Tag Archives: sunshine

04 Jan 2015 – In search of a bacon roll

I decided to take advantage of another cold yet bright winter’s day and head out on a ride to Blickling Hall and Aylsham today. The roads were icy in places yet manageable with care, and I had a yearning for a roadside bacon roll; you’d have thought that a bacon roll would be easy to find in Norfolk, home as it is to many a pig farm, however businesses must still be warming up after the festive period as no purveyors of pig based sustenance were open. In the end I settled for a couple of cheese twists from the supermarket in Aylsham, satisfactory yet leaving me feeling vaguely cheated.

The temperature didn’t appear to get above 2 degrees celsius, so I took it pretty cautiously around the back roads, especially on a downhill patch where the frost hadn’t thawed, with the odd speed bump for added stunt potential. So a pretty slow ride, but good to shake off the cobwebs after Christmas. I’ll need to up my miles and speed a bit as a I train for cycle touring again, however I’m pleased to have done 38 miles today, and that it didn’t hurt; must shed a few pounds though!

Here’s a link to the route, which I can recommend, although I’d avoid the main road back from Aylsham to Norwich usually, I was just lacking time before the sun set.

http://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/665171875

Here a few photo’s from the ride:

Only a week to go before heading off to Slovenia for a few days skiing. It’s been several years so it’ll be interesting to see what I’ve forgotten. I’ve also never been to Slovenia before so really looking forward to it, just hoping for no injury inducing crashes. Once back I’ll be picking up my new bike, so going to be a busy but very fun January.

Last ride of the year (2014)

I love it when it’s cold and bright at this time of year, and today was exceptional in terms of a classic Norfolk winter’s day; the air was crisp, the sun shining, and little in the way of wind. To take advantage I hopped on my bike for a final 2014 ride, only 25 miles out to Wymondham and then back to Norwich through the countryside, however it was superb, even if I did have to watch out for the odd icy patch.

I’ll be back to more regular blogging in 2015 as I prepare for my next cycle tour. I’m planning on heading into Europe for a few months; more details to follow however likely to be starting off in Norway (Nordkapp) and heading for Spain.

At present I’m very excited about the new bike I’ve ordered from Oxford Bike Works (http://www.oxfordbikeworks.co.uk/). It’s based on an expedition bike designed in partnership with Tom Allen (http://tomsbiketrip.com/), and it was great to meet Richard earlier this week and get the fitting done. Had a quick test ride around Oxfordshire and it was extremely comfortable; it’s amazing what a difference a professionally fitted bike makes. Hopefully I’ll be picking it up towards the end of January, which gives me plenty of time to get used to the new steed before setting off into Europe.

All that remains is to wish everyone all the best for 2015. I hope everyone has time to get a bit of adventure in and follow their dreams, I’ll certainly be striving to do so.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from me and Travelling Lobster

Happy New Year from me and Travelling Lobster

 

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.

Leg 76 – to Rayleigh via the Gravesend Ferry

16 July 2013

The sound of screeching Green Parakeets woke me up, confusing me temporarily as to where I was. Had I been magically transported to Australia? Had it all been a dream? Green parakeets are exceedingly noisy!

Unfortunately I hadn’t been magically transported to the Southern Hemisphere overnight, and was still in Ramsgate, however there are a lot worse places to be in world and the sun was still shining. I’ll just have to pedal to antipodean climes at some point.

I was a little late up so was in a bit of a rush to get ready, quickly stuffing down breakfast, and grabbing a shower before packing up. I bid goodbye to my neighbours, wishing them luck with their move, and was on the road by about 10.15.

First up I cycled to Ramsgate seafront to join up with the ‘Viking Coastal Trail’, a cycle/walking path that would take me around to Margate and hopefully beyond, avoiding having to use any roads.

Ramsgate seafront - not terribly inspiring at this point

Ramsgate seafront – not terribly inspiring at this point

The ride didn’t start to well when I missed a signpost and ended up on a dead end bit of promenade below the cliffs, otherwise known as the ‘Great Wall of Ramsgate’. I’m not sure it compares too favourably with its namesake in China, but it was nice pedalling down the empty promenade, weaving back and forward and humming ‘Busy going nowhere, working the whole day through, trying to find lots of things not to do.’

Cycling below the cliffs in Ramsgate - a dead end

Cycling below the cliffs in Ramsgate – a dead end

After doubling back I had a good ride around to Broadstairs, which was packed with tourists and foreign students. The beach looked nice; judging from the tyre tracks and patterns in the sand I think they must rake it very day.

Broadstairs Beach

Broadstairs Beach

Above the beach someone, or perhaps a group of daredevils, had hung knitting along the railings. I think this must have been the scene of a ‘knitting bomb’ escapade. Knitting bombing is a form of graffiti or street art, where artists secretly decorate areas with colourful displays of knitting and extreme crocheting. Pretty cool, and in keeping with a seaside theme in this case.

