We Did It!

After our celebration meal last night, we were given a chance of a lay-in.  Breakfast at 7.30am then packed and away at 8.30am.  It was due to be another warm day.  Despite various aches and pains, everyone was looking forward to it but more than a little disappointed that our adventure was drawing to a close.

We set off in peloton and stayed close together for the first 5 miles.  By this stage in the ride you normally know who is likely to be cycling around you as groups of cyclists of similar ability tend to gravitate towards each other.

 

 

After just 5 miles we were treated to a short stop and some healthy refreshments courtesy of Eastwell Manor.  A lovely setting and ice cold drinks were gratefully received even though were were only 30 minutes into the days riding.

Mini treatments were apparently on offer but I don’t think that anyone succumbed.  I think that if anyone had, that would have been their day ended in the relaxing environment of a Champneys Spa!

We were searching around for a bit of shade and ended up in the courtyard for a team photo before heading back out and onto our biggest challenge of the day – Wye Hill.

Steve had been psyching us up for this one!  It’s regarded as one of the Ten best cycling climbs in Kent and after 1.7 miles of gradients up to 10% you can see why.  The view from the top of the North Downs is stunning (I actually got photographic evidence this time!).  I’m pleased to say that I maintained my record of cycling up all of the hills and not having to resort to walking.

To be honest, I was feeling quite pleased with myself by this point but I was soon to come crashing back down to earth (though, thankfully not literally).  A couple of miles after the photo was taken I was riding with a couple of the ride captains and we were making really good progress when I suffered a puncture.  Not a problem… I have these all the time and know how to swap a tube and get going again (or so I thought).  The tube was duly replaced and the tyre was inspected for the culprit – there was a lot of flint washed on to the road. I got ready to go but as soon as I sat on the bike it punctured again.  It transpired that the cause was in deed a razor sharp bit of flint but it had actually slashed the sidewall of the tyre and I hadn’t noticed in my haste to get moving again. 

The tyre was beyond repair so the ride captains (Adrian, Richard and Steven) kept me company while we awaited the Cycle-Tec support vehicle to bring me a replacement tyre which was fitted without further incident and then the ride captains did their best to haul me along the road a little quicker than I would have otherwise gone in an attempt to recover some time to the next water stop at 20 miles. The spirit of this ride is such that everyone waited at Chartham for me even though I’d delayed them by nearly 30 minutes.

After leaving Chartham we had the most wonderful ride through picture postcard Kentish villages – most of which I’ve tried to remember so that I can visit again (but perhaps without the bike, and with a little more time to stop and enjoy them next time!)

Lunch was at 30 miles at the Shepherd Neame Brewery in Faversham. We grouped together on the outskirts of Faversham and cycled the last couple of miles together.  There was a real buzz when we reached the Brewery.  There were plenty of supporters waiting for us and the hospitality we received was second to none.  Complimentary drinks (but I had to keep reminding myself that there was still 30 miles to go plus I needed to drive home) and a superb pasta lunch were gratefully received.

The sports therapists from UEL that had been supporting the bike ride across all three days, seemed to be very busy all of a sudden before we left Faversham and continued on our journey. 

The final stop of the day was to be at the Naval Memorial at Chatham for an opportunity to reflect and remember those naval personnel who have no grave.  There are three naval memorial, all built to the same design;  one in Chatham, Plymouth and one in Portsmouth (which I visited the day before my very first Help for Heroes Ride in 2009).

Steve gave a short introduction, wreaths were laid and Garrie (my room-mate and ex Royal Engineer) read the exhortation.

A short silence was kept before Steve invited us to look at the names on the memorial (there are more than 8,500 from 1914-18 and over 10,000 from 1939-45) and remember one name on the 11th November this year.

From the memorial we rode in small groups through Chatham, Rochester and Strood before joining up again in Hoo so that we could ride to the finish at Goatham’s as one.  Like last year, there were a large number of riders’ friends that welcomed us home with banners, hooters, flags and cheers.  We were treated to a glass of bubbly to celebrate our achievement before we had farewell speeches from Steve Craddock on behalf of Help for Heroes, Steve Wolfe on behalf of the Kent Sports Trust, and Clive Goatham who presented us with our trophies.

