Author: sallymckenzieblog

Riding towards Stratford, The Gunpowder Plot Church

Got up nice and early and was on the road shortly after 8:30.  I had plotted a fairly ambitious route, mostly on quiet side roads towards Stratford-upon-Avon.  I packed a few extra things in case I got there and didn’t feel like riding back later.

Colin had warned me that the town is very touristy – mostly busses full of Japanese and Americans, so I wasn’t intending on seeing that much other than maybe Anne Hathaway’s house (and garden) and perhaps the canal.

The first part of the route was on kind of busy roads, at least until I was almost in Crowle where it turned off and went along the same road as the church tour I did last week.  At one point I had to ride for a bit along the A44 which was very busy. The GPS indicated that I wasn’t to turn off for 11 km and I almost stopped and turned around – just as I was thinking that, there was a road that veered slightly to the right.  Luckily that was the road I was meant to follow and was I ever glad to be off the busy one.

AA996D87-DBC5-44F1-902E-8C071342CFFAThe quieter side road went thru Flyford Flavell and on past Radford.  There was a turn-off south that had a nice bench on the corner so I stopped for a minute.  I heard some voices coming from the east, and then a large group of walkers started to appear from around the hedge – there must have been about 20 of them in all.

I got back to riding and went another couple of km east before the clouds started looking more and more threatening.  The forecast hadn’t mentioned much rain but I decided against pushing on any further once the thunder started.

B3575C5A-BC41-4B1F-88A9-035B57CA068BAt one farm along the road there was a little booth that had eggs in cartons of 6 with a sign that indicated they were 1 pound each – the honour system still works in some places.  The place next-door had a ‘cattery’ – not sure what that is.

Back on the road from last week I was again in the ‘village’ of Huddington, which was where I couldn’t find the church before.  I took a right-hand turn that I thought might lead into the village but it really only went past a few houses and then ended. There was an older man with a large black lab (Charlie) and he asked me (the man, not the dog) if I was looking for something as I slowed down beside them.

I asked if there was an old church around there somewhere and he responded ‘oh – that would be on my property’.  We started chatting and, as is usual when he heard my accent (or – lack of, as I think of it) he asked where I was from.  When I told him Canada he asked what part so, as usual, I said Vancouver. Then he told me that he had lived there for many years and thinks it’s a beautiful city – he had been a doctor at Lion’s Gate hospital!

E346C0FC-3650-4AD7-AF9C-7A5B08BC5AAFAs we chatted we were walking to his property, which was across the road.  It’s a large estate with a very old ‘manor house’ and the church off to one side.  He told me to go ahead and lean my bike up on a nearby tree and cut across the lawn to the church gate.

474229A3-421A-4418-B81E-5BA63B3E88E9He noticed that the lights inside the church were on and said that there may or may not be anyone inside, but if it was open I could go on in.  Just as I was about to walk over he mentioned that the church was involved in the ‘gunpowder plot’.

9A0D75D4-AB84-47E7-85A4-8A53368E0185There was someone inside – a lady that was doing a little cleaning.  She also mentioned the gunpowder plot, then said she was leaving, and asked if I could please turn off the lights and shut the door when I left.  She also mentioned that the church picnic is on Saturday afternoon and I was welcome to join them if I wish.

2E85FCB4-6799-40B3-B674-4B3E54ABD87DI spent a little while inside – there are some very old-looking stained glass windows as well as large stone inscriptions.  It was very peaceful and quiet, although the whole place could use a bit of airing out, as it smelled pretty musty.

309757FD-D446-49D3-B602-930BA57E45CBI knew my way home from there so ignored the GPS and headed for the canal.  

91DEE4A6-4EB3-4464-9855-ABC517B76AE8I got home in time to watch most of the day’s Tour – very exciting day, ending on La Rosiere, where Colin and I had seen a day of the Criterium.  One sad thing, though, is that a lot of the sprinters, including Cavendish, didn’t make the time cut.

Worcester Stands Tall

Rode down into the city centre via Tolladine Road – not quite as scary as I expected and I made it down unscathed.  

There’s a large herd of giraffes in the downtown core – it’s a community project with various artists, clubs, groups and schools decorating statues, large and small.  It’s called the ‘Worcester Stands Tall’ project and they’re just beautiful – children especially like the small ones.

