Josie Dew

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2 BIKES, 1 PUSHCHAIR AND A SUNNY AND RAINY AND MUDDY SOLENT WAY (Part 2) February half term 2018

Daisy and Jack waiting for the train to New Milton (near Milford on Sea) with a pile of bikes and pram to cram into a carriage.

In February half term I set off on another wet and windy cycling and pram-pushing mission with Jack and Daisy (Molly saw sense and opted to see her friends and stay the week with gran; Gary made sure he was working to save being dragged along for the ride). This was Part 2 of The Solent Way (a long-distance coastal walking route that stretches from Milford-on-Sea to Emsworth Harbour). On New Year’s Day our cycling and pram-pushing threesome had set out on Part 1 of the Solent Way. Jack and Daisy rode their trusty steeds while I pushed and pulled and dragged and carried our 4th-hand pram which acted as a glorified shopping trolley to carry food and clobber and sleeping bags and, when his legs got tired, Jack. We had four very fun and very wet days (Storm Eleanor struck us with torrential rain and flooding and impressively lively 70mph winds) but we managed to splash and aqua-plane our way 38 miles from Farlington Marshes to Southampton.

This time, after walking and cycling 89 miles we finished off The Solent Way (averaging 11 miles a day over 8 days) making it home just in time for school – which was a bit of a revelation as normally we don’t. The Solent Way is about 60 miles long if you don’t divert off course or 127 miles if you’re us and you do (we did a few sections twice, went sightseeing plus diverged off route to find food and lodgings).

Milford on Sea in the sun

Milford on Sea in the rain (Daisy with Jack’s bike and the Needles behind).

Heading along the shingle spit to Hurst Castle.

Arriving at Hurst Castle in high winds. (The castle is an artillery fort established by Henry VIII). The Isle of Wight (on the horizon) is a stone’s throw across The Solent from the castle.

From New Milton we cycled (Daisy) scooted (Jack) and pram-pushed (me) to Milford-on-Sea, Hurst Castle, Keyhaven, Lymington, Bucklers Hard, Beaulieu, Hythe, Southampton, Portsmouth, Hayling Island, Emsworth. We wound our way around and across a multitude of estuaries, harbours, shingle spits, marshes, beaches, creeks, lagoons, castles and forts all steeped in seafaring and maritime history.

My mini cycling brigade heading out along the Keyhaven to Lymington Nature Reserve.

Pausing for breath mid nature reserve.

Jack having a drama queen moment.

Normal service resumes.

Cycling heaven: in the over-populated south of England and not a car to be seen.

The Lymington to Yarmouth (Isle of Wight) ferry sandwiched between Daisy and a weighty pram full of kit and a sleeping Jack.

And then the rains came (near Norleywood, New Forest).

Mud. And…

… more mud.

The Keyhaven to Lymington nature reserve was a particularly amazing area of salt marsh and mudflats and a haven for busy birdlife. Everywhere were gulls, terns, egrets, cormorants, oystercatchers, ringed plover, redshank, Brent geese and little grebe, also known amusingly as dabchick (always a good thing to strive to be). We spotted some fine wildfowl too – teal, wigeon, shovelers and eiderdown ducks as Daisy calls the eider duck.

Another unusual species to hover over my head was not quite such a welcome sight. With no one around I had taken the opportunity to climb down the sea wall to have an al fresco pee. I ‘whipped down me trollies’ (as Jack calls it) and was in position on my haunches admiring the view (bird-teeming mud-flats, the wind-whipped Solent, the hump-backed mound of the Isle of Wight, the-out-on-a-limp-lump of wave-lapped Hurst Castle — 5-star hotel toilets are never this good) when blow me, what should appear above my head but a flashing blinking buzzing drone. My trollies were whipped up faster than you could say dainty dabchick and I clambered back up the seawall to see who was flying this airborne Peeping Tom. Ah ha. Up ahoy, further along the seawall, were two figures of high-viz-coated men. As we approached I saw one of them had a control panel in his hands. We got chatting and it turned out they were from the Environment Agency and in the midst of surveying not just toileting pram-pushers but the whole of the nature reserve’s sea wall to watch for flooding weaknesses and breaches in the sea wall etc. Their former method was with tripods and levels. Now it’s by UFO-like flying camera which means it’s a much faster process that can also give them a 3-D image of the whole area. It was all very interesting stuff but a bit concerning that they might have a few snapshots of me tending to the call of nature. The upshot was it made Jack and Daisy’s day, such was their height of amusement, so I suppose being caught with my pants down was worth it in the end. The lengths we go to in order to make our offspring happy.

And so onward we went. We had sunny moments, freezing cold moments (a strong easterly blew throughout), wet moments (it rained for 3 solid days) muddy moments, swampy moments, plentiful funny moments, slightly lost moments, brake-exploding moments (Daisy’s) and wild cattle and pony-jam moments (we crossed the New Forest off piste).

I seemed to spend a bit too much time wearing the pram in order to cross soggy and boggy areas…

…and to climb over multiple stiles and squeeze through pram-unfriendly kissing gates.

A very wet Bucklers Hard.

In fact it rained so hard at Bucklers Hard that it didn’t make much difference to the wetness of our clothing whether we were standing on land or in the sea.

 

Crossing the New Forest off piste to get away from a busy strip of the Beaulieu to Hythe road.

A bit of waterlogged New Forest near Dibden Purlieu.

Hythe pier from where we caught the ferry across Southampton Water to Southampton.

Portsmouth!

In poll position on Southsea seafront.

All aboard the Hayling Island ferry.

Daisy in full flow – Hayling Island.

Daisy looking downcast as we approach the final destination of Emsworth. She liked ‘life on the road’ and didn’t fancy going back to school.

Emsworth and being met at the end of The Solent Way by Gary (the husband).

