Whoosh Day Three. Distance: 69.7 miles; Six hours 32 minutes

It was one of the classic views anywhere in England. As I rode this morning from the church hall in Salisbury where I had spent the night to meet other participants in the Whoosh ride, I turned a corner to see the city’s cathedral, its spire silhouetted against the rising sun. Sheep were grazing amid the mist that clung to the meadows.

The scene was one of many reminders during the day of how in the area around Salisbury the sacred for millennia seems to have found it particularly easy to break through. The day would take us not only to the 13th century cathedral but also to Stonehenge and Avebury, via multiple villages with archetypally English parish churches.

Those sights would come amid multiple encounters with the overpowered cars popular with people who speed around the rural roads where we were cycling. It was hard not to wander how healthy a legacy this attachment to conspicuous fast cars was bequeathing to future generations.

That in turn prompted me to think about the briefness of each human’s lifespan and the importance of bequeathing things of lasting value.

The sense of the spiritual was enhanced when Robert Titley, canon treasurer of the cathedral, blessed us as we prepared to ride off. “May the road rise up to greet you,” he prayed for us. It was a kind gesture, coloured only slightly by how the phrase reminds me of the sensation I’ve had as I’ve headed towards the road when crashing my bike.

We headed off, via the Iron Age fort of Old Sarum, for Salisbury Plain. Soon, after a swift repair to one rider’s punctured tyre, we were at Stonehenge. The site struck me initially for a single reason – it is one of the very few pre-historic sites in the British Isles that comes across as magnificent and awe-inspiring even before the visitor interpretation centre tells one it is.

I was impressed, however, not only by the stones’ extraordinary, 4,000-year-old-plus age but by the thought of how generation upon generation of people had interacted with them. I particularly recalled how Thomas Hardy set the arrest for murder of his heroine Tess of the D’Urbervilles at the monument.

We rode on across Salisbury Plain’s landscape of active and defunct military installations. Although some riders decided the day was proving too gruelling to follow the entire itinerary, others headed for Avebury, the stone circle equally mysterious to Stonehenge encircling a village.

The route to Avebury turned out to be challenging one. It first rose via a steep climb to a height of 262m. The route then disappeared into a rutted track that left some riders wheeling their bikes downhill.

The village of Avebury was nevertheless a bracing lesson in multiple layers of the past impose themselves on each other. Ancient stones encircled centuries-old houses and a beautiful church while traffic rushed through the village on a busy road and we cursed how the town had only patchy signals for mobile data – a technology that the village’s past inhabitants would have cursed as the most outlandish of black magic.

Since most of the Whoosh riders are Christians, we believe that our eternal future lies not only in material things. However, the village made me think about what I am leaving behind for future generations and the importance of making the best possible use of my few decades of opportunity to shape what future generations will find.

It struck me that both Tumaini Medical Centre and First Step Trust, the two charities that the ride is supporting, were doing their best to address that challenge.

For the rest of the ride, however, I thought less loftily. A group of us got a little bit lost and I struggled to attack the hills with the vigour I had displayed earlier in the day.

Nevertheless, there came an almost magical moment when we came upon a group of fellow riders. We headed together towards our lodgings for the night, exhausted but satisfied in a landscape where it is uncommonly easy to be aware that people have been experiencing such emotions for generation upon generation before.

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