My ride this weekend was hill training. This involves finding a half-decent hill, and going up and down it numerous times until I either hit some sort of goal, get bored, or run out of steam.
My closest hill that qualifies is Scarfield (yes, the name has a bit to do with my choice). It starts in a village called Alvechurch, and heads west. There’s a steep bit first (Bear Hill), then a flattish bit, two small bumps as you cross bridges over the railway line and canal, and then a nasty steep bit of around 7-10% gradient for the last half a mile. It takes me between 5.5 and 6 minutes.
But all that’s not really important. Because what came to mind while going up and down, and up and down, was an observation on how this village wakes up and gets going on a Saturday morning. It’s like a time-lapse photograph in slow motion. Each descent brings you back into the village for a minute or two, at ten minute intervals.
The Warburtons truck arrives, then it’s half-way through unloading bread at the local convenience store, and then it’s gone.
The becapped old men walking to pick up their morning newspaper are either on their way out, empty handed, or on their way home, folded paper under their arm. Sometimes I see them twice – once in each direction. Sometimes they’re gone by the time I get back.
The bright yellow van that looks exactly like the one the awesome Dean Williams used to own is parked near the canal for the first five passes, and then it’s gone.
The jogger in luminous pink is stretching up against the walls of the old pub on the corner. She’s halfway up the hill as I come down, and then I don’t see her again.
The view from the top changes as well – the early morning mist covering the village and surrounding countryside in a smother of opacity is gradually worn away by the rising sun. And the light grows brighter, the scenery looks greener, and I linger a little longer at the top to take in the view.
And then there are the few cyclists who gather at the bottom as a convenient meeting place. When, on my sixth trip up, I overtake five of them, I decide that I’ve had enough, and go in search of more beauty in places I haven’t been to for a while.