C2C: The end: Fri 17 May; Ely to the sea – Walberswick

The final day; weather forecast poor; grey, rain at times but worst strong headwinds. The reality; read on.

Those stats- I meant to set them out in nautical measures as we’re by the sea but can’t be arsed to re-calculate so here goes:

78.73 miles (highest yet and my training ie this trip has kicked in and I felt good for another 20+) at 12.76 mph max 25.35 the highest and lowest respectively as it’s been the flattest at only 1224 ft.

The Lamb had not endeared itself to us but:

A great cheese and tomato omelette. VG coffee and fruit. A deserved 2nd in the all week breakfast league.

John sadly had to leave us as his asthma was bad so just the three of us:

I was somewhat nervous about this last day; but we bowled along on the flattest roads at some speed to our 20 mile coffee stop at the Anglo Saxon village by Lackful Lakes.

An excellent cheese and onion pasty was consumed to ensure if I collapsed from anything it wouldn’t be lack of cheese…

Then onwards in the Thetford training area. Last time I was here I parachuted in.

So many pig farms for miles.At least they are free range and happy to be on camera:

So many pigs are produced around here that a well known attraction is “Pork Scratching World” which tells the story of…err… pork scratchings from pig back to pub snack.

Sadly insufficient time to visit as we had our own unknown as of then encounter with pork to come….

Through the forests in which the birdsong was strikingly loud.

The countryside became less flat and more rolling as we left The Levels and the giant drainage systems. The temperature dropped and the drizzle started.

At least the number of bungalows dropped and scenic villages increased.

We cycled into a village called Eye at about 50 miles and by pure chance the Queen’s Head pub.

The only lunchtime beer we drank all week and it was good as was the home made tomato soup. So was the ciabatta with home cooked thick slices of ham, coleslaw, salad etc.

This is a great pub I hope to return to ( and not leave so quickly).

We got warm and layered up for the last 25+ miles. Fortunately the drizzle petered out, the nasty headwind didn’t appear, the lanes were sheltered by hedges and trees and the route was quiet.

Very big skies and arable crops:

On past Hevingham Hall and park:

I haven’t attached a photo of sheep yet despite being our constant companions in Wales and gradually decreasing eastwards but here are some Merino ones:

Up and down little lanes to the sea:

And the view along the beach:

The River Blyth:

And then to the Anchor Pub. Ghost Ship beer, Mersea oysters, local skate wing and a dry Sauvignon. A great meal with Tony and Colin.

Total stats

Miles : 389.72 St David’s to Walberswick plus getting there of 36.56, totaling 426.28.

Average just under 65 a day at around 12mph.

Enjoyment/smiles : 90%.

Gear changes: 454,736

Mechanical problems and punctures : none.

What a great way to spend a week. Thanks to Colin, Tony, Pat, Jonathan and John.

C2C: day 6: Thurs 16 May: Silverstone to Ely

A day of two halves; first cycling through picturesque villages in the sun but then last 15 miles in a vicious headwind and heavy traffic.

The stats: highest mileage at 77.4 at 12.14mph. Only 1810 ft of up and rarely we did more down than up.

Hills walked up: zero! Cake eaten: one as usual.

But I digress; here is breakfast:

Worst so far. I’ve never had fruit salad that has had the taste taken out of it.

Black pudding sadly inedible. Beans the saving grace…

Anyway off along the thundering A whatever thankfully in a very narrow cycle lane. Off along lanes and ever getting bigger fields.

A great tea stop in Olney after 20 fast miles where they use tea leaves and delicate bone china – a first in this trip.

Then lunch at the cafe st Graffham Water:

I was last here about 20 years ago when I attended a residential course on cruising and camping in a Wayfarer 16ft dinghy.

I must have been mad to even think of it. Thankfully I ended up on a yacht.

My other idea to cross the Channel in said Wayfarer is not so mad and I’m still planning it..

Anyway an especially unpleasant trip round a town I’ve fortunately forgotten ( a woman deliberately veered her car towards us then some bloke shouted at us to use the cycle path) led to a little map reading error on Sustrans route 51:

Cycling through the buttercups was different tho’.

After lifting the bikes around various gates we found the perfectly surfaced cycle track we should have been on,

Then a horrible journey to Ely which I won’t mention again.

What is impressive is that Ely cathedral is on a small hill and seems to float above the surrounding flat fields as you approach it.

