Saturday, 18 December 2010

SNOWED IN

We are snowed in today on our small farm. There are plenty of berries on a holly tree that overhangs the river. It looks promising for a white Christmas.

The sun has come out and the winter landscape has an almost dazzling effect with the snow lying on the trees and meadows. Our alpacas seem unphased by the weather. There are deer here and I disturbed one this morning while searching for photographs in the woods.



We had a brief respite from the weather a few days ago and I cycled alongside the River Exe from Exeter to Exmouth with a friend. This estuary is renowned for its birds. We had a close up sighting of an avocet feeding on the mud flats beside the cycle trail. Shortly afterwards, a kingfisher closely followed by a buzzard flew in front of us as we were cycling along. These were all good sightings.
Happy Christmas






Sunday, 21 November 2010

GREAT RIDES IN DEVON AND A RARE SIGHTING

Autumn is a great time of year to be out on the bike in Devon. It is also a great time to see wildlife. Keeping on the tracks and minor roads in Devon often gives wildlife sightings and the autumn colours are to be savoured. Three weeks ago, I was on a circular tour of the county with two friends when we encountered a white deer on the road in front of us. This is very rare indeed. It stared at us in disbelief that we had spoilt its tranquility, then ran off. My buddy, Bill, also saw it. It was on a minor road between Hatherleigh and Sheepwash. The film clip is another from our recent bike ride near Ivybridge which I filmed in my last blog.

video

The evenings are longer in Devon than in other parts of the country and the cold winter days have not yet set in, so we are lucky down here. I have a new cycling buddy who wanted to see my part of Dartmoor and we went out two weeks ago. Her legs wobbled a bit from the hills at the end of our journey, but she said that it was an A1 ride. A kingfisher frequents the pond just outside our house at the moment.

I am now thinking ahead for big rides next year. Three of us are to cycle the North Country C2C, probably in May. Sometime in the future, I would like to cycle in Ireland and visit Scotland again. Another that appeals is Sweden where more cycle friendly rides are opening up. I also want to continue to raise the relevance and importance of wildlife to our society. My local Wildlife Trust in Devon makes an enormous contribution on a national scale. Please keep following.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

AUTUMN CYCLING

Autumn has arrived and this is a good time of year to be out on the bike. I have just returned from a fortnight's holiday in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales with Sylvia. I kept my promise not to use the bike too much and did just a couple of rides in both areas. This picture shows a trail in Swaledale near to Gunnerside. My other ride was in the lanes out of Staverley between Kendal and Windermere.

I have found out more what Northern England has to offer. It has superb road, trail and mountain bike country. I also like the trail walking, local food, scenery to die for and wildlife. I must come back.

Here is a wildlife story while walking beside the River Swale. We see a dipper on a rock in the middle of the river. The dipper moves to another rock just upstream. We move with it. The dipper spots us and we keep very still. The dipper wants a meal and in front of us dives under water, swims upstream and pops up again to sit on another rock. He allows to follow him for a few minutes. Watching wildlife means taking the opportunity and enjoying the moment.

Cycling in Devon after heavy rain offers new challenges. I went out with my daughter, Jo and her partner, Chris to do some green lane riding near my home. Here is a video clip and hope you enjoy the fun.

video

Sunday, 12 September 2010

CERTIFICATE RECEIVED AND £3,254 RAISED FOR WILDLIFE

My first "Cycle For Wildlife" is now complete. A magnificent total of £3,254, including gift aid, was donated for Devon Wildlife Trust from my ride and I want to say A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who has contributed.


My "Cycles for Wildlife" will continue and my first event will be to give an illustrated talk about the North Sea Cycle Route at University College of Marjons, Derriford, Plymouth during this winter (date to be announced).

This beautiful route through Britain, Scandinavia, Germany and Holland can be cycled in stages and is accessible. You do not need a car as a train, boat or plane are ideal to take you to hop on/hop off points.


