03 July, 2015

2 Boys, 2 Wheels

2000 miles in 49 days around the coast 

The Woods' route.
Red lines: cycling
Green lines: by train
Ed: Dwight Wood and his son Lewis from East London cycled the equivalent of a return end-to-end last summer, taking a few ferries and trains along the way. It was intended as an educational tour, and also a way of giving Dwight's mother a virtual holiday to many of the places she'd visited during her life. Lewis wrote a blog, which his gran read and commented on as they travelled. The trip was planned to be 60 days and some 2650 miles, but they returned early due to Dwight's mum passing away. The realized journey was from Exeter, around the coast to Edinburgh, taking in LEJOG on the way.

Dwight and Lewis Wood, ready to set off

Dwight wrote: “Although we raised money, (some people insisted), the idea was to raise awareness for the nationally-important Wanstead ParkWe have travelled many places in the world, but seeing all the many and varied places in the UK is not to be missed. We are life members of the National Trust, and visited many of their places en-route, plus the vast array of sites and activities on the way. More than half the nights we couch-surfed. Meeting all the people on the way was brilliant; what a great way to meet many generous and hospitable people.” 

Lewis has been cycling since he was 4 years old; he rides to school every day, rain or shine. Their training before the trip included a 5-day Coast-To-Coast, from Whitehaven to South Shields with friends in May.

by Lewis Wood, aged 11, extracts from the blog: 2 Boys, 2 Wheels:

5 July, Day 1
Hi everyone, this is my first blog for our big trip. Today it was raining heavily so we cycled to Stratford to take the tube. At Paddington Station, Loong and my mum were waiting there for us. We said goodbye, and got on the train for Exeter. The journey took 2 hours, and I slept the whole way. At Exeter we visited Diagon Alley and The Leaky Cauldron, then cycled to Newton Abbot to meet Ashley and James. They cycled with us to their house three miles away which is very nice. They made a delicious dinner and we ate with them. They're very kind and it's a really fun place up the hill where it is.

6 July, Day 2
We went to Agatha Christie's house, a very big house with massive rooms. Mainly there are tonnes and tonnes of figurines in cupboards or on mantelpieces. Afterwards, we walked down a rocky track to a mooring bay for a ferry to Dartmouth. The weather is crazy: it's changing from sunny to rainy every minute. We had to stop for a while for one of the downpours.

7 July, Day 3
Today we cycled 75 miles. It was really tiring! Plymouth was 21 miles, and then we took the ferry to Cremyll. Next we cycled another 13 miles to Finnygook Inn for a very nice lunch. It was hill after hill after hill until we came past St Austell and we had to stop for something stuck in my chain. We were very close to our destination, when Dad realised he was wearing the wrong glasses, so we went back to look for them, and luckily found them.

9 July, Day 5 

Today we cycled thirty miles from Falmouth to Penzance. We visited St Michael's Mount which we approached by ferry from Marazion. Our ferryman was fat and jolly like a ginger santa. The main house on the Mount was massive! As usual, there was a quiz, like all the other big places, but this house was my favourite so far - it had lots of antiquities.

St Michael's Mount 

11 July, Day 7
Today we cycled 40 miles from Hayle to Padstow. We cycled a first 5 miles to Hell's Mouth café, and stopped because my lugs were aching (I'm not sure why). After we had been filled, we went for a short walk to a suicide point where people have jumped off the cliff. We took a few pictures and set off to cycle to Portreath.

We cycled till we came to Newquay, and there we had our first pasties! Then through Newquay and out the other side till we came to a sign for a scene of the cliff and a café, so we stopped and walked to the cliff's edge. There was a very nice view but Dad kept on complaining about not liking it on the edge. 

12 July, Day 8
Today the weather was not kind. We cycled a total of 36 miles. We only set off at 10:30 because the ferry took a long time and we had missed the first one. The ferry was like a landing craft with a lever slope for embarking and disembarking. At the other side it was already a tiny bit foggy so Dad and I put on our rain/windproofs. We cycled to Port Issac where we saw all the scene places for Doc Martin (one of the shows dad used to like). There was a 20% hill there; we beat that easily and cycled on for a few miles. We were up high now, and the fog was really thick, so Dad took a couple of pictures.

