Keep Learning: 5 Ways to Wellbeing

I’ve not blogged for a while, and I thought today would be a good day to talk about the Keep Learning element of 5 Ways to Wellbeing. One of the things I have wanted to know more about in my adult life, is evolution. It was the 160th anniversary of the publication of, On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin earlier this week. I purchased a copy of the book a few years ago, but never got round to reading it. I have decided to start reading it this week as part of my Keep Learning. I would then like to read other books on more advanced studies of evolution, but without the need for a PhD in Biology to understand them!

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, the first seed of interest on the topic of evolution started when I was a boy. I had a school friend who had a houseplant terrarium. Within the terrarium was a Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula). This is probably the one carnivorous plant that most people will recognise, with its distinctive shaped leaves and trapping mechanism. It utterly fascinated me. We did what you’re not supposed to do, and set off the trap by touching the trigger hairs with a stick or something (I can’t quite remember now). I was desperate to have one of my own, but back then, they were quite expensive.

Dionea muscipula

But evolution and plants, never cross my mind. As a child, I was indoctrinated into the High Church arm of Anglican Christianity (it’s like Catholicism, but without the smells of incense wafting around). The church I attended saw the book of Genesis as literal truth. Therefore, I was brought up believing that Yahweh/God did his magic in 6 days, and then needed a rest. All life was created within an instant, and then most of it was wiped out in the great flood. As I only ever socialised with people from the church, or in my school which was next door to my church, I never questions the authority of the vicar or my family. My primary school didn’t really teach science at all, so it wasn’t until I was around 11, that my eyes slowly but surely opened, when I went to high school. Therefore, up to this point, my only explanation was that “God created the Venus flytrap”, and I never gave too much thought to the plant for a good few years. I certainly didn’t make any connection with evolution, as my teeny tiny knowledge of the subject at that point was how “man came from monkeys“, which had been ridiculed by my church and family. However, for lots of different reasons and over a period of several years, I stopped believing in Christianity, and then all religions. Once I had left school, I had also started to train in horticulture, and I soon became interested in the breeding of of different plants. Where I worked, the head gardener was always trying to create new varieties of various plants (and so I was introduced to artificial selection or selective breeding).

It was around this time, that I got my first carnivorous plant. I was given a Venus flytrap, and, before long, I had purchased several more. Eventually, I bought Carnivorous Plants by Adrian Slack. Although the book has over 200 pages, it only has a couple of pages on the evolution of carnivorous plants. It was these two pages that started me to think more widely about evolutionary biology. No more “man came from monkeys” for me! I still grow a handful of carnivorous plants to this day. I particularly like the Nepenthes genius of plants, commonly known as tropical pitcher or monkey pitcher plants.

The two pages in Slack’s book was enough to whet my appetite to learn more, but over the years, I have kept finding other things to do and read. However, I have now made the conscious decision, and have started to read Darwin’s book, along with other sources of evolution. It feels good to be learning for pleasure!

One great educational resource has been OneZoom which is an interactive map of the evolutionary relationship of over 2,000,000 species of life on our planet.It’s a non-profit charity based in London. You can even sponsor a leaf on the tree, which I have done.I have opted for “leaf” containing one of the endangered carnivorous plants that I now learning about, Nepenthes rajah.

It’s never too late to learn something new, or update your knowledge on something you think you know.

Black Forest gateau energy balls

I’ve not posted for a while, so I thought I would share a new recipe. This is loosely based on a recipe for Rocky Road Power Balls I found in Men’s Health Magazine in the summer of 2019, but I a) couldn’t get all the ingredients in the original recipe, and b) I like to experiment with recipes. As the flavours are predemoninately chocolate and cherry, it reminded me of those Black Forest gateaus of the 1970/80’s that you used to get. Interestingly, as a kid, I hated that flavour, but these energy balls are really good (even if I do say so myself).

They are really easy to make, and require no cooking as such. They are great to take on a big bike ride, or for post workout energy boosts. They are packed with carbs and fibre, so not recommended for snacking!! Most of the ingredients should be readily available in your local supermarket. The only ingredient I struggled to source, was the cocoa butter, which I got online, but I think you could substitute this ingredient with another hard fat, such as butter (but obviously that would be for non-vegans).

Most of the ingredients

Ingredients

  • 250g of pitted dates
  • 40g of dried cherries
  • 10g of dried blueberries (alternatively use raisins or sultanas)
  • 10g of dried cranberries (alternatively use raisins or sultanas)
  • 4tbsp of cocoa butter
  • 6tbsp of mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, golden linseed in mine, but any edible seeds should work)
  • 8tbsp of ground almonds
  • 4tsp of cashew nut butter (almond or peanut should also work pretty well – note this is the only teaspoon and not tablespoon portioned ingredient)
  • 4tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2tbsp of golden syrup (or maple syrup)
  • Icing sugar for dusting (optional)
Soaking the dried fruit

Method

Soak the dates and dried fruit in some boiled water to soften them. This should only take a few minutes. Whilst the fruit soften, melt the cocoa butter and the syrup in a pan on the stove, until all has melted and mixed together. In a food processor whizz the ground almonds with the seeds and cocoa powder, until you get a rough crumb type texture

Blending the ingredients

Add the drained fruit to the food processor along with the other ingredients, and quickly whizz, until you get a sticky dough. Tip that into a mixing bowl.

