Checking out the Quantocks

The Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is without doubt one of the best places to cycle in the country. You should go there… now. In fact, every AONB that I’ve cycled through has been brilliant, so when work sent me to Taunton I took the chance to load up my commuting bike and check out the Quantocks. The hills were not as large as in Bowland, but I still managed 450m of climbing in 28km.


I didn’t find the steepest climb, and I also found it hard to take a good photo as every lane seemed to have hedges big enough to hide giraffes. I only skirted the southern area of the Quantocks, as can be seen in my route, but next time I want to explore further.


Another reason that I was excited about seeing the Quantocks is that they get a mention in a song by my favourite band. And not just any song either, but probably the best song that they have written. Joy Division Oven Gloves by Half Man Half Biscuit from their Achtung Bono album. The song also became the unofficial anthem of the save the 6 music campaign back in 2010. How can you not smile at a song that mentions the Quantocks.


The Beards of Bowland search for Botton Head

Another Beards of Bowland outing, although it was only myself and the Prof. Our route was devised by the Prof as he wanted to look for some dead ends near to the Cross of Greet. We set off and leisurely made our way to the bottom of Bowland Knotts with a hefty head wind, where prof insisted on our first photo of the day. What is the difference between a headwind and a block headwind?


From Bowland Knotts we returned the way we came, looking for dead ends. A couple of gravel roads were found that will be saved for another ride. Disappointingly there was only one other small dead end so we set off up the Cross of Greet, whereupon I got a puncture.


This was the first puncture that I’d had on my road bike for over a year. My front tyre has now done 8640km, which isn’t too bad. I reviewed it a while ago here.

Once I’d swapped tubes Prof set off across the grass to climb a stone. You’re probably not allowed to do that.


Once back on the road the serious business of finding Botton Head began. We were both sure that there was a sign post, but we couldn’t find it as we crisscrossed some more back roads, until there it was.


There wasn’t much to see at Botton Head except for a small farm, although the farmer was surprised to see two cyclists and was happy to chat for a few minutes.


We then headed back to Wray for a cafe stop. I’ve never been to the cafe in Wray, but others have said that it isn’t very good. £2.40 for a scone without any jam or cream. I won’t be going back.

During our ride we had discussed the relative merits of flat bars and how much better they are for descending. The Prof has flat bars on most of his bikes, while I have drops on my mountain bike. We also discussed close passes. I had had a very scary pass the other week (read about it here), while the Prof recounted an encounter he’d had that week. Coming to a traffic island he’d pulled out to take the lane much to the annoyance of a driver towing a trailer. If he’d gone through the gap he would have taken out the Prof, as the trailer was much wider than the car. At the next set of traffic lights the Prof shouted at the driver, who shouted back, before they both went on their merry ways. I’m not one for arguments.

It was then time for me to head home as I was meeting a real Prof from the Uni to discuss air quality, while the other Prof detoured up Roeburndale, getting himself a couple of KOM’s. I was obviously holding him up.

Another great day out with the Beards of Bowland, both of us. Next time will be my choice of dead ends. Previous Beards of Bowland rides can be found here, here and here.

Book Review 2017 – Part V

The 30 minute train journey twice a day means that I’m reading far more than I have in the last few years, and also writing about the books. Two more cycling books to review here, the first is Cycling home from Siberia by Rob Lilwall and the second is Cycling to the Ashes by Oli Broom.


Cycling from Magaden on the far east coast of Russia, through Siberia does appeal to me, but not in winter like Rob did with his friend Al. This section of the book was by far the best until they catch a boat to Japan and decide to go their separate ways. Al also wrote a book which I will probably hunt down soon. Rob took his time getting home, taking almost three years, with some long stops along the way, including 12 weeks in Hong Kong, where he met his future fiancee.

Another good section of the book sees him and two others dodging border guards so that they can cross Tibet. Overall the book was an interesting read, although there was a little too much God for my liking.

Another form of religion dominates the second book; Cycling to the Ashes. Obviously the religion this time is cricket, as Oli spent 15 months cycling to Australia to watch the Ashes. As with all big cycling adventure books, it’s full of ups and downs, mental and physical ones, psychological and geographical ones. Much like the first book, Oli decides to cross most of Europe in winter, wild camping most of the time. I have woken up once with a frozen water bottle when camping, and it’s not something that I would want day after day. He also managed to cross the whole of Europe without getting a single puncture. I want to know what tires he was riding.

This book, as the name suggests is full of cricket as well as cycling, so if you’re not a fan of cricket you might want to give it a miss. I did enjoy it even though I’m not a huge cricket fan.

“I think it’s pathetic he isn’t cycling home again,” said Ian Botham, which was written on the back cover. Made me laugh out loud.

