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)