Thursday, July 26

Re-fashioning/upcycling a man's linen shirt

This is something I've long wanted to have a go at, given that a local charity shop has a whole rail of men's shirts for £1. I didn't actually buy this one there, but found it on the reduced-to-£1 rail in another charity shop. With the weather being so hot this summer, and finding linen the coolest of fabrics to wear, I bought this XXL 100% linen shirt -

I made it into this - 

I wish now that I had taken more photos in the alteration process, but to be honest I don't think that I thought I'd be as pleased with it as I am, so didn't bother!

Basically what I did was - 

1 Remove the sleeves as close as possible to the armhole

2  Cut about 1" off the armhole all the way round

3  Took in the sides 

4  Re-attached the sleeves (using the flat method - more on that in a minute)

5  Cut off a few inches off the bottom of the sleeve

6  Made two pleats on the outside of each sleeve, and bound the raw edge using offcuts.

7  Gathered about 4" on each side of the shirt just under the arm, and stitched over this with pieces of the cuff plackets.

8  I couldn't resist putting one of my old Bag Lady labels (I used to make and sell bags) on the back, and then I did the line of running stitch in embroidery thread.

I didn't do anything to the collar as it looked fine as it was.

End of sleeve, pleated and bound

Pieces of cuff placket used to stitch over the gathers

Finishing touches!

The end result is well below bottom length, which I like as if I want to I can wear it with leggings. It is lovely and baggy but in a way that actually looks as if it was made to fit me. I can wear it on its own at this time of year, or wear layers underneath in colder weather.

Flat method of attaching sleeves

I'd never really cottoned on (almost a pun there...) to the fact that sleeves aren't always sewn in the same way until I had a job ironing. I had one of those "aha!" moments when I was ironing the shirts of the man of the family. I could see that the sleeves were attached flat to the opened out armhole and then the sleeve seam and side seam were stitched in one go.

While I had been reasonably successful in the past at setting a completed sleeve into the completed armhole of a blouse or dress, and easing out the excess fabric at the top, there would sometimes be a telltale pucker at the top and I thought that surely this way it must be easier to eliminate those. I tried it on something though I can't remember what but it is indeed easier. There is an excellent explanation of the method here - do have a look! She even has a "combination" method which I shall try out next time I make something with sleeves.

I shall now be on the lookout for more XXXL linen shirts!

Wednesday, July 18

I have not been receiving notification of comments!

To all you lovely people who have commented on my blog in the last few months and not received a reply - I am so sorry! They have all been going into the "awaiting moderation"  bit on the blog design page, but I have not been receiving notification of them in my emails as I usually do, and thus didn't realize I had any. I shall have to investigate why this has happened.

I checked that "awaiting moderation" bit because my son said he had left a comment but it hadn't appeared. So while his definitely isn't in the "awaiting moderation" bit  (I'm not sure what's happened to that) I found many comments awaiting moderation!!

 I can't tell you how much this has made my day!!!

To be honest it was getting so depressing not getting any comments, that I was seriously thinking that I might not bother to continue blogging. It's quite hard to continue to write without getting any feedback. Had I just got really boring, I asked myself??!!

I had had one or two very short ones on Facebook when I put the post on there, but it's not quite the same as getting them on the blog itself. It had got to the point where I had thought of emailing one or two more regular commenters and asking if they were still receiving my posts. I'd also recently removed myself from Bloglovin' and was wondering if that had affected things. I am actually now trying to get myself back on there, which is proving difficult as apparently my RSS feed is "not valid". A friend who sets up websites is helping me.

So, I shall now take great delight in reading all those comments and replying!

I feel like the fat lady who used to come on with a big flourish at the end of the Morecombe and Wise show (my Saturday night favourite!!) pushing the two of them out of the way, and thank everyone for coming to her "little show" -

This YouTube clip of her isn't very clear, but it still makes me laugh!

So, after weeks of wondering if I had got the blogging equivalent of BO, as the fat lady said -

"If you've enjoyed it, then it's all been worthwhile!"

Lizzie is one very happy bunny.......

Sunday, July 15

An ambulatory day in Frome, the least lonely town in the UK, then to Pewsey, and home. Part 2 of Episode 2

If you've just joined me on my little bike tour, this is Day 3, where I don't do any cycling! And days 4 and 5, where I do.

In fact, this is the day where I get hot and lost..........

I was up early, pottering about doing this and that until about 8.30, when I walked into Frome town centre, via lots of lovely interesting backstreets and postmen that said a friendly "Good morning!" So far, not feeling lonely! Let's see how friendly everyone else is, I thought to myself. Some of the route was on NCN Route 24, which I thought I'd explore in case I wanted to go that way tomorrow, through Longleat park. I assume the famous lions are firmly separated from cyclists and walkers. Personally I think they'd be a lot happier if they were in their own countries.

