Josie Dew

Welcome to the official website of Josie Dew: cyclist, writer and cook.


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

6 Comments

Three on a bike plus one on a bike round the Isle of Wight!

Daisy beside tent topped in her DIY headdress of dried palm fronds and feather.

Daisy beside tent topped in her DIY headdress of dried palm fronds and feather.

Last summer I was going to cycle around Holland with Jack and the girls. But then at the eleventh hour  5 year-old Daisy came down with appendicitis (which initially the hospital misdiagnosed) so I had to abandon mission as Daisy spent the first 3 weeks of the summer holidays in and out of hospital. With one week to go before school started and amidst floods and storms and mini hurricanes (well it was summer in England) I crammed everything including what felt like the kitchen sink into my tandem and trailer and set out without Gary (he was working) for the Isle of Wight with Molly, Daisy and young Jack.

Packing up the lengthy load in a Portsmouth backstreet.

Packing up the lengthy load in a Portsmouth backstreet.

First night. Sandown. Erecting tent in the rain and the dark. Not ideal, but very fun!

First night. Sandown. Erecting tent in the rain and the dark. Not ideal, but very fun!

Basecamp, Sandown.

Basecamp, Sandown.

Molly riding off down Ryde pier from the ferry terminal.

Molly riding off down Ryde pier from the ferry terminal.

A sleeping contented Jack in tent.

A sleeping contented Jack in tent.

Wet camping. It's raining again!

Wet camping. It’s raining again!

Molly dodging large puddles on the pedestrian-shared bike path to Shanklin.

Molly dodging large puddles on the pedestrian-shared bike path to Shanklin.

Taking a breather on the bike path that follows the old railway to Cowes.

Taking a breather on the bike path that follows the old railway to Cowes.

Daisy about to make conversation with the ducks on the bike path to Newport.

Daisy about to make conversation with the ducks on the bike path to Newport.

With tent, sleeping bags, food, pushchair, buckets, spades, books, bears, dollies, Lego, toy cars, miscellaneous camping clobber (not to mention the hefty weight of Daisy and Jack) the tandem and trailer weighed a ton. It felt like dragging half an elephant uphill. Here we are pushing, heaving, hauling again.

With tent, sleeping bags, food, pushchair, buckets, spades, books, bears, dollies, Lego, toy cars, miscellaneous camping clobber (not to mention the hefty weight of Daisy and Jack) the tandem and trailer weighed a ton. It felt like dragging half an elephant uphill. Here we are pushing, heaving, hauling again.

Molly and Daisy happy to be on top of Mersley Down.

Molly and Daisy happy to be on top of Mersley Down.

Jack sleeping through the excitement of riding along the old Cowes to Sandown railway.

Jack sleeping through the excitement of riding along the old Cowes to Sandown railway.

Just before the rain started again - Shanklin seafront.

Just before the rain started again – Shanklin seafront.

Jack sinking into soggy sand Shanklin beach.

Jack sinking into soggy sand Shanklin beach.

Giant chess in the rain.

Giant chess in the rain.

Jack dressed for the rain and the floods.

Jack dressed for the rain and the floods.

Sun! Letting off steam Sandown beach.

Sun! Letting off steam Sandown beach.

Molly and Daisy making friends with a caravanning neighbour.

Molly and Daisy making friends with a caravanning neighbour.

Inner tent activities listening to the summer rain fall.

Inner tent activities: listening to the summer monsoon battering our basecamp.

Molly, Daisy and Jack cosily cocooned in tent.

Molly, Daisy and Jack cosily cocooned in tent.

Wave hitting Shanklin seawall.

Wave hitting Shanklin seawall.

Back in Ryde ready to ride onto the...

Back in Ryde ready to ride onto the…

...ferry home to Portsmouth.

…ferry home to Portsmouth.

