Monthly Archives: September 2013

Leg 72 – to Southbourne near Chichester, via Portsmouth

12 July 2013

I woke up in a very comfy bed at 06.30 and thought great, another hour or so in aforesaid bed before I have to get up. I woke up again 3 hours later at 09.30; I must have been tired after yesterday’s long leg.

Panicking slightly that I was going to be late setting off, with quite a few miles to do today, I  rushed about getting ready noticing that thankfully my muscles, although tired, felt mostly fine. Breakfast consisted of a full English courtesy of Pete, Diane and Steve; I could get used to this having had cooked breakfast two days in a row.

Steve had given my bike a clean by the time I got outside, and giving it the once over I found a loose spoke which I tightened up, nothing serious. It was a another sunny day and I was looking forward to Portsmouth, the New Forest, visiting a few friends along the way and meeting up with Ian later.

Lobster helping with pre-ride checks

Lobster helping with pre-ride checks

I packed up my things and was ready to go by 11.00, stopping to take a photo of my superb hosts (and Lobster because he doesn’t like being left out) before leaving; for once I remembered.

Pete, Diane and Steve, Colehill

Pete, Diane and Steve, Colehill

Thanks for the bed, food, bike cleaning and encouragement All, and hope to see you again soon.

I pedalled off into Bournemouth on busy roads, making my way through the city and on to Christchurch where I had arranged to meet Chris, a friend from Norwich who was down visiting family. After fighting my way through lots of cars I arrived at the Town Quay, and it wasn’t long before Chris joined me.

Christchurch Town Quay

Christchurch Town Quay

Town Quay - Swan

Town Quay – Swan

Town Quay 2, Christchurch

Town Quay 2, Christchurch

We adjourned to the Boat House Bar for a beer, which went down very well given the hot weather. It was good to catch up on the latest news from Norwich, although nothing of great import had occurred in my absence as far as I could tell. I did learn that the Alan Partridge film, Alpha Papa, was going to première in Norwich. “Jack-anack-anory” or “Kiss my face”, as Alan would say. It was also great that it was going to be shown at the Anglia Square Hollywood cinema, in the slightly more run down end of Norwich, perfect. This would give the area a well needed boost and was totally in keeping with the show.

Boathouse Bar, Christchurch, with Chris B

Boathouse Bar, Christchurch, with Chris B

I realised that I’d missed friends from home, and it was good to hear about how everyone was doing, but I hadn’t missed them so much that I was in a hurry to get back quite yet. I think sometimes we’re afraid of moving away, either permanently or for a few months, because we think we’ll miss something, or things won’t be the same when you get back, or you won’t find the same sort of enjoyment or satisfaction elsewhere. Sometimes you just need to take a risk and I decided I’d continue to push myself to try new things, travel, and meet new people. You only live once, probably, so it’s not worth ending up regretting not trying something.

Bidding Chris goodbye I left Christchurch and rode on to the New Forest via New Milton and Lymington. It was getting hot and there was little shade, as there didn’t seem to be much in the way for forest as I pedalled down the B3054. It was mostly heathland, with an abundance of grazing New Forest ponies. The ponies seem to roam free in the forest, but are in theory owned by New Forest Commoners, with stock sold on in fares. Pony remains have been found in the area dating back to 500,000 BC, so they’ve been around a very long time. They certainly look like they own the place; I saw them standing in gardens, and on commercial garage forecourts, and wasn’t quite sure how you’d move them on if you needed to.

I didn’t get any pictures in the New Forest, mostly because I was in a hurry to get on, but also because I didn’t pass through much of the actual forest bit as far as I could tell. I decided it was another place I’d have to come back to, to explore in more detail at some point. I’d really like to camp out for a few days in the forest and enjoy the surroundings.

With time ticking on I cycled on to Hythe, where I intended to get the ferry over to just south of Southampton, thus avoiding the worst of the traffic. I had to cycle up a long pier to get to the ferry station at the end. There were kids jumping off the pier then swimming back to the shore, much to the irritation of the attendants. Whilst it was a little bit dangerous I didn’t see any harm in it, the water was deep enough and there were no boats around that bit. Let them have a bit of fun and take a few risks; reckon it’s good character building stuff. There were plenty of people around that would help if any of them got into trouble.

The Hythe Ferry

The Hythe Ferry

The ferry arrived on time and I pushed my bike on board; I didn’t need to take the panniers off for a change for this trip. It wasn’t a long journey across, and I had chance to see Southampton docks, which were all pretty industrial.

Hythe Ferry Crossing - Southampton

Hythe Ferry Crossing – Southampton

Hythe Ferry Crossing - looking South

Hythe Ferry Crossing – looking South

I arrived at the other side about 16.45, and rode on towards Portsmouth to visit my next set of friends for the day, Mark and Cecily and their sons Peter and Olly, who live in Gosport. Mark is Peter and Diane’s other son, who I’ve know since I was a baby. He’s in the Navy and often at sea for long periods, so it was great that he was on shore whilst I was passing, and it would be great to see them all again; I think the last time we all got together was probably a skiing trip in Switzerland.

I had to navigate through a maze of roads from the ferry, over the Itchen Bridge to Woolston, then all the way down to Hamble-le-Rice where I got another small ferry over to Warsash. The ferry was very pink, but again I didn’t have to take all my panniers off which was good. More slightly confusing roads followed as I pedalled down to Gosport, via Titchfield and Stubbington, and a few cycle paths that got me lost in foliage. I had to use Google maps a few times via my phone to work out where I was going, but eventually made it to Gosport and the naval base where Mark and Cecily live.

I timed things just right as they were just tucking into a BBQ when I arrived, and had some spare food on offer. Never one to turn down free calories on a tour I tucked in, enjoying a good catch up.

Me at Mark and Cecilys

Me at Mark and Cecilys

The food was well timed as I hadn’t really eaten anything aside from the odd banana since breakfast, and still had several miles and at least one more ferry crossing to do before I reached the campsite for the evening. It was time to press on all too soon, however Mark offered to guide me to the ferry that would take me from Gosport over to Portsmouth, rather than having to cycle all the way round to Fareham and back down again.

Setting off with Mark on the Tour de Gosport

Setting off with Mark on the Tour de Gosport

We cycled past lots of bits of the naval base, including the old Haslar Military Hospital which is sadly now closed. It was sold on to contractors for a pittance by the government, and the contractors then made a mint (millions of pounds) selling off the fittings as scrap. Another victory for the tax payer, not.

We arrived at the ferry port and Mark kindly bought me a ticket, before waving me off as I embarked on the short voyage over to Portsmouth. It had been great to see them all, but it was going to start getting dark soon and I needed to get to the last ferry of the day over to Hayling Island before it shut.

Portsmouth Harbour 1

Portsmouth Harbour 1

Mark with bikes at ferry port

Mark with bikes at ferry port

Portsmouth - Frigates moored up

Portsmouth – Frigates moored up

Portsmouth - Spinaker Tower

Portsmouth – Spinaker Tower

Portsmouth - HMS Warrior

Portsmouth – HMS Warrior

HMS Warrior was pretty impressive, as were lots of the ships moored up in Portsmouth, however I didn’t have time to gawp as I sped through Portsmouth and Southsea, down to the ferry at Lock Lake. I arrived with 10 minutes to spare, and waited for the boat as the sun started to get lower in the sky. It was about 21.00 by this point.

Waiting for the Hayling Island Ferry

Waiting for the Hayling Island Ferry

I was able to wheel my bike onto this ferry too, and didn’t have to take off my panniers. It only cost a few quid for the trip over, and I sat back and enjoyed the view.

On the Hayling Island Ferry - sunset

On the Hayling Island Ferry – sunset

We passed a couple in a dingy trying to get back to their yacht, however their outboard engine had stopped working. He declined an offer of help, getting his oars out to row the last bit.

Bike on board

Bike on board

Hayling Island Ferry - sun nearly gone

Hayling Island Ferry – sun nearly gone

It got dark pretty quickly as I cycled north through Hayling Island back towards the mainland. I was able to use cycle paths through the nature reserve, passing a pony and trap at one point; a perfect way to enjoy a pleasant evening. I had to get my lights out when the cycle paths ran out and was back on roads. The next bit wasn’t too pleasant as I had to cross the A27 and join the A259 riding east to Emsworth. The road was a little busy and drivers aren’t so sympathetic to cyclists in this part of the UK, so I was on high alert as I pedalled on to meet Ian at the campsite we’d agreed on near Southbourne.

I stopped briefly in Emsworth at a Co-op to pick up a few supplies for breakfast, and some chocolate milk for refuelling purposes. Milk is the best thing, better than Lucozade or suchlike, as it contains protein which helps repair muscle damage, as well as lots of calories.

Ian had arrived just before me at Loveders Farm near Southbourne, which is just few miles west of Chichester to which he’d got the train from Hastings. I didn’t seem to get a picture of Ian at the time, so here’s one from a few years ago in Wales, when we went on an expedition in the Brecon Beacons with another friend Mike. Ian hasn’t changed much, still a hippy 😉

Ian in Wales in 2009

Ian in Wales in 2009

We’ll have to go back to Wales again soon for another hike and wild camping session. It was a great few days, if a little windy. The funniest bit was when Mike’s sleeping mat somehow became dislodged from his rucksack half way up Pen y Fan, and due to the wind sailed off into the distance. He had to use pine needles for a mattress after that. I might have to write a belated blog about that trip at some point; some excellent camp cooking was had.

