Dealing with weight loss

A 3 part series dealing with the topics of body image, emotions and maintenance. Check it out.

South Downs Way 100

Winchester to Eastbourne Off-road

My Weight Loss Story

My story of fat to fit by bicycle

Monday, 31 August 2015

A year of centuries 8/12

For my August century ride I decided to tour around the county of Devon. We go on holiday to Plymouth every summer to visit relatives so I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to cycle places I've never been and get the 100 miles done at the same time.

Before we arrived I'd been trying to plan a route. I had a an idea to cycle to Land's End and get the train back but there's no nice ride down there from Plymouth. I'd still not decided where to go by the time we left home. After searching routes on Strava, and discounting the Plymouth Gran Fondo, I had a better idea. I would ride through Dartmoor before heading to Torquay and then back via Dartmouth and Kingsbridge.

The day after arriving in Plymouth, the weather was glorious. However, I had to choose which day to ride, based on the week's weather forecast. Every day looked rubbish but I chose the day with the least chance of rain. Knowing which day I was riding also meant I could check to see if my brother would be in that day as he lives in Paignton, a short detour from my route.

On the day, the forecast looked more grim that I'd hoped. Rain would never stop me doing a ride, it just puts you in a different frame of mind. Added to that, when you are on a sightseeing ride like this, it reduces what you can see.

I stepped out of the door at 6.39am, there was a fine drizzle in the air. The start of the ride is uphill and continues to be pretty much for first 10 miles. The ride out of the city didn't take long as I was on the outskirts and traffic was fairly light. I was passed by a couple of cyclists but unbeknownst to me, they were the last I would see for most of the day. It's not long before you enter Dartmoor National Park, which covers almost 1,000 square kilometers with granite and moorland. By now the drizzle was heavy so I stopped to put my rain jacket on. I was hoping to see some of the beauty of the landscape but with the drizzle came very low visibility. I was already glad I had my bike lights with me.

Dartmoor isn't just a large expanse of desolate moorland. It's broken up by villages along the way. It wasn't long before I got to my first village though. These aren't that far apart but because visibility was low, you don't get a sense of distance. From here the climbing started properly. You climb to about 1,200ft before a few dips peaking around 1,400ft at Princetown. From here it's a fast downhill but with lots of surface water my backside was soaked. I wish I'd bought mudguards.

It's pretty much rolling hills for some time and it's not long before I reach a place called Two Bridges. Probably named so for having two bridges! Very picture postcard scenery here. A while later I ride through Postbridge. This hamlet has what's known as a clapper bridge dating back to the 13th century. It's a simple stone bridge but very striking.

From here it's a steep old climb back into the open moorland with no protection against the rain. However, there are several fast descents and no real climbs for a while. It wasn't long before I arrived in the village of Moretonhampstead. It's a lovely little village which had bunting out (not for me though I'm guessing). I stopped at a shop and bought some breakfast. I was now a quarter of the way into my ride.

I'm now heading south east and although I'm away from the moors, the land is very green and hilly. Fortunately, the hills are either side of me. Apart from the narrow and nicely paved roads, there's nothing of note until I get to Bovey Tracey. It has some kind of giant Jenga sculpture on the roundabout before I reach the A38. The roadworks slow me a little but it's not long before I get out the other side, past Trago Mills and onward to Newton Abbot.

The town of Newton Abbot is busy as it's now 10am and I'm glad I have the route on my Garmin as it doesn't seem that obvious how to get through. It's not long before I hit some roadworks again. This time, there's a cycle path I can hop onto. The relief is short lived as the subway I'm signposted to take, doesn't seem to have any familiar place names for me to head towards. After trying all of them, and getting a little frustrated, I eventually find the right one. The building of a new bypass seems to be holding the cars up, but as a cyclist I have a brand new side road I can use. This is great for a while, until I'm spat back out onto the contraflow with the cars. it's not long until there is a bike lane on the road and I'm over taking cars again.

Riding through towns is not usually a great experience on a bike but often a necessity when covering large distances on a bike. However, today I needed to head into Paignton for lunch at my brother's. Rather than heading straight from Newton Abbot to Paignton, I planned to detour via Torquay. I was hoping the sun might shine as I wheeled towards the seafront. This was not to be. A brief photo stop and I was back in the saddle. There's a nice view of the bay as you head towards Paignton and Torquay has a ferris wheel like a mini London Eye. My brother lives on a hill so it was a bit of a long old drag to get to his from the seafront. I was now about half way into the ride.

