Friday 27 July 2018

I Navigate London to Brighton Overnight!

A few weeks ago - with the weather still as lovely as it is at the moment - I decided that I wanted to go on an overnight ride to the coast. On the night of the 29th June and into the morning of 30th June I actually managed to do this and navigate the entire route!

There were of course a few issues that needed to be ironed out. The first was that I didn't really fancy going on my own. I had done this once before using my iPhone and every other navigational device I could strap to my bike. (I stopped short of a Tom Tom Car Sat Nav you'll be pleased to know). The second was that I would be navigating my way there. I am not too good with navigation.

Thankfully, Dr John agreed to come along so the first issue was sorted. The second - navigation - I left in the capable hands of my Wahoo Elemnt!

The meeting point was the same one used on the Friday night rides to the coast, the time was the same (23:30) and even the route was the same. The last Brighton run was a lovely route so I decided to use it more or less as it was.

On the way to meet Dr John somewhere near Barbican I spotted the familiar yellow Brompton of Jenny on the other side of the road. She swung round to say hello and it was lovely to see her albeit briefly.

Dr John arrived in good time and after chatting until the allotted hour (midnight) we then set out into the night. Dr John had placed a great deal of faith in me navigating all the way to Brighton from Central London and I have placed as much in my Wahoo Elemnt. (Spoiler alert! The Wahoo was brilliant)!!

Our pace was very good. We were not really going any fast than the pace normally set by the Friday night rides to the coast crew but as there were only the pair of us and no tail to wait for, our progress was brisk.

The weather was excellent. There was a gentle breeze and the temperatures - although not t-shirt weather - was very pleasant.

The roads were fairly quiet and after 28 or so miles we reached the halfway stop. This was the Scout Hut that on the previous ride had opened up especially for the much larger group, providing sustenance and sanctuary. The large gates were well and truly locked and outside we eat the meagre snacks we had brought with us.

Suitably refreshed we set off again into the early morning. I felt the chill a little so decided to put on a super lightweight layer.

During the early morning we saw all manner of wildlife. Owls, deer, rabbits and other creatures that we could hear but not see, which judging by the noise some of them made, was for the best!

We approached Turners Hill and made our ascent at a good pace. At the top we sat down for a quick rest to collect our thoughts and kill a little time as we were making excellent progress. According to Dr John I not only rested my eyes but was asleep and snoring for a good ten minutes. He even took photographic evidence to confirm this!

Not too long thereafter dawn was fast approaching and so was Ditching Beacon. It seemed strange that just the two of us were here and at times I wondered where everyone else was.

We stopped at the car park at the base of Ditchling Beacon before making our ascent, which I suppose is traditional. An elderly lady walking her dog took ages to get going wherever her eager dog wanted to go which meant those of us wanting to powder our noses before the ascent had to wait!

Dr John headed off first and was too into then distance and out of sight. My Surly Disc Trucker again proved itself to be a wonderful bicycle in my eyes and confirmed that it is my favourite bicycle.

After a few photographs to prove it happened we made our way to Brighton central. This part of the ride is always very enjoyable and with the final few miles it is all downhill.

We headed for the Wetherspoons in the Marina but it was to open at 08:00. We had arrived much earlier which would have meant a lengthy wait. We therefore decided to head into the centre of Brighton to see if we could find an alternative.

Luckily we did and fit being a stones throw from the station was a bonus. With a good breakfast we headed to the station. I was going to get on the quicker Brighton Express but it was filled almost instantly by a huge party of students and tourists. I ended up on the same train as Dr John - which was a blessing as had hardly anyone on it and we had a bike space.

We parted once we arrived back in London with me vowing to repeat this again - possibly on the same day the Dunwich Dynamo takes place as I would not be participating in it this year. As I type this, Dr John and I will be doing this all again this Saturday night.

My Surly Disc Trucker has very quickly become my favourite bicycle.  I have used little else since I bought it and have already clocked up several hundred miles. I can see me going on many more adventures with it.

This was a wonderful route and a great little ride. I am still amazed that I was able to navigate all the way there and this is testament to the confidence I place in the Wahoo Elemnt which is brilliant.

Many thanks to Dr John for taking a leap of faith and for the always pleasant company. Until next time...

