I was born in Bloemfontein – fountain of flowers – in the Orange Free State. Appreciators of doublespeak take note: Bloemfontein is dry as dust; The OFS was not Orange, except in a dry dusty sort of way, was not Free, and was not really a State.
Travelling north east from Bloemfontein one encounters the mighty Vaal River and arrives in the Transvaal. (Across the Dull River) The word is a funny composite of Latin and Dutch.
Today’s ride took my friend Barry and me to the TransDane, crossing the river in the first instance at a charming spot near Somerford Booths. Booths? What are they? Something to do with horses? Shooting butts? Market stalls? Somebody must know!
OK. It’s not the Vaal, except in its dullness, but it is the Dane, flowing down from Three Shires Head where Staffordshire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire all meet in midstream, and which has a special soft place in my heart because of family trips and swims and picnics.
Soon after the river crossing we arrived at the Swettenham Arms, a pretty country pub with quite a reputation for nice food. Barry and I stopped for a pint in the true manner of non-serious cyclists.
Beyond the pub the road becomes a bridleway and descends to a pretty carfree bridge back over the river.
The bridleway now wends its way up between stretching acres of private land, with neat little signs warning the general public to keep out. It’s enough – as somebody’s grandmother once said – to make a communist out of you.
I leave you with a topical quiz question: How do you get to own hundreds of acres of Cheshire?
* By working hard and saving
* By having an ancestor who did the King’s dirty work for him
* By getting into the arms trade and selling weapons to our friends and allies in Saudi Arabia
* By many generations of carefully arranged marriages over the centuries
Please let me know if I’ve missed any viable alternatives.