off the beaten track

Today I cycled 8 and a half miles, saw two rabbits, a squirrel, a fox and a *huge* dragonfly.

I also got quite lost and had a puncture.

I had a brilliant time.

Regular readers may recall my recent bike-related post, the road less travelled, in which I trundled my merry way around bits of the Wakefield area that I hadn’t explored. I mentioned there was a track down by the golf course under a bridge that I hadn’t yet explored, so today was the day.

I’d had a busy day and only an hour or so to fit my ride into, so set off from home towards the train station. There’s another interesting track down there which I’ve always wondered where it would end up. Turns out it runs alongside the railway track for about half a kilometre and brought me out roughly in the right direction for the golf course. Cross that one off my ‘where does it go?’ list.

I got up to the golf course, found the track and trundled along there quite happily for a while before coming out on the main road about fifty metres from the road leading the golf course.

Cross another one off the list.

Quite pleased with my exploring, I reckoned I had about half an hour left. There was yet another unexplored road nearby (as mentioned in the previous post), so I set off down there.

Up past the houses the road drops to a single track down between the hedges. I spy a couple of fellow cyclists up ahead, just as the road forks. They head off to the left, but I spot a sign saying that Newmillerdam is 2.5 miles off to the right. Now, Newmillerdam is roughly on my way home, ish. So I turn right.

The road disappears at this point, and I’m bumping along a dry track next to some fields. It’s all very scenic and quiet and as I’m bouncing along I spot a rabbit bounding along ahead. It takes off into a field on the left and I come to the end of the track.

There’s a field ahead of me with some fledgling cabbages neatly planted in rows, but there’s a fairly clear path across it, and on the far side I see a yellow marker post for the path. I set off across and soon get to the trees on the other side. The track here is pretty narrow, but just wide enough to cycle down, albeit very carefully. There’s a bridge at the bottom crossing the railway track, then it opens out onto another field.

This is where it goes slightly pear-shaped.

Now, this field is thigh-high with greenery. There’s no obvious track going across it. I can go left or right. Right looks a bit overgrown, and left is downhill.

Left it is. I get to the bottom of the field and there’s still nothing obvious indicating which way to go. I pause for a swig of water and another rabbit bursts from cover, spots me and hurtles off into the hedge to my left.

Oh well. I continue down the edge of the next field – I can see a road in the distance, and have worked out roughly where I am. I just need to go down this field, find a way through the hedge, and I’m back on the road.

After a dozen or so yards I realise that I really need to be carrying my bike so it doesn’t damage the crops. I’m being nettled and brambled, but the sun is shining and I’ve just spotted the biggest dragonfly I’ve ever seen keeping pace with me. The bottom corner of the field yields no exit, but a curious fox pokes its head out to see what this lycra-clad lunatic is doing.

Along the bottom of the field then, and there! The road. I send an apologetic text home to say I’ll be a little late and set off up the hill.

Hmm. It’s very bumpy.

A little… too bumpy.

Puncture in my rear tyre. And guess who didn’t pack a bike pump? I’ve got all the other paraphenalia for fixing a flat, but the pump is handily attached to my other bike. Ooops.

Still, it’s a fairly slow puncture, so I struggle on up the hill and make it home, a little late, a little sunburned, a little bloody from the brambles, but with a grin on my face.

Look. If I hadn’t taken that track, I’d not have seen the rabbits, the fox or the beautiful dragonfly. I now know that the path *does* lead directly across the field.

But that’s for another day.

The road less travelled

cycle path

It was a glorious day for a bike ride. I dug my bike out of the garage and set off down our street, got to the end of the road and paused.

Left or right?

Left would take me downhill, and into Wakefield. Right would mean a short uphill, but heading out towards the countryside. Not much of a choice then. I dropped a gear (or two) and set off.

Up and over the top of the hill and I’m faced immediately with another choice. Left at the lights, or straight on? Straight on follows the main road down past the big supermarket and out towards Pugney’s Country Park. It’s nice enough, but always busy on a nice day, plus the road by the supermarket is often heaving with traffic.

Left it is then.

Within a few hundred yards we’re away from the traffic and into the countryside. Up another hill (and down a few more gears) and I’m huffing and puffing up past the golf course on the outskirts of Wakefield. I’ve been cycling around here for many years, but oddly this is a route I’ve never taken. Towards the top of the hill I’m passed by a bunch of lads in a white Audi, who wound the window down so they could lean out and yell at me.

Out of breath as I am, I reply with a one-fingered wave in their general direction, to which I get a toot of the horn in reply. It puts a grin on my face, made wider as I reach the brow of the hill and I see the rolling fields ahead. Quick swig of water and I’m off again, zooming down the hill hunkered over the handlebars, half an eye on the bike computer’s speedometer and the rest on the road. I coast up to the next junction and again face the choice. Straight on, or left again?

Left heads towards Haw Park Woods – we’ve been there with the Scouts a few times so I take the turn and trundle off down the road. It’s not long before I come across a sign for a cycle track. It’s off to the left, and it feels like a left sort of a day, so I turn onto the bridleway. Up a short track and I find myself at Cold Hiendley Reservoir – somewhere I’ve seen on the map many times, but again, I’ve never been. I cycle along past anglers enjoying the sunshine and a cup of tea, couples out walking and a few dog-walkers. It really is a nice day to be out and about, made all the better for being off the road.

Not too much further along the track is Haw Park Wood itself. There’s a fence in the way, with one of those V-shaped sort-of-gates designed so that walkers can get through but not bikes. I half consider going through and up through the woods, but notice the main track heads off to the…

You’ve guessed it. Left. Off we go.

I’ve no idea where I’m likely to end up, but reason that as I’ve been turning left quite a lot, I’ll either end up back where I set off, or cross one of the tracks or roads I’ve already cycled down. Besides, the sun is out, the sky is blue and my bike is whirring along underneath me. It’s a glorious day for a bike ride.

It’s along this track that I took the photo above. The light was coming through the trees just so, there was nary another soul in sight, and it felt like I had the world to myself. I stopped, took the photo then just enjoyed the peace and quiet for a few minutes.

Off we go again and it’s not long before I reach the far edge of Haw Park Wood, and find myself at Waterton Park Golf club – another of Wakefield’s golf courses, and a different one to the one I passed earlier. The track continues enticingly on under the bridge, but as I check my watch, I realise that I’m running out of time and need to head home. One for another day.

As I’m leaving the grounds of the golf course, I realise that I always turn right at the end of the road to go home. I’ve got a few minutes, so I see where left leads me. Another enticing single-track road soon appears, but I add that to my list of places to explore another day and turn back.

I’m soon home, having clocked up a very modest distance of just under seven and a half miles in about 45 minutes. It’s not far at all compared to the distances I was getting to last summer, where a 30-miler wasn’t uncommon, but for today, it’s enough. I’ve done some exploring, found some new places and had a splendid time.

That’s what I love most about my bike. The freedom to just get out there and explore, to see where the wheels will take me. All part of life’s big adventure. In the words of Ferris Bueller:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Stop and look around. Then choose.

Left or right? Where will it take you?