Back to the present; Loveders campsite was packed with people using it as a base for the Goodwood Festival of Speed, which we hadn’t known about and came as somewhat of a surprise. Thankfully it’s a large campsite and we were able to find a spot to squeeze in, and got some free chicken kebabs off our neighbours who were done BBQ’ing. Result.

After setting up we adjourned to the on site bar for a few beers, which was still open despite it being well past 22.00 by this point. Thankfully I was pretty quick at setting up my tent by this point, and Ian only had a bivvy bag to contend with as he was travelling light; with the weather this good you didn’t really need a tent anyway, and he didn’t have to worry about getting tent pegs into the rock hard ground.

We ran into the campsite ‘Colonel’ before leaving the bar, who was a little tipsy but quite a character, proceeding to tell us how the lights all worked. I’m not quite sure what he was going on about but it was all fun.

We retired for the evening amongst literally hundreds of other tents and camper vans, with the glowing embers of dying BBQs twinkling in the night, and a sky full of stars. I’d covered around 80 miles today, which was a result after yesterday’s record leg.

Miles covered to date = 4,828

Leg 71 – to Wimborne via Weymouth

11 July 2013

Chris does a good fry up, a most excellent start to what I was planning on being a long day in the saddle. Sam had to leave for work early however Chris, Matthew and I had a more relaxed start to the day, taking in a bit of CBeebies whilst I packed up. I do find kids TV a little disturbing at times, a bit of a sensory overload with colours and sounds. You end up having kids songs stuck in your head before you know it, accidentally humming or singing them in inappropriate places which can sometime attract odd looks.

So humming a tune involving a dragon eating lots of pies, at least I think that’s what it was about, I bid my hosts goodbye and was on the road by 09.00. Thanks for putting me up Chris, Sam and Matthew, and hope to see you all again soon.

Chris and Sam live halfway up one of the biggest hills in Torquay, so I immediately had a tough climb to get up the other half and down the other side to the road out of town. There followed a stretch along the A379 over rolling hills and through lovely countryside, before crossing the River Teign to Teignmouth.

Crossing the River Teign

Crossing the River Teign

It was slightly cooler than yesterday, with a few clouds in the sky, however I suspected the sun would soon burn them off and it would turn into another hot day. I continued on to Dawlish and Cockwood, before arriving in Starcross where I intended to get the ferry over to Exmouth, rather than trek all the way inland to Exeter and back down to the coast again; a route that would have involved negotiating some very busy roads for no real benefit.

The ferry leaves from the other side of the railway line in Starcross, and I had to carry my bike and panniers over the pedestrian bridge to the jetty on the other side, a good work out which left me feeling hungry. I had to wait 20 minutes for the ferry to arrive so topped up my energy levels with a few snacks, as more passengers arrived on the pontoon.

Starcross Ferry pontoon

Starcross Ferry pontoon

The passenger ferry arrived about 11.00 and we all piled on for the trip across the River Ex, a voyage that cost me £5.50 which I thought a tad pricey, but bikes always seem to cost extra.  There was a duty ship’s dog who seemed very at home on board the boat, and who was fairly interested in my panniers which must have smelt good. Unfortunately there was another dog on board who got very upset about being on a boat, and about the presence of another canine, so it was a bit of a noisy ride across with one dog threatening to tear away from its owner and chase the calm and somewhat bemused ship’s dog around the ferry.

My bike and I were safely deposited in Exmouth, from where I rode along country lanes towards Sidmouth. Shortly after passing through Otterton I started encountering lots of cars jammed up on the narrow country road.  The sheer volume of traffic trying to go in either direction had just brought things to a standstill, with not enough passing places. It was a bit like one of those square puzzles with lots of tiles you have to move around to make a picture, where there’s only one space you use to try get things all lined up. In this case there was a rather bewildered policeman standing in the middle of it all, trying to work out what to do. I don’t think he was helping at all, and his parked car was taking up one of the passing places. The road really isn’t suitable to be used as the main route from Sidmouth to Exmouth, and I guess the extra traffic from tourists following sat navs meant it just couldn’t cope. Feeling somewhat superior and failing to suppress a grin I was able to slip through all the cars, passing a couple of cycle tourers going the other way who judging from their expressions were finding the experience just as satisfying. I decided to be helpful as I rode past stationary and gradually overheating cars, informing their equally overheating drivers that no there wasn’t an accident, there were just too many cars on the road and it would be a better idea to turn around and find another route. They seemed appreciative of the information, and I was probably more helpful than the slightly lost policeman.

Countryside near Sidmouth

Countryside near Sidmouth

Out of the traffic I rode through more beautiful Devon countryside down a steep hill into Sidmouth, passing two more cycle tourers struggling up the hill in the other direction. The two young ladies in question had the most stuff loaded onto their bikes I’d seen all tour. They were pushing their bikes west, into a region consisting mostly of more hills, so I wished them a hearty good luck. I reckoned they’d be lightening their loads shortly.

I had my own steep hill to contend with out of Sidmouth, followed by several more on my way over to Lyme Regis. I passed a Donkey Sanctuary and the village of Beer, hmmm beer, before crossing the River Axe at Seaton. I was tempted to ride up to Axminster, a few miles inland, and have lunch at the Axminster Canteen which is part of Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall’s River Cottage empire. It would however have to wait for another day, as I was keen to get a lot more miles done and see if I could make it all the way to Bournemouth.

I stopped for a break in Lyme Regis, eating a couple of banana’s instead of a posh deli lunch at the Axminster Canteen, and attracting the attention of a seagull who was slightly disappointed I only had fruit and not fish and chips. Lyme Regis was packed with tourists enjoying the beach and town, and hunting for fossils for which the area is famous. I was in Dorset now, and making good progress.

Leaving historic Lyme Regis I pedalled along the coast road, having to take the A35 for a bit before turning on to the less busy B3157 just past Bridport. The Dorset coast is stunning, but the hills are relentless with continuous ups and downs as I rode along the Jurassic coastline.

Jurassic coastline

Jurassic coastline

With Chesil Beach on my right, an 18 miles shingle bank which joins the Isle of Portland to the mainland, I rode on towards Weymouth, the site of the Olympic sailing competition a year before. Chesil Beach is another good place to go fossil hunting, and Lucy and I had visited it several years before when her parents lived in Weymouth, and a few years before that for New Year, with our friend Wayne who’s parents also live down here. I don’t know if it still is but it used to be a great place to go out for New Year’s Eve, with everyone dressing up in fancy dress and the whole town coming alive, with a great atmosphere. I remember Nigel, who joined me for the first evening of the tour, carrying Lu out into the sea on New Years Eve (the bay is very shallow in parts), and thankfully not dropping her. Happy memories.

Dorset countryside and Chesil Beach

Dorset countryside and Chesil Beach

The Isle of Portland slowly appeared out of the haze as I rode east. Despite the bright sunshine it was a cooler day, and although I’d slowed up over the hills the miles were still passing at a good rate, mainly because I was ignoring any promising looking pubs. I kept seeing the same vintage Spitfire sports car for a while, which seemed to be going backwards and forwards along the coast road. A great day to be out driving with your top down, but I was getting slightly paranoid they were stalking me.

Isle or Portland in the haze

Isle or Portland in the haze

For some reason I decided I’d include Portland on my tour, I’m not sure why seeing as there’s a big hill you have to tackle just as you get onto the island. The Isle has a rich history having been inhabited since the Mesolithic era. The Romans had a settlement there, and Henry VIII built a castle to defend against the French. Portland limestone has been used for centuries, Sir Christopher Wren having built St. Paul’s Cathedral from it. Hundreds of thousands of gravestones were also made from it post the two World Wars.

I struggled up the initial hill, stopping half-way to visit a Co-op and refuel on two pints of chocolate milk, before performing a quick circuit of the island. I passed the turning to the famous Portland Bill lighthouse, but had been before so decided to press on back towards Weymouth. The coast around here has claimed many a ship so the lighthouse, now like so many operated remotely, has provided an important service over the years.

Portland Bill

Portland Bill

I was quite glad to get off the island, having been slightly abused by a few impatient and aggressive drivers.

View from the top of Portland looking west

View from the top of Portland looking west, Chesil Beach clearly visible

View from the top of Portland looking towards Weymouth

View from the top of Portland looking towards Weymouth

I rode back down the hill and across the land-bridge to Weymouth, passing Portland Harbour which is one of the largest man made harbours in the world. It used to be a naval base, and is now a civilian port.

Weymouth was packed with holiday makers enjoying the town and beach, and had changed quite a bit since I was last there due to the building completed for the Olympics. I pedalled along the seafront and out of the town, deciding I would try and make it to friends living in Wimborne, just outside Bournemouth, rather than find somewhere to camp.

Weymouth Beach

Weymouth Beach

Weymouth Bay - sailing boats out

Weymouth Bay – sailing boats out

I still had a fair few miles to cover and realised I would be cycling into the dark, but my legs were still feeling fresh at this point, and I was keen to push myself to see just how far I could go in one day. I passed the familiar white horse carved in the hillside just outside Weymouth, and the turning to the Smugglers Inn at Osmington Mills, of which I had fond memories from visiting with Lucy and her family.

The terrain flattened out somewhat over the next stretch, as I rode down the A352 for a bit before turning off it at Wool down to Combe Keynes and East Lulworth. The light was starting to fade as I pedalled across the Purbeck Hills, entering an army exercise area. It was getting on for 21.00 and there was no-one else around, leaving me alone in beautiful surroundings. For company I just had cows, deer and a fox than ran down the road ahead of me before dashing off into the gorse chasing a rabbit. The air smelt really fresh and delicious, and I stopped for a break after climbing the Purbecks to watch the sunset.