Broadstairs knitting bomb

Broadstairs knitting bomb

The Viking Trail is fairly wriggly, and I wove my way around the coast adding on several more miles than if I’d taken a more direct route via the road. It was much more pleasant riding along the trail without any cars to worry about, although I did have to make good use of my bell to alert walkers, mobility scooters, and other cyclists as to my passing.

I made it to Margate, which had the usual seaside town amusements and rides, and didn’t look as nice as Ramsgate. It was still thronged with people on their holidays, enjoying the beach or just walking along the promenade in the sunshine. It was getting pretty hot by this point.

Margate

Margate

Handily the Viking Coastal Trail runs all the way along to Reculver so I didn’t have to use the busy A299 at all, and could stick nice and close to the coast past Minnis Bay. There are a few sections you have to get off and push your bike through, mainly areas where there are a lot of beach huts and hence lots of people, but for the most part it was lovely smooth and relaxing riding. I did go wrong a couple of times due to enjoying it too much and not concentrating, not noticing the sign that directed me up onto a different section and ending up at a dead end. My excuse was the signs really aren’t that obvious, but basically it was a case of user error. I was somewhat exonerated when I met up with another cycle tourer who’d made exactly the same mistake as I, and was pedalling back to join the correct route. He was over from the States doing a tour around this part of the coast and we rode together for a while, before I pushed on towards Whistable.

Beach next to the Viking Trail - west of Margate

Beach next to the Viking Trail – west of Margate

I rode through Reculver passing the Reculver Towers, site of a Roman fortification and subsequent buildings of a similar nature. I wasn’t really in a historical sort of mood today, so didn’t stop to examine them in any detail. I was happy enjoying the sunshine and mulling over ideas for the future. The plan to cycle to the Arctic Circle was gradually gaining favour as the next ‘big one’, however I was also keen on the Mediterranean; I’ll probably end up doing something completely different anyway.

I was also thinking about my idea for starting a cafe/bar type establishment similar to Sundowners down in Polzeath, run by Matt, however I was having difficulty settling on a name and theme. There are just too may things I want such a place to offer/be; currently ‘The Adventurer’s Retreat’ is my favourite, offering meals with variable portion sizes depending on calories required, and sourcing food from supermarkets that they’re about to throw away, adventuring advice (guest speakers etc), maybe a small book section, live music/open mic nights, maybe a workshop, cool decor, a mini climbing wall, and of course beer…and a bunk room…and a fireman’s pole…okay the last one is just something I’ve always wanted in my house.

I joined the Oyster Trail (route 15 I think) which took me to Herne Bay, then round to Whistable where I stopped for lunch. Whistable is a nice town with pretty buildings and shops, and an interesting waterfront. A friend from work, Tim, had recommended the Salt House restaurant for a meal, but unfortunately I don’t think it opened until the evening, if indeed I found the right place. I settled on some sandwiches from Co-op which I ate on the beach; you can get some good deals if the sandwiches are nearly out of date.

Whistable high-street

Whistable high-street

Whistable Beach

Whistable Beach

After a pleasant stop I rode on through Seasalter joining up with my old ‘friend’ Route 1, which I was worried might happen. I thought Route 1 might have mended its ways since our last encounter, and decided to take it for a bit as it seemed to be following the coastline…error. I unknowingly passed a signpost covered in foliage, and ended up off course and deep in farmland after following a track that looked as if it should be cycle path, but really wasn’t; a lot of Route 1 cycle paths I’d experienced previously had been pretty bumpy and rutted. I was on the wrong side of the river, with the way forward blocked by locked gates, so I had no choice to but turn around and pedal about a mile and a half back looking for the correct route.

I found the turning I’d missed, which was easier to spot from this direction, and stopped to remove the foliage that was obscuring the sign so that other tourers stood a better chance of seeing it. The path took me in the direction of Faversham, where I should have been about 30 minutes ago, so I picked up the pace to try and make up some time.

Route 1 was not however done with me yet, and I encountered my next obstacle after about 15 minutes of riding; a narrow footbridge entirely unsuitable for bikes, let alone touring bikes loaded the nines with panniers, tents etc. I could only laugh.

Footbridge near Faversham

Footbridge near Faversham

There was no way my fully loaded bike could squeeze across the bridge, it was too narrow, so I took all the panniers off and carried everything, including the Ridgeback, over to the other side. Whilst I was loading everything back onto my bike, getting slightly nervous about the dogs barking in the boat/scrap yard I was about to ride through, I decided to join the road at the next earliest opportunity. It would be busier but would stand me a chance of making it to Gravesend this century, and I’d also had enough of Route 1 and its antics again. I later learned I wasn’t the only person to have trouble with this bridge and their bike; Anna Hughes (@EatSleepCycle) who has also cycled around the coast of Britain, shared a very similar picture to the above via Twitter, from her ride a few years ago.