 

For more bits on bikes see: www.facebook.com/itsjosiedew/

 

 

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2 BIKES, 1 PUSHCHAIR AND A FLOODED STORMY SOLENT WAY (Part 1) New Year January 2018

On New Year’s Eve eve I suddenly fancied heading off on a cycling and pram-pushing mission on New Year’s Day with any offspring game to come with me. Molly wanted to go and stay with gran for the week so that left Jack and Daisy keen to mount up. Last New Year us threesome left to circumnavigate (by bike and pram) the coast path of the Isle of Wight. So the conundrum was: where to go this year? It had to be somewhere that Jack (4) and Daisy (7) could ride their bikes without being flattened by thundering traffic; somewhere that was scenic and fun and that we could get to quite quickly from home; somewhere that preferably involved boats and the sea.

After a quick bit of pondering I hit upon The Solent Way – a 60-mile long-distance coastal walking route that stretches from Milford-on-Sea (near Lymington) to Emsworth Harbour. It sounded lovely: estuaries, harbours, shingle spits, marshes, beaches, creeks, lagoons, castles and forts all steeped in seafaring and maritime history. Then there was the odd little passenger ferry to catch across the watery parts which would add a bit of excitement for the younger members of the crew. The only thing that didn’t sound so lovely was the weather. The first storm of the year (Storm Eleanor) was due to come crashing in off the Atlantic with 100mph winds forecast to blow more away than just cobwebs. Oh well, never mind, I thought.  Storm Doris had hit us on the Isle of Wight with 90mph winds and we survived that one. And anyway, like the well-worn adage: There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inadvisable clothing. Though saying that, despite advisable clothing, Doris did throw some impressive clothes soaking rain and wind at us.

So on the morning of New Year’s Day Jack, Daisy and I battened down the hatches of our Velcro and storm zips, donned balaclavas and galoshes and sallied forth to do battle with Eleanor. As we didn’t have enough time before school started on the 4th to do the whole length of The Solent Way in one fell swoop I decided it best to do the first part of it backwards. We would start at Emsworth and finish Leg 1 at Southampton from where we could easily catch a train home.

Gary gave us a lift down the A3 in the camper. When we left home it was raining hard. By the time we hit the A3 it was raining even harder. Arriving at our set off point the weather was so bad (gales and sheeting rain) it had become almost laughable.  ‘Just a clearing-up shower!’ said Gary gaily as he sat in the heated cab of the van while I bailed out of the door into the cold wind-battering maelstrom to sort out packing up the bikes and pram. The good thing about starting an expedition in awful weather is that even though it may get even worse it will get better. So clinging to that catch-a-glimpse-of-the-sun-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-hope I set out into the floods and hood-flapping wind with a surprisingly enthusiastic Jack and Daisy.

Jack was riding his little Islabikes balance bike (he doesn’t like pedals) while Daisy was riding her trusty off-road mount. By trotting along and pushing a pram instead of riding a bike it meant that I could travel at the same speed as my young outriders. Also, should Jack’s little legs get tired, he had a comfy reclining seat to sit and rest and eat and sleep.

Amazingly the weather did improve that first day (this awful bout of wind and rain was just a prelude to Storm Eleanor which was due to hit the next day) and as we skirted Farlington Marshes and headed down the east coast of Portsea Island the sun did actually try to show its face. We forged floods into a continuous headwind of a gale, sustained a puncture on the pram on Southsea seafront (a big roofer’s felt tack) and after 10 miles found a place to bed us down in Portsmouth.

Over the next 3 days we walked and rode through everything the weather threw at us (which was a lot and consisted mostly of wind and rain) averaging 10 miles a day until we reached Southampton. The trials of the weather added to the fun of it all (it wouldn’t have been so exciting in windless tepid conditions) and Jack and Daisy remained amazingly buoyant throughout – Jack scarcely paused for breath and only climbed into the pram for one short afternoon siesta. When we reached Southampton we were all keen to keep heading onwards and eastwards to Milford-on-Sea but unfortunately school was calling (we had already missed the first day back on the Thursday due to the blowy conditions).

The plan is to embark upon Part 2 of The Solent Way during February half term (starting next week). No doubt we will attract some other ferocious Atlantic storm so if you want good weather you are advised to steer clear from the south coast west of Southampton.

For more on bikes and trikes and tandems and bits see:      www.facebook.com/itsjosiedew/

If in doubt, crawl! A very flooded bit of path around Langstone Harbour.

Jack trying to throw himself over the sea wall on the east coast of Portsea Island.

Forging the floods.

Fuel-break before the next downpour.

Beach-riding, Langstone Harbour.

Wild winds, fast clouds, bright sun.

4pm sunset Southsea seafront.

Puncture! Pram wheel, Porstmouth.

The culprit – a big roofer’s felt tack!

Drying off with my arms full in B&B Portsmouth.

Storm Eleanor hitting us full force at Old Porstsmouth.

More wild wind and big waves, Lee-on-the-Solent.

Sunny, but blowing a gale – Lee-on-the-Solent.

Jack’s finally climbed into the pram for a slumber – farm track on way to Chilling (south of Warsash).

Waiting in pouring rain for the little pink passenger ferry across the River Hamble.

All aboard with kind and friendly Roy (Captain Birdseye). Due to the wild weather we finally arrived at the ferry an hour after the last sailing of the day. But Roy had waited for us specially and took us across. He has been a ferryman on the Hamble for 60 years (he got his license when he was 21) and is finally retiring this year.

Jack and Daisy watching Roy tie up the ferry for the night.

Stopping for a play on the playground in Victoria Country Park east of Netley.

Flood! I got very wet feet running through that.  Jack loved getting wetly in Netley.

More floods. Jack’s admiring the car park – now a choppy sea.

Sandwiched by floods. What was the car park is on the left, the river-of-a-road on the right. Woolston, Southampton.