It was a brief lunch stop. I was asked my route and I gave the little detail I had. When questioned, "you must be taking the Dartmouth ferry then?", I replied "I don't think so" in surprise. I waved goodbye and was back on the road. It had seemingly stopped raining now and as luck would have it, for the rest of the ride too. It's a little hilly between Paignton and Dartmouth but there's a nice descent as you head down to the river. There was a queue of cars ahead, presumably for the ferry and several of them were out of their cars. I soon realised they were waiting to see the steam train that was coming past. Didn't have time to get a picture. I wheeled past the waiting cars and got to the front to wait for the ferry.

A few minutes later I was on board and bought my ticket. 60p is not too bad to cross the river (foot passengers pay the same). Once on the other side, Dartmouth is quite picturesque, even in the mist. Being holiday season, it was full of tourists and navigating them on the narrow streets was a little slow. I wish I could stay longer but I had a slow grind of a climb waiting for me to conquer. With the roads being narrow I was glad there was little trying to get past me and those that were, all seemed happy to wait as I huffed and puffed to the top.

I pedalled past a beautiful bay which I now know to be called Blackpool Sands. I never stop on a climb unless defeated but I couldn't resist resting a foot on a dry stone wall to get a snap of this little hideaway. Hopefully I can bring the family back to visit soon.

Back down at sea level again and I was riding into a bit of a head wind. Not too strong but there was no shelter. It was a nice straight road with the sea to my left and a nature reserve to my right. As the road bear right, I pulled over enticed by the sale of ice cream. A quick refreshment break and I was back on the bike.

I was now headed back to Plymouth. It's not really hilly from here but there were a few sharp bits to surprise me, especially in Modbury. 88 miles in and I stopped at a garage for more food. The young lady behind the counter asked if I had far to go. "Plymouth", was my reply. "Not far then" she quipped. It is when you've already done 80+ miles, I replied in my head as I smiled back.

It wasn't much longer that I was on the outskirts of the city and back on familiar, but busier roads. I headed towards the Barbican for my next stop at Rockets and Rascals bike cafe for a nice coffee stop. After a brief break it was a short ride over the harsh cobbles and around the Hoe before heading north through Stoke Village and onto Home Park. It was here I hit the century mark and detoured off the main road and headed to Honicknowle. It was a short ride back to where I started in Whitleigh. Century ride 8 of 12 complete.

One of the many milestones on the moors



Waiting for the Dartmouth ferry


Enjoying an ice cream

Coffee break on the Barbican

Friday, 31 July 2015

A year of centuries 7/12

Having put this ride off since last year due to other commitments, century number seven of 2015 was the South Downs Way 100 organised by the British Heart Foundation. They say that off-road miles count double, so does that mean that this month's ride counts as 200 miles? July will probably be remembered as the hardest ride of the year.

The South Downs is on my doorstep and Eastbourne is known as the gateway to it. as England's newest National Park. It covers just over 600 square miles and to be honest, I've ridden only a very small part of it. In the weeks leading up to the ride I got out on a number of occasions to train on the hilly chalk downland. I even took part in an organised MTB sportive which took in some of the same terrain.

However, knowing that this ride is well known for it's difficulty, I was a little apprehensive about the ride. Many people take the ride on over two days and even the BHF suggest riders might want a support crew follow them during the ride. I wasn't doing either and I was riding alone. Planning would be key.

One of my friends, Richard, who was an official bike mechanic for the ride, had ridden the route a few times before and his latest ride was only two weeks before my attempt. I phoned him for advice and to check if there was any equipment I needed that I may not have thought of. While on the phone, he asked how I was getting there. I said I was thinking of driving up the night before and sleeping in my car and going back the following day on the train to get my car. He offered me a lift in his van along with two other riders (Jez and Julian) he was taking and the option to sleep in his hotel room, if only on the floor. This was one less thing to worry about.

