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...'

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Another hot day

East London, north of the Thames, is no place for a cyclist, especially when the temperature is in the high twenties.. Busy roads, little of interest to see, lots of derelict properties. But it's all part of Britain's amazing coastline. We must count our blessings that we live on a relatively small island that has such a diverse and interesting coast.

Unlike the south side of the river, there's no Thames-side path. It's impossible to even see the river, let alone view any of its quays. They're all hidden behind warehouses and other industrial complexes.

As elsewhere, I tried to use National Cyucle Routes where possible. The trouble is, though, I don't know where they're heading. For example, I found myself on Route 13 (they often seem to mimic the local A-road number). But at some point it seemed to turn back on itself, so I left it and continued along my pre-planned route. This gives me an opportunity to list the problems with NCRs, as I see them, and to suggest some solutions.

1. The condition of the road or track is never pre-announced. A lovely smooth off-road tarmac trail can suddently deteriorate to a narrow path, strewn with rubbish and glass, with brambles in your face and nettles attacking your legs.

2. Some routes include steps, but there is never any warning. By the time you reach the steps you've often come too far to turn back.

3. Barriers are often added to prevent motorcyclists from using the route. There is no conformity in their design, and sometimes it's difficult, or even impossible, for a cyclist with wide panniers to negotiste them.

4. Signs are often missing, or ambiguous. Possibly local vandals enjoy twisting them around, or removing them altogether. Some signs just show the direction, whilst other better ones include a destination and mileage.

5. There is little if any promotion of these routes. You can look them up online, and print off a section of route, but this is time-consuming and not always possible if you're on a long ride.

My proposed solutions include:

a) Getting local cycling clubs on board to advise on signage and to report errors. There should be a named contact in every area for reporting to. In Suffolk there's a 'signing guru', who ensures that there are sufficient unambiguous signs on all the routesw in the county. This needs to be repeated elsewhere.

b) Local Sustrans groups appoint volunteer rangers, but these are either few in number, or not doing their job properly. They should be responsible for a section of a route, even going out with dustpan and brush to clear up glass, if necessary.

c) Where obstacles are present, signs must make it clear, well in advance. Signs such as the one in Dover - 'Alternative wheeling route...' - need to be amended (this one included about a hundred steps).

d) Councils should consult local cycling clubs before installing barriers. Many are just unnecessary, and could be replaced with something less elaborate and expensive.

e) Sustrans should produce leaflets for each route and place them on sale (cheaply) in local shops along or near the route.

So that's my twopennyworth. Perhaps I'll forward these ideas to the local Sustrans group, although Suffolk is one of the best areas; some other parts of the country are not so blessed.

Finally today, my 'Thought': 'Keep your promises'. If you say you're going to do something, make sure you do it, and on time.

Monday, 1 August 2011

TV nightmare

02.45 in the morning and that damn television in the next room at the hotel where I was staying was still blaring out. They must've gone to sleep and left it on, I thought. I'd only slept fitfully up till then and at that time in the morning it was impossible to get back to sleep. So I rang the night porter, who went up to the room and turned it off; apparently they had checked out the previous day. In the morning I tried to get a discount for the inconvenience, but the manager was having none of it, saying it wasn't the hotel's fault. I maintained it was; once a guest has checked out the room is their responsibility. So what should I have done? I wish I'd stuck to my guns and paid perhaps £10 less than I was being charged. But I gave in and paid the full amount. I'll follow it up with a letter, but I doubt if I'll get any joy.

After a tour of the Isle of Grain, getting as close to Thamesport as I dared without being mowed down by container lorries, I looped back along minor roads and off-road tracks to Gravesend, where I met Stephen Craven at the railway station. Together we cycled to Dartford, and then mainly along riverside paths to Woolwich and eventually to Stephen's house in Greenwich. Some of the off-road tracks had barriers designed to keep our motorcycles. But I find they also restrict my bike, with its wide panniers. I don't know whose responsibility these barriers are, presumably local councils, but I think local cycling clubs and/or Sustrans groups should campaign to have them removed, or at least to have the design changed.

It had been the hottest day so far, and after some 60 miles of cycling I was pleased to get into a cool bath.

Stephen's wife Linda had cooked an excellent roast chicken supper, and an early night now beckons to make up for last night's lack of sleep.

Finally, the Thought for Today. Don't be a moaner. Other people don't want to hear your problems or complaints. Keep them to yourself. Sort them out 'in-house' and find your own solutions to them.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Summer has arrived!

Once I'd reached the coast near Birchington, it was excellent off-road cycling all the way to Whitstable. Kent seems to have solved the cycle track problem, with generally good signage and surfaces.

Plenty of interesting harbours today, especially Whitstable where the public is allowed to wander around all its quays, except the cargo-handing one. I was pleased to be able to visit several 'new' places, including Faversham, Oare Creek, Conyer Creek and Otterham.

I reached Sheerness mid-afternoon, but the campsite was for caravans only, so I pressed on as far as Gillingham. Tomorrow I will be meeting Geograph-er Stephen Craven, who will be putting his bike on the train to Gravesend, where I'll meet him at lunchtime. We'll then cycle together back to his house in Greenwich.

Thought for today: Think positively; don't let negative thoughts pervade your mind.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

All four corners

Passing through Kent today it occurred to me that I had now visited all four corners of Britain - John O'Groats, Durness, Land's End and Dover. Another milestone.

Today is Bundy's birthday, and yes, I did phone her this morning. Asked if she's looking forward to me coming back home, she replied "well, yes and no". She's got used to being on her own, just as I have. It's going to take a while for both of us to re-adjust.

On the ride I've seen perhaps a couple of dozen roadside memorials, at least two of which have been to cyclists. It's touching how relatives want to remember the spot where their beloved was killed, but also somewhat macabre. In many cases the flowers have long withered, the teddy bears are soggy and the photos are peeling.

When I reached Hythe this morning, I caught my first glimpse of France. Now there's a thought....

Today's route, once I reached Hythe, was mainly off-road, on National Cycle Routes 2 , 1 and 15. These were excellent, except at Dover, where I chose 'the alternative wheeling route to Deal'. Now wouldn't you think that means it's suitable for bikes? I should've learnt my lesson; earlier in the ride I chose the 'coastal route' rather than the road route and nearly got stuck in cow pats and sand dunes. This one started with a gentle ramp, and then came the steps - three sets of them, a total of nearly 100 steps. That 'wasted' half an hour, but at least the views from the top of the White Cliffs was spectacular, with individual buildings clearly visible across the Channel.

At Ramsgate the route took me along the busy clifftop promenade, where the cycle route was shared with pedestrians and children on bikes. One youngster, no more than eight years old, decided to turn right in front of me and - crash! - I hit him broadside. My first 'accident'. I was fine, except one of the panniers had fallen off and the front mudguard had become detached. The little lad was fine too, apart from a grazed knee, but he said to his parents, "I'm never going to ride my bike again". The parents, fortunately, were just as concerned for me as for the lad, and didn't blame me at all.

I ate my first blackberry today, a useful source of free food over the next few days, hopefully.

Today's 'thought'. Never say, 'I haven't got time...' or ' Sorry, I didn't have time to....' Always make time, especially if you're doing something for someone else. Just think of those hours you waste watching TV.

Friday, 29 July 2011

A quarter of a year

Today sees 13 weeks completed; I've been away for a quarter of the year! I'm sure that at no time in my life have three months passed so quickly. I can recall days from early on the in the ride and they feel like only a few weeks ago. And it certainly doesn't feel as if a fortnight has passed since I arrived in Penzance on 15 July, more like a week or even less.