Our next stop was Tintagel where supposedly King Arthur lived, and we looked at Merlin's cave. We learnt a bit about the myths and legends there. Afterwards we went uphill to look at the old post office. It's apparently over 600 years old we found out. 

Tintagel Post Office, possibly the oldest building in Cornwall 
After lunch we continued on to Bude and came into Boscastle, where they had had one of the worst floods in Britain. You can see the video online. Around 6 miles from Bude we came across two 30% hills (very steep for bikes). Our first one had really slippery gravel on it so we had to walk up it, and the second one was fine, but a car came past. It was too narrow for both of us, so we had to walk. So that was really disappointing.

14 July, Day 10, 43 miles

Dad and I cycled from Woolacombe to Minehead. We started at 10:45 (very late) and my body was aching (I was extremely tired and grumpy most of the morning) but we still kept a good pace. Challacombe post office was our first stop after 17 miles. We continued after a nice snack and I had cheered up. We stopped for lunch at 2pm and came to Dunster Castle, built around 1066. We sped through the castle as Dad wanted to get to bed early for at least one night. Then we cycled straight to Minehead, only 2.5 miles away.

15 July, Day 11, 30 miles from Minehead to Weston-super-Mare

Dwight with steam train tickets
We took a steam train from Minehead to Bishops Lydeard. At Burnham on Sea it was happy days: warm; only 13 miles to go, and we broke out the sun cream. At Weston-super-Mare, Dad and I went for a walk down the pier and found an amazing sand sculpture enclosure place:

The Sand Sculpture Festival at Weston-super-Mare
17 July, Day 13, 85 miles, Weston-super-Mare to Cardiff

We've crossed into Wales. I'm shattered. We set off at 10am and the next I knew we were on the Severn Bridge, almost half way. We stopped, and found that we could feel the whole bridge rocking and vibrating. Our first stop was just past there at Pete's food hut. We had a nice snack, and continued on till we came to a special swing bridge across a river, which was basically a big cot hung by wires to a bridge. The cot, to transport us, was pulled across by the wires on the bridge moving from side to side and that was fun. On the other side we had lunch at Fanny's Café Stop. There were really nice people there and I got a free milkshake as they had a new machine. The café was filled with old posters, a jukebox and more stuff like that. We cycled next to the Cardiff barrage and crossed that. Now we're at Richard's house for the night and Dad is chasing me to go to bed so 'night.

18 July, Day 14, Cardiff to Swansea

It's a really hot day, although going up hills isn't the best with heat. We set off at 10:30 as Dad had to have a new crank bearing put on as the old one was worn out. The only two biggish things we saw today were the Bedford Park Ironworks which were old, but I didn't see much history about them, and the Vale of Glamorgan, meant to be special for being so city-free, just soft countryside. By the time we got to Swansea Bay it was practically sweltering, but it is beautiful. We're going down to the beach now for a short walk before bed. 

 Yatton Station, Strawberry Line Trail 
19 July, Day 15, Swansea to near Tenby 

The weather was dreary. I'll just say this now: never cycle on a dual carriageway unless you have no choice. It wasn't nice: cars roaring past, endless thoughts of being hit, and endless noise. We came off, and were hit by the smell of cow poo and saw pretty much an endless line of it. So the country road was horrible as well, and we decided to go back on the carriageway (we were that desperate). Near the end, we had a break at a restaurant near Dylan Thomas' boat-house (the famous Welsh poet) where I had a lemon Bakewell tart and we had a nice chat with the lady running the place. To finish, we ended about 1 mile from Tenby.

20 July, Day 16, 38 miles from Tenby to Mathry

We cycled till we came to Pembroke and as we were eating lunch, there was a marching Welsh band. They were really good, and Dad took a video of them. Apparently it was something to do with the fact that the town was twinned. Cycling on, we came to a toll bridge and had a view of the Milford Haven Refinery which is a really massive and impressive industrial cathedral stretching its chimneys to the sky. At this point the sun was shining brightly so we took 15 minutes to put on sun cream. The next thing I knew we were in Haverfordwest. After a nice stop there, we cycled 13 miles to a pub where we waited 2 minutes before John arrived to take us to his National Trust Field Centre where he lives in a National Trust bunkhouse. It's a nice big place with lots of beds, and I really like it.

