donkeys, puddles & joy on a bike

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Joy in Northern Ireland today. After days of rain and oppressive grey skies, a sudden, electrifying light.

Carpe Diem. I haul a rusty old bike from the shed, jump on and rattle past the gleaming mossy buttresses of the Drenagh Estate in County Derry.

On Bolea Road the gears clunk painfully until my feet find their rhythm. Then a smooth ascent past farms and old manor houses, a twisting route following a river.

I’m no Olympian. My bike rides are more devotional than sporting. Dawdling is my way of participating in creation.

I spot a tiny green house in a dell. Ivy grows on the roof – a bouffant hairdo glistening with brilliantine.

On days like this even muddy puddles have the power to dazzle. I stop to enjoy the complex criss crossing of light through trees and blue sky reflections.

At the wind farm on the hill I feel the full force of a North Atlantic blast. Remembering that Northern Ireland has the best wind resources in Europe – I wish I’d brought gloves.

There are a couple of gate posts near the junction at Murder Hole Road. On other days they are nondescript today they are luminous jewels, covered in intricate clusters of lichen.

I say hello to donkeys grazing in the shadow of the forest as I wind my way to the sea. I’d love to linger on the white sands of Downhill but I’ve a hill to climb before sunset.

Bishop Road has a one in five gradient – no surprise my legs are wobbly after that. It’s worth the huff and puff to get stunning views over the water to Donegal.

From Benevenagh mountain there is a long descent into the Roe Valley. I keep my head down. I want to be home before dark – but it is impossible to block out the loveliness of the last shards of light on silver birch.

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