The plan was to leave Eastbourne at 7pm. I had the afternoon off work so I could make sure I had everything packed and ready. The drive to Winchester takes about two hours and we arrived around 9.30pm at the Holiday Inn just down the road from the start. We headed to the bar and met with some of the ride organisers and some of the other riders and had a drink before heading to bed. We didn't get our heads down until 11pm though.

The alarm went off at 4am but I was already up as I'd woken needing a wee. It took about 15 minutes to fully wake up though. I had a sandwich for my breakfast and we checked out and headed to the start at Chilcomb Sports Ground. We unloaded the bikes out of the van and I checked mine over, loaded the Garmin and drinks bottles. All I needed now was to sign in and get ready at the start. As there were a number of us ready to ride, we were given the safety briefing early and we were on our way at 5am. Jez and Julian are faster riders than me so they disappeared.

You start off right on a bridle path. The terrain is flattened grass and not fast to ride on. Even though my plan was to ride slowly at the start as it was a long ride, I found it difficult to resist keeping up with the riders that soon overtook me. It wasn't long before the first climb started. The legs and lungs weren't quite ready for this at dawn. It was soon worthwhile as getting to the top gave way to a stunning sunrise. Totally clear sky and a glowing ball of light breaking over the horizon.

It wasn't long before the small number of riders that were in front, started coming back towards me and we'd missed a turning. Seemingly due to a sign missing! They'd ridden quite a bit further than me in the wrong direction. There was now several miles of fields, and farm tracks and nothing memorable. Arriving at Beacon Hill, 10 miles in, it's downhill for a while. I was due to eat something but thought I'd wait until the bottom. On the way down it's fast over grass and then you join the road. It was very new, smooth tarmac and the speed was fun. Near the bottom, Jez and Julian were sorting a puncture. I stopped to offer encouragement whilst eating an energy bar. I left them to carry on as I knew they'd catch me up.

It started to get slow again through fields and grass climbs and some gates. Gates that open toward you whilst trying to ride uphill are a real pain. Fortunately, with a number of riders at any one time, you don't have to do them all yourself. I was now headed up a steep climb to Old Winchester Hill. You can't really see the remains of the Iron Age fort from the path but it's very close.

More ups and downs, some road, farm track, grass, gravel, chalk etc. This will be a recurring theme. I'd not seen anyone for ages but it was time to stop for food at almost 20 miles in. Having stopped, it wasn't long before I did see some riders and several asked if I was OK. Back on the bike and it wasn't long before the terrain changed slightly. Open grassland and in the distance I could see riders on what looked like a ridge descending. I was at a place called Buster Hill, which is a fast grassy descent that leads down into Queen Elizabeth Country Park. I'd been warned that the drop was fast with one big bump. The grass was wet but I braced myself and went for it. There's a gate, part way down and it was open but it's narrow at speed. The next rider was a way in front and no one behind so had nothing to worry about. The speed was incredible. 41mph top speed on grass!

You are straight into a wooded section and at first I thought I was lost as I couldn't see any signs or riders but it wasn't long before my confidence was restored. This was also a recurring theme on the ride.

About 25 miles in and I heard a twang come from my bike. I didn't even stop to look for another few miles as I was certain it was a broken spoke nipple from my rear wheel. When I did stop my hunch was correct. I've had a number of these in the past so I just cable tied the spoke to another one and carried on.

35 miles in and I was at the first rest stop. I eat something and topped up with fluids. It was starting to get quite warm and it was only 9.15am. It was straight into a climb with a tailwind and I was getting hot. It was a lonely climb, not seeing anyone until the top. The rider that caught up with me started chatting and we rode together for a few miles. A few miles later another rider caught me up and we chatted for a bit. A few miles later I decided to stop for more water and we parted company. It was now a long fast descent back down to sea level to cross the River Arun at Amberley. It was straight back into a climb where I spotted my first single speed mountain bike. He was walking up the hill but he was ahead of me at that point and I was the second rider to start.

A long slow climb and I was at the top. Looking to the right I could see the sea for the first time. The 360 degree view was stunning. I was almost halfway and it was time to eat again. I was just short of 6 hours in. Whilst eating I decided to hold the gate open for riders coming up the hill. It wasn't long before I heard a friendly voice call my name. Jez was approaching the gate I was holding open. Julian was a little way behind. They'd had several mechanicals and Julian had suffered agonising cramp. I said I'd catch them up once I finished eating.

