Did the Romans ride bikes?

In Sussex they may well have done so judging by the statues on the Centurion Way.  This cycle route runs from West Dean to near the Roman Palace of Fishbourne on the outskirts of Chichester and provides a welcome alternative to the busy A roads.  On Sunday Mercy met me in Midhurst and we took this route and Salterns Way which takes the cyclist out onto the flats leading to the Witterings.  I am cycling to Amsterdam this coming weekend, so this was to be my final training ride, combined with a visit to Andrew Gaunt’s National Collection of Hedychium.

Andrew Gaunt, NCH of Hedychium

Andrew Gaunt, NCH of Hedychium

Transported to the tropics by the scent inside the huge glass house, we were able to see a huge number of cultivars in shades of the brightest orange through yellows and pinks to white.  Some are hardy enough to grow outside – I mulch mine heavily and they have survived the last cold winters on my well drained soil.  Click on any image to start a slide show

If visitors want to buy a plant, Andrew digs out a portion of the very plant and they go away with a sizeable chunk of the parent plant.  This Open Day was one of 35 designated to celebrate Plant Heritage’s 35th birthday and we very much appreciate that Andrew will be donating the income from his plant sales to our Threatened Plant Appeal.

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Although it’s obvious when it’s pointed out, Hedychium (ZINGIBERACEAE)) are related to Canna (CANNACEAE) and also slightly less obviously to Musa (MUSACEAE) at the level above Family, in the Order  Zingiberales.  Despite the large number of banana species, the ones we eat are all Cavendish bananas, descended from just one plant grown in the 1830s by William Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire, at Chatsworth, and pretty much genetically identical.  This has made them highly susceptible to a new type of Panama disease, Tropical Race 4; Andrew has sent material from one of his Hedychiums to be tested in the search for a way of preventing this disease from wiping out the Cavendish banana.  Click here to download a podcast of the BBC Food Programme on this topic.

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Back along the cycle tracks and A286 to Midhurst, where I gratefully accepted a lift home from Mercy.  Enough is enough after 75 miles.  Although I’ll be doing 125 miles on Friday, 45 of those miles will be flat and on good roads for cycling – not our busy, getting home from the beach, roads.

To find out more about my ride to Amsterdam this weekend please go to Silverwood Challenge and if you would like to sponsor me you can do so on these links.

For  Plant Heritage
mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/gillianspencer1
or the Motor Neurone Disease Association
mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/gillianspencer2

I am paying all my expenses for this trip so all money raised will go to the two charities.  Thank you.

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