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Now retired but busy still living..

Tuesday 26 April 2011


 In one of my recent posts there was a photo which include the little yellow ferry boat that is the Brownsea Island Ferry. I mentioned then that I would tell you a little more about it in a later post...this is that post..!!

Brownsea Island is the largest of the islands in Poole Harbour here in the wonderful county of Dorset.There are  eight islands in total in the harbour area. The island is currently owned by the National Trust.
A lot of the island is open to the public and includes areas of woodland and heath. It has a wide variety of wildlife, together with cliff top views across the harbour and the Purbecks where so many of my regular cycling routes are situated.
The island is well known as the home of the first camp of the Boy Scout movement in 1907.
The first records of people living on the island occurred  in the 9th century. At this time a small chapel and hermitage were built by monks from Cerne Abbey near Dorchester.

In 1547 the island was fortified as part of a deterrent to invasion forces from Europe. The fortifications consisted of a blockhouse which later became known as Brownsea Castle.
In the photo above you can just see the 'castle' on the island in the centre top of the shot.

Over the years the island has had various owners. In 1576 Queen Elizabeth 1 gave the island as a gift to one of her court favourites (rumoured lover) Sir Christopher Hatton.
During the English Civil War the town of Poole was on the side of the Parliamentarians and they garrisoned Brownsea Island.
The island is 1.5 miles long and 0.75 mile wide and is made up of 500 acres of woodland (pine & oak) heathland and saltmarsh.
Most of the buildings are situated close to the small landing stage. The northern section of the island is a nature reserve and is managed by the Dorset Wildlife Trust and is an important habitat for birds..in this part of the island there is only limited public access.

If you are ever in my home area you must mark Brownsea Island on your list of good places to visit .
I am now off for a short visit to the county of Devon...but when I return it will be back to some serious cycling as I have the annual 'Dorset Bike Ride Event' looming on the horizon and then it will be some final preparations before our 'Tour of Brittany. As normal you will be able to read about it HERE...!!

Thursday 21 April 2011


 For over a week we have been enjoying great weather. Temperatures have been around the 25c mark. For this time of year that is about 10c higher than normal. Result.....out on the bike every day. I am even starting to get the 'cyclists tan'.
Anyway, yesterday I had JD out riding with me. Mind you that was after he had phoned me first thing to tell me that he wouldn't be able to meet up after all.
He told me that he had put his bike on the car rack..loaded up with his drinks etc and then couldn't find his house and car keys. Apparently he had been searching for them for almost an hour. I told him that I would set off on my bike to the ferry and would wait for an extra half an hour there. On my ride to the ferry my mobile rings and it's JD again..."I've found them mate..I am on my way..see you there."
Fifteen minutes after getting to the ferry JD turns up on his Secteur Comp and dressed in Revolution colours.

Our plan was a fifty mile loop-Ferry- Corfe - Lulworth Cove - Wool - Corfe and Ferry again. We were going to complete all the usual major hills including Creech Hill and would also be including the route from the top of Creech to East Lulworth.
This route is only rarely open as it crosses Army firing ranges. The great thing about it is that it includes a fast 3 mile descent. At Bank holiday times they open the normally closed road to all traffic. Not that there is much traffic that uses the road...mostly it is tourist traffic that goes to the viewpoint for great views over Worbarrow Bay in one direction and Grange Heath to the North.

We had a great descent which was helped by not meeting any traffic at all.  About half way down  it does have a right hand bend followed by a left and the road narrows at that point as well so you have to have your wits about you. As I said it was a great descent and we were touching 42.2mph at the steepest section.  Not as fast as our top descent speed of 51 mph but still a great buzz..!! About four miles further on from the bottom we arrived at the Lulworth Cove coffee shop. JD turns to me and says "Do you fancy a piddle?"
 What he was referring to of course was the Piddle Beer that was on sale....tongue in cheek of course because we don't 'drink and ride'. But for a moment I did wonder what he was on about.
The Piddle brewery is based at Piddlehinton here in Dorset and is listed in the real ale handbook.....but as I've said we didn't indulge in a piddle...!

Lulworth Cove is a popular venue for holidaymakers based as it is on the Jurassic Coast. People come here to gaze at the pretty cove itself and then they walk up and over the hill and along the coast for about a mile to see Durdle Door. This is a natural limestone arch on the coast and it is very picturesque and well worth a visit although the crowds of visitors do rather spoil the experience in my opinion.
Perhaps I will post some pictures of this at some point but JD and I had no intention of walking up and over the hill in cycling shoes on our visit.

