Category Archives: Berlin to London

B2L – The Cheque Handover

Today we had a cheque handover event at the Chavasse VC House (the Colchester Personnel Recovery Centre).

Here am I handing over the cheque to Steve Schollar from Help For Heroes who runs the centre:

And here with Marianne West the Essex Help For Heroes co-ordinate and Major Robert Thomas who jointly runs the centre with Steve Schollar:

Also various friends and family were there:

A few people had a go on the trike!

They made me a cake!

Inside the centre (I didn’t take any other photos as I didn’t know if it was allowed)

Whilst we were in the cafeteria eating the cake various people who are staying here came in, reminding me once again why I raised money for this centre.

Oh, and Gift Aid recoveries bring the total to over £3,000. Thanks to so many of you here who sponsored me! And thanks to the staff of the Chavasse VC House who have been amazingly friendly and helpful. That cake was great!

Here is the press release from the MoD:

Charity ride supports wounded soldiers

A disabled woman cycled from Berlin to London to raise money to help put wounded, injured and sick soldiers on the road to recovery.

Helen Hancox, from Great Bromley, Essex, raised £2,501.07 for Help for Heroes to support the charity’s work at Chavasse VC House, Colchester’s Personnel Recovery Centre.

Helen covered the 701 mile journey from the Brandenburg Gate to Trafalgar Square on a recumbent tricycle. The 41-year-old cannot ride a normal bicycle after having metal implants fitted in her left arm as part of treatment for a bone tumour.

Helen said: “I have a disability that places restrictions on my life, but I wanted to demonstrate that disabled people can still do challenges like this. I can’t put weight on my arm, so I cannot grip the handlebars of a normal bike, but still enjoy cycling.

I’d been to Berlin last year and really enjoyed the city and decided to go back this spring and cycle back to London and raise money for charity. When I found out about this centre, my personal circumstances made Help for Heroes the natural charity to support.”

Chavasse VC House, which opened earlier in May, gives wounded, injured and sick soldiers additional care and support to help them successfully return to duties or transition into civilian life. It was funded by Help for Heroes with a significant contribution from The Royal British Legion towards its operating costs.

Help for Heroes centre manager Steve Schollar said: “I would like to thank Helen for her efforts and generous fundraising. She stopped to see the centre on her way from Harwich to London, which was just before we opened, and it’s great to welcome her back now we’re up and running.

The centre is busy and there’s a definite sense that we are making a real difference to the lives of the soldiers we are working with.”

Notes to editors

Chavasse VC House provides facilities to wounded, injured and sick soldiers, additional care and support to help them successfully return to duties or transition into civilian life. It is the first purpose built Personnel Recovery Centre and can accommodate up to 27 personnel, including two families, and a further 30 day attendees. It forms part of the Defence Recovery Capability, an a MOD-led initiative designed to deliver co-ordinated support to wounded, injured and sick Service personnel, delivered in partnership with Help for Heroes and The Royal British Legion.


Filed under Berlin to London

B2L – Great Bromley to London (Day 17)

The Final Day!

So the final day dawned, my ride into London. This was the day that I had been least looking forward to (in fact, the only day I wasn’t looking forward to) in that riding in London is not something I particularly enjoy. Wonderful as recumbent tricycles are, they aren’t really suited to London traffic and drivers.

Still, there was plenty to look forward to today apart from this. The chance to tour the Colchester Personnel Recovery Centre, riding with some friends through Essex, the chance to finish this task I had set myself, more sponsorship being raised. So I was keen to get going!

Arrangements had been made for me to have a quick tour of the Colchester PRC at 9am and so James and I set out from home fairly early (8am) to cycle the six miles and then give ourselves plenty of time to find out where we should check in, in case we couldn’t find it (not having been to the barracks before). Fortunately Steve Schollar, the Help For Heroes Centre Manager, was waiting for us in the car park even though we were 25 minutes early. After checking in and getting our security passes we headed off on what must be the smoothest roads in Colchester across the new barracks to the PRC which is on the south end. This included going over the bridge across Berechurch Hall Road which I have only ever cycled under previously – and the road under it is one of the most potholey and bumpy roads in Colchester. What a contrast!

We arrived at the centre and were greeted by several people who made us a cup of tea and had a good chat about my tour and the PRC and more. After we had finished our cups of tea we were shown around what is clearly an excellent new facility. It was really good to see the quality of everything there and also how many wonderful outside seating areas there are to relax and recuperate and have time to think. We had the workings of the PRC explained to us – it all looks very positive. What I hadn’t realised is that it isn’t just for those wounded by IEDs but is also for military personnel who may have MS, for example, or other issues.

After we’d had a bit of a look around we took some photographs outside with the brand new name plaque for the building.

And here is a picture with James and with Steve the H4H Centre Manager:

Our visit actually lasted almost an hour and a half and culminated with the bravest of the centre staff having a go on Alfie – he went pretty quickly! We were very grateful people had given up their Sunday morning to show us around and to give us such personal attention!

Then James and I were let out of the pedestrian gate which opens at the Corporal Budd VC Gymnasium where our friend Mark was waiting for us. Some others who had planned to cycle with us to London had decided it was wisest not to due to the engineering works on the trains – they wouldn’t have been able to get home afterwards!

The plan was for Mark, James and I to cycle to Maldon where we would meet Martin (another cyclist friend) and at this point James would turn round and cycle home so that he would be available to collect Mark and I in the car at the end of the ride.

We were lucky with the weather as it was a bright morning without too many clouds although it wasn’t as warm as it looked. James, Mark and I made reasonable progress to Maldon although the strong headwind (which was with us the whole way to London!) was a bit of a pain.