I didn't take photos in Frome, but if you google places like Catherine Hill and Cheap Street you will find lots of them. These steep, and in places, cobbled streets are full of lots of little independent shops, and Cheap Street even has a leat running down the middle of it. Has no-one heard of Health and Safety in Frome? I mean, I ask you, an open watercourse running down the street?? How dangerous! A very small person, or someone's ornamental chihuahua or pug, might fall into it and drown. Or someone might feel like emptying their chamber pot into it. None of that happened, I'm happy to say.

I had a cup of coffee and a chocolate brownie in the lovely little garden of an organic cafe, which I chose precisely because it had this nice cool place to sit, rather than for its organicness, although I am a very organic sort of person. (Elder Son, who used to work on the deli in Waitrose - or was it Younger Son, who worked there too? - used to have a customer who was known to the staff as "Mrs Organic", but that wasn't me.) However, here I experienced the first bit of Frome unFriendliness!!!! The waitress was not at all friendly, in fact a smile did not flit across her face at all. I felt as if I was not welcome, and could feel the loneliness coming on......

I then wandered round all the little shops looking at things which were very lovely, but which I couldn't afford. I would say that four out of the five or six shopkeepers I spoke to did nothing much to dispel the feeling that maybe this wasn't actually the least lonely town in the UK, although to put in a good word for a couple who ran an "emporium" (I like that word), they were friendly, and I would have spent longer in their shop if it hadn't been so hot.

Some other people who were friendly were the ones who were running the "Back to Blue" exhibition at the Black Swan Arts Centre. This exhibition was right up my street, being all about cloth and dyeing, both of which Frome (which they told me was once pronounced to rhyme with either room or  roam) was once famous for. And, even better, it was free!  I chatted to one of them, Carolyn Griffiths, who wrote this book that accompanies the exhibition - Woad to This, and the Cloth Trade of Frome, and I came away with some free woad seeds which I shall sow in our garden. After that visit, I felt much uplifted.

I visited a greengrocer's and the Co-op, for fruit and yogurt and milk and sandwiches (which I ate on a bench next to a lady who was reading on her Kindle - no marks for friendliness there!). I drank the rest of the 500ml of water I'd brought with me, and set off back to my place of lodging, having had enough of shops, and finding it just TOO hot to explore any more. We are talking temperatures of 30 degrees C at least. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to get lost, and this I did magnificently. I hadn't got the phone-with-maps-on with me........ I thought I could remember my way back, but at some point I went wrong. I tried to stick to the shadier parts, but after a while I ran out of both shade and water, and was beginning to realize that I didn't know where I was, or how much further I had to walk. I asked a lady who was just getting in her car if she knew where the road was that I was trying to reach. She had a quick google and gave me loose directions, but I still wasn't sure how far it was.  I was now feeling very hot, and very tired, and probably a bit dehydrated......and before long, I sat down in the only bit of shade I could find, on the verge by some houses, thinking -

"I need to go to one of these houses and ask for water."

But I just couldn't summon up the energy, as going to any of them meant walking out into the heat again and up steps, but across the road from me, the front door opened and a couple came out. The man turned to go back in the house, and I thought -

"I really need to go across there and ask for water before he shuts the door."

But once again, the thought of getting up and walking into the heat and up steps put me off. Then the lady opened the boot of the car in front of the house, to put her dogs in, and I got up and said -

"Excuse me, I'm a bit lost and exhausted...... I wonder if you can help?"

I told her where I was trying to get to and she, bless her cotton socks, and 10/10 for friendliness, said she was going that way and would take me. A few minutes later I was back in my nice cool airy attic room downing glass after glass of water. And there I stayed for the rest of the day............... I even watched an hour of TV!! I understood, prior to this, that if you watched daytime TV you turned into a cabbage; I now know this not to be true, although don't intend to make a habit of it.

This incident made me think. Of course it wasn't clever to have got lost and to run out of water on such a very hot day, and we all should prepare ourselves so that on the whole these things don't happen. Yes, I should have had a map, and I should have had more water, but I'd managed my risk in the heat of the previous two days very well, and somehow just didn't expect to suffer like this while wandering slowly about Frome. But, as I said in the last post, people often want to help, and maybe if this sort of thing never happened, we'd never find this out and experience that kindness of strangers that is often written about.