21 July, Day 17, 80 miles from Mathry to Taliesin, Machynlleth

We started at 8:30 as it was a long way, and cycled 30 miles to Cardigan where we had our second breakfast. After that, it started to get hot and sunny so we put on sun cream and rolled down the arms and leggings. We came across a farmyard with lots of different types of birds like turkeys and peacocks, all roaming freely. After crossing over a ford and up a big hill we eventually came into Aberaeron where, after a nice lunch, we looked for sweets to stock up on - yay! We bought sherbet lemons, and then cycled on for a long time to Aberystwyth, up some really long hills. Coming down one, we managed to get up to 43 miles/hour! (new record)

The longest electric cliff railway in Britain, Aberystwyth 
So at Aberystwyth we found the special train to take us to the top of the hill and save us one climb. After this we set off along a coastal path (groan) and it wasn't nice: steep downhill, with gravel, and bumpy. At the bottom of the hill we cycled 8 miles to Taliesin. And that was the end of today.

22 July, Free Day No.2

We drove to our first activity which was to go to an RSPB centre which had an osprey nest with two chicks. They had a nice walkway through some fields so you could see the wildlife in general. At the end of that, as we were hot Michelle, Jasmin and I [hosts] had ice creams.

For lunch we had a picnic in the garden under a tree with sandwiches and sausage rolls. Then we set off again, walking this time, to the river to swim. The first thing I'll say is that it was cold for me; everyone else was fine. It was fun anyway, going down small waterfalls and climbing about. At the end I was freezing, but it was nice to explore, and even slipping on rocks wasn't so bad. Like yesterday, we had a pasta dinner on the lower roof looking over some fields. Our last thing to do at 7pm was to go to the beach, as Dad wanted to see the sand dunes, and the rest of us wanted to swim.

We spent 30 minutes at the sand dunes - it was still warm - then changed for swimming. Timothy, Jasmin, Eoin and I made a sand-mound and tried to protect it from the sea for a long time. Then we swam. The sea water was a lot warmer than the river, but the waves weren't very good at the start. As the sun began to dip, the waves got better. I managed to get sea-salt in my mouth and up my nose a few times, unfortunately. We only came back at 9:30 and as usual Dad is chasing me to bed, so good night.

23 July, Day 19, 46 miles from Taliesin to Cwm Pennant hostel, near Porthmadog

The weather has been hot all day - I'm guessing around 28 to 29°C. We set off at 8:15 to catch the 9:04 train at Dovey Junction, apparently the only station in Wales not to have a road up to it. The train took us 30 miles as we missed the other stations, yay!

We got off the train at Fairbourne, as my gran's old bungalow was called Fairbourne Lodge. We set off cycling to Harlech Castle and saw a 40% hill! Plus, we cycled down it. It was scary, and felt like I was going to fall over my handlebars. At 2pm, we cycled up a big hill and found the Ffestiniog Railway with a steam train to take us around the hill. Most of the time, up and down, I read my kindle, but when I did look out of the window, the views were spectacular. We arrived back at the station and set off again by bike down the hill to Porthmadog where we had dinner at a pub, and shopped for food for breakfast at the hostel.

24 July, Day 20, 25 miles from Cwm Pennant hostel to Llanberis

It was a short day, and a great day weather-wise: hot, but not too hot because of the wind which was with us most of the way. The views were amazing. We set off at 10 after a nice lie-in at the hostel. The first part of the journey felt too easy, with the wind on our backs and the sun keeping us warm. We explored Caernarfon Castle, which is very confusing if you're trying to find your own way around, but we did it. Next we cycled to Llanberis, where we bought dinner and a snack for tomorrow. The last leg: we cycled up a hill to get to our hostel and are having a nice time here.

