Base club is very much back on and we have a couple of new members, including the mighty Glyndwr and Tom ‘Zone 2’ Illet. It’s been a purely Bristol South affair; I can’t remember last year if we had any interlopers but the last couple of weeks have been unsullied by the colours of lesser clubs. The roads this morning were populated with lots of cyclists, no doubt swept along by the unceasing enthusiasm for cycling in the UK as it continues its remorseless grip on the mainstream, and also emboldened by resolutions. You can spot those not used to cycling at this time of year by the woefully inadequate kit. I would say the absence of mudguards, but there are hard-bitten racing snakes in the South who refuse to embrace the mudguard. As any fule kno, they ride at the back.
Tom was aiming to stay in zone 2 for the entirety of the distance. This plan was scuppered by our initial ascent of Blagdon from the lake to the top. Kieran hit his max heart rate. I wasn’t far off. I had a better day than earlier on in the week where I wheezed my way up Rhodyate and my legs lost any sense of being independent and fully-functioning limbs. For all sorts of reasons i forwent the extended base jaunt down onto the levels with the chaps and turned right to head back up the Gorge. I had intended to scuttle up Draycott, but it’s a climb that can destroy an entire ride in about 9 minutes: discretion won the day.
Riding up Cheddar Gorge turned out to be brilliant. Several of the other base clubbers had been up over Christmas and found a closed road, devoid of traffic but full of gravel and water. Steve mentioned how it had been the best bit of his ride back from Somerset to Bristol. I crept through the barrier and rode up in silent isolation. I felt the need to stop and observe, to breathe in the experience of being somewhere incredibly beautiful but with the rare luxury of silence and solipsism.
At their steepest, the sides of the gorge stand ominously on either side, two towering periglacial walls. I gazed up at the crows and jackdaws circling above the parapet of the cliffs and was struck by the majesty of the surroundings. With startling speed and ferocity a Peregrine Falcon swooped down in front of the cliff edge and attempted to take a bird out of the air. It was the sound that made me look up – of the swoop echoing against the limestone battlements, the air rushing past the tucked body of the bird hurtling downwards at anything up to 200mph.
The Falcon then climbed up out and circled around the top of the Gorge for a few minutes, scaring and harassing the other birds. I’ve been taking my nice camera out on rides lately, but this morning opted to leave it at home. I managed to get some phone shots.
After a few more moments of awed twitching, I pressed on up the Gorge and made my way back to Bristol. Nothing before or after compared with the peregrine falcon.