With just over two weeks to go until I leave Southsea, I'm starting to wonder when the sunshine will ever reappear! Days on end of overcast skies have brought with them sleet and snow and temperatures remain barely over freezing.
My preparations in the mean time continue afoot and these have included a trial ride up to Woodlow Farm in Herefordshire where I have lived for the past year whilst working as a Flying Instructor.
My Thorn Nomad expedition bike seems to be holding up well, coping with both the enormous combined weight of rider and equipment. I hasten to add that I am now a trim 12 stone 8 ibs instead of the 14 Stone 3 ibs bloater I was whilst teaching flying! No dodgy remarks there please!
My route from Portsmouth to Frome Hill in Herefordshire went via Salisbury and Devices to Bristol via the Kennet and Avon Canal and the Bath to Bristol Railway Path which was a most enjoyable ride apart from the strong south-westerly wind which seriously hampered my speed. A quick hop across the Old Severn Bridge saw me then ride cross country all the way to my former residence.
Hi-Ho Hi-Ho oh off to Portsmouth I go
Laden up for the return journey home from Woodlow Farm to Portsmouth
of the reason for riding to Hereford was to also test out some of my equipment including my tent and stove, however, on arrival, when met by my former Landlady Bunty, it didn't take much persuasion to postpone sleeping in the tent for one more day and instead participate in drinking copious amounts of Champagne.
Whilst there, it was fantastic to catch up with Woodlow Farm's other residents and close friends James and Jenny and Di and as usual we reverted to old times by retiring to James and Jenny's Kitchen, otherwise known as the De Havilland Bar where again we succumbed to various concoctions of alcohol.
On the Saturday evening, I insisted that I slept in my tent. It was cold and damp outside and close to freezing. Luckily I have invested in good equipment and I remained warm and dry throughout the night.
Sunday morning, having said my farewells to my drinking partners at Woodlow Farm saw me commence my return to Portsmouth. An excellent time was had by all!
Sunday evening I arrived in Bristol quite early and stayed in the Youth Hostel which I have to say is absolutely fabulous. I think the organisation needs to have a rethink about its title though, as there are more middle-aged people staying in hostels nowadays than there are "youths".
Bristol also enabled me to meet an old friend of mine Sadie, whom I had previously met on an overland trip in South America. Although only a fleeting visit it was great to meet up with her again.
Arriving back in Portsmouth, the journey had taught me that 50-60 miles per day is perfectly managable, although I will definitely have to review the amount of equipment carried. Having read various blogs and books, the advice is to pack everything and then discard half of it. Not sure how I am going to do that, but I'm sure once I've been underway for a while I will know exactly what and what not to carry on the trip.
Other than that, I also very much enjoyed a visit from Nigel Gardner, my Bicycle Maintenance Instructor and his lovely partner Morag. Both of them came round to have a look at the bike and the equipment I will be taking on my trip. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend one of Nigel's Maintenance classes at Chichester Leisure centre which are part funded by the Council. These sessions are extremely informative, have a good practical element to them and above all are great fun and excellent for meeting like minded people. If anyone wishes to attend a bicycle maintenance class or requires their bike servicing in the West Sussex/Hampshire border area, Nigel's e-mail is email@example.com In the mean time, I'm hoping that I'm not going to have to use my mechanical skills too much in anger!
So, the final two weeks will be used for putting the icing on the cake with preparations and saying my farewells to friends and family. I hope to touch base with as many of you as possible.
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