16 May 2011

To May's End

16h May 2011 50-55F, 10-13C, windy, overcast with showers. Once again I avoided the rain. I was cruising at 19mph for a couple of miles but couldn't go much faster in the 45 degree head/crosswind. Slower was easy enough.

An unspoilt, timber-framed, thatched cottage in Swedish red.

The road surfacing chaps have been busy for a fortnight now. Filling potholes in lanes and resurfacing whole roads. I saw a road sweeping vehicle, the other day, for the first time in years. He was clearing the gutter and brushing debris and large gravel onto the bicycle path alongside. I ran over some stones and thought I'd punctured. It made such a loud bang. Nice. It tried to rain on the way home but went off again so I soon dried off.

Faded glory. An old farmhouse complete with clock dial on the gable. 

My chest is almost clear but apparently I have been coughing a lot in the night. My wife has been browsing for oilseed rape symptoms. There's a lot of it about. They put it in everything these days! Except what we choose to eat.

An avenue of towering horse chestnuts guard an inviting yard.

Many Danish farmhouses use barns and other buildings to form a closed square. Often the only entrance is through an arch. The surrounding buildings provide shelter from the cold winds which blow across the open countryside. They also provide a high level of  privacy and, no doubt, some extra security. 

Some even have ancient doors to close off the only entrance to the inner sanctum. Though rural crime has not been a problem until more recently. Opening the borders to the EU has brought in a completely different, relatively impoverished culture. One with absolutely no loyalty to the Danish way of life.

The conservative government of the last decade and the global, financial crisis have done much to increase inequality amongst the Danes themselves. Not to mention theft to feed the ever increasing drug abuse. 

The relative affluence of Denmark must be a tempting target for some. With garages and workshops often left wide open all day. Displaying power tools, bicycles and garden tractors to any passer-by. Ten years ago the local papers used to print a couple of short paragraphs, per week, about local crime. Now it sometimes runs to two pages! Which is an absolute tragedy for the relaxed rural lifestyle! 

Thanks goodness there is the North Sea between thieving British and Denmark! I can't imagine any unattended, British garden being left full of children's toys as is commonplace over here. They'd steal a washing line if they thought they could get away with it. Nothing is safe over there and hasn't been for many decades.


The wind never seems to let up these days. 15m/s (30mph+) gusts on a 10m/s base have been forecast for weeks now. It often feels like 30mph steady headwinds. Only 15 miles carrying heavy shopping back.

A hidden entrance to a secret world of elves and færies.

17th 50-60F, 10-16C, windy, overcast with rain. The forecast, all day rain stopped after coffee so I set off with fingers and toes crossed. I wore my tatty, cycling over-wellies because the roads were so wet.  There was so much in the bag that the front wheel went light and I struggled to close the zip. Even the sun came out towards the end. A pleasant enough ride for 19 miles of near constant birdsong. The last carrying half a ton of shopping.

Mr Higgins waits patiently while I fail to capture an entirely thatched, four-sided farm. 

The house itself is hidden from view on the far side. The paler straw on the ridges is new. The ridge treatment is required much more frequently than re-thatching. I believe thatch can last for several decades. Though the roofing material itself is an important factor. I think most is imported from Eastern Europe these days. Though we once came across a reed harvester at work in a marsh. There a still a great many thatchers living in the Danish countryside. Just as there are a great many thatched roofs. The cost is very high compared to other roofing materials but has its own unique qualities.

A typical rural view. Looking towards Dreslette.

18th 50-58F, 10-14C, breezy, slightly misty, damp and bright overcast. Yet again the forecast, all-day rain failed to turn up. I was going well after initial knee complaints. I wish I could fathom why it comes and goes as it does.

I disturbed a long-haired cat hunting on the edge of a field. He went off like a jet-propelled mop. Then ran flat out for half a mile before diving through the hedge.  I took a number of photos today. Trying to maximise on the very even lighting on rural views but it wasn't bright enough. Only 18 miles.

A chocolate box cottage.

19th 55-60F, 13-16C, windy with 50% sunny periods. A nice day for a ride with traffic very light on the bank holiday. Cool at first but too warm for a vest later on.

A huge, 6 axle, continental goods lorry passed me going the other way in a busy shopping street. The driver was steering with his elbows. While he shuffled his papers held up right in front of his face as if he needed glasses!

I was climbing quite well again despite still being a bit chesty and short of breath. I even paced a tractor and trailer for a couple of miles at 18mph uphill an down. He dropped me on a steep climb so it was back to struggling into the headwind and 10-14mph. Hardly surprising with three carrier bags full of shopping on board!  No knee problems today. 20 miles.

Even covered in rusting corrugated iron a contorted, timber-framed barn has character.

20th 62F, 17C, breezy and sunny. Quick shopping trip then going out again after coffee. My knees were aching slightly as I left but it soon went off. It seems I need a couple of miles to get the pump to my knee joints primed so it lubricates them properly. Though it doesn't really feel like that. More of a dull ache from just behind loose kneecaps. 6 miles so far. The wind picked up slowly and the windmills started turning. 19 more miles listening to the din of birdsong and the bank holiday lawn mowers.

