Sunday, 19 September 2021

AV Park Run 18 September 2021


Completed another Park Run, this one was my second run of the 'new' Arrow Valley course. Had a quicker time than my previous run and finished with a time of 25:06. My position was 54/240. I'm weighing 93+ kg. Hopefully, if I lose weight, I met get a quicker time. Will I ever beat my PB of 21:39?

Wild Camp September 2021

September 2021 saw another wild camp. Just like the previous month, this was another camp in Crow Woods. Jamie and Rob Dog accompanied me on this adventure. Unlike last month, the Phantom was elsewhere. This was Jamie's first hammock camp. Just like me very first attempt to hang, Jamie fell out.

I'm sure it won't be the last time I say it but hammock camping really is the way to go. Kit is lighter and less bulky. Most importantly of all, hammock camping is super comfy. Rob Dog said he wasn't convinced, however, he had never tried the delights.
As per usual, we had much cooked food to eat. Much alcohol to wash foods down. A good nights sleep, followed by breakfast.
We had a little rain in the night. No a real menace, I covered myself with my tarp and stayed dry. I think I should figure out how to string up a hammock tarp and maybe my hammock trips could continue into the winter months.
Before we cleared camp, Jamie encouraged Rob Dog to have a hang in his hammock. Rob Dog was surprised how comfy it felt and ordered a set up a couple of hours later! Am hoping for a multiple hammock hanging trip next month.

Saturday, 21 August 2021

Arrow Valley ParkRun 21 August 2021

Wowser, 21 August 21 saw me complete a ParkRun for the first time in donkeys. The Covid Pandemic had put a big stop to such runs taking place. Despite Covid hanging around, ParkRun's have resumed. Arrow Valley ParkRun was different in a number of ways but mostly because it was a brand new course.

Certainly not at my fittest for this run. On the contrary, I think I'm at my fattest - weighing a hefty 93.5kg! Pleased I completed this run in under 30 minutes - my official time was 26:18 and I finished 49/180. This was my 35th ParkRun to date. Will I ever beat my PB of 21:39?!

Sunday, 8 August 2021

Hanging Around (Wild Camp August 2021)

On a fine summer's day in August, I finally managed to camp using a hammock for the very first time. I'd only owned a hammock for a couple of weeks but was unable to try it out last week due to the heavy rain. I got my hammock from Alpkit, it was in the sale for £33. I figured this wasn't too large a sum to try it out. My buddy Ron agreed and purchased himself 2 of the same model. Our hammocks are the Mora model.
Our camp was only about 2.5k from home. We pitched in the 'Crow Woods'. Just prior to entering these woods was saw 8 or 9 nine deer cross our path - they were the really pretty spotted variety.
I'd never hung a hammock before, however, it posed no real problem at all. I had read that the tree's should be about 6 paces apart - the trees I chose were. Advised to hang the tree straps about head height - did just that. Finally, followed suggestions of hanging the straps at a 30 degree angle - I presume it was pretty close. It looked great, wow, beginners luck maybe.
With the hammocks set up quick time, Ron set about cooking. Sausage, burger and bacon was on the menu. Whilst Ron cooked, I hung around. I loved the way I could just sit in my hammock and keep off the ground. It felt weird initially whilst lying down as the gentle swing made me feel a bit sea-sick. I fell out a couple of times too. After only minutes, the weirdness and sick feeling passed and it didn't prove difficult to stay in the hammock. (I had no further falls).
Supper was delicious. Always tastes better when someone else cooks. Damn, blast, I forgot my whisky. Not to worry, Ron's brandy washed it down. I'm sure it wasn't the alcohol, but I saw an owl fly right through our camp.
Amazing how living things were the supports to hanging our hammocks. Thanks trees. I'm not sure if our food was off because I was having some rather strange thoughts.

