A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

Archive for the ‘Travelling around’ Category

I’ve been somewhere else…


Posted by Alan on August 9, 2011

Megadock, originally uploaded by Alan Perryman.

The new huge dock by Southwark tube has partly opened – the first tranche of docks are round the back of the station.

On Thursday my key will be 1 year old and auto-expire. Been a good year – I still haven’t got Victoria to Liverpool St down to sub-20 minutes, but I’m starting to think that’s down to my obedience at red lights! Think I’ll probably renew, £45 for a year is much better value than I would ever get at a gym…

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Posted by Alan on August 5, 2011

I’m a day off today, which has given me the chance to catch up on some bits and pieces and lounge round the house. This meant I followed up on an email from TfL, telling me about the joy of Skyride. Being a bit of a leftie liberal, I did think twice about whether I should sign up for something so overtly connected with Sky but the centrist me me said ‘meh’, it might be a nice bike ride – there’ll be no cars on the road! On signing up you get presented with this survey, to ‘help them organise their events’:

Skyride Survey

‘Some cyclists thing they own the roads and are a danger to other traffic’?
Really now? Spot the question written by the non-cyclist!

Yes cyclists can be a danger to pedestrians (less to then motorised vehicles, obviously) but the majority of the time anything stupid one does puts the cyclist at risk rather than the ‘traffic’. 13st of me versus a 1 tonne car is not a contest I’m likely to win. I wonder what outcome the researcher is actually trying to get to from that question…

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Tyne Cycle Tunnel

Posted by Alan on June 29, 2011

Slightly off the c2c trail came something I’ve wanted to visit for literally, weeks. Oh yes, the internet is a wonderful place! Joining the north and south banks of the Tyne is a genuine piece of proper cycling infrastructure – the Tyne pedestrian & cycle tunnel.


Going down... or up!

Traffic is segregated allowing a safe passage for both walkers and cyclists, as well as allowing cyclists a short burst of speed.



It’s only a few hundred metres long below ground, but it is nice!


At speed

The escalators at either end are able to cope with both bikes and people.



With London now home to a tunnelling academy, any chance they could build a ‘practice tunnel’ for pedestrians and cyclists?


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coast 2 coast

Posted by Alan on June 27, 2011


The hills are alive...

 So yes, I completed the coast 2 coast run, bar about 2 metres on the route where I pushed to let a van past! It was pretty epic adventure of which I will get round to writing more of, but for now the “essential” statistics:

c2c stats
odom moving time average mph day mileage day moving day km Journey
Day 0 6.48 00:49:03 7.9 6.48 00:49:03 10.37 Whitehaven – Tarn Flatts
Day 1 53 06:36:00 8 46.52 05:46:57 74.43 Tarn Flatts – Whitehaven – Keswick – Skiddaw
Day 2 101 12:19:00 8.2 48 05:43:00 76.80 Skiddaw – Hartside – Alston
Day 3 133 16:16:00 8.2 32 03:57:00 51.20 Alston – Nenthad – Rookthorpe – Edmundbyers
Day 4 182 21:30:00 8.5 49 05:14:00 78.40 Edmundbyers – Derwent Water – Shotley Bridge – Tynemouth – Newcastle via Jarrow
Add on phone distances
Day 0 4.38 Flat – station, Liverpool St – Euston
Day 5 14.55 Newcastle YHA – Newcastle Stn, Alnmouth Stn – Alnwick, Alnwich – Alnmouth, Kings Cross Stn – Liverpool St Stn, Stn – Flat
Total mileage
Total km 321.49

200 miles in a week – just to make sure, I did 2.5 miles on Friday 24th as well! That’ll do nicely… what next?

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Not quite London to Brighton

Posted by Alan on June 14, 2011

This weekend I attempted my longest bike ride yet, the target a pint of Darkstar’s finest at the Evening Star. This was always going to be a challenge and sadly I gave in 15 miles short in Haywards Heath. But not without some adventure and some lovely Southern scenery. Heading out from home the first stop was Crystal Palace, 17 miles down the road from home.

