Saturday, April 28, 2018

My Cornwall Challenge: Part 5

The day dawned cloudy on the last significant leg of my trip. I was booked onto a train from Bournemouth in the wee hours of the following morning and so I had planned to pitch a tent in Langton Matravers.
Baiky at Seaton. Luckliy I did not leave him here, I would not have fancied climbing the hills around this town multiple times.
I set off before any of my fellow campers had cracked an eyelid, prepared for a 70 mile day. It wasn't long before I came across a curious case of quarried beer as I powered along the coast towards Seaton. After admiting the cliffs at Seaton and a quick bite of breakfast I found the national cycle route 2 and stuck to it through Dorset.
I feel like a chump making beer from malt and yeast all these years when I could have just been quarrying it.

The cycle route guided me through the Dorset Area of Natual Beauty including through the Valley of Stones and past the the Hardy Monument (which, I might add is situated on top of a mighty, mighty hill called Black Down). On the way to the Valley of Stones I found a little farm/shop called Modbury Farm that had fresh bread baked today! I stopped off to pick up some tasty bread which I munched on over the course of the day. They also sold milk, pork and sausages sourced directly from the farm as well produce from local farmers (eggs, cheese, veges, etc.). I have a feeling to that this store was not staffed, it just had a cash box where you paid the appropraite amount and took change as necessary.
How could I resist? I am, after all, only human.
As with the other areas of Southern England I had cycled through the landscape was quite stunning, if somewhat hilly for someone travelling under their own legs. I broke out of the Dorset AONB at Dorchester and sped towards the Hartland Moor Natural Reserve coming agonisgnly close to a Tank Museum and Apeworld (a rescue centre for primates), two places that I would normally gravitate towards if I had the time to spare. Once in the Reserve I again found myself traversing hills thanking my preplanning that the following day I could take an easy ferry from Studland to Bournemouth instead of retracing the incredibly hilly path I was currently on.
Hardy Monument: named after Vice Admiral Hardy who led at the Battle of Trafalgar. Designed to look like a spyglass with each of the eight points of the octagonal base pointing to a compass point. Snazzy!
I made it to my campsite (Tom's Field Camp) by 4:30 and by 5:00pm had explored my way to the Dancing Ledge. not sure why it is called that, but when the tide is out the area kind of looks like a nice rectangular slab that could be used for ballroom dancing, if one does not mind sea spray. Actually, it is so named "because at certain stages of the tide when the waves wash over the horizontal surface, the surface undulations cause the water to bob about making the ledge appear to dance" (source wikipedia April 2018). As the winds picked up the sea spray became violent waves that threatened to suck the unwary dancer to sea and so I climbed back to camp for dins dins and bed.
Apparently, the ledge is a straight drop off into the sea which is deep enough for small ships to come right up to the ledge.
It was at this time an annoying itch in the back of my head made me second guess my plan to ferry across to Bournemouth. The sea was quite rough, the winds incredibly strong (as the had been all trip) and warnings that the ferry may not run were plastered on their website.
My best photo of the treacherous waves. I guess you had to be there in person...
It was with a sick realisation that I started to contemplate my journey back through the Nature reserve that included several 100 meter hill climbs. Oh, and I had to be at the station by 6:30am. Before I knew it I setting an alarm for 4am for the 30 mile ride ahead me.
I am yet to determine what these are, but there are these rooms cut into cliffs at the Dancing Ledge. My best guess is they are fortifications from World War II.
And then, just like in Cornwall, I was up in darkness pedalling madly to get to my train! As the day dawned the clouds cleared and I was greeted with a morning ocean views as cycle route 2 led me along the coast. Winds weren't too bad after all but instead of cursing the mtereologists and their imperfect predictions I enjoyed the cycle. My grand challenge ended with a train ride to London, a short cycle through the our nation's capital as I traversed from one station to another, and the another train ride back to Loughborough. No doubt stinking up the entire carriage while I was there!

And cows. What day would not be complete with a cow parade blocking the road?

