Estonia, an excursion into mosquito valley!!!!!!! Part one
Determined to keep the fitness hard-won through the year I resolved to cycle at least twice weekly through the winter, come rain or shine. And so far it goes well, with only two fallow days where icy roads meant cycling was unwise:my only cycling accident in ten years was on a country lane with an invisible layer of ‘black’ ice.
It is surprising how rarely one gets wet cycling a twelve mile round trip through a Somerset winter. It really does not rain that much! And having good kit means you don’t really care when it does. Overshoes look pretty stupid but, once discovered, you won’t leave home without them. Warm feet are important! And woollen arm warmers are lovely. Finally, a Flemish cycling cap fits nicely under the helmet and keeps the drizzle off the spectacles.
You can also flip up the brim Popeye style…it’s up to you!
Garmin make a series of great cycle computers with GPS, and I try to keep mine on the bike for all my journeys: something inside makes me feel better if I’m recording my activity and reflecting on my time outdoors. I have some fun uploading rides to Strava which then compares you to others using your routes and usually confirms to you how slow you are! You can see my rides there if you are signed up.
Weekends are busy with chores and family duties but Sunday mornings are set aside for a ride in the hills with a friend.
But weekday commutes are the bread and butter of winter cycling. And as daylight is at a premium it’s a great chance to catch some gorgeous sunrises and if I’m lucky, sunsets.
Thank you for reminding us that beauty is not only in the obvious. The stark and severe has an allure all of its own. Nordic noir?
It was raining and breezy. Excited we embarked the wavering ferry to the Orkneys. We knew that these islands are situated that far north as South Greenland. And then this Norse sounds of place names like Scapa Flow and Skara Brae. The sea was grey only occasionally lit-up by a beam of light that made the water shimmering.
Aufgeregt bestiegen wir bei Nieselregen und einer steifen Brise die schwankende Fähre zu den Orkneys. Wir wussten, dass diese Inseln auf der gleichen geographischen Breite wie Südgrönland liegen und dazu kam noch der Klang der Ortsnamen dort wie Scapa Flow und Skara Brae. Alles mutet nordisch an. Grau war die bewegte See, bisweilen nur von einem Lichtstrahl beleuchtet, der sie silbern erglänzen ließ.
Orkneys’ colour is grey, the middle between light and darkness. As a colour of the achromatic centre it’s soothing. Here you find peace as Amy Sackville describes…
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Just over a year ago I gathered up some leftover leave days and cycled across the north of Ireland. I started in British Northern Ireland and, after crisscrossing the convoluted border voyaged on through the county of Mayo to the Atlantic coast of the Republic of Ireland.
Enniskillen left a strong impresssion of old enmities with its statues and overbearing castle and I moved westward on the same evening to a wonderful B and B. This cosy place, run by a farmer’s wife and on the verge of a grand old estate, was a home from home: I felt welcomed and cherished as their guest. The evening was spent in great chats with the owner, a successful farmer whose family boasted a long heritage in the area. The farms of his many uncles had gradually come into his ownership and included land all around the estate. His health had recently suffered but he was still actively working his land : I witnessed this the following morning when detouring across the Florence Court estate and chatting to a local lady, only to meet him out on the quad bike checking his bounds. Another cheerful talk and goodbyes and away I went.
The British exit referendum was imminent, thr UK was midway between 2 general elections in two years and the conversation was turning to how these two neighbours’ fortunes might change in the years to come. All views were expressed in the many friendly interchanges I had along my way; perhaps the clearest consensus if there were any, being that we were all moving into uncharted territory. (As I write this a year later nothing has changed and it seems likely that this will run and run…..)
The border is sometimes a tangible obstacle like a river. There, on a bridge, it may be easy to see where guard posts once stood, and where they might be built again. Multiply the required numbers of men for 2 shifts or more per day by 2, then by all the bridges and more major roads and you begin to appreciate the enormous and costly task reformation of a ‘hard border’ would comprise. A heavy price to pay for a release from ‘red tape’.
(In June 2016, I wrote): Started early cycling from Antrim along Lough Neagh. The first 5 miles or so were spent skirting the walled and moated estate that is Antrim castle. My first close up of razor wire with towering dark green steel walls surrounded the modern encampment nearest to the town. The towns have a definite, borderline grim, garrison feel , while the countryside is lush, green and mountainous. (I stopped here, but took some pictures (below) on a day that ended at the old judge’s residence in Omagh, now a faithfully restored Georgian masterpiece: the actor Sam Neill was brought up in this house but now lives and makes wine in New Zealand ).
(1 year ago, I drafted this, now it needs posting…and more memories from last years brilliant trip to Ireland to follow) So what happened to my blog? I’m back with a head full of memories, a phone full of photos and nothing written down. Antrim in Northern Ireland to Westport in the Republic : 200-odd miles on my old faithful 1980’s hybrid in 5 precious days in June, never dry in the island of Ireland, but always mild and sometimes even warm.
An unforgettable trip. And lots to share for others interested in making the trip.
So, I’ll get down to posting some tales of the days on this lovely section of Paul Benjaminse’s round Ireland cycle route, once I’ve hopped off the back to work treadmill at the end of the week. (But that took a whole year..!)
Seen today, free hard hats on wall next to entrance plus disclaimer about injury. Torched in 1715 apparently and a few large loose stones high up. Shame. But like the personal choice approach to risk.
‘Drive efficiently’ was another non nanny suggestion on a road sign we saw earlier in the week.
National speed limit on single track roads with passing places perhaps taking this approach a little far, but makes for sporting contests flooring the accelerator/standing on the pedals to make the next passing place in time.
It’s different here, maybe even more different after today’s General Election.