Hurrah! Thank goodness Covid lockdown has lifted to the extent that we can exercise outdoors in groups of 6.
Health & safety tip for the day – check your bike before riding – brakes, tyres etc. In spring weather that can be variable (like suddenly cold, as today), take extra bits of clothing (extra gloves, buff, helmet cover), in case you need them. And there’s another bit of emergency kit that I always have – my husband Jim is always available to drive to collect anyone (and their bike) in my group that needs a lift home. I’m not one who can fix punctures quickly on the road, and particularly dislike getting cold or wet during bike repairs! Much better done in the warmth of the kitchen!
My group – Dee, Julie S, Benita, and Diane – met at Braintree station at 10am, with a cold north wind forecast. We saw various other riders heading off to different groups assembling at other locations. We set off up the Flitch Way to Rayne Station - not too many people walking dogs so far, but enough to need your wits about you. We set off at a gentle pace – most of us have ridden a little, over the last 6 months, but not a lot. Dee said she was walk-fit as she’s been walking with neighbours 4 times a week, but was not cycle-fit, whereas I’m bike-fit (non load-bearing) but not walk-fit (load-bearing and gives me backache).
At Rayne Station, we were caught up by Chris McCann’s group, and a small child told them to hurry up as they were being left behind by us! We allowed Chris’s faster group to pass us, and followed them out on to the road heading towards Felsted, then headed towards Leez Priory. Dee and I noted that the wind appeared to be in our faces, as we headed south, but that it remained cold, as if a north wind.
Pedalling along with Julie, it turned out that she’s really impressed with how her daughter, Holly, is getting on with her Maths & IT Open University degree. I’m a big fan of bodies like the OU, that take on students on the grounds of their motivation rather than their past track record (which often depends on family circumstances and ability to conform to bureaucratic rules). My own experience, as a mature student, is that people who are simply curious about their subject make more motivated students than those who are processed through a system, largely because of their age and parental expectations. I have to say (as a person fundamentally interested in arts & humanities) I can’t even imagine being motivated to study Maths & IT, on my own, during lockdown, so I take off my hat to Holly.
We passed the Three Compasses pub, then took a short loop around Old Shaws, simply because it is a very quiet lane, that I think is really peaceful and beautiful. We pedalled through Howe Street, and arrived at The Stores. Sausage rolls were available (yumm!), and we all fell on hot drinks and snacks. In conversation, Dee, Benita and Diane (current/former NHS staff) were discussing how they all had been called as staff/volunteers for the covid inoculation campaign. As highly experienced healthcare workers, they were all disillusioned with the extensive bureaucratic processes, including 13 computer-based training modules, in order to be deemed fit and competent to work.
We headed back via Howe Street, and were debating gardens. Last autumn, I gave Benita a few plants from my garden. I chose my garden plants to be able to handle drought and a clay soil, and because they are suited to the environment, many of them grow like billy-oh! Benita’s new garden bed is blossoming nicely now. Dee, having lived in the same house for decades, now has rabbits annihilating her garden, and is seeking plants that rabbits don’t eat, as advised in her book ‘Gardening with the Enemy – A guide to rabbit-proof gardening’. Once home, I looked up the RHS rabbit-resistant plants https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=209 and it turns out quite a few of my drought-lovers, like euphorbia and iris, are on the list. I wonder whether some of my plants with furry leaves (lambs ears and ballota) would also put off rabbits. A couple of years ago, Gardeners Question Time came to Braintree, and my question to the panel was selected. I sat next to a lady from Halstead Flower Club, who asked about rabbit-proof plants. Anne Swithinbank said the best thing to do was to see what your neighbours grew successfully, as even when conventional wisdom said specific plants were meant to be unpalatable to rabbits, sometimes the local bunny population had a broader range of tastes than was expected, and would eat what they were supposed to avoid!
We pedalled through Willows Green before returning to Rayne and dispersing to our various homes from the Flitch Way. It was lovely to ride with friends, talking about all sorts of wholesome subjects.
Stay busy, stay active, stay socialised!
20.5 miles, 9.6mph average.