I’m really excited at the prospect of doing it all again next year.  If you’re interested then please drop me a line and I’ll only be too happy to put you in touch with the organisers.

Thanks for keeping an eye on my blog over the last few days.  Don’t forget to check back from time to time to see what I’m up to next…

Nigel

Click on the picture below to check out today’s route in more detail:

Image-1

If you want to see a flyby of the route, click on the link below:

https://www.relive.cc/view/1690091418

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Posted in 2018, Ashford, Chartham, Chatham, Eastwell Manor, Faversham, GGKCR18, Hoo | 2 Comments

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling…

AKA: more ups and downs than watching an England match!

If we thought yesterday was warm then today was a tad warmer still. I think it peaked at 32 Deg C but it wasn’t as humid as yesterday.

We set out after an early breakfast and were on the road by just after 7.30am so we got a bit of a head start on the temperature.

I set out with Steve and Duncan. I’ve ridden with Duncan before – both during Steve’s John O’Groats to Lands End ride and at last year’s GGKCR. Duncan suffered a serious heart attack a couple of years ago and the fact he’s around to tell the tale is amazing in itself but to push himself on a ride in the sort of heat we experienced today is astonishing.

We made steady progress to the first water stop at Sissinghurst after 19 miles by which time it was starting to warm up nicely.

We headed on to our 2nd water stop after 36 miles at the Gusbourne Vineyard (well, I suppose there’s some water content somewhere in a bottle of sparkling white wine isn’t there?).

The wine they had for us to taste was wonderful although in the heat, looking for a cold drink, I’m not sure we made the most discerning of customers.

 

Leaving the vineyard we hit our first big climb of the day up onto the Weald. It was hard work but by now our little group had grown to include Garrie (another ex-Sapper, who I’m sharing a room with) as well as Carol from Goatham’s.

We all made it giving each other encouragement as we made the climb.  The view from the top was stunning but the promise of a nice downhill stretch limited the opportunity for photographic proof on this occasion!

After the big hill, we had to contend with what seemed like an endless series of rolling hills all the way to Hythe at 48 miles and lunch. Holiday Extras put on a great BBQ for us but the thing I was most grateful for was the supply of ice cold drinks. Having plenty of water to carry on our bikes is essential for a ride like we are doing but it doesn’t take long to warm up.

Suitably recharged, we headed 19 miles towards our final water stop of the day. We encountered one final big climb before settling down to more rolling hills again but nothing quite as draining as we experienced before lunch.

We rolled in to our ‘water stop’ at Bethersden at about 2.55pm just in time to get a drink and settle down for England vs Sweden.

It has to be said that the roads were deserted from about 2.00pm. That’s twice in a week I’ve experienced quiet roads when there’s an England game on.

There was just 7 miles remaining to get back to the hotel so we set off after the match in good spirits (even the Scottish and Welsh contingent in the groups seemed to be happy!)

74 miles completed (my GPS track seemed to have failed between lunch and the afternoon water stop though) and there was just enough time to cool off before dinner.

It’s been a great couple of days. We have the small matter of 60 miles tomorrow with a couple of big climbs thrown in to test us as we return to Hoo. Lunch at the Shepherd Neame Brewery should be good too!

Thanks for looking at the blog. I’ll update with my experiences from tomorrow as soon as I can.

Click on the picture below to check out today’s route in more detail:

Image-1

If you want to see a flyby of the route, click on the link below:

https://www.relive.cc/view/1687047338

Posted in 2018, Appledore, Ashford, Bethersden, GGKCR18, Hythe | Leave a comment

Some Like It Hot…

What a great day to start my latest adventure!

It was an early start this morning having travelled down to Chatham yesterday evening and stayed locally.

Registration was at Hoo from 6.45am. When I arrived I signed in and was provided with all of the info I needed for the weekend.

