Porkellis Mines

After I learned to ride a bicycle my horizon expanded. I was soon pedalling all the way to the bus stop without stopping to touch the ground. Riding my bike was as close as I could get to flying. At school I had learned that the Mongolian horsemen lived in the saddle when they rode to war and would even pee whilst riding. I practiced peeing sideways whilst cycling down the grassy lane. I wanted to be just like those Mongolian warriors. My brother Dan and I rode to Carnkie one Saturday. We got a bit lost and were gone most of the day. My little yellow bike at the time only had back pedal brakes and tiny wheels.

I rode to school as soon as I had a bike with proper working brakes. After that I would ride to visit my friends Jan Trathen, Jonathan Nichols, Edward Collins and Alamo Spaargaren. Later I would pedal to Andrew Chapmans place in Porkellis to play Dungeons and Dragons with Andrew, his brother and Alamo. I remember loving D&D so much I rode there in a snow storm.

My two older brothers, Charlie and Danny; our mates, Heath Hornsby, Chris Sparks and Alamo; and I would drag our bicycles across the boggy Porkellis moors. We had to watch out for old Arthur Temby when we crossed the moors, he once caught my brother Dan and was theatening to beat him with a metal fence post before Dan made a break for it. Our journeys across the moors became a kind of magical rite. We would always stamp our feet in the same puddle or try not to touch the same bit of ground as we hopped across fallen trees. We had names and stories for different parts of the bog and would recite them as we travelled through. On the other side of the moors we would ride our bikes swooping up and sliding over the red clay hummocks with tufty grass which littered the old Porkellis tin mine workings. We would build Evel Knieval jumps out of old fridges and car bonnets. We never went home without grazes or bruises from our epic crashes.

A map of where I first rode my bicycle

The Porkellis mine workings were a strange place. Odd wild haired men would lurch through the gorse bushes glancing our way with wild eyes. Rabbits would sit and nervously watch. We would catch lizards and have peeing contests across the river Cobar. We had been told to avoid the mine-shafts. Which of course meant we had to find as many mine-shafts as we could. We found all types of junk discarded down in the dark soft earth, never a bicycle though.

For most of the year we would watch a flock of homing pigeons regularly circling the moors. When they were gone I would imagine they were racing home through atlantic storms. In the autumn flocks of innumerable starlings would astonish us with their murmurations. Each winter the rain would turn the mine into a shallow lake. One frozen easter we found the lake had transformed into a cold hard sheet of ice. After tentatively testing the edges we grew braver and before long we were taking running leaps, spinning and sliding across. I could barely hold my handlebars with my frozen fingers on the way home.