I made an appointment for Friday, and visited Holland and Barrett – they’ve been emailing me almost every day since last August so I figured I might as well pop in and pick up a couple of things.

OK – the last one is a painting on a wall at a park on the canal – but it goes with the theme…I believe there are 30 sculptures and I located around 23 of them – seven more hiding somewhere waiting to be found.

Rode up the canal back home – quite a bit further distance, but much easier on the nerves.


Fixed Flat and Footie Final

4F5DA4E5-67A1-4FF2-ABB7-498276C35C42Once Philip (Lyn’s husband) returned from his walk on the canal, where he feeds the ducks, he managed to stuff my bike in the back of his car, with Lyn’s direction, then drove me down to Halford’s to get the tube replaced.  Their bike repair shop is on the second floor, which seemed a bit odd to me since you have to lug the bike up the stairs, but there was no waiting line or anything. After hefting the bike with full gear up and down stairs in various train stations in Italy last year this seemed like a piece cake.

I had called from Lyn’s before I went down – they don’t take appointments, and they prefer to only install products that they sell in their store, but she said to come down and they’d have a look.  It ended up being no problem to use the tube I’d brought from home, and it took him no time at all to change it. I watched as he did it, and I’m sure I could have done it myself – it had been such a chore to put the wheel back on last year when I first arrived and pulled the bike out of the box, but this was really simple.

There was a thorn stuck right thru the tire – he had to pull it out with needle-nose pliers.  I bot another tube to have as an extra, and am taking home the punctured one to see if I can patch it.

I’m glad I got that done in the morning as it clouded over and just poured rain most of the afternoon and evening – apparently the first real rain they’ve had here in weeks.  All of the lawns and gardens should be happy for it, and hopefully it’ll also cool things down a bit – riding when it’s over 30 degrees isn’t that pleasant.

FB91D128-7D3F-43D7-B7B3-C367BD50FB2CThe next day I rode to the pub to watch the England/Belgium game for 3rd place – it wasn’t nearly as crowded as the other day when England got beaten by Croatia, but there was still a good number of folks there – once again they left disappointed.

I went home and started feeling a little sorry for myself – no one cares where I am or what I’m doing – poor little me!  Of course that’s not quite true, but I was feeling down. Then I got a really nice newsy message from Marge, and exchanged a couple of short messages with Bob.

1FE19AA4-C751-4FDC-ADE3-BF099E1E53CBThis morning I slept in later than I have in ages – being slightly depressed makes me tired, I guess, as does staying up late reading.  I really enjoyed watching the day’s stage of the Tour – it had 15 cobble sections and was very difficult. I was very happy with the result, with the exception that Richie Porte had to withdraw – I believe he broke his collarbone when he fell.

B49313AB-F6E0-4AFF-8678-8EACFA6A97E1I rode back to the bar to watch the World Cup final – not many folks watching the game at all – after sitting on the stairs for Wednesday’s game because it was so crowded I had my pick of tables to watch from.  I was kind of cheering for Croatia since they’ve never won before and were the heavy underdogs, but I’m just as happy that France won. I can imagine that the Penalty Bar in Mansle was going crazy.

I rode by the orchard on my way home – still nice and peaceful.BE50C1D8-9A18-47B0-804F-AC691CA810FD


Towers and Spires and a Flat Tire

Got going nice and early in the morning on my ‘Towers and Spires’ bike ride based on the brochure Lyn gave me several days ago.  The entire route cover 12 churches on a 42-mile circuit, but I’m only planning on doing the northeast part.

98C6F5C2-6DA7-4B7B-BB30-986349F51734I rode first to the canal (of course) and left it at Dunhampstead, where I took the road southeast.  There’s not much traffic on the road and it’s nice and smooth, and winds past lots of trees and hay fields.  There was supposed to be a church at Huddington but I couldn’t find any signs or see any spires so I continued on to Grafton Flyford.

You have to go a few km up another side road to get there, but at least they had signs so I managed to find the church.  It has a late medieval timber bell frame and apparently there are two recently restored 16th-century paintings showing the symbols of St. Mark and St. John, although the door was locked so I couldn’t take a peek at them.

I back-tracked to the ‘main’ road and headed northeast past Stock Green and on to Bradley Green.  Just as I was turning onto the church road (again, good signage) there was a local cycling club going for a ride in the other direction – there must have been 15 or 20 of them and they said hi to me as I turned down the lane.