My four other book reviews so far this year can be found here, herehere and here or alternatively find the Book Review category on the right hand side of my blog. Part VI will be coming soon.

Day trip to London

I mentioned a few blogs ago that my parents had recently moved to Salisbury (read about it here). On the Saturday we decided to spend the day in the big smoke (obligatory reference to poor air quality). A short walk to the train station in Salisbury, expensive tickets bought and a small but very busy train. It was standing room only from Andover. Apparently the army were playing the navy at Twickenham.

Off the train at Waterloo and the first thing that hit me was the amount of ‘up’. All the buildings are so tall. The second thing was the volume of tourists as we walked past the London Eye and over Westminster Bridge.


It seemed like we were the only people without a selfie stick, although that didn’t stop us taking the odd selfie.


Big steps and little steps as we tried to avoid the tourists. Fortunately the Embankment was less busy as we admired the Cycle Superhighway. Can we have some of that in Lancaster please.

In need of some lunch we popped into Bills (website here), on Wellington Street. What a brilliant place. Friendly and efficient staff, Camden lager, halloumi burger and chick pea falafel.


This was followed by an amazing lemon meringue pie cheesecake.


We had to rush the pudding slightly as we had tickets to see The Lion King at the Lyceum theatre. Birthday present for Helen (the tickets not the theatre). The inside was once again superlative, with a very steep upper gallery, where we were. It’s hard to believe that there were plans to demolish the place.


The Lion King musical wasn’t something I was sure that I’d like, but I absolutely loved it; well done Disney. During the interval Helen said to me that it was the best day ever. Better than our wedding day? I teased.

After the musical had finished we slowly walked across Waterloo Bridge and caught the next train back to Salisbury.


Back at my parents and there was a dog who was very happy to see us. She had also been a good girl all day and my parents had loved looking after her for the day.

We will definitely be going to London again soon, as there is a lot to see.

April 2017

Another month has flown by, and therefore it’s time for my monthly review. My explorer score has jumped by another 39 tiles and the total number of segments by another 200. However, I completed 8 more challenges, taking my total up to 294. There is a good chance that I might reach 300 by the end of May.

My monthly map of where I’ve been is interesting, as I’ve done a couple of rides and runs in Salisbury (here), a couple of long walks in London, and a mini-adventure with my wife to Grinton and Penrith (herehere and here).


My blog is coming along nicely, with a few hundred hits each month, although I still only share some of the posts on Facebook, not all of them. I did get quite a few hits on my Veloviewer max explorer entry (here), as Veloviewer blogged about some of the people with huge max scores, and somehow people found a link to my blog, which was nice. I’ve also been blogging at least twice a week, so apologies to the dozen regular readers for filling their inboxes with my ramblings.

And that’s all for this months review 🙂

Salisbury: Cycling, running and designated habitats

My parents have recently moved to Salisbury, so me and Helen (A.K.A. The beautiful wife) decided that it was about time we visited. Bikes and Nelly (A.K.A. The Hound) were packed into the car for the loooong journey south, without passports.

Only a couple of minutes walk from my parents house there are some great running tracks alongside the River Avon. On the Saturday morning we had thought about joining in the local parkrun, but as we were off to London later that day, we opted to run along the river instead. Hopefully this would tire out the pooch as we were leaving her with my parents for the day.

The River Avon and area is full of designated habitats, as you can see in the photo below, along with the out and back route that we ran (Strava here).


The brown areas are Local Nature Reserves (Avon Valley and Bemerton Heath) and the green areas are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (River Avon System and Avon Valley). The Avon Valley is both a SSSI and a Local Nature Reserve. If you want to find out what designated habitats are near to where you live, search for ‘Defra Magic’.

As you can see from the next photo, Nelly really enjoyed the Avon Valley.


On the Sunday morning I managed a short ride on Otis (Strava here and blog about Otis here). There is a terrible ring round in Salisbury and far too many busy ‘A’ roads, but I managed to find some very nice quiet roads going in a similar direction to the previous days run. There was a cycling event on as well, as I saw plenty of other cyclists with numbers, some directional arrows and a couple of marshals. My short route also found quite a few more designated habitats.


The Lower Woodford water Meadows SSSI was particularly pleasant. A Strava friend, seeing that I was in the area, suggested that if I had the time I should go up Camp Hill, which I managed on the Monday morning. It wasn’t a huge hill, but it reached 12% and had a couple of good corners.

While I was out cycling, Helen repeated our run from yesterday, once again with the pooch. She gave it some biscuits on the way back, and managed a top ten place on a Strava segment. Helen keeps on telling me that she isn’t much of a runner, but she sure looks like a fit runner to me.

My Strava friend also suggested that the next time we were in the area he would take me on a ride around the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, see below.


I’ve got to say, that looks like a great area to ride around. Salisbury, we will return.