Sunday 29 September 2013

Nottingham marathon

Flying visit to Nottingham and we timed it really well as we got to see the marathon this morning.
It was a beautiful day and we cycled around the course with the objective of trying to watch Mike and Alex on their 26 mile run.
We only found them three times as we kept getting stuck on the wrong side of the road as thousands of runners made their way past.
We never saw the winner of the men's race because we were always a couple of minutes late, but the ladies winner was looking good.
Well done to Mike and Alex for finishing exactly on target at just under 3 hours 30 minutes.

Saturday 28 September 2013

'Venice of the Cotswolds'

Drove today to Bourton on the Water, which calls itself 'Venice of the Cotswolds'.
This is a triumph of overstatement as it is actually a small picturesque village that has a very shallow and wide river flowing along the main street. It has about half a dozen pedestrian bridges across it, and I assume that this is why it qualifies for its title.
There is an enormous car park on the outskirts of the village and it is about a five minute walk to the pedestrianised area. The car park was full, and the village was packed with tourists wandering happily around.
All of the shops were designed for them - souvenirs, cakes, fudge, coffee, restaurants and outdoor clothes.
Surprisingly for a small village, it also had a model village, a motor museum, bird park and maze.
Not quite what I was expecting though.

Friday 27 September 2013


Spending the morning visiting Cirencester, which was the second most important town in Britain in Roman times.
We didn't see the Roman remains as instead we were impressed by the exterior of the Parish Church.
The first thing that strikes you is the golden South Porch that was built in about 1,500. It has been cleaned and renovated over the last couple of years. Most of the carvings were repaired but a weasel and a deer, that are clinging on to a ledge just below the first floor, window have been recarved as they had been almost completely worn away.
Inside it is very ornate and the pulpit is 'in a rare and finely worked wine glass design'. My favourite bit was the large sermon-timer hanging on the wall, (same principle as an egg-timer) to make sure they don't over-run.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Durdle Durdle and more

Looked at the map this morning and loved the sound of somewhere called Durdle Door. Had no idea what it was, but it was by the sea and the name was good. We always have to visit at least two places each day on a bike ride, in case one is rubbish, so I also picked Lulworth Cove as that sounded pretty too.
Got to LC first, along with a few thousand other people. It is approached through Lulworth village which is really beautiful, there were no cars parked anywhere, and it was all on a steep downhill section of road, so it was like whizzing through the 18th century.
The Cove itself was where all the people were and was a beach and cliffs that were almost circular, with a little space at the end which was open to the sea. (Sorry you will have to either imagine it or visit as I didn't get a picture.)
Then we cycled up to Durdle Door. In Anglo Saxon , durdle means an opening, so really the place means either Door Door, or Durdle Durdle.
Very dramatic place.
As the cliffs behind it were so high, on the way home we cycled for a few miles without having to pedal, which is always welcome.
We stopped for a late lunch and cider at a pub and very surprisingly, it started raining - heavily.
We eventually left and started following a little path with a slidey muddy middle. Unfortunately, I took a turn too quickly, slammed on the brakes and fell off on top of a large nettle.
No lasting damage done.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Poole circular route

Set off this morning all wrapped up against the mist and cold, yet within half an hour the sun came out on a lovely day.
Today we did a loop around Poole Harbour. First up was Corfe Castle - it looked amazing perched carefully on the top of a hill like the icing on a fairy cake.
I then struggled for a few miles and was worried I was having a bad day, but without realising it, it turned out we had climbed pretty high up to Studland Bay.  I was keen to see the Bay but we took a left hand turn and instead had a super speedy run downhill to a chain ferry that took us across to Sandbanks.
Sandbanks is allegedly the fourth most expensive place to live in the whole world, and it had some beautiful houses with gardens down to the sea.
Harry Redknapp lives there but no sign of him today.

Monday 23 September 2013

Dulux paint catalogue

Driving through Bournemouth, we came across these beautiful beach huts that all look as if they have been painted in the shades of a paint catalogue.
Starting with sky blue, then cornflower blue, then steel, then midnight, etc, etc.
Moving on to the greens we have ice green, fern, grass, racing, sage and then many, many creams.
They were all immaculate and all empty.
Maybe that's because the season has now ended and it is just an exceptionally warm and summery day today.

Saturday 21 September 2013

Sandown and Shanklin

Early start today as we cycled to the Isle of Wight Parkrun.
We then carried on through the countryside - a red squirrel crossed the path in front of us with an apple in its mouth - to Sandown.
We cycled for a few minutes along the seafront, and before we knew it we were in Shanklin.
Both pretty bucket and spade towns with lovely sandy beaches and quaint buildings.
On the homeward leg we went through Bembridge where we stopped at the Best Dressed Crab Shop for excellent and enormous freshly made crab sandwiches. The shop is on a floating platform in the harbour and the fishing boats pull up alongside it to sell their catch. Apparently our crab was scuttling around only a couple of hours earlier.
67 kilometres today and quite cold and tired at the end of it.