The sticky dough

If you find the dough a little too sticky to hold its shape, then add a little more dried ingredients (e.g. ground almonds and cocoa powder), a spoonful at a time. If you have some plastic food grade gloves, they might come in handy for the next part. Using your hands, take a piece of the dough and roll it until you have a neat little ball about the size of a golf ball or a ping-pong ball. To keep them from sticking together, roll on the ball on a plate of icing sugar. I made 22 out of my batch. They can be placed in a food grade airtight container. They can be frozen, and taken out on the day of use to thaw out.

#C2C4Cam My Coast to Coast Journey

Well, I’ve done it. My first tour, my first charity bike ride, my first major cycling challenge. It’s been a fantastic adventure. My legs, and neck muscles, really are feeling the effect of cycling 150+ miles over 3 days, in horrendous weather, with some significant hill climbs. But I didn’t want to let myself down, and more importantly, I didn’t want to let down others (those who had coached me, sponsored me, and particularly I didn’t want to let the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust down).

On Sunday 9th June, I packed my panniers, and loaded them onto my bicycle. As I went to bed on Sunday, the weather forecast for the next 3 days looked a mixed affair, but not too bad, but when I got up the next morning, Lancaster was beautiful and sunny; although the forecast didn’t look too great! I cycled into the city centre, and hopped onto the train to Morecambe. It’s only a short distance, but I didn’t want to waste any energy, as I knew I would need all the reserves I could get for when I reached the Yorkshire Dales.

First leg of the route

Of course, no long distance cycle ride from Morecambe is complete without the obligatory photo opportunity with the Eric Morecambe statue. As a kid, I loved the Morecambe and Wise show, utter comedy genius! I then set off feeling energised, excited and nervous all in one.

Setting off from Morecambe at 8.15am, 25ft above sea level, along the Promenade, it’s a nice gentle start. No motor vehicle traffic, just a handful of dog walkers. It’s only a few hundred yards, but then you join a street for about a 1/2 mile, before coming to the old railway line, that is now a cycle track to Lancaster (and beyond). It was midway between Morecambe and Lancaster that I met up with John who had volunteered to cycle with me. It was also at this point that I realised I hadn’t set up my Strava or Cyclemeter to record the ride, so I missed the first couple of miles, but not too concerned as I had Komoot up and running from the start. Komoot is great as a guidance app, but doesn’t give me the details that the other two apps do. John had been put in contact with me as someone who has also supported the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, and who gave me a little advice over the phone about doing the C2C cycle ride as he is an experienced rider. John also volunteered to cycle some of the first leg with me, which was a great help – giving me a morale boost. John cycled with me as far as Giggleswick, before getting the train back to Lancaster.

John and I cycled the rest of the old rail track for around another 5 or so miles, it’s a beautiful little track taking you through the Crook O’Lune beauty spot. It was initially busy with people rushing to get to work, but once we were out of Lancaster, it became very quiet. It is here where I slightly deviated from the traditional Way of the Rose route. Usually people go into Halton and up the north side of the Lune Valley, but I stayed on the south on the A683 on the stretch where the very first white lines In the world were painted onto roads in 1922. We would rejoin the traditional Way of the Roses route near Wray. It was in the village of Wray where we decided to stop and have a quick refuel. The Post Office, has a few tables and chairs outside, and they serve hot and cold drinks and light snacks/lunches.

Refuelled, we set off once more. Mainly on little country lanes with little traffic. We did come across a guy on an electric bicycle, who was doing the whole of the traditional Way of the Roses route from Morecambe to Bridlington. We met him (or should I say, he overtook us), as we started the long, but fairly steady hill climb into Yorkshire. The first real test for me, and the weight of the gear I was carrying (which was far too much, but I will come onto that later), climbing out of a hamlet called Mill Houses. Not a big climb by any stretch of the imagination at around 150ft, but it was at 12%. Thankfully, I was very fresh still at this stage, and had John to climb behind.

When we go to around 600ft, it was fairly easy, as there were just some gentle peaks and troughs, with the occasion steep climb (never seemed to be any steep drops mind)! From here we kept zigzagging over the Bentham railway line, which is the route that John would eventually get on, as he headed back to Lancaster. It’s an area that I don’t know that well, other than the hamlet of Eldroth. We had made very good progress, John had to take a quick business call (and what a great place to take a call).