Back on the bike I thought I'd get back with them in no time. However, a number of combine harvesters came off the field in front of me and totally blocked the narrow lane. It was really frustrating having to wait behind them. It was 5 miles and 30 mins later before I caught back up with Jez and Julian again. When we got to Washington the lads stopped for food and I decided to carry on as I knew they'd soon catch me up. The climb out of Washington was slow and tricky. Lots of loose chalk and very steep. The sun bearing down was very hot. At the top I was gasping for breath. It wasn't long before Jez passed me and then Julian. It was a lovely long, fast descent the other side though but very bumpy. My hands were really hurting from the many hours of bumpy terrain. At 57 miles it was time to stop for food and drink and I bade farewell to the lads again. I saw my second cyclo-cross rider of the day and we chatted while I rested.

At the 60 mile mark I stopped briefly to grab water and had a quick chat with my friend the bike mechanic. He told me I'd just missed Jez and Julian and I could see them ahead in the distance. It was a long slow old climb from Steyning to Truleigh Hill. I was now in slightly familiar territory having ridden some of this on the London to Brighton off-road ride a couple of times before. At the 64 mile mark I caught back up with the lads having a break at Devil's Dyke. We set off together. At Pyecombe golf club, Jez got another puncture and told us to carry on. Julian was a little ahead of me and I was struggling with the pace. At Ditchling Beacon I caught back up with him and had a short break before carrying on by myself. It's downhill to the A27 from here but there's one evil little climb which I had to slowly walk up. It was really pulling at my calves.

I was now 75 miles in and stopped for more food and water. The friendly faces of Jez and Julian re-appeared. We regrouped and started riding again. The climb up to Castle Hill, looking over Kingston, was slow. It seemed everyone was slow, even though the hill wasn't very steep. It was the first time I could really feel the wind. It was coming from my right as I was riding south up the hill. It was cooling but felt strong. Once at the top the view was, again, stunning. I lost Jez and Julian up the hill but at the top started chatting with another rider that had ridden most of the ascent with me. We rode the journey to Southease and when I stopped for water, we parted company.

On the climb out of Southease I caught up with the lads again. They were fixing yet another puncture. I told them I would continue on and see them again soon. The ride continued to Firle Beacon where I got caught by the lads. We rode into Alfriston and out the other side into one of the last climbs in the form of Windover Hill. I don't like this hill, especially at 90 miles in. It's long, slow, rutted chalk. Coming down the other side and arriving in Jevington, there's one climb left, Eastbourne Lane. This climb is cobbled, broken and slow, especially when you're tired. Lots of riders were tired. Many of them didn't know the terrain ahead, so I encouraged them, telling them it was the last climb. Jez was slowing down. I carried on over the golf course and waited for the two of them at the main road. I told them we should cross the finish line together.

It wasn't long before we descended into Eastbourne and crossed the finish line on the Western Lawns. My wife was waiting for me and I was so glad to have finished. I was tired and hurting. I got my medal and hung around for a free massage. However, my ride wasn't yet over. I'd finished the South Downs Way but not my 100 miles. With 2.5 miles left to go I knew I had to ride home. Fortunately it was flat and wind assisted. I finished the day with 101.8 miles and went out for a slap up meal.

Having finished the ride I'm so pleased I did it but have no intention to ever do it again. My hands were so painful from the constant impact of the descents. However, I'd like to ride the South Downs Way over a two or three days and enjoy the places along the route.

Me at the start with Julian in the background at 4.55am

One of the many gates

A rider comes a cropper (not part of our ride)

The view from the top of Ditchling Beacon

The three of us crossing the finish line.

Me with my medal

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

A year of centuries 6/12

Every June, on Father's Day, I take part in the London to Brighton bike ride for the British Heart Foundation. This year I made it my century ride.

By the first week of June I'd not made plans for my next 100 mile ride but by a stroke of genius, a friend suggested that I just extend the London to Brighton. The ride is 53 miles so you may be thinking that I just had to turn around and ride back to the start. Well, many people do but I didn't need to. Every year, my friend gets his sister to take us from his house in Bexhill. I drive over in the morning and have to come back to Bexhill after the ride to collect my car. With a little planning all I needed to do was work out a route from Brighton to Bexhill in 47 miles.

