Friday, March 21, 2008

Riding for Sport Relief

Last week, in the UK, the Sport Relief event was held. People do vaguely sporty things to raise money for charity. Being a cyclist, I decided to ride to work one day and back from work the next. I live near Winchester and work in Poole. My chosen route is about 57 miles each way. Because it's still early in the year, I had to set off about an hour before dawn. This was a bit tricky, because I've not ridden in the dark much. The route, which you can see on my MapMyRide site, is out in the country, with little or no street lighting. I gradually got used to the dark. The early start was more than amply rewarded near Up Somborne, when a Barn Owl crossed the road at head height just in front of me and then flew parallel for nearly half a mile no more than 20 feet away. Wonderful! Later in the morning I disturbed a deer having breakfast in a lane just north of Mottisfont in the Test Valley. The trip through the New Forest was as peaceful and quiet as usual, with lots of ponies browsing in the weak early morning sunshine. Traversing Ringwood provided a short burst of traffic-related adrenalin before the gentle ride down the Avon valley to Christchurch. I crossed the A35 on a footbridge and rode straight into vehicular chaos, which seemed to be caused by a problem with the traffic lights on the narrow bridge near the center. After that, crossing Bournemouth and Poole was tedious. A ride along the promenade all the way around Bournemouth Bay is a nicer option, unless like me, you worry about getting sand in your transmission, with no obvious way to clean it afterwards. A gentle tail wind, and not too much weight on the bike (just overnight things and a change of clothes) made this a very pleasant 4 hours and 40 minutes of riding. The return journey the following day was considerably tougher. That was due to a combination of a headwind, a longer period of darkness, and lower temperatures. I was very glad to be home. The barn owl experience was great, but even more surprising was an encounter I had with a fox, near the centre of Poole, at 7:30 in the evening. I was on my way for an overnight stay in Bournemouth. It was trying to cross a busy main road, with lots of traffic and many people in close proximity!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Pictures from the Ride

As well as the daily pictures that I took using my mobile phone and posted here, I took a number with my camera. I've now uploaded these. They are on my Flickr site, in a set called South Coast Ride.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

And Finally

In the end, I covered 521 miles while Andrew covered 525. The difference was due to us having different overnight stops on day 4.

It was a great trip with excellent weather and superb scenery. Kudos to Andrew for having the original idea and for choosing to go via the Isle of Wight.

Days 2 (Dartmoor) and 3 (Dorset Coast) were the toughest. The closer we got to the end of trip the easier became the terrain. We appreciated that!

The distances were comfortable for each day's ride. We didn't ever feel rushed.

For me, the scenery in the western half of the ride was the best. The eastern half was an area I've not visited much. I know a lot more about it now. Seeing the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway in steam was a bonus. Oh, and I've now seen nuclear power stations at both ends of the country. Last year it was Dooneray, on the north coast of Scotland and this year, Dungeness.

Thanks to every one who sponsored us. We should raise around 250 pounds for Cancer Research UK as a result of the ride.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sept 11th - The Final Mile

We were literally only a couple of miles from our final destination last night. Today we had a couple of hours to kill until we were picked up. We first headed to the North Foreland headland itself. It's very different from Land's End's rather tacky 'attractions'. On top of the 20 metre chalk cliff is a group of large and expensive-looking houses. Behind these and slightly further up the hill, is the lighthouse. We took sets of photographs to show that we had made it to our goal. Then we headed off along the north coast towards Margate.

There was a brisk northerly wind blowing and the rough sea was crashing into the sea wall all along the coast. We could see why the area is frequently described as 'bracing'. Finally, we turned back towards North Foreland to meet up with our lift home. We arrived at the appointed car park just as Angela arrived to pick us up!

And that was that. We had finished.

Today's picture is of the headland at North Foreland, taken from the south.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sept 10th - Clear Across to France: New Romney to North Foreland (Almost!)

Today's route

Today's leg to Broadstairs started speedily. The route from New Romney through Dymchurch and Hythe to the outskirts of Folkstone was flat and the promised northerly breeze had not yet set in.