We met Martin at Maldon Tesco’s where I took the opportunity to buy a cup of tea and shared round some of the fantastic fruit cake my next-door neighbour had made for me yesterday. We then waved goodbye to James who was taking a more scenic route home (we had come the most direct route which had a fair bit of traffic for a Sunday morning).

We headed off up the awful hill to the centre of Maldon for which I had to use my granny ring. We then headed off through Hazeleigh and then Bicknacre. We had various text messages from Wowbagger whom we were planning to meet along the way. He, Jane and Delthebike had met each other at Shenfield and then cycled to a tea room. My little cycling party was a bit later than expected (due to us spending longer at the PRC than we had planned) and so they cycled towards us to meet us. We all met in the village of East Hanningfield and Del was ready with his camera:

And another Del took of me pulling a silly face:

We had a quick chat with Del (who had to ride home again) and then the group of five (me, Jane, Wowbagger, Mark and Martin) headed off towards the Ingatestone Garden Centre for a spot of lunch.

Wowbagger and I had eaten here before – tea and cake sort of food – but it was heaving with people when we got there, they’d run out of lots of options for lunch, and it also seemed rather dramatically overpriced this time. However we were hungry (as it was 2:00pm) and so decided to eat there. As we arrived we saw Jurek, another cycling chum, awaiting us – he had ridden over from London to come back with us. He and Mark also shop at the same bike clothing store (Aldi!)

Lunch took about an hour so our schedule had slipped even more. I had originally said to various people that I expected to be into London at 5pm but had now revised this to 6pm and Jurek was concerned about how slow the last fifteen miles would be as it’s busy in East London on Sunday evenings. Still, there wasn’t much we could do about that and we headed off, keeping a respectable pace (for me, at least) for a lot of the riding. It was a bit up and down in places, we went through Shenfield/Brentwood and then crossed the M25. Now we felt like we were approaching London! We headed through Gidea Park

At one point I started to go round a mini roundabout the wrong way (my brain was still on cycling on the right!) but fortunately realised pretty quickly and swerved back to the correct side, which provided a laugh for my companions.

The scenery was rather different than my route out of Berlin!

As we approached Chadwell Heath a loo stop was requested. We fetched up at the Goodmayes Tesco and various people went off to find the loo (which ended up a bit of an experience in itself for them!). I took the opportunity to take some photographs as I realised I hadn’t been doing much of this – I was concentrating too much on trying to cycle as fast as I could!

We had a very interesting collection of bikes on this ride including 3 lovely Titanium ones.

After the loo stop we headed off into London proper. This was for me a rather unpicturesque bit of my entire tour and although there were interesting sights there were some very dodgy motorists. Jurek did an absolutely fabulous job of ride leader – I followed his back wheel closely and he led me through all the lane changes, round the dodgy potholes and more. Jane sat on my right shoulder shielding me from the worst of the traffic. They were both quite brilliant!

This was my view for a lot of the ride – concrete, cars and Jurek trailblazing

Then we found ourselves on one of Boris’s new Cycling Superhighways. I liked the blue paint as it made the ride smoother but was told by the upright cyclists that it could be very slippery in the rain. We didn’t stick to the blue paint by any means as sometimes it made you do dangerous manoeuvres.

In a stretch of about two miles Jane was nearly sideswiped by a car (she saw the lady driver was texting at the time), then someone nearly squashed Jurek (fortunately he saw it coming and swerved out of the way) and finally a car tried to muscle past me in a pinch point and I had to slam my brakes on to avoid being hit by it. Not fun, and a reminder of why I don’t like riding in London! On the other hand, lots of passers by seemed amused by this little group of cyclists and a few people waved at me and shouted encouraging (I choose to believe they were encouraging anyway!) comments.

Martin came to the front for a little while as we were heading through Whitechapel (I saw the bell foundry as we waited at yet another set of traffic lights) and so I was following Jurek and him. I was watching the “miles to destination” count down from 15 to 12 to 10… it seemed to be going slowly because of the traffic lights although we were actually riding fairly fast (for me). Then finally we got some views of central London landmarks.

Sorry that pic is appallingly dark – I had very little time for photography whilst whizzing along at 15 miles an hour through glass-littered streets!

We arrived at Stratford and then the roads opened out a bit and felt easier. Jurek had originally decided we would go over a flyover (not sure which one – I was just following him without paying much attention to where I was!) but the wind was so strong he decided against it in the end and we went round the roundabout – unscathed, fortunately.

I was moaning to Jurek and Jane how little I liked riding in London and Jane said she enjoyed it – she’s made of much sterner stuff than me!

And then we rounded a corner and there was the Tower of London and it all looked wonderful bathed in sunshine. Jurek said “I love this city” and I could see why.

We rode along the embankment, knowing there was only two miles to go – hurrah – and it looked as though we would make it by 6pm.

Jurek led me up Northumberland Avenue and then we arrived at the bottom of Trafalgar Square to “hello!” from my mother and father in law, but we rode around the side of the square up to St Martin-in-the-Fields where there was a dropped kerb so we could get off the road. Clare from YACF (the cycling forum) was there with her camera as well and she took several photos.

Arrived at last!

Clare took a few photos of me with my phone as well so I could post the pics on Facebook.

Here we have Wowbagger, Jurek, me, Mark and Martin (Jane had to dash straight off, unfortunately).

My in-laws had found us and went to buy me a bottle of water (which was much needed) and Miranda (Mice) arrived with some little biscuits for me which were fab as I was pretty hungry.

Then Stephanie, the Help For Heroes fundraising rep, appeared and she gave me a medal and a certificate for completing the ride.

Sorry I look a bit gloomy there – I was feeling pretty tired!