I haven't felt fitter, or more alert and alive, for years. I've now lost two stone since I started training in the middle of March and I'm determined to keep to my current weight of 12 stone. That will probably entail a change of lifestyle when I return home, cutting down on certain foods, especially bread. Also there'll be no chocolate, unlike each day when currently I get through at least one Mars and one Twix bar, as well as a flapjack.

I said yesterday that from now until I finish I'll be giving a daily 'do' or 'don't' for the future. So, my first one is "to accept the rough with the smooth". Not every day, or hour, is going to be fun. There'll be bad days and unhappy moments. But overall it's a good life, so learn to enjoy all of it.

Today I zipped along the A259 to Eastbourne, coping with two long steep hills at Exceat and East Dean, before hugging the coast to Pevensey, Bexhill and Hastings; I hadn't been to these last three places before, for some strange reason. Then it was on to the pretty towns of Winchelsea and Rye, before crossing the marshes to New Romney where I needed a B&B to top up with electrical power after three nights' camping (as well as needing a shower). This is my first B&B since Bude, in North Cornwall.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Joe 90

This particular 'Joe' has now clocked up 90 days on the road. Just eight days to go. Of course, I'll be pleased to get back, but I'm still enjoying the ride so much that it'll be a pity to have to stop!

When I was in the extremities of Scotland and Wales, I didn't think about what it would be like to be near the end of the journey; I was just enjoying each day as it came, savouring the scenery and meeting pleasant people. Now I am near the end, I'm starting to look back on earlier parts of the ride, especially those with dramatic weather conditions, or where I'd like to return to on a different sort of holiday.

I've also had time to reflect, and to ask some questions about myself. What sort of person do I want to be? In what way(s) should I, or do I need, to change?

I learnt an important lesson from a 75-year old gentleman who ran a restaurant in Bude. He asked me a question: "If you try to give me something and I refuse to accept it, who does it then belong to?" The answer of course is that first person. He then likened this rationale to giving someone a hard time, or moaning about something to another person. If you decline to accept whatever it is they are saying, then the problem stays with them, not with you. I may not have expressed this very clearly, but I was quite impressed at the time.

Starting tomorrow, when there are seven blogging days remaining, I plan to give a daily 'do' or 'don't' which I intend to stick to for the rest of my life. Whether others agree with me is irrelevant. There'll be nothing earth-shattering, just some thoughts and beliefs that have crossed my mind as I've cycled nearly 6,000 miles. I've had plenty of opportunity to reflect.

Back to today, which was a doddle. I called in at the Port of Shoreham, one of my major sponsors, then in Hove visited my 'Uncle' Bill, who will be 92 in a couple of weeks' time. Then on to see Lucy and Jane (ex New Zealand) who also live in Hove. So, three fairly short visits, but I still made Seaford by 15.30. This evening I met ex-Norwich chess player Keith Osborne, who now lives in the town. He treated me to a beer and a meal at a local hostelry.

I'm bang on schedule and for anyone interested in welcoming me back, I plan to arrive at the Old Custom House in Ipswich at 16.00 on Friday 5th August.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

What hills?

They're just a distant memory; no hills of any note for a couple of days. But there will be more, I know, especially Beachy Head on Friday.

What I love about the British coast is its sheer diversity. Where else could you go and experience, within relatively short distances, the different landscapes that Britain has to offer? Of course, it's not all good - remember Mablethorpe and Brean - but those are more than balanced by such places as the west coast of Scotland, Pembrokeshire, Cornwall and Devon. I have been very lucky to experience all these places in a single sweep. It has given me a real appreciation of the richness of Britain's coastline.

Today was another winding tour through towns and countryside. Into Portsmouth along a poorly signposted cycle route and across Langstone Harbour on the passenger ferry to Hayling Island. There I was able to renew acquaintances with Nigel Jardine, the Harbour Master, stopping for half an hour for a coffee. Then it was through Emsworth to Bosham, where I met Geograph-er Matt Eyre for a beer and a baguette. At Itchenor I also met the new head of Chichester Harbour Conservancy, who wants me to return to give a talk about the ride.

A few more quays later I reached the outskirts of Littlehampton and took advantage of a campsite at Ford where there was a pub next door. It had been another disappointing mainly overcast day; I'm looking forward to seeing the sun again.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Urban cycling

This morning Trish Steel kindly dropped me off at Bucklers Hard to resume my journey, a round-trip of some 60 miles from her Wiltshire home. Her hospitality was much appreciated. The morning was spent mainly winding through quiet country lanes, visiting Ashlett Creek (in the rain) and a 'new' harbour for me, at Hill Head.

But when I reached the outskirts of Southampton, it was dreaded urban cycling, which I have to endure, but don't enjoy. Some 'local' cyclists fly past, swerving all over the road and around traffic. Me, I keep quietly and slowly to the side, trying to stay safe.

It took a while to find my way through the city, and eventually found myself on the Itchen Bridge, where there were good views of the numerous river quays upstream. It was then down to Hamble, where I crossed the river to Warsash on a quaint little ferry. The winding circuit then continued to Gosport and eventually back to Fareham, where there was a campsite nestling between the M27 mnotorway and the A27 Portsmouth Road. So a fair amount of traffic noise tonight.

Just a brief Blog today as I've had to re-load yesterday's photos, which has taken some time. It's now way past my usual bedtime, at 23.00!

Monday, 25 July 2011

I'm loving' it!

The circuit of the Isle of Wight was something I'd been looking forward to. It's many years since I was there and I was interested to see how things had changed - if at all. My anticipation was slightly tempered by the concern that when I turned left at Bembridge I would be heading in the 'wrong' direction for the rest of the day. As it turned out, all was fine and I felt none of the pangs that I had experienced around the Tamar at Plymouth a few days ago.

The Isle has changed; it doesn't seem 'old-fashioned' any more. Perhaps if I had ventured inland I might have found more of the old-world place that I remember.

The condition of the roads on the island was very poor, with many potholes and bumps. I met a group of three cyclists, one of whom who had had two punctures in the ten miles since arriving on the island.

It was a great benefit getting on to the island last night; it gave me a flying start and meant that there was no rush to get round. I was able to spend some time at each of the harbours - Ventnor, Bembridge (where I had an early lunch), Ryde, Fishbourne, Newport, Cowes, Newtown and finally Yarmouth. Cowes was rather too crowded to enjoy it, but Newport, with its riverside wharves, was a surprising delight (I'd not been there before).

I'd been recommended to visit Newtown, which wasn't on my list of harbours. Despite its name, the town - now a small village - dates from the late 13th century. It was once an important medieval port, but internal squabblings amongst rival landowners led to its eventual demise. The whole village is a conservation area, managed by the National Trust. The Old Town Hall has been restored and I was able to use my NT membership card to gain free access to its interesting interior. With its clock striking 4, it was time to leave, as I had planned to catch the 17.15 ferry from Yarmouth, back to Lymington. There I met Trish Steel, who whisked me back to her house south of Salisbury and a welcome shower and shave. An excellent coq au vin followed, washed down with at least two glasses of red wine (I can't remember how many).

So, one of the better days, despite the island being more hilly than I had expected. The warm sunshine enabled me to remove the long-sleeved jersey for the first time for several weeks.

I had intended to mention yesterday that I nearly came a cropper when a driver opened his car door just as I was passing. I shouted, and he saw me, simultaneously. I swerved and he pulled the door inwards. We must have missed by millimetres. Needless to say it was a 4 x 4. Fortunately there was nothing overtaking me as I didn't have time to look behind me. I could write a book about poor drivers!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Blog is boring - official!

