Day 9 : Introducing hills

Awake! To no rain. Sadly though, whilst I pitched my tent so as to maximise the potential of the sun to dry the tent out in the morning, the sun was stuck behind the clouds.

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Drying the tent

The tent was given a wipe down and I was on my way.

I had to get back onto the cycle route, but didn’t fancy back-tracking 23 km, so instead chose a point where I could join it and headed there.

My Garmin GPS satnav is by turns indispensable and frustrating. Within 5 minutes of leaving the campsite it tried to take me across someone’s land where they had erected a sign saying access was verboten.

Then 15 minutes later it took me on a detour up a very rough and steep track. The back wheel was frequently spinning round trying to get traction, and I was very pleased I had fitted a small chainring in order to get up the hill at all.

Soon after it took me up a big hill for an unexpected sightseeing trip to a castle. I’m glad I did some Swain’s Lane training back in London as some of these slopes were equally steep, if not more so. The descents were also a good exercise in bike control, and a bit of a work out for the brake pads.

I cycled past a backerei that was open on Sundays and bought a coffee and croissant to eat in the adjacent park.

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Schloß

Then a morning of roads – as I was off the quiet cycle route the hi-vis and helmet came back out. There are a lot of big and fast cars over here and the cars behave much as in the UK.

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I reached the house in the picture to find an access verboten sign

Lunch was a burger at the only place that I found open. By afternoon I had met back up with the national cycle route R1. At one point I got interviewed for my feedback on the national cycle route and signposting by someone working for the organisation. It is good to see they are interested in improving an already well implemented and maintained system.

My batteries were running low (literally) – I had only 6% left on my satnav, so I decided to once again use booking.com to find a discounted hotel nearby (£32 inc breakfast) but not before a quick stop off at a tea room for some cherry cake..

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Cherry cake and coffee

Hotel is pretty decent and I had some soup and gnocchi for dinner to recharge my own batteries.

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Hotel has le Petit Prince as bed time reading

Bielefeld to Bad Meinberg, 64 km. Total so far = 716 km.

Day 8 : Long day cycling

Awake! To the sound of rain on the tent.. The rain wasn’t too heavy so after washing I packed up the wet tent and my damp clothes. The t-shirts I had on the line were soaked through so I wrung them out and put them into a dry -bag that I turned inside out (I call this invention a ‘wet bag’). After checking out of the campsite (€13.50 + washing + shower) I got on my way and the weather got better within an hour. Along with fields of sweetcorn I am now seeing a bit of variety.. carrots and potatoes..

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Surrounded by sweetcorn

Quite a nice route today and a good day’s cycling. Had breakfast at a cafe in a small town at around 11. In the afternoon I passed this working water pump so filled my bottles.

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Water top-up station

I found a campsite in the evening that was 23km off my route but in the right general direction, so headed for that, and popped into a supermarket along the way. I reached the campsite just before 6. Whilst putting up the tent the heavens opened. I dived into the tent, battened down the hatches, and made a simple dinner of a sandwich, some fruit, and a cup of tea with milk – luxury!

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Tasted amazing after a day’s cycling

Also staying at the campsite that evening was the only other camper there, Rüdiger, and his dog Jupiter. They arrived by bike with trailer.

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Rüdiger and Jupiter

In the evening we went to the campsite bar and had some beers, which gave both of us the opportunity to practise our English. Rüdiger has got into cycling in the last few years and is planning a cycle touring holiday to London. Sounds like a great idea!

Münster to Bielefeld, 105 km. Total so far = 652 km.

Day 7 : Laundry day

I awoke at 7am and headed over to the owner’s part of the house for breakfast, where I was greeted by this:

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Best breakfast ever

Not bad eh? The basket contains a fresh egg from one of their hens. Their part of the house dates back to the 1300s (if my German is correct..). Look at the size of the stone fireplace and clock:

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Great grandfather clock

The sun was out and I went on my way, out through the countryside towards Münster.

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I didn’t dance around this commemorative pole

Again a mix of roads and paths.

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Horses!

Münster has a great feel to it. It’s not too large, is bursting with history and culture, and feels alive. I’ve added it to the list of places I wouldn’t mind living.