Crystal Palace

It's that tele mast again

A short pause for a quick snack and drink before an excellent run down the other side of the hill.  At this point I wasn’t following a route map, just trying to point in vaguely the right direction. This was probably a mistake! Seeing signs for Bromley and Beckenham I turned westwards and ended up on the edge of Croydon near Selhurst. Not something I really wanted – Croydon is a very motorised place, fully of dual carriageways and car parks. This diversion easily added 2 miles compared with the route I could have taken by heading towards Beckenham. Oops. Eventually I fell out of the urban sprawl and onto country roads.

Frylands Wood, New Addington

Frylands Wood, New Addington

The next pit stop at around 27.5 miles was a pub called the ‘White Bear’. It looked pretty good – a reasonable selection of ale, busy but not uncomfortable and the food looked fine. Some of the reviews online are less positive and it was £2 for a blackcurrent and soda – daylight robbery! Still, an ample chance to sit and take on board more liquid before heading southwards again. Unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to work my new gps toy properly yet – so ‘mile 27’ apparently took 44 minutes to complete…

So here comes the ranty bit.  In my planning I’d looked up a couple of routes, using CycleStreets and Sustrans. I really don’t know why I bother with the latter – I’m more and more convinced each time I try a Sustrans route that it’s been designed for someone with a 4×4 and bike rack who likes a slow pedal at the weekend.

Muddy ditch

This is 'national cycle route 21'

NCN 21 is Sustrans London to Brighton route, or more specifically Greenwich to Brighton route. So perhaps you might expect that connecting two cities it is a well paved, waymarked route allowing comfortable progress of 10-15 miles per hour. I’m not exactly Chris Boardman after all. Sadly it isn’t. Just 100 metres after finding the route at the White Bear, it turned into a muddy ditch. Since destroying my pedals on the way to Southend (and possibly the other rides before that) my bike is currently out of action waiting new pedals and retirement in the north. This mean’s I have Ruth’s Trek road bike – it’s not designed for this and this slowed me right down to 5-8 mph.

Spot the sign

Spot the sign

The route is waymarked, but these are often small hidden dark coloured signs on dark trees. Admittedly not a great photo but if you can spot the sign good on you!

Sign in Context

Sign in Context

As soon as the next sign pointed onto another track, I gave up on NCN 21 and took to using maps and minor roads.  By Caterham (mile 32) I was getting ready for the next break – but instead I got held up, by a carnival! This 5 minute wait proved a useful little boost.

Caterham Carnival

Caterham Carnival

Just over 35 miles, the pit stop proper arrived – the Caterham viewpoint. It’s a great view with the M25 completely hidden from the top. You can still hear it though – in the distance, the South Downs and the next lot of challenges.

Caterham Viewpoint

Caterham Viewpoint

By this stage I had started to flag a bit – I’m not convinced I’ve got the diet right on a ride to provide the optimum level of energy. At mile 42 I found another pub to take on water, the Dog and Duck close to the village of Outwood. I was fast running out of afternoon and it started to become clear that I wouldn’t get to Brighton, at least, not if I wanted to get home at a sensible hour.  So I switched the target to beat 55 miles so that at least I’ve cycled further in a day than I’ve walked!


Ouse Valley Viaduct

The Ouse Valley Viaduct just outside Haywards Heath provided a last breathtaking scene, this time man made countryside as the road dips down just above the river before climbing into Haywards Heath itself. Arriving just after 6pm, it had taken me 8 hours to travel the 57.6 miles – with stops. According to the GPS thingy, a moving average of 10mph, with my actual moving time being just under 6 hours.

Onto a train by half 6 and back in London sometime around 1915 leaving time for one last photograph.

The Shard

Looking up - The Shard

It’s not long now until ‘the big one’ – the c2c ride from Whitehaven to Tynemouth. Our maximum distance per day is around 45 miles. Now it’s just the hills to worry about!

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Feeding a revolution

Posted by Alan on June 11, 2011

Having become rather engrossed in cycling in the last few weeks, I’ve missed out on all kinds of writing, including some about cycling. For a change, here’s a post about a highlight of our Paris trip: Versailles, specifically the palace. I can’t believe it’s been two months!

