Friday 31 May 2013

Popular great auntie

What have I done to be so popular with my great nephew Declan?
Trick question really, as he is not really bothered about me, but he absolutely loves my Samsung tablet. He is fantastic at pressing all of the buttons and scrolling the screen along.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Don't trap your fingers

Just picked up my new folding bike and isn't it lovely?
Managed to fold and carry it in to Elaine's house without needing any plasters, so going well so far.
It is really light, easy to carry and should be a doddle getting it on to trains and our new camper van.
It is surprisingly fast, very manoeuvrable and a fantastic colour, although it does clash quite a lot with my jacket and helmet.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Leicester to Nottingham

Last day of the cycle ride and we have made it back to Nottingham. Not a good weather day with rain for most of the way, but we cycled 36 miles happy in the knowledge that we would be home in time for tea.
We also had a nice lunch stop in Leicester where we met Becky and I committed the fashion faux pas of wearing socks and sandals in the trendy bar. I have no defence for this action, but fortunately there were very few customers around and otherwise my toes might have dropped off.
A quick count back reveals that we cycled 330 miles in nine days and we cycled through Merseyside, Cheshire, Shropshire, Montgomeryshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, West Midlands, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, I think.
Well, that's done. Looking forward now to getting started with the camper van.

Monday 27 May 2013

Coventry to Leicester

Had an easy 38 mile cycle from our hotel outside of Coventry to our next hotel outside of Leicester. It is actually called Premier Inn Fosse Park. Fosse Park is a large shopping centre, but our hotel is quite a way from the it. So today we are actually 'outside' twice.
I am a bit disappointed as I had fancied a shopping trip, but instead I have just ordered two pairs of shoes on the Internet.
Beautiful countryside once more with yet another handy canal that took us quite a long way along the journey.
Paid a visit to Coventry Cathedral that was bombed in 1940 and since then has had no roof. It is a very impressive place and it must have been enormous originally.
We also sat and ate our breakfast outside the Transport Museum while soaking up some welcome sunshine.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Birmingham canals

I always enjoy cycling along canals as I love the water, the wildlife, the scenery and the fact that they are flat.
I was keen to cycle the Wolverhampton to Birmingham canal yesterday as I had read that it was a nice journey. I ended up regretting it though as the whole area seemed a bit sinister. There were no houses or buildings along the banks, but lots of high fences and the back of factories.
There was almost no one about apart from very occasional dog walkers, all of whom were pleasant, but who owned frightening looking Staffordshire Bull terriers. I am not good with dogs at the best of times, so I kept tactfully holding back until Darren had cycled past the dog and then I shot by as quickly as I could.
We then spent the night at the Waterfront in Walsall. This was a modern area with room for plenty of boats, but not a single one in sight. It was a bit depressing as we left this morning and all that was in the water was floating litter.
It soon perked up in Birmingham though and the place was buzzing with loads of people enjoying the canals and the weather. We were only two amongst many cyclists and we stopped for a lovely breakfast at a canal side cafe.
Had a nice and easy cycle, as we should on a Bank Holiday Sunday, and arrived at our hotel near the NEC feeling quite perky and with 32 miles on the clock.

Saturday 25 May 2013

Ludlow to Walsall

It is now official - I really do eat like a horse. It started yesterday when I ate the worlds biggest plate of scampi and chips followed by a Mars bar. Today I had a massive fry up for breakfast, chocolate cake and ice cream for lunch and am looking forward to a big plate of something and chips for tea, hopefully washed down with a pint of cider.
Exciting day today as Spring has arrived and I went from wearing five layers of clothes yesterday to only two today, and we even sat outside to enjoy the sunshine.
It was also a hard day, lots of rolling hills, but beautiful countryside views and feeling tired after riding for 51 miles.

Friday 24 May 2013

Ludlow Castle

We cycled 52 miles today from north of Shrewsbury to south of Ludlow. We didn't actually stay in either town as our budget wouldn't stretch that far, but we did cycle through them both and had a quick look around.
It has to be said that we didn't make the most of Shrewsbury, but we were really cold and couldn't find anywhere obvious to stop, so we had a bit of a sulk and rolled straight through.
We then had a nice day of mainly gradual climbs and some lovely long freewheeling descents, staying just ahead of the rain.
It caught us a few miles outside of Ludlow and was blowing almost horizontally when we suddenly saw Ludlow Castle straight ahead. We tried to shelter under a tree but the rain came straight round the trunk, so we carried on and a few minutes later the castle was in bright sunlight.
Dried out in a cafe with some fantastic carrot cake, then got soaked again on the journey to our hotel.

Thursday 23 May 2013

Llangollen to Shrewsbury

I promise to stop talking about the weather after today, but at 10.15 this morning hail was slamming into the window and we were due to leave at 10.30.
Not ones to complain (?) we put on all of our clothes and set off.
The wind was behind us so we shot off back along the Llangollen canal. It is genuinely the most beautiful canal route I have ever seen. We started from the beginning of the canal at the Horseshoe Falls and then it is about 11 miles to Chirk.
Along the route you traverse the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct I mentioned yesterday, then it is through the Whitehouse tunnel, which is 174 metres long and pretty dark, then through Chirk Tunnel which is 421 metres long and even darker. Immediately afterwards is the Chirk Aquaduct. It looked almost as high as the Pontcysyllte and It is also the boundary between Wales and England with signs welcoming you at either end.
We then had to leave the canal and Darren had plotted a route to our hotel. We set off along tiny little lanes and arrived at the hotel in good time  having ridden 29 miles.
We are now sitting in the bar warming up with a glass of wine and watching hail bounce off the road.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Castell Dinas Bran

Arrived at Llangollen for the night and it was a beautiful town which nestles in among the hills and mountains that surround it.
From our hotel window we could see a ruined castle on a hill so we decided to walk up to it before dinner.
It is 750 feet above the town and was built around 1,260. It was then abandoned and wrecked in 1,277 to avoid it being used by the English invaders.
All around us were hundreds of sheep taking care of their lambs and you could hear them baaing across the whole valley.
We had to fight our way to the top against the wind that got even stronger the higher we went. We stayed a few minutes admiring the views that stretched in every direction. We then made our way back down at jogging pace with the wind pushing us back to town and straight into the pizza restaurant.

