Friday, 28 December 2012


This is the time of year where I abandon pasties and Yorkie bars in favour of mince pies.  My wife made the most delicious mince pies I have ever tasted this year.  The visitors in our holiday cottage all came back for seconds after she took over a intial batch when they arrived. 

I saw a programme on Channel 4 last night that said pasties make you fat.  They don't!  Proper west country pasties are the best food ever, except for my wife's mince pies. 

I hope that you like our Christmas tree this year.  And the duck?  We found out Bradley Wiggins is to receive his knigthood and Sarah Storey is to become a dame.  We also watched The Holiday and all these helped us to have a happy feel for this Christmas

Have you good Christmas story this year?  For next year, read more on my new website or follow me on twitter

Thursday, 13 December 2012


How different to my last journey?  I was invited for a weekend in London and  to bring my bike.

London is a completely different experience to cycling anywhere else.  For a start, there are cyclists everywhere.  There are high speed commutors, Boris bikes, easy bikes, couriers and no lots more.  Traffic is vast with buses, taxis, delivery vehicles, bikes and cars all vying for space.

Asked where I would like to go, I ventured cycling along the South Bank to Greenwich.  We peddled off along Bayswater Road past Lancaster Gate and into Hyde Park.  Swimmers had gathered at the Serpentine for their morning dip.  I asked a man with a thermometer what was the temperature.  "One degree" he replied.  My friend who is a member went for a dip.  Ducks, swans and coots looked for friendly humans for food.

Crowds turned out to watch changing of the guard as we passed and then we peddled off down the Strand to cross the River Thames at Blackfriars.  London seemed to be a mighty busy place for builders as there were tower cranes everywhere.   

The route to Greenwich followed the Thames Path and a cycle route.  After passing under the end of Tower Bridge, we were immersed in narrow alleys surrounded by converted warehouse buildings, many of which are now restaurants.  The river banks were a fascinating mixture of architectural styles with Canary Wharf on one side and housing of all types on the other.

I had two favourite places.  The first was a Lebonese restaurant at Greenwich that served a fabulous lunch for £7.50 and the other a visit to Brunel Museum at Rotherhythe where we were lucky enough to arrive on the first day that the South Shaft was open to the public. The museum celebrates the first bored tunnel in the World designed by Marc Brunel and supervised by his son, Isambard.  It is said to be "the most rhymed about, danced about, sung about and painted about construction site in the World". 

Returning after dark, the lights of London glistened ostentatiously.  Tower Bridge was especially resplendent with the Shard behind.  Crowds were gigantic as seemingly everyone had come out to walk the South Bank.  Those not on the South Bank were at a fair by the Serpentine.  This ride was far removed from cycling Exmoor just two weeks previously.

Friday, 23 November 2012


Wild, wet and windy.  This describes my buddy, Andy and my ride across Exmoor and into Somerset.  The rain brought the trains to a standstill while motorists struggled with the floods.

This was a four day ride, the first of which was bright sunshine on Dartmoor. As we cycled up Devon's C2C to Barnstaple a kingfisher darted out, then flocks of starlings performed wheeling and turning at our sides. We passed the ancient mint at Lydford and saw a splendidly restored train at Okehampton.  I was glad of my new powerful LED lights that lit up the Tarka Trail for the final 12 miles into Barnstaple.

The remaining days were as dramatic as the first was pleasant.  The rain lashed down and at times the wind smacked into our faces.  We peddled along the ridge road to Dulverton and on to Bampton.  We could see the moors looking forbidding and did not envy the sheep and wildlife that lived on them.  I imagined that reading a book in front of a roaring log fire might be preferable to this.  The minor roads were torrents of mud and stones.  The following day was the same as we came off the hills into the Levels of Somerset.