Feeding the revolution

Feeding the revolution / Let them eat ice cream

 About 40 minutes out of Paris on the RER train, it really isn’t Paris. Having learned a little of Versailles and it’s role in both French and world history, I don’t think I’d really seen any pictures before so the scale of the place was a bit of a shock. The gardens seem to go on for ever – actually in the shot below, the ‘official’ gardens (the bit you pay to get into) stop on the other side of the circular fountain pond in the middle of the photo. The long square lake is now outside of the grounds.

Down the garden - Versailles palace garden

Down the garden

Apart from being famed for being the home of many King Louis and where the blame for world war I was decided, it is home to some ‘musical fountains’. The musical bit is rather cheesy to be honest – recorded classical  music pumped through 3′ (1m) high speakers! I guess in the days of the French Kingdom, they were accompanied by live orchestra. Times have moved on, savings to be made etc etc.

Spinning water

Spinning water

The fountains themselves are very impressive.  All manner of shapes created just through spinning and adjusting water pressure, synchronised with the piped music.



Only one of the fountains runs all day – so you should probably plan a trip better than we did if you want to really make the most of it. Having arrived around lunchtime, we saw the huge queues for the palace and headed straight for the gardens. We’d pretty much arrived as they turned the fountains off a few hours! It did mean we could wander freely and get a chance to feel the scale of the gardens and by mid-afternoon we could easily get into the palace anyway – and come back to the fountains, knowing where the more impressive jets were likely to be. Each fountain is different and there are few hidden behind tall bushy hedges.

Marble arch

Marble arch - expensive stone carvings around a fountain

Having taken on the size of both the house and gardens, I could really empathise with the French revolutionaries – no bread, yet the King had musical fountains, vast tracts of land and gold everywhere.

Versailles Palace - Golden

Cash my gold!

The inside of the palace is just as ornate and golden. We didn’t bother with an audio guide which meant we missed some of the key information on which rooms were historically important – just guessing and appreciating whatever information we could take in. Still, it was well worth the trip out of Paris for and good to take in a different French atmosphere for a day.

Finally, a helpful tip – if you’re under 26 and an EU resident, the EU pays for a lot of these attractions and even where they don’t you usually get some kind of discount.

Posted in Buildings and Places, Travelling around | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Work in progress

Posted by Alan on June 2, 2011

Work in is progress, originally uploaded by Alan Perryman.

Ooh, I wonder if this is the first sign of the Southwark mega docking station…?

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100 miles

Posted by Alan on May 27, 2011

100 miles - a full week of cycling

I wasn’t going to bother posting this outside of Facebook until I added up the numbers. A fraction over 100 miles in a week – and only today, did I cycle all the way to and from work. The miles soon add up – no lycra was worn in the chewing up of those miles.

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Circling the East Midlands

Posted by Alan on May 23, 2011

This weekend I headed out of London into the East Midlands for some c2c training with one of my c2c tour mates. Having trekked up to Euston earlier in the week to book tickets I later discovered that I could have done that from home – East Coast (the nationalised one) will allow you to reserve a bike space, even if you aren’t using their services! Never mind, c2c tickets had to be booked anyway and it was really easy online!

Bike on train

Secured on the train

Reservations on some routes are essential – on this train there were just 2 cycle spaces for a 5 carriage train. Guestimating at around 65 seats per car,  that means 1 bicycle for every 162.5 people. So, I guess this bicycling lark better hadn’t take off then… There was even an electronic reservation sign, just like in the passenger solution.

Electronic reservation on East Midlands Trains


Our route took us through Northamptonshire, Rutland and Leicestershire. Starting at Kettering station, we went east round past Corby, north towards Oakham before curling back west towards Market Harborough, finally returning to Kettering some 42 miles (68.4km) later. There are a lot of pretty villages to pass through away from the main roads, which was nice.

Out in the country - a church and ornate wall

Out in the country

The run did prove that I am not ready for c2c yet. The hills were certainly a struggle and I was flagging a bit by mile 26 where we stopped to take on some water in a nice pub.  The maximum distance on c2c isn’t much further – but it is much more hilly. On the other hand, as we’ll set off in the morning we’re bound to stop for lunch somewhere halfway – by 35 miles in I think I had run of energy and after the sugar of a can of coke I was able to amble home, which should help matters. Any new bike will also be much lighter and in better fettle which could help.

