Friday, 12 August 2011

Where I stayed

Of the 97 nights:

* 58 were spent in my tent (of which 51 were at campsites and 7 were 'wild' camping)
* 22 were in B&Bs or hotels
* 10 were with members of the Geograph community
* 7 were with friends or relatives

I'd particularly like to express my gratitude to the 10 Geograph members. I'd met none of them before, but all welcomed me like a long-lost friend. Their hospitality was, without exception, superb. They were:

Richard Croft
Ian Sykes
Toby Speight
Dave Fergusson
Andy Farrington
John Turner
'Casey Cilshafe' (Ceridwen)
Derek Harper
Trish Steel
Stephen Craven

Additionally I met Matt Eyre for a drink and Arthur Rope, who treated me to a meal.

How far did I travel?

Here's the complete list of the 98 daily stages, with mileages. Each day's destination is shown. The total mileage covered was 5428, at an average of just over 55 miles per day (that includes Day 24 when I was storm-bound).

Days when shorter distances were covered are usually either due to poor weather, or to meet prior accommodation arrangements.

1 Southwold 65.4
2 Blakeney 75.9
3 Fishtoft 91.8
4 Burton-upon-Humber 90.8
5 Hull 58.6
6 Hawkser 76.4
7 Seaham 68.0
Week 1 - 526.9; daily average 75.3

8 Craster 68.3
9 Cove 70.3
10 Leith 53.5
11 Pettycur 70.2
12 St Andrews 49.1
13 Carnoustie 80.1
14 Aberdeen 80.6
Week 2 - 472.1; daily average 67.4
Total after 2 weeks - 999.0; average 71.4 per day

15 Fraserburgh 59.3
16 Findochty 47.5
17 Inverness 68.7
18 Dingwall 50.0
19 Embo 64.6
20 Wick 66.6
21 Thurso 53.2
Week 3 - 409.9; daily average 58.6
Total after 3 weeks - 1408.9; average 67.1 per day

22 Talmine 57.1
23 Durness 31.2
24 Durness Nil
25 Scourie 25.5
26 Ullapool 65.0
27 Poolewe 51.5
28 Shieldaig 50.1
Week 4 - 280.4; daily average 40.1
Total after 4 weeks - 1689.3; average 60.3 per day

29 Balmacara 57.5
30 Sligachan 52.9
31 Uig 48.9
32 Sligachan 22.7
33 Mallaig 33.5
34 Kilchoan 60.7
35 Gruline 34.1
Week 5 - 310.3; daily average 44.3
Total after 5 weeks - 1999.6; average 57.1 per day

36 Craignure 65.0
37 Tobermory 24.0
38 North Ballachulish 45.7
39 Port Appin 36.0
40 Oban 33.7
41 Arduaine 44.2
42 Tayvallich 50.8
Week 6 - 299.4; daily average 42.8
Total after 6 weeks - 2299.0; average 54.7 per day

43 Tayvallich 33.2
44 Campbeltown 62.7
45 Portavadie 43.0
46 Toward Point 50.7
47 Inverary 52.5
48 Bowling 50.6
49 Ardrossan 48.4
Week 7 - 341.1; daily average 48.7
Total after 7 weeks - 2640.1; average 53.9 per day

50 Cairnryan 69.1
51 Sandhead 60.0
52 Wigtown 51.3
53 Rockcliffe 65.6
54 Gretna 54.0
55 Workington 62.7
56 Haverigg 47.2
Week 8 - 409.9; daily average 58.6
Total after 8 weeks - 3050.0; average 54.5 per day

57 Arnside 71.8
58 Southport 82.9
59 Eastham 66.0
60 Rhyl 70.3
61 Amlwch 61.2
62 Bangor 61.6
63 Porth Colmon 49.1
Week 9 - 462.9; daily average 66.1
Total after 9 weeks - 3512.9; average 55.8 per day

64 Barmouth 63.2
65 Llanrhynstud 63.7
66 Fishguard 50.7
67 Pembroke 58.2
68 Laugharne 35.6
69 Briton Ferry 58.6
70 Penarth 55.9
Week 10 - 385.9; daily average 55.1
Total after 10 weeks - 3898.8; average 55.7 per day

71 Gloucester 65.2
72 Bristol 57.0
73 Holford 64.1
74 Ilfracombe 56.5
75 Bude 65.2
76 Crantock 60.8
77 Penzance 39.9
Week 11 - 408.7; daily average 58.4
Total after 11 weeks - 4307.5; average 55.9 per day

78 Penzance 49.9
79 Constantine 61.3
80 Portloe 36.2
81 Portwrinkle 47.7
82 Modbury 44.4
83 Torquay 49.2
84 Sidmouth 54.8
Week 12 - 343.5; daily average 49.1
Total after 12 weeks - 4651.0; average 55.4 per day

85 Wareham 65.4
86 Brighstone 56.0
87 Lymington 55.7
88 Fareham 50.2
89 Littlehampton 59.8
90 Bishopstone 38.0
91 New Romney 61.4
Week 13 - 386.5; daily average 55.2
Total after 13 weeks - 5037.5; average 55.4 per day

92 Marston 59.5
93 Gillingham 75.4
94 Greenwich 55.9
95 Wallasea Island 60.6
96 Heybridge 48.2
97 Thorpe-le-Soken 39.9
98 Ipswich 50.7
Week 14 - 390.2; daily average 55.7
Total after 14 weeks - 5427.7; average 55.4 per day

Thursday, 11 August 2011

How many harbours?