A colleague of mine is training for riding Land's End to John o'Groats and asked that next time I did a 100 mile ride, could she come too. As luck would have it, she too was riding the London to Brighton after another colleague had to pull out due to injury, so we were both starting the ride at the same time.

Knowing my colleague hadn't cycled that distance before, I set out to plan the return route keeping the ride as flat as possible. There are some hills you can't avoid but by carefully routing along the National Cycle Network I managed to keep the elevation to a minimum.

On the day, it was an early start. I had to be in Bexhill by 5am which is 10 miles from my house. Once there I fitted my bike to the roof of my mates car and it was time to leave. At that time of the morning the journey to London is always straightforward and quiet.

Our motley crew at the start
We arrived near the start, offloaded our bikes and got our stuff out of the car. It was a slightly fresh morning but the forecast was good. It was set to be 21 degrees celsius, slightly cloudy and a westerly wind. Going north to south meant there would be a cross wind but the nature of the roads you travel on meant it would offer us shelter for most of the ride. The bonus however would be on the ride back from Brighton where we'd have a tailwind.

The start was busy and it seemed that the release of riders was behind schedule. It took half an hour from when we arrived at Clapham Common until we started the ride. The start can be notoriously slow unless you get away early (you can opt to start at 6am). Starting as late as we did would normally mean gridlock getting out of London. In fact, the cycle traffic on the route was less than I think I've ever experienced.

The four of us set out together and for the first handful of miles we all stuck together. It wasn't long before we started to get split up. My intention was to stay with my century buddy for the entire ride and as she was the slowest rider of the group, I would wait at the top of any hills and we would then regroup.

The ride was leisurely but constant. We had one bottleneck where someone was receiving medical attention at the bottom of a climb which forced a lot of people to get off and walk. As we reached the part of the ride where you go under the M25, it's a long fast descent. I was taking it easy and not too fast. At the bottom there is a 90 degree right turn and a big wall of hay bales to catch any that can't stop in time. As I started to make the turn I could feel my front wheel sliding out from under me. I'd scrubbed a lot of speed off before taking the corner and put my right foot down to stop myself from hitting the deck. I rolled over to the side of the road and checked my front tyre. It seemed I had a slow puncture. I decided to just pump the tyre up and see if I could carry on. It wasn't long though before I could feel the front tyre struggling for grip again. About a mile down the road I pulled over somewhere safe and I changed the inner tube.

After that it was pretty much a straightforward ride down to Brighton. We just stopped whenever we needed along the way for food and toilets. It wasn't until we got to the top of Ditchling Beacon that I noticed the wind for the first time. Being so high up it was quite breezy. The forecast was right though, it was westerly so should give us some help. The descent into Brighton from the beacon is fast and I hit 50mph!

Once we arrived in Brighton, it was pretty much just half way for two of us. We now had the ride back to Bexhill. We grabbed our medals and were on our way. The route along the coast headed east is a series of rolling hills as you ride over the chalk cliffs. The wind was behind us and pretty strong. We road through Rottingdean, Saltdean, and Peacehaven before finally descending into Newhaven. The route then took us along a flat cycle path to Seaford and then a gradual climb out the other side to Exceat.

At this point we headed north to Litlington and Lullington before taking a short detour to Alfriston for a coffee and a slice of cake. From there we headed towards Berwick turning east again, passing Abbots Wood and Arlington. The roads are quiet and fairly flat practically the whole way home now. Being a nice sunny day can mean a lot of traffic on the roads. It was so nice to be on quiet country lanes.
Litlington White Horse

Now in Hailsham we went through Magham Down and across the Pevensey Levels towards Rickney before heading through Normans Bay and Cooden Beach and we were finally in Bexhill. It was at this point we went our separate ways and I had 5 miles left to do. I was a little short on my calculations so had to go around the houses a bit to get back to my car and hit 100 miles at the same time.

When I arrived at my friends house to collect my car I had a coffee and a slice of cheesecake. It'd been a long day but not such a tough ride having ridden it at a slower rider's pace.

