Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Alnmouth to Holy Island - 31 Miles - 11 & 12 April 2006

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The journey to Alnmouth was by Virgin Trains, when they held the Cross Country fanchise, leaving Birmingham New Street at 0803 and arriving at an isolated Alnnouth Station at 1204. The weather was fine and warm for April with lots of sunshine. Alnmouth itself (1 mile) is just down the road from the station, past a wood and over a bridge that crosses the River Aln. The place is peaceful and unspoiled with views over the estuary to sand dunes beyond.

An easy walk along the coast path brought me to Boulmer (4 miles). There nothing here to speak of except three or four stone buildings and a similar number of small fishing vessels. Despite this, the place, a small fishing community, had real atmosphere. The path then continued near to Red Stead where a reproduction Neolithic hut had been built close to the path. The path now rose and there were real cliffs for the next part of the walk into Howick (6 miles) and Craster (8 miles).

Craster makes its living from smoked fish. The wonderful aroma that can be sensed from a mile away is delight to the senses. The town itself is businesslike and stone built with a few expensive fish restaurants. There was an empty working harbour - presumably all the boats were out at sea. The local lads were amusing themselves by jumping off the harbour walls into the water.

The impressive ruins of Dunstanburgh then loomed into view just over a mile away and, for the first time on the walk, I was accompanied by quite a number of other people with this attraction in their sights. Rounding the castle, I took to the now almost deserted beach which had low dunes on one side. This turned out to be a mistake as I missed the bridge that crossed the stream and found I had to ford the water at The Skaith (11 miles) or add a mile to my journey. I chose the former option and spent the next hour or so with wet feet.

Low Newton by Sea is a grassy square surrounded on three side by whitewashed buildings. On the other side is the sea. Fortunately one of the buildings housed a pub, so I spent a few enjoyable minutes "resting" here, before continuing over the green fields and cliff tops with a view of the Farne Islands. All too soon, I arrived at Beadnell (15 miles) which can only be describes as a dump. It is approached through a rough caravan site on to seafront shacks that housed the businesses of purveyors of candy floss, wind shields, hot dogs and the like.

Needless to say, I hurried along the road to Seahouses (17 miles) which, although picuresque, had clearly seen better days. I stayed there for a while and ate my fish and chips at a harbourside cafe before making my way along the shore to Bamburgh (20 miles), the Castle walls glowed orange in the setting sun. Finally to my home for the night, the Mizen Hotel which turned out to be both comforable and good value.

After a full breakfast I set out on my second day of walking. There were two obvious routes to Holy Island. The route that kept closest to the sea appeared relatively flat and uninteresting compared to yesterday's walk and, more importantly involved a 1 1/2 mile stretch along the busy A1 road. I therefore elected to walk further inland through the town of Belford, onwards to Fenwick before dropping down to the Holy Island causeway.

I left Bamburgh along the B1341 to a spot that has the lovely name of Glororum, thence across a few fields and down a lane to Spindlestone. The lane then twisted its way through a wooded vale and past a stone windmill. Near Warren Mill, I joined St Oswald's Way which took me into Belford (4 miles)in an almost straight line. Crossing the East Coast Main Line was interesting as I had to telephone the signal box before proceding.

Belford is a delight to the eye with its lovely stone and rustic brick buildings. The centre is spacious and there are a number of attractive looking inns in the town, no doubt built when the A1 ran straight through the town.

I climbed out of Belford along the old A1, and past the fairy tale gateway of Middleton Lodge until I teached Detchant (6 miles). By now, the weather was warm and sunny, very unseasonable for April. The walk along the ridge to Fenwick (9 miles) was hot and tiring, so I was very pleased to be able to purchase refreshment when I arrived there.

From Fenwick, I descended along St Cuthbert's Way over the A1 and under the East Coast Main Line. At that point I discovered that St Cuthbert's Way had been diverted along a new route leading to the Holy Island Causeway. Perhaps research should be undertaken to establish exactly which route he actually used!

Having reached the Causeway (11 miles), I was tired and it was obvious that I did not have time to walk through to Berwick in time to catch my train. I therefore walked along the road to the A1 at Beal and caught a bus into Berwick. I had time for a tour of the town and a meal before catching the 1752 Virgin Train service to Birmingham New Street where I arrived at 2217. Home was then only a short train ride away.

See the photos

Monday, 22 November 2010

Burnham on Crouch to Colchester - 13 November 2010

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Essex is not my favorite county. Much of it is very flat, which makes for easy cycling, but there is a feeling of "sameness" where ever you go. For a county that is so near to the money of London I would have expected a much greater attention to keeping the place tidy. Although far away from the fly-tipping of Tilbury, you feel that the area is not loved as it should be. However, this trip did have a few high spots.

This was another early start for a one-day outing, starting at 0620 and the Virgin Pendolino journey to Euston where I arrived efficiently at 0738. The Circle Line was not operating that day, so I opted to cycle to Liverpool Street. At Smithfield market, I bumped into the floats being lined up for the Lord Mayor's Parade. This slowed me up somewhat , but I made it in good time to catch the 0818 to Shenfield. After a wait there, I was on the 0908 and disembarked at Burnham on Crouch (0944).

Burnham on Crouch (1000) is a town of surprises and contrasts. In the middle of a non-decript shopping centre was a very original Art Deco cinema - still complete but in need of repair and a lick of paint. Further on, I came to the waterfront which certainly had received a makeover and contained the sort of restaurants I do not usually eat at (unless someone else is paying)! The exit from Burnham was by way of a dreary ex council estate which had no cohesion of identity.