I continued on out of the MOD firing range and down to Corfe Castle, with the light fading further and making the castle look impressive.

Corfe Castle 1

Corfe Castle 1

Corfe Castle 2

Corfe Castle 2

The castle was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, and ended up being mostly demolished in 1645 after Parliamentarian forces assaulted it in the English Civil War. It was one of the last remaining strongholds fpr the Royalists, and they obviously didn’t want to have to go to the trouble of another lengthy siege in the future.

I had to turn on my lights as I pedalled across the Isle of Purbeck, which isn’t an island as far as I can tell, making my way to the chain ferry near Studland. My legs were starting to get really tired now, having been on the go for over 12 hours, and I had to break out the Haribos just to keep the wheels turning. There were quite a few cyclists out enjoying the evening, and making there way to the ferry at a slightly quicker pace than I. I texted Steve to let him know I was on my way, and not far from the ferry, and that I might need some directions after I got into Poole Harbour.

After what seemed like a long time I finally made it to the chain ferry, eating a Bounce Bar whilst I waited for it to clunk its way across from Sandbanks. There was a party going on at the bar/restaurant next to the ferry station, with Cuban music echoing across the otherwise peaceful landscape. I liked the music and it sounded like people were having a lot of fun, but it seemed a little out of place in the tranquil surroundings.

Party going on near the ferry

Party going on near the ferry

The camera on my phone doesn’t take photos too well in the dark, and I accidentally left the flash on which immediately drained the last of my battery. I really needed my phone to communicate with the Headley’s, with whom I was staying this evening, and to use Google maps to make my way to their house. It was at times like this I needed my Garmin Edge to be working, however that hadn’t happened for weeks and I still needed to get in touch with them to organise a replacement; their phone lines are always jammed and it cost me money to hang about on hold. Thankfully my PowerMonkey battery was fully charged, there having been lots of sunshine of late, so I was able to plug my phone into charge.

The ferry over to Sandbanks and Poole Harbour ended up being quite busy, as I was joined by several groups of slightly the worse for wear party-goers returning home, and a group of male cycle tourers who’d been out for a days ride. I chatted with the latter for a while, learning one of them had done his Jogle a few weeks before. I described some of my journey to date, realising I was fast approaching the end of my own tour, especially after riding well over 100 miles today.

I rode into Poole Harbour, one of if not the most expensive place to live in Britain outside London. It’s a huge natural harbour, and I could make our Brownsea Island where Red Squirrels still find a home as the Greys can’t get to them.

Poole Harbour is another place humans have lived for thousands of years, the Romans having launched there invasion of England around-bouts, and it being an important port ever since. It’s an ideal venue for lots of water sports too.

My energy levels had been somewhat boosted after consuming a vast number of Haribos, so I pedalled quickly towards where I hoped Wimborne was. After travelling a few hundred yards from the ferry I heard a loud shout from behind me, which I initially ignored thinking it was probably drunk kids being funny, although that would have been a little out of place somewhere like Poole Harbour. The rich kids around here probably don’t need to hang about outside a local Spar drinking dodgy cider, they don’t know what they’re missing; not sure they even have Spar’s in Poole Harbour, probably only M&S and Waitrose.

I was further alarmed when I heard a rider approaching me rapidly from behind, however on glancing back I recognised the familiar face of Steve who’d cycled down from Wimborne to meet me. This was very much appreciated seeing as my phone wasn’t really charged as yet, so I wasn’t sure of my route, and being very tired would have probably ended up somewhere odd.

I followed Steve down cycle paths I’d never have found on my own, around Poole Harbour and off towards Wimborne Minster. At one point we were stopped by police who were looking after someone that had collapsed on the path just ahead of us, and who didn’t want us running them over. We think they were just drunk (the injured party rather than the police) rather than anything more sinister, and we were able to just cycle around them.

We arrived in Colehill just outside Wimborne at about 23.30, after a final hill climb that stole the last of my energy. I was tired and very thirsty having run out of water a while back, but extremely satisfied to have covered what I later worked out was 128.5 miles,  the longest leg of my tour. The Headleys are old family friends and it was great to see them, and great to have made it before Pete and Diane left for Scotland the day after. I was welcomed with warm hugs, several glasses of water, a cold beer and some thai curry, all of which I was extremely grateful for.

In Colehill post 128.5 miles

In Colehill post 128.5 miles

Tomorrow I’d be pressing on towards Chichester via Portsmouth, and hopefully meeting up with my friend Ian who was joining me for a day or two. I was a little worried about what sort of state my legs were going to be in the morning, but for now I just hit the sack, and slept very deeply.

Leg 70 – to Torquay

Only 52 miles covered today, including two ferries, but probably the hardest leg of the tour hill wise. Beautiful weather and scenery more than compensated though.

10 July 2013

I woke up slightly stiff, with a few bruises on my legs after yesterday’s altercation with the Volvo, and decided to give my bike a good check over before doing anything else just in case I missed anything last night.

Upon closer examination I discovered one of the pannier rack struts had snapped, on the front right and in the same place that went back on the east coast of Scotland, on the front left. I suspect this wasn’t as a result of the crash, but had probably been like it for a while and I hadn’t noticed. It appears to be a weak point in the design, but the Blackburn racks allegedly have a lifetime guarantee so I’ll see if I can replace them when I get back to Norwich. In the meantime I bound up the break with some wire and gaffer tape, plus a few cable ties for good measure. One of my rear pannier bags also had a dodgy clip, but nothing major, so aside from the slightly bent forks I already knew about I’d got off lightly. The Ridgeback was good to go for another day of riding.

It was already pretty hot as I had breakfast, followed by a shower and quickly packing up my tent. By the time I was ready to go I already had a bit of a sweat on, so it looked like it was going to be a day of frequent stops to rehydrate.

On the way out of Briar Farm campsite I bid goodbye to two other campers, one of whom was walking the coastal trail to St. Ives. He’d had a bit of a tough time of it for the last couple of days, but was hoping to make good progress today. I assured him the hills do get easier with time…mostly. Hope it went well James!

I was on the road by 10.00, cycling down country lanes to the A379 through such places as Smutty Moor Wood and Holbeton, which I initially read as Hobbiton. Sadly there were no Hobbits about and a serious lack of potential venues for second breakfast. Undeterred I pedalled on through the glorious Devon landscape, with a slight north easterly cooling me off. The tall hedgerows also lent a certain amount of shade which was most welcome.

The hills steadily increased in size as I passed through Modbury and rode down to Aveton Gifford. I tried to avoid the A379 as much as possible as it was proving very busy with traffic, but at times it was unavoidable on the way down to Kingsbridge. I turned on to the slightly less busy but hillier A381 which took me to Salcombe, past the turning to Hope Cove where I’d been on holiday a few years back. Hope Cove had been the inspiration for an episode I’ve written for the Ravenskil audio drama we’re recording as part of our It’s A Trap productions. Hopefully Wayne and Chris will finish getting it recorded this year, and it’ll be out next year post the editing process. Should be a good tale and slightly different to our previous venture into audio drama, ‘Jack Steel and the Starblade’, which was more tongue in cheek. Ravenskil is more a combination of X-Files and Cthulhu (H P Lovecraft).

Anyway, I digress, but I did have time to think about a lot whilst on the road, including more possible ideas for It’s A Trap.

Despite the tough climbs on the way to Salcombe, it was well worth the effort. A few other cyclists were out and about, but no tourers, and I exchanged smiles and hellos with several on my way down into the small coastal town. I was more than ready for a break by this stage, so bought a tuna, cheddar and chilli jam baguette from one of the several delicatessens ‘pedalling’ their wares. Tuna, cheddar and chilli jam seemed like a very odd combination, but it was the daily special and hence cheaper, and it turned out to be delicious. Although to be fair being permanently hungry on this tour I found pretty much all food delicious. Who knew tuna and chilli jam went together though?!

Having forgotten to take any pictures so far I had a wander around Salcombe, investigating the town’s narrow streets, boutiques and harbour front.

Salcombe is another lovely Devon coastal town, and worth visiting if you’re in the area. It was very packed with tourists, several of whom I nearly ran over as they stepped out in front of me without looking. Despite judicious use of my bell they just don’t hear bikes, and people have a habit of subconsciously not looking if they don’t hear anything coming.

I managed to avoid running anyone over and carried my bike and panniers down to the ferry to East Portlemouth. The ferry was only a couple of quid, and took me over the Kingsbridge Estuary, past moored yachts and other river traffic. I unloaded on the other side, before carrying my kit up more steep steps to the road.

East Portlemouth jetty - looking back to Salcombe

East Portlemouth jetty – looking back to Salcombe

Whilst recovering from carrying my stuff up and down steps, I gave a friend a call. Ian was due to meet up with me on Friday for a couple of days riding. He lives in Hastings so would get the train down to wherever I was, before cycling back east. We hoped to make it to Hastings by Sunday, in time for work (for Ian) on Monday, something that thankfully I didn’t have to worry about quite yet. Plan arranged I turned back to the pressing matter of navigating my way through the next rather complicated bit of Devon.

Salcombe from East Portlemouth

Salcombe from East Portlemouth

I cycled from East Portlemouth alongside the river, the road sticking to the side of the estuary to begin with. It looked like parts of the road are frequently flooded, and I had to cycle through a shallow ford at one point.

