The shorter days are here. Days when light is of a premium, precious and never to be wasted or taken for granted. Your horizons shrink. Short summer rides now repeated have become major treks when you need to be home by 3.00pm. We try to take final rides to places that will be beyond the bike horizon, say goodbye to cafes that shut for winter. Wooden doors that have swung freely all summer now need the attention of a sanding block as they soak up the air moisture.
We are out every morning, either on bikes or walking and watch the first rays of sun touch the tops of the mountains to the north. Near the coast south of us, Screel Hill faces the rising sun and keeps us waiting for its warmth. Many miles to the north Merrick, the highest mountain in the southern uplands is high enough to already catch the golden light. Already there have been a few days when the light catches the first snowfall there. It looks unlike northern mountains, much less angular, more whale backed.
We had the first big storm of winter. Winds close to 100mph only held back a little by Ireland being between them and us. I closed the curtains early, lit the woodburner and drank wine. It raged most of the night. Few people slept well and in the morning many trees were down and that was the end of autumn colours for this year.
The end of this year, but if you look close there is already signs of next. the corvids are back in their trees. They appear to be happy now the branches are bare. They sit high up and rock as the wind catches the branches. At the bottom of the garden we are lucky enough to have a Raven. He, she, it can never be mistaken for a crow. It is a KRAA rather than a Caw. It stops you dead when they call.
I read recently a description of the world of crows, ravens and the other corvids, and their constant displeasure of any other bird flying in their territory. They just can not leave them alone, not once. They, and the birds of prey live in a constant state of war. More often than not the corvids win, as they are much smarter by far. The birds of prey live lives at a blur of speed and reaction.
On morning rides now you have to check the outside thermometer, at least two forecasts or even three and pick the best. Wind from the north now and it will be cold, often bitterly so. On with the thermals and overboots and try to find two gloves that match. It is a lazy wind, one that does not bother to go around you.
The winter birds are here. Last of the daylight and we can hear the pink footed geese come in to roost by the castle a mile away. Already the Blackthorn bush in the garden has been stripped of fruit by our local thrushes and visiting Redwings. The hedgerows are bare already and many cut within an inch of their lives by contract mowers in a hurry. Every few feet there are robins, some from as far away as Russia.
We live on the edge of a Dark Sky Area and have almost no light pollution. Vivid and crisp milky way stretching across the sky is normal. But then there are the 10% nights of total clarity when the number of stars doubles. We try to get out for a walk on these nights just around the lanes near home. Five minutes and we are in another world. ” Look at that! “, and I had time to turn around and focus on the second best shooting star of my life. Horizontal to the horizon and visible for what could have been 10 seconds.
So, what have we been doing these last few months? Well busy times, very busy. Our new cycling holiday business needed a website and we had to learn our patch. This is hard, as it is 200 miles long by 100 wide. We need to know every quiet road, every cafe and every comfy B&B and where the hidden things are.
We kept on seeing great routes on the maps that involved running on tarmac, then off road and then along farm tracks, before returning to the road. So we bought two gravel bikes. Wide-tyred, drop handlebar go most places dream machines called Diverge by the makers Specialised. We love them.
I bought our first bikepacking saddle bag to keep clothes and the camera safe and out of harms way. We have no bike handling skills, so the bikes are far beyond our ability. That said, you do just have to point them and pedal. We have been exploring the hills that these bikes open up for us, and will be offering this gravel experience as part of our trips.
The whole planning a company I find difficult. I don’t like to over think things, preferring to trust in luck or instinct most of the time. I concluded that planning to ride around the world was counter productive. You have to do some planning to get visas and make sure you are not setting out into a 3,000 mile ride into a brutal headwind. But beyond that, planning is only there to calm your nerves. Too much just becomes part of the mass that holds you back, part of the inertia. If you look at too many guidebooks you will end up where everyone else goes. The world is not a bad place and you will not starve to death.
The starting a business thing does actually require a lot of planning. Luckily Esther is genetically inclined towards planning, thanks to her being German. She has gone on a file and A4 divider buying feeding frenzy. And thank goodness one of us did. Our new website is up running and looks fantastic. We also have a Facebook page, where we post bike stuff about this area and the rides we do. It is an outlet for creativity that does not come with the weight of expectations that writing a blog here holds – it is 100% fun.