3EF46CC7-B90D-427A-BD88-B3495D426FC0Same as the church at Grafton Flyford this one is dedicated to St. John the Baptist.  It’s a Victorian successor to an earlier medieval chapel, and has the ‘Bromsgrove Guild’ west rose window which is the memorial to the men of the parish killed in the First Word War.

When leaving the church I took a moment to visit the cows in the field next door – the farmer had delivered a load of hay to them while I was walking around the church.    

53FE9B5A-CFD8-4701-94E3-3850E2E3A97FThe cows were several different colours, and there were some really cute babies, as well as some young bulls.  Some of them looked at me like they might run over – maybe they thought I had another load of hay for them.

I back-tracked a bit again so that instead of going all the way north and then west to see Hanbury Church I cut across and went west and a bit south to Himbleton.  Partway along there was another road that joined it – there was water running over the side road, and a sign that said ‘slippery’. I walked the bike down to take a photo and the whole road was covered in algae – I guess it’s almost always under water for some reason.  It seems like maybe they could use a bridge or something.

DFBECBEA-462C-431F-93E6-2605FB445105When I reached Himbleton I took a short ride up the wrong hill but then I got my bearings and found the sign down a side lane to the church, which is dedicated to St. Mary Magdeline.

D4B6E2D6-3725-431E-8EF2-5A82B26A8439When I went to leave the church I noticed that my front tire was a bit low – it had gone very low several days ago after sitting in the sun for a couple of days when I first got to Worcester, but after pumping it up it seemed ok.  As long as I topped it up a bit with air every day I’d had no problem riding on the trails or up/down the canal.

I pumped the tire up before leaving the churchyard and made it back to the canal and just past Tibberton when I noticed that it had now gone completely flat.  I was right near the lock that has the house at it, so coasted there are pulled off the path. The man that lives in the house came up and asked if I wanted to use his pump, but it wouldn’t have made any difference.  Even tho I had tools and a spare inner tube in my pannier I didn’t want to try changing it in case I did something wrong, so I just tried inflating it again and got back on.

I barely got 100 metres and it was flat again, so I ended up walking the last 4 km or so back to the house.  Walking a bike that far sucks, but it was a lot better than having a flat at the mid-point of my ride in the middle of nowhere.  I had ridden just over 38 km when the flat occurred, so it could have been a much longer walk.


Pet Spider and Woosie Footies

I now have a pet spider.  Well – not exactly a pet, but we’re co-existing without killing each other (meaning – I haven’t squashed him).  I discovered him the other day when I propped open the inner front door so I could get a breeze blowing thru from the back.  I’m not sure where he is at this time, but as long as he doesn’t take me by surprise he stands a chance of continued life. He’s fairly large but not hairy – there’s another one in the kitchen catching small flies by the window, but it’s more like a skinny daddy-long-legs so doesn’t bother me.

74B16CBE-DFAA-4106-ADD7-E02F207E8534I went down to the pub to watch the England/Croatia game and it was, of course, a very animated atmosphere to begin with.  I was pretty happy when France had won their game, and I don’t mind Croatia, but I didn’t feel it would have been safe to cheer for them, so I went with the crowd.  As it was so packed I parked myself on the stairs below an older couple to watch – almost a front row seat, as long as I kept my feet out of the way of folks trying to squeeze by to the bar.  The festive atmosphere did, however, go downhill somewhat when Croatia scored their first goal, then their second. By the end of the extra time there were people actually crying – one young fellow had his head down on his crossed arms and was just sobbing.

F1460794-D770-4E47-8462-27457A159EEEI may have mentioned this before, but I would have been a lot more impressed, no matter who won, if there had been considerably less fake injuries and moaning and groaning on the ground.  I compare it to a cycling race – 5 or 6 hours of all-out racing, and someone wipes out – road rash from head to toe and blood everywhere. Does he cry and whine and want a penalty called before he’ll rise?  First of all it rarely turns out that he’s actually not hurt at all, and no – he doesn’t grab an ankle and pretend it’s broken – he gets back on his bike, blood and all, and continues riding. Soccer – sorry – football players are complete woosies and it’s quite disgraceful to watch them dive and whine – totally unprofessional.  But – once again I digress….maybe next time, England.951D3832-3A9E-4C70-99E1-87CAA444A0BA

Settling in – back on the canal

Had a couple of quiet days – rode north up the canal as far as Dunhampstead one day and south along it almost into the city centre another.  Visited the Lyppard Grange pub a couple of times for a pint – the first time I was there I didn’t see the pub cat, but when I asked about her was assured that Chips was still healthy and came around all the time.  Sure enough she did come over to my outside table on my second visit.

