres de Palzem, he predicts the failure of cinema and television in favour of the livre de poche, the paperback suited to the pocket, on the grounds that TV and cinema don’t engage the imagination in the way that a book does, that they are very rarely works of genius in the way that a book can be when it meets with a receptive mind. The reason he gives for this is that films are made in a compressed bit of time, they lack the leisure and time that goes into a book. Well, it’s debatable but he was a film maker so perhaps he should know. He’s probably right in that livre de poche has surely done far more good to the world than the TV and cinema, which  are, of course, just Plato’s cave and its misdirection all over again. Ah, but what about Antiques Roadshow, Wildlife Programming, etc? Wildlife programming is interesting since it usually delights in an exotic pristine environment far away and is precisely the sort of misdirection that the TV specialises in. If only it showed the desperate plight of the birds of BD3, with an ever decreasing habitat, as wasteland is in-filled and a yard is where  you park your car, and the few large trees getting ever fewer…  I think we’ll jet off to a National Park in Malaysia…

The wickedness of diesel is ever more apparent – amongst this week’s stories there was a medical report about the correlation between particulate air pollution and Alzheimers. It is, of course, difficult to prove that the first caused the second. One snag about the bike route is that it parallels a very busy road and so the cyclist does get hit by a fair amount of air pollution at rush hour. At least a bike rider is likely to notice the stink, whereas in a car with the air freshener making the driver think of woodland glades s/he may be completely oblivious to what’s going on in his/her lungs.

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The Bees Favourite…

bee and agastacheAgastache is a favourite with bees. There are some modestly popular cultivars, such as Mosquito Plant (doesn’t sound as good does it?) and Anise Hyssop. They are good for making herbal tea from the leaves. It’s worth planting just for the pleasure of seeing a parade of bees visit it. It’s on a par with bergamot for bees. Most of the bees visiting my agastache are not honey bees, and I imagine there are no hives very near (though perhaps the local allotments about a mile away have some). There are plenty of buff tailed and quite a few small dark bees. The neighbours have worried about whether they will sting, but this is, of course, very unlikely. They are no effectively no risk at all to us, whereas the human overpopulation is slowly killing them off with loss of habitat (as the concrete spreads over our local patch of rough ground!), loss of forage (agastache, etc), and disease spread by human’s wandering from continent to continent at an historically unprecendented rate. So plant some agastache, it will help to stop colonies dying out. But above all plant it because of the pleasure that bee watching and identifying should bring to you.

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Climb Every Mountain

view from langbar over bolton abbeyThis was the view from the third big climb in my ride last Sunday. It is the now familiar route taking in the Moor above Fewston Reservoir, Blubberhouses Moor (Côte de Blubberhouses since the Tour de France), Langbar Moor above Ilkley, then Ilkley Moor. Delightful, and must be about 50 miles or so long since I start at Menston and end at Bingley (commuter pass means I don’t need to endlessly cycle the dull corridor out of Bradford). Google maps amazes me by saying that the route includes 4000′ of climbing, well I guess that’s probably true.

The route is mostly quiet roads, though there’s a little bit of the A59 downhill, mostly, from the top of Blubberhouses. The ride ended up at the Welsh Society Evening Service at the Methodist Chapel in Bingley. What better language to sing lustily in than Welsh? Even if you don’t have any Welsh…

The bergamot has bloomed and the bees have expressed their preference. Bee balm it is. Though the Bishop of Llandaff comes in second, so a single dahlia is evidently a pleasure not just to the gardener but to the bee.