Crossing The Itchen Bridge into Southampton in a helmet-rattling headwind.

The end of the road. Jack conked out at Southampton Central railway station waiting for the train home.

 

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CYCLING SCHOOL RUN FUN

I write blogs and articles for Cycling UK (the charitable membership organisation that supports cyclists and promotes bicycle use). My latest blog is about the daily cycling school run I do (currently on my 14-feet-long juggernaut) with Jack and the girls. If you fancy seeing more have a look at: https://www.cyclinguk.org/blog/josie-dew-why-we-love-cycling-school

Here’s a couple of recent icy morning school run snaps with Jack and Daisy. The road was so icy we had to walk this bit.

 

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Four on a Fourteen-foot bike from France to Holland (via Belgium)

As usual I’m a few months behind posting up snapshots of my cycling jaunts but hopefully you will get the gist of where I was and who I was with and what it was like when we were there.

So here’s what happened: Last July, a week before school broke up, I thought I’d better get on and book a ferry to go cycling somewhere for the 5 week holiday with 3 offspring attached. As Gary (the husband) couldn’t come due to working flat out on the Victory (he’s a carpenter) I thought let’s go to the best country for cycling with children in the world: the never Netherlands (as Daisy calls it). But the ferry was completely booked up so a quick change of plan and I’d booked a crossing on the ferry from Portsmouth to France (Caen) with the idea that we would cycle across northern France and Belgium to Holland. We would then catch a ferry  back to Blighty land from the Hook of Holland at the beginning of September. Easy really. At least it is on paper. But nothing is easy when it comes to travelling with children.

Early one late July morning Gary gave Molly (10) Daisy(7) Jack(3) and me (half a century) a lift in our rusting camper van to Portsmouth International Port. Somehow 4 people and all those bags on the ground (plus more lurking out of sight in the camper) had to fit onto one bike. Hmm. Where to start?

If in doubt just pile it up and strap it on and cram it in and don’t worry about the weight. Until you try to cycle.

About to board the ferry. The deck crew thought we were part bike/part juggernaut so put us with the large articulated vehicles.

Bonjour! Welcome to France. Canalside riding near Caen.

Elevate! That’s our road in the air! Waiting to cross the canal.

I hadn’t cycled in France for 16 years and in that time the roads have got much busier. When I didn’t like the look of the traffic we veered off-road for some bumpy bliss.

Posing in the picturesque harbour town of Honfleur. Jack’s having his afternoon siesta in the trailer.

This is the life! Reclining on the beach at Veulettes sur Mer. But things aren’t peaceful for long. Jack is about to throw a large rock at Daisy. All hell breaks out.

It was THIS big. Yes, really!

Camping in what we called the Rotting Caravan Campsite (it was full of rotting rusting caravans – it wasn’t a proper campsite but at least was somewhere to sleep). And just in case you’re wondering, that’s Daisy’s finger in the way of the lens.

It was still this big. Woodland camping, French style.

Camping in the garden of a friendly francais family who invited us to sleep with them and eat with them and shower with them.

Every now and then we would hoick Jack out of the trailer and have running races. This one is on a lovely French rural road north of Montreuil.

Cycling along the joys of the Canal de la Somme.

How to entertain 3 children in a tent when it’s pouring with rain: get them to wear their pants on their heads. It’s like a pant-flavoured nativity scene.

Belgium bike path near Diksmuide. Our wagon just about fits but heaven help any on-coming cyclists.

Belgium bike path near Brugges.

Jack’s 4th birthday in the tent in Nieuwpoort, Belgium. Jack’s had some memorable birthdays. He was born on my bed (almost the bathroom floor). His 1st birthday was in a field on the South Downs Way (I was with the girls and my Dutch friend Anoek while pushing a glorified wheelbarrow along the SDW for a month). His 2nd birthday was sitting on a tent about to leave to go cycling around the Isle of Wight. His 3rd birthday was in a tent in a heatwave in Holland. And voila his 4th!

The windmill of Vlissingen, Holland.

All aboard. Leaving a Dutch farm campsite.

The marvels of Dutch engineering – cycling along the impronounceable Oosterscheldekering which is not a solid dam but a storm surge barrier which is only closed off during storms. It is the largest of the 13 Delta Works series of dams and storm surge barriers, designed to protect the Netherlands from flooding from the North Sea.

Forming our own storm surge barrier against the giant jellyfish-filled North Sea. Beach near Breskens.

It’s good to find souvenirs on your travels. Here I’ve found a Dutch lighthouse which I managed to cram on board mid-ships.

What’s this – a rare lesser-spotted Dutch hill? Yes. And a steep one at that which makes it all the more fun to ride down in the pouring rain on a juggernaut of a bike weighing over 200 kilos.

Riding through the industrial zone of Europoort -nearing our destination of Hoek van Holland.

Last beach-dive for Jack and the girls at Hook of Holland before boarding the ferry home.

When I made my last-minute booking for the ferry to Caen I didn’t know quite how far it was from there to the Hook of Holland (maybe about 400 miles, I thought). I wasn’t even quite sure if I was capable of doing that with 3 children on one bike with such a heavy load. But without planning any daily miles it worked out a treat, though I was a bit of an exhausted wreck by the end. We ended up cycling 642 zig-zagging windy miles and arrived at Hoek van Holland with 6 hours to spare before our ferry left. Perfect timing! ‘That was lucky, mum!’ declared Daisy. And it was.

Emerging from the ferry at Harwich at 6.30 a.m. one sunny September morning. Our bike contraption is even longer than that emerging Range Rover.

Gary meeting us at Harwich port and glad to have his offspring wrapped around him again.

The next day – Jack’s first day at school. As Molly has just started at secondary school (and takes the bus) Jack has been promoted to Seat 3!