Over this coming Easter weekend and the following week the whole of this area will be heaving with 'Grockles' - this is the Southwest dialect term for tourists. The country lanes will be jammed with cars and I for one will be avoiding the tourist traps like the plague.
What we did have was two coffees and a piece of raspberry flapjack each. John refilled his water bottle and then we headed out towards Wool.
Unfortunately we had a two mile climb out of Lulworth Cove but the pay off for that was a bit of downhill into Wool.
We had a good run back although JD was dreading the section from Corfe back to Studland and the ferry as the firsr four miles of this is all up hill.
The gradients vary between 5%  to 17%. JD was starting to feel a bit drained by now but in his typical way he just kept on winching himself up and over the hills.
I got back to the ferry first  and about twelve minutes later JD arrived. He was tired but satisfied with his performance as this is the first 'proper' ride he has done with me this year.
By 'proper' I mean dealing with some real gradients....anyone can manage minor hills up to about 7% or 8% but hills 14% to 20% plus with no run at them and one after the other really do sap your energy levels. Still we have to train on them because when we do the UK2ROCK2UK ride in September we can expect some major climbs....after all Spain is the most mountainous country in Europe.
You can see in this last photo how good the weather has been recently...not a cloud in the sky. Apparently it is set to stay like this for the entire Easter holiday.....I am going to enjoy it...I hope you have a good Easter as well.

Saturday 16 April 2011


This week the postman delivered a few more bike goodies.....this time they were for my touring bike.
For some time now I have been considering fitting some front racks on the bike. This was not so that I could carry extra gear- but more a case of wanting to spread any load between both the front and the rear wheels.

I tend to travel very light...most of the ultra light gear that I use when backpacking is suitable for cyclepacking/touring. Things like tent - sleeping bag - stove etc etc just swap between the two disciplines. Everybody I speak to about cycle touring suggests that where possible it is better to spread the load if you can, so for the past few weeks I have been researching front racks and panniers.

My rear panniers are made by Altura and combined are 56L capacity. My backpacking rucksack is about the same capacity and everything fits in that quite easily, so I only wanted small panniers for the front and after trawling the I-net I decided upon the Ortlieb Front Rollers.
 One consideration that I had to allow for was that I needed the panniers to sit quite low on the rack. This was so that they would not interfere with the mini turbine that I am currently testing...
The Ortlieb Front Rollers, because of their roll top design, fit the bill perfectly.
The racks I chose were the Blackburn Custom Low Riders and match the Front Rollers really well.

Mike & Chris have the same set up on their Ridgebacks and I think that seeing theirs fitted and in use helped make my mind up.
You can see the clearance for the mini turbine in the photo above....also if you look closely you will see that the turbine is spinning and that is before the bike has even left the garage.....just the wind only causing this and no forward movement.
Fitting the racks was a bit of a fiddle but was easy enough....
I chose black for both the panniers and the racks. The rear rack is black so it seemed sensible to match that and having the panniers in black seemed the best colour choice as the Altura panniers at the rear are black and grey.

These front rollers have a combined capacity of 25L. I now have a total capacity of 81L so I have plenty of space for all sorts of packing permutations.. With this extra load space- packing will be easy. I won't have to worry too much about packing things in tightly because of restricted space...not that it was ever a problem with just the two rear panniers....I now have more space than I will know what to do with.......
As well as the racks and panniers...The postman also delivered a combined rear light and reflector.
Peter Calcutt from the Backpackers Club had bought one of these for his Tourer and I saw it on our recent weekend trip. This unit is fitted to the rear rack so that even when you have a full load it will not be obscured.

The light is a RSP Racklight and once fitted you don't have to worry too much about leaving it on the bike when you lock the bike up for those vitally important coffee shop stops....!  It throws out a huge amount of light and only cost £12.50......So a really good buy.

I have been getting out on my bike every day this week and two mini landmarks have been passed for 2011.

First- this week I have achieved my highest mileage in a week so far this year...a total of 273 miles and this in turn has led to me passing the next landmark - the 2000 mile total for this year.
I would have hit this total over a month ago if it hadn't been for me having to stop cycling for four weeks due to medical reasons.

I still have a fair way to go though, as when JD and I are riding the UK2ROCK2UK we will need to be putting in a weekly total of about 700 miles for 4 weeks....mind you that trip should do wonders for my overall years total..!!

Oh !  I have just noticed that a third landmark has been reached and also passed this week....that is the 100th regular listed follower to the site...!

Tuesday 12 April 2011


These past few days I have been getting out on the Felt. The last time that I rode this bike was way back in June 2010 just before I started the cancer treatment- so it was a bit of a milestone as I swung my leg over the bar...clipped in and set off.
This bike cost me a fair old wedge of cash but I must say that it was worth every single penny. This is a bike that flies..!! It flies up hills. It flies down hills and it flies along the level. I love this bike and the level of pleasure it gives as you ride it is total.
Every time that I use it I can guarantee that I will get into conversation with someone who is admiring it and wants to ask questions about it...
At Sandbanks (where I catch the Sandbanks ferry) it is supposed to be one of the most expensive property locations per sq ft in the world and judging by the number of Ferrari's- Lamborghini's and other exotic cars in the area I can  believe it. But people don't look twice at them. But a nice bike such as the Felt seems to attract attention - I suppose the Racing Zero wheels with the bright red anodized spokes helps to attract.
This bike has Dura ace components throughout and is top of the range. I thought very carefully before I purchased it but I am so glad that I did. I only ride it on 'Sundays and High days' and also when I enter events like sportives. Not riding it every day just means that I savour it all the more when I do.
 When I arrived at the ferry this morning this low loader truck was being unloaded by members of the ferry staff. It's load? Well it was delivering a new set of chains for the ferry. The ferry runs to and fro across the harbour entrance pulling itself across on chains. These chains wear out just like bike chains wear out. I must admit that for the past week the ferry has seemed to be getting very noisy. The ferry isn't quiet at the best of times but it had become almost unbearably noisy. The ferry crew told me that they intended to install the new chains overnight so next time I use the 'Bramblebush' (Studland) ferry I should have a much quieter trip across....!
By the way..the little yellow boat in this last picture is the Brownsea Island ferry. Brownsea Island is the largest island within the Poole harbour area- but I will tell you more about that in a later post.

