* Still no swash-buckling, but there was a bit of sheep-bothering…

TL;DR: I biked to Stonehenge, and saw not only a couple dozen barrows, but also the “Fields of Gold” of Sting fame.

I was paranoid, nay, worried to the very deepest part of my marrow that I would sleep in this morning and miss my “very special thing”. My “very special thing” was a guided bike ride I booked to Stonehenge and beyond. I needn’t have worried, because my level of worry had me up at 5:30 (NB: I am freaking exhausted now, and expect to fall asleep at the keyboard at any moafgasdf hogres uh, where was I?) and raring to go. A tasty hot buffet breakfast with nuns and clergymen (theological college, remember?) and I was ready to go.

Dave, the husband half of the husband and wife team that make up Heritage Cycle Tours met me in front of the college with a bike, helmet, water, and cycle-friendly comestibles to keep us going. I was the only one on the ride, which was great, because it meant we went at my pace (which ended up being quite quick, go go pedal power!), and we chatted the entire way. The route was mostly on National Cycle Network (NCN) paths, or quiet roads. We spent a lot of time on NCN 45, which follows the Avon. At one point we were between two fields of grazing sheep, riding uphill on the barest hint of a track in the grass. Definitely wouldn’t have made it on *my* bike! We also passed Sting’s estate, and Dave made a point of taking my picture in front of it. The building, I admit, was a fabulous Elizabethan specimen. And there were fields of barley. Eh? Eh?

I’m totally a fanboy of cool old stuff, and cresting the hill in front of Stonehenge sent a shiver of wow down my spine. The one drawback was the A303, one of those ridiculous british roads that make me wonder what Beeching was thinking about. Silly Beeching. IIRC it’s the road that makes people discuss travel to the West Country in hours rather than miles, just so you don’t get a false sense of how long it’ll take. Anyway, we had to get across this road to get to the henge. Not impossible, but we had to wait a bit for a sympathetic wave.


It took 15 minutes to get my ticket (and had we dallied, it would have been double if not more, as the line snaked out after I arrived), and then into the interpretive centre and out of the interpretive centre and into the neolithic houses built this summer. I followed the build on Twitter, so standing inside them felt like a link of digital with the extreme end of analog. One of the buildings was closed as there was an ongoing flint-knapping course. I told Dave (who hadn’t come with), and it got on to a conversation about Phil Harding of Time Team. According to him, had he known I liked the show, he would have arranged for me to have a beer with Phil last night. Oh Well.


We biked back down to the henge (the visitor centre, for those that have been in the past has been moved 2km uphill from the site), and I oohed and aahed for about 30 minutes and took 50031 photos. It was good. As you can see, I was (erm, am) pretty exhausted. Go jet lag!


On the way back, we took a path behind the site. A trio of sheep stood in the path, lazily chomping away at the grass between the wheel ruts. I soon learned that these sheep, unlike the sheep of Cres, are completely unimpressed with humans on large metal contraptions coming at them at high speed. Fortunately, I managed to jook and shimmy and not head down the hill without my bicycle, and not have to pay a farmer for bicycle extraction, though I have been craving mutton ever since. Go figure.

The rest of the ride was idyllic: quiet, quiet roads, thatched-roof houses, and a break at the Bridge Inn where I ate a chicken caesar wrap and drank a Hopback Brewery Summer Lightning (which was so good I wish I had another one RIGHT NOW!) in their garden overlooking the Avon River. Dave and I discussed books and technology and bikes and it was all good. Alas we couldn’t stay there all day, so we finished our ride, and parted ways at the college. I collected my bags and headed for the train station.


I lucked out at the station. The machine couldn’t read my finger for some reason, so I went to the ticket window, and the ticket agent sold me a special one-day return to London for £15, as opposed to the £37.10 single I was trying to buy at the machine. WOOT! £22.10 more for real ale! 100 minutes of train and 40 minutes of tube/DLR and I was in my hotel, trying to will myself to eat, rather than fall asleep.

I won, and went out without a raincoat, which meant that massive clouds began scudding across the skyline. My plan to cross the river on the Emirates Airline and go to the real ale pub near the Millennium Dome became a plan to go to the pub across the street. It was OK, but they only had two hand pumps and both of them were empty, so I settled with a Bass, the only english ale they had. And now? I write this before passing out from exhaustion, yet again! Whee!

PS: Going over this post, I realize that I didn’t say anything about the barrows. It’s because they were ubiquitous. That is all.