Sunday, September 17

Messenger bag made from £1 charity shop outdoor jacket

Last year I bought this jacket in a charity shop for £1. It was like new - I didn't recognize the make so thought that although it looked good it probably wasn't the best quality outdoor clothing, but it would be great to have as a spare. After googling it I found out that it was a skiing jacket from Decathlon.

I wore it once to test it out but didn't like it as it wasn't at all warm and was noisy! I hate it when you're out on a nice peaceful walk and your arms brush against your sides and make a noise. I have a good quality Berghaus waterproof which does this too, so it's not necessarily just a fault of cheap clothing.

I was going to give it back to a charity shop but then thought - ah, this would make a very nice bag! Hence the scene below on the kitchen floor.............

I chopped it to pieces and ended up with some decent sized pieces of fabric, plus zips and various bits of velcro and shock cord. When I took it apart the cheap materials were revealed. Thin polyester wadding in between the outer and inner and I suspect that the reverse of the outer fabric was some cheap waterproofing, certainly not breathable.

The bag below was the result.

This fabric was HORRIBLE to sew.  The foot moved OK, so it wasn't a question of needing a Teflon foot, and I used what I thought would be the best needle for this fabric, a microtex one, but the machine objected when it got to the thick bits, which it wouldn't normally do to this extent.


I didn't do the pockets quite the same as I did when making this bag (the one below) not long ago. As the fabric was so hard to sew I kept things to a minimum.

Recently I got a shelter/gazebo thing from Freegle, that somebody had left behind at a festival, and cut it all up to use in the future, and that's where the green lining came from. The flap pocket is also lined with this. The rest of the bag is self lined. I didn't use any interfacing or wadding. The strap is webbing from an army surplus stores; I didn't have enough of the bag fabric to make the strap. I didn't make it adjustable as a lot of bag makers say to do, as it's not necessary for me as I never adjust it once it's the right length.

There is one internal pocket, and also a dog clip attached at the front (on the right - hard to see as the pic is dark, and I also couldn't get the Ipad to focus for some reason) for my bike padlock keys.

I attached the zip in a slightly different way to how I did it on the other bag pictured above, because doing it this way means it stands just slightly proud of the bag and is easier to unzip. 

The zip I used is one I unpicked from a previous bag I'd made; I had bought two of these at a past Festival of Quilts, from the Pinwheels stall. That was years ago and they still don't seem to be available in this country except in black on Ebay, unless I just can't find them on the internet. If ever I see their stall again I shall buy several of these zips as they are so smooth running and I love the ball and chain! 

Lovely zip!

I attached a velcro fastening right at the end (should have added it much earlier!) - you can see that in the first photo. I used the bag today and love it as it's the right size and very lightweight, and I can easily stuff it in my bike panniers. 

I have really enjoyed making these messenger bags lately, and as I have just been given a big bag of furnishing fabric remnants, I'll be making some more, possibly to sell.

Tuesday, September 12

Day Two - Pewsey to home.

First of all an apology for the poor quality photos. I was using an old smartphone (which I only take because it's got OS Memory Maps on it) so that's my excuse.....although it was a dull day. My camera, bought from Jessop's just before they went into administration 4 or 5 years ago, has packed up. So much for modern technology. My dad's old Kodak Brownie must have gone on for decades.

The Weatherman, aka Husband, informed me early the next morning that the forecast was a bit better - rain in the morning and then brightening up. I don't mind getting wet if I know I will dry off later, so I stuck to my original plan of going home today.

Breakfast wasn't until 8 so I had a walk beforehand, exploring the very quiet lanes, where nobody was up and about, and the furniture business up the road was still closed. Breakfast was delicious! First stewed blackcurrants and yogurt, and home made apple juice, then fried egg, sausage, mushrooms, bacon, and fried potatoes, and toast (home made bread) with a choice of home made preserves, along with a pot of tea. My only tiny criticism would be that once again I had a cup rather than a mug - I'm not a cup person even if it is now very fashionable in the afternoon tea circles. Oh and I was brought a newspaper as well!

As I was leaving later, my host said -

"I should have asked you if you'd like me to make you a packed lunch - would you like one?"