It wasn't a cold night and we didn't need a fire for warmth. Fire's are awesome to watch though and the light they provide is great. Ron was the fire-starter!
We watched the fire until it was time to sleep. I think I fell asleep before the fire was out. I placed my sleeping mat in my sleeping bag which appeared to keep everything in place.
I'd read that it's advisable to sleep diagonally in a hammock. This sounded tricky and difficult to understand, however, once on the hammock it made complete sense and was a relatively easy thing to do. The hammock was comfy, it really was. I didn't use a pillow and don't think I needed to - all the same though, I'd like to take a pillow another time and see if it improves further.
Slept relatively well. I did awake a couple of times - once just before midnight and again around 4 a.m. Both times I needed to pee. I think my quality of sleep was great. When on the ground, I tend to wake lots but just turn around and quickly drop off again. I'm pretty sure, I must have slept on my back in the hammock. Had no problem regulating my temperature but do think this type of camping is suited to the summer months.
We got up about 6 a.m. and Ron kindly made some tea. Great seeing the sun rise. We had to leave early as we both had busy days planned. Hammocks so easy to set up and put away. As we went our way (back home) we spotted more deer - adult with young, which was fab.
My plans for this new day was to take my family to meet our buddy's Chris and Isabel and see their newly born off-spring. Felix and Willow were just great delights. What a fantastic weekend.

Saturday, 17 July 2021

Rapha Compass Challenge (Birmingham)

On July 12th 2021, I completed the Rapha Compass Challenge (Birmingham). Rapha challenged cyclists to access four locations across Birmingham and it's surroundings. They allocated a week for this to be completed, however kudos was to be given to those who visited all sites in the same day.

Rapha set no particular route so I planned my own using Ride with GPS and followed a circular, clock-wise direction to reach all 4 sites. I started from my home and headed to the first point - Walton Hill.

Walton Hill aka Waltonburg to Rapha is (they say) 'the closest the Black Country gets to Flanders' and suggest casting your mind back to the Classics when you attempt the cobbled climb. The biggest tackle was getting to the climb as the roads leading to it were closed. In the end I scrambled over the barriers and made my way to the climb anyhow. Whilst climbing the climb, panting and puffing, it wasn't the classics I was thinking of. Instead I was thinking thinking of times I had cycled this hill before with my buddies and better yet, remembered wild camping here with Jamie!

The next point to head for was Meriden to visit the National Cyclists Memorial. Much tow path was followed to get to my destination and also the lovely cycle lanes in Birmingham. These cycles did not exist when I used to commute to the centre of Birmingham about 10 years ago. Truly excellent cycle lanes, right in the centre of the busy main road and led from Selly Oak all the way into Town. Awesome.

What wasn't so awesome was another road closure forcing me to re-route. Signs warned CCTV was in operation. (I attempted to cycle through anyway, however, was stopped by an official who said 'I have strict instruction not to let anyone through'). No bother, it only added a few extra k and soon enough I was at the wonderful memorial. The memorial honoured the cycling divisions of WW1.

Stopped here for a bite of lunch (though it was only really breakfast time). CO-OP had kindly put out a table and chairs for it's customers - was only right to oblige. I had a vegan sandwich, being the plan-based cyclist that I am.

Next stop wasn't part of the Rapha challenge. I had a quick stop in Hatton to say 'Hi' to my mate Flair and drink some more fluids. How convenient this stop was part of the route.

Not long after leaving Flair's, I was thinking about my dad. I passed a street named the 'John Taylor Way'. This way didn't lead to my dad, it led to the foot of the next site. This site was the Castle at Edge Hill. I had to reach this castle by navigating a steep off-road ascent. This climb up offered fantastic views of Warwickshire. The castle was actually an esoteric pub and I had a wonderful descent down some tarmac road after reaching the summit.

Next and last site headed for was Shakespeare's Birthplace. Some consider him to be one of the World's greatest writers. A famous line I remember is 'out, scab'. Ha! Due to Covid, I'm sure, Stratford-Upon-Avon didn't have it's streets filled with foreign visitors.

Final destination was home. All in, a great route with some lovely cycle lanes and tow path. Completed my challenge in a day covering a 163k and climbing about 1,400m. If I cycle to the Gorilla Cafe I will be awarded with some print and I'm in the draw to win some top prizes.

Thursday, 15 July 2021

aDvEnTuRe sQuAd complete King Alfred's Way

King Alfred's Way is a 350km circular off-road adventure route through many years of history, connecting some of England’s most iconic sites. Sounds kinda awesome doesn’t it?! Jamie and I (aka aDvEnTuReSqUaD) thought so and decided to cycle this route, only we made it a 408k adventure.

We started our adventure in Newbury (my sisters address – cheers Jane) on a Tuesday afternoon and headed straight to the Ridgeway. The route to the Ridgeway was menace and we had some heavy main road and associated traffic to navigate. We feared for our lives and were determined to take a more laney way back to the start on our return.