As well as watching daytime TV, I went over the route that Husband had kindly planned for me for the next day, in order to get to the lovely Huntlys B and B (and no, before you tell me I've missed out an apostrophe, there just isn't one) near Pewsey , where I had stayed last year, and where I had decided to head for. I spread my maps across the bed, and wrote down the main villages I'd be passing through, an aide memoire which I would keep in my home made bar bag. Knowing the forecast was for the heat to continue, I planned a very early start while the day was hopefully still cool, so bed was before 8 pm!

A bit about Airbnb - I have only stayed Airbnb twice, and the last time I did I had such trouble trying to get them to let me even sign up, let alone book somewhere, that I had to ask a friend who is a local Airbnb host to do that booking for me. This time, though, the whole process was much easier (perhaps they'd had complaints) and I am now signed up. The huge advantage of my room in Frome  was that I could be more independent than a traditional B and B allows. Here I could come and go at my leisure (I had a key) and not having to wait for breakfast meant I could set off the next morning whenever I wanted. My one complaint perhaps is that the price that initially comes up on the website is not the one you pay, because there are also cleaning and service charges added on, so at first glance you think Airbnb's a lot cheaper than it actually is.  I actually paid  roughly £51 for my first night (booked beforehand through Airbnb) and then the basic charge of £36 for the next night, which I hadn't booked, so I simply paid that to my host directly. What is provided in the way of refreshments is variable from place to place - I had cereal, and there was some fruit and a pint of milk in the mini fridge on my arrival (though these weren't topped up for the second day).

I had privacy, but my host was also very friendly (up went the score again!) and helpful - and she painted furniture, so we had a good natter about that. I went downstairs at one point, and found her six year old son, straight out of the paddling pool and nearly naked, drying himself. I'm glad he was just a sprog of six or I might have had an attack of the vapours.

So, at 3.50 the next morning, I got up (no alarm, just the light to wake me up), ate breakfast of raspberries, yogurt and muesli, and was out of the door at 5.20. It was amazing to be out so early! I even had to don my windproof, it was so cool. I turned left out of the house, and set off at a cracking pace, down a hill, thinking -

"I'm glad I'm going down this hill and not up it!"

Can you guess the next thought that ran through my head, given that I am one who is prone to getting lost?

"I'm going in the wrong direction!!"

Plonker that I am, I should have turned right out of the house and not left! However, after much map consulting and even compass consulting (I've got one on my bell) I got myself back onto the right route, heading east, into the almost blinding morning sun. Once I knew I was back on track, I had a lovely time pootling along, stopping to look at this beautifully painted "tin church" at a crossroads at Brokerswood -

Crossing the A350 at North Bradley south of Trowbridge was horrible, and I was almost cut up by a lorry at a roundabout, but once across I happily pootled a few more miles into Steeple Ashton -

Here we have the village lock-up, used in the past for local miscreants. Bring them back into use I say!

The lock-up
One thing I love seeing in the summer in the villages I cycle through, is open windows, and, very occasionally, an open front door. It makes a village seem more alive. In the Cotswolds, not so far from us, the villages are often dead during the daytime, with rarely an open window, or an old boy leaning on his garden gate, and as for children out playing, well - you rarely see any of them. And no-one walks to the village shop because they haven't got one.....

Last year, the man who delivered our oil, told me of the Cotswold village where he was brought up, but where neither he nor his brother could afford to live any longer. It is a sad fact that the poorer people are being pushed out of many villages in this country. In our own tiny village, where we have lived for nearly two years, but also lived from 1981 - 1984 (in this same house) there were once four cottages tied to agricultural work.  One of those four we live in, as, following Husband's redundancy from the farm in 2003, we were entitled by law to stay on in a farm cottage. Two of those four have now been sold, and are being extended by the new owners, and in the fourth, the long-term tenants are to be given notice, undoubtedly so that it too can be sold.There were also four council houses in the village in 1981 - they have all been sold, bar one, and have been extended and "improved". Even back then, though, when we came, things were changing in both this village and the one nearby that we lived in for 32 years. Workers who retired were not replaced (not even the sheepdog....) and cottages that were no longer required for workers were sold or rented out.Wherever I cycle round the local villages, the same thing is happening - farm cottages, often with bigger gardens than most and thus ripe for extending, have been sold off and before long they are hardly recognisable as the more humble abodes they once were.

However, back to the open windows, there were quite a few in Steeple Ashton. In general I got the impression that this was a friendly village, though I suspect it was also a wealthy one.....

And here is - the friendly cafe!

At this wonderful village shop and cafe (it even has wi-fi for the use of those who can't exist for a minute without it) I entered and was greeted by a man in an apron who stood back to let me in on his way out -

"Come in, Madam, come in!" he said.

They were advertising sandwiches so I asked the Tilley-hatted man behind the counter what sort they did, and he then got the be-aproned man who had just gone outside back in to attend to my needs.