Back to the station and the road to Southminster (1025) which is dominated by the 15th century pile of St Leonard's Church. There appeared to be nothing else of interest here, so onward to Mayland (1050) which had a much more spacious and cared-for feel. The lovely Mayland Mill was once an inn, but has recently been converted into an Indian restaurant. The weather was fine with little breeze, but the forecast sun was to elude me for the whole trip. I could see the blue sky ahead of me all the time but never caught up with it.

Maldon (1150) looked as though it could benefit from more exploration than I had time for but, on the surface had the air of a bustling town set in an enviable position on the river. Out of Maldon, Heybridge offered very good views of the estuary.

Tolleshunt D'Arcy(1255) is an old village whose most famous resident was the writer Margaret Allingham. Her blue plaque graces a substantial Georgian brick house in the middle of the village.

Layer Breton (1340) is a disappointment except for the painted village sign.

There followed a magical few minutes as I cycled the National Cycle Route Number 1 towards Colchester. The way passed through undulating woodland and over streams. The photos are worth looking at but do not convey the full atmosphere.

Onwards and into busy Colchester along a main road which seemed to go on for ever. Arriving there, I was met with some dilapidation, but the old city centre is a gem. Perhaps the highlight for me was the Playhouse Theatre, now a Weatherspoons pub. Whilst I tucked into my Chilli con Carne and festival ales, I was able to admire the interior complete with stage set and and dummy figures in the boxes. They have done a really good restoration job here.

It was soon time to go to the station to catch the the 1749 into Liverpool Street (1845). It was now dark, so I opted for the Northern Line to Euston where I was in plenty of time to catch the 1943, arriving at Birmingham International at 2100.

This trip just leaves a small stretch of Essex between Walton on the Naze and Felixtowe which I hope to negotiate early in the New Year. I shall then be into Suffolk, the only county I have not yet touched on this project.

See the pictures

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Whitehaven to Hycemoor (Bootle) - 25 September

I took the 0624 London Midland train from Hampton in Arden, arriving in Birmingham New Street at 0639 where I changed to the 0657 Cross Country Voyager which arrived at Stafford by 0729. A short wait saw me on the 0735 Virgin Pendolino which arrived at Lancaster at 0852. Th slowest part of my journey was the 0902 Northern Trains service from Lancaster which took almost 2 1/2 hours to reach Whitehaven at1127.

There was room on the train to assemble the bike, so I was quickly on my way through this attractive seaport. The town is not big enough to allow any unsightly commercial development and the waterfront area had bebefitted from a recent refurbishment. Almost immediately, I was into a stiff climb to "The Beacon" followed by a ride to St Bees (1215) via Sandwith and Rottington.

St Bees is a quaint town, virtually intouched by development. Following a stop to take a few photos, I cycled along the quiet coast road through Nethertown (1235) and Braystones (1245) with its attractive river views. , turning inland to Beckermet.

From Beckermet, the route follows a disused to meet the sea at Sellafield. I had expected that the Sallafield Complex would dominate the whole area but, apart from the tall chimneys, very little can be seen of the works until the access road is reached. With the seaon the right, a track follows the railway line with Sellafield on the left, over low dunes until Seascale is reached (1330). With a bit of investment in the buildings in the centre, Seascale would be a very attractive and tidy little resort, but it is currently spoiled by one or two eyesores.

Inland again to Drigg (1345) which was celebrating its Harvest Festival by displaying scarecrow figures in a variety of identities - Postman, canoist, maid etc. The display certainly brightened up my journey through the village. Afterwards, Holmrock and Ravenglass (1415) which was approached by a narrow footpath slung over the river below the railway bridge.

Ravenglass is beautifully sited on green banks, on the edge of the Irish Sea with the backdrop of the Lake District mountains - a perfect place for walking, cycling, or just being. I enjoyed my refreshments whilst seated on a conveniently situated bench.

To the south of Ravenglass is a ford over the River Esk, but I decided to cycle round to Newbiggin by the A595 which, for much of its length had a cycle path to segregate the traffic. From there, it was a minor road past Eskmeals Range to Hycemoor Station (1530) and the Lancashire Banking Comany building which was established in 1826.

It seemed strange to put my hand out to stop a train, but that's what you do in these parts and I was soon on my way coutesy of the 1605 Northern Trains service to Barrow in Furness (1653), where I refreshed myself at the local Wetherspoon pub. Then, back to the station to catch the 1803 which took me to Preston for 1930. A longish wait then ensued before the 2213 Virgin service whisked me off to Birmingham New Street. There followed a short wait until the 2213 London Midland train took me back to Hampton in Arden and the parked car.

See the photographs

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


I realise that I have now been traveling along the coast of England for 26 years on and off. Most of the journeys have been made on foot and it is only recently that I have invested in a folding bike to speed up my progress, particularly through the more isolated areas. The blog has been going since 2009, but all journeys made before then remain unblogged - until now.

My aim during this winter is to write up as many of my past trips as I can, before the memory of them fades! I shall start off from Holy Island and move clockwise around the country. Below is a table of what I have (and have not) walked. Sections which remain to be walked are shown in bold type. The cycled stretches are noted - all the rest have been walked.

As I make further progress, the chart on this page will be updated.



