Bike, bike, bike as fast as you can…You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!

There is no doubt, as the days are getting shorter and the weather is so unpredictable / mainly always raining…that its getting more critical for me to know where I’m going…and to get there early. Also when I get there to set up my tent before looking through the yellow pages for a masseur. God I’d love a rub down.

what a shit morning

It’s getting dark early isn’t it? Less time in the day but nice to have those dark evenings…

One can easily take for granted those cosy fires,

or fake ones if you live in London, with whoever or whatever…

I often think about what it must the like to have no one. I hope that’s not you. Many of us can / maybe even do, look forward to a day, maybe even a weekend of self. But what about no company, ever. I think we can take for granted life. My advice and quote me…Don’t. But if life does change grasp it, the future might be amazing.

I sit here writing this blog on the loo. Now don’t cry out because at least one of you has old me you read my blogs on the loo. Anyway. I feel dog tired but blissfully happy with having done something today. A year ago I felt dog tired having done nothing.

I do wonder if better pre-planning would have been a good idea…. then I gave up thinking that it doesn’t matter, I’m just on a bike ride. Just as long as by 1pm the next day I have a clear and booked (unless wild camping) plan, it’s ok.

Glimpse of my first lake of the day just outside of Keswick

Every day is so different. Today I rode through the middle of the lakes. Only 30miles but the variables…. totally empty roads to damned dangerous ones; Nice flat scenic tracks, to steepness that I had to push up and downhill I braked all the way; Really heavy rain and swollen roads, howling winds and, those no doubt bad places I just have to stop for air or just to get the photo.

My first cramp showed itself today but my body feels pretty strong really. Sun? Nah no sun today. Tomorrow I hear is going to be a good scorcher though.

Bus shelters…good for catching busses and sheltering in
My bus shelter view

If Heineken made bus shelters… this one and it’s view would probably be the best one in the world….

Now where was I… The campsite last night was a great one. The best so far – Lanefoot farm camping, near Keswick. The owners son Aaron couldn’t have been more helpful. Drying rooms, hot showers etc all for a tenner. Ok, I did nearly loose my tent but it that was Mother Nature at about 2am and not Aaron’s fault.

Now where was I… The campsite last night was a great one. The best so far – Lanefoot farm camping, near Keswick. The owners son Aaron couldn’t have been more helpful. Drying rooms, hot showers etc all for a tenner. Ok, I did nearly loose my tent but it that was Mother Nature at about 2am and not Aaron’s fault.

I met Elsie this morning a young future cycling Paralympian. Elsie, I’m watching you – go girl and I was so impressed with the Gold D of E guys who were in bed by 8pm and off the campsite by 7am. They looked miserable. It was chucking it down but they’ll look back and think…. I’m never going camping ever again!

No No you are joking aren’t you
Half way….

The morning was a slog…down to all of the above but as always, when I look up, I realise how special this journey is and how lucky I am. I’m not even half way but I think I have come a long way….

Bit of an arty snap of a waterfall along way away

Grassmere is the first and very tourist driven village after Keswick. Famous for gingerbread and Chinese tourists. The Chinese love gingerbread. Top tip. Avoid the queue to get into the gingerbread shop which is no bigger than a room, a small one, by going round the back where there is a chap just selling the gingerbread without the frills. It’s dammed good I’ll give them that.

Gingerbread slabs

There’s probably a lot more to grassmere but it was busy. I saw a church which looked a nice one and oh yes, William Wordsworth was buried here.

As I sat by his grave pondering his most famous works. Do you remember this one:

Said a tiny ant

To the elephant,

Mind how you tread in this clearing!

Bus alas, cruel fate

She was crushed by the weight

I’m Of an elephant, hard of hearing!

I like that one, beautifully written, thank you William.

Anyway. I was there and enjoying my slab of gingerbread I notice this grave….

A grave mistake of you ask me

They have put a bench right by it….

That’s wrong surely? People stand, dribble, probably put fags out, are maybe even sick whilst pondering Williams grave like me and wishing they’d only bought 6 gingerbread slabs because, although they like the commercial gingerbread men / people I think is more correct these days. They don’t like these ones so much, as they are made with real ginger. I liked them though. I didn’t like the bench positioning though so I moved.