Here is the certificate:

I chatted with Stephanie and her friend for a while, along with the others, and eventually people had to go so it was just Mark and I awaiting James (our taxi service) and his parents. Unfortunately there was a huge queue on the A12 so James had to do a significant detour which added at least an hour to his journey time so in the end we agreed that Mark and I would ride eastwards to Trinity Square (near the Tower of London) where James knew of some parking and which was a bit easier for him to get to. Mark was feeling a bit chilly by this point so we said goodbye to James’s parents who were taking the train home, I bought a sandwich at Pret a Manger (and a cup of tea – I offered my own teabag and they didn’t charge me for the tea!!!!) and then Mark and I got back on the bikes for another two and a half miles to the Tower. I didn’t mind this short extra ride as when I had reached Trafalgar Square my total tour distance was 698 miles – that last little trip clicked it over to 701. Phew!

Mark had a hot drink whilst we waited at Trinity Square and then James arrived. The bikes were dismantled and put in the car and then we headed off home. We were on the road by 8pm, feeling pretty tired but I was delighted to have finished the tour.

I was still carrying around my bag of tools and pump, etc. This toolbag was fairly heavy as I have a decent spanner to remove the back wheel, various allen keys, two spare tubes, the pump, tyre boots, cable ties, insulating tape, puncture repair kits with dozens of patches, other general tools… and on the entire tour I used just one piece of gaffer tape. Typical! Still, I was prepared for the worst so it was worth it!

More donations were arriving as I was approaching London (I get emails each time someone gives via Bmycharity) so that was really encouraging, as were all the messages of support on Facebook when I posted that I had made it!

So now it’s back to normality – I have lots of work to catch up on, I need to give the dog lots of nice long walkies and cook James some nice meals as he’s been fending for himself for two and a half weeks. And I need to try to raise a bit more money to hit my £2,000 target… and to think up the next recumbent tricycle challenge. Watch this space!

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 72.4 miles
Moving time: 6 hours 59 minutes 11 seconds
Maximum speed: 33.mph
Average speed: 10.4mph
Average heart rate: 144
Maximum heart rate: 182
Calorie burn (estimate as heart rate monitor didn’t always get a reading): 3,200 calories

Total tour distance: 701 miles

Thanks to all who sponsored me, including:

Lots of friends at Lion Walk URC, people in the village of Great Bromley and further afield, Ardleigh Fish & Chip shop, various friends of my parents and my in-laws, County Broadband, Alan & Paula Bridges, Kevin Wiggins, Canardly, Hotel Zum Schwan, Maureen & Dave, Stephen Breddy, Geordieonabike, Kate McGuire, Grace Lee & Andrew, Clive Banks, Doug Priest, Jenny & Peter Hancox, Heather & Tess, Philip & Yvonne, Ann Jarrett, Charles & Jacqueline Hall, Claire Witham, Moyna Adam, Juliet Whitty, Gina & Alan Reames, Ham, TimC, Jean Armstrong, Sam Armstrong, David & Michele Jenner, Ruth Wiggins, Diane Oshisanwo, Kirstie & Howard & Rose, Roger Smith, John & Shirley England, The Sutherlands, Orienteer, Alan & Jan Bullard, Liz Chamberlain, Huw Jones from Madison, Frances & Ken Eastty, Wowbagger, Chris Samuel, Katy Watts & Lola, John & Jean Tilley, Stuart Affleck, Lindsay Goubel, Auntie Charlotte, Linda Freestone, Gwenllian South, Joe Bellett, Thomas Bennett, Julie Lovegrove, Mum & Dad, Duncan Adam, Kirsty & Steve Rowley, Louise Brooks, Jim & Lesley, Olaf Storbeck, Adam Bell, Anna Buttimore, Ianrauk, Linda Harrison (with Claire & Wendy), Kate Strowbridge and of course all the anonymous donors and those who have filled in sponsor forms or given me cash!

Click here to see my actual ride route: Auntie Helen’s Berlin To London ride

My cycle ride is featuring on the Help For Heroes website at the moment: Berlin to London on a recumbent trike

If you think what I’m doing is pretty cool, perhaps you might sponsor me to give me some encouragement and, more importantly, to help a really good cause. All sponsorship greatly appreciated! The link to my sponsor page is here: Auntie Helen’s sponsorship page


Filed under Berlin to London, Cycle Tours

B2L – Delft to Hoek van Holland, Harwich to Great Bromley (Day 16)

Click here to see my progress so far: Auntie Helen’s Berlin To London ride

My cycle ride is featuring on the Help For Heroes website at the moment: Berlin to London on a recumbent trike

If you think what I’m doing is pretty cool, perhaps you might sponsor me to give me some encouragement and, more importantly, to help a really good cause. All sponsorship greatly appreciated! The link to my sponsor page is here: Auntie Helen’s sponsorship page

Saturday 12 May 2012

I really enjoyed my evening in Delft and the hotel in which I stayed was excellent.

Breakfast was good except the rolls weren’t very exciting. They had crepes in a warming pan thingy which I noticed when checking out what was available but then forgot about – a crepe would have been a lovely end to breakfast!

As I didn’t have far to ride this morning and my ferry didn’t sail till 14:30 I stayed in the hotel until ten in the morning, at which point I fetched Alfie, loaded him up with my panniers and set off. I added my German flag to Alfie this morning (Stefan helped me find it in Münster the other day):


My route was to be a distinctly un-direct one. The official LF4b cycle route goes through The Hague and then down the North Sea Coast cycle path. I’ve done the bit south of the Hook of Holland and it’s a really nice route so I fancied trying this other section. So rather than travelling south west from Delft to the Hook I started off going north-west to The Hague, then went west until I hit the cycle path. This probably added 10 miles to the journey but it was a nice, warm, sunny day and I had loads of time so it felt like a good plan.

I saw signs to the Hoek van Holland pretty early on:


I heard a brass band at one point and there they all were, apparently playing to the closed doors of a shop. Random!


