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Tales from a Motorcycle Saddle.

 

Malvern Hills  May 2004

England's Green and Pleasant Land

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A cross country ride of only 350 miles but one that really showed how beautiful England is.

Another trip by 1982 Honda GL500 SilverWing.

The significance of this title England's Green and Pleasant Land was driven home when I found out it that came from the hymn Jerusalem, penned by William Blake (1757-1827) with music by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry and orchestrated by Sir Edward Elgar. Elgar was born in 1857 at Broadheath, a village some three miles from Worcester so Malvern and the surrounding area is truly Elgar country with “Elgar route” signposts often popping up.
It has been awhile since I added a story to this site, possibly because long trips have not been in abundance recently. So why include a 350 mile round trip in England? Simply because it was one of those journeys that was perfect in every respect: no hurry, little traffic, semi sun, no motorways, just A roads with sweeping bends, a few hills, green fields and woods. In other words, England’s green and pleasant land looked its best, especially viewed from the seat of a comfortable touring bike. The destination was Malvern Link, a few miles south of Worcester from where I went walking on the Malvern Hills with around thirty other like minded souls.

This was known as The Holy Highway

The courtyard, facing the chapel.
The accommodation was at a former monastery, now run as a Christian Conference Centre and where the Day of Salvation International Ministries is based.

 I left home on Friday at 8 am looking forward to a ride in pleasant scenery and on dry roads. I was not disappointed. I must have looked happy even inside a full face helmet as I received a lovely smile from a lady pushing her toddler in a pushchair to school. After a short while I reached the A10 and rode to Buntingford.  I love the A507 as it winds its way across the countryside to Woburn. I was in no hurry so it was great to ride along at peace with God and man. No other road user attempted to take away my peace and enjoyment. With the exhaust barking at 5000 rpm it was sheer joy to accelerate up the hills and out of the corners. Taking the old girl to 6500 enable me to fly past a lorry, briefly touching 8000 rpm before taking pity on the twenty year old engine. The redline starts at 9700 but that is a trifle fast for a 1970’s designed pushrod engine. At 9000 rpm the engine is spinning round at a rate of 150 times per second!

What every well dressed motorcyclist is NOT wearing.

I was travelling with a non-working speedo, naughty I know but with gearing that gives 11 mph for every 1000 rpm it was not difficult to glance at the rev counter, read 5000 and know I was travelling at 55mph. Things weren’t such a science in fourth or third….I had broken the drive to the speedo the previous week by riding off with a disk lock in place. Ho hum. The lack of milometer was surprisingly liberating. No longer was I constantly working out average speed or fuel consumption – something I thought I would miss. Instead, when the engine faltered I would switch to reserve and refuel asap, not bothering to worry over my consumption. Similarly, when I wanted to stop, I did, giving no thought to average speeds.

I reached Moreton in Marsh at around 11 am, parked up and went for a walk along the delightful High Street with its stone buildings. I discovered a new game: walk behind someone at their pace and see how long it would be before curiosity got the better of them and they would turn to see what was making the “zip-zip-zip” noise with every step. Motorcycle over-trousers can be fun!

I had an early lunch outside a café in a courtyard and a problem arose. I needed the Gents but didn’t want to carry in my jacket, helmet, gloves and tank bag. What do others do? I trusted upon the honesty of the inhabitants and visitors. Perhaps that is why bikers travel in pairs.

Tank bags. Not the most riveting of subjects but here are few warnings for fellow motorcyclists. They scratch the tank. The magnets destroy magnetic media, credit cards and watches. If the engine dies or the horn sounds on full lock, then the handlebars controls are touching the bag. They alter the handling characteristics of the bike. Be warned!

After lunch I found a picnic spot where I rested for awhile to avoid getting to Malvern too early. A chap in a beat up diesel Maestro van stopped to have a look at the bike and called it “a useful tool.” Now, I would call a hammer “a useful tool” but a motorbike? I continued my journey, pausing for a few minutes at Winchcombe to see the preserved Gloucestershire and Warwickshire GWR railway. Interesting, but static displays do not have the magic of live steam. The sheer hard work of restoring and running a steam railway impresses me. Everything is so BIG!

Rain was forecast this weekend but so far I had avoided it. However at 3.30, a few miles from Worcester, it started to drizzle which soon increased in strength but not enough to warrant putting waterproofs on. Traffic came to a crawl on the Worcester bypass and I arrived at my destination at 4pm. The lady who welcomed us, who owns the place with her husband, asked if I wanted to bring the bike into the building, and put it below the stairs. Shades of riding up the hotel steps in far flung lands to park the bike in the lobby for security. I declined the offer and left it in the secluded car park.

I won’t dwell on the actual walking part of the weekend as this is a motorcycle story, but suffice to say that I had a wonderful time. There were around thirty of us; an even 50/50 male/female split with ages from 30 to 70. The walks were not too strenuous, with the exception of a “shortcut” which involved a hands and knees scramble up a 45 degree grassy slope. A number of us did a moonlight walk to the top of one hill with magnificent views over the dark Severn valley with the lights of Malvern twinkling away below us, reminding us of the view when coming into land at night over a city.

The Malvern Hills

The Severn Valley

As the moonlight walk was to leave at 10pm I took the opportunity to go for a ride for an hour in the evening sun, and very nice it was too. The scenery looking over the Severn valley was not dramatic such as the Alps but in its own way it was beautiful – green and pleasant as I said before – and with superb views to the distant hills. The road to Ledbury was swooping and enjoyable to ride. I arrived back just in time for the evening worship after which we explored by moonlight.

Sunday 05.45 I received a text message asking me if I had heard the news. I made the mistake of replying to the friend (who was on route to Gatwick) by asking “What news?” She then rang me, probably waking up all the others on that floor. No one said anything though. The news? A friend had come back from holiday engaged.

Monday 14.00 The timetable said “Reluctant goodbyes” and it wasn’t wrong. The organisers worked hard to provide a programme of varied activities and to take care of their guests. Check out the Christian Friendship Fellowship site at www.c-f-f.co.uk  Several of us will be swapping photos and possibly meeting again at another holiday or weekend. The forecast rain never appeared and the journey home was as great as the outward one. I stopped for a cup of tea with a friend who lives on the outskirts of Milton Keynes and was home by 7.15, still with a smile on my face. My only regret was not taking my spare helmet. If I had, then I could have obliged a most attractive lady with her request for a ride.
I kid you not.

Three fellow walkers

Did I learn anything from this weekend, (apart from ALWAYS taking my spare helmet)? Answer: Yes. This was a good reminder that a twenty year old Silverwing is a perfectly adequate touring bike: Sit-up-and-admire-the-view riding position, good luggage carrying capacity, no chain to maintain, economical (but also slow) when compared to a modern tourer or sports tourer, it has good weather protection and as a side bonus, women just love the Burgundy colour! I also realised once again that we do live in a green and pleasant land, which is where we came in a few minutes ago. OK, where to next?

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