That's according to my daughter Mel. I phoned her a couple of days ago to wish her a happy birthday. Asked if she has been 'following' me, she replied "only occasionally; I find the Blog rarther boring, actually". So there, just as I thought, it is boring.

It's amazing how quickly the days pass. Day 86 already; it seems only a day or so ago that I first entered Cornwall, and now I'm on the Isle of Wight. I must admit that I was worried when I had the one bad day recently, around Plymouth. I wondered if I was approaching a psychological barrier, wanting it all to finish. But I'm pleased to report that everything has been fine since then. I think it was just a combination of poor weather and going round in circles, not getting anywhere. Now that I'm making a determined move eastwards, albeit going round the IoW first, I feel much more content.

I did someone a good deed today. Three lads approached me at Keyhaven and asked if I had a puncture repair kit. One of them had a puncture and was eight miles from home. Of course, I was pleased to help, and we had a good chat about my ride. Who knows, they might even drop a pound or two on the JustGiving sites.

Today has been a straightforward run, first to Lymington, where I had planned to stop, and then over to the Isle of Wight on the ferry to Yarmouth. The day was mainly overcast, but at least the wind was behind me. I'm now at Brighstone, halfway between Yarmouth and Ventnor. Tomorrow I have to get back to Lymington, where Trish Steel will be meeting me and taking me to her house.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Red Arrows

Before leaving this morning I took a photo from the campsite across the top of the church tower, towards the sea - an unusual shot (see photos on Facebook). Away by 07.45 and on to Axmouth and Lyme Regis. I've never been to Lyme in the summer and was amazed at how busy it was, even at 09.30. The beach was 'full' and the harbour, known as The Cobb, was thronged with people. This was 'Lifeboat Week' and the Red Arrows were due at 12.00, as part of the celebrations. The fine weather had certainly attracted the crowds.

By midday I had reached West Bay, the harbour of Bridport, and caught a quick glimpse of the air display. I had no idea when I took the photo that a gull, sitting on a yacht's mast in the harbour, appeared to be watching!

The fourth harbour of the day was Weymouth. The harbourside, around the old harbour, was packed with people, mostly drinking or eating fish and chips from a container. Shades of Brixham. The accents were mainly Brummie. The beach, too, was full of holidaymakers; we're clearly into the school holidays now. I might even find it difficult to get any B&B accommodation from now on. I managed to get my tyre pressures checked in Weymouth, at Westham Cycles. Always good to know I've got the correct pressures (80 and 85 psi, front and bac respectively).

I managed to reach Stoborough, just south of Wareham, this evening. This will cut down the distance tomorrow by some 18 miles. A rock band is playing in a charity event at Wareham Quay, not far away, so earplugs may be needed tonight. Tomorrow I'll be crossing the entrance to Poole Harbour, on the Sandbanks Ferry. Last time I did that was in 1965. Then on to Lymington, in readiness for the ferry to Yarmouth, Isle of Wight.

I spoke this evening to Trish Steel, who has kindly agreed to meet me at Lymington on Monday, after the Isle of Wight circuit. She will be driving me to her home, which is some way inland. She told me that she had seen me on TV! When I was in Conwy, I had cycled into an enclosed area by a pier where a reporter and cameraman had stopped me and asked me some banal questions about sending postcards. I told them I didn't need to buy postcards because I was doing a daily blog. Apparently this was on BBC Breakfast the next day. Did anyone else see me? It would have been on or about 30 June.

Busy roads and even more hills

After enjoying an excellent breakfast chez Derek and Rosemary, I set off just before 08.30. First stop was a tiny harbour at Babbacombe, part of Torquay. I left my bike at the top of the hill; as you can see, it was the steepest I've seen so far, at 30%.

A few hills later I crossed the river at Teignmouth, where there's a commercial port operated by ABP. The holiday season seems to be in full flow and the roads are very busy. But perhaps that's just a reflection of being in the overcrowded south of England.

I was pleased to get off the roads shortly after Cockwood, where I was able to follow the Exeter Canal as far as the canal basin in the centre of Exeter. From a promising start the clouds had gathered and as I set off southwards on the opposite side of the estuary,, it started raining. It continued, mainly as drizzle, for much of the afternoon.

Continuing to Topsham, Lympstone and Exmouth I turned eastwards at last and ended the day at a busy (and noisy) campsite at Salcombe Regis, near Sidmouth. As I write this after 22.00, there are screaming kids in a tent nearby. Schools broke up today...

With only a weak intermittent internet connection, uploading this (and the photos) will probably have to wait until tomorrow.

Thursday, 21 July 2011


After yesterday's poor weather and feeling low myself, today was much better. Having gone to bed at 9pm I had a good night's sleep and awoke early, fresh and fit. I was on the road before 07.00.

The first port of call was Hope Cove, a real 'find'. I love visiting a place I haven't been to before, and this little harbour, at 07.45 on a beautiful calm morning, was idyllic. Next was Salcombe, where I had arranged to meet next-door neighbours Richard and Suzanne Mason, who were enjoying a brief holiday at nearby Thurleston. They treated me to a coffee and bacon sarnie before I found the steps to the passenger ferry.

In the few minutes on the little boat, I spoke to a woman and her two children, who asked where I was going. When the boat reached the other side, at East Portlemouth, the ferryman helped me to take my panniers etc up the ramp. Quietly, he said to me, "I pedalled to Hawaii". What??!! How can you do that, I said. He then told me that he literally pedalled a boat (rather larger than a standard 'pedalo') across the Atlantic, cycled across the States, then in the same boat, which had been transported across the USA, on to Hawaii. That certainly 'trumped' my comparatively little ride.

It was interesting returning to Dartmouth; I was last there in 1965 as a raw Cadet at the Britannia Royal Naval College. My, how the place has changed, now thronged with tourists and boats. Brixham, though, was a disappointment. The harbour itself was fine, but the harbourside was tacky, almost as bad as Newquay.

I arrived at the house of fellow Geograph-er Derek Harper and his wife Rosemary, in Torquay, where I was warmly welcomed. Derek had prepared an excellent lasagne and Rosemary washed a load of my 'smellies'. So I now have clean clothes to wear for the next week or so.

Finally, another moan about drivers. Often, I stop and wait for drivers to pass me, usually on narrow roads. On average, about 75% acknowledge with a wave. But for those in 'swanky' cars, such as 4x4s or big Mercs, the average is more like 25%. They clearly don't think it necessary. It does make me angry though.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Tamar untamed

The plan today had been to tour the various old quays along the River Tamar and its tributaries. But the weather was so horrible, with poor visibility and drizzle, that I soon changed plans. After visiting Creyll Quay, opposite Plymouth, I returned to Millbrook and then around to Torpoint. Instead of continuing in a loop northwards, I took the ferry across to Devonport.

The other reason was the hills. My legs were feeling very weary after the previous day's exertions and an easier day seemed a good idea.

After lunch on The Hoe in Plymouth I continued eastwards to Newton Ferrers, where there was a camp site shown on the map. However there was no sign of it and I carried on a further ten miles or so to the next available site, near Modbury.

So I feel a bit guilty about missing out some of the Tamar quays, but they're not on the coast exactly. Sorry this is a bit brief, but I'm heading for an early night.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Pizza at last

In order to meet Little Saxham neighbours Graham and Lynn in Fowey (where they are holidaying) for lunch, an early start was needed. So I was up and away from the campsite by 07.20. Up and down the hills to Gorran Haven and Mevagissey, pretty harbours both, but sadly no sun to improve the quality of photographs. This really was a day when bright, sunny weather was needed, with a host of 'picture postcard' harbours to visit.