Ford near Waterhead Creek

Ford near Waterhead Creek

The next section took me up to Chillington and the A379, via South Pool and Chilvelstone amongst other small villages. The confusingly signposted country lanes took me over some of the hardest hills of the tour, due to their gradient, length and frequency.

Narrow country lanes out of Salcombe

Narrow country lanes out of Salcombe

It was really satisfying to make it over the hills, but extremely hot, and my progress slowed considerably as a result. I had to push up one particularly steep climb after having to stop to let a car pass. It was impossible to get going again without rolling backwards or falling off. My legs were completely exhausted by the time I got to the top, and I stopped for a tactical banana break, noticing the shadow of a buzzard circling on the road next to me; the scavengers were moving in already!

After making it back to the A379 and avoiding the attention of any raptors looking to make a snack of a fainting cycle tourer, I had a nice descent down to Torcross, enjoying the cooling breeze. From Torcross there’s a flat stretch along to Slapton, past Slapton Ley, with Slapton Sands on the right and the lake on the left.

Slapton Sands, looking east

Slapton Sands, looking east

Slapton Ley is separated from Slapton Sands by a thin stretch of shingle, along which the road runs. It’s the largest natural freshwater lake in the South West England, and an important nature reserve being home to Bittern, amongst other interesting species of flora and fauna.

Slapton Sands looking west

Slapton Sands looking west

I stopped in Slapton for a break at a small trailer cafe offering cold drinks, propping my bike up and sitting down on the shingle, looking out over Start Bay. The cold lemonade was extremely well timed, and I spent 15 minutes resting my legs and enjoying the sunshine before moving on.

There followed another steep climb up to Strete, during which I was encouraged on my way by a friendly cyclist on a super-light road bike. I appreciated the sentiment but could have done without the ‘I’ve done this climb dozens of times’ comments; try it with a bike weighing in the region of 60kg. More hills followed, with some wonderful scenery, as I made my way over to Dartmouth.

Blackpool Beach, Devon

Blackpool Beach, Devon

I rode past Blackpool beach, which beat it’s namesake up north by a good measure. It’s a truly magnificent spot, set in a sheltered cove and surrounded by woodland.

I made it round to Dartmouth with my brakes squealing on the last descent. I was glad I wasn’t going the other way as the hill down into the naval town was particularly steep and long. I’d have to adjust my rear brake later and check the pads didn’t need replacing again. I was pretty knackered by this stage, and running low on water but couldn’t see anywhere convenient to top up.

Dartmouth 1

Dartmouth 1

I needed to get the ferry over the River Dart and was glad to rest for a bit whilst I waited for it to arrive, remembering I had a bottle of Lucozade in my panniers which didn’t last long. What I really needed was some chocolate milk, the best sort of recovery drink.

Dartmouth 2 - looking towards Kingswear

Dartmouth 2 – looking towards Kingswear

The ferry over to the other side cost 50p, and I chatted to a young cyclist on the way over who was having trouble with his pedals – they kept falling off. I suggested he had them the wrong way around; if you put the wrong pedal on the wrong side it’s likely to come undone as you cycle along. He’d check it out when he got home.

Dartmouth Chain Ferry 1

Dartmouth Chain Ferry 1 – on its way over to me

Dartmouth Chain Ferry 2 - looking back to Dartmouth

Dartmouth Chain Ferry 2 – looking back to Dartmouth

My companion on the chain ferry was able to advise me that after a long climb up from the ferry it was relatively flat over to Torquay, my destination for the day, encouraging news.

The River Dart

The River Dart

The climb was indeed long and somewhat tricky on already tired legs, however I just got into a rhythm, putting the Ridgeback into a low gear and spinning my way slowly to the top. The traffic slowly increased in volume and decreased in patience as I made my over to Paignton, where I was able to scoot around several traffic jams thanks to my two wheeled method of transportation. I did however have to take care of my wide load when squeezing through some of the gaps between the cars, especially with one slightly dodgy pannier clip – a small bash could knock it tumbling to the tarmac.

I was feeling very hot again by this stage, and had run out of water, but spied a Sainsburys ‘local’ by the roadside which beckoned me into its air conditioned interior. I spent a good 5 minutes in the freezer isle cooling off, which must have looked slightly odd but I really didn’t care, it was lovely. I followed this up with a litre of deliciously cold banana mild to get some energy back, before calling Chris in Torquay to let him know I was nearly there. I was really looking forward to seeing Chris and Sam, and their son Matthew, having not been properly in touch for about a year.

I pedalled along the final stretch of the coast to Torquay, past throngs of holiday makers on the beaches getting sunburnt, eating ice-creams, and swimming. The water did look pretty inviting.

Torquay 1

Torquay 1

I hadn’t been to Torquay since Chris’ stag do a few years back, and hadn’t seen it properly in the daytime as a result. It looks lovely in the sunshine.

Torquay 2

Torquay 2

After faffing around slightly navigation wise I made it to Chris and Sam’s by about 17.30, completing a pretty slow but satisfying 52 miles. I’d need to do more miles tomorrow to make up for it, however it was good to be staying with friends, and to have an early stop.

There followed a great evening of chilling out and catching up, and meeting their son Matthew properly. Matthew had a very challenging first year, with serious heart problems that needed surgery. It was touch and go for a while but he’s much better now, and very lively which was ace to see. He does however have slight OCD when it comes to making sure doors are shut, which was a little inconvenient during the several trips I made to carry my stuff inside. It’s funny the habits children can pick up; my nephew Seb loves cleaning, whether that be mopping, brushing or wiping, he’s there. It was fab to see Chris and Sam, and I was looking forward to seeing them again in a field a little later in the year, presuming I made it back to Norwich.

After a huge amount of Chinese food and a few beers I was ready for sleep, even though it was boiling still. I thought there must be a storm coming but it didn’t materialise overnight as far as I could tell, however I could easily have slept through it.

I had vague plan to try and cycle all the way to more friends living near Bournemouth tomorrow, which would be a leg of at least 125 miles. It might be a little ambitious in the heat and if the hills continued to be as challenging, which I was pretty sure they would be, so I’d just have to see how it panned out.

Leg 69 – to Newton Ferrers via 4 ferries

Link to map of today’s route: http://connect.garmin.com/course/4124115

09 July 2013

What an ace day, covering 85 miles through Cornwall and Devon, over 4 ferries, in gorgeous weather. And my legs seems to have acclimatised to the West Country hills too.

My tent was pretty hot when I woke up, indicating another great day was on the cards weather wise. I rolled out into the fresh air, quick to get out of the oven like conditions the Akto can create in direct sunlight. One drawback of sleeping in a tent is you can’t really have a lie in when it gets hot, unless you want to emerge slightly hard boiled. Mind you when the weather gets good you don’t need a tent, unless there’s an abundance of midges or mosquitoes as there had been in Scotland.

After a shower and a quick breakfast – I was still full from last nights feasting – I packed up and was on the road by 09.30. My objective for the day was to use 4 ferries to cross rivers along the coast, and get back into Devon.

My first stop was Helford Village, a picturesque spot on the banks of the Helford River. It’s a lovely small village with a great pub, the Shipwrights Arms, but it was a little early to be frequenting a drinking establishment.

Helford Village - another bright day

Helford Village – another bright day

There’s a bit of a ford you can ride through, but there wasn’t a lot of water in it.

Helford Village - picturesque spot

Helford Village – picturesque spot

Helford Village Pub

Helford Village Pub – bit early for a pint

I followed a narrow path down to the ferry landing, and had to use the orange disk to summon the boat from the other side of the river. You just open up the disk, which can be clearly seen from the other side, when you want to cross. Better than a phone with little reception in the area, and more fun.

Orange Disk of ferry summoning

Orange Disk of ferry summoning

After unloading my bike to get it down the steps to the jetty, I sat on the wall to wait for the boat, idly swinging my legs to work some of the latent stiffness out of my muscles. It was a perfect morning and a perfect spot.

The ferry duly arrived, and as the lone passenger I loaded my panniers and bike on board with help from the ferry boat skipper Stephanie (think that was her name anyway, apologies if not). Stephanie comes down from Cambridge each year to work the ferry for a few months, which sounds like sounds a pretty idyllic way to spend your summer. I only just had enough money to pay for the crossing, which costs £6 with a bike, however it was worth it for the scenery and experience and saved me a long trek inland to find a bridge. It’s only a short crossing over to Helford Passage, the village on the other side, where I disembarked and a group with an enormous dog got on for a trip back. The dog really wasn’t sure about the whole thing but was eventually coaxed into the boat.

I added Helford to my list of places to come back to , as I pedalled off up a big climb out of the village and took the road around to Falmouth and my next ferry crossing of the day. The Cornish countryside looked and smelt lovely in the sunshine, as I passed through Mawnan Smith and Penjerrick, very Cornish sounding place-names.

Falmouth is a much bigger town and I stopped to get some cash out, as well as pick up some supplies. I bought six ripe bananas for 48p from a greengrocers, a bargain, as well as some more sun-cream and multi-vitamins. After a cold drink I headed down to the harbour to find a ferry over to St. Mawes.

After a bit of a circuit of the town I located a promising ferry, and had to carry my bike and panniers down some steps to get to the boat on Princess Pier. I only just made the 12.15 sailing, and thankfully the crew were on hand to help load everything into the boat, a slightly bigger affair than the Helford ferry.

