A Travellerspoint blog

England

North West England

sunny
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After rounding the Wirral I had to cross the Mersey, so I caught a ferry, and yes they do play the song. I could hardly keep a straight face. On the Liverpool side there is much evidence of declining industries, much of the quayside has derelict wasteland or warehouses, quite depressing. Riding through Southport I could not believe the size of the houses, huge mansions everywhere. The beach here was strange, I couldn't see the sea and the beach seemed to have grass growing on it in some places. I stopped and asked for directions from some other cyclists who were from Bolton Hot Wheels. A group of people ranging fron 8 to 80 with the older riders aiming to get young people into cycling. One girl had only started to cycle that year and was going to do the coast to coast. The oldest cyclist said if he was half his age he would of come along with me.
By the time I got to Lythan St Anne's there was a head wind that was blowing sand into my face, I was not enjoying that. I saw a sign for a private school that said "If you aim for the moon and miss, at least you will be amongst the stars." What are they teaching those kids and what dumb ass parent would send their child to a school that says that.
I then cycled through Blackpool, I could tell you what I thought of that, but I'd better not. Maybe it was the headwind that coloured my opinion. I did take the photo you see below and tweet that I must have taken a wrong turn and ended up in Paris by mistake. My next tweet said "Silly me Paris doesn't stink of chips, this must be Blackpool."
Paris?

Paris?


I camped near the river Wyre that night and was over taken the following morning by Pete and Mick. They were two retired friends from Blackpool that were happy for me to slipstream them. This was the first cyclists I had ridden with since the first day with Paddy. These guys were fit, they were planning to do a hundred miles that day. It was great to have help with the navigation and a bit of company, we even ate lunch at Siverdale before they headed back. I hope I am that fit when I get to their age.
I carried on solo following the coast next to Morecambe Bay, what a lovely place it is. I had to ride along the A590 for a short while and I was not impressed by the room given to cyclists by some of the drivers, it was not even a narrow road. I took the road towards Barrow in Furness and Met up with a young triathalete called Pete Denness, he even slowed down from his training ride to chat. On finding out what I was doing and seeing how I was struggling up some of the hills he invited me to his place for some food, "Don't worry my Mum will cook for you, you can even stay in the front room." True to his word the Denness family were very accommodating. Thank you for your trust and generosity.
I left Roose (near Barrow) and soon my front pannier rack broke. I went to every cycle shop in Barrow and not one had racks for sale, but one shop sent me to a Gilmour fabrications that was run by a cyclist called Mark. They welded the aluminium rack and did not even charge me. Thank you Barrow, really showed the wonderful side of the human spirit.
Action shot

Action shot


I carried on up the coast to Mawbray, this totalled 91 miles for the day and I had a massive delay getting the pannier rack fixed. On waking the following morning it was raining heavily, so I decided to rest, read and eat in my tent. Eventually I broke camp and rode the 5 miles to Silloth and stopped at a cafe to eat some more. I met up with another cyclist called Tony in the cafe and the weather had cleared up, we rode along together and swapped stories. Tony was 68 years old and was riding the route of Hadrian's Wall, 168 miles and he was planing to do it in four days. It was nice going at Tony's pace and we managed 35 miles together, we stopped for a cup of tea and even had food together in Carlise before going our own ways. The amazing thing about Tony was that he had a stroke two years previously. I told him about my fathers stroke and how it was a motivating factor for me doing this ride. I was even raising money for the stroke association. Talking to Tony about his stoke and recovery gave me optimism over my fathers condition and I can now see the progress moving quite fast. Tony's medical staff told him that for up to four years there can be improvements.
After leaving Tony in Carlise I did over 30 miles in two hours, this taught me about pacing myself. When I had ridden with Pete and Mick I went fast early in the day, come the evening I had little energy left. When I rode with Tony I went slow in the morning and afternoon then could go very fast in the evening. This distance took me across the border into Scotland. I rode through Annan and had to do a double take at a shop that was carrying my name, I thought I needed my eyes testing at first.
That's me, that is

That's me, that is

Posted by ukextremes 15:51 Archived in England Comments (0)