"What sort would you like? Tell me and I'll make it!"

It was only 9.30, but it was more than five hours since I'd had breakfast, and by now I was practically salivating over the thought of some bacon.


I really thought he'd say that was one sandwich he couldn't do, but no!

"Certainly madam! Sit down while I make it. Would you like a drink too?"

He brought me a mug (oh the joys of a mug and not a cup!) of coffee, and then cooked me the most wonderful bacon sandwich EVER! I would go back there just for their bacon sarnies.

I had another wonderful stop at a place that I wouldn't have found if I had stuck entirely to Husband's route. I took my own advice and diverted slightly in order to make crossing the next A road easier, and came to St Barnabas' Church at Easterton, where I did my usual thing of looking for an outside tap. I couldn't find one. In this country there used to be such things as public drinking fountains, and Elder Son tells me that they are common in Austria. As I wandered disconsolately into the church, I thought that it would be a great idea if travellers knew they could always find water in a church. But then, a notice in the porch caught my eye -

"Tea and coffee available in the church"

My photo isn't brilliant (I think I need to learn how to use my new camera better..) but that sign says -

"Tea and coffee this way"

So I went that way, and, after using the toilet facilities, more to wash my grubby mits than anything else, I made myself a mug (yes, nice mugs provided!) of tea, in this kitchen, and spent a restful half hour or so in the nice cool church drinking it. I then filled my water bottles, washed up my mug, left a donation and a thank you note in the visitors' book, and wended my happy way ever onwards. How wonderfully trusting and hospitable this church's congregation is to leave it open and share their facilities with passing travellers.

The hall and kitchen adjoining the church

I reached my destination of the villages called the Manningfords, near Pewsey, in plenty of time to rest and eat in the local recreation ground, keeping my beady eye on some local youths in the far corner, who weren't actually up to any mischief as far as I could see, but you never know.... At least here they were out and about!! I was staying in Manningford Abbots (there are three Manningfords) and later while reading a book about Wiltshire villages (The Wiltshire Village Book, by Michael Marshman) I came across this passage about these villages -

"I have known these villages for nearly 20 years. Despite this, I still get lost when walking or driving around their footpaths and lanes without the aid of an Ordnance Survey map."

I understood what he meant, as I had had to keep consulting the map to make sure I didn't get lost (again) even though the area is tiny and I had been here last year.

And so to my B and B. I love this place. It's much more homely than the one I stayed in on the first night, and it reminds me of my childhood and the places we stayed in on holiday, in England and Wales. My parents rarely booked anywhere - they just decided where they were going and then set off, and found somewhere to stay once they got there. I suspect that this was not so unusual in the 60s and 70s. I remember some places with great affection, usually I think because the owner was particularly kind and welcoming. I also remember the feel of soft old well-washed cotton sheets in one place that we found rather late on in the evening, and also a Welsh farmhouse, approached up narrow and twisting lanes after dark, the big long oak table where we had breakfast, and where my dad whispered to us -

"There's a fairy at the bottom of the garden!"

We didn't know quite what he meant, as my dad was not one to try to convince us that there were such things. I still have never heard anyone else call it this, but he was referring to the toilet, which was, indeed, at the bottom of the garden!

Last year when I stayed here, I had had a large room with an en-suite of shower and toilet, but this year I had the other bedroom, with my own private bathroom across from it. I had seen this bathroom last year, and thought - ooh that looks nice! A bit of tongue and groove and sensible taps. And this year it was mine for the night, and although there was a shower I made the most of the bath by having one (a rarity these days!), with the window open and the blind half down but with lots of light still coming in. This was bliss after cycling 40.28 miles (once again, not forgetting that fraction of a mile!).

Regarding the comfort of one's rear end, and the Brooks saddle, today I had worn padded undershorts, thinking that maybe my rear end would appreciate them.  I then washed them out at the end of the day and hung them out of the window to dry, using the extra long bootlace that for some reason I happened to have had in my rucksack, and had thought, when setting off - I'll leave that there as it might come in handy. Which it did! However, I'm not convinced that the padding in the shorts is actually under my sit bones (I must investigate) and so am not sure if they really helped in that area. I did not wear them the next day, so that was three days of cycling without them, and only one with.

I shall give a very brief account of the next day's journey home, which was basically very hot and very tiring. I set off after a delicious breakfast, not a cooked one this time, at about 9 am. Earlier would have been better but you can't expect B and B hosts to get up before dawn to serve you! I stopped for coffee and cake at the Engineman's Rest Cafe at the Crofton Beam Engines, about 17 miles into my journey. Lunch was sandwiches taken in the shade in a park at a village called Froxfield - where I saw an open front door!