25 July, Day 21, 20-30 miles from Snowdon to Llandudno
The first thing we did today was ride on the Snowdon Mountain Railway which set off at 9:30 and took an hour to get up. The views were amazing; naturally most of the time I had my head in my kindle and only looked up every now and then. At the top there was a café that blended in nicely with the scenery, and we walked through it to get to the top. It was cold because of the wind, but clear, and the landscape looked almost faked. After half an hour, the train people called us for the trip back down.

View from the Summit of Snowdon 
We cycled 11 miles before lunch, and then crossed the Menai Strait suspension bridge in which Dad was extremely interested. We visited Penrhyn Castle which was amazing, and actually meant to be a stately home, but it was huge and the family who owned it used lots of money for it.

The next part is a joke because yet again the National Cycle Routes put us on a beach and then through a field and back on to the beach so I said to Dad, "It's bumpy, it's rocky, it's uncycleable; it must be a National Cycle Route!" We got a dinner of fish and chips at Conwy and came to Llandudno near the station to pick up Loong tomorrow, and found a nice B&B here.

The Smallest House, Conwy quay 
26 July, Day 22, 28 miles from Llandudno to Prestatyn
Today we cycled with Loong - yay! We set off at 9:45 from Tideways, owned by Peter and Cynthia Jones who were very kind to us, and cycled to Llandudno junction. When Loong arrived we were really exited to see her and spent most of the morning chatting about home and catching up. Our first stop was Colwyn Bay where we shared a hot dog and then cycled to Rhyl. We were only 5 miles away from Prestatyn when Dad and Loong spotted an offer for tea at "the teddy bear tea room" where I counted over 280 teddies! The lady running it was really nice. She was trying to open up a teddy emporium but the council kept on trying to shut her down and that was a shame as it's a really nice place.

We cycled the last miles to where we're staying, and they let us into the garden to put up our tent, and let us use their shower. Loong brought the tent, and it's been ages since I slept in it. They have four tortoises here which I'm really exited about. One of them got under the tent, but Loong got it out before anyone sat on it.

27 July, Day 23, Prestatyn to Southport, England

We set off at 5:46, really early! First we cycled to Flint and sat outside the town hall and ate some stuff bought yesterday. After that we crossed over the River Dee bridge and came to an MoD firing range. 

Lewis and Loong 
We took a ferry across the River Mersey and on the other side they we're having a parade! There were three huge string puppets: a granny, girl and a dog, although we didn't manage to see the dog. After that excitement, we had our first proper breakfast at a café.

Giant Spectacular Street Theatre
We went to the Cavern Club which hosted the Beatles. In Liverpool we also saw the Grand National Horse Racecourse. There were some competitions going on for the horse riders, and those were nice to watch.

We got to Southport by a torturous NCN route as usual but managed to get there in good time. Tonight we watched a movie at a view cinema! One of the new ones called Hercules which we all thought was really good. So we're staying in tent again tonight in a Scout Club place on their green by a river. We've just finished dinner and are going to put up the tent. 'Night.

28 July, Day 24, 35 miles from Southport to St Annes 

Sadly, we said goodbye to Loong after breakfast. Our first stop was in Preston at the Green Frog Roadside Café where we had brunch. It was only 14 miles more, and it passed like a blur. We arrived at 13:40 at Joe's house and had a tea before he took us to the Blackpool Tower. The whole of Blackpool seems like a new country; the tower seems just like the Eiffel Tower. Our main thing was the Pleasure Beach: inside is really big. The first place we went to was Nickelodeon World where we went on some really fun rides including the highest roller-coaster in the UK. But cutting to the chase, we went on the ride called The Mouse. It isn't anything like it's name. It's rickety, rocky, jerky, and feels like you're going to go over the edge. The reason we went last on it was because a long time ago my gran went on that ride and ended up on the floor of the car at the end off the ride. Anyway, Dad almost lost his glasses: we were going down one section when they flew off his head! Luckily, it was almost time for that ride to close, so the men went under the tracks to get it for us - phew! Joe picked us up outside at 7pm and took us for dinner, and now we're having a nice adult conversation at his house which I'm not paying attention to.

