We started our travels this time by taking our tandem down South from Chester on the roofrack of our car.
Our friends Mac and Val live in Dean, not far from Salisbury and they kindly let us leave our car with them whilst we were away.
Travelling the lanes towards Southampton was lovely and it also provided a useful re-introduction to the experience of pedalling with a full load. Our other friends, Charles and Ute, who we haven’t seen for a few years, live in Southampton and they kindly hosted us for a stopover.
It was nice to catch up on all our news and it meant we were nicely rested before pedalling to Portsmouth to catch our ferry to Bilbao.
Our route took us down various Hampshire lanes looking lovely in the early Spring. We were able to follow various quiet roads and a surprising number of cyclepaths to reach Gosport and the Gosport Ferry – this route provided a much nicer way to reach the International Ferry Port in Portsmouth.
Here we are with our tandem on the ferry over to Portsmouth. Reputedly this is one of the shortest yet most expensive ferry services in the UK. £9.50 for two return tickets for a crossing of around 800 yards.
The iconic Spinnaker feature provides the landmark entry to Portsmouth harbour which is adjacent to the historic Naval Dockyard.
A short ride down the waterfront took us to the International Ferryport terminal and our waiting ferry to Spain.
It’s 2023 and we are off on an extended journey on our tandem again. Since we travelled before, Diana has decided to become Molly so in future posts, when I refer to Molly, it’s not a new partner… just a renamed wife!
This time it’s a European adventure starting in Portsmouth and a sea journey to Bilbao. The planned itinerary involves pedalling into France then a weaving route through southern France then up the Rhône valley to Lyon.
From there, we will be relieved of our tandem which will be looked after by Abi & Guy, Molly’s daughter and son in law, who are currently resident in France.
We will then be catching trains into Italy and a ferry to Albania where we will have further adventures without our tandem which we will detail in various posts we will make whilst on the move.
Coming back from Albania, we will then travel by train from Bari to Milan and meet up with Abi & Guy again in their motor home near the lakes in Northern Italy. We will then be re-united with our tandem.
After a few days with Abi & Guy we will then head for Paris by train with our tandem packed into two bags ready for our pedal journey from Paris to Caen in Northern France to catch the ferry back to Portsmouth.
Well – having spent a few days in Taranto we finally headed for home in the UK.
Our tandem conveniently dismantles and can be packed into two bags which can bre considered as luggage for rail journeys. We loaded our tandem (in bags) plus panniers and assorted other bags which were attached to our tandem onto the direct train to Milan from Taranto. We travelled all the way up the Eastern coast of Italy to reach Milan in time to catch the night train to Munich.
From Munich we travelled by train to Cologne to meet up with Brian Jones, Diana’s brother-in-law who lives in the Netherlands. At Cologne we timed our rendevous so precisely that when we emerged from Cologne station Brian had just parked his mini (!) in the drop off car park outside the station.
After about 15 minutes’ jigsaw puzzling we all fitted in plus our tandem and luggage and travelled to the Netherlands.
A couple of days later we followed motorways in the mini (loaded to capacity) through Belgium to reach Calais to catch the ferry to Dover.
Reaching Chester in late afternoon we unpacked the car and set everything out to marvel how much we had fitted in!
After 4 1/2 months travelling we were home again and reflecting on what a fantastic experience we both had.
We intend to update various parts of this website to show the equipment we used and also some usefu information to anyone who may be reading our blog who may be considering something similar, with tandem or solo bike. Hopefully the Christmas holiday will give us the time!
Thank you for following us and reading our blogs – we hope you enjoyed the journey as much as we have done!
We set out in the rain and a headwind from Beccles after a lovely 2 day stay with Nicky and Graham and headed for the first of two foot ferries to reach Harwich.
On the way we passed an amazing shop front in Halesworth carved out of solid wood.
Arriving in good time at the Felixstowe Ferry in the pouring rain we hailed our ferry by waving a big bat at the opposite shore.
The ferry duly arrived to pick us up plus tandem and luggage and once on the Felixstowe side we rang the Felixstowe/Harwich foot ferry to check all was well.
Mechanical breakdown meant that the ferry wasn’t operating till the following day…….. ho hum!
We had a choice of a further 35 miles down the estuary and then back up to Harwich….. or the train. Train it was because we had already cycled 53 mikes from Beccles! So we dismantled our tandem to catch a train to Ipswich…… then to Manningtree …. then to Harwich International. Our journey that by foot ferry would have taken 1/2 hour took us around 3 hours by train – at least we didn’t have to pedal!
We had a bit of an audience as we re-assembled our tandem in the passenger terminal before we boarded what should have been our third ferry of the day. After eating our dinner out of our travelling pots we settled down for a good night’s sleep in our cabin.
