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Now retired but busy still living..

Thursday 26 June 2008

The Cotswolds-day six /postscript.

Well I managed to pack up the tent without it raining. Everything was packed into the car and not a drop of rain in sight. We enjoyed the Cotswolds and I even think that Anne quite enjoyed the camping. We had some heavy rain and we had some very strong winds but we also had some very sunny weather during our stay. On the photographic side I got some good material for my 'Dark and Foreboding' project, so all in all the trip could be deemed a success.
Will Anne go on another camping trip? Well, only time will tell but I feel that that I stand a good chance of a repeat trip along similar lines to this one next year.

Wednesday 25 June 2008

The Cotswolds- day five.

The wind and some light rain returned last night and it continued until this morning. However I think that I must be making some headway on the Anne front because she said ' it's quite cosy in here' referring to the tent. Today was spent looking at honey coloured stone villages and watching tourists pour out of coaches pointing their cameras at anything. I have to say that the Japanese seen to be the worst for this followed by the Americans. The Purple Traveller takes his photographs in a much more discreet way as was the case when todays picture was captured. This is a view at Hailes Abbey near Winchcombe

Tuesday 24 June 2008

The Cotswolds day four.

A day trip to Oxford by train was todays great adventure. What a great place this is for the cyclist. Bikes everywhere- here the bike is king- this is the way all towns will be in the not too distant future. This is a real bike spotters heaven, i must have seen almost every make and type of bike that there is. Now i realise that not everyone is a bike spotter so for you Train spotters out there of which I know a few follow this Blog on a regular basis I have posted a photo of a GWR bench. Nice!

Monday 23 June 2008

The Cotswolds-days two and three.

I didnt post my Blog yesterday because I was to scared to let go of the tent. The wind was so strong that a lesser tent would have blown away. However my Relum Nissiros tent stood up to the gales rather well earning me points with Anne. This tent has only been used four times in the ten years that I have owned it as was proved by the time it took me to erect it. The first night as well as gales we had torrential rain. Not a drop entered the tent! More points for me. Today another camper came over to ask about the tent remarking what a good solid looking tent it was. All of this does wonders for me as Anne is starting to think that I know what I am doing! Anyway on the photographic side I am getting some really good material lots of stone heads and dark looking doorways. I even think that Anne is starting to enjoy this camping lark!

Saturday 21 June 2008

Cotswolds day one

Well we got here and no rain- well not until this evening. The only comment ANNE made was 'where is the on suite'? Oh dear the rain is coming down quite heavy now i could be in trouble here!

Friday 20 June 2008

A Cotswolds Trip.

Tomorrow morning I am heading to the Cotswolds for a six day camping trip. Nothing unusual in me going on a camping trip. What is unusual about this trip is the fact that the 'long suffering Anne' is coming with me. Yes she has said that she will be staying in a tent with me. The last time we went camping together was about five years ago. On that trip it rained when we put the tent up and also when we took the tent down. After that trip Anne said 'never again' !!
Well I have managed to talk her into trying it once more. I have promised her first class weather and a first class camping and caravan club site to pitch on. Earlier today I saw the weather forecast for this weekend and it seems that I could have a PROBLEM. The forecast for the next few days does not look good. We will be staying in the biggest tent that I own. By my standards camping in a tent this size is almost NOT camping. It feels almost like luxury-almost five star comfort. Anne does not see it like that. She sees cold and damp mornings- insects- draughts-noisy campers etc etc........I will keep you posted as to how we get on. If we get on!
The trip does have a purpose- I am hoping to get some photographs for a project I am working on with the working title of 'Dark Foreboding'. Actually that's the feeling I have about this trip at the moment!!

Wednesday 18 June 2008


Well I have finally done it. After a lot of thought I have invested in a Brooks Saddle for my folding hybrid cycle. When I bought the bike it came with a unisex velo saddle.After the first few miles it became obvious that my saddle and I were going to have to part company. At any distance greater than a trip to the local shops the sit bones on my posterior ached like crazy. That saddle had to go, so off I went to the local cycle shop for something more comfortable. The saddle I purchased was a sports style which was narrower than the original saddle supplied and this seemed to do the trick- well I thought it did. It was certainly kinder to my sit bones (men need a narrower saddle than the girls) and on journeys up to about 50 miles it was fine. Where I found a problem though was on journeys exceeding this mileage. The problem seemed to be caused by the 'squidgy' material most modern saddles are made with. It looks comfortable but on longer distances the 'squidgy' material flattens out and stops giving your bottom full support.
Now don't misunderstand me, most of my journeys are under 50 miles and it is only now and again when touring that I might exceed this distance. However with my LEJOG coming up in September with a proposed daily distance of 100 miles I needed to do something now in order to address the problem. Years ago I had a Brooks saddle on a bike that I used for touring from one Youth Hostel to another. I was about 14 years old at the time but I always remember that my old saddle was so comfortable. Now a Brooks saddle doesn't 'look' comfortable. The model I have chosen is a Brooks Team Professional and it sports huge copper rivets that look as if they alone could do you serious and permanent damage. The saddle also needs breaking in (a bit like leather walking boots do.). But I must say that even though my new saddle is not broken in yet and won't be for many miles and in spite of it being rock hard it is surprisingly comfortable. I am also led to believe that the level of comfort improves over time and mileage. So it is a bit like pedaling towards a 'posterior comfort holy grail'. The further you pedal the better it becomes.
Brooks have a really interesting website with lots of information on the history of the company and products, well worth a look on http://www.brooksengland.com/
Brooks list my saddle at a retail price of £86.59 but I managed to obtain one from http://www.sjscycles.com/ for £65.00. Apparently Brooks saddles are in short supply at the moment (wiggle are quoting mid September delivery) so if you want a specific model you might have to search around a bit. I will keep you all posted as to the ongoing comfort or otherwise of my new purchase and no doubt some reference to saddles will be made during our LEJOG in Sepember.