17 Comments

Resurfacing from the hack job

Just in case anyone was wondering where my website had gone or why it now looks a bit different this is because it was hacked into last year which sent the whole jolly shebang awry. Why anyone wants to spend time hacking into a few pictures of bicycles is beyond me but obviously someone, somewhere, has nothing better to do.

As anything to do with the workings of computers sends me into a state of befuddlement I’ve got on with doing what I know how to do: ride my bike everyday and raise three budding cyclists all of whom are growing at a great rate of knots.

Meanwhile my local whizz-head computer man has been busy resurrecting my website. As this is my first attempt to update my website on a funny-looking screen I don’t know whether it will work or not or just end up posting all my pictures all over the shop. So bear with me as they say in the trade…

Jack, who is now 2, loves his bike (an Islabike scoot-along)with a heartening enthusiasm and is on it everyday. He sports an interesting cyclist's dress sense - here he is self-styled as a fairy-cat. Unbeknown to Daisy he borrowed her fairy wings and found a cat's tail in the dressing-up box.

Jack, who is now 2, loves his bike (an Islabike scoot-along)with a heartening enthusiasm and is on it everyday. He sports an interesting cyclist’s dress sense – here he is self-styled as a fairy-cat. Unbeknown to Daisy he borrowed her fairy wings and found a cat’s tail in the dressing-up box.

As you can see it's quite a sporty look and offers the benefit of being able to fly as well as cycle. I think a similar look could spice up Le Tour no end - you've just got to be careful you don't get your tail caught in the spokes.

As you can see it’s quite a sporty look and offers the benefit of being able to fly as well as cycle. I think a similar look could spice up Le Tour no end – you’ve just got to be careful you don’t get your tail caught in the spokes.

Jack won't go anywhere without his bike. Here he is demonstrating his off-road beach-riding skills with Molly (atop yonder rock) and spade-wielding Daisy on Shanklin beach (Isle of Wight).

Jack won’t go anywhere without his bike. Here he is demonstrating his off-road beach-riding skills with Molly (atop yonder rock) and spade-wielding Daisy on Shanklin beach (Isle of Wight).

Travelling at a keen lick in manful stride-mode.

Travelling at a keen lick in manful stride-mode.

As anyone knows, spending large amounts of time outside a-wheel results in one becoming very attuned to the weather. Here Jack is indicating: 'Weather's closing in mum. Rain imminent!'

As anyone knows, spending large amounts of time outside a-wheel results in one becoming very attuned to the weather. Here Jack is indicating: ‘Weather’s closing in mum. Rain imminent!’

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Wooden knees, wooden bikes, bikes on trikes, snow on trikes and Bosham bikes.

Keeping to the tradition of forgetting to update my website here are a few snapshots that I’ve kept meaning to stick up on this page for many-a-blue-moon:

Have bike on trike will travel. One morning I needed to bring Molly's bike home from school (after she had cycled there) as she was walking home in the afternoon with Gran. So into the Nihola contraption it went. I got a few strange looks cycling home.

On the one morning that it snowed this year and the roads were too icy for Molly to cycle her own bike to school she sat in the box of the trike with Daisy. Cheeks were very rosy on arrival.

On the road to school. No need for a 4x4 to tackle the snow when you've got a 3x2.

I just made it up the hill without having to eject my cargo.

With the snow all gone here's Jack in the box (with Daisy on sentry duty) demonstrating our little 3-wheeled run-around. Gary's slightly larger 4-wheeled one is up on the bank.

Long before it snowed we went cycling off to Bosham (west of Chichester, east of Portsmouth). Here we are waiting for the small passenger ferry to Itchenor which mounts the beach to pick people up..

All aboard the Itchenor ferry. There was just room for us and the trailer and bikes, but not a lot else.

Once off the ferry we rode along the Salterns Way towards West Wittering. The excitement of the boat ride was too much for Jack and he passed out with weariness on the back of my bike.

