Sunday, August 14

An upcoming house move, and a bike tour to take in the Festival of Quilts

Just to say at the start of this post, that I'm hoping to be able to add some photos, but if I don't then it's because either I couldn't get them onto the PC from the smartphone I used as a camera on my trip, or they just weren't good enough. In which case apologies, and I hope my words can paint a reasonable picture.

Since I last posted, quite a lot has happened one way and another. Back at the beginning of June we asked the estate where we live if it would be possible for us to move back into the house we lived in for 3 years when we were first married a mile away from here. It would be a lot smaller, should be warmer, and has less garden to look after (though still quite big!). The answer after a while was yes, and after much thought we decided to do it. It will be quite hard to move from this lovely, shabby, big old cottage where we have lived for 32 years (we came here with just our eldest son, and then had three more children) but it makes sense to move. We can't afford to buy in this area, and don't feel it right to move a long way away from family in order to be able to do so. When we moved here Husband worked on the farm, so the cottage was a tied one. He was made redundant 19 years later, taking a job in a warehouse, since when we have paid rent. Moving to the smaller house will save us some money, and once there we will think again about our future.

So since then we have been clearing out this house....... putting stuff on Gumtree, Freegle, and Ebay, and filling up the garage with stuff for passers by to buy or have for free. We have cleared out our outhouse and various sheds which were full of stuff that you keep because you've got the space to keep it! We also kept our firewood in there – that will be going with us. Youngest son has taken a couple of vanloads of scrap metal etc. to the recycling centre for us.

In the midst of this I seemed to get more sewing jobs than ever (not much time to do any of my own sewing...) but there came a point at the beginning of this month when I decided I would have to stop, partly because of all the sorting and packing there still was/is to be done and partly because I needed to start packing up my sewing room.

Our lovely granddaughter Lily is now a very smiley little person of going on 8 months, full of baby chatter, and we have another one on the way – our other daughter is expecting in January!

The Lovely Lily

Earlier in the year my bike was off the road for a while. A tyre blew and I realized that my ancient tyres really did need the end I went a bit further than new tyres and Husband put new wheels, derailleurs, chainset and tyres on it for me but for a while I had no bike, and felt very lost without it as it's my main means of transport. I began to think again about visiting Oxford Bike Works, not far from us in Steventon....... more on that in a future post! 

Meanwhile I also began to think that if I didn't get on and plan something then what with all the moving business and sewing jobs I was not going to have the bike tour that I'd been wanting to have this year. So then I thought, well what about if I treat myself to a visit to the Festival of Quilts again this year (last visit was 2012) and, er, cycle there? I knew there was an NCN West Midlands Cycle Route which I could pick up further north in Oxfordshire, which would take me into or quite close (depending on how brave I was...) to Birmingham and the NEC where the Festival takes place. So after much planning and changing of the route, and buying a very lightweight tent, that's what I've just done!

So come with me on my first ever bike tour.....

Day 1

I had originally planned to pick up the West Midlands Cycle Route at Shipston-on-Stour (after camping there the night) but that didn't really fit in with the plans to go to the Festival of Quilts unless I took the brave step of cycling right into Birmingham, which I didn't think was a good idea as the route doesn't go right to the NEC, though I'm sure it's possible to use other cycle routes to get there. So instead Husband and I planned that I would go from here to my first camping stop at Aston Somerville, west of Broadway, roughly via Faringdon, Filkins, Burford, and Bourton-on-the-Water. I changed the route slightly as I got closer to Aston Somerville to what were quieter roads. The next day the plan was to cycle to just south of Redditch, where I would spend two nights in a B and B, travel from there to the Festival on the Thursday by bus and train, and on the Friday to set off back home, spending another night camping, probably near Shipston-on-Stour, before cycling home the rest of the way on the Saturday.

I had pieces of map printed off from Husband's OS Memory Map on the computer, and I also had his old smartphone (not using as phone) with Memory Map on it, so could use that and the GPS signal if I got lost. I do tend to get lost, despite being, actually, quite a good map reader...... I read a book recently by a man who had done a lot of running who also had a habit of getting lost, but had come to accept it as part of his running life. I like that. Getting lost isn't always bad. I like maps and can happily sit and read one for pleasure. My father worked for the Ordnance Survey when he was young – perhaps that's where I get it from.

I'd done most of the packing of panniers the night before, using my lists from last year's overnight stay in, and ride back from, Winchester as an aide. Let me just say one thing here which proves important later on...... several days beforehand I had taken the sleeping bag out of its stuffsack and left it to air, and then stuffed it back in the day before the ride. I then realized that it was rather big – not that heavy but big in dimensions. I could have got it on the back rack with the tent but it would have made getting into the panniers very difficult, so at the last minute I decided not to take it, but instead took 3 pairs of Husband's leggings and Rab waterproof overtrousers, plus my Primaloft winter jacket, aiming to put all that lot on at night instead of using the sleeping bag. So on the bike I had the rear panniers, the tent on the rear rack and the small homemade bar bag I made last year. 

I set off at about 8.10, slightly later than I'd hoped, but it wasn't for want of getting up early (5.30) – it was just all the pfaffing around with what to take to sleep in that delayed me (eldest Son, note – Mother pfaffs too...). The weather was warmish, but windy, which made for quite a struggle riding. My first stop was at Filkins, about 15 miles away, at the Cotswold Woollen Mill, which I can highly recommend for refreshments (I had coffee and a scone) and toilet facilities, and a lovely garden (or cafe) to sit in. 

