As I rode out one Sunday morn.

Daffodils line the lane into Buckland Dinham

Daffodils line the lane into Buckland Dinham

Sunday was bright and clean, perhaps the first proper day of Spring weather round here, there was no hint of frosted breath nor chill breeze. The warmth had penetrated even into the shadows, and there was an air of expectation in the countryside surrounding the village, as if the sun had woken the soil from a long hibernation. Birdsong danced about the trees and hedgerows, sweet sounds flickering back and forth in call and response as the business of territory and feeding rights were settled. The few people that I saw as I pointed the bike towards the back lanes looked as if they could scarcely believe they were experiencing bright, pure sun and the gentle warmth of spring.

I had spent an hour or so before the ride cleaning the muck off the Lemond Etape and replacing the rear tube. I had both wheels off and a diverse range of rags which took in a whole spectrum of status, from clean to absolutely filthy. Slowly and carefully I had removed the grime, washed, dried and re-lubed the machine. I noticed a few new chips and scratches on the paintwork that had appeared since last I had cleaned it, they didn’t worry me. There is a difference between a bike that shows signs of wear through use, and one that shows the tell-tale signs of neglect, but that is perhaps the subject of a different post.

Now the bike was performing beautifully as I skimmed the A36 and turned for Laverton. This time I took a left before the turning to Norton and headed down towards the village of Buckland Dinham. The roads here are convoluted, every now and then I recognised a crossroad or junction that I had passed on some other ride to another place. One of the lovely things about living in this part of the world is this network of roads; junctions within junctions, lanes that are barely more than farm tracks, half forgotten B roads, ancient rights of way, drovers lanes and spirit paths. I can cycle less than ten miles from home and still end up happily lost when I come out in this direction. I shot past other turnings and junctions, the promises of new routes and rides, and followed signs to Buckland. Cresting a hill I emerged from the cover of a copse that sheltered the road, to see the lane lined with daffodils. The road dipped away out of sight into the gentle valley, then emerged zig-ziagging up the hill on the other side. The shape of Buckland Dinham church stood silhouted two miles away on the hill. I paused to take a drink from the water bottle and capture the moment with a photograph (at the start of this post) before mounting up and heading down the hill.

In the hollow of the valley was a farm right on the road and I rode briefly through a cloud of bovine whiff and sleepy flies before the momentum from the drop launched me up the other side. The lane switched back and up, crawling round a sharp bend and the first houses of Buckland Dinham. I crossed over a main road, the car that flashed past before I hit the junction was the first vehicle I had seen for six miles. At the next junction along, a beautiful evergreen stood on a triangle of grass and I followed the signs for National Cycle Route 24 and Frome, which tipped me down a narrow lane lined with rough stone walls. At the bottom I stopped at an idyllic pool spanned by an old stone bridge. Some Chopinesque piano work drifted through the birdsong from a large house on the waterside. I sat on the bridge to drink in the scene and watched three mallards drift laconically under the bridge.

Your author on the bridge at Buckland Dinham, taking in the birdsong and piano music

Your author on the bridge at Buckland Dinham, taking in the birdsong and piano music

A bright yellow butterfly wafted past me, taking an interest in the decals on the bike before making its way over the surface of the water. When it went out of sight by a nearby boathouse, I put the helmet on and pointed the bike uphill. Here the lanes were very narrow and steep, I crawled up slowly, dropping into lower and lower gears. In my exertions I missed the point at which I entered Frome and I was suddenly in traffic. Slightly dazed by the ensuing noise, I allowed the bike to coast to a halt at the top of one of Frome’s short but steep hills while I got my bearings. Soon I was being hailed by two fellow cyclists, clearly they were of a much more healthy build than I. Matt and Ho, two happy and amicable chaps, had cycled to Frome from Bristol, and they would be cycling back again, aiming to put in 100 miles!

Matt and Ho, clearly keen cyclists and super-fit with it, aiming to complete a century in one day

Matt and Ho, clearly keen cyclists and super-fit with it, aiming to complete a century in one day

They seemed in fine form, with no hint of road-weariness or aching. This was especially impressive since Ho had only recently recovered from a debilitating illness. After a chat and some replenishment of waterbottles, they mounted up and with cheery waves entered again into the flow of traffic. I admired the state of mind and the physical ability that would lead two riders and friends to say to one another: “Today let us ride a hundred miles”. I salute their epic century attempt and hope they made it.

I walked down St Catherine’s hill and remounted at the bottom. A mere five miles to home meant I only completed fourteen miles on the ride, but what a beautiful and life-affirming ride it was. It will be a sad day for me when I have ridden every hidden turning, every crumbling lane and derelict track in this small area of Somerset and I will have to hunt further afield to enjoy getting lost in the lanes again.

Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 5:50 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Super bit of prose, once again!

    It’s a nice spot at Great Elm pond isn’t it! The music you heard probably came from Jackdaws Music Education Trust nearby.

    I recognise the location where you took the picture of the two lads. A regular watering hole for myself at the Coffee Pot cafe in the Badcox,Frome.

    • Great Elm, of course, I was so lost in the ride, geography went out the window. I was invading your manor a little on this ride and yes it was indeed the Coffee Pot (opposite the new bike shop – always thought a garage would make an excellent bike shop location), I regret to say that I didn’t partake of a cup of joe on this ride. Maybe next time.

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