Whilst John took the call, I took a photo. This was probably the closest we got to Ingleborough

We eventually reached the railway station at Giggleswick on the A65 trunk road, and I thanked John, and said goodbye. I was a little daunted by the A65 as it is a major road from Kendal into Yorkshire, but thankfully, it did have a designated cycle lane. I headed south-east as it bypassed the towns of Giggleswick and Settle; again, this is a diversion from the traditional route, but one I had planned (not all my diversions were planned)! I turned south, and when down river with the River Ribble. Through various little villages, before taking my first unplanned diversion! It was clear that I should have double checked any unscheduled routes between Komoot and a proper OS map! As the route tried to take me down some private road on a country house estate (this wasn’t the only time this happened). It was also around here where I stopped and chatted with the second cyclist of the day. A woman who had decided to go for a”quick 50 mile circular ride“. “Quick” and “50 mile” seemed like an oxymoron to me, but she was happy, and advised me where I could stop for lunch, in Hellifield, which was only a matter of minutes away. By this point the cloud was starting to thicken considerably, and a cold breeze had started to pick up. Unfortunately for me, the normal prevailing winds, were not around to give me a tailwind! I grabbed a quick bite to eat, and started my climb into the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Reaching the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales felt like a psychological achievement. My legs were really starting to feel tired now, and it was here whilst I stopped to take a break, that I got patronised by some cyclist who stopped to tell me that I had packed far too much; and I wanted to say “No sh!t Sherlock“, but just kept that thought in my head! Climbing out of the Ribble valley, I crossed into the Aire valley. Many of the villages were like those you used to see on chocolate box covers. It was around here that the first rain started to come down. It wasn’t heavy, and to be honest, I appreciated the cooling effect. One of the extra difficulties I was now facing was the number of lanes that had been given a recent topdressing. There was so much loose gravel/chippings, that if it hadn’t been for my 29er wheels and fat tyres, I think I would have been all over the place.

I eventually made it to Hetton, and I was tempted to go into the Angel pub. I’ve been there in the past, the food is to die for, but it ain’t cheap! I was tempted, as I knew I had one big last push with an elevation of around 300ft over the space of 7 or 8 miles, and some of it was a steep gradient, and I thought that a hearty pub meal would give me the boost, but that was just a fleeting idea. However, the beauty of that section, is that the lane is a designated cycle road, between Cracoe and Burnsall.

I eventually made it to my first Air BnB stopover in Burnsall. I did it in good time, but I was cold and tired. I had a quick shower, and changed into some non-cycling gear, and had a little stroll around the village before refuelling in the local pub (which was interesting as they served the starter at the same time as the main. Not sure if this was Yorkshire Tapas!). I slept like a log!

Second leg of the route

Overnight there had been an Amber Severe Weather Warning from the Met Office for the whole of Yorkshire and Humberside for strong winds and torrential rain, with localised flooding predicted! Ugh! What to do? I had a hearty breakfast, and packed up and took a look outside. Yes, there was a stiff breeze, and yes it was cloudy, but I thought that it must be in other parts of Yorkshire where the worst of the weather would be! I was a little achy from yesterday’s ride, but not as achy as I thought I would be. I was in good spirits, so thought I might as well get on with the ride. I knew the second day was going to be very tough, with two big hillclimbs to do.

The climb out of Burnsall started off gentle enough, and the weather wasn’t too bad. But in just five miles, the weather really took a turn for the worst; partly due to being more exposed (Burnsall was snuggled in the bottom of a valley). The other unexpected difficulty was the road from Burnsall for a few miles, had recently been top dressed with new tarmac and new gravel/grit (this seemed to have been a common occurrence during the three day ride). As mentioned before, I was grateful for the tyres that I had on my bike are 29ers with good grip, but I was still skidding slightly as the depth is of the clippings, was much deeper than yesterday. I also became concerned about my crankshaft as it had started to make a slight “clunking” sound on every revolution of the peddles. My front derailleur was struggling to work correctly too. My enthusiasm was waning rapidly. And to top it all, it started to rain, hard!

When you are feeling low, there is only one thing to do! Eat Cake!

Now, I am not religious by any stretch of the imagination, but like a sign from the gods, a little tourist show cave, with an attached tea room appeared on the horizon. I pulled in straightaway, and ordered one of the best slices of chocolate cake I have ever tasted, with a pot of Yorkshire Tea! Whilst there, I met another touring cyclist, who inspired me. He was cycling 1,800 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats via various places he had lived or had a connection with (which meant he was zig-zagging his way north, and not going the direct route).

Back on my back, I was off like a shot. The weather became much more changeable. One minute it was sunny, next it was doom and gloom. I was finding I was stopping and starting whilst I changed layers of clothing to meet the needs of the weather, which was frustrating, but it did help with making sure I kept the calorie intake up! John from the first day, had recommended taking a slight detour to Brimham Rocks, which is a National Trust owned site, of some amazing rock formations. It handily had a little outdoor cafe serving bacon baps and hot tea, which was brilliant, as it coincided with lunchtime. The staff there were very friendly, and we had a good chinwag about the weather (British, talking about the weather. Stereotype or what?)

Once I had lunch, the route became a little gentler, less hills to climb. I loved the name of the lane that I was on for a couple of miles; Careless House Lane – I did wonder how it got its name. As with the first day, there were lots of pretty little villages and market towns to go through, and also like the first day, the Komoot on a couple of occassions tried to take me the wrong way (again, down a private drive way to a very large stately home), but in all, the voice that Komoot was my companion (yes, by this point, I was talking to my satnav, and yes, I enjoyed the conversation). Another little minor detour was in Easingwold, but this was because my bladder was full!

