Category Archives: Bike around Britain 2013

Posts from 2013 tour around coast of Britain

Self Propelled

I’ve started a new blog at selfpropelled.life where I’ll be relating tales from my future adventures. Please follow me and Travelling Lobster there to find out what I’m up to.

I’ll be keeping this blog live as a handy reference for budding cycle tourers looking to pedal around the coast of Britain, and as such have included links to the legs (Garmin maps) and  blog posts from that tour; 5,451 miles covered in 3 months.

Caveat – some of my routes were at times a little unorthodox, there may well be smoother rides in places. All worth it for scenes like this…

Loch Fyne sunset 1

Loch Fyne sunset, spent the night wild camping

Bike around Britain – blog index and route maps

Links to the legs (Garmin maps) and blog posts that took me around the coast of Britain in 86 days, covering 5,451 miles. Hopefully this will be of use to those of you planning similar tours.

Caveat – some of my routes were at times a little unorthodox, there may well be smoother rides in places. All worth it for scenes like this…

Loch Fyne sunset 1

Loch Fyne sunset, spent the night wild camping

Leg 82 – to Norwich, final Leg…for now

25 July 2013

So this was it, the final day of the tour, after 85 days on the road I had just one more and then I’d be home. It was a weird feeling and whilst I was looking forward to seeing everyone I wasn’t sure I was ready to reintegrate into ‘normal’ life. I’m writing this post over 3 months later and whilst I’m firmly back in a work routine, I definitely miss the simpler life of being on the road, and only having to think about food, miles, and where I’m going to sleep each night. I’m still cycling whenever possible, and have lots of ideas for future tours, I just need to decide on which one to do next and set a date.

Final day - bike packed and ready

Final day – bike packed and ready

It sounded like my tent was surrounded when I woke up to the sound of peacocks, seemingly from just the other side of the canvas. They’re pretty noisy avians and there was at least one wild one living on the campsite. It was still early but I got up anyway and had a shower, followed by a breakfast of ginger nuts as it was all I had left; I reckoned they would see me through to Lowestoft, and I thought I’d better start cutting down on my calorie intake now I wouldn’t be cycling 65 odd miles every day.

Morning, final day a bit grey

Morning, final day a bit grey

It had rained pretty heavily overnight and the sun was still obscured by clouds rolling in off the North Sea. I retreated to my tent as a shower passed over, leaving everything smelling fresh and clean. Unfortunately this meant I had to pack up my tent wet but with any luck I could dry it out in my garden when I got home. It was strange to think this was the last time I’d have to pack my kit into panniers, and my last day on the road. It had been eye-opening as to what you really need to survive, not very much apparently. I still had a couple of emergency ration packs I hadn’t used but they’ll keep; they weren’t due to go off for a few years yet.

Final campsite - Kessingland

Final campsite – Kessingland – Heathland holiday park

After I’d checked my bike over and pumped up my tyres I got on the road at about 09.00, and cycled the few miles to Lowestoft, completing my circuit of the coast of Britain. I stopped on the promenade where I’d been 86 days and 5,420 miles earlier; it seemed like longer and I paused to contemplate the places I’d been and people I’d met, mentally retracing the route I’d taken over the last few months. There were a lot of places I wanted to go back to, and new friends I’d like to see again.

Mostly for posterity I stopped for second breakfast in Lowestoft, at Greggs the bakers, and had a sausage roll and chicken fajita slice, the latter not very breakfast like but pretty tasty. Refuelled I set off on the final stretch back to Norwich, through the Suffolk and Norfolk countryside.

I pedalled up the B1074 from Lowestoft to Somerleyton, a pretty village with lots of identical houses painted red, with thatched roofs. I wonder if the deeds say you have to keep them all in an identical fashion.

Somerleyton

Somerleyton

St. Olaves came next with its small marina on the edge of the Norfolk Broads, where I joined the A143 to cross the River Yare. I was finally back in Norfolk!

Norfolk - Nelson's Country

Norfolk – Nelson’s Country

I cycled down familiar country roads I’d travelled down months ago whilst training for Bike around Britain, the clouds disappearing and sunshine blazing down over fields of ripening corn and barley, and lots of potatoes by the looks of it.

Back in Norfolk - ripening corn

Back in Norfolk – ripening corn

I passed through Loddon and Chedgrave, then on to Rockland St. Mary where there’s another Broad’s mooring. I pedalled idly, drawing out the last few miles and enjoying the quiet country roads and gorgeous weather. I’d been really lucky with the weather latterly, and the summer was shaping up to be far better than last year.

Brief pause near Bramerton

Brief pause near Bramerton

Despite riding slowly I arrived in Surlingham and then Bramerton ahead of schedule, coasting down to the river and Wood’s End to the Water’s Edge pub for lunch, just a few miles from Norwich. It’s a fantastic pub having been recently renovated, and with ongoing work to install a large decking area alongside the River Yare, a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by. I’d arranged to meet Mum & Dad, as well as Lucy’s parents and her Aunt and Uncle (John and Sena) who were visiting from New Zealand. My friend Nigel also cycled down to join us, and to accompany me on the final few miles back to Norwich.

