In Search Of…

Like a ferret up a drainpipe…give me any excuse to get out on my bike and ride some country roads or dirt trails, and I’m there. Now, just getting out and seeing something new is what really excites me anyway, but having that experience on a bike just makes it so much more.

I’m often finding interesting buildings along trails that have been abandoned or left to ruin…some are largely intact and in good order but just abandoned…or seemingly so…and there are those that have been smothered by overgrown greenery and brambles.

Anytime of the day is a good time, but I have to say, an overall preference would be first thing in the morning just at the break of dawn. “What?…Are You Mad!” I hear you cry. Yes, possibly so…but first thing in the morning, when the world is still asleep and the roads are deserted…for the most part…is a true blessing for anyone who just loves that ‘open road’ feeling and when you stop to contemplate your world…the only sound are the birds morning call.

Fortunately…or unfortunately, I have a day job which forces me to get up quite early at times to start…or finish very late into the night and early hours of the morning. However, this gives me ample opportunity to go explore routes in the general direction I need to go.

So, I’m always on the hunt for unridden routes, untravelled passes and forgotten trails as well as tight little back roads or byways. They make a great diversion for the commute to work and you arrive feeling fulfilled and refreshed, knowing you’ve just had a blessed ride in fantastic surroundings whilst everyone else has had to stick to main roads or be bumper to bumper in traffic.

The other morning was a typical example…I had found a marking on a map of an old church that was now derelict and that there were some trails nearby which could be explored. Well, hidden behind a tall hedge in the middle of nowhere-ville there stood the remains of an old church that was abandoned in the late 19th Century.

St James Church at Bix Brand in Oxfordshire, UK was at the heart of a small community, but as time moved on during the 19th Century…all of the inhabitants gradually moved away to a nearby village just some mile away. The church became unused and died…as did the village too, but still stands remarkably in good condition given it’s been abandoned for over 140yrs.

There were lots of features to pick out as I walked around but what struck me was the level of care that remains to keep the church from degrading even further. The 1/8 acre site was surrounded with tall trees and hedges that masked the church from ordinary prying eyes and the grounds that were being kept in good order by the local society. At 6am, as the sun was just breaking free of the horizon and with the choir of birds singing…the place was peace on earth…only being disrupted by my movements and squeals of wonder and awe.

I appreciate this is not to everyone’s taste but being out and off the beaten track…and being able to find these forgotten places…or even unheard of sites (for me at least) is a real treat and helps to keep the insanity from my door.

So after a few moments appreciating the vista, I got back on the bike and headed out onto the trails through the forests and into the hills too. The sun was still low and its rays were beaming through into the forest from the side boundaries. Most of the route the sun was on my back and although the track was hard and wide enough for the most part…there were other stretches where the surface was less assured and the track got narrower…so much so that the trail had been totally overgrown. I knew I should have bought a machete the last time I went the the DIY shop.

Suffice to say that I made it out the other side to tell the tale. Arriving for work with a smile on your face is rarely fashionable but it’s the perfect tonic to set up for the day.

Now…where can I go tomorrow?

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