Breakfast in the castle was a great way to start the day. Finding out that the drying room had a less than belivable name was not. No matter we hung our clothes out in the sun while we packed up and made ready for the off. My diary notes that this was 'a day of wind, both inside and out'. It seemed that my digestive system had not kept up with the pace we had been setting and soon I had armed myself with the twin combination of Rennie and Wind-eze, the latter of which I was hoping had a very honest title.
This was our first proper day of a head wind, and like the first chat up line of any relationship it felt a bit awkward. Over the course of the rest of the trip however we were to progress through the weary familiarity stage to a resigned 'you're here for the duration' stage. As we plodded our way up to Hereford we came across the A49, a road which we were to be following for over a 100 miles all told. A classic case of a road which is desperate to be a dual carrige way we were exposed to some busy fast traffic, or as I summed it up on paper at the end of the day 'vroom!'. Still Hereford had a nice cafe with food for all and a copy of the Sun for Hugh. We did wonder what the locals were like when we saw bouncers at the door of the shopping mall but they let even us past so the standards are obviously not too high.
Beginning to find our rhythm we soon pushed on and rolled up the A49 past Leominster and up to Ludlow. Here we stopped to shop for food for the evening meal and tried to get into the attached cafe. It was harder than it sounds, with plenty of glass walls to tease you with the promise of people enjoying coffee inside we were struggling to find the door when some passerby pointed us in the right direction commenting that we looked like an intrepid bunch to be fooled by Costa coffee. Duncan and Hugh made the mistake of letting me order and I came back with not so much two cups of coffee but more like two health and safety drowning risks. All the same the caffine and warmth boost was welcome as the weather had taken a slight turn for the cloudy and with the wind chilly.
This being a short rest day we didn't have far to go to get home and you will have guessed already it involved more A49 fun. WIth the others a few hundred metres in front I saw them cheerfully pass over a level crossing at the very moment the barriers started to come down. Having waited for what seemed like several life times a mere two carriage train skulked past looking suitable ashamed to have held up so many people. Cracking on I decided to stop for a comfort break in the next lay by conveniently located up the road. Now believe it or not I don't normally frequent bushes in lay bys but this was a proper walk in through the foliage to reveal space inside. Shortly after entering another guy came crashing in, saw me and stopped reaching for his trouser zip and asked 'I hope your here for what I'm here for'. With the world on pause I reflect that the length of this diary entry greatly depends on what happened next. With play pressed it turned out that he also was looking to relieve some pent up discomfort. To be really clear, of the bladder kind. With this encounter over and some more miles under the wheels I was pleased to have a more normal conversation with the next friendly souls on the road. These were a group also doing Lands End to John O'Groats that had caught mine and Duncan's eye as we biked past. With the inevitable kit comparison taking place we couldn't help notice that of the three bikes two were completely unencumbered while the third was pulling a trailer that your average first car would struggle to get up most hills. I can only assume that at some point in the past a conversation along the lines of - him: 'fancy Lands end to John O'groats dear?' her: 'only if you carry bloody everything, and I'm including my hair straighteners' - had taken place. Still our hearts went out to the guy although we never saw the third cyclist so we left hoping that it was his girlfriends twin sister and they were making this well worth his while.
With the rain starting to become more insistent we pulled up at our bunk house in All Stretton. We were the first to arrive for the day, but it only had three rooms of which we were in one. With hot showers on offer we soon set about our normal routine and putting the kettle on and getting clean. Another couple arrived after us and while Hugh and I were making introductions Duncan burst out of the shower as naked as the day he was born. I thought they took this quite well and barely missed a beat. With ourselves now firmly introduced we started to cook our food but about half way through the electric cut out. Quickly establishing our fuses were ok the owner came over to tell us the neighbours' were also out. Luckily she had a gas cooker so we sent our food over there to be fnished off. Our purchasing tactic had been to buy everything in half kilos, rice, chicken and sauce, so she must have wondered how many we were feeding. In the end we skipped the cake we had also got by the half kilo. The evening entertainment seemed to be setting up a trap for anyone opening the bedroom window by balancing a glass precariously next to the latch. Always wanting to see peoples effort pay off I fell for this hook, line and smasher in the middle of the night with the ensuing fumbling around standing in shards of glass.