At first glance, it looked like a bit of black plastic rubbish, being blown about by the wind. But, closer up, it was clear that the thing in the air just above the Cleddau Bridge, high above the Milford Haven Estuary just outside Pembroke, was some kind of crow. It was deploying all its aeronautical skill in an impressive battle to maintain its position in the face of a fierce, gusty wind.

The chance sighting was a summary of a day when everyone participating in this year’s Whoosh fundraising cycle ride was in some senses that wind-battered crow, struggling to stick to our purpose in the face of hostile elements. Nature was largely to be battled, rather than appreciated. The wind accentuated the unseasonal chill in the air, while nearly constant rain added extra sting to the gusts.

But there were, as ever, the compensations that keep people coming back for more of this kind of cycling. We enjoyed a delightful ride for a while along a traffic-free path on an old railway line, deep in a forested river bank. There was a bleak beauty to the moorland we reached after climbing up from sea level. The fast, final descent into Cardigan was thrilling. For a group of cyclists who are mostly based in London, it was deeply refreshing to ride on roads used by so few motor vehicles.

Nature provided some reminders right from the start of the challenges we might face. The year’s sodden spring had flooded part of the bike path immediately outside the picturesque town of Tenby, starting point for this year’s ride. We waded or rode through, according to our levels of daring, and spent much of the rest of the day with damp feet. Then, just past the spectacular Manorbier Castle, we tackled the first really brutal climb of this year’s trip. There is always a sense of relief in discovering one’s still able to ride a bike up the kind of climb that looks unscaleable at first sight. After lunch in Haverfordwest, we set off across bleak, wind-battered moorland, across a series of pushing ups and downs.

It was the kind of landscape I found easiest to tackle on my own. Climbing a hill a little outside Haverfordwest, I overtook a group of other riders and felt compelled to keep going, pitting myself alone against wind, rain and hills. I occupied myself with mental arithmetic, working out when I’d completed two-thirds of the distance then three-quarters and, finally, the welcome increments after 90 per cent.

But I was also grateful to be part of a team. When my navigation system grew confused about its location as I left Haverfordwest, two other members of the Whoosh! team helped me to find my way. We rode companionably together along the old railway line between the Cleddau Bridge and Haverfordwest.

The support of a team made me think of the Gaza Sunbirds, the paracycling team that is one of the charities this year’s ride is supporting. It is clear that their experience of cooperating with each other has informed their pivot towards distributing aid amid the horrors of the war in their territory. They face challenges immeasurably greater than any we have known.

I was also struck by my relief at being away from the pressures of cycling in London. That in turn put me in mind of the CHIPS peacemaking project, based in Brixton, which seeks to build peace in communities where it can be elusive.

The day’s riding ended with an exhilarating descent into Cardigan, where I reached speeds of 30mph and was grateful for my new bike’s sensitive disc brakes. It was a welcome reminder of the simple joys of being on a bike. I felt at last like a parakeet, swooping off its perch for the sheer joy of it, rather than that black collection of wind-battered feathers focused solely on getting through.

Our local charity is CHIPS Peace who are peacemakers in Brixton.

Our international charity is Amos Trust and specifically the Gaza Sunbirds.

Follow us @HHWhoosh