Next was Pentewan, with its enclosed dock now cut off from the sea by shifting sands. Then Charlestown, with its famous dock that has been used in many films, with tall ships sitting alongside.

Par Docks were not visible from the road and access was 'strictly forbidden', so it was on to Polkerris, another 'new' harbour for me. I left the bike at the top of a steep hill and walked down to the unspoilt beach and harbour. I still had half an hour to spare, so continued to Fowey. Whilst waiting for Graham and Lynn I tried unsuccessfully to upload the previous day's blog and photos; it seems that the internet signal at sea-level is rather poor in this area.

Lunch for me was a huge pizza - the first for weeks. That tasted good and set me up for the second half of the day. An overcrowded Polperro was next, with Looe to follow. There, I tried to see Jeff Penhaligon, the Harbour Master, whom I knew from my old port days, but he had "gone home early". And this was only 16.30...

I had been a little concerned about making it as far as Portwrinkle, where I had pre-booked a B&B. But I arrived there, leg-weary, soon after 18.00. A good meal followed at the local pub.

Positive thinking

This is Monday's Blog. Last night the signal was weak and erratic. I also tried uploading photos, but no luck. I'm sending this from Portwrinkle on Tuesday night.

The first task today was to find a bike shop. So, into Falmouth where there was bound to be one (I thought). Surprisingly for a town of some size, there wasn't; the nearest was in Penryn, I was advised. That was fine, as that was the next harbour on the route. I found the shop, but had to wait half an hour for it to open. When it did, 'Cycle Solutions' were very helpful and managed to change both front and rear brake pads, as well as fitting a new water bottle holder (one had broken).

Setting off from Penryn at 10.30 meant that I was running rather late, so the King Harry Ferry was the obvious choice for crossing the Fal Estuary, rather than the huge loop to Truro which had been the original plan. The hiils kept coming as I visited riverside quays at Mylor, Devoran and Point. For every up there's a down, I tell myself. In life it's the other way round: for every down there's an up. I do believe in positive thinking!

When I reached St Mawes the tide was very low and the ferry to Place Quay was unable to run for an hour. When it did go, I had to remove panniers etc as there were steps at either end.

It was then on to Portscatho, the original intended destionation for the day, and Portloe. By this time the drizzle that I'd put up with for much of the day had turned into a steady downpour. So although I could have continued (it was only 17.30) I stopped for the night at a campsite just outside Portloe.

Monday, 18 July 2011

A day of contrasts

This is Sunday's Blog; no signal last evening.

A strong westerly wind pushed me along the relatively flat road from Penzance to Porthleven in double-quick time. But things got a lot tougher as the day progressed. Serious hills started appearing. First it was down to Mullion Cove, where I had to shelter from a downpour. Then over to the pretty fishing villages of Cadgwith and Coverack. At one point, soon after passing the Royal Naval Air Station at Culdrose, I was less than two miles away from my planned destination of Gweek, but the Lizard Peninsula had to be done, with its several harbours.

The deep river valleys around the Helford River were the worst; most hills were between 17 and 25%. I'm getting concerned about my brake pads and will try and find a cycle shop in Falmouth tomorrow to get them replaced.

I finished the day about five miles beyond Gweek, at the first camp site I could find. Pretty basic, but no one there to take my money, so another free stay.

When I'm cycling, various tunes come to mind. Sometimes I sing, or whistle, but mostly I sort of blow through my teeth and a tune comes out. What's that called? It's not humming, whistling or singing. There must be a word for it. Try it yourself - with your mouth slightly open, blow out and try and make a tune, without using the vocal chords. Please, someone, tell me.

Tomorrow I will be crossing the River Fal by the King Harry Ferry, but either side there will be more big hills. I will attempt to get at least to Portloe, because on Tuesday night I'm booked into a B&B in Portwrinkle, which is quite a way along the coast. And there are lots of harbours to visit, as well as meeting neighbours Graham and Lynn in Fowey, where they're currently staying on holiday.

Turning the corner

This is Saturday's Blog - sorry, no signal since then.

Early morning rain had relented by 10.00, but today's ride was relatively short, so it didn't matter leaving late. The circuit of West Penwith took in St Ives, Sennen Cove, Land's End, Lamorna Cove, Mousehole and Newlyn. I'd forgotten how hilly the road was between St Ives and St Just; fortunately, I had left the panniers behind where I was staying, but the hills still hurt!

Arriving at Land's End I calculated that it had taken me some eight weeks to get there from John O'Groats. Most of the 'end-to-enders' do it in less than a fortnight! But of course I've been on a few detours.

After lunch the sun appeared, bringing out the best in the south coast harbours. I got back to Penzance before 17.00 and managed to get an internet signal to upload two days' worth of photos to Facebook, as well as yesterday's blog, by walking to the top of the hill. This one will have to wait until Sunday, when I can find somewhere to send it.

This evening Bundy and I took Vanessa and her sister Jane out for an excellent Indian meaL i Penzance. Tomorrow I should be 'sailing' eastwards with the wind behind me.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

First pastie

This is Friday's Blog

The expected rain today mainly stayed away. A 30-minute downpour at Portreath was all that really happened, and I was safely tucked away at the time in the new Atlantic Cafe, enjoying a coffee and cake. Onlyopen for three months, the cafe deserves to prosper, as an Americano coffee was only £1.30.

The day had started very early, writing the previous day's blog at 05.00; I was away from the campsite by 06.30. The roads were quiet, but the hills were still in evidence. The first stop was at Perranporth, where my eye was caught by a sign advertising Cornish Pasties. They had just come out of the oven, so rather than eat mine there and then, I put it in the bag on my handlebars. For the next four miles the smell wafted up in my face until I could stand it no longer. I found a convenient bus shelter near St Agnes and consumed said pastie. Wonderful. I'm sure there'll be more as I progress through the county.

After visiting the derelict harbour at Trevaunance Cove, I continued to Portreath and Hayle, before taking National Cycle Route 3 to Penzance, via Marazion. I caught a lovely view of St Michael's Mount as I crested the final hill.

Bundy arrived at Penzance Station at 17.30, where Nenen and I met her; it was good to see her after 11 weeks (exactly) away. There's no internet signal here at Tregavarah, north of Penzance, as we're in a valley, but hopefully tomorrow I'll walk up the hill where there should be a connection. Facebook and this Blog will just have to wait. Tomorrow it's off on a wet and windy circuit of West Penwith, via St Ives and Lands End, and back to Penzance.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Free night in Bude

This is Thursday's Blog; dozed off early last evening after a tough day in the saddle, so writing this at 05.00 on Friday morning!

I'd arranged for an early (07.00) breakfast at the Guest House in Bude. I was all packed and ready to go, but when I went down for breakfast there was no sign of activity. I had to wait until nearly 8 before the landlady appeared; she apologised of course, but said she'd been ill during the night. Anyway, breakfast was superb, with fresh fruit (blueberries and raspberries) as well as the usual cooked meal. As I attempted to pay, she said she wouldn't be charging me, So I forgave her for losing that hour's flying start.

The first harbour to be visited was Boscastle. I'm sure everyone will remember those terrible floods of August 2004, when cars were swept into the harbour and buildings destroyed. The place has fully recovered, with a new Visitor Centre and others sympathetically re-built. The harbour, with its winding entrance, has a particular charm and would certainly feature in my 'Top Ten' British harbours. I was fortunate to be there reasonably early, as apparently it gets very crowded once the coaches start arriving.

It was then on to Port Gaverne and Port Isaac. It's the latter which attracts the crowds, but I prefer the former. Only a short stroll away, Port Gaverne is quiet and beautiful, if lacking the maze of tiny streets at Port Isaac.

