Ladies-only bike ride basks in the sun

The sun shone for the 2018 ladies-only bike ride. Organiser Thea Bredie sent this report.

Sunday 8th July saw this year’s first Shelley Bike Ride, on a wonderful sunny day. The women-only ride was part of Cycling UK’s second annual Women’s Festival of Cycling.

At the start Horsham MP Jeremy Quin took time to greet us and to have a chat with some of the riders. We talked about the pleasure of cycling and the potential for improvement, in terms of safety, in the town. Jeremy enjoys donning his lycra, when he gets the opportunity. We hope he’ll join us for the next ride, perhaps bringing members of his family along. It will be on Saturday 4th August, to celebrate Shelley’s birthday on 4th August 1792.

Jeremy Quin meets the riders at the start

We then visited some of the special Shelley places in town. The Heritage Sundial made a good start as it sets the historical scene and shows an image of Shelley and a cat, plus the full text of his earliest surviving poem, ‘To a Cat in Distress.’ It also features a quote from Adonais: “The One remains, the many change and pass”.

We then walked to the path alongside the Forum and cycled to the Causeway, the only street Shelley would probably recognise if he could see the town as it is now. We stopped briefly in the shadow of a beautiful old tree in the Causeway, and mentioned some of the local buildings with a Shelley connection, including the museum, St Mary’s Church, the former town hall and the former King’s Head Coaching Inn.

We had a short cycle ride to Arun House, where Brian and Jill Slyfield had kindly invited us into their garden, to see the front of the house where Shelley’s grandfather Sir Bysshe Shelley lived his final years. The poet used to visit his allegedly eccentric grandfather with his father. Brian greeted the riders and showed them a copy of a painting of Sir Bysshe (the original is in Penshurst Place in Kent).

On the Horsham Riverside Walk

We then set off for the Riverside Walk section of the ride, heading towards Warnham Nature Reserve. Shelley loved the natural world and was very knowledgeable about plants and animals, and fascinated by water, he could observe it for hours. We had two short riverside stops, sharing poetry, as well as a rather cheeky letter he wrote at just 10 years of age, mentioning the then famous Horsham gingerbread.

With the kind permission of Mark Pearson, Manager, we cycled across the Rookwood Golf Course to use the underpass to the Nature Reserve.

We gathered in the café at Warnham Nature Reserve, welcomed by Lyn Whales and her husband, with much-needed drinks and Horsham Gingerbread. We were entertained by Jeremy Knight and by Malc Cowle and Mick Jagger reading Shelley, courtesy of YouTube, before saying our goodbyes at 12:30.

Special thanks go to the Slyfield family, Mark Pearson, Mr and Mrs Whales, Jeremy Quin and Ian Ford and his team at Horsham District Council. Ian Ford organised ride leader and bike maintenance training for the ride leaders, including Chatter Cheema and me. It was great that the council provided a bike to use for the ride to two of us who would otherwise not have been able to take part. This is exactly what the Women’s Festival of Cycling is for, getting more women out on bikes! All participants said they enjoyed the ride a lot and five women asked for more health rides!

Thanks to the riders and supporters. I look forward to the next ride, please do come and join us:

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