Jim joins the Great Big Bike Ride
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The Bicycle Diaries: Monday, 6 April
Yes, that's how far we cycled yesterday morning. And afternoon; it took us quite a while.
New readers start here, as they used to say in magazines. Last year, having been a keen cyclist for just a few months, I rode the twenty-six-mile route of the Great Big Bike Ride. This year, my friend Ben suggested that we both take part in the hundred-kilometre event. I said yes, perhaps a bit hastily, and so we're currently in training. Which mostly means going for leisurely bike rides through the Shropshire countryside on Sunday mornings. That's the sort of training I'm keen on.
Only a couple of months ago, we were pretty chuffed that we'd done eight miles, which was further than we'd intended to go that day. You'll gather we're working up to the total slowly. Then we did a fifteen-mile route for a few weeks, and one Sunday morning we were halfway around that journey when Ben suggested we up the stakes a bit. So for a week we'd been saying quite blithely that we were going to cycle twenty-five miles at the weekend.
This, it turns out, was a bit of a guess. As was the idea - in my case, fervent hope - that the longer route would be flatter. I'm not a fan of hills. I know I have gears that could get me up a small mountain, but I'm still not keen.
So we followed our usual route for the first bit, from Shrewsbury to Uffington along the old canal, then on to Upton Magna. And there we turned left, to follow National Cycle Route 81 to Wellington.
What a lovely ride it is! It winds through Withington, Walcot, Charlton and Wrockwardine, along lanes and side roads untroubled by traffic even on a lovely sunny Sunday morning. We had the perfect day for it, too; sunny, neither too warm nor too chilly, and with just the barest of breezes most of the time.
There's so much to see when you're cycling around Shropshire. You're travelling at such a civilised pace, you can take in more of the details. Little villages that you might flash through in the car, reveal themselves to be knots of fascinating buildings wrapped in history. Walls, stones, fields, even roadsigns tell you about themselves and the people who pass by them. People talk to you, like the women on their way to church in Withington. And there's so much to see in the hedgerows and verges, too.
In this respect, it's useful if your cycling companion is a biologist by training. You know those car stickers, 'I Slow Down For Horses'? I want to get Ben a sticker for his bike that says 'I Brake For Stichwort'. Ever looked at a stichwort (or chickweed) flower closely? It's fascinating, white petals arranged in pairs around a pale yellow ... thing in the middle. Ben knows what they're called. I've learned loads about flora and fauna over the weeks we've been cycling together.
My hope that the longer route would be a flatter one didn't quite pan out. In fact, I seem to have spent a lot of the journey to Wellington chugging up inclines. But you know the great thing about cycling up hills? You get to come down them again, on the return trip!
We made it to Wellington in about an hour and three quarters. See, even if you're taking it steady, it doesn't take long to have an interesting journey in Shropshire. We locked the bikes up in Wellington town centre, sat at a table outside a sandwich shop and had a coffee and something to eat. Then it was time for the return journey.
You know that thing I just said about coming down hills? Well, the return trip was quite a bit quicker. In fact, I clocked my fastest speed on a bike yet: 24.9mph! That's according to my indispensable handlebar companion, my bike computer. And maybe because on the outward leg we'd been quite focused on getting to Wellington, we noticed, enjoyed and appreciated even more of the natural, historical and architectural details on the way back.
And most importantly, we cycled thirty miles! That's further than I've ever cycled in a day before, it's half the target distance for the Great Big Bike Ride, and it's nearly four times the distance that we were so pleased with covering a couple of months back. Those thirty miles were packed with interest and pleasure. Cycling around Shropshire really is the best way to spend a Sunday morning like yesterday.
Anyway, what it comes down to is this: why not get on your bike and explore some of the little roads between Shropshire's villages? Route 81 is a great place to start, but wherever you are, there's bound to be a route that'll give you as much and as much interest as the trip we took yesterday. And if you're one of this page's readers from elsewhere in the world, why not come to Shropshire and have a bit of an explore? Bring your bike or hire one here, and have a look around. You'll love it.
Cracking start to the new Saturday night show, even if I say so myself!
Essentially, the show I used to do on Sunday nights has moved to Saturdays, and now it's an hour longer too. It's now Saturday Night with Jim Hawkins, three hours of music to make you turn up the radio. Rock, punk, indie, soul, dance, electronica, funk and R&B from the last forty years, the occasional dip into The Old Testament Of Rock'n'Roll and a thick helping of great big dumb pop records, too.
Got a fantastic reaction by email and text and via Twitter on Saturday night. If you missed the show, why not listen to it on the BBC iPlayer? You can check out the playlist by clicking 'Rock Playlist' at the top of the page.
And join me on Saturday night to find out what I'm going to play this week!
Only in Shropshire ...
We had so much fun with this on last Thursday's show!
A listener to the show had posted on Twitter a message saying 'only in Shropshire can your journey to work be held up by sheep, and nobody minds'.
That got me thinking; how would you complete a sentence beginning 'only in Shropshire ...'?
Some of the suggestions: only in Shropshire do the directions to the Red House at Lilleshall read 'look for the yellow building by the roundabout'; only in Shropshire can you get stuck behind a tractor for six miles and not care, because you're enjoying the view; only in Shropshire could you find a lost satnav unit containing two stored addresses, 'my field' and 'my other field'; only in Shropshire can saying the name of the county town start an argument!
That last one came from Sue from Shrewsbury, who was one of my favourite callers last week. If you missed what she had to say - and it was a really funny call - have a listen to this:
And Julie took it one stage further. Not only did she have a great, funny example of 'only in Shropshire', she'd taken a picture of it, too! Want to see Julie's 'only in Shropshire' picture? Click on 'See Jim's Photos' at the top right of this page.
last updated: 06/04/2009 at 13:53