I'm now halfway through my century rides. Hopefully it'll get easier from now on?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

A year of centuries 5/12

A few weeks ago, +Hamish Gaunt contacted me and asked if I was interested in planning my century ride for May to include a trip to Udimore. He had something to deliver and thought if he came down to my neck of the woods, we could ride 100 miles to include a short detour to Udimore.

I'd already planned to make my Surrey hills ride at the end of the month my century ride for May but getting it in the bag beforehand meant there was no pressure.

I looked at the possible routes I could do and with many historical landmarks local to me I decided to take Hamish on a 1066 tour of Sussex. As it turned out, Hamish didn't need to deliver anything on the day we could take as it came. There was no pressure.

It can be difficult to dress appropriately this time of year but I thought I'd dress light and take arm warmers with me. Worst case, I could pop back home just before the 20 mile mark if need be.

I left my house at 9.45am and headed to Eastbourne railway station. The sun was shining and the forecast of light winds early on seemed spot on. The forecast was for stronger winds later on but that would only be an issue on the return from Rye.

Hamish arrived on the 10.14am train and after a brief chat we were on our way. Not only was I ride leader but also tour guide for the day. We headed for Eastbourne Pier and we stopped briefly as Hamish took a picture. Next stop Beachy Head. The climb to the infamous beauty spot is long and gradual. Hamish is a fast ascender compared to me and him disappearing up the hills was a recurring theme throughout the day.

At the summit the wind was more noticeable and I suggested that after we descended to the foot of Belle Tout (the old Beachy Head lighthouse) that we pull over so Hamish could get a picture of the famous lighthouse. We then carried on to Birling Gap and East Dean before a sharp couple of climbs to Friston. We were soon descending at speed toward Jevington, birthplace of the banoffee pie.

More fast descending into Filching and Wannock before arriving in Polegate. With the wind behind us the stretch to Stone Cross was fast and in no time at all we arrived in Pevensey. We took a brief detour into the castle grounds and Hamish had something to eat and took a few photos.

Back on our bikes we headed to Wartling and onto Herstonceux. A brief stop to show Hamish the old Royal Greenwich Observatory and a brief mention of Herstomnceux castle, although we didn't get a chance to see it. Back on the road and we headed east through Boreham Street and onto Ashburnham and then Battle.

The town of Battle is the home of Battle Abbey but more famously the site of the Battle of Hastings. We stopped at a quaint tea shop opposite the Abbey and had a coffee and cake. It was only a brief stop before we were back on our bikes. We travelled down Marley Lane and headed for Sedlescombe. Through the village and onto Cripps Corner before turning off for Bodiam. Bodiam is home to a beautiful castle, apparently the most photographed in Britain. We stopped for a brief snack and took some pictures.

Back on our bikes and we went over the Kent and East Sussex Railway line and ascended to Ewhurst Green. A brief pause again to take a photo of Bodiam Castle again. A few lumpy bits later and we went past Great Dixter as we arrived in Northiam.

Just as we entered the village of Beckly we headed south toward Udimore. It was a quiet lane that was wooded on both sides, if a little hilly at times. We were now on the road to Rye. We were about 150ft above sea level and to our right, we had a lovely view out to sea and standing out in the bright sunlight was Camber Castle.

Arriving in Rye, we rode around the one way system and I suggested we stop for an ice cream at the Strand Quay. A 99 with two flakes hit the spot! We were basking in the sunshine and sat amongst a load of motorcycles. I knew that when we started riding again we'd be headed into the wind. Just how hard it would be was yet unknown.

The ride to Rye Harbour meant we were headed south east. I could already feel the wind pushing strong from the right. As we reached the most southerly point of the harbour we saw a group of tandem riders, about five in total from what I remember. We stopped and I offered to take a photo of them. Riding again we were headed right into the south westerly headwind. We had to ride into it for just over 2 miles but it felt like much more. I was so glad when we could turn around again as we headed toward the medieval hilltop town of Winchelsea. The climb to Strand Gate was slow for me but not for Hamish. My left knee was starting to give tell tale signs that it would be hurting soon. We were quickly out the other side of town and through New Gate.

