We set out early afternoon on a slow bimble on a sunny, bright but very windy day, marked most memorably by the warmth – it was at times 15 degrees out there. Everything was still sodden, and occasionally we rode through floodwater, but on the whole, the roads were quickly drying out and everything was very springlike.
We rode up through Hilton and Chesterfield to Shenstone, then over Shenstone Park, which looked even more like the set of the Teletubbies than it normally does. We went on up to the old A5 through Weeford and down into Hopwas and Wigginton to Syerscote, Clifton, Honey Hill, No Mans Heath, Austrey, Orton, Warton, Polesworth, Birch Coppice and Hurley. We came back up through Kingsbury Water Park, Bodymoor Heath and Carroway Head, Woodend and Stonnall.
The other thing that marked the day is that the normally grey and colourless light of this time of year was temporarily replaced by bright greens and a feeling of spring. It’s like all the time we were inside, or getting wet, we were earning this day: this ride. It was fabulous to be out in.
Pickle noted particularly the swans grazing on some winter crop of brassicas, which is important. We can’t feed waterfowl locally at the moment due to an avian flu outbreak that his killed many birds. People are concerned the swans that normally live in our parks are not able to eat – but these refugees from central Tamworth have flown out to dine al fresco on what the farmland has to offer, and as Pickle said, they seemed very socially distanced.
Clifton Hall continued to bewilder – the twin, red brick, foursquare mansions that were apparently intended to be one, but the wings were built first, and the central part never completed. Pickle observed that it was probably a good house for a couple that were no longer communicating well, but still in love. She’s probably right.
I had no idea it had been derelict for many years and only refurbished and inhabited relatively recently.
As we reached the crossover point between day and night – I love the concept of civil twilight – we laboured up Honey Hill, on the road out of Clifton towards the junction of four counties at No Mans Heath. Honey Hill is a hard climb, windswept, and generally a summer place: But today it was just right. The views commanded were beautiful, and the ride had really encouraged a spirit of optimism for the year to come.