I made it through the boat yard without getting savaged by any dogs, and joined the busy A2 making good progress once past Faversham. It was busy, smelly, and pretty hazardous due to the number of lorries and some erratic driving on the part of impatient car drivers, but it went in a mostly straight line and had the occasional bit of cycle path I could take advantage of.

I arrived in Sittingbourne, where I stopped for a cold drink, before continuing on to and through Gillingham, Chatham and Rochester, all of which were very busy and not pleasant to cycle in. In Rochester I crossed the River Medway, and was afforded a good view of the castle from the bridge.

Rochester Castle from the River Medway

Rochester Castle from the River Medway

I took a wrong turning again near Rochester, I really wasn’t concentrating very well today, and ended up continuing on the A2 towards London. The road fortunately had a cycle path next to it, otherwise I’d have ended up in the traffic joining it from the M2 with car drivers still very much in motorway mode. I was able to cut back through country roads via Thong and Shorne to the A226, and pedalled on to Gravesend where a friendly couple of street attendants directed me towards the ferry. Feeling a bit low on energy I bought some milk and Fanta to refuel; it was another sweltering day.

I found the ferry after having to wheel my bike down the pier and practically through a restaurant, and chatted to another cyclist out for an evening ride whilst waiting for the boat. She was training for Lejog in a couple of weeks time, and was fairly nervous about it despite the ride being supported and staying in B&B’s along the way. I gave her a couple of tips, such as not leaving home without any spare inner tubes. a spoke tool, or Chamois Cream; the latter has been a blessing in the hot weather to prevent chafing.

Gravesend Ferry 1

Gravesend Ferry 1

The ferry across the Thames cost £3, and it was easy to wheel bikes on and off. It didn’t take long to get across to Tilbury where the boat docked about 18.30. It felt like another milestone to make it across the Thames, and effectively be back in East Anglia, or close to it.

Gravesend Ferry 2

Gravesend Ferry 2

My destination for the evening was Rayleigh, and I set off through the mostly flat Essex countryside, being passed by the occasional roaring, lowered, under-lighted, tinted window fiesta driven by Essex boys and girls doing the evening rounds. On the whole the roads were a lot quieter than south of the Thames, and I made good progress engaging my ‘mile eater’ mode.

I bumped into a few other cyclists out for an evening ride at a railway crossing in Stanford le-Hope, and had a bit of a chat whilst waiting for the barriers to open. There are some really friendly people you meet whilst on the road.

Avoiding the A13 by sticking to B-roads I pedalled over a few hills south of Basildon, not somewhere I wanted to get embroiled in. I ignored Canvey Island which didn’t seem to have a campsite, although I dare say I could have found a quiet spot to wild camp. It was an island anyway so under my own rules I was allowed to skip it; I’d included plenty of other far more exciting islands.

I stopped at a Cooperative to buy a few supplies and stood in their cold isle for a bit to cool down; it was lovely although I must have looked pretty manky by this stage, and was slightly worried the Essex fashion police might apprehend me – my tan just wasn’t fake enough. It was a short stretch to Rayleigh and the campsite I’d picked out earlier, although I did have to tackle an unexpected 14% climb, which was well timed seeing as I’d just bought supplies which were hanging off my handlebars, reducing my stability somewhat. It was pleasant cycling through quiet countryside to Wyburns Farm campsite, after negotiating a final obstacle of a dual carriageway which I had to push my bike over; I thought there’d be a bridge over it, or a tunnel under it, but there wasn’t and I had to make a dash for it when a gap appeared in the traffic.

It was 20.30 by the time I arrived, and after checking in I set up quickly amongst lots of annoying biting insects. It was only £8 a night, but was a very basic campsite with no shower. Instead I took advantage of a hosepipe to wash away the day’s sweat and grime, which was lovely and cool after such a hot ride.

Me post a hot days ride, still look dishevelled, hair under control courtesy of a bandanna

Me post a hot days ride, still look dishevelled, hair under control courtesy of a bandanna

I quickly retreated to my tent to get away from the flies, and ate ham sandwiches washed down with strawberry milk. I’d covered around 92 miles today, maybe a few more due to unexpected detours, and was feeling pretty tired. The leg tomorrow should be a lot shorter, up to Colchester, and I was considering booking a hotel for a treat prior to Latitude. I was getting pretty excited about the festival now, and joining the Tour de Latitude the day after tomorrow.

Leg 75 – to Ramsgate

15 July 2013

Despite a late night of trying to catch up on my blog, and at least one whisky, I was up early and sorting out my maps, keen to get a good start on my next leg into Kent and onwards towards Latitude. I wasn’t sure where I was heading for today, Ramsgate maybe, or somewhere close to it; I figured I’d look for somewhere a bit later once I’d got some miles done.

