It’s only once it starts waking up again that I realise quite how asleep the world has been; and although it’s not got much warmer, these last couple of weeks it’s really come alive. Yesterday the blossom, which is late this year, was particularly fine. The verges have sprung to life too, and are full of flowers.
You don’t need to go for a ride in the countryside to notice how everything’s growing so fast, and how much colour is emerging. One of the great things about blossom especially is it tends to follow where people live, so it’s all around us, even in a relatively treeless town such as Lancaster. But to ride out and get the full sensory assault of this flourishing flora is a great pleasure of cycling at this time of year.
Yesterday I kept mainly to little lanes on a northerly loop from Lancaster. I rode over Hutton Roof and round Farleton Fell to Natland, just short of Kendal, then west to Brigsteer and round Whitbarrow, on to Levens, and back home via the Yealands and Kellets. This is a more peopled, pastoral route than many of my favourites – it doesn’t roam over moors and fells but moves between hamlets comprising stone farmhouses surrounded by trees. But it makes a more colourful ride – aware it won’t be long before the blossom’s blown away and the countryside goes completely green, I wanted to enjoy it whilst it lasts.
For mid-May it wasn’t warm; I was stung by a storm of hail stones as I climbed out the Kent Valley. But warmer than it was a month or so ago, the birds remain busy, and it’s beginning to smell properly of spring now; especially through the woodlands the air’s heavy with the scent of wild garlic.
Road cycling is often seen as involving hard effort, long miles and tough climbs. Professional cycle sport and increasingly popular styles of riding such as sportives tend probably to perpetuate such an image. Perhaps it’s one of the reasons rural road cycling is dominated by men? (I’ve not seen studies on this but my own experience supports other anecdotal evidence – when riding outside the city, I’ll maybe see one woman for every ten men.) But road riding can be, should be, is (has always been?) so much more than this; and yesterday– to offer a little example – I was reminded of how it lets you move through (indeed become part of) a multi-sensory floral kaleidoscope.
As with cycling in general, for road cycling to become more popular (and there are good reasons it should) we need to watch for it getting constructed in one way to the exclusion of others. So let’s keep sight (and smell!) of road cycling’s different meanings. Indeed, let’s reflect on, discuss and promote them.
And whilst all this proliferating vegetation can be experienced via other modes, there’s no better way – I’d aver – than by bike.