Not the best link to a map ever, but it shows part of the ride. I started on the south east side of the red road, a short distance down from the railway bridge, about opposite the farm entrance.
Following the success of the last ride report with built in puzzle, I’m trying it again. Last time, 7 people answered, of whom 2 got it wrong, and 1 said it was too easy! So, this time, there are two deliberate mistakes in the story, pitched slightly differently.
The deliberate mistakes are not to do with grammar, punctuation or spelling, and you will need no specialist knowledge to spot them. Just ordinary general knowledge. If you do want to play, just PM me with the answer. No prizes except kudos, and extra kudos if your answer is amusingly-written. And if you don’t want to play, that’s no problem, but please don’t spoil it for those who do by posting the answers or referring to them in a reply. Thanks.
So, another hard day at the office, with an early start, and too much brain work. It takes some effort to get ready for a ride, but I know I’ll enjoy it once I get out there. Cycling leggings are nowhere to be found. In the absence of a summer dress, I decide shorts are the next best thing, and put on my ever-so-slightly too tight Lycra shorts. Ooooh!
It’s a while since I’ve ridden in the woods near to Calverton. there’s only a smallish area to ride, but there are some nice tracks and some steeper hills than I normally ride. I need the training for the Dartmoor weekend, so I decide these hills are just what I need.
I park in a lay-by on the A614. This is an almost straight main road - an old Roman road which links up to the A1 (sometimes called the Great North Road). I doubt the Romans would recognise it now, with cars swooshing along it at 70 - 80 mph. The railway bridge would be a bit of a surprise, too.
But soon I am in the wood, walking gingerly through short stinging nettles until I get to the path that runs parallel to the road. The shorts were a mistake and already my legs have been stung.
Only a few metres from the edge of the modern A614 is an original Roman way-marker stone. The words are faint, but I can just make out “VIA A DCXIV”. I mount next to this and set off south west-ish along narrow muddy single track. To my left the hill slopes up, with rank upon rank of tall slim pine trees. To my left, the traffic roars past.
Within a couple of hundred metres, I come to a junction. I can go straight on or make a tricky left turn up a shallow muddy incline and ride up the hill.
Or I can try to turn left, stall, swear and fall off.
I choose option C. I remount and try again. This time the tyre side-slips in the mud and I UPD again. It’s early in the ride, and already I am annoyed and disappointed. This is silly: I am doing something that most people will never do - that even most unicyclists will never do - and I’m angry with myself because I’m not doing it well enough. I push for a few metres, try to mount on the uphill and fail. A couple more attempts and I manage it, then I’m storming up the hill with bright blue forget-me-nots along the left side of the path, and even the occasional early bluebell. Wood pigeons and crows flap between the trees, and the road seems a long way behind.
At the top of the hill, I turn right, still riding on firm “yeller brick”, although occasionally, I divert onto soft silent tracks of pine needles, that meander between the trees. This is one of the most peaceful unicycling experiences, the tyre almost silent, the ground smooth, soft and yielding, and the unicycle flowing easily.
Back onto the yeller brick, I see a couple walking ahead of me. As I approach, the man warns me to watch out for his dog - it might bite my wheel. I’m tempted to suggest he should train the bloody thing or put it on a lead, but I decide instead tot hank him cheerily for the warning before diverting onto a side track and accelerating up a short muddy hill. I hear Mr. responsible Dog Owner explaining to his partner that, “He’s going up there, look.” Dog trainer, observer and conversationalist - what more could a woman want from her man?
This track is lovely, and runs for several hundred metres before it is blocked by a fallen tree that it is beyond my feeble powers to jump. I dismount, get my breath back, climb over the trunk and remount.
Minutes later, I am on a long steep descent, possibly steeper than any sustained descent I’ve ever done before. The ground under the tyre is muddy, and mixed with needles and pine cones, with occasional roots across my path. The fat tyre soaks it all up and I find myself at the bottom almost too soon. From here, I follow a short grassy section of single track with stinging nettles at the side which reach out and sting my shins as I pass.
To my left is a field, and I see a hare loping across it. On my rides, I see plenty of rabbits, but hares are much more rare. Most people seem to think that hares and rabbits are pretty much the same sort of thing (hence all those awful punning titles on Bugs Bunny cartoons) but rabbits are small and scuttle about at high speed, whereas hares are almost the size of foxes, and stand up quite tall when they run. It’s quite a privilege to see one so close up.
Then I am on a pubic road, but not a busy one as one end has been blocked off recently. I ride for a couple of hundred metres along the road, then find a gate leading back into the forest. There is a narrow “squeeze” gate wide enough for pedestrians but not for horses or bicycles. I almost make it through but lose my nerve and UPD, the pedal catching the post.
Back on and up the hill for a bit before diverting down a muddy side track until I am at the foot of that exciting long descent. I go for it and make it about half way up - one of the toughest technical climbs I’ve ever done - before my wheel slips. I regain my balance, but I’ve lost momentum. With much grunting and grinding of teeth, I coax the wheel into moving again, but only to UPD when I hit a root.
It has to be done: I put a mark in the mud with a twig, then ride back down, do a really tricky three point turn on uneven ground, and ride back up. This time I do better, making it fairly easily past the place where I stalled before, but slipping and falling 5 or 10 metres later.
The boiler man is throwing the seats and curtains into the firebox, but the legs are running out of steam, and I decide to walk the rest of the way.
At the top of the hill, I sit and rest for a while, then take a swooping path down into the woods again. I make the mistake of diverting to the right, and the path gradually disappears until I am riding completely “off piste” through undergrowth and bracken. I don’t like this because it’s not good for the wildlife habitat, and I am just contemplating whether to dismount when the worst happens: I almost ride over a badger’s nest. The eggs are unbroken, but the covering of ferns and leaves has been disturbed. I do what I can to cover them, using a stick to rearrange the covering so that I don’t leave any scent by touching the nest or eggs with my hands, then I ride on, slightly chastened.
Soon after this, I find myself on a muddy path with some log and mud obstacles for mountain bikers. It takes me three attempts to ride the first one, but I manage it at last, and the second one is slightly easier.