Day two’s route

Eventually, I made it to my second day’s destination of Sheriff Hutton, and what a treat, the room was brilliant. Again, another Air BnB, but the hosts, were also keen cyclists (although they were tandem riders). The room was cheap as chips, yet modern and clean, and just across the road from a pub. It was such a relief to get here, as the start of the day had been really challenging both physically and mentally!

Third day of the route

My hosts from my second night provided a much needed breakfast, and I was away by about 8.30am. It was quite a humid morning, and my host knew most the the route I was taking. He mentioned a fairly big hillclimb just a couple of miles into my journey, but said the rest was pretty easy (just what I wanted to hear). This was the shortest distance of the three days, and I was hoping the weather would let up, but again, it was a mixture of drizzle, sunshine, and showers. That said, a much needed welcome relief was that the breeze had dropped considerably.

The first hill, Bulmer Bank was a killer; and I am not going to lie, I did get off, and push my bicycle up most of it, which was really challenging. I was physically tired from the previous two days, my bike weighs around 15 kilos, and my panniers had around 9 kilos of weight in them. Plus something I was really surprised by, my neck muscles ached like crazy (I was expecting thighs and other leg muscles to ache, but not my neck and shoulders)! Once past Bulmer Bank, I skirted around the magnificent Castle Howard estate. As a keen gardener, I love Castle Howard. It also holds special memories for me and my partner, as we celebrated her birthday there recently. I did think about popping in to look around the gardens, but given the time and the weather, I thought better of it.

Castle Howard is just a couple or so miles away from the old market town of Malton. It’s a great town to visit, and is known as the Food Capital of Yorkshire (not entirely sure why, but it does have some great food shops with local suppliers, and some cracking pubs, severing fine Yorkshire ales and gins)!

It was busy getting through Malton. I had got there whilst rush hour was still going, and some motorists were a little impatient. I made it to the A64, where again, it was a major trunk road, but thankfully it had a designated cycle lane (although it wasn’t that well maintained by Yorkshire County Council, with potholes on it, and overgrown branches hanging low). I also noticed that Elvis is alive and well and on tour around Yorkshire! By mid-morning, I was at the end of the section on the A64, and I was ready for a little brunch. In a layby just where I turn off the A64 I came across a little burger van. I ordered my food, and the owner asked where I was going and where was I from. When I told what, where, how, etc, she very kindly gave my money back, and told me to donate it to the charity (which I dully did).

From the A64, I took back road up to the A170. I know the A170 very well and the villages that I would ultimately go through, as I used to spend my childhood holidays in and around those villages, as well as the are around Scarborough and surrounding seaside towns and villages. The first village I arrived at is Snainton, where as a child I learned how to ride a horse! Just beyond Snainton is Wydale Hall. Now a Christian retreat centre, it had been a private home, and during the time between the two World Wars it had been the family home of the Illingworth’s. During that time, my parternal great, great grandmother had been in service; around the time of the fictional Downton Abbey. Along the A170 I continued, sometimes of the road, and sometimes on designated cycle paths on the side of the road. I was making very good time, when I turned off the A170, and Komoot decided to take me down a forest track! Highly sceptical of where this was going to lead me, I followed the route. The Trek 920 is designed to go pretty much anywhere, and it handled the muddy track very well (although there was a sharp downhill where I nearly fell off)! At the end of the track, I came out on the outskirts of Scarborough. I foolishly stopped following Komoot, and thought I remembered how to get to the South Bay from my childhood memories, but I ended up in North Bay; just a small detour! However, I had made it to my final destination!

The weather when I arrived wasn’t exactly get down on the beach and sunbathe weather, but it did start to getting better. I was buzzing though, my legs ached, my backside was saddle sore, but mentally I was stoked! I couldn’t find anywhere by the harbour to safely lock up my bicycle so I quickly dropped it off at my final Air BnB place to stay, and walked back to the Harbour Bar, which was just shutting up for the day. However, they had a little kiosk serving ice cream (much needed at that).

All in all, I was thrilled that by the end of the day, I had made the epic journey (epic in my eyes), and very pleased that I had surpassed my original target of £500 for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust. By the end of the ride, I had got to £820, and I think some money is still coming in now, two weeks later. Thank you to everyone who donated. Thank you to everyone who supported me with hints, tips, and advice! It’s been a great start to my 5 Ways to Wellbeing. Now, where will I go next???

Third and final leg of the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust ride

Assuming I make it to day 3 and haven’t fallen by the wayside, this is my planned route for the final day. It also happens to be the shortest day at a mere 36.5 miles. It also has the least hill climbs too; which is probably a blessing at this stage, I am pretty sure the accumulation of the previous two days riding will be taking its toll by now. That all said, I am hoping that by the last day, I will have reached or surpassed by target fundraising of £500. If you haven’t donated, and would like to do so, (think about giving a couple of pounds, and skipping a coffee this week), then please go to my TotalGiving webpage to find out how you can donate, and remember if you are a UK resident, don’t forget to tick the GiftAid box, which will cost you nothing, but the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust will get some extra cash to help with suicide prevention.

