Cycling Active

Cycling Active Magazine rang up this morning abut giving up the car for Lent. Cycling Active writes for people interested in touring and cycling in between town commuting and club racing. The journalist was friendly and asked questions about how far I cycle, and why I was doing it, and what impact it might have on my future work habits.

After that I spent the day cycling to see people who wanted to talk. Then into Salisbury on the train with bike, and more cycling round and about visiting people and fixing things.

By the end of the day I will have cycled twenty plus miles, and done 45 on the train. Not very far, but perhaps that is the point. Those small journeys add up, and if I can cut some of the car miles out post-Lent I will have done well.

The new Gore-Tex cycling top arrived from Wiggle, and it was too small. Or should that be I was too big? I’ll have to send it back.

Late night train back this evening, and then tomorrow off in the car to a family funeral in deepest Devon. It will be good to see family again, even on this occasion.

Interim report

Half way through Lent with no car: how is it going?

I can cut down on my use of car but I could not do my job properly in the long term without it. This is very disappointing. I love cycling and travelling on trains, but the added time taken, and the inaccessibility of some parts of rural Wiltshire just make it very very difficult. Job redesign is possible and we are certainly looking at video conferencing. However, a job which depends so much on personal contact cannot be replaced by video contact alone.  Giving up the car for six weeks will in itself reduce my car usage by at least 10%, and I can certainly carry on some of the good habits practised for the rest of the year.

Physical fitness? To my surprise I am fitter. I usually do a lot of training dreaming of the next event at some point in the future, but it’s mostly high intensity stuff given shortage of time, often in the gym. The gym instructor likes to make sure they are near  the defibrillator when I am on the rowing machine. Long slow rides have had a very different effect, and i am definitely fitter as a result. But this was not the aim of giving up the car.

Spiritual fitness? I am not sure what that means? Of course, in theological terms the aim is less to find out how wonderful you are yourself as to realise the distance between you and God. I’m not sure much of that has happened. But I have spent happy hours walking and cycling thinking deeply and holding excellent and creative conversations. So a plus, but not an A plus.

Spreading a message about climate change? Well, Songs of Praise came and filmed me and that goes out on Sunday, and I have had articles about giving up the car for Lent in various newspapers and radio interviews. So good publicity if nothing else.

Fairtrade and Local food? With a diet of chocolate, fresh fish, organic vegetables and joints of beef from the farm down the road who’s complaining?

The Roads Now Taken

The great advantage of giving up the car for Lent is the opportunity to discover new roads. Anything with red on the map is to be avoided. So this morning I found myself going down the valley of the Deverills, and turning left at Monkton Deverill to climb the hill.

This leads to a small one track road which climbs more gently than the main road, through open fields with just a few sheep. At the top you can see the whole world – rolling chalk downs. Wonderful.

I was on my way to Teffont Evias for the 9.30 service for Mothering Sunday, or the fourth Sunday in Lent. Teffont is one of those unfeasibly beautiful villages: pale stone, a chalk stream running down the side of the lane. It’s the kind of place where you wouldn’t be surprised to find ballerinas practising Swan Lake. The church has been there since the dawn of time. There are monuments and carvings 20150315_091147[1]

with fading contours. Sir William Ley and his armed relations lie eternally in one corner, their feet resting on lions.

And on to Compton Chamberlayne, with its giant juniper tree and solid tower. Charlie handed out the flowers to everyone, men and women. Afterwards sausages and pringles and chat.

Neither village has more than a 100 people and yet the churches are well used and beautifully kept.

Back down the A30 to Salisbury to catch the train home. Not a good road. Several cars came past very fast and very close not giving any space. I do puzzle about the antagonism between different categories of road users: taxis, lorries, cars, buses and cyclists. all seem to regard each other with potential contempt; and we are all united against caravans. It’s very primitive and when you are on a bike you can feel very vulnerable. The  cars were just too close, too careless today. Occasionally you know that you are deliberately targeted by drivers trying to threaten or frighten you. It’s fairly common to get abuse from car drivers. It’s a kind of ethnic conflict.