 

On another topic, Anoek (my Dutch friend who pushed wheelbarrows with me along the SDW – see above) set me up with a Facebook site (www.facebook.com/itsjosiedew/) which I’ve been a bit hit and miss with keeping up to date. But then in December I was just getting the hang of it and feeling faintly enthusiastic to stick up a few more pictures of bikes  when someone hacked into it which now seems to mean anyone can look at it or comment on it, except me. Facebook has blocked me from using my own site. Useful! Facebook said they would contact me and sort it out but a month later and they still have done nothing. Anyway Anoek and my friend David (a compute-fixer) are now trying to get to the bottom of the mystery. Any words of advice gratefully received.

It’s now a few days later: Facebook sorted! At least for now.

 

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Four on a fourteen-foot bike around the Channel Islands.

Earlier this year (Easter school holidays) I loaded half a ton of kit plus my merry mob of 3 children (Molly 10, Daisy 6 and Jack 3 ) onto my Circe Helios triplet electric assist contraption which, with the Burley trailer attached, is 14-feet long – about as long as a Range Rover, and off to the Channel Islands we sallied by sail (ferry). We cycled 277 miles in 11 days.

Day 1. Early one morning (6a.m.) at the beginning of April Gary gave us a lift to Portsmouth in the camper van. Gary couldn’t come on our overseas jaunt as he had to work next door to the ferry port at the naval base where, as a carpenter, he was helping to conserve the Victory.

I hadn’t tested to see whether I could fit all the hefty clobber for 4 people on a bike before I left but amazingly  it did!

All aboard! We tethered the mount to the car deck where the ferry handlers were very surprised: they were expecting a bike not a behemoth.

7 hours later, and after seeing bits of France float past (Normandy) we arrived in Guernsey’s St Peter Port.

There were palm trees a-plenty – so much so that we could even attach a cluster of them to the bike.

The wagon in action. This photo was taken by a woman from Leeds who was standing on a hill overlooking this road when she spotted us and was so amazed at the size of the bike that she took a picture. A week later we happened to meet her on the other side of the island and she said, ‘I took a picture of you last week because I couldn’t believe my eyes what was coming down the road! In all my days I’ve never seen anyone ride anything so long!’ And then she sent me the picture.

These are the sort of road signs I like!

I found some roadside litter (an L plate) so put it to good use.

I’m used to cycling places where  I seem to manage to attract the worst weather on record nearly everywhere I go. So cycling around the Channel Islands came as a pleasant surprise as the sun shone…

and shone…

and shone…

and shone…

and shone…

and shone.

With so much sun we could stop all the time to play on rocks or…

beaches or…

rocky outcrops or…

 

green grassy banks or…

leapfrog bike stands or…

stop to eat lots of chips and ice creams or…

have a luxurious Easter Day lunch lounging on the ground in the car park of a local Co-op.

 Coming soon: France to the Netherlands (via Belgium) by 4-person bike…

 

 

 

 

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Isle of Wight Coast Path by Bike and Pram – Part 3.

Just for a cycling-flavoured warm-up here’s a picture of a toasted bike c/o John Banbury-based Batts who sent it to me.

Jack trying out his bike with his new motorcycle exhaust attachment that Gary found in a local charity shop.

Hells Angel Daisy Dew.

Jack on his more peaceful-on-the-ear scoot-along balance bike.

My Isle-of-Wight-by-bike-and-pram-saga is now all done and dusted. In May half term I headed back to the Isle of Wight with 3 year-old Jack and  freshly 7 year-old Daisy. Here the young-wheeling duo  are heading onto the ferry at Lymington. Next stop Yarmouth.

Heading up the River Yar path to Freshwater in heavy rain.

The foothills of Tennyson Down.

Going up.

Still going up.

Daisy having a foggy rest.

Then it got foggier and foggier. Do we go this way, that way or t’other way?

T’other way proved the right way. The marble Celtic Cross of the Tennyson monument is sighted merging from the mist. It stands on the highest point of Tennyson Down – a long chalk ridge with sheer 500-feet cliffs on the south side.

The foggy top. In good weather this point offers some of the best views on the island. Not today though. The eerie bellowing of the booming Needles lighthouse sounded good though and made up in sound what we lacked in sight.

Daisy’s looking this way but the North Pole is that way.

Some handy hikers helping me to hoist the pram over kissing gate obstacle . Jack is in the pram and slept through the whole airborne operation.

At the entrance to a farm campsite we met an intriguingly friendly Dutch couple. The husband was riding a touring bike but his wife was riding a self- designed electric recumbent. She told me why.   Several years ago she’d  had a serious car crash which left her disabled. She had been very active but then, as a result of her disability, she became   depressed that she would never ride again. As  we stood in the misty rain she told me it was 0then that she read one of my books which apparently spurred her into doing something about it. So with her engineering son she designed a recumbent specifically around her disability, She was now very happy again and touring with her husband. I was then given a  touchingly big hug and thanked for something I had no idea I had ever done, It was a touchingly bizarre encounter and we’ve kept in contact ever since.

 

 

 

 

Above Alum Bay.

Wartime defenses dug into the cliffs around the Needles.

The high white cliffs of the needles.

The Needles lighthouse was manned up until 1994.

Jack and Daisy in full flow beside the River Medina north of Newport.

The wooded coastal path near Fishbourne.

The finish – Ryde Pier. Although the Isle of Wight coast path is 67 miles long we did 117 miles due to doing several sections multiple times and veering off-course to find food/beds and see interesting sights. Daisy rode her bike all the way; Jack rode his for 88 miles. I pushed him the resat of the way in the pram when his legs were tired or he was sleepy.

