Tuesday, 26 September 2017

An epic 400 mile adventure

The following is an outline of our fantastic cycling journey from Southwick to St Austell.

There are likely to be a number of updates over the next few days or so, as more is remembered (especially from Allan's notes), and more photos, and indeed videos, are added. So keep looking in, to find out more.

Day 1 - 10 September

After a Sunday morning service at Southwick Christian Community Church, where we outlined the purpose of our bike ride, we were given a great send-off by the assembled congregation.

The day was to prove challenging. We were still getting used to riding the bikes loaded with all the kit and equipment we needed. To say there were a few wobbles, would be an understatement.

We also had to battle, head-on, strong westerly winds, from the outset. Plus heavy rain not far into the ride.

We were originally heading for just beyond Chichester, but only made it as far as Climping, near Littlehampton, where I'd earmarked a potential campsite - just in case.

Climping campsite

Even though the campsite was very basic, with just one portaloo and two portable gas showers, it didn't dampen our enthusiasm.

Climping facilities!

The campsite was pretty much deserted apart from us and a young French couple, who camped out in their old Renault 4!

We found food and drink just down the road, at the Black Horse Inn. It was OK, but not particularly welcoming to "strangers".

Black Horse Inn, Climping
Source - Google images

After a reasonable night's sleep, in the tents for the first time. We packed up the following morning, to set off on the second leg of our journey.

Day 2 - 11 September

This leg of the journey was to prove much more successful than the first.

We left Climping for Bognor Regis, where we then headed up to Chichester. Part of the route followed the Chichester Ship Canal, making for a pleasant, traffic-free ride, into Chichester.

The route then followed the A259, sometimes on-road, to Emsworth. There was a potential campsite at Southbourne, near Emsworth, but this was full - thanks to the Goodwood Revival motor festival taking place nearby. So we headed for Hayling Island instead.

As we hit the bridge to the island, the rain decided to hit us! A totally exposed ride from one side to the other, with no shelter whatsoever - by the time we reached the other side, we were soaked!

We finally found a nice little campsite, near Fleet (Hayling Island), to stop for the night. Needless to say, we found a pub, the Yew Tree Inn, not far away. Pubs would feature quite prominently along the ride.

Kit explosion!

Packing up for Day 3

Yew Tree Inn
Source - Google images

Day 3 - 12 September

This day would feature a number of ferry crossings. Ths first, most expensive per mile, from Hayling Island to Portsea Island, heading for Portsmouth. The route then took us through Old Portsmouth and its historic dockyards, past the Spinnaker Tower, to the next ferry to Gosport.

Once in Gosport, we visited a First Light Trust cafe. The trust is a charity set up to support military veterans who have been discharged for a variety of medical reasons, including mental health issues, and not just severe injury.

From Gosport, we headed for Netley, near Southampton. Our final ferry of the day, was a tiny little thing, which crossed the River Hamble - once we had located it! It was bright pink! Which helped.

Source - Google images

We spent the night at a campsite near Netley, where of course, we found yet another pub, nearby.

Day 4 - 13 September

This was the day we would really get to see some countryside. We set off first towards Southampton, not the most pleasant of rides, especially the large bridge over the River Itchen. Very cycle unfriendly! Even though it did have a "sort of" cycle lane, right alongside the traffic - there were several close calls, including a bus passing far too close. But, we made it, safe and sound!

We eventually found the ferry terminal, and the ferry to Hythe, past some of those very large cruise liners.

From Hythe, we headed for the New Forest. The ride through the New Forest was great. Fantastic scenery, ponies, and some of the route through forest tracks and trails, and along an old disused railway line.

Fully loaded bikes in the New Forest

Near Holmsley, our stop for the night, we met up with an old TA friend of mine, Gray Franks. He'd driven down from Oxford, to wish us well, and provided us with a couple of beers each. Thank you Gary, the beers were greatly appreciated.

Source - Google images

We set up camp at Holmsley campsite, on an old WW2 airfield, run by the Camping and Caravanning Club (of which I'm a member, so we got a good discount on the pitch fees).

View from Holmsley campsite

That night, there was to be no visits to a pub, but the site shop was licenced, so we were able to buy the required refreshments, and some sausages to cook on my little gas stove.

Day 5 - 14 September

From Holmsley, we headed for Christchurch and Bournemouth, with the inention of crossing from Sandbanks to Studland, by ferry.

The ride along Bournemouth seafront was something of a nightmare. The strong winds had blown the very fine sand onto the promenade, creating miniature sand dunes, which were almost impossible to ride over. Several times, we had to get off and walk.

When we finally reached the ferry point, the ferry was out of action, and there was no indication of when it would be repaired. We were forced to take an alternative route around Poole Harbour, and through Poole itself.