Some of it is family friendly with level easy riding. Other sections are much more demanding being suited for enthusiasts with high abilities. Wherever you go, you will find scenic countryside, lots of wildlife, attractive towns, good food and lots of wonderful coastline to be savoured and explored. My talk will tell you about it.
It is planned that fund raising adventures will be organised for Devon Wildlife Trust in 2011. Please keep watching.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

DARTMOOR: THE DROVER'S TRAIL

My daughter, Sandie, and I went on to Dartmoor today to cycle a little known track. It is the Drover's Trail and it connects Hexworthy with Princetown via Swincombe. It is only 4 miles long but it connects to the wider range of trails that come out of Princetown. This section is technically reasonably demanding and can only be done on a mountain bike

This trail is in the middle of Dartmoor and although there are lots of holiday visitors locally, we see only a few hardened walkers. We stop and chat to one couple who are letterboxing. This is a hobby peculiar to Dartmoor. It is a form of orienteering where people search for letterboxes that contain stamps and are hidden under rocks. The club that organise it give clues. As Dartmoor is 400 square miles containing thousands of rocks, it is challenging. It is also popular.

Dartmoor today is open moorland but it has not always been the case. It used to be farmed extensively during the summer by stone age people and there are numerous remains of their lives that can still be seen. There are many stone circles, stone rows and tin workings still visible on the moor. Our ride is on an old drover's trail which is still visible.

At Swincombe, there is a ford and remains of some buildings. One looks as if it could have been a toll house. There are remains of two houses nearby that look more like crofts in Scotland than West Country dwellings. The trail here is a real challenge due to the large stones and waterlogged ground


A challenging day ride is to start near my home in Ivybridge, cycle along tarmac lanes to Buckfastleigh, Holne and Hexworthy where the Drover's Trail starts. Before reaching Princetown, turn off onto the Jobber's Trail and wind your way on off road tracks to Cadover Bridge. The last stretch to Ivybridge is mostly downhill. The distance is 45 miles but it is quite tough with the hills and the off road bit in the middle.

There are always interesting aspects of nature to see on Dartmoor and I quite liked this fungus growing out of an old tree stump near to Shipley Bridge
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Saturday, 24 July 2010

DEVON'S COAST TO COAST

It is now nearly 3 weeks since I came home from the North Sea Cycle Route and today I went out for one of my favourite rides. I started from home at Ivybridge , cycled over Dartmoor to Okehampton, through mid Devon to Bideford, along the Taw/Torridge estuary to Barnstaple. It is 75 miles. I came home on the train in the same day. It is a long day.

This is a view of Dartmoor, typical where I cycle.

There are many hazzards like this ford, fun with a mountain bike

Dartmoor has many stone crosses erected by monks who used them as direction signs in the Middle Ages.

Devon is notorious for its hills. Cyclists doing the End to Ender reckon Devon is the hardest on the whole journey for hills.


Okehampton Railway Station was closed many years ago but has been restored and reopened. Old trains use it. There is a nearby railway yard full of old railway carriages waiting for something to happen. If you would like to buy an old railway carriage, it would worth checking this out.

I cycle alongside the River Torridge. This was home to Tarka the Otter and where Henry Williamson used to live. If you have read the book, you will recognise this stretch of river.


Barnstaple Station has hourly trains to Exeter and has itself just been restored to the old Southern Railway colours. It is a nice touch. It is right beside the cycle route and the station building has a cafe and cycle hire shop as well as the ticket office.
Sustrans has signposted this route (NCR 27) and it is one of two 100 mile routes in Devon. This one is a mixture of challenging and easy, a bit like the North Sea Cycle Route in miniature. The other is NCR 2 from Plymouth to Lyme Regis and beyond. I cycled from Weymouth to home last year and this route is definately a challenge.





Sunday, 11 July 2010

FACTOIDS AND WHAT'S NEXT?