Border ◄► Berwick 4

Holy Island 10

Holy Island Bamburgh 12 12 2006
Bamburgh Alnmouth 20 20 2006
Alnmouth Amble 9 9 2008
Newbiggin 13

Newbiggin South Shields 15 15 2008
South Shields
Seaham 20

Billingham 20

Billingham Saltburn 16 16 2008
Saltburn Whitby 17 17 2005
Whitby Ravenscar 18 18 1998
Ravenscar Cloughton 10 10 2005
Cloughton Scarborough 3 3 2000
Scarborough Filey 10 10 2000
Filey Bridlington 18 18 2000
Bridlington Hornsea 13 13 2000
Hornsea Withernsea 19 19 2010
Withernsea Hull 23 23 2010


Hull Cleethorpes 37 37 2010 By Cycle
Cleethorpes Mablethorpe 23 23 2001 By Cycle
Mablethorpe Skegness 16 16 2001
Skegness Wainfleet 12 12 2007
Wainfleet Benington 12 12 2007
Benington Boston 11 11 2007
Boston Fosdyke Bridge 11 11 2007
Fosdyke Bridge Holbeach St Matthew 8 8 2009 By Cycle
Holbeach St Matthew Dawsmere 2 2 2009
Dawsmere Sutton Bridge 9 9 2009 By Cycle
Sutton Bridge Kings Lynn 14 14 2006
Kings Lynn Dersingham 10 10 2007
Dersingham Hunstanton 9 9 2007
Hunstanton Wells 19 19 1995
Wells Cley Next Sea 13 13 1995
Cley Next Sea Sheringham 7 7 1995
Sheringham Happisburgh 17 17 2006
Happisburgh Winterton 13 13 2006
Kessingland 23


Snape 30

Felixstowe 27

Walton on the Naze 14

Walton on the Naze Colchester 28 28 2010
Maldon 24

Burnham / Wallasea 28

Burnham / Wallasea Southend 21 21 2010 By Cycle
Southend Gravesend 25 25 2010 By Cycle
Gravesend Rochester 15 15 2008 On Foot
Rochester Herne Bay 39 39 2009 By Cycle
Herne Bay Dover 44 44 2009 By Cycle
Dover West Hythe 15 15 2009 By Cycle
West Hythe Lydd 15 15 2008 On Foot


Lydd Rye 10 10 2008
Rye Hastings 13 13 2009
Hastings Eastbourne 15 15 2007
Eastbourne Seaford 13 13 2007
Seaford Brighton 14 14 2006
Brighton Worthing 12 12 2006
Worthing Littlehampton 9 9 2006
Littlehampton Pagham 20 11 2004
Pagham Wittering 20 20 2004
Wittering Emsworth 20 16 2004
Emsworth Portsmouth 15 15 2003
Portsmouth Southampton 19 19 2003
Southampton Milford 20 20 2003
Milford Bournemouth 14 14 1991
Bournemouth Swanage 14 14 1996
Swanage Worth Matravers 10 10 1996
Worth Matravers Lulworth 12 12 2005
Lulworth Weymouth 12 12 2005
Weymouth Abbotsbury 14 14 2005
Abbotsbury Burton Bradstock 8 8 2005
Burton Bradstock Charmouth 8 8 1974


Charmouth Weston Mouth 15 15 1992
Weston Mouth Otterton 6 6 2004
Otterton Starcross 11 11 2001
Starcross Torquay 15 15 2001
Torquay Kingswear / Dartmouth 10 10 2001
Kingswear / Dartmouth Slapton 8 8 2007
Slapton Salcombe 15 15 2007
Salcombe Bolt Tail 12 12 2007
Bolt Tail Challaborough 7 7 2005
Challaborough Stonehouse 21 21 2005
Stonehouse Looe 23 23 2006
Looe Fowey 12 12 2008
Fowey Charlestown 10 10 2008
Boswinger 14

Portscatho 12

St Mawes / Falmouth 6

St Mawes / Falmouth
Coverack 18

Mullion 17

Penzance 20

Lands End 15


Lands End
St Ives 20

St Ives
Porthwellan 18

Newquay 18

Padstow 17

Port Isaac 17

Port Isaac
Boscastle 17

Bude 17

Welcombe Mouth 10

Welcombe Mouth Bucks Cross 20 20 2008
Bucks Cross Barnstaple 20 20 2010 By Cycle
Barnstaple Combe Martin 27 27 2010 By Cycle
Combe Martin Great Hangman 3 3 1991
Great Hangman
Trentishoe 4

Trentishoe Lynmouth 8 8 1991
County Gate 6


County Gate Silcombe Farm 4 4 2009
Silcombe Farm Minehead 12 12 2009
Minehead Bridgwater 29 29 2010 By Cycle
Bridgwater Burnham (WSM) 18 18 2009 By Cycle
Burnham (WSM) Brean 8 8 1998
Brean Weston Super Mare 5 5 1998
Weston Super Mare Clevedon 17 17 1998/2009
Clevedon Avonmouth 15 15 2005
Avonmouth Chepstow / Chester 8 8 2005


Chepstow / Chester Neston 15 15 2002
Neston West Kirby 8 8 2003
West Kirby Liverpool 12 12 2002
Liverpool Southport 26 26 2002
Southport Tarleton 12 12 2005
Tarleton Preston 10 10 2006
Preston Andsell 16 16 2006
Andsell Fleetwood / Knott End 18 18 2003
Fleetwood / Knott End Lancaster 20 20 2004
Lancaster Morecambe 16 16 2004
Morecambe Arnside 16 16 2004
Arnside Grange 15 15 2004
Grange Cark 12 12 2005
Cark Ulverston 14 14 2008
Ulverston Barrow 10 10 2008
Hycemoor (Bootle) 33

Hycemoor (Bootle) Whitehaven 32 32 2010 By Cycle
Whitehaven Maryport 15 15 2009 By Cycle
Maryport Carlisle 50 50 2009 By Cycle
Carlisle Gretna 12 12 2009 By Cycle


2120 1615 76%

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Hull to Hornsea ( and on to Bridlington) - 10 / 11 August

The 1003 from Birmingham New Street took me efficiently to Sheffied for 1117. I had time view the Park Hill development which is currently being remodelled by Urban Splash. Coincidentally, I had seen a programme about the developement the previous evening. My impression was that will be a spectacular estate, when completed.