On to Wadebridge where I picked up the Camel Trail, a five-mile former railway line alongside the estuary, to Padstow (which was busy). Then between Padstow and Newquay there was a series of extremely steep hills, both down and up, which severely tested my tired legs. I confess to having to walk some of them.

I managed to get through Newquay before the pubs and clubs threw open their doors to the seething masses, and made it as far as Crantock, the genteel side of the town. The day ahead will now be relatively short, but with rain forecast this will be useful. I'll be meeting Bundy in Penzance this evening.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A great day

I always look forward to visiting places that I haven't been to before. Today was special: five 'new' harbours - Bideford, Appledore, Clovelly, Hartland Quay and Bude. How could I possibly not have been to Clovelly before? I spent a lot of time there, as well as Hartland Quay. The sun brought out the best of the area, as well as the tourists. The quay at Clovelly was packed with people taking in the sun (and drinking beer and cider).

The coast at Hartland Quay is fascinating, with extraordinary rock formations. Sadly the old quay has disappeared, with only a stub remaining. It was warm enough for plenty of people to go swimming.

Later in the afternoon I entered Cornwall! It's amazing how quickly the counties change - Gloucestershire, Somerset, Devon, and now Cornwall. With its 298 miles of coastline, I'll be here for a while.

I maintained and even increased my lead over the schedule. Instead of camping at Hartland, I'm in a B&B in Bude, about 15 miles ahead. The forecast for tomorrow is great, but Friday and Saturday are not so good. If I can make Friday's ride even shorter, I may miss some of the coming rain.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Onwards - and upwards

As anticipated, today was full of hills. The worst - and longest - was the road out of Porlock Weir. This is a private toll road, which leads up through a wooded glen. It continues uphill, steeply, for about three miles, reaching the 'summit' at about 430 metres. I had to walk several sections. By contrast, there was a similar length of continuous downhill into Combe Martin.

By some miracle, the wind had swung round to north-east, so it was at my back for most of the day. That certainly helped with some of the hills. It was overcast today, which was ideal; I wouldn't have wanted it to be too hot.

I cheated at Lynmouth; instead of taking the 1 in 4 hill to Lynton, I went up on the cliff railway. This was actually a sensible decision, because the road is narrow and winding, and it would have been dangerous even to walk up pushing the bike. And the railway was fun, anyway!

Lots of harbours today, though no 'new' ones. Good to see them again, at different states of tide. It was low water in the morning, but by the time I reached Ilfracombe, the tide was high.

I managed to get as far as the other (south) side of Ilfracombe, some eight miles ahead of schedule, where I found a campsite that was almost empty. I cooked a pasta and bacon meal, with jalfrezi sauce. Yum.

The last resort

This is Monday's Blog; no signal last evening

After Mablethorpe and Blackpool, I wasn't expecting too many more 'kiss-me-quick' resorts, but I found another one today. It wasn't Weston-super-Mare, which still retains some style and dignity, but Brean, just to the south. It's basically one big caravan park, with amusement arcades lining the street. Although it was warm and sunny, people were massed on the slot machines. What a sad world some people live in.

I left Bristol fairly early, before my daughter Louisa awoke. That was planned - after all she is a night bird. But I hit the rush hour traffic and had a difficult half an hour negotiating my way out of the city. I found myself on the A370 to Weston before I wanted to, so missed out the opportunity to photograph the Royal Portbury Docks. But they're not easy to see anyway; the best view is from the M5 motorway.

Today I visited four ports and harbours that I hadn't been to before - Knightstone, Uphill, Dunball and Combwich. It's always a treat to go to a 'new' place; there's a sense of anticipation as I turn into the harbour. Fortunately the sun stayed out, so half-decent photos were available.

I made good time and arrived at Combwich (rhymes with 'Gummidge') by 16.00. There's no camp site there anyway, so pressed on for a further ten miles, via the strange former harbour at Lilstock, now blocked off by a shingle bank. Finishing at Holford, I met a couple of (slim) Americans who had just completed three months cycling on a tandem around France.

Tomorrow will be a day of massive hills. I know the area from a previous visit and recall 25% climbs out of Purlock Weir and Lynmouth. Perhaps it's just as well that I'm a few miles ahead of schedule. I have to get to Penzance by Friday evening, because Bundy is coming down to stay with her friend Vanessa (Nenen) for a couple of days.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Taking it easy

Quite a short day, less than 50 miles, from Gloucester to my daughter Louisa's flat in Bristol, so I was able to take things easy, with plenty of stops. After a stretch on the A38 (not very busy on a Sunday morning) I turned off towards Slimbridge, where the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust is based. I went as far as Patch Bridge, where the road to the Trust crosses the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal. There was an excellent coffee shop right on the bank of the canal.

Sharpness Dock was the next 'port of call', located opposite Lydney on the River Severn. I visited this port ten or twelve years ago, when I can remember standing at the pierhead by the entrance lock. I was told that the current that flows past the entrance can sometimes be as great as six or seven knots, making the angled entry into the lock extremely hazardous. The enclosed dock was surprisingly busy, with several ships moored inside.

The route then took me along winding back lanes, as far as Aust, where once a ferry took vehicles across the River Severn. The ferry closed when the first bridge was opened, in 1966. In the 45 years since then, the road to the jetty has become overgrown, and the timbers of the jetty broken and unusable. I put up photos of the jetty on Facebook a couple of hours ago, and already two people have commented that they can remember using the ferry!

On one of my frequent stops I found a four-leafed clover, well three and a half perhaps. It's in my handlebar bag now, as it's supposed to bring good luck. It's estimated that there are 10,000 three-leafed clovers to every one four-leafed.

From Aust I followed the tortuous route of a National Cycle Route (41) into Bristol, but nearly went wrong when I found myself halfway across the Avonmouth Bridge. A quick reverse and back on to the A4 which took me past the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and into Bristol via the City Docks. A warm and sunny Sunday afternoon had brought out the crowds, and I had to walk the bike past the dockside restaurants.

It was good to see my daughter Louisa again, and she did herself proud by cooking a brilliant Thai Green Curry, followed by strawberry pancakes. Second helpings for hungry me, of course. She has shown me how to use my iPhone if I get lost (Google Maps), so I've learnt something this evening.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Back into England

This morning I left Stephen and Marjorie Page's house near Bridgend with their son Mike, who drove me back to the Penarth end of the Cardiff Bay Barrage. They had been wonderful hosts and I was extremely grateful for the comfortable stay and the splendid meal last night.

Yet again it rained for the first hour or so, but it cleared up later, only to pour again towards the end of the day. Getting through Cardiff and Newport without the satnav was tricky; I had to rely on my sense of direction and hope for the best. At one point in Newport I asked a guy who had just parked his car, if I was on the right route. I was, fortunately, but he asked if I was doing the ride for charity and dug in his pocket and gave me a £2 coin for the funds. I'm amazed at how spontaneously generous most people have been.

The highlight of the day was a visit to the restored ('regenerated') harbour at Lydney. Not having been there before, I was keen to see the work that The Environment Agency had achieved. A few years ago the harbour and its locks were derelict and the entrance channel deeply silted. Now, it sparkles with activity and the inner harbour is full of leisure craft. The sun shone briefly too, which meant I could take some reasonable snaps.

As I crossed the bridge over the River Wye at Chepstow, I re-entered England for the second time. I loved Wales, but am pleased now that the roadside signs are only in English!

The A48 to Gloucester wasn't too busy, but everyone seemed to want to drive at high speed. This, combined with several tough hills, required even greater concentration than usual. It was raining again by the time I arrived at Gloucester Docks, where the warehouses have been turned into offices and accommodation. But the enclosed docks were full of boats, keeping the place attractive and 'alive'.

