Well, as I said, I set off from the campsite at 7.15. It was still quite cold and although I had warmed up considerably I still wanted my winter jacket on.To start with I had to mainly push my bike uphill for about a quarter of a mile of the track from the campsite to the road. This part of the track was covered in loose grit and I would have skidded on it. Not long after reaching the road I discovered that I then had what turned out to be a mile or two of newly (as in the day before!) resurfaced road to cycle on. Fortunately there was little traffic about to chuck up grit at me.
After about 7 1/2 miles, and being now in one of England's fruit growing areas, I spotted a sign outside Boston Farm, just west of Evesham, advertising cherries for sale, along with "Knee Knocker Cider" (I'll go back for some of that one day perhaps......oi loike a noice drop o' coider - especially without any additives). Ooh I thought, now fresh cherries would just slip down nicely! As I was looking for somewhere to lean my bike, the farmer's wife leaned out of the window and called "Leave it up here by the wall!". So I did, and she then led me to the building where the punnets of cherries were.
She kindly asked if I'd like a drink. I said -
"Well I've got water but is there somewhere round here where I can get a cup of tea and something to eat?"
She replied "Oh I'll give you a cup of tea. And would you like some toast?" Aren't some people just life savers?
So I spent the next hour or so in her cosy 4 oven Aga kitchen (she got it for her birthday), being fed the most delicious toast (two rounds of brown) and home made apple jam, and a mug of tea, which I can tell you tasted as good as the one I was given after the birth of our number 3 in our local hospital. (After 9 months of everything tasting abnormal, for each of my four pregnancies, immediately I'd pushed the sprocket out everything miraculously tasted good again!)
I got the feeling that she and her husband were used to intruders like me, and it reminded me of the dozens of times we too have had strangers in our house, either to feed them, or even in one case to put up overnight, because it seems that where we live is just the place where people break down ("Come in and wait for the AA") or have an accident (cyclist fell off his bike once, air ambulance landed in the field over the road, I gave sustenance to his friends) or get trapped in a flood on the way to a wedding (Husband took them on to the wedding while the trapped car stayed put in the flood). Or, in the case of the overnighter - a Canadian girl cyclist - asking where they can find accommodation. This sort of thing has not happened to us so much in more recent years, and I am convinced that it is because everybody these days has mobile phones and no longer needs to ask strangers for help. They just ring up a friend instead.
Anyway, after that I felt a whole lot better, and cycled on much more gaily. The weather was much better that day, still a bit windy but not so bad, and I knew I didn't have so far to go so I could relax a bit. The roads I was cycling on weren't so busy either.
After various stops for the call of nature, and to eat cherries, the next stop of significance was at Inkberrow; I only realized when I looked at the pub, called The Old Bull - that this one was famous. The Bull of Radio 4's Archers' fame is based on it. I'd love to have popped in and chatted to Eddy and Clarrie and Jo (my favourite characters) but there just wasn't time. Instead I went to a nearby shop and scanned the shelves for something I could eat and ENJOY. I was getting wiser by this time to what I needed. I knew I needed small quantities of the right things. I wanted egg sandwiches but they hadn't got any so I bought a pot of cottage cheese and polished off the rest of my cherries with it - what a delicious combination! I had mislaid my one spoon so I had to use my finger to dip into the pot. Maybe in years to come there will be a cherry tree growing on the green by The Old Bull, where I discreetly deposited the pips.
It was also here that I really felt I was somewhere different, as the accent had changed to a much more West Midlands one. I've always loved regional accents. As a child I always noticed them when we went on holiday to various different parts of England and Wales.