Okay, so the plan on the final day of the charity ride will start off with me filled up with as hearty a breakfast as I can get. I will have burnt up a serious amount of calories by now, and I will need all the energy I can muster for this final stretch. Starting off in Sheriff Hutton, I head east of north-east towards the beautiful market town of Malton. I head up a pretty steep but short hill-climb, before passing through the village of Bulmer. Shortly after passing Bulmer, I head north for short distance (I think this was to avoid a fairly steep climb, but can’t remember), passing the amazing Castle Howard before turning east through Coneyshorpe. Still heading east, I come to Malton. I love Malton, it holds a lot of special memories for me. I might stop here for a little break, get some tea and cake! The town has a market, bars, and shops, so I should be spoilt for choice.

The final day

Once I get to Malton, the next 20 miles or so, are relatively flat, which will be very welcomed. I cross over the River Derwent, into the neighbouring town of Norton-on-Derwent, heading east before I skirt around the village of Scagglethorpe (there are lots of villages with the name “Thorpe” in it, I think it is Old English or Viking for “cluster of houses – any history buffs reading this, will you let me know if I am correct?). Next little village is Rillington, and shortly after passing through there, I take a north-east route through Yedingham, and back over the River Derwent.

I then come to territory I know very well, in the Vale of Pickering, and skirting around and partly through the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. I spent many childhood family holidays here, and have been a few times with my son, in the quest to find fossils. The first large village I come to is Snainton, and I may well stop here for lunch. Snainton and the surrounding area is well my great-great grandmother’s side of the family came from (I also think it is where Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame is from). The road I follow, is pretty much the same road all the way to my final destination of Scarborough.

From Snainton, I pass the little picturesque village of Brompton, Ruston, Wykeham, West Ayton, I skim around East Ayton, and take my final hill climb (only a few hundred feet, but it will be pretty gruelling by this point). I’ve yet to decide, but I think I will go to the Harbour, take a photo of the end of my journey, take my bike to the place I am staying overnight, and then head to the Harbour Bar (it does shut at 5.30pm, so I am hoping I make it in time). The Harbour Bar is an old ice cream parlour that hasn’t changed much since the 1950s (although the family have been making ice cream since the 1930s I think). I am hoping to get a full-fat ice cream sundae!

Vegetarian Chilli Non Carne

This is a great meal for sharing informally around the dinner table. It is cheap as chips, and healthy too. Its very simple to make, and takes around 1 hour prep and cooking time. It was a new recipe for me, so part of my 5 ways to wellbeing being, learn something new! This is a great meal for sharing, helping you to connect!

It will serve between 4 and 6 people depending on your appetite, and what you plan to serve with it.

You will need

  • 1 large onion diced small
  • Vegetable oil, such as olive oil (for frying)
  • 3 large cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 cinnamon stick broken in half (alternatively a quarter of a tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 2tsp of cumin seeds, slightly crushed (alternatively, a 1/2 tsp of ground cumin)
  • 2 can of black beans
  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • 1 jar of roasted red (0r mixed) peppers (alternatively, roast 3 fresh red peppers in your oven), chopped small
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (and use half a tin of water – see note in method)
  • 2 tbsp of tomato puree
  • 2 tsp of cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp of chipotle paste (available in most supermarkets)
  • Salt and pepper to season

Method

It’s always best to prepare all the ingredients and have them ready to hand. In a large heavy pan, sweat the onion, garlic and cinnamon stick on a low to medium heat for around 10 minutes until the onion has softened, and just started to brown.

Onion, garlic and cinnamon

When the onion has softened, add all the other ingredients (beans, tomato puree, chipotle paste, coca powder, and half a tin of water, etc.)

Cook over a gentle heat, with the pan lid on for around 30 minutes. Taste, and see if it needs seasoning, or an extra spoon of chipotle paste. Stir from time to time. When the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly, you are ready to serve. Serve with rice, or fill tacos, etc.

Just a few more minutes, sauce still a little too runny

Second leg of the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust ride

Following on from my previous post on the First Leg of the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust Ride, I thought I would give a quick overview of the second leg of the ride. I am expecting this to be a very tough day. I will be physically tired from the previous day, and I am not expecting anyone to ride with me on this section, so psychologically it will be challenging too. For most of the second leg, I will be travelling through the Yorkshire Dales National Park, (think Brontes, Emmerdale, and James Herriot).