It was a great welcome from everyone, and lovely having lunch down by the river in the sunshine. I was especially pleased that Sheila (Lucy’s Mum) made it out as she was just out of hospital having had surgery for skin cancer, a pretty serious operation that went very well. It’s great that the operation is done and dusted and a few months on she’s looking brill!

After lunch I cycled the last few miles to Norwich, via Whittlingham Broad, and stopped in at work to say hello. I received another great welcome, but thought everyone looked a little pale and overworked – get out in the sunshine more folks! Bob had brought cake to celebrate my arrival which I felt obliged to consume, after all I still had a few more miles to do. I really should have taken some back out for Nigel who was looking after my bike but I knew he was watching his weight 😉 – it was very good chocolate cake though. I said hello to our Newcastle office via conference video and then set off on the last few miles. Thank you for all your support Virgin Money.

Nigel and I pedalled from work into Norwich, doing a quick circuit of the city before a tactical stop and the X Bells for a gin and tonic to cool down. This was turning into a bit of a pub crawl however it was important to keep hydrated.

Nigel at the X Bells

Nigel at the X Bells

Nigel was pretty insistent that he’d had the hardest leg of the tour, and that we must of cycled miles; I appreciate your sacrifice mon ami.

G&T at the X Bells

G&T at the X Bells

We had to have a second G&T just to ensure we were ready for the half mile stretch to the Fat Cat, one of my favourite pubs in Norwich with the biggest selection of real ales I’ve seen anywhere. Having covered a lot of Britain on this tour I challenge anyone to name a pub that does a wider variety of quality beer.

The G&T made my hair go funny

The G&T made my hair go funny

We arrived safely at the Fat Cat to meet up with more friends and have a few beers to celebrate finishing my tour. It was a great turn out and really good to see everyone – I remember seeing Wayne, Nigel, Nicky, Chris B, Sinead, JB, Mike, Mark, Nigel P, Charlotte, Christopher, Frank, Karen and Slava, then it all goes a bit fuzzy. Dad also joined us and I’m  glad to say he was as merry as I was by the end of the evening, a few beers having turned into jugs of beer. Unfortunately I forgot to take any pictures but thank you all for coming down, it was a very good evening.

At the Fat Cat with jugs

At the Fat Cat with jugs – pic courtesy of Wayne

Needless to say the walk home, still with my fully laden bike, was a little tricky, however Dad helped push it up the hill. Mum welcomed us back, and was pretty sure she hadn’t seen Dad so ‘merry’ since his RAF days. I suspected tomorrow morning was going to be interesting.

So, the last leg was 39 miles, and I finally arrived home at about 23.00. There was bunting – pics from the day after.

Bike around Britain - bunting

Bike around Britain – bunting

Me - looking surprisingly un-hungover

Me – looking surprisingly un-hungover

Some vital statics from the tour:

  1. Miles covered = 5,451
  2. Days on the road = 86
  3. Number of punctures = 3
  4. Number of new rear wheels = 3
  5. Number of times I fell off = 3
  6. Days camping = 78
  7. Average miles per day = 63.4 (inc rest days, 70 if exclude)
  8. Max miles in one day = 128
  9. Carb consumption = Approx 4,000 a day
  10. Loaded bike weight = maybe 60kg, it was funny watching people try and lift it
  11. Weight lost = a measly 4 pounds
  12. Weight gain since getting back = half a stone and rising
Some highlights from my Bike around Britain tour

Bike around Britain highlights

Coming soon: I’ll post the routes for all my legs, and plans for another tour.

Thanks to everyone for following this blog, you’re too numerous to mention but I really appreciated the supportive messages, company of the road, company after a hard day’s riding, free food, bed, advice, and conversation. Over £7,300 raised for the Big C to date, and here’s to the girl that inspired my trip – thank you Lu, we all love and miss you but will always remember you.

Lucy

Lucy

Leg 81 – to Kessingland

24 July 2013

I didn’t get pounced on by an excited kitten during the night, and hence had a very good sleep at JJ and Sacha’s. I awoke feeling refreshed and ready for the day’s ride up towards Lowestoft. JJ was already busy working whilst I had breakfast, but he did have time to demonstrate Rocksmith, a newish guitar PC based game, which looks like a lot of fun. I’ve been playing the guitar for a while however I mostly just do chords, and this game might make me learn how to play tab and the odd riff. I might invest in it when the new version comes out, although this would mean having to buy an electric guitar too; I’m sure the neighbours won’t mind too much! It reminded me of how much I’d missed my guitar whilst on tour, however I’d be back home in a couple of days tops, and would see if I’d forgotten how to play it.

After breakfast and chatting to Sacha about small business ideas and investments (she knows lots of stuff), I packed up and bid my most excellent hosts goodbye. It was time to hit the road on my penultimate day’s ride, however I’d be seeing them again soon for their 10th wedding anniversary party – how time flies.

JJ seeing me off - keep on rockin'

JJ seeing me off – keep on rockin’

Back on the road I pedalled around Ipswich and into the countryside towards Felixstow, stopping briefly to re-secure a rattling pannier. A few things were looking a bit worn and battered on my bike now, including Lobster who definitely needed a wash; I’d have to do some repairs once I got home.

Me and Lobster - penultimate day

Me and Lobster – penultimate day

I rode through lots of farmland and noticed several weird looking bird scaring devices flying over fields. I’m assuming they were bird scaring devices anyway, they did look uncannily like Dementors – Harry Potter reference for those that don’t know, although I’m not sure how that’s possible.

