Category Archives: General

General activity

Legs 1 & 2 – Norwich to Sandringham

I’m writing this from Sandringham camping and caravan park, located in a wonderfully peaceful wood next to the estate. There’s a pigeon watching me curiously, I have my suspicions about pigeons.

Using my iPad which unfortunately doesn’t have any of the photos from the last couple of days, so will try and upload them separately from my phone if I can get that connected.

01 May 2013 – Leg 1 to Happisburgh
Having packed and repacked my panniers a few times I was finally ready to leave, on a mostly balanced but pretty heavy bike (think we worked out it’s about 90 pounds), at about 10.30 on a gloriously sunny Wednesday. Lost my passport somewhere but I’m sure it will turn up, probably at the bottom of a pannier at the end of the tour.

Had a great send off from home from my parents, brother and sister in law plus nephew, Lu’s parents, Chris, Jen, Eve and Willow. The latter two were have great fun banging a drum and blowing a trumpet – thanks for the fanfare girls!

Pedalling off with a certain amount of trepidation, and wondering what I’d forgotten, I passed through Norwich before stopping in at work to say bye for 3 months. Got another great send off so left Norwich feeling buoyant.

Had a lovely ride through the Norfolk countryside down to Lowestoft, accompanied by birdsong; lots of skylarks making themselves known at present. Less pleasant were the regular swarms of midge like bugs I cycled through, there were a lot of them, and I think I swallowed quite a few; hopefully good protein?

Made Lowestoft, the Eastern most point of Britain, in good time, whereupon I ate a pork pie in celebration, then had another one for good measure whilst I was waiting for the bridge to come down. Continuing on up the coast I passed lots of shipping activity around and in Great Yarmouth, before cycling along the seafront. There really are a lot of arcades there, and fish and chip shops, I didn’t stop apart from at the traffic lights. It looked okay in the sunshine but not my favourite place on the tour.

It appears my Garmin Edge might have a sense of humour. When plotting out the routes I’m sure I specified paved routes only, so I was a little perturbed when it started directing me down narrower and narrower lanes, followed by tracks. Wasn’t too bad for a while, then I hit sand, at quite a speed after going around a corner. A heavily laden bike hitting several inches of sand at speed, without mountain bike capabilities, does not end well, and I was unceremoniously dumped. Luckily it was a soft landing and nothing but pride damaged. My first reaction was to check no-one was watching, they weren’t, my second was a stream of pretty foul language, my third was to start giggling, it was pretty funny. Post that stunt I took things pretty easy for the next few miles, which involved pushing for a bit through the sandier section of the coastal path, before reaching a proper road near Waxham.

From Waxham it’s only a short stretch up to Happisburgh, and you can see the lighthouse from miles away so despite my Garmin’s best efforts I didn’t get sidetracked. My friend Nigel was waiting at the campsite with a cold beer which was most welcome. I may be doing this unsupported but I don’t think the occasional cold one from a friend counts against me. Had dinner at the local pub, the Hill House Inn, a very welcoming establishment with a fine selection of ales and great menu. I had rib eye steak, followed by rhubarb crumble, and a few pints of Tim Taylor’s Landlord. Parents, plus Norman and Sheila also drove up for the evening so was a lot of fun, even if rather more beer than anticipated was consumed; it’s all good carb loading tough isn’t it?

A note on Happisburgh. The cliff it sits behind is slowly eroding into the sea. I say slowly, last year I think about 4 metres disappeared, including the tower construction which was there to provide access via steps to the beach. Unfortunately the campsite I stayed at day’s might be numbered but it’s a lovely place to overnight at, with a great pub just next door. Showers were nice and hot too. Recommended! We filmed there earlier this year – check out our website and you tube channel.

Pretty chilly night but I was ready for it after the food and ale, and my sleeping bag is toasty. The stars were really bright after being in the centre of a well lit city. Out to sea we could see the lights from a few rigs and shipping heading by.

A great first day, covered 75 odd miles – I’ll link to the route when I can download it from my Garmin (or Nemesis as I’ve taken to calling it). Thanks again for all the donations, support, and interest in this blog, all great motivation.

02 May 2013 – Leg 2 to Sandringham
Okay, it’s getting a bit late as I write this and I need to get a shower before an early start tomorrow, so I’ll keep this brief. Also something just howled…quite close by. They don’t have wolves on royal estates do they? I mean I know they like their hunting but pretty sure there are no wolves in the uk. I won’t stray from the path just in case, didn’t bring any silver bullets, or a gun for that matter!

