In the Pines, in the Pines where the Sun don’t ever shine

A curious mixture of weather this evening. Rich golden light from the setting sun and ink-black clouds, their edges ragged and torn unloading a shower as I set out up the A36 towards Warminster. A tremendous slap up feed on Sunday was still sitting a little heavily on me so I just span gently up Black Dog Hill, not really sure where I was going to decide to ride to. There was plenty of spray coming off the road onto my legs, but the high cadence kept me warm. By the time I reached the beginning of the Warminster bypass I had decided to go to the little roundabout by Cley Hill and go left, up the hill past Center Parcs and onto the Longleat Forest road. The bypass itself was not pleasant in the rain, particularly the last part up to Cley Hill Roundabout (It’s one of John Hayes’ least favourite stretches of road), the road betweeen Cley Hill roundabout and the safari park turn off is even worse, a nasty Faux Plat and not that much room for cars to pass safely. Up past the entrance to Center Parcs and beyond the timber merchants the road disappears upwards into the dense pine forest. Sounds became close and sharp as the trees closed in tightly to the road. There was an expectant stillness, a quiet broken only by the clicking of my freewheel, a sound made abnormally loud by the looming forest. Though the rain had stopped, huge droplets of water showered down sporadically from the dank branches to spatter heavily on the road ahead and behind as I passed. A glance to the right revealed deep golden sunlight reaching out over the horizon in the distance, visible through the regimented rows of trees though it could not throw any illumination onto the shadows crowding the forest floor and the moss-edged road. The forest seemed older than its five score years, towering, oppressive even, redolent of pine resin, rich tar oozing from the ends of logs piled up, stacked where they had been cut down. It brought to my mind the eerie Leadbelly song Where Did You Sleep Last night.

My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me,
tell me where did you sleep last night?
In the pines, in the pines,
Where the sun don’t ever shine,
I will shiver the whole night through.

My girl, my girl, where will you go,
I’m going where the cold wind blows.
In the pines, in the pines,
Where the sun don’t ever shine,
I will shiver the whole night through.

Yet on the turn of the hill as it began to drop away towards Horningsham there was a sudden flare of light as I rode past the entrance to a forest track. Cycling back up the hill a little way I could see the track running straight to a field in the middle of the forest and the setting sun could throw its rays all the way to the road. I eased the bike past the padlocked rusty barrier and wheeled it over the chippings to the end of the track where the forest opened out into the grassy field. A woodpecker called loudly somewhere nearby, and across the glebe a crow was cawing in the last minutes of glorious sunlight. This was a beautiful moment, made all the more lovely as it contrasted with the man-made forest with its trees planted so close that nothing grows on the forest floor save a pile of decaying pine needles from the dying lower branches of each tree. I savoured the remaining warmth as the sun set, then prepared for the descent. I followed a little Fiat down the hill at 36mph, keeping contact with it up to the roundabout, then I was away from the forest and back onto the A36. Black Dog Hill took my last remaining warmth from me on the descent, but in return it gave up 43mph of speed. All was going well, rows of artic lorries were pulling me along in their irresistible slipstreams, but then I reached the dual carriageway by Beckington. The sunlight was all but gone and I ran over something hard and metal, there was a bang, a hiss of escaping air and the sudden realisation that I had punctured badly a mile and a half from the village. It was a long walk down the A36 to the garage. I hoped to be able to effect a repair under the light of the canopy. I was a little concerned as the tyre in question was a slime tube, so if it was a small puncture it should have fixed itself. My fears were confirmed when I took the wheel off and levered the tube out. Green slime everywhere and a huge double snakebite rip in the tube. The wheel wasn’t looking too happy itself. The walk back to the village was long and dark down lanes teeming with rats, they scuttled in and out of the hedge, over the road in front and behind the bike, I could barely see them, a flicker of a tail in the bike light, a twitch of whiskers. Around my head flew many bats, coming so close I could feel the rush of air as they passed. It was an eerie walk back, but apart from nearly stepping on a pheasant’s tail and the resulting near heart attack it induced as it flew up squawking into the air in front of me, it was an easy walk back to the lamplight of the village.

That’s a trip to the bike shop tomorrow then… any excuse.

Published in: on August 7, 2007 at 12:19 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] wasn’t too bad this time, and pretty soon I was heading up the hill towards Longleat Forest. Last time I was here, I found the atmosphere quite oppressive, but here on the left hand side of the road the woods were […]


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