Josie Dew

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


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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Operation Pram Push (Number 2)

Here is the Nihola trike in action! Gary (my burdensome ballast) is holding aloft the certificate I have just received at the finish of a local charity bike ride. (I was raising money for Molly's primary school). I am looking a bit out of puff as I am very pregnant with Jack who was born not long after this ride. It was lucky I didn't give birth to Jack on one of the 1:4 hills on the ride - although the trike's front box could have doubled up as a useful emergency birthing suite.

The pram-pushing plan so far:
To push young Jack (who will be 11 months old by the time we set off on Operation Pram Push) in a pram the 100-mile length of the South Downs Way during Molly’s summer school holidays (start date: about 25th July. Finish date: end of August/beginning of September).

If the pram-pushing mission goes to plan Jack will have his 1st birthday on top of a Down. And Molly will have her 8th birthday on top of another Down.

Molly has quite sturdy cycling legs so hopefully she will be able to walk about 4-5 miles a day up and down a Down.

The conundrum is 4-year old Daisy. How many miles of Downs does she have in her legs? On current walks she has a fixation with collecting a lorry-load of feathers and leaves and sticks and stones and rocks the size of her head. And there’s only so many rocks my pockets will hold.

Ideally Gary (the building husband) would come too so that he could carry his fair share of rocks. But he’s too busy building in August to come on a merry goose chase with us over hill and Down. Gary thinks the whole idea is crack-brained which is quite reassuring as he thinks most of my ideas are crack-brained. And he’s probably right. But that’s no good reason I tell him not to do it.

We will be camping most of the way  which means a lot of clobber attached to a pram and to some sort of trans-Antarctica sledge on wheels.

How am I going to manage all this singlehanded? Well, I’m not! As I won’t have my husband I need a  temporary husband who I seem to have found in the form of a temporary wife called Anoek.  Anoek is Dutch and lives in Utrecht and she seems strangely enthusiastic about the whole idea. She also has a 4-year-old daughter (one week older than Daisy) who is coming too. I think Mila also likes to collect rocks so it may be an idea to take a dumper truck with us on this pram-pushing escapade. Hence conundrum Number 2. How to move two four-year-olds forwards? Plus a Molly. Plus a baby.

Anoek thinks she has the answer. Anoek has a sort of husband called Pek and who the girls call Jesus (he looks like Jesus). But as Jesus doesn’t like walking or camping he’s staying put in Holland. So Anoek is coming on this pram-pushing circus with her temporary husband called Guust but who the girls call Goose as we English can’t properly pronounce Dutch Guust (it involves a lot of throaty garglings). I have yet to meet Goose. All I know about him so far is that he has a wife who doesn’t like walking or camping and that he has a beard and teaches PE. Oh, and he also juggles. I think it is Goose’s juggling acts that Anoek thinks will fascinate the girls so much that they will run after him as he walks along juggling. And as they run mesmerized by the sight of so many airborne balls they won’t notice the Downs pass beneath their feet. And so the miles will pass. Or so we hope.
I will be raising money to buy a Nihola trike (like the one I currently use to transport Jack around in – and pictured above with Gary in it) to donate to the children’s charity Dreams Come True. This charity makes dreams come true for children with both life-threatening and long-term illnesses. If anyone would like to sponsor me (and a big thank you to those who already have) please go to: www.virginmoneygiving.com/dewuk

Operation Pram Push would probably be quite easy (and fast) if the South Downs Way tracks were country lanes like this as Molly and Daisy shoot along like rockets on their scooters and Gary and I have trouble keeping up with them. But that's the joy of the South Downs Way - it's footpaths and bridleways not roads. So the tricky predicament remains: how to keep the girls moving forwards?