 

 

 

 

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The family steed gets longer and the Isle of Wight coast-path-by-bike-and-pram-saga continues…

Q. How many people can you get on a bike?

A. A whole army!

This is what I’m thinking I need to transport half our local village school children to school in the mornings. No need for them to come all of 200 metres to school by car anymore. All I have to do is to dig in some train tracks and Bob’s your uncle – school run car mayhem solved! (Just in case you are wondering these are soldiers off to war in South Africa at the end of the 19th century on the best people-carrier I’ve ever seen).

Here are slightly fewer bodies on my latest steed – a Circe Helios Steps e-bike. Fun for all the family! When Jack brings a friend home for a play we can now get 5 on a bike. (P.S. Just in case any helmet police spot this picture Molly does normally wear a lid but took it off for the photo as apparently helmets aren’t fashionable for 10 year olds).

The battery assist addition is a boon and has to be the most fun thing on 4 wheels.  My previous tandem became so heavy I thought my knees were going to explode. The weight with all offspring/camping clobber/shopping etc on board felt like dragging concrete girders behind me – on the slightest slope I started to be dragged backwards. Now it feels like riding a heavily loaded touring bike and with a touch of a button I can go from normal cycling (battery off) to booster-mode and no hill now stands between us. I live in a valley with near-vertical 1:4’s on almost every exit but we now hit  them at speed! Plus we are never late for school anymore despite riding a 4 metre (13-and-a-half-feet) long contraption. If anyone wants anymore info on one of these fine species of steed  contact me or info@cyclecentric.com

And so to the on-going Isle-of-Wight-coast-path-by-bike-and-pram saga:

Last long-winded blog-bit saw mini cyclists Daisy (6), Jack (3) and me the pram-pusher (half a century) push and cycle our way around the coast of the Isle of Wight from Ryde to Sandown. It was New Year and Daisy should have been at school but as my dad had just died we felt the need to go on a 5-day mission to the sea instead. Molly (10) had wanted to stay at home to keep Gran company.

Part 2 occurred in February half term. Start point this time was where we left off in January: Sandown. As on Leg 1, I didn’t pre-book any accommodation as it was impossible to predict how far our small merry mob would get in a day. This live-in-hope-that-we-will-find-bed method tended to be a little hit and miss as most B&Bs were still closed for winter. But somehow we always managed to find a room in the end, though there were a couple of occasions when, with darkness falling and no doors opening, I started in slight desperation to eye up bus shelters and church porches to lay our weary heads (personal preference from past experience of spending-many-a-night in both is for a church porch as they tend not to be used so often as a public toilet and most churches usually have a water tap lurking in a corner somewhere).

The good news is we had a very fun time and didn’t get blown over a cliff, fall into a chine or slip down a landslide. The bad news is we got hit by multiple punctures (Daisy’s bike was the one to fall prey: broken glass and devilishly spiky hawthorn hedge-cuttings) and Storm Doris. What tumultuous wind Doris had! Yes, yes I know  teetering along exposed narrow cliff-top paths a stone’s throw from The Needles with two young offspring is perhaps not the best place to be when a Doris-like storm whips up 70 mph winds to lift you clean off your feet. But what can you do? Apart from stay safely home, that is. But where’s the fun in that?

Bikes and loaded prams on train on way to Portsmouth (this was a bumpy bit of track hence blurred picture!)

Daisy trying out her wheels on arrival at Portsmouth. Jack is admiring HMS Warrior – Britain’s first (1860) iron-hulled, armoured battleship.

On board the ferry leaving Portsmouth. Next stop Ryde.

Demonstrating very bouncy seats on the 80-year-old former London Underground tube trains which are now used overground on the 8-mile Ryde to Shanklin line.

First stop on the Isle of Wight: Sandown’s Rock Shop for lovely tooth-rotting treats.

Full steam ahead – Sandown to Shanklin.

Jack checking the high cliff to his right is staying put (further back there had been a landslip).

Daisy in pensive mood on Shanklin beach. Jack on a mission to trouble.

Dragging the pram up over the 200 Appley steps near Shanklin Chine.

Half an hour later I’m still pram-dragging. Jack giving a helping hand.

Then I have to go back down to get the bikes.

Step gridlock.

Happy on top!

Luccombe Cliff Road – Jack having a breather up another steep hill.

Coast path atop Luccombe Chine.

Oh no! More steps! High above Steel Bay.

In the thick of the Devil’s Staircase. (Picture is blurred due to Daisy falling off step at time of taking the snap!)

Jack in command.

Jungle cycling above Bordwood Ledge.

Steep hill ahoy! Jack about to rocket off down the precipice. He made it – and only fell off at the bottom.

Storm Doris is brewing – riding into the wind and rain Bonchurch sea wall.

Ventnor seafront in the rain.

Puncture Number 1! Steephill Cove.

Wild wind, wild waves. Doris is getting closer.

A good-sized path for Jack, but not for fat prams. Above Woody Bay.

Daisy trying to stand upright in the build-up to Storm Doris’s forceful wind.

The landslip-of-a-path above Woody Bay where you don’t want to put a foot wrong.

Daisy telling the blustery wind what she thinks of it as she tries to hold her bike upright. Niton Down.

Thunderbirds are go! Daisy double-wrapped against the strong cold wind.

Storm Doris!Looking towards Freshwater Bay and The Needles.

The next day the storm has passed, the sun is out, but the wind still blows like merry hell.

Daisy in free-fall down Samber Hill.

Jack creeping up on a worm on South Down.

Ready, steady…

…Go! Wicken Hill Lane, Brighstone.

Wind blowing a gale again above Fossil Forest, Brook Bay.

As the narrow cliff path was too dangerous in the high winds we spent 4 hours heading inland climbing up to the top of Compton Down.

The ascent involved a lot of muddy pram-pushing.

And bike carrying.

Fending off the wind.

4 hours later we’re nearly at the top.

High above Compton Bay in the wind and the rain.

