The sun is cracking the flags, an Indian summer in September. Site is full and the smell of barbecues lingers on the little breeze that there is.
A day off and unbelievably, I’m not tired. I seem to spend a lot of my free time too tired to do anything and have been spending any afternoons that I get off snoozing.
Pulling on the Lycra for the first time in a month I marvel at how my cycling top is fitting me a little better than the last time we cycled. All in all between us this morning we clocked that our combined weight loss since the start of lockdown is now at 45kg. That’s 22 bottles of 2ltr coke, hard to imagine lugging all that around with us.
Tyres checked, helmet buckled, cleats clipped in and we’re ready for the off. Grasping the handle bars, I steady myself and realise I’ve forgotten my gloves. Back off the bike, rummaging around for keys and off I trot to find them whilst The Boss stands propping the bike up shaking his head.
Heading towards Broadway the sun warms our bones and the breeze we create whilst riding is welcomed. This is where, He who must be followed, as I’m on the back of the bike, announces that we are going to try to get the tandem up Snowshill and onto Broadway Tower. After a month out of the saddle I’m not as confident and sit muttering under my breath on the back. It’s always the same, he’s learnt not to tell me of his routes and our destinations until I’m in the saddle and nearly there. He’s sussed me out he knows I’d object and decide not to go. He softens the blow of having to climb a big hill by saying that Chipping Campden is snuggled down the other side of the hill and that I’ll like it… once we’ve climbed the big hill, of course.
The hill starts almost and soon as he announces his plans. The gears clunk and I shift in my seat, got to get the old bum comfy. I start the ride concentrating on pedalling, as usual I’m easily distracted. Head down and my eyes are drawn to the grass verges. My feet are still rotating the pedals, my breathing is getting harder but my giddy aunt, there are dandelion leaves in the verges bigger than my foot. Being a tortoise grandmum I’m forever on the lookout for tortoise dinners. The fact that the tortoise is two and a half hours away and it’s going to be two more weeks until I see her again sickens me a bit, an amazing amount of weeds going to waste. I lift my head and the hill still climbs on ahead of us. My legs are starting to burn a bit and the sun is blazing down. My scalp is leaking and my eye lashes are sweating. Changing my grip on the handlebars, the gradient ramps up a bit and words of encouragement are shouted from the front. Head down, I’m now concentrating on his bum, I wonder when the logo came off the back of his cycling shorts leaving behind bits of white that make it look like his shorts are in holes. Not far now, he yells, 40 yards, pedal, pedal, wipe my forehead with my gloves, I’m glad now I went back for them. My legs are really burning now. 20 yards he yells, he can see the summit, I can see his bum. Easing off he tells me he’s going to pull over, we’re almost there. Climbing off the bike my legs feel like they belong to someone else, a toddler learning to walk, all wobbly with all my concentration going into my balance. I flop on the grass verge and down half a bottle of water. Staring out between the trees we are quite high.
Back in the saddle and we pass the lavender fields looking all forlorn, their season is done and the crops have been harvested. Broadway tower peeks through the trees, a bit more of a climb, but nothing my little legs can’t cope with.
Dismounting at the gates we head across the grass towards the highest castle in the Cotswolds, so the sign tells us and don’t my legs know it. It’s busy with a socially distanced queue waiting patiently to enter the tower, masks wrapped around forearms or hanging off one ear, people chat within their own little groups itching forward slowly towards the door. We don’t want to go in, we want to drink in the amazing views and try to grab a photo of the tower minus people, not easy but I’m determined.
Photos grabbed, legs rested and forehead wiped. Back in the saddle and down the other side of the hill towards Chipping Campden. Drum brake on, off, on, off. We whizz on with the wind whistling in our ears. Hedgerows slowly turn into buildings and a more leisurely pace is resumed. The pretty town of Chipping Campden grows around us.
The streets are busy with cars, tables outside bars and cafes are full. We grab a bench right next to the old Market Hall, built in the 1600s it had the most magnificent roof and lethal floor you can imagine, certainly not designed for cleats or high heels.
Scrabbling my way along the limestone flags, I wander for a little bit, leaving The Boss on the bench. I don’t go far, I realise that unless I take off my cycling shoes I’m going to break my neck. Maybe now isn’t the time for peering into shop windows and admiring the historic limestone buildings. I totter back to our bench and we’re ready for the off.
Clipped back into the pedals the ride back to site is a lot easier than the ride here and we make good time. Back in time to add the aroma of our tea, sweet chilli lamb kebabs to the mouth watering barbecue smells hanging over the site.