The Bishop of Llandaff may be gorgeous, but my reading is about the wonderful Bishop of Oxford (and other Sees), Charles Gore. Prestige’s book on Gore is a great traverse across a large chunk of nineteenth century history. It has at least one good effect, that of making the reader aware that if you thought the contemporary church was unique in its divided, struggling character, then you would be very wrong. Gore had little sense of success as a bishop, having failed quite to bring about the turn to the credal and gospel roots of faith that he had hoped for. Nevertheless, he gives a model of belief that is as valuable today as then. Charitable for the most part, thoughtful, faithful, free of the materialism of his age, free of being posbish of llandaffsessed by comfort and wealth, committed to living a gospel that was for the poor at least as much for the rich (‘The Christian Social Union’), escaping from narrow church party  politics so he could work with anyone who shared his practical and theological aims, he exemplifies much that is the best amongst Anglican bishops. He reached a point of despair over discipline though. How do you tell a clergyman (it was men in those days) not to use forms of liturgy that are theologically, very likely legally, wrong for the Anglican Church? A united front amongst bishops failed to materialise and Gore was enraged by clergy who knowingly flouted the rules he tried to impose on Oxford diocese, particularly over the reservation of the sacrament. There is some evidence, reading Prestige, that Gore wasn’t the best person for diplomatic handling of difficult situations. Gore failed to keep the monks of Caldey Island within the Anglican church, Gore publically requiring as a minimum a list of things that the monks of Caldey regarded as well beyond their maximum! Yet Gore had been in dialogue with them, had visited them; did he think they would accept episcopal weight? It may be, though, that no-one was likely to succeed with that particular situation and Gore was moved by exasperation! Although a liberal catholic, and therefore willing to make faith understandable in modern terms while remaining faithful to the creeds and councils, Gore campaigned against contraception. His reasons were the familiar ones to do with the point of procreation, written in nature by God. He also had an uneasy awareness of how sex and marriage might come apart further if contraception was easily available. His campaign looks, with the benefits of hindsight, utterly without hope of success. This was, of course, before the pill. His understanding of nature was, writing in the 1920s, innocent of the complexities of Darwinian theory or a sense of just how incredibly varied and complex nature is. The wider problem of holding a very disparate communion together remains, perhaps particularly within England, except now we’ve all got used to it. Preaching by untrained laity (though the worst sermon I ever heard was from a Dean!), poorly structured and with a highly questionable content, services that don’t quite make sense liturgically, and so on, are quite familiar situations. The book borders on some big questions – liberty and discipline in the church, faith and politics (in the early days of socialism), how far do you have to believe the creeds to belong / represent, at what point does identity dissolve in anarchy? At least he left a legacy – foremost amongst which, the Community of the Resurrection, as found in West Yorkshire….

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Gardening Competitions!

The yard is blooming, as it should do in late June. In the photo you can see the following in bloom – fuchsias, roses, feverfew, geraniums, honeysuckle. You can’t quite see the sweet peas that are just starting to bloom on the railings. The feverfew, in two different forms, has self seeded widely. There’s one variety with a big yellow centre, and another that’s almost entirely white with a tiny centre. The roses are a bit difficult to see, and are Munstead Wood roses from David Austin down in Albrighton. They are a superb rose, having lots of scent, a gorgeous purpley red colour, and a nice variation of form as they go from a tight bud to, by the end, a fairly open form. The other roses are starting to flower too, notably the Golden Celebration, which does have a particularly good rose scent. The honeysuckle is easy to see and is the bees favourite. This year even more than previously, it is absolutely covered in bees. The rough ground nearby is being built on so they are probably starving for food. The bees vary – but very few honey bees are present, it’s particulary buff tailed and small black bees. For areas with a lot of social housing, you need a social plan for ecology, community gardening areas. Perhaps a flat should come with a plant to look after. The mint won’t be allowed to flower since I need it for my tea: apple, pineapple, eau-de-cologne and peppermint mints. The lemon balm is having a good year, and similarly won’t get to flower until late in the year, if at all since it’s great in tea, along with the lemon verbena that survived the winter (surrounded by water bottles to stop it freezing, worked well).

There is a BD3 gardening competition, which is a great idea. I haven’t noticed many people doing very much with their yards around here, though there are one or two bit of veg and some impressive large shrubs / small trees. Along Leeds Old Road there are a few impressive front gardens to terraces, hanging baskets and blooms looking great. To conclude, a Munstead Wood rose…

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More Moors, Commuting by Bike

the orchard at hidcoteCycling from Menston to Bingley via Burnsall was hot and sticky a couple of Sunday’s ago. I decided to do four moors, so across the moor above Otley – Stainburn Moor – then Blubberhouses Moor (on the Bridleway), then along up to Burnsall, then back down to Bolton Abbey and then over Langbar (Langbar Moor?), then down into Ilkley and then up and over Ilkley Moor. The route reaches around about 1000′ four times and is about 50 miles. It’s gorgeous on a hot day. The woods around Bolton Abbey were looking wonderful, spring green and bluebells, with wild garlic starting to go over. Not many cyclists on that route, though a procession of old tractors was gladdening the back road from Burnsall to Bolton Abbey.