Dementor over the Suffolk countryside?!

Dementor over the Suffolk countryside?!

It didn’t take very long to get down to Felixstow through flat countryside, and avoiding the busy A14 by taking more picturesque country roads. From there I cycled along the coast to Felixstow Ferry, a small village as well as somewhere you can get a passenger ferry over to Bawdsey. I had to signal for the ferry using a signal ‘plank’; I love these medieval methods of communication.

It was another lovely day with temperatures quickly rising, so it was nice to have break for the short ferry crossing over the River Deben.

Disembarking on the other side of the River Deben was somewhat complicated by the presence of lots of kids and their crabbing lines. It’s a wonderful occupation as a youngster, as you pull up crustacean after crustacean lured by various bits of smelly bait; Lobster was not impressed – with the bait that is. It’s not so great when a boat is trying to moor up and lines get tangled up with bits of ferry. The captain had a stern word with the kids in question, and their parents who were completing ignoring the chaos their children were causing.

I eventually managed to get my bike and panniers off the ferry boat and up the jetty to the road, avoiding knocking any kids or their parents into the river, although it was quite tempting to give them an accidental nudge. With everything once more stowed away I pedalled up through more gently undulating countryside to Hollesley, and along more narrow roads towards Snape – no Harry Potter  connection as far as I’m aware. I was mostly following the Suffolk Coast Trail cycle route, with the odd diversion as it seemed to wriggle around unnecessarily quite a bit.

There were lots of tractors and harvesting machines out at work in the fields, and I got covered by cloying dust on a number of occasions. I also got slightly distracted and took a wrong turning, and ended up adding on a few miles to my day’s leg. This wasn’t really a problem given the good weather and fact that I was in no particular rush. In fact I was getting more and more apprehensive about getting back to Norwich, just because that would mean the end of a great tour, and back to normal life, something I wasn’t sure I fitted any more. I guess normal is all relative anyway; I’ll have to pursue a different sort of ‘normal’ life.

One advantage of riding through farmland were the field irrigation machines in operation watering the crops…and the road. I was ‘watered’ a number of times as I pedalled along, which was very refreshing given the hot day.

Wherry Boat on the River Alde

Wherry Boat on the River Alde

For some reason my legs and knees were starting to ache quite a bit today, perhaps due to the heat and tiredness catching up with me, but you’d have thought they’d be used to it after 5,300 miles! I stopped for a break at the Maltings, near Snape, an old grain store on the River Alde that’s been converted into housing, a pub, cafe and a few shops.

The Maltings, River Alde

The Maltings, River Alde

I wolfed down a sandwich and a very welcome cold drink, and then had a weird conversation with a German cycle tourer who was somewhat exuberant about my bike and kit, despite it’s battered appearance. He was insistent that Ortlieb panniers were the ‘best of the best’, which I have to agree with him on, them having kept my kit dry through some very wet weather. Still he was very friendly and waved me off once I’d managed to extricate myself from his enthusiastic banter.

After lunch I rode up to Leiston, ignoring Aldeburgh due to aching knees, and past Sizewell power station on the B1125. I arrived in Blythburgh, where I’d been a couple of days before on my way down to Brightlingsea from Latitude; there was very little evidence remaining of the festival that had taken place just a few days previous.

I turned down the A1095 to Southwold, where I hadn’t been before despite it practically being on my doorstep and somewhere people had recommended. I had a pedal about, and whilst it’s a nice seaside town I think I prefer Walberswick just across the River Blyth, to the south of Southwold. In fact you can get a ferry from Walberswick to Southwold, which I could have taken advantage of if I’d thought about it, however there was no guarantee it was running which would have meant having to backtrack.

Southwold Pier

Southwold Pier

Southwold beach and beach huts

Southwold beach and beach huts

It was only a short stretch up to Kessingland, my destination for the night, past Wangford which is an awesome place name, as well as Cove Bottom and South Cove. I found the campsite, the Heathland Beach holiday park in Kessingland, and pitched my tent before going to find some food.

I ended up having dinner at the Sailor’s Arms, a busy pub right on the coastline who do a mean Haddock and chips. I enjoyed a couple of pints of ale whilst the sun got lower in the sky, lending the coast a striking quality. There were lots of holiday makers around enjoying the evening, and I made a note that this would be a good place to come back to in future, there being a campsite right next to the pub, and plenty of wild camping spots out on the beach. I was a bit annoyed I’d opted to camp at the site up in the village rather than down here, but hindsight is a wonderful thing, and at least there was a bar at the campsite should I need another pint later.

After dinner I made my way back to my tent, passing Africa Alive which explained the slightly out-of-place animal noises I’d been hearing. I got back to find a peacock on patrol around the campsite, however he didn’t seem to object to my presence, so after a another swift beverage I ensconced myself in my tent to get a good night’s sleep before riding the short distance up to Lowestoft tomorrow morning, and then back to Norwich. I’d covered 66 miles today, with a bit extra added on this evening due to riding to the Sailor’s Arms. I only had about 40 miles to go to get home.

