The morning churchgoers quickened their pace as they passed the war memorial. What was that strangely clad group standing furtively by it? Could they be migrants discharged from a lorry from Calais? Or was it vagrants recovering from an alcoholic Saturday night? And those bicycles were obviously stolen, shouldn’t the police be called? They hurried on into St Peter’s Church. But their fears and suspicions were unfounded as it was just South Herts CTC assembling for their ride to Winslow.
The route was straight up the Redbourn Road, then Gaddesden Row to Whipsnade. Here could be seen through the fence of the zoo the wallabies distinctly lacking a spring in their steps today. Had news about the Test Cricket result been conveyed by their keepers? We continued through Eaton Bray & Slapton to arrive at the cafe at Pages Park railway station, Leighton Buzzard at 11 a.m. to find the staff discussing their prospects if the railways were nationalised as had been proposed by some Labour leadership contestants.
Here we met Mike from Amersham who usually rides with South Bucks CTC. So we had gained one but lost six (the pace had been a little fast on a hot day). We left the cafe and continued via Ledburn, where the pub containing memorabilia from the Great Train Robbery was now just a house.
After Wing we reached the quaintly named Soulbury, where the annual scarecrow competition was in full swing and some of our number were in danger of winning first prize if they stayed still long enough. Such festivals are a recent phenomenon spread by concern over the welfare of this dwindling breed frowned upon by agri-business.
|Scarecrows in Soulbury|
Finally we reached Winslow and the Bell Hotel. This was old-fashioned enough to have a bowl of cheese cubes on the bar; moreover there were not many punters around yet to have coughed over them. Nonetheless we bought sandwiches & settled down on the patio to enjoy our drinks. Conversation homed in on the alarming decline in the number of nightclubs, which could affect the riders’ weekend activities. Meanwhile, Richard was fixing his slow puncture which had been evident since mid-morning, but when he put his tyre back on there was a bulge around the valve. The collective expertise of the other riders was then used to rectify this situation and we left Winslow a little late at 2:15 pm.
The tea stop was scheduled at Berkhamsted and although it was 4:15 pm when we arrived we noticed that Simmons was still open so we piled in to enjoy coffee & cakes in the air-conditioned interior. Then it was the well-ridden route back via Hemel & Bunkers Lane to end relatively flat this 75 mile circuit.