As there was nothing to lean my bike against on our picnic stop I slid off the bike seat and propped it against the trailer. Jack slept through all the sliding and shunting, probably dreaming he was still on the ocean wave..

Jack getting an elevated view of Bosham harbour. He took the high road (narrow muddy-grassy footpath) on the back of my bike while Gary and Daisy and Molly took the tide-washed seaweed-laced low road.

Molly pushing her bike along Bosham's slippery and slimy seaweed-covered road - a road that spends half its life under water..

In the last few months Jack (who is now 1 and three quarters) has sprouted from baby to boy. He’s always itching to take Daisy’s bike for a spin. Another foot of growth and he’ll be there.

Jack running enthusiastically after Daisy hoping to knock her off so that he can have a go.

Daisy (who is 5 and an eighth) is keen to ride in the Tour de France. Here she's practising for speed on a local lane.

On the walking-pram-pushing front, the South Downs Society presented Jack, Molly and Daisy with certificates for walking the 100-mile South Downs Way last August (see last post for pram-pushing saga).

After this last picture was taken my left knee went up the shoot. One minute it felt like a lovely knee and the next it refused to bend so I had to drag my leg around behind me like a wooden one. After weeks lolloping over hill and dale on crutches I was finally sent off to have a scan. I was told I had chondromalacia patellae, which sounded to me like some fancy pasta dish containing langoustines and pine nuts but which in fact roughly translates as bashed-about cartilage beneath my knee cap. My knee man said he could dive into my knee all guns blazing with arthroscope and scalpel in hand and carve and slice and chisel bits off or I could try a spot of physio. Not fancying having holes drilled into my knee I opted for the physio option even though the surgeon warned it may have no effect. But it did have an effect and after nearly 8 weeks and over 250 miles of crutching about the countryside (I crutched on average 5 miles a day) my knee started behaving like a flexible knee again and not a wooden leg. If it hadn’t got better I had been pondering the possibilities of of crutching from Land’s End to John o’ Groats as I thought it would be quite fun to swing across the Pennines and the Grampians and see Britain from the viewpoint of a crutch. But for now I’m back on my bike (Hallelujah!) and my crutching career will have to wait.

Daisy looking like an old man on my crutches with Molly on the boggy path on the way to school. During February and March our cycling school run turned into a crutching school run.

From wooden legs to wooden bikes. I've been sent an email from a man who has a wooden bike for sale. It's a full-size Raleigh bike made of walnut with a Brooks wooden saddle. It was made around 1970 by a cycling enthusiast and took an estimated 1000 hours to build. It's up for sale so if you have a spare £8500 floating about your person let me know and I will put you in contact with the wooden bike owner man.

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Operation Pram Push resurfaces again at last! (last updated January 25th 2015)

One minute it’s July and the next it’s January – at least it is in my website world. Sorry to take so long to report back on pram-pushing shenanigans along the South Downs Way. My excuse for such tardiness? Ill parents, ill children, ill-functioning computer, internet service that keeps going up the shoot in this neck of the woods (water in the line we keep being told – and yes, I’m still backwards – I’ve got no smartphone, i-phone, i-pod, i-pad, or ear-pads – actually I think I’ve got some of those – they keep my ears warm under my helmet. Nor have I ever twittered or tweeted or Facebooked – my fellow pram-pusher Dutch Anoek is my overseas Facebooking correspondent who kindly insists I need a Facebook page and does it for me with a small bit of trans-North Sea input from me. One day I’ll move with the times but for now I’m quite happy overworking my bottom bracket and digging holes in the garden. For the rest of the time my days are non-stop chasing after offspring and riding a wide and varied selection of bikes and trikes. I also do a lot of pram-pushing. And nappy-changing. And cooking and cleaning and washing with a bit more nappy-changing on the side).