Beyond Bridgwater, the rivers were not able to take the rain away so we peddled through floods.  The most extreme was at Bawdrip where we found a water spout at the end of a cycle path.  Having navigated that, we cycled up river with bow waves either side of us.  Around here fire engines were hard at work pumping out flooded properties and attending to accidents.  Journey's end was Yatton where we planned to catch trains home but the adventure was not over.  The rail service had collapsed.  Most buses had given up as well.  Huh, this is too difficult to tell here

On the way, we discovered some of Somerset's secret gems.  Our cycle route took us into an ancient river bed set in a gorge.  The soft red sandstone had been eroded into a gorge during what is believed to be the Triassic Period when Somerset could have been a desert near to the Equator and subject to flash floods.

At Appley, we discovered the best little shop ever.  Despite the rain, we could hear the sound of children playing even though we were in countryside.  The little shop seemed to be a primary school, post office, shop and cafe all in one.  Moreover the coffee and cakes were delicious. A bouquet of wild primroses were on the counter giving a hint of spring although still 6 months off.

We followed National Cycle Network Route 27 to Barnstaple, Route 3 to Cossington, an unnumbered route to Winscombe and Route 26 to Yatton.  The gorge is on Route 3 just west of Nynehead and Appley is about 4 miles further west.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Yesterday while out on my bike I saw a sign that made me laugh.  I wished that I had my camera with me.  I decided to return again this morning with my camera.  It was cold but the sun was shining brightly.  Earlier the fields had glistened with a heavy frost.

I peddled through the little lanes south of Ivybridge in Devon.

When I reached the tiny hamlet of Westlake, the road was blocked by a Landrover.  The driver said "Hello Graham. Sorry but you cannot come this way as we have a herd of cattle coming.  Can you go another way?"  I realised that it was one of my farming neighbours. " No" I replied "I am searching for a mini-farmer and I am told that he is this way."  " You would be right. There is a mini-farmer this way.  He is not far" said my neighbour.  " How many cattle have you got?" I asked.  "Ahh, it is about 90 bullocks.  We are driving them about 6 miles along this road.  We are lucky.  We have lots of helpers".  At this moment, a fresh faced young girl appeared wearing a tight fitting sweater.  It was emblazened "Need New Boyfriend".  She did look like a cattle drover to me but then what do I know?  This cattle drive was getting interesting.

Along came the cattle, all 90 of them.  I took out my camera and took position for what I hoped would be a good photograph.  Four more drovers appeared and just as I was ready for the shot, one of the drovers came over and asked me to block a house entrance from the cattle.  There was no time.  I did as I was told but it was not a great position for a photo.  There was too much sun so apologies for the bleached out picture.

The Landrover had gone and so had the girl in the tight fitting sweater as well as all the other drovers.  I pedalled off to find the mini-farmer.  It appears that there may be more than one.

If you like me want to find a mini-farmer, follow National Cycle Route 28 and they could be lurking about 3 miles east of Yealmpton.   The next cattle drive will sometime in the spring.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


30 Cyclists were attracted to the small town of Ivybridge to take part in a family ride on the edge of Dartmoor for Sustrans.  I was the organiser and there were 5 other volunteers together with a representative from Sustrans.

There was a choice of three routes, 10.5, 15 and 22 miles.  The scenery was classic edge of Dartmoor.  We cycled on quiet roads along hidden river valleys, through ancient woods, passing old farms and on the longer routes we had good views of the high moors.  Both sexes were well represented with children of all ages.

One family who took part were on holiday and wanted someone else to do the organising.  Another were worried about traffic and supported Sustrans work for cycling on quiet roads.  Some of the children looked to be future athletes.

The ride was supported by Big Peaks of Ashburton who came with a repair van and tell me that they intend to stock Sustrans maps in their shop shortly

Saturday, 13 October 2012


Cram-Chaban is a commune in the Charente district of France.  It is 30km inland from La Rochelle in an area best known for its marshes, canals and picturesque houses.

It has a rustic air of gentle decay where many people have dogs and chickens.  As I cycled out of the village, my way was partly blocked by a farmer in a smart modern tractor talking to another wearing waist high waders that were held up by braces and clearly far too large for him.