I then boarded the 1141 train bound for Hull where I arrived a little after 1300. I had room to assemble the bike on the train, so I was quickly on my way through Hull.

After all that has been said about Hull and the jokes about John Prescott, I found Hull a much more attractive place than I expected, especially in comparison to the approach I made from the west earlier in the year. The shops were as one would expect for a major city and the grand buildings bore witness to Hull's former glory as a major port.

Getting out of Hull proved more difficult than I had expected for two reasons. First, I though I had carefully loaded my route into the GPS unit - I hadn't! Secondly, there was no clear route through to the old Hull to Withernsea railway, which now served as a cycle path. After two or three dead ends, I finally made it onto a well surfaced track which was both footpath and cycle track. Outside Hull, there were golden wheatfields everywhere along the route which were just about ready for the combine harvester.

I reached the outskirts of Hedon in good time by 1405 and the the cycle path became downgraded to a perfectly negotiable cinder path. The Ryehill and Burstwick Station had been converted to a residence, preserving the platform and the buildings with a small amount of extension. The cycle track then deteriorated as I traveled towards Keyingham where I arrived at 1435.

At this unremarkable village, I dropped onto the very quiet A1033 and pedalled the road to Patrington (1500). This is a lovely village with relatively unspoiled houses and a magnificent church. Pausing for refreshment, I pushed on towards Holmpton (1525) along an unclassified road and finally to Withernsea (1600), a town I had not visted since I was a boy of 6! I am pictured here in 1949 at the front, on the left with my brother, David, my father and Aunt Madge..

I made staight for the lighthouse which now serves as the town museum. Sixty years ago, it was a working lighthouse and we were shown round by the lighthouse keeper. In those days we were able to go outside on the balcony at the top, but "Health and Safety Regulations" have now outlawed this practice. After exploring the town, I made my way to the guest house.

Victoria House on Queen Street was very welcoming and immaculately clean. I was given a twin room with en-suite shower room and a massive choice of towels. After a rest, I made my way out to find somwhere to eat. I had a forgetable meal at the Spread Eagle and, to my dismay there was no draught bitter available, so I had to make do with keg beer. A little walk around Withernsea was followed by an early night.

Breakfast was an excellent "Full English" with lots of tea and toast. Thus replenished, I set off at 0800, along the quiet B1242, arriving at the small, but picturesque, agricultural village of Tunsall by 0835. A sign reassured me that, although the minor road ahead was closed to motor vehicles, it was still available for cyclists. I eventually found out that the whole road had recently fallen down the cliff, so there was no option but push the bike along a neighboring field until the road could be safely rejoined.

The way then led through Hilston and Garton, until the attractive small market town of Aldbrough was reached at 0930. A quick tour of the town brought me back to the B1242 and on to Mappleton at 1000. Here, the erosion of the soft, low cliffs was very evident. Attempts have been made to slow the disappearance of land, but it appears inevitable that Mappleton will eventually slip into the North Sea.

A further short ride brought me to the traditional seaside resort of Hornsea at 1025. Ten years peviously, I had walked here along the sands from Bridlington. What I can remember of this excellent walk from Filey via Flamborough Head will follow in due course!!

Having closed the gap and with theatening skies, I folded the bike and boarded the bus for a caravan site at Ulrome and yet another trip down Memory Lane. It was here that our family stayed in a converted railway carriage during that 1949 holiday. Now, nothing remains of the carriage, but what appeared to me at the time as a large barn where we played on wet days has now been spruced as the site office, looking very much smaller than I remembered. I had a welcome sandwich and cup of tea at the cafe before cycling to Bridlington under brighter skies and the train home.

See the pictures

Friday, 16 July 2010

Bucks Cross to Combe Martin - 47 Miles - 13 and 14 July 2010

I arrived in Birmingham with enough time to spare for
a look round the centre before catching the 0942 Cross Country train to Taunton. After a slow but punctual journey via Weston-Super-Mare, the train arrived at Taunton for 1200. A short wait saw me onto the 1229 Great Western service to Exeter St David's, where I arrived at 1255. The 1327 train then took me along the attractive single track line to Barnstaple, where I arrived at 1435.

I soon had the bike assembled and crossed the River Taw to follow the well surface cycle track (previously a railway line) beside the Taw estuary. At Velator (1520), I turned onto a narrow lane which meandered through well kept pasture land close to Braunton Burrows. Saunton was reached at 1345 after a climb along the B3231 which gave excellent views of Braunton Burrows and Saunton Sands. I then pressed on through Saunton Down and descended into Croyde (1605) which was as picturesque as I remembered from many years ago with its many pristine thatched buildings.

The road then led uphill through Putsborough and along a rough bridleway which ran parallel to Woolacombe Sands. Woolacombe (1645) was surprisingly attractive and well tended with painted Victorian houses and not an amusement pary in sight. A few brave souls were surfing off the beach. There followed a steep uphill climb to Mortehoe (1700), very attractive with two churches and an equal quantity of pubs.

The road continued ever upwards until the level B3343 was reached followed by a swift downhill run into Ilfracombe (1750). Although relatively inexpensive, my room in the Harcourt Hotel was spotless and well provided with tea, coffee and toiletries. Having tucked the bike in for the night, I went out for my customary evening walk around what turned out to be a very attractive albeit faded resort. I watched the rowers in the harbour as I ate my fish and chips by the quayside. I climbed the cliff to St Nicholas's Chapel and admired the view of the town and sea. Noticing the storm clouds gathering, I swiftly made my way back to the hotel and a good nights sleep.