Oh hang on…who’s this?

This is amber. Amber is a sheep or is a bit confused as to what she is, probably…

There are two ways out of Grasmere. I took the wrong one, behind grassmere and Rydal water. The route is called ‘high top’ and although I was absolutely fine… the old girl sprang a spoke. That makes a noise I’ll tell you. I decided to let her recover and we pushed a little. On the top or ‘high top’ we were entertained by this….

No words

Downhill down to Ambleside was precarious…. but at least I didn’t need to pedal. I was worried, even with my brakes on full of I’d manage to stop at the bottom…

Luckily I didn’t need to, as I didn’t want to hang out in the lovely sounding Ambleside.

Question. Why would you come to the heart of the Lake District and queue outside ‘blacks’ and various other camping shops in the rain….

There were coffee shops, plenty of coffee shops including one I saw appropriately named… Ghandi’s…. I though nah, this must be a restaurant but no it was a coffee shop and, that’s fine. The great thing about democracy is we can call our cafes what we want.

As I’ve said I didn’t hang out too long in Ambleside but I hope the locals don’t let it turn into another man made tourist attraction and it loose its character, it’s people, it’s rich history….

The banks of lake Windermere is base tonight. I hope it didn’t rain for you today but suspect it did. Sorry for waffling…

Actually on lake Windermere

Over and Out

Happy Friday….for some.

I was sad to say goodbye green view bed and breakfast. Graham’s hospitality was second to none.

The green View B&B cyclists entrance

Getting packed up in the wind and rain is no fun and it’s bloody difficult too. One thing I’m learning very quickly is KIT is pretty key. By 10am I’d gone though one set of gloves – soaked, and my socks as well resembled a wet flannel. There was no shelter at all from the wind or the driving rain. Yes, I was bang right next to the sea but couldn’t see the 8m across the sea to Scotland due to the mist / fog / to be honest I wasn’t looking too hard…..

Rain, wind, miserable
Bleak but a chance clearing

Then relief. No I hadn’t stopped. I had found a bus shelter. I’ve never been so glad to see a bus shelter…and I de-camped for 1/2 hour at least. I put a brew on. Oxo cube of course. You know I like them.

My bus shelter for an hour

It did ease, so I cracked on. Maryport on the coast would be my last chance to stock up before turning left towards cockermouth and the lakes. I had been told if I was to go past Whitehaven to StBees I’d be able to see across to the Isle of Mann but I wasn’t going there so didn’t….go there.

Anyway I could see Maryport in the distance and then this…. I had amd was still being tested enough I thought…I’ll risk the shank of a 28 handicapper.

I wasn’t sure I could take any more….
Clearly this 28 handicapper has had enough…

I can handle any hill now because I’ve been forced to practice / I’ve not been able to go around them. The rain is fine – PLUG – because I have my Proviz clothing…..😉

The rain is bearable unless it’s so hard it actually hurts your face. Mind you my rugby mates would say I was a winger…never a tough forward….The wind is manageable too but…golf balls…and then drains.

I’m cycling uphill and the drains in the road were projectile vomiting out the mornings rain. That’s not fair. The vomiting makes me think of my boys. Ahh I miss them. By the way the vomiting was not when they were babies….

Talking about alcoholics, Maryport is a funny old place.

I assume Maryport was once a beautiful Victorian seaside town with promenade, ice creams and happiness. Today it’s not. Sadly another town that’s fallen to cheep flights, all day fry-ups and Irish bars so easily available and affordable on the continent.

Right. Left. To the Lakes

As I was so delayed I can’t say I picked up any knowledge on cockermouth but believe it was the birthplace of Wordsworth. I wonder what he’d think of my punctuation and spelling (only joking Toby). I did for a minute think an old friend had come to see me when I saw an old bike for sale….😉 oh I am naughty to reminisce…

An old friend

The scenery was beautiful and then… the sun came out.

Err is that sunshine

Ahhh Breath….

