I’ve been biking to work for years on and off and probably the last three or so continuously. But it was only when I switched my road racer for a mountain bike last winter that I’ve really discovered the joy of getting back to nature on the daily commute. I’ve been slowly exploring unknown paths – working with the philosophy that if I see a path I’ve never been down I should explore it – and finding ever more off road ways to and from work. I can get from home (in Chapel Allerton, Leeds) to Swamp (in Headlingley) in about 10 mins on the road if I give it some wellie, but prefer to spend a 1/2 hour to an hour going roundabout ways off road, currently preferring to take the Meanwood Valley Trail up to Adel Woods, a green corridore of around 7 miles stretching from Leeds City Centre to open countryside.
As well as being practical, keeping me fit and providing me with a smug sense that I’m ‘doing my bit’ for the environment it’s a real creative boost to the mind. You’re experiencing daily the gradual changing of the seasons and on a bike you’re exposed to nature in a really visceral way as you pound your way through it. Working in advertising and marketing it’s important to keep tapped into the cultural and media world that surrounds you, especially on a commercial level; you should listen to the top 10; check out what MSN are peddling on their home page; go and see the odd opera. But a daily nature fix grounds you in the bits that make us all human and reminds you of many of the things that make us all the same.
Strangely the bit where I pause and find that I can think most clearly is on a small bridge over a weir in Meanwood Vally where the rushing water makes the most noise. Though, funnily enough, on the route back to Chapel Allerton from Adel there’s a footbridge I take over the Leeds ring road and if you shut you’re eyes there the audio effect is quite similar.