I accepted gratefully, as it meant I didn't need to stop and buy food. A jolly good packed lunch it was too, with beef and salad rolls, clementine, snack bar (she apologised again for the lack of cake), carton of apple juice, and a Cadbury's Flake, which, as old Pop Larkin of  The Darling Buds of May would say, was "Jus' perfick!" as I love a bit of chocolate with my cup of coffee.

I left at 9.40, a later start than I'd normally do but it didn't matter as I only had about 35 miles to go (day one wasn't too far either, a mere 38). I wasn't travelling with simply the aim of getting home - I was travelling with the aim of enjoying this day as much as the day before. Perhaps that's an advantage of not having too far to go. It seems a nice idea to me when cycling to set yourself the sort of distance where it doesn't matter if some problem crops up  - you have factored in extra time and therefore delay need not cause too much worry. This wasn't the case back in May on a previous trip; I had planned to travel about 50 miles, which would have been fine but due to having to find a different route late in the day, because of a busy road that was impossible to cross, I arrived at my destination at 7.50 in the evening, later than intended by nearly two hours. This meant that I couldn't take the evening slowly and get to bed in the early and relaxed fashion that I like to.

Anyway, today I pootled off into Pewsey and then got onto NCN Route 4, which I had ridden yesterday for a few miles. I went over, and alongside, the Kennet and Avon canal, stopping to look at the barges, and the railway. I didn't mind being on the same roads for a while (although I wouldn't have wanted to go all the way home on exactly the same roads) as somehow when you've going the opposite way you see things you didn't notice before.

One thing I saw was this house down in a valley, and wondered why it had these tall chimneys.

It did start to rain and I did get cold and wet, and so I was very much looking forward to having a cup of nice hot coffee at my planned stop, about 12 miles into the journey, which was at the 200 year old Crofton Beam Engines, built to supply water to the Kennet and Avon canal. We had been there donkeys years ago with our children, Husband having been there as a child. (Have you noticed how people take their children to see things they visited as a child?) I had carefully done my homework, or so I thought, as to their opening times, so you can imagine my disappointment when I arrived and saw this sign, bearing in mind that it was Wednesday -

But I checked the leaflet! How dare it be closed!

Oh dear...... A cold and damp me cycled on near the canal and the railway to Great Bedwyn, where I thought I might get a cup of coffee. A shop had a sign outside advertising some sort of coffee, but it was rather an old and uninspiring sign and I thought maybe the coffee would be just as old and uninspiring, so after eating my lunch there on a bench opposite, I decided to cycle on and get coffee at my planned tea stop instead! Do my cycle rides revolve round tea and coffee, I hear you ask? Well no, well yes maybe! But I think you'll find a lot of cyclists know where all the good coffee and tea stops are! Incidentally, I am looking forward to the next Coffeeneuring Challenge coming up very soon (and it doesn't have to be coffee!). I took part last year and earned my badge -

Onwards then to Little Bedwyn, alongside the canal. I stopped there for a call of nature. I parked my bike in a layby and crossed the road (but not too far from the bike) and found some suitable cover amongst trees. Calls of nature while cycling seem to me to be a very interesting and scientific topic of conversation, so let's explore it. Can anybody tell me - why do I need to go so often when out cycling??? Obviously I drink more than if I were just sitting about at home doing nothing but sew, and the occasional bit of housework, because I get thirstier, ......but I do go disproportionately more frequently than when I am doing merely that. You'd think that one would sweat this off to a greater extent than I do. Even on hot days I go frequently. My personal theory is that it's to do with the exercise, i.e. that it gets everything moving more and that that includes one's waterworks. Thankfully I can happily squat down anywhere and don't need to be on the lookout for loos. Poor Brenda of Cycling in the Sixth Decade suffered with cystitis on a recent trip.......

Ok, let's get back on to the subject of coffee. The planned tea stop which turned into the coffee stop was at Cobbs Farm Shop on the other side of the A4, west of Hungerford. I had two or three miles on this road but although the traffic goes past fast (try saying that quickly) I knew the road was wide and generally not too busy so wasn't worried about travelling on it. I parked and locked my bike outside the shop -  I should say here that my bike has a fixed lock (Axa) on the back wheel, and I also use my padlock. On the fixed lock the key stays in it while in the unlocked (riding) position, so I don't like to have any other keys dangling from it, and therfore keep my padlock keys separate. So after locking it I put both lots of keys in my rucksack. I then went off to enjoy my coffee - Americano again, £2.25, again not the best, but not bad. This time I had remembered to ask if I could have it in a mug but they didn't have any. There was seating inside and outside. 