Day 2 started well with sunshine and a light easterly breeze that would follow me along the coast. Realised my new cycling bib had caused a mild amount of chafing so I applied some chamois cream to the afflicted areas (don’t ask), and wore some looser kit today.

Followed the North Norfolk coast along to Cromer, then Sheringham, it went up and down a lot, and continued to do so, good practice for later on!

Met my parents for the last time in a while in Wells next the Sea and had lunch inn a nice deli – chorizo panini and samosa. They delivered a book I’d ordered off Amazon recommended by someone I met whilst out training who was interested in what I was doing – Slow Coast Home by Josie Dew. Should be good and will no doubt get some good tips.

Got a puncture post Wells, fixed, all good and passerby stopped to check I was okay, another example of how Britain is not a broken society. Passed through Hunstanton where my brother sometimes goes windsurfing – not a good wind for it today with no sales moving out on the Wash – didn’t King John lose the Crown Jewels in the Wash, or was that a tax scam, or early example of expenses fraud.

My Garmin aka Nemesis sent me down a few unpaved roads pst Hunstanton, with sandy bits, but made it through unscathed. I then turned inland through several villages before pedalling furiously uphill towards Sandringham estate, determined to get there in good time. The campsite is set in the woods and is lovely, as are the staff – one lovely lady donated £10 to the Big C when she heard what I was doing, and they recharged the ‘nemesis’ ready for tomorrow. Maybe that’s not such a good thing, might start using the back up map I brought.

Tonight I’ve remembered to do my stretches so hopefully won’t be stiff tomorrow, as have an 80 mile leg to complete. Also had fish and chips from a van that is fortuitously here on a Thursday, most welcome. Had quite a few cashew nuts to boost calories and replace the salt I lost today. Will have a Berocca tomorrow morning to boost minerals etc.

Just heard the estate clock bells ring 10 o-clock so better sign off, and something just howled again. Hopefully you’ll hear from me tomorrow…

Actually, my live track didn’t work today but will try again tomorrow, and if it fails again due to reception will post where I’m passing through and at pertinent updates via twitter.

Few random pics from campsite:

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…now a fox is barking, gotta love the countryside.

Ready to roll

Final day of work done and dusted for 3 months, I walked out of the office with a big grin on my face after lots of well wishes from colleagues. Think I just about got everything done and handed-over (thanks Dan). Big thank you to everyone at work who have been so supportive in the run up to this, with offers of help, fund-raising and sponsorship, and ‘carb loading’.

My parents drove up today, and we were joined by Lu’s parents for a glass of fizzy stuff prior to me knuckling down to the packing. Also being joined by my brother, his wife and my nephew tomorrow. It’ll be great to see everyone for the off.

I laid everything that I want to take out on my kitchen floor, minus a few items I’ve since remembered post consulting my lists, to try and finalise what’s going in which panniers. There was quite a lot of stuff…Tour packingSomehow it all managed to fit, with a bit of room to spare for the items I’ve since remembered…

IMG_0308So I had beer to celebrate, well just half, courtesy of Chris B’s brewing talents. Dad had the other half and we both agreed it was especially fine Chris – worthy of an appearance in the Fat Cat I reckon.

IMG_0310So everything done and packed, with just a few things to do such as load routes onto my Garmin, find my passport (just in case I need to change lands masses due to adverse weather conditions), and probably repack everything a few times before I set off in the morning.

I’m aiming for a 10.30 start, whereupon I’ll wend my way through Norwich, past work, then on to Lowestoft, before turning left and heading North up the coast of Norfolk. Weather forecast looks good with plenty of sunshine, although a little on the cold side, and an Easterly breeze which should swing around to come from the South West a bit later in the week.

First stop is Happisburgh, which although gradually falling into the sea still has a good camp-site and pub. Looking forward to my first night under canvas! From Happisburgh I’ll continue around past Cromer and Sheringham to Sandringham, then on to just North of Skegness, before crossing the Humber into Yorshire and beyond.

Here’s to a great adventure, raising lots of money for the Big C, and honouring Lu’s memory; she always said I should do something like this so here we go 🙂

Further updates from the road, assuming technology does not fail me.

Puncture repair cake

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Had a going away party on Saturday hosted by Chris and Jen (thanks guys). The cake, courtesy of Liz, is all edible and totally amazing. Still got a bit left but it’s going fast. Was great to see a lot of my wonderful friends before leaving – if you couldn’t make it will see you when I get back!

In other news, had to cook a lot of sausages due to defrosting the freezer!

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Last day at work before I leave tomorrow and lots to do, both in terms of work and final prep. Will try and fit a blog in later , by which time I should be ready to go, touch wood.

