Pauline is a HSBC UK Breeze Champion in Warwickshire.
There is presently an air of the surreal during this pandemic lockdown with a touch of ‘Groundhog days’ about it. Being denied the freedom usually available for us all creates a unique, invasive, oppressive and restraining sensation, but one about which we can’t do anything? Or maybe we can.
Our cycling restrictions have actually been quite generous I think, but a measure of common sense is required at these times when taking off on your bike for some exercise. I like to maximise the benefits available to us on two wheels and in Warwickshire where I am fortunate enough to live, there is a vast expanse of rural countryside with its inherent wildlife and flora begging to be enjoyed. For us this is an absolute joy in the present absence of most vehicles, plus the bonus of some exceptional weather lately.
As cyclists, we are in a unique position, moving along the rural roads silently, can offer the opportunity to harvest the beauty around us. The sheer abundance of wildflowers this year is amazing and frequently I have stopped to just absorb fields full of cowslips and woodlands carpeted in bluebells. It has been years since I’ve heard so many skylarks their small size belying the volume of their songs, as they flutter above their nests.
We also have an enviable population of predator birds in this country and their aviation antics are mesmerising to follow. With frantic nest building activity all around, you will see defensive actions everywhere. Crows attacking buzzards and kestrels who may have opportunistic ideas on the other species’ eggs becoming a quick snack. Since traffic reduction though, there are fewer red kites around, this largely carrion consumer of road kill has gone elsewhere, perhaps seeking out placental remains from newborn lambs.
The benefits that I always enjoy whilst cycling are equalled by the physical and mental rewards of connecting to nature and nothing has interfered with that during lockdown. It is however, always nice to have a treat on a decent length ride, like a hot coffee and snack.
There are some general stores who offer take away hot drinks and something to eat, which need to be consumed away from their premises to avoid encouraging groups of people. If you are fortunate, you may be able to find a nearby bench, perhaps on a village green where you can enjoy refuelling. I have taken to carrying a small backpack with a flask and home made flapjack to fortify myself on some rides. It always is welcome, is definitely a healthy habit and feels like a real treat.
I can also recommend some foraging on route at present for wild garlic leaves. Now in their prime to be found in some public woodlands and even grass verges, these pungent alliums are hugely beneficial for health, providing antibacterial, antiviral and antioxidant properties along with vitamins A and C and many other attributes. Added to savoury scones and eaten raw in salads is delicious plus the leaves can be dried or frozen for future use.
Cycling can offer so much more for those who really want it. You will return home refreshed, in a better mood and with new resolve to stay positive in these restrictive times.
Stay safe everyone and enjoy your cycling.