On the Wednesday, I awoke to sunshine, but this all changed to a heavy downpour during my excellent "Full English". Fortunately, the weather had abated by the time I set off at 0810 although torrents of water were still flowing along the roads. The A399 was quiet and there were a number of good views although some of these were spoiled by the presence of unfortunately positioned caravans. I passed Watermouth Castle and arrived in Combe Martin at 0900.

Combe Martin is a long, strung-out village with the fairly quiet A399 through its centre. I took a slow ride through the village and decided that the place would be worthy of more detailed exploration in the future. I managed to shoehorn my bike onto the 0935 Filers 301 bus and we rattled all the way to Barnstaple where I arrived at 1035. There was a short wait for the Stagecoach 85 bus which sped me on to Bideford. Fortunately there ample bike stowage on this and the next bus.

Bideford looks as though it would be well worth exploring but, no sooner had I disembarked from one bus, my connecting bus pulled in behind and took me to Bucks Cross where I arrived at 1149 under leaden skies. As the heavens opened, I mad my way to the Post office and bought a packet of their excellent homemade bicuits and refreshed myself under cover while the rain poured down.

Fortunately, the rain abated and I cycled a short distance along the A39 before diving into the lane just before Ford. Abbotsham (1255) is a lovely village which boasts its very own "Tardis" by the Church. More attractive lanes led me to Westward Ho! (1330) which is not at all attractive with its pretentious seafront buildings and tacky takeaways. The one redeeming feature is a massive area of rock pools on the beach which I witnessed being ransacked by visiting children.

I had barely time to start to admire the well preserved town of Appledore than the heavens opened. I sheltered in the hope that the rain might go away, but no! I donned my waterproofs and continued on my way through Northam and over the new, high Torridge bridge (1350). I don't know whether the signs advertising the Samaritans were at all effective, but I do know that the thought had not crossed my mind until I saw them.

Onward, in the pouring rain and along the disused railway, now a cycle path, alongside the Taw and through Instow (1430) to Fremington where it finally stopped raining. I arrived, bedraggled at Barnstaple Station at 1540, just in time to catch the train to Exeter where my connection to Birmingham and home left five minutes later.

See the pictures

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Colchester to Walton on the Naze - 28 Miles - 12 June 2010

On a dry but cloudy Saturday, I caught the 0700 train from from Birmingham International to Euston. Despite slow running though the Coventry area due to the theft of signalling cable, the train arrived punctually into London Euston at 0814. The Circle Line was not running that day, so I assembled the bike and rode the short distance to Liverpool Street, arriving by 0840. A short wait saw me installed on the 0908 Clacton train which was on time into Colchester.

I originally planned to take the rail connection to Hythe but, instead, opted to disembark at Colchester and ride through the town, which turned out to be a bustling centre with a number of old and grand buildings. I paused by the River Colne to take pictures of the old mill before pedalling to Hythe where the most prominent building was the local Tesco Supermarket.

The route then took me along an attractive riverside track, past the University of Exeter to the small town of Wivenhoe (1050). This is a delightful unspoiled place with a range of buildings from clapper board houses, decoratively plastered building to good solid Victorian pubs. It also enjoys a lovely position beside the river.

I was expecting all of Essex to be flat, but here I travelled over undulating ground, through an unremarkable housing estate on the edge of Wivenhoe and out into farming country. Alresford was passed (1120) without feeling the urge to remove the camera from its stowage.

My original plan was to cycle to Brighlingsea and take the ferry across to Point Clear. I had made several attempts to contact the operators, but there appeared to be no one to take the call. On reaching Thorrington, I made one final call and yet again drew a blank. Since, if the ferry was not available, I would have to cycle a further 8 miles, I paused at Thorrington (1140) to eat a sandwich before following the B1027 to St Osyth (1210).

St Osyth is a small town, busy with tourists who come to frequent the quaint tea rooms and souvenir shops. The lovely abbey, currently undergoing restoration, is the focal point of the visitors. After a few pictures of the abbey and the architecture, I was on my way to St Osyth beach.

Here, the contrast could not have been greater. Mobile homes as far as the eye could see were surrounding a group of whitewashed shops which sported a bookmaker and tatooist. It was here that I finally reached the sea and turned left to follow the promenade for the next nine miles. Seaward, it was lovely, but landward was truly awful.

Jaywick (1250) was one of the most squalid and depressing villages I have visited. All the houses in the place appear to have started life a beach chalets! (Or did the beach chalets start life as houses?). I did not linger.

Perhaps I was in the wrong mood, but Clacton (1315) was a place I had visited over 40 years previously. There was nothing there to hold me, so I continued along the promenade to Frinton on Sea with its lovely Victorian and Edwardian architecture, arriving in Walton on the Naze (1430) where I enjoyed my customary fish and chips overlooking the sea. There was time to explore this well-worn resort with many original buildings before making my way to the station to catch 1545 train.

An efficient connection at Thorpe-le Soken transferred me to the Liverpool Street bound express. I arrived in London on hour ahead of plan at 1716. This gave me plenty of time to meander through the streets of London to Euston and enjoy a cup of coffee before boarding the 1903 train which brought me to Birmingham International and the ever patient car at 2013.

See the pictures

Next trip: 13/14 July - County Gate to Barnstaple

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Bridgwater to Minehead - 8 May 2010 - 29 Miles

An early start took me to Hampton in Arden where I caught the 0624 train to Birmingham New Street, transfering to the 0712 bound for Plymouth. Although the train left Birmingham a little late, time was made up on the way and I arrived at Bristol Temple Meads with plenty of time to spare to catch my connection to Bridgwater, where I duly arrived on time at 0948. The weather was overcast, it was spotting with rain and there was a cool North East wind which at least was pushing me in the right direction.