[Later... this has become a standard route - Bingley to Bingley via Burnsall, doing Ilkley Moor twice and Langbar moor once. A quiet route mostly, and very little other than lanes so feels quite safe.]

Yet more cycling on the bike path between Leeds and Bradford. Some drivers ignore all pedestrian crossings, whether there’s someone there or not, which explains the bunches of flowers that occasionally decorate even the light controlled crossings. The green man has ceased to be sacrosanct, many drivers ignore the red light and in spite of the pedestrian deaths it evidently isn’t a police priority. It’s curious but I’m possibly safer on a bike than walking! Pedestrians have to cross side roads at least and there’s fairly little respect and kindliness on the roads, especially during the commute.

An argument against commuting by car is that it does bad things to your attitude to other people, the endless pushing in and cutting up surely get into your bloodstream eventually. It is now Bike Week, not that the numbers on the bike route to Leeds have increased. The cycle superhighway from Bradford to Leeds certainly requires patience… pressing buttons and waiting… Mass cycling culture in the UK? As I cycle past the line of mobile phone using, red light running, one-person in a car enjoying their media with diesel fumes pumping car drivers, it’s evidently a long way off. The Antarctic will melt before we get there. More hopeful is mandatory electric vehicles and the end of humans doing the driving.

The photo is the orchard at Hidcote in Gloucs. BD3′s gardening festival is coming up so even more reason to visit inspiring gardens (even if it is about 100000 x bigger than my yard) It is a wonderful garden even if you only garden in a tiny space. It certainly shows how a ‘garden room’ can be imaginatively planted for beautiful contrasts, symmetries, focal points and a sense of sanctuary. The orchard has a lovely sense of being a big shaggy and wild, though I’m sure it produces a great deal of fruit. It would be great to grow an apple tree in a Bradford yard, but all I have at the moment are strawberries, mostly alpine. Lots of things about to flower – roses, honeysuckle and sweet peas in particular. Perhaps that’ll bring in a few more bees, I’m sure I had more last year. The long winter may have reduced their numbers.

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Bingley to Burnsall and other undulations

Over Ilkley Moor twice this last weekend, due to a desire to cycle from Bingley to Burnsall and a love of hills. A cool day, but cycle shorts none-the-less! Not many people around Bolton Abbey, and not so very many cyclists. And also over Langbar, now a firm favourite, it’s a pleasant bit of hilliness with some great views. The Tour de Yorkshire is next weekend, and goes through Burnsall, so the road closure notices were up. I love the excitement of bike racing, but bike culture is a bit too dominated by going fast – not many people taking it easy, panniers, steel frames, the occasional snooze in a hedge. It probably explains why some people will never get on a bike – if it means racing along scared of being overtaken or buying some carbon framed dream… It’s funny how the nation is divided up between the fatties and the sporty types compressed into leggings with go faster stripes. In neither case is exercise part of everyday life, it’s either something impossible (in BD3 the traffic alone would makes you retreat) or something rather technical, with added protein. They seem to be playing the same game, whereas the touring cyclist has transcended that entire ‘dialectic’, of course.

I’ve been reading the Southern Tier blog from four years (to the day) ago. We were in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. Wow! I think that’s one of the inspirations of touring – where might turning the pedals a few times more take you? The Southern Tier started outside an airport building in Florida, but wandered through swamps, across mountain ranges, many a scrubby desert, some with no settlement or water for about a hundred miles, through and across canyons, until it reached the Pacific. Wow. Let’s do it again….

I’ve been doing the Bradford Leeds bike route again. Doesn’t seem to be any greater number of people on the route though, in spite of a day when the temperature reached the 20s! The roads are uncivilised – the car drivers behave pretty badly to each other a fair bit of the time – cutting in, going through red lights, speeding. Curious that in a technological age it is still possible to get away with it, isn’t everything on camera these days? Probably can’t afford the staff to look. Anyway, pleasant bike rides on the whole. The problems are fairly evident – there’s many places where the route could be improved, ambiguous priorities made quite clear, bus users and cyclists separated more clearly. I guess there’s no money.

