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A Derby cyclist's four seasons

These paragraphs are excerpted from a cyclist's diary who lived in Derby in the end of 19th Century not long after the bicycle had just been invented, the poetic seasonal message, which, after Shakespearean flights, required a come-down of pure bathos:

It will be some time before the leaves of the forest trees begin to unroll, but the hedgerows are already green, and the floral procession has begun. The scented violet and the pallid primrose have made their appearance, and the wayside bank is an index of coming beauty. Spotted and shiny arums, deeply indented wild parsley, purple-veined dock, soft-grey foxgloves, leaves of ground ivies, of celandine, wood-violets, dandelion, jack-by-the-hedge, herb-robert all foretell the return of the wild flowers to their accustomed quarters. Springtime has come, and now is the time for cyclists to put a girdle round as much of the earth as they possibly can.


By May the call to the narrow saddle had obviously been heard abundantly:

A more perfect day for cycling than May Day would be difficult to imagine. Roads which earlier in the week had been rather dusty, were in capital condition; a westerly wind tempered the sun's rays, which lighted up a countryside which at present is surpassingly beautiful, and the consequence was that most of the roads were alive with wheelmen and wheelwomen, many of them bent on rural retreats which lie far off the highways.

By summer, Derbyshire had become Shangri-La:

The lanes and bye-ways provide much the most intereting riding. The highways are so busy on fine afternoons that it is a positive relief to turn away from beaten tracts to where the novice ceases troubling and the lurcher is not. Moreover, hedge-backings are bright with many flowers, while the air is heavy-laden with ambrosial new cut hay, mingled with the scent of the honeysuckle. And there are shaded corners there to be found where you may while away the happy hours, the while the scorcher, who never deserts the broad surface of the high road, gets done to death with the sun's hot rays.

There were, indeed, difficulties to be overcome. In winter, the weather could be treacherous. the writer added:

Under the influence of rain Derbyshire roads are absolutely the worst I have ever sampled. The slimiest slime that ever accumulates on town setts is not more suggestive of side-slipping than a Derbyshire road undergoing the drying process after rain, and not only so, but the surface 'pick up' in lumps to freely decorate one's person and add pounds of useless weight to rider and machine.


(Victorian Derby, A portraite of life in a 19th-century manufacturing town, by Harry Butterton)

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