As I Peddled Out One Late-Summer Morning
Oxford to Warwick – and Back! (Almost)
The perfect day for cycling, Sunday in late September, early morning, with the sun rising over Cuddesdon and the Chilterns, mist in the valley in Chiselhampton and Little Milton and the stone of Horspath church coming to life in the morning glow. I am cycling to Warwick to raise money for the church and as I set out I feel the freedom of the open road once again. It takes a while for my legs to get used to the ups and down, but once on the Woodstock road, passing Yarnton and Begbroke I feel the way becoming easier and can lift my head to take in the sights and sounds of a Sunday.
At first there are only a few who have surfaced from their beds, but then I realise that the dog walkers, paper buyers and early strollers are about, along with the keen groups of cyclists setting out for their day of fun. I think, ‘Why aren’t these people going to church?’ but as I am on a bike rather than in a pew myself today, I can hardly preach! Perhaps we are all finding the spiritual in another way, through a kind of meditation through the mantra of peddles turning and wheels spinning. In the silence I can think, breath, listen, and gain a new height of awareness. But others are not so it seems. Cycling clubs in brightly coloured, tight-fitting lycra with expensive bikes and kit. As they pass me at speed I am aware of the noise, not just of the rubber on tarmac, but of the chatter, mainly by men, talking office gossip or sport or whatever. At one point I pass a young couple, similarly attired in the latest cycling fashion. ‘Should we buy a new filing cabinet?’, she asks, ‘That would be good but we also need a desk and a lamp’. As they set out, they are thinking of setting up their new home. But they are all so friendly. It is not long before it dawns on me that I am not alone, I am part of a fraternity now, and every passing cyclist gives me a nod, a wave, a thumbs up or a cheery hello. Belonging. By riding my bike I have inadvertently signed up to a new club. Without meaning to, I have entered a world of comrades. We have an understanding.
I am dubious about the main road to Deddington, so turn off through Duns Tew and make my way north through Hempton, Bloxham, Tysoe and Kineton. These are places of beauty, of manicured lawns and cultivated geraniums, thatched cottages with golden stone shining in the sun. I stop to take a ‘selfy’ photo at the sign that says ‘Welcome to the region of Stratford-upon-Avon’. One of the fraternity sees my difficulty and stops to take my picture. We are all friends now.
I reach Warwick before lunch. It is busy with tourists, castle-goers and shoppers. I have a wander, take a few photos and then think of heading back to Oxford, this time by a different route – on the other side of the M40: the gloriously named Bishop’s Ithchington, Knightcote, Fenny Compton, Mollington, Williamscote, Aynho, Souldern, and so to the Heyfords and Kirtlington.
Now I am tired. Time to stop after 100 miles of road. I ring home and call for a lift. I can make it to Islip by 5 p.m. Emma, Katie and Thomas are there to greet me after their busy day or services. I am grateful for the soft seat – and for the roast beef that awaits at home. It’s been a great day – good for body (once the aching muscles and saddle sore have eased!), mind and soul. Not a solitary day, but one full of community, reflecting something of the community in Horspath and its church for which I ride.