We were now on the road to our final climb. The little lane that comes out in Pett is quite lumpy and you gain and lose all of your elevation three times. The lane had recently been resurfaced and was a joy to ride, especially as there were no cars. Now in Pett, the final ascent beckoned. It climbs and levels off a few times and is quite steep in places. Just before reaching the main A259 I heard a loud BANG! I thought someone had let off a banger or fired something next to me. To my surprise it was my tyre. It had burst. I had to walk the last few hundred metres to catch up with Hamish at the top before having a go at fixing it. I had a tyre boot (a bit of card that patches a hole in a tyre from the inside) and put a new tube in and we were swiftly on our way again.

There's a small sharp climb to summit on the A259 before having a long descent all the way to Hastings seafront. There's a speed camera near the bottom and it's been an ambition of mine to try and set it off. Not even worrying about my tyre having just exploded, I was descending at speed and getting faster as I approached the camera. As I glanced down to check how fast I was going, I briefly saw 38mph and looked back to see if the camera flashed. It did. Challenge complete.

Hamish soon caught up and we had an exposed ride ahead as there was no shelter for the next fifteen miles. 5 miles into the wind we reached Bexhill. We met up with my friend Rob where we had an extra bit of distraction in the way of someone else to moan at about the wind. Rob had fresher legs than us so he hadn't earned the right to complain yet. The ride was a little slow but it wasn't long before we arrived in Eastbourne. As we turned right, off the seafront and navigated our way to the train station for Hamish, we were out of the wind. Once at the station we checked the train times and realised there was quite a wait. I suggested Hamish get some food and we headed over to the pub across the street. Food was served promptly and it wasn't long before we had to say farewell to my long suffering ride partner (or was that me?).

I rode with Rob for a little while and parted company just before my house. The final 5 miles home were not fast but not hard with the wind behind me. I was pleased to be home.

A big thank you to Hamish for inspiring this 1066 century and for joining me on it. Thanks also to Rob for joining us last minute. Thank you for reading this if you got that far. Enjoy the pictures and take a look at the route.

Waiting for Hamish

Pevensey Castle

Coffee break in Battle

Hamish with Bodiam in the background

A 99 with two, yes TWO flakes!

My exploded tyre!

Waiting for the train

Farewell Hamish

The lonely last miles

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

How healthy is your town?

Healthy Access provides the data you need

The good news is that in general we all have a better chance of living into a healthy, active old age. However, whether we do or not is dependent on multiple factors, only some of which are within our own control. Of course we can make positive lifestyle choices about diet and exercise, but where we live and the services and facilities that are available there play just as significant a part in our overall well-being.

With a probable future health crisis looming, a new web site has been launched which will help to identify just how healthy a place your town is.

The Healthy Access Campaign web site,, has been developed by the well-established and successful, which was launched in 2013 with the aim of providing a fast booking service to certified and rated NHS and private dentists. Healthy Access is a natural extension of this, offering a web site that is simple to use and based on a range of scored factors that are proven to relate to health through quality of life.

The factors include ratings for GPs, hospitals and dentists, plus access to green spaces, cycling and walking facilities. These produce a combined score and both the individual ratings and the combined score can be downloaded as a badge by the user to be displayed on a web site.

The site is easy to use. Location statistics can be chosen by typing a town name into a text predictive search box or by hovering the cursor over a colour-coded regional map. You can just as easily check out the highest and lowest scores of an activity by selecting from a drop down menu.

Choosing the "Cycling" option reveals that the best rated places in England offering opportunities for cycling are the university towns of Oxford and Cambridge, whereas the London boroughs of Southwark, Camden and Westminster top the list for walking opportunities. Westminster, however, is amongst the lowest scoring places rated for ease of access to a GP.

In all, the data revealed by the site are valuable and thought-provoking. It's provided by a number of knowledgeable specialist partners such as Natural England and the Department of Health and is regularly updated by Healthy Access.

Clearly, the information available on the Healthy Access web site is of value to individuals with an interest in maintaining and improving their own healthy lifestyles. Moreover, it gives users the chance to comment about their own services, as well as influence local decision makers and providers.

The clearly presented and unambiguous research and statistics on Healthy Access will give you all that is required to find out just how healthy your town is - and to ensure that it maintains or improves on that status. Just visit the site and type in your town name. It's as simple as that.