East Coast Of England


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On waking on my last day in Scotland I was greeted by a fresh dog poo just outside my tent, thanks to the inconsiderate dog owner for leaving me that present. I broke camp and headed for the border and the Northumberland coast. What a gem this coastline is, the beaches are sublime and there were even people sitting on them, unlike in Scotland. I now regret not taking the detour to Lindisfarne, it would have meant over five miles down a road and then five miles doubling back. My reason was to make it to a friend of my sister who lives in Newcastle. I was stunned when I came around a corner and saw Banbourough castle. I freewheeled down the hill in awe of the scale of the structure, forgetting to take any video, but stopped and had lunch on the cricket pitch next to it. What a venue to play sport.
Banborough Castle

Banborough Castle


I decided to follow the National Cycle Network path number 1 for a section of this coast and wish I hadn't. It was more of a goat track than a cycle path. Although some of the paths are excellent, others are less than desirable to ride on. The view and route was lovely but I was carrying far too much weight on my bike to be riding along this path, still I persevered and made it through. The distance into Newcastle was further than what the road signs were saying, this was making me later than what I had said to Sara, I was getting hungry, then I went through Whitley Bay which had the smell of curry for about 2 miles. Eventually made it to Sara's and met her 9 year old, Adam, who is good friends with my nephew, Noah. Adam showed me his new drum kit, what a great mother, I was never allowed one. I wonder if she is regretting it now?
I left Newcastle and headed for South. For 60 miles there was not very much to look at apart from the transporter bridge at Middlesborough.Middlesborough transporter bridge

Middlesborough transporter bridge


After Redcar the route took me onto the North Yorkshire moors and the lovely town of Whitby, which is where I stayed that night. After Whitby there was less than 20 miles of the North Yorkshire moors left. Once off the moors it was mostly flat all the way down the East coast.
If you read my Twitter feed then it would become clear that I was not a fan of Hull or the surrounding area, my sister phoned me to make sure I was out of Hull as she worried for my safety.
I think this is a Typo

I think this is a Typo


After leaving Hull I Tweeted "I think this is a typo, surely it should say Jesus or Hull, choose. Its the only way I would choose Jesus!"
I did not really enjoy this part of the ride from Scarborough to Kings Lynn, partly due to the flat ride and also due to having a stomach complaint. I had no appetite at all, I would go to a shop for food and wonder around looking at food knowing that I needed to eat but not seeing anything that took my fancy. This was very worrying as before I would eat everything and needed to consume approximately 6,000 calories a day. I later found out that there was a strange life form growing in my water bottle that I used for my carbohydrate drink. Once this was cleaned and sterilised then my problems ceased.
I was not looking forward to Norfolk, thinking it would be flat and after spending the last few days on the flat I was finding it monotonous. I was pleasantly surprised by Norfolk, it is not flat, there are slight hills that meant freewheeling was possible. I got to the North coast of Norfolk and was looking for somewhere to camp and cook my evening meal when I could smell something delicious. On rounding the corner I could saw a restaurant called The Yurt at Drove Orchards in Hunstanton. This was a 14 metre yurt, the largest I have ever seen, on asking if they took cards I went to the toilet block to wash for dinner. The taster menu for a starter was nice and the sardines for my main was delightful, washed down with a very pleasant Sauvignon Blanc. I have just found out that the restaurant is no longer there, but they are looking for another venue, I would definitely reccomend finding the new venue as the experience was wonderful and reasonably priced.
The following day I carried along the North coast of Norfolk and on reaching Cromer I was looking at the back wheel of my bike when I realised not everything was how it should be.
Not good

Not good


This was the case on four of the rear spokes, I called the shop I had bought the bike from only a few months earlier. John at Spa Cycles in Harrogate was most helpful he even said "I've bloody told Dawes that that rim isn't up to the job." He arranged to have a new rear wheel sent down to me, I just had to get to a bike shop that dealt with Dawes bikes (it was a very nervous 20 miles avoiding all the bumps and potholes I could). I was sent to Streetlife in Norwich, which was good for me for two reasons. Firstly the pub across the road did very cheap rolls, which was why I went there, and they had the largest selection of real ales I have ever seen. My only regret is that I could not try them all. Secondly, a friend that lives in Wymondham, had invited me to stay, but I had replied that he was too far inland for me to detour. Strange how things work out sometimes, I had to have a day off and wait for the wheel to be delivered and even had a place to stay, with a friend to catch up with. Thanks Ian.

