September 8 – Salisbury to Southampton
Aah, the Sunday drive. That timeless activity of hopping in the family car and taking off for a leisurely drive through the countryside, often with the driver wearing a hat of some variety, generally of questionable style. Well, our ride today could be classed as the cycling form of a Sunday drive. Not much happened, we just tootled along on a leisurely ride, through the countryside and, let’s face it, at the moment our style is always questionable, not only reserved to our headwear.
We pedalled out of Salisbury on a beautiful, classic autumn morning. It was chilly and the air was crisp and sharp, but the sky was clear and the sun was shining and the autumn colours were just starting to show their turn on the trees. Lovely.
We were on roads again today, but quiet country roads for most of it, through forests, with the sun trying to make an appearance through the trees. It wasn’t breaking through too much because while it was lovely riding through the trees, it was mighty chilly in all those shadows. Then we were up some hills and out in the countryside, with the vast blue sky above and it was fantastic.
We rode through the small village of West Dean, a peaceful little spot on a Sunday morning. We’ve crossed a few borders over the last few months and always tried to take a snap as we crossed from one country to another. Today we crossed a border and thought we’d maintain the tradition; not a country border this time but a county, as we crossed from Wiltshire into Hampshire.
The ride continued to be peaceful and leisurely, even with a few hills to climb. It was quiet and the sun shone and we pedalled along at an easy clip, just taking in the surroundings and enjoying the leisurely Sunday pace. We arrived in the village of Lockerley Green, where we saw a seat in the sun. The time was spot on, so we decided to stop for elevenses. After a quick visit to the village store by Steve, to pick up an elevenses morsel, we parked ourselves in the sun and took in the peace of the village.
The onward pedal was on roads again, with a few stints on cycle paths and a brief stop at a level crossing. We had pelotons of cyclists pass us again, all giving a wave and a greeting.
“Fair play to you,” said one after spotting our load, as he powered past us on a hill. Whether we were stopped for elevenses, stopped on the side of the road or pedalling along the road, we had people greeting us all along the way. It was lovely. This country really is one of the friendliest places to visit. I love the people, they are so welcoming, so kind and helpful and never backward in coming forward in their friendliness.
Being “Go Slow Sunday”, it was time to partake of that important feature of the day, a Sunday pub lunch. We pedalled through Romsey, stopped at the Three Tuns and had another top spot for lunch at a table outside in the sun, with the bikes parked beside us where we could keep an eye on them and all our worldly goods. We both enjoyed the “vegan pie of the day” with roast potatoes and sautéed vegetables and it was all simply delicious and perfect pub fare.
As we were leaving, we had another wonderful, memorable encounter with some locals. There were two older couples leaving the pub as we were just starting to pedal up the street and I heard behind me, “Do you have far to go?” I turned and one of the ladies walked up for a chat. There began a lovely conversation with Anne, Malcolm and their friends. When I explained where we were going, the lady said, “Do I detect an accent?”
“Yes, Australia,” I said. “Tasmania.”
“Tasmania! Malcolm, Malcolm, did you hear? Tasmania! We were just talking about Tasmania.”
One of their friends then said, “I’ve heard it’s a very nice place.”
“Yes, it is a nice little part of the world,” I said.
Then the lady, who we later learned was Anne after we’d introduced ourselves, looked at the bikes. “I used to do long distance cycling you know and I loved to camp. What sort of tent do you have?” We chatted about touring and nice places to ride, then she asked how we were travelling back to Australia. I explained when we were leaving and that we were travelling back through Singapore. Well…that began a wonderful conversation. It turned out they were all members of the RAF Changi Association and had all served in Singapore at some stage.
“Anne here,” Malcolm told me, “she was in the RAF and was an air traffic controller.”
“Wow, that’s fantastic,” I said. Then I turned to Anne, “You’re inspiring me already! An air traffic controller in the RAF and long distance cycling, I just love hearing about women who tend to buck the trend.” She seemed to be such a go getter and seemed to have been doing some amazing things, at a time when it wouldn’t have been seen as the “norm” for women.
“Oh yes,” she said and we continued chatting with them all, with Malcolm telling us about Singapore.
“When you get there, catch the Number 2 bus and get off at the stop near Jacob’s, a very nice restaurant…” Then they told us about getting to Changi village and museum, because I’d said we were interested in exploring the history when we’re there and I had an uncle who’d been a POW.
Before we left, Anne said, “Usually when I see distance cyclists, I ask what have you’ve run out of and then I can go and get what you need,”
“The conversation has been gift enough,” I assured her, because it had been the most lovely chat, there on the street.
“It’s been so nice to meet you,” said Anne, “happy and safe travels, we’ll be thinking of you.” Then Malcolm gave me their card with contact details and we farewelled each other again as we pedalled off. I just love moments like that. Chance encounters with lovely people that turn into a memorable moment.
As we rode up the street, Steve’s hand came out to the side and I saw his fingers counting up…1…2…3. He knew what was coming and was counting down for its arrival.
“I love it!” I said, before his fingers could reach the count of three. “The people! They are just wonderful!”
A short onward ride and we arrived in the outskirts of Southampton, where we found some digs and called it a day. Sundays have to be a fairly short day because everything closes early, so it was a matter of getting somewhere before supermarkets closed, so we could gather our supplies. So…”Go Slow Sunday” rides again! It was a leisurely day on a perfect, crisp, sunny autumn day, along country roads, through a few little villages and capped off with a classic pub lunch. It really had that “Sunday drive” feel about it. Add to that some more lovely people and…well…it ticked all the boxes once again. We are being spoiled indeed with our days here, with treats aplenty every day. More please!
Distance ridden: 39.3 km
Time in the saddle: 2 hours 36 minutes
Weather: sunny but cool, then nice and warm 18C
Squirrels spotted: 2