Thursday 30 September 2021

Succulent picture

At the end of August we went to RHS Wisley and really liked their succulent pictures that were mounted on easels.

Darren made a frame for me yesterday....

..... and he used the frame to surround a plastic plant tray that I filled with soil and perlite (to keep the weight down a bit).

We then covered it with a membrane to hold the soil in, and a metal grid to hold the plants in place, and then topped off with the wooden picture frame.

I have lots of succulents growing in the garden, and I found that you have to put fairly small ones in to fit around the mesh. I am going to leave it lying down in the greenhouse to grow over the winter and hopefully put it up next spring.

Sunday 26 September 2021

Rugby to Banbury

 Our final day of cycling, and we were expecting an easy day, that I thought would be pretty flat and on the roads.

We set off to see Braunston marina, which is a major canal junction. We did the obvious thing and cycled to the nearest canal and then headed towards it. First surprise of the day - there was no towpath.

There was a narrow unmade track, fortunately not muddy, but very close to the canal on one side and nettles and brambles on the other. We kept going until Darren got a puncture and then got on the main road to reach Braunston. 

As we were no longer on the canal then at first we couldn't find the marina and instead ended up on a steep hill with a windmill at the top. We did eventually find it, and I had a great bacon butty that was cooked on a narrow boat and it gave me the energy to keep going.

Back on the road briefly, before Darren's navigating app sent us off road on to bridleways. There are many types of bridle paths, some paved, some gravel and then there are the really bumpy ones across fields.

There are also some through waist high nettles (sorry no photo taken, just too busy trying not to get stung), and really steep grassy ones where you have to get off and push.

Gradually our route took us higher and higher, amongst groups of wind turbines and in the distance a huge concrete aerial mast. I didn't expect to actually go past it, but we did, and to get to it we had to get past a field of cows and hike up a hill.

I looked it up later and it is called Charwelton Hill, and it is one of the highest points in Northamptonshire. On the plus side, we expected that it would be all downhill from there to Banbury, and there was just a field of sheep to cycle through to get back to a road.

In fact, there was quite a lot of ups and downs to go, but we did get to Banbury, topped up the calories at McDonald's and then caught the train home.

Another epic day, and I think that I will put my feet up for a while. 

Friday 24 September 2021

East Midlands Airport to Rugby

We arrived quite late last night, but were really impressed with the cycle paths around the airport. This morning we cycled along them again, and almost before we knew it, we had travelled 20 kilometres and were at Loughborough.

The downside was that the route was along the sides of the main roads, so not scenic.

Things did improve on the outskirts of Leicester and we joined the Watermeadow Route in to town.

Behind Darren is another cycle signpost, but we came across it from a strange angle and from a distance I thought that it was a giraffe sitting down on our trail, so that was a bit disappointing.

Carrying on, we found some nice murals,and maybe you are starting to think that today wasn't very exciting.

That may be true, but the weather was good, the cycling mostly flat and easy, and was just the tonic after yesterday.

We were on target to arrive very early at our hotel, but Darren's bike had other ideas and he had another major mechanical, with another trip to a local bike shop to pick up replacement parts. This time it was the brakes causing problems, but seeing as they are essential, then we couldn't carry on until they were fixed.

A little robin was very keen to see what Darren was up to and he sat really close to the bike and we fed him little pieces of our cheese and pickle cob.

Thursday 23 September 2021

Three mechanicals in epic day

Huge day yesterday as we left Worksop early and set off along Sustrans route 6 along the canal and then on little gravel and sand tracks through Clumber Park.

Unfortunately the signs are almost impossible to follow at times as they are sometimes missing or unclear. Their routes are always complicated to avoid main roads, so then the inevitable happened and we lost the route, frustratingly often today.

We missed Clumber Park lake, but then stumbled across the route again and a not very useful sign - Dover 504 miles and Inverness 788.

After about 40 kilometres that were mainly off road, we stopped less than 200 metres from the entrance to Newstead Abbey because I thought that my tyre was a bit soft. Tipping the bike upside down, sure enough, we found a blackberry thorn had pierced the back tyre.

Darren speedily set about fixing it, while at a loose end, I decided to check the other tyre. There was what looked like a tiny twig on the it so I went to pull it off. There was a loud hissing sound as another thorn came out of the front tyre.

The two punctures delayed us, so instead of a scenic view of the Abbey and lake, we took the main road and headed to my mum and dad's house. My mum had made a lovely lemon drizzle cake and we stayed a bit longer than planned, so we then raced over to my sister's. She was working from home and we chatted briefly to her before she started another zoom meeting.