Mum cooked me a nice fry-up for breakfast to ensure a vital start to the day, after a cup of Red Bush tea in bed courtesy of Dad, a very good start to proceedings. I also had clean clothes again, sufficient to see me back to Norwich, after making use of the washing machine.

Breakfast consumed I packed up and loaded everything on to my trusty Ridgeback, which was running very nicely after the bit of bike maintenance yesterday. I managed to get on the road just after 09.00, bidding goodbye to my excellent hosts. Mum had of course made me some sandwiches which would be welcome later, perhaps for second breakfast; I rarely manage to leave my parents without some kind of offering. I’d see them again soon in any case, back in Norwich upon my return.

I pedalled off, once more under sunny skies, making my way back down to the coast via Little Common and Cooden Beach, before turning east to Bexhill-on-Sea where I was able to ride along the promenade.

Bexhill promenade

Bexhill promenade

The promenade has only just been opened up for cyclists , and makes for lovely riding all the way along the seafront, before you take the cycle path up over Galley Hill and down into St. Leornards and Hastings. I passed the Delaware Pavillion in Bexhill, a building of the Art Deco style which a lot of people love; I’m remain sceptical of its aesthetic qualities.

De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill-on-Sea

De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill-on-Sea

The cycle path to Hastings, which didn’t used to run all the way along this bit of the coast, meant I avoided the very busy main road. I met up with Ian again who has an office near the town centre, from which he runs Technology Box. Check out their website http://www.technologybox.co.uk/ for all your business technology requirements.

We grabbed a quick coffee in a cafe downstairs from the office, and Ian added a Wagon Wheel (the biscuit variety) to my food supplies. I was going to end up putting on weight during the course of the tour at this rate, however it was important to ensure I maintained energy levels.

After once more parting company I rode through the rest of Hastings, past the castle up on the hill and the Old Town, then down to tall black wooden huts where they used to smoke fish. I don’t know if it still does however Hastings used to boast the largest beach launched fishing fleet in Europe, and although reduced in number there are still lots of boats pulled up on to the shingle. There are several nice fish and chip shops, fishmongers and seafood restaurants down at Rock-a-Nore, including Webbes which I’d definitely recommend.

The town didn’t seem to have changed very much since I was last there, and I had a moment of nostalgia as I pedalled past the Carlisle Pub, where I used to go in my younger days. The Carlisle is a biker pub which meant it used to be relatively safe compared with some parts of Hastings, because the usual trouble makers avoided it; good to see it’s still going strong.

Hastings - Rock-a-Nore

Hastings – Rock-a-Nore

The seafront looked much the same too, with the same mixture of out-dated amusement arcades, and crazy golf courses. I’m surprised amusement arcades still survive given that so many households have a games console or PC these days. They’re probably all money laundering fronts or suchlike. The pier still looks sad having been set on fire by an arsonist a few years ago, however there are now plans to re-develop it into a community space which is good news. Hastings can be a fun place at the right time of year, especially during the summer if the weather is good, with the Jack-in-the-Green festival in May, the dress like a pirate day, and frequent biker rallies.

I turned inland at Rock-a-Nore, cycling up the hill to Fairlight. It felt like quite a big hill, however I didn’t really mind figuring a lot of the ride today would be across flat territory, with a few notable exceptions around Folkstone and Dover. It was good to get my legs going again, and meant I had a feisty descent through lovely countryside down to Pett Level, where everything does indeed level out.

There followed a flat stretch along Pett Level Road, which runs parallel to the beach behind the large embankment built to keep the sea from flooding the low lying land. I stopped and climbed up to the top of it to take in the view.

Pett Level Road looking west from the top of the embankment

Pett Level Road looking west from the top of the embankment

One of these days a big storm will breach the embankment and the sea will come pouring through, perhaps making Winchelsea a port again. I wasn’t going to pass through Winchelsea today, another ancient town which has been rebuilt several times over the centuries due to floods, fire, and attacks by the French; it’s worth a look if you’re passing that way.

I continued along the coast, following a route Ian had told me about earlier, and checking directions with another cyclist also making their way towards Rye. She was travelling at a more sedate pace, complete with shopping basket, to meet a friend at a pub in Rye for lunch which sounded like a very good plan seeing as it was starting to get very hot.

The cycle path I was following made its way through a field full of sheep at one point, as I rode around to Rye Harbour. Of course a few of the beasts gravitated towards my bike intent on throwing themselves in front of my wheels, however I managed to avoid them with a few emergency manoeuvres; it seems they’re just as stupid in the South East as everywhere else. The cycle path was great for the most part, with no traffic and a good surface, meaning I made good time around to Rye where I stopped for a break.

