Travellers' Tales: Mercury rising

The Chilterns: rolling hills and some shade from the July sun
A heatwave lay heavy on Bob Forster’s tour of Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, and Gloucestershire

There’s no accounting for the weather. July should have been perfect: summertime, and the living is easy. My annual tour had everything going for it. What could be better?

Day one was continuous rain. No let up. I rode south from Oxford, damp yet cheerful as there’s not much that can get through a cape. But this was not going according to plan.

The sun, so they say, shines on the righteous, as well as on cycle tourists. Next day Great Missenden was bathed in warmth. Across the Chilterns, Henley oozed class. I sat on the river bank, pint of milk on one side, innertube inflated on the other, just making sure that puncture was mended. I was wreathed in smug content.

And so it continued, on to Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Cirencester on successive days. Each day warmed further. No problem – every rider knows that we make our own breeze as we ride onwards. But by now, the temperatures were serious. Sun cream was smothered on ripening flesh.

Stonehenge to Cirencester was mercifully flat but mercilessly hot. At Avebury stone circle, the ice creams stood no chance at all in temperatures edging into the mid-thirties. The final day of my tour broke all records. Some distance away, Cambridge recorded 38.7º centigrade. Oxford was not far behind, a phrase that sounds familiar from the boat race commentary.

All of a sudden, the heat caught up with me. No more cockiness. After resting, I could barely get my leg over the bike. Home was a tepid bath and glass after glass of cordial. Then my wife placed me gently into the recovery position: stretched on the armchair with tea to drink and, just a fingertip away, a man-sized slab of cake. I would live to pedal another day.