My overnight bag was loaded into the van and I prepared myself and my bike for our departure at 8am.

 

 

We left Hoo and explored the Hoo Peninsular before turning at Cooling Castle and heading back towards Rochester. Our first water stop was at 24 miles and it was most welcome as it had really started to warm up. The riding pace was deliberately ‘social’ and the terrain with only slight undulations. I knew more was to come later in the day though as I’d seen the profile of the proposed route!

 

 

We then headed on to lunch at 39 miles. We’ve been fortunate this year as one of the ride sponsors is Shepherd Neame Brewery and they invited us to have lunch at The Boathouse in Yalding.

The setting by the river was superb and the hospitality and food excellent.

I noted that it is a dog friendly establishment too so we hope to come back and visit again in the future.

 

 

 

Suitably refreshed, we set of for our next water stop at 50 miles. We were fortunate to have been invited into the grounds of Leeds Castle and it was beautiful. The hills we had to conquer to get there and immediately after we left were less so Winking smile 

I successfully managed to negotiate the ascent of the two main hills of the day. In 30 degree heat they were challenging but I didn’t get off and walk!

 

There was only 20 miles left of the day’s ride to get to Ashford and our overnight accommodation. We did stop about 4 miles from the end in order to regroup for the final run in but despite the closeness of an aptly named hostelry, we remained resolute and didn’t venture in!

Upon arriving at our hotel there was time to get showered and changed before our evening meal. Tomorrow will be another early start as we hope to be on the road by 7.30am (which should help us make some progress before it warms up again) so after dinner, the majority said tired farewells and retired to their rooms.

Tomorrow’s itinerary includes a first ‘water’ stop at Gusbournes Vineyard in Appledore, a Barbeque lunch at Holiday Extras in Hythe (where we were treated to a wonderful afternoon tea last year) before heading to Bethersden where we intend to cheer England on into the Semi Finals of the World Cup. What could possibly go wrong?!

I’ll let you know how it goes…

You should be able to view today’s route in more detail by clicking on the picture below.

Image-1

If you want to see a flyby of the route, click on the link below:

https://www.relive.cc/view/1684844350

Posted in 2018, Ashford, GGKCR18, Hoo, Kent Sports Trust, Leeds Castle, Wouldham, Yalding | Leave a comment

2 Days and Counting…

…and I’m pleased to be able to let you know that I have exceeded my sponsorship target!

It’s a great feeling to know that I will be setting off on Friday morning with the wonderful support that you’ve all provided.  

It would be great to exceed my target by a little more though Winking smile so if you haven’t got around to sponsoring me yet, please click on the ‘Sponsor Me’ button and spare whatever you can afford.

The route has also been finalised (click on an image for an enlarged view):

Friday 6th July (70.1 Miles)

Day 1

Saturday 7th July (72.5 Miles)

Day 2

  • Depart Ashford
  • Sissinghurst Castle
  • Bethersden – 90 minutes (hopefully!) watching England proceed to the World Cup Semi Final!
  • Finish @ Ashford

Sunday 8th July (61.5 Miles)

Day 3

As always, thanks for looking at my blog. Join me again on Friday to see how I’m getting on!

Nigel

Posted in 2018, Chatham, GGKCR18, Help for Heroes, Kent, The Great Kent Cycle Ride | Leave a comment

So Near Yet So Far…

Sorry it’s take a couple of weeks to write this up – I hope I can remember all the details (it could be a bit hazy now – it was definitely a bit hazy then!)

On Friday evening we loaded bikes in and on 2 vehicles so we could make an early start on Saturday morning.  It’s always a good plan to give some thought to how best to fill tow-bar racks to maximum capacity as it always seems to be more challenging when it’s time to come home again!

We left Willingham for Somerset at 7.30am, five in Paul’s van and four in Robin’s car.

After a stop for refreshments near Warwick we arrived at Yew Tree Farm B&B in Theale at 12.15. We were fortunate as we were the only guests during the weekend so we were able to unload our bikes, check-in and then head off to Roger Wilkins’ Lands End Farm for some cider tasting and purchases of cider, conserves and cheese. We decided to head there in the van to start with so we wouldn’t be weighed down by our purchases!

