Highway Cycling Group and The Bike Show

18:30 Monday 29th June, listen to the Bike Show on resonance FM to hear what happened when Jack Thurston of the Bike Show rode through The Highway Cycling Group’s patch on day two of his epic ride from London to Bristol. Listen in as we visit The Hackpen Clumps where the HCG founder’s ashes are scattered, and look out over the Wiltshire landscape.


Find out what happens if you take a Lemond Etape with a cheap back tyre at speed down Green Lane, the rutted, flint-strewn, chalk scar that drops from the Ridgeway to Avebury.


Walk with us as we make a circuit of the stone circle and speculate wildly on its origins. Join us as we drink in the pastoral scene of two highland cows enjoying the shade of a horse chestnut tree.


And gasp in amazement as Jack interviews me whilst riding along a recently restored canal path between Chippenham and Lacock. Throughout, I invite you to smirk at my funny sounding voice and my wheezing as I try to keep up with Jack.

Finally, don’t forget to donate to Resonance FM to help keep the Bike Show on the air.

If you missed the show, you can download the podcast or listen at the Bike Show web page

Thank you very much to Jack Thurston for inviting me to be his guide through the Wiltshire landscape, and for an absolutely splendid day, including, but not limited to, lunch at the Red Lion – Avebury, a dip in the river at Lacock*, and some speedy puncture repair.

Jack Thurston prepares to take a dip in the river, Lacock, Wiltsire

Jack Thurston prepares to take a dip in the river, Lacock, Wiltsire

* Where we were joined by Daniel Start, author of Wild Swimming and Wild Swimming Coast two books I most heartily recommend if you fancy a dip in the river or sea.

The Bike Show is Back – Wild Swimming and Roger Deakin

The new season of The Bike Show set off in fine form yesterday with a particularly excellent show. The main feature was a ride along the Northumberland coast with Daniel Start, author of the excellent book Wild Swimming. Supremely atmospheric, the recording of the ride was punctuated with the sounds of bird song, crackling campfires and waves gently lapping on the shore, I now think I want to cycle to the coast, perhaps John and I could plan it into our training for the sportive we’re going to enter this year (that’s another post). Anyway, it’s great to have Jack and The Bike Show back on the air again after what seemed like a long absence.

The show got me thinking about the late Roger Deakin, a superb nature writer most famous for his book Waterlog which is all about wild swimming, or swimming in open water (rivers, ponds, moats, lakes, the sea). He wrote about the nearby Farliegh Hungerford River Swimming Club (which I blogged about here), and swam in the river not three miles from here.

Deakin was also a keen cyclist – not in a sporty sense, but in the sense that he loved and enjoyed cycling. Throughout his books there are not only journeys by bicycle, but also ruminations on the attitude of the cyclist. In the opening chapters of Waterlog he writes:

“Most of us live in a world where more and more places and things are signposted, labelled, and officially ‘interpreted’. There is something about all this that is turning the reality of things into virtual reality. It is the reason why walking, cycling and swimming will always be subversive activities. They allow us to regain a sense of what is old and wild in these islands, by getting off the beaten track and breaking free of the official version of things. A swimming journey would give me access to that part of our world which, like darkness, mist, woods or high mountains, still retains most mystery. It would afford me a different perspective on the rest of landlocked humanity.”

In October 2008, Notes from Walnut Tree Farm, a book collecting some of his diary and notebook entries was released. At first I thought it looked a little ‘light’ cobbled together on the back of the success of his book about trees, Wildwood, but as I read it I was drawn deeper and deeper into Deakin’s world. A long entry where he sits and watches an ant for an hour will be followed by a few sentences about cutting his own hair. Alongside the diary style entries recording walks, bike rides, nature, the business of looking after his house, there were sudden paragraphs that caught me out, made me stop and think.

“I need someone to fold the sheet” he writes “someone to take the other end of the sheet and walk towards me and fold once, then step back, fold and walk towards me again. We all need someone to fold the sheet. Someone to hitch on the coat at the neck. Someone to put on the kettle. Someone to dry up while I wash.”

His bike rides are often short, half an hour, three quarters of an hour, more often than not he is riding for the sake of riding rather than with any destination in mind.

“Cycling out this brilliant morning, I think the bike ride is like boring a geological sample through the strata of local Suffolk.”


“Last night I bicycled up the common, tracking a barn owl as it slid back and forth above the long grass, the uncut hay, pirouetting and fluttering into a hover now and then and dropping down onto the grass…”

There’s probably not enough cycling in the books to satisfy a cycling fan, but they are beautiful books, and I think anyone who enjoys cycling country lanes will feel an affinity with Roger Deakin’s writing.

Roger Deakin 1943-2006 Picture from commonground.org.uk

Roger Deakin 1943-2006 Picture from commonground.org.uk

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Published in: on January 27, 2009 at 11:47 pm  Comments (2)  
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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.