Mudfest; End of a Dream

the phonemast at the top of Scotland Lane

And so, the dream of a workable link between the village and the farm shop sinks into a morass of mud, puddles, brambles, fallen trees and deep hoofprints, but let us start at the beginning.

Tuesday, with a half hour left over from my lunch break I decided to haul my oft-neglected mountainbike out of the shed, pump up the tyres and go in search of the legendary lost route that links the village to the farm shop. To recap briefly, there is a fine farm shop and cafe very local to the village, less than two miles away. However, it is at the end of a no-through-road that can only be accessed by riding the dual carriageway or braving the busy Beckington/Frome roundabout. It seems mad that anyone who can’t ride in traffic has to get into the car for such a short journey, a car journey diminishes the idea of ‘local’. As I’ve said before, the village where I live is very bikey, but it’s hard to break out of the confines of the village if you can’t stand riding in traffic. In an effort to open up the possibilities for riders, I wanted to find a route through to the farm shop, the closest thing we have to a supermarket and crucially it sells local produce. Bikes and shopping locally? A match made in heaven. Two rides before this one, I had found the exit of the byway, now I wanted to try it out and see if it was passable.

Riding out of the village, I was amazed at how slow the mtb felt, it was like riding a big snail on the road. I was only on the tarmac for a few minutes though, just down the dual carriageway and to the farm shop. I pulled over by the entrance to the byway – of course if people were cycling from the village, they would be approaching from the other direction, riding through Rudge, but as I wasn’t 100% certain where the byway started, I thought it would be a good idea to trace the route backwards from where it comes out. Immediately, the bike was over the rims in mud. Not the end of the world I thought, from the sound of trickling water it sounded like the drainage had just got blocked a bit, easy enough to remedy at a later date, and after all, it had been very wet recently, with snow, hail and rain soaking the area. Brambles hung down from the trees, snagging in my jumper. No matter I thought, these could easily be chopped back. Then the track became even more muddy, narrower and massively overgrown, soon I was riding up what seemed to be a flooded ditch.

The trail was muddySoooo muddy

Soon I was pushing the bike as it just wouldn’t go forward through the water. It was calf deep mud. It occurred to me that about a hundred or so years ago, traveling out of the village in winter or early spring would have been hard work. These bridal ways and byways are a reminder of what it was like moving round the villages by the shortest, but not the easiest routes. A shattered elm lay across the track in a tangle of brambles, no one had been down here for a long while. There was quite obviously no way anyone could ride a hybrid or shopper with a basket on down this track, the dream was over, but the trail wasn’t. I clawed my way through the undergrowth, a padlock gate barred my way so I hefted the bike over before clambering up and over the rusted metal. Then I was out of the woods, but into a rough field, very rideable, but without suspension, pretty hard work, again no good for someone with shopping. Another padlocked gate, this one surrounded by an electric fence, ticking idly as I gingerly picked my way over. Finally I was on the road again, coming out exactly where I thought I would, Scotland Lane in Rudge. I stopped to take a picture of the phonemast there, and a buzzard took off as I snapped the pic (see top of post). Moving on again, I pulled a lovely huge skid to scrape some of the mud of my tyres. There’s something deeply satisfying about a long, childish skid. It seemed to clear away some of the disappointment of the uselessness of the trail from my mind, allowing me to ride home satisfied.

An elm had shattered and lay across the trackafter cycling through mud, I find a big skid is the best way to remove filth

Published in: on April 12, 2008 at 10:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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