I watched my mileometer click over 600 miles for the tour. This means I might just about make 700 miles in total by the time I’m in London – my original calculations, following the official cycle route the whole way, was nearer 800 miles, so I saved a lot of mileage by going my own way.

I arrived in The Hague, or at least its outskirts, and saw lots of tall buildings. I turned more west and soon found myself on the North Sea Cycle Route. Although this went right along the coast, it was about 50 metres inland and amongst a lot of sand dunes and the lay of the land meant that I didn’t actually see the sea the entire five miles that I cycled alongside it. It was only when I arrived at the Hook of Holland that I first saw the North Sea.

The route along the dunes was very nice with a decent road surface and lots of cyclists (mostly very fast roadies). I soon came to the village of Monster and decided to stop there for a cup of tea and piece of cake. Unfortunately cake seemed to be in rather short supply – the one bakery I found had nothing that inspired me and had no seating anyway, so I carried on. Fortunately I found a little café just off the cycle route which made me a cup of tea and I bought a little pastry (there was only a choice of apple or strawberry so hardly a comprehensive food offering, although it was tasty).


A friendly dog watched me eating and through doggy ESP managed to make me drop some crumbs.


I mentioned yesterday that James had reported something about bicycle signage being like mushrooms. Once I was on the North Sea Cycle Route I saw exactly what he meant – these signs appeared quite frequently.


Then once I got very near the Hoek van Holland I found signs to Harwich being surprisingly near!!


Only 2km, really? Why does the ferry take six hours to get there then?

I carried on, arriving at the Hoek van Holland at 12:30 which gave me two hours until the ferry sailed. I decided to buy some lunch at the supermarket and, once I had some crisps and bread and cookies, thought it was time to check in to the ferry (I had booked my passage last night).

The thing was, the main road to the ferry terminal was being dug up and resurfaced and I couldn’t seem to find my way to the ferry. I kept going round in circles, coming up against the barriers that blocked you from going on the old road. I asked a passer-by who said I needed to go right out to the big roundabout out of town, which I did, and then I saw some bike diversion signage. I followed these signs and then found they had disappeared where I had a choice of several ways to go and, of course, the route I chose took me to another impassable barrier.

I decided to give up being a bike and to pretend I was a car and followed the car route to Hoek van Holland Strand, where you could go around the end of the railway and end up the correct side of the line. It was easy to follow the railway line then along to the ferry terminal where I was able to check straight in and cycle onto the ferry, looking like a giant maw:



I parked Alfie behind a load of motorbikes.


And eventually we headed off for Blighty!


A day crossing on the ferry is a bit boring really as there’s not too much to do. I was able to watch the Giro D’Italia cycle race (although with Dutch commentary) for the first few hours.

After six hours or so we saw some familiar landmarks. Felixstowe:


Harwich Old Town


And here we are arriving at the berth in Parkestone Quay, into which we reversed:


And a view of some of the wind farm turbines being stored here


I went down to rejoin Alfie and had a closer look at a couple of motorcycles parked in front of me. Really interesting sidecars:



What was even more interesting was that the sidecars were for a trio of cocker spaniels!

Anyway, we were soon off the boat and I headed off to the A120 towards Colcheser.


I usually take the scenic route to Harwich along the National Cycle Route 51 or via Wrabness but I was keen to get home so rode all the way along the A120 which is fun with all the huge lorries whizzing past. The motorcycles with sidecars passed me after about five minutes and waved, as did a German car (presumably because of my German flag). I did get beeped by several cars though, presumably expressing the thought that I shouldn’t be on the A120; that was more car interaction than I’d had in two weeks in Germany and Holland!

It was a lovely evening for a ride and I felt pleased when the water tower at Horsleycross Street came into view as it was only five miles to home from there.


James my husband came to meet me a few miles from home (he was on his bike of course) and then we cycled together back home. My next door neighbours were there to welcome me and took some photos – and Lesley had baked me a cake! I was beginning to be a bit concerned I would suffer withdrawal symptoms from cake so this will keep me going for a few days!

Tomorrow is the final, final push to London.

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 36.78 miles
Moving time: 3 hours 53 minutes 33 seconds
Maximum speed: 20.7 mph
Average speed: 9.4 mph
Average heart rate: 116
Maximum heart rate: 175
Calorie burn: 1,378 calories




Filed under Berlin to London, Cycle Tours

B2L – Utrecht to Delft (Day 15)

Click here to see my progress so far: Auntie Helen’s Berlin To London ride

My cycle ride is featuring on the Help For Heroes website at the moment: Berlin to London on a recumbent trike

If you think what I’m doing is pretty cool, perhaps you might sponsor me to give me some encouragement and, more importantly, to help a really good cause. All sponsorship greatly appreciated! The link to my sponsor page is here: Auntie Helen’s sponsorship page

Friday 11 May 2012

So this was to be my last full day of riding in Holland and my last hotel stop before I returned home.

I did a bit of research online yesterday evening and discovered that The Hague is quite expensive but I found what looked like a nice hotel in Delft for a very good price (and it had some excellent reviews). So I booked that one, thinking Delft would be a nice place to visit. And the distance variation was minimal.

The thing about this tour is that I haven’t been very good at estimating distances before I actually set off. Lots of people asked me how far I would be riding each day and I said about 60-70 miles. This distance was based on a tour I had done a few years ago with Pippa Gardner when that was about the speed we went (the other tours since had been in a larger group which slows you down or were purposely shorter days). My pre-planning showed I did need to do about 60-65 miles most days to hit the towns in which I was vaguely aiming to stay overnight.

There was also a sort-of date to aim for – doing the last day into London on a Sunday (to avoid awful weekday traffic). Working back from that date, 13 May, gave my my 60 miles per day amount and it all looked about right.