It was then just a question of battling against the heat and getting home. More than once I looked at the map to see where the next bit of shade was, where I could stop and rest, all the time making sure I had enough water. I used it not just to drink but to pour over myself to keep cool on the stretches of road that had no shade. When I reached the village of Bishopstone, about 7 miles from home, I sat at the side of the road and dangled my feet in the village pond for several minutes. That last 7 miles seemed very long. I got more and more angry with commuters (it was that time of day) who overtook me too close and too fast.

I thought I knew the hills of this bit of road well enough to say to myself -

"Just one more hill...."

But the heat must have fogged my brain as there always seemed to be one more!

Here's a somewhat shattered me, finally home, at 6.20, -

When can I go again?

Sunday, July 8

A bike ride to Frome, where I get hot and lost. Part one (!) of Episode Two.

So now it was Day Two of my little tour, and at 7 am I was the first guest for breakfast at the beautifully laid mahogany dining table of the "farmhouse" B and B. Despite the hunger of the night before, I struggled to eat the delicious breakfast. Later a young American couple, touring the UK by car, joined me, and I stayed to chat to them. I was fascinated to see what they had for breakfast. He had scrambled egg, but not spread messily across a piece of toast as most ordinary people have, but looking, from its neat circular shape, as if it had been squashed into a biscuit cutter. It had suspicious looking bits of greenery added in, all served up in the middle of a large white china plate. Then he had banana pancakes - goodness me, whatever is farmhouse B and B coming to! I stuck to fruit salad, albeit with fancy foreign fruit, full English (also with suspicious bits of greenery, on the tomatoes. I couldn't identify the taste and would definitely have preferred them plain) plus toast and marmalade and tea. You might get the idea that I am not a fan of fancy food......

The night before I had had to decide on which of two routes I would take today - either to take a slightly shorter route and go south towards Frome, taking in Longleat park, which would mean doing The Collier's Way clockwise the next day, or to cycle west along the Kennet and Avon canal (part of NCN Route 4) towards Bath, and take the Collier's Way anti-clockwise as originally planned. I had left this decision until now as I wanted to see how I felt after the first day's ride. Some of that was to do with my newish Brooks saddle, which I was still breaking in.  I'd been pleased with how comfortable it had become, but a few days constant riding might mean some soreness.

I made the decision to take the second option (which proved, by the end of the day, to have been the best one for various reasons) even though that would mean I'd have to do my own navigation as I hadn't got this route on my Garmin. But it was mostly NCN routes, for which I had the Sustrans map.  So at Seend, west of Devizes, I joined the canal path, which in places was quite rough and overgrown, and occasionally so perilously close to the water that I got off and walked. Progress was therefore slow. I greeted a young woman, perhaps in her late twenties, with her bike, who politely pushed herself into the hedge to get out of my way. Afterwards I thought that I should have done that thing that all the best cyclists do and asked her if she was OK, in case she needed help, although how capable I am of giving whatever help might be needed is another matter! However, later on we arrived at the same spot at the same time and got chatting. It turned out she lived on a boat on the canal and was just cycling to Melksham to do some shopping. I could have happily spent the next hour in conversation with her,  but I didn't like to hold her up for too long. She worked part-time in a cookery school in Bath, not needing to work full time because the boat bills weren't very high.

I also chatted to a man in his seventies, who had sailed past me on his bike earlier, at a point where I had dismounted in order to walk over one of the steep and rough parts of the path. These occur now and then where there is a bridge over the canal. Sometimes you can't see what the surface is like over the other side so I got off to be on the safe side. It turned out that he knew the path and was also on an electric bike, although to be fair he said he often didn't use the electric assist function. He was in his 70s and loved going along the canal on his bike, not having really used a pushbike since he'd got his driving licence at 17.  I am all in favour of electric bikes if it means that people get out of their cars and onto a bike, or if it means that people who could no longer cycle due to age or infirmity can now do so again.

Here the canal path is good and wide and a decent surface -

My first stop, apart from to drink water, was at Bradford-on-Avon, where I sat in the garden of the Canal Trust Cafe, and instead of my usual-at-this-time-of-the-morning coffee, I had tea, being more refreshing, and the most enormous and delicious scone, with cream and jam. Cream first, then jam - no arguments please! It was probably one of the best scones I've ever had.  Oh, and scone rhymes with gone, not bone, despite what my Yorkshire brother-in-law says. I was just gutted that I couldn't finish it; I had to leave some of the cream and jam although I wrapped up the leftover scone in a napkin and took it with me to eat later. Again I got chatting - this time to an oldish lady who came and asked me how far I was cycling. I suspect that she had slight dementia as she asked me the same questions more than once.