Quick chat to Steve E who was laying a patio in her garden, and then off again to cycle to our final rendezvous point with Mark and Pauline.

Absolutely beautiful cycling along the canal, and this time we weren't in a rush because we had loads of spare time to reach them.

It was quite a long way, with a major detour as the towpath was closed near the Boot's site, but eventually we got to Trent Loch and only about 10 kilometres left to go.

After stopping to study the map and work out where to cross the Trent, we got back on our bikes and on the first turn of his pedal, Darren snapped his bike chain.

He didn't have a tool to fix it, and after some attempts to use my bike lock as a hammer he had to give up. Checking my phone, I found that there was a bike shop 15 minutes ride away, but it was closing in 25 minutes. 

Darren jumped on my bike and set off to find them and I phoned them to check that they had the right chain in stock.

All's well that ends well, because he got there in time, and I phoned M and P changed the plan and they drove to meet us at the pub at Trent Loch. 

A good time was had by all and then we set off for to cycle the last 13 kilometres to our hotel by the airport, and arrived just after dark.

Long, long day, quick dinner at the hotel and then an early night.

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Hambleton to Worksop

What a beautiful sunny, autumnal start to the day. Lovely, quiet flat roads all the way to Dainty Doris's Café for a fantastic and enormous breakfast.

We then picked up the Transpennine Trail again and carried on along mainly quiet flat disused train lines.

We took a detour to see Connisbrough Viaduct, a huge impressive disused railway bridge. We cycled along the base of it....

..... and then took a path to the top of it, but the walls were very high,so difficult to get a good view.

After that it got a bit crazy and our route turned into a Tour de France style roller coaster. Disclaimer - this is possibly an exaggeration.

I hung on over the climbs and then we had a lovely sloping descent to the outskirts of Worksop where we joined the canal.

This is where we found Sustrans route six and we took it all the way to the door of our hotel.

Dinner tonight with Tina and Matt who are driving up to see us.

London to Yorkshire

 Got up and cycled across London to Kings Cross station for our train to York. We parked our bikes next to the statue of Sir Nigel Gresley, who designed the Flying Scotsman, and I stood and waited with him while Darren went to fetch coffee and breakfast.

Sir Nigel has quite a disapproving look on his face so I didn't want to stay there too long, and then a man walking past jumped when I moved, and he said that he thought that I was a statue too. Just a bit weird.

Our train was not the Flying Scotsman, but we really did fly to York. In less than two hours we stepped on to the platform, rolled our bikes to the lift and found that it was out of order. Never mind, you can't have perfection every day, and a friendly lady helped me carry my bike up the stairs.

York looked beautiful, and very busy, but we weren't staying there - way too expensive - so we set off along south the cycle path.

A huge amount of care and effort has gone in to this path and it was called Sustrans route 65, the Transpennine Trail and part way along it also becomes the Solar System Superhighway. I was surprised by the first signpost as I was expecting it to say how far it was to Selby, but it actually said something like Venus 500,000 miles.

At each signpost the distances got further and further with this one saying over one billion miles from Saturn to Uranus. 

Some more art on a bridge over a river, and I think that the fisherman has caught a rocket instead of a fish.

Then we met our friends Alex and Han who were cycling north to rendezvous with us, and they took us to their house for proper coffee and cake.

Finally, the last few kilometres to our hotel in Hambleton, which is actually a room above a very nice pub.

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Afternoon tea

 At 3.30pm we arrived at a posh hotel for posh afternoon tea. It wasn't as posh as we had hoped and the only thing that the receptionist said to us was that we had to be out by 4.45. Then the choice of tea was either English Breakfast or nothing, but Darren liked the EB and I don't like tea, so we were fine. We can also nosh some little sandwiches and pretty cakes in less than an hour too.

I tried to look a bit smarter by putting a dress on top of my sporty day wear, but not completely successfully.

On the other hand, Darren managed to smarten up very well.

To finish off a busy day we went to the theatre in the evening to see The Prince of Egypt. I think that there was some issues with the plot, but great dancing, the female singers were great and we made it to the end.

Van Gogh

We were waiting outside the National Gallery for it to open, and once inside we got quite lost wandering around many rooms of paintings. The signs were very confusing, but eventually we got to room number 43, which had the Van Gogh collection.

The place was completely deserted and we got a really close up look at his work.

