Day Four: Ross-on-Wye to Leighton

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Best day of the ride so far. We set out in showers and within ten minutes of leaving Ross were drifting up and down alongside the river, beginning to climb alongside the Welsh Border. Having trailed this day as the one where we rode the length of Wales, we were only actually out of England a couple of times, which seems a shame when reviewing the map, until you look at how furrowed the contours get for the cyclist who drifts too far West.

It was beautiful. The sun came out, the countryside opened out before us and, of the first real stretch of time, we started to see landscapes and villages we weren’t at least passingly familiar with. At times it seemed as if houses from suburbia, complete with immaculate lawns and ornate fence posts, had been scattered randomly across empty countryside. Rather than moving through a succession of hamlets and villages, we just seemed to pass either houses or farms.

I’m not sure why I enjoyed today so much. On paper it was the shortest day, estimated at about 67 miles, but it took us a long time. Somehow the progress just seemed to happen at the right pace. It felt like we were really riding, the aches and pains were lifting, and we were going to be able to do this.

We had a couple of bracing climbs to make, which came up by surprise. At the top of the first Rob announced that nearby lay the highest golf course in England, prompting the obvious question: why couldn’t we ride by the lowest instead? We thought we’d done our work for the day but the second hill brought us a further 300ft higher than the first. Sometimes these hills seem almost pleasant to get up, other times they’re crippling. If I could work out why, perhaps this whole enterprise would be easier.

We had a great lunch in Bishop’s Castle, having been greeted by a cycling family who squealed, “Bet we’ve gone farther than you today!”. I don’t like to upset kids, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.

On to our friends Jez and Katie, who relocated to the wilds of Shropshire from Manchester some time ago. We arrived in Leighton, having arranged to meet Jez outside what looked like the major local landmark. Still, it was uncomfortable to find myself pacing up and down sweating profusely outside the village school, dressed in a bright yellow, skin-tight, semi- transparent t-shirt.

Some confusion trying to find Rob who we’d cut loose a couple of miles back after his tyre exploded. Luckily we got to him before the vultures.

So part way through a sweet, warm evening with Jez, Katie, Ben, Charlie, Tony and the Rainbows, i’m moved to write at length about friendship, family and how Summer evenings like this can really seem to bring those things together perfectly. But it’s 9.30, I’m knackered, so fortunately for you I won’t bother.

343 miles down.

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