Leaning on Gates

I like space.
Space to think, space to breath, space to enjoy life and space to take in the view.
I’ve never been a town or city person, those built-up places make me feel closed in, trapped, suffocated; yes I know that some people thrive on “City Life,” but it’s not for me.

Dookes H.Q. is in the middle of North Cornwall nowhere and recently I’ve begun to appreciate my local field gates.

I lean on them….quite a lot!

The roads and lanes of North Cornwall are delightful, often narrow, frequently bumpy and normally bounded by high banks and hedges. Gates give a glimpse from those roads across wonderful countryside and tantalising views of the sea. The trouble is that when I’m travelling on either two or four wheels I never seem to stop, but when I’m walking things take on a totally different perspective.

Life at Dookes H.Q. is often dictated by Working Cocker Spaniels, wonderfully busy little dogs who live life to their fullest and effervesce with boundless energy….which means walks, lots of walks!

Smudge

That’s where gates come in handy.

They have become places to pause.
Places to welcome the dawn.
Places to see the Moon rise.
Places to contemplate.
Places to be thankful.
Places to feel renewed.

….and also just somewhere for an old geezer to lean on and get his breath back after keeping pace with his four legged friend.

I love gates.

Catch you soon,
Dookes

Ring Out Solstice Bells 2021

Best wishes to you all on this Winter Solstice Day!

At exactly 15:59 GMT today the polar axis of our Planet Earth will have be tilted at its farthest away from the Sun in the Northern Hemisphere, giving us our shortest day of the year and marking the beginning of astronomical winter. This makes me a very happy Dookes, for though the days will be colder, they will also start to get longer!

Of course if you live South of the equator the reverse applies.

For my previous posts about the Dookes take on the Solstice please click here.

This year we have been doubly treated as there was a full “Winter Moon” last weekend.
For us Celts, with a feeling for the natural cycle of life, it doesn’t get much better than that!

The Winter Moon rising over a cold Cornish landscape.

In accordance with the old ways and as a Druid, I’m off to garland Dookes H.Q. now…and raise a glass to the setting sun.

In the meantime, however and whatever you are celebrating have a really good one!

“Ring out these bells,
Ring out,
Ring solstice bells”

Catch you soon,
Dookes

Autumn Musing

There’s an Autumn storm brewing.

The wind is rising and the barometer pressure falling. Leaves are whipping from the trees and swirling like a murmuration of starlings.

Heavy rain is forecast and localised flooding predicted.

I thought it was a good idea to get out for a walk with one of my canine pals before things got really wet and wild. Not a day for heroics on a motorcycle at all.

I feel that one of the nice things that stems from living in the cuds (middle of nowhere) is that it gives me space to think, drink in the silence and concentrate on the joy of life.

Autumn is definitely my favourite season, as the poet John Keats wrote “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun.”

Yes, Autumn sees the shortening of days, cooling of temperatures, the first frosts and heavy water-soaked soils. I find beauty everywhere, the colours of the season prevail. The last fruits of the year are gathered. Summer blooms begin to die, but bravely brighten grey days.

Still stubble fields, that only recently stood proud with wheat or barley, now feed wild birds with fallen seed. Cattle savour the last good grass before Spring and on leaden skies the migratory Woodcock returns to the British countryside for Winter.

Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola). JJ Harrison

There’s a sweet smell of decay in the air and the tang of beechwood smoke drifts from cottage chimneys.

It all lifts my spirits and I feel like the luckiest man alive.

“Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.” Emily Brontë

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Bike Nights and Near Normality

The world remains strange, though there are the beginnings of green shoots of normality slowly starting to emerge.

Here in Cornwall, as one of the most popular UK tourist destination areas, we are used to visitors during the summer months, but nothing like the invasion that we are experiencing this year! The prime driver of this is the continuing restrictions that the UK government have placed on all but essential foreign travel, as a result most people who would normally holiday abroad have swarmed to popular UK hot spots….and don’t we know it!

Local journeys are on average taking twice as long as normal. Narrow roads are choked with motor-homes, caravans and bewildered drivers who seemingly are unable to reverse when faced with a large tractor hauling silage; yes there is more to Cornwall than just the beaches!

The great thing is, with a motorcycle and a bit of local knowledge, you can avoid most of the holiday making madness!

