The kind of blue sky you see in the Aegean but without the inconvenience of having to travel abroad. All you need is the ability to walk down the road carrying an average smartphone and the willingness to allow Google to enhance your photography. Voila!
Yeah, it’s another one of those stylised, ultraglow photos that don’t really reflect real life that much.
I mean, yeah I was there yesterday and sure, the view was pretty, but not that glowful!
Still, the people behind Google Photos have to have their fun, right?
Is this what my skin looks like after I’ve shaved it in the morning?
Welcome to England.
I was originally going to call this post Around the World in Eighty Hours but after completing it, I changed my mind. Partly because it only took three and a half hours but mostly because this title is better. Yeah – sez me.
There’s actually a movie called Around the World in Eighty Days. The original version was made before time began for you (probably) and it’s my inspiration today.
And it might actually take you eighty days to read all this. It’s long! But oh so satisfying.
First stop is this roundabout, which is the one leading to York District Hospital:
I’m in the middle of it typing this. My intention is to cycle clockwise around York, so you can follow me on a map if you like. And I mean to stop at and sit on all the roundabouts on the way. Whilst there I’m going to type a little, read a little and learn a little more Hindi (courtesy of Duolingo). This roundabout is cute. It has trees. It has a rose bush or two. And the sun is shining. What more could a boy want!
Next stop is a much smaller roundabout:
It’s only about a mile away from the last one and so this exercise is turning out to be a bit of a doddle. Most of the way from the last roundabout was a cycle path on an actual path and the rest was a cycle path on the road (basically, a white line separates me from the cars and trucks galloping by at sixty miles per hour a few inches away from my right shoulder). It can be scary but it’s easy enough if you don’t think too much, and resting on these roundabout is kinda nice. This one it is the one that leads to New Earswick. Apparently the old Earswick wasn’t enough.
My chain came off as I left the last roundabout. But that’s okay – I know how to put a chain back on. If that’s the worst thing that happens on this trip then I’m doing well.
Oh, and I found a two pence piece for Gilbert. Gilbert is my pocket pebble. He’s been looking after my small change for the last half decade or so. He on the chest of drawers in the bedroom for now looking after small change that no-one wants to take. Scared they’ll catch a boo-boo.
Next up is the roundabout that leads to Huntington (oh, and Earswick (the old one) if you go away from town:
Sitting on roundabouts is not going to work. For one – there’s a lot of traffic building up now and so it’s too dangerous to get on and off a roundabout with a bike. For two – it’s now noisy and not that enjoyable anymore. For three – people driving and riding by are getting really confused seeing me in the middle of a roundabout. For four – my battery is going down fast: three roundabouts in and were at 78% already! I’ll skip the Duolingo and we should be okay.
Plus, you get a better shot of a roundabout from afar, right?
Next up is a roundabout so big that you could probably live on it quite comfortably, especially seeing as it leads to Monks Cross, which is one if the big out-of-town shopping complexes here in York. Here it is:
So, as you see, I couldn’t even get it all on the shot despite having plenty of room to fit my finger in on the top left. I’m an hour into this trip and not even an eighth of the way though yet. I should go now.
Next up is a smallish roundabout that probably leads somewhere important but I can’t see the sign from here. I know that Motosave is on that road because I used to get my car tested there before I gave it to my dad. He’s still using it three or four years later, but I like to walk (and cycle) everywhere now. Doing my bit to save the planet.
And then, just eighty yards down the road is a huge roundabout:
Sun is in my eyes here so I’ll make this quick. First exit and you go to Scarborough and the seaside; second exit and you carry on around the ring-road towards Leeds (which is in covid-19 lock-down at the moment); and third exit you go towards York City centre. I’m taking the second exit. It’s the A64 (so far I’ve been on the A1237). Wish me good speed (it’ll be a long push).
And then you get to the first roundabout for what feels like twenty miles, but it can’t have been more than fourteen because that’s what Google Maps says I’ve travelled so far today. Here’s the very welcome roundabout:
This is way over the half-way mark now. Feels like I’m back on my side of town again. Actually the half-way point came just after I crossed the river Ouse, because I live near to it on the other side of the city.
