The first weekend in June I decided to cycle to Swanage, which was where I cycled to on my first long distance cycle ride and the reason that I base most of my trips on cycling 80 miles a day, that being the distance from my home to the campsite in Swanage.
It was back in 2002 and I’d recently given up smoking, some friends were off camping in Swanage, and I was joking that I might cycle down and see them, even though the longest distance I’d cycled since I was an adult was about 18 miles!
I bought a rack and some cheap panniers and attached them to my trusty old Marin, got a small tent and sleeping bag and off I set on the long journey to Swanage not knowing if I could make it or not, but not being one to be beaten I was determined to make it.
It was a flat and shortish ride (20 miles) to Portsmouth. Finding my way to Portsmouth was no problem at all, finding my way through a big city was another thing, one that I still struggle with even now! Luckily I met another cyclist who came from Portsmouth who knew the area, and he helped me get around Portsmouth using cycle paths and got me to the Isle of Wight ferry, the route I was going to take. Staying on the mainland would have meant going through Southampton, another big city with very busy roads. The Isle of Wight seemed a much more pleasant way of going and also a more direct route, although it did involve ferry crossings.
I had a nice rest for about 30 minutes on the ferry from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight; the crossing takes about 40 minutes. Coming off the ferry I was immediately confronted with a hill, great, just what I needed, but I had to get up it to continue on my journey, I put my bike in its highest gear and slowly peddled up the hill, which just seemed to go on forever. I eventually got to the top and had a nice downhill which as soon as it ended turned into another uphill. It was pretty much up and down all the way across the Isle of Wight, and I was glad to reach the other side of the island. It was only 15 miles, but I’d found it a very hard 15 miles and was glad to get to my next ferry terminal so that I could rest.
Back on the mainland after crossing back from the Isle of Wight to Lymington I rode through Christchurch and Bournemouth on fairly busy roads. The roads weren’t as hilly as the IOW, but by now I was finding it pretty hard going, and even the slightest of hills felt like a mountain!
I’d made it to Sandbanks where I would get my last ferry of the day, an old chain link ferry that takes you across the water from Sandbanks to Studland and on to my final leg!
There were only about 10 miles to go, and I was starting to feel tired, but I couldn’t give up now, not with only ten miles to go, after all, I’d already done 70, surely I could just do that last ten, how hard can it be! Very hard as it turned out, I had some pretty big hills to climb, and the last mile to the campsite was all uphill! But I made it, exhausted and worn out, but what a feeling, thinking that I’d cycled 80 miles all on my own without any help. As soon as I pitched my tent, I crawled in and put my head down, and immediately fell asleep feeling proud of the fact that I’d cycled 80-miles.
That evening I contemplated as to whether I should get the train back or try and cycle it. In the end, I decided to cycle it, and if it got too much, I could always hop on the train further down the line.
I made it home without using the train, and that’s why I base every trip I do on 80-miles a day because I managed to do it that first time without any training and even cycled back the next day!
Had another weekend camping on the Isle of Wight this time with Julie, I managed to get my stuff and Julie’s stuff all onto my bike and even managed to carry a 4 man tent, which I really noticed, it was so heavy.
We went over on Friday and camped at the normal campsite I use, Grange farm at Brighstone. It was a very windy weekend and using a tent that I’d never used before was a bit of a challenge, it was more of an occasional summer tent and was useless in the wind, I spent the first night getting up every hour and re-tightening the guy ropes while Julie who had her ear plugs in slept through it all! I made some modifications the following morning which did make it a lot sturdier!
The Saturday we cycled along the coast to the Needles and then up to Yarmouth for lunch and managed to find the most expensive place to eat on the island! £26 for cod and chips which normally costs about £5 or £6! But it was really good and tasty. Spent the afternoon cycling back to the campsite, stopping off for a few beers on route!
On Sunday we had breakfast and packed up, deciding to get back across the island sooner rather than later before the wind got any stronger, as we’d be cycling into it this time! A nice weekend despite the strong wind and very peaceful on the campsite, no bikers next door!
I got rained off from work one day; Julie was also off so we decided to go to Bucklers Hard on the banks of the river Beaulieu, in the heart of the New Forest National Park. It’s an old 18th-century shipbuilding village which is now a maritime museum. A very interesting place, with some of the cottages, set out as they would have been back in the 18th century and a maritime museum telling the story of Bucklers Hard. After looking around these we went for the short walk to Beaulieu and got soaked!
I’d recently bought a new front light for my bike, one that I can charge my mobile phone from as I cycle along. So I decided to go to France for the weekend and test it out.
I got to Cherbourg at about 8 o’clock on the Friday evening after getting the fast ferry from Portsmouth. (it only takes 3 hours) Upon arrival, I went off to find a campsite. I’d already looked online before I left home to find a campsite near Cherbourg, knowing that I was going to get there fairly late.
I managed to find the campsite I’d found online without a problem, the only trouble was that there was a music festival going on and it was really noisy, luckily it was full, so off I went down the road to find another campsite. The good thing about France is that campsites are all over the place, there cheap and have very good facilities. I’d only gone down the road a mile or so before I came across my next campsite, with nobody on reception I just went to find a pitch to put my tent on, the only place that I could see to put my tent up on was right on the seafront it was very windy and there wasn’t any shelter, so I decided to give that one a miss too and continue on down the road. Again it wasn’t long before I found my next site; again nobody was on reception so I just found a pitch and settled in for the night.
In the morning I packed up and managed to get away from the campsite without paying, the old trick of turning up late and leaving early always seem to work! I did notice on the way out that it was a 5* campsite, always good to get away with a freebie especially a 5* one!
The battery on my phone was now dead so I plugged it into my light; it worked brilliantly and was fully charged after about 2 hours. I’d always thought that there must be a way of charging your phone whilst riding along, but apparently, they’ve only just started making them. What a brilliant invention, it worked absolutely perfectly, wish I had it when I went around the world it would have helped no end, these new smart phones are fine but the battery life on them is useless, the battery barely lasts a day, but with the new charger camping is a real option again. Just plug it in as you cycle, you have a red light to tell you it’s charging and you have to cycle over 5mph to generate enough electricity. To start with I felt a bit under pressure to keep peddling fast enough to keep this red light on like it might explode if I let the red light go out! It did make me peddle up hills a lot faster!
Going from Cherbourg to Le Havre you pass the beaches that witnessed the D-day landings back in 1944, it’s all so peaceful now and I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like back in 1944, so many people lost their lives. Although I’ve ridden along this coast before I think I might come back again another time and explore it all in a bit more detail rather than just fly past everything!
Had a nice little campsite on the Saturday night (had to pay at this one €9) and met Peter from Cork in Ireland, he’d been cycling around France for 4 weeks but think he’d had enough and just wanted to finish, luckily he only had to get to Cherbourg for Tuesday, where he was to catch his ferry back to Ireland.
Had a nice early start on Sunday morning I was on the road at just after 6, I wasn’t too sure how far it was to Le Havre and didn’t want to miss my ferry home. Needn’t have worried it was only about 60 miles and I was in Le Havre by 12 o’clock, so I went and found somewhere to eat and sat there for an hour or so watching the world go by, well sort of, had a bit of a problem staying awake, what with the combination of a fairly fast ride, something to eat, a couple of beers and the sun I was playing the nodding donkey and struggling to stay awake!
The crossing back was a lot longer about 5 hours; I walked in my front door at about 11.30 Sunday night. A really good weekend covering a good distance (200 miles) lovely French food, good campsites, warm weather and a fully charged phone!