Reading Jean Giono’s La Chasse au Bonheur (The hunt for happiness). Wonderful evocation of Provence in its complex present and past. The book was written in the 60s when Provence faced ‘redevelopment’ just as anywhere else in the West, Giono is a genial, thoughtful, amusing and highly intelligent paysan. He has a great sense of the beauty of people and landscape, the squat farmhouse blasted by the mistral, with a couple of poplars, sheep, lavender fields beyond the sheep, some scrawny olive trees in the lee of the house, a pig in the yard, walls that are le couleur du temps. Not much has changed since the Romans, perhaps the weather is even less clement… And he’s pretty good on the romance of the open road – that feeling that I’d really like to see around the next turning – oh and let’s just see what’s around the next, and surely we should just see over that range of hills…. Some of Giono’s most famous characters (in the novels) are, basically, gentlemen of the road, tramps.. Perhaps it’s time to do Mont Ventoux, hmm.

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Dales Cycling

Easter was just about warm enough for cycling in the Dales, around Reeth, Tan Hill, Ingleton, Whernside, and the like. Tan Hill was visited on a sunny day (two half pints of beer and a couple of packets of crisps cost £6.85, so probably not the place for a session) as part of a circuit starting from Grinton and taking in Kirkby Stephen, so about 50 miles with plenty of climbing. I’d forgotten just how remote the road between Thwaite and Kirkby Stephen feels – over the watershed – and, of course, Tan Hill feels high up. Indeed, there was snow in patches, slowly melting. A trip to Ingleton via Ribblehead in the dry, which was great and included a visit to Chapel le Dale, with its memorial to the remarkable, for present times, number of deaths building the Settle-Carlisle line. We saw more evidence of the death toll the next day at Cowgill Church, along with the curious tale of the dispute between the then curate (in the mid Nineteenth Century) and Prof Sedgwick of Cambridge University (of geological fame) over the name of the village (the curate wanted to change it slightly and did so, Sedgwick, as the old established family, resisted even unto an act of parliament), The curate seems to have been a bit of a handful. Cowgill church was very useful as a place to shelter from the steady rain on Saturday, after coming down from the little road round the back of Whernside. Then finally a trip around the Stang, from Grinton. I did the tough climb up the Stang without any walking, my knees may be ruined… Lovely quiet lonely roads…

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A Plastic Free Lent

Today, being Ash Wednesday, is a suitable day for thinking about what’s going on in your heart, what conflicts are you engaged in, what hopes do you have, how worthy are any of them…? Since I’ve signed several petitions, especially the one from Surfers Against Sewage in favour of Plastic Free Coastlines (which you should certainly sign if you care about your planet), I’m going to try for a Plastic Free Lent. This is not going to be easy. Most of the veg I eat come wrapped in plastic, my bread is wrapped in a plastic bag, my orange juice is in a plastic bottle. So fairly tricky. I can buy loose veg from the organic shop or even Tesco, bake my own bread and eat oranges rather than orange juice though.

It does have a positive side – I don’t have to stop drinking beer or eating chocolate. Even if it proves rather tougher than I’d like, I’m sure I will learn just how plasticized my life is.

[update] Why do supermarkets provide only plastic bags for their loose fruit and veg? It is possible to not bother with any bag at all, tho’ you can lose your veg over the floor if you aren’t careful and look like a crazy person chasing your veg. It’s pretty much impossible to get milk that isn’t in a plastic bottle, so I’ve compromised there, though I’ve tried moving over to cartons of soya milk (plastic closey thingies though and probably less recycleable than plastic milk bottles). Perhaps I could just give up plastic which is hard to recycle or is single use? Chocolate fortunately mostly comes in paper and foil.

As an aside, I noticed the first Spring flowers in my yard – an iris reticulata is fully out and some tulips are just starting to show colour (it’s a Kaufmannia tulip, very early, ‘early harvest’ I think). A single daffodil is also showing a little yellow. Of course, the sarcoccoca and wallflowers have been in blossom since just after Christmas. On a dull day in Bradford, with everyone on their phones and half the town going through red lights, speeding or dumping mattresses, it’s something to treasure. I’ll post a photo when I’m at home in good light…

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Winter Cycling, Christmas Box

Although it seems very grey at the moment, even on the milder days, there are some wonderful things flowering. This christmas box (sarcoccoca confusa) is flowering in profusion in the yard and has a stunning scent. The flowers are odd little strands. Christmas box is a lovely evergreen, and flowers happily in shade. I get a few dark berries at some point, but as a devotee of green in all its variants the flowers are just icing on the cake. Hope some bee wakes up enough to appreciate them. My indoor pelargoniums are flowering too – I’m a bit crazed with Royal Oak scented pelargoniums at the moment, with cuttings on windowsills, and a desire to sniff them (funny balsam – spicy sort of smell, good I think for asthma). I have a bit of a craze for the pine/nutmeg Fragrans ones too – more windowsill space. The ‘Royal Oak’ ones are a bit like bonsai oak trees which gives them a special appeal – it’s very like having a miniature evergreen oak tree, with additional scent, in your living room. Since oak is the best tree around what more could you want?