Did a bit of gardening in the backyard – borrowed Lyn’s hose so I could water all the bushes and weeds around the sides, then pulled the weeds the next day.  I also removed a lot of old, dead leaves from the palm-like plants, and yarded out a bunch of sticky viney-like things that Lyn pointed out to me. I remember a similar invasive one from my garden at home – it gave me an itchy rash for a bit, but that went away fairly quickly.

32D3B3D3-1198-4675-B485-7A7E5A9BAD21I watched a bit of the football game that France won, and the next day heard the England goals from outside the pub – it was so crowded inside I could hardly make my way to the bar to get my pint – even if I’d wanted to sit inside I couldn’t have found a seat.

628A4212-D8D3-4837-A033-BF04F1CD4C4BWatched the first stage of Tour de France – the downstairs tv, that gets hundreds of channels, kept telling me to ‘insert card’ for the channels that were showing the race (ITV4 and Eurosport).  I tried several ways to get it online to no avail, and ended up trying, as a last resort, the upstairs tv, that only gets about 15 channels. Eureka – ITV4 is up and running! I think I’ll get at least 5 hours a day, which is great – I can watch a bit, go for a ride, then still catch the last half.

B774B5AA-5D9C-4CA9-9D21-2EB12DEDC855There are a lot of different ways that folks enjoy the canal – walking, riding, fishing, boats.  And the boats can be very different from each other – some are ‘tourist boats’ that just take people on a day cruise, and others look like people live on them, maybe all year long – dogs and all.

640FD579-476B-4BD8-9F93-C138E43911B7When I was at the pub earlier today I asked the bartender if he could put the second stage of the race on when it started at noon and he said sure, so after sitting outside a bit I went inside.  He told me I could bring my bike right inside, and eventually got the volume up so I could also hear the race. There were several men at a nearby table and they started commenting on my bike, etc.  They were quite impressed that I was over here all the way from Canada.

I left partway through the day’s stage – there’s some sort of children’s festival going on in the parks and streets nearby – I watched part of a puppet play and it seemed to be very violent – the puppets were repeatedly hitting each other with sticks.  I’m not sure what kind of message they were sending but I didn’t care for it.

Back at home I watched the end of the day’s TDF stage – Peter Sagan not only won the stage, he’s currently the overall leader!  It likely won’t last long, but for now it’s great.


Long Ride, Off Course, Cheeky Seagull

Even tho I wasn’t uncomfortable I didn’t get much sleep, at least until about 4:30 in the morning.  The last couple of dreams I had involved waking up right as we docked in Poole, and having to madly rush trying to get all my stuff together.  When I did wake up and they were getting things ready for breakfast in the cafe I looked at the time on my ipad and it said it was 6:30 – only ½ hour to docking!  

I rushed to the washroom and did a super-quick sponge bath, brushed my teeth and combed my hair (getting pretty long now – ha ha).  By the time I settled down and thought about it I realized that I was still going by France time, and the ferry was scheduled to dock at 7:00 am England time which is one hour behind – no need to panic after all.

There was quite a lineup at the cafe and since I only wanted coffee I plunked a pound coin into a machine – it took the coin but didn’t give me my coffee.  The lady at the cafe told me to go to the information desk so I did – the person that handles refunds wasn’t there yet so I went outside to take a couple of photos.

A7520AFA-BC85-4BC3-B25A-4F27D7565B80By the time I went back in the refund lady was there and didn’t ask any questions – I presume the machine eats a lot of coins.  I didn’t want to risk losing another battle with the machine so I stood in line at the cafe and got a large black coffee. I grabbed several little creams, then added the last packet of honey that I’d taken from the hotel breakfast yesterday.  I put the coffee in my metal water bottle to keep it hot and ate the package of dried bread that I’d also filched from the hotel in Mortain.

E4DD33FA-597E-4797-9D09-7F6D8D4532BBAfter my delicious breakfast (not!!) I went out on deck again – the coast as we neared Poole is very pretty, with white cliffs similar to Dover but not quite so high.  

