I hadn’t been back to the UK in almost three years. We we’re due for a visit, an opportunity arose, and we took it. Actually I was a little aprehensive about it. They drive on the wrong side of the road in the UK!!!!
So what was it like after three years away? Well it was an interesting experience…….
The people speak English! – I know that’s obvious, but it felt strange going into a shop and being able to ask for stuff in English, and even stranger that I found myself thanking them in French.
They drive on the wrong side of the road! – Even although I’m driving a right hand drive vehicle, I’ve become used to driving on the right. It seems like the norm now. Also, when I first came to France I remember always looking at the passenger of oncoming vehicles. I’ve got used to treating oncoming vehicles as Left Hand Drive now. So, at first, it really was quite hard work switching back. Roundabouts were especially challenging, and the thing was, getting it wrong in the busy South East UK was potentially more serious than getting it wrong on the quiet roads where I live.
We screwed up at one point. We had some directions to a friends house. We reckon we needed the third exit from a roundabout….would have been correct if we went the wrong was around. Confusing innit?
But, we made it safe and sound to our destination near Malvern. Over the following few days I was able to get out and do a few rides on some of my old stomping grounds. One thing that struck me, was how beautiful the countryside was. Just as I remembered it. For me, Worcestershire, Shropshire, and Herefordshire, have some of the most beautiful and unspoilt countryside in the UK. It’s just so English. If I was going to bring a Frenchman to see England, this is where I’d bring them.
Ride 1 – Wyre Forest. I’d picked up a brand new S-Works Epic from my friends at Pearce Cycles that morning, so headed out to Wyre Forest with my road racing buddy Marcus Walker (Bush Health Care) for an afternoon riding the forest. Those of you who are familiar with Wyre will know how hidden the good stuff is, but I managed to put together a great three hour circuit. Three years down the line it was interesting to see how some trails were showing signs of more biking activity, but right over the back of the forest, the trails were just exactly the same. Just as if I’d only been away three days. Conditions were perfect, and the forest was a beautiful as ever. After the ride we took a beer at the Duke William. It was great to see Daisy, she’s calmed down a bit since the last time I saw her.
Ride 2 – Breedon Hill. We rode from Marcus’s place on a mission to the top of Breedon Hill. Marcus pushed the pace all the way. I was bloomin glad when he snapped his seatpost bolt. We managed to make an emergency repair, but it knocked the wind out of his sails, and the pace was a little more bearable. Breedon Hill has some great riding on it, though getting on it and off it is tough. We could see where Marcus lives from the top, so we sent semaphore messages to our wives to get dinner on!
Ride 3 – Malvern Hills. We parked up near the Gullet Quarry and spent a couple of hours riding to the beacon and back. The views are stunning, and I find it hard to ride there without something by Elgar playing inside my head. It was my third ride on the Epic, and I was really starting to feel at home on here. I’m thinking, best XC race bike I’ve ever ridden.
Ride 4 – Bringewood. Back over to Ludlow to meet up with the master of shape throwing that is James. Yep, he took me on a loop of his favourite trails, I was totally out of my depth, hanging on as best as I could, and marvelling a how I could get away with much more than I thought I could and still stay upright. Someone has built some super new trails on the Vinnals side, and we checked ’em out at speed. Blurred speed that is! 😉
Ride 5 – Malvern Again. It was the day we were due to leave. I knew I would be spending the next few days driving back to France, so I made the effort to get up early for one last ride. By 6am I was heading up the zig zags enroute to Worcester Beacon. It was chilly, but sunny. I worked very hard, feeling the good pain. I rewarded my self with a 15 minute stop on the summit while I studied the panorama and thought about the last few days. Who knows when I’d be here again. I wanted to take a while just to replay it, think it all in, savour it. Then I pointed my bike downhill and was gone.
The journey back to France was long and hard. I stopped off to visit my Dad on the way back. That’s a whole other story on it’s own.
10 days, over 1500 miles driven. All the family visited. All the wine drunk, and all the tomorrows turned into yesterdays. It was a great trip, and one that will keep us going for a long time, at least until who knows when.