Archive for May, 2012


Cycling back in England and Bikeabout Ambleside.

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Bikeabout London our amazing party that raised £1070.00 for Child’s Dream ended with Liz and I at my Mums in South West London. We were both exhausted Liz having just completed her first full week of work in nearly a year and I still catching up from my three days with only five hours of sleep from the day before.Sunday was a day of rest and the first day since leaving Prague that I did not cycle anywhere, it was a great family day.

Bikeabout Ambleside was a week away. Liz had to go back to work but my sister, Sarah a teacher, who was on half term was going to join me for the ride from London to Ambleside. I was looking forward to seeing some of my own country again and excited to see how I would perceive things two and a half years on

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By midday Monday we were finally ready to leave, I had got rid of a lot on unnecessary things as well as a few luxury items and the bike was now feeling more like a racing car than a tank. We inched our way out of London and started making our way north.

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I was really interested to know how free camping was going to work, now I was back in the UK. Most of the land in Europe and Asia that I had passed by and camped in was free from fences. My memory of the UK was fences and gates but I was presently surprised at the offering the UK had. Anyone that has spent time cycling and free camping will know that you are subconsciously always looking out for somewhere to sleep. Even here in England there were plenty of spots and the first few nights were spent in small woods right next to the main road or in lovely parks on the outskirts of towns.

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The weather started quite well, we had a few showers but generally we were blessed with good cycling conditions, however towards the end of the week misty skies and heavy downpours went hand in hand as we made our way north. Sarah’s answer to this was to swap the tent for a hotel. A little begrudgingly I accepted, we found a motel that to me was costing a small fortune but apparently was the going rate.  We splashed out further on a takeaway and a cold shower.  Yes cold, to my disappointment the hot water was not working but when I found out that I would get the room for free as a result I was instantly happy. It was like camping in a big tent with pillows.

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What was most intriguing about this experience was peoples attitude to the problem. Anger, harsh words and raised voices.  A number of guest at the hotel took their frustration out on the lovely receptionist who had not been to Hogwarts or plumbing school and could not fix the hot water situation.  The plumber, that had been to plumbing school, had tried his best but could not fix the broken pump, it had to be replaced.  In my mind there was nothing that could be done, there was no point in getting angry about the situation, the hotel had said sorry and were going to give people a refund.  We were all getting a free roof over our heads and we still had cold running water that you could drink from the tap as well as kettles in the room.  This was more than most of the countries we had visited over the last few years  Yes my reference points were quite different but still I was amazed at the anger people had and the way the displayed it.

How would you feel if you were in this situation and what would you do about these feelings.  Remember there is a difference between feelings and behaviour.

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We skirted around Manchester and slowly started to edge around the Peak district I started to feel like I was getting home again. The rain and hills were reminding me of the Lakes and it was not going to be long before Kendal fells would welcome me home again.

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The bike was just holding together, I had had an excellent bicycle service in Prague from a lovely bike shop called Kola Na Statku that had not charged me a thing to get the bike going again. However back then I did not have the money to buy any new parts so really the bike was held together with love and duck tape. Unfortunately this was not enough and in a rather spectacular way the back spokes started snapping leaving the rim cracked. I was a little disappointed with the rim, it had only done 5000k  since it broke in Mongolia but considering the weight I had been carrying and the terrain I had cycle on maybe it was so not all bad.

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The bike shop in Coventry the Coventry cycle centre managed to do a quick turn around on a new wheel, thanks again guys and with only a morning lost we still made it to Kendal to my friend Chris Woodcock’s house on Saturday afternoon ready for Bikeabout Ambleside the next day.

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Liz and my Mum arrived on Saturday night and Sunday morning saw Sarah, Liz, Mum and I led by my friend Chris and his daughter ridding the last leg to Ambleside. We were joined by Niki from Bramwell International the company that provided my great boots and sandals.  Also Chris Loynes and Kate Rawles from the University of Cumbria.  Or St Martins as I remember it was the birth place of my cycling.  In 2003 Chris Woodcock and I had cycle down through France to get to the Picos in Spain. Although I never made it as my bike broke I had such a good time it made me want to do a bigger trip.

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Catching up with Kate and Chris was good.  Liz and I had attended a lecture given by Kate shortly before we left to go bikeabout.  Her lecture was about her cycle trip in America, one of its aims was to look at peoples attitude to climate change.  Kate has now written a book The Carbon Cycle: Crossing the Great Divide. This is a lovely example of combining doing something exciting with work and being a responsible human being at the same time.  I look forward to reading it!

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Arriving at the Water Edge Inn we were greeted by friends, followers of bikeabout and a few people that had heard about us on Lakeland Radio that morning.  One amazing couple greeted us with smiles and praise, we were bowled over and then almost fell when they gave a lovely donation towards building the school. Also greeting us were the two teachers from Yorkshire whose students had been following our trip for over a year.

With some amazing help from Chris Loynes and Kate we held a great raffle with prizes donated from Bramwell International and Millican. This combined with donations from people on the day we raised a healthy £390 for Child’s Dream.

A big thanks to all that took part.

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The cycling had truly ended, I now had to make sense of all that had happened over the last two and a half years as well as adjusting back to normal life. Importantly I also decided that I would dedicate the rest of this year to try and raise more money for Child’s Dream.

So all the money that I generate from public speaking this year will go towards our fund raising pot for Child’s Dream.  With this money we aim to build a school  in South East Asia. Find out more on our Charity page.  If you are interested in hearing more about my trip then please get in touch.

Next time: Find out how it was to meet the kids and teachers from the two schools that have been following our progress over the last year, learning and dreaming through our blog.

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Hello and Welcome back!

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

A big sorry for the sudden drop off in blogging, the end of the cycling suddenly hit me and I was finding it quite difficult to cope. Life seemed fast passed and everybody seemed so busy, I went from having one focus, cycling, to having to think about many things at once.

Over the next weeks I shall be finishing off the bikeabout blog, telling the story of my journey back through Europe last winter, the return to England and finally what’s next. Although I suspect that some of the latter will be up to you. There will also be a big kit review for all the geeks out there. If you don’t want to miss anything make sure you are signed up to get the blogs by email, RSS, Facebook or Twitter.

I was asked ‘Is it strange to be back’; initially I said ‘NO’. Things were quite normal, I was moving from one place to the next seeing people and still living out of pannier bags. It was not until I finally got to spend two consecutive weeks in our flat in Manchester and was surrounded by so much stuff crammed into boxes that I suddenly felt strange. I hate to admit it but I was depressed. I decided to leave everything bikeabout behind, ignore emails and let it be. Perhaps I was delaying the end, the final blog posts that would mark the end of what has been an incredible adventure. So another sorry if you have felt let down in some way by my lack of communication it’s nothing personal I just could not cope.

However as the last of the boxes were unpacked and the flat seemed less like the biggest pannier explosion in the world, things started to get better and my attention was diverted to our wedding. What was once a distant event was now only weeks away and there was a lot to do.

flying Liz

Well the most magnificent wedding has been and gone, Liz and I are married and the next chapter of our lives begins. Before the pages of the next chapter can be written though I fell it is important for me to write and perhaps interesting for you, to read about how the previous chapter ended.

Coming Soon!

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