The sun was warm and I wanted to know why he was wearing waders.  Much to my frustration, my question was unanswered partly because he was too busy with his discussion and partly due to my lack of speaking French.

The winding road took me through gentle countryside where most of the arable fields had been cropped.  However some maize and sunflower crops were still standing withered and dying, something else that puzzled me.

At my next village, I passed two tower windmills and came to the pharmacie where three people were talking and passing the time of day.  Two girls ambled slowly past me carrying bagettes under their arms.  On my way back I crossed a canal and a slow flowing river.  As I entered Chaban from the opposite direction, dogs barked and chickens ran around in small paddocks clucking.  Many houses had their shutters closed.  Tomatoes were still growing and autumn flowers were out.

As I went into our cottage, a mouse scuttled out and it did not seem out of place here.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


My waterproofs were severely tested last weekend ........ and failed.  My friend, Jaana, and myself had planned a trip that crossed the Somerset Levels (easy but very picturesque ride), through Bristol and over the Severn Bridge to as far as we could reach in Wales on Monday.

My luck ran out with the weather.  Having had a charmed existance on my bike rides this year despite the dreadful summer, time ran out on Sunday.  We met at Taunton on Saturday and the weather was glorious.  After 12 miles on a canal tow path, we cycled on little lanes through unspoilt villages across an area of wetlands that contains no less than 32 SSSI with hosts of wildlife.

Jaana and I just enjoyed an easy day cycling 46 miles to Weston where we stopped overnight.  The forecast for Sunday was 60mph gales and heavy rain, except strangely where it was light rain where we had just come from.  Reappraising our journey over breakfast , Wales was abandoned and we chose an alternative route back to Taunton.

The gales did not happen but there was plenty of rain.  My Gore-tex jacket that has served me so well has since been waterproofed and gloves disposed of as not fit for purpose. 

Sunday, 9 September 2012


Dagmar lives by Lake Konstanz in S.E. Germany.  The last time we cycled together was on the North Sea Cycle Route in 2010.  I had already cycled 3,000 miles and reached Wilhelmshaven in Germany.  Dagmar had set off 2 days previously on the same route starting in Hamburg. My maps in Germany were excellent but Dagmar saw me puzzling where to go and stopped.  We just seemed to fall in with one another.  We peddled together to the end of my journey at Harwich and then Dagmar took off cycling up the North Sea Coastline for her adventure.

At Harwich, I gave my mascot, Badger, to Dagmar.  This was the first Badger ever to go around the coastline of the North Sea but this Badger did it twice.

Two years later, Dagmar comes to visit me and brings her German made Birdy bike and Badger.  We plan to cycle around West Cornwall.  Dagmar asks if there are any hills.  I reply that it is not possible to cycle in South West England without finding some hills.  She asks if they are as high as the Alps where she lives and I reply that they are not.

I am now getting used to seeing baby bikes doing big journeys.  Last year Andy bought his Bike Friday here which is the American equivalent of a Birdy and then went off to Thailand with it.

West Cornwall is completely different to Lake Konstanz.  A dense sea mist on Tuesday prevented us from seeing the grand coastline from Penzance to Lands End and St Ives but Dagmar could still experience the little harbours and tin mines as we cycled by.  The following two days changed to warm welcoming sunshine.

We crossed over to the south coast stopping at Godolphin House on route.  This is one of Cornwall's oldest houses and had an open day as it has been converted by the National Trust into a holiday home.  We passed through Falmouth, crossed the estuary over to St Mawes and peddled alongside the coast to finish at St Austell.  This landscape is full with fine beaches, tiny villages and beautiful countryside.

At the end of our journey, Dagmar's satnav recorded that we had cycled 110 miles and climbed 2,575 metres.  I asked how this compared with the Alps.  Dagmar said the Cornish hills are much tougher to climb than the Alps. I believe this?  I will find out in 2013 as I have been invited for a return visit.