I want to go back to the Shetlands. It must be one of the most windswept yet romantic places on this planet. I want to stay with Mr and Mrs Sutherland in Gruting again. They are warm hearted Shetland folk who love their islands and have a warm but practical understanding of wildlife. Next time, I would like to go with my wife. The bike will be left at home


Hey, Mary. I love your comments and thank you for them. The two people who said I should do the route again intended that I just carry on, none stop so to speak. Has that been done before? Now Ireland, I was thinking just the same thing. It has to be something different though. Did you know that someone gave themselves a challenge to hitchhike around Ireland in one month carrying a fridge? A local radio station found out and the Irish were on the lookout for him to give him a lift.
Here are some facts from my journey;
a) Distance: 3,762 miles (6,019km)
b) Time: 72 days, including 4.5 rest days
c) Nos of ferries: 22
d) Most distance in one day: 87 miles (139km), twice
e) Most hill climbing in one day: 3,600ft (1,100m), approx (Hauge - Kvinesdal, Norway)
f) Type of cycle tracks: varied. 1. Much riding on quiet country roads, 2. Many dedicated cycle paths, suitable for families, except Britain, 3. Some gravel tracks in forests and along the coast in all countries, 4. Some challenging mountain bike trails in Norway.
g) Bike breakdowns: None
h) Punctures: None
i) Tyre replacements: 1
j) Type of bike: Trek Model X1
I have undertaken this as a charity challenge. If you would like to find out if I have met this challenge, there is a separate website at http://www.mycharitypage.com/GrahamWilson. Please have a look. If you like it and have not already donated, may I ask you to make a donation.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

BADGER RIDES AGAIN

I am now back in England having cycled with Dagmar for the last eight days. My adventure has continued but the story is not over. I have twice been asked to cycle the Route a second time as nobody has done that before.
I booked my ticket with Stena Line Ferries to Harwich and Stena laid on a special treat for Dagma and myself. We were given a complimentary three course dinner in their luxury restaurant. Thank you very much Stena Line. This was a very nice gesture from this company. It is not often large companies make welcome gestures like this. The meal was delicious too

We ended our dyke riding and I cycled as close to the water's edge as possible. I have ridden 100's of miles along dykes and I have come to like these man made features which nature has responded to so magnificently. The last part of the journey was through sand dunes and for a moment I thought that I was back in Denmark. I love taking photos while on my bike in the setting sun.
Sylvia met us at Harwich and we went back to the start to celebrate with some champagne. Badger joined in. Badger has never been on a ferry or been abroad before. He has learned lots of things. He has seen ostriches and windmills. He is a minor celebrity in Norway. He can cope with the cold, rain, wind and the sun.

And..........................Badger travels again! I might not be going a second time around but Badger is. He has joined Dagma and is doing the adventure all over again. We both had to ask him. He will be going to live beside Lake Constance when his journey is over. Unless, of course, but then a third time may be too much.


As for my adventure, my story is not over so please keep watching.


Saturday, 3 July 2010

GOING DUTCH

Holland is my last country on this challenge and is fun too. Everyone is so friendly. There have been lots of dykes to cycle along as well viewing the countryside and villages. Sheep graze the dykes and love to sit on the road. We have to navigate around extensive sheep poo at times. We are still cycling along the Wadden Sea and birds are still here in large numbers. Today we cycled the Zirder Zee, 20 miles of road in the sea! Here is Dagmar pedalling away

I have seen windmills throughout Denmark, Germany and Holland. Badger has heard of them and thought they were dangerous. He is much happier now to have seen them

There is a rumour here that The North Sea has put in a takeover bid for the English Channel. Apparantly this may have something to do with making the Cycle Route longer. This must be resisted.
My bike lost a bolt yesterday. Do you like my improvised repair? It has lasted 72 miles so far.

