Eat More Chips – Deeper into the Wylye

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After a hard day’s graft at the coalface/keyboard, I managed to get out for an evening ride. It had been a pretty dreary day weatherwise, but as I hurtled towards Warminster the sun was coming out, having dipped down below the cloud line, a golden orb regally bestowing it’s glory upon the A36. Still, there was the threat of rain in the air as I trundled up Black Dog Hill. I paused in the car park of the Little Chef just outside Warminster to sort out the lights, lorry drivers were getting ready to bed down for the night, staring out from their cabins as I wove the bike in between the wheeled leviathans. Evening radio poured out from the opened windows, mingling with the smell of strong coffee. Then, oh joy, I finally got the chance to take a picture of a lorry that I have seen rolling up and down these roads for a good few months, but have never managed to get the camera out in time. But there it was, sitting ready for me to take a pic of the legend branded on its flank.

“Eat More Chips”

the fabled Eat More Chips lorry

Oft have I spoken of this splendid vehicle, and oft have people exclaimed that I am making it up. But here and now I present proof that the Eat More Chips lorry is real.

In great spirits I continued on through Warminster town center and out the other side. I crossed the Wylye and went through Bishopstrow and Sutton Veny. This time I headed for Corton. These roads are splendid, country lanes, but wide, very wide. I think this must be because there is a quarry or something here abouts and the lorries need to get into it. As I came out of Tytherington (after admiring the village’s ancient church as I rode past) I broke free of a tunnel of trees lining a hill, and there was the Wylye Valley unfolded ahead of me. It was glorious, a fairweather English Eden stretching out before me as far as the eye could see. Not only was the road smooth and beautifully wide, it was near devoid of traffic so I took my hands off the brakes and allowed the benign road to carry me down to the next village, Corton. In a field to the left a small heard of Llamas stood and watched me pedal past. The shadows were lengthening rapidly, the sun had dulled to a brass colour, veiled by inky clouds on the horizon. I pushed on a little further until the computer gave me fifteen miles, then I reluctantly turned back and headed the way I had come. It was hard pedaling all the way back, for the dusk was hard on my back and the sharp chap chap of a blackbird alarm call told me that the witching hour was about to begin. Often this is my favourite time to ride, the air is cool and fresh, sound is exaggerated and enhanced, fewer cars on the road – all of them able to see my tron-like reflective gear so they give me a wide berth. In the gathering darkness, it seems that hills are easier and the miles go quicker. There is also the chance that I might see an owl, a badger or a hare.

I arrived back at the house with no wildlife spotted, but 31 miles clocked up for the evening’s ride.

Sainsbury nee Budgeons: “Lard, be gone!” and Bastard, Bastard, Lorry.

Imagine my surprise and alarm on discovering this morning that I appear to have a tractor tyre round my middle. I knew I’d put some weight on, but the nature of the blubber had not occured to me until now. By my reckoning, I would do well to lose about one and a half stone. To this end, I have decided to ‘do some running’, Jez reckons that it should take two weeks of running three times in seven days to start losing the lard, I’m giving it a go.

I made a start on the lardbusting today by cycling to the supermarket on the racer. It was bitterly cold, though the sky was bright and clear, so I found a lightweight merino scarf that belonged to my first born when he was just a toddler, and wrapped it round my head lengthways. Now with my ears covered up I could brave the elements. It took a little while to get going especially into the headwind, the Wingfield straight was murderous. Cars screaming by, overtaking in each other’s wake without even looking to see if the opposite carriage was clear. There was a close call as an SUV overtook me, narrowly missing an oncoming lorry and cutting into me, I was going 29mph in a 30mph area at the time. Away from the hidden dips and onto the straight itself things weren’t so bad, although the wind was searingly cold. By the time I reached the Farleigh, Trowbridge, Bradford-on-Avon crossroads I was feeling weary, but I’ve found something that helps. If when you first set off on a ride you start to flag, just stop for five minutes. I pulled over at the shrine by the crossroads and took a picture. As usual, the flowers were fresh.