Poole was possibly the most cycle unfriendly town we visited. Hence the probable reason for it not being on the cycle route. I also had to buy an OS map of the area, as it wasn't covered by the maps I'd prepared for the trip.

Once on the other side of Poole, we found a fantastic campsite, possibly the poshest we'd encounter, at Lytchett Minster. We were even given a voucher for a free bottle of wine, at a local pub, St Peters Finger, if we ordered a meal there. We did!

St Peters Finger
Source - Google images

Day 6 - 15 September

From Lytchett Minster, we headed for Dorchester and beyond. Dorchester, whilst not as cycle unfriendly as Poole, still had obstacles for those of us on bikes. It seemed that the local authorities were digging up every road in the town, but we made it through. Fortunately for us, whilst trying to work out directions through the town, a friendly local lady, in a red car, spotted us, and gave us directions to the cycle route (Route 26 at this point).

Once past Dorchester, we diverted off the cycle route, to look for a campsite, clearly marked on the OS map, at Winterbourne Abbas. It wasn't there!

We eventually made our way to Winterborne St Martin, or Martinstown (not quite the right spelling for me to claim it as my own!), where we found a great little pub, the Brewers Arms. They did B&B, but only had two rooms.

Brewers Arms, Martinstown
Source - Google images

Fortunately for us, they'd just had a cancellation, and were able to accommodate us in one of their excellent rooms, located in an old stable block to the side of the pub.

There we were made very welcome by the staff and customers, and were well fed and watered!

Day 7 - 16 September

This day found us heading towards Yeovil and Ilminster, along the River Frome, and past the Sutton Bingham Reservoir.

Early in the journey, near the village of Frampton, the cycle route became little more than a narrow footpath, alongside farmland, and for a while, it was impossible to ride the bikes, as there was not enough width - even without pannier bags, it would still have been difficult on the bikes.

Just west of Yeovil, we took a detour from the marked cycle route, shaving around 7 km off the journey. This enabled us to get nearer to Ilminster, where we took another detour through Lopen, and another campsite for the night. Not the best campsite, but acceptable.

In nearby South Petherton, we, quite naturally, found another pub.

Day 8 - 17 September

After leaving Lopen, we followed another quiet road, until we rejoined the cycle route at Stocklinch. This enabled us to avoid going through Ilminster, and saved another 11km.

We then continued through to Creech St Michael, where we followed the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal, through Taunton itself.

Taunton proved to be the most cycle friendly town we would encounter. We followed the canal through much of the town, and then followed very cycle-safe and clearly signposted routes through the rest.

From Taunton, we headed past Wellington, to Greenham, and a lovely picturesque campsite. Not far away, we found the Prince Of Wales Inn, in Holcombe Rogus. They had a quiz night for cancer charities, and a free buffet afterwards.

Even though we didn't take part in the quiz, we were still fed well. And, even though the quiz was for cancer charities, quite a number of customers and the landlord, donated towards our charities.

Source - Google images

The following morning, we were visited by a friend from my on-line carer's forum, who lives nearby, to wish us luck on our way.

Day 8, was definitely a very good day!

Day 9 - 18 September

From Greenham we headed up towards Exmoor. Along the way, close to Morebath, we met a lady walking along the road, who stopped and spoke to us. She was interested in what we were doing, and wished us luck. We discovered that she was originally from Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), which is where Allan and his Mum were both born, strange how such encounters occur.

The original plan had been to stay at a campsite next to Wimbleball Lake. But, as we got closer to Exmoor, the hills became more numerous, and much steeper, so we decided to head into Dulverton instead.

Source - Google images

After some searching, much head scratching, and several phone calls, we booked ourselves into the Lion Hotel - a pleasant 2 star hotel, with food and drink - what more could we ask for?

Before booking into the hotel, we first tried a campsite, but it was for caravans only, then a hostel, but they would only accept parties with a minimum of 15 people!

Day 10 - 19 September

This day started with one of the steepest and longest hill climbs of the whole ride, from Dulverton up on to Exmoor. We pushed the bikes up most of it, as it was virtually impossible to ride up with them fully loaded.

Once on Exmoor, the cycle route followed a more gently undulating path. So we were able to ride over much of the moor, enjoying some spectacular scenery, as thankfully, the weather was sunny.

Once we reached the western edge of Exmoor, we were able to take another detour, cutting off another few kilometres, and avoiding some more, very steep hills. It was the best decision of the whole trip!

I spotted a pub marked on the map, and what a pub it turned out to be! Unique isn't enough to describe this gem. No mains electricity, just a generator and car batteries. No mains drainage, and no mains water, only that from a spring, some way off.

Source - Google images

As we rode into the pub forecourt - literally located in the middle of nowhere - there was someone sitting outside, who immediately started chatting to us. It turned out that he was the landlord, and invited us to stay in his beer garden, free of charge.