Well, I've done a count up and the total number of ports, harbours and jetties visited (or as near as dammit) was 634. That's an average of 6½ each day...

Sunday, 7 August 2011

My Top Ten harbours

As promised, these are the Top Ten harbours from my 'Tour of Britain'. They are not necessarily the most photogenic, although most are, but for various reasons they qualify as you'll read below. If you click on the name of each harbour, you'll be taken to the relevant page on my Ports and Harbours website. If you click on each photo, and then click the resultant photo again, you'll see the image full-screen.

So, in reverse order:

10 - Burnmouth

An idyllic, picturesque fishing harbour, situated at the foot of a steep (1 in 5) hill. The Harbour Master, John Aitchison, had expressed a wish to see me, and provided fresh crab sandwiches which I enjoyed from the luxury of his living room, which overlooks the harbour. The Harbour Trust also made a very generous donation, which was shared between the two charities.

9 - Tobermory

The children's 'Balamory', with its multi-coloured waterfront houses, is an attractive place to wander around. Views into the harbour from the adjacent Aros Park and from the top of the hill above the town are the best. I went there twice, arriving there on the ferry from Ardnamuchan, and three days later leaving the harbour on my way south, having cycled around Mull. I also stayed in an excellent B&B on the quayside.

8 - Pennan

In 1983, parts of the film Local Hero were shot here. The film gave Pennan one of the best known red telephone boxes in the world, sitting on the quayside opposite the Pennan Inn. Old fishermen's cottages line the street to the west of the harbour. This certainly qualifies as one of the most attractive harbours in Scotland.

7 - Hope Cove

I visited this quaint South Devon harbour early one balmy, sunny July morning. To say it was idyllic is an understatement. The tide was high and the water was gently lapping the sandy beach. The jetty, more of a breakwater, protects the bay from southerly winds. Fishing boats are moored within the harbour, whilst yachts are pulled up on the beach beyond the reach of the tide.

6 - Solva

Solva is one of the most sheltered anchorages between Fishguard and Milford Haven. It's possible to walk around the headlands, where there are wonderful views into the harbour, both at low and high water. In the 19th century, Solva had around 30 registered trading ships. Coastal trade has been replaced by tourism, and the harbour is now a popular boating centre.

5 - Mousehole

Arguably Cornwall's most attractive harbour, Mousehole is a classic. The two harbour arms can be linked by boards to prevent stormy seas from entering the enclosed area. Mostly full of fishing boats, Mousehole retains a sense of antiquity, assisted by the proximity of its quayside cottages. At Christmastime, the whole harbour is lit with decorated boats and lanterns.

4 - Cove

Access to this privately-owned harbour is only possible via a tunnel, which was cut through the rock in the 1700s. Cellars leading off the tunnel were once used to store fresh salmon and herring. Nowadays the harbour is only used by a couple of boats, but once reached, it is a haven of peace.

3 - Calgary

This is the only harbour in the top ten that is no longer used. It is located some distance away from the popular Calgary beach, and has a very special atmosphere all of its own. In the early part of the 19th century, during the Highland Clearances, local people left for the New World from this jetty. The city of Calgary in Canada took its name from this Mull village.

2 - Seacliff

Seacliff is the UK's smallest harbour. It has been cut out of the rock and is only large enough for a single fishing boat. Its location is idyllic, with Tantallon Castle overlooking the harbour from the far hill. Difficult to find, it is only accessible along a private road, and then tramping across the beach, dodging various rock pools.

1 - Porthgain

Porthgain is a magical place. Once a busy working port, roadstone was exported to Cardiff, Plymouth and London. The hoppers used in this operation still remain. Slate from a local quarry was also handled through the harbour, and bricks were made using waste from the slate operation. In 1987 Porthgain was designated as a conservation area. A popular location for tourists in the summer, the Sloop Inn and The Shed provide more than adequate refreshment.

Friday, 5 August 2011

The final day

Awoke at 05.50 with the sun streaming into the tent. That's more like it, especially for my final day. On the road by 07.20 - an early start as I have to ensure I'll be in Ipswich for 16.00.

