Thursday 30 July 2015

Rotherham to Nottingham

Our final day on the road and we are heading back to Nottingham.
I got a bit over optimistic and set off without wearing my waterproof trousers, and Daz went for a matching shorts/panniers combo.
We cycled happily for about five miles and then had to shelter under the M1 as a very heavy rainstorm passed by. We took the opportunity to put some more clothes on as it got pretty nippy.
Fortunately, that was the only time we got wet today and we got home safely, but tired after a hilly ride of about 40 miles.
I think we will have a little break from the bikes tomorrow.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Bingley to Rotherham

We set off on our travels today and in response to the better weather, we became very laid back.
Firstly we stopped for breakfast at an out of town shopping centre near Bradford.
Then we cycled a few miles on a disused railway line and came across a beautiful mirage - a cafe with outdoor tables, cappuccinos and coca cola cake. We stopped a while and noticed that every single cyclist that passed by stopped as well.
We followed a Sustrans route and saw one of their marker signs painted in the colours of the Tour de France king of the mountains jersey.
Most of our route was on cycle paths and was very scenic, but that also meant that it was very slow and energy sapping, over lots of rough ground, cobbles and hills.
We also enjoyed lots of outdoor sculptures along the route including a flock of rusty metal sheep.
After only a little over half way we were feeling really tired and looking forward to lunch and we found a pub beer garden that seemed perfect. Unfortunately, they weren't serving food so we had a cider each, and I found some almonds in my bag, while Daz rustled up some sugary wiggly worms.
It wasn't the biggest lunch ever, but afterwards I was raring to go and we set off again on the Trans Pennine Track.
It was a very long way with a massive hill to finish, but we arrived at Rotherham and have a room with a view of Morrisons, Macdonalds and Domino's pizza. At least we won't be going hungry tonight.


We went out for a walk last night in search of a curry, and about a mile from our hotel we stumbled across the World Heritage Site of Saltaire.
It is a whole village built by Sir Titus Salt in the Victorian age to house the workers and their families who toiled at his mill. The enormous mill (pic 2) and chimney is next to the village and at the bottom of a hill by a canal. He also built beautiful public buildings, a school and church.
The whole place looked lovely and it was good to see some late evening sun.

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Masham to Bingley

We set off this morning and it was still raining. Not so heavily today, but a steady drizzle that stayed with us until mid afternoon.
It was a hard uphill slog at first (and we cycled the 22 miles to Harrogate with only one stop. That was to enjoy 'Le Monument' that commemorated the Tour de France passing by in July 2014.
At Harrogate we ate coffee and cakes, but not at the famous Betty's. My sister had warned me that it would be busy and she was right - customers were queueing out of the cafe and along the pavement.
We carried on our way, passing through Otley then stopping just outside Guiseley as I really fancied a glass of cider and a packet of peanuts.
While we were there something amazing happened - the sun came out for a couple of minutes.
I was so excited that I took my waterproof trousers off and snapped a photo of my shoes and ankles to mention a little tip to you.
Helpful tip - if you ever go on a cycling holiday and don't have any sturdy waterproof shoes, then pack a couple of freezer bags in your luggage. Hopefully you won't need them, but if the weather forecast is for rain all day then put your socks on, then your feet in the freezer bags, then finally put your trainers on top.
Yesterday it was extremely wet and the bags filled with water, but they acted a bit like a wetsuit and kept my feet warmish. Today my trainers were still soaking wet as they hadn't dried at all overnight, so the bags tried to keep my feet dry although not too successfully.
Tomorrow I am hoping not to need them.

Monday 27 July 2015

Durham to Masham

Well the rain just wouldn't stop today.
The morning wasn't too bad and we cycled down muddy tracks and paths to our lunch stop in Richmond.
We had to drive through one humongous puddle which did get a bit exciting - very splashy.
After lunch the rain really came down and unfortunately it was another 20 miles to our destination.
On our arrival we found out that all of our luggage got rather damp and everything that we were wearing was soaked - my waterproofs did not live up to their name.
Our hotel room currently looks like a laundry, and we keep taking it in turns to use the hair dryer to try to speed up the drying process.

Sunday 26 July 2015

Nottingham to Durham

We set off on our bikes this morning for a journey up north to Durham. We didn't cycle all of it, we only went as far as Doncaster railway station, which was just over 40 miles away.
The weather forecast was for 'four to five hours of heavy rain across the whole country' according to the BBC, and we cycled as fast as we could to try to stay ahead of the clouds.
We were helped by a strong tail wind that made life easier for us, but also brought the rain with it. We just got to Doncaster station as the rain was starting, and then the train whizzed us ahead of it, with the brilliant result that it was still dry in Durham when we arrived.
Luck was still on our side as we got to our hotel in the dry, but I needed my brolly for our quick sightseeing trip around the town.
We didn't see a lot but we walked along by the river, had a quick look inside the cathedral and then spent most of our time inside an 'eat as much as you can' Chinese buffet.
There's nothing like a cycle ride to build up a good appetite.