29 July, 'Day of the Flies', 60 miles from St Annes to Rampside
We set off to Blackpool and went all the way along the front to the Fleetwood ferry, and took it across to Knott End-on-Sea where we had a massive shared breakfast. Then the torment: along the road the flies were everywhere. They were flying in all directions. I was so lucky to have my buff and glasses on - Dad wasn't so lucky. He got loads in his ears and all over his face. For him, it was horrible, and it went on for 2 or 3 miles.

Our next stop was at mobile café which was about to close, but the ladies gave me a free hot-dog, which cheered me up. From the outskirts of Lancaster, we came in across the mini Millennium bridge, and then cycled another 30 miles partly along Lancaster Canal. We were surprised to see no locks. We arrived at Arnside, and took the train to Ulverston, and cycled looking for B&Bs. Right now, after dinner, I'm sitting here as I'm too full to move, and that was today.

30 July, Day 26, 50 miles from Rampside to St Bees
We cycled into Barrow-in-Furness, to the Dock Museum. It was closed so we went to see two warships being refuelled, and get a coffee before cycling back. The museum was really good. It had a dock section, and a history of Barrow section. There was so much, so many ship models and pictures.

Cycling on, we came to our first proper hill in ages! Thank God, in a way. It felt quite big, but that's probably because we weren't used to it any more. The view at the top was amazing and we didn't feel the cold, and the downhill was even better: it was a really good one, not too steep or gravelly, so we didn't need to brake and we whizzed down it.

31 July, 'Toothy Day,' 56 miles from St Bees to Wetheral
A luxury today: we had a lie-in before cycling to the local priory church for tea and cakes. Our first stop was in Workington at a café where we had Eggs Benedict. I was allowed it, because Dad said it had been ages since I'd had egg. That was second breakfast. Heading on, at literally every junction, Dad had to stop to check the map for directions - rather annoying. We got on a very nice piece of road before I realised my tooth was coming out. Surprisingly, it came out in only one day. It's not much, but it is sort of special to have a tooth come out on this trip, I suppose. Dad and I had a race which I won, but both of us managed to achieve 30 miles/hour on the flat! That's Tour de France average speed. Anyway, we finally arrived at Wetheral through Carlisle, and tomorrow is a free day.

2 August, Rainy day 29, 30 miles from Wetheral to Kirkcudbright
About the tooth fairy: I got five pounds! That's the most I think anyone I know has got. I expect it's because I'm on this trip. As it was raining, we took the train to Dumfries. Unfortunately, Dad told me that it would be raining for the rest of the week, and for most of Scotland there won't be a train on our route (uh-oh). As the train took us 40 miles and we only had 30 miles to cycle, we followed the National Cycle Route 7. It surprised us as it's the only NCR that hasn't taken us on a bad track.

We cycled 19 miles before we rested. I was mucky and soaked from the rain. We stopped at a café called The Mad Hatter in Castle Douglas. Back outside, it was raining very lightly, but as my gloves and buff were uncomfortable I decided to swap to fingered gloves and a new buff. We set off, and eventually the rain began to get really heavy. It was belting down and it hurt when it hit us, but we just had to cycle on.

We came to Threave House and Gardens, and cycled up to the entrance. This is really a story Dad should tell: we're about to park our bikes under a shelter as it's raining, but a man comes out and says to park them in some proper bike place with lock-up loops. Dad asks if it's under shelter; the man, called Neill, says No, so we ask if we can lock them up under the shelter in no-one's way The man says No, so Dad gets angry and we leave, and that's pretty much it.

After that episode, we continued with the horrible rain and finally arrived at Kirkcudbright. Dad's phone is acting funny and not working at all now but we can use my phone. If we get some rice, we're hoping to get rid of the water in the phone. Our host Kenny has left to do a little babysitting for a six year old, and we'll see him tomorrow, but that's it for our proper rainy day.

