Tag Archives: Yestival

23 to 27 October – Yestival and back to Norwich

I thought it was about time I concluded the write-up of my cycle tour around Europe; the final stage from my parents house near Hastings, up to the first ever Yestival festival near Guildford, then back to Norwich via London and Cambridge. I’ve been back home a few days now, and am going to enjoy a glass of wine or two whilst writing this, before plunging back into ‘normal’ life again.

Here are my routes and stats for the last 4 rides that got me home:

–> 23 October – Yestival
I had one more side trek planned before I firmly set my sights on Norwich and home; the Yestival festival near Godalming in Surrey. The Yestival describes itself as ‘…a celebration of community, positive mindset and adventurous thinking’; it was all that and more!

Having had Smaug thoroughly serviced I was ready to set off on Friday morning, pedalling into one of those brilliant Autumn days where it’s sunny but cold, with vibrant colours spread across the English countryside as the trees start to lose their leaves.

Ready to depart for Yestival

Ready to depart for Yestival

My route North West was mostly on country lanes, at least to start off with, and was thoroughly enjoyable even it was on the hilly side. I’d forgotten just how many hills there are as you travel across the Sussex and into Surrey; none of them are particularly big, however there aren’t many flat bits, so it was mostly up and down for 70 miles. It was great cycling along saying hello to people out walking their dogs, and just soaking up the atmosphere, sights, smells and sounds of the English countryside, which I think are hard to beat. I did meet a couple of dogs scampering down the road, however unlike Greek canines these ones didn’t bark and rush to menace me; they just said hello and continued on their way, sniffing out interesting smells as they went.

I made it to Godalming after a sandwich in Horsham, and located the festival near the village of Shackleford without a problem.

As I pedalled up to the gate I bumped into another cycle tourer, Tommy aka the Hopeful Vagabond, who was just about to start a ride from the Yestival, all the way to China. Tommy is a huge character, and is going to have an amazing adventure for the next 12 months as he makes his way through Europe and beyond. You can learn more about him and follow his journey via his website, as well as on Twitter and Facebook: https://www.bloglovin.com/blogs/hopeful-vagabond-14117321

Tommy, the Hopeful Vagabond, as he was about to set off on Sunday

Tommy, the Hopeful Vagabond, as he was about to set off on Sunday

Bumping into Tommy and his slightly worried father as I arrived seemed like fate, with me just finishing my tour and him just about to start a circa 9,000 mile odyssey. I passed on a few tips and did my best to reassure him (and his Dad) that people are essentially friendly and helpful everywhere; he had all the same concerns I did when I started. Please follow Tommy’s journey and give him some support along the way.

The next few days at Yestival were brilliant. It was great to finish my tour amongst a group of like-minded individuals, in an inspirational and positive atmosphere, with so many fantastic stories to hear, or plans for new adventures or life changes. Dave Cornthwaite and the Yestival team did a brilliant job pulling it all together in just a couple of months, and everyone is very much looking forward to next year’s gathering now.

Throughout the weekend there were talks from guest speakers, or from fellow Yestival goers during open-mike sessions, which worked really well. Talks varied from stories of personal adventures and challenges, to advice on how to start making the most out of life, conservation efforts, the pit falls of social media, podcasting, and much more. And there was a bar in the form of a Land Rover; an essential ingredient at any such gathering.

I was also ‘fortunate’ enough to take part in the Saturday morning exercise session run by the illustrious Danny Bent, of recent BBC 2 Special Forces fame, and Anna McNuff. Danny founded Project Awesome, based predominantly in London but expanding, and is now ably assisted by Anna now she is back from running the length of New Zealand.; they’re both a little bit insane. Project Awesome involves groups of people meeting up a few days a week, before the day job, and working out on the streets of London with lots of energy, enthusiasm and noise, followed by a coffee. I’m relatively fit after pedalling 10,000 miles, however whilst I can cycle a long way my body is not used to sit-ups, burpees and the like, so needless to say I ached a bit on Sunday, having used muscles that have been neglected for some time. I think I’ll need to do more of the same if I want to get back into climbing, so maybe I’ll have to see if there’s something similar in Norwich, or perhaps start something with friends, I’m sure they’d love it! You can check out Project Awesome via their Facebook page, and go along to one of their sessions if you’re local; they’re all free: https://www.facebook.com/projectawesomelondon/