Monday 20 July 2015

Welwyn Garden boring

For some reason, I really fancied visiting Welwyn Garden City. I liked the way that the second W was silent and I am always keen on gardens - and most cities.
Unfortunately, the Internet showed almost no attractions in the city, and the only people that I met who had actually been there wondered why I would want to visit.
On our arrival today, our campsite on the outskirts of the city was fine, but our walk into the centre was only memorable because a gigantic dog growled and then tried to attack us. I had to run into someone's front garden and then dog's owner had a go at me for being frightened and therefore upsetting her dog! I had to climb over the wall into the garden next door to avoid going back near the dog and owner, and then we had a bit of a verbal disagreement, as I headed off to safety down the street.
Once we arrived in town we found streets with lots of wide grassy roundabouts and verges. There was some nice flower beds and Sainburys was putting in a green wall on the side of their supermarket.
That was about as exciting as it got.
It also turns out that it isn't actually a city, but only a town, and it wasn't even England's first 'Garden City' as that honour went to another town nearby. (Letchworth Garden City apparently)

Sunday 19 July 2015


Out and about with Elaine and Mark, this time discovering the ancient village of Lavenham. It is full of timber framed buildings, and although I am sure that they were straight when they were built, over time they have twisted and warped completely out of shape.
We went for coffee and cakes in one of the most misshapen ones. It was very cosy inside, but stuffed full of bits and bobs, with hardly any room for tables, chairs or potential diners.
The lady who served us seemed incredibly stressed, and she fussed and panicked around us as we attempted climb into our seats.
The cakes were fantastic though, and all arrived with clotted cream and fresh strawberries, so it was well worth the visit.
We also walked around the village, and the three of them admired views, while I tried to take some interesting photos. I asked them to pose for a shot, but for some reason they all look as if they have turned into players from a Subbuteo football game.
It was lovely place, but all too soon Elaine and Mark had to head back home, and are back on our own again, if only for a few days.


Elaine and Mark have joined us for the weekend in Suffolk, and today we drove along the coast to Aldeburgh.
It had everything that you expect in an English seaside town:-

Bracing wind coming strongly off the sea
Extra loud enormous seagulls circling ominously overhead
Overpriced ice-cream shops
Fantastic fish and chip smells wafting everywhere
Cute little shops selling seasidy themed art and nick nacks
Etc, etc.

We took a little walk along the estuary but cut it short as the allure of the chip shop was very strong. It took us a while to get to the front of the world's longest queue, but once inside the prices were very reasonable.  Eventually we emerged clutching our hot bags of salt and vinegared loveliness.
Bravely we sat on the seafront to eat our feast and then, full and happy, we headed back home.

Friday 17 July 2015

Orford, Suffolk

We are staying in Ipswich for a few days, and went on a little outing this afternoon to the nearby village of Orford.
In the middle ages it was a bustling and important seaside port, but over the years a large sandbar built up in front of the harbour. Without direct access to the sea the village slipped slowly into obscurity, although it is now a very pretty tourist attraction.
There is a proper castle with cannons on the outskirts of the village, and the harbour looks out across the sandbar where in the far distance there is a red and white striped lighthouse, and disused buildings from the 1970's which were used during the cold war
Also visible along the coast is the Sizewell B nuclear power station.
All of these attractions were a bit too distant for a photo, so instead I have attached a snap of me enjoying a glass of wine last night in Ipswich Marina.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Constable country

I was surprised to find out that our campsite at Colchester was only a few minutes drive from where John Constable painted his lovely pictures of the English countryside.
We drove to a little village called Flatford, and parked in the Nation Trust car park.
The whole area is like a beautiful time capsule from nearly two hundred years ago. Except for the National Trust shop, excellent café and cute little boat doing trips up and down the river.
We wandered down to the exact spot where he painted 'The haywain'. The view has changed a bit since 1821, but the cottage is still there.
Apparently Constable sold the painting for £70 as he desperately needed the money, and it now hangs in the National Gallery in London.