Sunday 8 July 2018

Adventure to Dungeness

Dungeness is a location I have wanted to go and pay a visit for some time. I have seen photos from other cyclists and Bromptonians and decided that I needed to go. Back on June 16h, I did.

Having a good look at logistics, a fast train from St Pancras International station would take only 38 minutes to reach Ashford International station. From there it would be a very pleasant 21ish miles to Dungeness.

I managed to convince Dr John to come with me and we met  at St Pancras just after 08:00. Even at this time, things were pretty busy and the queues for Eurostar were massive. Dr John arrived shortly before I did and soon we were on the train. Managing to get some good bicycle specific seats we settled down for the almost quick hop to Ashford.

At Ashford we actually found some difficulty getting out of the station but thankfully managed to eventually find the route out.

Ashord International

The route I had chosen was a good one. There was quite a bit off-road on very pleasant cycle tracks. At one point we crossed a narrow gauge railway track and I could not resist a photo opportunity. I would not have been so keen to do this had I realised how rapidly this little train actually travelled!! On the way back we passed the same way and the little train thundered past believe me!

Don't try this without a friend to hold your bike!

After about 15 miles or so we started to see the coastline and the barren landscape that is Dungeness. It was quite something and different in many ways to any seaside location I have been to.

Dr John

I was looking out for the cottage of the late Derek Jarman, Propect Cottage and before long I was gazing at it in all its glory.

Prospect Co

Prospect Cottage was established by the late Derek Jarman back in (I think) the mid 1980's and I remember it being featured in various articles and television programmes over the years.

Even though I have seen it it print many times I had not seen it in the flesh as it were and I have to say I found it quite beautiful.

'The Rising Sun' by John Donne (1633) adorns one of the walls of the cottage:

Busie old foole, unruly Sunne, 
Why dost thou thus, 
Through windowes, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motion lovers’ seasons run?
Sawcy pedantique wretch, goe chide
Late schoole boyes and sowre prentices, 
Goe tell Court-huntsmen, that the King will ride,
Call countrey ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clyme, 
Nor houres, dayes, moneths, which are the rags of time…
Thou sunne art halfe as happy as wee,
In that the world’s contracted thus. 
Thine age askes ease, and since thy duties bee
To warme the world, that’s done in warming us. 
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere; 
This bed thy centre is, these walls thy spheare

Having taken dozens of photos of the cottage and its garden, we pressed on towards the two lighthouses that along with the nuclear power station dominate the landscape.

The first lighthouse you come across started in 1961 and made of precast concrete rings. It is still in operation and was automated in 1991.

The second opened in 1904 and although no longer used as a lighthouse does serve as a visitors centre and I imagine it affords some pretty good views. I will endeavour to return to it another day.

Dr John waiting for some food

The power station had its licence extended to 2028 and is now owned and operated by EDF Energy. Believe it or not you can actually go on tours but I believe there are security checks that need to need to be gone through several weeks in advance of paying them a visit.

Nuclear Power Station

We were going to eat at a pub called the Britannia - the only one in Dungeness but sadly they were not serving food for another 40 minutes. We therefore decided to head towards the station where food was being served.

While we waited a small narrow gauge steam train pulled up and took several passengers on a short ride. This was the train I mentioned earlier and again I have to report it can certainly go at speed!

We were treated to a rather tasty cod and chips and feeling all the better for it we started to head back to Ashford Station.

Before we left Dungeness the draw of the seaside was too much and we decided to explore its famous shingle beach.

Old boats and various items of fishing equipment were being bleached over time in the warmth of the sun.

The landscape was unusual and not like any beach I had ever been to. Strange plants grew here and there, only adding to the uniqueness of the location.

The route there and back was a good one. Quiet lanes and stunning Kent countryside. I liked Dungeness a great deal and as I cycled back towards Ashford I knew I would definitely return again.

My 'Surly Disc Trucker' - the only bicycle I seem to be using at the moment - gave me reason to again assert that it is my favourite bike. It handles the road and the rough stuff quite easily and the rack and panniers make carrying whatever you want a breeze.

Arriving at Ashford Station we had cycled 42 miles. I enjoyed the ride, Dungeness and the company of Dr John. As stated, I am pretty sure I will do this ride again but next time perhaps a little longer.