Instead of slogging across the M4 corridor from London to Bristol, I took a one day flying-cycle across three counties from Bournemouth to Midford.
If I needed any reminder of why Britain is the most beautiful country to traverse, then I got it. I haven’t always thought this way about our shores, always wanting to be elsewhere and ideally elsewhen. But what better place is there than right here?
The cycling started at dawn, which in our lazy winters scarcely breaches the horizon at 8am. I had 8 hours of daylight to madrush Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset. The sea sloshed unsteadily, Bournemouth beach, Poole harbour.
Then into the hills and pretty villages with unlikely names: Lytchett Matravers, Blandford Forum, Fontmell Magna. I blessed the defunct Devon and Somerset Railway, closed the year England last won the World Cup, now converted into a delightfully fast and flat piste for rushing cyclists.
I cursed the annual Santa Stride that diverted hundreds of charity costumed Santas into my path, as we passed the burial tumulae of ancient druid folk. On and on they drove, until dusk.
Frome: darkness and a dinner. I had forgotten how much magic there is in a night ride. The senses standing up on pins: especially the scents of mud and bare branches that come out when the curtain falls.
Riding was easy with moonlight on the loamy disused railway path and I wanted it to never end. But end rides must. This one on the bridge over the reservoir: ahead of me the two eerie tunnels that bore through the hills I wouldn’t have to climb.
My bivvy bag unfolds, I slide inside, warm. A stag screams, owls holler.
I polished off the ride to Bristol the following day, taking in a floating pit-stop for plenty of tea and porridge with fellow 2011 round Britain cyclist Anna Hughes. (I’m sure we’ve both done incredible things since then – especially Ironwoman Anna – but round Britain was a defining moment.)
It took little over 24 hours, but the sleepless David that left the warmth of a flat in Bournemouth was a different being to the worn out one that arrived in Bristol.
When the winter gets to you, when the weather wrings your life force from your feathers, and when you think the darkness might just do you in, slip on your gloves, wind your scarf around your neck and cross this countryside of ours.