Archives for September 2013


A flat Berkshire ride, thirty-odd miles in the familiar region between Reading and Windsor, with a noticeable easterly wind blowing. Still, while it made for a noticeable headwind at times, it’s not ‘thick air’ yet so it wasn’t so bad.

Seeing the smoke from a fire near White Waltham made me think of Biggles. Yes, Biggles – in particular,the First World War stories. I am pretty sure that somewhere in those books the author (Capt. W.E. Johns) talks about judging wind speed by how long and how close smoke stays to the ground – which is pretty obvious when you think about it, but you have to think about it.

Now, I’ve not read those books for years and I can’t remember the plots of the stories or much else, which begs the question: why did that snippet about smoke come to mind today of all days? That in turn brings up questions about the degree to which you’re really in control of yourself, given that you are your brain. And that is intriguingly scary.

Smoke blowing low over a field

Capt. W.E. Johns says …

Hazy September Sunshine

And as the night time temperatures in the south of England are around what the day time averages should be … you can either worry about our erratic climate or just get out and enjoy it while you can.

Would that be fiddling while Rome burns?


But I increasingly suspect anything Joe and Josephine Average might do to try and reduce their carbon footprint will be so spectacularly undermined by the actions of others that it just doesn’t matter. When you hear that they’re going to build air-conditioned football stadiums in the desert for a one-off tournament, you know the world is quite perfectly insane.

Didcot Power Station, idle

Didcot, idle, photographed from a nature reserve. That must be poetry.

Previously: Road Kill~Understanding Litter~Death On The Roads~Communications~Cancer~Falling Off

This time last year and I was feeling guilty for disturbing Red Kites tucking into road kill; I just didn’t want to understand why people would foul-up a nice spot in the country with litter, and I could only conclude we need a better class of politician if we’re to cut road deaths. Back in 2011, I was recommending the joy of being out of contact while out on the bike, I was thinking about cancer and falling off a bike, generally, isn’t as bad as the fear of it.

Week 38, 2012: Road Kill Has Its Seasons
Week 38, 2012: I Don’t Want To Understand
Week 38, 2012: Your Death Is A Low Priority
Week 38, 2011: Take Me Away
Week 38, 2011: Cancer
Week 38, 2011: Falling Off


A word to the wise: if you’re going to ride a bike, don’t try riding on shingle. Even if it’s firmly packed shingle, as it is on the spit out to Hurst Castle and lighthouse, just don’t. It is murderously hard work … and then the wind gets up for the homeward trip.

Riding on that stuff is something far, far worse than just a grind. It is soul-sapping stuff; it can break a sane person’s spirit. Grown men weep and policemen turn in their badges. Hurst Castle’s worth visiting; the sea there when it’s being whipped up is bracing … but walking there and back is very sensible.

Hurst Lighthouse

Take my advice – walk to here.

In My Back Yard

On a ride starting at Beaulieu Heath, perhaps because the weather wasn’t great and perhaps because I was generally a bit disappointed with the cycling in the New Forest, rather than focussing on the pleasures of the area I found myself thinking the place has something in common with home turf: a lot of my home rides have Didcot power station as a backdrop; rides in large parts of the New Forest have Fawley oil refinery’s towers poking up in the distance.

I rely on electricity as much as the next man, so I can’t complain about Didcot; I drove down to the New Forest so I can’t moan about an oil refinery. But that said, I’m very aware that I don’t live under their shadows or that of anything similar. It’s easy to be sanguine about eyesores and dismiss ‘not in my back yard’ arguments when it’s not in your own back yard.

Sobering for a different reason, it’s perhaps also worth bearing in mind that the view from the top of one of Fawley’s towers of a load of holiday-makers with their cars and tents and what-have-you, moaning about the towers ruining the view, wouldn’t be too edifying either. There’s something to bear in mind the next time you’re on holiday …

Fawley oil refinery in the distance

It has to be in someone’s back yard

When It All Gets Too Crowded

New Forest Woodland

Boring bosky dells – and other delights to ride by

To the New Forest for a holiday with, naturally, the intention that some days should include some cycling. I think I’d read somewhere that there are 100 miles of cycle trail in the national park and so we went equipped for some off-road riding.

We found plenty of trails … we found woods and we found heath. What we – Charli and I – also found was that it was all terrifically controlled and, well, tame.

Now, neither of us are tough off-road riders willing to risk life and limb in the pursuit of speed and ‘getting some air’ or whatever it is that braver people than me say when they’ve both wheels off the ground: I’m old and wise enough to know how much falling off hurts. I might be fat but I don’t bounce like I used to.

However, the New Forest trails are at the other extreme. I can see their appeal for riders who want a quiet traffic-free pootle-about and I’m not knocking that. I can see that it must be a horrifically busy area peak season and so managing the riders to prevent erosion is probably very necessary. But it is all just a bit boring as a result.

A sobering through is that, given the way the population is increasing, it’s probably a glimpse of the future – especially if you add in to the equation our increasingly risk-averse culture.