Pulling Together

Crime wave in Publow

Today has been unusual, but then that’s not unusual these days. It’s been a while since anything usual has happened.

Usually I would attend Church on a Sunday morning, but the churches have been closed for a month so no one can do that now. Instead, I watched the Vicar muddling through a do-it-yourself service from his basement, with the sermon delivered on a mobile phone held in front of the camera! The service contained numerous hymns written by the Vicar himself, there being no Music Department to suggest anything else. The Vicar has a unique talent for writing hymns which I’m sure is covered by the Blood of the Lamb.

Since the pleasant weather is only expected to last two more days I decided to follow this with some exercise while it’s still good for my health, since I don’t consider rain-soaked clothes particularly beneficial for warding off illness. So I got my bike out and cycled around some of the local villages. There were a lot of walkers and cyclists out this morning who presumably had the same idea. I had to criss-cross the road quite often to avoid them, but once I got to Chew Magna, where a Co-op delivery lorry completely blocked the road and forced a small diversion, things quietened down a little. Then the short hop down to Chew Stoke and I decided to turn left there since I usually carry on towards the Mendips. Crossing the dam in the sunshine was a joy and then I ran out of the area I know by heart and had to consult the map. Straight on seemed the best option so I carried on to the A368 and the Chelwood roundabout.

The choice there was to carry on through Chelwood (which I discovered last week is a Thankful Village) or turn left for Pensford. Cycling along the A37 at lunchtime is not normally a pleasure, but today was unusual, like every day at present, so it seemed quite reasonable, and I did. I think two cars overtook me before I reached the village and then I had another choice. Should I stay on the main road, cross the Chew and carry on, or should I turn right for Publow and see what Blackrock Lane is like?

Now, you should know that between Pensford and Whitchurch there is a deep valley through which a small stream flows. The sides of this valley are not good for cycling up, especially on a Primary Route where one competes with much faster vehicles not expecting to encounter a wobbly cyclist or a pedestrian. This generally makes this stretch quite difficult, even when the route is quiet. I have never tried the alternative lane which runs a few hundred yards to the East, and is probably the old road the modern route has replaced. However, I thought it was worth a try, so I headed over the hillock into Publow.

Publow is small by any standards. It consists of a few scattered houses, a church, and a small bridge over the river. The sun was beautiful as I headed down the hill towards the bridge, and evidently I was not alone in that thought, for on the right bank of the Chew, opposite the church, I saw a group of six to ten people sitting and standing to enjoy some sort of party together. This would not normally be unusual, but today is no usual day, as we all know. Today, such a gathering is considered a serious crime. They were endangering Public Health and taking advantage of the rest of us who cannot enjoy our usual pleasures. It occurred to me perhaps I should stop and call the police. There was I limited to small local rides instead of my 100-mile plus days out and deprived of contact with my friends, and there were they, publicly flouting the law which makes everyone else’s lives a misery. I was still considering this when I turned a bend, and passed another cyclist pulled over so hard he was almost buried in the hedge. He had a phone clamped to one ear and as I rode past I heard the words “...in the midlle of Publow by the church...” and I knew the decision was out of my hands. The police had evidently just been told. I could carry on without further thought.

Entering Blackrock Lane I stopped to consult the map again, and then carried on up the hill. It proved to be a single-track road with a poor surface in places, and it was hillier than the new road, but it was quiet. There was no other traffic at all, and in a low gear it was quite manageable. It was so much more pleasant and I shall remember that next time I want to return from Pensford. While the surface lasts it’ll be a gem. The problem with these old roads is they are rarely maintained. When the surface goes they become tracks for walkers and the maps are revised accordingly, rather than repairing them so cyclists can use them. I found such an example from Keynsham to Chewton Keynsham the other day. Checking the modern map simply showed it was no longer considered a road, though the old map I was using showed it as such. That meant I had to walk, bouncing the bike over the hard core foundation and obstructing a jogger who could not get past on the now overgrown and narrowed path.

So, here I am, back home by a sunny window, enjoying what I can in these straitened times, and wondering whether the whole Summer is lost to us this year. Two winters in a row without a summer is a bit much to endure.

Keep well, and stay legal, if you can manage both.

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