A love of life on two wheels

Maria Fitz­patrick searches out the best bike-friendly places to re­tire

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Property -

Tim Or­gan has had a long love af­fair with cycling. In his teens, grow­ing up in Somerset, he com­peted in national road rac­ing and divi­sional cham­pi­onships, and he has taken part in com­pet­i­tive events all his life. To­day Tim, now in his seven­ties, can nudge his han­dle­bars out of his drive­way in Llanigon, Here­ford­shire, where he lives with his wife, Sue, and wheel straight into some of Bri­tain’s most spec­tac­u­lar cycling coun­try­side. He rides ev­ery week in Mid Wales or the Bre­con Bea­cons, en­joy­ing the more moun­tain­ous climbs. “They’re dif­fer­ent land­scapes, but both spec­tac­u­lar,” he says. “I go out mostly by my­self, be­cause I re­ally en­joy the beau­ti­ful iso­la­tion.” He’s far from alone. Cycling has be­come a national ob­ses­sion, thanks to the rush of last year’s Olympic tri­umphs, and our con­sec­u­tive Tour de France vic­to­ries. Ac­cord­ing to Sport Eng­land, 99,000 more of us are cycling now than in 2008, with 25,000 peo­ple tak­ing part in com­pet­i­tive events and thou­sands more ca­sual cy­clists just en­joy­ing the ride. Many of the con­verts in the over-fifties age group will be be­gin­ning to un­der­stand how a love of life on two wheels could be­come a fac­tor in where you choose to live. Tim and Sue lived in France for years, where he raced reg­u­larly. “When we came back we set­tled here, where cycling is a big fac­tor in the over­all qual­ity of life.” While Sue ex­plores on foot, Tim, who has an ar­chi­tec­ture prac­tice, in­dulges his pas­sion for build­ings on his bike, with scenic tours of old chapels in the area: “It’s mar­vel­lous es­capism,” he says. In the com­ing years, he hopes to spend more time on com­mu­nity projects and with his grand­chil­dren. When the time comes to re­tire, this is where he wants to be. “Rid­ing a bike is not just a leisure ac­tiv­ity, it’s a way of think­ing,” he says. “The adrenalin it pro­duces raises your spir­its and your ideas about life.” Cy­clists look­ing for a bike­friendly place to re­tire to have plenty to in­spire them this week. The Tour of Bri­tain race, which be­gins to­day, passes through our finest “cycling coun­try”, from the Scot­tish Bor­ders down to its fin­ish in Lon­don on Septem­ber 22. It takes in the Bre­con Bea­cons, and a spot in the mid­dle of Machyn­l­leth and Caer­philly (leg five of the tour), where a three-bed­room, ecoand re­tiree-friendly barn con­verted by Tim’s fam­ily is for sale at £319,500 (Ch­ester­ton Hum­berts, 01432 278278). Cycling coun­try, be it on road, track, moun­tain or cy­cle path, tends to oc­cur in al­ready de­sir­able ar­eas – un­spoilt, scenic lo­ca­tions with a high stan­dard of liv­ing. Which means prop­erty doesn’t of­ten come cheap, says Gra­ham Higgs, a man­ag­ing part­ner of Fine & Coun­try. The West Coun­try that skirts Dart­moor National Park, from Hay­tor to Sid­mouth (stage six of the tour) is a case in point. “Due to the sur­round­ings – the gran­ite tors, wood­lands, streams, the clean air – prop­erty tends to com­mand a higher value of­ten only at­tain­able for those re­tir­ing to the area,” he says. But its charms for cy­clists are un­de­ni­able; it’s blessed with vast open space, un­du­lat­ing roads and off-road cycling op­por­tu­ni­ties. From three-bed­room Brock Way, a house with huge ex­panses of glass, set in el­e­vated gar­dens in Ils­ing­ton, on the edge of the national park, you could prac­ti­cally plot out your week­end cy­cle route from be­gin­ning to end from the kitchen win­dow (£945,000, Fine & Coun­try, 01803 898321). A mile from the town of More­ton­hamp­stead – which the tour passes through on its sixth stage – is a four-bed­room thatched 17th-cen­tury trea­sure with equally en­tic­ing views of the Dart­moor coun­try­side and room for vis­it­ing