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Operation Pram Push

Before I gave birth to my small fleet of mini cyclists I never used to plan, I just let things happen. I would be cooking away (I used to be a cook) or writing away (I used to write more than I do now) when I’d suddenly just fancy heading off on my bike with my tent. I’d have a rough idea of the country or continent I wanted to cycle to. I’ll cycle to Sweden, I’d think. And then I’d end up in Poland via Iceland. Or I would set off cycling to New Zealand, and end up cycling around Japan. Or I’d aim for Alaska and veer off course to Hawaii. Or I’d head for Patagonia and end up riding across America. It’s not that I got lost or couldn’t map read, it’s just that I would find a road that looked more interesting than the one I was on and then head off to see what was down it. I liked leaving things to happy chance. When I woke up in my tent in the morning I never knew where I would go  that day, or what I would eat or where I would sleep. I liked that sense of unpredictability and uncertainty. It keeps you on your toes and makes all senses alert. I had no phone, no iPad, no iPod, no computer. Just a map, a compass, a Swiss Army knife and a shortwave radio. Simplicity in a bag. The ultimate freedom.

These days I’ve got to be a bit more organized. After thirty years of gallivanting about the place by bike I now have other people to think about: 7-year-old Molly, 3-year-old Daisy and 7-month-old Jack. Oh, and Gary (the builder). As Molly is at primary school, any chance of cycling anywhere is now concertinaed into the far-too-short state school holidays – which still comes as a bit of a shock to my pre-children days of unlimited time.So the plan for this Easter was to go cycling somewhere with offspring in tow for the official 2 weeks (or 3-4 weeks if we got ‘lost’). Gary would have had to come too for the extra trailer pulling power and for the extra pair of hands (3 children requires all hands on decks at all times plus multiple eyes in backs of heads). But he’s too busy building to head off on a wild goose chase with me and the rowdy herd of small people so I’m going to Dorset instead.

My plan then was to head off cycling somewhere around Europe for the summer school holidays. But ditto the same problem: Gary is too busy building. So I thought what can I do by myself with the girls and Jack? And be close enough to Gary so that he can occasionally lay down his tool belt and come and see us. Cycling with them all is quite a handful and as there are some pretty awful drivers in this country I’d probably return home a shadow of my former self.

So my new idea is to go on a pram-pushing escapade along the whole of the 100-mile South Downs Way. The advantage is that there is no motor traffic up there to cut me up or overtake on blind corners, and Gary can get doses of us with relative ease. Molly, I think, will be able to walk about 4 or 5 miles a day up and down Down. Jack, although heavy and ambitiously filling nappies at the rate of knots, is too young to be stubborn. And not being mobile on his legs yet just has to be pushed or pulled or towed or carried. The only stumbling block is how to motivate Daisy to put one leg in front of the other. Or more to the point, how to put one step forwards and not 5 steps back – as on current walks she keeps running back the way we’ve come to pick up feathers and leaves and sticks and stones and rocks the size of her head.

So it’s a mission with puzzling complexities from the start but one I feel I’d like to take by the horns. I know some people can do the whole of the South Downs Way in a day, but I think it will take me and my merry hindrance of offspring about a month. (That’s if we can do it at all). And we’ll be camping all the way. Which means a lot of clobber attached to a pram and some sort of trans-Antarctica sledge on wheels. How am I going to manage all this single-handed? Well I’m not! I need a temporary husband which seems to have arrived on my doorstep in the form of a temporary wife. Well, not quite my doorstep. A bit further away than that. In Utrecht in the Netherlands to be precise. She’s very Dutch and she’s called Anoek and she has a daughter called Mila who is exactly a week older than Daisy. And Mila wants to come too. So she is. Hence conundrum number 2. How to move two 4-year-olds forwards. I think I’ll sleep on that one.

Here are a few recent snap shots of prams to finish off:

Traveling light (yes, really!) with Jack in pram. And there they are - the distant South Downs.

Daisy trying to look innocent despite hiding several of her favourite rocks about the pram.

A picnic expedition to the local graveyard.

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A new year with a new-ish baby on a not-so-new trike-bike. (Plus bike talk Olympia London 25th January 2014).