3 August, 25 miles, Newton Stewart to Port William
After breakfast, we waited a bit as it was raining. Kenny and Dad chatted while I read. After seconds of hot chocolate, Kenny kindly offered to take us from Kirkcudbright to Newton Stewart in his dad's borrowed van because of the rain. We took him up on the offer, and skipped 25 miles – yay - I was happy about that. It was 'Support Vehicle Day.' We put on rain proofs and extra gloves for me as we could see lots of rain clouds along the way. We weren't wrong to do that. Soon it was raining heavily in short, harsh downpours, but eventually we got to a nice café in Wigtown with loads of books inside and a seating area at the back, and shared a nice salmon pie.

Our next town was Withorn where we had another tea and Victorian cake, also Scottish crumpets which are like our ones but squashed flat like a pancake. After that, Dad took a detour of the town and we found a St Johns filling station and car repair which we both thought was worth a mention. We had a race on the way to Port William, and I won all of it apart from the free-wheel downhill.

St Johns filling station and car repair, Withorn. 
Blog comment from Alex: 
This might be my favourite photo so far: 
funny, weird and depressing all at the same time! 

We made it to Port William and photographed a random statue of a fisherman we know nothing about. As we could see the rain coming in from the sea, we quickly cycled to literally the end house of Port William to our B&B. For dinner we went to a burger bar called The Streetery. The couple running it are really nice and are travellers.

Lewis and Dwight on the sea-front, and 
'A Fisherman' by Andrew Brown, 1999 

4 August, Day 31, 37 miles from Port William to Pinwherry, Over Half Way

Today was a short day and our only stop was at Barhill, 33 miles from Port William, and there we bought a packet of sherbet lemons and a small circular pie each, so not much for lunch.

5 August, 57 miles from Pinhwerry to Isle of Arran, Disaster!

We cycled 18 miles and got to Culzean Castle, actually pronounced Calaine, so it seems like a weird spelling. Inside was big, and we waited till 11 for a one-hour tour. It has a massive armoury with over 700 pistols!

Next was the disaster. We were going up the hill and I was on my lowest gear but my bike gear changer felt like it could be pushed down, so foolishly I did, as it never lets me push it if I'm in my lowest gear. So... my derailer was raised to be above the chain rings and got caught in the spokes!

We stopped, and Dad told me to stand somewhere else while he bent back the derailer. He forced it back although the stopper has fallen off, meaning the chain is loose but still just functional. The thing is: I can ride, and we managed to go on. Dad was still a bit annoyed but able to laugh. We went to two bike shops along the way but they couldn't do the stuff we needed. We got to our ferry place and waited an hour for it to get to Ardrossan. It was one of those big ferries for taking lots of cars and trucks. We put our bikes in a bike shelter there and walked to the main floor. It was too foggy to see out the windows. In Arran, we only had to cycle up the road to our B&B.

6 August, Day 33, 28 miles from Arran to Tarbert

We set off late, as we fiddled with the bike and took stuff apart, and while Dad did things on his phone I played with the rabbit outside our B&B. We cycled only 2 miles to Brodick Castle across the bay. Inside was like any other castle apart from how many deer heads there were hanging up: there were loads. We had a quick look through, and Dad took a few photos even though you weren't allowed. In a kid playroom, we saw a special piggy bank which is a man who drops the coin into a purse.

We waited in the café for the rain to pass, but then gave up and cycled in the rain instead. It was light, but when we got to our only hill for the day, which wasn't very big anyway, it was raining heavily enough so that when I stuck out my tongue, it actually gave me water and didn't just make it dry. Halfway up the hill the rain stopped, and I made it up in my 4 and 5 gear, surprisingly. We came over the hill and down the other side and saw the ferry straight ahead; that was lucky, as we came just on time.

On the other side, we were both feeling really hungry when we remembered we had a wrapped-up sausage. We had half a sausage each and a sherbet lemon to keep us going to Tarbert. We got there after about 12 miles and had a late, thankful lunch. Our place for the night is the same as our pub lunch. We went for a walk and saw some fishing ships which Dad was extremely interested in, so we went to look at those before we walked back to the hotel. Then, as Dad wanted an ice-cream, I got him one, walking through the rain to get it.

Ed: I'll include the second half of the Woods' journey in the next issue. You can see more on their blog, and read about Wanstead Park on the website, .

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