The View from my Bike

Rapeseed

A Field of Flowering Rapeseed

There is something in the freedom of the road: it brings out the dreamer in me.

Freshly cut grass, sunshine and birdsong have prompted the first annual outing of my bike from the rickety garden shed. Tyres pumped, WD40 sprayed, helmet dusted off and I am ready to go.

There is no better way to travel the countryside than a bicycle in low gear. There is the little matter of pedalling every now and again, but, in effect, you are an armchair traveller whizzing through a multisensory three dimensional film.

All around me an intensity of greens fly past, broken only by little delights: a red-doored cottage, a lichen-covered stone wall, or-my favourite- a ditch clustered with creamy primroses.

As always, I wonder about the stories the landscape holds. A mound in a field may well be Neolithic and its stones may hold tales from thousands of years. The land farmed then, is land farmed now, the cattle and sheep possible descendants from the  livestock  then. And the river, wending its way through the pasture as it has wended for all eternity varying its route only on the whim of Nature or the hand of man.

Along the roadside, the stone cottages tell of a time when the landlord ruled and the tenant farmer paid his rent with the toil of his entire family.

And the plain two storey farm dwelling set in among the fields tells of a family who may have farmed there for generations.

Some houses lie in ruins, bramble and ivy springing from their stones, and perhaps, a lilac or a currant bush telling of a time when the woman of the house tended the garden and kept the fire in the hearth ablaze.

Five miles done and already I am imagining a week like this. Just me, the bike, two panniers. I did it before. A week in Clare. I still recall the delight of whizzing along the coast, mountains or rock to my right and the never-ending swathe of wild Atlantic to my right.

There is the little matter of that being thirty years ago. But still…

Overhead the sandmartins swoop and dive. They are the first members of the swallow family to make it to our shores and a very sure sign that summer is on its way.

Two pied wagtails bicker on a bungalow gutter and a cat pounces into a hedge prompting a swift alarm call from a startled blackbird.

If I were running this route I would see all of this though the labour intensity of the run might colour the joy a little. But the running means I can cycle for longer too. Its a perfect partnership.

I wonder how much I could cycle every day. Forty miles? Fifty maybe? I’d like enough time to stop for a while and explore stone and plant and river. Enough time to picnic on a warm rock overlooking the sea, or amble into a café for some local fare.

I have no recollection of any of these details from thirty years ago. Only the Clare scenery remains embedded in my memory.

Thirty years on and, of course, I would blog about it. And take photographs. Already one pannier is filling with ipad and wire and cameras and lenses…

And the road rambles on. Occasionally, a two tonne ball of metal hurtles past leaving me shuddering in its wake. I have been that motorist speeding past the unsuspecting cyclist. I ruefully reflect on how biking can complement driving too: it takes doing one to understand the other.

The sun is sinking lower on the horizon now, and the sky teases with faintest peaches and buttery yellows. I am heading into dusk and miles from home.

In all my pre ride prep, I had failed to attach a light to the front of my bike. I pedal faster.

What else would I need to think of for a longer road trip? Punctures. Could I fix one? Nope. Chain breaks? Snookered there too.

By now the faster pedalling and the fear of becoming roadkill were beginning to take their toll. The gears-never a strong point on my horse of a bike-juddered uncertainly and threatened to dislodge the chain as I hit an uphill swoop. Even the passing acres of glorious rapeseed yellows were losing their appeal.

I wondered about the Teens in my supposed week long absence. Sure, their independent living skills are coming along. But what if-and I had heard other parents’ tales of horror-what if their skills extended to opening beer cans and having what Teen Son tells me is called a ‘Gaff Party’? And what if the house were thrashed? Or someone died?

I am exhausted by it all and I already have fears that two panniers will not accommodate my worldly needs for one week. Maybe I should just be happy with what I have enjoyed this day.

Sixteen miles done. Cross training sorted. And I am home.

Pleased with myself I wrestle off my helmet and Teen Boy looks out from behind his laptop.

“Mum,I’m hungry”, he says with a smile.

Yes, I am home.

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Springing Around Ardgillen Park

Water Logged field with Skerries in background`

Yesterday`s was a gentle run in Ardgillen Park, Skerries on the hunt for signs of Spring.