Sunday, 26 August 2012


The bike is suffering from lack of use this month.  Why?  Because I have been out with Sustrans helping to sign a new route on the National Cycle Network.  Route 28 follows little lanes from Totnes to Salcombe and on to Yealmpton near Plymouth.  It passes or goes close to several beaches but nicely avoids most of the main roads. 

If you want to cycle to the beaches at Slapton, South Milton and Mothecombe this is a handy route to know.  It will appear on National Cycle Network mapping shortly and there will be links to Totnes and Ivybridge train stations.

This view is looking across Slapton Lea taken from the cycle route

Thursday, 2 August 2012


Last weekend was the fourth time in 12 months that I have cycled this route.  It counts as the slowest ride in Devon.  It is just 10 miles long starting and finishing at Bere Ferrers train station on the Bere Alston peninsula.  On the previous three occasions, it took 4 hours!  This time three of us took the ride and there were hoots of derision when I said how long it could take.

This little ride is on a tiny peninsula where the Rivers Tamar and Tavy meet.  It is incredibly beautiful and seems to be in a time warp.

We had completed 1.5 miles when the first of my companions departed.  A boat yard appeared.  All of a sudden, messing around with boats became more appealing and he was lost helping others with boats and checking the yard out. 

After another 6 miles, it was time for lunch at the Plough Inn.  As the sun was beaming down, it was good to sit outside.  Just before we left, the Morris Men arrived together with the entire village to spectate.  We just made our return train back to Plymouth and had completed our 10 mile journey in a record breaking 3 hours.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


I found myself riding with Alastair and Corey for 16 miles after leaving Builth Wells.  They were on route from St David's to Lowestoft.

We parted company at Glasbury near Hay-on-Wye.  Their next destination was Worcester.  Mine was a climb up into the Black Mountains of approx 400m, part of the Brecon Beacons National Park.  It started with a steep climb up the lower slopes but once into the higher slopes the road zig-zagged up to the Gospel Pass making cycling easier.  The views looking back where I had come from were majestic.

The River Wye had meandered east.  My next town was Abergavenny where I would meet my next river, the Usk.  It was a very long gradual downhill slope.  Open moorland with huge numbers of sheep changed to woodland with a fast flowing river tumbling down the slopes beside me.  The countryside gradually opened up.  I passed the ancient ruins of Llanthony Priory and into the Vale of Ewyas.

I had expected it to be an easy ride south from Abergavenny but there were several climbs on the next stage through the town of Usk to Chepstow.  About 3 miles from Chepstow, stunning views across the mouth of the River Severn were my reward.  Set in this vista was the recently built second Severn Bridge.  It was easy to see how superb this engineering achievement was from where I was standing.  I pedalled into Chepstow and over the old Severn Bridge into Bristol.

Journey's end was at Yatton just south of Bristol.  I had covered 351 miles on this journey since leaving Stafford.  My Trek X1 bike as ever was completely reliable.  This is unlike my car which is hugely expensive and regularly breaks down!  I could not trust it to take me across Wales.

It was refreshing to see how many people were out on their bikes on this ride.  Many were like me on long distance journeys.  One couple were on a 13 week journey around the UK and into France.  The ride I followed south from Trawsfynydd was on Lon Las Cymru, who many argue is the most challenging route on the National Cycle Network.

Monday, 23 July 2012


There is no escape from the hills when cycling in or out of Machynlleth.  On one side there is a 400m climb in the shadow of Cader Idris.  On the other, it is 500m cycling south.

My legs hurt when I reached the summit.  This was a grandaddy of climbs.  My top dripped with perspiration and at the same time the rest of me was soaked with light rain.  I was much too hot to wear waterproofs.  These came out for the big ride downhill on the other side.