Monday, April 9, 2018

My Cornwall Challenge: Part 4

It was dark, it was wet, it was time to leave Cornwall. Unfortunately, my schedule was all screwy because of my extra day in Tintagel so I decided a little cheating was in order. I jumped on an early morning train and hopped off at Exeter (yes, it is true - I lost a leg on the train) ready to recommence in Exeter where it was just as wet, but significantly lighter.
 Exmouth; it has a great sense of humour.
I hit up the River Exe and made my way to Exmouth where Baiky and I found a dead tree. After a strange conversation with a local I followed the coast as closely as I could towards Sidmouth. Sidmouth was kinda cool. It is flanked by massive red cliffs and has a mad beachfront esplanade. I got the impression that is pretty much just hotels for tourists. 
Cliffs and Esplanade, as promised!
Also, I entered Sidmouth through one of the steepest downhills I ever had the pleasure of not crashing my bike on, which, to my later despair means that I had an equally steep hill to climb afterwards. This was made slightly more difficult as by this time I had left the rain behind me and the sun was in full (British) force.
Jacob's Ladder at Sidmouth - I never quite figured out why Jacob had a ladder and what he climbed, but it was highly advertised.
I cruised my way through East Devon, a place any who has visited will tell you is insanely gorgeous. One of the many highlights was cycling up a tiny, tiny road with barely enough room for two cars to pass each otehr and coming across a bit of a traffic jam.
No photos of the cars, but here is a sweet photo of the cliffs.
A conservative estimate would be two to three miles of cars stuck end to end drivers peering ahead to determine the source of their angst. I effortlessly glided past the frustrated travellers on a bicycle powered solely by smugness curious as to what had casued this upheaval.
The top of the hill into Sidmouth - I risked my life multiple times taking this photo from the road.
I was finally greeted with not one, but two unfortunate tourists who had, from opposite directions, decided they were above obeying the (what turns out to be) quite informative road signs. You see, there had been all number of road signs quite clearly advising that cars with caravans should, perchance, seek alternative routes. These two unfortunates had met and were now attempting to extricate themselves from their predicament. 
Vicarage - more on this later.
They could not go forward, as they could not squeeze past one another. They could not go backwards because there was literally miles of parked cars blocking the road. Oh the hilarity! I gave a cheerful wave and smugged my way on, past the ever increasing line of cars on the other side of the blocked road. As I neared the end of the conga of cars I did provide some advise some that it would be best to try another way. Many of those I passed were locals and they seemed somewhat chagrined that sightseers had blocked their path. Haha!
A cycle path to Beer! this is why cardrives had cyclists so much, they had to take the long way around in traffic while I get to drift towards a bevarage that is mysteriously signposted.
Any ways, before I knew it I found myself in Branscoombe, which I would have to say is the cutest location I have ever been to. 
I took a photo of Baiky with a church, cruised down a another steep hill, stopped off at the local forge for a gander, and then went to the Bakery to buy some cake for Baiky. 
After ordering our cake I hitched a ride with a local tourist back up the hill, grabbed Baiky from where I had left him at the church, ran back down the hill, and then enjoyed some cake.
Not long after, I found myself in Vicarage, which is probably the quaintest village I have ever seen, so I slogged up another steep hill to my campsite at Coombs View Farm, popped my tent, and then hiked back down to the local pub for a well earned beer (or five)!
Beer (in Vicarage)!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The flat that we built (renovated actually)

In about October/November last year Gemma and I decided it was time to give one of our flats a complete makeover. The flat itself had not been updated since we moved in and we were worried that there may be a damp issue. The walls were a bland magnolia and there was some wooden decor around the walls that just had to go. It was a few weekends of hard work and contractor management, but it now looks like a new modern flat. Below are a few before and after pictures of the bedroom showing its transition.

Bedroom before any work had been done, note the wooden panelling feature.
 After we had stripped back the panneling and the damp proofing team removed the plaster to prepare for their tanking.

 After we had repainted (also note the window to door change, although admittedly that was done a last year!)
The lounge also received a makeover as we were not sure if damp was affecting this side of the flat as well.
 Simple photos of the lounge.
After the panelling and plater had been stripped (the other side of the lounge)
 A couple of photos of the completed lounge. Interestingly, while the furniture looks new it is not. We had just moved furniture between properties.
 Then there was the kitchen. Our original intention was to gently remove the kitchen, have the dampproofing put in place, and then put the kitchen back in. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts the kitchen was destroyed in the removal process (taken to with a hammer and chisel destroyed). So we installed a while new kitchen also.
Perfectly reasonable and functional.
 Some of the lesser experienced cooks may find this kitchen challenging to use.
A brand new kitchen, looking sweet as the pies that are cooked in it.
There was a minor dilemma in that the circuit board and electric meters were a huge eyesore in the corner of the lounge. 
 Can't leave this in the corner of the lounge uncovered.
Gemma had a brilliant idea and purcashed a £20 show storage cupboard, which we propped up on leftover wood panels and topped off with left over kitchen benchtop.
 We're both still surprised this worked!
After our 6 month makeover session (which included me learning how to install power sockets with those little usb thingies) the place was picked up by the first person who looked at it!
 And here I am tuckered after a long 6 months' work.