Pontcysyllte Aquaduct

Today we cycled to one of the highlights of our trip - the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct. It was built by Thomas Telford in 1805, cost £47,000 and was the tallest canal boat crossing in the world. It carries the Llangollen canal over the river Dee.
It was blowing a gale all day and the tiny towpath was 126 feet above the river with the wind howling down the valley. There were lots of day trippers on canal barges going across the bridge which is 1,007 feet long and 5 feet 3 inches deep. (Sorry no metric as I copied this info from a very old plaque.)
I was glad we were only on the towpath, but even that was pretty scary.
We are still wearing nearly all of our clothes at once for the bike rides as it is very cold and we cycled 38 miles today.
Daz also ran a loop of Chester City Wall before breakfast.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Chester city walls

Cycled 37 miles from Liverpool to Chester today and it was cold and dark all day. Lovely bike ride though along quiet roads and cycle tracks.
We were freezing by the time we found our hotel but suddenly, the sun has come out for our evening walk around Chester city wall.
Chester is a Roman city with an amazingly well preserved wall that is two miles long and almost completely circles the city centre.
It is a beautiful path and there are great views of the city and racecourse.
Highly recommended.

Haunted hotel

I booked our hotel in Chester last week and chose it because it was centrally located, looked pretty and was the cheapest I could find.
The staff are really friendly and the room seems cosy with huge beams and very low ceilings. There is no television but there is an aerial and a shelf on which one could sit. I asked why the room didn't have one and the manager said that of the eight bedrooms  the only room with a tv is advertised as the 'luxury' room. How strange that they left the aerial trailing across the floor as if to rub it in that we don't have one.
Anyway, I have other things to worry about after I read the back page of the menu while waiting for my dinner to arrive.
Apparently the hotel is one of the most haunted Inns in the country with 13 ghosts between eight bedrooms.
I think we will sleep with the curtains open tonight.

Monday 20 May 2013

Freezing in Liverpool

Out on the bikes today and looking forward to an eight day meander from Liverpool back to Nottingham.
We got on the train at Nottingham in fairly springlike weather, but got off two hours later in Liverpool with a gale blowing off the Mersey.
Cycled down to the Albert Dock, emptied our panniers of all of our clothes and wore them for the rest of the day.
Didn't hang around too long, but it was nice to see that the Superlambananas were still around as we remembered them from our last visit about four years ago.
Had a lovely ride to our hotel through Sefton Park and along Penny Lane to the outskirts of Liverpool where we are spending the night at Lenny Henry's favourite hotel chain.
Settling in slowly to the cycling and rode 17 miles today.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Pot of gold at the tram stop

We have been socialising on a full time basis over the last few days, and have a lot more planned until the coming weekend.
We have been eating loads, drinking loads and not going anywhere scenic so the blog has come to a short pause due to lack of interesting material.
I have however, come up with a little montage of sights near my mum's back garden.
We are waiting for the camper van to be kitted, out so in the meantime we have booked a cycling trip starting from Liverpool. We leave next Monday so hopefully the blog should perk up again then.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Our new home

Very exciting day today. We have taken the plunge and bought a builders van that is in the process of being transformed into a motorhome. When it is completed it will be our home for the next few months.
We had been thinking of carrying our home, in the form of a tent, sleeping bags, two tiny chairs and a camping stove on our bikes around Britain and France for the summer. However, now we come to actually try it, the panniers are really heavy and that is without all of the above, and I can't think what we will do when it throws it down with rain for days on end and we are stuck in a tiny wet tent.
Anyway, plan B sounds much more promising. We have to sell our existing bikes and buy some fold ups as there is not much space in the van, and then we just have to be patient for a couple of weeks and then we can hit the open road.

Saturday 4 May 2013

Good effort at the Parkrun

Darren encouraged Mark and Susan to join him at the Colwick Parkrun this morning. There was a good turnout with 186 finishers.
Mark ran well and came 15th. Darren looked too cheerful so couldn't have worked very hard and arrived in 64th place, but for some reason his details got mixed up with mine and the records show that I actually achieved a new personal best. Susan finished in 73rd place despite driving down from Sheffield and not having had chance to use the facilities before the start.
I am still injured so just stood on the sidelines, but I did manage to pick up a free fairy cake at the finish line.

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Two clouds on the horizon at St Pancras

Travelling from London to Nottingham today and I have found the new cloud sculpture at St Pancras station.
I read about it on the Internet last week and was looking forward to seeing Lucy and Jorge Orta's sculpture called Clouds : Meteoros.
It has seven life sized people sitting on two clouds looking down at the people on the platform. I was surprised how small it looked and expected that it would be much bigger, but the station is enormous and it almost disappears down at the end next to the clock.
Another fantastic sunny day with no clouds in the sky except for these two magic ones.