02.04.2012 | The year on wheels
The months since we opened our new shop in Hebden Bridge have flown by. We've been lucky to have found our feet on Market Street really quickly, meeting lots of new people and catching up with old friends. It's great to be on a busy street with so many excellent businesses and supportive fellow business people (quite a few like Makepiece who both make and sell their own stuff).
The other great thing is that I have really got to grips with cycle commuting and cycling has become even more part of the daily rounds of sheep farming.
Cycling is great. It's a cheap, petrol free way of getting round which I think has probably also kept me happy (despite the perpetual anxiety of paying off the investment aka overdraft we used to set up our new shop).
This shot was taken in January - feeding the sheep by bike on my new-to-me Kona Jake the Snake cyclocross bike.
The daily climb from the valley bottom to the sheep is merciless but satisfying. I'm truly awake by the time I get up the hill. After seeing to the sheep I usually take the off-road route to Hebden along the Pennine Bridleway, which lifts my spirits whilst testing my skills.
The views are great and quite often the weather changes as I round Stoodley Pike. I've chased blue sky over Hebden with rain following me fast down the valley from the west or rounded the corner to see mist below me where there was none in Todmorden.
Every day I reflect on the people who must have carted cobbles, setts and slabs up the route to make it viable for horses. The surface is no longer even and the cobbles only just in evidence now, but it must have been a regular highway a couple of hundred years ago.
The fact that it's more of a track these days makes the ride 'interesting' in a teeth rattling, bone shaking, tears streaming way. I'm always delighted to reach the bottom in one piece.
The track down into Hebden from London Road.
This routine has led to a bit of weight loss and some increase in speed - so much so that I have had a go at racing. I participated in Todmorden's legendary 'cross race this January with it's 'just like Belgium' cobbled climb. Which was enormous fun (in a very muddy way).
I've been reflecting on how great bikes are for the last six months. Once I was commuting I started also getting out of the valley on my days off. I can't afford to run a car of my own at the moment so found myself making day trips to Ilkley (for a cake at Betty's tea rooms - total cost of day out £2.10) and all over the Pennine Bridleway.
I'm hugely grateful for the campaigning work of Mary Towneley who made so much of the area accessible to bikes and horses.
Rooley Moor Road, part of the Mary Towneley Loop on the Pennine Bridleway. Check out those cobbles!
Luckily I can borrow a car for carrying things (like bales of hay!) but the general reduction of car miles and increase in bicycling miles has done me (and the environment) nothing but good.
Nicola is onto the joys of cycling too - with the recent acquisition of a child seat on her bike for Reuben, she and Dave can have family days out without the car.
The sheep now expect to be fed by anyone on a bike or wearing cycling gear...