Approaching Rye - set on a slight hill above the marshes

Approaching Rye – set on a slight hill above the marshes

Rye is a lovely town, and another of the historic Cinque Ports, or Confederation of Cinque Ports which were important centres of trade and defence in medieval times. Rye was also a big centre of smuggling during the 18th and 19th centuries, as were many of the coastal towns in East Sussex and Kent. It’s set on a hill overlooking a small harbour on the river below. It being very hot I bought an ice cream, then decided I was hungry and ate the sandwiches Mum had made me, despite it not being that late as yet.

I had a good walk around the town, peering in small shop windows at various attractive foodstuffs, including the numerous baked goods at Simon the Pieman’s, Rye’s finest purveyor of pies and pastries. I also took a wander around St. Mary’s Church which was lovely and cool, as well as being very peaceful after Rye’s bustling streets which were full of tourists. As I’ve done before on the tour I made a donation and lit a votive candle in the church to remember Lu by, not because I’m particularly religious, agnostic at best, but because it seemed like a nice thing to do.

Leaving Rye

Leaving Rye

After giving Lucy’s parents a quick ring to wish Sheila good luck with an operation, I left Rye behind I stuck to the coast around to Camber, with its sand dunes. The road was pretty busy and narrow so it was good to get on to a cycle path as I rode up to Lydd, into an easterly breeze which helped keep me cool, even if it did slow me down a bit. It was continuing to get hotter as morning turned into afternoon, I reckoned into the 30’s, and I was very glad of my two water bottles.

I cycled through Lydd and down to Dungeness and its Power Station out on the point.

Dungeness Power Station

Dungeness Power Station

I was trying to remember what the landscape around here reminded me of, and I realised it was a bit like the badlands in the computer game Fallout 3, which I played a few years ago (great game). The big old nuclear reactor dominates the landscape, as do all the power lines running from it which unfortunately make the countryside look a bit ugly. The flat terrain also meant the Easterly felt stronger, and I was beginning to tire of cycling into a headwind, but still had miles to go.

Dungeness signpost

Dungeness signpost

After Dungeness there was what felt like a long stretch around to Hythe and Folkestone, with the traffic getting heavier. I rode alongside the Dymchurch railway line for a bit, on which a steam train runs between Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch, and down to Dungeness. There’s quite a big hill up into Folkstone, the second of the day and a chance to burn off some of the calories I’d been consuming due to frequent ice cream stops.

I had a quick ride around Folkstone and bought a new notebook to use as a journal, and some pens, having been running low of ink and paper. As usual for this time of year coastal towns in the South East were swarming with foreign students who spend a few weeks over here learning English. I spent a few summers teaching them when I was at University, as a summer job; good fun but low pay and pretty tiring trying to ensure they don’t get themselves into trouble all the time! Scandinavians are well behaved, Italians and Spanish not so much but a lot of fun.

After Folkstone I dropped into the Battle of Britain memorial, which is up the top of another big hill. Thankfully there’s also a cafe there so I was able to buy a couple of cold cans of lemonade. I’d have had to tackle the hill whichever way I went so it was worth stopping in at the memorial.

I hadn’t realised the memorial was in honour of all the allied pilots that fought in the Battle of Britain, and not just the ones who’d lost their lives. I spotted the name ‘Eeles H’, the father of a friend of the family Tom Eeles. There was a ‘Harvey’ on there to but as far as I know they’re no relation.

After Capel-le-Ferne there followed a lovely ride downhill all the way to Dover, from where I could clearly see France across the Channel, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so clearly. It didn’t look very far away at all but I still wouldn’t fancy trying to swim across; maybe windsurfing it if I got a lot better at it, and could avoid the ships.

Dover Ferry Port

Dover Ferry Port

I spent a few minutes down by the port, taking in the view. There were people relaxing on the beach which I hadn’t quite expected in one of the busiest ferry ports on the coast.

Dover panorama

Dover panorama

The beach looked like quite a good place to be in the hot weather, and I was quite tempted by another ice cream.

Dover Beach

Dover Beach

Dover Ferry Port 2

Dover Ferry Port 2

Resisting the temptation of another frozen dairy product I pedalled up past the castle, and stopped at the top of the hill to look back down on the channel. The ferries looked like toy boats in the bath from up here, and the coast of France was even clearer.

I joined the A258 to Deal after turning off the A259, the road surface of which was really shoddy. The A259 in Kent has one of the worse road surfaces I’ve cycled on, probably due to all the heavy traffic going to and from the port. It consists mostly of patches rather than the original road surface, and is really uncomfortable to ride on after a while as it constantly jars your wrists; I was very glad to get off it.

Deal looked nice in the evening sunshine, with lots of people on the beach again, or sipping wine on the seafront. I passed groups of people having fun together and for the first time in while felt in need of company, probably because I’d been spending time with friends or family recently. I knew I’d be seeing lots of friendly faces at Latitude, all being well, so I kept that thought in my head and pedalled onwards.

