The coming of spring is something about which I’ve always felt a touch of ambivalence. Much as those extra hours of daylight, ice free tarmac, and general celebratory atmosphere of the outdoor crowd are very welcome I miss the empty roads, long shadows and quiet certainties of the winter. Spring brings with it the need for even more kit than in winter to deal with the changes in weather from one day to the next, one hour to the next, one valley to the next, it brings holidaying drivers who’ve read the instructions for their roof box but not for the big round thing attached to the dashboard in front of their seat, and it brings normally placid moorland birds to a state of aggressive agitation towards humans on bikes riding near to the road-adjacent scrape in the heather they call a nest. One positive aspect of the spring however is the newly diversified cycling population as folks from other parts of the nation bring their bikes and brightly coloured gear to the dales. Today I passed a line of visitors coming the other way, grinding up hill in various shades of highlighter pen jackets and shouted half a dozen ‘morning!’s across the windy road which in every case was met with a cheerful reply. A few months of some not very cycling-conducive weather (it was still snowing last weekend on the moors where even the news that it’s not supposed to be doing that anymore now takes time to arrive such are we behind the times up here) and various other demands on time and energy which were unable to be addressed by pushing two pedals in a circle have left your correspondent in not the greatest shape of their life right now but encountering folks spinning heavy bikes at little more than walking pace up a hill and yet still smiling makes a welcome change from my fellow year-round biking residents who ride around with the expression of someone with clothes pegs fixed to both nipples and present a reminder that cycling is supposed to reduce the pressures on us and not add to them. As the second most famous Dane after Inspector Lund once said whilst jumper shopping in the Elsinore branch of Benetton, There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy, heck, even cyclists who look like they’re having a nice time, so here are some pictures of Greets Moss which is a very lovely route between my valley and the next, which is mostly famous for cheese, and where I was having a nice time today, in between administering CPR to myself in a ditch every couple of kilometres.
For non-residents of the Pennine Hills of the North of England the term Moss in a place name refers to the glacially flattened boggy hill tops of the local fells. These are the quiet unpopulated moorland places beloved of bike riders, ramblers and squawky ginger game birds and the people who shoot them, unknown to the wider world until the helicopters of the global media filmed the Tour de France taking in a couple of these fells during it’s emotionally received two day northern excursion away from it’s continental comfort zone the weekend before last and probably forgotten by the same world as soon as the race crossed the Channel.
Sitting by the roadside on the moor waiting for the bike race that weekend and between nattering with other bike fans, taking photos of gorrillas on bianchis and pushing small children out of the way to grab the free Haribo I couldn’t help mentally wandering off up some of the other routes you can see from up there and in particular up this one which climbs high above the moor after talking a right turn as you climb out of the village, after the cattle grid but just before where a big arrow pointing to Paris remains chalked on the tarmac.
In someways the Moss would have made a more worthy Tour climb, being that little bit higher, that little bit steeper, and the road staying up high for longer. It would only have added a few kilometres to the route but it always seems to be viewed as the poor relation of its shorter neighbour, a bit of a backwater. Perhaps this is because it doesn’t function as the through route that the moor to the east is for normal traffic, perhaps because those few extra metres of height make a surprising difference to the amount of snow and ice on the road in winter, perhaps it’s just not sexy enough but the Moss just doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves, and that includes from me.
I am not a very frequent blog updater this time of year; summer is short and time outdoors precious and spent riding my bike rather than writing about riding it but it’s worth taking the time to give a mention to the backwaters and the bypassed, the unglamorous and the unclassified, the road less travelled because that’s a big part of what I at least ride for in the first place.