Leg 80 – to Ipswich

23 July 2013

The tent had survived the overnight storms well, despite a patched up pole; another win for the Hilleberg Akto. It had been pretty fierce at times, with the heat wave breaking in a dramatic fashion. The thunderstorm had brought bangs and flashes which illuminated my tent and kept me awake, along with a few heavy showers which cooled everything down. I’ve always liked storms and it was pretty exciting lying there whilst it sounded like the apocalypse was starting outside. I wondered if it was heralding the arrival of my brother and sister-in-law’s second child, which was due any time, however I got a text from Will a bit later to confirm the baby still hadn’t appeared.

Brightlingsea - Packing up post thunderstorm

Brightlingsea – Packing up post thunderstorm

I had a bit of a slow start to the day as I waited for the patchy rain to stop, so didn’t actually leave the campsite until around 11.30. I also discovered I’d bought the wrong replacement brake pads yesterday, even though I could jury rig them in, so I’d need to find another shop at some point.

Ridgeback next to lake in Brightlingsea

Ridgeback next to lake in Brightlingsea

I had a quick pedal around Brightlingsea, down to the marina and around the town, before riding off on the penultimate penultimate day of my tour, destination Ipswich where I was planning to stay with old friends – JJ and Sacha.

Colourful beach huts in Brightlingsea

Colourful beach huts in Brightlingsea

It was decidedly cooler than the previous day, with the overnight storms having freshened things up, and clouds still in the sky. Everything smelt crisp and fresh, that wonderful aroma you get when it’s been dry for ages and then suddenly rains.

Brightlingsea marina and mud

Brightlingsea marina and mud

It was quick riding around to Clacton-on-Sea, via Jaywick, both of them pretty typical British seaside towns. Clacton had a pier and amusements, and the usual assortment of holiday makers.

Clacton-on-Sea

Clacton-on-Sea

Clacton-on-Sea 2 - grey day at the moment

Clacton-on-Sea 2 – grey day at the moment

After a brief break I pedalled on to Holland-on-Sea, then around to Frinton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze where I stopped for lunch; a sandwich meal deal from a supermarket. The last bit of Essex coastline followed as I made my way up to Harwich.

It was a nice ride up to Harwich, as the sun came out and it started to get hot again. I arrived at about 15.00, and had to wait 45 minutes for the ferry over the Rover Stour to Shotley Gate. I grabbed a coffee from the little cafe next to the ferry pontoon, and called my parents to make sure they weren’t having any dodgy parties in my house; they were staying there awaiting the birth of their next grandchild, as its within striking distance of Cambridge where Will and Louisa live. It was good to have someone in the house for a bit, and Dad would no doubt fix anything he found to be wanting that I hadn’t got around to; wobbly shelves, dodgy light bulbs etc.

Harwich quite surprised me. I was expecting a pretty dull and busy port, and whilst it is indeed a large and very busy container port it’s also a pleasant town, with multicoloured beach huts and unique lighthouses. It was nice riding slowly along the waterfront, looking at the large ships out on the water and idly contemplating stowing away on one to get over to Amsterdam. I was really starting to dread getting back to Norwich, even though I was looking forward to seeing friends again. I’d spent so long planning for this tour, and then 3 more months doing it, and I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen next even though I’d had lots of ideas. I guess I was worried that once I got back to work life would just return to the same old cycle of long hours, and not having the time to pursue what I really wanted to do; sadly one has to earn a wage. I resolved to sit down and properly plan out alternatives over the winter months, so I’d have something to look forward to in the new year.

The ferry over the River Stour cost £4.50; a pleasant crossing and the captain helped load my bike and panniers on board. Back in Suffolk I rode towards Manningtree alongside the the River Stour, through some lovely and very peaceful countryside, before turning onto the A137 to Ipswich. This was familiar territory as I’d only travelled on it yesterday on my way down from Latitude, to restart my tour around the coast.

I was drinking copious amounts of water again due to the heat, so stopped off at Jimmy’s Farm for a break. I’d watched his TV series several years ago, where he gave up a relatively stable life to start a farm in the Suffolk countryside, overcoming financial challenges, and learning how to farm pigs from scratch. He had a loan from his childhood friend Jamie Oliver to start the enterprise, and I admired his commitment and resolve to see things through, despite the strain it put on his relationship and coming close to failing on a few occasions. He saw it through and now appears to be running a successful business.

Jimmy's Farm

Jimmy’s Farm

It looks like he’s diversified quite a bit since the TV series, with a ‘Theatre in the woods’, Caravan Club area and restaurant, as well as the shop and nature walk. I didn’t stay long as it was starting to get late, but it was good to have seen, and motivational from the point of view of thinking about new starts; I’d have to come back for a proper visit soon.

Jimmy's Farm 2

Jimmy’s Farm 2

I pedalled on to Ipswich, with the traffic getting heavier as it was rush hour. I got shouted at by one driver who wanted me to get onto a non-existent cycle path, which was helpful. Despite the busy roads and a few navigational errors in Ipswich itself, I made it to Sacha and JJ’s unscathed. JJ is an old friend from University, and it was great to see both him and Sacha again. Sacha and the kids had spent a busy day de-fleaing the house, it having been populated by the annoying critters courtesy of their new and delightful cat Miss Moneypenny. It was lovely to have a shower and relax after a relatively short day mile wise, just 62 miles, but it had been pretty hot again for the last half.

