Tuesday, 29 June 2010


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


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


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


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


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


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.

Monday, 7 June 2010


I have two curious pictures to show from today. Below is the tiniest car ferry that I have ever been on. Andy, who is cycling from Stavanger to Esbjerg and doing a slightly different route to me, and I have teamed up for a while and we were the only passengers on this ferry. It takes three cars or 60 people. Unfortunately Andy and I were held up losing 20 miles yesterday because this ferry does not run at weekends. However it was a fun ride and well worth the wait.

How about this for a boathouse? It seems to be supported only at the back. It is real and not an optical illusion.

Yesterday, Jaana left me but not before she undertook a 20 mile dash to catch a bus. I was struggling to keep up. She was really motoring. Now I have teamed up with Andy from Chester. He has just retired from the day job. He is a super fit guy and enjoys his cycling. His bike has Rolhaff gears and these are reputed to be the best for long distance cycling. I also met up with a Norwegian enthusiast and a New Zealand couple on a tandem.
There are still plenty of hills and although I am on the bike for 9 to 10 hours a day, it is difficult to put in the distances that I would like. There were some real steep slopes towards the end of today.
For the records, I have reached Brevik. Tomorrow, I hope to pass though Larvik, home of Thor Heyadhal, who I think is the greatest maritime explorer of the 20th century.

Saturday, 5 June 2010


This was taken in an estate agent's window in Mandal. I don't think the house had a garage but it was close to a cycle lane.

Mandal was beautiful and its setting was between two fjords so we spent a short time walking around it before setting off again. With one exception where there was 8km of rough track/steep hills, the cycling was much easier for both days. Kristiansand is a big city and port. I struggled to find much that interested me here and Jaana wanted to move on quickly.

My half way point is now passed and I have cycled 1,923 miles. I liked Birkeland, Lillesand and Arendal where I am now. Grimstad seemed too commercialised for me. I only have brief glances so I might be wrong. We met a guy from Cornwall yesterday who cycled here along the South coast, then all the way from Boulogne. Then today we met a Dutch guy who is doing my journey in reverse.
Tomorrow, Jaana leaves me and I cycle East towards Sweden

Thursday, 3 June 2010


We continue on our journey around the Norwegian coastline. The route includes some wonderful beaches.

We drift in and around fjords. We climb many hills between them and find that many roads here are dirt tracks. Sometimes, like today, we career down a big hill to cross a bridge where a fjord is at its narrow point only to find that we are heading far out to sea on a promontary. But it isn't a promontary as land appears unexpectedly from nowhere and another bridge is crossed. Sometimes a dirt track is so steep, I walk down as well as up because of risk of sliding and falling off.

The communities are small and many rely on summer visitors for their income but there are many harbours that contain commercial ships and these strangely are not out of place in this landscape.
We meet more long distance cyclists. Wiep comes from Holland and is cycling in the opposite direction to me. We are both at our half way points and swop experiences. My companion, Jaana, is enjoying Norway. She comes from Finland. Norwegians speak English and Swedish as well as their own langage. Jaana speaks fluent Swedish and can translate when their English is not so good. Another English cyclist is just ahead of me and he started in Stavanger.
These are not days for big mileages as the landscape dictates what we can do. This ride is an adventure that I am relishing. I will be half way tomorrow. I hope the second half is as good as the first.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


We left Stavanger after lunch after having visited the Oil Museum. We loved this city. However finding our way out proved a challenge in its own right due to lack of sign posting.

We rejoined the North Sea Cycle Route eventually and now commenced some of the most challenging cycling I have done.It started easliy enough with tracks alongside the coast which yet again was intensely beautiful. So far, the North Sea coast has proved itself to be scenically on equal terms with some of the finest scenery in the World that I have seen.

The real challenge started yesterday when we set off inland on a mountain trail suitable for lightweight mountain bikes and not heavy touring bikes. There was about 20 miles with many short but mighty steep hills. It was rugged country shared only with wildlife. It continued into Egersund. After a very late lunch, a tarmac road took us up into more hills and then down to the coast and this was dotted with small fishing settlements .

Today's ride was one that burned the legs. We climbed about 4,000 ft but it was not all in one go. These hills were steep. We buried our prides and walked. At the top, you shot off downhill, sometimes through tunnels. We were weaving around fjords so at one moment we were at sea level, then up to 900 ft, then down again. The road was narrow so when a lorry came, we had to get on to the verge. On arrival at Flekkefjord, we were greeted by the horn of a monster ocean going tug that was in port.

We were not the only long distance cyclists on this route today. We met two from New Zealand who are cycling 36,000km around Europe, then a Swiss girl who cycled here from Zurich and there was another guy who did not stop. As I write, I think it would be good to have a short rest.