There were snowdrops around in the Yorkshire Dales on Sunday – peeping out from beneath hedgerows as shown in the photo below (yes, the camera was damp and there was a drizzle so there’s a funny glow to the snowdrops!). And although the rain was at times fairly steady, it was so mild it was a joy to be out. Just a short ride from Burley in Wharfedale to Burnsall and back along the lanes (including going over the tops behind Ilkley – the Langbar road. The farm shop at Beamsley said that it was one of the quietest Sundays of the year – not many people even at Bolton Abbey.

I’ve not done much cycling since late November, and a fair few miles of that has just been cycling to work, usually when the trains are on strike over getting rid of guards (seems a bad idea to me, the trains are policed little enough as it is). In spite of the dark, the commuting rides in November and Jan have been enjoyable – choosing the milder dry days. There’s something so superbly free about being on a bike compared with being shut into a car, train or bus, all variants of metal boxes on wheels after all. Your own energy powering you along, fresh air (when not near standing traffic and the horrible diesels), and just the hint of a thought that you might not go to work after all but turn left and have a day in the Dales instead… [update] since writing this post, I then cycled to work for 5 days in succession in mid-Feb. Some wonderful sunrises, a bit cold and rainy, but fun. Easier to get to Leeds from Bradford since the prevailing wind and slight downhill are a significant help. The smell of diesel fumes in the evening traffic is a big negative. One day I’ll use a bit of the canal to miss out some of that.

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Big Circle Cycling

six  saintsEast Anglia has some big advantages for cycling – it can be quite speedy given that it’s undulating, it’s relatively dry (compared with, say, Wales) and there are an awful lot of quiet lanes with just the occasional tractor or pensioner on them. There are no cols (the average road in Bradford is a tougher climb than anything I’ve found in East Anglia) and there is a pleasant, if mildly radioactive, coast suitable for a quick swim after a hot day on the bike. It’s also not bad for breweries and in fact I visited two brewery shops (St Peter’s, Adnams), and could have done a third (Elgoods in Wisbech) if it hadn’t been for groundless fears of missing the train home. The saints are, I think, from the rood screen in Castle Acre church, and if you look carefully you can see a spattering of shot across the second saint from the right – one of the things Cromwell did for us. Norfolk and Suffolk are remarkable for their wonderful church woodwork – rood screens being a notable feature of many. One gets the feeling that in spite of religious extremists of the time trying to rip them out, the locals were attached to their saints and tried to keep them going. The resistance of ordinary (religious, in this case) practice to ideological zealots… It’s a virtue.

So doing a circle from Peterborough seemed a good idea.

First day from Peterboro’ to Castle Acre took a long route going via the bike path along the Nene heading east, then around Manea (memorable name) and the Welney Wetland Trust alongside the 100 foot wash (good tea stop), which I’ve seen wonderfully flooded, a sheet of light under a bright winter sun, though just damp today. Ended up sitting in the sun at the West Acre pub – The Stag – justly recommended by the CAMRA guide (three beers were available, I drank a pint from a brewery about 10 miles away).

Then we headed to Sheringham on the bank holiday, a great ride though extremely slow due to continually bumping into bookshops (Castle Acre and Tittleshall were the serious ones) and village fetes. At the end of the day we were a bit heavier than when we started. The ride went through Mileham, Tittleshall, Wood Dalling, and then finally approaching Sheringham via East Beckham (were you go down the ‘village only’ road which ends up taking you through National Trust woods on the south side of Sheringham). It was still warm so I went for a swim – a pleasant cool sea, nigh on flat, reasonably clear, with a notable east to west drift even on a calm day.

