With its long ears and powerful hind legs, the animal ahead of me is unmistakably a hare – an elusive and magical creature I’d spent years longing to see in the wild. Easing my bike to a halt, I watch in awe as the long-limbed mammal sniffs the ground, seemingly oblivious to my presence a few metres away, before continuing its passage along the narrow lane. Our journeys heading in the same direction, I quietly clip back into my pedals and follow discreetly behind as it lollops along. A few moments later it disappears into a field and I’m left mesmerised by this rare encounter.
Witnessing wildlife in their natural habitat – often undisturbed as I slowly pass them by, my tyres silently rolling along the ground – is one of the joys of travelling slowly by bicycle. A majestic buzzard perched on a fence post warily watching me, our eyes connecting for a matter of seconds. A statuesque heron launching its head underwater before reappearing with a flailing fish in its long beak. Or, one of my favourite moments, spotting a skulk of fox cubs playing in the corner of a field, their antics hidden from passing vehicles but visible to a slow-moving, observant cyclist.
Read the full essay on the Canal & River Trust’s Waterfront website.