Saturday 14 June 2008

Cycling- jumping red lights.

Those of you that read my report back on the 26th May headed Cycling by Train will have seen my comments concerning the fact that so many cyclists these days seem to feel that they are above the law. I commented on those cyclists that jump red lights and ride on the pavement and generally ignore the rules of the road and the safety of other road users.
Well now you can sign up to an online petition declaring that you will 'Stop at Red'.
If you are interested in this go to http://www.stopatred.org/

Thursday 12 June 2008

FreeLoader and Supercharger - Test Report.

Since returning from the Dorset Round I have been asked by a number of people how I got on testing the FreeLoader.
I first started using the FreeLoader when I did my Backpack along the Pilgrims Way back in April of this year. On that trip I was using the basic FreeLoader which consists of a central hub (battery unit) and two small solar panels that clip into the sides of the main unit. I found that the basic unit needed to have constant bright sunshine in order to deliver enough power to keep my mobile phone fully charged on a day by day basis. Now on that trip I only had two days of bright sunshine, the rest of the time the weather was dry but cloudy. The unit in these conditions was failing to top up my mobile phone to a point where I felt comfortable to use it without any concerns regarding power. Now I was not just using the phone as a PHONE. I was using the RADIO as my entertainment in the evenings, as I was also doing with the MP3 PLAYER. During the day I was using the CAMERA for both stills and video clips. I was also using the phone to access the INTERNET and check my emails etc. I wanted to be able to use the phone for all these things and not be concerned over power drain.
One other point that I was not happy about,was the fact that the unit in its basic form is not waterproof. The instructions tell you - do not allow it to get wet as this may permanently damage it's electronics - the supercharger seems to solve all these problems.
The Supercharger is a solar panel that is able to charge the Freeloader hub in half of the time of the standard mini panels supplied with the hub. It comes in a waterproof case (available in green or pink) which has clips and a velcro strap to enable you to attach it to your rucksack (see my photo on Dorset Round preview posting). With the supercharger on the outside of your pack you can place the hub inside your pack where it can be kept dry. I placed my hub inside a special freeloader case which is supplied as an accessory item and slipped the case into a side pocket on my rucksack. The hub and the supercharger are connected by a cable that is supplied. Whilst charging,the hub displays a red or green LED dependent on the level of charge.
Used like this on the Dorset Round the unit was generating enough power to top up my phone to 100% each day. It could have done this twice a day as I was not able to use all the power that was being generated. The unit is able to fully charge in about 4hrs on a sunny day and twice this time on a cloudy/dull day. This will produce more than enough power to keep my phone going no matter how many functions I use or how often I use it on a typical backpack. The basic hub unit is supplied with various adapters and cables to match a variety of modern phones etc.
I was very pleased with how this setup performed, enabling me to keep sending posts to my blog as well as using all the other fuctions I required. On a long trip such as the Southern Upland Way the FreeLoader and Supercharger combined would be a real boon.
Now to all those people out there that are shouting 'but your into ulralight what about the weight?' let me point out to you that these items are very light, about 200grms all in. The weight of this can be saved by not having to carry separate Phone- Radio-Camera-MP3player etc. and the spare batteries that would be required.
For those of you that are interested I am using a Sony Ericsson K770i mobile phone.
And the cost of the Freeloader etc ?
Well the basic FreeLoader costs £29.99. The Supercharger costs £19.99 and the Freeloader case costs £7.99. All of this can be purchased as a set for £49.99 saving you the cost of the FreeLoader case and this is the way that I would purchase the kit ,as you really do need to have all these items if you intend to use it for backpacking.
Overall I think that this is a really great bit of kit and although it may not save you money it can certainly save you a lot of hassle.
Further information can be obtained from http://www.solartechnology.co.uk/

Monday 9 June 2008

The Dorset round-day 5

I am now writing this posting from home. I returned from the Dorset Round about teatime.

This morning Mike said that he would stay on for a day or two longer as he wanted to visit the church at Melbury Bubb. Something to do with a very ancient font that was worth the visit.