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Münster munch

There are lots of cyclists here, though I notice most of the bikes get locked up.

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A street in the centre of Münster

A kindly bike shop had an automatic pump for passers-by to use, which meant I could give my tyres a quick top-up with minimal effort.

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I can’t say I read the instructions

Münster has the only campsite for miles around, and it’s a monster. I needed to do my laundry so decided to check in in the afternoon, and get that out of the way.

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Grand entrance to the campsite

There are rabbits in the field where I pitched my tent. Fortunately they seem to be respectful of the campers and the area is not awash with droppings!

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Campsite rabbit

Just for a change the sunny day turned to a rainy one. Here is the storm heading over to the campsite:

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Nice gradient effect

By the time my laundry was complete it was pouring with rain. After an hour or two it cleared and I was able to hang up the t-shirts that couldn’t be tumbled dried on my impromptu washing line:

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Laundry day

I went back into Münster in the evening. Unfortunately it started pouring again whilst I was out and by the time I got back I was soaked. Into dry clothes and off to sleep with the sound of the rain on the tent.

Havixbeck to Münster, 42 km. Total so far, 547 km.

Day 6 : Es regnet

After a super fresh egg, and some bread cheese and ham, I packed up and hit the road. The sun was out and Germany was looking good.

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Go to work on an egg

I headed towards Vreden where I joined onto one of the German national cycle routes. The signposting is pretty comprehensive and the route is so well marked, you barely need a map.

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Well signposted

After just over an hour I passed through a town which looked quite inviting but I felt it was too soon to take a break so headed on.

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Into the woods

The cycle route here has a lot more variety than in The Netherlands. There are more twists and turns and when not following roads or cycle paths the tracks can get quite muddy / rocky / gravelly / sandy.

Sometime after 12 it started raining and with heavy grey skies it didn’t look like it was going to stop any time soon. When the rain was light I cycled through it but there were a few real downpours with thunder where I looked for cover under various trees or purpose built shelters. It was so bad at one point I wondered if I would have to spend the night in the shelter. I waited a while, made a cup of tea and had some biscuits and the skies cleared a little. The power of a cup of tea!

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Whilst in the shelter I was looking for accommodation options. The nearest campsite I could find in Germany was a long way away – the closest options were back in the Netherlands. I also hadn’t seen anything resembling a guesthouse of even a shop since the town I passed in the morning. Not much option but to keep on pedalling in the rain – my map showed a town wasn’t too much further along my route.

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Drowned rat impersonation

At around 5pm from out of nowhere I saw a cafe with about 30 bikes parked outside (I had only seen a dozen other cyclists all day, and none since it had started raining). More importantly there was a sign outside ‘B&B’. I enquired within.  It looked like there was some kind of cyclists party going on. They had a room but it was €45 not including breakfast. As wet, tired and hungry as I was I didn’t fancy paying that for a B&B! I headed onwards to the next town which was only about 15 mins away. It had two hotels, one of which was closed and the other was €60. I cycled around not finding any B&Bs. There was also really bad phone signal so I couldn’t use bookings.com. Eventually I found somewhere I could get enough signal to access google maps. I noticed a ‘pension’ nearby. Not knowing what that meant exactly I thought I’d give it a try.

I’m very glad I did. It was a large building resembling a farmhouse. I made my way past some ponds and geese and then came a cross a woman tending the garden, who it turned out was one of the owners. She spoke no English whatsoever but was really nice and helpful and with my best bad German I got myself a room for the night with breakfast for a really good rate.

There were two or three long-term lodgers there. I had my own room and bathroom overlooking the ponds.

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Geese! The one on the right was a bit of a character

I headed into the centre of town for dinner. Starter was whatever I fancied from the salad bar. For the main course I opted for beef and mushroom with a kind of potato latke on the side that came highly recommended by a German couple I got talking to.

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Salad mix
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Tasty fuel

I walked around a bit and took a few photos then headed back to get an early night.

Ammeloe to Havixbeck, 86 km. Total so far 505 km.