Random stuff: I remember that the pointing (index?) finger on my right hand felt cold on this run, which puzzled me a little at the time until I remembered that this is the finger I wipe my nose with when it starts to dribble in the cool breeze whipping past my face. My legs burned a bit on that run, but I just dug in and pushed on and the burn went away. Maybe I’ll feel it again tomorrow morning, maybe not. I could have made a fortune stopping and picking up golf balls at one point. Checking on the map now shows that the A64 ran past Pike Hills Golf. I wonder how many of those balls hit a car!
Anyway, I know (from driving this route) that the next part of the ring-road, as I rejoin the A1237, is downhill. Happy days!
We’re now at, erm, one of the roundabouts that’ll lead you to Acomb; if you go the long way around. Here it is:
It’s unremarkable I suppose. Much better was the downhill swoosh that led to it. I’ll say nothing about the wobble in my legs as I walked toward the downhill swoosh or the ache in my bum as I picked up the pedals after it!
Oof, that truck was close! Perhaps I shouldn’t be standing so close to the edge of the road as I type. Moving on.
Oh wait – phone call. It’s my lovely wife! Nice chatting to her (she’s out on a walk by the river Ouse) but had to cut it short – there’s a raincloud moving in and a cool breeze drying the sweat on my back. Now I’m moving on.
This is the Wetherby / Acomb roundabout:
Behind it you can see black clouds. Move on, Robert.
Felt a couple of spots of rain as I did that last run, but it’s holding off nicely. I might just make it home before it buckets it down. I know – famous last words, right?
Next up, for your delectation, is another roundabout. This one that will take you to Harrogate (on the left) or York (on the right):
There are some nice orange poppies on this one. The plant life in York seems well confused by this weather – everything seems to be acting like it’s spring! The bees and other insects are out in force and there are blossoms on some of the bushes. Anyone else seeing this kind of thing?
Right, nearly there now – just a few more stops to make and we’re home dry. And hey – the sun’s coming out!
A very short run (not a run) later and we’re at this sweet bundle of fun:
Ah, there’s no fooling you. You’re right, it’s not a bundle of fun at all, it’s another freakin’ roundabout! This one leads off to some kind of an industrial estate to the right, and fields as far as the eye can see (and beyond (right the way up to Scotland (where they become fell))) to the left. There are a lot of fields around York. And, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, a lot of roundabouts. Next!
All the roundabouts from this one on lead to home, but I’m not even tempted. I want to close the circle and go back in on the road I came out on, even though I can see spots of rain on this screen as I type. I just like to finish stuff that I started. Here’s the beast:
Is this really a roundabout? Am I really wet? Can you catch covid-19 from rain that feels like hail? More fun existential questions at the next roundabout. Meanwhile – here’s this one:
Can’t spot the roundabout? Clue – it’s the wet thing in the middle of that photo. It’s really wet out here now. If you’re interested, there’s a whole shopping experience in the back there, including Tesco – our local supermarket.
Only one more roundabout to go now (I think) and a whole 41% of battery left! Maybe I should stand here in the rain and learn some more Hindi! Or perhaps not.
A short ride later and here’s the last (and first) roundabout:
If you look closely you can see me sat in the middle in a patch of sunlight whilst I bathe in my youthful optimism. Ah to be three and a half hours younger!
Another ride and it’s home sweet home at last! Here’s the route I took:
As you can see it’s only 23 miles, so not exactly a marathon, but it’ll do for now. Actually, I’ve been home for over twenty minutes, in which time I rubbed the bike down and gave him some oil. He’s feeling lovely and relaxed right now, just like his rider. Here he is about to go away in the garage:
And that’s it for me – is it lunch time yet?
This is a dew-wet bench and so I’m going to have stripes across my bum when I stand up. But that’s okay because it’s a beautiful day (and the weather is good too) here in sunny York. It feels good to be home after having spent a long weekend in Scotland (more on that later).
