Cycling and walking

Sunday, November 20

Coffeeneuring #7 - at White Horse Hill

Today's was another Coffee without Walls trip. It almost felt like cheating to squeeze 5, 6 and 7 in on the last 3 days (it wasn't though!) but I knew that to feel I'd really met the Coffeeneuring challenge there was only one place to cycle for #7, and that was White Horse Hill, near Uffington. The weather forecast was rather grim and there was a conversation in my head between me and my weaker side which basically went

"Do I really need to cycle all the way up there?"

"Yes"

"But surely there's somewhere else I could cycle which would be equally valid but which wouldn't involve all that climbing?"

"Don't be such a woos - on yer bike to White Horse Hill!"

So I did. I've never actually cycled up there before. I took a route which meant less of the very windy and narrow B road that passes by the hill, but which meant more elevation.

Once up there (and I confess to having had to push up the final steep road to the Hill) I sat in the car park and ate my provisions and drank tea from a flask.


More of the soda bread muffins, peanut butter on the left and apple jam on the right



Not much demand for the one picnic bench today
 When I make tea at home, though I say it myself, it is excellent (Yorkshire Hard Water loose leaf) but poured into a flask and drunk an hour or so later it is yuck! However it was hot and vaguely tea-like so I drank most of it.


The weather was indeed grim but at least the rain had cleared off to the east by then. It was grey, cold and quite windy.  

You can just make out the Horse in the distance if you squint....

This pic is looking north to Faringdon Folly. 



I got somebody to take this pic later when I cycled from the car park up onto the actual hill.


After cycling back down I was going to just pootle off home but by then I felt up for a bit more of a ride, so I headed off towards Shrivenham, and ended up doing about 21 miles. It was very tough going and I was very glad to get home, but these last three rides have made me realize that cycling can be very enjoyable even in this sort of weather! Better than being in a tin box on wheels!

And now, I shall submit my 7 rides to the appropriate person and get my badge, shown here, which I shall proudly stitch to my jacket!

Lizzie


Saturday, November 19

Coffeeneuring #6


The end date of the Coffeeneuring Challenge 2016 is midnight tomorrow, Sunday 20th November. It was creeping up on me and I had almost given up, thinking I hadn't got time to complete the 7 rides necessary. However, when I  thought about it I realized I could just do it, even though it meant doing 3 in a row - allowed by the rules, as it would be 5 and 6 this week and then the 7th tomorrow i.e. next week!

Yesterday's, #5, was at the Vale and Downland Museum in Wantage. Today's was again in Wantage but different, as this was "Coffee without Walls" i.e. not in a cafe. There's a bit of a temptation when out cycling to indulge in something full of calories and sugar, but today I thought - time to make something equally delicious but not so sugary, to take with me, so in the morning I made these (dead easy) spelt flour soda bread muffins, from a recipe that I originally got from Woman's Hour.

Then I thought - Youngest Son and girlfriend might like some of these so I did my long route into Wantage, met him outside the pub where he'd gone to watch football to hand some over, then cycled off to do some shopping. 





Soda Bread Muffins



Recently there has been a lot of talk about take away cups not being recyclable, which is awful given how many millions get used once and then thrown away, and so I bought one of the re-usable ones that Waitrose sell for £3 and can now enjoy, guilt-free, their free drinks. I just have to remember to take it with me.....

After shopping, I got my free coffee, wedged it in my rack bag and then walked slowly across the market place to the parish church, hoping the contents wouldn't spill...... which they did a bit but nothing disastrous.

Surely they could make the cups so that you can close off the top completely - like babies' ones do?

I sat on the bench eating my cheese filled soda bread muffin (yes it is in the middle of the muffin even though it looks as if the muffin is just sitting on top!) and drinking my coffee.




This is the view from the bench. It's a great place to people watch as lots of people walk past on this path.




I took this pic of the cobbles and stuck my booted foot in as well, which was a good job as I later realized I hadn't taken the pic of my bike as proof that I'd cycled. Would I go around with those home made green things round my ankles if I wasn't cycling? (I think my children might say - "yes Mother, you would......")



This is on my route home, looking back the way I've come, where the old road is forded by Letcombe Brook.



And there's my bike!!



I want to try and keep up the cycling this winter and this Coffeeneuring Challenge has definitely helped to make me get out on my bike. I admit I won't cycle when there's ice on the roads, but any other kind of bad weather is bearable and even enjoyable as long as you've got the right clothing. You know what they say - there's no such thing as the wrong weather, only the wrong clothing.

A round trip of just over 14 miles.

Tomorrow, and #7 - awful weather is forecast! Will I eat my words.....

Lizzie

Thursday, November 3

Coffeeneuring 2016 #4

Just a short post, partly to give a shout out to Corner Coffee at Childrey, near Wantage here in Oxfordshire. I have been meaning to try this cafe ever since it opened not long ago, but when I'm going past I'm usually either on my way to go shopping, or on my way home afterwards and can't stop.