I could go on about the Yestival for a long time, about how on Saturday night I laughed until I was nearly crying, of all the great new friends I made, stories I heard, plans for the future, chatting round the camp fire, inspiration, and learnings, however I think if you’re interested you should just come along next year and see for yourself, as well as checking out the Say Yes More tribe on Facebook. Thank you Dave and Team, the farm, all the speakers and fellow guests, as well as the caterers, Landrover bar, & Oppo who cycled all the way from London on tandem towing a freezer full of ice-cream for everyone; it was a fab weekend.

One more person to follow over the next year: Elise Downing who is running the coast of Britain following roughly the same route I cycled in 2013, go Elise! https://www.facebook.com/elisecdowning

–> 25 to 27 October – London, Cambourne, Norwich
With Yestival ending it was time to set my sights on Norwich, however I still had nearly 200 miles to pedal to get home. I left the festival at about 15.00 to cycle to London, to stay the night with my friends John and Emma, some 40 miles away. Handily a fellow cyclist, Helen, was also riding back to London, so I had some company along the way, and Helen had already cycled to the festival so knew the route.

We were able to follow the Saturn trail alongside a canal for a long part of the ride, passing house boats, a kingfisher, and lots of expensive looking villages, before entering the boroughs of London, pedalling through parks and trying to avoid the traffic. With the clocks changing it was dark by 17.00 so I was very glad of my Luxos dynamo powered front light!

After bidding Helen goodbye I arrived at John and Emma’s Hammersmith, and spent a very pleasant evening catching up and relaxing; they’d also cooked Spaghetti Bolognese which was most welcome. I’ve known John since sixth form college and as normal with good friends it doesn’t matter how long you haven’t seen someone for, it’s just like you left off. John was up early to fly to Singapore the next day, one of his various trips around the globe for work, however I had a slightly slower start to the day, pedalling off towards Cambridge about 09:00 after chatting to Emma for a bit.

I was a little bit nervous about cycling out of London, with all the traffic and potential for getting lost, but it turned out to be fine. London has a reputation for people not making eye contact or saying hello when you’re commuting, however I had several chats with cyclists or pedestrians on my way out of the city, and didn’t have any trouble navigating my way to Enfield, then over the M25 and back into he countryside. I ended up talking to another cyclist at some traffic lights for about 10 minutes, who’d toured down in South East Asia a few years back, and now wanted to do something similar, especially after I’d related some of my recent experiences.

From Enfield I made my way to Ware, then up to Royston, chatting to another cyclist for a few miles, who again decided it was time to set his sights on a tour somewhere, before arriving at by brother and his family’s house in Cambourne, just outside Cambridge. I’d seen Will, Louisa, and my nephew and niece when they popped down to my parents last week, however it was great to meet up again, and I thoroughly enjoyed the curry we consumed with enormous vigour that evening; the Tandoori King Prawns were excellent. Seb, my nephew, also got to show me all his Lego, as well as his football skills, and Anna fed be lots of sushi from her kitchen; it was a little bit wooden.

Setting off for Norwich, with Seb and Anna in support

Setting off for Norwich, with Seb and Anna in support

After a good night’s sleep, ably assisted by a Jura whisky courtesy of my bro, I set off in good time in the morning, with about 75 miles to pedal to Norwich. Seb and Anna were keen to accompany me on their vehicles for the first bit, so I had a cycle/scooter escort up the avenue to the main road, all the way to the post box; awesome work team!

The cycle back to Norwich followed a route I’ve done several times now, via Cambridge, then through lots of small picturesque villages into Suffolk then Norfolk, avoiding the busy main roads. The Autumnal countryside again looked great, and I got to see several F16s plus a few helicopters roaring about as I passed Mildenhall then Lakenheath; a Top Gun impression on a bike duly followed.