Fundraising

Only a quick update this evening as I’m immersed in preparations for setting off in a week’s time. Had a great boost to fundraising today when friends at work held a raffle, as well as cooked up culinary delights to raise money for my tour, all proceeds going to the Big C.

A fantastic effort with £550 raised in total, which included £250 from our ‘Fat Club’. This takes my total to over £2000 when you include gift aid. People’s generosity was really motivating, so big thank you to everyone that cooked, donated something for the raffle, or bought something.

Couple of pictures below.

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ImageThe day definitely helped on the carb loading front, perhaps a little too much!

10 days and counting

With 10 days to go until I start my tour this weekend mostly consisted of training, planning, shopping, mild panic, and eating. I still managed to fit in a few beers though – got to maintain a balanced diet after all.

After a hectic week at work it was really nice to go out Friday evening. A group of us went to the appropriately named Bicycle Shop, a restaurant on St Benedict’s Street (Norwich) that also has a funky bar downstairs; the Bicycle Bar. Several ales were duly consumed whilst commiserating over the English house buying process – you can go all the way through the process, paying for searches, solicitors etc, but before you exchange it means nothing and the seller can just pull out, potentially losing you a lot of money. Happened to a couple of friends and doesn’t seem at all right, I believe the Scottish system is probably a lot fairer. Anyway I’d recommend the Bicycle Shop, and St Benedict’s Street in general for going out; The X Bells serves excellent cocktails!

Also met up with Tom who’s planning on taking his show to the Edinburgh festival this year, and has set up a Kickstarter project to raise funding – well worth a look at their Faileontology trailer. I know the guys would welcome any support so feel free to share the link!

Faileontology

As a consequence of Friday evening’s activity Saturday was a little slower starting than anticipated, however I duly loaded up my bike, which seems to be getting heavier with each outing, and headed out into the glorious sunshine. Still a little cold but fine once you get going, and there were plenty of warming hills to struggle up; please refer to a previous post concerning Norfolk really not being that flat, not when you have a fully loaded touring bike anyway.

A 72 mile training ride through the countryside down into Suffolk ensued, for once without a headwind to speak of, passing through Caistor St Edmunds and the old Roman town there, then on to Saxlingham, Halesworth, and through several more picturesque and decidedly sleepy English villages before reaching Beccles.

I’m not sure what it is about moderately sized Suffolk towns but they seem to make my GPS device (Garmin Edge) go a little senile. As with Bungay it proceeded to send me around in a few circles, attempt to cross a fairly large river where there wasn’t a handy bridge, and send me down a one way street the wrong way. I eventually did make it out of Beccles, but was quite thankful to cross over back into Norfolk where electronic devices seem less prone to randomness.

Nelson's County

Saturday evening consisted of eating pasta, a lot of pasta, and watching the Bourne Legacy which was quite entertaining, however I think they might be stretching out the Bourne thing a little too much now; rarely do sequels impress me more than the first film, with a few notable exceptions – Expendables 2 rocked 😉

Also managed to buy some of the last things I need, aside from food, including the all important Chamois cream and a new outfit – bib and cycling jersey from Northwave which I’m sure will look very ‘fetching’, if you’re into lycra that is. Must update my kit-list page.

Sunday was again good weather so I headed North to Blickling Hall, on a 45 miles route which I’ve done several times now. It takes me up to Reepham, on to Blickling Hall, then back to Norwich via Coltishall and Wroxham, all for the most part on pleasant country roads; aside from the potholes, ruts, debris from tractors, horses, cows etc, and the ‘interesting’ smells associated with pig farms. Can’t complain though, bacon has to come from somewhere and is a vital part of my balanced diet.

Few pictures below, quite a few of churches as Norfolk has a lot of them. I believe all the landowners used to build churches for their tenants. It must have been some kind of competitive status symbol, and obviously to demonstrate ones devotion. They dot the landscape coming in various shapes, sizes, and degrees of embellishment – hence competitiveness. They’re almost as common as pubs, although sadly the latter are prone to closure these days, which is sad considering the fine quality of real ale being produced in the county.

Just after Blickling I had to mend a puncture, which thankfully I haven’t had to do in a while, and hopefully won’t have to do again for a bit. I’m down to one spare inner tube now so best get some more before setting off, although I will try and repair inner tubes where practical. Ended up with very grotty hands for the rest of the ride which reminded me I need to clean my bike before setting off on 01 May.

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Met quite a few really nice people whilst out cycling this weekend, mostly other cyclists, but also people who were in general interested in what I was up to and how far I’d cycled. Really encouraging to have a good chat when you stop for a break.