So, a lot of exercise required in the next 4 weeks then! Adding on the transfers between Liverpool St and St Pancras and the short trip to my local station, I finished on 50.8 miles (81.2km) for the day.

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Lovely Cornwall

Posted by Alan on May 10, 2011

For the Easter bank holiday weekend I upped sticks with the masses and headed west, to Cornwall. I knew the train would be busy on Friday but I wasn’t quite expecting how busy!

Busy train!

Inside the 10.06 to Penzance

Having bagged the last unreserved bike space on the train (5 of 6 were pre-reserved – by the time I got off there were far more than 6 bikes in the compartment…) there was no way I was getting off until Bodmin. So standing it was for the 275 or so miles to Bodmin Parkway. I actually didn’t mind standing too much –  with my earphones on, some fizzy drink, fresh air from the opening windows and something to read it was bearable. Changing to a steam train here meant I could grab a cup of tea and a break for a few minutes rather than going straight into tackling the Cornish hills. From Bodmin town I could pickup the Camel Trail, one of the major Sustrans routes stretching the 20 miles down the Camel valley to Wadebridge and Padstow – a former railway, so well engineered with nice easy gradients. For the final section of journey from Wadebridge to Polzeath on the north coast I took to the road. This was harder than I imagined, with 4 fairly major climbs (for a city dweller anyway) as well as a very steep decent into Polzeath itself with the road covered in sand from the beach. (Shortly after I learned the art of configuring v-brakes). Here I spotted an unusual use of an underground roundel.

On Saturday there was more cycling, as with my extended family who I was visiting we took to the Camel Trail – this time a section I hadn’t used the day before from Wadebridge to Padstow, from where I saw the crazy idea that is paddle surfing…

Paddle surfer!

Paddle surfer! - there were loads of them!

At the end of the trail is Rick Stein’s fish & chip shop, which was pretty fabulous.

Haddock & Chips

Haddock & Chips at Rick Stein's

Following a walk round the harbour and amble around the lovely surroundings of Padstow (well worth a look), it was time to hit the trail and head home. Later that night I wandered round the coast – Cornwall is so lovely, I am very gutted I couldn’t fit my D-SLR in the panniers! The Kodak tried it’s best to capture it’s loveliness…

A lovely day for speed boating!

A lovely day for speed boating! - Daymler bay

Padstow / Daymler bay is the Camel estuary and used by many speedboats. Too soon, Sunday came and it was time to head home. With a train reserved at half 2 from Bodmin (no way I was standing all the way home too!) I set of reasonably early so as not to rush too much. Instead of taking the mental road route back to Wadebridge, I opted for the gentle road down to Rock (home of Sharp’s brewery and many many posh people) to take the ferry to Padstow.

It's a lovely day for boating

It's a lovely day for bike-boating

This is great facility available for cyclists to use as the Camel Trail starts just on the other side of Padstow. Just £3 for a single trip across the river. It’s a tidal estuary, but on a lovely day it isn’t at all choppy.

A lovely day for boating

A lovely day for boating (yes enough boating already)

With plenty of other traffic to avoid, the ferry nips across the water as quickly as possible.  All too soon, I was back on dry land on the quay at Padstow and almost ready to pick up the trail again. This meant easy cycling for the 12 or so miles back to Bodmin town which was really appreciated. Particularly with full panniers weighing me down somewhat… From Bodmin town to the Parkway station was more challenging. A proper new Sustrans route, this meant sudden turns, hairpin bends and a general feeling of “am I going the right way?” The early (ish) start meant I had missed the trail traffic and landed myself in the Parkway café for a pasty and brew. The UK must be the only country in the world to use a teacup/saucer to indicate a buffet!

Cornish Pasty!

Cornish Pasty!

Sadly I did not get a cream tea before I left Cornwall. Woe is me. An excellent adventure for me and particularly one where I felt I had to use the bike – I was visiting relatives who were also on holiday. North Cornwall isn’t famous for it’s public transport and whilst I did see a few dinky buses plying the slopes of the coastal towns and villages, I can’t imagine they would be much quicker or convenient. After all, my bike is powered by pasties…

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