We set off from London St. Pancras towards Luton, simply because that would allow us to avoid riding out of London, and also because our friend lives there. Dave then led us out for 25 miles north on quiet and pleasant roads.
Just as it started to drizzle we found a nice pub for a food stop. Greek Moussaka and stuffed peppers along with a nice pint of ale. Dave was incredulous that Vicky was suggesting a stop within an hour of setting off: a long way from the mental 100 milers she used to subject him to.
Dave peeled off just north of Sandy to head back to the missus to cook dinner, and we headed further north looking for our place to sleep for the night. The further we managed the shorter the following day’s distance, as we were wild camping. The next day we had a camp site booked.
Around 4pm we stopped for a quick pint, to figure out how many more miles we had in our legs and to kill time before it got dark. Wild camping is a bit of timed event, pitch up before it gets dark so that you can see what you are doing but without getting spotted.
At 50 miles we found our very first wild camping site, just behind the hedge, nicely tucked away out of sight.
Just as we were cooking up the gallon of home-made soup we’d lugged along (well, we had to use up the veggies before we left on tour!) the rain started, but we luckily did pitch our tent before eating. Not normally the thing to do while wild camping, but we got away with it this time.
We had good night’s sleep, even with rain and the sound of the corn drying machines in the distance. Countryside, quiet and peaceful?
We got up bright and early with the dawn and packed up and then cooked breakfast and were on the road by 7.30am, unheard of for us! I think the fear of getting caught spurred us on.
The first 20 miles started grey and then the sun and the blue sky came out.
We had a second breakfast in a field, in the sun and some playing about amongst the straw bales. Now with a little video for your amusement :)
The next looong bit was made longer and harder by some map issues, that is for another post. We were sent down a very rough bridleway so we had to walk some of the way. Walking while pushing heavy tourers is so much harder than riding them. It makes you realise what brilliant machines they are. Not on heavily rutted, muddy bridleways, however.
The roads were just lovely, great views and great cycling country. Though the hilly bits were very scenic! Short, sharp hills a plenty.
The worst part of starting so early on a Sunday is that when you are in need of a good pub stop, they aren’t OPEN. And for some reason when we weren’t hungry we saw plenty of pubs but it wasn’t even midday yet. But when lunch time arrived we entered a no pub zone, none of the villages had one. Plenty of churches, however. The locals’ spiritual well-being was well catered for!
So the last very scenic route was very hard on us. We arrived at Tilton-on-the-hill, yes it is on a hill, just before the pub was having a break in their food serving time. They kindly served us some chicken wrapped in bacon with chips and veg, and a funny-looking baked courgette with tomato sauce.
We started our last 20 miles, which were more downhill than uphill – good for our tired legs. Commuting is not a good way to train for long distance, heavy-loaded cycling.
With 3 miles to go we stocked up with food and found our campsite for the night. Whatoff Lodge Farm is an simple field next to a working farm, great view, great showers and horses for Peli to coo over. We pitched up and shared the cake we had bought, even before showering and cooking our dinner, again a great reason for cycling as you can eat more cake.
Just as it got dark around 9pm we were in our beds sleeping, only to be woken up around midnight when the rain started, which just got heavier and heavier throughout the night. Around 4am I looked out into the outer tent, aka the West Wing, and noticed a little lake on our ground sheet. Note to oneself: do remember to make sure that the sheet is not sticking outside the tent before retiring.
Whatoff Farm is a great little campsite, though it is a working farm. So we got woken up by the small business on the site and the farmer doing his job. That was 6am and we decided to have a lay in until 8am and wait for the worst of the rush hour to be over.
We decided that following some of the cycle trails wouldn’t be the best because of the heavy rain doing the night. At 12.30 we found our friend Alan in the rain which it had just started 20min earlier. He was sporting his fabulous King of the Mountains jersey which was the source of much conversation. We headed to the nearest pub for lunch and a good old natter, while the bikes rested undercover from the torrential rain.
Alan took us on a nice pootle down the country lanes back to his place. The rain couldn’t make its mind up, so it was a waterproof-on, waterproof-off kind of ride. Marj had made three, yes THREE cakes for our arrival, which we quickly consumed in their beautiful garden. There lies some serious baking talent!
A quick shower and we are read for a very scrumptious dinner, which we enjoyed with some good talk.
The Alan and Marj B&B is highly recommend: good company, brilliant food and cake, thank you both so much.