Young budding cyclist baby Jack is expanding fast. He is now 4 months old and has luckily taken kindly to being carted about in my customized and ever-useful Danish Nihola trike contraption. It took me a while to work out how to carry him about by pedal power but when he was a few weeks old I hit on a solution to this tricky cycle conundrum. After removing the bench seat that comes with the trike as standard issue fare I padded out the interior with bulky 3-inch-thick wads of foam. Among all these walls and floors of foam lies Jack in his little red carrycot fixed in with a criss-cross of fixed-point webbing straps and topped with a heap of cosy blankets. The fact that he usually falls asleep within moments of take-off is a promising sign that he seems quite content with being whirled about by tricycle wheels. Here 3-year old Daisy is at the helm of the trusty Nihola.

That's not Daisy with Jack as Jack's-in-the-box.

As the Nihola trike is currently full of foam and a frolicking baby there is no longer any room on board the box for Daisy. So she is now towed behind the trike by trailer. So the three-wheeled trike has become a five-wheeled articulated apparatus of magnificent proportion. Forget the rage of 4x4s. The way forward is by 3x2s!

Although most motorists pass our 3x2 with a suitably wide berth there is often the odd driver who overtakes far to fast or too close for comfort. The solution is to either emigrate to Holland or fix the front of the trike with some rather fine weaponry to teach the negligent motorist a lesson they won't forget - as demonstrated here by Frederick Simms who, for the 1899 Automobile Club Richmond Show, fitted a Maxim machine gun to his motor quadricycle. Way to go! - as they say in various necks of the woods around the world.

PS:   I forgot to say I’ll be giving a bike talk next weekend at The Adventure Travel Show at Olympia in London Saturday 25th January 2014 at 15.30-16.00 in the Adventure Auditorium.

To buy tickets for £6 (saving £4 off the door price) just quote ‘JOSIE DEW’ when buying online at www.adventureshow.com or when calling:

0871 230 7159

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The third bus is born!

The third bus is born (see comments on last post ‘Just say no to school and yes to sunny cycles to the sea’ to see why it’s a bus) – otherwise known as little Jack Frank Appleton, a young apprentice for Gary (the builder).

And here he is - third in line to the throne of the Circe tandem. I thought it best to give young Jack (age 2 days) a test on board the elongated mount to see how he will shape up on the school run.

I was going to write more but time is limited to mere seconds on the computer these days. Nappies need changing, babies need feeding (I hear the cry) – ditto girls and builders. The feeding bit that is. Will update this space soon…

Still on a baby front theme how's this for the Range Rover-loving family who wants a Range Rover-style four-wheel-drive pram for their newborn? (Spotted by my brother, a motorcyclist, at Goodwood's Festival of Speed). I think I'll stick with my three-wheel-drive Nihola Gay trike (picture to follow - once I've changed the next the next nappy and returned from the next school run).

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Just say no to school and yes to sunny cycles to the sea!

Unlike last summer this summer unusually turned into a summer – at least for a while – day after day of hot, cloudless, steamy days. Good timing for those children at private schools as they could be outside to enjoy the week after week of sunshine, but bad timing for those still stuck in the state school system as they had to be locked up in dark classrooms for an extra three weeks. Molly, who goes to the local village primary school, was one of those children itching to be out in the sun rather than carted off to school every morning. The only benefit was our bike-train (eleven-and-a-half-foot long tandem with trailer) school run which gave her a happy sunny burst of cycling in the morning and afternoon – plus after getting back from school at 3.45 she was then outside playing with Daisy and the chickens until bedtime. But no matter how much late-afternoon playtime Molly had to let off steam it still felt wrong to see her disappear every morning behind a closed  door in hot and glorious weather.

So one morning Molly was sitting in the kitchen in her school dress eating scrambled eggs and toast, the already hot sun blazing in through the wide open windows, when I said, ‘Molls, do you want to go to school this morning?’ She looked at me a little quizzically before I said, ‘Or shall we go on an adventure?’

