Afterthoughts

The abrupt stop to my blog was due to a busy week between my cycle trip and our golf tour. We are on the way to England, where we will collect 10 golfers at Heathrow and take them to Cornwall. There we will be able to pick up my bike from St. Just. I have really missed Bonnie.

It took me a while to come back to earth after my return. It had been such a wonderful trip, despite the challenges or maybe even because of them. It was mostly about these very challenges that I wrote every day, because I am sure it would have been so boring if all I had mentioned were green grass, sheep and daffodils. These were the things that were so beautiful.

Of course my beloved sea was a major highlight for me. I was very close to it for the first few days in Scotland , then didn’t see it again until Cornwall. However, I am a great lover of water generally and a lot of the cycling was along canal towpaths. it was interesting to see different birds on the various stretches of canal. Sometimes there were ducks, other times swans and in some places Canadian geese. They were also very varied in their reaction to me. Some waited until I was almost there before jumping in or flying away, others just looked at me or quacked or whatever sound they make. I was also fascinated by the people with barges operating the many locks. On two occasions I was also lucky enough to find fishing lakes, just when it was picnic-time.

The daffodils in Scotland were beautiful. They grow not only in gardens, but outside the properties and on the roadside. When I asked about tulips I was told they are about a month later. In the north of England the daffodils were dying and there were tulips, yet further south, both were in bloom simultaneously. It was similar with the sheep: in Scotland they all had baby lambs, in the north of England I only saw adult sheep and further south there they were again, these lovely families. It was also very interesting to note all the different kinds of sheep: some had horns (no, not just the rams), some didn’t; I saw white sheep, black sheep, brown sheep, brown and white patterned sheep, white ones with black legs or black heads or both. I could go on and on….

I saw lots of pheasants in Scotland and in England, the cows were only in the south. I also saw horses, deer, foxes, rabbits and squirrels. In Scotland there were often signs warning of red squirrels (I don’t know why it specifically stated that they were red), but I only saw one. In England I saw many grey ones. There were also warning signs for otters, but I didn’t see them. I was also amazed and slightly upset, to see a number of dead animals at the roadside including a roe and a badger.

One of the things that impressed me was the consideration of the drivers. On the narrow country lanes, they would wait in a passing place for me, sometimes giving me a guilty feeling, because I was slow, especially uphill. When I thanked them, they would also raise their hand and smile too. I remember when I first came to Austria to live and went home, these would be the old English gentlemen, but now I am the older one and these are often young people. In general I would say 95%, of the people I met were extremely friendly and helpful, 4% were just alright and only 1% unfriendly, nasty or rude. Almost everyone I met asked me “Are you just doing this for yourself or for a good cause?” and several strangers donated to my charity.

The weather was extremely kind to me, with only a couple of very brief showers in Scotland and two hours of heavy drizzle in Lancashire. I battled the prevailing winds and it was very cool, especially at the beginning – only 4°C one morning, but after all, it was April. However, I’ve never seen such a beautiful blue sky on so many consecutive days and on the last day I even managed to catch a sunburn on my fingers and ears!

On the whole the route was excellent, very few main roads and otherwise a mixture of suburban roads, towpaths and quiet country lanes with varying ascents and descents, some short steep ones, some long gentle ones and at times very undulating. The only really flat part was across the Somerset levels, which were interesting and beautiful in their own way, but where I had very strong side-winds to contend with. Another unexpected highlight was Bodmin Moor, which came as a surprise to me.

The accommodation was very good on the whole. My warmshowers hosts made me very welcome and most of them cooked me delightful meals, and although they had all chosen pasta, no two meals were the same. Of the B&B sand hotels, I could only fault one, which was a run-down old country house, not at all as luxurious as it had appeared on the internet, run by Italians, with only overpriced pasta for dinner and a continental breakfast. All the others were clean with friendly hosts or staff, excellent breakfasts and the hotels had good dining too.

I had no injuries and no punctures. The only time Bonny caused me problems, apart from the faulty saddle-support, which had been troubling me for some time and I had neglected to have looked at, was with the gears, when she needed some TLC. For the first few days I did have a sore patch under one of my buttocks, but I had plenty of cream, which soon took care of that. Then I did bang my ankle a couple of times when “straddle-pushing”, but I didn’t even see a bruise. Then of course, there was the sunburn on the last day…

During the first couple of days I found it extremely difficult to get OFF my bike. Getting on was fine, because I could get some momentum to swing my leg over. This was quite a problem sometimes and quite embarrassing in towns! However, I am pleased to say that I soon became more flexible.

I totalled 1650 kilometres (just over 1000 miles) and around 15000 metres ascent in 20 days and collected € 700 for my Austrian charity, demenzhilfe.tirol in addition to over £ 300 for Macmillan Caring Locally. Many thanks to all of you who donated or supported me in other ways. It was great to read your encouraging comments, although I’m sorry I didn’t have time to reply to them all personally.


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