Anyway, a very hearty thank you to those kindly caring  souls who have written inquiring about my whereabouts. So no, I haven’t been blown off a windy Down or fallen into a chalky gulley. I’ve been here all along! Just bumbling about in a bumbling cycling nappy-changing fashion while spending in total 2hrs 45 on the phone to BT Mumbai (not all at once you’ll be relieved to hear but in 3 installments over 3 weeks – oh for the joys of British Telecom to be told things are working when they’re not!)

And so to Operation Pram Push, which is all done and dusted. From 1st August to 25th August 2014 I walked the 100-mile route of the South Downs Way (Winchester to Eastbourne) with Molly (7), Daisy (4) and Jack (11 months). Although it wasn’t so much walking as pushing and pulling and hauling and heaving and slipping and sliding. This is because we were travelling with one Mountain Buggy pram and two spectacularly overloaded Dutch Walking Wagons (glorified sledges on wheelbarrow wheels).

Helping me to push was my Dutch friend Anoek (11 years my junior) and her bearded juggling Dutch friend Guust – who we called Goose (throaty phlegmy Dutch pronunciation difficulties for us Anglo dwellers) and who was 10 years my senior. Anoek also brought her daughter Mila (4).

Day 1! The start of Operation Pram Push. Winchester Cathedral with loaded wagons. Wagon-pushing team from left to right: Molly,Goose,Mila, me with Jack on back, Anoek and Daisy Dew. Weather: medium sunny.

Day 25! August Bank Holiday Monday. Eastbourne - the end of the South Downs Way. Holding aloft basketball medals that Goose had presented to us for surviving the wagon-push (Goose teaches basketball in Holland so thoughtfully and handily had concealed the medals about his person during the pramming voyage). Weather: cold and wild and windy torrential rain. Welcome to a typical British August Bank Holiday!

And here’s a mixed-up selection of snapshots of what happened in between:

Mila catching a lift on my wagon with Goose leading the way. Streat Hill - south-west of Plumpton, north-west of Lewes.

Happy hiking with Jack in backpack. Approaching Old Winchester Hill – east of Exton.

On-the-road nappy-changing. One of many such stops!

Camping beneath the pylons in a field west of Devil's Dyke, north-west of Brighton. Daisy is ruminating by the pram and Jack is attacking the grass. As there is only about two official campgrounds along the South Downs Way we just had to put up our tents where we could - beside the track, beside a field, beside a wood, on farms, in gardens, by rivers, under pylons. We asked permission wherever we could and where we couldn't we tried to be discreet in only the non-discreet way you can when travelling with bright red eye-catching wagons and loud chirruping children.

Helping Goose with heaving and hauling up Amberley Mount. The wagons weighed as much as half a car.

Molly and Daisy peering out of the tent.

Emerging from a golden barley field (the South Downs Way cut a swathe right through it) on Littleton Down, south-east of Stickingspit Bottom and west of Bignor.

Lunchtime stop atop Stump Bottom Down, south-west of Kingston near Lewes. It was constantly blowing a gale up on the Downs so sometimes we erected a tarp (using tent pegs and walking poles) to give brief respite from the wind. ( Molly is in the tarp with Pek (or Jesus as we called him - he looked like Jesus when he let his mane fly wild - Jesus is Anoek's sort of husband who joined us for the last 4 days).

Chanctonbury Ring, south-east of Washington (no, not that one, this one).

Taking a breather overlooking distant Brighton.

Daisy, Molly and Mila being wind-blown at one of the many trig points we were to pass.

In just under four weeks Jack turned from squeaky clean baby to big grubby boy. He sprouted two teeth (to add to his other two) and the minute we set foot on the Downs he learnt to crawl and to pull himself up to stand propped against the pram or a wagon or a farm gate (before we had left he had been quite content just with sitting and rolling). Jack was constantly filthy - as we all were. We found three showers in three weeks. For the rest of the time it was just a splattering of rationed water in a bucket and a half-hearted sluice. I washed clothes in a puddle of cold water or under farmers' outdoor taps.

Feral Jack on the loose near the Devil's Dyke.

