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TO THE CYCLE TOURING FESTIVAL AND BEYOND (words by my wife Chris, my cycling buddy)

BEFORE THE FESTIVAL 

When we stumbled across an announcement of the first ever cycle touring festival to be held in the UK, we immediately bought tickets. Usually, we avoid festivals like the plague – all those people crowded together, tents so close together that guy lines cross, noisy nights, long queues for smelly toilets, etc., etc.: we’re getting way too old for that sort of thing! This sounded different, however: right up our street. And being based in Clitheroe, half way up the country, we decided it would give us the impetus to continue on to Scotland and do a trip that we’d always wanted to do – a cycle tour of the Outer Hebrides.

So, Friday, 1 May, saw us excitedly loading up the car with panniers and bikes for our trip north. It wasn’t too long, though, before we were reminded of why we hadn’t used our car for the past 5 years of holidays but instead left our home on our bikes (we’re lucky enough to live within 10 miles of the port of Poole, giving us easy access to France). Road closures, long-winded diversions, motorway madness, accidents, long tailbacks, 40 mph speed limits – the journey took almost twice as long as it should have done.

On finally reaching Clitheroe, we stopped at the first opportunity to buy some fish and chips. Getting back to the car, a man approached us and said out of the blue, ‘Would you like a book?’ ‘Er, what type of book?’ we asked, mystified. He proceeded to delve into the boot of his car and dragged out a pile of books on subjects as random as cigars, poinsettias, politics, … We plumped for an album of World War I photographs – well, we would, wouldn’t we!

Oblivious to the fact that our fish and chips were getting cold, he then proceeded to tell us about his love life! How he’d just split from his partner of 16 years but that he was going to try to woo her back as it was no fun cooking for one. We listened politely as he seemed lonely and wanted to talk. Eventually, we clambered back into the car to tuck into our by now cold dinner!

 THE CYCLE TOURING FESTIVAL

On arriving at Waddow Hall, we were greeted by a familiar figure. Well, Tim Moss was, of course, familiar to us; having followed his blog, we felt that we knew him. He, on the other hand, didn’t know us from Adam!

And so this was the start of the most amazing weekend, way, way beyond our expectations.

Introductory session round the fire pit

Introductory session round the fire pit

Introductory session round the fire pit

Introductory session round the fire pit

At first, we felt somewhat star-struck. ‘Wow, look, there’s Tom Allen, there’s That Emily Chappell, Anna Hughes, Helen Lloyd, the McNeils on Wheels, the Pikes on Bikes, Kate Rawles…’, the list went on. All these people whose blogs we had followed avidly over the years. Some of them were extreme adventurers and initially we felt a little out of place, having only done short cycle tours during holidays from work. That feeling didn’t last long. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming. And there were lots of other people like us who, for whatever reason, can only fit in small chunks of cycle touring.

There was such a camaraderie between everyone – we all understood each other and had a passion for travelling by bicycle, be it on round-the-world tours or just a short hop over to France. Blanca summed it up perfectly, ‘I feel I have found my tribe’. It felt like we were all part of one big family: sharing knowledge, talking about gear, routes, bikes, clothing, actually feeling normal for a change and not that odd couple who carry all their kit on their bikes and cycle everywhere for a holiday!

The talks were interesting and informative – those more experienced were happy to share their knowledge with newbie tourers. Mealtimes were fun, giving us the opportunity to chat to so many different people and to share experiences. The guys on the couple of trade stands that were there were so friendly, enthusiastic and patient, nothing was too much trouble for them.

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For us, cycle touring allows us to travel at a slow pace – it’s not about how many miles we do, it’s all about the places we pass through, the sights we see, the smells on the road (good and bad!), and, most of all, the people we meet. To have spent a weekend with 200 or so people who felt exactly the same was absolutely fantastic. Roll on the next Cycle Touring Festival – we shall be there!

Packing up, getting ready to leave after a great weekend

Packing up, getting ready to leave after a great weekend

AFTER THE FESTIVAL

To be continued……


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Brompton Cycle Tour Day 9

Another hot day dawned – we couldn’t believe it. It usually pours with rain when we’re on holiday. The family joke is never to take a holiday when we have one booked! We packed up and made our way back into Bradford-on-Avon and out the other side, following the NCN 254 signs. The route soon took us off the busy roads and on to quiet country lanes. Passing through the small village of Rudge on the Wiltshire/Somerset border, we came across a traditional old pub called The Full Moon, which looked far too appealing to cycle by without stopping. As soon as we walked into the bar, the landlady took one look at us and without a word poured us each a glass of chilled water – she could see we were melting!

After a delicious light lunch, we made a supreme effort and jumped back on our bikes to continue with our hilly and hot ride. While taking a break in the shade of some trees, a walker stopped for a chat. It always amazes us how a conversation with a complete stranger can cover their life story and such random topics as the sad state of Weymouth today, technology and kids, the joys of walking, etc. On another break in the shade – we were making slow progress, it was very hot! – a couple pulled into their house, towing their vintage caravan, which they’d taken to a show. We learnt a lot about them, too! They did offer us a cuppa but we were both feeling a bit queasy, so stuck with our water.

As we approached Longleat, we kept a careful eye out for the NCN signs as a cyclist who stopped for a chat earlier (now you know why we make such slow progress) had warned us that the signs kept disappearing to discourage anyone from riding through the park… we’ll say no more. Luckily, we found our way into the park and, on approaching the pay kiosk, we pulled up to ask if anyone knew of a campsite nearby. The nearest one appeared to be at Gillingham, a further twenty or so miles away. We set off on our weary way following the road round into the Safari Park. A yell from the kiosk brought us to an abrupt halt – apparently, we were about to become the next item on the lions’ menu as we had taken the wrong turning! I could see the headlines ‘Lions feast on cycle tourists!’

We eventually found a campsite at Gillingham, and a rather strange one at that. It was like the Mary Celeste – a couple of tents, some caravans and chalets with doors open but not a person in sight. We saw no sign of life, apart from a couple of toads (as in amphibian, not ‘personas horribilis’!) in one of the showers. A sign said that a warden would come round to collect the money but they still hadn’t appeared by the time we’d packed up next morning. Being the honest people that we are, we went looking for someone to pay. I found the office and went in leaving Chris outside to look after the bikes/gear. I realized afterwards that they must have thought I was on my own as they charged just £7. I left it at that, so maybe not quite so honest after all!

The very welcoming Full Moon at Rudge

The very welcoming Full Moon at Rudge

Very tasty lunch!

Very tasty lunch!