The constant hammering noise of the wind in our ears made our heads rattle and every word had to be a shout.

Then…puncture number 2 strikes!

Back in action again heading across East Afton Down.

Coming down into Freshwater as the light is fading and the rain is falling.

Outside our Freshwater B&B with puncture number 3!

Silly seaside faces.

By the time we reached Yarmouth our half-term week was up so we jumped on a double-decker bus to Ryde. In a snail-creeping manner we had covered 46 miles (averaging 6.5 miles a day). I ended up doing a bit more than this as in areas of vertical inclines and multiple steps I would have to do the same bit of path about 7 times: remove heavy bags from pram, run ahead with them and dump, run back to push/drag/carry pram up, run back to get Daisy’s bike then ditto Jack’s bike and big backpack.

Amazingly, despite the arduousness of our coastal jaunt Jack and Daisy never whinged, moaned or whined (like they sometimes to when I drag them up the hill at home for a walk). They both took the bull by the horns and charged head-first into the whole jolly jaunt. ‘This is weally good a-venture mum!’ Jack would declare on a daily basis. And Daisy remained buoyant and comical and high-spirited throughout. Daisy rode or walked all of the 46 miles and Jack did 30 miles – only climbing into the pram for his afternoon siesta or when the wind was too loud or the rain too wet. Our next leg in summer half-term should be our last leg: return to Freshwater, over The Needles, then The Needles to Ryde following the north coast.

Meanwhile we’re off with Molly to spend the 2-week Easter holiday cycling around the Channel Islands on our new multi-seated steed.

 

Ferry home to Portsmouth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments

School or Sea?

Nice Trike! Me on the cycling school run in about 30 years time.

As last Christmas wasn’t the most successful Christmas I’ve ever had (Daisy caught 2 sick bugs in 2 weeks and dad suddenly died 2 days before Santa and his merry flock of reindeers landed on the roof) the two week school holiday disappeared without ever much feeling like a holiday. With Molly and Daisy due back at school straight after New Year I asked them whether they would rather go to school  or have a bit of an adventure by the sea. Molly, being the studious and conscientious one, said that normally she would like to come but thought it more important she went to school as being her last year at primary school she has SATS this summer (a week of mind-bogglingly confusing government-imposed tests). Daisy, being more like me (i.e. not so studious or conscientious), leapt at the chance of a seaside adventure.

So the day school opened up for the spring term I left Gary and Gran in charge of Molly while Daisy, Jack and me jumped on a train to Portsmouth. The plan was to take the ferry to the Isle of Wight and then follow the coast path for as far as we could get in about five days. Daisy and Jack rode their bikes while I carried a big rucksack and pushed a pram for Jack to climb into should his legs get tired. It was all very spontaneous and haphazard -I had no idea how far we would get in a day so booked no accommodation, just hoping we would find some sort of B&B despite most places being closed for January.

Fresh off the ferry – Jack and Daisy at Ryde Pierhead Terminal ready to mount up.

Tally ho! Heading off down Ryde Pier – the oldest (202 years old) seaside pier in the world.

Jack and Daisy racing along Ryde seafront.

With sea air in her lungs Daisy suddenly looked rejuvenated – her cheeks turned rosy and she flew along on her wheels looking healthier and happier than she had for weeks.

As darkness fell that first night and with no B&Bs yet found, we struck lucky. On deserted Seagrove Bay beach a little yappy dog suddenly ran up to us and promptly lifted its leg on Jack’s wheel. I was about to boot the mutt over the touch line when its owner appeared. ‘You look like you’re on a bit of an adventure with all that!’ she exclaimed.

I said, ‘We are!’

Mrs Yappy Dog Owner told us her name was Jo and we ended up spending the night in her huge modern-build immaculate home on a hill overlooking the Solent and distant Portsmouth.

Daisy trying not to get washed away on Seaview’s seawall.

Jack riding off-piste at Puckpool Point.

More seawall splashings.

Pausing for breath beside the Tower which is the remains of St Helen’s Church. The Tower was built in 1220 and in 1703 when the church was no longer used the Tower was bricked up and turned into the Seamark which remains today. The derelict church became a source of Holy Stones which were taken by sailors to scrub down the decks of wooden ships.

Daisy propping up the Tower.

Daisy in action along St. Helen’s seawall.

Up the hill from St Helens.

Puncture No.1!

Jack chasing Daisy.

Jack driving his combine harvester (as he called his mount) on The Duver – Bembridge Harbour. Daisy directing operations.

Shipwrecks make fine playgrounds!

Trying not to fall in to the sea crossing the narrow causeway in Bembridge Harbour.

Entering Bembridge on the cusp of darkness a woman talking to another woman outside the fish shop turned to us and said, ‘My goodness! Now you look like proper cyclists!’

The woman asked how old my mini cyclists were ( ‘3 and 6!’ they chirped) and then told us her name was Margaret and she was 81 years old and ‘a very keen cyclist indeed!’ And so was her husband. They cycled everywhere, all of the time. ‘Always have done,’ she said. ‘I believe cycling leads to a healthy life and a long life!’ She then invited us back to stay with her.

The next day was a long arduous one following the narrow cliff path from Foreland, slipping and sliding in the chalky mud carrying bikes and pram up and down steep steps and over kissing gates through Whitecliff Bay before climbing up and into a wild cold headwind over Culver Down. But despite all this, team morale was good with Jack and Daisy in buoyant spirit and constantly determined to keep forging ahead. We did 8 very undulating miles that day and whenever I asked Jack whether he was tired and did he want to get in the pram for a rest he always gave me a slightly German-sounding reply, ‘No mum. Me on mine bike!’

Trying to keep up with my cycling brigade near Foreland.

There they are! Disappearing into a tunnel of trees on way to Whitecliff Bay.

Phew! Caught Jack. Daisy’s escaped.