Initially starting off by heading south-east from Burnsall, I will come to the picturesque village of Appletreewick, which is only small, but apparently very popular with hikers and cyclists. From there I climb up a very steep hill to move out of Wharfdale, to reach the highest point of the whole journey (and I will have as my mantra that, “I am raising money for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust!“). Then, I go down a very steep and scary hill (1300ft, to 400ft in the space of about 2 miles – I hope my brakes work well), into the River Nidd valley, and to the larger village of Pateley Bridge. I know of Pateley Bridge, but have never been there (to my knowledge). Once over the River Nidd there is steep 200ft ride out of the valley via the village of Glasshouses heading north, for one more big hill climb, before changing to a easterly direction.

Other than a few farmsteads and hamlets, I don’t see much in the way of civilisation until I come to a small village called Markington, and it does have a small pub/inn, which might be a welcome rest (for a non-alcohol beverage and a bite to eat). It will be just shy of halfway through the second leg, so once fed and energised I will be back on the bike. It will be pretty much a flat ride for the second half. Next village will be Bishop Monkton, and shortly after that I will be following the River Ure for a short while, coming to another little village called Roecliffe.

A little further east, I come to the small market town of Boroughbridge. This could be a good opportunity to have a break, and stock up on provisions. Boroughbridge has the A1 trunk road bypass it, and it is roughly midway between London and Edinburgh. I also cross the River Ure at this point. Having travelled briefly north, I head east once more, and come to a small village called Raskelf. Another little market town called Easingwold is my next significant bit of civilisation that I come to. I pass by a couple more small villages, and have a little hill climb before I reach my second days destination of Sheriff Hutton. It is a very old village (mentioned in the Doomsday Book), and has a ruined castle. It also has two very good pubs (I am led to believe), which is probably where I will dine, and try and recovery!! I may celebrate with a cheeky 1/2 pint of Mild, and use a Cameron Coaster to rest it on! I am still open to sponsor money if you have a few quid spare for this worthy cause. Please click on my TotalGiving page to find out how you can donate, and if you are a UK resident, do consider the the GiftAid donation at no extra cost to you.

First leg of the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust ride

I thought I would give a little overview of the planned route for the 1st leg. This is a bit of up hill and down dale (as they say in Yorkshire). Starting off at the Eric Morecambe statue in (you guessed it), Morecambe, it is a very easy first few miles. I know the ten or so miles very well, as I have cycled in both directions plenty of times. It starts on Morecambe Promenade for a few hundred yards, before a small stretch of road takes you to Morecambe train station. From there, I will be travelling along the old railway track, that is now a mixed pedestrian and cycling route for around ten miles, taking me to the ancient small city of Lancaster. Remaining on the old railway line, I follow the River Lune, past Halton’s old railway station (now used as Lancaster University’s rowing club, clubhouse), past the beauty spot of the Crook O’Lune by the village of Caton. Shortly after Caton the cycle track comes to an end at Bull Beck picnic site.

The Crook O’Lune on a grey day

Then the journey starts to get a little uncharted for me. I know the villages and towns for a little more of the journey pretty well, but I don’t know many of the little country lanes I will be travelling on that Komoot has recommended. I know the main trunk road that takes me north-east from Caton to Wray, but then the little lane that takes me east out of Wray is unbeknown to me. It is also here that the hill climb starts. There is a nice little tearoom in Wray, so it might be a timely stop to get a quick sugar fix, as there few and far between villages of any decent size, so shops and cafes will be a rare sight. Below you should see the route on Komoot, embedded (if the technology works) into my blog!

It is pretty much one big hill climb from here, riding along the River Hindburn for a while, before going the River Wenning valley, on the other side from Low and High Bentham. I criss-cross the Morecambe to Leeds railway line four or five times as I approach, but avoid Giggleswick and Settle (I deviated the Komoot suggested route, to avoid a killer of a hill climb).

Photo of the River Wenning taken from the train as it crosses one dreary morning in March 2019

It is here that I meet the River Ribble as it head south towards Preston. After approximately 15 miles of leaving Wray, I come to the next village (although I will have passed a few hamlets), Rathmall. If I am honest, I had never heard of it (sorry Rathmallians), where I hit a flurry of other villages, including Wigglesworth (I promise I am not making these names up). The first real town (although technically a large village) of any description is next, which is Hellifield. I am not sure if I will have stopped for lunch before now, but if not, this could be a good spot.

Heading north-east out of Hellifield, I cross the River Aire valley, before facing my first big steep climb, through Cracoe, and into the River Wharfe valley and reaching my first overnight stop at the picturesque village of Burnsall. I am going to need all the rest I can get, as the next morning for my second leg, I have one huge hill climb (if I stick to the suggested Komoot route).

Hills! Cycling up them is an art form

It’s a month away before my coast to coast ride for charity. I’m trying to get over the two psychological blocks that I have, that I am going to have to overcome by the time I do the Coast to Coast ride for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust (by the way, there is still time to sponsor me if you would like, even if it is just £1.00, click over to my TotalGiving page). The two blocks are:

  1. Steep hill climbs (I’ve done long steady climbs, but nothing too vertical!
  2. The accumulative effect of cycling two long rides in two days

Now, some of you will laugh, but for me, it’s all about small steps (or should I say, short revolutions?). My ride yesterday was the hiller of the two. 1848ft elevation gain, and was just shy of 24 miles. Today’s ride was a much flatter, at only 953ft elevation gain, and a little shorter at 21.29 miles.