No words
Still no words

So only about 30 miles today but wether played a big factor. Tomorrow it looks dreadful all day. 100 %. Rain

The aim is to get past Windermere (c.25m)

Oh nearly forgot. This is Jess

Jess is getting on a bit but loves pork.

Jess
Ohh I love a bit of pork
Supper with some chicks… I’ve still got it…

Trust you are all well? Stay safe and sound miss you all. Even if we’ve never met.

Over and Out

Fighting, Disentry and Meg

I am meant to be camping but….b&b’s are so much nicer….The country hotel in the middle of the city, in Carlisle resembled and old Victorian faulty towers. I thought I was getting fit but struggled up the 72 threadbare stairs to my room.

Well what was I expecting for £30. I was…expecting it to have hoovered. There was enough hair under the desk to make a wig but there was a bath. I love a bath,

and it had the unusual condiments including some shampoo that came out of its little bottle quicker than water would. I always think a sign of a good shampoo is it density. I left the shampoo alone. There was a also a biscuit. In fact it wasn’t a biscuit, it was a Biscoff. I like a good biscuit. Sadly there wasn’t much to this Biscoff. I wonder if a Bisc Off is the manufacturers way of saying if you want a biscuit you have to pay for it. So F-Off and enjoy this mini Bisc Off. God my mind….

All that said I slept well. Sleep is important isn’t it. I am heading out along the Solway coast to Silloth tonight.

I arrived at Burgh by sands which looked nice. I was a sign for Edward I monument but decided to cycle on. Probably just another stone monument with a plaque….

BRAKE

Next to the pub was an impressive statue of Edward I and it was there I met Meg…

Meg
Meg is a lunatic
Meg doesn’t see the point of using her 4 legs, two are fine

Megs owner studied history and, as you might have guesses knew a bit about his local village. Well put it this was I had to backtrack….

First Edward’s memorial.

On the marshes I decided to have a hot oxo cube – I love them. I met Janet and Jon from Northhumberland, the other end of Hadrian’s wall. Jan and Jon enjoy birdwatching. Did you know that 90% of Barnacle geese can be found on the solway. During the summer they holiday in Spitzburgen or Svalbard and, all head to the solway for winter. Told you you wouldn’t know that.

Jan and Jon also told me Edward I died of Dysentery. That’s not fair is it. Anyway time to go so I said ‘laters’ to Edward and then he got his own back…. my foot was consumed by the muddy marshes, but dropped my nice clean white helmet and I needed a poo…. hopefully I won’t die of any of these.

Back to church. Here the local villagers used to hide from the Romans back in the day. I gather the church is well worth a visit but it was closed today.

I was way behind now, so cracked on as they say. I was going round the swatch way and solway firth peninsula. Apart from bird watchers there was nothing. It was low tide and beautifully tranquil.

About he furthest point from anywhere the rain came down and it didn’t stop for the rest of the day… I was planning to camp tonight but I know the ground would be so wet and muddy because it’s flat around here I was on the phone immediately.

There are lots of B & B’s in Silloth but I’m so glad I chose the small but perfect green view guest house. Graham is front of house and his patter is an amazing chef.

Green view is more than happy to take us wet cyclists and Graham has some good knowledge about the local area, though he admits he can’t control the weather. Mind you cycling in Cumbria in October I think it’s clear what the weather will hold….They have some bike racks and the porridge is amazing.

Right got to go. Heading to Windermere today.

Have a great day

Having faith in our thoughts and no more chat about Florentines or flapjacks….

Good evening or Good morning. I hope you are all well.

Firstly and most importantly thank you Josie, for your extensive research that from what I gather wouldn’t look out of place at Christ’s College Cambridge. In fact… is that you? Top row. Right. 4th along?

Christ’s College Cambridge and Josie (not) well I don’t think so…

Anyway, according to Josie, Florentines are the dainty sister of the flapjack. The names do give that away. Let’s be honest, you won’t find the dainty, Oatless (which is the key ingredient difference) florentine for sale in a road side cafe in Barnsley. Just as you won’t find the hearty, Oat filled brick of a brother flapjack, whilst perusing the afternoon tea menu at the Savoy off Piccadilly, London.

