Sunday, 26 June 2016

A little cycling jaunt on my pal's JOGLE

My mate Chris, sometime fellow traveller, started his John O'Groats to Lands End cycle tour in late May. We bumped into him in Edinburgh at the end of the month on our way home from our month in the Highlands and again, a week or so later, when he called in home (in the next village to us) for a coupla days.

Just after we got home from a trip to the Dales I found that Chris had gone down with a nasty case of food poisoning in Bristol. He'd felt compelled to dump bike and kit at the YHA there and catch a train home. What a bugger!

I phoned him. It became apparent that, once recovered, he planned to drive to Bristol, leave his motor somewhere, complete his ride, then catch a train back to Bristol and drive home.

A plan hatched in my mind and, a couple of days later, my red Thorn Sherpa and fully loaded panniers were in the back o' Chris's estate car as we drove south.

We found a campsite 11 miles from Bristol (south west), so once we'd collected Chris's bike and kit we headed there. We'd arranged with the owner to leave Chris's car there for "a week or so" for a small fee.

The first morning dawned and we were off through Somerset via Glastonbury and over the Levels to finish up at a camp on the edge of Bridgwater, where my Thorn was born. We befriended a chicken and fine-dined on bacon grill, beans and onion mash. Yum!

From Bridgwater we followed some pleasing canal paths and found our way to Taunton. A bike shop provided Chris with much-needed brake shoes and pedals, which he fitted there and then.

And after a run into Morrisons for grub, we were away again, finishing up near Bampton. With no campsite we searched for a wild camp camp with no success. I approached a farmer, busy in his yard, who was happy to let us camp in a field for no charge. There is still kindness in the world. And we held an omelette cooking competition. Mine's left; Chris's right. I won ... of course.

And for those following my wild-camp-every-month-for-a-year challenge ... well, that counted as my June wild camp since we had no facilities, no water, no loos, nowt. And anyway, it's my challenge and I make the rules ... so there (sticks tongue out).

From Bempton we climbed up over Exmoor in mizzle. Finding a pub closed (shoulda bin open), we borrowed their table and brewed coffee ourselves.

Then ... cutting across to the coast, we found a cosy caff for lunch in Barnstaple ...

... and followed a pleasing cycle route out to Bideford and a really nice little campsite where the owner returned Chris's fee for his chosen charity (see link here); a friendly, supportive gesture, we thought. Chef Chris's production of pan-seared salmon and salad was superb. I won the prize for best-beer-bottle-opening.

From Bideford, down the coast to Bude, with some soddin' tough climbs along the way. Chris had opted to follow the Nation Cycle Network's route 3 but today, he lost patience with some really daft, steep inclines, which saw us pushing the bikes. So we leapt onto the A38 and braved the traffic.

We cycled from our camp and tasted the heady nightlife in Bude, which, for us, involved a coupla pints an' a bag o' chips each. We know how to live!

A tough day from Bude saw us stopping in Camelford and a picnic in a churchyard in Bodmin.

 Another hard bash took us out through St Austell and a final, easy stretch out to a campsite near Mevagissey.

We were now closing in on our destination. After a couple more silly climbs near the coast we were off again across the peninsula via the King Harry chain ferry, Redruth, Camborne and Hayle before dropping down into Marazion for our penultimate camp and a chance for a pre-finish, celebratory pint and grub in the Fire Engine Inn.

So, the final day came. Into Penzance then out via Mousehole to the tacky commercialism of Lands End. Last time I was here I was filled with trepidation at the enormity of the task ahead as I left on my own LEJOG ride in May last year. But today was Chris's big finale.

With photos taken we had another celebration with fish'n'chips in Sennen.

And finally, a train ride from Penzance to Bristol and a mad ride, in failing light, back to our camp and Chris's car.

A fun week of bike touring in reasonable weather. We rode around 300 miles but Chris's total was around 1400 and took about 4 weeks. Well done to him and here's to our next ride together.

I hope my pal won't mind me mentioning he's a cancer survivor. If you support cancer care and research, consider supporting him by donating to The Christy by visiting his Just Giving page here.

Cheers, and thanks for visiting.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Highlands, May 2016 part 4

Leaving Skye behind us we dash down to Morvich for an assignation with another Twitter friend, David, alias @FellBound. We're heading for the Caravan Club site and the afternoon sees us bimbling up the valley into woodland.

David arrives next morning, aided by his handsome collie, Moss. Pebbles is in love with Moss. We take an amble together before David and Moss join us for dinner ... and drink all the beer.

Chrissie's considering a backpack from here but the weather's taken a turn for the worse so we scoot off down towards Killin and I drop Chrissie off along the route so she and Pebbles can spend a night out. Read about it here.

Next day, Islay and I tackle the mighty Ben Lawers; her second munro.

The following day, Chrissie an' Pebs return and we enjoy meeting yet another Twitter pal (there's a theme here. We're on a "collect Twitter friends" journey). This time it's Claire, aka @pixiepippi who's on walking trip here herself. She has a busy schedule but finds time for a doggy bimble with us, around and about Killin. We enjoy tea and cakes, before Claire dashes off for more fun with walking buddies.

Now it's off via Fort william again for a rapid restock then ... Braemar. We spend the night at the Caravan site there, then me and choccy drop are away up Glen Dee and into the jaws of the Lairig Ghru to Corrour bothy. There we meet a fellow backpacker with his border collie. She and Islay soon hit it off and have much fun charging about together. We all camp near the bothy.

I think those pics speak for themselves. We have a fab time.

Back at the Caravan site we chill ... and Chrissie makes a mess ...

... before disappearing up Glen Ey with Pebbles, as retold here, for another overnighter.

Meanwhile, me and the choccy one spend a day exploring Glen Quoitch.

Back together again, we spend a final night in Braemar. We thank the weather Gods for smiling on us for the vast majority of our trip and, in fine style, they appear to respond.

We set our sights on home. but spend a final night in Scotland, in Edinburgh, meeting up with our good friend Chris Lines ( a frequent travelling partner of mine). Chris is en route with his bicycle from John O'Groats to Lands End.

More on Chris's journey on here soon, as I join him for the final leg, from Bristol down to Lands End.

So it's the end of a fine month, traveling, backpacking, eating, drinking and socialising around the Scottish Highlands. Here's to our next trip north.

Soon, we're off to Arctic Sweden. Life is good. Smile!