Once on the Ridgeway we really felt like we had escaped from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The single track was awesome. Our gravel adventure had really began. We cycled much varied terrain today and throughout our adventure as a whole. We cycled gravel, chalk, mud, tarmac, woodland and thick gloopy mud too at times. We had some tough ascents and some ring-twitching bumpy descents too. On occasions we would cycle familiar tracks (including much of the Oxduro) and then there be dragons. 

We stopped at the same cafe I stopped at during the Oxduro, only this time I had a tuna sandwich instead of an ice cream. Leaving the cafe we hit new wooded tracks. It wasn't long before menace struck. Menace came in the form of a couple of punctures for me. These punctures happened at non-ideal times - when the rain was drizzling and when my bike was covered in mud and gloop. Am pleased to report I did not puncture again on our whole trip.

Around 8pm we figured we should look for somewhere suitable to camp. It didn't take long for us to find an awesome spot. A small iron gate opened to a big wide field with an area of trees just inviting us to camp. We were set up in no time at all and what a beautiful spot this was.

For supper I cooked some noodles and hap a nip of Jamies gin (I think it was gin). Slept great. Cooked some lovely porridge for breakfast. Wow, day 2 was here already!

Day 2 was super tough and our pace was slow. We picked up an interesting trail quite early on - the Christmas Pie trail no less!

Wasn't long before we made a point of stopping and taking a moment to appreciate some history. We took a picture of Thors Lee in Thursley. I think this was historic, though I have no details to share. Devilish fun was had in the Devil's Punchbowl.

From Thursley we continued to cycle and hit a place called Bramshott Chase. We saw a whole bunch of MOD signs on these trails and instructed to keep away from any military debris as it could blow us to bits. Trails around here were lovely and much occupied by young DOE folk. We saw the army training too - both foot soldiers and machines flying in the air.

During this day, we cycled the North Downs Way and a little later the South Downs Way! I knew this because we saw signs at often times informing we were on the North or South Downs Way (SDW). Furthermore, both Jamie and I had cycled the SDW before on an adventure with Chris and Toll. Chris had created this earlier adventure and dubbed it 'Southern Comfort' if I remember correctly.

The SDW was a trifle menace on this occasion as we cycled it in reverse manner to last time. It was still incredibly beautiful, however, the super descent I was looking forward to was a challenging ascent. I just had to stop and take a picture where Chris and I bombed straight into the barb wire fence during the Southern Comfort (or was it discomfort) adventure!

Crash site!

Around Southampton we stopped for a well deserved pub meal and a couple of pints. It was starting to get late and we knew darkness would soon follow. I asked the pub staff if we could camp in the pub garden if we carried on drinking - was informed they wouldn't mind but the locals would. We we advised we'd find plenty of camp options once we climbed to the top of the next mammoth hill that stood in our way. Hmm. We started climbing this hill, however, we were tired and sapped of energy. We were unlikely to make it to the top this night! Without further ado, we just spotted the next mediocre potential camp spot and swiftly set up camp. Jamie was zipped up in no time. The further menace happened. I spotted rats (rodents at least) in the bushes next to us. Argh! Creepy eyes and rat action! We were so tired we figured to stay put regardless. I made sure I zipped up my bivvy and took my jacket inside the bivvy as it had treats in the pockets. It took a while to drop off...

Pleased to report we both slept pretty well considering. Better yet, the rats hadn't eaten the bike tyres or nibbled at our bivvy's. Greater still was the awesome view we were granted. So nice to cook some porridge and absorb the beauty of where we were and what we could see.

No rats in the morning. Instead we saw a lovely butterfly. Later in the adventure was saw many birds of prey included an owl that flew about in the daylight hours.

As we continued our cycle we hit Salisbury. We didn't know this immediately as visibility was real poor. We cycled several km's of single-track that was seriously over grown. Was this really a well cycled route? Didn't feel like any bikes had been down here for months.  

Soon, it was clear where we were. The road sign gave it away. And, then we saw the famous stones. (The stones were long and far away).

This was a lovely part of the world. The MOD certainly thought so too - they were flying chinook's in the airspace and tanks were covering the landmass. I'm not sure I'd seen so many tanks all grouped together in one go before.

I'm not sure if we should have been cycling the roads we were. Signs were instructing to stay away if red flags were flying and red flags were flying. These red flags indicated tanks were on the loose.