Tuesday 14 July 2015


We have just spent the last two days in Colchester, and if I am being honest, don't worry if you haven't been there, as it could fairly easily be missed.
I knew that it was once a famous town, and in fact, it was the Roman capital of England almost 2,000 years ago.
Unfortunately, there is almost no trace of the buildings and statues, as over the centuries they have all been dismantled and used to make new buildings.
A castle that was built from recycled Roman stones and bricks is almost 1,000 years old stands on top of what once was the Temple of Claudius. 
We went on a guided tour and found that the Roman theatre is hidden underneath modern houses, the racecourse is underground near the Main Street, and no one knows what has happened to the Coliseum.
Highlight of the day was a beautiful flower bed with a dragon emerging from the greenery right in front of the castle.
On the way back to the campsite we also walked along a river filled with water lilies next to a few ancient wooden houses.
To brighten up the blog I am including a photo from last weekend of Darren opening one of his birthday presents with the help of three or his nieces - aaaaah.

Friday 10 July 2015

Boat trip in London

Today we went to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London for a wander around in the lovely sunshine.
An enterprising company was offering boat trips along the river Lee and it seemed a nice way to see the Park.
We timed it quite well as the 12 o'clock trip had 60 school children on it, but we caught the 1pm, and there was only about ten of us retirees. We all behaved well, listened quietly to the commentary and didn't get told off once.
We saw the Olympic sign and on closer inspection I saw some naughty schoolboys posing on the rings. Not sure what happened to their teacher.
There was children on school trips everywhere and we waved to them as we enjoyed a glass of wine with Darren's mum.
When we got back to the mooring we saw that a coot had made a nest on the rudder of one of the company's barges. Our guide said there is an egg in the nest and that they cannot move the boat now until the egg has hatched.
That is one very expensive egg.

Wednesday 8 July 2015

The Full Story

Well it's Darren's birthday today, and we are out for a special meal in London. It is called Restaurant Story and we opted for the Full Story menu.
The chef used to work for Heston Blumenthal at the Fat Duck, and we had about 20 individual dishes, lots of which were tiny and unexpected.
The pea pods were a good example as we had one pod each and half of the green peas were still peas, but the darker 'peas' were something totally different - sorry but I have no idea what. There was a real purple flower with something tasty in the middle, and a piece of turf with allegedly two rabbits feet on it. (They tasted a bit like tiny kebabs.)
There was bread and dripping with the dripping served as a lit candle - pic 2. To be honest butter was probably more tasty, but try turning half a pound of butter into a candle.
We got a crab claw filled with cream cheese and crab meat on a bed of seaweed and stones. Embarrassingly I ate most of my seaweed although Daz said that it was only a decoration. We were quietly arguing about whether it was edible when the manager came over and said that it was just for show, although he tried to make it a positive and said that it should actually be quite good for me.
The dishes kept on coming and we had a bit of raw scallop, some black pudding and other delicacies that I would normally not touch. Nearly all were lovely, but it was a special occasion so I am not going to expand my palate in real life.
There was also beef, lamb, mashed potato (see photo 4), strawberries, lemons, almond and dill, etc, etc.
It was a grand day out and a memorable experience.
Happy birthday Darren x


We are on our way to London and have stopped in Oxford for a couple of nights.
Last night we went to see Romeo and Juliet outside Oxford's ancient prison. Probably not be the most romantic of settings, and there was no balcony for the famous scene - instead Juliet stood on the top of some boxes.
Unfortunately for me I got bitten by some dodgy creature on my ankle during the performance, and now my foot has swelled up so much that I am worried that my skin is going to burst open if I try to walk on it. Well, we have been to see a lot of drama lately, so some of it must have rubbed off.
Today we went on a guided tour around the prison and were shown around by a highwayman.
We went to the top of the prison tower to see the view of Oxford's dreaming spires and then down into the dungeon to hear some scary stories.
It was a tiny bit childish to be honest, but it could be that I am being a bit mardy.

Saturday 4 July 2015

Pride and prejudice

My hopes for the weekend yesterday were for culture, good company and sunshine, but I didn't expect to get all three.
After the amazing thunderstorms in the middle of the night I thought that we might be flooded out in the campsite, but we opened the blinds this morning and nothing had changed.
We started with an al fresco performance of 'A midsummer nights dream', performed by a group of students from Stratford in London. They travelled here along the canal in narrow boats, it took nearly a week and they rehearsed as they sailed.
We then relaxed in the sunshine, enjoyed an ice cream and crossed the river on a little chain boat.
The highlight of the day though was a performance of 'Pride and prejudice' in the attic of the Lazy Cow pub. It lasted for nearly three action packed hours and the only disappointment was that it went on for so long that we missed the fireworks display along the river.