Deal pier

Deal pier

The sea looked very inviting and I was sorely tempted to take a dip to cool off, but needed to find somewhere to camp for the night soon so pressed on.

Deal seafront

Deal seafront

I took the quiet minor road from Deal round to Sandwich, which passes through the Sandwich Estate and is marked as a toll road. The toll gate was open and unmanned so I passed straight through along with several cars doing the same; maybe it’s not a toll road any more, or free at certain times of day. Sandwich is a pretty place, with nice old houses, a quay by the river, and at least a couple of good looking pubs. I forgot to take any photos as I had a close encounter with an elderly driver who didn’t look my way at a road junction and nearly ploughed into me; evasive action saved the day and I quickly pedalled over the bridge and out of harms way.

The last stretch around to Ramsgate was mostly on cycle paths, thus avoiding the traffic which was a relief. I passed a few other cyclists out for an evening ride and exchanged customary nods. This part of the coastline encompasses the Viking Coastal Trail, which I’d ride along tomorrow, and as I entered Ramsgate I passed a replica Viking longboat with a rather gaudily painted figurehead.

Ramsgate - Viking Longship

Ramsgate – Viking Longboat

I arrived at the campsite I’d found via my phone during an earlier stop, at about 19.00. The Nethercourt Touring Park is a nice small campsite, situated in a park just on the outskirts of Ramsgate, but really not very far from the town centre. It was a bit pricey at £15 however I was in need of a shower after a hot day’s ride, so didn’t mind too much, and the caretakers were nice people. If I ever do a longer tour in Europe, or off to New Zealand via Asia, I’ll have to work on a much tighter budget and wild camp more. Thankfully wild camping is much less frowned upon in Europe, for the most part anyway.

After pitching my tent I headed up the hill to the local pub for dinner and a couple of pints, and ended up chatting to the chef then the landlady for a while; I think this worked in my favour as the curry I ordered was on the large side and very tasty. After dinner it was back to the campsite where I got talking to a couple of fellow campers over a glass of wine; they were down in Ramsgate scouting out the area. He’d just got a job down here so the whole family were about to move south from Yorkshire or thereabouts (might have got that wrong but it was definitely further north), including two young kids. This trip was all about convincing the two youngsters that it was a good idea, and show how much fun it could be to live beside the seaside. I didn’t think they’d have too much trouble if the weather stayed like this.

I’d covered about 82 miles today, but it felt shorter due to much of it being flat riding. Riding across flat terrain can be a little tedious but was nice for a change, and with the hot weather it had made for a pleasant day. Tomorrow I’d be riding round to the Thames Estuary, then finding a ferry to take me across it, probably at Gravesend. Nigel had confirmed he could make it down for Latitude so everything was lining up nicely for the end of the tour; lots to look forward to still.

Leg 73 – to East Dean

13 July 2013

My tent turning into an oven pretty early on indicated it was going to be another hot day, so I rolled out before it got too unbearable at about 07.30. The campsite was already very active with people getting ready for the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I could hear bacon sizzling from all directions; the smell was very attractive.

Loveders Farm campsite - morning campers

Loveders Farm campsite – morning campers

Ian of course hadn’t had the ‘benefit’ of a tent, and certainly hadn’t needed one. I was quite jealous of his sleeping mat which, as opposed to mine, appeared to stay inflated throughout the night. Mine hadn’t really done that since Lincolnshire but I’d just got used to it. I might have to invest in a similar one if I can remember the make (Ian?).

In the daylight you could see just how busy the campsite was with punters going to the Festival of Speed; there was an air of excitement and I almost wished we were going that way, but the traffic would have been horrendous.

Ian soon emerged from his cocoon like bivvy bag, and we set about getting ready for the day ahead. Although we didn’t have bacon we did have lots of cheese and pickle, and chocolate milk, and fruit, so hearty fare was had, with more sandwiches prepared for lunch. After a shower we packed up and got on the road for about 10.00, cycling from Nutbourne down to Bosham, an ancient village with references back to Roman Times.

Bosham 1

Bosham 1

Emperer Vespasion may have built a house in Bosham; the Romans certainly built a basilica there. Fishbourne is just up the road where there’s a famous Roman villa.  King Canute also had a palace in the village, and his daughter allegedly drowned in the mill pond and was buried in the church yard. Canute was the monarch who commanded, unsuccessfully, for the tide to stop coming in, to show his sycophantic court that there were limits to his power. This seems like a bit of a risk to take as a medieval king if you ask me; I’d prefer them to think me all powerful to discourage assassination attempts. King Harold, who was killed at the battle of Hastings, might also have been buried in the church; it’s all rather speculative.

Bosham 2

Bosham 2

The road around the inlet at Bosham is very low, and floods regularly at low tide, however we were in luck as the tide was out as we pedalled around it. Actually it would have been more fun if the tide had been in a bit, as Ian and I have a tendency to do stupid things when we get together, or at least he entices me into doing stupid things; there could well have been some stunts had the road been waterlogged.