Last full week of work next week and lots to do, both on the work front and final planning activities before setting off the week after. Best make a list, I have lots of lists, thankfully most of them have lots of ticks on them, hence only mild panic at present.

On a parting note I’m now almost completely addicted to Haribo Tangfastics. Sadly I can’t claim they’re really part of my ‘balanced’ diet, but they really do help when your legs are close to giving up as I’m sure some of those who ran the Virgin London Marathon today would agree – congrats to everyone who took part and great to see it go ahead successfully after the sad events in Boston last weekend.

P.S. Thanks to Norman and Sheila for the Roast Chicken dinner this evening, and the flapjack, and the rejuvenating pint!

 

On your doorstep

Nice cycle home this evening around the outskirts of Norwich. Must have done this route dozens of times, and have always thought I ought to cycle up the short track to a church that sits atop a small hill not far from work, Keswick Church I think. It’s so easy to ignore what’s on your own doorstep sometimes as you don’t just don’t have time to pause; there’s always something else that’s got to get done.

Caught it just as the sun was going down – few pics below, some slightly doctored.

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Despite only being 100 yards or so from a busy main road the church had a lovely peaceful atmosphere, with the birds singing as the sun went down. I’m not really religious, maybe agnostic, but sometimes you just find somewhere that has a good atmosphere, this was such a place. I’m sure I’ll encounter lots of other places like this on my trek around Britain, it’ll be nice to take a break and chill out for a while when I do.

In other news dentist says my teeth are good to go for another 4,500 miles, no fillings required. Also took delivery of Avon Skin So Soft moisturiser which apparently is a fantastic midge/mosquito repellent – will come in handy on the West coast of Scotland!

Finally my story was published in two local newspapers this week, the Eastern Daily Press and Evening News – link here. Great to get some publicity which has helped on the sponsorship front, now over £1,000. Thanks to everyone for their support!

All roads lead to Bungay

Quite a frantic weekend but managed to get some cycle training in, with a trip down to Bungay and back via several intriguing country roads that didn’t necessarily go where the map said they did, or rather where my Garmin thought they did. In fact I didn’t really end up going the planned route at all on the way back, but it still worked.

Route here.

Bungay was confusing. I went around a few roundabouts several times, and took a few wrong turns, plus got caught in a one way loop exacerbated by road closures due to a running event. It didn’t seem to matter which way I went, even after I was miles from Bungay on the way home my sat nav kept trying to direct me back there; think there must be something insidious residing in the town, or maybe underneath it, perhaps Lovecraftian in nature, that screws with your navigation devices. Knew I shouldn’t have ventured into Suffolk 😉

Still, Bungay was pretty:

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There used to be a roundabout just outside the town that was home to chickens, just roaming free on their island oasis. Sadly they seem to have all disappeared now but would like to know what became of them. I hope it wasn’t a health and safety issue, and hopefully they didn’t all end up as take-away dinners.

My bike was fully loaded today, including tent on the back rack, and felt heavy especially when cycling into a strong headwind. You really have to adjust your cycling style with a heavier bike, it doesn’t stop as quickly, in fact the brakes take a lot longer to work when travelling downhill at any speed as I did a few times today (Norfolk really isn’t that flat despite rumours to the contrary). The bike also doesn’t corner quite as well and I had to give myself more time to change direction, which resulted in a few close calls with hedges and curbs.

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I recorded a video during a downhill stretch that got a little ‘exciting’ due to the one-handed nature of my descent, and lack of efficient breaking. Had quite an ‘interesting’ encounter with a speed bump at the bottom of the hill. If I can work out how to compress the video a bit I’ll stick it up. It ends quite abruptly due to aforesaid speed bump.

Spring definitely sprang today with temperatures soaring to around 17 degrees C, lovely to see lots of daffodils out along the roadside, although not sure what this chap was doing loitering next to them.

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Also managed to squeeze in a quick pint at the pub in Woods End, which has re-opened under new management and is pretty swanky now, will have to go there for a meal at some point.

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Made it back to Norwich after a circa 50 miles round trip. Will be doing longer on a day-to-day basis once I start the tour, but today was more about testing the bike fully loaded, and making sure my knee held up. Thankfully both worked.

Other news from the weekend; lost at poker but nothing new there (can’t seem to play anymore), back fence fixed, again, but hopefully will stay upright for another few years now. Feisty Kendo session which resulted in a few bruises after some excellent fencing (not the same as the garden fence I had to fix), curry and a few pints in the Fat Cat was a good recovery session. Also had an interview and photos taken by the local newspaper, so should be in the Norwich Evening News tomorrow, and perhaps the EDP later in the week, which will help with publicity and sponsorship.

