I set off today to revisit the Handymart near Bristersberg in eastern Fauquier County. I learned last weekend that there was a historical marker there and I was now prepared with my camera. To shake things up, a ventured a little further south on Brent Town Road, turning right on Cromwell Road. This caused me to think of 17th Century history and the small bits of irony one comes across in life.
Please let me explain.
Oliver Cromwell was a significant figure in British history. He led “The Roundheads” in the English Civil War and (among a great many other things) had Charles I executed. When I was posted to England by the Army, I lived just north of Huntingdon, where Cromwell grew up. As I rode down Cromwell Road, I wondered how many people here had actually seen his boyhood home. Not many, I think. Also, Cromwell’s nickname was Old Ironsides. My hybrid bike’s nickname is old Ironsides. Quite a coincidence.
The irony doesn’t end there. Another important aspect of Cromwell is that he was a Puritan and therefore had little affection for Catholics. His anti-catholic campaigns in Ireland and Scotland have been described as near genocidal. So imagine my surprise when I pedaled into the Handymart country store and read the historical marker placed there, next to a pizza sign, across the parking lot from a dumpster, and a stone’s throw from a porta-potty.
So, only two miles from where King James II established a “sanctuary” for Catholics, one of England’s greatest Puritan champions against Catholicism has a town named after him. Priceless. I broke open my Cranberry Orange Clif Bar (very tasty!) and ruminated on the irony of all this. What the descendents of this sanctuary think of a town named after their great oppressor, we’ll never know. The sanctuary no longer exists and nobody is sure where it was actually located.
So onward I went. I cycled past farms, each with its own name like “Magnolia Meadows” and “Praewood Farms.” I stopped at a very fancy place named Cedar Farms to take some pictures of a handsome stone wall which lined the property. Naturally, the owner drove up as I was doing this. Fortunately, he didn’t take offense and I was shortly on my way.
And so ended a pleasant ride, full of irony and a crisp Autumn air. My cold weather boots held up very well, and my leggings mean that nobody can tell if I shave my legs or not. Although my route was two miles shorter than last Sunday, it actually took me 13 minutes longer to complete it. That’s what a couple of extra breaks and the lack of a paceline will do to you!