I have seen so many people cycling on my trip. At times, bikes outnumber cars. Kids cycle to school in Norway and Sweden. People go to the beach in Germany on them. In Holland they go shopping with them. In Denmark, they just go for tours. They are strange looking bikes and I have never seen them in Britain.
Mostly they have 3 gears. This seems to be the uses: 1 - Wind behind you, 2 - no wind, 3 - headwind. Supermarkets have rows of bike racks by their entrances. I cannot find any bike racks at Tesco in Ivybridge but Tesco in Inverness has three. The bike below is very old but the new bikes look the same. Some have very comfy saddles and others have upright bars to rest on while you are cycling

Tomorrow starts a big push to reach Hook of Holland. The weather forecast is good. My crank bearing still works. Despite the fact the journey was supposed to be 3,629 miles, I have now done 3,654 miles so far and am still going.



Thursday, 1 July 2010

FAREWELL GERMANY, HELLO HOLLAND

The temperature has gradually been rising over the last few days so that it is now very hot. I am still carrying my wet and cold weather clothing from the first part of my journey. It is cooler to be cycling than resting. Dagmar and I are both cycling to Hook of Holland together and to overcome the heat, we have taken to cafe stops. Here is Dagmar in between cafe stops.

I have not appreciated cafe stops previously in the way I do now. We have joined in conversations with others, people watched and simply chilled out. I was fascinated by this statue outside one cafe and had long discussions with some Dutch at another.


This is Greetseil, one of my last places in Germany which was picture post card perfect. It sits in harmony with a dyke.

This lighthouse has not yet reached maturity and almost joins my set of toytown pictures.


Dagmar says she is worried about not meeting people and asked if I ever had low points. I have had no low points and based on my experience she will meet lots of interesting people. In Scotland, she will meet End To Enders (Lands End to John O Groats). In Norway and Sweden she will meet the crazy ones cycling strange journeys. They will be the ones with monster rigs and going not just on my route but to North Cape, Poland, Iceland and longer. She must stop and exchange experiences and plans. There will be Kiwis, Aussies, Europians of all countries, Norwegians who are curious as well as being manic cyclists and others. Her partner, Stefan is joining her in Sweden. Like me, she has her laptop and what modern cyclist doesn't?
My crank still makes its unnerving noise but it has been doing so since Norway. I have made no plans to change it............

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

IMAGES OF GERMANY

The day I entered Germany, I cycled 87 miles to my destination. The sun was shining and yet again The North Sea Cycle Route has proved to me what a superb route it is to show the best of each country. I have left the remoteness of Denmark and am passing through beautiful towns, villages and countryside. The first two people I met were 2 German cyclists who asked me for directions. Me? I have not been to Germany before. However my Bikeline map was so good that I could tell them the way. Sometimes my navigational skills were tested as the road network is so extensive. However, cycling along the dykes was exhilerating as I brought my heavyweight rig up to 30kph with only the birds as my companions. I entered Hamburg to the sight of a sunken ship.

Brunsbuttel is a town I can understand. It is an industrial town but the route took me away from the industrial bits and I arrived at a town centre with a party about to start. It looked a fun place to be so I stopped at this cafe and had the most enormous ice cream .


There are many windmills here. I like this one as it has been converted into a cafe. It is on the South side of the Elbe.


Many of the buildings I like. This is one in a whole street of similar buildings. I believe they were barns on farms, some having been converted to other uses. I saw many original buildings of this design.

More people speak English here than I expected. It is not always the case. Last night, I arrived in a village and went into the local Gasthaus to ask if there was a room locally. No one could speak English but I found a room in a local house and the owners made me most welcome. Breakfast was at the family table with my hosts this morning. None of us could understand each other but somehow I knew that I was welcome and was given some lunch to take away with me.
Today, I have a new cycling companion. She is Dagmar and she started the North Sea Cycle Route in Hamburg and extracted me from being lost in Wilhelmshaven. Her blog is http://www.nordseerunde.wordpress.com



Thursday, 24 June 2010

THE WADDEN SEA

I have now been in Germany for two days and have completed 3,067 miles in total. To reach Harwich, the end of my journey, I still have 660 miles to cycle. My target date was set by Devon Wildlife Trust as 70 days, so this is 3 July 2010. Much of the last three days has been spent cycling alongside the Wadden Sea. As one of my aims is to highlight the importance of wildlife, I must tell you a little about the Sea, especially as man has created so much here. It is one of the World's most important wet areas, yet it has been shaped in many ways by man. Here are some pictures that tell a story.