Posted by ukextremes 13:10 Archived in England Comments (0)

South East England


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I left Norwich and headed for Lowestoft. This meant that I missed approximately 20 miles of the coast, but I more than made up that distance by heading into Norwich and back. The Ness in Lowestoft is the furthest Eastern point of the mainland UK and is the only one that is marked with something, a disk with the edge showing the bearing and distance to various points in the world. There is an industrial estate situated next to it with a large wind turbine nearby, not like the two previous extremities I visited, which just had lighthouses.
The Ness

The Ness

The Ness

The Ness


After leaving Lowestoft I realised that I needed to get a move on, the problem was reaching the ferry at Tilbury before the upcoming bank holiday weekend. Tilbury was the nearest Thames crossing point for me, otherwise I would have to ride on to Greenwich. I ended up spending the night at Marlesford and was treated to another special sunset.
Another nice sunset

Another nice sunset


I set off early so as to make the ferry by 5.30pm, it was a total of 87 miles to Tilbury and I avoided going into Felixstowe and Harwich as these roads were in and out on the same road and would have meant me missing the ferry. I made it to Tilbury with an hour to spare and then headed off into Kent. That night I made it to Rochester and was surprised to see a Russian sub moored in the river.
The Russians are invading

The Russians are invading


As I was looking for something to eat another touring cyclist asked me where it is good to camp. She was a visitor from Holland and had tried the nearby camp site only to find out it was only for caravans. They would not even let a lone female camp there for one night, shame on them. I told her that I just camp in woods or a field and that she was welcome to join me. We looked on her map and I located a suitable spot and rode the couple of miles there, set up camp and cooked an evening meal. It was nice to have some company. The only problem with the location was that it was next to the high speed rail line to Europe. Those trains are long, fast and loud, but they do not run all night luckily. I had a good nights sleep, as always, the Dutch girl not so, she said she was worried about wild camping and kept waking up. We had breakfast and rode on together for a bit, but I had to leave her to meet up with some friends.
James and Grace live in Chartham and we arranged to catch up in the lovely town of Whitstable. I hadn't seen them since they left Plymouth three years ago with their new born son Noah. Now three Noah has a big spark of life in him, James and Grace have their hands full there. I decided to have a half day and spend the night at theirs. Good decision, I had a bath, some food and a sofa to sleep on. Oh and the best thing, some good company.
Noah

Noah


Grace dropped me back to Whitstable and my bike, which I had left locked up by a pub. I was nervous about it being left, but was glad to see it was still there as I left it. I went round the coast path towards Margate even stopped off and had some cockles and mussels. Could not face those jellied ells though.
As I was climbing out of Margate I broke my chain, luckily I was carrying a spare. It was a bank holiday Sunday, so without the spare it would have meant two days of enforced rest.
You are the weakest link

You are the weakest link


Another cyclist kindly stopped to offer help, when I told him about my chain and that I had a spare he was first surprised then said it looked like I was carrying the kitchen sink anyway. I went to the nearest bench to fix my bike and on completing the task I was pleasantly surprised to see the commemoration on the bench. Thank you Bill Brooks.
Thanks Bill

Thanks Bill


I rounded the East coast of Kent and made it onto the South coast, I soon got to Dover and the white cliffs. I could see France and the ferries crossing the channel, if only I had enough money in my account and my passport I would have been on one of those boats. By this time I was enjoying my cycling so much and just wanted it to carry on. I didn't have the money, unfortunately, and had to finish the coast ride first. (Maybe that's one for 2012 though ;-) I decided to cycle along the cliff path for a bit, this was okay for a while but then I came across steps. This was the only time that I had to push my bike any sort of distance, the only other times was when I was finding a camping spot in the woods or a field.
The white cliffs

