We left Luton under grey skies and a few drops of rain for a quick tour of four counties, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, passing through, or close to, Bedford, Northampton, Buckingham, and Oxford. Sticking mostly to the back roads we passed through many pretty villages and as the day went on the sun did actually manage to come out from time to time and the rain disappeared. It could have been warmer but it was pleasant enough, the roads were fun and on the whole not too busy, the scenery was good, and the bike was as great as ever.
The plan, which I had not told Hilary, was to end up at the Perch and Pike in South Stoke for a late lunch, then have a short stroll along the bank of Thames, before heading back to Luton along the foot of the Chiltern escarpment.
Hilary, in fact, had a vague idea that the plan was to end up at the Perch and Pike – it had been mentioned and, whilst we were not obviously headed in that direction, it was the direction in which we were headed for most of the time. We were remembered and welcomed in the pub. We had a very good lunch of leek and pea flan with salad and we walked along the river for a little while.
Apart from the excellent food (I’m not going to mention the excellent ale as we were not drinking this afternoon as bike and booze don’t mix) and the excellent situation we have a bit of history with the Perch and Pike. The first time we stayed there was our ‘practice run’ for the first bike trip across Europe (when we only got as far as Northern Greece). In 2009 we planned to go there early in the season but had to cancel as Ashley crushed his foot between the bike and the pavement whilst picking me up from work. Last year, when we were staying at the Perch and Pike, we had an excellent day walking (some fairly hard walking) which ended when Ashley fell off a pavement in Goring and broke his thumb. That resulted in a trip to hospital (and overnight stay) whilst he got it pinned and wandering round Guatemala for three weeks with his arm in plaster. So I can get a bit nervous around the Perch and Pike and it was good to have lunch and a stroll without injury.
The skies were pretty well iron grey throughout which did not show the magnificent scenery at its best and it could have been warmer without tempting us to abandon the leathers, but it was a very good ride.
We saw plenty of wildlife. We saw buzzards and kestrels and plenty of red kites. We saw swans with their signets and a flock of goldfinches. We have a bird book and we don’t think we shall see red kites in Turkey. They are attractive birds and I shall miss them though we hear that they are getting somewhat too familiar in some of the villages – swooping down on barbeques and stealing lunches from those who eat outside.
A very good day riding in England.