Looking along a long straight road amidst lush green farmland

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Homeward Bound And Thoughts

Ride Date 14 May 2022

By Ren Withnell

Ooooh I needed that! A good solid night's sleep was just the ticket. Breakfast is booked for 0830 where we are kindly seated and waited upon courteously. A full English with lashings of toast and marmalade get thrown down our gullets in glorious fashion and then it's time to load up one last time.

Our full english breakfast with drinks in the morning at the hotel
FOOD! I could eat like this every morning.

Again the sun is shining, again time is on our side. Oh what a wonderful problem to have. We could just jump on the motorway network but no, I set the sat-nav for Shrewsbury, avoiding motorways. 

Our first stop is at The Food Stop Cafe, south of Bridgnorth. I have been to many "biker" places, from Rivington Barn just up the road from me to Rykas near Dorking. And still this particular one has escaped me entirely. To be honest it is exactly as you'd expect, much the same as countless hang outs up and down the country. We imbibe a brew and make use of the loo before we're off again.

Lots of motorcycles on a car park outside the cafe in the sunshine
That's yet another biker hangout I've been to.

Another hour later we're just south of Whitchurch and drinking more tea at another biker place. Other than that the rest of the journey is uneventful. I mean that in a positive manner, I mean we make it home safely and comfortably.

What are my feelings now, looking back on this trip? Positive, definitely positive. But why?

Of course the most obvious positive was the weather. While we didn't escape the whole trip without getting wet, we only got wet once. Otherwise we've enjoyed what I'd consider ideal riding (and walking around) conditions, not cold and not hot. I feel this dependence on good weather to be concerning though. If the enjoyment of exploring is weather dependant then here in Blighty you sure are going to be miserable at times. Good weather helps, no doubt, but you can't let bad weather spoil your fun unduly.

I have enjoyed rural England. It does lack that "WOW!" factor that we've delighted in when we're in the mountains. The Picos are impressive, The Highlands will take your breath away and The Alps can bring a tear to the eye. The rolling hills, vast fields and quaint villages of rural England don't do this, their effect is not sudden. Rather I'd say this soft countryside steers me to softer thoughts and notions of a life less frantic. 

Ren stands on the old stone bridge at Bidford
After a week of countryside I'm chilled.

While on a local ride I was making my way down a countryside lane not too far from my own domestic hovel. I look and I see the same things as I saw on this trip. Verges deep in grasses and weeds, thick stout hedgerows, intermittent trees and hardy bushes, fields of wheat and cattle and a babbling brook or two. There's plentiful pleasant houses and pretty villages nearby complete with swish cars in the driveways and curious local shops (for local people). 

A stone house, narrow verdant lane and mist hills in the distance
There are such lovely places but a mere handful of miles from where I live.

I ask myself "what's the difference? What seems 'better' about The Home Counties or The New Forest?" 

Quantity and space. Where I live in North West England, in spite of the stereotypes, there are lovely places. The difference is between these small pockets of loveliness there's an awful lot of larger towns and cities. I can go to these lovely places but en-route I'll be passing through Preston city centre, skipping around the outskirts of Southport, crossing Manchester's M60 ringroad or wriggling between St Helens and Warrington. 

Be it North Yorkshire, Northumbria, Welsh Wales, The Highlands, The New Forest or The Cotswolds - you can ride for quite some time before having to deal with endless traffic lights, suicidal pedestrians, oppressive tower blocks, vast industrial estates and homogenous shopping empires. Save for The Highlands it is quite hard to be "a long way from anywhere" in the UK but at least away from the North West it is possible to avoid these places when travelling.

London is the UK's capitol and the largest city. I'd argue that Liverpool and Manchester having very little countryside between them are getting close to being one continuous megacity these days. For years Sharon has pointed out - space, space is the one thing we lack where we live.

And that's that. All I can look forward to now are a few weekends away until the next trip. 

A beautiful Highland scene with mountains a coastline and blue skies
Space - space to think and breath

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Prologue - It's Not Up North Happenstance and circumstance is the driving force behind this trip's direction. Ren explains it all.
Down To Akeley It's the first day of the southern adventure and already Ren is reclining in sumptuous luxury. So, err... what's changed?
A Look Around F1 Country Ren offers an all too lengthy explanation of his uncouth approach to museums before taking in some quintessentially English countryside.
Stones and More Comfort It's time to depart the rally and head even further daaan saaaf. There's plenty of time for tea and to explore some ancient standing stones. What will the next 3 nights' accommodation be like?
Stonehenge On The Cheap, Salisbury On The Hoof It's time to take in Britain's most famous monolithic structure - Stonehenge. Salisbury is also going to endure a good dose of looking at as well.
A Walk In Dinton There's a simple and lazy day ahead of The Dynamic Muppets today with not much planned. This eventually leads Ren to his new career as a Surrealist Artist Extraordinaire. Soon he will be famous and rich?
Off To The New Forest It's time to move on once again and head even further daaan saaaf. The New Forest might be quite lovely but given the foul weather Sharon and Ren won't be finding out today - in fact they are struggling to see the road ahead.
Exploring The New Forest With better weather and a tank full of fuel it's time to look around the New Forest. There's a risk of trees and horses and tractors.
Half Way Home Oh no! Disaster! The weather is just right, the trip goes well and even the accommodation is lovely. Surely there must be something Ren can find to moan about? It's all going terribly wrong.
Homeward Bound And Thoughts There's not much to report on the final leg of the journey - in a good way. Ren shares his thoughts on this adventure in that there daaan saaaf.