More than 100,000 breeding pairs of coastal birds can be counted every year. There are 10 -12 million migratory birds who stop here on their flights to their breeding and overwintering grounds. Worms, snails and mussels exist in astronomic numbers, believed to be up to 100,000 per square metre. Yet it is shaped by man. The dykes are on the landward side. There are water farmers who have built fields in the sea. The walls are sometimes made from stone but more frequently from wood. The pictures show the shapes and cultivation of the fields, a boat being loaded with wood for fence maintenance and a water borne digger. When cycling, all I hear and see are birds in large numbers. Sometimes the birds have fun with me. I had a whole swarm of swallows diving in front of my bike, often within 5 metres. It was their game. Oystercatchers would test their bravery by seeing how close I would come before they fly off. They sit on my path and again, it is very close.


Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A VIEW FROM THE SADDLE

I have now almost finished my journey in Denmark. I could have crossed the border into Germany this evening but decided I wanted one more night in this lovely country, so I am in Hoger. I was not sure what to expect here. All I knew was that it is flat. I have cycled along sand dunes, on forest trails, over open moorland and alongside extensive wetlands that are of international importance both for breeding birds and migratory birds. I have met some delightful people on the way. Here is a picture on my journey that can only be cycled at low tide and when the sea is not rough

The next picture brings on a slightly serious point. It shows some wind turbines beside one of the wetlands. There were a huge number of birds here. On one occasion a wading bird (species not known to me) flew alongside me so close that I could almost put my hand out and touch it. The serious point concerns wind turbines. There are many here in Denmark. It is easy to see them on this flat landscape. The question is whether they detract from the landscape and nature. This is a big issue in the UK at the moment. Part of the reason that I am doing this website is to highlight the importance of wildlife to our daily lives

What do you think? An issue that I think is an outrage at the moment is the oil spillage in the USA. I think directors of all oil companies should be sent on compulsory training about the damage they can inflict.
I was cycling along a woodland trail two days ago. It was raining and I had not seen anyone for an hour. In the distance, I saw that the trail was blocked. As I drew closer, it was 2 fully laden cyclists standing close to one another with an umbrella. This is not a made up story. It gets better. The rain stopped and so did I to have some lunch. A butterfly landed on my nose! Then another landed on the DWT motif on my tee shirt. I resumed my journey only to see the road blocked again. This time, it was 10 people sunbathing in the middle of the road. I want to show this next picture because there are lots of thatched cottages and farmhouses all down this coast line.


And finally, I have given the names of 2 special places to stay on my journey so far. Here is a third. It is Vesterhavens Naturkunst at Thorsminde. It was so nice. The apartment is for 2 people and is in the artist's studio who makes sculptures from driftwood. The artist is Inger who can be contacted on +45 22 50 29 39 . There have been lots of other excellent stops and it is just those who provide an extra special welcome that I mention


Tomorrow I cross into Germany. I am on the final leg of my journey.


Friday, 18 June 2010

AM I BACK IN TOYTOWN?

This is Grenen, Denmark's most Northerley point. Look straight ahead and it is Norway, look left and it is Scotland, look right and it is Sweden. I have cycled in all these places on this trip

Here is the latest must have toy. These two guys were zapping around Skagen. Apparantly it is legal to do 24kph. Why do they not fall off? It would do wonders for Plymouth city traffic if all the commutors had one of these.

This must be the tiniest bunkhouse in the World. Just imagine having got hammered at the BarBQ and you wanted to sleep it off'. Each time you wake up in the middle of the night, your headache only gets worse.

