Today is the day that most people in the U.K. are feeling glum – it’s officially the last day of the Christmas holidays and most will go back to work tomorrow (including Morts, but not me, I get one extra cheeky day… hoorah!) But rather than sitting at home feeling sorry for ourselves, it’s time to beat the return-to-work-blues and GET OUTSIDE! Plus, I may have mentioned once or twice that we got some new bikes for Christmas, which we are pretty excited about so it is time to saddle up and take them for their first proper test ride.
Although yesterday, the first day of 2017 was a miserable rainy grey day, today is making up for it; it is stunning! The skies are a beautiful blue and completely cloudless and the ground is frosty and crunchy white. It’s a cold nose and warm heart kinda day.
Morts and I wanted a cycling route that would take us straight from our house as we wanted a car-free day after the fair amount of Christmas travel in recent weeks. With the Chilterns just on our doorstep we really are in cycling heaven, so it was just a matter of deciding on a route to take. We did some research on the fantastic Chilterns website and opted for a route beginning in nearby Wallingford (a short 3 mile cycle from us). Of the three routes suggested, we opted for the shorter 11 mile route (adding 6 miles return to get to and from Wallingford); this would be Oskar’s first time out on a longer cycle on the back of my bike in his bike seat, so we really weren’t sure how happy he would be, hence we didn’t want to push it too far. This ride was as much about his enjoyment as ours, so we thought we’d take it easy and leave plenty of time for stopping and playing and exploring.
Rather than just going straight down the road to Wallingford, we opted to cycle down to the river and then follow that along to the town. In hindsight this was probably not the best choice given the amount of rain that had fallen the day before, but it made for a pretty funny initial cycle involving lots of slipping, sliding and muddy faces. There were also a fair few gates to get through which punctuated the cycle a lot, but on the plus, it was absolutely lovely cycling next to the river. Also, we passed a big field with a pile of hay bales in, which Oskar wanted to stop and play on, so we climbed on those, did some jumping and then just sat and enjoyed the sun on our faces for a bit. Lovely.
Once in Wallingford, we headed over the bridge and towards Crowmarsh Gifford, where we picked up the Chilterns Cycleway. From here we enjoyed a beautiful route through open countryside and along long, winding lanes. There were a few good hills, but actually I surprised myself with how well I managed those (especially with a cute 16kg additional load on the back!)…. Slowly and surely was the mantra for the day. Oskar loved the downhill and shouted out “weeeeeeeeeeeeeee” when we started to speed up and “faster Mummy!” when we slowed down. We sang, we talked, we looked around and spotted Red Kites, chatted to other cyclists, looked for the Gruffalo in every wood we passed, and discussed in great length the orange digger that Oskar had spotted in a field. Oskar loved it and genuinely didn’t seem to get bored or restless at all. We did keep stopping for ‘running around breaks’ where he burnt off a lot of energy but he was always happy to get back on the bike again; this was really pleasing and has reassured us about tackling some slightly longer routes next time.
One aspect of the walk that we really enjoyed was cycling through all the beautiful local villages and one village that was a real highlight was Ewelme. At the top of yet another long hill, we were rewarded with a picturesque view down into the village; in the distance we could see a church, which Oskar decided we should head towards (he thought it was a castle). So, we cycled right down into the village and there in a perfect little sunny spot was a bench outside the church where we sat and had a snack and a drink.
Oskar then wanted to go exploring, so we headed into the lovely church gardens and into the church itself, which had a beautiful stained-glass window and was perfectly peaceful. Oskar loved exploring and felt like he had made a real discovery and immediately wanted to head back to get Daddy (who was babysitting the bikes out at the front), to bring him back and show him around the ‘castle’. He did this and was so pleased with himself.
From Ewelme, we travelled back through Benson, before looping back to Wallingford, for a last minute sprint home, racing the fading sun. As the sun dropped, the temperature plummeted and it is fair to say it was rather fresh! There was one casualty on the way home unfortunately; a pesky thorn bush attacked Morten’s down jacket as we cycled by, resulting in a big tear and down/feathers bursting out of his arm for the final couple of miles. Poor Morts; but better than a thorny bush to the face, which may have been the other option!
Once home it was straight inside for hot chocolates and a big family snuggle on the sofa under the blankets. It had been another fantastic day; we had all absolutely loved our bikes and the exploratory journeys of our local area that they had enabled. We felt great for the exercise and actually in far better shape than we expected, given the dearth of recent activity in favour of mince-pie eating contests. Once home, we enjoyed the ache of well-used muscles and the slight burning of once frozen cheeks thawing out a bit. We’d had a fantastic time together and enjoyed sharing the experience, so much so, that we’ve already got our eye on some of the other Chilterns cycle routes and are even pondering the full Chilterns Cycleway loop (170miles). The only thing we’d do differently? Get some padded cycling shorts! As I write this blog a couple of days later, I still feel like I am sitting on my bike! A necessary purchase for us all methinks ;o)