Alan and I set off from Giants Head site at about 0930. We headed down into Cerne Abbas and then out along the Cerne Valley Trail. The Cerne Valley is always worth at least one visit each year. The smell of the wild flowers,the sound of the birds and the views of the little river,these things all make for a cracking walk and today was no exception. When we got to Dorchester Alan went straight to a sandwich shop whilst I went straight to the pub for a couple of pints of well deserved shandy. So there you have it, another Dorset Round done and dusted. We started out with two of us ,grew to five and finished up back with just the two of us again. Typical Backpackers Club. For those of you who thought about coming but for whatever reason did not, all I can say is you missed a good five days backpacking. Maybe we will see you next year.

And the two pictures for today are the scene at giants head yesterday evening and an old water wheel seen on the Cerne Valley Trail.

Sunday 8 June 2008

The Dorset round.day 4.

Phew! What a hot day, probably too hot for walking but we had 15 miles to do so we had to just get on with it. Although hot the days walking was really enjoyable. We were walking through some great countryside with some good views such as the one shown in todays photo which is of Milton Abbey School near Milton Abbas. We stopped for a drink at a pub at midday and then had a late lunch at 1500 hours close to the Dorsetshire gap. When we got to Ball hill Graham and i went on ahead as he was heading back to Dorchester to catch a train home so time was critical. We walked on together as far as the black barn where Graham turned towards the south and i carried on westwards to the Giants head campsite. I arrived at 1730 hours and the others arrived about an hour later. After pitching the tents it was a hot shower followed by a good meal. Evening was spent with camp chat. A really good day!!

The Dorset round-day 3

The weather continues to be dry hot and sunny. We broke camp at about 1000hrs and after only two hours we could be found in the corner of a field having an early lunch. Two hours more walking and we were now sitting outside the pub in Milton Abbas with a drink in our hands.
We had been told that there was a tea shop in the village, but it has now ceased trading so it had to be the pub-life is hard!
After the pub we continued north to the village of Winterborne Stickland where we knew that there was a shop where we could get ice creams and some additional supplies. Unfortunately when we arrived the shop was shut. Now this is not a problem if you have just walked around the corner but it is a heavy mental blow when you have been walking across the countryside on a very hot day. From there we carried on up a very steep hill out of the village and another two miles saw us arriving at the Inside Park camping site about a mile out of Blandford.
Luckily the camp site had a well stocked shop including bottled beer so we were able to set ourselves up for a good evening in camp. Todays picture shows the scene in camp early this morning.

Friday 6 June 2008

Dorset round. Day 2

Today has been a great walking day- sun and a cooling breeze. After only two miles of walking we were to be found in one of Dorsets tea rooms where we stayed for over an hour. We only left when the desire for another helping of Dorset apple cake and cream was becoming a real threat to my waistline. As we walked along a sandy track we came across a baby female adder warming herself in the sun. She slid away into the undergrowth as we watched. I was not quick enough to get a photo of her but i was able to get a picture of the local thatcher on a cottage roof in one of the villages we passed through and that is todays picture. We are now camping at Bere Regis and our number has now grown to five. We have been joined by Graham and John from the Dorset group and Mike from London.

Thursday 5 June 2008

Dorset round - day 1

I need not have been concerned about too many members turning up. When i arrived at Dorchester south rail station just one solitary member was waiting . Where were the others who said they would attend? Frantic phone calls -no answers-waited over 30 mins still no one arrived so Alan and i set off. Great day good weather and we arrived at Moreton C AND C site at 1700. A very pleasant evening spent around the site. During the day we had lunch on a bench overlooking the fields just on the edge of a woods. I have included a picture of this bench because it reflects this walk so far-no members to be seen!

The Dorset Round

Tomorrow I am off on the annual Dorset Round backpacking trip. For those of you who don't know, this is a five day backpacking event around the Dorset countryside. It is taken at a laid back pace with plenty of time to take pictures and enjoy the scenery. As usual very few people have let me know if they are going to attend. On past Dorset Rounds we have had about six members turn up for the whole five days with one or two members joining in over the weekend. If we have more than this attend this year then we will have a problem !
On these short local trips I try to experiment with new bits of kit. On this trip I am testing a Free Loader and a Free Loader Supercharger. This is a mini solar power panel and hub. I am using it to power my mobile phone-camera-radio and sat nav. The supercharger is larger than the panels which are supplied with the hub as standard and it is also waterproof which the standard panels are not. It comes with various clips and loops to enable you to attach it to your rucksack and the entire outfit weighs very little so it will not affect your ultralight status. The Free Loader has been supplied to me by Solar Technology International who are based in Cheltenham.
My plan is to send postings to my blog over the next five days from my mobile phone courtesy of the Free Loader.
The weather during previous Dorset Round events has always been very good so I am hoping for a repeat of that good weather this year.

Six weeks off.

 The visit to see the Consultant went quite well really ...   My ' numbers' have started to creep up again so I am going to be given...