Wednesday, 21 November 2012

"Dogging" in Ludlow - Part 1

Taking a break for a few days in Ludlow, Shropshire, my wife and I decided to pull in a cycle ride in what is known as good cycling country. A quick scan of the internet revealed that bikes could be had at Pearce Cycles and so at the appointed hour we appeared, lycra clad, for fitting up.

Pearce Cycles is slightly outside Ludlow on the east (probably the “wrong”) side of the town. I am not sure if it is a cycle shop, cycle factory or simply an arsenal of bikes being stockpiled for the day the inevitable petrol wars break out, but anyway they did a good job of finding something suitable from the hundreds on site.

In saying “wrong” side of Ludlow I am giving away much about my own limitations. “Proper” cyclists would view an adrenaline fuelled spring up the Clee Hills to the east as a knock-off before breakfast. However, cycling west towards Wales is normally considered more attractive for longer tours. Because of our starting point we were hunting out flatter ground in the north.

After fifteen minutes or so we stopped for the first map check. Yes, I’d forgotten to tie a ball of string to the gatepost when we left so it was inevitable we would soon be lost. Whilst frowning at the map, I became aware of a small Jack Russell outside the  wall of the church. This was only slightly odd. It was a village of few, large houses, mostly set well back through walks of gravel and shrubbery. This was obviously a local dog who simply checked out passing traffic in the village for something to do.

The dog came over and we did the usual fussing and petting. Seeing the chance for a cutesie photo opp, I picked it up and my wife took a piccie. Mistake, as it proved. But not apparent until we set off.

The dog, sensing fun, scampered off after us. No problem, I thought. He doesn’t know what he’s taking on; we’ll burn him off. After two hundred yards he showed no loss of enthusiasm, scampering behind and indeed in front of us, tail wagging as if in anticipation of a good day’s adventure.

My wife was beginning to have doubts. I, however, have an innate faith in the dog’s natural good sense, its unerring homing instinct, its natural yearning for its home pack and its lead dog…

Things came to a head when we reached the main road and it became clear that, first of all we  were now its home pack and I  was now its lead dog – and also that this particular Jack Russell just had a gap  where its doggy good sense ought to be.

As it meandered back and forth, stopping traffic, setting drivers craning out of their windows in that peculiar “is it under my car?” way, it became clear that this dog was a hazard to navigation and we were its quasi-owners.
Stark choice.  Dump the dog and scarper or abandon the ride and get the mutt back to its home turf. I looked at the dog; the dog looked at me. I crouched on my haunches. “Here , boy…”

Part 2 here.

by Colin Martyr, our resident non-pro cyclist

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