Friday 20 September 2013

The Needles and just Yarmouth

Set out on our bikes today to get to the furthest point west on the Isle of Wight - the Needles.
The last few k's are all uphill, but in a nice steady way. At the top is a fantastic view of the needles and lighthouse, huge white cliffs and tiny beaches at the base.
We then cycled back down and stopped at Totties fish and chips at Totland for the biggest and best fish and chips we have eaten all year.
Onwards then to Yarmouth, no Great in this one, but it was a lovely. A fancy little town with a large marina, lots of cute shops and a pier that stretches out in to the sea between the north of the island and the mainland.
Grand day out and 71 kilometres travelled.

Thursday 19 September 2013


This is the view from East Cowes to Cowes at low tide. This poor man looked very fed up digging about in the mud and collecting little things in his bucket. At least the weather had picked up for him, as half an hour earlier he was squelching about in the rain.
We had a little cycle around today, but we were keen to avoid getting soaked again so made it back before the storm.
Don't ask what the giant snake was doing wrapped around the tree trunk. We found it on a cycle path near Matalan and there was no explanation.
Amazing what you come across unexpectedly.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Two ferries today

Struggled to get out of Henley this morning due to an enormous amount of road works.  We even got a bit worried that we might miss the ferry that we had booked to the Isle of Wight.
However, we actually got there in plenty of time and drove straight on to an earlier ferry. At the other side we set the sat nav up to get us to the campsite and it was only two minutes away in East Cowes, so we arrived much earlier than expected.
We went out this afternoon to explore as we are in the world famous yachting town  that was the birthplace of the Americas Cup.
To get across from East Cowes to Cowes, you have to go over the floating bridge. After speaking to the owner of the campsite and reading the guidebook, I had the impression that it was solid , but it was confusing as we couldn't see it on the Internet.
When we got to it, it was a cute little ferry that appeared to run across the small channel using large chains on either side of it. Apparently it is a chain bridge and there are only five remaining in Britain, but it is known locally, and inaccurately, as a floating bridge.
By the way, Cowes is very pretty - hopefully better pictures and a more interesting blog tomorrow.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Henley on Thames

We explored Henley yesterday and as expected, it is very picturesque and posh.
Today the weather forecast was for rain for most of day, but we decided to cycle along the Thames to Reading. It was good going at first along a dried mud footpath, but once it started to rain the mud was as slippery as ice.  My tyres are completely slick so after the third near disaster, I decided to run and push instead.
Eventually we got to Sonning bridge which was in the papers a couple of weeks ago, as a postbox has appeared on one of the arches in the middle of the bridge, but it can't be reached either from the road or the water!  I zoomed the photo in and it is also upside down.
By the time we got to Reading I was soaked through but fortunately we found our destination very quickly - the hifi department of John Lewis.
Darren bought some mini speakers so now, in the immortal words of Cliff Richard, our van is 'wired for sound'.

Sunday 15 September 2013

World Triathlon Finals - Sunday afternoon

Exciting afternoon as we had tickets for the grandstand to see the World Triathlon Finals in Hyde Park. Unfortunately, it was outdoors and the weather forecast was for torrential rain and gales, but I was well prepared and made a lovely skirt out of a large bin liner to keep me warm and dry.
In the end the weather wasn't too bad and we had it very easy - we only had to sit and drink coffee while the competitors swam in the lake, cycled past us and Buckingham Palace seven times, and then ran 10 kilometres.
It was a very open race between the Brownlee brothers and Gomez from Spain. It was neck and neck between Jonathan B and Gomez as they passed us with less than 100 metres to go. The crowd were all on their feet, screaming and expecting JB to win, but the Spaniard pipped it and the crowd went silent and a bit mardy.
We all waited for Alistair B to finish a couple of minutes later - he was injured but bravely carried on - cheered loudly for him, and then went home before the winners ceremony.
Well it was nippy, and we were expecting a Hollywood ending.

Globe Theatre - Sunday morning

After seeing Shakespeare's play last Friday, we were quite enthusiastic about him and I saw that we were entitled to two for one tickets at the Globe Theatre.
We started the trip by getting off the tube at St Paul's so I got a picture of the outside as we passed by. As it was Sunday morning the bells were pealing really loudly and people were going in for the morning service.
We walked over the Millennium Bridge to the Globe Theatre. The second picture is a model and it is an accurate recreation of the type of theatres that Shakespeare's plays would originally have been performed in in the early 1600's.
The Theatre was very compact and the plays were very popular at the time with up to 3,000 people crammed into each showing. I always thought Shakespeare's plays were very serious, but the crowds would drink beer and be pretty rowdy. We found a warning sign that said 'This performance contains filthy language and bare flesh', which says it all.
I am thinking ahead to next year's new years resolutions and might try to read a few of his plays.

