Just blew in from the Windy City…

Posted by on 28, Jul 2023 in 2023 - Cathedrals, Europe, Tilly the Tandem, UK, Western Europe

Just blew in from the Windy City…
Lunch stop
Lunch stop !
Home for the night…
English summer…
Hereford Chained library
Mappi Mundi

It’s hard to believe that leaving Alysebury the wind got worse and with 55mph winds forecast, that we would naturally enough be cycling directly into, we decided we would have a short hop to Haddenham and hole up for the afternoon. The price of accomodation in Oxford is astronomical – £200 a night was the cheapest we could find and with the campsite full we actually had little choice but to stay at Haddenham.

We had a restful afternoon at our AirBnB and then wandered into the village for pie and chips from the chippy, which we had to hang on to to stop it taking off and then a quick drink at the pub.

The wind had dropped the next morning, but was still a right howling gale but we pressed on to Oxford and arrived at Christ Church Cathedral when it was closed.

The Cathedral don’t like bikes, they state on their web site that they can’t be wheeled or ridden into the grounds and if they are then you’ll burn in the fires of hell for all eternity… Or they’ll remove them, I can’t remember which… The tickets for the day had sold out for the afternoon opening and so we wondered how we would be received when we rolled up at the Big Tom Bell tower that guards Tom Quad and the main entrance to the cathedral.

The gate is fenced off from the public by a rope fence and two well dressed greeters direct everyone away from tower to the visitor centre down the road.

We rolled up and smiled sweetly and said we were doing the cycle pilgrimage and after a 5 second consultation they told us to wheel Tilly into the entrance and lean her up against the wall under the tower and they’d look after her whilst we went over to the cathedral.

So, we crossed a deserted Tom Quad into a deserted Cathedral and had the whole place to ourselves to pay homage at the Pilgrims tomb of St Frideswide and a lovely wander around admiring the place.

We had to go and find another greeter to help us get our stamp number 17 and then set off to the campsite for a night. Naturally it started to rain the moment we opened the tent bag, but we got pitched pretty quickly and tucked up for the evening.

We ran out of gas at Breakfast and the adapter broke so we couldn’t boil the kettle for tea. Fortunately the water was quite hot before we ran out so Linda got her caffeine fix as she does a Jekyl and Hyde transformation without it and that’s not a route I like going down.

Our route out of Oxford took us along here A40 cycle path. What joy that was!  After that we passed the lovely village of Whitney where we sat on a picturesque green infront of the magniciant church for our picnic lunch. We headed on to RAF Brize Norton and were particularly glad of our flag as the (presumably) large number of boy racers in their broom broom GTX-BGT-XR4 go faster stripes cars had to wait to pass us and they were not a happy bunch.

But at the end of the day we rolled up at our idyllic campsite for the night with nothing to listen to but the birds and the wind in the trees and virtually the whole place to ourselves. Heaven.

We had two choices for the Cotswolds, over or round and for once ( I hope you’re sitting down for this) we went over! Please don’t think we are getting to like hills it was just we couldn’t spare an extra day to go round so had no choice!

I’d managed to pick an extremely remote and quiet route, we hardly saw a car or even many houses and it was a lovely cycle. As the skies darkened we came to the outskirts of Gloucester and began our descent. Our climb up had been comfortable with a shallow gradient, to get into the city you simply fell off the side of the cliff, or at least the screams from the back seat seemed to suggest this.

16% hills are not common, and one that goes on for about 2km are even rarer. Our brakes are extraordinarily powerful. They are cable actuated hydraulic – which means they are only hydraulic in the brake itself, unlike most bikes, and use the standard brake cable to activate the brake. This means, should they go wrong we can simply replace them with a disc brake easily anywhere.

I usually only use one at a time on a descent but had both on for this hill. I could feel the brake lever getting closer and closer to the handlebar as the force required to stop us braking the sound barrier on the way down was so great. By the time we levelled out it was almost flush with the handlbar and we stopped in a layby.  I tried the brake again and it now had zero effect on. We had completely worn out the pads, but they had worked all the way to the bottom. Tilly is so good!

We finished the now much more gentle descent to our Premier inn using our other brake and gave the rear one the rest of the day off.

At the hotel I sat outside with Tilly and changed the pads ready for the next day and was surprised to see some of the pad edges had crumbled.