The white cliffs

Panoramic view at the white cliffs

Panoramic view at the white cliffs


Cycled on to Folkstone where the smell of good food caught my nose (actually the smell of any food catches my nose when hungry, even thought of having McDonalds at one point). There was a food stand near the sea front called Chummy's, I ordered a plate of their noodles with king prawns, the man serving said that it I would be good for the Tour de France after that, when I told him I had already done a greater distance than that and was going around the coast of Britain he was impressed. He asked if I was doing it for charity and when I told him it was for the stroke association he gave me the food for nothing, I donated the £3 that the food cost myself. So if you are ever in Folkstone I can recommend Chummy's for food, good food from kind people.
I cycled on past Dungerness power station which dominates the headland of a strange pebbled landscape with bizarre low lying plants. In fact a lot of the south coast was like this which was a great surprise to me. That night I camped at Camber near Rye, with a total of 3,050 miles behind me.

Posted by ukextremes 13:06 Archived in England Comments (0)

South Coast of England


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Left Camber and headed West for the first time with the sun on my back in the morning. East Sussex is quite hilly, which surprised me, there is a steep descent into Hastings and went passed a Your Speed display it read 35 mph in a 30 zone, then I saw a speed camera. I pedalled hard and coasted past the sign whilst popping the bird at the camera. I don't know if I got flashed, but I like to think that there is a photo giving someone a chuckle.
As I went through Bexhill I caught the end of a group of cyclist out on a day ride, its nice to get a tow in the slipstream, they didn't even realise I was there. The group broke up and one man from Lewes cycling club said it looked like I was on a world tour. He was quite impressed when I told him that it was only a UK one. We parted company at Eastbourne as I needed some food. Sat on the beach front and contemplated the slope up to Beachy Head. It was not actually that bad and the views were amazing, that's the thing about cycling up hills it might seem like a daunting task but the rewards are so worth it. Couldn't help thinking about the end of Quadrophenia, didn't help with all the mods riding around either.
On the road towards Brighton I got overtaken by a man on a mountain bike, I then cruised past him down a hill (simple physics, with all that weight). He then overtook me again, but to his surprise and mine I passed him going up hill. He said "bloody hell you must be fit." We stopped the macho bullshit of racing one another and cycled together, it turned out he was a archivist, I then started talking about the riots and what he thought about them and if he had been involved. "No an archivist not an anarchist." We departed in Hove and I carried on as far as Littlehampton that day. I stopped at the Cob and Pen pub because they were having a BBQ, only it had just finished but the chef had chucked the last few bits of meat onto the charcoal. Some bits didn't have very much ash on at all a little brush off and it was fine for a hungry cyclist. The locals were very welcoming and a couple of them even brought me a drink, when I asked for a good place to camp they arranged that I could stay in the beer garden, result, so I stayed for a couple more pints.
One of the best ways to get over a slight hangover is to jump on a bike and pedal for a few miles, had to stop for breakfast pretty quick though. I carried along the coast, followed it right down to Selsy along to Whittering and back to Chichester then into Portsmouth. Caught the ferry to Gosport and headed into Southampton, up the Solent down the other side and camped at Calshot (As you can tell it was not the most interesting of days) Did over 100 miles again, sort of getting good at this cycling lark now.
I left Calshot and cycled through the New Forest, never been here before and its really nice. There was some nice coastal paths and a good view of the Isle of Wight for most of my morning. The seafront in Bournemouth was good to cruise down, although bikes are not allowed, no one stopped me. I went on to Sandbanks and caught the chain ferry across the opening of Poole harbour, this saved e many miles and I met up with another cyclist. We rode on together for about five miles, then the hills kicked in. I rode onto Swanage and then Corfe Castle, then through the lanes towards Lulworth. Luckily for me the Army were not doing playing with their toys so the way was clear, I didn't fancy being target practice. I realised that a friend lived nearby so phoned Tom up and arranged to meet him in a pub in Broadmayne near Dorchester. I had a couple of pints and a good chat, then cycled back towards the coast to camp near Weymouth.
Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle

2011-08-31 15.59.43

2011-08-31 15.59.43


I left Weymouth with the two goals for the day, the first was to reach Exeter by five o'clock so I could go to a friends shop to say hi. The second was to reach my parents house in Dawlish. But first I had to cycle through Dorset and East Devon, it was a hot day and the Jurassic Coast is lumpy. The first big climb gave a huge reward, looking back along the length of Chisel Beach, what an outstanding natural phenomena. Sorry too busy enjoying the moment and getting my breath back, forgot to take a photo.
There were three more very big hills that day, going out of Lyme Regis, Seaton and Sidmouth. I can't remember which was the worst but they were all quite steep and very long. People have asked if I had to get off and push, its not really an option as it would be more difficult to push the bike than to ride it.
I made it to Exeter at about 4 o'clock, found my friends shop only to find out he had left about half an hour before. The man who was working there asked me about my trip, when I said I was doing this after my Dad had a stroke he told me he was training as a physiotherapist and worked on a stroke ward at Newton Abbot. My father was there at the same time and Luke remembered him, I love these random coincidences.
I left Exeter and went down the canal path past the Double Locks and onto Turf Locks, it was a lovely day and I was near to where I grew up. I know the canal path very well and decided to stop off at the Turf hotel to have a pint, I realised the journey was coming to an end and was trying to slow myself down and take in every moment. I met some more cyclists at the hotel and they even gave me £5 for the charity. I carried on and cycled through Dawlish Warren, passed the place where I grew up and took a little time to contemplate things by the sea. Then on to see my Mum and Dad who have moved to Dawlish since retiring and some well needed home cooking.

Posted by ukextremes 08:25 Archived in England Comments (0)

South West Peninsula


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I had a rest day at my folks place, ate roast beef, walked the dog and slept. My Dad is looking and sounding better after his stoke and my Mum is doing a fantastic job of caring for him. My dog Redge who now lives with them after I split from my wife is also doing a great job in looking after them both and he has now trained my Mum very well, he dictates where they walk and at six he jumps off the sofa and starts to bark at my mum. This is signify that it is time to feed him, he does it everyday at six, how? I think it might be because of the Grandfather clock chiming at six (can he count?)
I left Dawlish with the intention of making it to Plymouth, but got side tracked on the way. I was aware of the trip finishing soon, so was really taking in everything. Free wheeling downhill looking at beautiful countryside and being aware of the feeling of the air on your body, was one way and talking to people that I met was another. I rode through Teignmouth, Torquay, Paignton then headed for Kingswear. On the Kingswear to Dartmouth ferry I met a guy called David, we got talking and as the ferry docked he hit my Achilles heal by saying "Do you fancy a pint" After a couple of pints in Dartmouth, we moved onto Slapton and the Tower Inn, where there was a live band and BBQ. I had a fantastic evening and camped near Torcross, in the morning I rode onto Plymouth, suffering from a slight hangover. I had another rest day here and caught up with a couple of friends.
Waiting for the ferry