So today, it being a lovely sunny though very chilly morning, and despite having the remains of my first cold in about 6 years, I rode off with my pockets stuffed full of tissues to buy some eggs (forgot them while shopping yesterday, slap on wrist from Husband....) at a local farm. There was a good hill en route; I did struggle up it (my excuse is not being up to full strength after the worst of my cold) but flew down it at 25.9 mph.

And then I had coffee and the most delicious triple choc buckwheat (gluten free as it happened) cookie at Corner Coffee. It's a really lovely little cafe with plenty of outdoor space - blankets provided for cold weather! - even if not a lot indoors. They do home made soup as well. It's not on Facebook but is on Instagram here.










Gill the owner does some hand made local goods too. AND - the really good news is, that she is taking over the village shop next year and the cafe will be there, and it sounds like she has a lot of good ideas for the place. It was quite a large shop back in the 1980s, but then got chopped in half, and later lost its Post Office too. So this is excellent news -  new life for a village shop!

A tiddler of a trip today - only 5.9 miles.

Lizzie


Monday, October 31

Barbour jacket - repairing and re-waxing.


This is undoubtedly my most expensive item of clothing! I treated myself to it in 2011 and it cost £211. I love it for its style and utilitarian practicality (lots of pockets!) and the fact that's it's cotton and therefore breathable. I think it's the sort of thing that you can wear anywhere at all and you won't look out of place (not that I care much about looking out of place!!!). I can stuff it in my rucksack or bike panniers and it doesn't take up too much space and is very lightweight. It's Barbour's Amelia Flyweight although I can only find it on an American website now so it looks as if they don't do this one any more.

I've worn it and worn it but only re-waxed it once before. I decided it was time for another re-waxing (actually it was well overdue) after a very wet walk last month reduced it to this state -







The back is the worst.




When I looked it over properly I found that it also needed mending. It had a rip on the back, probably either caused by a thorn or more likely barbed wire (I do tend to crawl through barbed wire fences at times...) -




and this hole and tear on one sleeve -




and this tear on the cuff of the other sleeve. These small tears are actually just where the fabric has worn out on the crease -





For some reason unknown even to me, I decided that mending the holes and rips by stitching would be too tricky - lots of unpicking of seams involved - and so I sent off for some Stormsure glue, which I came across on this YouTube video, intending to copy the methods of mending shown there, but when the glue came I had another look at the jacket and thought - "there really isn't much unpicking involved. And I'd always rather sew than glue if possible." So, unpicker in hand, I set to work. (I'm sure the glue will come in handy for other things though).

I should add that prior to any of this I had wiped the jacket all over with a sponge and cold water (Barbour's instructions) to clean it, and also tried to get some of the creases down the front out, by ironing, using a cloth under the iron. It didn't work - I think the creases are just too old.

Creasing down the front facing

Now we have a picture of the canvas from Husband's boyhood tent. Eh? Why? Because - during our clearout prior to moving I found this ancient tent in our outhouse (been there 32 years...). I said to him - can I cut this up? In typical man fashion he rather reluctantly agreed (what else was he going to do with it????) so before he could change his mind I chopped it up and washed the bits at 60 degrees, thinking that if it was going to fall apart a good hot wash would make it do so, but it didn't, and I now have the pieces in my much-reduced-before-moving fabric stash. Anyway, this was what I used tiny pieces of behind the holes and rips in the jacket. It was just the right weight and I knew that the colour wouldn't show after stitching.




This is the rip on the back, with lining unpicked and piece of tent canvas in place -



I used strips of Steam-A-Seam to hold the patch in place. 



 The rip after mending -



I did the other mends in the same way, unpicking the lining, patching on the wrong side and then stitching on the right side. The thread by the way wasn't a perfect match, but I reckoned that by the time I'd rewaxed the jacket this wouldn't show.

Mend in cuff  -



Mend on sleeve - 



After restitching the lining, I did the re-waxing, which actually took me an hour and forty minutes......They say do it in a warm room - well the room wasn't warm and to be honest I think it would have to be JOLLY warm in order for the melted wax not to solidify pretty soon after applying it, which it did. They also say use either a cloth or a sponge; I used bits of old cloth but can see why using a sponge would be the better option, as I can see tiny bits of fluff from the old white cloth on the jacket. I think the wax might work into the fabric better with a sponge too. However, I'm pleased with the overall results, as shown below.

Mend on back

Sleeve

Cuff

After re-waxing I went over the jacket with a heat gun (we haven't got the recommended hair dryer) which evens out the wax, and then left it overnight. However in the morning I could see that there were still tiny lumps of excess wax on it, particularly at the seams, so I went over it again with the heat gun and wiped off the excess. Result!


The finished article - 





Remember the "before" picture of the back? A lot better now!




This WAS a lot of work, but well worth doing.  Here's an interesting article on Barbour's repair shop oop north.  I'd love to go there! Wonder if they do Open Days....

