We didn’t bother with our normal roof load of bicycles on our recent trip to the English Lake District. There were two main reasons for this decision. Firstly, the Lake District looks too darned hilly. Secondly, we expected some rain and our bikes would risk just sitting outside rusting. Bikes were strangely popular up around Keswick, though – we are clearly wusses – almost as popular as rain, the amount of which exceeded even my northern-knocking expectations.
In the New Forest, though, there are some some half-way decent cycle tracks. I say half-way decent advisedly because they are, IMHO, only half decent. We have a long way to go to rival those in some of our favourite areas of France. The infuriating feature here is that one track goes from A to B, then there’s a gap before you can pick up the next track which goes from C to D. It would be so much more useful if A, B, C and D were all linked up. Wakey, wakey, England! Anyway, before leaving home, we had paid a nice man to service our bikes chez nous, then brought them with us. I even invested in a 2.5m x 3.5m ground sheet to act as a garage/cover to keep the bikes sheltered from the inevitable rain.
Sadly, thus far, our expectations of rain quantity have once again fallen some way short of reality. The forest is so wet, I can’t believe it has been the result of one or two rain storms. It looks more like the result of one or two weeks of rain storms, following what was a disastrously wet winter for some, from which the ground has not yet recovered. The rain, however, hasn’t been constant and we were keen to get out on two wheels – two each, that is – but where? Having gone just 10 metres, we’d both have muddy, wet stripes up our backs from wheel spray.
This morning, we called in to a local Brockenhurst bike shop for some trendy off-road mudguards. At lunchtime, in between bites of a cheese scone and swigs of tea, and after a little initial head-scratching over the front mudguard, I got them fitted. Once fitted, the front mudguards are quite clever: being in two halves forward and rearward of the front forks, they clip on and off a permanently fitted bracket so as to be removable for summer riding, should a summer ever turn up. There’d be no sheltering the bikes from the drenched forest floor but maybe the mudguards would make our clothing last two weeks.
We enjoyed an un-forecast sunny afternoon, perfect for trying out our new, trendy mudguards. We picked our way round/through a series of muddy-water-filled potholes that currently make up the tracks in the campsite and got to gravelled cycle track one, a former railway track, which runs from A to B. We then joined the main-ish road running form B to C in order to pick up cycle track 2, another former railway, running from C to D (where it stops dead up against another road. [Wakey, wakey, England!]
Point D was our intended target. More accurately, our intended target was Pony Poo Pond. Actually, I think it’s called Burbush Pond but to us, it’s Pony Poo Pond, ever since Francine once threw a lump of pony poo into some reeds in an attempt to encourage a perched but hidden female Southern Hawker dragonfly to find another perch. We locked our bikes and set off for the pond à pied.
This was just a scouting trip; we had no cameras ‘cos we didn’t want the weight on our backs for the first ride of the season, albeit short. After a few steps, A Large Red Damsel fluttered over Francine’s helmeted head. We disturbed four more around the perimeter of the pond itself. More surprisingly and certainly more frustratingly, we spotted two unidentified dragonflies, a.k.a. big boys, both of whom promptly performed a disappearing trick. They will remain unidentified.
We retraced our wheel revolutions from D to C on a cycle track, then from C to B on the main-ish road. [Wakey, wakey, England!] The road between C and B goes over a cattle grid. Such things tend to vibrate bicycles horribly. The front half of Francine’s removable front mudguard auto-removed itself as she cycled across the cattle grid. 😯
I clipped Francine’s half-mudguard back on and we continued from B to A and a well deserved cold beer in some very welcome sunshine.