Countdown to the Willingham Wheels Cider Cycle!

In just 6 days time, 9 members of Willingham Wheels will set off on a 181 mile, 7 county relay from Somerset back home to Willingham.  We expect that there will be 3 or more riders on the road at any one time and each rider will complete at least 75 miles of the journey.

The planning for this trip has been quite extensive – the only thing we haven’t done is recce / ride the route in advance (what would be the fun in that?!) so we hope that CycleStreets and Ordnance Survey mapping is accurate and that we don’t come across any unplanned diversions on the way.

We have divided the route into 25 mile stages. After we the first group set off, the support vehicles will race ahead to the changeover point and the next group of riders will take over the ‘baton’ without hesitation (repetition or deviation?) at least, that’s the plan!

We hope to average 15-16mph which should see us get back to Willingham after about 11.5-12 hrs of riding.

Wish us luck!

   Click on any map below for an enlarged view

Stage 1:

Overall

Stage 2:

Overall

Stage 3:

Overall

Stage 4:

Overall

Stage 5:

Overall

Stage 6:

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Stage 7 & 8:

Overall

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Posted in 2018, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cider Cycle, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Willingham, Willingham Wheels, Wiltshire | 1 Comment

Off We Go Again…

Firstly let me apologise for my lack of posts recently. I don’t really have an excuse other than the blog is entitled ‘an occasional blog’ Winking smile

As you will know from my end of year post, I was hoping that this year I would be returning to France on my bike. Unfortunately, Steve had to postpone his ride due to a number of logistical issues.  Hopefully it will happen at some point as it sounded like a fantastic opportunity to cross a few items from my bucket list.

CiderCycle

Not to be deterred though, I have another couple of special rides that I am planning this year:

The first, on June 17th, will see me as part of a relay team from Willingham Wheels, covering 181 miles from Somerset to Willingham in 12 Hours. We plan to be riding in groups of three and we’ll divide the route up into chunks of about 25 miles.  Each member of the team will cover around 75 miles of the journey.  It should be great fun so look out for more details in the coming weeks.

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Second on my schedule is another go at the Goatham’s Great Kent Cycle Ride.  As you know, I did this last year and had a great time.  In the absence of Steve’s ride to France, I thought I would support him again at this event.

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We start from Hoo on Friday 6th July and head towards Leeds Castle before stopping overnight in Ashford.

On Saturday 7th July we will head down to the coast at Dungeness and up towards Dymchurch & Hythe before returning to Ashford for our final overnight stop.

Sunday sees us return to Hoo via Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks and Rochester.  Steve said it should be around 210-220 miles in total.  I’ll post a full itinerary as soon as it’s been shared with us.

As per last year, I plan to blog during the ride so please come back here to see how I’m getting on.

For those of you who may be inclined to sponsor me for the Goatham’s Great Kent Cycle Ride, once again it is being organised by the Kent Sports Trust and they are fundraising in aid of Help for Heroes. I have a modest fundraising target of £600 and it would be great if you could contribute something towards my total.  My JustGiving site is now live if you are able to help. Click here to donate.

Thanks as always

Nigel

Posted in 2018, Chatham, Cider Cycle, GGKCR18, Kent, Mudgley, The Great Kent Cycle Ride, Willingham, Willingham Wheels | Leave a comment

Signing off for 2017…

christmas_cardThis year has been another memorable one and it just leaves me the chance to revisit the events I’ve had the good fortune to participate in during the last 12 months and provide a little insight into my plans for 2018.

I’ve been involved in two Help for Heroes related activities this year…

In May, I persuaded Paul and Ken from Willingham Wheels to join three great friends of mine as they passed through Cambridgeshire on their John O’Groats to Lands End challenge.  Cycle 2 Recovery saw Steve, Brian and Lee (on a hand-bike) ride more than 1300 miles (the wrong way!) visiting Help for Heroes Recovery Centres in Edinburgh, Catterick, Colchester, Tidworth and Plymouth on their journey.  It was great to be able to share just a small part of their journey with them and escort them safely through the County!