Gloucester docks is fabulous and well worth a trip, alone and we stopped for breakfast there the next morning before going on to the Cathedral where the builders were in getting the place ready for the three choirs festival – so lots of banging, power tools and workmen desperately trying not to swear when they banged their fingers. ” Oh fiddlesticks”…

We were due a day off and planned for this at Upton upon Seven aboard a new houseboat at the marina.  We’ve been toying with the idea of living afloat and this seems a great chance to try that out. I’m sold. Loved it!  Fab fab fab. So we spent the entire day just holed up on the deck, and in the lounge and generally being extremely lazy.

The trip on to Hereford involved he Malverns and they dominate the landscape here rising ominously on the horizon, so we went round them. it was still hilly but a great cycle and we rolled up at Cathedral number 19 which as usual had so many unique features.

One of the key ones here was the Mappa Mundi – one of the oldest medieval maps of the world, which looked amazing but give me Google maps any day.

The Cathedral also house the chained library, which reminded me of the Library in Terry Pratchett’s unseen university, only the books here were chained up to stop anyone stealing them, rather than them attacking you.

The cathedral itself has some very unusual scalloped arches and was, again lovely.

We headed down to our camp site for the night and checked in to find the place heaving with a large caravan rally and a private party in the club house which we were told ‘ could get noisy’.  We went to our porch where the neighbours were then setting up their flags, gazebo’s, tents, hammocks, outdoor pool, jacuzzi and Disco and decided to knock camping on the head for the night and get a BnB!

This proved to be a godsend (and not only because we could sleep) as the next morning it was absolutely peeing down. No wet tent to pack up and we both had a nice smug smile, well, until we got outside and started cycling!

I’d decided to just wear my sandals as it was so wet it’s easier to dry you feet than socks shoes etc. So we set off and could almost lip read all the passing cars “Oh those poor people!” / “What a pair of f*#!#* nutters” (take your pick)

I plan our rides to try to take in a coffe stop for our onboard druggy to recaffeinate but as we went much faster than our normal snails pace, the planned morning stop was still closed when we got there. So, we sat in the bus shelter for a while dripping and then thought sod it, let’s continue.

Of course there’s still the Malverns to tackle, so we went round them again and fortunately stumbled across a lovely coffee shop just outside Worcester where Linda almost kicked the OAP’s out of the queue and demanded intravenous caffeine now!

We asked the staff if they minded us coming in so wet and they said of course not and found a towel for us to dry off a bit. All that seemed to do was crate a very wet towel to go alongside a very wet pair of people, but it’s the thought that counts.

We had a couple of lovely hot drinks and a toasted tea cake and chats with various incredulous customers who thought we were either completely off our trolley or on a romantic journey depending on their sex and then headed back out into the monsoon.

I had been warned by someone who will remain nameless that should I mention “it’s brightening up” at all during the day it wouldnt be to my advantage so I kept quiet on that front, but it did start to brighten up. The only trouble was brightening up switched from Monsoon to torrential rain. Probably best I did keep quiet.

But, onto the outskirts of Worcester  and found a wonderful new cycle bridge over the main roads and another over the river (well done Worcester)and the rain really did start to ease up so we sat on a bench by the river and had our sandwiches in the now gentle rain, again to various looks from people hurrying by with their brollies up.

We rolled up at the Cathedral and pulled Tilly into the porch and started to put some warmer clothes on as we knew we would get cold shortly and that was when the Bishop rolled up. Oh hello! …He was fabulous, interested in our journey, happy for us to leave Tilly in the porch and very welcoming too.

Another day, another Cathedral to look round and again it was different and gorgeous and the hot drinks in the refectory warmed us nicely.. this is not what we expected when we planned a summer cycling tour !

By the time we reached our Airbnb we had actually dried off completely! All our gear is waterproof, but in Biblical conditions, water always finds a way in at the sleeve ends and the bottom of the jackets and even these were dry and after a night in the garage all our panniers had also completely dried out.

So, next we head into the Midlands to see if the weather improves and how their cathedrals compare..


  1. Hope it “brightens up” for you both! Lol!!!
    By the time you hit the west of Scotland the Gulf Stream should be back in the right place and it will be Costa del Millport!!!

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