Friday, 22 December 2017

Island Life Part Two

Well, it has been a little while since part one! It has been such a long time that the memories of what we got up to are a little hazy, but I thought I had better complete the set, as the suspense must be killing you all by now!

At the end of part one we had reached Newchurch and had a delicious dinner at the Pointer inn. Day 3 saw us staying at the same Airbnb for a second night, so we spent the day exploring the area (luggage-free!). We followed the traffic-free cycle path to Sandown again, then continued along the beach front to Shanklin. There, we stopped and had a little look at Shanklin chine, which is a big gully in the cliff that has been landscaped. It was very pretty, and there were lots of rescued parrots and other birds in a aviary, which added an interesting soundtrack!

We then continued to Ventnor, again finding another traffic-free track following an old railway line. Ventnor is a good looking town, although it is built on the side of a cliff, so rather challenging on the bikes! Brakes were squealing on the way down, and we definitely walked back up the other side, I was very glad that I didn’t also have my luggage in tow.

For lunch, we found a nice Italian restaurant called the Rex, unfortunately they weren’t serving their highly recommended pizza as it was too quiet for them to have the pizza oven on (!) but we did have some lovely pasta, and the view was excellent! A must-visit in the evening for pizza if we find ourselves back there again.

After puffing our way back up the hill we headed back to base in Newchurch, and finished off the glorious day with another delicious dinner at the Pointer inn; it was too good not to go back again!

Day 4 was another bright and beautiful day, and we set off early for our longest mileage day, heading further west to Freshwater. We stopped in Godshill for a bacon roll, and a slightly bemused wander, many coachloads of pensioners were unloading as we were heading through at about 9am!

We are wimps so we missed out the massive hills right in the south, and joined the military road at Chale. From there, it is a clear run to Freshwater, apart from a couple of decent hills. The military road is great fun to cycle, with the Needles slowly revealing themselves in the distance.

We had an early start as we thought the ride would take most of the day, but we were rather pleased to find that we arrived in Freshwater before lunch. Luckily our lovely Airbnb hosts let us check in early, so we ditched the bikes and luggage and had a wander. It was blazing sunshine so we had a chilled out afternoon.

We rounded off the day with a Chinese takeaway, then a stomp up Tennyson Down to try and get a view back to Swanage across the water, unfortunately it was a bit too hazy, but the sunset was lovely.

 Our finally day was just a short cycle across to Yarmouth, along yet more traffic-free path (so much good cycling!). We arrived in plenty of time for our ferry, so admire the ‘old gaffers’ - wooden masted boats - which were all gathered in the harbour for a festival. A great end to a lovely trip! We thoroughly enjoyed our short tour of the island, it is a lovely little place with lots to see, and really cycling friendly too. All the Airbnbs we stayed in were excellent, and I think we enjoyed the cycle-touring experience, and I hope we’ll do some more trips soon.

Have you ever been to the Island? Any top picks for other easy cycling tours?

Island Life Part One

Having lived for a large part of my life in sight of the Needles on the Isle of Wight, you'd think I would have been a regular visitor to that small slice of England. But, as silly as it may seem, I had never crossed that stretch of water, and neither had Mr. GCP. Now that I have a job, and, you know, some of that money stuff, we decided to finally take the trip and go explore. I recently got a beautiful new bike and have always fancied the idea of cycle touring, so we planned a nice easy introduction to the concept, taking in a good portion of the island.

We said goodbye to the mainland and Lymington pier, taking the Wightlink ferry to Yarmouth. This crossing is super easy as the train goes right to the ferry terminal at Lymington, and as foot passengers with bikes it was only £21 return each. We tucked the bikes to one side of the car deck and enjoyed the slightly grey views across the solent. We made landfall in Yarmouth 40 minutes later; arriving by boat does get the excitement levels up!

Our accomodation for the first night was on the outskirts of Newport towards the North of the island, about a 10 mile ride from Yarmouth; I told you we planned an easy introduction to cycle touring! We managed to find some nice quiet lanes for some of the ride, and link up with some of the many off-road cycle paths that criss-cross the island, but did end up on some faster roads for a part of the route. At least the island drivers seem to mostly be very sensible about overtaking! After puffing up a few hills in the drizzle we got to our rather special accommodation, a lovely yurt set in a pretty garden, complete with Indian Runner ducks for company! Sidenote: We booked all our accomodation for the trip through Airbnb - lots of great interesting and unique options on the island.

We loved the space and atmosphere in the yurt, it was really nicely decorated and massive too! We want a yurt now...

Day two dawned a little brighter than the first, and we had a great cycle ahead of us, following the Red Squirrel trail down through the centre of the island. I should say that the Isle of Wight is an excellent cycling destination, there are loads of off road cycle paths mainly following the routes of old railway lines, and there are plenty of quiet country lanes. Even the busier roads we found to be not too bad. The tourist board actively promotes the island as a cycling destination, and I would definitely recommend it. My new bike (the beautiful Genesis Croix de Fer on the right of the pic below!) is a gravel/cyclocross type, meaning it has drop handlebars like a road bike, but chunkier tyres and disc brakes, so was ideally suited to the gravelly off road routes we found.