In July I headed down to Kent to spend a fantastic 3 days circling the county! The Goathams Great Kent Cycle Ride was another one of Steve’s ideas and it was great to be a part of it.  Heading off from Hoo, we went all around (mainly up and down) the country lanes of Kent covering 215 miles and making great friends along the way. I was honoured to be able to give a short talk and lay a wreath in memory of Pilot Officer Peter Mildren at the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne.  It was certainly my highlight of the weekend.

Thanks for sticking with the blog. I look back fondly at all the adventures I’ve been on and shared with you here since my Help for Heroes journey began in 2009. There are some great memories on this site and hopefully more to come…

Sappers and the Great WarIn May 2018, I hope to be joining Steve again on a special ride he is organising. The ‘Sappers and the Great War Bike Ride’ will start in Mons, Belgium and visit Ypres, Arras, St Omer, head back to Dover and finish at Chatham. On the way there will be an opportunity to visit the Menin Gate (those of you that have followed my blog know that to hear Last Post played there has been on my ‘bucket-list’ for many years). We’ll also be riding close to Athies which is the final resting place of one of my Great Uncles who lost his life in June 1917. I hope to make a quick detour to visit the cemetery and pay my respects.

They’ll be approximately 20 of us taking part including Regular, Reserve, veteran and wounded members of the Corps of Royal Engineers as well as some invited guests (thankfully!) and I’ll be fundraising again for Help for Heroes. Watch this space for further details of the ride and how you might be able to support us.

Finally I’d like to wish you and your loved ones a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2018.  I’ll see you on the other side!

Nigel

Posted in 2017, 2018, Help for Heroes, Our Cycle 2 Recovery, Sappers and the Great War, Sappers and the Great War Bike Ride, TGKCR, The Great Kent Cycle Ride | 1 Comment

GGKCR17–The Movie!

SkyOps were following us around during the three days of the Goathams Great Kent Cycle Ride 2017 and have put together the following highlights from our challenge:

I hope you enjoy it!

Thanks for looking

Nigel

Posted in 2017, Battle of Britain, Brands Hatch, Canterbury, Capel-le-Ferne, Chatham, Cliffsend, Deal, Dover, Faversham, GGKCR17, Gillingham, Help for Heroes, Herne Bay, Hoo, Hythe, Kent, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Sandwich, Sevenoaks, The Great Kent Cycle Ride, Whitstable | 1 Comment

Home in time for tea and medals…

Each of the three days we have ridden have been themed:

Day One, heading to Brands Hatch, it was appropriate that the theme would be Kent’s John Surtees.  An English Grand Prix motorcycle road racer and Formula One driver, he was a four-time 500cc motorcycle World Champion – winning that title in 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960 – Formula One World Champion in 1964, and remains the only person to have won World Championships on both two and four wheels.

The theme for Day Two was The Few

Sunday’s theme was to be Teamwork…

Elspeth, Duncan (more about them later) and I set of just before 8.00am and headed towards what we knew would be our first big obstacle of the day.  Our route took us up to Dover Castle. One of the largest castles in England and proudly standing on top of the iconic White Cliffs, our route to the castle consisted of a 10% average gradient climb over 1km. We set out a little ahead of the main group to allow Elspeth and Duncan (and me!) a fighting chance of cresting the hill before the main peloton followed…

Despite our concern of having to manage such a challenging climb without an opportunity to warm up, we did reach the top and continued on for about another 2 miles before the first of the other riders caught up with us, by which time we were enjoying a relatively flat ride on top of the cliffs.

The rest of our journey through to the first refreshment stop took us along the edge of the coast through Deal and Sandwich and on to Cliffsend. A distance of approximately 18 miles.