When I got back to my bike, I unlocked the padlock, and then slowly the feelings of panic rose within me........... I couldn't find the other lock's key. 

"You plonker!!!!!!!!!" I said to myself.

I said this because I have got two keys for this lock, one of which it would be sensible to put on the padlock key ring, but I hadn't.

I spent several minutes going through the rucksack again, before I thought -

"Could I have dropped it?"

And there it was on the ground. Phew!! I did not want to make a call of shame to Husband saying "I can't unlock my bike!" 

In Hungerford, at a small roundabout, a lorry overtook me and I was thinking -

"His back end is going to swing round horribly close......." which it did.  

He should have waited. 

I cycled on now through the Berkshire villages of Poughley - (as in "cough" or "bough" or "rough"? I ought to know but I don't. In my head it's as in "cough" but I could be wrong) East Garston, Eastbury and Lambourn, stopping for another call of nature on the way. On my next trip I shall count my CONs! Lambourn is full of jockeys, being in the Valley of the Racehorse. It also has a cafe, which I have been meaning to try for ages. This could have been my tea stop, had it not shut at 4 pm. I didn't get there in time, but shall make it my aim to get there one day and try it out as the website says it's a popular stop for walkers and cyclists. Maybe even the odd bandy legged jockey goes in there too. I'm not being jockeyist, they really do have bandy legs!

By now I was beginning to feel slightly tired and a fraction saddle sore (I hadn't worn padded undershorts on this trip) so when I arrived at Seven Barrows, about 3 or 4 miles from home, I had a break. My arms were also aching slightly, as I had meant to alter the position of the handlebars before leaving home - I knew it wasn't quite right, but it was one of those things that got forgotten. I could have done it while on the trip, but was nervous about doing it without Husband there. Before I'd ever heard the word "torque" I just tightened things up as much as I could, and that was it, but now you get torque measurements on things that have to be tightened up and I get worried that I will either tighten them up too much or not enough. It's a bit like zips - yes it is, really! People who have never been told that zips are hard to put in just get on and sew them in and don't worry about it (me) but those who have heard -

"Ooh zips, very tricky!"

get scared and think they can't do it. A bit like with torque.

In the case of the handlebars I had visions of them dropping forward after adjustment and me falling head first over them...... 

Despite this little nature reserve, with the barrows in it, being so close to home, I had never visited it (or walked up the track that you can see) but now I wandered around it looking for the wild flowers and butterflies which another notice tells you are there, and refuelled for the last bit of the ride. Sometimes when I get off my bike for some reason, I don't get back on the bike immediately, but walk with it, because frankly I just like to walk now and then and not sit on a saddle and pedal. I love walking - you see even more when you walk than you do when you're cycling. I think walking is the ultimate in travel!

I also, for the last time before reaching home, had another CON. 

Seven Barrows

And then it was home, to Husband, beans on toast and a nice cup of tea.

I love the term "earworm". I had one the next day, when I was thinking about not having "stayed another day". East 17's  "Stay another Day" is actually still worming its way around my ear.


PS On a totally different topic, I have just changed from Feedburner to Specificfeeds. I hope it's working properly and that everyone who normally gets an email notification of a new post is doing so!

PPS Anyone who read my last post soon after I published it may have noticed a list of my notes at the end. If so, you're lucky, you got a bit extra that you weren't meant to get. Eldest Son pointed it out to me and I deleted them. Good job there was nothing too embarrassing there!

Friday, September 8

An overnight bike trip to the Vale of Pewsey, and a rant on fancy basins.

Having bought my Koga Traveller back in June, I wanted to do a longish trip to really test it out. Some time ago I had been given, via Freegle, some bike path leaflets and maps, and one of them was for the Collier's Way from south of Bath to Frome, via Radstock. This was pleasantly doable from here in south west Oxfordshire in about 4 days, with 3 overnight stops. Unfortunately, I hadn't really got 4 days, or at least not by the time I'd got round to actually planning the trip. This was partly my fault - I find that unless I actually look ahead and properly set aside time for a trip, it doesn't happen; other things get booked in but a bike trip doesn't. So instead I decided to do a shorter route, which would serve as a partial testing of the waters for riding the Collier's Way in the future.

