Nellie On Her Bike

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At last Barbie and I managed our long awaited day out, apart and together! I left home before 7, after our usual substantial porridge breakfast, and began a super ride from Oswestry to Church Stretton. Barbie later took the bus to Shrewsbury then the train. My ride was simply for pleasure but I don’t plan to cycle that way again because one of the roads, the unavoidable B4393 at Melverley, is uncomfortably busy with speeding lorries and quite alarming without pavement or grass verge to escape the traffic. However, I was safe. I prayed a lot! I wonder if it was helped by the flapping orange pannier cover I’d placed to get drivers’ attention! Later when I crossed the seriously crowded A49 main route south there wasn’t a vehicle to be seen!100_2693The weather was perfect, the birds were singing away and when I stopped to take off a layer of clothing some curious calves came over to pass the time of day. They got too close in fact and began sampling my panniers for ediblity. The views were really beautiful, though the little camera I brought with me doesn’t do the scenery justice. It was very hilly indeed, but I didn’t need to get off and push my bicycle; I just took it easy in the lowest gear of my newly fettled bicycle. Many fields were full of rapeseed in full yellow bloom and I soon had itchy eyes, but no hayfever. I phoned Barbie every few miles and at the church in Asterley (30miles) had an oat bar and some pineapple juice and admired the beautiful huge oak tree in the meadow.100_2704100_2717100_2715Underway again I misread my map (I was dreaming!) and found I was on a different lane to the one I’d planned, but it was glorious. My heart sank a little when I came out onto a major road leading into Pontesbury, a town I had no intention of revisiting, because the busy streets are full of traffic. To my astonishment a brand new cycle path had been built of superior quality. It qualified for a photo but I thought I should get on. I was soon through the town and back in the quietest country lane where a couple of young farmers were trying to coax a runaway calf into the field with the rest of the herd. I stopped and got off my bike to prevent it slipping past me and they asked me to ‘drive him in for us’ while they blocked his retreat. ‘What a good thing you happened along!’ said the woman. I agreed – if I hadn’t gone the wrong way I’d have missed the fun, and they’d have had a harder job getting the calf back. Before I knew it I was on the National Cycle Byway for a few miles. My detour had turned out to be more attractive than the original plan. Hoorah!100_2700I arrived in Church Stretton half an hour after my expected time because I had stopped so often to take photos and because the distance was 40 hilly miles, not the 34 I’d estimated. Fortuitously Barbie was waiting for me on the very corner where I entered the town and in a short time we’d parked ourselves in a good eating house, that lacked only a cool breeze through the open door or air conditioning to be perfect. I overheated and had to take some clothes off. All very decent though! The home-made food was excellent and I thought what a long time it has been since a lady bought me a meal!100_2720100_2722We had a walk round the town, which was little changed from the first time we saw it, 15 years ago, apart from having more charity shops. Then it was home on the train for us both. I put my bike in the wrong place because we couldn’t see anywhere else for it to go, and later an Arriva man said to always put it in carriage C. When we got off the train we looked for the symbol and notice saying Bicycles. We spotted it – a tiny sticker above a door about the size of a postage stamp! After a gentle and civilised journey Barbie waited for the bus at Gobowen, the nearest place to home, and I cycled the 5 miles with a jar of damson jam she’d bought at a community shop in Church Stretton and put the kettle on for a cuppa.

Early in the evening a pair of oldies tumbled into bed. It was a busy and rewarding day.

I don’t have any songs on the subject of being a reluctantly retired cyclist, or mentioning the name Barbie, so I chose ‘Nellie On Her Bike’ today, which is from the album of bicycle songs and verse I collected over many years. There’s more about it in An Old-Fashioned Bicycle, Menu 4.

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