The tiny mountain road meandered around in open moorland then dropped into a pine forest.  I reached a clearing where the Forestry Commission announced that I was close to the sources of the Rivers Severn and Wye.  Gradually, the road descended to the little village of Llangurig and the Wye appeared as a proper river.

Two tractors each with long trailers got stuck in a narrow lane and the drivers eye-balled one another who had to reverse.  There was not enough room for even a cycle to get by.  The farmer with the empty trailer won while the one with a full load of hay had to reverse.

Beside the River Wye, the cycling was much easier.  At Rhayader, the bike shop doubles up as a pub in the evening.  I pedalled on passing thousands of sheep to reach Builth Wells for the evening.

Thursday, 19 July 2012


The cycle path beside the River Dyfi leading into Machynlleth was completely covered in cow pats.  There were so many that it was impossible to navigate around them.  It is at times like this that you realise nature has the upper hand.

I left Llandudno, a mixture of Victorian grandeur and pre-war suburbs and cycled back into Snowdonia.  I passed under the ramparts of Conwy Castle and at Betws-y-Coed found many visitors on real and imagined adventures on their ways into the hills.  At Blaenau Ffestiniog the hills had been carved into quarries where some of the finest slate in the World still comes from.

Further on at Trawsfynedd, a redundant nuclear power station stands sentinal overlooking a lake of the same name.  However by looking south, the lake is incredibly beautiful.  The cycle path winds alongside it and cars on the nearby highway completely miss this spectacular scenery.

My overwhelming impression was that I was cycling through Snowdonia's finest scenery as I headed for Dolgellau and Cader Idris.  It was 150 years ago that gold was dug from the River Mawddach but it is not possible to see this anymore as the river had reclaimed its rightful place.  The cycle path wound its way up again into the hills.

Machynlleth was 70 miles from Llandudno.  It believes that it is the true centre of Wales.  It sits nestled in the hills and feels like a proper community.  I stayed at The White Lion Coaching Inn for the second time having cycled through here twice before.  The imposing Victorian clock tower in the centre of town was funded by local people and is a fine monument.

Sunday, 15 July 2012


This was the start of a mini-adventure by bike through the heart of Wales.  On day 1, I joined The Balti Bike Club at the Castle Car Park, Stafford for a 127 mile cycle challenge to Llandudno.

Cycling in Staffordshire is not like Devon.  There are hardly any hills.  We sped along at an average speed I am not used to for the first 60 miles.  We passed through Newport and Wem.  The hills appeared as we entered Powys and there was a steady climb to Lake Vyrny where we stopped for lunch.  The BBC, as they are known locally, have a fantastic group of supporters.  We were cheered and filmed as we went and at lunch out came tables, chairs, drinks and food.

After lunch, we climbed up into the hills on small minor roads as we headed for Bala.  It was slow steady progress but going downhill on the other side was another matter.  One cyclist reached 47mph but he had to be brave to dodge the potholes and stray sheep.

After Bala, we climbed again into scenery that I just love.  It was wild and remote.  We were rewarded with spectacular views of the mountains set in mist.  We pedalled to Llanrwst where there was a spectacular downhill.  We thought that the final 10 miles would be an easy ride along a river valley to Conwy and Llandudno but there were two final hills entering Conwy that needed an extra boost from our tired legs.

I want to give special thanks to Balti Bike Club for allowing me to join them on this challenge.  The next part of my "Challenge The Dragon" is to cycle from Llandudno to Chepstow and Bristol.  My route is shown below and it retraces through Snowdonia, then heads south through the Cambrian Hills and Black Mountains. 

Friday, 22 June 2012


The Way of The Roses Cycle Route is 170 miles from Bridlington in Yorkshire to Morecombe.  It is a route divided into two halves.  The east section to Ripley is a fast ride with light hills but there it abruptly changes as it climbs high into the Pennines over to the west coast.

I met my buddy, Andy at Bridlington Train Station.  This must surely make a claim to be one of the most stunning stations on the whole rail network.  It had an old world charm that was supplemented by tables of local food, flowers, historic photos and friendly people. 