I chatted to Sacha whilst we waited for JJ to get back from work, and I helped peel the spuds; it was good to catch up. A lovely dinner of beef and roasted vegetables followed, accompanied by a beer and good company. JJ was in training for the Ipswich half marathon, having only started running a few months ago; he’s completed it now, a great effort, congrats and good luck with the full marathon, or Spartan Challenge ;o)

We watched a couple of episodes of Arrested Development to chill out to before bed, which was something I hadn’t seen before and pretty funny. It was nice to sleep in a real bed again after the festival, and not sleeping too well last night due to the storm; I had to be careful not the let the kitten sneak in though!

It was weird going to sleep thinking that this time tomorrow I’d only be a stone’s throw from home.

Leg 78, Latitude and Leg 79

18 July 2013

I was up early in anticipation of Latitude, and joining the Tour de Latitude from a few miles down the road. A big breakfast of baguette, pâté and other leftovers quickly disappeared, and I decided to give away a couple of large pots of yoghurt rather than risk them bursting in my panniers; something I’d experienced previously and had to spend ages cleaning up. The French tourers I gave them to were happy recipients and wished me well on the rest of my tour.

Lobster and I ready to hit the road to Latitude

Lobster and I ready to hit the road to Latitude

In high spirits I packed up quickly and rode the few miles to the Cricketer’s Rest in Fordham Heath, near Eight Ash Green, arriving a little early, however some of the Latitude Tour crew were already setting up. I registered and unloaded my panniers into the van, leaving just my tent and bar bag on the Ridgeback. It felt a lot lighter and unaccustomed to the lack of luggage I was a bit wobbly as I tested out my streamlined bike.

Bike sans Panniers, ready for Tour de Latitude

Bike sans Panniers, ready for Tour de Latitude

Once registered I chatted to other ‘Tour de Latitude’ participants as they arrived, and we were ready to go by about 10.00. I munched my way through a second breakfast courtesy of Marks & Spencer who sponsor the tour, and provide food and refreshments along the way. There were 30 to 40 of us leaving from the Colchester start point, with other start points in London, where they’d already be on the road, and Ipswich where they’d start a bit later. People wanting to take part have to raise a minimum of £150 for charity, and get a free ticket upgrade to the guest camp which has better facilities, and you have more of a chance of bumping into other interesting guests. They raised over £7,000 for the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity this year – read more here – /www.latitudefestival.com/news/why-not-travel-first-class-bike-tour-de-latitude

Motorbike Marshals - they accompanied us along the route

Motorbike Marshals – they accompanied us along the route

Whilst waiting to start I bumped into Jack whose rear wheel looked like it had seen better days, with several loose spokes and a challenging buckle to work out. Using my spoke tool I tightened up the spokes and managed to get rid of the worst of the buckle, sufficient for the days ride anyway. We were in the first group to leave, which included all manner of cyclists, from those on super light road bikes with all the kit, to those on more ‘robust’ machines in appropriate festival attire.

Group 1 ready to leave on Tour de Latitude

Group 1 ready to leave on Tour de Latitude

The group quickly spread out as we each found our own pace, joining up with others riding at a similar speed. I ended up riding with Jack as we sped through the Essex countryside down quiet country lanes. Jack’s in his early 20’s, and I was a little concerned he’d outpace me early on, however days of being on the road had obviously had their effect and I was able to match his speed, and was more used to riding longer distances. It only took 1.5 hours to reach the Ipswich stop point, having followed a clearly signposted route which the organisers had put up, and being shepherded along by the motorbike marshals who helped keep us safe as we rode quickly through road junctions. It was superb weather again, and nice to be riding with a group for a change.

We were able to take advantage of more M&S snacks at the Ipswich break point, where others were just starting their ride to Latitude. I had a quick chat with Beth, the Tour de Latitude organiser, suggesting that next year a similar ride could be set up from Norwich. I’ll have to remember to suggest it again nearer the time as there must be a lot of cyclists who’d be up for it, and I’m sure Pedal Revolution or one of the other local bike shops would support it.

Refuelled we continued around the outskirts of Ipswich and through the lovely Suffolk countryside, passing fields full of ripening corn. Everything, aside from perhaps me, smelt fresh and summery. Jack was suffering from a bit of cramp, having not cycled this far before, however he was doing well and had a very high baseline fitness due to his footballing activities. He’s starting a career in marketing, and it got me thinking about when I’d just left University and started my own career at Virgin Money. I don’t think I ever foresaw myself working in the banking industry as a long term job, but it’s worked out alright; not all bankers are bad incidentally!

It was another really hot day, which wasn’t helping with Jack’s cramp and meant we were getting through water very quickly. The last few miles seemed to go on for a long time, as we passed others who had started in Ipswich and were also starting to wilt in the heat. We arrived at Henham Park, site of the Latitude festival, at about 14.30, and discovered we’d come 3rd and 4th respectively, covering 60 miles in about 4.5 hours. I was pretty impressed with our time, and it demonstrated how much quicker you can ride in a group, and of course when you’re not carrying so much luggage.

More refreshments were available for us at the finish line, including lots of very welcome cold drinks. I collected my panniers and Jack dropped off his bike, which they’d take back to Colchester for him; very impressed with how the tour is organised, and will definitely do it again, hopefully for Norwich.