Day 5 : Into Germany

The sun rises here around 6.30am. Another cold night in the tent but once I’ve had some porridge and coffee and packed everything else up it takes until about 9.30am for the condensation to have mostly dried off the tent so I can pack it away.

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Tent in the morning sun

Once again the LF 4 national long distance cycle route took me across lots of unpaved roads, gravel and dried mud tracks. Other than during Summer you’d probably need a mountain bike for this section.

Lots more pretty scenery. I cycled through a nature reserve and past many fields growing sweet corn.

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Up at the lake

I popped into a supermarket mid-morning for some sustainance. Alas what I thought was a vanilla flavoured milk drink turned out to be custard..

Lunch was a bitterballen sausage on bread and some ham and cheese on bread.

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Pickled carrot on the side

Whilst crossing a bridge I cycled past two teenagers sitting on it on beach towels. When I’d crossed and looked back I saw them jumping in. Easily over 10m – impressive!

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8.5

By mid afternoon I’d reached the end of the route North of Enschede.

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I was keen to push on into Germany. I couldn’t find any campsites so found a discounted B&B and headed for that.

The undramatic crossing into Germany:

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Where did my cycle lane go?

The B&B in Ammeloe is modern and well-appointed. Bed looks comfy! View from my window is sweet corn to the horizon and it is called the star room because it has a view of the sky, which is nice. In the garden are some chickens which I am assured will provide me with a fresh egg in the morning.

At least now in Germany I have a fighting chance of the language basics from my GCSE of over 20 years ago, although almost everyone I talked to in The Netherlands spoke good English. I got some help from Google translate app by looking up ‘I’d like another drink please’ and the lady serving in the pub here in Ammeloe understood completely.

Lochem to Ammeloe via Enschede, 86 km. Total so far = 419 km.

Day 4 : From campsite to campsite

I write this in my tent, feeling sleepy.

As I was packing up at the campsite this morning I had my first bit of kit failure when a hook from one of the rear rack bungee straps broke off. Turns out I can make do without the hook, so that’s 5g weight shaved off.

After leaving the campsite I headed into Arnhem town centre to hunt down some breakfast. I asked the only place I found open for a really big breakfast and was served two medium ones.

I could do with is one of those devices you hang round your neck that takes a picture every minute as I am seeing a lot of nice sights, but not taking many pics. I’ve taken a few today to capture an idea of the current landscape, though sadly I don’t have any pics of all the great architecture that I’m seeing.

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Cycling through a national park

I’m seeing lots of signs but have no idea what any of them mean, although shortly after seeing this one I cycled right by a big bull, when I had been expecting chickens.

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Warning: Wild rooster

A lot of today’s cycling was on unsurfaced roads and paths which means paying extra attention, since breaking and turning gets a bit hazardous with the loaded bike.

The weather was good today. A few showers but mainly sunny. Cycling through forests and in the shade of trees for a lot of it meant it wasn’t too hot.

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A small part of the LF4 Netherland long distance cycle route

A couple of stop offs along the way today for snacks.

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Elevenses

Skies look big here, but the weather has been changing quickly.

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Yeah, your skies are mine
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Selfie, bikie, boatie

This chain ferry cost €2 and made the crossing a lot easier. Note towel on bike. I have to rotate anything I have that’s wet on this prime drying position offered by the front touring bag.

Bit of a wrong turn and the paths got pretty narrow:

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Lost in the woods

Again at around 5pm I looked up nearby campsites and found one not too far away. It’s a large campsite but there’s only about 5 tents in total and just 1 other in my field. As I have the freedom, I’ve pitched my tent in a spot where it will get the sun in the morning. It got a bit cold last night. Need a warmer sleeping bag!

Arnhem to Lochem, 79 km.

Day 3 : Less rain, less flat

I write this in my tent listening to the sounds of the evening birdsong and the wind in the trees.

This morning I had breakfast at the hotel and then rejoined my route which took me through the town centre and then out once again onto the country lanes.

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Hotel-friendly luggage

With the exception of the lycra-clad road cyclists I didn’t see any one wearing a helmet. Scooter riders share many of the cycle lanes and most of them don’t wear helmets either.