On the subject of cycling alone, some people reading this will feel like I do and love it, and others will feel quite the opposite. I refer you to my cycling hero Josie Dew who, in one of her early books, decided that cycling alone is preferable to cycling with someone else. I wish I still had the book so I could quote her verbatim, but I haven't.

But basically, when you are on your own, you can go where you want, at whatever speed you want, eat when you want, stop at a nice cafe and have coffee/tea, take a different route, stop and chat to someone, look at some weird sign in the middle of nowhere (and photograph same!).... If you're with someone else you obviously have to compromise. Husband and I only occasionally go out together (he's more of an off road rider, anyway) on our bikes, usually when we've got to go somewhere together and it's a shortish distance and I have said "I'm not going by car!". What then often happens on the journey is that he says things like -

"Did you look when you turned that corner?"

Duh, obviously - but he doesn't think I looked properly.

"Go up on the pavement so that car can come past."

By the time I've heard what he's said it's too late.

"Try a higher gear. You might find it easier. "

But I'm quite happy in the one I'm in, thank you.

Etc. etc........... whatever would we be like on a long ride.............!!!!!!!!!

So we don't go out together on our bikes very often.

(Note: I/We only cycle on pavements when it's a good idea. We never get in the way of pedestrians. Sometimes there are very good reasons for cycling on a pavement, even it's not technically legal.)

Anyway, my destination was Pewsey in Wiltshire, south west of Marlborough. Husband and I had been to Pewsey recently and I discovered that it has an excellent wool shop called "Miss Lemon's Wool Shop" and I wanted to return and have a nice long nose around and buy some yarn. Two days beforehand I booked a B and B in a village nearby called Manningford Abbots.

A note on packing and panniers - 

Before one of my previous trips I made a spreadsheet of everything I needed to take, and exactly where everything goes in my panniers. I find it very helpful to refer to this and not have to think twice about where everything goes. Essentially I put my overnight stuff in a plastic bag (my panniers aren't waterproof) in one pannier. Bike stuff, small rucksack, maps and food goes in the other - this is all stuff that I need to get to during the day. A jacket of whatever sort I'm taking goes in either pannier, if I'm not wearing it. Other bits and pieces go in the small pockets on the outside of my panniers, or in my homemade bar bag. Incidentally, my panniers are Karrimor, which are not made anymore. Here they are on a previous trip -

I bought them in an outlet shop over 20 years ago when I knew very little about such things, and it's only since cycling more that I've found how good they are. Lately while browsing for a second pair of panniers for my old bike I've realized just how good other people must think they are too, as they fetch a very good price on Ebay.

I set off at 7.45 am, and it wasn't long before I was thinking - "oh maybe I'll turn round and go home". Not good! I wasn't feeling exactly energetic, and I made two or three stops pretty soon because of this. My brakes were also squealing terribly. Not long ago the bike had developed an odd noise which Husband and I had been unable to identify, and although that had disappeared (and we had come to the conclusion that it wasn't anything serious anyway) the noisy brakes just made me think "Oh what's wrong now?!". They are Magura hydraulic brakes and while they are fantastically smooth and quiet (normally!) I'm not at all familiar with how they work so I was bit worried. I also felt very embarrassed when braking.......I could just imagine the thoughts of anyone close by -

"She needs to get her brakes seen to!"

That is, after all, the sort of thing I think when I hear a noisy bike!

I began to feel better physically, and made my planned coffee stop after about 12 miles (I know, I know, 12 miles isn't that far, but it was a convenient place to stop) at the Three Trees Farm Shop which is just at the start of  Sustrans Route 482, the old railway line into Marlborough. I'm half thinking of doing a separate page on cafes, and giving them ratings, but we'll see. Anyway, I always have an Americano, and here it was £2.25 (average for round here) and I'd give it about 7/10. That's only because it was not to my liking particularly flavour wise, and I always prefer a mug rather than a cup. In my vast (well quite vast...) experience of coffee drinking I have noticed that different types of coffee are served in different types of vessel, and if the Americano is going to come in a cup, in which it gets cold too quickly for my liking, I often ask if I can have a mug instead, but here I forgot. But the cafe has a lot going for it - inside and outside seating, nice clean loos - !! - and probably some nice food but I had my own so didn't really notice. There's also, of course, the farm shop bit.