It was soon evident that this is a popular cycle route.  We saw cyclists on every section of the journey and, in turn, we were rewarded with interesting cafes, good pubs for stopovers and some eye catching scenery.  As usual on the National Cycle Network, we encountered few cars.  Millington, mid way between Driffield and York probably claimed the best cafe judging by numbers of cyclists who stopped there.

The cycle route made light work taking us past York and Ripon cathedrals.  It abruptly changed as we approached Brimham Rocks.  Our imaginations stirred as these ancient rock formations resembled Dartmoor's famous tors and had peculiar names such as Dancing Bear, Pink Panther and Watchdog.  We dropped down into Pateley Bridge on the River Nidd only to find the first of several challenging hills.  Andy must have done some special training as he took the hills with relish leaving me trailing behind.  "Must do better" appeared in my notebook several times. 

We peddled on to Settle passing another cyclists' cafe at Cracoe.  I find the experiences to be special when cycling among high open moorland and hills.  Cyclists kept coming in the opposite direction and we encountered riders of all ages.  Many appeared to be on long distance tours while others were challenging themselves on day rides.  At Settle, we left the route and headed north to beyond Kendal where we briefly joined the Walney to Wear Cycle Route.  Finally we turned around and cycled back to Lancaster for trains home. 

The total distance for us was 210 miles.  Where next? Croatia for Andy and Wales for me.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


I completed my 150 mile challenge on Sunday despite the rain.  It rained all day and severely tested my wet weather gear.  Journey's end was near Slimbridge in Glos where for some reason there was still some gas left in my tank.

Starting at 4am, I reached Exeter without seeing people.  Haldon Hill which I dread was passed early on.  I did not see the sun rise because of dense clouds but I did see lots of wildlife taking advantage of  the early morning with rabbits scampering everywhere, deer grazing in the fields and birds overhead.

I needed a break in Cullompton and looked for a bus shelter, always a good place for a cyclist to rest in the rain.  I joined a National Cycle Route at Taunton and this took me beside a canal to Bridgwater.  Lots of people were out walking.  This stretch was very scenic as I was now heading into the Somerset Levels.

At Portishead, I had cycled 125 miles.  It was raining hard and gravel had got into my gears making them hard to operate.  My map was soaked and falling apart.  Bristol is complicated to navigate on a bike and for some reason the council had taken down all the Cycle Route signs and substituted them with different ones that did not tie up with my new soggy wet map.  I was at my lowest ebb.  I took a break in the dry under a motorway bridge and somehow it lifted my spirits.  I set off and found the mighty Avonmouth Bridge despite the almost complete absense of signs. 

Once over the bridge, the signs were all in place and it proved to be fairly easy navigating through Avonmouth and onwards into Gloucestershire.

I have cycled the little lanes beside the River Severn north of Bristol earlier this year and they are a good ride.  My energy had unaccountably come back and it was with much enjoyment I peddled up to the 150 mile mark accompanied for the last 6 miles by my wife.  If the weather was better, I would like to have carried on until it was dark but the thought of a hot bath and dry clothes was a better option.


Sunday, 3 June 2012


It is only one week to go before I attempt my longest one day cycle challenge. The date is set at 10 June 2012.

I have done lots of cycling and been to many places on my bike but never before have I tried 150 miles in a day.  I am finding that this is a daunting but very exciting challenge that I must do.

The journey starts in Ivybridge, Devon with a 15% hill outside my house so there is no time for a gentle warm up.  The end, legs permitting, is close to Slimbridge in Gloucestershire.