Tomorrow I will be staying with my daughter Louisa, who lives in Bristol.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Motorway madness

Look at the map of the area between Swansea and Porthcawl and you'll see that the M4 motorway cuts a swathe through the countryside. Other major and minor roads also run in a general east/west direction. Hidden amongst this maze is a cycle route - NCR4. But try to find it when you're out there on the road. I carefully tried to follow the signs, but gave up when the last sign appeared to point me down a ramp to the motorway. So instead I took what I thought was the most likely alternative, only to wind up at the end of a rough track a couple of miles further on. So it was back to the point where I'd deviated and to choose the only other alternative that didn't take me on to the motorway. No more cycle route signs, but at least I was heading in the right direction. I eventually made it to Porthcawl, which on a dreary, windy morning, was nothing to write home about. At least the harbour was full of water; last time I was there the tide was out.

Pressing on, I arrived at the Penarth end of the Cardiff Bay Barrage at 17.00, where I met Chris Evans (Mike Page's future brother-in-law), who transported me and the bike to Mike's parents' house near Bridgend. There, Stephen and Marjorie welcomed me (although we'd not met before) and showed me to my room. Mike and family are expected soon (20.30) when we'll all have supper together.

After getting the third puncture yesterday, I've become quite neurotic about glass on the road. There's an amazing amount of it, usually just where the cycle goes. You don't notice this when you're in a car, but when you're cycling, you're looking at the road a few metres ahead. I can usually avoid pieces of glass by steering around them, but quite where the rear wheel goes is another matter; I think that's the reason all the punctures have been in the back wheel.

I've been very lucky with the weather today. Although it rained for the first hour, that was all. Other areas had showers, including Cardiff, but somehow I missed them. In fact the sun shone for most of the afternoon. The forecast over the weekend is for a gradual improvement. Well, it is mid-July and summer hasn't really started yet.

Thursday, 7 July 2011


Last evening I enjoyed an excellent meal at The Portreeve, in Laugharne. The owner was very enthusiastic about my venture, and promised that the proceeds from their Wednesday Quiz Night would go to my charities. There weren't many people in the restaurant, but at the end of the very informal quiz, he doubled the £13 income and handed me £26. He also gave me the opportunity to explain to the other diners what I was doing; that brought in a further £25 in donations. The owner then gave me a total of £11 that he'd taken in tips and, to cap it all, insisted that my meal, which included two pints of Adnams and a J2O, would be 'on the house'!

I set off reasonably early from the campsite this morning, but a few miles up the road I had my third puncture - rear wheel yet again. Some 40 minutes 'wasted' but I was lucky in one respect - it happened on the outskirts of the village of St Clears and after I'd put on a spare inner tube I stopped at a local garage where they were able to put in the required 80 psi. Using the hand pump I struggled to get as much as 60.

I reached Kidwelly by lunchtime in sunshine, after some extreme hills and winding roads around the estuaries of the Taf and Towy. It was then a real pleasure to find that the next 25 miles or so were off-road and flat, firstly through Pembrey Forest and then along the foreshore and promenade of Burry Port and Llanelli. The off-road route continued as far as Loughor Bridge. A further five-mile section along a former railway line brought me out on to Swansea Bay. More promenade and roadside cycle tracks enabled me to reach Briton Ferry by 18.00.

Tomorrow I will be met at Penarth and taken to Mike Page's parents' house for the night. Mike and family should be arriving in the evening, too. For those who don't know Mike, he's a psychologist and former colleague of Bundy's.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Wow ... and Why?

The almost universal reaction when I tell people what I'm doing is "Wow", or "That's amazing". Some younger folk say they'd love to do the same and I reply they'll have to wait until they're retired (how else will they find the time?)

The comment that often follows is "Why are you doing it?", often accompanied by "Are you doing this for charity?"

So perhaps it's time that I address these questions properly.

In no particular order:
a) I love the coast of Britain. It's so diverse and interesting.
b) I love harbours, especially the old, picturesque ones.
c) I love challenges.
d) I'm 65 and don't want to become the sort of OAP who does nothing and watches TV all the time.
e) There's one life - so live it!

Putting all these together, I came up with the idea of cycling all the way around Britain's coastline, visiting some 600 ports, harbours and jetties. I then decided that it would be a good idea to try and raise money for charity. The obvious one was the Stroke Association, given Bundy's stroke two years ago. The other one I decided on was The Meningitis Research Foundation, as I had survived the dreaded meningoccal septicaemia back in 1995.

I must stress that I'm not a cyclist - not a serious one, anyway. If I was, I don't think I'd be doing this. The heavy panniers make cycling hard work, so there's little opportunity to go fast, or to attack steep hills. The most I've done before have been short cycling holidays in Scotland with Bundy, where we've managed 30 to 35 miles a day over a week or ten days. The bikes have been hired, so when I've returned home, full of good ideas about maintaining some 'cycle fitness', nothing happens, and my own bike remains firmly in the shed.

Looking at what I've just written, I have to confess that it's the challenge of it that really excites me. Maintaining the planned schedule, visiting all the harbours, completing the circuit; all give me the buzz that I love. The fact that I've lost some 10 Kg, feel far fitter than for many years, and have an enviable tan (on parts of me, at least) are incidental but welcome.

Back to today, which was very short. I knew from the forecast that heavy rain would sweep in during the afternoon, so I left early and arrived at the campsite at Laugharne mid-afternoon, having visited the National Trust's Stackpole Quay, Tenby Harbour and Saundersfoot. The weather was kind until soon after lunch, when I got soaked in a torrential downpour. I survived the rest of the ride without getting wet again, so a B&B wasn't necessary.

I'm now enjoying a meal at the WiFi-enabled Portreeve's Tavern in Laugharne, where the owner has promised the proceeds of a Quiz Night to my charities. I'll just have to stay and have another beer - they do have Adnams!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


This is Tuesday's Blog.

I didn't write my Blog last night; it's now early on Wednesday morning, It was late and too dark to see the keys and my head torch was buried deep in one of my panniers. And anyway, I felt pretty low and annoyed with myself - I've lost my Satnav. Don't know how, or where. Probably either at Porthclais or Solva. I did leave the bike unattended for 15 minutes at Solva, but I think it unlikely that someone stole it from my bar bag. More likely I put it down somewhere and left it on the ground. I can't recall doing that and have spent much of the night trying to remember. Not that I can do anything about it now, other than to report it as 'lost property' to a police station. It's £400+ of equipment (although it only cost me £120, thanks to Satmap Systems) and of course contains all my daily routes. I don't usually have it switched on all the time, but find it useful when I'm unsure which way to go. I will have to study each day's route carefully on the Internet (assuming I can get a connection) and try to memorise where to turn.

All this put a dampener on what was a great day. After a dreary start the sun shone for most of the time. Three of my all-time favourite harbours, Porthgain, Porthclais and Solva were visited, all within the space of four hours. I spent quite a while at each, reluctantly tearing myself away.

I didn't get to the campsite at Pembroke until 20.00 and by the time I'd uploaded the photos to Fecebook - there were a lot to sort through - it was very late. I just didn't have the energy to dig in the panniers for the head torch and went to bed, hoping that I'd feel better in the morning. Unfortunately, at 06.00 now, it's raining! The forecast is for showers.

