Monday, 8 August 2016

London to Devon

This summer holidays I am between jobs and houses and I wanted an adventure that was fun but not overly challenging.  My bike had been getting fixed for several months following a nasty crash on a commute home from work back in Easter and was finally ready to ride at the end of July, by which time I was in Devon with family. I decided to get the train up to London town to pick it up and then ride back, taking the scenic route.

My first afternoon ride luckily coincided with the Prudential Ride London in Surrey and it was so exciting seeing the pros whizz past on their way through Dorking and up Box Hill. I wound my way out of the grasp of London, through Sutton, over the Epsom downs...

 ...and stayed at the base of Leith hill in the lovely campsite run by Etherley Farm.  After a chilly night I was on my way to Cranleigh and then followed the Down's Link up to Guildford. Gorgeous views from high over Guildford and then a pretty damp ride on to New Alresford where I stayed at the lovely Bell Inn.

The next morning I enjoyed my stop off in Winchester...

 and once I'd made it to the correct ferry terminal in Southampton, made the trip over to Hayes. Big headwinds across the New Forest, but I enjoyed a loo stop in pretty Beaulieu,

 a drink in Brokenhurst and the endurance test of the ride against the wind (and sand) along the sea front from Christchurch, through Bournemouth and Poole and onto the Ferry at Sandbanks. I stayed in Studland for the night and was so glad to be beside the sea despite the ongoing drizzle.

The next day, things started to get really good.

Big climbs, lovely views, fast descents and glorious sunshine.

From Hardy's monument

Little roads all the way around Dorchester and into Charmouth where I camped for the night.

An early rise meant that I got the best of Lyme Regis before the tourists...

 ...had conquered the rolling hills of East Devon and was back at my brother's by mid day for a cup of tea. Hurrah.

An estimation of my route (created on Strava after the ride) is here and here.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Salzburg to Prague with Rose

My last week I spent cycling with my friend Rose. We've travelled a lot over the years so it was a real treat to reunite and explore Austria and the Czech Republic together.

I had marked my arrival in Salzburg by listening to (and singing along with) the entire Sound of Music soundtrack and then staying in a hostel where they showed the whole film every night. Wonderful! Rose flew in from London to much excitement from me! We enjoyed a bit of sightseeing in Salzburg before we set off north up the Salzach river. The sun was finally out after a week of rain and we enjoyed the river riding along the Austrian/German border. We found a perfect campsite off the beaten track but on the banks of a perfect lake for a post ride swim, beer, dinner and sunset. 

Salzburg sights

The sound of music fountain

The cows of Salzburg

Ready to set off

Salzach river sights

Our first camp spot. We had a super swim here.

Dinner time

Campsite sunset

Continuing along the river Inn, we kept crossing between Germany and Austria, enjoying the pretty multicoloured towns (including Hitler's home town, Branau am Inn) - completely different to anything I'd seen before. Eventually we reached Passau where we followed the mighty Danube down to Linz. It was super cycling along great paths right next to the river and including two ferry crossings which were good fun too! 

Regular crossings between Austria and Germany

Multicoloured German towns

Views over the river Inn

Great signposting all the way

Rose's drying system

Morning river views

Geeky glasses

Dreamy camp spot by the Danube

Our set up

Views over the Danube 


After Linz we had a climb up onto the hills which lie between Austria and the Czech Republic. It was worth the effort as we were rewarded with dreamy cycling along empty roads, through quiet villages and with big views across fields and forests.  

The climb out of Linz

Open roads just for us

Austrian villages

The crossing into the Czech Republic was an exciting moment as we weren't quite sure what to expect in terms of language, accommodation or cycle routes! From Vyssi Brod we followed the Vltava River through Cesky Crumlov and north towards Prague. The cycle route was surprisingly well signposted and very varied- definitely did not just follow the river! We went in and out of the valley, through forests along tracks, on quiet roads through villages and along the tops of hills with big views of agricultural areas. 