Sheringham to Blaxhall was just about our longest day and, due to a desire to avoid Norwich and visit St Peter’s Brewery in South Elmhall, ended up at about 90 miles. But hot and sunny weather is ideal for cycling. The difficulty of cycling around the Broads is that there are not many bridges so some busy roads are likely to be needed. Had lunch sitting on a bench in Acle, where we were assured that the ferry at Reedham was running. This ferry is a picturesque and quiet way of avoiding much busier roads. We did a bit of a circle to find St Peter’s Brewery but what a worthwhile effort that was! It’s a gorgeous location and the beers are wonderful – they do a series of dark beers, all of which we stowed in our panniers for an end of journey celebration when we reached Blaxhall. We ploughed on southwards, shopping in Saxmundham (were I failed to notice the Waitrose and slummed it in the Tesco, darn!) before rolling into the Youth Hostel at Blaxhall as it was getting dusky (7.30pm-ish). A wonderful long bike ride but sleep inducing, especially after a St Peter’s Black IPA.

The next three days were mostly cycling in circles, though large enough to be interesting. The first day it was pouring so, in light rain, we visited the post-industrial wasteland that is the National Trust at Orford Ness. Overcast with light rain brings out the best from post-industrial bleakness, and after all these years in Bradford I’m an expert on post-industrial bleakness believe me. It was a weapon testing area with a gorgeous shingle beach covered in sea samphire, sea kale (I think, it looked cabbagey) and various rare plants. A slate grey sea deepened quickly offshore with a strong current and light rain pittering down. But Over The Horizon radar, atomic bomb component testing plus Sea Samphire is sufficient, without a swim. The next day we wanted to get a view of Felixstowe. An unusual desire, but it meant we could cycle as far south as the peninsula allows, visiting Shingle Street (lots of Shingle) and Bawdsey. There’s a ferry across to Felixstowe, and then one to Harwich, so cyclists catching ferries from Harwich onwards can just go via Bawdsey and cross the estuary, rather than a bike ride through the scenic delights of Ipswich. We then went inland and had a free look around Helmingham Hall gardens, which were open for free due to filming of the Antiques Roadshow there. Wonderful rosemary, wildflower spaces, vegetables over an pergola. The final day of cycling in circles was a trip up the coast, visiting Blythburgh (a beautiful and enormous wool church), Southwold (Admans Brewery visitor centre, but no space on the brewery tours sadly), getting the ferry across to Walberswick (a muscley rower with a large rowing boat, and took bikes so excellent, and a great way of earning a living) so we avoided the horrible A road to Southwold that we’d experienced on the way there, then down to Aldeburgh, very Benjamin Britten. The A12 was crossed but avoided, it’s a menacing roar of fast moving, lorry heavy, traffic. When did roads become an assault on the landscapes they pass through? Adnams brew some interesting beers, although they are not big in Yorkshire. The one we liked most was a variety of belgian style triple. I don’t think you see that much even in the Admans pubs.

Then from Blaxhall to Castle Acre’s wonderful youth hostel, where huge fennel plants were starting to flower and purple sage sprawls over banks. Another fairly big day, perhaps about 70 miles, though very rural and quiet. We got rained on once or twice – notably at Eye where we sheltered under a chunk of medieval masonry by the church. I think I sheltered there a few years ago since it’s a route I  like. We got a bit lost around Attleborough and ended up on some enormous bypass thing, glimpsing a rose growers show garden – open still but it was about 5pm and we still had a good 30+ miles to go (and, at West Acre, The Stag’s basic but acceptable beer garden is very tempting at the end of a long ride). We saw the ditch that is the Devil’s Dyke, no doubt keeping separate the Angles and Mercians and then finally hurtled along, trying to reach the beer garden in sunlight, to West Acre. Just managed it, had a pint of real ale then pottered slowly along the valley to Castle Acre

Finally back to Peterborough, though we found that early on we passed through Setchey, well known for Beers of Europe, an on line off-licence of huge proportions. Makes you realise just how many breweries there are, how many small but wonderful breweries that you never hear about. We crossed the main road into King’s Lynn, which had seized up with cars, but we were heading off along quiet lanes. Although East Anglia is very rural, the traffic on A roads seemed usually severe and often nose to tail. Quiet rural fenland cycling, crossing various drainage relief rivers and on into Wisbech, where Polish seemed more common than English in the town centre. We’d got a train to catch so it was with deep sadness that we passed by Elgood’s Brewery at a fair speed. There’s a lovely flat road alongside the west side of River Nene that’s quiet and great for bikes. Lots of wandering on straight roads alongside waterfilled ditches followed. A fairly empty landscape, burnt looking fields, harvest having occurred, lines of trees in a flat landscape under a lowering sky, rain in the far distance. And then back on the River Nene cycle path into Peterborough.

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