December dusk from Pretty Bridge
I’ve been cycling through the dusk of a December day, despite there still being some colour in the sky, all trees seem black. A mist had descended over the wet fields and the sides of the roads were full of tree debris left by the autumn winds.
During these short days of winter, if I want to get some cycling miles in, I tend to keep one eye on the weather forecast. At this time of year there remains a beauty in the landscape, the sun is permanently low in the sky and as long as it continues to shine the golden hour, beloved of photographers, extends to most of the day. Shadows are long and the low sun dazzles many a car driver. They have little appreciation for the natural world as they race home for their evening meals listening to drive time radio.
As I cycle through the quiet lanes, I listen out for birds. This is something I do all year and it is one of the joys of cycling alone. A mixed group of tits was foraging amongst the hedgerows alongside the Shropshire Union canal as I crossed Caughall’s, pretty bridge. The birds that attracted my attention first were the noisiest, the long tailed variety, but as I looked closer I also identified coal and great tits amongst the same party. As I passed under a solitary oak I hear the pic, pic, pic, call of a great spotted woodpecker. I stopped to look up but I couldn’t see it, this is not unusual. In a nearby copse I heard the raucous calls of Jays who seemed to be either fighting or arguing over something. At this time of year I also look out for redwings and fieldfares, but so far this winter, they seem to be alluding me.
Small flocks of starlings headed towards their night-time roosting site. Maybe, before they settle down for the night they will have enchanted the casual observer with a murmuration. Back in the 1970s, I worked in the general office at Shotton Steel Works, where the starling roost close to Hawarden Bridge delighted office staff with spectacular displays at dusk.
This month I have a number of reasons to cycle. I need to increase my total mileage before the end of the year. Cycling is my transport of choice and it’s a good way to deliver my Christmas cards, not only do I save on the postage, skinflint that I am, but it gives me an objective that means that I am going somewhere with intent and not cycling around aimlessly. I’m also cycling to overcome a strain injury that I sustained a week earlier when I did a “Norman Wisdom” as I fought to regain my balance whilst slipping on ice. I’m a firm believer in the restorative healing powers of cycling. There are numerous times in my past when the gentle, non-impact exercise of cycling has speeded my recovery from this type of injury.
Last year I did three Christmas card delivery trips, but this year I’ve increased it to five. They add a further 93 miles to my December tally. I now only need nine miles before the end of the month to round up my annual mileage to the next hundred.
Now, what does today’s weather forecast predict?