And now for the lighthouse buried in sand. This was built and nobody thought about shifting sands. The surrounding buildings are completely buried and this is half buried. I can understand the problem. When I arrived, there was a gale from the West and sand was blowing everywhere. It was too dangerous to get close

And finally, here is a Hans Christian Anderson story. Hans loved to visit Skagen but in his day it was a hazardous long journey. Skagen is famous for its artists and they have been there since 1870. They loved to paint fishermen's cottages, nature and themselves. Hans stayed at Skagen's only hotel. On one visit, he was very irritable after his journey and demanded fresh fish for dinner. There were none and Hans was very angry. The hotelier sent a maid to the harbour to buy a fresh fish but she was delayed because she chatted to a friend. Hans now lost his temper completely. The hotelier's wife came to placate him but she was heavily pregnant. However his anger was so much that she gave birth immediately. The fish appeared, Hans apologised and the baby was Anna Anchor who would become one of Denmark's most famous painters.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

FAREWELL SWEDEN, HELLO DENMARK

Denmark is a huge contrast to where I have cycled recently. There is no more rugged scenery and Spring has now finally arrived on my trip. It is warm, the winds are light, the towns and villages have a serene and calming effect. I have fallen in love with Denmark. Andy and I said goodbye for the third and fourth times

The signs and cycle maps South of Gothenber were excellent. The Swedish South West coast is evidently a haven for water enthusiasts. Here is a group of 30 kite surfers about 20km North of Varberg. It seems also to be good for wind surfing, sailing and power boating


Sometime I must count the number of ferries I have caught. There are already two in Denmark. I have now reached Skagen, Denmark's most Northerly town.


I still have 1,175 miles to cycle. Up to now, my body seems to have coped well. I am told that the rest of the journey is far easier to cycle than everything up to now. I have decided to have a rest day in Skagen. My last rest day was in Kirkwall and I have cycled a long way since then. My bike needed a new rear tyre but otherwise has been fault free. There are two items that may need repair. The front brakes look worn but I have a replacement set with me. I have a slightly alarming noise from the crank but I have done 500 miles with it so .........

Saturday, 12 June 2010

SWEDEN

This is my new buddy, Andy, who I have ridden with for a few days. He has just climbed 135m in this picture. East Norway has more gentle countryside than where we have been, but every now and again, it likes to make sure that you can still do the climbs


I wanted to stop in Larvik, home of who I think is the greatest 20th century maritime explorer of all, Thor Heyadhal, however the heavens opened with the most enormous deluge. All I could think of was to outrun the rain.
After one last enormous hill on the border, I cycled into Sweden. Norway has one huge disadvantage. It is extremely expensive. Nowhere was this more evident than at the border where in Norway the shops were closed while on the Swedish side there were many large supermarkets.
I had some initial difficulty finding the cycle route in Sweden but found my way to Stromstad. I now found that the Norwegians are better than the Swedes at cycle maps/signposting.
Sweden's South West coast is charming. It is very pretty. While having none of the grandeur of Norway, it has a delightful character. The Swedes love their bathing. Below is a typical example of someone's swimming place

On another occasion, I was sitting alone having a snack when a Swedish lady cycled up, introduced herself and then went for a swim. It looked freezing but she said she swims every day.
Yesterday, I was getting myself into a fix. It was raining most of the day. I did not like the town I originally wanted to stop at, so I kept going. Anyhow there was nowhere to stop and I was wet through. After a tip from a local, I went to a farm. No one answered the door, so I went into the cowshed and I found the farmer's wife feeding the animals. She had a room, moreover it was a 4 bed apartment which I could have for £35. Here is its picture

After yesterday's rain, this morning it was a Westerly gale. Apart from ice, this is the worst weather for a cyclist. Sideways gusts can knock you into cars and even blow you over. I needed some mental preparation for this. I also needed some for cycling through Gothenburg which I had been told was very difficult. I managed 52 miles today which in the circumstances I was pleased with. I made much use of the position of the sun when cycling through Gothenburg and this proved a useful supplement to checking the maps.
Tomorrow I head for Varberg and hope top be in Denmark on Monday. I have now done 2,346 miles and that means it is 1,300 miles to go. I am hoping for no hills and no wind.