It was a nice crossing over to St. Mawes, during which I chatted to one of the crew for whom today was his first day on the job. It’s a long day and hard work but nice being out in the sunshine and fresh air, providing the weather stays good. It was good to relate a few of my experiences and learn a bit about the route ahead over to Fowey. There was a guitarist on board who entertained us with a few melodies on the way across, made me miss my guitar but it really wouldn’t have been practical to bring it on tour.

St. Mawes harbour

St. Mawes harbour

I stopped for a bite to eat in St. Mawes, fish and chips; sustainably sourced Icelandic Cod from the Watch House. I don’t usually eat Cod however as the restaurant had gone to great lengths to promote the fact it was from sustainable resources I thought it a safe option. I was glad I’d decided to opt for the traditional seaside delicacy, as it rivalled that I’d had a couple of months back in Whitby, which felt like a long time ago now.

St. Mawes - looking over to St. Anthony

St. Mawes – looking over to St. Anthony

With my energy levels restored I pressed on, deciding against using the ferry across to St. Anthony, it was getting expensive on the wallet, and instead taking the A3078 up the hill to St. Just in Roseland. There are a lot of towns and villages around here named after saints.

There followed a long stint along country roads towards St. Austell. The lanes are a little maze like around this neck of the woods and I took a wrong turning up to Grampound. I also had a few close encounters with the drivers of large 4×4’s and vans, including one interesting altercation between a farm tractor and a shiny Chelsea tractor. As with other day I slipped through leaving them to sort out who was going to back down. Things would be a lot easier if people would just buy smaller cars, half of them only had one or two people in.

Back on track I headed past St. Austell and down to Fowey, drinking copious amounts of water due to the heat. I paused in Fowey for what I reckoned was a well earned cold pint after tackling a lot of hills, then had a quick look around. Fowey is another lovely small coastal town, with a ferry that runs across the River Fowey to Polruan.

Suitably rehydrated I took ferry number 3 over to Polruan, after negotiating steep steps down to the stone jetty. I was developing a pretty slick process of loading and unloading the panniers from my bike as I carried it and my kit to and from ferries, often up and down steep steps to jetties or piers.

The road out of Polruan involved a leg burning hill climb. I made it up but attracted curious looks from quite a few villagers and tourists, who obviously thought I was slightly mad for not just pushing my bike up. I pedalled on to Looe, via a slightly roundabout route due to bad map reading skills and warren like roads…again.

Looe 1

Looe 1

There’s a bridge over the river at Looe, rather than a ferry, which I crossed before heading up the A387, intending to join the B3253.

Looe 2

Looe 2

Unfortunately the B3253 was closed so I had to take the long way around, continuing inland on the A387 over rolling hills on my way to Torpoint.

B3253 closed - not a sign you want to see on a cycle tour

B3253 closed – not a sign you want to see on a cycle tour

After a lovely ride through more great countryside, and waving to several other cyclists, I made it to Torpoint. I was impressed with my stamina today, my legs seemed to be working well taking on one hill after another without too much trouble.

I met another cyclist whilst waiting for the chain ferry across to Plymouth, who advised on the protocol for boarding. The ferry is free for cyclists, and seems like a far better option than tackling the busy main road which runs further inland around the north side of Plymouth.

Torpoint 1

Torpoint 1

Chatting to the fellow cyclist on the way across I learned she worked for the Department of Fisheries, so I asked her what she thought of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. She agreed that he’s done some great work in challenging the fish discard rules, but needs to be careful with some of his more recent Fish Fight campaigns which could just result in putting honest fishermen out of work; as always it’s important people follow expert advice and not just reckon one knows best. I feel quite passionately about giving the oceans a chance to recover, and banning irresponsible fishing techniques, but like everything you need to know the facts to make an informed argument.

Torpoint 2

Torpoint 2

She also recommended a good campsite, just on from Plymouth in Newton Ferrers. There was allegedly a very nice pub in the village, so I decided to take her advice and head there for the evening. Where a nice pub is concerned I don’t need a lot of convincing.

Bike on board the Plymouth chain ferry

Bike on board the Plymouth chain ferry

Riding off the ferry at Devonport I successfully negotiated Plymouth and some pretty intense traffic, heading for the A379. There are several cycle paths running alongside the road which I was able to take advantage of. These are great aside from when cars decide to park in them.

I was cycling along minding my own business, well actually I was looking down at my map trying to work out where I was, when I looked up to see the rear end of a Volvo estate a couple of metres in front of me. Unable to stop in time, but taking the edge off my speed by slamming on my brakes, I smacked into the back of it. I didn’t go over the handlebars, but did end up on my cross bar, and my rear panniers came off in the impact. It would have been a lot worse if I hadn’t looked up. Unfortunately I bent my front forks in slightly, meaning my fuel bottle would no longer fit in its cage without interfering with the front mud guard. I think my front wheel was bit battered too, not to mention me. After relocating my fuel bottle and reattaching panniers I was able to continue. The Ridgeback proved its toughness by not being otherwise adversely affected, as far as I could tell anyway.

The Volvo was of course completely unharmed in the altercation. There was no-one in it at the time, and whilst it’s a bit annoying to have someone stopped in the cycle lane it wasn’t illegally parked, so it was completely my fault.

With a slight case of bruising in my nether regions I continued on out of Plymouth via Pomphey, taking the bridge over the River Plym on to the A379. I turned right at Yealmpton, on the B3186, down to Newton Ferrers and tackling the last hills of the day with my bike still running well despite the collision.

I arrived at Briar Farm campsite as afternoon turned into evening, quickly pitching my tent and heading down to the pub to find something to eat. Newton Ferrers is a pretty village, and evidently home to quite a few people with a lot of money, there being a yacht club and expensive looking houses. There’s one shop where I was able to buy a few supplies for the morning.

Newton Ferrers

Newton Ferrers

I met the campsite owner in the Dolphin Inn where apparently he spends quite a bit of his time, so paid the £7.00 site fee, before enjoying the food that had been laid out for the pub quiz. I’d arrived a bit late to participate in the actual quiz, however they were quite happy for me to finish up some of the food, which I proceeded to do with some gusto over a couple of pints. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, listening to the quiz whilst chatting to Ed the bar manager. Newton Ferrers was the birthplace of the famous pirate Henry Every, who plied his trade in the late 17th century in the Atlantic and Indian oceans. He was never caught and retired very rich, somewhere unknown, inspiring others to take up the pirate way of life.

Dolphin Inn, Newton Ferrers

Dolphin Inn, Newton Ferrers

I was somewhat amused to hear one of the younger patrons talking to her friends about her busy day planned for tomorrow. She needed to visit the solicitor to sign the papers for the house daddy had bought her, alright for some.

Newton Ferrers Cross

Newton Ferrers Cross

After a great day encompassing 4 ferries and some beautiful coastline and countryside, a long with my fair share of hills, I retired to my tent ready for sleep. Tomorrow I planned to head for Torquay to stay with friends, Chris and Sam, which meant more ferry crossings and more steep climbs. Bring it on.

Leg 68 – to Newtown-in St.-Martin, via Land’s End and the Lizard

08 July 2013

Everything ached when I woke up at about 08.00. I think the last few days of Devon and Cornwall hills had finally caught up with me. My legs were stiff for the first time in ages, and my forearms and hands ached from all the hill climbs.

A warm shower helped alleviate the muscle fatigue, followed up with breakfast at the campsite cafe. Over a fry up I worked out I still needed to cover about 70 miles a day to get to Latitude on time, but could afford a slower recovery day today. I think I needed it physically as well as mentally, having somewhat run out of steam.

After packing up I was on the road by 10.30, cycling down to Land’s End via Sennen and passing the First and Last Inn on the way.

The First & Last Inn

The First & Last Inn

I pedalled into the Land’s End visitor centre, which is slightly on the tacky side with attractions such as King Arthur’s quest. The coastline however is fantastic affording superb views out over the Atlantic. Consequently I took rather a large number of photos which I’ve put into a gallery. I even managed to get the horizon straight on some of these, will wonders never cease.

I met another cyclist whilst at the famous sign-post, which was massively crowded with people wanting to get their photo taken. He was visiting Land’s End by car today, and took my photo for me next to the sign. He lives in Exeter and is recovering from kidney cancer – yet another person affected by this disease. It was nice to have a chat and good to hear he still gets out on his bike, doing some big distances albeit not as quickly as he used to due to reduced lung capacity. Good on you!

I spent about an hour at Land’s End enjoying the perfect weather, and despite it only being the morning had a beer to celebrate completing a Jogle, albeit a very long winded version thereof.

After having a walk around a bit of the coastal path I got back on my bike, ready to tackle the South Coast of Britain. It felt like I’d reached another milestone on the tour, and that I was really getting into the last stages of my ride. Unfortunately the wind had changed direction to a North Easterly, which was a little frustrating considering I’d been looking forward to a prevailing South Westerly. Fingers crossed it would change again soon.

I hit the hills once more, pedalling past Porthgwarra and Porthcurno, both sites of childhood escapades. I stopped at the Merry Maidens, a late Neolithic stone circle, for a quick break. I’d driven past the circle many times, but can’t remember ever actually having visited it properly, so took a wander up.

The Merry Maidens

The Merry Maidens

The circle has other standing stones called the Pipers associated with it, and legend has it that the Maidens and Pipers were turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath. This is a little odd as I’m pretty sure they didn’t have the Sabbath in Neolithic times, Christianity not having arrived in Britain until a lot later. This tale is not uncommon, apparently being associated with other stone circles, and is probably adapted from earlier tales not involving Christianity.