The border

Cesky Krumlov

Exploring the town

Big views and open roads

Brilliant cycle paths along the Vltava 

A lunch spot 

Variable quality of sign posting in the Czech Republic

An evening ride

In the end we decided to stop in Pisek and enjoy some time off. Both of us had enjoyed a summer packed full of activity and thought some down time might be a good thing before we got back to real life at home. We spent the morning river swimming before travelling by train to Prague where we stayed one night and left the next day. 

River swimming in the morning

Lying on the ground to see the cathedral in the evening

The box I persuaded a bike shop to give me...

...attached to my bike....

...travelling with me around Prague and along the river to take the scenic route to the airport...

...and with my bike inside it ready to get on the plane!

Finished route
I lost my pink pen along the way! 

I've been really sad to stop cycling. I felt like I could have gone on forever! But I am so fortunate that being a teacher gives me lots of opportunities for more adventures. Watch this space for (less regular!) updates on future trips- I have a lot of ideas of places I'd like to go! Exploring places by bike has been one of my favourite things I have ever done in my life and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to do so. Hopefully there will be lots more in the future, but for now it's time to go back to school! 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Verona to Salzburg

I I left Dad in Verona a week ago in the 40 degree heat and headed straight into the clouds and rain which has stayed with me since. Nevertheless I've loved being in the mountains again and have enjoyed the peaks and the valleys which are apparently stunning rain or shine! 

I found a cycle path almost immediately upon leaving Verona and have stayed on it almost all the way to Salzburg! What great provision they have here...quite different to home! I headed north from Verona and followed the Adige river through a huge valley and along a very popular route. I was hoping to turn right off the path and head over the mountains to Cortina but the forecast was for storms and continuous rain so my safety gauge kicked in and I reluctantly decided to stay in the valley. This did mean however that I visited some super places en route and achieved big distances as it was all so flat.  Verona, Rovereto and Trento.

First sights of the Dolomites

Cycling by vineyards

The weather forecast that persuaded me to stay in the valleys.

Noticing the storm approaching and cycling super fast to try to beat it. I was unsuccessful but survived my ride through thunder, lightening and torrential rain! 

As I got closer to the Austrian border I began to gain height and due to such gradual inclines spent two whole days pedalling up hill. By the time I reached Brixen, which is officially still in Italy, it was very clear that I was close to the Austrian border as I enjoyed sausage and beer for dinner and apple strudel for breakfast! The final climb before heading down, over the border and into Lienz was just beautiful and all one could hope for in the mountains in this part of the world. I had to keep stopping to take it all in. As long as you don't mind a bit of climbing, this part of Eurovelo 7 comes highly recommended. Really well sign posted, great cycle paths and minor roads and super scenery.





The clue that I was near to Austria

After Lienz the mountain pull was too strong for more valley riding so I decided to take the famous Glossgrockner road on my way to Salzburg. Described in my Loney Planet guide as 'a stupendous feat of 1930s engineering' it really was quite an experience. The road is 48km long and has 36 switchbacks. Pretty steep in sections- an average incline of 12% but several sections at 14%. It was a long, hot and sweaty climb up to the first high pass before crossing through a short tunnel to the other side of the mountain where I was enveloped in cloud, rain and cold! After the first high pass you lose some height before climbing again to the second pass. This section and the final descent for me was all in heavy rain and I feared I would die of hypothermia on the mountain side despite wearing as many layers as I could find in my bags! It's funny how quickly things change in the mountains though. I came across a cafe and stumbled in still shivering just as the sun came out. I gradually defrosted while I drank a cup of tea and then was rewarded with a super sunny ride through a valley to my next destination- Zell am See. 

Heiligenblut- the beginning of the Grossglockner road 

Valley views on the ascent

The valley I climbed through 

An example of some of the switch backs

This bike had a dad on the front and two kids on the back- shouting with excitement on the way down the mountain. What a great Dad!

The first high pass

Second high pass

Defrosting and drying out socks and shoes 

Sunny valley on the way to Zell am See 

From Zell am See more valley riding (accompanied by the Sound of Music soundtrack) took me into Salzburg to meet my friend Rose. I'm spending my final week cycling with her before we both head home and begin the new term in school!

The lake at Zell am See

Valley riding

River following

And up to date route...

One week to go!