Daisy concentrating on keeping straight – and not veering left over the side.

Keep right young fella!

Stunt man Jack trying to perform a wheelie manoeuvre over the fence.

Crash!

He’s down again!

Daisy giving Jack a helping hand up the slippery hill.

The fine art of pram-dragging.

Being congratulated by Jack at the top of the steps for still being alive.

Kissing gates are not pram-friendly!

If the pram fails to fit – wear it instead.

Voila! By decanting all kit we conquered the hurdle of kissing gates.

The assault of Culver Down involved a lot of pushing up.

Despite the rain and cold hurricane winds much merriment was had at the top.

Little and large – Jack and the 75-ft high monument atop Culver Down. (This massive granite obelisk was erected in 1849 in memory of the Earl of Yarborough, a wealthy MP- just in case you were wondering).

Heading down the other side of Culver Down towards distant Sandown and Shanklin.

Full steam ahead! With darkness falling as fast as the rain there was no time to linger up on Culver Down – so down we came to Sandown.

By the time we got back down beside the sea at Sandown it was dark and every B&B and hotel we came across was closed. The rain was falling heavily now and the seafront was deserted. But then I spotted a lone figure, hood up, hunched over into the wind and rain. I asked her if she knew of any B&Bs that were open. ‘Are you homeless?’ she asked.

‘I might look like I am with all these bags hanging off the pram,’ I said, ‘but I do have a home – only it’s not here!’

Finally, after trying another five places (all closed) we found a B&B way up in the back streets. The woman who answered the door said, ‘Sorry my love, but we’re closed for January.’ Pause. ‘Though looking at you I can’t turn you and your little’uns away in this weather,so come in and let’s dry you out.’

So in we gratefully went.

From Sandown we had to head inland towards Newport as time was running out and I thought I had better get home as Molly was missing us. We crossed the island – south to north – following the old railway, now a cycle path, that stretches from Sandown to Cowes.

Daisy on farm track near Newport.

Leaving Newport for Cowes.

All aboard the ferry from West Cowes to East Cowes.

A cocooned and worn-out Jack.

We were on the Isle of Wight for four-and-a-half days and we did 38 miles. Daisy rode her bike every mile and Jack rode 28 miles and climbed into the pram for the rest. I walked pushing the pram. We’re heading back this month to continue our jaunt around the coast.

 

NEWS JUST IN:  I will be talking at the FESTIVAL OF WOMEN AND BICYCLES on Sunday 5th March in Oxford (East Oxford Community Centre, 44 Princes Street, OX4 1DD). More info from the Broken Spoke Bike Co-op (bsbcoop.org/women-bicycles-2017)

 

 

23 Comments

HOLLAND! And yes I’m still here – here that is, not Holland.

My long articulated vehicle: tandem plus trailer plus clobber plus Jack.

My long articulated vehicle: tandem plus trailer plus clobber plus Jack.

Thank you to all concerned parties inquiring after my whereabouts due to lack of website updates. Since returning home in September from my summer cycling jaunt in the  Never Netherlands (as Daisy calls it) I’ve been here (and not there) and have been busy writing articles and my next book and chasing after children. In fact chasing after children has taken up a lot more time than writing so updating my website seems to go onto the back burner, but I shall strive to improve my ways.

So off to that low-lying Dutch land we go – a wonderfully watery place full of bikes, bike paths and bicyclists. And wind.

A quick recap: As soon as  our village primary school broke up for summer we were off. We is me and offspring: Molly (9), Daisy (6) and Jack (2) – though at the end of our escapade Molly turned 10 in Noordwijkerhout and Jack became a big 3 in Egmond aan Zee. The husband (builder Gary) wanted to get on with building so it was my first attempt at cycling abroad looking after the young rowdy mob single-handedly. It was also Molly’s first time touring abroad on her own bike (she had always ridden pillion with me before on the tandem) so it was a bit of a leap into the unknown: would Molly cope on her own bike (after all she’s not that keen on cycling – she prefers rock-climbing!) and would I be able to cope pulling Daisy (22.2kg), Jack (16kg), 4 panniers, 1 handlebar bag, 2 rear rack bags and a trailer full of a lorry-load of camping clobber? The total weight (including the tandem) came to 144 kg (317lbs) but was sometimes more depending on how much food and water I was carrying. Cycling this weight was on the verge of ridiculous – and impossible. The slightest incline and I started to be dragged backwards (and the North Sea coast is not flat – there were a lot of hefty dunes to climb over). I’m amazed my knees didn’t explode.

We spent 41 nights away from home. Two of these were spent sleeping in the North Sea (on a Stena Line ferry). The other 39 were in our Hilleberg Keron 4 GT tent. It was an amazingly good tent and stood up unflinchingly to countless gales, storms, hail, heatwaves, a boisterous herd of large drunken German men tripping over it and a rowdy mob of constantly exuberant children running riot within.

 

What's this - a Dutch hill!

Oh no! What’s this? A Dutch hill!

Strange but true - another Dutch hill!

Strange but true – another Dutch hill!

Stopping for a breather on a cycle path near Zandvoort. Jack is asleep in trailer, Molly is taking the picture and Daisy has leapt into my arms.

Stopping for a breather on a cycle path near Zandvoort. Jack is asleep in trailer, Molly is taking the picture and Daisy has leapt into my arms.

Stopping to catch sun rays.

Stopping to catch sun rays.

My sleeping-bagged caterpillars. We spent 41 nights away from home. 2 of these were spent sleeping in the North Sea on the ferry. The other 39 were in our Hilleberg Keron 4 GT tent. It was an amazingly good tent and stood up unflinchingly to countless gales, storms, hail, heatwaves, a boisterous herd of drunken German men tripping over it and a rowdy mob of constantly exuberant children running riot within.