Molly and Daisy taking the strain: Itford Hill north of Newhaven.

Windover Hill east of Alfriston.

Jesus bringing up the rear on Bostal Hill east of Bostal Bottom with first sighting of the Seven Sisters.

What better view to breastfeed a babe than on top of Harting Down - at least that was what I had been doing seconds before this picture was taken!.

Jack in inner tent among a cascading sea of clobber. I slept in my Norwegian Nordisk Oppland tent with Molly and Daisy and Jack squeezed in tight around me, which left no space to stretch or manoeuvre (I would wake in the night with Molly's arm flopped across my neck like a noose, Daisy's head on my legs and Jack rolled into a foetal ball in the crook of my stomach). Anoek and Mila slept together in their tent while Goose lounged luxuriously in his alone. As Goose was predisposed to some shockingly thunderous snoring, we made sure he set up camp well out of earshot.

Breakfast! Field south of Gander Down, south-west of Cheriton

The South Downs Way ahoy!

More heaving and hoing up Itford Hill east of Southease and north of Newhaven.

More pushing up a Down - this one the one out of Alfriston.

A dew pond! West of Ditchling Beacon.

Jack's first birthday: field near the River Ouse.

Daisy, Molly and Mila with a distant Goose: Winding Bottom Down south of Steyning.

Gary met up with us twice on the route - both times bearing emergency supplies of food and nappies and books for molly (she's a dedicated bookworm). This is rendez-vous point number 1: Butser Hill , which at 270m is the highest point on the South Downs Way and home to over 30 species of butterflies - which might be of interest if any of you happen to be butterfly boffins.

Hills, hills and more hills.

Jack making a break for freedom: Cheesefoot Head, east of Winchester.

Camping in field near the River Arun.

More pylons and potties: Fulking Hill, west of Devil's Dyke.

Walking down Butser Hill towards the A3 and Queen Elizabeth Country Park with the Solent and Isle of Wight in the distance.

Molly east of Ditchling Beacon, north of Brighton.

Bramshott Bottom west of Beacon Hill, south-east of South Harting. Despite being August the Downs were fantastically empty. Every now and then we would meet the odd walker or hiker. Nearly everyone we met was very confused, bemused and baffled with our set-up. You could see them thinking: what is a man who looks like Moses doing travelling with two younger women, a small herd of girls and a baby? It was all most amusing. For most of the trip Anoek became my wife which only added to the confusion. Especially to the more elderly conservative dog-walkers of this land.

People would stop us and take pictures of our travelling circus of wagons. One person said we looked like refugees. Another said we looked like gypsies. Some said we looked biblical. One thought we had stepped straight out of an Enid Blyton Famous Five adventure story. Most thought we were insane and most were astonished we were doing what we were doing. Groups of big grown men on mountain bikes would screech to a halt and exclaim: 'You're going to drag all THAT all the way to Eastbourne?' Most asked if the wagons were power-assisted by was of a battery or a lawn-mower-type engine (unfortunately not). A number of passing hikers wanted to have a go at pushing or pulling a wagon - and then they would give up after a foot, dumfounded by the ridiculous weight. One passing backpacker said, 'The way you move is like from ancient times, like when they brought the rocks to Stonehenge.' Most people couldn't understand why we were doing the trip. The distance! The hills! The weight! And with all those children and all that heavy clobber. All that dragging and towing. The lack of facilities. The difficulty with finding food and water. All that discomfort and dirt and effort. And with a baby! Why?

Why? Because it’s fantastic to travel with your children so slowly and laboriously through such a beautiful landscape and not know what might happen. The sense of uncertainty and unpredictability of doing something that felt at times so impossibly ridiculous, and the pain and effort of dragging and pushing such loads intensified every sight and sound and smell. Hauling and heaving a ton of kit over hill and Down at the speed of a snail in labour while all the time not knowing where we might sleep or who we might meet or where we might find food or water sent all senses into overdrive.

