Norley to Bournemouth via Burton, Shrewsbury and Bristol
Days cycling: eight consecutive with one rest-day in Bournemouth
Distance covered: approx 560km (we only purchased a gizmo to record the distance on Day 3!)
The first week of our cycle touring adventure has been fun, food and friend-filled and cycle-packed.
We started with a fantastic send-off from Norley on Saturday 4th August and have ended the UK leg of our tour in Bournemouth, arriving yesterday just after 1800 (slightly later than planned, which so far seems to be a slightly worrying, recurring theme: Olly's uncle has calculated that at our current rates it may take us 43 years to get to New Zealand...)
It has been quite an overwhelming week. We've experienced such generosity, support and encouragement from family and friends alike that we're both reeling a little. Combine that with the reality of leaving all of our wonderful people behind for eighteen months; cycling fully-loaded (or, indeed, pushing fully-loaded uphill); navigating on the outskirts of towns and cities; bumping along dedicated cycle paths which often are poorly surfaced for the kind of cycling we're doing; aches, pains and tiredness; and the constant struggle of whether to have the fleece on or the fleece off all in all have made for a pretty intense week.
Intentions of keeping a detailed, daily journal, mindfully reflecting on all that has happened have already been somewhat neglected. Living in and for the moment has already taken to the fore, which is certainly no bad thing. Time to trust that we are learning, refining and becoming more efficient by default and not because of a prescriptive, reflective journal (shout out to all my teacher pals...). That said, I must remind myself that it's not all about learning, refining and becoming more efficient. Having fun by making the most of serendipitous opportunities is key.
Day 1: Norley to Burton
Day 2: Burton to Shrewsbury
Day 3: Shrewsbury to Bishops Castle
Day 4: Bishops Castle to Kington
Day 5: Kington to Llantony
Day 6: Llantony to Bristol
Day 7: Bristol to nr. Gillingham
Day 8: Gillingham to Bournemouth
Foxholes Campsite, Bishops Castle
Bredward Farm Campsite, Kington
Priory Campsite, Llantony
Bush Farm Bison Centre, West Knoyle
The Three Tuns Inn, Bishops Castle
The Maltings Cafe, Clun
The Oxford Arms, Kington
The Old Electric Shop, Hay on Wye
Llantony Priory Hotel, Llantony
Annette's Restaurant, Abergavenny
The Grosvenor Arms, Shaftesbury
HUGE, tremendous, heart-felt thanks this week first and foremost go to our families for their support and encouragement. The meals bought and made for us, the help with packing, preparing send-offs and purchasing Percy Pigs well and truly got us on our way. Secondly, thanks to our Shrewsbury family for the farewell: it was so special to ride in to 'Bastley' after a "bast"ard of a day and have you all there: especial thanks to Marta and Lauren for all the preparing and, I can only imagine, all of the washing up! Thank you too to absent 'Bastley Babe', Hannah, for the wonderful leaving gift.
HUGE, HUGE love and thanks to Yoga Nicola for, quite simply, everything, and to Marc Owen Jones for getting The Littlest Hobo stuck in my head forever more - only occasionally is it replaced by the truly unique, Jonesy Needs a Job. Better cycling companions for those first few days we could not have asked for. You are both amazing and completely bonkers! Memories to last a lifetime, init.
Thanks to Jonny, Karen, Rikki and Dan for so kindly buying us dinner in some wonderful (if not a bit quirky...) establishments and sitting and excitedly listening as we reminisced about the day just gone / waiting around for us as we missed countless deadlines and promises that we were 'only an hour away'.
To Lyndon and Kate for welcoming us into your new home in Bristol: the courgettes from your allotment have gone into our wraps for the ferry crossing tomorrow. To Helen and Martin for the same reason: for welcoming us so kindly ahead of our departure from the UK for a considerable while.
An overwhelming week filled with good stuff and great, great people. On continue demain, direction : la France.