Dumped the van in Bedminster and arrived at the opening rally in good time to leave a pannier in the luggage van and pick up a purple tabard as a mechanic. Found Euan and his friend Susan who he had been staying with.
The usual milling around as we waited for a little speechifying, and announcements from the redoubtable Owen, our lead organiser.
Le Grand Depart
Finally we lined up and left College Green and left about 11am full of chanting with bells and whistles to wiggle through town to Castle Park and thence via Market St to Stapelton Road. Fantastic atmosphere through Easton as we passed through chanting FreeFree Palestine, Viva Viva Palestina, From the River to the Sea Palestine will be Free, etc etc.
Out of the City
Thence onto the railway cycle path which is a good way to leave Bristol, 200 of us strung out along the way. Through the tunnel and fork left onto the Northern branch exiting under the M4, where the goods line now ends at the oil terminal, and onto the country lanes.
Lunch Stop at 20km
Weather good for riding, a few hills and a stretch of ‘B’ road before the first rest stop in a pub carpark at Codrington after about 10 miles. Egg and Cress sandwich and a cup of tea sitting in the sun in the pub garden. Nice.
As a member of the mechanicals team I was wearing a purple tabbard to identify us as someone to help with bike problems at the roadside. I dealt with a couple of minor mech problems during the day – a lady whose rear gear changer had become detached. Apparently she had been told before that it needed complete replacement but hadn’t had time. All I could do was apply a couple of cable ties to hold it in place and shift it into a compromise large sprocket so she could manage the hills. She could still use the front changer to get a medium gear.
The other was a simple mudguard mount worked loose and rubbing on the tyre.
A Fine Afternoon for a Ride
Then a lovely relatively flat ride into Wiltshire, sun, tail wind, no cars, good scenery. Malmesbury at 46km was the next refreshment stop where we occupied the town centre car park for bananas and bars and talk.
“Wot, over 20 miles and still expecting us to go on?” said my legs
The next leg towards Swindon was a bit of a long gentle uphill drag and my legs were telling me that they’d gone well over the 20 odd miles they were used to.
The second half of the afternoon seemed to involve a lot of long slow but gentle climbing; the level of chat and chanting dropped noticeably as the peloton became well strung out along the road – stretching over at least a mile along the B4696 with somewhat more traffic than one would like.
Peace in the Park
Eventually at 67km the Lydiard Park where we were regrouping on the outskirts of Swindon hove into view, much to my relief. They were setting up for some sort of festival type event on the other side of the , but we able to stretch out in the sun on the grass or stand around talking. People on the ride from all over the place and of all sorts of ethnicities, ages, backgrounds – a truly diverse group together for a common cause.
Arrival in Swindon
So on the bike again for the final 10km in to Swindon. We arrived at Regent’s Circus (not that one) for a short session of speeches welcoming us from the local PSC and Palestinian community, and also the local community poet (every town should have one!) – I’m writing this after arriving home and am afraid I can remember nothing about them apart from that I found them all good and that the welcome seemed warm and genuine and that Swindon seemed to be a surprisingly hospitable place.
Our bags were delivered by van to the nearby car-park and we were billeted in the Travelodge across the road so that was easy. Plenty of time for a shower and change before going out to the meal and reception.
Al Habib Muslim Centre
The evening meal was provided by the local community and was delicious including spicy veggie and chicken options and home made chocolate ice cream that was very nearly as good as Jane’s own. No alcohol of course, but that wasn’t a problem as it was after 10 by the time we finished talking and set off to walk the 20 mins back to the hotel.