Matt

Writer of words, rider of bikes. Also fond of a good walk.

Two distant figures walk up a snow covered hill through sparse woodland.

Another snowfall. Peering through the window into the early-morning gloom we could see a deep covering in the street outside. The hill beyond was obscured by cloud but we knew straight away that we wanted to go up there.

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Around 92% of land in England is off-limits to the general public and where rights of way do exist, cyclists can only ride around 20% of them. We deserve better access to our own country.

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A track through woodland passes the brick pillars of a dismantled railway bridge.

Every now and then, a tell-tale line of undergrowth cuts across my path. It marks the route of the old railway line. Of the hop pickers who once rode trains into Herefordshire in search of seasonal work, there remains only the slightest trace.

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A map spread out on the table with Swindon marked at the bottom of the photo and the rest out of focus

Why should you always have to know where you are, and where you’re going?

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A bike leans on the bench at the top of the hill, its red rear and white front lights bright in the darkness.

Until recently I didn’t see the appeal of riding at night, but I’m increasingly drawn to venturing out after hours.

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We’ve just sold G’s old bike. It’s not the first bike he’s outgrown, and it certainly won’t be the last. Yet it marks a moment in the journey through his childhood.

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A gravel bike silhouetted against trees and hills at sunrise.

I stood on the edge of the lane and photographed the sunrise-silhouettes of the trees and the ridge line of the hills. A moment of stillness in a world of upheaval.

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A child cycles away from the camera up a forest track.

For much of the ride we followed the ghosts of old steam trains – their rails now long gone and their presence a distant memory. In their place: cycle paths and forests tracks.

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A gravel bike on a rural canal bridge.

In the absence of proper infrastructure or access rights, UK cyclists who prefer to avoid traffic have to get creative with their route planning. Some of my favourite rides make use of canal towpaths – off-road arteries that can take you some seriously long distances and right into the centre of busy towns and cities by the back door.

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A rusty signpost points along the Ridgeway National Trail, rolling green hills in the background.

I was on the Ridgeway – again. This time it was to ride a 240km car-free, off-road overnighter using the Kennet & Avon Canal to create a loop.

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