However, readers of this blog will know that after Day 1 I dumped the official cycle route which was fiddly, faffy and too off-road and went a more direct route, generally shaving almost 10 miles off each day’s distance. Not only this, I got a bit ahead on the first two days (scheduled for 40 days and I did 60) so I was quite ahead of schedule right up till Münster. If I hadn’t had the Sunday date for my Colchester to London day then I might have done some more mileage and reduced the tour by a day or two.

That was very much noticeable today. I was riding past signs to the Hook of Holland and it’s less than 15 miles away. I could easily have got there and got the ferry home a day early but it would have meant a day at home before the last day, which would have seemed a bit odd, and I wouldn’t have had the chance to visit Delft, which would have been a shame (as you will see below). It’s a good feeling to have had an enjoyable series of cycling days without overdoing it (except on the very hot day in Germany when I went to Nachterstedt) and to have had plenty of time to look around places that I have visited. My only concern is that my cake consumption has been on the understanding I’d be riding 60 miles and I’ve been riding 45. Let’s hope the scales aren’t too badly affected when I get home!

So anyway, to today’s report. In summary this has been a lovely day’s cycling and I’ve even used quite a fair portion of the official route!

Anyway, I set off from Utrecht a bit later than usual (at 9am) as I knew today’s distance wasn’t too taxing and I felt like a bit of a lie-in. I headed out along one of the many canals – a rather traditional view.


I also passed loads of these bridges today – dozens of ’em. They were all sorts of designs, sizes and levels of complexity but showed the Dutch people’s different ways of coping with a rather watery landscape.


I really liked this little footbridge (just steps) that I saw as I passed along Oudenrijn, briefly joining the official route before turning off on my own shortcut (less faffage).


I cycled through de Meern, finding the really strong headwind quite tricky at times. The wind was very gusty and it was quite a hard slog pretty much all today which explains why my moving average was 8.5mph.

I cycled through Harmelen and Haanwijk, most of the time alongside a canal. I continued through Breeveld where I joined the official cycle route – and stayed on it for a fair while as it guided me along a canal to Geestdorp and then to Woerden.

Woerden is quite a big place and I was feeling like having a cup of tea (I had done 12 miles into a strong headwind) so pootled into the main pedestrian precinct and, lo and behold, found a bakery.

This is Woerden high street:


This is some of the choice of cakes in the bakery:


I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I was slightly disappointed by the cake choice in Holland compared to Germany. There is actually a very big choice, particularly of various iced sponge cakes, but what I miss is the sort of large doughnut that the Germans do so well (often filled with apples), or a Nußecke, or a Schweineohr or many other biscuity/pastry/carbohydratey unhealthiness. I had to really choose from an iced sponge so I went for one which was very tasty and very light (but had lots of cream).


From now on I had decided to follow the official route to Zoetermeer as the route looked nice, relatively unfaffy and the main roads might have been a bit busy. So I meandered out of Woerden and followed a canal for what seemed like miles. I have a funny feeling the canal might actually be a bit of the Rhine! This sign is a clue.


I pootled my way through Bekenes (lots of houses with gardens backing on to the canal – lots of livestock such as shetland ponies, sheep, goats, llamas, chickens etc) then arrived at Niewerbrug where I saw their smart new bridge. There was a toll to cross it so I didn’t bother!


I felt the signage for the cycle route (LF4b) was a little more successful today than on previous days. Although I did often find I was referring to my Garmin at junctions where the signs weren’t evident, there did seem to be a higher proportion of them than on some of the earlier stretches in Holland.

When speaking to James last night on Skype he commented that a friend of ours, Grace, had said she’d seen signs sticking out of the ground ‘like mushrooms’ (although James wasn’t 100% sure he had remembered this correctly). Anyway, I did see a few signs on posts low down – perhaps this is what she meant. Mind you, if you’re going fast you haven’t got much time to read all the different options!


Affter Nieuwerbrug I passed through several more little hamlets before arriving at the fairly large town of Bodegraven. I had just passed over the large bridge in the centre when the alarm started going and the barriers came down, so I stopped to watch. This is how you get a large boat under a low bridge.





It was all done very quickly and the bridge was soon down again. I headed off, still following the official route, still into a shocking headwind.

This bit of Holland was very picturesque as it was festooned with canals. They were everywhere – huge numbers of ’em – which did mean a certain amount of up and downhill to get over lots of little bridges. It was interesting seeing that people had mini bridges from the main road to their house as there was usually a canal running between the road and the house. Lots of people had little boats as well, some had larger boats (which must have been a challenge to get anywhere).

Here’s a view of Boskoop/Westeinde.


From here I was very quickly at Benthuizen which was the point where I was going to deviate from the official route (which was heading for The Hague) in order to go more southwards towards Delft.

I saw this lovely windmill in Benthuizen:


However attractive the scenery was, my stomach was rumbling as it was 13:30 and I hadn’t had that much breakfast. However Benthuizen seemed to be singularly short of food establishments. Or perhaps my food-finding mojo isn’t as good in the Netherlands as it is in Germany.

The main road I needed to take was being dug up and the workmen advised me against using it but a local dogwalker suggested an alternative cycle path route on which which I headed off.

I saw a restaurant and stopped there. I walked in and realised it was really posh – candlelit tables with wine and business people. I was hot and in high-vis with windswept hair so I beat a hasty retreat.

A mile later I found another restaurant. I went in and asked the lady if they did snacks and she said yes, but there were no prices on the menu and she eventually admitted they were probably a bit ‘elegant’ for me. So that’s two posh restaurants and no cafés or bistros – this is a newly-built suburb of Zoetermeer and it’s clearly posh!

I stuck a waypoint in the middle of Zoetermeer in the hopes that I would find something to eat there and let my Garmin choose me a route. It supplied a nice, cycle path route which took me to where I had put the waypoint – which looked like a load of multi-story car parks, posh office buildings and casinos. Zoetermeer is clearly hip and trendy. I eventually found a shopping mall with a fried chicken place by the door and grabbed a mystery chicken curry hot sandwich thingie.


