It’s always a good at this time of year to take a moment to reflect on what is happened in the last 12 months. Was it a good year? Did I do all that I set to? and perhaps the biggest question of all, did I make the most of it?
In yet another COVID impacted year it was always going to be difficult. With trips still cancelled, travel relatively limited, plus the combination of being new dog owners, to a certain extent it was a year of getting used to the new normal. It’s not a normal that I want to get too used to, but at the same time, one could easily ague that the situation brought about changes that might well get to feature more regularly. More about that later.
The year was full of walks, more than I have ever done in my life. Having Ruby has obviously forced this upon us, but I have also found that walking itself is quite contagious and the more you do it, the more you look forward to doing more of it. It also brought about a whole new wardrobe of fleeces, walking shoes, waterproof trousers and down jackets.
Being muddy, scruffy and wet wasn’t such a miserable experience after all.
Once again the country was placed on a lockdown and the familiarity of Bath’s empty city centre returned both to haunt as well as intrigue. Whilst barely a soul took to the streets, it provided the perfect opportunity to properly take in the architecture of this magnificent city.
Marshfield is officially a small town although you will find that most residents still call it a village. I suspect as well as being good for house prices, it helps maintain that cosy countryside feel that we all love about the place. Whether the walks with Ruby were early in the morning, lunch time, or before the evening commenced, it was a great opportunity to get up close again with the place that we have now called our home for over 20 years.
Although not as many miles were ridden as the previous year, it is only when I look back at the statistics that I realise that I still clocked up over 4,000 miles and that made it my second highest total ever after 2020. What matters most of course is whether the miles were good ones and like all years, this had some cracking highlights.
The situation was largely helped by the fact that I took ownership of a new Specialized Roubaix. After experiencing the catastrophic failure of the future shock on my previous model, Specialized took it upon themselves to replace the bike in full, on account of the large amount of scratches inflicted upon the frame when I fell as a result of the failure.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the year was the trip to the Isle of Wight on the AWOL bike for a three day camping trip with friends, seconded by a wonderful ride around the New Forest for what felt like the hottest day of the year.
The Old Ford Boys as they are affectionately known, refers to the group of lads that grew up around in Hampshire with the town of Chandlers Ford as their base in the 1990s. In touch mainly via WhatsApp, the group do their best to get together once a year for some old fashioned shenanigans and generally childish behaviour. I look forward to it every year. This time Tony hosted at his somewhat derelict holiday home in Devon and the setting could not have been more perfect. Combined with the perfect local village pub, the stunning Woolacombe beach and the setting for an Enid Blyton novel, we seemed to cram into two days what normally might have taken five.
We were fortunate to be invited to join the Lyn’s at a house they had rented in St Ives. Before we arrived, we knew that the recent release from lock down had meant everyone was pretty much doing the same. The result; restaurants were fully booked and we would have to fend for ourselves with beach BBQ’s. Little did we know when we planned it that the weather would also work against us and it rained hard every day. None of that dented our determination to enjoy ourselves and as it turned out, it was a fantastic few days and just the break we needed.
The Isle of Wight
As a sequel to our camping trip to the Isle of Wight, we managed to persuade four others to join us and, once they had agreed, hoped that the weather and route would be just as kind to us as it was the year before. It honestly could not have gone any better. The trip encapsulated everything there is to love about bike packing in that we looked forward to the breakfast on the campsite as much as we did the ride along the promenade. It really was a mini adventure that once again we crammed into three days.
As part of our trip to Scotland, we decided to take time to stop at the Crewe Arms in Northumbria. We saw it as much as a break in the journey for ourselves and Ruby, but as it turned out, it was its only mini break and gave us an opportunity to really enjoy a beautiful hotel in a stunning part of the English countryside.
The Fife Arms
After months of talking about it, we finally bit the bullet and headed north to the Fife Arms in Braemar, Scotland. We had heard so much about the hotel from the media that we were a little worried it was both over-hyped and perhaps even too expensive for what it was. However, with limited other options for our summer break, we took the plunge and set off. The result was a 10 out of 10 experience. The hotel was amazing but better still, the beautiful scenery of the Highlands, which really was heaven on Earth, was lit up magnificently by glorious sunshine for every day we were there. Could we be that lucky again?
Having fallen in love again with the UK, we decided to complete the journey and book a few days in a beautiful converted barn in Snowdonia near the national park. To thank the Lyn’s for their wonderful hospitality in St Ives, we invited them along to join us and in true October style, it meant for a windy and wet week! Once again, this didn’t perturb us and we managed to get in a mix of walks, pub stops, a walk along Llandudno pier and even a little bit of shopping.
So, once again, the year was packed with highlights and there were plenty more that didn’t make the notes. I’m left thankful for the good heath that enables me to enjoy these things, the ability to afford them and of course the people that helped make every one of these days special. See you next year.