Molly and MIla: in a sheep field where we camped up on Beacon Hill, east of Harting Down, west of Mount Sinai.

Jack in happy yee-haa wagon-riding mode.

We've just walked down off a Down into Washington in search of food and water.

Jack trying Goose's boots for size where we were camping in someone's back garden sandwiched between the busy A273 and A23 at Pyecombe, north of Brighton.

Jesus, Anoek, Molly, Mila, Daisy and Goose atop Stump Bottom Down, south of Kingston near Lewes.

Picnic spot heading up onto Forty Acre Lane, south west of South Harting.

A worn-out Jack.

A worn-out Goose

A rare village shop-stop!

A rare tea-shop-stop - in fact, our only one! - Amberley, north of Arundel and Littlehampton.

Track-side camping. East of Amberley, south of Storrington.

Daisy hitching a downhill ride.

There was no hitching lifts uphill. Molly walking into the storm.

Having a breather with Molly - the wagons make good snuggle seats.

Molly and Anoek walking down Houghton Down towards Amberley.

Molly jumping on board a wagon for a momentary ride across Annington Hill, north of Steep Down and south of Steyning.

We didn't do any health and safety - the girls climbed low trees, medium high trees and very high trees.

Quite a lot of people have asked me would I do it again. The answer: yes, but not with a breastfeeding baby in nappies. It’s hard work!

Many thanks to the following for providing me with kit and equipment:

www.walkingwagon.com (for the Dutch wagons)

www.mountainbuggy.com (for Jack’s off-road pram)

www.rohan.co.uk (for lightweight travel clothing)

www.outfitgroup.co.uk (for running shorts and shirt)

www.raindrops.co.uk (for children’s outdoor clothing)

www.cheekyrascals.co.uk (for child-carrying bits and advice)

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Operation Pram Push – The Walking Wagon Arrives! And so does the Mountain Buggy buggy – otherwise known as the Operation Pram Push pushchair. (This update: July 21st 2014)

Time is racing on and Operation Pram Push is still in full swing and the almighty Walking Wagons from Holland have arrived. Last weekend I took one of these wagons for a test pull-and-push with Molly and Daisy and Jack. And there they are, the distant South Downs ahoy! In 3 weeks time we will be up there with Anoek and Mila and the juggling Goose (see previous postings for explanations) camping and walking with these fantastic monster wagons and pram in an attempt to travel the entire 100-mile length of the South Downs Way from Winchester to Eastbourne.

Just to get to grips with the wagon we started off on a sturdy piece of tarmac...

...before heading for a bit of rough and tumble.

Molly acted as the guard, standing on the footplate on the rear, taking tickets and asking all passengers to 'move right along the bus now please'.

Plunging into the woods we came across the best see-saw (or tree-saw) in the world...

...which, aided by Gary, bounced up and down about 5-foot in the air. You don't get fun like this in a health-and-safety padded playground.

I will be raising money on Operation Pram Push for the charity Dreams Come True which helps children with terminal and serious illnesses. I hope to raise enough money to give the charity a Nihola Trike (like the one I use on the school run) so that some of the children can experience the fun and freedom of cycling.

Thank you to anyone who would like to sponsor us at: www.virginmoneygiving.com/dewuk

Or you can text: DCTC08 – followed by the amount of your donation to 70070

Eg: DCTC08 £5 to 70070

ADDED EXTRA: OPERATION PRAM PUSH UPDATE JULY 21ST 2014

Testing testing. The new Mountain Buggy pushchair arrives! The best pushchair I could find that should be up for the ups and downs rigours of Operation Pram push is the Mountain Buggy Terrain which comes with extra sturdiness and extra bounce. So a big thank you to Mountain Buggy for providing me with one for the pram-pushing voyage that begins next week. And ditto to the Dutch Walking Wagon brigade for the two Walking Wagon Rambler Explorers. So here I am with the girls and young Jack posing with our new assortment of wheeled wagons.

