Cley Hill to Dead Maids Junction – Edge of Dusk

Sunday saw me striking out down the A36, I had left it pretty late and already dewy dusk was settling over the landscape. The air was thinner and the temperature cool and pleasant affording me an easy ascent of Black Dog Hill. Dead Maids Junction seemed almost welcoming, evening sunlight raking the long grass on the kerb, butterflies flitting to drink one last proboscisfull of nectar before the warm golden light vanished behind the horizon. I gently rode round the bypass, following the A36 and oblivious to the traffic, a good solid session of just ‘cycling around’. On a whim I decided to head to Cley Hill.

Julian Cope in his Modern Antiquarian (Thorsons, Hapercollins, London) suggests that Cley Hill is a Recumbent Goddess figure, the swollen belly being the main hill, but Powells Folklore notes from South West Wilts (1901) has this origin story recounted by a local:

“The folk of Devizes had offended the devil, who swore he would serve them out. So he went “down the country” (ie into Somerset), and found a big “hump” and put it on his back, to carry it and fling it at them. On his journey back he met a man and asked the way to Devizes. The man replied,
That’s just what I want to know myself. I started for Devizes when my beard was black, and now it’s grey, and I haven’t got there yet.
The devil replied, “If that’s how it is, I won’t carry this thing no further, so here goes, ” and he flung the “girt (great) hump” off his shoulder, and there it is”.

I have also heard a story that the pile of earth was made by the people of Wiltshire who “had to wipe the Wiltshire earth off their feet before being allowed to step into Somerset”

Whatever the origin of this remarkable hill, there is a bastard of a Faux Plat as you come off the A36 and head for the Longleat roundabout. It looks flat from that direction, but on the return trip it’s apparent that it’s actually a pretty nasty gradient. The carpark is a mean potholey place with huge sharp chippings. Certainly not the place to leave one’s racing velocipede, so I walked up to the hill wheeling the bicycle with me. The clouds turned a beautiful shade of pink as the sun began to draw in the last of its rays. There was a gentle breeze, but with the sun gone, it got quite suddenly very cold, not the best time of day to cycle in three-quarter shorts and a short-sleeve cycle vest. The moon made a graceful ascent into the sky, marvellously full and glowing brightly. Easing back onto the A36 I found that the traffic had all but died away save for the nightfreight. I don’t mind lorries even they do swing a little too close as they pull back in after overtaking, the slipstream is wonderful. I was almost pulled up the slight gradient to Dead Maids Junction.

Dead Maids Junction

It didn’t look so welcoming now, as another huge truck rolled past me, something alive and fluttering hit me in the chest. It felt pretty big, perhaps a bat or a particularly heavy moth? No idea how fast I went down Black Dog Hill, there was no way of reading the display and I forgot to check the top speed on my computer before I cleared it. The Hi-Viz vest and helmet stickers seemed to be working as cars from behind were giving me a very wide berth. In the layby next to the Beckington roundabout artic lorries were bedding in for the night, orange glows from the cabins, glimpses of tired-looking men with newspapers and coffee, or perhaps cocoa. The scent of diesel, tyre rubber and cigarette smoke; waves of heat from the cooling engines offering brief respite from the cold generated by my speed. In the fields farm-workers took advantage of the dry day, tractors and combines working through the night, distant shouts, blazing headlights tracking across the corn, even at that distance I could see the moths dancing in the fierce white beams before the machines.

Waited for an age for the headlights behind me to pass so I could move into the right hand lane on the roundabout, only when I realised I couldn’t hear an engine did I look round to discover I had been fooled by the light of the full moon.

Back to the house, warm shower bringing life back to cold, aching limbs. A good ride.

Published in: on July 30, 2007 at 11:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

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