The savoy
Barnsley truck lay-by

You may be disappointed but I am going to keep the debate open, as my best friend…makes flapjacks with cornflakes. They are dammed good too. She also makes brownies…

So 2 days holiday turned into 3 and today has been hard. No hills, No rain, No punctures. Well maybe….but let’s not get too deep. This is meant to be a message (blog) of positivity and opportunity not me harping on about how hard my life was and how I miss many people. A lot. Seeing my pal and our 3 teenage boys was brilliant.

So positivity….

Meet Ted. Ted is a hoover.

A Hoover

Ted has got a few tricks too. He’s very good at walking up and down the train with his lead in his mouth. He can sit, on the 3rd time of asking, and he can do 1/2 a circle around his boss. I think it was meant to be a full circle but his snout ran into something far more interesting… sniffers do that don’t they.

Third time of asking, I obeyed and sat.

Teds boss, Hannah has a story too. Right breathe James.

Hannah lost her husband to pancreatic cancer at just 23 years old….

I didn’t know Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all cancers. 25 people every day sadly loose to pancreatic cancer. 1 in 4 people won’t survive a month. 3 in 4 won’t survive for a year. ALL, patients I have absolutely no doubt are generous, courageous and have the dignity and humility that I can only aspire to have.

I’ll put Hannah’s story up in a separate link.

I want to raise awareness for (dare I say) ‘everyday mental health issues’. It’s dedicated ambassadors like Hannah, who do the real work and target the charities that invest via our generosity, in the never ending research that keeps us alive. When I send the story I’ll also include a link to a donation page for those interested.

So it’s 6.30pm. Well It was 6.30 but now it’s 8.03pm. In fact now it’s actually 9.10pm and I’m on the last leg of today’s journey. Well I was at 6.03. Are you still with me? I am Travelling at 50mph into Carlisle to pick up my beloved bike and I pray tent, which I hope hasn’t gone for a walk. This journey today from my family house in Nottinghamshire will have taken 6 hours door to door by train. I haven’t even looked out of the window once. What have I missed?

The old girl is still there. Though rather naked

Well thanks to the kind village wikipeople, cake connoisseurs and adorable animals that have made my journey so far (and there is still a long way to go) so interesting and enjoyable. We know exactly what we would have missed if we forgot to look up….Maybe you are thinking about a journey soon too?

Do you remember this plaque?

It was on a beautiful bench, down a country Lane, opposite a hedge. I didn’t mention it at the time but if you look carefully (next photo) you’ll see a rolled up piece of paper tucked behind it. I felt compelled to write a message thanking the Hodgesons for sharing this special place with these special words.

Note safely tucked away. I assumed never to been read….
My wee note and offering to the spirits

Because the bench was installed I guess about 10 years ago I didn’t expect my note to ever be read. Well would you believe it….Two days later I received this….

Fate…

I love the word sightlist. Noel if you don’t mind I’ll call myself a sightlist too.

A Sightlist having a bad day. It didn’t last. Everyday can be a good day….

You can see noels work (poetry) via the link below. I like the sound of this book Noel.

Our resident poet and new follower. I wonder if Noel will write a poem about that dreadful sightlist who’s writing all this drivel 😂😉

It’s wonderful that the circle of this chance passing down a sleepy country road, a photo, this plaque, many thoughts, a note written on the back of a receipt, a bit of flapjack sharing (sorry josie, but I did nearly pop it back in my gob thinking ‘what I am I doing leaving a bit of flapjack for the spirits’ and a poorly punctuated and probably spelt blog leads to this moment… For me it demonstrates that we should have faith in our thoughts. They may well come true.

I read an article in Monday night about smiling and is powerful meditation. I know it’s been a long day for you but come on…

SMILE

(Yes I know I need a better pen)

Speak to you all tomorrow. stay safe and why not call an old friend tonight for bit of banter

Week 2 done – Fortresses, florentines, fishing and seeing Fred washing up….