Waiting for the ferry


I left Plymouth via the Cremyll foot ferry, this took me over to the Cornish side of the Tamar and I carried along the coast past Mount Edgecombe, Kingsands, Cawsands and on into Whitsands Bay. Stopped off in Looe for fish and chips, caught the ferry over the river Fowey and carried on to Trewitthian where I camped. The following day I caught the ferry from St Mawes to Falmouth, the difference in prices for ferry rides over the country varies greatly. In Scotland the ferries were quite large and very cheap considering the distance travelled, in Cornwall the ferries were small, as were the crossing but for a very similar fare. I carried onto the Lizard peninsula, which was my final extremity. It was also the most beautiful and the busiest, but it also had the best weather. It was over forty miles from the Lizard to Land's End, I arrived as the sun was setting behind the lighthouse. I was a bit choked when I got there, looking up the coast towards Bristol and realising that this was the final stretch. I watched the sun go down, then went a short distance along the cycle path and pitched my tent on the path. It was not intentional, but I slept at Land's End and John O' Groats.
I rode up to Penrose near Padstow to stay with my good friend Sian, this took me through St Ives, Hayle, Perranporth and Newquay. If you have never visited the North coast of Cornwall and Devon, the beaches are absolutely world class. The Atlantic storms have carved out some incredible bays and deposited golden sand, when the sun is shining the waters look almost tropical, although not as warm. If the weather could be guaranteed everyone would holiday in Cornwall, it sometimes feels like that now with the number of Emmits (Cornish for ants, their reference to the holidaymakers).
I left Sian's quite late and only made it to Bude, I stopped at a large pub just as you get into Bude and ordered two main meals, as I was waiting for them I put my phone on to charge. After about five minutes the landlord came and told me he does not give out free electricity, its bad enough that he gives out free wifi. So when the food came I took one bite of a poor burger that cost £5 and the pasta with pesto that had no pine nuts for £6 and sent it back saying I only pay for decent food and not rubbish that is massively overpriced. Due to his tight manner he lost out on £11 there, the food could/should not have been reused all for about 20 pence of electricity. I was so hungry that if he had not said anything then I would have just ate it and left. I went to the Chinese takeaway instead then onto another pub for a drink. The range, quantity and pricing of food varies massively throughout the British Isles, but I wish I could remember the name of the pub as this was the worst, it showed also in the landlords attitude.
After leaving Bude it was back into Devon and I got totally lost in the lanes between Bude and Hartland, probably did twice the distance that I should have and still ended up doing some of it on the busy A39. I hooked up with the Tarka Trail near Bideford, which is another great cycle path. I went past Barnstaple then along the breath taking coast between there and Combe Martin. One of the main reasons this coast is breath taking is the hills, wasn't half puffing by the time I got to the top.
Saunton Sands

Saunton Sands

Panoramic view near Illfracombe

Panoramic view near Illfracombe


I slept on the cliffs North of Combe Martin this was my last night, I was determined to make Bristol the following day. My last day started off wet, I decided to stop early and have a breakfast at a camp site where Keith Allen (actor and father of Lilly Allen) once stayed. They were very proud of the fact judging by all the photos. I carried on into Lynmouth and was aware that a bike race was going on. They were all going the other way to me until I started the climb out of Lynmouth. The hill starts of at a 25% gradient for about half a mile then only 12% for about another mile, maybe a bit more. At the beginning of the hill three of the racers overtook me, one said to me "Extra man points for carrying all that weight." I stopped in a lay-by to take my waterproof coat off and carried on, after a bit I thought I might be gaining on two of the guys. So I put a little more effort in. As I went past them I said "This is bloody hard work." I got no reply, think they must have been saving their breath or were just stunned into silence that someone on a heavy touring bike with an extra twenty plus kilos could out climb them. I put it down to two things, I had cycled almost everyday for eight weeks and those guys were pushing big gears and had been during their race for some time. As no one else witnessed this I like to think that they both said to one another "We don't talk about this to any one." or "What happened on the hill, stays on the hill." If I was a fellow racer and found out a fully loaded tourer had passed on a hill, I would tease them mercilessly. After another ten miles they still hadn't overtaken me, which was a surprise. I turned off the main road and followed the cycle path, this took me down a very steep twisting private road full of potholes. Wish I stayed on the main road as I missed Porlock hill, which is infamous for its gradient. I might have even been able to beat my top speed. D'oh.
After that I was on the Somerset levels, this allowed me to get some good miles in. I went past Minehead, Taunton and Bridgwater where I stopped for food and to text friends about my return. I continued to Weston Super Mare and then to Cleavedon where I asked a lady if there was a coast path to Portishead. She gave me directions which I followed and found the path. After about quarter of a mile it started to narrow, I had passed some people as well. Then it really narrowed, it was pretty much a goat track, by the time I realised I should not be on this track I had done about a mile, do I carry on or go back? I carried on, again, this was probably the wrong decision, but eventually got out on to a road. It was just a ride down the side of the river Avon to my finish. I got back to Bristol at about 8.30 pm, it was my longest days riding of 124 miles. I met up with some friends at the Miners Arms in St Werburghs, had a few beers and a pizza. Time to put my feet up.
The total millage for the trip was 3,952 miles and it took me 58 days with 8 rest days.

Posted by ukextremes 07:26 Archived in England Comments (0)

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