Sleeping with posh people: (Crowthorne - Bricketwood, Herts) - When we were two little boys - CycleBlaze

April 29, 2012

Sleeping with posh people: (Crowthorne - Bricketwood, Herts)

WHO CARES if it rains? It poured all day but it was a lot better than the forecast, which said I'd be pinned to the road by the sort of wind that would carry an elephant. So, who cared? I was on the road, wandering. In the sort of traffic you'd expect of the London commuter belt, it's true, but on the road nevertheless.

Today had the novelty that I was going to spend the morning in a coffee shop with a girl with whom I worked in my teens and whom, so far as either of us could work out, I last saw when were both 20. Chrissie and I lost touch when we left the airline which had seen fit to employ us and only in the past year have we been back in touch, thanks to the diodes of the internet. And there she was, sitting behind a coffee in the cafe near Ascot racecourse, just as planned.

Well, I'm not going to bore you with what we talked about because it's not going to interest you. But we talked for a good couple of hours, which I thought we would because our e-mail exchanges had been so all-embracing. And then I went back out into the rain to make my way to and across Windsor Great Park.

When you're the Queen, you can choose any strange speed limit you like
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The park is the Queen's back yard and she makes a pretty good job of looking after it. I don't suppose she sits on a motor-mower herself, that not being fitting for a monarch more used to riding in a gilt carriage while staring at the bottoms of the horses that are pulling her along, but doubtless she supervises gardeners with names like Jake and Old Ned and points out the pruning and where unsightly leaves have gathered into heaps.

Curiously, she has set a limit on the estate of 38mph. I can't think why. Maybe, as scientists predicted of railway travel, she gets dizzy at greater speeds. She has also set a limit on the road that leads to the castle itself, a road not open to cycles 'ridden or otherwise.' So instead I had to take a loop out to Old Windsor and round the edge of the royal estate from there. It seemed a pretty mean move on her part, especially considering her father had been patron of the Cyclists' Touring Club and that her grandfather trundled about on a tricycle.

Of the rest, there's not a lot to be said. I put up with the traffic and suburbs of the commuter belt and rode round to the northern edge of London to my planned campground at Bricketwood. It took a long time to find it and when I did get there, wet and more than tired, it was shut. Nobody answered any of the three phone numbers pinned to the gate.

Bricketwood is one of those areas where the sellers of burglar alarms, and of the sort of dog that needs a lot of grooming,  make a good living. Daughters in these parts have names like Rebecca and Tiffany. They have horses. Their parents are not likely to be charmed by a scruffy cyclist camping in their midst. But they got one nevertheless.

Across from the houses and their driveways and electrically operated gates was a stretch of rough land shielded from the road by a line of what were neither bushes nor trees. One day there will be houses there but tonight there was just a tent. I pushed through the bushes, stood for a while to see if anybody with a braying voice had seen me and chosen to follow and to challenge, then found the least drenched bit of land that I could. The light dipped, already hindered by rain clouds, as I put up the tent. Then I knew I was safe. People don't see what they're not looking for, which is why more cars drive into cyclists than cyclists ride into cars.  And tomorrow I would be gone before they even wondered if I'd been there.

Today's ride: 92 km (57 miles)
Total: 868 km (539 miles)

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