Here's an unlikely, triple, classical tandem frame auction on eBay: Includes a Rogers tandem trike and two tandems. The items are located in Swansea.


Obviously quite a bit of TLC required. It looks like a rear hub brake on the axle. (I have enlarged the rather small, eBay images and tried to improve them a bit with PhotoFiltre)

The three tandems failed to reach the (unknown) reserve.

21st 62-66F, 17-19C, breezy and getting windier, warm sunshine. Quite a lot of cyclists out training today. The sun makes people noticeably more cheerful. 22 miles. Plus ten more miles later.

A typical rural rail crossing. The "furniture" is still standing after at least 20 years inactivity.

22nd May 65-68F, 18-20c, very windy, mostly sunny. The wind made it hard work whichever direction I was travelling in. Still climbing well. The lanes are full of birds. Presumably looking for insects knocked down by cars. The birds are mostly wagtails, sparrows and fewer yellow hammers. Each bird has its season. For a while it was nothing but chaffinches. Followed by greenfinches. I don't think I've seen a single gold finch this year.

Mr Higgins plays the damsel in distress on the railway line. It may take some time before a train arrives.

I saw a dead woodpecker on the road. It must have been hit by a vehicle. A very unusual victim of road kill. Blackbirds are run over in large numbers. Probably because of their suicidal habit of swooping across the bow of speeding cars.

There are always huge numbers of crows, rooks and jackdaws of course. Skylarks are also incredibly numerous. Though cuckoos are much less obvious so far. All the geese have moved further north but there are still swans on the lakes and ponds. I passed a pair which had taken residence on a field drainage pond. With the dry weather it had turned to cracked mud leaving them foraging on the open field. The sheltered bays on the coast are usually covered with huge flocks of swans.

The lanes are full of insects too. A long fly shot into my mouth and held onto my tongue! It clung on while I tried to spit it out. So I had to grab it and literally pull it off! It felt as if I had been bitten but eventually the pain subsided.

It doesn't get much more idyllically rural than this. 
The arch-topped dormer window is as rare as hen's teeth!
Most cheat and use a standard, flat-topped window.

A completely unspoilt, 3-lengths, timber-framed, thatched house and attached outbuildings. No doubt a small farm from ages past. A narrow lane turns sharply left just beyond the house. Forcing the barn into a wobbly curve to follow the road. This is not exactly an uncommon feature of timber framed buildings on tight corners. Particularly in agricultural villages. 

One wonders whether the road follows the building. Or the barn was built out to the maximum size inside the curve. Originally only horses and carts would have had to manage the acute bend, of course. No sensible lorry or tractor driver would attempt the sharp turn from this direction.   

A thatched cottage nestles cosily into the landscape.

The all-day rain forecast finally arrived, with thunder, at 1.30. Yet again I have missed a promised soaking.

My mileage is well down on last year. At this rate I shall only cover 5k miles this year. I haven't been going out in the afternoons to double my daily mileage like I did last year. Hopefully I am conserving my knees! 27 miles.

The lady's Longstaff touring trike is back on eBay again:

George Longstaff tricycle trike 531 (higgins/rogers) on eBay (end time 21-Jun-11 12:54:20 BST)

23rd  60F, 16C, windy, sunny. Just a circular shopping trip. 24 enjoyable miles fighting the wind. I brought a bundle of 6' canes back, tied to the crossbar. For my wife's cherry tomatoes in the greenhouse. The taste and texture of which are unmatched anywhere on the planet.

Partial remains of a rural timber yard. 

There are luxury homes hidden by very high hedges on the right so it is difficult to capture the sprawling industrial buildings. These go on for hundreds of yards in a gentle arc. The chimney suggests a steam engine, to drive saws, but I can't be certain without trespassing. There are several old timber yards in this area which now lie idle.

I remember a timber yard just behind my village school when I was a kid. Whole trees were laboriously aimed into multiple, vertical frame saws to turn them into planks. A rudimentary, and no doubt highly dangerous, moving toothed "chain-conveyor belt" dragged the trees through the saws while they were manually adjusted sideways with long bars. Thick black grease covered everything in the unlit, half open, saw shed. I remember a tripod supported boom crane to lift loads around the yard. The arrival of DIY superstores probably killed all these old timber yards off. 

One rural timber yard I visited, here in Denmark, looks as if the workers had just walked away a few minutes ago. Leaving deep beech dust, tools and half-finished, gardening tool handles lying everywhere. Tremendously nostalgic but probably a tragedy for local, rural employment at the time.

There were also a great many roofing tile and brick factories in rural, villages and towns. "Tegleværksvej"  (Tile Works Road) is a very common name for roads here in Denmark. As is Møllevej" (Mill Road) With hundreds of windmills still standing.  Past saw mills are noted by "Savværksvej".