On my way to Norwich, emotional ride

On my way to Norwich, emotional ride

Due to a slight diversion I’d pedalled nearly 80 miles before I made it to Norwich. It was exciting, and slightly emotional, passing over the A47 and through the outskirts, before arriving at Sheila and Norman’s house for dinner; they’ve been following my tour closely and are responsible for lots of the webcam pics! Sheila and Lucy’s sister Susan cycled the last mile with me, before a celebratory beer, meal and lots of catching up was had. It was lovely to see them all again after 6 months on the road, and as with my parents I’ve really appreciated all the support they’ve given me along the way.

Back Norwich with Lobster - worth a thumbs up moment

Back Norwich with Lobster – worth a thumbs up moment

It’s going to take me a little while to adjust back to not pedalling somewhere new each day, a day job and routine, however I’m looking forward to digesting the experiences from my tour, as well as making new plans and starting to write a book about my ride around Europe. I’ve got a lot of ideas for future expeditions, some small, some large, and will be continuing this blog to relate them all. Thank you for reading, donations to the Big C, and support along the way, it’s been bodacious! 🙂

Me celebrating with friends at Norwich beer festival

Me celebrating with friends at Norwich beer festival

Oh, and I made the Norwich Beer Festival, meeting up with loads of friends and sampling many fine ales.

Next post will be an updated tour map and some stats on the ride in total, as well as some future plans.

Cheers all, and Happy Halloween.

12 to 22 October 2015 – back to Blighty

I’ve been back in the UK for 10 days now, and have just about re-acclimatised whilst staying with my parents in East Sussex. I set off on my bike again tomorrow, to pedal my way back to Norwich via a festival in Surrey this weekend; the Yestival, gonna be great.

My last leg back from France on 12 October was a bit of an adventure, pedalling off from Neufchatel-en-Bray at about 01:30 in the morning, after 3 hours sleep, into a very dark and somewhat damp night. Here are my routes and stats; one for the French side of the Channel, and the other for the English side.

I’m very close to passing 10,000 miles pedalled, or 16,000km, for this tour, which is exciting in itself. By my reckoning I’ll pass that milestone when I reach the Yestival tomorrow; they have a bar, in a Landrover, with cocktails, perfect to celebrate. I’ve compiled my route to date into Strava, by uploading all the Garmin files into the application, which took ages, but was worth it to see the tour in totality.

Cycling Europe Tour Map - approaching 10,000 mile mark

Cycling Europe Tour Map – approaching 10,000 mile mark

Here’s a link to the tour map in Strava, where you can zoom in more easily:

https://www.strava.com/athletes/11810278/heatmaps/7c5e7d05#3/58.76820/13.88672

–> 12 October – to Dieppe, Newhaven and Bexhill-on-Sea (80km)
I’d decided to try to make the early ferry on the 12th, rather than hang around in Dieppe all day and spend the night at the ferry terminal, before catching the boat back to Blighty on the 13th. It seemed like a good plan, even if it did involve getting up very early after not very much sleep; someone insisted on clattering about with their caravan at about midnight which didn’t help matters.

I struggled out of my warm sleeping bag at 01:00, then packed up my very wet tent, soaked in condensation, before riding off in the dark on the Avenue Verte, which runs all the way to Dieppe, avoiding roads altogether. The Avenue Verte was literally yards from Saint Claire campsite; very handy!

It was only 34km to the port, however quite a different experience riding at the dead of night, and with no street lamps lighting the cycle route. Tendrils of fog snaked their way across my path, and all was quiet aside from the occasional car in the distance, or farm animals moving about, and at one point a lot of rather startled ducks quacking, alarmed by my passing. There were also a lot of rabbits out, grazing on the grass either side of the Avenue Verte; I ended up inadvertently chasing several of them down the path for a while, before they scampered off into the fields.