Through the course of the morning the sky cleared and we were treated to some lovely early summer sunshine. We arrived at our next accommodation in Newchurch just before lunch, and found a excellent cycle-friendly café called Peddlers just around the corner. Our hosts were kind enough to let us check in early, so we ditched the luggage and headed to The Garlic Farm just up the road. After lots of delicious tasters we decided we need to go back to the island with the car just so we can stock up on goodies from the farm! There were also some test plots of different garlic varieties which was interesting, and some beautiful meadows of flowers.

We then carried on down the Red Squirrel trail to the coast at Sandown, saying hi to some friendly highland cows (a little far from home?!) along the way!

Sandown is a pretty typical seaside town, and we enjoyed having a gentle spin along the promenade in the sunshine.

We rounded off the day with a truly excellent dinner at The Pointer Inn in Newchurch, I would highly recommend it if you are on the island; we loved it so much we went back the next night! Do book though as it was rammed both nights we were there. Stand by for part two of our adventure!

Dorset Insider

I'm currently residing in the beautiful county of Dorset on the south coast of the UK. I was fortunate enough to grow up in the area, and have made my return now I have finally finished being a student; I'm sure you'll understand why if you study my pictures closely enough! I'm most familiar with the area called the Isle of Purbeck (spoiler: not really an island!), right in the south of the county, but I'm trying to spread my wings and explore a bit further afield, as there are plenty of great things to see. There is of course the stunning Jurassic coastline - lots of dinosaurs! - Lovely rolling hills, cute chocolate box villages and charming seaside towns. And possibly the best bit; lots of excellent local food!

Here is a taster of the delights on offer! I'm planning on some detailed posts exploring some key sights and delights of the area. Any ideas for places to see?! I know I should be pretty familar with the place, but it is always good to get another perspective :)

Welcome to Plot 23

So one of the most exciting things that happened in the last couple of years (has it really been that long?!), was that we got an allotment plot. When I moved back to Dorset from Bath I decided I needed something to do with my time, and thought having a go at growing stuff might be the way to go. Contacting the village allotment association was a bit like trying to infiltrate a secret society, but after phoning what felt like nearly everyone in the village I found the right person. Luckily I managed to get in touch at exactly the right time as a plot had just become available, and, jackpot!- it was in great condition, already cleared and ready for planting!

Here it is when we took it over in November 2015. It is a half plot, but plenty big enough at 18.3 x 6.7 m. It is also a bargain at £20 for the year, cheapest land in Dorset?!

After lots of research I decided raised beds would be the way to go, so we made a plan and ordered some gravel boards for the frames, which were delivered on possibly the wettest day of the year! We initially made 8 1.5 x 3 m beds which are the main vegetable beds. We also put in a fruit bed and a seedbed.

We had a pretty successful first year; I wanted to grow a bit of everything and it was very productive, especially in the summer. Here is the plot in early summer:

I think I managed to harvest at least something every month, the leeks kept going through winter, as well as kale and spinach. The plot in mid winter:

The new growing season is properly kicking off now, which is exciting! Here is the plot right now:

 Lots more to come, it is sowing time!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Morning Time on Northern Line

Not to brag, but I've somehow managed to get this far in my adult life without having to deal with an awful commute. I can't say it is entirely planned, but I seem to end up living within easy walking or cycling distance to work, the idea of spending hours in a traffic jam or on buses every day really does not appeal. I'll take the wind and the rain any day! Chilly winter mornings wake me up and make me feel slightly more alive, and I have the added bonus of a rather scenic route, complete with good views and photogenic trees, and sometimes even friendly cows! Can't imagine why, but Bath does not feel like a real city...

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Bright Spots

I seem to be filled with a certain inertia when it comes to blogpost writing these days. I can't decide whether to keep plodding along with this, talking to just the few of you who stop by, or whether to try something new. The dying days of my PhD studies are taking up plenty of brain-space at the moment too. When I started blogging I certainly never had any aspirations to be A Famous Blogger, but I'm not sure what my motivation is any more. Anyone else out there blogging to no one for no particular reason?! Perhaps I just need some more fun in my life so I feel like I actually have something to talk about...

Well, for now, I shall leave you with some pretty pictures from my recent visit to the beautiful Kew Gardens in London. If you're in the big smoke between Feb 7th and March 6th get yourself there for the Orchid festival, which will be full of gorgeous colour to distract from the dreary grey winter outside (and look out for the resident iguanas too!).

And we'll see if I manage to post more than once in February!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A Year in Photos 2014

Happy holidays to you all! Slight unplanned blog holiday there, that life thing getting in the way once again. Inevitably, I of course resolve to blog more in the new year, but with a thesis to write, we'll see how that goes... Anyhow, here are my favourite photos (from on and off the blog) from 2014, here's to a good 2015!

The year started with some epic weather, but beauty can be found in the wintery Dorset countryside

Crisp bright days in Febuary

Company from a black panther on a domestic March afternoon

New life in spring

An early summer day looking down the spine of Dorset

Posers on the sands

Time to disappear...

Pirates in Portugal?

Trying to make the most of the autumnal bounty

The benefit of shorter days in October - capturing the sunrise at the highest point of my commute

A return to the delights of Kew, nice to hang out in the jungle again and forget about the November chill

An excellent reason to get out of bed - probably the best sunrise I have ever seen

Happy New Year one and all!