Monday, 4 July 2011

No flat bits

After 45 days in Scotland, you'd think I should be used to hills. But today I've had more than my fair share of them. Apart from the first couple of miles, it's been a series of steep ups and steep downs, with hardly any flat in between. Several of the climbs between Aberaeron, New Quay, Llangrannog and Aberporth were 1 in 5, which meant I had to walk. Still, I prefer that to cycling along busy roads such as the A487, which is quite narrow in places and vehicles, especially lorries, pass me by much too close. If I was to wobble at the wrong moment...

I spent rather longer than I should have in Aberaeron; it's a pretty town with an attractive harbour. And although Llangrannog and Aberporth can't really be classed as harbours, the former was once busy with boats. It retains a slipway and some sailing craft. Again, I was tempted to stay here for a while, first for an ice cream and then a beer.

Aberporth is one of those places you may have heard mentioned on the radio, like Boulmer in Northumberland. Aberporth usually features as one of the places around the coast which sends in a weather report; that's because of the MOD facility here, as at Boulmer.

I'm staying tonight in a holiday cottage owned by 'Ceridwen', just north of Fishguard. This is the seventh offer of accommodation accepted from Geograph members so far, with several more promised.

After an excellent meal this evening, which included fresh raspberries from the garden, I've retired to the cottage to write this Blog. After several days of sun, tomorrow's forecast is for rain, and cooler.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Quiet roads?

An early start on Sunday morning meant quiet roads and a pleasant ride from Barmouth, across the railway bridge (pedestrians and cycles allowed) to Towyn and Aberdyfi. Looking back across the bay, the whole of the Llyn Peninsula could be seen, with Bardsey Island at the far end. Seems amazing I was there only yesterday!

The road to Towyn loops inland for a few miles to avoid a hill or two. It seems strange not to have the sea on my right; in fact it's rather lonely not to be able to see the coastline. I always get a sense of relief when the sea hoves back into view.

I'm learning a few words of Welsh, from roadside signs. 'Dim' means 'not', which I think is rather apt. 'Ar werth' means 'For sale', as in 'I wonder how much these houses ar werth'. The most common sign is 'Araf', meaning 'Slow'. I want to add ...'at' to 'Araf'. Of course, most road signs in Wales are twice the size of those in England, because everything has to be written in both English and Welsh. It gets a bit silly when arriving at a place such as Borth, for which the Welsh is... 'Borth'. So the same word is repeated, just to satisfy the Welsh speakers. Actually, I've heard Welsh spoken very frequently in North Wales; that will probably change as I head south.

Another lovely day weatherwise, which meant some decent photos. I particularly like this one taken looking upstream (into the sun) from Barmouth railway bridge. It looks as if it could be somewhere in Austria or Switzerland.

Unfortunately, once the world woke up, the roads became very busy. Most of the ride was on A roads, so concentration was the name of the game, especially on the hills. A surprising number of lorries too, for a Sunday.

I pulled in to a pub shortly before 14.00, needing a beer. The staff at the family-run Wildfowler Inn at Tre'r Dool were very interested in my ride and offered a free Sunday roast, but I declined as I'd already eaten some sandwiches. However I did have an excellent plum and apple tart, with two scoops of ice-cream!

Arriving at Aberystwyth by 16.00 I decided to press on for a few miles and eventually stopped after climbing a huge hill, at Llanrhystud. An excellent B&B for £25, which is cheaper than I was asked to pay at the campsite at Arnside (no breakfast and a noisy, crowded site).

Tomorrow I will be staying near Fishguard with Geograph's Ceridwen, in a holiday let next to her house.

It's T-shirt time!

This is Saturday's Blog. No signal last evening at Barmouth.

Suddenly I'm not the odd man out. Everyone is walking around in shorts and T-shirts. The only difference is that their legs are white. It also seems that half of Manchester is here; everyone I've spoken to in the past 24 hours has been from that fair city. The Isle of Man used to be the holiday destination of choice for Lancastrians, it being slightly exotic and 'abroad', but this has rather been taken over by the bikers. Nowadays the choice is between the Costa del Sol and ... the Llyn Peninsula. Yes, the resorts of Abersoch and Pwllheli were teeming with holidaymakers and despite a few touristy shops, they remain quite attractive places.

Sitting having lunch by the entrance to Pwllheli Harbour, there's a constant stream of leisure craft making its way out to sea. Some vessels are clearly very expensive ones; there's plenty of money here. The Marina is huge and stacked with yachts.

Today has been glorious, not only for the weather, but also for the views and harbours of the Llyn Peninsula. There's a similarity between this area and the West Penwith area of Cornwall (Land's End). Looking at the map you'll see that they have a similar configuration, and probably similar climates. Certainly, there are plenty of palm trees to be seen on the Llyn, just like Cornwall.

I managed to maintain the eight-mile advantage over my schedule, cycling on as far as Barmouth before settling for a camp site. Tomorrow I'll need a B&B, as I'm running out of juice on everything.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Lazy legs

This is Friday's Blog, uploaded whilst sitting at Pwllheli Harbour at Saturday lunchtime.

It's weird how, some mornings, my legs feel weary; other mornings, they're fine and strong. It's not related to where I slept (in a tent or at a B&B), or how well or for how long I slept. By late-morning though, even the 'lazy' legs have cured themselves.

In Caernarfon I called in at a cycle shop to buy two new spare inner tubes. The owner was very interested in my ride and insisted on giving me the tubes, as well as a 'glue-free' puncture kit, without charge. Many thanks to Beics Menai

Today was a gentle one, fairly flat in the morning, so the 'legs' weren't needed. I managed to get to Fort Belan, despite the many 'private' signs. It's an interesting, former military place, with an attractive dock surrounded by cottages, right out on a spit of land at the western end of the Menai Strait. Read more about the place here.

Arriving early at Porthdinllaen, I decided to continue for a few more miles, to Porth Colmon, a natural harbour with no jetty. There were plenty of campsites along the north side of the Llyn Peninsula; in fact it seems that almost every farmer in the area has decided to diversify by grassing over a field and turning a barn into toilets and showers.

So I'm now about eight miles ahead of schedule, but with a long day ahead tomorrow. Today saw nine completed weeks on the road; it really is all downhill from now.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Better than average

The Pen y Cefn Guest House at Amlwch must rate as one of the very best B&Bs that I've ever visited. Hosts Colin and Jenny seemed to have thought of everything. If anyone is heading to Anglesey, I can heartily recommend them. See their website. As well as a discounted rate for the room, I was presented with a packed lunch. My message in their visitors' book was "I'll be back!"

Most days I average about 7 miles an hour. That may not sound much, but that includes stops for lunch, snacks, photos etc. It means that I need to be 'on the road' for up to ten hours a day. That's why I try to leave reasonably early. If I'm camping, I'm usually away by 08.00; if at a B&B it's more like 09.00. Ideally I try to reach my destination by 18.00, but it has been as late as 20.30.

This evening I continued past my planned stopover point (Plas Newydd) as there were no camp sites nearby, and continued over the Britannia Bridge and turned left towards Bangor, where I found a quiet camp site near the old Menai Bridge.

The day had started with a visit to Cemaes Bay, where an attractive harbour was well stocked with boats. Then it was on to Holyhead, where I enjoyed meeting up again with Sue Morris, Stena Ports' Personnel Manager, whom I knew from my days with British Ports Industry Training. I hadn't seen her for at least ten years. I spent a couple of hours in Holyhead, which included a brief tour of the port with Port Manager Alan Williams and a photoshoot for the Stena newsletter.

In days gone by, before there were bridges across the Menai Strait, there were many ferries operating between Anglesey and the mainland. My aim this afternoon was to visit several of these locations. I failed with the first, Plas Penrhyn, as it was at the end of a private, gated road, but succeeded with the next two, at Foel and Moel-y-Don. The fourth, at Plas Newydd, was within a nursery which was closed for the day.

