Westwards out of the Wiltshire town of Wilton lies a broad rough track that rises up and up between magnificent mature beeches onto the Wiltshire Downs. This is the old coaching road from Salisbury to Exeter. It is the preserve of horse riders, dog walkers and mountain bikers. Passing alongside its traces, and mostly hidden in woods, lie sections of the old Roman road, still cutting its uncompromising straight lines through this rolling landscape.
Once you are up there time seems to slow down under the blue sky and the song of the larks. You might pause to ponder the life of a beetle clambering around a blade of grass, or the silent gleam of cars on the main road far below. The sunlight bounces off the chalk track ahead and the fields and woods are alive with the greenness of spring. This is a day in May.
Further along through the woods you glimpse a strange black hat shape lying amongst the trees, then another and another –not hats for giants but the discarded lids for brasiers used by charcoal burners. Then you are approaching the place where this old shady track is sliced across by the open main road. Fast traffic is streaming past. You belong in the woods not on the road. You wait for a gap and dart across like a deer in front of a rifle. This is the A303.
This is one of the many off-road cycle routes you can follow, usually graded from easy, moderate or strenuous, that are waiting for anyone to explore. As a moderately energetic day out for adults and kids, when the sky is blue and the larks are singing, it’s hard to beat.
But the fact is that most of our children are missing out in terms of this sort of experience. One in three children are not doing the amount of physical activity they need to do each day. It is predicted that by 2050, in the UK as many as 70% of girls and 55% of boys could be overweight or obese.
The cycling organization Sustrans is trying to do something about this, by working to change things so that more children can feel safe in cycling or walking to school and elsewhere. Nearly half the children they surveyed said they’d like to cycle to school, but fewer than 2% do so.
Moves to encourage children to get on their bikes and appreciate the freedom and fun of cycling can only be a good thing in helping to tackle this looming obesity crisis. The Cycling Accidents Team are working in partnership with Sustrans and Bristol Cycle Festival to promote cycling and the number of health, social and economic benefits it brings.
Come and join us this summer for the Bristol Cycle Festival. It will be made up of lots of different events that will be happening around the city between 13-21 July 2013. In previous years, this has included the UK’s only cycle carnival, Carnivelo, bike trains, family events and a two-wheeled drive-in cinema.
For more information, contact our Cycling team.