grand­chil­dren, for sale at £925,000 (01392 214222). In Ken­dal, Cum­bria, where the Lake Dis­trict “heat” ar­rives on Mon­day, there is “sig­nif­i­cant de­mand for a change to the out­door life­style” from buy­ers com­ing from the south, ac­cord­ing to Sarah Ed­mund­son of Fine & Coun­try’s Coun­try Lakes branch. “The Kent­mere val­ley is renowned for its cy­cle routes; there are rides for all abil­i­ties, from the gen­tle ride up the western shore of Lake Win­der­mere to the Fred Whit­ton cy­cle ride, known for be­ing the most chal­leng­ing road race in Bri­tain.” High House, a 17th-cen­tury farm­house in Longsled­dale, just north of Ken­dal, would be a per­fect base, what­ever your level, at £675,000 (Jack­sonS­tops & Staff, 0161 928 8881). But the at­trac­tion isn’t just bricks, mor­tar and a place to ride – cycling cre­ates a so­cial net­work close to home, says Chris Boul­ton, 50, the author of new book, A 30-Year Cy­cle, who lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their two sons in High­clere, North Hamp­shire. Chris, the CEO of Yoo, a lux­ury homes de­vel­oper, was a rac­ing cy­clist in his youth. He had heart surgery in 1998 but a decade later re­turned to the sport, tak­ing part in the Mag­ni­fi­cat cycling Sportive in High­clere with friends from the pub. To­day he com­petes in time tri­als and cov­ers 50-70 miles on Sun­days, cycling be­tween New­bury and Hamp­shire with the New­bury Road Club, which has many mem­bers in their six­ties and seven­ties. “It’s ex­hil­a­rat­ing, low­im­pact ex­er­cise, the ca­ma­raderie is great – you al­ways have some­one to share a drink with – and it gives you a strong con­nec­tion to where you live. You can take it at your own pace; one ven­er­a­ble gen­tle­man only packed it in last year, at 82,” says Chris, who wants to stay put when he re­tires. He may live in a quiet vil­lage with one pub and no shop, but it has easy ac­cess to the cy­clers’ heaven of West Berk­shire, Wilt­shire, the Way­farer’s Walk, and the Test and Bourne val­leys. “This area is an ap­peal­ing prospect for re­tire­ment,” he says. “New­bury is well con­nected to the ma­jor road net­work, so you don’t feel cut­off, but you’ve got all th­ese quiet Hamp­shire vil­lages, with lovely cy­cle paths, around you. Of­ten it’s a case of pick­ing de­cent places to eat cake in Stock­bridge, Marl­bor­ough or Hunger­ford, and en­joy­ing the scenery in be­tween.” Winkworth has some per­fect buys for cy­clists in the New­bury area, in­clud­ing Thyme Cot­tage, a man­age­able four-bed­room prop­erty in a quiet lane in High­clere, for £450,000 (01635 552554). For oth­ers, there’s a sim­ple plea­sure to just get­ting back on a sad­dle. When Derek Moore and his wife, Valerie, down­sized from Bletch­in­g­ley to a flat in a re­tire­ment vil­lage in East Sus­sex coun­try­side, the set­ting in­spired them to give it an­other go. “We moved to St Ge­orge’s Park be­cause of its ru­ral lo­ca­tion,” says Derek, of the de­vel­op­ment which is be­tween Hay­wards Heath and Burgess Hill, sur­rounded by 250 green acres. “I had not rid­den since I was 20, and didn’t dream that I would be do­ing so again at 75. But when you find your­self liv­ing along­side quiet foot­paths, fields and wood­lands, it seems log­i­cal.” Al­though buzzing Brighton and Hove is just 12 miles down the road, St Ge­orge’s Park (01444 259732) is a world away, in a tran­quil en­vi­ron­ment safe for older cy­clists. They rel­ish hav­ing freedom with­out the need to drive, and be­ing able to un­wind, stay fit and en­joy na­ture at the same time. For the Tour of Bri­tain route: tourofbri­tain.co.uk; find ‘A 30Year Cy­cle’ by Chris Boul­ton at ama­zon.co.uk

Ex­panses to ex­plore: clock­wise from top, the spec­tac­u­lar Bre­con Bea­cons; High House in Longsled­dale; el­e­vated Brock Way in Ils­ing­ton on the edge of Dart­moor National Park; and Thyme Cot­tage in High­clere

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