We woke to rain on the windows and got up and pottered around quietly, sorting ourselves out in the hope of not waking our hosts – suspect we failed but hopefully not too much. The rain eased and we cycled across Winchester to have breakfast with our long standing friends, Tony and Liz/Helen. Six weeks ago their 28 year old daughter had died – no medical cause has been found –it appears her heart had just stopped. Their grief is deep but maybe not as raw as I would have expected, but they are facing a world they never expected or would never have wanted. Rachel was wonderful and had 3 small children; her lovely husband Matthew also faces a life he never expected or would never have wanted.
They were back from Rachel’s Cambridge College where she was a choral scholar; the chapel had put on a memorial service. It could have been too much for others but their faith is rock solid and they are trying to make sense of these terrible events. It was good to share time with them even in these difficult times; they remain so important to us and – we hope – us to them.
We cycled off with slightly heavy hearts but it was soon too beautiful to be thinking of death. The lanes going south from Winchester were lovely and the sun was out. Then a section of the route hit main roads as we ambled towards Romsey. There are so many cars, vans and trucks in the South East of England! I suppose all this prosperity causes traffic but I was not sure why they had to all be out on the road at the same time as us!
Romsey was forgettable but the route soon took us towards the New Forest. The road ambled through the open countryside – lots of wild ponies with odd clumps of trees. It was very different to the dense woodland of the Forest of Wyre where we live.
Then a new experience – gravel riding. For the uninitiated (i.e. us until yesterday), this is riding on gravel tracks with unpredictable surfaces. It is quite a challenge when there is any weight on the front wheel and there is no rolling effect to ease the journey – so it adds up to hard work, especially as the trail went uphill.
But the upside is that it was quiet, beautiful and peaceful. We stopped for a sandwich lunch – Tony and Liz had given us hard boiled eggs from their chickens and – with a bit of squeezed mayo – these tasted like a 4 course meal at the Ritz.
Then we cycled into Ringwood leaving the delights of the New Forest behind us. A few repairs at the excellent bike shop in Ringwood and then the relief to hear Becky had exchanged contracts and so would be moving to her new home in Bristol. We ambled off with smiles on our faces towards a stop for tea in Wimbourne Minster. Thought about looking round the Minster but it was already getting late so we pressed on to reach the campsite at Wareham.
Long day – 93km and started later than usual but our pressing thoughts were on Rachel – a very full and varied life cut tragically far too short.