Not very far from Dookes H.Q. on the stunningly beautiful north coast of Cornwall, lies the small town of Bude. Originally a harbour and fishing village, like many small coastal towns it developed into a holiday resort in the 1800’s and with the arrival of the railway in 1879 became a firm favourite of affluent Victorians.

Today the railway is gone, closed in 1966. The harbour just a shadow of it’s former glory. As a holiday destination Bude is no longer on the “must do” list for visitors to Cornwall, but it still retains a certain charm and in places, elegance.

Each Wednesday evening through the summer Bude hosts “Bike Nights” when motorcyclists of all sorts gather on the quay to drink coffee, eat donuts, hang out together and talk motorbikes in a relaxed atmosphere.

It’s great fun to see the holiday-makers giving us a wide berth; if they looked closely though, they’d notice that most of us are drawing our pensions!

It’s also great fun to have an evening out with motorcycle mates, plus a nice ride there and a nice ride back, you can’t beat it!

Pop down and see us if you are in Bude on a sunny Wednesday evening in the summer.

Catch you soon,

Dookes

It’s Not All Bad!

Today is the Summer Solstice and here in the Northern Hemisphere our longest day of the year. It should be warm and sunny, but instead it’s miserable…which sort of matches my mood. Actually that’s been caused by a dose of computer grief, always guarenteed to wind me up!

Normally in the Dookes calendar, this time of year I would be riding Harls on the high mountain roads of the Alps or Pyrenees.

Er..don’t tell Mrs Dookes that I rode up here!!!


At present though, life is still anything but “Normal.”

It’s virtually impossible to travel abroad from the U.K. at the moment and like a lot of sensible people I’m also feeling very much less than enthused with the idea. Apart from the trifling matter of health and travel insurance, there’s also the balls-ache and cost of Covid tests before travel and the same in reverse….and that’s assuming that your country destination of choice will even let you in!

Oh and yes, I’ve had my two shots of vaccine!

Foreign travel is just not worth the hassle when I live in such a beautiful place and can enjoy riding around here.

Cornish roads, you can’t beat them.


Which is exactly what my mate Mark and I did last Friday.

First a gentle trundle to Port Isaac to collect an order of shellfish for Mrs Dookes.

Port Isaac is a working fishing village on the North Cornwall coast and if I take the direct route, only around 25 minutes from Dookes H.Q….we didn’t take the direct route!

The harbour, Port Isaac.


It’s a lovely little place with tight streets and alleys that has been made famous by a television drama called “Doc Martin.” Needless to say this has had the effect of attracting thousands of tourists, most of whom understand that the village is not solely a film set.

Hmm, tight!


There are however who, well let’s just say don’t understand and wander aimlessly around blissfully unaware that business and life is still happening.

In other words “Get out of the way!”

Fortunately, Harls rather meaty engine exhaust note has the effect of drawing attention to the fact that they are standing in the middle of the road…

Once the visitors were avoided and the food was stowed in one of Harls’ panniers, it was time to ride off and find some good coffee.

Can you spot Dookes???


A hundred miles later a very happy Dookes arrived home.

Yeah, it’s not the Alps, but it’s not half bad round here either!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Counting Blessings

Here in the UK we are currently experiencing what the meteorologists are calling “Unseasonable Weather.” In other words, cold, wet and fairly miserable. 

Living on our island, it’s something I am pretty well used to; we don’t really have a climate, just weather and an awful lot of it is wet and cold! Today a gale is blowing in off the Atlantic with strong winds and rain, plenty of both. It could be worse, we could live in a country subject to typhoons and hurricanes or year long droughts, so look on the bright side and count blessings!

The road to Col de la Lombard, 2350m and look, a guard rail!

It’s a good day to watch the rain beating on the window and dream of sunnier places and happier times. In a way it’s a bit like travelling in my mind!

High in the Pyrenees, Catalonia.

With the continuing global pandemic situation, it is not a great time to go travelling anyway.

Lunch break, Col de la Madeleine 2000m, one of my favourites.

Now don’t get me wrong, I want to get back out there on the international roads as soon as I can, but I don’t need to nor have to. So I’m resigned to being patient and letting things get back to whatever the new normal is going to be before hitting the highway.

Heavenly twisty roads, Col de la Pierre St Martin 1766m.

