Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A solo trip: Camping & Cycling in The Chilterns, Day 2

Another early start when the birds woke me bright and early after a comfy night's sleep in the tent. 
I was to head south of the hills. My original plan had been a 70 mile ride into London, but I wasnt sure if I'd be able to get my bike back on the train without booking, so I amended the plan for the day to pootle around Buckinghamshire and do some touristy stuff since I'd never visited before.

Much of the day's riding followed National Cycle Route 4 so the only time I consulted the map was to help a gentleman who was cycling into London and trying to get on track. 

I cycled out from Maidenhead and the route was completely flat except for one hill.  
An easy saunter alongside river tracks towards the pretty village of Bray then following the Thames towards Eton. It felt like no time at all before Windsor Castle appeared. I had been riding for over an hour, but it was effortless cycling.

I sat in the shade of a quiet lane for breakfast and watched tourists beetle around. The lady at the cafe told me that the Changing of the Guard would take place at 11. I actually had no idea that this happens at Windsor as well as Buckingham Palace, so I decided to check it out.

I waited opposite the castle gates and used my bike as a barrier to ensure that I got a good vantage point (the pedals meant nobody could stand directly in front of me. At 5foot1 this is important!)

The road is closed off as soldiers march from the barracks through the streets. At first all I could hear was what sounded like the stomping of a thousand boots. It was a formidable sound and one that I could imagine sounds pretty intimidating in battle. But as the stomps got closer, I could make out other sounds of flutes and I realised that it was drums I had heard. Two groups of soldiers rounded the corner; the first playing instruments, the second carrying bayonets. They vanished into the castle and the road re-opened. Although twenty minutes later another set would leave the castle and head the opposite way.

I ventured round Windsor Great Park - a flat expanse that reaches out as far as you can see. Bikes are not permitted on this long stretch, and since there would likely be security everywhere, I obeyed the rule and pushed my bike along until I was permitted back on.

After cycling through Runnymead and passing the place where the Magna Carta was sealed, I chatted with a gentleman on a barge who advised me to head up the only hill here to see the view of London & The Shard. NCN4 took me up here anyway it turned out and it was a hot climb through the trees to the RAF memorial. Sadly the hazey hot day meant the skyline of London was an ethereal blur, but the view to the castle was ok.

I retraced my way back to Bray and headed for a place dear to my heart for many years. I had decided to have a late lunch at a wonderful building, now a hotel, but once the setting of many a hammer horror film, not to mention scenes from St Trinians and of course The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The driveway brought me to the unspectacular rear of the building (which I had not expected), but once round the corner, I was greeted by the familiar griffins guarding the doorway.

I didnt get to see the full glory of the gothic architecture until after my lunch when I finally got to run out across the lawn to turn and finally fulfil my excitement.

After lounging in luxurious surroundings beside the river for a couple of hours, I recommenced the hours ride back and enjoyed the cottages of Bray just before the end of the day's riding.

The evening brought heavy rain which lasted all night long, although it didnt stop me sleeping.

Next day I packed up my tent and headed for Oxford to visit my friend.

I enjoyed quirky knitting on street lights, the intregues of Pitt Rivers museum with its dinosaur bones, stuffed ancient animals, gigantic totem pole & other anthropological treasures as well as meeting some of my friend's colleagues & friends who I have known of but never met in all these years.
A brilliant trip!

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