So here we are, back on the road again after a 7 month break (forgive the pun) and are now in Portsmouth in readiness for leaving England and floating over to St Malo, Brittany on Monday.
Our departure from Hallbankgate was unceremonious and after locking the door we had some hugs at the Hub, delicious coffee and scones and then up to the Wall with lovely Liz for the obligatory photograph to prove that we have actually started again from there.
On down the heavenly Eden Valley saying goodbye to all that is familiar.
Strangely, as we whizzed through Melmerby a lady called as we went by ” not far to go now” !! It may have been wishful thinking on her part as it was becoming dark and sure enough within half an hour we were ensconced in an angels garden sheltered by roses and very cosy.
We were still at the tail end of Hurricane Ophelia and she made the going tough with strong winds that were never behind us. Cycling behind Pete became alarming as I saw him lean into the wind at a 45° angle in a bid to stay sort of upright. I never knew that cycle touring could be an adrenaline sport.
Despite the wind, the sun shone and Cumbria appeared at it’s most beautiful best and the quiet lanes were a delight.
The M6 became our constant companion as we made our way down to Lancaster stopping for lunch at the lovely village of Holme where we met Diana who told us that the pineapples on the churchyard gate were a symbol if hospitality. We have been seeing pineapples ever since!
The rain then started in earnest and we arrived at Carnforth rather soggy but found a very welcoming hotel with Lancashire hot pot on the menu which made everything alright again.
Ophelia left us as we headed over to Southport but Storm Brian took over and if anything, despite his gentle name was more vicious. I don’t think that we have ever come so close to being knocked off our bikes by the wind but he definitely made that a possibility. Combined with heavy rain our entrance into Southport was a miserable one and in desperation we found ourselves dripping and cold in a Subway cafe with the local youth , BMX bikes in a tangle outside the door. We warmed up with a rather wonderful cup of tea apologising for the puddles we left on the floor which the youth probably thought was incontinence.
Our first Warm Showers host, Sonia made the sun shine again and we left her house rested and dry and very well fed.
We visited Crosby beach to see the amazing Anthony Gormley “Another Place” with the very life like statues staring out towards the horizon. It was a wild day and they were up to their chests in choppy waves and I felt strangely concerned for their safety.
We really enjoyed Liverpool and look who we met!
We took the ferry across the Mersey, tra la la and then had a wonderful day circumnavigating the Wirral in bright sunshine and on completely traffic free paths which was bliss. A dash through Chester visiting cousin Katy and Brian and then on through beautiful Shropshire to visit friends in Acton Scott. This was their very friendly neighbour.
Autumn and it’s colours now came into their own and the hills were shrouded in gold and the hedgerows garlanded with bright red berries. Quiet lanes interspersed with roads of horror kept us alert and visits to pretty towns and warm cafes made us happy.
Our next excitement was to meet up with Jude and Astrid aka the Pancakes and spend a magical 3 days cycling with them along the Severn through Tewkesbury and Gloucester and the Cotswolds. We camped in a wood, a pub garden and finally right next to a neolithic burial mound.
Jude and Astrid are great travellers and love to eat so we had 3 days of travelling gastronomic delights ending with pancakes in the park when we finally said goodbye.
Onto the Ridgeway which took us very slowly over the Wiltshire downs calling in at Avesbury to visit the largest stone circle in Europe.
The night of Halloween found us quite accidentally camping outside All Saints Church in Upper Avon and waking up to spiders webs and mist after a night of screeching owls and tanks trundling by from nearby Salisbury Plain. Strangely we slept very well!
On into Salisbury and it’s spectacular cathedral and then through beautiful quiet Hampshire lanes to Southampton and beyond. Skirting the coast we slept on the beach and watched the big ships plying the Solent with the fog horns blaring all night.
Our next ferry was smaller than the last one, very pink and driven by a very elderly Father Christmas look alike.
So here we are now in Portsmouth and have our ferry booked over to France. We are staying in a rather insalubrious part of town with a grand view of Tesco from the window and a MacDonalds to the other side. Never mind, tomorrow we will visit the Mary Rose and HMS Victory.
I remember lying in my sleeping bag very contentedly listening to the sound of sycamore leaves falling one at a time onto the tent roof.
I remember cycling along a cycleway with very little effort, the sun on my face and feeling very happy.
I remember laughing heartily when after about a 10km cycle we swept into a car park and I recognised it… Somehow or other we’d taken a wrong turning and while we were following sustrans cycle route 2 perfectly, at some point we’d switched directions…
I remember lovely apples from a wheel barrow marked help yourself.
I remember finding out that the Duke of Somerset was buried under the cafe till in Tewksbury Abbey.
I remember that the only way to eat an elephant is in small pieces – the elephant is out of the fridge and we have just about nibbled his little toe and there’s going to be lots more tasty bits to come.
LOVE TO ALL.