Barsham to Harwich ….54miles cycling …..plus around 40 miles by train. 415mtr climb.
Neil and Ann were great hosts for us through Warmshowers and provided us with a very welcome meal on our arrival.
Neil is an intrepid bike tourer, and following his early retirement he cycled from the Northernmost point of Alaska to the Southernmost point of Argentina – some 16,000 miles! Puts our 2,500 miles to Istanbul into some insignificance!
He and Anne got married in Shelton’s St. Mary’s Church just 1 mile away and we went to see it for ourselves. A very pretty country church with an interesting connection to Anne Boleyn. Apparently Princess Elizabeth (Later Queen Elizabeth 1) was sheltered in the church tower to keep her safe from those who wished her harm.
Today was a short ride into Suffolk to meet up with our good friends Nicky and Graham who live in Barsham near Beccles. We were pleased to see their daughter Tamsin who we had not seen for some time before she set off in her van to Oxford to play with her band Solana .
Staying here two nights before we pedal through “bootiful” Suffolk countryside to rendevous with two foot ferries to reach Harwich and our ferry to the Netherlands.
We stayed with Linda Foord, Diana’s cousin in Little Downham, some 3 miles from Ely. Unfortunately her partner Jackie was working nights when we stayed so we didn’t get to meet up with her again, but we were able to enjoy their recently rebuilt home with an amazing central feature in the living room/kitchen area – a woodburner that you could rotate so the glass fire door could be seen from any direction!
After a very hospitable stay with Linda, we set off in the rain with a very strong wind against us; but thankfully that didn’t last long as we turned eastwards with the wind at our back.
We continued our journey on very straight fens roads, many of which were undulating due to subsidence. The soil then started to change from a dark, dark peaty brown to a much lighter looking soil as we moved away from the fens.
And we started to find a few small hills!
We found this very useful sign as we again found ourselves on some quite rough tracks – but they led us to some very lovely quiet roads.
For lunch we were able to make use of a very convenient verandah attached to a community centre under shelter in a small village in the middle of Thetford forest.
Shortly after we rode across a small bridge where we were able to play poohsticks – Simon won!
We were very grateful to reach our Warmshowers hosts Alan and Ann in a tiny Norfolk village called Hardwick – our 52 mile ride turned out to be 59, our longest day so far.
Having been soaked the previous evening, we set off in bright sunshine towards Ely – gloves still wet clipped to the luggage to dry. We passed through Peterbrough and more pretty villages.
The ride was mostly flat as we rode into the fens. For quite a distance we cruised at 25 mph, with the wind behind us!
As we got into the fens, the roads became very straight and also showed plenty of signs of subsidence due to the underlying unstable peaty soil – we saw cars and vans bouncing along the undulations like a rollercoaster ride but on our tandem it was fine. However when turning at right angles as the roads here tend to do it gave us a strong side wind buffeting us a bit. We were glad for the most part the wind was from behind us.
Setting out from our riverside stop on the Trent we passed through quiet country lanes in four counties (Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Rutland and Lincolnshire) to reach our next overnight stop in Stamford.
We pedalled through a small village called Quorn in Leicestershire which we discovered had lent it’s name for the eponymously branded food for some reason.
Passing through Loughborough we had a refuelling stop mid-morning at a nice cafe named the Two Monkeys Cafe (what we thought was rather an appropriate name for tandemists!)
Lots of quiet and attractive countryside quiet lanes took us into Rutland, the smallest county in England where we cycled along the shore of Rutland Water a nature reserve and one of the largest artificial lakes in Europe. Finished in 1976 it is the largest reservoir by surface area in England (surpassed in capacity by Kielder Water in Northumberland). Managed by Anglian Water it holds water to supply the population in one of the driest parts of the UK.
Ironically from the reservoir it started to rain, 1/2 hour of which was torrential. So we arrived in Stamford like drowned rats – perhaps I should find some wiper-blade gadget for my spectacles! Described by Sir Walter Scott as the “finest stone town in England” we could quite see what he meant.
We were welcomed by Johanna and Neville our Airbnb hosts for the night, living in a lovely old (stone!) town house near the town centre. We were lucky to have fine sunny weather to explore this beautiful town the next day.
Thanks to Warmshowers and Luke we were able to stay on his narrow boat which he is in the process of fitting out. Currently moored on the River Trent near Long Eaton it provided an interesting and welcome stay for the night.
Nearby was the Trent Lock Inn which provided a good meal for us hungry tandemists.
We had a lovely ride into and out of Derby, mostly by traffic free routes. We have passed by Derby many times in the car to visit friends over in Suffolk – but passing through the slow way you get a really different impression of the city which proved it was surprisingly attractive! Continue reading A night on a canal boat on the Trent→