Leaving Salisbury we hit Devizes and saw an awesome chalk white horse on the hillside and wide-open views of rolling country side. Wasn't sure which white horse this was at the time and am still not sure now. It's facing the wrong way to be the Devizes white horse. From my Google search it looks like it could be the 'Bagging Cherhill White Horse'.

After the white horse spotting, we thought we spotted another awesome pre-historic thing. This was the long barrow at All Cannings. This was a truly awesome long barrow and I was quite blown away. That was until I realized it was built in 2014. Hardly historic, let alone pre-historic.

Shortly after long barrow visit, I think we found what I consider to be the best bivvy camp spot ever! We cycled about half-way up a big hill that had the most amazing view of the Salisbury Plains (I think). We found a big chalk cut-out in the side of this hill which provided protection from the wind. My photo's don't do this spot justice but it really was truly awesome. Once settled down to sleep, we were aroused by the thundering sound of a chinook overhead. I opened my bivvy and thought Jamie and I were in for an interesting death - the chinook looked like it was only metres above us and I thought we were the landing pad!

We didn't have a perfect sunrise in the morning, instead it was real hazy. It was still incredibly beautiful though. No starts came out during the night either. Was awesome to think about the adventure we had had thus far over a 'myti mug' of porridge.

Adam and Eve standing stones

On leaving our awesome camp spot I expected a big, big climb. Surprisingly, a massive climb did not follow just a gentle ascent and then we turned off onto several km's off single-track. After no time at all we were heading to Wiltshire. When we camped last night, little did we know Avebury was only about 10k away. The first wonderful sight was saw in Avebury (Marlborough in actual fact) were the awesome standing Adam and Eve stones.

Shortly after we saw sights of Silbury Hill (the largest man-made hill in Europe) and then the wonderful Avebury Henge and Stone Circle. We spent a period of time here as it was just magical. As far as I know, this is the only stone cicrcle that has a pub in the centre of it. Shame it was closed...

So much to see in Avebury, we could have stayed here all day. Amongst the delights were West-Kennett Avenue (a parallel line of standing stones, a big henge and Jamie sat in the 'Devil's Chair'. Aces.

I'm sure we'll both visit this site again in the passage of time. It really is wonderful. One of the high-lights of our trip.

 Leaving Avebury and we cycled lots of multi-terrain once again, lots of single-track, chalk, woodland, mud and the occasional bog too. After so long we cycled an open hilly area called Barbury Castle Country Park. In this park, I spotted a most unusual thing - a tree covered in snails. Had to stop and take a picture figuring my daughter Melody would just love this. 

This was a hot day and finding supplies was difficult. Am pleased we managed to find a suitable pub spot in Bishopstone. Much pizza provided very necessary fuel. Supping from my pint glass I spared my niece-in-law a quick thought. Ha!

Back on bikes and it wasn't long before we were cycling on the Ridgeway again, just like we were on day 1. The Ridgeway stretches for miles and lots of wonderment is passed as you cycle along. One such wonder was another long barrow called Wayland's Smithy.

Uffington White Horse (Dragon)

Not too far away from Wayland's Smithy we passed Uffington White Horse and Dragon Hill. Some say (and why would I doubt it) that Uffington White Horse was actually a dragon and the Dragon Hill was where St George slew the dragon (the chalk on the top being the dragons blood). Whatever, Jamie and I slew this dragon!

Dragon Hill

The above picture was the last photo I took on our trip. From here we pretty much cycled more chalky single-track before leaving the Ridgeway good and proper and cycling a few road sections to get back to my sister's domicile.

This really was a fantastic trip. Big shout out to Alfred the Great who was a king who ruled the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex and who famously burnt some cakes - this route was inspired by him. Too bad we didn't check out King Alfred's statue in Winchester. And, of course, a big shout out and high 5 to Jamie who is half of the aDvEnTuRe SqUaD. This trip rocked. TransAlba has been postponed twice and we are hoping next year will be the year we actually cycle it - I hope it's as great as this adventure was.

Post-event and there is always a bunch of stuff that was re-remembered and forgotten to be added in the main account. Some random things to mention were as follows: I used 37mm tyres which worked just fine. Relatively few bike-a-hike sections. 3 nights and days is a perfect length of time for this trip. We met a lady who's husband had cycled this route in 24 hours. I overdosed at one particular Maccy D's. Ha!

AV Park Run 18 September 2021

  Completed another Park Run, this one was my second run of the 'new' Arrow Valley course. Had a quicker time than my previous run a...