Kimbolton to Portsmouth 211kms(132m)
The cleats clip firmly into the pedals, lycra makes contact with the saddle, and the rubber once again meets the road. It’s the start of another journey of serendipity. Santiago de Compostela lies 1200 miles in front of me, and I am once again gripped by the anticipation.
Kimbolton to Jordans (63m)
A heart-warming send-off in the company of friends, accompanied by a blessing at our village church, saw me into
the first few strides of the journey. Passing through Ampthill, I had to pay homage to Catherine of Aragon by paying a visit to the monument that marks the location of the Castle where she was briefly imprisoned. My route took me across the Chilterns, where the woods were still alive with bluebells, and onto Chalfont
St Giles, where I ‘stumbled’ across the cottage where John Milton lived, escaping the plague in London, and where he finished Paradise Lost and made a start on Paradise Regained. I was astonished at the number of Windsors who had paid a visit, their names proudly displayed in the visitors’ book.
Two miles up the road, next door to the youth hostel, is the Quaker Meeting Room, famous for its connection with William Penn, founder of the British colony which later became the state of Pennsylvania. Amongst the serried ranks of identical gravestones, you will find his grave alongside other members of his family.
My first night was spent at Jordans Youth Hostel, a “scout hut” arrangement of accommodation that is popular amongst itinerant workers
(land surveyors, TV production people etc) and they thought it novel that a long-distance cyclist should come for a single night. They invited me to join them in their BBQ, and we sat around the camp-fire into the small hours sharing small talk. The next day was Friday and they were all heading home for a relaxing weekend.
Jordans to Portsmouth (93 miles)
En route to the ferry port, there were a few obligatory stops. The first was to the ruins of Reading Abbey, with its legendary connections with the route to Santiago and repository of the alleged left hand of St James. Part of the site is now occupied by the church of St James, which seems to honour these historic ties. Interestingly, behind the church is the site of the prison where Oscar Wilde had been detained.
Though time was at a premium, I still took a detour to make brief visits to the houses of both Jane Austen (Chawton) and the naturalist Gilbert White, but the visits were brief. Both set in the delightful environment of the
South Downs. And one thing that puzzles me about the Downs…….having cycled across them, why were they never called the “Ups”? The impression was singularly one of constantly going up!
Going through Clanfield I chanced by another church dedicated to St James, which seems another clear indication of the traffic that must have passed this way in medieval times en route to Santiago.
And so to the ferry port, for a night crossing to St Malo. Boarding I meet a group of six cyclists (of a certain age!) who are off to spend five days riding, eating and drinking there way around Brittany. I reflect on this, quash a tremor of envy, but they bolster my ego telling me that I’m doing the real thing, that I’m a proper cyclist etc………. The next morning I charge off the boat bidding them “bon voyage”, but their
escapade stays in my mind until the heavens opened and poured its content on my bike, while I’m in a Tourist Office in Dinan writing this blog! What a lucky break!