I have a bike and like to use it. My cycling style is more Miss Marple than Bradley Wiggins but I am committed and if the weather is half decent I try to go for a spin every day. My number one route takes me along the promenade, through the dunes and back along a narrow lane. It is an easy ride, flat, no busy roads and pleasant views. It can be a bit gruelling when the wind is in the wrong direction and that is why I have an alternative – which is along an old railway track. Not as interesting but more sheltered.
I enjoy both routes. The journey is quicker than walking and so in one outing I can monitor the growth of nettles alongside the footpath, notice which trees have been felled and what is happening at the caravan park. I can watch the clouds gather over North Wales and see the boats turn as the tide does. I can marvel at the ingenuity of the gulls smashing shells on the concrete embankments and the beauty of the herons as they glide down to find the perfect fishing spot. If I’m lucky I even get a chance to fly my kite.
On the promenade excursions my real joy starts on the return journey when I turn off the bridle path, follow the footpath through the dunes, passing the stables and then onto a bumpy track, lined with trees. This eventually becomes a metalled road but in the meantime I am enjoying the adventure.
The cycling I did as a child usually involved riding along normal roads, with traffic. I was not brought up in some rural idyll, but rather the industrial parts of West Yorkshire. With mills. We cycled on the main road to the park – there was nothing Famous Five about it. But now that I am older I feel more alive to the possibilities.
Once I’d grown up and left home I took to cycling along the nearby river bank and canal towpath. Again the adventure. I remember that sense (or ghoulish hope) that I could come across a terrible secret – something about canal towpaths, seclusion and disposal of victims.
Much later, when I had moved away from Yorkshire and was exploring towpaths of Lancashire, I remember coming across a field of lavender in full bloom. There were no obvious roads to the area and I felt I was seeing something special and wonderful. That not many others would get this chance. Well, I suppose those sailing on the canal. But apart from them. This seemed like a secret place. Unknown, unexplored.
On a bike there is more opportunity to poke around, to find places, to see things. To have adventures. Perhaps it is because the bike is quicker than my legs, that I can check what is around the corner without too much effort. Perhaps it is because being on a bike, paradoxically, makes me less conspicuous than if I was strolling where I had no particular business to be.
Only the other day I took a detour to explore a nature reserve I have passed many times. There was a small pond, lots of reeds and a few dragonflies (or damselflies – I am not a country girl!) and no-one else. I stayed a while and listened to nature before heading back onto the track and home. A tiny adventure.