Having adjusted the bike, I cycled down from the Station and over the Parrett (river, not bird) into Bridgwater Town. I had previously described Bridgwater on my trip of 31 October 2009 (posted 7/11/2009) and the town confirmed my view that it was a relatively unspoiled market town. Pushing on through Bridgwater and cutting off the busy A39 for a time, the most interesting sight was Mount Radford Quarry which, although now disused, had rooms excavated into the quarry face.

Almost a mile of A39 took me to a roundabout where we parted company and I went on to Cannington (1040), an idyllic village complete with castelated church tower, welcoming local pub and a miniature bridge over the stream.

The approach to Stogursey (1120) was dominated by dark, looming shape of the Quantocks and the contrasting bright church with its central tower topped by a spire. The village also appeared to be a friendly place complete with local shop, garage, post office and pub.

During the planning of this trip I had decided to use the A39 road as little as possible as there were no facilities for cyclists and the road was both busy and winding especially north of the Quantocks. Instead, I made my way via Stringston to Holford (1200). This is an attractive village with a unique, ancient dog pound where stray dogs were once kept. Adjacent to the pound is the start of the "Great Road", in reality a rough track, which climbs over the Quantocks and links Holford with West Quantoxhead.

I had no option but to push my on-road bike up the steep incline for over a mile to the summit. On the way I was accompanied by a group equipped with all terrain bikes. I was expecting them to fly past me, but they also elected to push their steeds up the slope. This a very sensible thing to do as walking takes less energy and is hardly any slower. At the top, the bikers went on their own way and I continued along the Great Road, eventually meeting a group of youngsters practising for the Duke of Edinburgh Award. These people had missed a turning and were prematurely heading back to where they started. I gave them an accurate map reference from my GPS device, wished them luck and I was on my way.

The track descended steeply into West Quantoxhead (1310) which turned out to be a few unremarkable houses. Crossing the A39, I dropped into Watchet (1330), a really pleasant seaside town. Although the weather was starting to close in, I enjoyed meandering through the quaint, narrow streets and watching the small harbour. Beside the harbour is the Market House which houses the Watchet Museum. Despite the museum having free entry, I didn't have time to take advantage of the offer.

I left Watchet past a row of stone terraced houses and a new development of timber clad dwellings, taking the road to Blue Anchor (1400) which is little more than a pub, a few houses and a run-down caravan site. There then followed a steep road which rose into Carhampton (1425), arriving to the peal of church bells - probably not laid on specially for my visit. By now, the rain was continuous, but light, so I donned my waterproofs and hurried on to Minehead (1455).

Minehead was very quiet, as would be expected on a cold Saturday outside the holiday period. To avoid the onset of depression, I took a few photographs, including the sculpture at the start of the Southwest Coastpath (Where I started my walk to County Gate on 25 August 2009) and caught the 1520 bus to Taunton.

Arriving at 1650, conveniently outside the Wetherspoon pub, I enjoyed a meal before taking a slow ride around this attractive town and making my way to the station.

The 1854 train was on time and the journey was marred only by a nearby bore who talked to his companions about football for far too long and far too loudly. Not soon enough the train arrived at Birming New Street on time at 2053 where I joined the 2123 train to Hampton in Arden where the company was much more amenable before being reunited with my car at 2132.


Next Trip

12 June 2010 - Colchester to Clacton on Sea

Monday, 12 April 2010

Battlesbridge to Southend via Wallasea Island - 10 April 2010 - 32 Miles

My original plan was to cycle from Southminster to Southend, taking the Burnham on Crouch - Wallasea Ferry over the River Crouch. The Lady Essex website (now amended) advertised that the ferry service would start at Easter. I phoned the day before to make sure, only to be told that the service would not start until Whitsun.

Having changed my plan, I set out from Birmingham International at 0620, arriving at London Euston on time at 0738. The train manager was clearly a character, giving clear but very idiosyncratic announcements at the stops on route. The description of "Sunny Watford" prompted me to turn on my voice recorder before my destination and recorded an announcement that made it very emphatic that we were arriving at London. I may be tempted to publish train announcements on a website on the future.

I took the folded bike on the Circle Line to Liverpool Street where I caught an early train to Shenfield, arriving there at about 0845. My connection left at 0908 and I arrived at Battlesbridge Station punctually at 0924. The station appeard to be out in the wilds and the other two passengers who alighted onto the platform also appeard lost. A quick glance at the map sent them towards an antiques fair and me on the way towards the bridge. Contrary to my original thoughts, there was no battle at Battlesbridge. In fact, the original bridge was built by a Frenchman by the name of Bataille (or Battle), hence the extra "s" in the middle of the name.

Battlebridge is a very small place which is renowned for antiques. The bridge itself was disappointingly a small single lane construction of stone and steel. Onwards then to Hullbridge (0950), which was unremarkably ordinary and remained unphotographed.

Canewdon (1030) was totally different, dominated by the tower of the sturdy stone church. This was an unspoiled practical village with many old houses which had not been ruined by thoughtless "improvements". Having stocked up with sandwiches at the local Costcutter store, I finally joined the originally planned route and headed down to Wallasea Island, where I arrived at 1058 after cycling 11.7 miles. It is here that the non existent ferry would have deposited me.