Bosham 3 - a rare photo of me on my bike

Bosham 3 – a rare photo of me on my bike

We continued around  the coast and up to Fishbourne, using a cycle path to get most of the way to Chichester. The roads were getting increasingly busier as I rode further east, and the cars more expensive looking. This seemed to directly correlate to a reduction in driver patience and road etiquette, so I was glad to be off the road even for a short while. We rode past the Roman villa/palace at Fishbourne and down into Chichester, where we stopped for a break in a cafe; I had an excellent pineapple and mango smoothie, and was seriously tempted with the fry up they had on offer.

Cafe stop in Chichester

Cafe stop in Chichester

Chichester grew to importance in Roman times, and its street plan still resembles the layout of that original town, with a Roman road going up to London, and another going to Silchester. It continued to be an important city through the centuries; King Alfred the Great fortified it during his battles against the Danes.

That’s probably enough on the Time Team front; back to the cycling. Refreshed we took the B2266 down to Bognor Regis, after a great stretch alongside a canal. It was lovely riding away from the traffic again, although that didn’t last once we rejoined the road. The holiday season was definitely in full sway along the coast, with a group of oldsters singing Vera Lynn numbers, and various acts along the seafront.

Fundraisers in Bognor - knocking out a few Vera Lynn numbers

Fundraisers in Bognor – knocking out a few Vera Lynn numbers

Belly dancers on the beach

Belly dancers on the beach

We passed cheerleaders as well, always a bonus! And there was a Birdman competition scheduled for later in the day but we had to get on. Birdman competitions are a little odd, but great fun to watch. Contestants in various costumes and contraptions launch themselves off a pier, trying to ‘fly’ the furthest distance possible before crashing into the sea. Google images will supply pictorial evidence in this case, should you require it.

Beautiful day along the South Coast

Beautiful day along the South Coast

We continued along the coast to Littlehampton, stopping to consume sandwiches and the occasional icecream to take the edge off the hot day, and to maintain energy levels. It was a nice change to ride with someone else, and we were pretty equally matched speed wise. I’d been worried Ian would be a lot faster than me with his lighter bike, compared to my Ridgeback with its bulging panniers, however he had much fatter tyres which thankfully slowed him up a bit, and I was more used to hills by this stage.

Me riding down the A259 - not a great road for a cyclist

Me riding down the A259 – not a great road for a cyclist

We made it to Littlehampton and obtained directions from some other cyclists as to the best route to Worthing, trying to avoid the busy main road as much as possible. Maybe it was the heat however drivers were definitely being more aggressive in the South East, or maybe it was because there were two of us; shouldn’t have made any difference as we were in single file. I’m sorry to say that I’ve just come to the conclusion that whilst you can’t generalise, there are just a higher percentage of impatient, irritable and bad drivers in the South East, compared to the rest of the country, barring large cities where maniacal driving is something of the norm. I grew up near Hastings and Eastbourne so I already had a pretty good inkling that this was going to be the case. Thankfully there are quite a lot of quieter roads and cycle paths you can use, and the countryside is lovely to ride through.

Worthing Pier

Worthing Pier

Just before Worthing I spotted a bike shop, somewhere between Ferring and Goring-by-Sea. My old cycling gloves were in the process of disintegrating having taken a battering over the last few months, in all weathers, and after having been soaked with sweat and at times blood from various nicks and scratches. One glove had lost two gel pads, and the other was in danger of losing the same ones, so it was time to replace them; they really help my hands stop developing pins and needles after a few hours riding. I opted for Endura fingerless gloves again, but a slightly different type to my current ones. The new gloves were far less smelly, and very comfy; I instructed the helpful shop staff to treat my old ones as a biohazard and burn them at the first opportunity. We’d been drinking a lot of water throughout the day and the shop also let us refill our waterbottles, which was much appreciated; think the shop was http://www.southdownsbikes.com , so check them out if you’re in the area.

Ian's bike - he was travelling light

Ian’s bike – he was travelling light

We pedalled on, battling through traffic and the occassional swearing driver to Worthing, and then on to Shoreham-by-Sea which was packed with people enjoying the sunshine. There were lots of beach huts along the Shoreham seafront, some of which were immaculately finished, with extravagant interiors. People obviously go to a lot of effort to kit them out and maintain them; they’re not something I’ve ever considered owning but I can see the attraction if you live near a nice beach, and they’d be ideal for storing your windsurfing kit in, if it weren’t for security worries.

We had to double back in Shoreham because the cycle bridge over the lagoon hadn’t been finished yet, despite the cycle route signs pointing us in that direction. I’d hoped we’d be able to meet up with Anthony Sheehan in Shoreham, who’d been following my travels via Twitter, however after the traffic and frequent icecream stops we arrived a little too late. Hope you had a good day’s ride anyway Anthony, and cheers for the messages.