From here, we cut across to Herne Bay and Whitstable, continuing our coastal tour until we headed inland for an ‘optional’ stop at The Freewheel cycling pub/café. This was a great opportunity to rest for a few minutes and have a well deserved cold drink (the weather was definitely warming up by that point) before continuing on to Faversham and Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest brewery, another of the ride sponsors and the location, after 46 miles, for our lunch stop! They laid on a terrific spread for us with plenty of pasta to fuel us up for the remainder of our trip and not to mention some other carbs too Winking smile

Suitably refreshed(!) we headed on for our last afternoon in the saddle.  At 62 miles we stopped at another of Goatham’s orchards in Gore, took on some more liquids and bananas and prepared for our final stint.

In the spirit of teamwork, the organisers of the ride wanted everyone to finish the ride together so Steve, Kev and I, offered to ride with Elspeth and Duncan to the finish in Hoo, keeping everyone together and encouraging them up the last couple of climbs of the day.  Elspeth is (and I hope she doesn’t mind me saying) 62 and first got to know Steve on the Help for Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride in 2014.  She intended to ride in 2014 & 2018 to commemorate the WW1 Centenary but, much as I did after my first H4H Ride, got hooked and has ridden all of them since.  It’s fair to say that she’s not the fastest rider in the peloton but she is none the less determined and great fun to be around.  Duncan is another Ex-Sapper (Royal Engineer) and a good friend of Steve’s.  Duncan suffered a heart attack earlier in the year but despite this, drove the support van (and cycled some days) of Steve’s John O’Groats to Lands End ride and wanted to complete the 3 day challenge.

We made good time over the last 14 miles, arriving at the foot of Windmill Hill and the final climb of the day.  The rest of the group were waiting for us at the top but as we began our ascent, a couple of them cycled back down to ride with us and provide additional encouragement to Elspeth and Duncan.  We arrived at the top to cheers and applause!  It was a great achievement to complete the last climb in one go.  At the top, we re-grouped behind the Cycle-Tec lead vehicle and all headed to the finish at Flanders Farm where we had begun our adventure on Friday morning, some 223 miles ago!

We were presented with superb medals at the finish before Steve Craddock and Steve Wolfe (CEO of the Kent Sports Trust) said a few words thanking everyone for their participation and presenting a signed Help for Heroes flag to Goatham’s for their wonderful support throughout the event.  Some ‘fines’ were dispensed (not least for Steve who despite having designed and recce’d the route, managed to miss an orange arrow at Dover Castle and went the wrong way!) and awards were presented in recognition of various individuals’ contributions to the 3 days.

Finally we said our farewells before packing up our kit and heading home.  I’m sure most of us will see each other again next year…

Finally, it was wonderful to see so many families and friends at the finish to welcome us home.  I happened to overhear a comment at the finish which I thought summed up the weekend perfectly…

“Hello Daddy, we’re having a takeaway for tea!”

As always, thanks for all of your generous support over the last few months.

And to those new friends I met on the ride, please stay in touch!

Nigel

Route:

Strava

Click on the link to view a ‘fly-by’ of today’s ride: www.relive.cc/view/1086660916

Posted in 2017, Chatham, Cliffsend, Deal, Dover, Faversham, GGKCR17, Herne Bay, Hoo, Kent, Sandwich, TGKCR, The Great Kent Cycle Ride, Whitstable | 1 Comment

Following in the footsteps of The Few…

As I hinted in previous posts, today was an emotional ride. Everything went better than I could have hoped.  I’ll try to explain…

We left Brands Hatch just after 8am and after the climbs of yesterday (which must have put something in the bank for us) we were treated to a very long downhill stretch to get warmed up. I’m not quite sure how far but it seemed to go on for a long time and I had a nagging doubt that we would pay for it later (we did!)

Our route took us through West Malling, something I’ll come back to in my blog later, and to our first refreshment stop at 25 miles in an orchard in the middle of the beautiful Kent countryside just south of Maidstone.

Suitably refreshed, we set out for our lunch stop at Canterbury RFC – another 25 miles.  We made really good time. The weather and the terrain was kind to us (we had a short shower while we having lunch but the rest of the day was dry).  Canterbury RFC laid on a great chilli for us and I think the hot food was just what we needed to get ourselves ready for the challenge ahead.