In the meantime I have many memories and photos to refer to before that day comes, plus we live in a lovely part of the world too. 

I suppose also there’s also a bit of “Been there, Done that” at the back of my mind and that can straighten things out!

I just wish for now that it would stop raining….!

“I am travelling with you, just as I travel in my mind.”

Catch you soon,

Dookes.

These are Better Days….. Maybe.

Spring has been slow to arrive this year here in North Cornwall. Its early May and by midday the temperature is only just nudging 8º Celsius, that’s a chilly 46º Fahrenheit. True it’s been occasionally sunny but often with a cool North wind.

I’m not complaining though; life is beginning to take on some sort of normality. The U.K.’s Covod Vaccine programme is progressing well and infection cases are falling dramatically. Lockdown measures are easing and at the moment things have an optimistic feel.

Maybe, just maybe we are moving into better days and as if proof is needed I recently took each of my two beloved Harley Davidson motorcycles out for a short ride to get some local shopping.

To be honest, it seemed a bit weird to be back on the road with a large Vee twin engine rumbling away underneath me. Weird, but in a very nice way.

On each ride I wanted to stop and take some photos of my machines, yet at the same time I didn’t want the moment to be interrupted by messing around with a camera…so I just carried on riding and soaking up the experience.

I took it steady, it had been some time since I had ridden any motorcycles, best to ease in gradually and let the road come back to me. There wasn’t any rush to get the ride over and living in such a lovely part of the world there was plenty to enjoy…trust me I was really enjoying these rides!

I did about 50 miles in total on each bike, on two separate days, and I was mentally worn out in a nice refreshed way. Motorcycles really do move the soul!

Despite thoroughly pre-ride checking each bike, on my return home I needed to make small adjustments and tighten up a few things on each of them; nothing major, just getting them back how I like them.

It felt good to be motorcycling again….and just to celebrate I smashed out a 28 miler on the man-powered bike afterwards!

Now all we need is for the weather to get warmer and say a prayer for the pandemic to recede all around the world!

“These are better days baby 
Yeah there’s better days shining through” 

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Long Nights, Short Days

It strikes me that just about the one thing that is “normal” about this crazy world just at the moment is the seasons.

I’m very glad about that.

To me one of life’s simple and indeed greatest pleasures is watching the seasons change. Not that I sit wishing my life to run away like grains of sand in an egg timer, no it’s just the way each season ticks over bringing fresh, yet reassuringly constant, vistas, smells and colours.

I’ve said before that the Autumn and Winter are probably my favourite times of year, which is probably linked to me being born in deepest Autumn. OK I could do without so much rain and wind, but a starkly freezing day with gin clear skies and iron hard ground takes some beating!

Then there’s that low lazy sun that can hardly be bothered to climb much above the horizon, the long shadows that it casts and the gaunt starkly bare leafless trees. I love to watch the last light of day disappear on the Western sky and the stars appear through those naked branches.
It’s all magical stuff to me.

Living in Cornwall, and sticking out into the North East Atlantic, we are never far from the influence of the sea. Dookes H.Q. is now only five miles from the coast and when there is a big storm blowing you can taste the salt in the air.

The sea, it is often said, defines Cornwall and standing near the shore facing a force nine gale, it’s hard to argue with that!.

Catch you soon,
Dookes

Still Rolling

Hello everyone.

Where has this summer gone?

The world is truly a strange place at the moment. Whilst the human population is being ravaged by a planet-wide pandemic politicians across the Continents seem to display a mixture of greed, incompetence and plain ignorance. In exchange, many of the population appear to live in fear, whilst others carry on in a self-centred bubble of denial!
As the song says,”Two men say they are Jesus, one of them must be wrong.” It sort of sums up how I feel!!!!

For lots of reasons my motorcycle activity has been somewhat limited of late.

It’s partly due to other more pressing matters, such as building work at Dookes H.Q., but also a reflection of how the current global situation makes me feel; I honestly don’t really feel that I can justify pleasure rides on a motorcycle whilst people are both dying and working so hard to contain the C19 virus.

That said, I am lucky to live in a beautiful part of our island country.

I’m only five miles away from one of the most stunning coasts in the world. Ok I’m biased, I admit!

A small shopping trip the other day morphed into an extended loop on some tourist avoiding back roads which was nice.