The industrial past is all around us if we care to look for it. In Britain it all tends to be swept away more quickly to provide land for housing and industrial estates. Here in Denmark there hasn't been the same pressure for building land until recently. Now there are many new housing estates on green belt land. Probably feeding off the massive increase in property values. Often these new estates are on steeply sloping land. Presumably the farmer profits from the sale. While not losing his better agricultural land on the flatter ground. 

A shady spot in the woods. In the great storm of '99 many conifer trees in this area were literally snapped off half way up the trunks! It looked like a scene of devastation from WW1! Now it has regrown into dense deciduous woods.

24th 55F, 13C, gales, sunny periods with heavy showers.  It is supposed to blow up to 45mph today. The rain managed to catch me twice but the showers were so short lived that the roads were still dry under the trees. I just kept going with rain drops falling like turbo-charged marbles for only about a minute. The cycle lane in one popular shopping high street was littered with broken glass from smashed beer bottles! 19 miles.

More chocolate box. A thatched watermill from the house end.

25th 55-57F, 13-14C, blowing a gale, mostly sunny. It felt a bit cold as I fought to make a furrow into the headwind. In the end I decided to tack back and forth using the available lanes to give myself a rest. It's amazing how a good hedge can give almost perfect shelter. I could almost freewheel home.

The tarmac chaps were out and about again. Bringing renewed safety to the minor roads and lanes. I almost stopped to photograph one particular pothole it was so deep. Any cyclist falling in would need a cave rescue team to get out alive! 19 miles.

The disused water mill from the mill end.

26th 57-65F, 14-18C, windy, mostly sunny. A strange white glare to the sun might suggest volcanic ash. Wandering the lanes looking for photogenic scenes. Traffic was very light.

I played the hero and removed a large stone from the middle of the road which had fallen from the bucket of a JCB. Had I not it might have lain there until they eventually resurfaced the road. Even on the main roads things can lie there literally for years. When we first came to Denmark they had sweeping vehicles routinely working every road. When things fly off the idiot's trailers as they head for the recycling centres it can lie there until it disintegrates.

It was fun cruising effortlessly at 20 mph with the wind at my back. My knees have been complaining about all the ladder climbing. From my working on the house. My back aches too. I found my weight has gone back up to 12 stone despite my looking thinner than ever. It must be all those biscuits. Only 18 relaxed miles today.

There is an old BSA with a trike conversion set on eBay(UK) but the asking price is ridiculous. Longstaff quality trikes don't sell for their silly reserve price. If you have no use for the donor bike frame then a conversion set price is all that it is worth. IMO, of course.

 Mill end. The wheel would have been behind the railings.

27th 55F, 13C, blowing a gale, mostly overcast. With the wind behind me I was cruising at 25mph. Even doing 23mph uphill! Then used the back lanes to get some shelter on the way back. 22 miles. Pus 6 miles pm.

Mill entrance.

28th  57F, 14C, blowing a gale, overcast. I had to give up on my chain store, cycling sunglasses. I was allergic to the plastic and my forehead was getting very red and worse by the day. So I wore some old coloured plastic sunglasses for a few days and the rash is already gone. Now I'm trying new pair of sunglasses. At only £7(equiv) it was worth the risk that I might be allergic to these as well. There is something about black Chinese plastic and rubber. It literally stinks so may be off-gassing something really nasty. I was going well today despite the wind. Only 16 miles though.

29th  53-60F, 11-16C, windy, sunny periods. It is odd how so many roads, large and small are turning into a bowler hat, cross section. I presume the original, narrower road has much greater resistance to heavy traffic than the newer, much softer edges. Many roads are badly cracked along the junction between the two sections. The outer three or four feet strips on both sides of the roads seem to be sinking.

I suppose it might be frost heave which causes this effect. Exacerbated by the increasingly heavy, goods vehicle traffic. Particularly with international lorry drivers using car GPS units to find unofficial "rat runs". The increase in lorry traffic on our own, twisting rural road matches that on the narrow lane outside our last home in the UK. The traffic increased from one or two vehicles a day to one every minute over a ten year period. 33 miles, trying hard not to wear the roads out.

Just another rural view. A splendid rank of roadside oaks. 

The trees in the field on the left are a typical sight. Usually marking a low spot which has a spring or pond. Most years I see the farmers running a plastic drain pipe away from such wet places. Then in go the chainsaws and a few lorry loads of top soil stripped from a new housing estate. The safely isolated, wildlife habitat island is soon gone for ever.

30th 57-64F, 14-18C, windy, sunny periods with showers. I decided to do a slightly longer run today. Made a complete mess of wind direction and ended up riding into a headwind all the way back. I was caught in a shower for the first time but plodded on as it was only drizzle. I dried out in the wind when it finally stopped. 34 miles.

This family of swans crossed the road very carefully while I was approaching down a long straight. They just made it to the pond before I reached them.

31st May 70F, 21C, breezy, warm and sunny. Two more rural supermarkets working hard to be closed down. Do they deliberately choose bad mannered staff for the checkouts? Don't they have the slightest clue who pays their wages? Thought not! 26 miles. Plus 9 miles, in the rain, later. Knees complaining.

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