Four Wheels Good, Two Wheels Bad

Yeah, I know – it’s a misquote from George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ – from which you may infer that  some relevance to our current Locked-Down status in this Sceptred Isle will emerge as this tale unfolds. As citizens of such, we’re exhorted to take our daily exercise without using our vehicles, so I guess that strapping a couple of surfboards to the Knumptywagen and heading for Cornwall isn’t quite what HMG has in mind. But if we can’t use four wheels, can we use two?

Well, her Worshipful Chief Navigating Troutess thinks so. And has a cunning plan to combine localised exercise with exploration of our environs by boldly leading a two-wheeled expedition along the wide and leafy-green towpaths of not one, but two canals both local to our home-base in Lich Vegas.

Just a tad over four miles away, Fradley Junction sits at the conjunction of the Trent & Mersey and Coventry Canals, which between them share 131 navigable miles and a total of 89 locks. Normally a popular, bustling canalside hub boasting characterful public house (colloquially known as the Mucky Duck); narrow boat hire; camp site; café; picnic area and nature reserve – it was Uncannily Covid-19 Quiet and, truth be told, all the more appealing because of it.

We both own bicycles. Giant bicycles, in fact and – for the hard-of-hearing – that’s their brand, not their size, just in case you’ve envisaged us precariously mounted on huge penny-farthings. Acquired separately and independently of each other, the coincidence of the brand and their almost-matching silver-grey paintwork is about where the similarity ends, since mine is a standard ‘hybrid’ pedal cycle – while the Navigating Troutess’s just happens to have an engine.

Can you hear the cries of protestation at that last throwaway comment? No, I know it’s not a real engine in the strictest sense of the word, but it is electric and it does assist when the pedalling gets tough. And mine doesn’t. So I have to exert myself beyond the call of duty while the Navigator Par Excellence whirrs serenely alongside, issuing gently motivational encouragements towards my progressively reddening face.

Since I therefore consider my own two wheels to be bad, I am lucky enough to be compensated with due consideration (as befits my age and station) when routes are planned.  As most canals thankfully don’t flow up hill, towpaths are a fairly safe, level and easy-going option upon which we can take our Corona-induced daily exercise.

And, as previously advised, Fradley Junction provided a perfectly isolated and delightful location at which to stop and feast on our pork-pie-and-banana picnic, romantically cossetted in a rear-mounted wicker basket – before saddling up for a semi-enjoyable and almost-entirely self-motivated ride home.

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