In the garden of the secret pub!

There was also a local pool challenge taking place that evening, where more free food would be available. Needless to say, that's where we stayed for the night. The generosity of the locals was amazing, and several donated to our charities.

Day 10, was another very good day!

Day 11 - 20 September

We received a great send off from the pub's landlord, as we set off heading for Barnstaple.

At Barnstaple we joined the Tarka Trail, another path following the route of an old railway line, past Bideford, Great Torrington, and beyond.

Along the Tarka Trail

Great Torrington is the home of the Dartington Glass Factory, though we didn't actually visit it, we did stay in the town, at Eastmond House, a B&B that catered for cyclists.

Here we were given the option of a room or the use of a small cottage behind the main house. We chose the cottage. The landlady even offered us a discount, because of our cause.

Source - Google images

The Cottage
Source - Google images

Just two minutes away, we found the Black Horse for food and drink. The food was OK, but nothing to write home about, so it would be difficult to recommend this hostelry.

Day 12 - 21 September

Just before leaving the B&B, we met two female cyclists, who had also stayed there, and were on their way to the South Devon coast.

From Great Torrington, we made our down the rest of the Tarka Trail, to just before Petrockstowe, where the route went back on to quiet country roads, and yet more hills! It was around this point that we met a couple, also on bikes, or in their case, e-bikes, from Canada. She was originally from South Africa, where Allan grew up. We forgave them for having e-bikes, the lady was 84, and her husband was 86! I hope I'm still as active if and when I reach their age.

We continued along the route, until we reached Holsworthy, close to the Devon/Cornwall border. There we stayed at the White Hart Hotel, cheap and cheerful, but the stay was good, and the food reasonable.

Source - Google images

Day 13 - 22 September

From Holsworthy, we headed west into Cornwall, heading towards, but not into, Bude. We took a slight detour avoiding Marhamchurch, then headed south to Week St Mary, where we stopped for a snack and a drink from the village shop.

Unfortunately, there was a sombre atmosphere in the little town, as a funeral was taking place in the church nearby. We were somewhat relieved to be continuing on our way, soon after.

We continued south, past Canworthy Water, and on to the old disused WW2 airfield at Davidstow, on Bodmin Moor. Here, Cornwall really welcomed us with its typical weather, mild, but very wet!

We had intended to get as close to Bodmin as possible, but after getting soaked on the moor, we headed for Camelford, knowing we could still easily reach St Austell the following day.

In Camelford we eventually booked into the Countryman Hotel, a place where time had stood still for quite a while. The owner was a little strange, to say the least, and in some ways reminded us of Norman Bates in the Hitchcock film Psycho.

Source - Google images

We found yet another great, and again unique pub, in a different way, just down the road - The Masons Arms. The food was excellent, and the portions were enormous! The staff were welcoming and accommodating.

Inside the Masons Arms
Source - Google images

Cornwall also proved to be the most cycle-friendly county, if you ignore all the hills. The cycle routes are clearly signposted, and on Bodmin Moor, the routes are clearly marked with both directions and route numbers painted on the road surface.

Day 14 - 23 September

The last day! It was already strange, knowing we were coming to the end of our epic adventure. Where had the last 14 days gone?

We set off from Camelford, and soon joined the Camel Trail, yet another disused railway line, all the way to Bodmin. We stopped at a cafe at the start of the trail, and ordered a couple of bacon and chipolata sandwiches - they were enormous - again! It seems the Cornish believe in large portions of everything!

We went through Bodmin, passing near to where I had once lived many years ago (1966/67 to be precise).

From Bodmin, we headed south again towards Luxulyan, and although there were hills, quite a lot of the route followed a small river downstream, so quite a bit of the going was relatively easy.

The excellent signposting found in Cornwall

Then we hit the hills to the north of St Austell, heading towards the Eden Project. Unfortunately, whilst the cycle route took us past Eden, we didn't actually get to see it.

By late afternoon, we were in St Austell, passing close to where I had once lived, a place where I'd first worked as a graphic designer, a place where my Father had worked, past my old school - close to St Austell Brewery, and finally to John Keay House, now part of Cornwall College, where my Mother had worked when it was the HQ for English China Clays.

We had reached the end of our ride!

Outside John Keay House

We stayed overnight in the Travelodge St Austell, it was typical Travelodge, what more can I say. We did however, go for a few drinks at the Seven Stars - a somehwat improved pub, since my St Austell days, and yet again received some kind donations from its customers.

In St Austell town centre, we met an Australian couple, probably in their late 60s or early 70s, who were over on holiday. We had a chat, and it transpired that their ultimate destination was Brighton. Small world.

Day 15 - 24 September

It's all over! We reached our goal, and now it was time to head for home!