After more snacks and a cold cider I thanked and bid goodbye to Jack and the organisers, including Laura Pando who’d sorted me out with my tickets; what a lovely lady! I needed to cycle back out of the festival and around the outside of Henham Park to the guest car park to meet up with Nigel, and sort out his ticket. It was fantastic to meet up, and he supplied me with another cold cider which he hadn’t realised was 8.4%; things were getting off to a good start.

We obtained our guest wrist bands and headed over to meet up with Wayne and Mel, me on my bike again, and Nigel going round in his car. We’d decided to all camp together in the main camping area, rather than use the guest camping area. The site was already pretty packed but we found a space where we could all set out tents up. My small Hilleberg Akto was dwarfed by everyone else’s, and could have easily fitted inside Nigel’s. His tent was handy for storing my bike in, out of sight from any potential thieves.

All ready to go at Latitude, 5,000 odd miles had squashed my hat

All ready to go at Latitude, 5,000 odd miles had squashed my hat

Setting up the tents didn’t take long and it was soon Pimms o’clock, followed shortly by cider o’clock again. It was pretty clear how this weekend was going to progress, and the alcohol was doing wonders for improving the state of my legs and general well being after 62 hot miles, pedalling through Essex and Suffolk.

There follows a summary of Latitude, with a few pictures.

  • I don’t recommend Jagermeister mixed with ginger beer and cucumber as a cocktail, it’s foul. Jagermeister was being heavily promoted at the festival; most people seem to be avoiding it and the plethora of staff in the Jagermeister tent looked very bored.
  • On Friday we watched the Festival of the Spoken Nerd, and a great night time display involving a young lady suspended beneath the moon, and giant swans. Also bought a dragon pennant so we could find out tents.
  • On Saturday I investigated the showers – they were very good, as were the guest toilets.
  • Watched Mark Thomas, lay in the grass, had more Pimms. Spent quite a bit of time in the comedy tent – really enjoyed Andrew O’Neill. I Am Kloot were pretty cool, as were Texas, The Maccabees and Bloc Party. Visited the Poetry Tent where we watched Russell J Turner, who we vaguely know from Norwich, along with Andy Bennett, both budding poets. Les Enfants Terribles, who we also saw last year, put on a great show – Marvellous Imaginary Menagerie
  • Enjoyed a wide variety of food stuffs from the massive selection available at Latitude. It’s a bit pricey, but all delicious, including Haloumi salads, pizza, kebabs from Kebabylon, falafel, Chinese and Hog Roast.
  • Weather was generally excellent, with a bit of welcome drizzle on Saturday that cooled things off, and reduced the dust that was getting everywhere.
  • Watched Dylan Moran, who was good, along with Sara Pascoe, Josh Widdecombe, and Russell Kane.
  • Really enjoyed Richard Ashcroft, of the Verve.
  • Kraftwerk were excellent, but I don’t think the younger generation really got it; it was more of a nostaligic experience. I expect I could create similar tunes on my mobile phone.
  • The Lucifire burlesque show was…intriguing.
  • Nicky, Nigel’s wife, joined us on Sunday. Good to see another familiar face.
  • Enjoyed Marcus Bridgestocke’s Policy Unit show, a Spanish Flamenco dancer and guitarist on the lake stage (Sadler Wells – Rocio Molina), and the Red Riding Hood production by the National Youth Theatre Group. The latter was very good and had a great twist at the end. They used different parts of the Far Away forest as their stage, and the audience followed them around.
  • Enjoyed lying in the grass again, fell asleep.
  • Eddie Izzard, the Horn Section an Alien Ant thing were all good, and I even participated in a bit of the shed disco.
  • Someone must have fallen on my tent as the pole broke. I make it 5,000 miles around the country and it survives fine, only to get broken by a drunk reveller at a festival. I managed to temporarily fix it with some gaffer tape and spares bits.
  • My legs and knees ached from all the walking – they’re not used it.

22 July 2013

Monday morning came all too quickly, and it was time to pack up and get back on the road for the final few legs home. My tent pole fix had lasted through the night, and I was remarkably not hungover considering the number of pints we’d partaken of on Sunday.

The camping area at Latitude looked like a bit of a bomb site, with abandoned tents and rubbish strewn all over the place. Our area was at least clean; I don’t really get why people can’t tidy up as they go along, rather than leave it someone else to clean up after them.

I grabbed a quick shower to wash off the dust from yesterday, which was refreshingly cold as the gas had run out, then packed up and big goodbye to Nigel, Wayne and Mel. I was back on the road by 10.00, after grabbing some free Lucozade being handed out at the exit. It had been a great festival.

Unfortunately cycling out of Henham Park proved to be somewhat of a trial, on the narrow track with lots of traffic. Dust was being kicked up by all the cars, covering me in grime again, and I couldn’t really squeeze past the queue. I also got attacked by mosquitoes where the track passes through woodland, and must have looked a bit odd frantically squatting them away. Shortly afterwards the track opened up a bit and I was able to whiz past the slowly moving traffic to the main road. It helped that it was dry so there wasn’t any mud to contend with, unlike a couple of years ago when it took us hours to get out.

