Our ride had become seriously disrupted by the acquisition of the stray dog. We turned back towards the village, me pushing the bikes, my wife cradling Fido like a baby. We poked around the village. It was as deserted as a zombie movie set at high noon. Fortuitously, my wife found a bit of rope draped over a fence and we now at least had a lead. First step on the slippery slope towards dog proprietorship.
“It must live here somewhere…” we thought. We plodded up a leafy tunnel, one of the gravel drives, towards a large house. As we were now presenting a picture that could only cause concern to a home owner – lycra, bikes, rope, dog – we cooed out a few “hallo”s.
The only response came from a speaking bush. To be honest the bush wasn’t so much speaking as just twitching, grunting and clicking. We called again “Hallo…” then “HALLO” and the bush responded, “Hallo?”
Dusting himself off a man emerged from the shrubbery, Wizard of Oz style, but with a pair of shears. Two and twos were added up on each side. Upon questioning he thought there were three dogs in the village and this wasn’t one of them. There was also a three legged cat but a close analysis of our situation told us that this was a blind alley. He himself had once owned a dog but it had died. By this time, he was patting and scratching the dog’s head… Aha, I thought, another five minutes of this bonding and we may have successfully reduced our oversupply of dogs from one to zero.
But no luck. On the chance that this gentleman might not be altogether up to date on the dog census point we pressed on into the village. No, said a man. Nope, said another. Then – bingo – a lady, eying the dog, said “Did he follow you? He does that all the time” and directed us to a house two doors down. Another Manor House, another hack through shrubbery and through wet-jammed gates and our whiskery friend was restored to his owner, together with a bit of rope to prevent further wanderings.
All this had eaten over an hour out of our hire time so we pedalled furiously, making maybe eight, maybe ten miles an hour. One thing I found out quite quickly – there are no major roads in South Shropshire so drivers treat minor roads as major roads, tanking past you at 60mph. On the other hand, once you are off the main routes there are glorious, quiet, well-metalled little lanes of 12 feet or so and you can cycle for ever without seeing a car. Just be careful – there are often high hedges on either side so no hiding place if a tractor comes bearing down on you.
After looping north we cut back to Bromfield to the Ludlow Food Centre. Incongrous in our lycra we mingled with the visitors marvelling at the wild boar bacon, heather honey and locally brewed ciders. Certainly worth seeing, but bring panniers if you’re the buying kind. The food is so well presented you feel like buying a cabbage, taking it out into the car park, and eating it raw.
As it had begun to rain we ducked into the café and pored over maps, attempting to create the impression that we were charting a course for the next leg of a twenty day cycling tour.
And so back to Pearce’s, cutting across Ludlow Race Course. Actually its also a golf course, but I don’t suppose they liven up racedays by playing both sports at once. But watch out for golfers drifting onto the road, unaware of the silent approach of your bike.
We checked back in at Pearce’s. 4 hours entertainment, fifteen quid each. Good stuff. Less than 20 miles in four hours. Not so good. I blame it on the one hour dog-related time penalty.
Thumbs down to – Ludlow drivers. On traffic routes, they don’t slow down. Thumbs up to – Pearce Cycles, friendly staff, good bikes, able to cater for top end stuff but sympathetic to the needs of amateurs like us. Real cyclists – check it out if you’re in the area, particularly if you are into the off-road stuff.
by Colin Martyr, our resident non-pro cyclist.
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