Leaving Folkstone involved the biggest climb of the day from sea level to over 500 feet. Starting from the town and negotiating a steep streets and lanes we finally emerged from the trees high above the town. Heading for Dover we soon reached the Battle of Britain memorial, where replicas of a Spitfire and a Hurricane join other memorabilia to commemorate the events of the summer and autumn of 1940.

The run down to Dover was easy and fast. However, just as with Folkstone, the climb out past Dover Castle was tough. Once at the top there were great views over the harbour. Although there was a slight haze, we could see the French coast to the south. At the same time, we could also see all the way back to the nuclear power stations at Dungeness.

The route to Deal across the top of the cliffs was easy, but some ambiguous signs and worsening weather made the section to Sandwhich slightly awkward. A couple of short climbs got us to Ramsgate. The final section to Broadstairs was poorly signed and we ended up covering a couple of extra miles before reaching our B&B.

Today's picture shows boats in Ramsgate harbour. We finally elected to leave the visit to North Foreland lighthouse until the following morning.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sept 9th - Silent Running: Eastbourne to New Romney

Today's route

With just one major climb, today's ride was one of the flattest of the entire trip. As a result, I did a lot less panting than on other days in this trip. Hence today's title. The main climb was actually on the way out of Hastings. Rising to over 500 feet with some very steep sections it was a bit of a challenge, but by now we were flying up all but the steepest inclines.

Before reaching Hastings, we made good progress from Eastbourne through Peavensy and into Bexhill. The wind was very light and while taking a short break, on he sea front, we watched a sailing race grind to a halt. It was odd to a see even racing catamarans at a complete standstill.

After Hastings, and a short break to rebuild Andrew's' rear light which fell off after a particularly violent encounter with a large pothole, we began another flat section through Fairlight, Rye, Camber and Lydd. As we arrived at a level crossing with the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch railway, we spotted smoke in the distance. We just had time to set up cameras before one of the narrow gauge steam locomotives appeared, hauling a train towards Romney. With this encounter, I achieved a boyhood ambition, to see these steam locomotives. They are effectively working scale models of full size engines.

Before checking in to our B&B we visited the lighthouses at Dungeness. They are situated alongside the two nuclear powerstations. Dungeness A is being decommissioned, a process which will take about 100 years. Dungeness B is still producing some 1200 megawatts and will do so for about another decade.

Today's picture is of Pett Level, east of Hastings and looking towards Dungeness with Dover beyond.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Sept 8th - Flatline: Bognor Regis to Eastbourne

Today's route

Have you ever wondered where all the Funeral Directors went? Well, I think we've found them! The south coast towns between Bognor Regis and Eastbourne seem very well supplied with them and with crucial support services, such as monumental masons. It must be something to do with the average age of the population!

Today's ride was very mixed and was good in parts. Some towns, such as Worthing, have a very positive attitude to cycling. Others, such as Newhaven, are hopeless. And the fool who designated a pot-holed, un-surfaced track as part of on-road, National Cycle Route 2 should be fired! My advice is to ignore the cycle route around Newhaven. It's a waste of time.

In the event, a large portion of the route was very close to the coast. A lot of the route was also extremely easy as it was flat. Indeed much of it exuded the characteristic flatness for which the term 'pancake' was invented.

Brighton was very busy with people casually wandering into the cycle lanes with little comprehension of the peril in which they were placing themselves as we bore down upon them. Some kind of motoring event was happening along the sea front and was drawing big crowds. We couldn't see what was happening, but the roar of car and motorcycle engines and screeching of tyres gave some idea.

Beyond Seaford, the hills finally started to reappear as we entered the Seven Sisters Ccountry Park on our way to climbing Beachy Head via Birling Gap. The hills are long and fairly steep, but we were taking them in our stride by now. Finally we plunged down from Beachy Head and swept into Eastbourne before locating the B&B.

Today's picture is a view of Beachy Head, looking towards the East.