The next thing I was on the phone to the school to report, ‘No Molly today!’ I didn’t lie, I just said no Molly. Simple as that. Half an hour later the bikes and trailer were packed with picnic and beach paraphernalia and we were off on our merry way.

Molly on her Islabike at Bosham harbour.

More Molly at Bosham with Daisy in trailer.

On the path to Itchenor ferry.

Still on the path to Itchenor ferry.

Here it comes!

All aboard!

Still aboard - with bikes and trailers.

Trying to keep up with Molly on the Salterns Way.

Shaded picnic in a clammy 32 degrees.

Half a day later we make it to the beach at West Wittering.

This, or school? Not a difficult choice for Molly.

Back on the jetty at Itchenor, waiting for our ferry man. You hail the ferry by looking up and down the harbour for the little blue and white boat, and, once spotted, you give a hearty wave to the captain and hope he's spotted you.

Still waiting...

Ferry ahoy!

Back on dry land on the other side.

And then we rode home.

Miles cycled: 21; Number of ferries: 2; Number of sandcastles built: 33; Number of mini surfboards bought and stashed to the trailer: 1; Number of clouds spotted: 0; Number of people who said to me, ‘You’ve got your hands full!’: 2; Number of times the ferry man said to me, ‘Try not to give birth on my boat!’: 2 (I’m 3 weeks away from giving birth to mini cyclist Number 3); Number of days off school: 1 lovely one!

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NEWS JUST IN!: CHICHESTER CYCLING FESTIVAL BIKE TALK IN JUNE. And Bikes and more bikes – in various shapes and sizes.

If anyone finds themselves at a loose end in Chichester (nice cathedral!) on the evening of 20th June and you fancy coming to say hello to me and pinch my tyres and feel the bounce of my saddle I’ll be giving a CYCLING AROUND THE WORLD AND CYCLING WITH OFFSPRING BIKE TALK. It’s taking place at:

Friend’s Meeting House, Priory Road, Chichester, W. Sussex, PO19 1NX

Thursday 20 June 7.30 – 9.30pm

To be emailed a ticket (£5 or £2.50 for under 16) contact: cycle@chichester.gov.uk

or tel: 01243 534694

Any problems with getting tickets then email me here on my website or send a comment in this update.

Meanwhile, sorry about the lack of nothing for a while on the updating of my website front but it decided to go on the blink, which was quite useful really as it meant I could spend more time on my bike and less time tapping away on my laptop. To understand these computerized things that are well beyond me (I like headsets and bottom brackets) I had to pin down Pete, my man in the woods. This was easier said than done as he has been a bit tied up lately buying chickens (not the trussed oven-ready ones but the more useful egg-producing live version). As luck would have it Pete popped up out of the blue last night and taking my mouse in hand (the one with the little red light up its bottom not the sort the neighbour’s cat pounces upon) he clicked this and twiddled that in the places that needed clicking and twiddling and Bob’s your uncle (or possibly chicken) I’m back on air. Before I launch into my usual two-wheeled waffle I just thought I’d test the system by giving you a burst of bikes and trikes in various shapes and sizes before things crash again and disappear into the ether:

Large airborne sculpture cycled past last year outside Emden, Germany.

One of my smaller steeds.

Our school run four-by-four

Our school run four-by-four doing a 3-point turn.

Our school run three-by-one: a Danish Nihola trike (containing Daisy with bear) towing Molly on a tag-a-long trailer bike.

Daisy out-for-the-count in Burley d'lite bike trailer.

Daisy out-for-the-count in bathtub-like cabin of Nihola trike. (Bikes - and trikes - are a boon for keeping noisy offspring quiet).

Molly dismounting from our three-by-one at school on an icy and snowy morning.

Our 3x1 arriving at school with a 4x4.

Daisy travelling at full throttle on her Islabike scoot-a-long

Molly disappearing at speed on her Islabike sandwiched between high hedges.

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