Care Counts

After all the exceptional warmth of the last few days, today was a shock to the system as it returned to a more-normal-for-the-time-of-year fairly cold and resolutely grey.

Riding a route that took in Chinnor, Watlington and across to Wallingford, I realised I’d forgotten how rural a lot of South Oxfordshire is. That’s somehow surprising. I guess I think of it as ‘home counties’ and thus over-crowded and over-developed. It wasn’t overly attractive in the dull light of the day but its potential appeal was obvious. Didcot power station on the horizon would always be hard to ignore but whether it merits ignoring is a moot point anyway.

Presumably because of its more rural nature, there wasn’t anywhere near the same amount of litter on the verges that you get on the roads I ride more often. That said, in a few places today, on roads closer to Reading, I saw there’d been a concerted litter-picking effort recently – whether by Councils or individuals I can’t say. It’s grim and depressing that it’s necessary; that it’s done is very much appreciated.

And no, that’s not just some selfish middle-aged, middle-class desire to have ‘nice scenery’ to ride through. There have been enough academic studies that demonstrate a visibly neglected environment will spiral downwards. A downward spiral benefits no-one, of any age, class, affluence, background, race, creed … Care counts.

It’s interesting that I feel I have to say that. I’m not quite sure why I do feel that caring for a locale has to be justified; it shouldn’t need to be. I’m not sure what vested interests would lie behind attacking that attitude. There would be some.

Another striking aspect of the route between Chinnor and Wallingford was that there were probably more cyclists about than cars. If not, it was a close-run thing. I guess, too, that I’d forgotten how big a ‘cycling city’ Oxford is, and the territory I was in is in easy reach for anyone looking for a decent route out of the city, and good to ride. Add in high petrol prices and a government / media inspired frenzy about potential fuel shortages combining to make motorists less inclined to take to the roads, and bike riding’s golden age continues.

For all the general lack of traffic, Wallingford looked busy enough, healthy enough, as I went through the centre. The market seemed busy and there were plenty of shoppers about. In recent years I’ve been to many market towns that have seemed to be faring a lot worse.