I asked a young mother at the cafe, who had clearly cycled there with her two young children, if she was cycling that path and what the surface was like. She said it was good, and that her children had basically learned to cycle on it. It was indeed good, at least as far as she was going, to Ogbourne St George.

Looking back along the path 

After that it was a bit variable - still fine for my bike, although in wet weather it might have been more difficult. To begin with I thought how lovely it was to be cycling away from traffic, and it was, but the trouble is that the path, being the old railway line, was rather enclosed by trees, and after a while it felt a bit claustrophic and uninteresting. It was about 7 miles like this. I think I would have preferred the minor roads through the villages of Ogbourne St George and Ogbourne St Andrew.

The Route then joins the 403, which takes a private road - Capability Brown's Grand Avenue, at 4 miles the longest avenue in Great Britain - through the Savernake Forest. Never again. Perhaps it was just the weather that day, not all that bright, but the forest seemed to me rather dark and enclosed - tall trees with very little birdsong, or any other sound for that matter. The road went straight (I suppose it would, being an avenue!) up and down, up and down, and I was glad to get out of it at the end. It didn't help that the Savernake Forest conjures up one thought in my head every time I hear the name, and that is of the Hungerford Massacre in 1987. The shooting started in the forest; two children of four and two saw their mother shot dead. At the time my eldest two were that age and it was horrible listening to the news on the radio, and realizing that it was all happening not all that far away. Perhaps subconsciously I rode through there on purpose to rid myself of those feelings about it -  to see if it felt like I imagined it would feel, or whether I was just being silly. I probably won't ride there again. I wonder if other people feel this way about places where murders have taken place.

There was no NCN sign at the end of the road through the forest showing you which way to go. Of course I knew my direction but it's always reassuring to see the signs. I do find that sometimes the NCN signs generally are not all that obvious, or rather old and faded. I was now on Route 403. The roads here through the Savernake Estate were almost eerily quiet, with heavily locked gates and "Keep Out" signs with photos of brutal looking guard dogs. Maybe best not to climb over and obey the call of nature round here....

As I turned south west a lovely old house on the corner caught my eye. I chatted to a man who had stopped nearby and who told me that the building used to be the "Forest Hotel", but had been divided up into individual dwellings. I took this picture of these windows, as I love shutters, which are, in my opinion, very sensible.  The windows are pretty nice too. No PVC in sight......


I arrived in Pewsey in the early afternoon, and stopped by the river Avon to let Husband know I had arrived safely. I had already spoken to Husband on the journey at some point, probably when I stopped to switch my phone on and texted him to tell him so (I knew he didn't like me having it turned off) and he'd immediately rung me. Now don't get me wrong, Husband is a fine husband, but I don't want to have to stop and answer my phone, even to him, unless it's really urgent! Here's the scenario -

I am gaily cycling along, and I hear the phone ring. It might be him, with some urgent reason to speak to me. Now, I don't use my mobile much, so there's not much chance of it being anyone else, but it COULD be, in which case I shall be foaming at the mouth with annoyance at having had to get off my bike, put my glasses on, search for said phone, and then answer it - and probably find that it's stopped ringing anyway because I couldn't get to it fast enough - only to find that it isn't Husband, it's some random person who has somehow managed to get my number. And between you and me and the gate post, usually even if it is Husband, it's not very important.......... It will be something like "Oh I just wondered where you are" and that's why I prefer to have it switched off. Saves battery anyway.

By the River Avon

Regular readers might notice (what? You didn't?!) that I have changed my handlebars. I swapped the multi position trekking/butterfly bars for these Thorn Comfort bars, the same as I've got on my other bike. I just couldn't get on with the trekking bars. I knew which handlbars I wanted, but then I had to decide which grips to get. Lots of choice isn't always a good thing....... that's the trouble with the internet! I'd have loved leather but couldn't afford it, so went with these Lizard Skins ones, and I'm really pleased with them.