My sleeping-bagged caterpillars. We spent 41 nights away from home. 2 of these were spent sleeping in the North Sea on the ferry. The other 39 were in our Hilleberg Keron 4 GT tent. It was an amazingly good tent and stood up unflinchingly to countless gales, storms, hail, heatwaves, a boisterous herd of drunken German men tripping over it and a rowdy mob of constantly exuberant children running riot within.

My long wide vehicle was a bit too long and wide to manoeuvre through barriers on way to Leiden so I had to momentarily shed some panniers.

My long wide vehicle was a bit too long and wide to manoeuvre through barriers on way to Leiden so I had to momentarily shed some panniers.

A kibbling and chips stop (Dutch version of fish and chips). Zandvoort.

A kibbling and chips stop (Dutch version of fish and chips). Zandvoort.

We had two birthdays in Holland: Jack had his third birthday in Egmond aan Zee...

We had two birthdays in Holland: Jack had his third birthday in Egmond aan Zee…

...and Molly had her 10th birthday in Noordwijkerhout.

…and Molly had her 10th birthday in Noordwijkerhout.

The North Sea Route bike path is like a smooth motorway for bikes through the dunes.

The North Sea Route bike path is like a smooth motorway for bikes through the dunes.

We kept to the windy and...

We kept to the windy and…

...often sunny coast because I felt that having the...

…often sunny coast because I felt that having the…

...sea and ice creams and an endless near-empty white sand beach on tap was a small reward for Jack and the girls after everything I was putting them through.

…sea and ice creams and an endless near-empty and endless white sand beach  on tap was a small reward for Jack and the girls after everything I was putting them through.

We camped beside the sea almost every night and...

We camped beside the sea almost every night and…

...it was the best playground they could ever want.

…it was the best playground they could ever want.

This pushchair weighs 6.2kg (not including the contents) and I hung it off the rear rail of the trailer. I nearly left it at home as I thought the extra weight would be too much but it proved a boon. Along with cycling the girls walked often anywhere between 5 and 8 miles a day to and from beaches, along beaches, to and from towns. Jack was still too little to walk such distances and too heavy to carry. Plus he likes his sleep which he did a lot of while being pushed. Plus the pushchair was useful for carrying heavy bags of shopping, swimming kit, books, toys, water, potty, bucket, spades etc.

This pushchair weighs 6.2kg (not including the contents) and I hung it off the rear rail of the trailer. I nearly left it at home as I thought the extra weight would be too much but it proved a boon. Along with cycling the girls often walked anywhere between 5 and 8 miles a day to and from beaches, along beaches, to and from towns. Jack was still too little to walk such distances and too heavy for me to carry. Plus he likes his sleep which he did a lot of while being pushed. The pushchair was also useful for carrying heavy bags of shopping, swimming kit, books, toys, water, bucket, spades, potty etc.

Jack spent quite a lot of time asleep in the trailer as well. When he woke up though he was full of bounce so we had to do a lot of stopping so he could be released to run off his excess energy.

Jack spent quite a lot of time asleep in the trailer as well. But when he woke up  he was full of bounce so we had to do a lot of stopping so he could release his excess energy.

Jack's least favourite pastime were campsite showers so he had baths in the camping bucket instead.

Jack’s least favourite pastime were campsite showers so he had baths in the camping bucket instead.

Occasionally we would treat him to a luxurious bath in the campsite sink.

Occasionally we would treat him to a luxurious bath in the campsite sink.

Us girls managed the odd shower or we would bathe in the sea. But you had to watch out - the North Sea was not only cold but full of jellyfish.

Us girls managed the odd shower or we would bathe in the sea. But you had to watch out – the North Sea was not only cold but full of jellyfish.

Poking and prodding the latest find.

Poking and prodding the latest find.

After coming out of the sea Jack and the girls would do a lot of jumping to warm up.

After coming out of the sea Jack and the girls would do a lot of jumping to warm up.

More bike path running races.

More bike path running races.

More windy beaches.

More windy beaches.

 

 

(More pictures to follow…)

 

 

 

 

15 Comments

Shipwrights Way to the South Downs Way to Holland!

At the top of this year I was 50! 50 suddenly sounds quite old but when Molly reminds me I’m now half an antique it sounds even older. Luckily though, when I get on my bike, I still feel about 10.

People kept asking me am I going to have a party? I said no, I’m going to ride my bike! So I spent the day riding the 50 miles for 50 years along the Shipwrights Way (Alice Holt Forest to Portsmouth dockyard) I actually ended up riding 82 miles (took diversions for scenic sights!)

The only trouble was it was perfect timing for the floods that bombarded us in early January

The only trouble was it was perfect timing for the floods that bombarded us in early January

Wishing I'd brought my snorkel - large deep flood at Langley

Wish I’d brought my snorkel with me.

But at least I had a spot of sporadic sun

But at least I had a spot of sporadic sun

Then at Easter I had my first child-free night in nearly 10 years so I took off and rode the South Downs Way just as Storm Katie hit with a vengeance. More perfect timing!

Mud...

Mud…

Mud...

Mud…

and more mud!

and more mud!

But the sun came out in cold windy force...

But the sun came out in cold windy force…

and it was lovely to be free on top of the Downs with big wide skies.

and it was lovely to be free on top of the Downs with big wide skies.

I will write more about these missions when I’ve got a bit more time under my belt. Got to go now as got to pack bikes and offspring as am off tonight to catch a ferry to Holland. Gary is staying at home as he wants to get on with work and have a break from us rowdy bunch. If all goes according to my unplanned plans, should be home again the day before the girls go back to school at the beginning of September. So more then!

Ps.  I’ve started blogging for Cycling UK (CTC) so you can read more here:

www.cyclinguk.org/cycle/north-sea-cycle-route

www.cyclinguk.org/blog/josie-dew-blogs-beeping-drivers

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