Friday 8 April 2011


 Last weekend while I was away on the short cyclopacking trip I started to test out the Uniross HY Mini Wind Charger that I featured in a recent post.
I have mounted the turbine on the front fork of my touring bike. The clamp fitting it was supplied with fitted the standard sized fork without any problem.
One small difficulty that I did encounter was concerning the bolt fitting that attaches to the clamp itself... It was too big. I found that once screwed up tight on the clamp with the turbine in the best position, the plastic finger grip of the bolt fouled the spokes. Luckily amongst my various bits and pieces in my spares box I had a similar styled bolt that was just that bit shorter. Once fitted it gave maximum clearance for the spokes. That was the only problem that I had with the fitting of the unit.

The clamp itself is attached to a mount that the turbine slots into. The mount  has a small catch that locks the turbine in position and stops it jumping out of the mount when you travel over rough or bumpy roads. This seems to work quite well and at no time has the turbine become loose in the mount.
The turbine had a small charge in it before I set off on the trip...but not much...I would guess at about a third. I then cycled to Sixpenny Handley for the first nights camp...and then on the Saturday I cycled on the route I posted about last time to the second nights camp at Coombe Bissett.  The total distance cycled was about sixty miles. So on a proper touring trip this would be about equal to a days cycling. Over the sixty miles the little turbine was spinning it's heart out the whole time. When I cycle back from Gibraltar in September I will be cycling another forty miles a day on top of this...somewhere in the region of one hundred miles plus and it's that trip that I obtained the turbine for.

Anyway back to last weekends test ....how did it perform..? Well on the Saturday night I used it to charge up the Garmin. I had used the Garmin on a training run prior to the weekend trip, so the Garmin battery only had about a quarter charge left. The turbine actually recharged the Garmin FULLY. This is the first time that a charging device has managed to do this. When I have used my solar panel chargers in the past they manage to charge the Garmin but always fail to fully charge - usually managing to get it to about 92%.

So in a nutshell the initial test seems quite positive....However I wouldn't want anyone to rush out and buy one  just yet...The real test will be the ten day touring trip to Brittany in Northern France in about five weeks time. A proper multi day test like that will tell us all we need to know. If it passes that test I will give it the 'purple' seal of approval.......All will be reported here.........

Monday 4 April 2011


There is nothing better than a weekend away camping- walking - cycling or a mixture of all three. This past weekend I actually managed to get away for a weekend with friends from the 'Backpackers Club'. Following the cancellation of a weekend away two weeks ago caused by atrocious weather we found that we were a bit luckier with the weather this time. I cycled over to Chris & Mike's house at about midday on Friday from where the three of us cycled over to the campsite at Church Farm Sixpenny Handley.


I must admit that the route we set off on from Mike & Chris's did seem a long way round as after about half an hour of cycling we came out on a road just a few miles north of Wimborne. I would normally have just kept to the straightest route but Chris likes the scenic routes and I must admit it did make a change.... When we got to the campsite there were already  four tents pitched...members continued to arrive over the next few hours.




The plan was that on the Saturday there would be about three walking groups heading off to the next pitch at Coombe Bissett by various routes and I would lead a small cycling group out towards Shaftesbury and then down the Ebble Valley passing through the villages of Berwick St John - Alvediston - Ebbesbourne Wake - Fifield Bavant - Broad Chalke - Bishopstone & Stratford Tony. We had lunch in a village churchyard and the sun was shining... perfect.! 

We arrived at Coombe Bissett at about 1600hrs and some of the walkers were already there and pitched up....Camp food was the order of the day followed by lots of chat and banter and then an early night....


 The next morning we awoke to a very heavy mist almost a fog but by about 1000hrs the sun had burned most of the mist away.More chat over breakfast catching up with old friends and then people started to head off in their various directions. Mike Chris Peter & I finally set off by about 1100hrs. We headed out towards Rockbourne where there is a Roman Villa although there was no time to visit this time. Perhaps we will have a ride out there another time and have a proper visit. From there we headed up hill following an undulating route to Cranborne. Once there we went to the Cranborne Manor Garden Centre where there is a Tea/Coffee shop. This is a popular venue with cyclists on club runs so it had to be a 'must visit on our itinerary. Coffee and flapjacks and more banter. From here we all set off on the road back towards Wimborne. At the junction where Peter turned off to cycle back to his home at Blandford I passed the others, waved cheerio and carried on for the last 20 miles back to Bournemouth. In all it was a good weekend with about 23 club members attending and 19 tents counted at Coombe Bissett. There really is nothing better than a weekend spent cycling - camping & walking with friends........

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...