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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