The Merry Maidens - panorama

The Merry Maidens – panorama

Whatever the truth the circle is a nice relaxing spot, and it was nice sitting in the grass listening to the ever present skylarks after the busy road from Land’s End. It was quite bizarre touching the sun warmed stones and thinking they were erected thousands of years ago. I wondered what the people were like who lived here at the time, and what they used the circle for. Perhaps it was a calender to mark the passing of the seasons, or a site to perform religious rituals, or maybe something more mundane like a UFO landing site, or stone age drive through. The stones will no doubt be year for thousands of years to come.

I pedalled on to Mousehole, scene of a childhood fishing misadventure, and stopped for another walk about.

Mousehole 1

Mousehole 1

My brother and I were fishing off the end of one of the piers, many moons ago, when everything went slightly awry. I cast the line, which sailed out across the mouth of the harbour straight into the wooden beam on the other side. I reckon the wind must have taken it. The hook on the end of my line became thoroughly embedded in the wooden beam, and despite much cajoling would not come loose. Worse was to come in the form of a motor boat that wanted to get into the harbour, but was obstructed by my line. I should have just cut the line, but being very young panicked and tugged harder, which just resulted in embedding the hook further into the wood. More yanking resulted in a sickening crack as I broke my Dad’s wooden fishing rod, which he’d had since he was a child, and the end slipping down the fishing line. Calamity! Eventually a group of kids on the other side came to my rescue and unhooked the fishing line so I could reel it in. Not my greatest ever day’s fishing, however Dad was quite sympathetic.

Mousehole harbour 2

Mousehole harbour 2

Despite the bad memories from that fateful day Mousehole is a lovely fishing village, and it was good to have a walk around the harbour, passing the Ship Inn where I’ve enjoyed scampi and chips several times.

I continued on to Newlyn where we stayed whilst on holiday. We used to fish off the South Pier, but that’s closed to the public now due to health and safety I think. Health and safety rules are pretty vexing at times.

Newlyn - South Pier

Newlyn – South Pier

There definitely aren’t as many fishing boats in Newlyn harbour as there used to be, which I guess is down to fishing quotas making it very difficult for fishermen to make a living. I agree that fishing needs to be controlled to allow stocks to recover, however it’s sad to see a decline in the traditional way of life for so many people around the coast.

Newlyn Harbour

Newlyn Harbour

Despite the lack of fishing boats compared to yesteryears, Newlyn hasn’t changed a lot, and it was nice to stop and remember some fun times fishing out in all weathers, or walking down to the old harbour.

Newlyn harbour and old harbour

Newlyn harbour and old harbour

I rode on around to Penzance, where feeling a bit peckish I stopped for a baguette on the seafront. It really was a gorgeous day and really hot, however I was still feeling pretty tired so was glad to be taking it easy.

After lunch I pedalled on to Marazion, passing St. Michael’s Mount where people were paddling across the partially submerged causeway to the small tidal island.

St. Michael's Mount 1

St. Michael’s Mount 1

St. Michael’s Mount is called Karrek Loos yn Koos in Cornish, which means ‘grey rock in the woods’. The island was once surrounded by forest rather than the sea, but at some point the sea flooded in and cut it off from the mainland. There are varying accounts of when this may have taken place, and various interesting historical facts and legends associated with the island. Was it part of the fabled ancient kingdom of Lyonesse, or the island visited by the Greek geographer Pytheas in the 4th century BC?

St. Michael's Mount 3

St. Michael’s Mount 3

The Mount has been the site of a monastery in the past, and still boasts an impressive looking castle.

St. Michael's Mount 4

St. Michael’s Mount 4

From Marazion I cycled round to Helston on the  main road, the A394, up and down several hills which were pretty challenging in the heat. The buzzards were circling waiting for exhausted cyclists to fall by the wayside and provide a tasty meal, although by this stage of the tour there was far less of a meal to me that when I’d started. I seen a lot of buzzards since entering the west country, along with a variety of other birds of prey.

Drinking a lot of water and taking it easy in the hot weather I turned on to the A3083, passing Culdrose Airfield, and cruised down a comparatively flat road to the Lizard, the most southerly point on the UK mainland.

The Lizard wasn’t as busy as Land’s End but there were still a lot of tourists about, and a decided lack of lizards which slightly confused and disappointed the Lobster who I think may have been suffering slightly from sunstroke.

The name ‘Lizard’ may originate from the Cornish name for the area, which means ‘High Court’, so it may have been an important settlement in the past. Or it may be to do with the serpentine rocks which stretch down into the sea and look a bit lizard like. It’s a lovely spot, with Kynance Cove on the western side of it, and well worth a visit. The whole coast is worth a visit when the weather is good, or bad if you’re prepared for it; visually stunning and emotive in all seasons . When conditions are bad and the sea rough you can well imagine why it’s hazardous for shipping, the coastline around here being known as the ‘Graveyard of Ships’, hence the many lifeboat stations including one at the Lizard.

After a break I rode back up the road, before turning off to Goonhilly passing the ‘Satelite Earth Station’.

Goonhilly 1

Goonhilly 1

The satellite dishes looked like something out of Star Wars, and I half expected to see an Ewok pop out of the long grass. Maybe Lobster wasn’t the only one suffering from a bit of heatstroke. Chief Chirpa did not make an appearance as I pedalled past.

Goonhilly 2

Goonhilly 2

Feeling tired I decided to stop early after covering just 51 miles, my shortest day in a while. I found a campsite in Newtown-in-St.-Martin, not far from the Helford River which I planned to cross tomorrow. The campsite was a bit of a find, also being a pub – the Prince of Wales.

The Prince of Wales in Newtown-in-St.-Martin

The Prince of Wales in Newtown-in-St.-Martin

I set up my tent and had a very welcome shower, before making my way to the pub to celebrate completing the full set of cardinal points; I’d been to the furthest points north, south, east and west on the UK mainland.

Tent set up at the Prince of Wales

Tent set up at the Prince of Wales

As a morale booster I treated myself to a meal in the pub too, going the whole hog and ordering a starter, main course and dessert. A spectacular home-made burger followed fish-cakes, with the meal rounded off by treacle tart and clotted cream. I’d really needed the early stop and thoroughly enjoyed my evening in the pub.

I intended to be up in good time the following day to take a series of ferries along the coast, starting with the Helford River crossing, before cycling on to Falmouth and beyond. The weather forecast looked like it was going to be another hot one, so I had one more pint of Cornish Ale (Lance) to ensure I was properly hydrated before going to bed. I can also recommend the Rattler Cider.

Leg 67 – to Trevedra Farm, Sennen, via Padstow, St. Agnes and St. Just

07 July 2013

After a very chilled out evening at Sundowners I was somewhat reluctant to surface, however the heat eventually drove me from my tent into a cool northerly breeze. It looked like it was going to be another hot day for the pedal towards Land’s End.

Southwinds - another lovely day

Southwinds – another lovely day

I had a shower and packed up, loading up my bike and heading back to Sundowners for breakfast. I’d been reliably informed by Matt that it would be just what I needed to get over the Cornish hills today.

Packing up again

Packing up again

Me ready for another day

Me ready for another day, and loving the sunshine

Breakfast was large, very large. I chose the Sundowners special which consisted of 2 sausages, 2 poached eggs, bacon, beans, mushrooms, thick cut toast, and a pile of pancakes that follow a recipe Matt has perfected over a number of tasting session. The pancakes were delicious, as was the whole breakfast, although I could perhaps have squeezed in some black pudding too.

Sundowners breakfast

Sundowners breakfast of champions

I could have quite happily hung around the bar and Polzeath for the day, having a rest and eating more pancakes, however Land’s End was beckoning.

Perfect pile of pancakes

Perfect pile of pancakes

Sundowners

Sundowners

Bidding Matt and Sundowners adieu I rode down the hill to the village of Polzeath, which I still can’t pronounce right. It was very busy with beach goers, including a lot of surfers. It looked like a good day for surfing, with a decent swell.

Polzeath beach

Polzeath beach

From Polzeath I cycled down down country roads, past the turning to Rock which is allegedly quite posh. I had to squeeze past several expensive cars, including a number of Chelsea tractors who showed little in the way of consideration for a laden cycle tourer, meaning I had to get friendly with the hedgerow a few times. I have a deep suspicion that a lot of people owning these huge 4x4s can’t actually cope with their size or drive them very well. When it comes to manoeuvres such as reversing, or knowing where the edges of your vehicle are on narrow roads, they panic and just sit in the middle of the lane until the person coming the other way does something. It’s quite interesting when you get one coming from either direction, with neither willing or perhaps able to get out of the other’s way. In one such situation I quickly slipped by before the stand-off got ugly.

I crossed the River Camel into Wadebridge, then rode down the Camel Trail to Padstow. It’s about 5 miles on the trail to Padstow, or Padstein as it’s often called nowadays due to the influence of the famous local chef Rick Stein.

On the Camel Trail alongside the River Camel

On the Camel Trail alongside the River Camel

The popular cycle track follows the course of another old railway line, alongside the river through some lovely scenery. It being Sunday and gorgeous weather there were loads of cyclists out. You can hire bikes at either end of the trail as Nadia and Simon had done, two of my friends from Norwich, just a couple of weeks earlier. They took their son Yared on his first cycle trip down the trail, although being a baby he was only a spectator and probably slept for most of it. It was Nadia’s first outing on a bike, or a trike in this case, in a long time, and she got a puncture; should have insisted on Marathon Plus’. Well done for getting out there though!