If you love boats, then Wallasea is for you. There are boats of all shapes and sizes (except ferries) from luxurious ocean going cruisers, carefully shrink-wrapped for the winter, to the smalled dingy. The River Crouch sparkled in the sunlight and the mudflats were suggesting that this is not a place to be at night. The effect was only spoiled by the presence of industrial builinds at the Marina.

Parially retracing my track, I passed through Ballards Gore and Great Stambridge which are both unremarkable hamlets. The church lies a little outside great Stambridge and appears typical of the churches in this area, stone built with a tower and a small wooden spire on the top.

Rochford (1150)is a lovely place which remains largely unspoiled by development. Old terraced houses and clapper board buildings abound near the centre. This is a place to return to in the future. The road out of Rochford was busy, presumably with traffic heading to Southend. Fortunately there was a cycle track alongside the road and I was able to make quicker progress through Stonebridge Barling (1230, Little Wakering and Great Wakering (1255). The three churches I passed all had a tower with a spire on the top. Great Wakering was an attractive and relatively unspoiled village.

The final stretch of my journey was to Shoeburyness (1315)and along the promenade to Southend. Shoeburyness is undergoing transformation from Firing Range to Holiday Town, with much new building in evidence. Around the Ness I walked or slowly cycled along the promenade, past a long row of untidy beach huts until I arrived at Southend Pier at 1420 after 32.2 miles. At Marriott's I enjoyed a small portion of fish and chips - The fish was delicious and enormous. I can't imagine what the giant size would be like!

A gentle ride through the centre of Southend brought me to Victoria Station and the 1606 train to Liverpool Street. In London, I had plenty of time to cycle to Euston through the quiet streets, have an outside drink at Pret a Manger, before catching the 1703 to Birmingham International. I arrived on time at 2013, finding my patient car where I had left it earlier in the day.


Next Rides
8 May - Bridgwater to Minehead
12 June - Colchester (Hythe) to Clacton on Sea

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Cleethorpes to Hull - 6 March 2010 - 37 Miles

It was a cold, frosty morning as I waited on the platform at Hampton in Arden for the 0624 train to Birmingham. The train was punctual and I arrived at Birmingham with plenty of time to spare. The second leg of my journey was the 0730 Cross Country service. For part of the journey I had an enjoyable conversation with a keen hiker and cyclists about his exploits in Scotland and the Lake District.

I arrived at Sheffield Midland Station at 0846 and waited on the same platform for my connection to Cleethorpes. It was many years since I stood on that platform but, in those days I had to treck across to Victoria Station, now long since closed, for my train to Manchester. I didn't have long to muse as my train, courtesy of Trans Pennine Express arrived on schedule.

My companions for the first part of the journey to Doncaster were a group of chaps on there way to a "Stag do" at Sunderland. They seemed quite reserved on the journey, but probably would have been more lively on the return trip. The train then passed through Scunthorpe, the town where I grew up, and little appeared to have changed. Despite the closures, the steel works on the east of the town seemed to be very busy.

Onward then, through the fields of the Lincolnshire Wolds, to Cleethorpes where the train arrived early at 1055. It is over 50 years ago that I visited the seaside town, so I decided to spend half an hour looking around. The first thing to strike me were the Victorian shops and the clock tower at the station which brought back pleasant memories. A short cycle ride past the pier to the boating lake, the site of my earliest aquatic experiences, then back along the seafront towards Grimsby.

The approach to Grimsby was along a minor road in need of repair with 1920's terraced housing along lengthy side roads. I stocked up with a sandwich and packet of Parkin at a Lidl store on the way. Virtually all the houses here had been "improved" with stone cladding, rendering, poor quality porches and inappropriate roofing. What once were neat, humble, but proud dwellings had become a messy jumble. In the middle of all this was Blundel Park, home to Grimsby Town FC. From the angle at which I saw it, the ground did not look as though it had been touched in decades. Perhaps it might merit a preservation order.

The commodity upon which the past prosperity of the town had been built was becoming more evident as I progressed towards Grimsby Docks - Fish! The smell increased to a crescendo as I arrived the Docks (1148) complete with imposing administration building and harbour lighthouse on the left as I crossed over the railway bridge. To the left was Alexandra Dock where the Lincoln Castle Ferry was moored. This paddle steamer used to ply to and fro between New Holland and Hull until the Humber Bridge was built in 1974. More of this later.

The route then passed through bland post-war suburban developments that might be found in any town. Eventually this sprawl gave way to the village of Great Coates (1213) with its stone tower hidden behind conifers, defying any attempt to take a reasonable photograph of it. (Must bring a chain-saw next time!) The B1210 then took me through countryside to Healing, where I ate half of my sandwich in the shadow of the church with its ornamented tower, then past Stallinghorough and Immingham (1320).

Shortly after Stallingborough I suffered a puncture (More accurately, the bike did). I lost a little time in fitting a replacement inner tube but, learning from experience, I had taken an old pair of rubber gloves with me to keep my hands clean. The same road took me to Haborough with its stone church which is more reminiscent of Norfolk than Lincolnshire. South Killingholme, North Killingholme and East Halton (1350) were unremarkable except for a sturdy stone church with a tower at the latter.

A highlight of the trip was reached at the 12th Century Thornton Abbey with its imposing brick gatehouse. My original plan was to cycle along a track by the Humber but, since I had lost time and used my only spare inner tube, I headed directly for Barrow upon Humber with its stone church towering above a 1950's housing estate. The centres of both Barrow and Barton upon Humber (1500) have remained largely unspoiled by recent developments and contain many fine 19th Century and earlier buildings. A short ride to Waterside gave me an impressive view of the next part of my trip over the Humber Bridge.

