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

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

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

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

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

Bonjour! Welcome to France. Canalside riding near Caen.

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

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

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

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

It was THIS big. Yes, really!

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

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

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

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

Cycling along the joys of the Canal de la Somme.

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

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

Belgium bike path near Brugges.

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

The windmill of Vlissingen, Holland.

All aboard. Leaving a Dutch farm campsite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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