All the bikes were heavily locked up outside so I didn’t want to leave Alfie for more than a minute or two. This meant that I couldn’t have a loo stop I had been looking forward to; still, only eight miles to Delft.

I asked my Garmin to plot me a route to the hotel in Delft and off we went, wending our way through the weird warren of tall buildings and multi-storey car parks, eventually getting onto a nice cycle path through what I think might be some posh office buildings.

And then I was faced with a motorway that I needed to cross. But no road bridge!

The Garmin had directed me here and seemed to think I could get across. I followed the little purple line and arrived at a railway platform. But I could see a walkway suspended across the top, presumably to get to the other platforms, but it clearly continued on over the motorway. A bridge, perhaps! But how to get there?

I turned round and behind me was a rather smelly lift. Fortunately it was big enough for Alfie so up we went, up and up and up it seemed, and then I was disgorged into this very wide bridge thingy. Which had a cycle path down one side, complete with the red painted tarmac. So I cycled along it, above the motorway. Weird!



At the other side I could see some escalators (there had been some on the original side but I obviously ignored those). I assumed there would be a lift and I saw a sign to one. A lady came from that direction with a bike and spoke to me in Dutch; I got the impression she said the lift wasn’t working but I had to go and look anyway and it was working just fine. It was even smellier than the earlier lift!

I carrried on along dedicated cycle paths through what looked like University buildings. It soon turned into a lovely straight run through some parkland with lots of people walking dogs (I note the Dutch are far less good at poop scooping than the Germans – you virtually never see any dog poop in Germany but there were a fair few piles visible on most of the Dutch cycle paths).

I arrived in Pijnacker and saw lots of signs to Den Haag and, of course, to Delft (which I think has become a suburb of The Hague). I was finally turning slightly out of the wind’s force which was a relief after 40+ miles of a wind which was apparently 30km/h.

The cycle path was a bit rough on the main road towards Delft and I found myself strangely alone on it. A quick look to the side, across the canal, and there were loads of cyclists travelling parallel with me. At the next bridge over the canal I crossed over and found myself on a nice, smoothly-tarmacked segregated cycle path. Much more like it!

From Pijnacker I entered Delft at Wippolder. Whilst waiting at a crossing someone asked me in English where I had come from and I said Berlin. He said “I see your Help For Heroes flag, it’s a great charity!” and then was off on his bike before I had a chance to hand him one of my leaflets. He had an English accent so was presumably a tourist.

It was then a case of wending my way through narrower and narrower lanes until I found myself at the wonderful hotel Leeuwenbrug which is slap bang opposite the Leeuwenbrug (a bridge), although not one that I can cycle over!


I checked in, put Alfie in the garage round the back and then located my room – a fantastic attic room with sloping ceilings. I feel like I need to go and find my pearl earring now.


Not only that, it had a kettle and teamaking facilities! (Although no milk – they supplied me with a jug of milk when I asked).


It was wonderful to have a shower and not have to wash out my clothes for once, as I won’t need to wear them again before I am reunited with my washing machine! I finally finished my hair conditioner which I never thought would last two weeks (75mls) so that was a bonus!

Delft had looked so lovely as I cycled through it that I went out for a walk to get a good look around.

Delft has lots of tiny alleyways.


And these wonderful canals running all through it with bridges every 200 metres or so.


Quite a lot of it is for pedestrians and bicycles only.


I had a quick look in Halfords. Different branding to the UK one but still bike stuff and car equipment.


Every corner revealed a new and attractive view.


The main square was just round the corner from the hotel.



There were bikes everywhere, including this great cargo bike (I’ve seen loads of these). It seems as though half of the bikes in Holland are made by ‘Gazelle’ although they don’t generally look very lightweight and boingy!


Anyway, it was lovely to have a good look around and there are clearly lots of nice-looking restaurants so I will be able to find a good evening meal for my last dinner in Holland.

Today vanity won over sense and I didn’t wear a hat or cycling glasses. This was to try to reduce the strange tan lines on my face – white forehead, brown cheeks and chin – and it seems to work. There wasn’t much sunshine so I could ride without my eyes shaded but the fresh air has put a bit more of an even colour into my face. This is in a vain hope that I won’t look completely ridiculous in the various photos of me that will be taken on Sunday. I have a very impressive leg suntan already…

So tomorrow it’s a quick trip to the Hook of Holland, then a seven hour ferry journey, then a speedy ride straight down the A120 to home. There’s nothing like mixing it with the HGVs on UK roads when you’ve been pootling around on cycle paths for days…

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 44.85 miles
Moving time: 5 hours 18 minutes 17 seconds
Maximum speed: 19.3 mph
Average speed: 8.5 mph
Average heart rate: 114
Maximum heart rate: 162
Calorie burn (estimate as heart rate monitor didn’t always get a reading): 1,100 calories


Oh, and I had another donation today from someone I don’t know – Doug Priest. Thanks very much Doug! Alex Dowsett retweeted information about my ride so perhaps he read it as a result of that. Thanks to Doug and Juliet Whitty and anyone else who has given and whom I don’t know (or don’t know I know!)

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B2L – Duiven to Utrecht (Day 14)

Click here to see my progress so far: Auntie Helen’s Berlin To London ride

My cycle ride is featuring on the Help For Heroes website at the moment: Berlin to London on a recumbent trike

If you think what I’m doing is pretty cool, perhaps you might sponsor me to give me some encouragement and, more importantly, to help a really good cause. All sponsorship greatly appreciated! The link to my sponsor page is here: Auntie Helen’s sponsorship page

Thursday 10 May 2012

This morning when I woke up it appeared all my washing was dry which was good as the forecast was for rain and I could see raindrops on the window as I got myself ready. All my clothing was bundled into the pannier and I saved the waterproof bag for my coat as when the time came for me to leave (at 7:30am!) the rain had tailed off.