Lizzie










Monday, October 24

Coffeeneuring #2, and a new light for my bike.

I thought to myself the other day -

"What this bike needs......is some lights."

So, today, I got one, a very stylish back one (will look out for an equally stylish front one)  in my favourite charity shop, for a mere £2. Here's a pic of it in the rear pannier - a temporary measure of course. I think it needs fixing properly, by its nice wooden base, maybe to the rear rack.



Nice light eh? Bet you didn't know Ikea did bike lights. Only one problem - I can't find a socket on the bike to plug it in to.

Anyway, back to the Coffeeneuring 2016 challenge. Today it was tea actually. I'm very English and have coffee in the morning, and tea in the afternoon, unless I go out for an evening meal in which case I have to have coffee afterwards, preferable with something chocolatey.

The venue was Waitrose in Wantage, where of course the tea was free. This is the front of the shop and that's my blue Trek on the left. Proof that I cycled this time!



This is round the back of the shop where I sat - with my lamp!





Today I thought - what with all this stuff about drinks cups not being recyclable, I thought I'd take my lovely very-suitable-for-carrying-on-a-bike enamel cup with me (present from one of daughters) and use that. The lady in front of me had one of those re-usable cups that you can buy, but I haven't got one and couldn't see any reason not to just take any old mug and use that. However, I did not get the proper amount of tea so maybe the machine is so clever that it can detect a non-Waitrose approved vessel. Hmmmmm..... Still, it was hot and free, and I enjoyed it with a chocolate chip digestive - also taken with me! Coffeeneuring #3 might actually involve money!


A round trip of about 9 1/2 miles. Better than driving any day!

Lizzie












Wednesday, October 19

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2016 #1


I always enjoy cycling more when I've got a motive, whether that's the need to get somewhere and the bike is the only way of getting there, or whether it's just a lovely day and I can have a WHOLE day out - I'm not so good at getting out for shorter rides.

So I've decided to join in with this "coffeeneuring" challenge (details here, Oct. 7th to November 20th) which I came across on this (anniebikes) cycling blog I've recently started following. Basically it's about cycling and drinking coffee or tea. What's not to like?! I'm doing it as a way of making myself get out for short, but more frequent, bike rides during the next few weeks. I'll no doubt need another challenge after that to keep me going throughout the winter! It also means that when I eat that naughty something with my coffee or tea I can at least say "Well I've just used enough calories cycling here to justify it!"

This morning's trip, then, was down to a nearby lake at Baulking, which was until a few years ago a fuller's earth mine. I made coffee in my insulated Thermos cup and took it with me, along with a chocolate Hob Nob - currently on offer in Sainsbury's. I've never used the cup much so didn't know how well it would retain the heat. [NB - we did not choose this awful grey/green Formica! Or the tiles. Or the cupboards. But still, I can put up with them. Just.]



When the mining operation was closed down they planted lots of trees round what is now the lake, and there are footpaths through them. I got quite close to the lake with my bike but then came to a kissing gate, so locked it up to the fence and walked the rest of the way to the lake.

The photos are terrible. I don't know whether that's my camera or me, although I do know that there is a problem either with the camera, the charger or the battery as the battery went dead on me despite being newly charged.

So this is a grotty photo of the view across the lake. In the distance you can see White Horse Hill. Don't ask me what that grey splodge is.....




On the lake there are geese, swans and ducks. And apparently something called Blue Algae which can be dangerous, so the signs say, if you come into contact with it.

Unfortunately there are no benches to sit on and of course the grass was wet, so I just stood here and drank my coffee, which was warm rather than hot. But still, it made a lovely change from drinking it at home. And it was a good job I'd put the cup in a plastic bag (that's the white thing in the pic) and kept it upright in my panniers as it had leaked. Probably need a proper flask rather than one of these cups. This was where I stopped.


I then walked all round the lake and struggled a bit to find my way back to my bike. I am a bit inclined to get lost (probably older siblings kept telling me to when I was a child and it went very deep psychologically - certainly older sister and then boyfriend-now-husband bribed me with money for ice lollies to get lost!) but I don't really mind. Getting lost can be quite beneficial, and this morning I was in no particular rush to be anywhere so didn't mind getting mildly lost.

Because of the dodgy camera battery I didn't get the pic of my bike as proof that I'd actually cycled here (there are Rules for this challenge!) but the ride is on Strava so if anyone disputes my claim then I'll tell them to look on there.

I was going to cycle home doing a circuit of 6 or 7 miles but as it was such a lovely day I made it a longer circuit of 12 miles or so.

Lizzie






Tuesday, October 4

I'm back! with a black Singer 201


Hello again!