Riding on down the A259 we arrived in Hove and then Brighton, where we stopped to meet up with Ian’s sister Caroline, who I hadn’t seen in ages, her husband Roger and their 6 month old baby Jasmine. It was great to sit on the grass in the sunshine down by the seafront, which was packed with likeminded individuals having picnics, the odd drink, or quite a lot of odd drinks in some cases. We were also treated to some bonus food courtesy of Caroline and Roger – couscous and quinoa, very tasty and good carb loading stuff. We spent about an hour lazing before deciding we really ought to head on towards the South Downs and find somewhere to camp for the night, however it had been very pleasant relaxing for a bit, and watching a plane do some aerobatics over the beach.

Thanks for the encouragment and mention on your website Caroline and Roger – http://www.dragonflyclinic.com – sports therapist and other treatments plus pilates if you’re in need. Hope to see you again soon; think Ian, Chris and I might be passing through Brighton sometime early next year if a plan comes to fruition.

Energy levels replenished we picked our way along the cycle path that runs down Brighton seafront, dodging the multitude of tourists and locals strolling about in the sunshine, who frequently meandered into the cycle lane. It was absolutely packed with people, especially around the pier. I guess folk descend from London and its boroughs for the weekend, especially if the weather is good.

So it was slow going getting out of Brighton, but we eventually made it passing the marina and heading for the hills as the South Downs rose up before us. These were the first serious hills we’d encountered all day, and with the heat Ian was struggling slightly as we passed through Rottingdean, Peacehaven, and on to Newhaven. I’d probably underestimated how acclimatised I was to riding long distances in hot weather, compared with my cycling buddy for the weekend, and despite drinking lots of water he realised later he may have suffered from a touch of heatstroke. We stopped in Newhaven and nipped into the supermarket to grab some supplies; it was nice to stand in the freezer isle for a bit again.

After a couple of pints of banana milk we both felt a lot better, and rode on to Seaford and ‘up’ into the ‘Downs’, which seems a little contradictory but there you go, that’s the English language for you.

Coast off Seaford

Coast off Seaford

The scenery around the Cuckmere Haven and the Seven Sisters country park took me back to my childhood when I’d come here on Geography field trips to study the Oxbow lakes, or to visit the nature centre and walk with my brother and parents; we acquired some stick insects which were pretty fascinating at the time. There followed a monster climb up to Friston Forest, as we ingored ‘Route 2’ which directed us inland towards Polegate, sticking instead to the coast road (A259 still).

We were in familiar territory as we sped down the hill to East Dean, heading for the Tiger Inn where dinner and a cold pint awaited.

Bikes resting after a hot days ride

Bikes resting in East Dean after a hot days ride

Having grown up near here I knew of several good pubs, however the Tiger was reliable and with the South Downs on our doorstep there’d be loads of places to crash out later.

The Tiger - East Dean

The Tiger – East Dean

It was busy but we managed to squeeze on to a table outside, and ordered a couple of pints of Harvey’s Ale and the pub’s homemade burgers for dinner. Harvey’s Brewery is based in Lewis, just down the road; unfortunately I’m not related as far as I know, but the beer is very good, matching anything brewed in Norfolk aside from perhaps Nelson’s Revenge. We spent a very pleasant few hours in the pub ‘rehydrating’ as the sunshine disappeared, to be replaced by a balmy evening with clear skies. A large group of cycle tourers appeared later on for dinner, and then rode off towards the beach; I wasn’t sure where they were going to camp but we’d decided back up the hill was probably the best bet.

Tiger Inn - busy evening

Tiger Inn – busy evening

Having eaten and drunk our fill we left the pub and headed back up towards the forest and top of the hill, pushing our bikes through a meadow above East Dean.

Tiger Inn sign

Tiger Inn sign

No tent was required, not that Ian had one, so we both just lay down in the long grass on our sleeping mats, watching the stars and odd sattelite travelling across the night sky. It was a great spot to sleep for the night, and whilst not strictly legal we weren’t bothering anyone, or wrecking the joint, and you wouldn’t know we’d been there by the time we left in the morning. I think it was probably National Trust land and we’d be gone early, so probably wouldn’t be noticed by anyone aside from the odd dog walker. I just hoped there weren’t any cows or sheep in the meadow that might come and try and get friendly with us later on in the night; knowing my luck it would sheep, infernal creations.

We’d covered 65 miles today, which was an excellent effort from Ian considering the heat and the fact that whilst he’s done lots of long mountain bike rides before, he’s not really done much in the way of cycle touring. We’d only have a short ride tomorrow to get over towards Hastings, where I was going to stop for the night with my parents and Ian lived anyway.

It was great falling asleep under a spectacular starry sky, and waking up to a wonderful view as the sun rose.

Sunrise on the South Downs

Sunrise on the South Downs