I take a lot for granted when the summer’s here. Every year I remind myself to count each blessing and yet as every summer draws to a close I lament the cold air that hits my face as I leave the house in the morning; that I can’t ride my bike without gloves anymore; that I can’t enjoy daylight well into the evening. But there is a unique magic to experiencing the autumn season by bicycle, a magic that is usually worth getting insects in the eyes when the light is too low to wear my sunglasses…
You can watch the landscape mature before your eyes. Every ride of a well-worn route is a chance to see the outdoors dressed in a brand-new costume, and sometimes I like to imagine that all that spectacle is just for me. Those triumphant reds and vibrant yellows set a celebratory tone and the leaves that fall do so as if throwing themselves like confetti for my cycling accomplishments.
Without having to get up early or stay out late, you get to experience your world at sunrise and sunset more often. The majority of my commute cycles home from work now fall during the dying of the day, that bridge in between the light and the dark when the roadsides are often occupied by rabbits, pheasants and red-legged partridge (at least round here they are), bats that you can just about make out, and low rustlings in the hedgerows that you can’t quite. The landscape undergoes a metamorphosis twice daily, the weak morning sun over blue-washed fields and the hills beyond thickly veiled; conversely that sunset ride home bathes the road in a warm pink glow, throwing the crisp browning leaves under your wheels into sharp definition while tall trees cast long shadows.
The sounds and smells that herald the approach of winter. Bonfires on the breeze – that smell always leaves me craving parkin – and the honk-honk1, or wink-wink2, of wintering geese approaching overhead in their freehand formations, having almost completed their annual journey from Svalbard in Norway in search of a milder winter on the Solway Firth.
19 October, 2020
1 They’re the barnacle geese
2 They’re the pink-footed geese