Bradford-on-Avon. My bike on the right! And my Tilley hat!

 I found it rather  difficult finding the route through and out of the town, despite having the map, as the Sustrans blue signs are small and often hard to spot. (Shouldn't cyclists have signs as big as those for drivers??!!) With a bit of asking, I found the way, again getting into conversation  -

"Oh yes, it's that way. I used to cycle the Collier's Way to go to work. Now I walk it sometimes with the dog."

I could, at that point, have got out the phone-I-only-use-for-the-OS-maps, found my GPS position, and looked for my route, but then I wouldn't have got into conversation with that man. Nowadays people will google something, or ring up their mother (I have been rung in the past....) rather than doing what we always used to do and approach a stranger and ask for directions, or whatever. I like this old fashioned practice, partly because I believe that people actually like to help. It can lead to some happy and interesting experiences, like last year when I asked the farmer's wife who I was buying cherries from if she knew where I could get a cup of tea, and lo and behold she gave me not only tea, but toast and home made jam as well. I could have just googled it......

I digress.

I reached the Dundas Aquaduct not long after. This amazing feat of engineering carries the canal over the River Avon -

Canoeists on the aquaduct

I'm not sure if boats still go down here

A very pretty garden

A few hundred yards up a track there are loos (nice and clean), a cafe and bike hire place. I was infuriated at having to spend £1.40 for a 500 ml bottle of water. Rip-off!!!! However, I couldn't afford to get low on water, and wasn't sure where I might get some for free, so I just had to bite the bullet and pay.

And then it was onto the Collier's Way at last. Nine miles to Radstock it said. Well, that's not too far, hopefully a nice easy path I thought.........I should say here that if Husband sometimes says, before I set off on my bike - "It's a 16 mile an hour wind, you'll be cycling into it, you'll find it tough" then I don't take much notice. Neither had I taken much notice when he said before I went on this trip -

"There's some steep hills round there".

I sometimes think it's best just not to know...... It was indeed hilly, hills of the short sharp variety. I did have to get off the bike at times, but I'm not ashamed of that, and in fact as the days went on I got  better at getting up hills and therefore didn't dread them so much. It's all in your head, Husband also has a habit of saying. In places, too, the road was so shaded that I had to take my sunglasses off in order to see the potholes! As in this bit -

At this point, on this very hot day, and when I would have liked to stop more than I actually did, I began to go over in my head exactly why I was doing this ride. I was beginning to feel hot and tired and it felt as if this bloomin' Collier's Way was going on for ever. Nine miles to Radstock it said at the aquaduct. Then the next sign - six miles.

"What? Another six? Surely not - I must have done more than three!!!"

Was I doing it because I really, really enjoyed cycling for miles and miles? Not really - I'm not one for going out for a ride just for the sake of it, or to be able to say "I've done [insert huge number] miles this week!" What for, then? Answer - in order to see different places, and to get there by bike, which is fantastic exercise, is non-polluting, and feels like a real achievement to me. But I was beginning to feel now, at this point in the day, as if I was just cycling in order to get somewhere, instead of being able to cycle, stop, cycle, stop, look round, cycle.....and generally enjoy the journey, although I did in fairness to myself do quite a bit of all those things. Actually the heat necessitated stopping a lot. Looking back on it, I think that heat was getting to me.

The funny thing is, that a lot of the rest of the ride is a bit of a blur, and so I can't remember the name of the village where I bought an ice cream and fruit at the shop, and went into the churchyard to look for a tap. There is usually one tucked away behind a church, but I couldn't find it, so, on spotting a workman on a nearby bench I asked him if he knew where I could get water. It turned out he was on the Parochial Church Council and he said -

"I can get you some"

whereupon he took me round to the back of the church and showed me where the tap was! How could I have missed it?! I filled my bottles. If I'd been on my own I probably would have stuck my hot feet under it too. That's another thing smartphones won't tell you - where there's a tap!

There was a primary school down the road and a youngish mother ran up the road to her house, gasping something about having forgotten her son's football boots that morning -

"I always forget them!" she said.

Well, what you need to do is write yourself a note then, and stick it on the door, so that you will see it before you go out, and then you won't forget. If only she'd stopped for my advice.....

Then she ran back to the school with them. She had a very short dress on, and it flew up as she ran, revealing more than one should reveal.

I will cut things short here, and say that after missing a turning on the route - not a serious error, but it made the journey seem even longer - I finally arrived in Radstock. From there the signs said another nine to Frome, the route taking the path of the old railway for about seven of those. It was a bit more interesting than the Marlborough railway path, particularly as in various spots there were benches, and signs indicating the different varieties of apple trees growing nearby. In the good old days of trains with windows that opened, passengers used to chuck out their apple cores, and they have seeded themselves along the path and grown into fine looking trees. A good route to cycle in the autumn then - free apples!