The landscape is quite different to yesterday. There are a few slopes here and there and there’s noticeably less water about (still a lot though!).

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Lunch

The weather was sunny in the main part. There were two heavy showers during the day, but both times I was lucky enough to be cycling through villages that offered forms of shelter.

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Bus shelter
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Garage shelter

At around 5pm I searched for a nearby campsite and found one just a short cycle away. I have a great spot for my tent under some trees. The neighbours pitched their tent under a pear tree and from time to time I hear pears hitting their tent 🙂

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Chateau vert

Once I’d got the tent up I went for a swim in the river near the campsite. The sun was out and low in the sky and there was no-one else about. A great way to unwind after a day of umm unwinding.

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Wild swimming spot

As I had two big meals already I had a light dinner of porridge, half an unripe pear and a coffee.

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I made this all myself

Utrecht to Arnhem, 81 km.

Day 2 : Water, water, everywhere…

Hook of Holland to Utrecht, 103 km.

I write this at a Thai restaurant, on the banks of the Oudegracht San De Were in Utrecht.

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The canal that runs through the centre of Utrecht is less than two meters away. Water, it turns out, is in abundance in The Netherlands. As I cycled from The Hook of Holland through Den Haag to Utrecht, the majority of the roads and paths were flanked on both sides by water. Only half of The Netherlands is above 1m above sea level, and the engineering employed to manage this is very impressive.

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Unfortunately whilst cycling today I was also flanked by water from above. After a bright start, when I reached Den Haag it started drizzling, then most of the day was spent cycling through moderate rain, which then turned into the kind of rain where if I had them, I would set my windscreen wipers to ‘furious’. Thunder added to the drama. I set my destination to Utrecht and found a discounted hotel room near the city centre on bookings.com. I’ve dispersed all items to dry in my hotel room and even washed my undies in the sink (too much info?). The coffee and tea sachets look like they might come in handy too.

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The cycle lanes here are amazing. I’ve done over 100km today and over 99% has been on cycle lanes. Lots of the cycle lanes were segregated too.

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One other important thing I learnt today is that except for the city centres this place seems pretty much closed on Sundays. This meant my water and food rations (a banana) had to stretch a long way. Around 3pm I found a place that was open. I had been looking for anywhere that sold food since 12pm, admittedly my national cycle route didn’t take me through many towns.

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But despite the rain, all in all a very nice country and a pretty good day.

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Day 1 : Grand départ, prologue

London to Witham by bike, Witham to Harwich by car. 70km

I write this on Saturday night from a window seat in the bar on the Stena Line ferry heading from Harwich to Hook of Holland. It is dark outside. The wi-fi offered is free but noticeably lacking in pace. I think I will have made it abroad by the time this appears on the website.

Today I began my cycling adventure. If all goes well I’ll be seeing some of The Netherlands, Germany, and France, and maybe more over the next few weeks.

Recently I’ve been prepping my bike for the trip, and this morning I packed. There’s nothing like the immediacy of being at a deadline to get things done. And besides, if I’d have packed sooner I might have been put off by the total weight of the bike, which, as it turns out, is very heavy.

Today I rode 70km from London to Witham. Here I am about to leave Enfield:

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It rained heavily overnight and with a storm forecast for Sunday I lucked out with a very sunny day.

It didn’t take long to escape the slow, congested roads of London and reach the leafy lanes of Essex.

The bike was comfortable to ride, and once underway behaved similarly to when it has an ordinary load. However, the difference in weight is very noticeable when pushing or lifting it. It also got a bit snakey when I got out of the saddle to climb a hill quickly, so from now on I’ll be keeping sudden changes in movement to a minimum.

I’m very pleased I fitted a smaller chainring – I don’t care how quickly I go down a hill, but it is nice to be able to pedal up it. Plus it’s great to overtake people when going up a hill as I did today 🙂

It was super to catch up with Pete and Lucy in Witham. Thank you for the hospitality and lovely meal 🙂

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Then one of the benefits of the Brompton is its multi-modal capabilities. B and luggage easily fitting in the boot and a lift to Harwich:

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Now it’s time to head back to my luxury accommodation. Night!

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