Posted by: Huw Thomas | July 2, 2011

Over the sea to Donaghadee

We took the ferry across from Stranraer to Belfast this morning – courtesy of Stena Lines who kindly sponsored our travel across the Irish Sea.

Grabbing a 'Belfast bap' for lunch with Dave and Mark

We were met off the ferry by fellow cyclists Dave and Mark. Then, after a brisk 24 mile ride along the coast in the sunshine (!) we arrived in the historic harbour town of Donhagadee and a great welcome from several local Rotary Clubs – with a £600 cheque for ShelterBox!

We’re being put up here by Pier 36 – a great little B&B and restaurant that looks right out over the harbour.

 

The view from our bedroom window at Pier 36

Over the last few days we’ve collected a few more donations for ShelterBox thanks to Rotary Clubs in Castle Douglas and Stranraer. We’ve also added a few more miles to our total…

Tomorrow is going to be a landmark day – we reached 9,970 miles arriving in Donaghadee so only 30 more to our target of 10,000!

Carolyn’s expecting champagne. Not sure how easy that’ll be to find but we’ll definitely be celebrating.

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Posted by: Huw Thomas | June 30, 2011

Turning south

We’ve now turned south for the start of our journey back to Cornwall. Probably just as well, as we’re starting to think our bodies (and heads) might appreciate a bit of a rest.

We’re also spurred on by hearing how hot and sunny it is down south. Scotland is beautiful but it’s cold and damp up here and we don’t like it!

Is this the right way to summer?

It took us 58 days to reach Edinburgh from leaving London… well, I suppose going via Copenhagen isn’t exactly the direct route. We had a busy day in the Scottish capital on Tuesday – no cycling but a breakfast presentation to a Rotary club, several hours of walking the city being tourists, a lunchtime visit to a school and then a big do in the evening organised by the Rotary Club of Corstophine.

Yesterday, Carolyn was suffering a bit from my cold so we did a shorter (45 mile) ride to a small place called Abington in Lanarkshire, where we camped. Today we made our way over the hills to Castle Douglas for another Rotary talk.

After all the gloom and damp , the sky has finally cleared right over so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for tomorrow.

Posted by: Huw Thomas | June 27, 2011

Scotland

Crossed another border yesterday – not yet an international one! – as we rode into Scotland.

Welcome to Scotland - the A1 north of Berwick-upon-Tweed

It’s been a tough and rather damp few days getting here. We left Penrith on Wednesday morning and managed to get to the summit of Hartside Pass (1,903 ft) about 30 seconds ahead of the rain. That was followed by a lovely six-mile downhill – wearing sunglasses to protect my eyes from the stinging rain!

We had a day’s rest in Allendale with friends Myles & Sue. Much appreciated as I’d picked up a filthy cold somewhere along the way. Friday and Saturday we headed on across Northumbria and up the coast – stopping to admire some of the castles that dot the countryside up here.

L: Making coffee with an audience. R: Part of Dunstanburgh Castle.

The weather hasn’t been great recently. To be honest, pProbably the worst we’ve had so far but there again it is a British summer!

Yesterday we arrived in Dunbar and met the local Rotary Club – raising £269 for ShelterBox with an informal reception wonderfully hosted by Ian and Louise Dickson. This morning we’re off to visit a local school and then riding on to Edinburgh.

Posted by: Huw Thomas | June 22, 2011

Pit stops

We’ve just enjoyed a short break in Penrith, Cumbria, staying with friends Bee & Richard. Four nights in the same bed – what pleasure! We even had one day when we didn’t even see the tandem.

L: Robin Hood's Bay. M: Helmsley on the edge of the North Yorks Moors. R: Meeting Richard on the road to Penrith.

We needed a break by the time we got here. We’d done nine days of consecutive cycling since leaving Norwich, as well as ShelterBox presentations five evenings in a row.

Riding up the North Yorkshire coast and over the Moors was a delight… but quite hard work. While in Thirsk we also took the opportunity to visit our sponsors at Altura.

L: With Ian & Robin at Altura HQ. R: Autographing a shirt.

Altura have been extremely generous in providing clothing, panniers and other gear for the trip. Visting their base gave us a chance not just to say thank you but also to give some feedback on how well the kit has performed.

The gear we’re using is getting several years worth of normal wear and tear in just a few months so they were pleased to see how well things were holding up. I’m particularly impressed with my bar bag – bought for our previous tandem trip so it’s now done over 15,000 miles and is still in extremely good nick!

This morning it’s back on the bike and off over the Pennines via Hartside Pass. Good thing is, it’s not raining. At the moment.

Posted by: Huw Thomas | June 19, 2011

Six weeks to go!

This journey has been our life for more than ten months now – which makes it really weird to think that in exactly six weeks time it’ll all be over.

L: Day One - leaving Vancouver on 8th August last year. R: Arriving in Rawlins, Wyoming, nearly two months later.

We’re due to cycle into ShelterBox HQ in Helston on Sunday 31st July and have really mixed feelings about it all ending. Riding almost every day gets strangely addictive – as does being outside all the time, seeing lots of new places, meeting loads of people… and raising money for a cause we really believe in.

On the other hand, there will be plus points: sleeping in the same bed for more than a few days at a time, not having to worry about getting to our destination on time etc. Overall, though, I think we will really miss it.