Then in the afternoon, we went to the Van Gogh experience in Hyde Park. What an incredible thing it was too! We stayed for three hours and saw everything three times, but I would go back again today if we could.

It is an immersive experience and there were huge screens all around the walls and on the floor showing his puctures, as well as entries from his diary, and lovely music was playing. The pictures also moved with the sky changing and birds flying in the background. It is difficult to show, but here goes....

Eventually we left this area and obviously, found the photo opportunitys.

Van Gogh painted this picture of his bedroom and it it is one of Darren's favourite paintings. And as if by magic, here he is inside it! They had recreated the room in great detail.

Not only that, but they also had a section where you could draw it yourself.

In front of us artists was a television with a video of someone drawing, we just had to try and keep up and copy what they were doing. This is what we drew in ten minutes and we can take them home to colour in.

Sunday 19 September 2021

Anything goes

Caught the train as planned this morning from Oxford to Paddington station. The train was absolutely packed with lots of passengers standing in the aisle the whole way there. Luckily Darren had booked spaces for the bikes as well as forward facing seats for us, so we were fine.

We cycled to our hotel where we were able to drop off our luggage, and then we carried on to the Barbican for the matinée performance of Anything goes.

There was a good spot for a photo, so of course I had to give it a go. 

Then we got to our seats, high up near the back, and we recognised Felicity Kendall and Robert Lindsay. Excellent tap dancing and singing and we made it to the end, with the photos to prove it 

Tonight we are in a nice, quiet Premier Inn just in case anyone is worried about us.

Oxford overnight

We ran the parkrun yesterday morning, then after a little break to do our packing, we cycled to Oxford.

It was a beautiful, warm and sunny mid September afternoon and I got the guide book out again. This time, amongst many other things, we found the oldest door in Oxford. (This fact may be disputed.)

Then on the side of the Quaking Bridge was a small plaque to honour the buddleia bush that flowered there from June to September in 2014, and it is still managing it today.

Of course, buddleia bushes flower absolutely anywhere, but this was some sort of art project, so who am I to question it.

We also found the stocks at the old castle that became a prison, but is now an extremely expensive hotel.

After a quick refreshment stop we met up with Susan and Paul for dinner and then an opera at the Sheldonian Theatre. Unfortunately we missed the start because we thought it began at 7.30pm rather than 7, but we managed to get in and find a seat right at the very top floor.

It was Don Giovanni, nice, lively and loud music with lots of singing, but we decided that we had seen enough at the interval so left S and P to find the proper seats and enjoy the next act. 

Our hotel room was right above a very loud pub, but it wasn't a problem, and there were excellent views across the bus station.

Ps, very impressive that the first buses started arriving before 6am on a Sunday.

Pps, we are catching the 10.32am train to London.

Saturday 18 September 2021

Tiny Harvest Festival

 We finished eating our home grown tomatoes a few weeks ago, although it was quite a stress at times and we were eating up to ten a day.

Since then things have been much more manageable and I have harvested the cayenne peppers and hung them up on a thread to dry.

They are very tasty, not too hot and will last through the winter.

However, I am most proud of the jalapeño peppers that I have pickled and stored in a jam jar.

These are really nice and I think that next year I will cut backs on the toms and make much more of an effort with the hot stuff. 

Monday 13 September 2021

Gardening Club

 A bit of excitement on Sunday afternoon when we hosted the first Gardening Club event at Graven Hill. I rediscovered the red marker pen and put the details on Facebook, but we didn't know how many people would actually turn up on the afternoon.

Darren was going to be on tea and coffee making duty, while I was down for welcoming and introductions. This went well for about the first five minutes as two people arrived and they got their drinks. Then about another ten people turned up together and we gave up with the drinks and also unfortunately, trying to remember everybody's names.

After a bit of a formal start I started to relax as people wandered around the garden chatting in small groups, and more people kept arriving in ones and twos until there was at least 25 to 30 people in all. I gave little tours of the pond and greenhouse and tried my best to give out little snippits of advice, sort of in a Monty Don kind of way.

Darren stayed inside and took a photo from the roof terrace that he put on Facebook with a message to say that there was still time to nip along to the event. One guy came specially just because he wanted to see the fish lawn!

Nobody else who was there noticed it and I didn't think to mention it, but later we got loads of comments about it online so that was quite funny.

The whole thing went really well and we have already arranged the date for the next meeting, while we are chomping our way through the cakes that we bought to eat with the drinks that we didn't get round to serving.