Ardgillen Castle is at the end of a sweeping drive, overlooking the pretty little harbour town, and the Irish Sea. It reminds me of Manderley in Daphne Du Maurier`s Rebecca, though I am not quite sure why.

Ardgillen Castle overlooking the Irish Sea

Perhaps it’s on account of the heavily plastered brickwork, which give it a 1940s feel, and also because of the proximity to the sea, which was an essential part to the Rebecca story.

Rear view Ardgillen Castle

But maybe that’s just me.

I can tell you for sure though, that the grounds are a joy to run in.

Snowdrops in the woods

Set in parkland and woodland, it’s a wonderful place to note the passing of the seasons, as yesterday`s floral delights will testify.

Primrose

Snowdrops-smooth

Daffofils

It`s fallen prey, too, to our recent storms with the felling of trees…

Storm Damage

..and, perhaps, damage to the glasshouse…

People in glasshouses...

Or maybe the glasshouse was due for renovation anyway?

Whatever the cause, it was off limits, as I jogged past, as were other attractions in Ardgillen.

Signpost Ardgillen

Yes, they have a Potentilla Garden here. In fact, not just a potentilla garden but the National Potentilla Garden.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, this is what a potentilla looks like, you can take a peek around here.

Potentilla

Sadly, the potentilla plot was out of bounds to the public when I arrived.

And the walled garden was closed too. But only because I arrived too late.

FYI

The rose garden, though it looked well tended, was a no go area too.

Rose Garden Ardgillen

Thankfully, the polyanthus obliged with a wonderful display of colour

Polyanthus

And, I even caught sight of my first primrose for this year…

Primrose

Had I been distracted with any of the other attractions, my run would not have been quite so good. Instead, I enjoyed four miles of hilly terrain but with grass or trail underfoot watching sign of Spring was good enough for me.

Plenty of reasons then, for a return visit, when, no doubt, the coming seasons will bring more wonders.

Obstacle Course

You know the book “We`re Going on a Bear Hunt”? The one where the characters “Can`t go over it, can`t go under it, must go through it”. Yes, that one. Well, that was what yesterday`s run was all about.

And it was daylight! Yay! With a couple of days off work I am relishing the change. Birdsong, endless sweeping vistas and who knows, maybe other signs of Spring lay in store for me?

A mile down the road and I meet my first obstacle. Roadworks. The road was closed off and as there were all kinds of yellow machinery, smoke and tar about the place, I figured they mightn`t appreciate my presence so I headed for the fields.

Springfield

It turned out to be a good choice. Lots of birdsong, green shoots, and well, I wasn`t really sure what to call that florid looking fungus poking out from the branch…

Fungus

But that`s what being outdoors means:lots of surprises.

After recent storms there was plenty of muck, water and fallen trees about the place.

So, just like the bearhunt book, I ended up doing a lot of climbing over, or around or through things.
Branch Down

Floodwaters

Muck

That meant a lot of stopping, some slithering and lots of backtracking. But it was all good fun.

4.58 miles of good fun actually. Yep, Garmin is in working order again. And hey, I might even have found my mojo too!

Stretch

Stretch in the Evening

Long, long ago, when I was a little kid, it seemed to me then, that every old person was obsessed with the lengthening daylight hours.

Arra, isn`t that a grand stretch to the evening now?

We won`t feel again `til it`s Spring.

And here I am, all these years later, only thrilled to note that final glimpse of sunlight as I trek home from work. The promise of birdsong and bleating lamb, budding leaves and bulbs cannot be far away now.

I received a lovely gift today of a planter. Filled with blooming polyanthus and bulbs, it was spiked with a little note

“Spring is not too far away now. Looking forward….”

Oh cheerful thoughts!

Maybe the stretch in the evening gave me the impetus to do some stretching of my own. Yes, more yoga. This time more physical stretching and less of the meditative stuff. I need to be in a certain frame of mind for that.

And afterwards, another stretch. This time a mile and half jog with Teen Girl. And she`s stretching herself too. She easily managed the distance and seems to be picking up the pace well.

So, all in all, a delightful day. Sunrise in these parts is at 8.23 tomorrow, sunset at 16.51. Daylight will stretch out in increasing increments of three minutes each day right through til midsummer.

Yes indeed, `tis grand to see it and I am looking forward.