L: The five-hour wait for our flight to Brisbane in March. R: Unpacking the tandem ready to leave Greenwich on 2nd May.

However, we can’t keep going forever – not sure if the bike, our bodies or our savings could cope with that!

So, the end of the ride is in sight and we plan on getting to Helston at about 11.30am. Hopefully, we’ll have a few family and friends there to greet us – so if you want to come and give us a cheer as we cycle those last few yards, please come along!

Posted by: Huw Thomas | June 14, 2011

Scouting our way across Yorkshire

We arrived in Bridlington today to one of the best receptions yet – dozens of Beavers, Cubs and Scouts who escorted us into town on their bikes!

Our new support team

We had a lovely ride today across the Yorkshire Wolds – making the most of the sunshine as we headed east to the coast from Malton.

Arriving in Yorkshire was another story. We left Horncastle in Lincolnshire on Sunday and rode 70 miles that day – the last 30 in steady rain. We must have looked like drowned rats when we arrived at Rawcliffe near Goole that afternoon.

Luckily Monday wasn’t so bad. We had one good climb north of Pocklington but we were on quiet country lanes – and we figure we need to keep our legs in practice as it’s not going to get any easier when we head up the North Yorkshire coast and across to Cumbria.

We also had a really good turnout at Monday night’s talk in Malton – a combined audience mostly made up of Kirbymoorside Cubs and Ryedale Explorer Scouts. Tomorrow night we’re in Whitby – to talk to more Scouts.

Posted by: Huw Thomas | June 11, 2011

Hurrah for Horncastle!

We cycled into Lincolnshire today and finished to a wonderful welcome from the 1st Horncastle Merlin Scout Troop and the town’s Rotary Club.

L: The welcoming committee in Horncastle. R: Some of the leaders show off their ShelterBox badges.

While we were busy trying to burn off this morning’s breakfast fry-up, the Scouts and Rotarians had spent more than four hours outside a local supermarket collecting money for ShelterBox and handing out leaflets.

When we arrived, we were very impressed to see that a number of the Scouts and their Leaders were wearing ShelterBox Badges they’d won last year.

Today’s ride was 63 miles. We also had to contend with the first tyre blow-out of the trip and a nasty wind crossing the Fens north of Boston – plus suddenly arriving at a junction to find the road completely closed off and no diversion signs.

I noticed, however, that work had only started three days ago and happily said to Carolyn,”oh, we’ll be able to get through”. We did… but had to lift the bike across several trenches that had been dug out for new drains! A bit of a nuisance as our rig is not the lightest on the road.

Tomorrow is another long one – 60-plus miles to Goole. After which we’ve got a busy schedule of Scout talks.

Posted by: Huw Thomas | June 8, 2011

For your bed tonight…

One of the fascinating things about this journey is never quite knowing what kind of place we’re staying in until we get there.

On our first night back in England we knew a local Rotarian had organised a ‘B&B’ for us. So it was quite a surprise to find ourselves riding onto what looked as if it could have been the set for a Jane Austen production…

Elizabeth Bennett on a bike?

We felt thoroughly spoilt staying in Hintlesham Hall and a bit reluctant to leave. But we had to jump back on the tandem the next morning and get to Southwold for our next engagements – two talks at St Felix School and one to the 1st Southwold Scout.

And for our accommodation in Southwold? We spent a very happy night sleeping on the floor of the Scout Hall!

L: Our Southwold home for the night. R: View of Southwold from the pier.

Today we made it to Norwich. Talked to the Norwich Centenary Rotary Club this evening and we’ve got a couple more ShelterBox events organised for tomorrow – but no cycling and hopefully a bit of time for some sightseeing.

Posted by: Huw Thomas | June 6, 2011

Homeward bound

It’s Monday morning and the mainland Europe part of our journey is over. We left Esbjerg in Denmark last night and are now sat on the ferry to Harwich – with almost 9,000 miles on the clock.

Esbjerg - the end of the line in Denmark

That means we’ve just got to ride just over another 1,000 miles to reach our target distance. Thing is, our finish line is in Cornwall and I reckon another thousand miles will only get us to Northern Ireland (if we’re lucky)!

Our last couple of days in Denmark were busy. We had a ShelterBox display outside a supermarket in Ry, appeared on stage at a festival in Billund and joined thousands of runners and walkers to cross the finishing line of a huge sports event in Esbjerg.

L: With members of Ry Rotary Club. R: Billund - sadly no time to play.

My only disappointment was that we didn’t have longer in Billund – it’s the home of Lego, my favourite childhood toy. But thanks to all those hospitable Danes for looking after us so well.

Ahead of us lies the Suffolk and Norfolk coast, then Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Cumbria… etc. The end might be in sight but we’ve got a way to ride yet. Hopefully we can also push our fundraising total even higher over the next couple of months.

Posted by: Huw Thomas | June 3, 2011

Hills?!

After about three weeks of cycling with the wind behind us and no real inclines, the last couple of days have been a shock to the system.

Turning west from Copenhagen we had a stiff wind to battle into on Wednesday. Then yesterday we caught the ferry back to Jutland (the mainland) and suddenly found ourselves needing our lowest gears as we hit the first real hills we’ve seen since the South Downs.

This morning we’ve got a ShelterBox display in the centre of Ry – and an interview with Danish TV… Time to go and do my make-up.

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