A September Riding Diary

A lovely month for riding as the light softens, shadows lengthen, and the signs of the changing seasons accelerate. With winter knocking on the door, and in the absence of prospects for a larger adventure, finding ways to turn everyday riding into nano-adventures, and exploring my local area anew continue to bring a much-needed sense of purpose to the days.

The ‘riding diary’ flavour of posts I threw together during the spring lockdown brought me a great deal of satisfaction. In an uncertain situation, and in the absence of prospects for a larger adventure, finding ways to turn everyday riding into micro (or nano, even) adventures, and exploring my local area anew brought a much-needed sense of purpose to the days, and a welcome means of maintaining an even keel. With winter knocking on the door, and Covid-19 not unexpectedly still very much in evidence, I feel it’s going to be important to continue in that vein – enjoying the dramatic lighting that winter can deliver, and becoming used to the feel of cold rain and sloppy mud on my skin once again.

The heather blossoms on the cliffs and moors persisted well into September. It was quite beautiful. Sometimes there are stonechats to be seen here, balancing on a sprig of heather in the breeze. I don’t own a long wildlife lens, but if I did this is one of the first places I would head to. Many times I’ve thought about it…

September is a lovely month for riding as the light softens and shadows lengthen, and the signs of the changing season accelerate. There hasn’t been any sea kayaking, I recently completed a short course of treatment for a small carcinoma on my face – cumulatively years of time at high altitudes and outdoor living probably has something to do with it I suspect (hence preference for hats over helmets when riding in places like the Andes), and during the treatment I was advised to avoid too much UV exposure, so days on the ocean sea didn’t seem such a bright idea. Possibly it was also just an excuse to avoid using a car and dealing with beach car parks that were still overwhelmingly crowded with visitors despite the nominal end of the summer holidays. I just went riding instead with a dollop of mineral sunblock. It might be time to rename this blog to simply “Dirt”…

The nature of riding around here is that scraps and fragments of tracks and trails have to be linked by sections of road. It’s alright, and resisting the urge to just go by the quickest route (i.e the road) always results on a more fulfilling experience of discovery.

September also marked the tenth anniversary of walking out of the door of an aerospace career for the last time, in favour of the freedom and uncertainty of self-employment – very much a leap of faith at the time, not knowing what I would do other than ride my bike more. That ten years seems to have worked out, and the anniversary, and current uncertainty, feels like a good time to think about how I want the next ten years to look. In the meantime however here are a few snaps from the times I did take my camera. They’re not always the best, but they help.