Roadside shrine, Wingfield Crossroads

On getting back on the bike I felt refreshed and ready to go. I often find that a tiny break not long after setting off, perhaps two miles down the road, will get the energy levels up again. On towards Bradford-on-Avon, warming up nicely now, the cars few and far between. To my left the ditch had been recently dug out, a reminder of the recent floods, today the roads were dry, the Spring sunshine had melted the morning’s hard frost. I hurtled onto the roundabout on the Rode side of Bradford, hanging a right, then another, into the car prak of Sainsburys. Total chaos. The store is being extended and the carpark remodelled, traffic queued up everywhere. It wasn’t clear where cars should go, the arrows on the road bore no realtion to the current temporary layout. Not a problem for me on my bike though, I picked a clean line through to the new bike racks. It was pleasing to note that with my bike locked up, all the racks were in use, and someone had left a crazy looking folder or shopper in the foyer.

It didn’t take long for me to fill the backpack with grub from the shopping list my wife had supplied, then out on the road again, albeit somewhat more heavy-laden than the outward journey. I elected to go back via the Bradford-Trowbridge cycle path. Ah smooth, smooth tarmac. And just as well, I’d forgotten about the hill. Riding that stretch of cycle path is a real pleasure. It’s short but sweet, mixed use, but rarely do you meet another pedestrian, fields to the left and the smell of sewage when you reach the water treatment plant. Someone had written in pen on a sign “Polski Go Home!”, the directions to the recycling centre perhaps an odd place to choose to express one’s fear of immigration, but not as odd as writing the surreal message “Achtung Polski!” on the Wessex Water sign five meters later. The cycle path ends at the outskirts of Trowbridge, jettisoning the rider onto potholed crumbly tarmac. Heading into the roundabout a gravel lorry was in the left hand lane. I thought I’d better stay behind him, even though I was going right, because you never know…

..sure enough he was making a right turn without signalling. Actually he was going right the way round the roundabout, much to the surprise of a car waiting to come out of the Broadmead turning! The lorry driver could not hear the horn of the car, or move his hand to signal for one reason, and this became apparent as the cab swung broadside to me: He had his mobile phone pressed up against his ear and was using the palm of his left hand to spin the wheel. As an avid reader of The Moving Target messenger zine (I am not a fakenger, witness my photos and my ride – I could not be accused of copying neither courier style nor speed, I just think it’s one of the best cycling blogs out there) I am all too aware of the incredible danger HGVs present to urban cyclists* so luckily I hung back. If I’d have been in that right hand lane, looking to go right (and I could rightly assume that a vehicle in the left hand lane not signalling at a two exit roundabout is going straight ahead) I’d have been crushed, even at fifteen miles an hour, it would not have been pretty. The car that had pulled up short when the lorry passed in front was still honking his horn as he pulled out behind the lorry and followed it up the hill. Afterwards it occurred to me that I wasn’t shaken or surprised because I have started to get back into that cycling zone when you just ‘know’ when a vehicle is going to do something silly, and actually, that worried me because the last thing I want to feel is a complacency from assuming that I have some weird ‘bikey sense’ that tingles when something dangerous is going to happen. Got to stay alert!

Through Broadmead, up a different side of the same hill I’d just cycled down, and back along the Wingfield straight to home. A good ten miles in cold weather and, I feel, a reasonable start to the “Lard, be gone” campaign.

Tomorrow, running! Damn!

*Stop press, on picking up the link to Moving Target to place in this post, I saw that the latest post on MT concerns two Messengers , who did get hit by lorries. It’s sobering and very frightening, Buffalo Bill, the MT author writes “2 guys under lorries in the same day. Thank god you are both still alive.” and Christ, I second that, good luck to those riders, I hope they both make a speedy recovery.