Next stop was Windrush, near Burford, where I made my first mistake regarding eating. I thought I'd have what I'd planned for lunch, which was one of my John West tuna fish meals, which I normally like, but I just couldn't stomach it, and ended up wasting half of it. Then at Bourton-on-the-Water I stopped again (WARNING: Stay away from this place in summer!!! Chock a block full of tourists and CARS!) wanting a cup of tea, and thought I'd better try and eat again, aware that I hadn't actually eaten that much, but could only fancy cake, so asked for fruit cake, which they didn't have. I had carrot cake instead, but left half of that too......

Unfortunately this all left me feeling rather bloated, and together with the strong wind (no not me, I was bloated but not windy...) I really struggled on the next part of the journey. It took me past the Cotswold Farm Park (fans of Countryfile will be familiar with it as Adam Henson's farm). There were also two quarries up this road as well and so lots of lorries were thundering past me. I wouldn't use this road again if I had the choice.

I made more stops to obey the call of nature, and to drink and eat some fruit and nuts that I always take with me on bike rides. Last year on the way back from Winchester I experienced the “bonk” a few miles from home and I was conscious that I didn't want this to happen again, hence the constant nibbling.

I finally reached the campsite at Aston Somerville ( just after 6 pm (51.6 miles). It was their “Wild Camping” bit, with a compost toilet, a washing/washing up area, and an outdoor shower (not literally outdoor, but in a wooden shed!). At first I thought I was the only camper there, but then in the adjoining field I found two ladies camping, and chatted to them a bit. Even so I was surprised to find the place so empty. I pitched my tiny tent in a sheltered spot in the same field as the loo etc., so I wouldn't have to walk far if I needed to go in the night. I didn't really feel like eating any of the food I had left, although I drank plenty of water, which the two ladies had kindly given me to save me walking quite a distance to the farm to get drinking water.

I think I got into my tent about 8.30, as I was very tired. I had on merino leggings, my cycling trousers, and the waterproofs over the top, plus the vest top and shirt from the daytime, a windproof jacket and the winter jacket, plus my shoes and socks. No camping mat by the way..... Then I took the winter jacket off and draped it over me as I thought I might prefer that. I had the flaps of the tent at least partly open at first as I do not like being totally shut in (I always like the curtains drawn back at home at night in the bedroom, and the window open summer and winter). After a while I began to get a bit chilly, so put the jacket back on, and zipped up the flaps a bit. Later I zipped them up completely.

I then spent the next few hours very cold indeed. Throughout all this I was both praying and constantly trying to think of the best way to try to prevent myself from getting any colder. Stay in the tent, get out of the tent (but let cold air in) and jump up and down, even go and disturb the two ladies and ask to share their tent??!! Believe me I was desparate, and I kept looking at my watch longing for the dawn to come. I thought – do people who get really cold go to sleep and never wake up? I also thought of homeless people trying to stay warm. At one point I got up and went for a wee (not to the compost loo I'm afraid, just a squat by a ditch....) and got a large plastic bag out of my panniers to put my legs in back in the tent. Eventually I also got all my spare clothing out of the bag I was using as a pillow, and my towel, and draped it all over my legs.

I knelt up at one point (the tent was too low to sit up), put on my head torch, got out pen and notebook and forced myself to scribble things down, to pass the time and to keep my brain occupied. It was also warmer kneeling up than lying down. Oh and to cap it all the ground was very hard....(bruised hip the next day) and my tendency to get cramp in my feet was worse than usual, perhaps due to the cold. Here's some of the rubbish I wrote -

2.25 am. Kneeling in tent writing with headtorch. ABSOLUTELY FREEZING. Can't sleep so trying to be vaguely active.”

Ate one bite of Nakd bar which I had in rucksack which is in tent with me but it tastes weird but will try to eat more.” 

Now 2.44. Might try and sleep again. Traffic noise awful even though in distance.” [Must have been the way the wind was blowing as the main road was quite far away].

Well, I thank God that I got through it.  Husband, who's a bit of a weather expert due to his hobby of paragliding, told me later that it probably got down to 5 degrees that night.... At 4.15 I got up, even before the birds, and started the whole process of packing up etc. etc. Once again eating was very difficult – I had some muesli but had to put most of it in my bag of rubbish (properly disposed of at the farm later) as I just couldn't get it down. But I got the energy from somewhere to cycle on my way, leaving the campsite at 7.15. I'd seen an early morning dog walker but no-one else at all.

I was going to skim over this awful camping experience and pretend it didn't happen.... 

I haven't been put off camping. I'll just do it differently next time!

Tomorrow - a kindly farmer's wife sustains me with tea and toast!


  1. You are made of stern stuff, going off camping on your own in the freezing British summer. Either that or barking mad!
    I hope your downsizing goes well. I'd be popping in daily to see what you're getting rid of if I lived near you! xx

  2. Barking mad probably! Can't wait to go again.....Most of what we're getting rid of is nothing special but there have been one or two bits I was very reluctant to get rid of. I still keep looking at all our stuff and thinking - it's no good, more's got to go!


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