By 09.00 I was in Harwich, but the clouds were gathering and I feared a repetition of yesterday's downpour. But by the time I reached Mistley the sun was beginning to show itself again. I had a coffee at the Mistley Quay Cafe, who asked to be mentioned on my Blog. Having done so now, they may see fit to make a donation...

With so much time in hand, I had to find something else to do, so I diverted to Shotley, where there were good views of Harwich and Felixstowe. I reached Pin Mill shortly after 13.00, and here I remain, writing this Blog, which I'll upload before the final half a dozen miles into Ipswich. I think you can safely assume that I'll complete the circuit today.

Regular Blog-watchers should keep watching, though, because I plan to write a few more before closing down. I'll be counting up the number of harbours I've visited, as well as deciding on my 'Top Ten' harbours, complete with photos. I'll also re-draw the route and work out exactly how many miles I've covered.

Of the 98 days, I was on the road every day except one, when the storm-force winds would have made cycling too dangerous. So 97 days, and about 5,800 miles, I reckon.

Thanks for all your support and encouragement, as well as the many donations that have come in. A number of people promised to donate when I complete the trip, so I'll be calling in those favours now.

Tomorrow (Saturday) there's a 'Welcome Home' party at my house, from 20.00. Anyone reading this who can make it is extremely welcome; just turn up, with spouse.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Singing in the rain

Heavy rain forced a two-hour delay this morning. Although it had eased by 09.30 it returned with a vengeance an hour later, effectively ruling out any idea of diverting to West Mersea. The pretty estuary of the Blackwater needs to be seen on a sunny day, not in dreary overcast conditions. So I ploughed on, kitted up in wet weather gear for the first time in ages, to Rowhedge and Colchester. It was a pity to be ending the ride like this, but at least it was the penultimate day, not the final one. The forecast for tomorrow, Friday 5th, is much better.

It was good to pick up NCR 51 at Colchester's East Hill. That's the same cycle route as passes my house. Here it follows the River Colne on a well-laid off-road path, past the modern student accommodation for the University of Essex, and on to Wivenhoe. On the opposite side of the river is the redundant Coldock, closed by Associated British Ports in the late 1990s and now lying derelict.

Fortunately today's ride was short, so I was able to spend some time sheltering from the rain, first in a well-equipped bus shelter at Langenhoe, and later at the Quayside Cafe at Colchester's Hythe (better than it sounds). But eventually I gave up waiting for the rain to stop and pressed on to Brightlingsea, where I crossed to Point Clear on the foot ferry. It was then a short hop to a (noisy) pre-booked campsite at Thorpe-le-Soken.

This evening, Geograph-er Arthur Rope met me and treated me to an excellent meal at the local Rose and Crown pub. Arthur lives nearby in Colchester.

My final 'thought' is this: 'There's only one life, so live it'. I've mentioned this before, and it's bound to offend people with certain religious beliefs. But I'm convinced there's no after-life. My policy therefore is to get on with life and to enjoy it as much as possible. There's no heaven or hell either to look forward to or to fear.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Nearly there

This is Wednesday's blog - poor signal last night

It hardly seems possible this evening that I'm only 40 miles away from the 'finish' at Ipswich. Of course I still have to visit a number of ports and harbours, including Harwich, so the actual route is more like 80. But it's definitely all downhill from here. I'm well ahead of schedule, so two relatively simple days lie ahead before I reach Ipswich on Friday afternoon - at 4 pm. I've booked into a camp site at Thorpe-le-Soken tomorrow (Thursday), because I wanted to make sure I had a place. Some of the camp sites are getting crowded, now that the kids are on holiday. They're also getting more expensive. Yesterday's was £14 and tonight's £13. The average for the whole ride is more like £6 or £7.

By 14.00 today I was opposite where I'd camped last night, at Burnham-on-Crouch, on the other side of the river, but about 30 miles by road. To cross the Crouch I'd had to go inland as far as the first bridge, at Battlesbridge. From Burnham I headed across to Maldon and then to the camp site at Heybridge.

I keep giving away my 'business' cards. Today it was to two cyclists at the pub in North Fambridge, where I'd stopped for a much-needed beer. Not many seem to make a donation, but I guess they just forget about it once they've moved on. These two, pals from South Essex, indicated that they would be making a donation; we'll see.

It was the hottest day of the whole trip today; apparently 29 degrees. I got through three bottles of water and even that wasn't enough. I downed a fourth when I arrived at the camp site. There was a huge thunderstorm soon after I'd pitched the tent, the first rain for at least a week. It was coupled with strong winds which tested my tent-pitching techniques.

I went to a local pub this evening, the 'Mill Beach', for a scampi and chips. When they heard about my endeavour they very kindly donated £10 towards the Stroke Association.

My fifth 'Thought for the Day': Don't utter unnecessary words or phrases. These include 'to be honest' / 'to tell the truth' (or similar); 'you know'; I'm not being funny, but...'