There’s been a bit more biking on this half-term holiday for me this year. As the mini-KofthePs get bigger, and their bikes get more suited to the kind of riding I’ve been looking forward to sharing with them, we’ve been able to have a bit of an explore. The Camel Trail doesn’t quite cut it for them anymore (though #3 still loved a scoot along earlier – with the escape of a trailer to jump into.)
Looking at the map, there’s not much in the way of a bridleway network in Cornwall, but that doesn’t mean there’s no riding and this week we’ve been round the Bodmin Beast at the excellent Cardinham Woods, stumbled across the trails in Bishop’s Wood and of course done the obligatory bike trail run with a pasty in Padstow.
But the highlight has been late afternoon today. Sneaking an hour out before tea, I drove to one of the many beaches visited by the South West Coast path, stuck my boots and helmet on and headed up on to the cliffs above the surfers, sandcastlers and swimmers of Trevone Bay.
Now I don’t know about you, but I see one immutable rule being that the closer to the car parks you are, the more militant the walkers are about where you can and can’t ride a bike, so a sunny South West Coast path in view of the busy beach promised at the very least some grumpiness.
But the reality couldn’t have been more different.
The ride delivered the ordered sea views and salty air I’d headed that way for, but then it brought a bonus as well. Or two in fact.
The first; a grey haired lady, two walking poles in hand gradually making her way up the hill ahead of me. Hearing my creaking saddle rails*, she turned and stopped. I prepared for challenge and put on my best smile and cheery hello. I was greeted in kind and quickly realised my apprehension said more about my prejudice than about the reality available in sharing a trail.
We admired the view together, talked about our respective families, and wished each other well. I hope she left feeling a little lifted by our interaction; I know I did.
A short while later, I turned around, the bungee cord of family life and impending tea snapping taught, and began the return along the path to Trevone. Ahead of me, I saw a lone woman who I’d passed earlier. Again, I anticipated challenge when she asked if I’d ridden past her a few moments before.
“Yes, I did. Heading home now though”
“Ah that’s a shame as you were silhouetted perfectly up on the hill there before and I just didn’t have time to get my camera out.”
I literally didn’t know what to say. Again, my prejudice undermined my own optimism. Maybe there’s a return to my positive naivety required. Maybe I’m rediscovering some hope.
And you need that right now, because it’s all a bit glum isn’t it? The cost of living crisis and all the other grim news is bad enough, but moves by our latest Prime Minister** to systematically weaken our commitments to the environment; from declining a COP27 starring role, to removing the various environmental roles from Cabinet are not that encouraging. Looking to DEFRA, Terese Coffey is now the go to Minister for things affecting our world – notably access. With my friend Richard Benyon in that space too, perhaps I need to dig deep into the positivity granted to me by those two people I met on the South West Coast path today***.
I remain optimistic. I always do, otherwise there’s nothing to go after. I know others do too. The excellent Glover Landscapes Review remains a go to argument for better access (and a whole lot more), and riding that coastal path earlier today, I was inspired once more by the people I met and the place I rode to push for more.
Back from my holiday, there’ll be a lot to do.
*I’m not sure if it’s the saddle rails or one of the pivot joints
**Rishi Sunak, this week
***I followed up our interaction some weeks ago. I eagerly await a response.