The A12 followed, with the Latitude marshals doing a good job of keeping the traffic moving. The ride to Ipswich was pretty straightforward, through Saxmundam and Woodbridge. I tried to avoid the A12 as much as possible, taking country roads that seemed to be going in the right direction.

In Ipswich I stopped off at Elmy Cycles to get some new brake pads, and Cotswold’s kindly performed a better fix on my tent pole, re-threading the elastic and binding it up so it would last until I got home. They were really helpful and didn’t charge for the fix, so I donated a few quid to their charity instead. I’ll need to order a new pole before my next long tour; maybe Hilleberg will send me a new one for free if I ask nicely.

After a nice Subway sandwich I called my brother to check on new baby status; there was no news as yet but the Royal birth was imminent, and indeed later that day Prince George was born.

It was a good day to be cycling, and definitely cooler on the bike than off it, pedalling down to Brightlingsea. The breeze was refreshing, and the route mostly flat as I rode back into Essex and down to the coast, arriving at the campsite after covering 61 miles. It was a bit of a rip off at £20 for the night, but was a site next to a lake and not far from the town centre.

The last few legs were going to be shorter as the tour wound down, and I intended to make the most of the final few days on the road and fantastic weather. I was still mulling over ideas for the next tour, having not been deterred by this one, and was considering a ride up to the Arctic Circle via Amsterdam, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

I did some washing, clothes drying very quickly in the heat, then went out for dinner at the Brewers Arms in Brightlingsea. I felt too tired to cook after the exuberance of Latitude. and my fuel bottle had gone walkabout at the festival anyway. I chatted with a group of blokes sailing their boat down the coast, which sounded like a great thing to do given the conditions.

Dinner a the Brewers Arms, Brightlingsea

Dinner a the Brewers Arms, Brightlingsea

I’d covered 5,284 miles by this point of the tour, and was planning to be back in Norwich on Thursday; for some reason this was a bit of a scary prospect.

Leg 77 – to Colchester

17 July 2013

I didn’t get the best night’s sleep thanks to dogs barking and howling in the nearby kennels, which kept me awake for a bit and sounded slightly eerie when they all starting howling en-mass. It was already pretty hot again by the time I woke up, so slightly grumpy I quickly rolled out of my tent, keen to get on the road to Colchester.

Morning at Wyburns Farm campsite

Morning at Wyburns Farm campsite

I consumed a big breakfast, finishing off the bread, ham and cheese from last night, as well as a big pot of yoghurt; I figured I’d probably skip lunch today. Whilst eating I watched a women putting her border collie through it’s paces on an obstacle course in the field next door. They looked pretty proficient, and the dog was obviously having a great time, ears ever alert to instructions from its mistress.

Bike loaded I was on the road by 10.00, with the temperature already in the mid 20’s. First up I cycled down to the coast via Leigh-on-Sea, and continued around to Southend-on-Sea. Unfortunately the promenade alongside Southend beach was a bit grotty, with a few people already the worse for wear for drink; a shame when it’s not even 11.00 and they’re alongside kids playing on the beach.

Southend-on-Sea - Beach 1

Southend-on-Sea – Beach 1

There were already quite a lot of people on the beach, having a good time in the sunshine, but the coast here has nothing on the coast in the West Country or Scotland. It’s always nice to have the sea on your doorstep though, and I expect a lot of locals make good use of the beach and it’s amenities.

Southend-on-Sea - beach panorama

Southend-on-Sea – beach panorama

I was already getting through my water bottles as I rode along to Shoeburyness, saying hello to a few other cyclists out riding along the seafront. I turned north to Great Wakering, riding past Foulness Island which wasn’t on my list of places to visit; it looked a bit flat and dull but is no doubt a haven for bird watchers.

Idling down country roads enjoying the gorgeous weather, I pedalled west to Rochford, crossing the bridge over the River Roach.

Bridge over the River Roach

Bridge over the River Roach

I rode up to Canewdow and the Essex Marina, through flat fen like countryside, hoping to get the ferry to Burnham-on-Crouch over the River Crouch. A slight Easterly breeze helped keep me cool, however I was still glad of a break by the time I got to the marina, by which time I had finished off one water bottle and started on the next. I wheeled my heavy bike on to the ferry pontoon thinking it all looked a bit quiet, and tried ringing the number advertised; there was no answer, and unlike the Helford River crossing there was no handy disk to summon the boat. Luckily a yachtsman noticed me waiting and hailed me to say that the ferry didn’t run on a Wednesday, which is pretty inconvenient when you’ve just cycled several miles to get to it. I’d also been quite looking forward to seeing Burnham-on-Crouch, a big yachting centre. Having been in a lot more remote parts of the country where the ferry boats run 7 days a week, I found this quite strange.

Slightly annoyed at somehow having missed the fact the ferry didn’t run on the one day of the week I’d chosen to visit, I was forced to push my bike off the pontoon and retrace some of my route towards Ashingdon, alongside the River Crouch and looking for a place to cross. A bridge didn’t materialise for several miles, not until Battlesbridge where I crossed and pedalled on towards South Woodham Ferrers.