Good evening. Yes I know I’m a day behind, apologies to those who missed the read during their morning ablutions. I’m not being lazy. Well I sort of am. I’ll explain further later….

Right. What day is it today…Back to Sunday morning…and yes, more castles…

Yes, another castle

In fact we need to go back to Saturday…where I had a pub dinner before returning to my tent. Pie, mash and beans (baked of course). I was tucked away in the corner of a real working men’s pub in Longtown, near Carlisle and the Venice of the North West; romantic Greta Green. I checked up and for £297.50 you can seal the knot with no questions asked. Could be handy and the same price as a family of five eating out at that great but very expensive burger joint – 5 guys. That said 5 guys do make the most amazing milkshakes. You should try them. Vanilla without question for me.

Now where was I. Ah yes in the pub. I felt like I was like an umpire observing the evenings conversation that went back and forth and, I was not un-entertained.

Bit of sport before the real sport happens in the pub


There were maybe 8 newly retired-ish aged chaps sat round in a huge (socially compliant) semi circle. Out of the 8 there was definitely the joker, the chatterbox. He had his son in law I think, with him who wanted to contribute but was constantly talked down, in a loving way. No anxt here.

There was the big lad. From the back he looked like a strong old manual worker. From the front his belly was…I do not exaggerate. Down to his knees. One of his pals jovially commented at one point ‘that’s the ex navy experience Paul isn’t it” to the amusement of everyone else. Clearly Paul was a story teller.


Of course. There was the drunk. When he finally got up for a pee. The chap next to him aired his views… “I don’t know why he bothers coming, even when he’s not drunk he’s not interesting”.

There was the landlords daughter behind the bar who had the pints pulled before any of her punters’ glasses got down to it’s last sup. I reckon they all had their daily limit be it 2,3,4 etc and they stuck to it. Well nearly all of them. The drunk had still not returned…


What characters. No doubt all hard workers and with limited pensions etc but there was no complaining. Except… when it came down to the local builder, Jed. No one, had a good word to say about Jed, his ‘chin rubbing‘ quote process, half finished jobs and his timekeeping in general. They all had agreed Jed was to be avoided at all costs. Then one chap said to his audience “so who’s got a job on with Jed at the moment”…they ALL put their hands up. The pub erupted.

Today morning marks 2 weeks on the road and as I eluded to I’m taking a couple of days off. WHAT. IS THAT ALLOWED…. Yes it is, luckily I make up the rules….

It’s half term and I’d love to see my boys (all teenagers at boarding school. I don’t think I’ll make it back to see them if I head into Wales but more Importantly. I stink


But before I sign out for a few days we need to keep the conversation going about Rocky Road, Flapjacks etc. This all started with Josie’s (not Jessie) Jim’s and Juno’s Barnsley flapjack. See below

Flap Jack?

No doubt to me this is a flapjack. Or is it?

Josie sent me a message
“So glad you enjoyed the flapjack and it lives on in memory. I took some for a friend yesterday on a walk up Win Hill near Ladybower and she described it as a giant florentine!!! Pretty accurate, I think. And there is nothing wrong with a giant florentine”


Well. I had to look it up. A florentine. I’d heard of a florentine but no idea what it looked like. Annoyingly it is indeed an accurate description of Josie (or Jessie’s) flapjack. So I’m confused now. We can’t have different names for the same ‘tasty chocolate snack’ in different places. Can we?

Florentine….


So a measly 10miles done today but 255miles this week and some amazing views taken in. Some great people that I’ve met. Despot all the gloom and worry in the world today it’s refreshing to see there are lots of people just getting on with it. All willing to talk or listen!

I’ve pushed myself both mentally and physically and if I look back…. I’ve come a long way.

Longtown
Proper tourers
Another castle

Over the next few days I’ll work on my route in weekly chunks as I know some of you are keen to join me and I’d love to see you.


Everyone’s got a bike, or access to one. Go on get on it. After work, at the weekend or take a day off – wherever you are in the world this is great therapy.


Stay well all of you and stay safe. If anyone is near Carlisle perhaps pop into the station for me and check my bikes still there 😉

I’ll write again on Wednesday. Over and Out