There are also choughs to be spotted here at Godrevy Head. They were much more in evidence during lockdown.
The value of my bike is that I can turn everyday stuff into an adventure. Heading to the hospital for a check recently, a task which could have been a source of worry, I took the time to go “the long way round” – a less than direct route on trails rather than just head in on the road with all the traffic. It made for a few hours of fun in total with nothing more than the briefest moment of anxiety in the waiting room; I enjoyed a really great morning. No insanely high hospital parking charges to pay either.
I use my fixed wheel on trails a lot. It’s not an optimum tool for covering such ground as quickly as possible… but it is a great deal of fun and helps to keep familiar trails alive. When things feel boring, use a different bike, or use the same bike in a different way.
The nature of riding around here is that scraps and fragments of tracks and trails have to be linked by sections of road. It’s alright, and resisting the urge to just go by the quickest or most obvious route always results in a more fulfilling experience of discovery.
Autumn mornings
This is Zennor Quoit, near Zennor oddly enough… Dating from somewhere between 4500 and 5500 years ago, it is thought to have been a repository for the bones of the dead, whose bodies might have been laid out on the capstone (now fallen) for de-fleshing by the local crows and other carrion eaters.
Not so much a burial chamber as somewhere a tribal shaman might have gone to consult with the ancestor spirits. Bike for scale…
With a slow reduction in visitor crowds, September at last felt like a good opportunity to nip out for a discrete bivy. Feeling nostalgic for life on the road last year I took my ECR and headed out to meet a riding buddy via the trails of the Poldice Valley, amid the ruins of Cornwall’s mining past.
The late afternoon weather was astonishingly good – warm and still. It was a perfect evening for sitting out under the stars and talking bollocks with a flask of whisky on hand.
Morning brought a marked change in conditions…
I hadn’t bothered with a tent, preferring the simplicity of my tarp. I also hadn’t bothered looking at the wind forecast… I had created a nice roomy, airy pitch but woken at 2am by the arrival of a howling easterly and a face full of wet sea foam blown in by the wind, I hastily re-pitched to a more aerodynamic, low wedge to mitigate any kiting potential.
Early morning was lovely; cosy in my sleeping bag, watching the waves with the wind on my face and cries of the gulls. I really did not want to get up.
Hunger pangs eventually demanded we break camp and retire to a more sheltered spot to make breakfast…
.. before setting off for the return journey. More such outings over the winter will help keep the spirits up.
More lovely September lighting high on the Penwith moors.
Things feel extra-lush up there at the moment and the trails are still in good condition. It won’t be long before the winter weather turns them to slop and it becomes time to dig out my waterproof socks… ( around here where it’s never cold, just very wet, I prefer that approach combined with a regular shoe to a waterproof winter boot which takes days to dry when the water inevitably gets in).
The Boskednan Nine Maidens stone circle is always a contemplative stop for a sandwich and to ponder upon the ages. Photogenic too.. I’ve often thought about making a bivy up here but have not yet got around to it… I have a dim memory of a particularly scary episode of Doctor Who which sent me scurrying behind the sofa as a small child –  I’m sure it featured standing stones that essentially ate people… so I have thought about that too ;-)
“over there I think..”
The second flowering of the gorse, the first being back in early spring.
During the lockdown in the spring I spent a fair bit of time just following my nose and heading off down unknown tracks and trails to have a look. This is one of those previously unknown trails I found tucked away in a valley. I was quite pleased, my riding buddy knows the trails down here very well indeed, and he had no idea…
Definitely autumn. I love the honesty stalls at farm gates around here. I’d forgotten to bring any money with me but the tomatoes my friend bought were wonderful.

10 thoughts on “A September Riding Diary

  • Good combination of photos and words, gives a nice sense of autumn arriving. Where I ride, I’ve noticed how quickly the landscape is changing … tree colours, deers looking for mates and more winds stirring up the day.

    • hey Matt, thanks for the nice feedback. Every autumn I’m amazed by the speed of the change as late summer turns into autumn. It’s really a special time of year.

  • Keep on getting out my friend – and inspiring. I always know I am in for a treat when I see you have published another beautiful post.

  • You have no idea how wonderful it is to see your pictures and read about your adventures! I live just outside of Washington DC and the beauty of your country and the quality of your life is like a breath of fresh air.

    • hey, what a lovely comment, thank you for taking the time and I’m happy that you enjoy my idle ramblings! Cornwall is a pretty special place, much of the culture and a significant chunk of the countryside is slowly being overwritten by uncontrolled mass tourism but there are untouched pockets yet, and there’s a growing pushback against the scale of it so I’m hopeful it can be preserved for the future, resident and visitor alike.

      I am very lucky, much of the west sometimes appears to have confused “quality of life” with “ability to buy stuff you don’t really need“.. my quality of life feels very good indeed, and taking the time to take a few snaps and put together a post is a good reminder to me of that fact when things are getting on top of me, I’m worrying about the future, or when things are not going so great with respect to, say, work.

  • I’m glad that riding relieved any potential anxiety around your hospital treatment – I know I find it essential for my mental health. Your photo of the honesty stall chimed with me too. Something that always brings a smile to my face while riding is passing a good honesty stall. On one of my regular routes an older couple put out a barrow of immaculate-looking home-grown vegetables by their garden gate. It’s in the middle of nowhere but I guess they get enough passing trade to make it worth it. Either that or they just enjoy doing it for the hell of it. Either way, I’m grateful that they do.

    • oh that’s brilliant. There are a couple of larger such stalls near me that have become as well known and popular as some of the farm shops. It’s just an elderly couple with a vegetable garden, the produce is really good, and varied. They’re just such a nice thing to have, and fresh seasonal veg devoid of an abundance of chemicals.

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