‘Enjoy blazing the Trail while it’s still summer’

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Last weekend I fancied a little bit of exercise. Or, for those of you who know me better, a pint at the pub in Towersey.

So into the garden shed I clambered, emerging triumphantly with my trusted old bicycle and, after a mere 90 minutes of searching for the pump, some oil, a helmet and some sideburns, was soon pedalling my way down the Phoenix Trail.

What a fantastic facility to have on our doorstep.

I am old enough to remember the trail when it was the railway line. The top end, near the school, was dormant and overgrown which made it perfect for school cross country runs through the puddles, brambles and strange men in overcoats. Oh how we laughed.

The Towersey end of the line was open right through until 1991 as the trains used to rumble through to the foundry in Thame. I know this because of Winston the cat. Poor Winston was an inquisitive fellow, curious some would say, and you know what curiosity does to cats, right?

Winston belonged to my old friend Larry (I’ve changed his name, but not much) and one night he was out exploring the old railway when he got his leg caught across the track. The cat, not Larry. You can only imagine the look on our feline friend’s face as the inevitable train trundled towards him ...

The next morning Winston was on the doorstep, three limbed and weak. The vet advised to put him down. Because he was heavy. And then advised to put him down.

But having had the heart to crawl the mile home without his leg, Winston deserved his chance and the family decided to let him stay.

Our story has a happy ending: Winston limped around the village for many, many years and lived a long and happy life.

I thought of him as I freewheeled down into Towersey and parked up in the pub garden. What a nice place that is still: a garden packed with families and children enjoying a quiet drink in the sunshine.

I’d imagine the Trail is a lifeline for the landlord, bringing in the pedalling hordes throughout the summer, and last Sunday the place looked a picture.

As I cycled home I weaved past couples with pushchairs, families with babies in fabric mini caravans attached to their bikes, people out walking their dogs, and the young and the old stretching their legs and enjoying the summer sunshine. I quite liked it when people nodded and said hello. I was less keen on people roaring up behind me and dinging their bell to get past. Rude.

For half the year the Phoenix Trail goes into winter mode, home of the hardy, so this weekend why not grab your bike and get some fresh air and exercise. Unless it’s raining. Then just go to the pub.