I had cycled to Hull from Scunthorpe many years ago before the Humber Bridge was constructed and crossed to Hull using the New Holland - Hull Ferry Service. I travelled on the paddle steamer Tattershall Castle and admired the machinery visible through a window into the engine room. The vessel was withdrawn in 1981 and is now a pale shadow of itself moored on the Thames Embankment and serving as a restaurant.

The ride over the Humber bridge was along a wide, segregated pathway for cyclists and pedestrians. The high vantage point of the bridge yielded excellent views of Hull, the Humber Estuary and New Holland Pier from which the Ferry Service to Hull sailed many years ago. At the Hessle end of the bridge there was a convoluted route through the village until I joined Hessle Road followed by Woodcock Street for the long haul through urban sprawl to the very attractive Hull Paragon Station (1632).

I enjoyed a meal and a pint at the "Admiral of the Humber" pub before catching the punctual 1752 Northern Train to Sheffield. There was a short wait at Sheffield before the 1924 Cross Country service whisked me off towards Birmingham. The only event of note on the return journey was the opportunity to perform my good deed of the day by helping a lady to recify a problem with her mobile phone.

The train arrived at Birmingham New Street three minutes late at 2030, but this was enough for me to miss my connection. I therefore had to wait until 2113 before I caught the local train to Hampton-in-Arden and my patient car.

Next Trip - Southminster to Southend - 10 April

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Gravesend to Southend - 6 February 2010 - 26 Miles

It was a misty morning as I drove to Hampton in Arden to catch the 0632 train to Coventry on the first leg of my journey. I needn't have worried, because the train was on time, arriving at Coventry at 0647. A London train arrived soon after, but I was not allowed to board as I had an advance ticket. There was some delay due to trespassers on the line which delayed its departure by about 10 minutes.

I was relieved to see the 0711 train I was booked on arriving on schedule. The journey was punctual and the almost deserted train arrived at Euston at 0814. It was then only a 10 minute walk to St Pancras Station which has now been completely restored. Work was continuing on renovation to the hotel. Finding the train was no easy matter, but I eventually found the right person to ask and made my way to the South Eastern Platforms situated at the North East of the station.

The new Javelin train was impressive on the outside and very clean and functional on the inside. To my delight, there was sufficient stowage space to accommodate my folding bike without impeding the gangway or inconveniencing other travellers. Again, the train departed on time at 0852. Although the train can travel at up to 150 MPH, there was little noise and almost no sensation of movement. The train arrived on schedule at Gravesend at 0918.

Gravesend is a clean attractive town which has been developed with much thought to its history. I cycled through the town to catch the 0935 ferry to Tilbury, a venerable but smart craft manned by friendly crew. The crossing took no more than 10 minutes, depositing me at Tilbury Pier.

My route took me along the side of the Thames to Tilbury Fort which dates back to Henry VIII. Next to the fort is an attractive pub in white clapperbord. Its name "The World's End" was prophetic, at least with regard to the next part of my journey. The route took me over West Tilbury Marshes which, in the morning mist should have been really atmospheric, but the effect was totally ruined by the vast amounts of rubbish that had been dumped by the roadside. The only attractive points were the sights of West Tilbury Church on a hill emerging from the mist and the attractive antique seed drill and cart in a field close to the road.

East Tilbury was reached at 1020, but the poor quality 1960's developments along the main street gave me no reason to linger. Stanford le Hope (1045) was entirely different and well cared for, although The Green has disappeared under tarmac. The village is surmounted by an attracive church with a tower that dates from 1180.

A ride along a muddy lane brought me to Corringham at 1105. Corringham was a fairly pleasant, well kept place. Unfortunately the lovely church which dates from 1100 was not on my route. Fobbing, with its illustrated sign, pub and castelated church that dates back to Anglo Saxon times was the only "real" village I passed through. Lacking the time to explore further, I pushed on through Vange to Pitsea where I arrived at 1150. This was a depressing place with large volumes of traffic, industrial style retail outlets in the middle of the town and a generally run-down feel.

Swiftly onwards to South Benfleet (1230) which was largely unattractive post-war development except for the area near the station which retains some charm of a bygone era. The fast descent into South Benfleet was a prelude to a stiff climb to regain the A13 cycle path near Hadleigh. Navigation of Hadleigh was difficult because the roads had been dug up to relay the gas main. Having negotiated that obstacle, I was quickly descending through a pre-war residential development into Leigh-on-Sea (1320).

I then followed the seafront road into Southend, since cycling was strictly forbidden on the promenade. To compensate, the road was provided with a generous cycle lane for much of its length. Chalkwell was a dump, with derelict buildings littering the town centre. A renovation, rather than replacement project is sorely needed. THis would fit in very well with the attractive, steep cobbled roads that lead away from the sea. At Westcliff, I came across a row of small eateries set into the promenade wall. Each had a different colour of awning and were doing a brisk trade in the February sun which had just made an appearance and remained with me for the rest of the day.

Southend was reached at 1350 and I treated myself to some excellent fish and chips at Marriotts on the esplanade. Apart from the pier and the grand Palace Hotel, Southend is like any other British town with an extensive pedestrian precinct containing the shops of the usual national retailers.

Victoria Station remains reassuringly original, but it could do with a make-over. Transport was courtesy of National Express, leaving Victoria at 1446, arriving at Liverpool Street by 1543. I decided to cycle to Marylebone, utilising the route planning service on the Transport For London website. To my delight, the route passed through many attractive areas of London and the majority of the journey was along well kept cycle tracks or narrow lanes.

My train left Marylebone at 1750 and arrived at Birmingham Moor Street early at 1950 after a very noisy journey. I was in good time to catch the 2013 from New Street to Hampton-in-Arden (2032) where my car was waiting for the short journey home.