You can see my tail (inseparable attendant or companion) on the bottom right of this snap of the Shipton Road. That’s because the sun is casting long shadows from behind my back. It’s early morning and we’re trending towards autumn here in the UK. The sun is coming up later and later and each warm day is now a bonus. Aside from shades, there are trees here too and, behind them, inevitably, there’s the river Ouse that I’ll be heading towards in a few moments.
Behind me, as I said, is the sun. It might be some 150.93 million km away but it has more of an effect on me than … *looks back over shoulder* … the Wing Lee (Chinese meals to take away tel: 651888) or any of the other businesses here. Enough said.
And on that note: Ouse ahoy!
Don’t get me wrong – York is lovely; I could tell you thing after thing after thing that’s lovely about York. But it’s all so very flat!
Sheffield, where I was born and kinda raised by wolves, is all hills. Like Rome it’s built on seven of ’em. Which means that wherever you walk in Sheffield, there’s a view. You get glorious vistas from the top of the hills and grand sweeps of hillside from the bottoms (note to self: maybe consider revising that phrasing).
Central York, on the other hand, has no views whatsoever. Wherever you are within a couple of miles of the inner ring-road you can only see houses and more houses. Sure, there’s the occasional break in the buildings, but mostly – it’s flat as an extremely flat thing.
So it’s nice to see this hill stretched out before me and my bike. This is probably the highest road in York and the surrounding areas. It’s actually a bridge over the York-Edinburgh railway line. If you want to find it for yourself, it’s 4 miles from York and 200 miles from Edinburgh.
Right, enough of this – it’s wheeeeee time!
Most of the benches I sit on are aligned East to West, which means that I’m either looking towards the US of Europe or the US of A. This one is facing south towards London. I can’t actually see the capital from here, but with Boris Johnson planning to move parliament to York (where I’m sitting now) I might not have to.
The building you (and I) can see is part of a school (sorry: Academy, since it was renamed) and I’ve actually been inside it. I tried to vote Gordon Brown into power a few elections back, but wasn’t able to manage it. Some might wish that I’d had the same result with Margaret Thatcher on the only other occasion I voted, but I was successful that time. Judging by the recent push towards cleaner sources of electricity generation I think she was right about closing the mines, but she might have gone about it in a more humane way.
Behind me is Scotland, which we’re off to visit at the end of the month. Seems like a long way to go to find beauty because there’s a lot of that around here already.
And on that note I’m going to get up on my hind limbs and explore some of it.
Here’s a view from a bench I never actually sat on, primarily because it’s a bit too mucky. I tried wiping it down with a few leaves but it still retained that patina of moist gunge that made me go lean against a nearby wall instead.
Actually, no – I’ve moved again, this time because a squirrel was making rabid-sounding chupting noises from a nearby tree whilst watching me with his beady little eyes the whole time. Chances are that he works as a security consultant for the company that owns these grounds: Omnicon.
Okay, so quick squizz around the locale: in front if you is another bench, some cars and a few trees that surely must predate York by several hundred years judging by their gnarly size. And behind me are the trees that I can still hear rabid squirrels bounding through, probably amassing an army big enough to …
Hey, I just remember a movie I saw called Battle for the Planet of the Apes. For Apes read Squirrels and you’ve got the reason why I’m already walking sedately (as quick my legs can take me) away frim this bench. Am I the only one to notice that the balance of power has shifted since the covid-19 lockdown happened!!
It started to rain while I was sat here and so I’ve reconstructed the following from memory. Fortunately for you, I know the place well and so you’re spared the trial of reading a load of made-up toss.
The River Foss is a slow-moving river that starts somewhere off to the right, flows slowly past me and then joins the River Ouse about a mile (or so) off to the left. Behind that weeping willow lie a whole slew of recently-built apartment blocks. Underneath the willow is an algae-bloom that builds up when there’s not enough rain falling to wash away the phosphates that they feed on. It should be gone soon if this rain keeps up.
Behind me (as I was on the bench) is the York inner ring-road. It’s choked with traffic once again now that the covid-19 lockdown has been relaxed. Boy do I miss the sound of silent roads.
Looks like the rain is easing a little now so I’ll slip away from your… Gah, I spoke too soon – it’s lagging it down. Run!