We headed back to the B&B and changed into cycling gear and then went straight back (I think that should read UP! – Brown’s Lane was 13%) to Roger’s, for some more free cider and a BBQ. Suitably recharged we cycled on to the New Inn pub in Wedmore and finally to The George Hotel to try some of the local beer.

We headed back to the B&B around 7pm in time for a substantial three course meal and bed. There were three bedrooms and seven beds between us, so it was… err… snug and friendly Winking smile

We were unable to get breakfast earlier than 7.30am so we got up early and made sure that the vehicles were loaded, maps distributed and the first group of riders were ready. Breakfast took a while and only Ken chose the full English (the rest of us were wondering how he was going to carry it all and settled for porridge instead!).

 

The first wave of riders (David, Graham, Paul, Robin & Ross) set off at 8.30 and headed towards Wells. The first 25 miles were by far the toughest of all of the segments but the groups made good time to the first changeover at Hinton Charterhouse, completing 1,518 ft climbing in 1hr 51 mins. I was navigating in the way marking car for the first 50 miles and was happy to avoid a couple of the steepest climbs of the day. We also had a couple of minor adjustments to the vehicle route to contend with as the route headed along cycle-paths where it made sense (more of that later!)

The group, joined by Ken headed on, via another 25 miles and 924 ft of climbing to Dauntsey, where they changed over to the third group – Debbie, Kev and myself. We made really good time (well it was all on the flat by comparison to the first couple of stages Winking smile) as we headed into the Cotswolds, past RAF Fairford and on to Broughton Poggs. Ken re-joined the merry band and we headed on past RAF Brize Norton and Witney (where we had an unscheduled re-route due to some major road works). We skirted around Oxford and found a rather interesting bit of cycle path between Yarnton and Kidlington (see picture!). It wasn’t exactly what we had in mind for road bikes! The most challenging part of the ride however, was alongside of the A34. It actually forms part of NCR51 from Gosford to Wendlebury but it was atrocious. Most of it would have been a difficult to negotiate on foot let alone on a bike.  This section cost us quite a bit of time and we finally arrived to handover to the Stage 5 cyclists at 5pm.

With just over 50 miles under my belt, I was driving the van with Ken navigating as we headed off to intercept the group when they arrived in Bletchley. The route they were following stayed pretty close to NCR51 and had a challenging ‘trail’ section for the last 1.5 miles between Horwood and the changeover.

David, Ken, Kev, Graham and I set off from Bletchley at 7pm heading for the final changeover point just beyond Bedford.  This is an old stomping ground of mine so I was able to navigate the group through Bletchley and across Milton Keynes on the Redway before re-joining the road at Wavendon where we headed to Cranfield and Kempston before picking up a new(ish) cycle path at Bedford which follows the route of the old railway line to Cambridge.

It was nearly 9pm by the time we arrived at Willington. We still had 30 miles to run and we were starting to lose the light so with a heavy heart, we decided to call it a day and completed the route on 4 wheels.

Well, Willington is almost Willingham isn’t it?!

David, Graham, Ken, Kev, Nigel, Paul, Robin & Ross all completed around 75 and Debbie around 50 of the 156 miles we covered.

Thanks especially to Robin for his efficient scheduling and ride captaincy, Ken for the idea, the location, the drive to actually get us to do it, the large home-made pasties (one each!!), the cakes, the large water bottle… and to CycleStreets, Ride With GPS and Memory Map for all of the mapping tools!

Finally, thanks to everyone for a great weekend and fantastic company!

Here’s the final route:

CiderCycle - Strava

and finally, a flyby: https://www.relive.cc/view/1647261637

Posted in 2018, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cider Cycle, Gloucestershire, Mudgley, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Willingham Wheels, Wiltshire | Leave a comment

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:

Overall

Stage 7 & 8:

Overall

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.

leeds-castle-facebook_image

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