Friday, September 21, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
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
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
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
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
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.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Today was the day we had been waiting for since leaving Penzance. The afternoon held the promise of the first sustained period of level riding in over 300 miles. Before that we had to get to the ferry terminal at Fishbourne. Our route followed the Isle of Wight Randonnee course once more, heading east to Bembridge and the north west towards Ryde. Once again the roads were familiar, and once again, Despite the extra weight we were carrying, the climbs did not seem the challenge we remembered from riding the course earlier in the year.
We were able to board the ferry almost immediately. The crossing was smooth and fast. As a bonus, we were treated to views of the Spinnaker Tower and HMS Warrior, as we waited to dock in Old Portsmouth. Photography ensued. On leaving the docks we merged into the hectic lunchtime Portsmouth traffic. Working our way across to the east, the cycle track adjacent to Eastern Road eased our progress north, passing under the A27 in one of the most complex set of cycle and pedestrian crossings I've ever encountered!
Passing through Farlington and Havant, I experienced flashes of 'Deja Vu' as we rolled along roads remebered from the time we lived in the area nearly three decades ago. As in years past, we had to wait for passing trains at two level crossings.
Finally we left the conurbations and headed between fields festooned with acres of greenhouses as we headed towards Chichester. After a break in front of the Cathedral, we embarked on the final leg to Bognor Regis. Again this was mostly flat but the rush hour traffic made the whole thing seem a little hectic. It was very different from the tranquility of the Island. We were glad to arrive at our overnight stop.
Today's picture is of the spire of Chichester Cathedral.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Finally, today we actually did have another relatively easy day. By staying overnight in Bournemouth with family, I was already some 10 miles further on than Andrew. He came to Bournemouth for breakfast.
The journey to Lymington, where we would catch the ferry to the Isle of Wight, was pretty easy once we'd cleared the Christchurch traffic. We got off the main 'A' road as soon as possible. Apart from an emergency stop and minor head butting incident, when a car suddenly emerged from the shadows under the trees at a junction, this section of the ride was very pleasant with modest climbs and little traffic. One particular high point was when we were treated to one of the worst pieces of overtaking I've ever experienced. The driver concerned seemed intent on destroying the transmission in her Nissan by flooring it so that the engine was hitting the rev limiter, and then slipping the clutch as she crept past. The smell of tortured transmission parts was very evident for a considerable distance after this miserable overtaking attempt. Goodness only knows what she would do to go past anything moving faster than a couple of knackered cyclists!
The weather was fantastic and the ferry crossing from Lymington to Yarmouth was smooth. We arrived on the Isle of Wight before midday. We took a leisurely pub lunch in Yarmouth during which we decided that we were so early that we had time to visit Alum Bay and the Needles. The ride to Alum Bay was easy and the path out to the end of the Island is well maintained because there is a bus service. The bus is the only permitted traffic.
We rejoined the Island cycle route at Freshwater Bay. Since we'd both cycled the route earlier this year, the roads were familiar. The climbs are challenging, but not as tough as those we met earlier on this trip. We finally arrived in Wroxall for our overnight stop feeling that we'd had an easy day, which was just what we needed.
Today's picture is of the Needles. There is only really one viewpoint from the island, which probably explains why most pictures of the Needles look like this, although not all have such a crooked horizon!.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Todays ride was the longest on the entire trip. For Andrew, the ride to Poole would see him cover some 67 miles. For me, staying in Bournemouth, it was nearer 73. We were hoping for some easier riding today. We were not disappointed. Although there are plenty of steep climbs on the section from Bridport to Abbotsbury none was as challenging as yesterday. The plunge down into Abbotsbury village is fearsome. Holding a heavily laden bike on the brakes down the long, 17%, descent is hard on the hands and inevitably made me wonder if I'd done all the maintenance tasks correctly!
Once through Abbotsbury, things got considerably easier. We were on familiar roads and while the route into Weymouth still has some surprisingly steep hills, around the harbour, the path uses the course of a dismantled railway and is mercifully flat! Leaving Weymouth to the north involves some more moderate climbs. Eventually the route heads east again, on to more rolling terrain north of Bovington. As well as a village, Bovington is also an Army camp, and a base for tank training. The noise of powerful diesel engines signaled that tanks were on manouvers, though thankfully, not on the roads we were using.