It really doesn’t matter if I’m on two motorised wheels or two Dookes Pedal-Powered wheels….it doesn’t take very long to go somewhere to really lift the spirits!

Then there’s Dookes H.Q., sitting outside having an evening gin and tonic the view is, frankly, delightful, I’m very lucky.

Stay safe people and I’ll catch you soon.
Dookes

Two Wheeled Time Machine

When our British Government announced the “Covid Lockdown” they were quite specific, that whilst the population must stay at home for all but essential journeys, we were allowed/expected to go out and exercise for up to an hour a day.

In other words, stay fit and healthy!

I had I think about this.

Obviously motorcycles didn’t count as “exercise” no matter how physical some rides are. Walking is OK and round Dookes H.Q. there’s lots of nice countryside, but in an hour, you can’t really go far.

Nothing for it, gotta get out the pedal bicycle!

This ticks all the boxes; two wheels, wind in your hair and covering the ground at a good pace and quite a variety of scenery in an hour!

So for the past few weeks that is what I’ve been doing.

I have a long history with bicycles. I can still remember my first, a delightful little thing with solid tyres, no danger of a puncture there! My father fitted it with stabilisers when I first had it, but they soon came off and so did I, a few times, until I got the hang of balancing on two wheels!

When I grew out of it, my Mother thought it was a good idea to buy me a used Raleigh R.S.W. 16. Yeah great, nice thought and good of her to buy it for me….but she never tried riding the wretched thing!

Raleigh RSW 16

These bikes were part of the 1970’s craze for small-wheeled utility bicycles. Do you see any around today? No you don’t, says it all really, they were heavy, uncomfortable and just awful!

Then one day at the back of our garage I discovered my Father’s old Raleigh Trent Sports.

To my young eyes this was cycling heaven. True, it was heavy as hell, but it had a four-speed derailleur gear set and drop-handle bars, it looked like a racer,I fell in love!

The old bike was dragged into daylight and it’s condition assessed.

It needed new tyres and inner tubes, all the bearings taken out cleaned and/or replaced, new brake cables, new gear change cable, new brake blocks, all the bright-work seriously cleaned.

A Trent Sports, but mine was red!


I remember Dad looking at me and just saying “ Well, if you do the work, it’s yours.”

Two weeks later, I proudly pushed the bike out of the workshop and road tested it.

The love affair continued.
I rode that bike everywhere and racked up hundreds and hundreds of miles on it.

At the back of my mind I hankered after a “ten-speed racer” and that dream eventually came true with a hand made Orbit machine.

Oh dear. Never have I been so disappointed; I just never clicked with that bike…

In a way… about 30 years ago actually, that’s where the story ground to a halt,

Until last autumn.

Call it a rush of blood to the head, call it a realisation that I needed to get fitter, call it a return to a simpler time…I wanted, no needed, a bicycle in my life again!

That’s how I became the proud owner of a Carrera Crossfire 2 hybrid.

The Crossfire


OK, it’s not he coolest looking thing on two wheels and not the lightest either, but I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to go, off-road or road bike?

I started off riding round forestry tracks near to Dookes H.Q., but really I couldn’t resist getting out on the road.

Fast forward to this Spring and “Covid Lockdown.”

I’ve always felt a tad “invincible” and never thought that any silly little virus would get me…

Well it bloody nearly did for me!

I went down with all the symptoms about nine weeks ago and as it progressed…well let’s just say I wasn’t too good. No, I didn’t need hospital treatment, but it came close. I’m still not quite right; I took ages to shake off the shortness of breath and a really tight chest…but something I found helps, cycling!

Since I’ve set out to make cycling my convalescence, things have taken off for the better. I can honestly say that each time I ride I can feel myself getting better, fitter and stronger.

There’s one other thing I’ve noticed…

I’m riding a time machine.

With this lockdown, there are fewer vehicles on the road and in many ways it’s how I remember the roads nearly 50 years ago. Things are quiet, life seems to have taken on a slower pace, people smile and wave too; it’s nice.

Quiet lanes!


In my mind I’m back on that old four speed Trent Sports riding the country lanes of my youth.

There is only one downside.

I’m hankering after a road-bike now, maybe a carbon frame, 20+ gears, you know… sexy!

“I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike”

Catch you soon

Dookes