We moved in to our new house a few weeks ago, after spending the best part of two months getting rid of stuff we didn't need. Downsizing is hard work, but, as many people said to me, very liberating - getting rid of stuff you don't need. We gave it away to charity shops, sold lots on Gumtree, and had a permanent sale in our garage. On the day we moved, for some reason the three tier cake tin (very 1960s retro, had been my mum's) was one thing that I hadn't packed. Being fed up with packing, I looked at with a sigh and thought - "Do we really need cake tins?" Answer - only if you eat cake! So then the question was, of course, "Do we need cake?". Well no, not really, or if one does WANT cake then one can just buy it occasionally, and one hardly needs cake storage tins just for the occasional cake. I know there's nothing like home made cake and I like it as much as the next person, but it's an interesting question isn't it - do we need cake? And guess what, if you don't bake cakes then you can get rid of all your baking tins too!!! Or maybe just keep baking sheets for scones and muffins and fairy cakes. Imagine how much space that would free up in your kitchen! My imagination started to run away with me about all the things we don't really need. Tell me your thoughts on this!

So here we are, back in the house we left nearly 32 years ago.  When we were here before there was a Rayburn in the kitchen and open fire in the sitting room. Now there is oil fired central heating, and an inset woodburning stove has been put in for us. Husband enjoyed the man thing of lighting it for the first time....  Oh and we also have double glazed PVC windows, which I hate on principal (I believe that you can get wooden ones that are just as good and they'd be more environmentally friendly) but they are fantastic at keeping out the draughts. I have always been amazed too at how they keep out all sound. I first realized this when I used to clean a house nearby where they had been installed. I wondered why you couldn't hear any birds. So here I tend to open a window just to hear the sound of outside. In our old house you could hear the birds and the wind and horses clip clopping up the hill without needing to do that!

Although we lived here before I had forgotten how light it is compared to our old house. It faces south, whereas our old house faced west. We thought we might find it a huge wrench leaving the house we'd lived in for so long, but in fact we both loved it here immediately and were glad we made the move. Although we are only a mile away and I have been along a lot of the footpaths round here before there are lots of different circuits we can do for walks, so it actually seems like a whole new area. Having said that, I peeped in at our old garden the other day, and did feel a bit sad when I thought of our children playing in it, and all the parties they'd had there. The house is now for sale, and is described as a "dream cottage"!!!!! It will no doubt be bought by someone very rich who will get rid of the draughty windows and put in central heating and do some very major alterations and extensions. I'd like to be there to say "No, don't do that, do this!" I used to dream about how I'd alter it if it was ours. Letting go.....

Husband chainsawed down seven huge conifers at the bottom of our new garden, which obstructed the view beyond. I have pruned several of the overgrown bushes and pulled lots of ivy out of the front border. I think I'd completely lost my gardening mojo in the old house - recently I had done less than when we had all four children at home - so it's lovely to get it back! 

Before we moved, I was browsing in my favourite charity shop in Wantage, which regularly gets sewing machines in, and saw a Singer 201 in a table. It was one of the brown ones so anyone who knows their 201s will know that that means it's the "new" shape. I have actually already got a "portable" one, which I bought a few years ago in fantastic condition, and have also got a treadle 201, but I quite fancied doing up another one, as you do once you've got the bug.... The table had been painted and the machine inside was filthy and the electrics looked as if they would need replacing. It was £50 and then got reduced to £30, but I resisted the temptation. Last week it was still there!

However, while browsing again just before we moved, they had another 201, but this time in black, again in the new shape, and in a nicer table and in better condition. I asked them to hold it for me and meanwhile off I went to the library with the serial number to do some googling. Apparently the black ones in the new shape are more sought after than the brown ones, and as it was in a table I thought that although I have acquired (free) a smaller table for my sewing it might be even more useful to have a machine in its own table.

So I bought it and here it is after cleaning.



It is in good condition, including the decals, and all it really needed was a good clean. Everything had moved OK when I turned the wheel in the shop.

I took off - the faceplate, the tension mechanism, the bobbin case, the foot and the feed dogs, the handwheel, the bobbin winder and also the tension discs that you use when winding the bobbin, the gear covers underneath, the plate at the back that opens to reveal the inside, and the stitch length mechanism. I read recently of someone else who refurbishes old machines who does one bit of the machine at a time, so that she doesn't have too many bits off the head at one time, thus risking not remembering where everything goes. But I prefer to take everything off at once, and the way I remember what everything is and where it goes is to wrap up the parts and screws for each bit and label them, and put them into those little plastic bags of the type that come with spare buttons in (I save them!).

The inside of the head had quite a lot of grease in, in places where you wouldn't expect it to be. My method of cleaning was to take the head outside and spray it inside with a mixture of paraffin and sewing machine oil, which is recommended in the files of the Yahoo Vintage Singer Group that I'm a member of. I left it overnight and cleaned off as much of the dirt and old grease as I could the next day with a brush and cloths.

The small parts I had put to soak in jars of paraffin, and cleaned them off afterwards with old cloths, scraping away at fiddly bits with a screwdriver wrapped in cloth. Bigger bits, like the faceplate, I cleaned with Autosol metal cleaner. I also used this on the outside of the head and it's done a pretty good job.

