I like to cycle as much as possible - so much better for the planet than the car and there are few things as exhilarating as going really fast with the wind rushing through your hoopy earrings!
I treated myself to this beauty at the start of the year. I did A LOT of research before I bought it, doddering around between the various types of bike on offer and the kind of things I'd use it for. I didn't need 150 gears for example, but I did need something capable of off road and street biking, I wanted to be able to climb aboard without doing a high kick and, most of all, I needed something that I could lift relatively easily up the steps to the front of my house.
I settled on this beauty, which is a Raleigh summat-or-other. (There are people who will know the exact details of makes and models, but I really don't care so long as it functions!) It has 21 gears, of which I use about 4, but it has a pannier rack for my bags, decent tyres, a comfy saddle, easy gear shifts and brakes and, well, it's a nice colour. I know this shouldn't be an issue, but I wanted to love my purchase! And yes, I can lift it.
I make the same journey by bike around 3 days a week usually, and it's about 6 miles in each direction. I'm not going to lie - I do use the roads and I'm happy to do so, but I'm nervous of heavy traffic so I take a longer route that avoids a very busy roundabout and a few awkward junctions. Most of it follows the River Tees. The river has a feared reputation of heavy pollution and industrial landscapes, but do you know what? It is actually stunning!
There are cycle paths both to the north and the south of the river and crossing points that include Newport Bridge and the Tees Barrage. The barrage in particular is a recent development with a whitewater centre and rowing clubs along its flanks and beautifully landscaped paths and jetties. I've been reading recently that there is a particularly soothing capacity to spending time near water, and if you're lucky at the barrage, there is a whiff of salty sea air. Heading from here, I ride along the waterfront at Stockton. At several points I pass through nature reserves that are full of wildflowers and insects, I sometimes see seals, and almost all of my journey is along dedicated cycle paths and away from the roads. In fact, I've discovered a whole network of routes that I didn't know existed at all! And a community of other cyclists who nod their heads at me as I pass.
Travelling home by bike at the end of a long and usually very active day is hard. I'm usually thirsty, hungry and my legs are weary. There is a particular section though where I pass along my riverside cycle path and under the dual carriageway flyover that carries commuters between north and south of the Tees. Almost invariably it is nose-to-tail with cars slowly inching their way along and, to be honest, I can't help feeling a little smug! I'm not sure the feeling is mutual, but I really don't envy them. And I really do hope that someday they see the value in leaving their cars at home, and travelling a little more lightly on the earth.
This week it has been all about the bees!
On Wednesday, I was lucky enough to meet a lovely group of novice beekeepers on a little 'Intro to Beekeeping' course at the Senior Connections project at the TS3 Community Church in east Middlesbrough. Teaching is one of my favourite things to do, but bees are so fascinating that it's an easy task and there's always a group of very willing students. After tasting eight different honeys (eucalyptus was the favourite!) we rattled through a huge quantity of new facts and figures with the aim of explaining a little of what happens in a hive and how a colony functions, as well as what sunstances the little ladies make that can prove useful and a viable alternative to some of the less natural products that often surround us.
Treading Lightly is simple living, within your means and the means of the planet, and making a minimal impact on the Earth. Find out more here about Catherine, of Barefoot Solutions, does this from day to day.