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Seventy five and still exploring

Seventy-five-year-old Benenden member Michael Griffiths, who calls himself a ‘wandering wrinkly’, says he loves nothing better than taking off on mini-adventures equipped with only his bike and a tent.

Tell us about your hobby

Around 20 years ago I started wandering – taking off on a trip to walk or cycle an area, equipped with a tent to sleep in. I do it a few times a year and recently cycled around Gloucestershire for a week, and on another trip I caught a bus into Essex and hiked around the marshlands for five days, always camping at night. When I’m at home I keep moving too; I potter about, I cycle and I walk. In this modern age of cars perhaps I am unusual but I was brought up to walk to the shops or the library and I’ve done it all my life. If I can’t walk I will ride my bike. Since I retired (eight years ago) I’ve had the time to ride and camp more, and I now cycle with the local cycling club as well.

How far do you ride?

In a busy week – for example when I lead rides for the cycling club – I can cover up to 120 miles. My maximum distance in a day is about 70 miles. I keep a diary and averaged about 80 miles a week during the summer months last year.

What’s the appeal of your wandering adventures?

I have a lot of fun. I explore new places and meet new people along the way. A few years ago I was heading to France for a cycling trip and had reached Newhaven in Sussex from my home in Maidstone, Kent. I was in a village near the port and needed to find somewhere to camp for the night before my ferry the next morning. Riding through a village nearby I got talking to a man who said I could sleep in his front garden. While putting up my tent his wife brought me out a cup of tea. I’ve also camped in a millionaire’s back garden after chatting to him.

Do you plan your route in advance?

Yes, that’s half the fun. I have a friend who I go away with sometimes; we have cycled into Belgium, France and Sweden, and those trips are planned some months in advance. I map out shorter trips – like a recent one to Essex – about a month beforehand. I was a Scout leader for a number of years and their motto is ‘Be Prepared’.

What do your wife and family think of your trips?

They think I am nuts but they realised a few years ago that I am incurable. They used to worry but I now take a simple mobile phone with me (not a smartphone as the battery runs out too quickly) and text my wife once a day – if there’s a signal that is.

What benefits do you think these mini-adventures give you?

They keep me sharp. I need to be thinking ahead about my route, where I am going to pitch my tent next and how I am going to adapt if the weather turns bad. Twenty years ago if it rained I just cycled through it but now I want to know where the churches and bus shelters are so that I can pause somewhere dry. They also keep me healthy and fit, so I do not need pills and require few visits to the doctor.