Despite a very bright Luxor front lamp, run off my hub dynamo, I couldn’t see very far in front of me due to the fog; thankfully the path was smooth with no potholes. I rattled over several wooden bridges, and then made it to the outskirts of Dieppe, pedalling around the outside of the town to the ferry port. The roads were very quiet, with traffic only appearing as I approached the terminal; a few lorries, coaches and camper vans.

After buying my ticket, €35 for the crossing, I only had about an hour to wait before I could board the ferry at 04:30. I passed the time in the waiting room, where a few people were dozing along with their dogs; the hot chocolate from the machine wasn’t very nice but perked me up a bit.

The ferry was reasonably busy due to about 6 coach loads of French school children on their way to the UK, which made for a noisy crossing. There are only 2 sailings from Dieppe to Newhaven a day, one at 05.30 and the other at 18.30, so not a lot of choice. After a partially successful attempt at a snooze I visited the cafeteria for a full English breakfast, which I’d been looking forward to for months; whilst not brilliant it was definitely welcome! I spent the rest of the crossing snoozing and trying to avoid over excited schoolchildren, before arriving in Newhaven at about 09:30 local time.

I was back in the UK after nearly 5.5 months abroad. A weird feeling but also very exciting; I pedalled off the ferry and through customs with a huge grin on my face, then swiftly swapped sides of the road when I realised I was pedalling on the right instead of the left; this caught me out a few times as I pedalled to my parents house, especially on narrow country roads.

From Newhaven I followed the National Cycle Route 2 along the coast to the Cuckmere Haven, then turned inland to the Long Man of Wilmington, before looping back round and down to Eastbourne via a bit of a circuitous and illogical but pleasant route (aside from the bit alongside the A27). I paused at my old school, Eastbourne College, randomly chatting to an elderly South African man about rugby and travelling, before continuing along the seafront, then through more countryside to rendezvous with my parents at a pub; what better place to meet up after a few months than at an English pub, with a pint of ale!

It was great to meet up with my parents again, and at the Red Lion pub I’d been coming to since I was about 4. After a pint of Harvey’s Ale, a very fine local brewery but unfortunately no relation, I cycled back to Mum and Dad’s house, a few miles down the road, and have been eating ever since!

–> 13 to 22 October – Bexhill-on-Sea
The last 10 days has involved quite a lot of snoozing, a fair bit of eating, some more snoozing, and several relatively short cycle rides around the local countryside. My brother, sister-in-law and their children also came down to visit for a couple of days, so great to catch up with the whole family.

I’ve also had Smaug serviced and several parts replaced. Everything was pretty worn out, so the following needed changing:

  • Chain set – Hollowtech Shimano unit
  • Cassette – Shimano
  • SRAM Chain
  • Front and rear tyres changed to Schwalbe  Marathon Plus
  • All cables
  • Brake pads – Swiss Stop pads

The chain and cassette haven’t done badly at all – about 7,000 miles since I last changed them!

Needless to say the bike is running a lot more smoothly now, with far less creaks and groans; or maybe that was me and I’m running a lot more smoothly after several day’s rest, and lots of food.

Whilst I’ve spent a lot of time reading and not doing a lot, I haven’t been completely idle; it’s been fun helping out in the garden with some wood chopping and tree pruning, and great to take out my old mountain bike and aim for bumps rather than avoid them. I am however ready to get back on Smaug now, and start the final leg of my journey back to Norwich, via the Yestival.

Really looking forward to seeing everyone in Norwich, as well as going to the Beer Festival which conveniently coincides with my return, not that that was planned or anything. My next blog post will probably be from Norwich, once I’m back, as taking a break from the internet over the next few days for the Yestival and ride home. I’ll be pulling together a summary of the whole trip, and I need to start thinking about writing a book of my travels; don’t expect to make any money from such an enterprise, it’ll just be great to have a written book. Needless to say I’m already thinking about future tours and expeditions; settling back into routine ‘normal’ life is going to be tricky this time around.

Thanks for reading, and as always thanks for any donations to the Big C; got an email from them today saying how much they appreciate it. There’s still time to sponsor me via this link: www.virginmoneygiving.com/james