Did I ever tell you about the time I went to a peace camp?
Well I was 16, so it must have been in April 1984. Radical times... Miners were striking. Marchers were marching. And there was something called the STAR march. STAR was an acronym for "Stop The Arms Race". I cycled from Wirral to Chester, then I marched from Chester to Shropshire Then I rode home again. The protest march went on much further, eventually all the way to Greenham Common in Berkshire.
A few days or weeks later (I don't remember exactly) I concieved the idea of cycling to a peace camp, and without telling my mum or dad, I got up before the sun one fine spring morning and went. My route was the A41. This used to be one of the longest roads in Britain, although now it is no longer contiguous. It's become the B4141 in parts, for example, and much of it has now been usurped by various by-passes and motorways, but at one time it ran all the way from Birkenhead to London.
So as a fit 16 year old, I cycled and I cycled and I cycled some more. My route took me from Neston to Chester to Malpas to Whitchurch to a tiny little place called Whixhall Moss, amidst the marshes and bogs of Western Shropshire. There I rested in a field. The next day I continued onwards and as night fell, I was passing through the southern part of the West Midlands conurbation, looking for somewhere to stop and sleep.
I went through Solihull and a Knowle before proceeding further south to banbury and eventually to my goal.
Near Knowle there is an "L" shaped building. Good enough.
South of Knowle the country starts to become more rural. By the time I got to a suitable field, it was very late, I'd been cycling all day, and I was as tired as I've ever been in my life. Too tired to put up a tent. So I just unruilled my sleeping bag and slept in it.
Bloody thing had frost on it the next morning. Jeez it was cold. Got warm though and got going.
The sun shone hot and strong once the early morning mist had burned off, and I got sunburned. This wasn't helped by the lack of panniers or anything. Everything was on my back in a big heavy rucksack. Every time I took it off it would sccrrapppee down my poor burned arms.
Eventually I got to the camp and had a lovely time for a few days, then I cycled all the way home again. Got back in two days. I couldn't do it now.
A couple of months later and I did the same thing again, only this time, an anarchist from Glasgow borrowed my bike and never brought it back.
This is what Upper Heyford looks like these days. 24 years ago there were F1-11's, B52's and C5's. Now it's just a bloody big car park.
The peace camp itself is just a tree lined track. It runs for a couple of hundred yards and then comes to an abrupt halt at a fence. A road to nowhere.
Oh yeah. I nearly forgot.