Camel Trail - old railway bridge

Camel Trail – old railway bridge

I think the Camel Trail was the only flat bit of the day’s ride, however it was so packed I got caught in traffic a few times and was glad to reach Padstow.

Camel Trail - approaching Padstow

Camel Trail – approaching Padstow

Latterly I came across two kayakers out on the river having a rather tricky time of it. They’d obviously misjudged how deep the water was going to be, and with the tide out their kayaks were grounded. There was really nothing anyone could do to help them, they were just going to have to get out and push. I left them to it hoping there was no sinking sand about.

Arrival in Padstow - Stein's fishmongers and fish and chips shop

Arrival in Padstow – Stein’s fishmongers and fish and chips shop

Rick Stein has several restaurants in town, most beyond the budget of a humble cycle tourer. Lu and I had fish and chips from his shop when we visited, and whilst I was tempted to repeat the experience it was still a bit early, and I was still pretty full after my huge breakfast. Instead I had a stroll about and bought a cold drink and some flapjack, the latter for later, down by the harbour.

Padstow Harbour, nice boat

Padstow Harbour, nice boat

Padstow was really busy, thronged with holiday makers, however it was nice to pause and cool down a bit. A random passer-by stopped for a chat as I was sitting by the harbour, intrigued by what I was up to with all my panniers and slightly dishevelled appearance. We had a quick chat after which he offered me his garden to pitch up in, should I be passing at the right time of day. He lives near Exeter so it could’ve worked as I pedalled up the south coast.

Padstow Harbour

Padstow Harbour

Padstow Harbour 2

Padstow Harbour 2

I pedalled up out of Padstow and into the Cornish hills, then down the coast to Newquay. I didn’t stop in Newquay, not wanting to get embroiled in the town. As mentioned before it’s a bit grotty these days so I continued on my way.

My speed today was low, perhaps averaging only 10 miles an hour due to the hills and tired legs. I was however thoroughly enjoying the ride along the north coast of Cornwall, taking in some great views and feeling in holiday mode. I rode through Perranporth passing another gorgeous and packed beach.

Perranporth 1

Perranporth 1

I noticed there were lots of mini tents on the beach, presumably to give people somewhere to get changed, and for infants to get some shade from the sun. Are these a new thing as I can’t remember seeing so many before? The beach was packed beach goers, either laying in the sun, surfing, playing ball games or building sandcastles, all good fun.

Perranporth 2

Perranporth 2

From Perranporth I rode up a steep hill and down a bit of a windy road to St. Agnes, passing through the picturesque village before reaching the cove and beach, which funnily enough was also packed with holiday makers. It’s a lovely spot and somewhere I hadn’t been before, so I decided to have a break, it being about 15.00 and well past lunchtime. I found Breakers Cafe, as recommended by Matt, and consumed a tuna melt panini with a cold drink, whilst watching the surfers and body boarders enjoying the waves.

The sea looked very tempting, however I still had miles to go and didn’t want to get sand in places sand didn’t need to be – not good when cycling. Whilst it was lovely today the cove is a completely different environment during a storm, as evidenced by a picture on the wall from a few years back, which showed huge waves crashing into the cove and the front of the building. Apparently the waves were so fierce buildings were damaged and anything not tied down washed away. In fact a load of surf boards that had been tied down weren’t there any more after the storm had passed.

After refilling my empty water bottles at the cafe I was ready to go again, setting off back up the hill through St. Agnes. It was so hot today I was going through water very quickly, so the refill was well timed. The melodic strains of folk music greeted me from outside the attractive village pub, where a live band was playing; what a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The experience was repeated several times during the course of the day, with lots of bands playing in pub gardens.

Portreath..I think

Portreath..I think

Sticking to the coast I pedalled on to Portreath, Gwithian, and then around St. Ives Bay to Hayle and St. Ives itself. My legs were really starting to ache from the constant climbs, which I seemed to spend the majority of my day tackling, the downwards stretches not taking very long.
With time ticking on I paused briefly in St. Ives to eat an energy bar (Bounce), and then set off on the B3306 to St. Just.

St. Ives

St. Ives

I really am going to have to get better at holding my phone straight when I’m taking pictures – another wonky horizon!

The coast road wound up and down hills along the beautiful Cornish coast, and through places familiar from childhood holidays and the more recent trip down here with Lucy. I passed a sign to Paradise Park, somewhere my brother and I had loved visiting as children. It’s a large wildlife sanctuary, with lots of tropical birds, although the we liked the birds of prey more than anything else. Good to see it’s still going strong.

Road to St. Just

Road to St. Just

I rode through Zennor and on to Pendeen, site of the famous Geevor tin mine. Tin has been mined here for thousands of years.

Pendeen - tin mine

Pendeen – tin mine

Geevor Tin Mine

Geevor Tin Mine

I passed a cow by the road side. They always make me slightly nervous due to their tendency to start following me as I cycle past. I still haven’t worked out why they do this, maybe it’s my red panniers. In any case this particular bovine was fairly docile and left me alone.

Cow on the road

Cow on the road – always makes me slightly nervous

From Pendeen it was a short ride to St. Just, where I paused to buy a few supplies for dinner. Despite it only being a couple of miles to my destination I had to have a break to try and get some energy back, drinking some chocolate milk from the Co-op, and topping up with a banana for good measure.

I finally made it over the last few hills to Trevedra Farm campsite, arriving about 20.15. Reception was closed but I’d called earlier and they’d said just to pitch up and we’d sort out paying in the morning. I got my tent up as the sun started to disappear, then settled down to the serious business of eating.

Trevedra Farm Campsite

Trevedra Farm campsite

Following a large pork pie, houmous and pitta bread, fruit and chocolate, I was feeling a lot better, especially after a couple of beers. I called my parents to report that I was almost at Land’s End, and learned Andy Murray had won Wimbledon, excellent news.

The campsite overlooks Whitesand Bay which runs around to Sennan, and I could see the Longships Lighthouse off the coast from Land’s End. I grabbed another beer and sat in the grass watching the sun go down. I was hoping to see the ‘Green Flash’, which is allegedly more visible from here. Mr Worth, the father of one of my Mum’s friends from University, fished the waters off the Cornish coast for many a year, and reported seeing it one several occasions. It’s a phenomenon only visible for a few seconds at most, as the sun sets. I didn’t see it this time around, however the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean was glorious in its own right.

It had been a good day’s ride, covering  around 82 miles and bringing my total close to 4,500. The route tomorrow would take me to Land’s End, another milestone, and on to the Lizard, the most southerly point on the UK mainland. It might even be a bit flatter after today’s hills, however I wasn’t convinced. I’d got a bit sunburnt today due to sun-cream just sweating off in the heat, so would have to keep an eye on that lest I end up looking like Rudolf.

After the sun had gone down I gazed up at the stars for a bit. The sky was amazingly clear, and with little in the way of light pollution I could quite clearly see the milky way. It’s times like these when you can end up feeling remarkably small against the backdrop of the Universe.

Feeling pensive I retreated out of the north wind, which was chilling things off. I was very tired after the day’s exertions, and somewhat emotionally drained too. I kept falling asleep as I tried to write up my journal, so gave up in the end, drifting quickly off into a deep slumber.

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Leg 66 – to Polzeath (near Padstow)

– 4,352 miles covered by close of play today, with about a 1,000 to go.

06 July 2013

I was up early to another day of sunshine, so got breakfast, bike checks and a shower out of the way quickly, before packing up. I headed to reception to drop off my toilet block key and get my deposit back, and to do some planning via my iPad; they have free wifi around the reception building which is handy.

Polzeath looked like a good destination to head for today, and the Southwinds campsite, so I gave them a quick call to book in just in case they got busy. It was only £7.00 for the night so good value compared with some.

Before leaving the campsite I met up with Mum and Dad, who returned my phone fully charged, and donated some homemade cookies to the cause – all calories gratefully received. It had been great to see them and I waved them off as they departed for home in East Sussex. All being well I’d be seeing them again in a couple of weeks anyway.

I bid goodbye to the Hele Valley Holiday Park and their wonderful staff, who also made a donation to the Big C, thank you! Ilfracombe was my first destination, only a mile down road. It was pretty busy with a lot of traffic and holiday makers, so I cycled straight through and out the other side, only stopping to use a handy cash point, and to take a pretty uninspiring photo as I realised I’d forgotten to take one at the campsite.

Ilfracombe

Ilfracombe High Street

Next up was a steepish ascent, followed by a long descent down to Braunton. I was able to take the cycle path for some of it, arriving in Barnstaple after about an hour and a half of pedalling in perfect weather. I had a quick walk through the town before picking up the Tarka Trail down the coast. It’s a tarmac’d cycle path running, as so many do, along the route of an old railway line.

Tarka Trail out of Barnstaple

Tarka Trail out of Barnstaple

There were a lot of other cyclists and walkers out in the sunshine, including a large group of girls on a hen party. They looked like they were having a lot of fun, although they freely admitted they were making pretty slow progress due to stopping for frequent breaks. I’m not sure their dresses were best suited for cycling, very entertaining though.