Steve had said that today would be flatter than yesterday. I’d like to say he lied but to be honest he was just being economical with the truth! Leaving Canterbury and heading towards the coast at Hythe is a pretty straight road but it does climb over the North downs. Nothing quite as steep as yesterday but it did drag on a bit! The views however were wonderful and the ride down into Hythe once we’d got over the top was greeted with much relief.

We were treated to Afternoon Tea in Hythe (about 65 miles in), courtesy of Holiday Extras, one of the ride sponsors. Fresh strawberries and clotted cream really didn’t do much for my plan to lose a few pounds on this ride (but they were really nice!).

I set out from Hythe ahead of many of the group as I knew there was a tough climb ahead of me and I had a particular task to undertake at our next stop so didn’t want to be late. All was going well… I left Hythe following the little orange arrows that marked our route, following them through Shorncliffe (where I joined the Army in 1981), Sandgate and on to Folkestone.  It was at this point that I must have missed a crucial arrow as I found myself in the middle of the town.

I turned around and enjoyed a short ride along the prom before coming across some equally puzzled riders heading the other way,  Between us we consulted the maps and worked out where we had gone wrong, retraced our steps and got back on track (but having lost about 15 minutes in the process).

We then started to head out of Folkestone to the top of the ‘White Cliffs’ and the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-Le-Ferne.  It was a very steep climb (varying between 10 & 12%) over about a mile.  I got as far as I could in the saddle but at the steepest section, about 2/3 of the way up and 75 miles into the ride, I had to admit defeat and walked until the gradient flattened out. I arrived about 15 minutes ahead of our planned memorial event (phew!).

Those of you that know me, also know that I look after the CWGC war graves in the churchyard at St. Mary’s, Westmill. You may also know that I am in the middle of organising a memorial to Pilot Office Peter Mildren, one of The Few, who grew up in the village, but whose name was never inscribed on the existing village war memorial.

I had always hoped to lay a wreath on behalf of the villagers of Westmill, in memory of Peter, but when I was talking to Steve about it, he asked if I could talk to everyone for 5 minutes about Peter and give an insight as to why I was commemorating him.

All the riders gathered around the central memorial – a wonderful sculpture of a fighter pilot, sitting in the middle of a huge propeller, looking out from the top of the White Cliffs across the English Channel. It’s a wonderfully fitting memorial and I urge you to pay it a visit if you’re ever in the area. Take my advice though, and go by car!!

Steve introduced the Battle of Britain to the group and then handed over to me to provide details of one of the Spitfire pilots who took part. Pilot Office Peter Mildren was born and lived in Westmill, Hertfordshire but served in West Malling and Biggin Hill. It was thought provoking cycling around the same Kent countryside that he fought over. At the end of my talk, I laid the poppy wreath at the foot of the memorial and Steve led a minutes silence.  It was so nice afterwards to hear such kind comments from everyone that had listened. I am incredibly proud to have the chance to do this.  It was a great idea of yours Steve. Thank you for the opportunity.

After taking a few photos, I joined everyone and headed out of the memorial and down (thankfully!) the road into Dover and our Hotel for the night having completed 80 miles.

We’ve just enjoyed a fantastic meal to celebrate our last evening together.  Tomorrow, we head up (again!) to Dover Castle and then begin our ride back to Hoo, taking in the Kent coastline on the way.  It’s going to be a great day I’m sure!

If you haven’t sponsored me for my ride, please think about donating using the JustGiving button on this page.

I might not get around to updating my Blog tomorrow when we finish, as I’ll have to head home but I will do a final update as soon as I can.

Thanks for looking

Nigel

Route:

Day 2

Click on the link to view a ‘fly-by’ of today’s ride: https://www.relive.cc/view/1084766674

As promised, please click on the thumbnail below to read the text of my talk about Peter:

Peter Mildren 2

Posted in 2017, Battle of Britain, Brands Hatch, Canterbury, Capel-le-Ferne, Dover, GGKCR17, Help for Heroes, Hythe, Kent, TGKCR, The Great Kent Cycle Ride, Westmill | 1 Comment

Life is a rollercoaster…

Well that was tough!