The task of putting it all back together was a trifle daunting, even though I've done it before. I have memories of taking things apart when I was young and not being able to get them back together! Fortunately labelling everything helps, and where I did get stuck, with the tension mechanism, it was because I had a piece the wrong way round, but with the help of the manual and a useful blog - useful for many old Singer things, but in particular for telling you all about the 201's tension mechanism - I got it all back together and working. The photos on the blog are really clear and I find the text easy to understand.

Anyway I got it back together. Now for the electrics. These do need replacing, and while I dare say I could do it, it would take me ages to teach myself how, and be certain that I wasn't doing something dangerously wrong, and so I am going to have it done by a professional, in this case Tom Dilley  in Swindon. Once it's done I'll have to decide which of my two electric 201s is the more useful to me, this one or the table top one, and thus which I am going to keep.

Below is the table, a "library" table, that the machine came in. They came in different woods and I've yet to find out which wood mine is.



Meanwhile, I have decided that the treadle 201 will have to go. I bought this a couple of years ago and got it cleaned and running well. I liked the idea of using a treadle machine - having both hands free but not using electricity, but I have now decided that that isn't going to happen. If we had the space we had in the old house I would have kept it, but here there isn't room along with the electric Singer 201 and Bernina 801, so it has to go. I'll be putting it on Ebay once I've re-oiled it and taken some decent photos. (So if you're interested......) I bought it from its original owner, a Latvian lady in High Wycombe, who had lived in Glasgow and whose husband bought it new for her in the 1940s.

And a bit more on sewing machines.  Before we moved I had a good think about which ones I wanted to keep, knowing we hadn't got the space in our new house to keep ones I wasn't going to use, and I gave away my great-grandmother's Jones Family CS machine on Freegle. I wasn't using it and as neither of my daughters wanted it I thought it better to give it to someone who would use it. The lady who collected it was giving it to her daughter. I also sold the Featherweight that I had bought on Gumtree a few years ago and had never got round to refurbishing. I decided that I was never really going to use it in preference to my other machines so the best thing was to sell it. 

So the machines I am keeping are - one of the two electric Singer 201s, my Bernina 801, and a hand cranked Singer 66, which I had originally got free (by asking on what was then Freecycle) and refurbished. I definitely wanted to keep a hand cranked machine and I kept this latter one in preference to the Jones as that was a long bobbin model, whereas the 66 uses the same bobbins as my other Singers. 

Here's my new sewing space, a mere corner of a room instead of a whole room as I had before! I do also have space upstairs as well (in the tiny bedroom that 33 years ago housed our firstborn) to store fabric. But it works very well, and what I love about it is being able to see out of the front window onto the road so I can keep an eye on the comings and goings of the neighbours or whoever else passes by. The cat is quite at home in her new surroundings and has made that spot on the windowsill hers, and is coping very well with the neighbouring cats, of which there are at least 6 within 50 yards or so. She's not as fat as she looks in the photo - she's actually quite small!




And now on a different subject, that of books. Brenda, of Cycling in the Sixth Decade, kindly sent to me the three books below on the left. The one on the right is a library book. They are exactly my sort of reading matter and I have now nearly finished all three. Others who have read them have left their names in the front. I think this is a great idea - it's like Bookcrossing I suppose which I have heard of but never participated in. So here's the offer - only to UK residents I'm afraid - if you think you'd like to be next to read these three books then leave a comment saying so and I'll pick someone to send them to next. I haven't got thousands of readers so you stand a good chance of getting them!



Till next time......

Lizzie











Friday, August 19

Can I do 65 miles in a day? Or will it be a call of shame.....(with pics this time!)

Let's just backtrack a bit, if you don't mind!  Husband finally managed to bluetooth my photos  across from the old phone to his new phone, and from there to the PC. Isn't modern life complicated sometimes.... The first one is at Windrush, near Burford, where I stopped for lunch on my first day. I just put this one in as it's the best one I've got of what I was carrying on my bike. Incidentally another last minute decision before leaving home the day before was to carry the rucksack (on the bench) my Deuter speed lite 5 litre, rather than using my home made cotton drawstring one which I normally stuff in my panniers and then just take out and carry when necessary. It was all to do with freeing up space. I thought I might find I got sweaty with it on my back, but in fact it was fine and didn't bother me at all.


My beast of burden

Now here is the campsite at Aston Somerville, a few miles south west of Broadway, called Manor Farm Glamping, where I stayed the first night. As you can see I was most definitely not in the glamping bit, but the wild camping bit. I knew very little about campsites before I went, and found this one just by searching the internet. It was £10 a night.



My pitch


Compost toilet straight ahead, washing facilities (with shower) on the right, my pitch over to the left.


Now on to my ride home.

I'd asked for breakfast as early as possible today, which was 7.15, and was up about an hour before. I didn't sleep as well as the night before – the kind of tiredness you get from wandering round the NEC all day obviously doesn't make for as good a night's sleep as cycling/awful camping/more cycling did on my first night there! I polished off the same breakfast again, and left about 8.30. As I was attending to my bike outside the B and B the same Mature Redditch Lady I had spoken to at the bus stop the day before passed by, walking her dog, and we chatted again.