Saturday 14 September 2013

Views from St Paul's Cathedral

We caught a train to London today and picked up a 'two for one' brochure which showed that we could visit the Cathedral for £16.
We were too close to it to get a good picture of the outside of the dome, and inside no photography was allowed, but we walked up over 500 steps to the top and the view from it was amazing.
Obviously, the Cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was on a totally different scale to the Sheldonian Theatre that we saw yesterday. The dome is amazing as he realised that to get the signature massive shape from the outside, and for it to also look great from the inside, then he had to incorporate a huge gap in the middle. This is what we climbed up through on our way to the top so we saw the bare bones of it and it was pretty scary.
Lovely, although very grey, views of London.

Henry V in the hay

We were very cultural last night and went to Oxford Castle to see the William Shakespeare play Henry V.
It was supposed to be held outdoors and the audience follow the actors around to different parts of the castle.
Unfortunately, it was tipping it down with rain so it was held in a small marquee in the castle grounds instead. For some reason, there were no chairs to sit on, but they provided bales of hay with blankets on the top.
We read up on the plot in advance so that we had a better idea of what was happening.  It was one of those imaginative performances where they wear modern costumes and had minimal props, so the swotting up really helped.
There should have been quite a few characters in the play, but there were only three actors so they played loads of different parts. We were also on the front row so Darren and Paul both helped in the performance. Paul held a moustache on a stick for a while which I think was a Lord, and Darren even had a speaking part. He had to say 'oui' in response to questions about his elbow. He also got a kiss on his head by a character called Catherine.
I highly recommend it but the last performance was yesterday.

Friday 13 September 2013

Oxford in brief

Spending the afternoon looking around Oxford.
We have been in the church of St Mary the Virgin, then had a result at the Sheldonian Theatre. A nice Austrian student was showing her pass card at the entrance and the staff member seemed to think we were her parents so let us in for free.
We had no idea what it was, but it turns out it was the first building designed by Sir Christopher Wren and is where the students collect their degrees. It has an amazing ceiling that is a bit like a mini Sistine Chapel.
We then climbed up into the cupola with views over the town.
Also visited Balliol College which is where Boris Johnson, among many others, have studied for the past 750 years. Finally, we found a cute little grotesque (or so the guidebook called it) attached to a wall, that represents academic life in medieval times.

Wednesday 11 September 2013


The Queen is at Balmoral at the moment, so we took the chance to visit Sandringham, her Norfolk home.
There was no photography allowed in the house, however, I can report that it was lovely, very tasteful with lots of family mementoes. It was also quite cozy and not too grand.
There was a display of some of the diamond jubilee cards that she was sent by members of the public. We only saw 100, but she actually received over 100,000.  It didn't say whether she opened them all herself.
She also had a fantastic collection of vintage cars, mostly Daimlers and Rolls Royce's that were used for official duties.
We finally visited the church that she attends on Christmas morning, as well as every Sunday while she stays at Sandringham. Surprisingly, anyone can attend the services, although you do have to get there a bit early to be security checked before the sermon starts.

Tuesday 10 September 2013


This is a late posting from yesterday as my brain was so exhausted that I couldn't write it last night.
We drove to Norwich and spent the afternoon on a mini guided cycle tour with Darren's cousin Debbie. I couldn't catch all of the commentary but I think these are photos of the old and new cathedrals.
We stayed overnight with Debbie and her lovely family, who all inspected and approved of our campervan.
After dinner we played the most complicated board game in the whole world. It was called St Petersburg and you had to buy workers, aristocrats, buildings and something else that I never understood. Every now and again you were handed seemingly random amounts of money and got points on a scoreboard.
Strangely, I always got less than everyone else and I never knew when it would be my turn.
I was still quietly confident that in the final count up I would win, but after playing for about three hours it turns out I came last.
Don't try it at home!

Sunday 8 September 2013

Sky ride, Ipswich

When Darren's sister suggested that we go on the Sky ride I was worried as I am not a roller coaster fan, but it turned out to be a cycle tour through Ipswich town centre.
A 5 kilometre route was cordoned off and closed to traffic for most of the day and hundreds, if not thousands of people turned up to cycle around the route.
Most people wore bright yellow Sky bibs but we ignored that plan, and it definitely it wouldn't have gone with Nicola's dress.
The route course was good, pretty flat and Ipswich is surprisingly scenic, although we did have to rumble over lots of cobbles and kerbs.
We went round four times and then headed to the pub for a well deserved lunch.