My first day in the saddle for on the Great Kent Cycle Ride 2017 was full of ups and downs…

I travelled down to Chatham and stayed overnight to avoid any potential hold-ups on the M25.  It was a good plan as my hotel was only 15 minutres away from the start at Flanders Farm in Hoo, owned by Goathams, the main sponsors of the ride.  We needed to be their by 6.45 for registration and a pre-ride briefing from Cycle-Tec (who are dealing with the ride logistics) and Steve Craddock who outlined their purpose of the ride and stressed that it should be fun!

We set off in two groups.  I left the farm at 8.15am and headed back into Rochester and past the castle just as the early morning traffic was about to peak.  It wasn’t too much of a problem though and we were soon heading towards Aylesford and our first refreshment stop of the day after around 15 miles. It was great that everyone arrived within about 30-45 minutes of each other (a feature of the ride that was to continue all the way through the day).  Suitably recharged with bananas and an assortment of other goodies we set out again.  It was threatening to rain at this point but fortune was smiling on us and we kept dry.

From Aylesford we headed towards Royal Tunbridge Wells and our first long, drawn out hill of the day.  I got the to the summit ok but while I was readying myself for the traffic lights, my Garmin decided to reset itself.  It took a few minutes for me to get it working again (although it appears to have lost the first 30 miles of my ride – something I’ll need to look at when I get home).  Once it appeared to be OK I headed on through Tonbridge and on to Hildenborough for lunch at 35 miles

The catering was great!  We are fortunate to have Dame Kelly Holmes MBE participating in the ride and she owns a cycle-friendly cafe in Hildenborough (Cafe 1809 if you’re ever passing) and had arranged for the staff to cater for us at a nearby sports field.

We sent off after lunch, heading towards Sevenoaks and were soon greeted by the first of two ‘challenging’ climbs the afternoon had in store for us.  Riverhill was listed in the Top ten toughest climbs in the Kent Alps but was withdrawn because its a busy road with lots of traffic but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it lasted for about 2km at gradients varying between 9-14%.  It was extremely hard work and I can vouch for how busy the stretch of road is.

Once Riverhill was conquered the route was very much up and down all the way to our final refreshment stop of the day at Westerham, in glorious sunshine. My Garmin threw another wobbly at this point and I lost the next 15 miles of my ride We left and almost immediately headed up Westerham Hill – No. 3 on the list of toughest climbs mentioned previously!  It was hard work. Apparently its only 1km (not sure about that) but the gradient ranges from 8-40%. It reminded me of the Alps when I rode there in 2015. If you stop (and I don’t mind saying I did!) it’s just so difficult to get going again and get clipped into the pedals while trying to maintain forward momentum.

Once we were over Westerham Hill, while still ‘undulating’, it was nowhere near as difficult and we enjoyed a wonderful ride through picturesque villages and landscapes for the rest of our journey to Brands Hatch.  There was one last hill in store for us as we headed to the Hotel but it wasn’t too bad and the promise of a cold beer in the hotel urged us on to compete the first 66 miles of our tour of Kent!

Tomorrow’s leg takes us on a journey of 75 miles down to the coast.  We’re heading towards Folkestone and up onto the White Cliffs to pay our respects at the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne (more of that tomorrow) before heading for our overnight stop in Dover.

I’ll try to post details of our route from today when I get home as I need to see what I can recover from my Garmin. Hopefully normal service will be resumed tomorrow. Until then, Sleep well (I know I will!)…

Thanks for looking

Nigel

Look at the link for a flyby of our route: https://www.relive.cc/view/1083182232

It’s not representative of my ride speed etc. as I’ve used a link sent to me by another rider due to my Garmin failure.

Posted in 2017, Brands Hatch, GGKCR17, Hoo, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, TGKCR, The Great Kent Cycle Ride | 1 Comment