We made our way to St Austell station, and bought our tickets from possibly the most unhelpful person on the planet! It is GWR policy for bikes to be booked on to their trains - that wasn't done! This was to cause an hour's delay later in our train journey.

We also bumped into the same Australian couple we'd met the day before, they were on to the next part of their trip, and as was often the case, wished us luck.

St Austell from the station

The first leg of the journey was from St Austell to Exeter St David's (GWR), we had no issues getting on the train, although the guard did, helpfully, move us to a better part of the carriage - for bikes - at Par.

The next leg was from Exeter to Salisbury (South West Trains), again, no issues with the bikes. However, on the leg from Salisbury to Fratton (GWR again, and where the bikes should have booked on), we had to wait for a later train, as there was not enough room on the train for two fully loaded bikes!

We successfully boarded the later train, heading for Fratton. At Fratton, we caught a Southern Railways train to Littlehampton. I have to say, that regardless of the bad press Southern receives, their bike facilities on this train were the best of the journey.

The journey from Littlehampton was a rail replacement service, and yet again Southern came up trumps! We were able to load the bikes into the luggage compartment of the replacement coach service, all the way to Worthing - where we elected to cycle the rest of the way. After 400 miles, a few more miles wasn't going to make much of a difference.

After calling at a local shop, for "refreshments", we made it back to my place, just before 10 pm, to an exceedingly noisy welcome from my little parrot, Naboo, and a slightly quieter welcome from my budgie Bluey.

Our epic adventure was now well and truly over!

Additional information and links

The JustGiving pages for the dementia charities can be found at:

Alzheimer's Society page - https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/martyn-feather-as or text ASDP84 £2 to 70070 (if you wish to donate more just enter a different figure after the £ sign - e.g. £5)

Dementia UK page - https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/martyn-feather-duk or text BIJJ81 £2 to 70070  (if you wish to donate more just enter a different figure after the £ sign - e.g. £5)

We are now also raising funds for a West Sussex based charity, Dementia Support

Dementia Support MyDonate page - https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/martynfeather1

@inmemoryofmymum can be found on both Facebook and Twitter, so you can follow the ride there too. You can also find me on Facebook - Martyn Feather (Skippy), and Twitter - @ZkidooKreativ

The text and photos contained within this blog are the intellectual property of Martyn Feather, unless otherwise indicated (images of Pubs, B&Bs and Hotels were all sourced online). © Martyn Feather 2017

Monday, 25 September 2017

The route - 14 days on two wheels with pedal power...

The following maps are downloads from my TomTom GPS watch, which has recorded the entire ride, from the start in Southwick, West Sussex, to the finish in St Austell, Cornwall.

Day 1 - Southwick to Climping
battling strong westerly winds and torrential rain
very basic campsite

Day 2 - Climping to Hayling Island
the rain attacked us as we crossed the bridge to the island

Day 3 - Hayling Island to Netley
where we visited the First Light Trust cafe in Gosport

Day 4 - Netley to Holmsley
New Forest campsite on an old WW2 airfield
where we were met by TA comrade Gary Franks

Day 5 - Holmsley to Lytchett Minster
had to take a detour through Poole, as the Sandbanks to Studland ferry
was out of action!
best campsite on the trip

Day 6 - Lytchett Minster to Martinstown
first night in a B&B

Day 7 - Martinstown to Lopen, near Ilminster
not such a good campsite

Day 8 - Lopen to Greenham
nice little campsite with fantastic views
where we were visited by a friend from my carer's forum

Day 9 - Greenham to Dulverton
second night in a B&B

Day 10 - Dulverton to Brayford
(secret pub)

Day 11 - Brayford to Great Torrington
via the Tarka Trail
third night in a B&B

Day 12 - Great Torrington to Holsworthy
fourth night in a B&B

Day 13 Holsworthy to Camelford
fifth night in a B&B
(the owner reminded me of Norman Bates from Psycho!)

Day 14 - Camelford to St Austell
via the Camel Trail

Additional information and links

The JustGiving pages for the dementia charities can be found at:

Alzheimer's Society page - https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/martyn-feather-as or text ASDP84 £2 to 70070 (if you wish to donate more just enter a different figure after the £ sign - e.g. £5)

Dementia UK page - https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/martyn-feather-duk or text BIJJ81 £2 to 70070  (if you wish to donate more just enter a different figure after the £ sign - e.g. £5)

We are now also raising funds for a West Sussex based charity, Dementia Support

Dementia Support MyDonate page - https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/martynfeather1

@inmemoryofmymum can be found on both Facebook and Twitter, so you can follow the ride there too. You can also find me on Facebook - Martyn Feather (Skippy), and Twitter - @ZkidooKreativ

The text and photos contained within this blog are the intellectual property of Martyn Feather, unless otherwise indicated. © Martyn Feather 2017