Then it was off down the road opposite, towards Sambourne, and very soon I was on the West Midlands Cycle Route. It was chilly but promised to be a lovely day, although it was still windy. The first few miles I was sailing along thinking “Oh isn't this lovely!” - the countryside was beautiful, particularly where the road crossed over a ford at Coughton. Some dogs rushed into the lovely clear water, swam around and then ran off again to find their owner, who probably didn't realize that I was there or he would have done his business a little more privately....at least he had his back to me. 

The ford at Coughton


The route passed over a footbridge, where I followed it to Great Alne and then I left it and headed south towards Welford-on-Avon, Long Marston and Mickleton. As usual I went a bit wrong and did two or three extra miles as a result. I thought -

Better not do that too often or I really won't make it home today....”

I'd resolved not to stop properly before I'd got 20 miles under my belt. I did have a banana break and a salted peanuts break, but that was all and I was sorely tempted to stop for coffee before this as there were several enticing signs to cafes. I even resisted the temptation to branch off a short distance to Hidcote Gardens, not that I'd have paid to go into the gardens – I just thought there might be a very nice National Trust cafe there with, you know, very nice facilities.

I actually stopped after 22 miles in a little village called Ebrington (Gloucestershire - by that time I wasn't sure which county I was in so checked with the lady watering the hanging baskets) where I had coffee in a pub garden – and what a lovely garden it was too! 


Pub garden at Ebrington



 I'm sure it was as good as Hidcote would have been..... Good coffee too, and in a nice mug! By then I'd already used hedgerow facilities so didn't need the pub's. As I was pausing down the road afterwards to text Husband to let him know where I was (as pre-arranged), two cyclists appeared and I saw them looking down the hill at me and joking - 

Well she's looking at her compass so she's lost too!” (Compass? No, my ancient Nokia.)

I called back that I wasn't lost! They boasted that they'd got maps. I said I'd got maps too so na na ne na na!

Beefore I pootled off again they called out, kindly -

So you're not lost then, you're all right?”

Yes thank you, just texting my husband to let him know I'm not lost!”

By then it was warm and sunny, though that pesky wind was still there, and I cycled off on my way towards Moreton-in-Marsh. I came across the two cyclists again, sitting on a bench, and they said -

Are you sure you're not lost?!”

No, just checking my map!”

Then we chatted a bit. They were working out a route for a bike event, and were quite impressed when I told them about my ride. They pootled off again, arguing a bit, and adding -

We're like an old couple – we always bicker!”

Then I did get lost........ and finally gave in to technology and to save any more lost time (pardon the pun!) I turned on the GPS to find out where I was. Having sorted myself out, I turned round and cycled back, only to pass the two cyclists again! This time they were sat outside a pub having lunch and they called out -

You ARE lost aren't you!”

Well I was but I'm not now!”

Not long after this I stopped to obey the call of nature again. I climbed over a gate into a field, did my business behind the hedge, and then got the shock of my life. No, not someone watching me, or a bull approaching, but literally the shock of my life! For some reason I had put my hand on the fence wire......not realizing it was electrified!! Quite a jolt to say the least. There was no warning sign – I suppose there didn't have to be as it wasn't by a footpath, but all the same I did think that maybe the farmer out of the kindness of his heart could have labelled it, just to be nice to potential climbers-over-his-gate-and-users-of-his-hedge.

Just before Moreton-in-Marsh there was quite a long hill - 600 feet of elevation to be precise. I did do quite well in getting up hills on this ride generally, although I wasn't averse to giving up and pushing either. The wind by then was VERY strong and it was quite tough going. I was very glad when I finally reached the top, although because of the wind I found I was still pedalling when I should have been freewheeling. That weather expert of mine told me later that the winds might well have been up to 30 mph.

I spotted a Budgen's supermarket just near the junction where I came into Moreton-in-Marsh, and made a beeline for it. I really wanted cherries again and thought they were bound to have some nice English ones as we were not far from the fruit growing area, i.e. the Vale of Evesham, where I'd got my lovely freshly picked ones at Boston Farm, but would you believe it they only had SPANISH ones! How stupid, I thought, and refused to buy them. Too many food miles. Instead I bought a punnet of ENGLISH strawberries. Then I spotted the hot cooked chicken counter, and thought that I could very happily gnaw on some drumsticks, so bought a couple of those, and then got some freshly squeezed orange juice and a bottle of water. I'm putting in this foodie detail because I find it very interesting knowing what other people eat, or don't eat, when they are cycling, or running. I read a fascinating book recently by the ultra runner Scott Jurek all about his vegan diet. Not that I have any desire to go vegan.