The two pictures above are screen shots from the route from Strava and Cyclmeter. As you can see from Strava the weather was pretty good. The only let down was the cross wind between the 19th and 20th mile, as I was dropping down fast into Quernmore from Jubilee Tower. The first 13 miles are mainly flat, but the roads are busy, as you head towards the Forest of Bowland, (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), the hills come thick and fast, although the roads are much quieter. What I did notice about this ride, it that I seem to have got the hang of hydration much better than previous longer rides.

Pretty much the highest point on the first ride, is Jubilee Tower. The tower is a little folly standing 950ft above sea level. It was built by a local wealthy business man for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee (1887). However, it is now owned by Lancashire County Council, and there is car park next to it. It is a popular spot for cyclists to take a little break from the hills climb (I took the easier route, but it was still a challenge for me). For once, the sky was blue, and the views were excellent. Visible to the naked eye was Blackpool Tower, the Lake District Fells, and the Trough of Bowland. I stopped for a few minutes to take in the view, get my breath back, sup some water, and eat a little energy bar. But I was chuffed that no pushing of the bike happened – I am at last getting the knack of using gears (although by no means perfect yet). When I got home, I was physically tired, but feeling of great satisfaction. Cycling has been really beneficial for my mood as well as my body.

Today’s ride was more a psychological challenge. I woke up still a bit achy from the ride yesterday, and part of me just wanted to roll over and have an hour or so extra, in bed. However, I knew that wouldn’t cut it on the coast to coast ride. As you can see above, much of the ride was flat! But then, for much of the ride I was cycling along Morecambe Promenade, and along the Lancaster canal towpath – both great for cycling along, and indeed, parts of the Prom was rammed with cycling clubs on their Sunday rides. However, once I got Carnforth and on the country roads, it was quiet. So very quiet. I stopped for a few minutes to pick up an ink cartridge for the home printer (only annoyingly to find out, I had got the wrong one when I got home). This was a great ride, as I ended up on lanes that I had never been on before, as a cyclist or a motorist. It made me think more about the whole 5 Ways to Wellbeing, and the take notice aspect. I was going to stop and take photos, but I decided to live in the moment for once, and just appreciate everything that I could see.

The next step is to do a whole days ride. Of the 3 days cycling on the C2C, at least one day is 50+ miles, with some big climbs involved. I am going to plan a route using Komoot that will take me from home, over towards the Yorkshire Dales and back in a nice loop (I am not a fan of cycling to somewhere, and using the same route back – unless it is my commute to work, but even then, I sometimes mix it up a little).

Strava v’s Cyclemeter

Now that the days are getting longer, I have decided to go for some after work rides. This is really helping with my 5 Ways to Wellbeing and the Be Active component of that. If I am to get fit enough for the Coast to Coast charity ride, every practice mile will really count for the big event and help raise more money for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust. If you haven’t donated and you want to give a fiver, tenner, or more, please go to my Total Giving page. Remember, if you are a UK resident, you can include Gift Aid, which costs you, the sponsor nothing to do, but increases the money for the charity. That’s also the great thing about Total Giving, it is a non-profit organisation, so everything you donate, will go towards suicide prevention and mental health awareness.

To kick off these early evening rides, I went straight home after work, fed the dog, and got changed into some cycling gear. I went out after work today. I didn’t plan my route, (which in hindsight, is not always a good thing – I got a little lost, but soon found myself in recognisable territory). However, I decided I wanted about 60 – 90 minutes, so I could get back, and have dinner without it being too late into the evening.

As mentioned in previous posts, I have used Strava and Cyclemeter for a while now, but never done much other to clock how many miles I have been, and get sadly excited about the speeds I have managed to achieve (or in most cases thought to myself “Seriously? I thought I was going waaaaay quicker than that!“). Both Strava and Cyclemeter can also be used for runners, joggers and walkers, (although there are other apps that are possibly more suited for those activities).

Let’s start off with Cyclemeter. It’s the app for cycling I have had the longest. I find it has a lot more detail in it that Strava and other apps that I have used, but no longer have on my phone. Abvio, who are the makers of Cyclemeter claims to be the most advanced cycle app, and to a novice like me, it certainly appears that way. Let’s have a look at my ride this evening.

This evening’s ride. Screenshot of Cyclemeter app

Unless you are local, you won’t know the terrain etc. It was a mixture of city streets, cycle tracks, an old Victorian promenade along the coast, canal paths, and quiet country roads. You can also see that it was sunny, and just over 16 miles in total. The squiggle between 11 and 12 miles is where I got a little lost, trying to get onto the canal!

Cyclemeter overview of the speeds (e.g. fastest, average, etc.)

Cyclemeter, like Strava gives you an overview of the speed you travelled on route. I don’t know if I will eventually get used to seeing 30+ miles per hour as being 30+ miles per hour. I always feel at the time, that anything over 30 miles per hour, is like the speed of light! The fastest I have achieved before now (according to Cyclemeter) is 42 miles per hour.