Sleep out


A late night cycle ride to Trowbridge to give support to the Alabare sleep out. They are raising funds by sleeping out all night on flattened cardboard boxes.  The temperature tonight is forecast to drop to freezing.

I did it two years ago. I put extra layers of clothing on.  I pulled my fleece hat firmly over my eyes, and the sleeping bag up so that only my nose and mouth had to confront the cold.

Alabare is an excellent Christian  charity which supports people on the margins of society: often multiple problems of homelessness, mental health issues and so on. They have a wide national coverage, with a centre in Trowbridge and in Salisbury.

The cycle ride over was magnificent.  Until I got to Trowbridge I followed mostly single track roads.  In those first 8 miles I saw only one car and had the dark roads to myself. Now on Trowbridge Station waiting for the train home.

Cycling support from Parliament

The day began with a telephone conference of Sustrans Trustees. They are an impressive bunch. Transport policy is not going to be high on the political agenda in the election campaign, bit we have to consider what impact the various different outcomes might have .

One recent victory that seems to have been unnoticed is the passing of the Infrastructure Act. At the last moment a clause was inserted, and won parliamentary approval, which gives cycling and walking the same status in infrastructure projects as car, bus and train. This means that there has by law to be a ring fenced fund for cycling for probably the next 5-10 years. Result!

And then this evening to the University of Bath for a lecture. Do you know Widcombe Hill? Only 0.75 miles but my gradient marker on the Garmin computer went up to 18%. After 0.5 miles there is a long stretch at 16%. It was a lot easier on the way down.  I had the brakes on fairly hard and was still doing 35mph. Late night train back to Warminster. I think I’m getting used to this no car life.

So what is right?

SO, I have given up the car for Lent. So far so good. It has proved physically challenging at times, and has added some extra time to my journeys. It has required extra planning. It is going well.

I spent the day working at home. So no miles saved. Except that the people who came to see me drove to get here. Perfectly reasonable behaviour. How could I insist otherwise?

Therefore, I remained (relatively) ethically pure whilst they carried on burning up the fossil fuels. My work, despite any moral claims I might make for my own behaviour, meant that others had to drive cars.

It is a big problem. When I was at Canterbury Cathedral we adopted the Church of England’s ethical investment guidelines, which said that we should not invest in arms, pornography, gambling,tobacco or alcohol. I had some problems with this, as we were quite happy to sell alcohol in our conference centre, and could be partial to a drop or two ourselves.

I am a  trustee of a charity there is an email debate going on about our ethical investment. Should we go beyond the Church’s guidelines, for example, and disinvest from firms which make their profits from fossil fuels. This sounds reasonable except that we will have got to a trustee meeting by fossil- fuelled transport, and we will sit in fossil-fuelled heated rooms.

And please don’t mention the quantity of washing that cycling creates. The electricity used on the washing cycle must use up a great deal of the benefit of not using the car.

I suppose that all that I can say is that you have to begin somewhere. Tomorrow it’s old style telephone conferencing, and a trip to the University of Bath. There is a mighty hill leading from the station to the University. Excellent.

Yellow Brimstone

The first yellow Brimstone fluttered past the window as a I sat in the Bishop’s Chapel this morning. The aconites and primroses are out. In the garden we have Great Spotted Woodpeckers, nuthatches, blackcaps, long tailed tits, goldfinches, bullfinches and many others. Ravens and buzzards fly high over the house.

A day of meeting in Salisbury. We are now further investigating video conferencing via the computer to save time and mileage, and we hope also improve communication. This could be a positive outcome of giving up the car for Lent. The church, like many organisations, depends heavily on personal relationships, so the computer can never replace real meetings, but there are many times when good video links could allow us to make better use of our time and the planet’s resources. Has anyone used MS Lync? It should come with our new servers and should be free.

And even more happiness, even more than yesterday’s tandem crank in the post, I have found my Bishop’s cross. Every Bishop has a  cross, a ring and a pastoral staff. The cross was made my son, who works abroad, from a piece of oak from Canterbury Cathedral. It disappeared. The finger pointed either at the new puppy or three-year old grandson. I found it tucked away secretly. There were no teeth marks. Our grandson is a very splendid chap.