I set off with windproof jacket on, finding it pleasantly warm. Particularly when I found myself climbing up a not-insignificant hill!


From Duiven I headed towards Arnhem and it wasn’t long before the rain started in earnest and I swapped to my waterproof jacket. I was pretty hungry already and so looked out for a bakery that might do breakfast. The first one I parked up at clearly didn’t (and had nowhere to sit) so I carried on, eventually finding one which had a couple of tables inside.


I ordered a bread roll with cheese and ham and a cup of tea. The bread roll had little green things in which I assumed were pistachio nut pieces or sunflower seeds or something but, rather bizarrely, seemed to be very small pieces of green Fruit Pastille, which I didn’t feel worked entirely well in a savoury roll.


After this short stop I headed off again, this time using the official LF4b cycle route (4b goes east to west, 4a goes west to east, but it’s the same route).


Just outside Arnhem the route went through some woodland which included a few hilly bits. The rain was really coming down now and unfortunately woodland cycle paths mean that you get a bit mucky (the wheels flick up bits of stick and mud and grot) so my hands felt quite gritty on the handlebars and I could see dots of mud down my waterproof jacket, slowly dissolving in the rain.

This route was actually a bit faffy and without the Garmin track I probably would have missed some of the signs (which were sometimes very small). I realised after a few miles that this route wasn’t really my cup of tea and I’d stick to more main roads again, as is my wont. It was easy enough to plot a route using the Garmin and so I left LF4b and headed on my own route.

I passed this fantastically-named petrol station:


I went through Oosterbeek and Heelsum/Renkum and found myself crossing the official route again, following it for a short while past the fantastically-named village of Nude. This was a nice bit of cycling on a dike looking down at a river. I left the cycle route when it went off on a detour through the village of Renkum and decided to take the main road – which proceeded to go up a 7% hill! I thought Holland was flat!


At the top of the hill I found myself at a war memorial with lots of graves.




By now I had done eighteen miles and the rain was making it all feel a bit harder work than it should. Tea and cake were calling and as I arrived in the fairly large town of Rhenen I thought I should be able to find a nice café. It took me a while, as it happened, and the one I found didn’t do poffertjes but did give me a slice of apple cake and a cup of tea for the princely sum of 6,25€. A bit pricey really.


By the time I came out of the café the rain had stopped (hurrah!) and I had also dried off a bit. I set off enjoying not getting soaked and continued heading towards Utrecht on the N225. It was easy cycle paths all the way and I was able to keep up a respectable speed, stopping now and again to look at things, to take off my waterproof jacket and generally to faff about.

Just before one o’clock I started thinking it was time to stop for food. I was ten miles from Utrecht so had covered the distance well (partly due to starting so early!) and so that was also a good time to stop to give me an hour’s further ride when I set off again. Imagine my delight when the cycle path went straight past a Pancake and Poffertjes House – a fine option for lunch!

I ordered poffertjes, of course (which took a surprisingly long time to come) and had a glass of orange juice to wash them down. When I’d had poffertjes before, in Maassluis, they came on a dinner plate and covered it, being totally covered in powdered sugar as well. These poffertjes looked similar but slightly shrunken – they were on a dessert-plate so there was less of them, but they still tasted great and it was a decent lunch portion (and only 4€.)


The loo in the poffertjes restaurant had a German-style shelf (plus a really dodgy handle – I had visions of being stuck in there for months if the handle fell off in my hand!)

I headed off at about 2pm, now straight into a fairly fierce headwind. At least the rain had stopped though – I was riding with just my jersey as it was fairly warm (i.e. no windproof or waterproof) but I felt a bit mucky and smelly after having been rained on.

Utrecht seemed not to be getting all that much nearer, despite making good progress. I briefly joined the LF4 route again, then turned off it, enjoying finally a three mile run on a super-smooth and wide cycle path which was beside a motorway or major A-road anyway.

The last mile was wending my way through the outskirts of Utrecht and there were lots of interesting buildings to look at. There were also some attractive bridges over the canals but I didn’t find a good opportunity to stop for a photo.

I arrived at the Beurs Hotel by 3:30pm and installed Alfie in the reception – he will be very safe there.


I then asked for the wifi password – oh no, the wifi wasn’t working and had been out of action yesterday too. The receptionist said that they had called a repairman but they didn’t know when he would arrive. This was a pain! Still, I know hotels in Utrecht are expensive and busy so decided I would have to stay here anyway and see if I could find an internet café for later. I did find it interesting that the two hotels pre-booked in Holland which should have wifi both had non-functional wifi.

Anyway, I went up to my room which was on the second floor. The stairs were incredibly steep and had a couple of interesting curves which were hard to negotiate with panniers. I assume this is part of the old building style but it would never pass UK hotel regulations!

I was slightly perturbed by signs on some doors for ‘bathroom’ and ‘toilet’. Did this mean there weren’t en-suites? I got to room 303 and the keycard wouldn’t open the door. So I headed off downstairs again to ask the receptionist chappie about this; my room was 302 so that explained that one, but I also asked him if I had a bathroom in the room and he said yes. If he’d said no then I might have gone for another hotel – no wifi and no toilet is a step too far!

So imagine my surprise when, having climbed up the two flights of scary steps again with my panniers and getting into room 302, I opened the bathroom door and there was a shower and sink – but no loo. Where was it? I was getting very frustrated by now – I was desperate for a shower but was still trying to decide whether to find a different hotel. I used my phone to google internet cafes and it looked like there might be one just up the road. On that basis I decided to have a shower and take the room.