If you live in Lancaster, you will be used to hills!

Depending on which side of the River Lune you live on in Lancaster, you are guaranteed hills! The further north or east you go, the hillier it gets. However, as you can see, nearly half the ride was along the coast.

Cadence – it’s like Quantum Physics to me!

The app (if you have a ANT+ or Bluetooth cadence measurer on you bike set up – my bicycle has a Bontrager one built into the frame) can also let you know your RPM. But that at the moment is as much as I know what this section of the app is all about. I have no idea if my cadence is any good or not, or what to do with the reading (if any cyclists are reading this, do let me know if my cadence is good, bad, or indifferent)!

Cyclemeter’s little summary page

Each ride you do with Cyclemeter results in a 13 page report. The above screenshots are just a few examples. There are some that really aren’t worth that while (I don’t personally think). For example one page summarises what music you listened to, whilst on your ride. If you have a heart rate monitor, there is a report page for that too. The above screenshot is the summary page

How does Cyclemeter compare with Strava? Well, I find Strava fun, but less informative.

Strava homepage of the route

Like Cyclemeter, Strava shows the route you completed, but without the mile markers on the home page. What is interesting is that Strava thinks my average speed was 0.30 mph slower, by 7 rpm faster on my cadence. Which one is telling porkies?

The fun stuff

I quite like the little medal you can get for regular stretches that you might ride. Basically stretches of road or cycleways get given nicknames by the Strava community (it has a social media aspect to it). Some names are more imaginative than others; Dead Man’s Prolapse being one of my favourites. When I’m in the mood it does make me want to push a little harder to get a PB (personal best).

Elevation review on Strava

Like Cyclemeter, Strava reviews your elevation. Interestingly, Strava and Cyclemeter differ slightly on how much elevation I actually did on this ride!

Speed merchant (or not) on Strava

Final screenshot is of Strava’s analysis of this evenings ride. Interesting that Strava thinks I did 3 mph faster than my fastest time according to Cyclemeter. Maybe I should average the two?

I think I’ll continue to use both apps, as they each give me something a little different. I’m certainly going to use them for the C2C ride. On my current phone, I’ve got a good data allowance and battery life is sweet, so I don’t have to worry about being drained of either battery or data.

If you use either of the apps or have others to recommend, do let me know.

Taking notice: 5 ways 2 wellbeing

Back to the 5 ways. I love Mid-Spring, it’s a time when here in the UK that as a hobby gardener, I feel everything is rapidly growing. It’s a great time to take more notice. Gardening is very much my therapy. It’s a great way to nurture plants, enjoy the seasons, have all the senses used. Below is a selection of flowers from the past year in my garden.

I particularly took notice just now, as this is the first time I have managed to harvest asparagus. People often are like Marmite with Asparagus, they either love it or hate it. For me, I love it. I love it for several reasons, one being that it is the one veg that I truly only ever eat when it is in season locally. Britains asparagus season is pretty short, usually from mid-April through to late May. Shipped in Asparagus loses its flavour rapidly, hence why I avoid it like the plague.

My favourite way to enjoy asparagus is with eggs. The simplest way, is with a lightly poached egg, with the asparagus gentled steamed or boiled. However, I am not a huge fan of steamed or boiled asparagus. I think the next simplest way is to cook the stems over a hot griddle pan (with or without first oiling the stems). Cook until they start to char. Once they have stripes, take them off the heat. I like them to still have a crunch! I serve with a simple, homemade Hollandaise Sauce.

You might be thinking, “Hey, hold on a minute, are I thought this was a 5 ways to wellbeing?”, but for me, you can eat rich sauces, and still maintain good general health. It’s all about the relationship you have with food. I know there will be some very health conscious people out there, who will say eggs and butter are not healthy (and I know some will come at this from a vegan angle too), but for now, I am still eating the occasional high-fat foods, but in small portions, and only occasionally. I think some fad diets, are much more harmful to a person, than getting the balance right. For anyone who does have difficulty maintaining a healthy weight range, then I can’t recommend enough Judith Beck’s book which is based on her Beck Diet Program (American English!). For most people who struggle with eating too much, it is often not what they are eating, or how much they are eating that is the problem, but more to do with the thoughts and feelings linked to food and their body image. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help overcome those thoughts and feelings.

For the simple Hollandaise Sauce (serves one or two people)

  1. 1 Egg yolk
  2. 1 splash of cider or white wine vinegar
  3. Around 10g melted butter
  4. 1/4 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard

If you need more of a visual aid than my photos, or you are someone who likes exact measurements when following a recipe, then Google, Jamie Oliver or James Martin for recipe ideas. My method, in a clean wide bowl, add the yolk, mustard and vinegar. Whisk until all the 3 ingredients are blended together. Place the bowl over a pan of boiled water. Keep whisking, and add the melted butter slowly. The whole process of preparing and cooking takes me less than 10 minutes. Which is also plenty of time to cook the stems of the asparagus. It makes a great starter, before the main evening meal.