Hereford to Llandovery – day 1

I’ve never before started a tour in such a disinterested frame of mind. I woke up early, took my alendronic acid, while that was taking effect I went to vote, had breakfast and set off, almost indifferent as to whether I went or not. The clerk at the ticket office was new, or at least, I’d never seen her before, and she tried to sell me a ticket for rather more than the internet told me I should have paid for it. I haggled her down, presented a voucher for £16.50 (the spoils of our late train from Berwick last month) and set off.

It was wet. I got to Lpoo St and it was wet. The rain seemed to stop before I got to Paddington, but that, I’m sure, was a mistake. The train to Great Malvern left at 12.21 and I sat in the first two carriages as the train split at Oxford and only those two were carrying on to Malvern. It was a dull journey.

I had half an hour to kill in Great Malvern and there was a very good tea room. When the waitress saw that I was a cyclist she told me that her father, also one of the fraternity, had recently had an “off” on a descent, and broken a rib and punctured a lung. He’s still recuperating.

Eventually I arrived in Hereford where it was still raining. I changed into cycling gear and found my way out of the town through heavy traffic. The A road I used had a very good cycle path, which was quite a relief, and when I was out in the country the minor roads began and they were indeed very pleasant. It was very humid but at least the rain had stopped.

The road I wanted, or at least, the road the Garmin told me I wanted (I had worked the route out on Bikehike) bore a dead end sign, but Googlemaps said it was passable so off I went. The road became more pot-holed and rough until it was little more than a footpath on what I think was the old Hereford to Hay railway line. I was very relieved that I hadn’t inflicted this on anyone else and I suspect that, had I done so,  the point at which the path crossed the entrance to a field that was clearly used twice a day by a dairy herd, my days would have ended there and then in a very shitty grave. The surface of what I was about to cross had the appearance of smooth concrete before it sets but, having worked on a farm in my youth, I was very well aware that appearances can be deceptive. There was nothing for it but to go through and, as luck would have it, my shoes did not completely disappear. After a few more yards of this filth I reached a road and found some deep puddles to try to clean my tyres, rims, mudguards and brake blocks.

Two or three miles further on I found Preston on Wye and the farmyard through which was the camp site. I spied the tell-tale portaloos on the other side of a very wet sheep field, and picked my way between the puddles and sheep turds as best I could.

At least there were no sheep in the camp field itself and the rain held off for long enough for me to pitch my tent and prepare a meal.

I had no intention of crossing that field any more often than I had to and to do so after dark would have been a serious mistake. The Yew Tree Inn, in the village, therefore remains untested. Almost as soon as I had finished eating, the rain started again and I was scurrying for cover. Although it was not long after 8 p.m., I started to prepare for bed, although I knew that at some stage I would have to brave the quagmire if the bowels required my attention. I had relatively little battery left on the phone and was unsure of the next time I would be able to charge it. I settled down with my tiny Roberts radio and had remarkably good Radio 3 reception, so I listened to Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, interspersed with the raindrops battering the fly sheet of my tent. When the concert finished I just lay there listening to the rain, and it wasn’t long before I had nodded off.

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