Then it was off to Miss Lemon's (no website but it has a Facebook page) where I browsed all the lovely yarns and bought four balls of chunky yarn - Debbie Bliss, reduced. Also one of sock yarn, which is enough, apparently, to make a baby's cardigan; given that our baby granddaughter is now 7 months and growing fast (as they do) I had better get a move on as I am not a fast knitter. The other granddaughter, by the way, is now a runaway toddler.....

Time for a cup of tea next, at the Craft and Tea rooms, where they had a notice in the window saying cyclists were welcome, and where tea was £1.30 for a pot for one (bargain!!) and where the kind lady said she wouldn't give me hot water now as it might go cold, but to just come back and ask if I wanted some. They had delicious looking cakes but I refrained as again I had my own snack to eat.

I then had time to spare before going to my B and B so pootled around a few miles, looking at the canal and its boats amongst other things, and then came across this.

Swanborough Tump

It was in that year, 871 AD, that he fought the Battle of Ashdown, not far from here. Was he on his way there when he stopped here at Swanborough Tump?

I do know a few facts about King Alf.

He was born in Wantage, where we have a statue of him, and he died in Winchester, where there is an even better statue of him. I was born and brought up there so maybe I'm biased..... He fought with invading Danes. He should have used a timer when waiting for the cakes to bake. And, he is reputed to have blown the Blowing Stone at the bottom of Blowing Stone Hill (where we used to live) to call up his troops, except that in those days it was not where it is now, but up on the Berkshire Downs somewhere.

Then it was on to Huntly's B and B, which was lovely! I couldn't have asked for better! I'd been thinking on the way there - "Hmmmmm, I haven't brought a book to read. I hope there will be some." and there were scores of them! And a very comfortable bed. And (here we go) - you may remember me saying that shutters are sensible. Well, I felt the same about the basins here!  Prepare ye for -

A rant on fancy basins and unnecessary cleanliness

I cannot stand basins which are only designed for washing your hands and doing your teeth, or possibly rinsing off, under a running tap,  the fancy facial cleanser that is no better than water. (I've used just water for decades) and  I like a basin in which you can actually have a wash, or even wash your hair, albeit with a shower attachment on the taps, but it seems it is the trend not to "have a wash" any more. People have showers every day, which in my opinion is totally unnecessary and a waste of water, and it's not healthy to be too clean! Maybe we could all do with a little bit more dirt hanging around on our bodies. I never bathed my children every day. Along with my three siblings, I was brought up on one bath a week (yes, really!) on a Sunday night, and I survived, though I did start having them a bit more often as a teenager you'll be glad to hear. Mind you they were never very deep as my parents had two switches on their immersion heater, one labelled "sink" (for washing up) and one "bath" (for baths!). I'm not sure if my memory serves me correctly but I never remember them switching on the "bath" one, so you didn't get much hot water......

But I did teach my children to wash the important bits (feet, for instance!) in between baths, and to wash their hands before eating. Now, in their own homes, I believe they all have showers every day. Where did I go wrong? My daughter's even just had a "fancy" basin installed!

Having said all that, when one has been cycling all day, a shower is I did use it......but if I hadn't been cycling all day, then I probably wouldn't have!

Here's a pic of my lovely room - there were twin beds -

You can just see the sensible basin....the door led to the en-suite

The door on the right led to a single bedroom, with a cabin bed, and another sensible basin!

I had tea, biscuits (my host apologised profusely for the fact that she had run out of home made cake) and clementines on arrival, in the garden. After that I wasn't all that hungry, but ate one of the packet
meals I had brought with me anyway, which was one of this range - John West Creations . I think these are even better than their Light Lunches tuna fish range, which Husband and I have previously kept a stock of  - I buy either product when it's on offer -  to take on bike rides or paragliding (him). They really are delicious. 

The forecast for the next day was wet, so I was dithering as to whether to stay a second night, and take a train the next day and spend it exploring somewhere under cover, and go home the next day when the forecast was better. But I didn't really want to as my self-imposed budget was really only for the one night, plus I would have felt a bit of a wimp staying on just because a bit of rain (well maybe quite a lot) was coming, so as I went to bed it was a question of -

"Wait and see and talk to the weather expert (Husband) again tomorrow".

I did. Part 2 to follow!


PS 38 miles today.