And the reason for eating the salted peanuts earlier was because our next door neighbour, who is one of those cyclists who does MILES AND MILES every day, had recently done a 200 miler (nutter!) and got cramp near the end of the ride, but had solved the problem with salted crisps and Coke and finished the ride. As I have a tendency to get cramp anyway I thought eating salted peanuts would be a good idea. And I didn't get cramp.

I relaxed on a bench in the middle of the main street, eating the chicken and some of the strawberries, drinking the juice, and doing a bit of people watching. Moreton-in- Marsh was a handy place for me to refuel and rest, but like Bourton-on-theWater on my first day, it's spoilt in the summer by all the cars.

Moreton-in-Marsh

Then it was off into the wind and sun again towards Milton-under-Wychwood. If I'd had time I would have gone through Adlestrop rather than just skirting round it, as Edward Thomas's words were going round my head – Oh come on, let's have a poem, it's not very long -

Yes, I remember Adlestrop
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop -- only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

As it was, I, like Edward Thomas, only saw the name.

Did he see willow-herb in “late June”? If he meant Rose Bay Willow Herb, it's actually flowering now, in August.

It was pretty hot by now and when I saw a sprinkler at the side of the road I thought

Well how kind of someone to provide a passing hot cyclist with a nice cooling shower!”

Can you see the water jets just there on the left?


and I dashed through it a couple of times, before riding off again much refreshed. Actually it was there to water the verge which I thought was ridiculous. What a waste of water! It also seemed to be watering the road as much as the verge! Verges won't exactly die from lack of water. But this was probably a bit belonging to someone rather rich who clearly didn't want his verge brown.

By the way, on this day I did so enjoy the sights and smells and sounds of harvest - the smell of freshly cut corn, the chugging noise and dust from the combines, the tractors hauling trailer loads of straw. It all seems so familiar, even though Husband has not worked on the farm since 2003. He says he sometimes misses the work, but not the long hours. Now he knows when he starts (7 am) and when he finishes (3.30). It's a rare day when he has to work an extra hour in the warehouse, and he can map out his days off for months ahead. It's hard physical work though and there's that thing of - are the workers achieving their rate? No? Well why not? Work a bit harder even if you are already working as hard as age and health permit! (even though some don't.....) It's just like in the Amazon warehouses.There's a cost to cheap food in the supermarket.....

I paused again at Kingham, for more strawberries and juice. And then it was pretty much on into Burford, another oh so pretty village utterly spoilt by cars. I wouldn't want to live there, especially in the summer. Here they are, blocking both lanes, at the top of the very steep hill I'd just pushed up and where I stopped for yet more refreshments. My supplies were now getting low but I reckoned I had enough to get me home.


Cars blocking the road both ways at Burford


Now I was beginning to feel that I was really getting near home, as I only had about another 20 miles to go. I can't believe I'm writing that as only a few years ago I thought I was doing well to cycle 5 miles into our local town, and back! 

I skirted round Carterton, and came south through Clanfield (stopped to dig deep into all pockets and polish off almost all of my last bits of food) and Faringdon, still with very strong winds, and finally - home at 8 pm, 11 1/2 hours since I'd left Redditch. 66.7 miles, the furthest I've ever done in a day. Then straight into the shower. Husband dished up food for me, and then I just about managed to clean my teeth before collapsing into bed.

I was really pleased not only to have made it home but to have done so without experiencing the bonk. I think I've learnt a lot about what to eat and what not to eat on a long ride.

And now I can't wait to go on another tour.......

I hope you've enjoyed reading this!

Lizzie













Wednesday, August 17

To the Festival of Quilts, by bus and train

Day 3 at F of Q


I don't like rushing breakfast so I'd asked for it at 7.30 so that I would have plenty of time before I got the 9.01 bus to Redditch station.  I scoffed - orange juice, blueberries and strawberries with yogurt, two poached eggs and two rashers of bacon, 3 half pieces of toast and marmalade and 3 cups of tea. With side dishes of Olympics on the TV and light conversation with Frank, the other guest, who was a coach driver. That day he was taking his party of scouts to the West Midlands Safari Park and a theme park. Didn't sound very scouty to me, unless they were going to practise survival techniques whilst actually roaming around amongst the lions etc.. 

At the bus stop I got chatting to another fine example of Mature Redditch Lady. We discussed the pub behind us that was being converted, rather tastefully I thought, into flats. From Redditch I got the train to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC and arrived about 11. First stop - coffee, and bar of chocolate as a treat. Coffee only average. Chocolate very nice.

My sister, Kate Dowty, who I was meeting later had warned me that the first day was always the busiest, and oh boy it certainly was busy. I whizzed round lots of quilts trying to avoid getting in the way of people taking photos of them, and nearly getting run down by mobility scooters. (Now here's a very politically incorrect thing to say, and obviously some people have very genuine reasons for using these things, but do SOME people use these things purely because they are, er, overweight and can't walk far for that reason? Hmmmmmmm, I wonder......) I don't dawdle over quilts that don't instantly attract me, I just speed past to the ones that do.

