Oranges and Lemons

Though the shop and post office in our village makes a manful effort to supply the needs of the village and surrounding environs, (homemade plum jam filled victoria sponge anyone?) there was a distinct lack of oranges and lemons to be had there today. I came away with a cucumber, some local lettuce and a very small lemon – but that wasn’t going to help me make elderflower cordial. So, having finished work, I took to the saddle of the Brompton and headed for The supermarket. I decided that I couldn’t face the Wingfield straight so I went via Tellisford and Farleigh Hungerford. It was very hilly indeed, but on a Brompton it doesn’t matter, a leisurely pace is all that can be managed so there is no need to sweat, strive and strain up hills. I crested the tallest hill at the point where I used a photograph I took to make the Highway Cycling Group poster:

Many people have asked how I did the painting of the landscape in the background, but I assure everyone that it is real. The only things that weren’t there in the original photo are the words and the clouds which I added from another photo.

Easing over this hill saw me take a fast descent via some sharp corners and a final climb to Farleigh Hungerford. I took a right onto the main road and passed the castle. Then on into Trowbridge – only to discover that the Tesco Express had neither oranges nor lemons. So it was down the cycle path to Bradford-on-Avon and the Sainsbury’s there. Soon I was departing the supermarket with a riding bag full to the brim with fruit and goodies, but that also meant an enormous amount of extra weight. Never mind, it sped me up on the downhills and gave me a work out on the uphills. I took the same route back again – stopping now and again to pick more elderflowers for the cordial. At the bend by the bridges at Farleigh Hungerford I stopped to read the rules of the Farleigh Swimming Club. This group own a field next to the river in a spot ideal for a bit of wild swimming – but it’s strictly members only.
Farleigh Swimming Club

I liked the texture underneath their information sign where the new poster had been stuck over the old, which was probably stuck over an even older poster.

Swimming club sign

The number to call for membership having been noted, I started the ascent of the hill by the castle. Oh this was a bad one, I could have done with the drop nose Wilderness Trail Bike saddle on my Mountain bike, the Brooks on the Brompton, although being a fine and beautiful saddle, does not give you much scope for sliding forward. I have also found that standing up a Brompton only really works if you’re going downhill. I struggled up and turned left into the village itself, another hill but out of the traffic and the heat it was fine. I carried on along the road, up and down up and down, broken up with sporadic forays into the hedge to pick elderflowers. My arms, slick with sweat, were now dusted with yellow pollen. The air itself was thick with it. As I sped down the final descent I passed a tandem going up the hill, a man and woman gave hearty if breathless hellos as we passed each other.

Back at the house – all goods were unloaded and once the kids were in bed, stage one of the cordial making commenced. Now the flowers are soaking overnight in the zesty water – the smell is delicious.

Today’s ride was gloriously warm and bathed in sunshine. The sights and smells were that of an English summer, lazy looking horses in fields, heavy pollen, fresh-mown grass and wildflowers gracing the verge. The sounds were the ticking of a sturmey archer hub, the distant drone of lawnmowers, the rich and lyrical singing of blackbirds in the hedge and the joyous shouts of children splashing in the river.

It was a perfect ride, and I dedicate it to the memory of Noah.

The Delivery Service: Too Posh for Post

Today I seized the opportunity to get a little cycling in despite the variable weather, sleet, sun and icy wind. My wife had printed out a pile of leaflets about the village preschool open day and had to deliver them in the nearby village of Telisford. We were down at her mother and father’s house using the cutter to chop the leaflets into shape, there was some debate as to who was going to go to do the leaflet drop. When getting the car out was mentioned I immediately stepped in with an environmentally friendly, two-wheeled, solution. The father-in-law was just starting a relay series of lunches for the various relatives gathered at the house and it looked like mine would be a while so I elected to do the leafleting before eating. I rushed back to our house, put on my waterproof and Hi-rez vest then broke out the Brompton. The Lemond was looking a bit dejected so I’m going to have to take it out soon, the Brompton has certainly been getting all my attention recently, its status slowly ballooning on the category cloud in the right hand column of The Highway Cycling Group blog. As I had my enormous trousers on, I clipped up to avoid chain snag, I looked like a cycling Cossack. With the leaflets in the bag on the front I set off down the road, a nice freewheel down to The Mill. Telisford is atop a steep hill, in fact the church and one house is at the summit, the rest of the village descends down a no-through road, culminating in a steep series of old and uneven steps down to Telisford Mill, recently converted to generate electricity. I quite enjoyed leaving the bike at the gates of these large houses and crunching over the gravel to the front doors. However I rapidly became annoyed by the distinct lack of letterboxes. Some of the houses had many converted outbuildings, stables, up to six cars, but not a letterbox in sight! Are they too posh to receive post? Do they have some secret means of receiving mail? The final stagger down the steps to the mill ended with me wandering hopelessly round someones garden until they came out and asked what I was up to. Ah, hand delivery, just like the old days. The Mill was churning out the Kilowatts, I could hear its whine fading as I puffed up to the Brompton waiting by Crabb Cottage (who do have a letterbox). Then up the hill and right towards Farleigh Hungerford, pausing to take a photo of a seriously ploughed field.

The Ploughlands

By now I was longing for that lunch, I wondered if it was ready yet. Just a few more houses to go, but quite spaced out (the houses, not me). The final house was about ten feet over the crest of the first hill towards Farleigh, the impossibly picturesque Lodge. It’s for sale, three bedrooms and splendidly isolated. Hooray, they had a letterbox though it was extremely small. Luckily, the leaflet I was delivering was also tiny.

The Lodge

Job done. Then it was almost downhill all the way until the in-laws’ house, where I tucked into a plate of eggs, bacon, chips and beans laced with HP sauce.

Now that’s good living!