I thought I'd finished with the hills for the day, but about two miles from Frome, having been flat for the last few, it started getting hilly once more, and again I found myself thinking -

"Surely the mileage signs must be wrong. How can it possibly be another two miles?????"

For the last hour or so my one thought had been that I hoped I could stay a second night in Frome, and not just the one I had booked, because I was shattered, and did not want to have to do this again the next day. Part of my reason for coming had been to look round Frome, and as I was much later arriving than I had planned, I wouldn't be able to do that unless I stayed another night. I was so grateful for this lovely Airbnb room, with ensuite (oh the bliss of a shower after a hot day's cycling, even one that didn't work very well!) -

and yes, I could stay a second night.

I had ridden 36.6 miles, and let me just add that I had been riding without padded undershorts so far. I could see red marks where my sit bones were, but I hadn't actually felt sore, so all in all I was pretty pleased with the Brooks saddle.

Thursday, July 5

A bike ride to Frome, where I get hot and lost. Episode One of Two.

[Apologies that one bit is in red text and one bit is in smaller text than the rest. I have corrected both bits but Blogger isn't taking any notice!]

Why Frome, you may say? Well, interestingly, this town in Somerset - population about 26,000 - was reported recently to be the least lonely town in Britain, but I didn't go in order to find out exactly what it offered in the way of non-loneliness. Neither was it for its quaint and steep streets full of independent shops. I simply went because last year I had been given a Sustrans leaflet about The Collier's Way, NCN route 24, which runs from the Dundas Aquaduct just outside Bath down through Radstock to Frome, and I thought it sounded like a jolly jaunt.

Sustrans says it's "perfect for novice cyclists". Hmmmmm, well........maybe not some bits!! More of that in the next episode.

Is it just me, or do all cycle tourers spend ages planning their trips?  For me the route planning and the booking of accommodation (some B and B and some Airbnb) took several days. By the time it was all done I couldn't wait to get away from a screen and onto the bike. I booked my first two nights and decided to leave a third (or even fourth) night until later.

Once all that was done, the actual packing was fairly straightforward as I've got a spreadsheet of the basics I need to take on bike trips, and where it all goes, whether in pannier main pockets, pannier zip pockets, pannier net pockets, bar bag, or rucksack, and even what goes in my trouser pockets! I like to know exactly where everything is and be able to get to it easily. I don't want to be ferreting around  looking for loo paper when I've just found a nice private bit of woodland in which to obey the call of nature (I don't leave a trace by the way, in case you were wondering).

I set off on Sunday (June 24th)  at about 8.30, using a pre-recorded course on my Garmin for navigation, which does, I have to admit, make things easier - no need to keep looking at the map, and as long as I remember to actually look down at it, I don't go wrong. But I wasn't particularly looking forward to the first 12 miles or so, which in my head I never particularly like, being very windy (that's windy as in bendy, and not windy as in blowy) and full of little hills, and cars that overtake in stupid places, but this time it was fine - as it was Sunday and still reasonably early the roads were quiet. No mummies in 4 x 4s rushing to get the kiddywinks to school......or others who haven't got up early enough and when they see me think -

"Oh drat, a cyclist, and a middle aged one at that. Move over into the potholes woman, I'm coming past!"

No. It was all fine and dandy and I reached my coffee stop, Three Trees Farm Shop and Cafe at Chiseldon, not far from Marlborough, quite relaxed. I couldn't believe how busy it was even though I got there at opening time. It used to be a quite basic farm shop with small cafe attached - now the shop is much bigger with more variety of foodstuffs, and the cafe is large and airy, with outside seating too - perfect for cyclists! It's one of those farm shops that has obviously become quite a destination. After using the nice clean facilities, I joined the queue of about 10 people. Others were already sitting down tucking into a cooked breakfast (which they had probably driven there for) and I was sorely tempted to order one for myself. I never eat a huge amount before leaving home, as I'm always feeling a bit nervous and just want to get going, but always find that about this distance into a bike ride I could happily wolf down a full English breakfast. However, I resisted temptation, not wanting to start spending much money so early in the trip, and just had coffee, orange juice and a snack I'd brought with me.

I sat outside at a table with another couple, and we got chatting. I asked where they lived, and they said -

"Swindon, for now......"