More posing...and even a bit of pulling! It's beginning to dawn on me that I could be biting off more than I can chew. This Walking red Wagon is currently unloaded but even attempting to pull it a few feet up this slight hill and I was thinking this Operation Pram Push lark could be hard work!

So this is the pram-pushing plan so far: Start in Winchester August 1st and push to Eastbourne. Camping all the way. The builder husband to meet us at intervals bearing emergency supplies of food, water and nappies. The whole jolly escapade will take about a month. The conventional route appears to start the South Downs Way at Eastbourne and end at Winchester. East to West. It makes more sense to me to do West to East for the following reasons: 1. The start is quite close to home so should disaster strike or the more pocket-sized members of the team be suffering from lack of fatherly tenderly moments, he can leap into his van and be with us in a jiffy. Or so we hope. 2. Not walking all day with the sun in our eyes, or should the sun not be shining, not walking all day with the prevailing wind and driving rain in our faces - not that it's allowed to be anything but perfect weather, thank you very much. 3. East to West is a better incentive for the junior members of the party to head from town to sea - thus with every footstep getting ever-closer to fairground rides and ice creams on the beach.

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Operation Pram Push (aka Operation Walking Wagon)

Operation Pram Push is now in full swing. Dutch Anoek, who is a prominent pram-pushing member, has made a postcard of all the pram-pushing party. As mentioned in the previous Operation Pram Push update, Guust is of course Goose to us English lingo-speaking dwellers.

And here is the aforementioned Anoek and Goose in action with one of our glorified sledge-on-wheels that we will be pushing and pulling and heaving and hauling up and down Downs. (We're taking two of them). Like Anoek and Goose these sledges are very Dutch and are actually called Walking Wagons (see www.walkingwagon.com for more info if you're interested in carting large amounts of clobber - and children - about by de luxe wheelbarrow). Our Rambler Explorer, as this model is known, is topped by the very lovely Mila (Anoek's daughter) who is sunning herself a treat. (Long may the sun last as I have a terrible habit of attracting the worst-weather-on-record everywhere I go).

Here is the Rambler Explorer wagon again on a Dutch cycle path with Goose at the helm. (I have yet to see, push or pull one of these wagons but Anoek's trying to get them sent over the North Sea to me within the next couple of weeks - so keep atuned for Blighty-based snaps...)

All I can say is who needs a Range-Rover-style pram like this when you can have a Dutch Rambler Explorer for transporting precious offspring?

This is currently how I'm transporting my offspring of a precious nature (Jack) around in by bike-trike - cocooned amongst a thicket of fat foam.

Other people have different methods for transporting their children about by 2 or more wheels as demonstrated by this mother in Portland, Oregon.

Or there again, you may prefer the thigh-balancing-hope-I-don't-drop method of baby-on-bike-carrying as seen here in Brooklyn, New York.

But I think the baby-in-a-bucket method (as seen here in Mubai, India) has to win hands down for sheer ingenuity on the economical and practical front.

PS. A very big thank you to Marcel and Gerjan at www.walkingwagon.com for sponsoring our jolly jaunt (at least we hope it’s going to be jolly – it will certainly be a little tricky) along the South Downs and for providing us with 2 of their fine Rambler Explorers).

PPS. A big thank you also to Paula at Raindrops who has just kitted out Molly, Daisy and Jack with a fantastic array of wet-weather gear for Operation Pram Push. Raindrops is a local company I discovered in an industrial estate a half-an-hour bike ride up the road from me and they specialize in outdoor clothing from Scandinavia. Hopefully we won’t be having to sport any of Raindrops rainy wear as I like to think it will be sunny all the way, but best to be prepared in this pram-pushing walking-wagon game.

For more on Raindrops see: www.raindrops.co.uk

PPS. Thanks to New York Steve for the last 3 pictures.

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