The cathedral is stunning:

And so are the other historic buildings h here such as Oliver Cromwell’s house and the Bishop’s residence which he occupied from about 1450 together with 32 Catholics ( he was there by choice – they not so as they were incarcerated there).

We are staying in The Lamb which is more like mutton it has to be said. But I await the true test of breakfast….

C2C: Day 5: Wed 15 May – Ledbury to Silverstone

A day of maximum in almost everything.

Those stats: greatest distance at 74.26 miles; highest speed at 34.11 mph ( I couldn’t go any faster as my eyes were streaming), best average speed at 12.06 mph.

Also more counties traversed than ever before; Herefordshire > Worcestershire > Gloucestershire > Oxfordshire > Warwickshire > Northamptonshire.

Second highest climbing at 3138ft and the best breakfast to date:

A clear and well deserved 9 on the scrambled egg-o-meter.

The Talbot hotel has been a great place to stay and Ledbury is worth a return- view from the room:

A long slow climb up out of Ledbury which seemed to go on for ever. This took us up onto the Malvern Hills then a fast descent and lots of easy miles to our coffee stop after 20 miles in Upton-upon -Severn.

We sat outside the busy cafe for the local theatre. I reckon we reduced the average age of the punters by 20 years minimum.

Off again and for those of you who want to experience the joy of riding with us I now attach in a global first for my blog a video taken by Tony of us cycling (copyright acknowledged etc). If my technical skills aren’t up to it you’ll just see a blank space:

More hill climbing up into the Cotswolds. Some of us got off and did the walk of shame up the steepest bit of 2 hills.

The differences in the few days cycling and say 200 miles of what’s around us are substantial.

First the building materials; slate and rock in Wales. Then timber and brick in Herefordshire followed by that lovely golden stone in the Cotswolds.

The fields have changed too; v small and always going up or down in Wales ( I’m sure there’s no word for “flat” in the Welsh language), with sheep or cows; now flat large fields with arable crops:

Instead of the rolling Welsh hills in England the hills loom over the flat landscape.

In to Shipston-on-Stour for an excellent lunch in a cafe in the quaint centre.

On to Banbury which was not pleasant to cycle through. Worst though was the B4525 which was a traffic rat run full of impatient angry drivers. I’d far rather cycle through London.

But we found some quiet country lanes which were a delight to cycle on – apart from the first puncture:

Colin kept pumping it up until we got to the Premier Inn where the bike storage is different to elsewhere and pannier removal is unnecessary :

Some Old Speckled Hen and fish & chips for supper (the former is beer, not a starter) and so to bed…

C2C: Day 4: Tue 14 May : Brecon to Ledbury

Another superb day in the saddle; cycling through beautiful scenery on quiet roads.

Vital stats for this great day: 56.45 miles at 11.6mph. Max 30.1 and up of 2524ft. No hill above above 900 ft once we’d got away from Brecon but they made up in steepness for lack of height.

The fuel:

OK but scrambled egg only a 6 on the scramble-O-meter.

Off slowly through the heavy Brecon traffic up some serious hills. Then along lanes at a good pace for some 18 miles until our coffee stop in Hay on Wye where we bumped into The Last of the Summer Wine cycling club:

Fortunately we left the old sods way behind as we cracked on to the hills. And for the first time all of us bar Pat pushed up one hill. No pics it’s too embarrassing.

More stunning descents:

This is me powering on towards our lunch stop in Hereford Cathedral – carbs loading with baked potato, cheese and salad:

This is an impressive cathedral:

Almost as impressive is a local bike shop changed Colin’s bottom bracket and sorted Tony’s gears whilst we ate.

Elgar lived here and in the grounds us a great sculpture of humans his bike:

Some steep hills and some fast bits. A little more walking up steep bits by some of us ( ok including me) and on into Ledbury.

We’re staying in the Talbot Inn which is a very old hotel in the centre – beamed, crooked floors, large well furnished rooms.

And what matters: Wadsworths beer and excellent food; hake with crushed potatoes and leeks in a white wine sauce.

C2C: Day 3:Mon 13 May – Carmarthen to Brecon

A great days cycling in the sun through varied scenery.

Stats: 49.85 miles at 11.6 mph ( but we covered the first 20 miles at 13.5mph). Max 30.7 and climb of 2862 ft.

Hills walked up: still zero.

Flies caught in my mouth as I huffed and puffed upwards: about ten . Flies swallowed: none.

Best beer: a grapefruit ale in the Brecon Tap. Sorry name escapes me (the beer not my name).

And the fuel?