I sensed a slight dislike of Swindon in their tone......which I could understand. As a child in Winchester I grew up with an image of Swindon being literally grey, because a friend of mine moved there with her family and my mum made some negative comment about it which included the word grey, and ever since then that is the way I have thought of it. It's our nearest big town, where we've often gone shopping for clothes or shoes in the past; it's not actually THAT bad but I have always been glad to get away from it, just as I would any big town. In its favour, it has a row of rather nice old railway cottages, plus my excellent sewing machine man lives there.

It  turned out that this couple had previously lived in a village in the middle of nowhere and found it hard to adjust to townlife. They had my sympathies..........

Last year I cycled down the 7 miles of NCN Route 482 from this cafe, and found it rather boring. It's an old railway line and while this means it's lovely and quiet, there's not much to look at, so this year, needing to travel much the same way, I cycled down the minor roads to the west of Marlborough instead, which was much more interesting, going through three lovely villages all by the name of Ogbourne something.

I later stopped for lunch outside these grand gates, sitting on the wall to eat -

Not long after I'd finished, a couple, presumably the owners, drove through the automatically opening gates, in a 4 x 4 of course, and did not return my friendly smile. They probably would have gone ballistic if they knew I'd not only sat on their wall but also squatted in their woods.....

The advantage of walking and cycling is that you can easily stop at a place that looks interesting. I wasn't in a hurry and so I was able to do just that here, at this fascinating little museum of photographs at Alton Barnes -

It was indeed a quirky place!

An article about the family of the couple who own the place

To quote the local paper -

"Ray is well known in Alton Barnes and nearby Honeystreet as he keeps a village and family photographic archive in the outbuildings of his home which is literally overlooked by the White Horse.
The small museum is open every day to anybody who is interested.
Ray said: “My family has been part of this village for hundreds of years and I’m very proud of our heritage and that of the villagers."
Round the back there was another room, with more photos and memorabilia, on the floor, on a snooker table and on the walls. I loved the hand written signs all over the place, full of spelling mistakes, and missing apostrophes. Normally I would be wanting to insert them where they have been missed out, being a bit of a punctuation freak (spot the two errors in the sign by the visitors' book - there, I've just given one away) but here I found it added to the quirkiness, and I forgave the writer. I think it's lovely that someone has created this little museum just for the love of it and to share it with others, and not for any financial reward. As others had written in the visitors' book, I had passed this place before, with Husband, but had not had time to call in. Or maybe it was more of a case of me liking this sort of quirky place but Husband isn't quite so keen...........

Further on, this is how to take a selfie if you haven't got a smartphone (actually I have got Husband's old one, but I usually only use it for the OS maps on it)  -

At Urchfont, a very picturesque village not far from Devizes, I stopped in the churchyard in a lovely shady spot, for rest and recuperation. As anyone reading this will know, we have had rocketing temperatures recently, often 30 degrees centigrade or more, and my ride so far had been very hot, although not horribly so. Husband had suggested I wear my Tilley hat when I set off; I had been a bit reluctant to simply because I wasn't used to wearing it for cycling. I also wore sunglasses (£1.99 from Aldi and they are excellent!) for the first time, more to keep the insects and dust out of my eyes than anything else. I got used to the hat, and wore it most of the time once I realized it wouldn't blow off.

Today's ride was 43.66 miles. That's another obsession of mine - adding up all the fractions of a mile! For a while I stopped doing it , and merely rounded them up or down, but then I thought - nope, if I want to count all those bits of miles then I jolly well will!  It was an easy ride - in fact the easiest of what turned out to be four days of cycling. 

I arrived at my B and B, a farmhouse in Potterne, south of Devizes, on the dot of 6 pm, as planned. Spotless,very quiet, lovely walk in shower, and yet, it was missing something. I would say it was missing a certain je ne sais quoi, but actually je sais perfectly well what it was missing - homeliness. Unfortunately I'd left my camera with my bike, which was now locked up in a tack room, so I couldn't take a photo of the rather odd mix of a black blanket on the end of the otherwise mainly white bed, and a black wall-hanging behind the bed (I loathe black furnishings), a large Roman head on the windowsill, and French shabby chic furniture. None of this made for farmhouse style in my opinion. More sort of, er, "boutique"........I don't know whether that word was used in the online description but if it had been and I had seen it I would have been immediately put off. And as for the very large open urn used as a bin in the shower room, well, give me a nice sensible little pedal bin with a lid any day, so that whatever I have chucked in it is then hidden.

I hadn't eaten much on arrival at the B and B, not fancying either of the two packet meals I had brought with me. My home made muesli went down well, but I hadn't got enough milk to eat much of it, so I woke in the night rather peckish, and had to get up to snack on bits and pieces. Maybe I should have had that breakfast..........but at least there would be one in the morning.

Tomorrow - getting lost and exhausted in the heat in Frome (but not lonely).