ABDDAA24-753E-497D-857D-9545217C28D1I was the first passenger down to the car deck and got the bike loaded up. The older couple arrived shortly after, but the younger fellow that also had a bike hadn’t shown up by the time we disembarked.

My GPS led me rather well to the start of my programmed route but then seemed to lose me a couple of times.  I asked directions from a very nice man on a bike, and the GPS found me again – it led me out of the city along some very nice cycling/walking paths, then some quiet back roads to the town of Blandford.

5E48EFBA-72F2-40F3-85CD-82A36A164DB7As I was walking my bike across a pedestrian bridge an older gentleman said that he’d noticed my Cdn flag on my camera case and told me that his son and daughter-in-law live in Clearwater!  We chatted for a couple of minutes, then I continued on into the centre of town to get some cash from a machine and grab a cup of tea.

49FD60EC-92FE-42B6-A8EE-B6D4928E1DA3As I was finishing my tea the older gentleman passed by and we said hello again – I bought some nice cold water to fill up my other bottle, then was on my way again.  It took a couple of tries to get on the right road, and it was a pretty busy one. Most of the cars gave me a bit of room, or slowed down until it was safe to pass me, but a couple cut it pretty close – I could feel the breeze of their passing.

The GPS eventually led me onto a very quiet side road that went past fields with lots of sheep.  It started to rain, but wasn’t that cold unless I was going downhill. It almost seemed to be taking me in a circle, but did end up again on a more main road.  There was one point where the road diverged and one sign said Shaftsbury and the other Salisbury – the GPS didn’t seem too clear so I took the left road towards Shaftsbury.

After going down a fairly steep hill it suddenly indicated that I was ‘off course’ so I turned around and pedaled slowly back up and then took the right-hand road.  After going down that steep hill for a bit it indicated once again that I was off course! I ended up walking the bike back up to the junction, very frustrated, and took the left road again.

Of course, once I’d gone down a bit, I was – you guessed it – off course again!!  How can I be off course on both roads?? I turned the GPS off and just kept going, following the signs towards Shaftsbury.

After a bit I came across a pull-out with a couple of trucks and a car, and asked one fellow what the town I could see in the distance was.  He verified that it was Shaftsbury, but when I asked if there was a train station there he said no – I would have to go to Gillingham to get a train, but it wasn’t that much further.  He warned me to be careful on the way down ‘Zig Zag Hill’ and I’m glad I took his advice.

As it was almost all downhill the ride into Shaftsbury wasn’t too bad, and I followed the signs with no problem to the road that went to Gillingham.  I stopped at one point and asked for directions to the train station, which ended up being very easy to find.

The fellow at the station was very nice and checked out several different connections to find me the best and least expensive one.  I boarded only about 5 minutes later, and went to Salisbury, where I got on a second train after about 15 minutes going to Bristol. All of the train employees I encountered where extremely nice and helpful, which almost made up for how expensive the ticket was compared to the trains in Italy.

I had to wait a bit in Bristol for the next train so took the time to grab a sandwich – as I was sitting on a bench next to the train track a seagull landed near me and seemed to be eyeing my food.  I could believe it when the cheeky thing actually hopped on the bench beside me and tried to grab the wrapper and fly away with my lunch!  I grabbed it back and the bird just sat there waiting for me to let my attention wander so he could have another go at it.  

Luckily this train was the last one for me today, as I had to stand beside my bike the whole journey because the area wasn’t large enough to get the bike into properly.  A couple of hours later I was in Worcester – tired but almost ‘home’.

I asked a taxi driver outside the station how to get to Tolladine Road and he said to just follow the alley that was straight ahead and I’d be there – turn right to go north.  He neglected to mention that at the end of the alley there was a very steep staircase down to the road, but I managed it without too much trouble.

Once I reached Colin’s house – the key worked this time! – I unloaded the paniers and my camera and headed directly to the store to get some food.  When I was back from stocking up I cooked some fresh pasta and sauce, and made a nice greek salad and chowed down – so good.

I was really, really tired – I had ridden over 65 km in all, with a fair amount of baggage – not that far for a ‘serious’ rider, but for me it was pretty good.  I’m kind of disappointed in myself that I didn’t try to go another day or two before hopping on a train, but overall feel good about today’s ride, and it’s great to be back in Worcester.