First class. Very fresh scrambled eggs . Good fruit. Toast, coffee, beans ( as fresh as beans get). The Spilman Hotel is very clean,friendly and wins best breakfast so far.

Pity no outside sitting area but the car park. In which, facing south, and of course the cars, is a sun lounger. I kid you not.

Off just after 9.00 and easy fast cycling along leafy lanes beside the River Towy.

A welcome coffee stop:

And back on the road for the climb up on to the moor.

This climb went in for 2 or 3 miles and took us up to almost 1,200 ft. We had a snack lunch at the top. Great views and a rolling descent.

The peloton in the easy up:

Lunch stop:

On and on across the moor and then a switchback descent to Sennybridge: but past the most stunning hillside of bluebells:

So good it deserves another picture:

Then down to Sennybridge and past the gates of the army camp. This is probably the most basic camp ever; a series of low rise huts. No pics as signs prohibit photography.

I did selection and training for the Parachute Regiment almost exactly 40 years ago here. Seeing the huts and the narrow lanes brought it all back; early morning squad runs for miles along the lanes in the sunshine, sheep in the fields and red earth.

Just north is the training area which I’ve dug trenches in, tabbed up and down every hill (so it seemed), carrying silly loads and whatever weapon I was told to. Sleeping out for days in trenches and in the woods and constantly tired; the hardest 2 weeks of my life.

Later parachuting on to it, exercises in hot blazing sun and driving snow ( not simultaneously).

Anyway leaving memory lane and descending real lanes to Brecon and a great view of Pen-Y-Fan:

Ice creams then to our B&B. A wander round Brecon town (doesn’t take long but it’s very different to Carmarthen as so much wealthier) and into the Brecon Tap for that very good beer.

They have a wall where you pay £5 to Brecon Mountain rescue and then you paint a little sheep and affix it to a mural of Brecon Beacons :

An excellent Thai meal and off to bed.

Happy landings all:

C2C:day 2:Sun 11th May 2019; St David’s to Carmarthen

A great day’s cycle on quiet lanes in the sun.

The stats: 53 miles at 10.6mph.

Up of 3535ft. Max 33.3mph.

A better breakfast:

And fruit, yoghurt, muesli.

Goodbye to the Cross Hotel:

The off (smiles did wear off a bit as we hit the steeper hills):

Great scenery:

We stopped at 11.00 for coffee at a pub called the Drovers Arms after about 20 miles. Really friendly.

Up and down with little traffic – here I am sweating up another hill..

Nowhere open for lunch so on into Carmarthen and the Spilman Hotel. This town is a somewhat odd mixture of basic pubs, shut down shops plus some craft shops and hippy hangouts.

A couple of beers and Italian food and so to bed.

Coast to Coast: day 1, Sat 11th May. Pembroke to St David’s

Vital stats:

29.56 miles (plus 7 getting to Paddington)

Average 11.07 mph. Yes v slow but this is my training ride. And a headwind. More excuses to follow. Max 28 mph.

Climb of 1604ft. Seemed more to me…

Hills walked up : 0

Hills sworn at: 12

Breakfast:

Measly but as Tony Blair sung “Things can only get better”.

Off through quiet grey streets to Paddington. Well after turning round and going home in a panic after forgetting spare specs.

Usual nonsense with GWR – no signs on carriages to show where the bike spaces are. But fast comfortable journey on time to Swansea.

There I boarded a very old 2 carriage diesel train. It rattled, huffed and puffed along. At Carmarthen around 30 or so got on with boxes of booze. They got off like most people at Tenby, obvs party city.

Then did stupid thing. Sitting on flip down seat got up forgot seat also flipped up so I sat down on steel bar. V painful.

Anyway off at Pembroke and along an old train track. VG surface and v pleasant bowling along.

View from my saddle:

V quiet lanes and then to the coast and a sod of a climb. Good excuse to stop for a photo:

Stunning as ever in the sun. Just a pity about that headwind.

I saw lots of these:

It was bluebell time in Kent …” are the famous opening words of his judgement following a murder trial spoken by one of our most famous judges? Who was he?

More cruising along mainly empty lanes and arrival at our hotel where John, Pat, Tony, Colin and beer awaited:

The Cross Inn is a really nice hotel.

St David’s is special too. Maybe the feeling of spirituality. The cathedral here was built about 1,500 years ago.

And the location is special too.

A good supper of spinach and ricotta tortellini and ready (sort of) for the big climbs tomorrow.