Reader's Comments

Upt'North ¹ said :-
Thought provoking Ed and the very reason Er'Indoors and I took the plunge and moved Upt'North.
It isn't all beer and skittles though,
30 minutes to the nearest supermarket.
1 hour journey for hospital appointments, thankfully infrequent. Although on lovely roads when the journeys are required.
Too many damn tourists in the visitor season.
Week long power outages in storms.
We wouldn't swap it for North Staffordshire.

P.S. If you've finished with sun for a while can we have a bit please......
15/07/2022 17:40:49 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Yes Upt' but it's a helluva way to the cross-channel ports.....

I agree about the Manchester / Leeeds megacity. Some years ago I rode the NW500 before it was called that and became too crowded. The Scottish part was lovely - but getting past the mega-conurbation in both directions without using motorways was a challenge indeed involving some grimy back streets of Blackburn and Oswaldtwistle. There were some nice bits however.

Of course Redditch is the perfect location being 20 miles from the Cotswolds, where we are is 1 mile from the hospital, walking distance to shops, pharmacies, dentists, GPs, opticians and pubs etc but also with open countryside virtually outside the front door. 40 minutes on the train to central Brum should I desire a taste of city life. And 3 hours from Portsmouth.....
16/07/2022 12:08:15 UTC
Ross said :-
Interesting reading your thoughts on "quantity and space", I always think of your part of the country as having that...not that I know the conurbations that well up there. Space is getting harder and harder to find in Kent, developments going up everywhere, hoards flooding down from the north and hoards paddling across from the south. It's not all bad I suppose, we've got some interesting ethnic restaurants and eateries in Ashford these days.
17/07/2022 11:54:58 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
If you can get out of the conurbations Ross there are some lovely places. In the image below you'll see 3 major cities and several smaller ones too. It's not that there's nary a field nor a tree on this whole map, it's about how hard it is to travel in any direction for any time before finding yourself in yet another city or town centre.

Everywhere I go I see new builds popping up. There's 1,700 being built at the bottom of my street and it surely feels like any spare square metre of land has Heras fencing around it and a "coming soon!" board. BUT! This has been going on as long as I can remember. I'm now becoming one of them old folks that is constantly making the statement "eeeeeee - I remember when this wur all fields". I heard it when I was a yoof, now I'm saying it myself.
Posted Image
18/07/2022 12:58:41 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ed, at least you have that lovely free flowing M6 on your doorstep.
Riding down to Hartlepool on Friday the amount of new houses I saw being built was startling.
There must have been thousands between Wooler and the Tees Valley.
I thought there was no money about.
18/07/2022 13:11:10 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I've just got back from a lovely week in Scotland. Fantastic scenery and few people. I really wouldn't need my arm twisting too much to move...
19/07/2022 18:02:14 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Whereabouts did you get to in Scotland CrazyFrog? Her ladyship and oneself are looking to get up there in September.
20/07/2022 09:15:23 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Yeh, Crazy Frog, where ya bin.
20/07/2022 11:37:58 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
We did a bit of a tour. 2 nights just south of Edinburgh with friend who live there, a night by Loch Lomond and 4 nights in Dumfries and Galloway. It was all wonderful. Edinburgh is a fantastic city full of old world charm, Loch Lomond very beautiful and Dumfries and Galloway has a bit of everything. Fantastic scenery with inland lochs, mountains and forests, quaint little market towns and lovely old fishing ports on the coast.
20/07/2022 20:17:38 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
The Borders and The Lothians are indeed lovely.
But......Loch Lomond is NOT beautiful.....from someone who voluntarily walked its entire Eastern shore, I never want to lay eyes on it again. Not in walking boots anyway.
21/07/2022 00:43:53 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I concur with at least one point CrazyFrog - the Dumfries and Galloway area are substantially underrated. I won't claim they are as "WOW!" as the Highlands and as such they are often overlooked. Yet there some exceptional roads there, vast scenery and very nice villages and towns. I'd say if you don't have time to get to and from The Highlands you still will not be disappointed with Dumfries and Galloway.

Edinburgh is a city. Meh.

Loch Lomond is lovely - but. For my money it's just a bit too close to civilisation and therefore generally quite busy. I feel like I'm in the Lake District there rather than The Highlands. Loch Ness is the same if you follow the A82 side, I am reliably informed if you follow the minor road on the southern side of Loch Ness it's a much better experience.
21/07/2022 08:50:01 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Next time you're up there Froggy consider going over to Bute if you haven't already. Makes a very nice extension to a trip in SW Scotland.
As I have also voluntarily walked the full length of Loch Ness on its Northern shore, I won't go there.
21/07/2022 09:23:37 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Oh lordy, I'm starting to hate myself. Upt' is right - for the price of an affordable and quite short ferry crossing Bute is worth a visit. Check my link.
21/07/2022 11:00:33 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Bute 2017, wow time flies.
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22/07/2022 08:57:09 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Also Bute.
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22/07/2022 08:58:18 UTC

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