From there it wasn't far to Astwood Bank, the village just south of Redditch where I had booked into a B and B. I had cycled 25.3 miles, at which point I stopped my Garmin as the battery was running low. My plan was to cycle on into Redditch town centre, get some more food, and maybe find the needle museum I had heard of - but stupidly hadn't looked up the location of prior to leaving home. I then called in at a Salvation Army charity shop and asked if there was somewhere nearby where I could get a cup of coffee and something to eat, and if it was a long way to the town centre - more research I hadn't done, but then sometimes it's better that way. The two lovely ladies in there said it was quite a long way, and so I said "Oh I don't think I'll bother then". The needle museum was quite a long way away too, so I also gave that a miss. Another time maybe. They leant on the counter and had a think, digging around in their brains, and then remembered that a place down the road had recently opened a cafe, so off I went. I found it, parked my bike round the back, and then went and tried to find the way in. It looked a bit closed, probably because it was. A lady came to the door and said that they had shut at 2, but again she was very helpful, had a think and then said -
I NEVER thought I'd be so glad to hear the word "Tesco's", and hear also that it was very close by. I cycled off again, but despite the closeness of it (just over the other side of those trees the lady had said) I still had to ask directions again, of another Mature Redditch Lady, again very helpful) and enjoyed lasagne (vegetable, would have had the meat version as I had a craving for meat, but they'd run out) with garlic bread and salad, and coffee, and iced water. I texted Husband to let him know where I was. Re-energised again, I set off for the B and B, but couldn't remember how to get back to the road I needed. This time I came across an example of Young Redditch Lady, as opposed to Mature Redditch Lady of which I had spoken to several examples. She was looking at her mobile, and was not so helpful -
"Excuse me, I'm looking for the road......"
All right all right, give me a chance and I'll tell you....
"Well the one that goes to Astwood Bank. I came off it just now and can't remember how to get back on it."
"Oh I dunno where that is."
Sneaky look at mobile. Obviously someone far more important than some lost middle aged cyclist on the other end.
"You'd best go that way to (Something) Cross."
I thought - well if you don't know the place I'm going to how can you tell that's the best way to go? Or perhaps you just had to go to (Something) Cross in order to get anywhere else at all in the whole world. I did actually go that way though, as I'd heard of this (Something) Cross place and thought she might actually be right. Which she was.
So, back on the right road, I cycled all the way along the pavement back to the B and B (perhaps two miles) as there were no pedestrians and it was more pleasant than riding on the rather busy road. I'd said I'd arrive at the B and B at 5, and still had time to kill. I was too tired to do any more cycling so went and sat in a local park, but the conversation of the local only-just-teenagers hanging around on the nearby bit of play equipment was not pleasant (I'll leave that to your imagination) so I left and just waited in a gateway to a field and watched the sheep.
When sheep have maggots at their rear end they twitch their tales and fidget a lot. One definitely had maggots as it was doing this a lot. Maggoty sheep - better company than rude teenagers. Then eventually I saw the lady of the B and B go in the front door, so made my way there.
The lady in question (I can't remember her name!) was looking after the place for her friend who was the landlady, and who I noticed had won the "Friendliest Landlady of the Year" award from the AA. Well her friend who was running the place was very friendly too, and showed me where I could keep my bike safely for the next day (I'd asked in advance) before showing me to my room. Oh what bliss to see such a lovely, clean, comfortable room after a freezing night camping! After recharging the smartphone, and my Garmin, I recharged myself with a lovely hot shower, a cup of tea and biscuits, and pranked Husband's phone so that he would ring me, which he did. I told him of my disastrous night's camping and asked him to try and book me another B and B for Friday night, somewhere near Shipston on Stour, as I couldn't face another night's freezing and hip-bruising camping.
Soon I was completely ready for bed and decided to sit up against the pillows and read, as it was only 7.30 and therefore a bit early to go to bed. But I could hardly keep my eyes open and so I thought -
"I think maybe I will just go to bed rather than trying to read even if it is only 7.30."
So I did, and the next thing I knew I heard the only other guest go to the loo at 3.20 am. I had slept solidly for nearly 8 hours. I can't remember the last time I slept like that. And this is someone who never sleeps well in a strange bed on the first night! I dozed off again, slightly disturbed by noises in the hot water tank in the cupboard next to the bed, but otherwise thoroughly enjoying my rest until I got up at 6.10.
Tomorrow - the Festival of Quilts