Using minor roads unless major roads are unavoidable, the route will often follow the National Cycle Network (NCN).  I will cycle the southern fringes of Dartmoor through Ashburton to Exeter which includes a long climb across Haldon Hill.  At Tiverton, I join the NCN and head to Taunton.  This also looks hilly in places but after Taunton there could be a good length of easier cycling to Bridgwater, Axton and Clevedon.  Entering Bristol, there is a cycle path alongside the M5 across the Avonmouth Bridge.  This is very high and windy on a bike.  There is continuous NCN from the bridge to Slimbridge as the last section winds its way north close to the River Severn.  Apart from the industrial parts of Bristol that I will go through, I have high hopes of a delightful scenic journey............... unless my legs give out or I collapse from exhaustion thus never seeing it.

The bike is my Trek X0.  This is my trusty cyclocross converted to touring.  It is no lightweight racer but it is strong and rugged.  It has now done 15,000 miles and never let me down on important rides.  I will carry food and drink with me making stops on route to replenish.

Am I prepared?................  I am doing all my training and have taken tips on food and drink.  My bike and legs do not permit high speeds.  Like this morning when I was out and overtaken by two navy guys going twice my speed, I get frustrated when I see others who I feel are much better than me.  I just believe that it is always important to challenge yourself.

If you would like to support my challenge, please go to  . 

Monday, 14 May 2012


40 Cyclists took part in the first Heart of Dartmoor Cycle Challenge organised by Devon Wildlife Trust on 12 May.  At 50 miles, the route attracted riders with a wide range of abilities with many coming from all over the country. 

Many were skilled racing cyclists attracted to a new route while for others it would stretch their abilities.  The common theme was that all wanted to experience the wildness of Dartmoor.

I lead a group of 10 cyclists on a route that included an off-road section.  Another group followed the fully on-road route while others had to use their map reading skills as they set out on their own.

Starting and finishing in Ivybridge, we started by following Dartmoor's rugged southern boundary via Shipley Bridge.  We rode through woods, alongside rushing rivers and past remote farms.  At Buckfast, we turned north to climb up on to the high moors with Princetown being the highest point.  We had managed to spread out here and most needed to recharge energy levels with a mixture of cream teas, pasties and chocolate bars.  We twice crossed the upper reaches of the River Dart.

The scenery via the off-road route from Princetown was breathtaking with unspoilt open moorland and Dartmoor's famous torrs all around us.

The Trust laid on refreshments at Holne and cycle repair facilities were provided on route by Big Peaks of Ashburton

It is hoped that the event will be repeated in 2013.

Saturday, 5 May 2012


Fresh mountain air, red kites, forest trails and secret river valleys greeted me on my cycling tour of Wales at the end of April.

My trip started at Gloucester.  I rode north following the Malvern Hills and River Severn until just outside Shrewsbury where I turned west and my route crossed into Wales.  My destination was Fishguard on the Pembrokeshire coast.  I planned to follow Sustrans cycle routes nos 81 and 82 known as "Lon Cambria".

Cycling in Wales always feels like a mini adventure and I come alive on these trips.  I started on little tiny roads.  Sometimes they changed to woodland tracks more suited to mountain bikes.  Much of my journey was little visited and felt remote.  I pedalled into Welshpool and on to Llanidloes pearing at hill farms plentiful with sheep and lambs.  It was early Spring.  The rivers were slightly coloured and leaves were starting to form on the trees.  Daffodils were still out and primroses were plentiful on the lower slopes.

I crashed out for the night at a pub in Llanidloes just seen in the distance in this picture.  It was not before having 2 pints of local ale, a big meal and a long chat with a hill walker.  Shortly after leaving Llanidloes, I met a local couple at the top of a hill who were marvelling at the view.  They told me that it still snows here long after it clears elsewhere in Britain.

A tiny lane took me to Rhayader where there is a bike shop.  Parked outside was an expedition bike with a trailer.  These are huge rigs for long journeys.  The last one I saw was in Sweden being ridden by an Australian cycling north.  I changed direction on to a stony trail that headed up the Elan Valley well away from the cars.  My highest point was amidst open moorland and the air was clear, fresh and cool, absolutely brilliant.  The onward journey to Fishguard took me down a steep windy road, passing a redundant slate quarry and towards the head waters of the River Tiefi.