All in all great weekend. Think I’ll go an chill with my guitar for a bit now before another hectic work week starts. Roll on 01 May!

Success at the Physio

Yesterday I visited the Physio to get the verdict on my knee. Was really good to talk to someone who could diagnose what the problem is, and give confident, helpful advice on solutions. Whole visit was really motivational after being quite concerned that this was going to throw a real spanner in the works.

Got a few things to try with regards to bike set up including altering cleat position, and putting an instep in my shoe to help correct knee position. Basically all stuff that will stop my knee pain from getting any worse and allow recovery. I’ll need to cut a hole in my lycra bib around the knee too as apparently compression in that area is a bad idea – it’ll just exacerbate the problem by misaligning my kneecap, which is still a bit dodgy after dislocating it climbing a few years back.  Really interesting that wearing lycra bottoms that cover my knee may well have caused the problem to occur, by putting pressure on my kneecap and throwing it slightly off centre, which over repeated revolutions whilst pedalling can make things go awry. One to avoid in future.

So a few costume alterations to do, regular hamstring stretching exercises, and more sessions with bags of frozen peas to help the healing process along. Big thank you to Tim Sheppard of the Global Clinic, thoroughly recommended!

In other news I’ve just about fitted everything onto my bike, including my tent thanks to taking delivery of a cargo net for my back rack, although needs balancing out a bit.

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So pretty much ready to go.

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Tentage

I’ve been having a few days off cycling to let my knee recover a bit, before seeing the Physio tomorrow to see what the verdict is. Reckon it should be fine, touch wood. This hasn’t however curtailed planning and shopping activities.

I had a few practice runs in putting up my new tent – Hilleburg Akto. Really easy to erect, with one pole, and should keep me dry given it’s bound to be wet and stormy at certain times during the tour. Well I hope it’ll be stormy sometimes anyway, it’s great being in a tent with the rain pouring down, as long as you don’t get flooded. Actually who am I kidding, this is Britain we’re talking about, they’ll be a hose pipe ban announced next week and then it’ll rain solidly for three months. Think I’ll take my passport just in case I need to change route to the South of France.

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There are a lot better pictures of this tent on the web, and I know I haven’t done the guy ropes properly. It’s quite spacious though, with room in the porch to put my panniers, and very light at 1.7 kg.

Will soon put up the plan for first week or two of the tour, just got to finalise a few more details. Although this really will be subject to change depending on how distracted I get en-route (pubs, crazy golf, festivals, castles etc).

Beside the seaside

Whilst traditionally it is appropriate to sing ‘oh I do like to be beside the seaside‘, when going to the seaside, it’s a little hard to build up enthusiasm when it’s only 2 or 3 degrees, with a brisk North Easterly making it feel like it -2. Still, I loaded up the bike with pretty much everything I’m going to take on my tour, bar my tent, and set out to Sea Palling on the Norfolk coast at about 8.30am.

Had to wheel my bike through a manual level crossing at one point, haven’t encountered one of these for a few years:

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Nice ride out through the countryside with lots of other cyclists out on the road (greetings duly exchanged); must be the bank holiday, and despite the cold a hint of spring in the air, that motivated everyone to get out.

Record of route here.

Made it to Sea Palling in good time and enjoyed a second breakfast hobbit style at the local cafe. Great bacon roll and hot chocolate consumed with vigour.

Bacon Roll stop

The sun finally came out properly during this stop, but unfortunately didn’t do much to increase the temperature. I did however change my lenses from ‘happy’ yellow, to shades, a step in the right direction.

Few more pictures from Sea Palling…

People out for Easter Walk:                                   Slightly doctored photo but looks cool – high tide:
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Ramp down to beach through dunes:
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Travelling lobster close to ‘natural’ environment with Easter Egg:
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The route back from Sea Palling took me along the coast before heading inland back towards Norwich, via several picturesque villages. Somehow my GPS decided it would be advantageous to send me along a dirt track at one point. The below definitely isn’t a road but I managed to navigate through the ruts and horse manure successfully, with no bike damage.

63567_10151574488528923_278265644_nWent through Horning and had a brief stop down by the broad.

Horning

There were several old looking Wherry type boats, or reproductions thereof out sailing today, but didn’t manage to get a photo of them.

All in all good day out cycling, covering about 56 miles. Slightly worried about knee injury – it seems to be getting better but is still a bit achy and stiff, so might see a physio next week. Raising my saddle has definitely helped though.