Monday, 27 June 2022

Riding for Mind

made it to cornwall


My charity ride for Mind is complete; sponsorship link. The original plan was 250 miles straight to Cornwall. And then a three day ride back. 

The change in circumstances - a broken hip in February - meant that wasn't going to be possible. I had to make it a two day ride.

This was my third and longest multi-day ride. The first was four days to Paris and the second a two day ride along the South Downs Way (SDW). Both were with Matthew and Richard. Next year I hope to roundup some companions for a six day ride.

I packed heavy for both trips, including a full size camera. This time I carried the minimum and relied on my phone for pictures. They were both weather affected. The Paris trip by rain for most of the first day. The SDW by rain leading up to the trip. Which meant the first day especially was almost all very thick mud. 

Just having the simple tasks of finding food and staying on route was brilliant. And being with my mates of course.

Back to the Solstice epic.

I'll start with packing, it took me a few goes to be sure I had it right. I did the first round on Saturday. And decided the bag was too heavy. Some stuff was removed and that was supposed to be it. On Sunday I needed to check I had the essentials, so an unpack was necessary. Then that was it. Until Monday when I wanted to remove some more weight and again check that I had what I needed. I was sure I'd forgotten something as I left the house.

The first day started at 4 a.m. and ended 165 miles later in Stawell. It should have been around 150. More on that later.

leaving at 4 am


It was a little chilly as I left the house, getting really cold within a few miles, my hands were freezing. I had to put on my full length gloves. 

view near farnham
Farnham

I was making good time, passing near Farnham, through Alton and Bighton around 08:30.

stop for food at bighton
Bighton

Avington country park
Avington Country Park

I reached Winchester before 10. The roads were quiet and the weather was great.

country views passed Winchester

country views passed Winchester


I was too early at the Mill Arms, Mottisfont for a coffee, but there was a comfy chair if I had had time to wait.

Mill Arms, comfy seat

The next village with a shop was Lockerley. Unfortunately having very little food for a vegan diet. Crisps have plenty of carbs and the energy drink was welcome. 

It was a theme of a lot of the ride; the route I was following missed many bigger towns and even villages. It meant that food stops were less common than I would have liked. 

lockerley
Lockerley

It wasn't until nearly 2 p.m that I was able to stop to eat properly. At the Carriers Arms in Stockton. Great food and a warm welcome. I was too hungry to take a pic of the food.

Carriers Arms Stockton
Carriers Arms Stockton

The rest of the day was okay until I got to Bruton. I was tired and not paying enough attention to the directions given by the cycle comp. It took me on a big figure of eight before I realised something had gone very wrong. It was displaying a map of the Birmingham area. The turn by turn was still working, but I couldn't see how to return to the route without knowing where I was. I continued using my phone and google maps. Stopping every few miles to check my progress and note the next few junctions. 

I eventually made it to the Ivy Cottage in Stawell. Di and Steve were talkative, they had the most time to talk of all the places I stopped at. I asked about food and was told the best pub for a meal was two and half miles away, and that the kitchen closed in less than thirty minutes. So Chris gave me a lift, returning ninety minutes later to pick me up. The pub was the Ring O' Bells in Moorlinch. Clive the landlord welcomed me, it was like walking into my local; one I'd been visiting for many years. He said Trish could cook me a curry, and it was perfect. I haven't tasted better. I was introduced to the regulars, who came over for a chat after I'd eaten. It was just what I needed after a solo ride that had gotten very stressful.

Day two should have been 100 miles to Camelford. The computer had other ideas. The hills increased in frequency and steepness. The temperature climbed quickly, I'm not ashamed to say I walked up some. Without the luggage they would have been hard, with it I had to admit defeat.

Somewhere north of Taunton


Somewhere north of Taunton
Somewhere in the Quantocks

I was meandering through Somerset, mostly singletrack gravel covered lanes. The pic below was at the beginning of a very bad stretch.


singletrack gravel covered lanes

It quickly became impossible to ride up the hills, I just didn't have any traction. I'm glad I continued walking. The descents were incredibly dangerous. Very steep, twisty, potholed and completely covered in gravel and stones. I think this slow progress continued for nearly a mile. 

Finally into Devon
finally into Devon

I entered Devon at about 1 p.m. I tried to smile for the picture, but was just too tired and hot to be able to muster one. I think the stress of the cycle computer routing was also having an effect. The turn by turn was still okay, but the map had me in Wales.

At just before 2 p.m I rode into Bampton. I was cooked, buying too much food and drink to attach to my bike. I looked across the road and saw a church, hoping I'd find a sheltered corner to have a rest.


sheltering from the heat. Bampton
sheltering from the heat. Bampton

I stayed for the best part of ninety minutes. Again smiles were in short supply. The bike proved an ice breaking with people walking through the churchyard. A brief chat was most welcome. I hadn't realised riding alone was starting to take its toll.

The first place I was looking forward to came south east of Okehampton, the Granite Way. A cycle path alongside an abandoned railway line. It was mostly shaded; and flat. It crossed the Meldon Viaduct.


Meldon Viaduct
Meldon Viaduct

View from Meldon Viaduct

View from Meldon Viaduct

The views were great, the viaduct not so much. The original structure being completely built over.

In to Cornwall

The next highlight; entering Cornwall. Again slightly tempered by the computer stress and heat.

I got to Launceston late in the day, about 9 p.m. I made a wrong turn and was completely lost. My brain was fried, even using my phone I couldn't get back on route. I was just over twenty miles from my sister's house. I couldn't work out how to get there without using the A30; a motorway in all but name. Eventually I gave up and called for assistance. Sheila and Jill came to my rescue.