I also made a beeline to Gillian Travis, whose work I only recently discovered and like very much. She also cycles! What is it with cycling and sewing? I just keep meeting people who do both!

I have to say here that the Festival is HUGE, and you really need two days to take it all in (like the two ladies I chatted to over coffee who were staying the night in a nearby hotel). I know I missed a lot, but thankfully I did see lots to inspire me. One of my favourite quilters is Kim Porter of Worn and Washed Fabrics and I stayed at her stall and looked and chatted for quite some time. [In fact, I looked at her website this morning and there I am doing just that! The one peering over the end of her glasses...]

I also loved the work of  Ingrid Press. Something about the colours and fabrics and simplicity of them all. Some of her quilts were hanging up specifically for people to handle, which as you will know if you go to quilty things you are not allowed to do! I actually got told off for touching a quilted garment because I had completely forgotten you weren't supposed to. Immediately a nearby person-in-white-gloves accosted me and asked me not to touch, but she did so very nicely. I was the first person she'd had to tell off! Anyway I had a good handle of Ingrid's lovely quilts.

And then, while browsing the stalls, who should I spot but Florence of flossieteacakes.blogspot.co.uk! I recognised her from her photo on the blog, and we had a lovely chat about sewing and children's books. Florence was as nice in real life as she appears in her blog.

My sister treated me to lunch of chicken and vegetables and orange juice, just what the recovering cyclist needed. How she survives 4 days of the F of Q, what with teaching and all I don't know! I'd had it by 4.30.....in fact I was so tired I couldn't think straight and had to ask various people -

"How do I get out of this place?????" I just couldn't remember, or work out the map in the guide......what was that I said in an earlier post about being a good map reader?

So, back on the train. Now this is what gets me - I reckon that 80% of people at the stations were holding their smartphones out in front of them. You know how it is - a bag slung over the shoulder and the other arm stuck out in front with the phone in the hand. I am the sort of person who has an ancient Nokia and only uses it infrequently, and I wanted to grab all their phones and chuck them across to the other platform. And all these city dwellers look so unhealthy and miserable. I got on the train, which was packed, and asked one Young Person -

"Is anyone sitting here?"

as you do when someone is taking up a seat with their bag and not moving it even when they can CLEARLY see that the train is packed and someone needs that seat.................(there's even an official notice up at the station about not leaving your baggage on the seat!)

Oh what an effort it was for her to even begin to move that huge bag.........she looked as if she was thinking something very nasty about me...........  In the end I spotted another seat and with a "Oh never mind" to Young Person I sat there instead. Her very large friend, sat opposite her, was quite definitely taking up more than one seat and the poor lady sat next to her was being edged off hers.

Back at Redditch bus station, I asked Redditch Lady on her Mobile if there was a loo nearby I could use. She just about managed to distract herself from said phone long enough to tell me that I might be able to use the ones in Macdonald's upstairs. I ran upstairs (didn't have many minutes before the last bus went) and dashed into Prezzo's instead, apologising and asking if I could use their loo. I made it back to the bus just in time.

On the bus I asked the driver if he could tell me where to get off, informing me that I was staying in a B and B near some shops at Astwood Bank. He looked at me, in between biting his nails, as if I was mad. I don't think he actually spoke. He just shook his head. I said -

"You're not local then?"

Shake of head and more biting of nails.

Honestly, aren't bus drivers supposed to be knowledgeable and helpful? To give them their due, a lot are, but not this one. By the end of the journey I certainly felt like telling him where to get off.

I purposely sat next to what I thought might be another kindly and knowledgeable example of Perhaps Slightly Less Mature Redditch Lady, but she proved to be not quite so kindly and knowledgeable, and was also staring at her phone, so when I put to her the same question that I had put to the driver she just said -

"Sorry, I'm not going that far".

Humpffff.

Anyway in the end I just kept looking at the numbers on the buildings and I got off with just a short walk to go to my B and B. I did not thank the driver.....

Back at Corner Cottage, which incidentally is conveniently close to the start of the West Midlands Cycle Route, I spoke to Husband on phone. He had tried to get me booked into a B and B for Friday night, so that I could stick to my plan of cycling home in two days, using the West Midlands Cycle Route to and through Stratford-on-Avon and then travelling south on that route to Shipston-on-Stour, then home via Burford. (Here I should add that I will try and sort out adding route maps to any future posts on cycle rides, but meanwhile you can request to follow me on Strava if you so wish!) However, despite trying for two hours, everywhere was booked, so he had worked out a new route for me to cycle home in one day, about 65 miles, which was further than I've ever done in one day, but he said that if I felt I had to give up I could ring him and he would come and pick me up. So that's what we agreed I would do. I was looking forward to it.

I knew I wouldn't be making that call of shame unless I was really desperate!!! 

And so to bed, at the very grown up time of 9 pm.

Tomorrow - did I make it???? Don't miss the next episode!

[Have finally managed to upload my pics, so in the next post you can see my campsite, and loaded bike. Must get my camera sorted out before next trip....]