Night Riding to the Thankful Village

It’s not long until we go on a cycling camping trip to Belgium and France. I remain woefully out of shape, carrying at least a stone and a half too much weight, the majority of which seems to be round my middle forcing an inadvertant ‘whuff!’ noise to escape from my mouth whenever I bend down to pick anything up. With a barely suppressed sense of mounting panic, I decided that I’d better get another ride in before we go. So I arranged a weekend pedal once again with Mike.

The night before, I made an adjustment to the rack on the bike. I like to have my panniers quite far back so my heels don’t clip as I spin the pedals. Unfortunately this has the unwanted side-effect of obscuring any light attached to the rack. Also, with a tent slung over the panniers, a light on the saddle bag would be covered. So I fashioned an extension bracket out of an aluminum strip. In order to keep it flush to the rack I used my tap and die set to cut some threads into the metal, ensuring a nice snug fit with no wobbling. Using a hacksaw, I carved off a bracket from an old plastic light set and bolted it onto the metal. It worked perfectly, pulling the light out from under the pannier and, as it’s box shaped, remaining strong. I then added the HYmini wind charger to the handlebars, choosing to sling it underneath to keep the top clear of clutter.

As Earth Hour kicked off, I took the bike out for an eerie spin through the country lanes. The Bike Hut Ultrabright front light was certainly bright enough to ride with at speed and confidence in the dark, but it was a little leaky, throwing some of the powerful beams up into my face and ruining my night vision somewhat. However, this did seem to have the effect of underlighting my face in a demonic manner, which is always good. I spent the best part of an hour shooting around the roads, trying to make the rear light fall out of its new location and also testing out the speed I needed to be going to get the HYmini wind charger turning in order to create charge.

I stopped the bike at Tellisford crossroads and propped it up against a five-bar gate. I walked twenty or so yards away down the road and turned back to look at the light arrangement, trying to imagine the right eye-level to get a driver’s eye view of what my bike would look like in the dark. I was pretty pleased with the result. In combination with the Hi-Viz vest, and the stickers on my helmet I should be visible from space.

Away from the comforting pool of the bike lights, the darkness enveloped me. Thick cloud smeared the sky above the horizon cutting out the starlight and I suddenly felt very vulnerable and exposed. This crossroads and these lanes were old and filled with the weight of unspoken and unrecorded events. Mere yards away, the red LEDs on the rear of the bike blinked out an organic rhythm, moving in a line from left to right and back again. For some reason I enjoyed the frailty I felt then, the smell of damp turned earth, the way the searing white light from the front of the bike picked out freshly-exposed flints in the field beyond the gate, the silhouette of the tower of All Saints church.

Arthur Mee's King's England: SomersetTellisford was dark, perhaps because this was still Earth Hour, or maybe the owners of these big houses had retreated into some inner sanctum, unviewable from the outside. As we are going to be visiting some WW1 battlefields in France and Belgium on this ride, I recalled that Tellisford is one of the initial so-called ‘Thankful Villages’; thirty-two villages in England and Wales which lost no soldiers in World War One, all those who left to fight came home again. The writer Arthur Mee popularised the phrase in the 1930s when he wrote ‘Enchanted Land’, the first volume of the The King’s England series of guides. It is sobering to remember how so many communities lost so many people in that first ‘great’ war, what a huge vacuum the loss of so many young men must have created in a village. In WW1, villagers often enlisted as a group, and were kept together in the regiments. They trained, barracked, traveled, fought, and so often, died together. Tellisford truly had much to be thankful for in the return of all her young men from those killing fields.

Arthur Mee wrote especially of Tellisford “We do not remember a more charming place in all our journeyings”. So with that in mind, I remounted my bike and pointed it back through the darkness to my own village.

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. So, how fast DO you have to go for a charge? That looks like one handy gadget.

    • It seems to be about 9mph to get a charge going. 14mph is said to give a good solid charge. Apparently though the charge through wind is a sort of top up as it’s not possible to get the battery fully charged up from wind power alone (it can be charged from mains and a computer too, also solar if you have a panel). The proof of the pudding will come on the ride when I’ll be trying to keep my camera topped up. It works rather like a power monkey in that it stores the charge in a battery, so you don’t have to have your device to be charged plugged in while it’s on the bike. I charged up my phone after the ride and got it almost to the top of the battery bar.
      I’ll do a full review when I come back from the cycle camp trip, but my initial thoughts are that it could do with a charge indicator and it would be nice if it worked with the iPhone. It certainly is neat and it slings underneath the handlebars quite easily and tidily.
      As always WR, Thanks for reading.

  2. I look forward to the full report. I’m planning a 200 miler this July, and that would be perfect for the iPhone indeed.

    Thanks for the writing – your prose is wonderful and I always look forward to your next post. You make your region sound like cycling nirvana, just the spot for a Riv with fattish tires and some time for adventure. God willing, some day maybe I’ll have both.

  3. I didn’t know about the Thankful Villages, so thank you for that.

  4. I live in Tellisford (well just past the cross-roads in the woods)and had no idea about the ‘Thankful Villages’. I am thankful to you for writing about it.

    Tellisford has no street lighting and can be very quiet in winter. Come June / July it can become a battleground between folk looking for a handy parking space for the weir – toward Rode – and the locals who have little on road parking and start getting out the Police parking cones.


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