Launceston town hall
waiting for my sister

I was disappointed, to be so close, and not to have ridden to the surprise sign my sister had prepared for me. See the top of this post.

I had a great rest day, my sister and I chating non stop. It was brilliant to completely unwind, and relax. The trials of the past two days almost forgotten.

Then it was time to head home. A friend of Sheilas; Jill, who had helped save me on Wednesday, was driving to Salisbury and offered to give me a lift. I didn't have anywhere to stay there until Saturday, so elected to be dropped off at Exeter. It looked a straightforward trip to the b&b. I tried to use the cycle computer, but it still had me in Wales; soon totally losing the plot. I saw a sign for Seaton; knowing this was close to Colyton I continued without it.

countryside south Devon

It was so relaxing to just meander along the quiet lanes. 

Saint Winifred's Church, Branscombe
Saint Winifred's Church, Branscombe

Stopping for lunch at the Masons Arms. The landlord was right; it was a very steep hill out of the valley.

Masons Arms. Branscombe
Masons Arms. Branscombe

I arrived in Seaton mid afternoon a relaxed man.

Seaton seafront
Seaton seafront

I didn't expect the trams. But it made a nice reason to wander around for bit.


electric tram

And take some pictures.

electric tram

As I rode into Seaton there were signs for Colyton, happy days. 

On the edge of the village was a nice spot to sit and call everyone who was waiting for an update.

The White Cottage b&b was friendly and comfy. Another great find, they recommended that I book a table at the Kingfisher beforehand. They were right; as I walked in it was a busy night. Seeing my name on a table was very welcome. Tasty food too.

The river Colly

The river Colly


As I left Colyton a long hill needed to be climbed, not great so early in the day. I had decided that if the cycling computer was still playing up Salisbury should be easy to get to just by following signs. And then I could catch a train home.

Devon views
Devon views

Dorset views
Dorset views

Somerset views
Somerset views

As I entered Dorset and then Somerset the roads became flatter and my pace increased. The computer was working perfectly, hopefully this was going to be a good day. This and the shorter distance improved my mood greatly. I arrived at Milborne Port and stopped at a pub with an interesting name.

The theme with my pub meal photography; I eat the food too quickly to want to pause for a picture.

The Tippling Philosopher
The Tippling Philosopher

Did you know the cow could be the most dangerous mammal in the UK if you discount pets? I climbed a stile to take a comfort break out of site of the road. A herd of cows were some way off, so I didn't give them much attention.

killer cows
killer cows

As I left the field I heard a noise behind me, the cows had gathered around where I had been. They were pushing at the gate. I'm not saying they would have attacked, but I would certainly have been jostled by them. Apparently at least twelve people were killed in such circumstances between 2008 and 2014.

winding road
the long and winding road

I made good time, the weather was much cooler. Arriving in Salisbury around four. The only blight was a painful knee and developing saddlesore. Again the option of the train for the next day was considered.

Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral

Before checking into my b&b - the Qudos. I took a moment to sit by the river. And update everyone.

away from the crowds Salisbury river avon
The River Avon


The Qudos is centrally located, with a self service buffet breakfast. I always ate as much as I could every morning at all of the stops. It would be my choice if I were to be visiting the area again. Before leaving I lowered the saddle a little to see if it would relieve the pressure. It worked; my knee was a little stiff, but eased up quickly and the rest of the day was almost pain free.

My route quickly had me on a cycle path that brought me to Mottisfont.

 
cycle path

Passing the library.

Mottisfont library


More beautiful countryside.

beautiful countryside


I then started to recognise some of the places I had passed on Tuesday, my route then having gone around Salisbury.

Avington country park
Avington country park

Arriving at Alton it was lunchtime I saw a small square off Market Street that looked promising. On all sides were chain pubs and restaurants, I wanted an independent establishment. I found one in the far corner, the Dill. I sat at the window and ate my mushroom burger.

The Dill Alton
The Dill Alton


It felt good to be on roads I ridden before, until I wasn't. At one point I was directed down a bridleway so stoney and sandy I had to walk. Another quarter mile at a slower pace.

St Laurence church Seale
St Laurence church Seale


I passed through Guildford and Leatherhead then Walton-on-the-Hill, Hooley, and finally Chaldon. I was home.

Some thoughts from this adventure:

I relied totally on technology and it had partially let me down. To be fair the computer had been okay in the past.

I have often written about testing my limits, only thinking physically. Whilst I was tired at the end of each day it was the mental toll I hadn't considered. The first two days had really pushed me the most. Perhaps I now know a limit; it's how far can I go alone. The next multi-day ride will need to be as a group. 

No-one to talk to, then eating alone in the evening and at breakfast. At each stop I looked for conversation, but everyone had their own lives and schedules. I was just someone passing through. 
Except the Ring O' Bells on the 21st. It was brilliant chatting away to the locals.

I called Marcia, Sheila and Michelle in the evenings, before falling asleep. An important part of my day.

I don't know how people travel many days alone. Especially if they aren't in contact with anyone on a regular basis. What did they do before mobile phones and the internet?

I need to slow down, reduce the daily distance target. To quote Jurassic Park; just because you can, doesn't mean you should. The shorter days were much more enjoyable even taking into account the tech failures.

Here are links to the places featured in this post.













1 comment:

  1. A fascinating blog Andrew, very interesting to read. It's not a bad thing to be completely alone sometimes. Good luck with your next adventure, wherever it is!

    ReplyDelete