The final section into Wareham was a delightfully straight and fast road. We made quick progress. From Wareham we took the back roads where Andrew trains, to Studland. Only the final climb got close to requiring the level of exertion of the morning. The view from the top of the hill across Poole harbour and Bournemouth Bay makes it well worth the effort. We could even make out a three masted, square rigger motoring into the harbour. The remainder of the route to the Sandbanks chain ferry was easy going and fast. The crossing takes just a few minutes, and costs a mere 80 pence.
Then it was time for a temporary parting of the ways. Andrew headed off to his flat in Poole while I continued on to my overnight stop in Bournemouth. I headed along the promenade from Sandbanks through Bournemouth and on to Boscombe before heading up to the top of the cliffs for the final few miles.
Today's' picture is of the Sandbanks chain ferry just after we had crossed from Studland to Sandbanks.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
After the rigours of Dartmoor yesterday, today's route was supposed to be an easy ride. Well, that didn't work out! The climb out from Moretonhampstead set the tone for the day. It was strenuous but not as tough as Dartmoor itself. After many climbs we eventually made it to Exeter.
Crossing cities is usually quite slow. Lots of stops are needed to check the route. In the event we found the way out through Topsham, Woodbury and Otterton heading for Sidmouth. Once we left Exeter, we had to toil up climb after climb. Finally, we made it to Sidmouth and took a break for lunch on the front.
Next stop was Seaton and once again there was a series of tough climbs before we dropped down to the sea front. The worst of all was the climb out from Branscombe where finally I resorted to getting off and pushing! We did get the benefit of some local knowledge from a cyclist we met. Although he couldn't route us around all the hills, he was able to help us avoid the worst of them.
Seaton itself has an electric tram system running from Colyford to Seaton. Quite why it's there is a bit of a mystery, since the only thing to see on the journey is the mud flats of the river Axe.
On we went to Lyme Regis, over yet more steep and difficult climbs. In Lyme Regis, the view from the Cobb along the Jurrasic Coast and Chesil Beach is superb. We could also see Portland and Weymouth, real signs of an area very familiar to us.
We thought that the final major climb of the day would be the one out of Lyme Regis. Actually the A35 towards Bridport has a series of challenging climbs to be conquered before we finally reached our overnight stop in West Bay, near Bridport. It was a real relief to finish the day. By the way, the weather was nothing short of glorious. If anything it was a little too warm for the amount of climbing we had to do.
Today's picture is a view back towards Dartmoor from above Moretonhampstead.
Monday, September 03, 2007
Before embarking on Today's saga, I need to confess. Yesterday, the shower at the B&B in Par blew up while I was in it! Some people shouldn't be allowed anywhere near technology!
Today was the big one. We went from Par to Moretonhampstead over Dartmoor. Now while most people know that moors are high and that crossing them usually involves lots of climbing, it's less well known that even getting to Tavistock, the start of the moor in the direction we were traveling, also involves lots of long, steep climbs.
Even as we left Par we were immediately confronted with a mile long steep climb. Climbs and descents followed in succession until we finally crossed the Tamar at Gunnislake. Devon at last! And another climb of course!
From Tavistock the route climbs relentlessly to Princeton and the foreboding shape of Dartmoor prison. On we went to the village of Two Bridges and the start of yet more climbs through moorland until we crossed the final crest and plunged down into Moretonhampstead. Our average speed for the day was less than 10 mph, but under the circumstances it felt like a triumph. Now where's the pub?
Today's picture is the view looking east into Devon from high on Dartmoor.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
We got away in good time after a suitably hearty breakfast. Angela headed back to Winchester and we set off for Penzance. This year we used the one of the more standard End-to-end routes away from Land's End. Although the route is along fairly major roads, traffic was not too bad until the afternoon. Also, in many places there is a strip of tarmac on which to ride or a proper cycle lane.
We had one small drama. A bolt fell out of the saddle mounting on Andrew's bike. We spent a little while searching Truro for a bicycle shop before stumbling across a Halfords store. We got the necessary parts and were able to make repairs on the spot. Our problem was nothing in comparison with that of the other couple staying at our B&B. The clutch in their car had failed. As well as the effect it was having on their holiday in Cornwall, they were supposed to be traveling to Spain in a few days time. Hope they made it.
We found today's ride quite straightforward. There were quite a lot of significant hills, but overall, this was a good preparation for Dartmoor tomorrow.
Today's picture is of St. Michael's Mount, seen from Marazion. Mind you, I'm not convinced about the colour balance that my phone is delivering!