So that's Anglesey circumnavigated; now it's on to the Lleyn Peninsula tomorrow, which I'm really looking forward to. And the weather seems promising.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Boring Blogs?

I'm aware that recent Blogs have been rather boring. The trouble is, by the time I get round to writing them, it's usually well after 9pm and I'm ready for bed! Witty writing is then way beyond my ability. So my new policy is to write some words in my notebook at lunch or tea-time. So here I am at Menai Bridge (the village, not the bridge itself), having an early afternoon coffee and flapjack.

I've been thinking about bad drivers this morning, having encountered more than a few. I need to look at the Highway Code and see what it says about drivers v. cyclists. But I maintain that, where possible, drivers should leave a vehicle width gap when overtaking a bike. Few do, but if the road ahead is clear, there's no reason why they can't.

Other categories of 'bad drivers' are those who overtake when coming towards you. It's scary, seeing a vehicle (often a motorcycle) coming at you on your side of the road. Another type is those who blip the throttle before they overtake you. Generally, if a driver does anything that may cause the cyclist to swerve, then it must be classed as dangerous. Sometimes, the suction effect from a large vehicle can be quite frightening, as you're drawn in towards its rear quarter.

But enough moaning, I'm on Anglesey now, heading this evening to Amlwch...

Coming out of Beaumaris I encountered my second 25% hill. I don't think it was that steep; it didn't look like a 1 in 4, and I managed to climb most of it, only stopping when the road became rather busy. As you can see from the photo, I also had to duck and watch out for falling rocks.

There were two campsites indicated on the map, just outside Amlwch. But when I got there, both had closed down. So it was into the village to find a B&B. There was just one, with a 'No Vacancies' sign. In some desperation, I rang the bell with the intention of asking if they knew of anywhere else nearby to stay. However, the door was answered by the owner's daughter, who was staying there with her own family. That's why the sign had been posted. The owner said that although there was a spare room, it wasn't ready for a guest. However the daughter insisted, and even offered to prepare the room herself. So I wandered into the village and found somewhere to eat. When I returned, everything was ready - a beautifully clean room.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Good day / Bad day

First the good aspects of the day.
* Great night's sleep and sandwiches presented to me as I was leaving;
* Covered about 70 miles to the far side of Rhyl (Towyn to be precise);
* Sunny for most of the day, though not as warm as yesterday (probably a good thing);
* John and Eileen Turner met me as I was about to cross the River Dee, with a flask of hot coffee. Thanks!

Now the not so good things about the day.
* Got lost several times, thanks to poor signage and diverted cycle routes. Added several miles to an already long day.
* Strong westerly wind;
* Had another puncture - delayed for 30 minutes whilst fixing it.

Which leads me to another good thing - having texted John, whom I'd seen only half an hour earlier, about the puncture, he drove out to find me and helped to get back on the road by using a compressor to put some decent pressure in the tyre.

It's amazing how I survived right round Scotland, over all sorts of terrain, without a puncture. Now I've had one in England and one in Wales. This one was caused by a thorn, not glass.

Tomorrow I'll be going on to Anglesey, my eighth island.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Bacon for breakfast - and lunch

I was just finishing breakfast at The Plough in Southport when Nigel, the owner, presented me with a foil-wrapped package containing bacon toasties - "in case you get stuck for something to eat today". I've said this before, but people can be so kind. I managed to defer eating them until reaching the Albert Dock in Liverpool three hours later, when they were still quite warm.

The route today was mainly off-road, following either discrete cycle paths or old railway tracks; occasionally there were marked cycle lanes on main roads. Part of the ride followed the Trans-Pennine Route (NCR62), which crosses the country finishing in Hornsea on the Yorkshire coast. I had actually ridden along part of that route back in the early days when following the old railway line between Hull and Hornsea.

Liverpool was very busy, and construction of the new Museum of Liverpool (opening next month) meant that access along the waterfront was restricted. Still, it was very pleasant sitting in the warm sunshine, eating my toasties.

My route took me across the Mersey at Widnes, by which time it had clouded over. To get to the bridge the Trans-Pennine Route followed the river eastwards until suddenly it rose by a series of wooden ramps, as can be seen in the photograph (left) on the hill above the metal bridge. The trouble was that the ramps were not slopes, but a series of steps. Fortunately the steps were shallow, and the distance between each step just over a bike's length. Still, it took me at least 10 minutes to negotiate this section. I wish Sustrans, or whoever is responsible for these National Cycle Routes, could indicate their suitability (or otherwise) for heavy bikes like mine!

Ever since my 'Workington experience', I'm acutely aware of glass on the road. In places it's awful, with broken glass scattered everywhere; it just can't be avoided. I do feel strongly that local people (Sustrans rangers?) should be out there clearing the tracks. The worst places today were in underpasses, where the route went under main roads or railway lines. Clearly these are places where young people gather, for various reasons, and obviously they're not averse to deliberately breaking a bottle or two.

I ended the day at Eastham Ferry, just short of my planned destination of Bromborough, where John Turner was waiting for me. After a short diversion to look at a derelict pier at Job's Ferry (where he took this photo of me), he drove me back to his home near Chester. His wife Eileen had prepared an excellent roast lamb dinner with all the trimmings, followed by (how did she know?) rhubarb crumble and ice-cream!

Tomorrow, John will drop me back at Eastham, when I'll continue around the Wirral Peninsula, across the River Dee and into Wales.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Chased for payment

Last night I stayed at a camp site at Arnside (Hollins Farm). When I arrived the office was closed, so I found a place to pitch the tent in a crowded field. At about 8pm the warden arrived, asking if I was OK. Yes, I replied, and how much do I owe you? It appeared that he thought I was someone else who had booked that pitch. When he realised that I was not that person, he demanded £26. I was busy cooking supper, but expressed total amazement at that fee; the highest so far had been £17 (which was waived); the norm is about £10. He said that as I was just one person in a small tent he'd 'see me all right', by which I assumed he meant he wasn't charging me. After all, someone else had paid in advance for that pitch. And off he went.

In the morning, I packed up early and as I left he and his wife were busy near the entrance sorting out some rubbish bags. I said 'Hi' and continued out of the gate. He had nodded back. Then, some three miles down the road, I was confronted by the same warden in his Landrover, saying I hadn't paid and accusing me of trying to avoid payment. He tried to tell me that he had to justify the space I'd taken up. I explained that I thought he'd let me off the fee. After some nasty exchanges, I played my final card, the charity one. He then relented, with some reluctance. By then I had decided that I would pay him only £10, as the noise from drunken caravanners had lasted until well after 01.00, and the facilities were not as good as the previous night, which had cost a mere £8. So I put the tenner quietly away. But fancy being chased down the road!

George at Knott End jetty

Today I met up with George Thompson, whom I'd met at Durness in the north-west of Scotland. We had kept in touch after his Lands End to John O'Groats ride. We met just east of the Knott End ferry, after he had cycled up from Blackpool. He had got there by train from his home town of Darwen. He's a fit, nine stone something 66-year old, with a fancy bike. So he acted as pacemaker for me for much of the ride. We crossed via the ferry from Knott End to Fleetwood, which meant that I missed out a 15-mile loop. This would have taken to Skippool Creek, a former port, but not a serious omission. That helped me to get back on schedule. George eventually left me at Preston, where he was able to catch a train home. Good company - thanks George!

I eventually arrived on the outskirts of Southport at 20.00, where I dived into the first place offering accommodation, the Plough Inn at Crossens. Many thanks to the owner, Nigel, who gave me a discount rate as well as donating a hearty meal to the 'cause'.