Tarka Trail to Bideford

Tarka Trail to Bideford

I bid the girls goodbye and sped off down the trail, before coming to a rather abrupt halt after I heard a distinctive pinging noise. The wheel destroying Spriggans were at work again, resulting in another broken spoke, and on the drive side this time which I couldn’t deal with; the cassette is in the way, I didn’t have the right tool, and I didn’t have any spokes of the correct length anyway. The wheel had immediately buckled, and pretty badly, so I pulled over to do what I could to temporarily fix it. Of course the hen party passed me shortly afterwards, which was slightly embarrassing after I’d zoomed off.

To fix the buckle in the wheel I had to tighten the spokes either side of the break, and slacken off a few on the other side. The rim had also developed a bit of a flat section which didn’t help matters. All in all it was looking like it was well and truly b*ggered, but I managed to get it into a state where I could continue, hoping there was a bike shop that could rectify matters in the next town along.

Limping to Bideford - still a lovely day though

Limping to Bideford – still a lovely day though, that’s probably Appledore over the water

River Torridge estuary

River Torridge estuary

I was reasonably concerned about how I was going to get this fixed as I limped to Bideford, crossing the old bridge over the River Torridge into the town. Using my phone I located a bike shop that stocked Ridgebacks, and was also a specialist. Fortune must have been smiling on me. Cycles Scuderia was completely on route on my way out of Bideford, and I quickly found it, interrupting Malcolm the owner and his wife as they were having lunch.

Cycles Scuderia - a lucky 'break'

Cycles Scuderia – a lucky ‘break’

After discussing the symptoms and conducting a preliminary exam of the patient Malcolm reckoned he could fix it. The flat section in the rim, as well as some of the spokes being slightly different lengths (I’d been sold shoddy spokes somewhere) meant a complete rebuild was needed. Patching it up would have just meant more spokes breaking at any given moment, but the good news was the wheel could be saved. This was especially fortuitous as he didn’t have any spares in stock. The nearest alternative shop would probably have been in Wadebridge which was miles away.

It was a busy Saturday in the shop, and they had customers backing up with new patients arriving all the time, so I was a extremely grateful that Malcolm was able to fit me in. Whilst the operation was in progress I retreated over the road to a cafe in the park, to get out of the way and grab some lunch while I had the chance.

Lunch at Le Cafe du Parc

Lunch at Le Cafe du Parc

The Cafe du Parc is run by a group of French chefs, who did me a great cheese and pâté platter. After a hectic and worrying morning it was good just to sit down and relax for a while, waiting for the outcome of surgery. I sat in the sunshine for a bit talking to my brother on the phone, before heading back to the shop.

Fortunately the operation had been a success, Malcolm having been able to rebuild my wheel. The flat section had popped out during the procedure and I now had a hand built wheel with new spokes, which I shouldn’t have any further issues with on the tour. From now on it will be hand built wheels all the way, it’s just not worth getting factory built ones which won’t last with all the weight on the bike over a long distance. The cheaper spokes they use in the factory built versions will break after a while, and after one’s gone more are likely to follow, like a zip undoing. That was probably the best £47.00 I spent on the tour, thanks Malcolm and Cycles Scuderia.

Bike back to fully working order I was ready to go again, but stopped briefly to chat to another customer who was on his way from Land’s End to John o’ Groats on his new Dawes tourer. It was his first tour and his gears had seized up, so needed Malcolm’s expert ministrations. He advised the roads ahead were hilly but good. I advised the roads ahead were much the same, and to beware the wilds of Wales if he was passing that way. And sheep, always watch out for the sheep.

I pedalled out of Bideford feeling somewhat relieved, however having spent 3 hours getting my wheel fixed I needed to make up some time. To get some miles done I took the A39 around the coast, up and down the rolling hills of Devon, before passing into Cornwall and reaching Bude, where I took a slight detour.

The A39 to Cornwall

The A39 to Cornwall

Welcome to Kernow

Welcome to Kernow

Bude was very busy with holidaymakers going to and from the beach and enjoying the various pubs, the river looked a bit manky though. I rode along the coast road, Marine Drive, to Widemouth Bay which was a lot nicer, and a big spot for surfers and body boarders.

Widemouth Bay 1

Widemouth Bay 1

I stopped for an ice cream to celebrate everything being in working order, and still being on track despite mechanical failures.

Widemouth Bay 2

Widemouth Bay 2

Widemouth Bay - surfers aplenty

Widemouth Bay – surfers aplenty

Widemouth Bay 3 - photo needs straightening!

Widemouth Bay 3 – photo needs straightening!

Post Widemouth Bay I rode around to Boscastle, ignoring Crackington Haven this time around as it was a dead end, with big hills that I didn’t really have time for after my sojourn at Cycles Scuderia. In any case there were plenty of hills to keep me entertained as I pedalled down the A39, then on to the B3263.

Boscastle

Boscastle

Boscastle is another picturesque village, and home to the museum of witchcraft which sounded intriguing was closed by the time I passed through. The village was badly flooded in 2004, and to a lesser extent in 2007. I remember seeing pictures on the news of people being rescued by helicopter, and of cars being washed down the river. Luckily no-one was killed but looking at the gorge you can see how the river gets funnelled down to the village, and how it could flood in extreme conditions. You can also see the high water mark from the floods, pretty scary.

Road out of Boscastle

Road out of Boscastle

There was another hen do out in Boscastle, all dressed in pink and sounding pretty raucous, also pretty scary so I gave them a wide birth.

Road to Tintagel - sun getting lower

Road to Tintagel – sun getting lower in the sky

I rode on to Tintagel, somewhere I’d explored thoroughly with Lu several years ago. I stopped at the top of the path going down to the castle, which we’d visited at the time. Looking out over the bay I remembered a great holiday, although Lu hadn’t been too keen on the camping side of things. I’d be passing through a lot of the places we’d stopped at back then, so there’d be a lot of happy memories to come.

image

King Arthur’s Arms – something for the tourists

Of course Tintagel Castle is also one of the places that could potentially be the site of King Arthur’s Camelot, if such a place ever existed, or is strongly associated with a lot of the stories anyway. There’s a lot of King Arthur based paraphanalia in the town, including the pub in the above photo, and Merlin’s Cyrstal Cave. One can well imagine how the countryside and coastline around here inspired some of the great tales associated with King Arthur and his knights.

I also stopped at the Old Post Office, a 14 Century stone building owned by the National Trust now.

The Old Post Office, Tintagel

The Old Post Office, Tintagel

I took the coast road out of Tintagel, having to deal with a massive and unexpected hill near Treknow where the road suddenly dips down into a gorge like cove. My heart dropped slightly when I saw the downwards slope appear around a corner, totally unexpected as it wasn’t marked on my map with the usual chevrons. I descended on squealing brakes, and had to push up the other side to Trebarwith Village, it was just too steep; my feet were spinning let alone my wheels.

With the sun starting to dip towards the horizon I pedalled on down the B3314 to Polzeath and the Southwinds campsite, a few final hills making my legs ache. It was great cycling through the countryside as the sun started to set, lighting up the sky with some wonderful colours. I arrived at the Southwinds at about 21.00, a late stop but I was feeling good after covering 85 miles, with the bike running well again.

Sun sets over Southwinds campsite

Sun sets over Southwinds campsite

I booked in and set up quick, then had a shower to wash away the day’s grime. This was a particularly pleasant experience after getting very hot and sweaty in the gorgeous weather.

Tent up quick at Southwinds

Tent up quick at Southwinds

There’s a bar/restaurant just next to the campsite, Sundowners at Carruan Farm. It’s owned and run by Matt and was a great find after a hard day. I arrived once they’d stopped serving food officially, however Matt was able to knock me up a hearty sandwich, which with a pint of cider was just what I needed anyway.

Sundowners is a lovely establishment, only having opened fairly recently. It’s a basically a big wooden barn structure, with a bar and restaurant area, and great views out over the coast. I spent a couple of hours winding down, chatting with Matt about various things. I’ve always had a slight yearning to run a bar or cafe/bar, with a theme to it, and Matt brought me up to speed with some of the challenges, such as what to do in winter time when business can fall off. Bad weather can also have a big impact, especially down in Cornwall, however it looked like the summer was starting to shape up so it should be a good one for Sundowners.

Matt is also a lifeboat man, for the boat based out of Padstow which is just across the River Camel from Polzeath. As expected most of the incidents the lifeboat is called out for are to rescue people that have got in trouble on runaway lilos, or after being trapped by the tide somewhere, rather than boats getting into difficulties. One of the big issues the lifeboat crew faces these days is land based, with a lot of the local houses being bought up as second homes. This means the crew can’t necessarily live close enough to the lifeboat station to provide a fast response. I’m not really sure what you can do about that. You can’t stop a local from selling their house to someone from London for well over the odds, but likewise it’s a shame that communities and services can suffer as a result.

Chatting through my route for the next few days Matt advised I skip Newquay, which has become a bit of a dive over recent years. I visited about 18 years ago when it was still relatively nice, but I think it’s gone a bit tacky since then. He recommended I drop in to St. Agnes. a village a bit further down the coast where there’s a cafe he owns, so I added that to the agenda for tomorrow. Tomorrow would also hopefully bring me to, or within throwing distance of, Land’s End.

After a very pleasant evening I retreated back to my tent, loaded with a complementary bottle of Scrumpy courtesy of Matt.

Scrumpy - could be dangerous

Scrumpy – could be dangerous

I’d meant to do some writing, however I couldn’t keep my eyes open and drifted off to sleep, hopeful of another day of good weather tomorrow.