A deep woodland trail followed and 3.30pm I found a small shop for lunch.  Outside with the sun shining were two hill walkers taking a mid point break.  The shop served me what it called an oggin and looked like easily the biggest pasty I have ever seen.  We swopped tales of hill walking and cycling then shook hands as we left.

I now followed the River Tiefi for its entire length.  It is a beautiful river.  The valley looked to be a haven for wildlife with a mixture of water meadows, forests, hills and occasional bogs.  The final stretch of the journey involved a loop into the Preselli Hills only to find more crags, woodlands and river valleys.

My total journey was 268 miles over 5 days and there are train connections at each end.  The map can be bought from Sustrans Shop.

Saturday, 28 April 2012


A great way to support a healthy lifestyle is to look after the environment. This is why Devon Wildlife Trust is my charity of choice for my next challenge.  My cycle ride last week through the Cambrian Mountains of Wales reminded me, as if I need reminding, how important wild places are and that we must protect them.

This charity is modern, healthy and green.  Not only does it look after 45 nature reserves in Devon, it promotes good practice at sea to preserve our marine environment for the benefit of fish stocks. It understands the effects of renewable energy with wildlife and it assists our regional water company to provide clean fresh drinking water without harming the environment. As if this is not all, our wildlife habitats absorb carbon emissions from the atmosphere.

For me, looking after our environment helps us with our lifestyles. Devon Wildlife Trust, having reached its 50th birthday, is innovative, green and understands modern life.  To find out how to support the Trust and this challenge, please go to

Sunday, 8 April 2012


I have set myself a new challenge.  Every 2 years I need to challenge myself to do something new that I have never done before.  It is usually on a bike but not always so.  In 2010, I cycled 3,762 miles on The North Sea Cycle Route.  In 2008, it was Le Jog.  Previously I cycled in Mongolia, trekked across the Andes and there have been others.

For 2012, it is to beat my biggest one day cycle ride.  My current best is 122 miles across Snowdonia made three years ago.  I have set myself two targets and these are:

        127 Miles on 7 July from Stafford to Llandudno with Stafford Balti Bike Club, and

         150 Miles on 10 June from Ivybridge (Devon) to as far north of Bristol as possible.

These journeys will all be on minor roads and I prefer to use the National Cycle Network where possible.  This means great scenery and little traffic but many hills. 

I want to raise money for a special charity and have already been given £100 to it even though I have not told anyone about the challenge yet!  I support charities that promote healthy lifestyles because for me they contribute so much to society. 

Keep pedalling.

Friday, 16 March 2012


I discovered the Cobbly Way while out in the beautiful South Hams of Devon.  It is an ancient cobble track beside the River Avon near South Brent.  It is so bumpy that cycling it requires much care, especially when wet.  The river flows fast between deep pools while mature trees span over it.  I peered into its pools and imagined giant salmon just waiting to be caught.  Hanging from a branch was a rope obviously used by children in the summer to swing into these pools. 

South Hams is rich farmland south of Dartmoor spanning to the sea.  The fields are filled with dairy cattle known for producing high quality milk and clotted cream.  Field boundaries have high banks with wild hedges and trees.   Several rivers run fast off Dartmoor and cross this landscape on their way to the sea.  As a consequence wildlife and food production seem to be in harmony.  I followed a figure of eight loop to the sea and back on little lanes and on route discovered a few hidden gems.  My next was a pub which required only a short detour at Slapton and well worth checking for a longer visit at another time.

Just two miles further on, I arrive at Slapton Lea, well known to local people and easier to find for visitors.  This freshwater lake just a stone's throw from the sea is a magnificent nature reserve where hoards of birds, many of which are unusual happily feed from crumbs thrown to them by children. 

East Prawle is the Devon's most southerly village.  I pedal here then follow a loop back to my home.