Monday, February 12, 2018

My Cornwall Challenge: Part 3

After a good days rest in Tintagel it was time to move on. I took a relatively direct route to Wadebridge then followed an awesome bike path called the Camel Trail around to Padstow before darting down to Newquay via St Columb Major.
I have no idea who Denis is, but Baiky and I were moved that someone had dedicated a rock to him.
I am not 100% sure what happened next, because it took me a good 3.5 hours to get from Newquay to Redruth.
Baiky was pretty keen to lead me off in the wrong direction though.
It is pretty much a straighforward cycle, although I do remember being buffeted by winds...
I stopped at Redruth for a bite to eat and to admire the local artwork.
Boots that are dogs. The Tinner;s hounds by David Kemp. Represents the fall of the Tin mining industry (and the importance of well heeled dogs).
By this stage it had started to rain and a thick fog had developed, so while the cycle route out of Redruth was quite nice visibility was limited. I feel I missed what is probably quite stunning landscape. I hit up Hayle in no time, swung south to Penzance, and then outpaced the pirates to sneak into Lands End. With the exception of a confused kid watching me try to feed Baiky, it was a pretty uneventful cycle.
See the kid in background taking a photo of me taking a photo of Baiky. He is seriously questioning my rationality.
I had a campsite halfway between Lands End and Penzance. When I booked the place I envisioned this would give me easy access to both locations. Unfortunately, I did not take into account the topography. Doubly unfortunately, I did not consider thick fog and rains. So while I cycled between Penzance, Land's End, and my campsite I felt under constant peril from cars buzzing past me. This led to me using as many backstreet as possible to travel from place to place and only really traveling when I had to.
A short walk up the Penwith Heritage Trail before calling it a day.
I had planned for a days sightseeing in the area which I spend exploring Lands End, Penzance and Mousehole. I tried walking part of the Penwith Heritge trail, but with the weather as it was it was not worth it. However, I did stumble across a town called Mousehole.
Baiky goes for a swim (an actual seal).
To me this is a British version of places like Tangambalanga - a place you want to live just for the splendid postal address.

A cocktail overlooking Mousehoule.
The gloomy weather somewhat limited my adventures, but I was fortunate enought to see someone complete the John-O-Groats to Lands End challenge (by car). This is essentially traveling from the northeastern most point of mainland Scotland to the southwestern most point.
The end of the cycle path just outsied Lands End.
At Lands End they have a museum dedicated to the many individuals who have completed the trip including by foot, cycle, wheelchair, horse car, as well as other wacky forms of transport such as hitchhiking, hitting a golf ball the entire way, and even a group tha beelined. Their journey involved biking, kayaking and hiking so that they could travel in a dead straight line from start to finish.
An announcement informs visitors to the centre that a challenger is arriving. We all stood around clapping as they drove into the finish.

Personally, I have now caught the bug and am super keen to cycle the challenge. If I was still running I would attempt it by foot, but I think in my current fitness state I would make it to the first pub and call it a day.
 Finally made it!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Bar that Gemma Built

There has been many a post of the things I have built on my blog, but anyone who knows Gemma and I is well aware that Gemma is the true craftsperson in this relationship. So, here I present a short story of the bar Gemma built, and the small role I got drilling a hole!
Gemma seemed confused when I told her the hole was filling with water.

It was a strange situation that Gemma find herself in. Too many bain-maries, a sink bowl, a beer tap, and a driptray with nowhere to put them. So, like any logical Brit would do she built an outdoor kitchen in order to fully appreciate British sunshine (ref needed).
Gemma turns this into a bar! And she manufactured some sunshine!
Her bar design had all the modern necessities - bain-maries for keeping soup warm or for fondue, a sink connected to a hand pumped faucet for water, a fridge/freezer, and a beer tap. We then of course added the luxury of a gas cooker in the form of a BBQ.
 Gemma designed the kitchen part, I designed the bar part.
The design was quite simple and deviates her prowess as a kitchen designer. We started by building the frame out of wood.
Our (I mean Gemma's)  frames
The frame was developed using boxed sections, with each box housing a different kitchen component.
This section houses the sink (left frame) and the bain-maries. Behind you can see the sections for the fridge and the kegging equipment.
The frame was then sheathed in plywood that had been cut/drilled to fit each component.

The plywood benchtop with the BBQ and bain-maries shown. 
Finally, the entire unit was painted to add a small form of weather proofing, we plucnked some bright lime green tiles on the counter surfaces, and slipped in the BBQ.
Any guesses on how long will these items stand the outdoors?
The inaugural use of the Grand Design was such a momentous occasion that Mum and Dad travelled all the way from Aus just to attend the feast!

Dad, Gemma, and I with a mountain of food.
Gemma's parents joined us too and a merry time was had by all (except I burnt the sausages).
 Gemmas parents and Ilona join Gemma, Dad, and I.