Unfortunately in my haste to get on, having not been able to make use of the ferry, I took a wrong turning and ended up on a minor road alongside the A130, cycling towards Chelmsford. I blame a new roundabout which may have been built after the map I was using was published, that’s my excuse anyway. I realised my error after a few miles, and a few unanticipated hills, when I ended up in Howe Green not far from the A12; that’ll teach me to zone out whilst cycling.

I turned east to rectify my navigational error, passing through East Hanningfield, Bicknacre, and several butts; road names which no doubt reference the obligation in past centuries for people to partake of archery practice. Despite being slightly frustrated at having added on a not inconsiderable number of miles to what should have been a short leg, it was nice riding through the Essex countryside, and a bit different to be away from the coast.

Maldon was next on my route, a nice looking town where I stopped to buy a cold drink, downing a pint of milk to refuel and stashing a bottle of Fanta for later. There were lots of very ‘Essex’ looking people around. I don’t mean to stereotype but every other person seemed to be slightly on the orange side due to fake tans, with expensive looking hairdos, and a fair amount of suspect looking cosmetic surgery. I was looking pretty manky and disreputable by this stage of the tour, so didn’t hang about for too long, only stopping to chat to a man with a prosthetic leg who was trying to escape from a couple of Mormons.

Back on track I decided to head straight for Colchester, so took the B1026 to Heybridge, then up to Goldhanger which got me singing the theme tune from Goldfinger, followed by a run of other random tunes as I cycled down more pleasant country roads. I rode through Tolleshunt D’Arcy attracting a few odd looks from pedestrians due to my vocal efforts; maybe I had a bit of sunstroke. Wigborough came and went, as did several other villages with bizarre sounding names. I think the villages must have pretty mixed origins, with Saxon mingled with Norman and a bit of Norse.

After crossing the bridge over the Abberton Reservoir, and having run out of water, it thankfully wasn’t too much further to Colchester. I passed through Layer-de-la-Haye, another strange sounding place which I later looked up. I was correct in my assumption that Saxon, Norse and Normans all had their part in place names in the area. The village was founded in Saxon times, when it was known as Legra meaning lookout, then changed it’s name to Leire or Leger, meaning mud, a Norse word referring to the marshland surrounding the village. Finally the village came into the possession of the de la Hayes during the Norman conquest, and its name changed to Layer-de-la-Haye. With the land around here having changed hands so much over the last 2,000 years there’s no wonder there are a few odd sounding places around.

It felt like the hottest day of the tour so far, with the temperature well into the 30’s, so I was glad to make to Colchester where I found the Camping and Caravanning Park fairly easily, in Lexden. I had to call the warden to book in as reception was closed, and a queue of confused looking tourers in cars were waiting outside; 2 Germans and some Italians I think. No-one else had called him and he looked slightly alarmed at the number of unexpected visitors when he finally appeared. Having taken the initiative I booked in first, keen keen to get into the shade.

Cooling off in Colchester post a hot day's riding

Cooling off in Colchester post a hot day’s riding

Having pitched up relatively early I had a little time on my hands, so I got set up and then headed to a nearby supermarket to stand in their freezer isle for a bit; this was becoming a habit, but was utter bliss. I also bought a few supplies including dinner, and a few bits and pieces for Latitude. I probably bought far too much considering I didn’t have much appetite due to the heat, but figured I’d eat it over the next few days, and the Latitude van would transport my panniers to the festival anyway. It would be very strange riding on a much lighter bike, a treat I was giving myself as the leg tomorrow wasn’t part of my coastal tour.

I spent the evening at the campsite over a couple of beers,checking my bike over and trying to stop my rear brake pads from squealing so much. I adjusted them so they weren’t quite as noisy, however I’d need to change them for new ones after Latitude.

I rang my brother Will to see how he and more importantly his wife were getting on in the heat. They were expecting child number 2 in a few days time, and I think Louisa was feeling pretty uncomfortable by this stage. They were having a sweep stake as to the sex, weight and day of birth, so I went for Tuesday at 11.45, a girl, and 7’3″; I only got one thing right – the gender.

The Colchester start for the Tour de Latitude, which I was due to join tomorrow morning, kicked off from just outside the city. The starting point was only a few miles from the campsite so it would be easy to get to. I was looking forward to meeting Nigel, Wayne and Mel at the festival, and basically lying in the grass for a few days listening to bands and drinking beer. If the weather stayed like this it was going to be great.

Sunset in Colchester

Sunset in Colchester

There were a lot of foreign tourers at the campsite for the evening, including a few fellow cyclists. One pair of Dutchmen were travelling on recumbents, which always look a bit scary to me being a lot lower to the ground, but I’m still keen to try one out at some point. The flood of late arrivals kept me entertained for a bit, as I watched people struggling to put up tents in the dark – I did offer to help incidentally! I was hoping the mosquitoes might visit them instead of me tonight, having been bitten quite profusely the night before.

I caught up on my journal for a bit, and checked out how Captain Ketch (James Ketchell) was doing on his round the world cycle tour – check out his website at http://www.jamesketchell.net – he’s done and is doing lots of cool stuff. It makes me want to pedal off around the world too, and I might just have to one of these days.

Disreputable pirate look in Colchester

Disreputable pirate look in Colchester

I’d covered 73 miles today, further than anticipated due to a few unplanned diversions, however I only had about 60 miles to do tomorrow, and then had three days off at Latitude; I couldn’t wait.