As I was hanging up my coat on the coathook near the door I noticed a doorhandle – yep, you’ve guessed it, a tiny cubicle with a toilet! The sink was across the room with the shower behind another door which perhaps explains why I failed to initially spot the loo. Still, it was good to know I wouldn’t have to go prowling the corridors in the night if I needed the loo.

After my shower and washing of clothes I decided to go downstairs and get a cup of tea (there were teamaking facilities in the reception area). As I passed the reception desk the chap told me that the wifi was working again – and so it was! What a relief! I was able to plan my route for tomorrow and have started looking at hotels in Den Haag which seem reasonable but breakfast is ridiculously expensive (12,50€ or more). As I’m just going from Den Haag to the Hoek of Holland, which is less than 15 miles, I am sure I will have time for breakfast on the way!

I had some good news today too from the Colchester Personnel Recovery Centre. My army contact has said they are going to let me visit the Centre on Sunday morning at 9am to have some photographs taken and to have a quick look around before heading off to London. The Centre Manager is coming in to open up especially for me as they are so pleased with my fundraising efforts. It will be really good to finally see the centre, especially now that it is open. And of course I will be on the last 65 miles of my tour too!

For those who want to cycle with me from Colchester, we are meeting at 9:30am at the Personnel Recovery Centre which is in Berechurch Hall Road. The actual meeting point is the Corporal Budd VC Gymnasium which is accessible to civilians and which has a large car park/bike stand area by the main doors which looks across at the PRC. I look forward to riding with a bunch of people to the Big Smoke!

Oh, and I have been having some thoughts about German and Dutch bicycles today and the way they differ from UK bikes and from each other. Here are my observations:

UK bikes are generally cool. Men won’t be seen dead on a step-through frame or ‘girlie’ bike, bikes are generally covered in logos and meant to look fast and sporty. Lots have drop handlebars. They are a status symbol so may look quite new.

German bikes are very utilitarian. They look huge as they are mostly made of big aluminium tubing. They pretty much all have full suspension (perhaps to deal with some of their cycle routes!) and lots have electric assist. They often have huge fluffy saddles and butterfly bars; very few have drops. They are mostly silver/aluminium in colour.

Dutch bikes are usually very rusty, old, worn, often with pringled wheels. They seem to be made of steel rather than aluminium like the German bikes so the tubing is thinner. Lots have baskets or child seats attached. Dutch men seem quite happy to ride pink bikes with step-through frames. They tend to lean their arms on the handlebars with their hands together for comfort. People seem to have to work quite hard to make progress on them – there’s often a lot of leaning from side to side when riding.

I do like seeing groups of young lads cycling along on really uncool bikes – it shows that cycling is just part of everyday life here and much less of a status symbol. Mind you, I wouldn’t want one of these bikes myself – I’ll stick with Alfie!

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 48.18 miles
Moving time: 5 hours 26 minutes 31 seconds
Maximum speed: 20.9 mph
Average speed: 8.9 mph
Average heart rate: 105
Maximum heart rate: 150
Calorie burn: 1,525 calories


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B2L – Oeding to Duiven (Day 13)

Click here to see my progress so far: Auntie Helen’s Berlin To London ride

My cycle ride is featuring on the Help For Heroes website at the moment: Berlin to London on a recumbent trike

If you think what I’m doing is pretty cool, perhaps you might sponsor me to give me some encouragement and, more importantly, to help a really good cause. All sponsorship greatly appreciated! The link to my sponsor page is here: Auntie Helen’s sponsorship page

Wednesday 9 May 2012

After a good night’s sleep I checked my washing – unfortunately the socks and cycling shorts weren’t dry as they were made of thicker material. The radiator and towel rail in the hotel weren’t working which was unfortunate. I wielded a hairdryer for a few minutes on the socks so they were almost dry and then realised I wouldn’t be able to get everything perfectly dry so put all the wet/damp things in my waterproof bag to keep them from making other clothing in my panniers wet.

Breakfast was the usual selection of cold meats and cheese, cereal, bread rolls, eggs and bacon. I enjoyed a brie and bacon roll after my cereal! I then paid my bill (I had been charged for my cup of tea yesterday – my second cup of tea I have paid for!) and then I packed up everything and headed out – towards Holland!

Holland was less than 1km away, as it turned out.

The final bicycle shop that I saw in Germany had the most fantastic name: Zweirad Fahrtwind.


Just a few hundred metres from here I crossed into Holland.


Straight away the cycle path beside the road widened and was a different sort of tarmac, slightly orange coloured. It was a nice fast surface so I pootled along beside the main road, amused by the mixture of German and Dutch on all the signs that I saw.

After Winterswijk and Bredevort I found there was a diversion of the cycle path as there were some roadworks. They had a man from the Highways Agency equivalent whose job it was to help cyclists cross the road safely!


At this point I was riding along the N318 which I think is a fairly major road but as the cycle path was segregated it was absolutely fine.

I then arrived in Aalten which was a reasonable-sized town and as it was a quarter to ten I thought I might be able to find a mobile phone shop to get a Dutch SIM card. I cycled round looking for one but failed, asked in two shops and eventually found the mobile phone shop that I had already cycled past twice. It was rather short on advertising in the windows, etc. Anyway, the man there set me up with a Vodafone NL SIM card and made sure the Internet was working on my phone, which was the main thing. This was pricier than the German SIM by a long way.

I carried on alongside the main road N318 following signs to Arnhem already. The cycle paths were always excellent and I think I have decided that once I am at Arnhem I will join the official cycle route to get to Utrecht as it looks like it won’t have any comedy off-roading like the German official cycle routes. It might be a bit more scenic too as the route I have taken today isn’t a particularly beautiful one.

At 11:15 I started to feel the need for some cake and stopped at a bakery in Varsseveld and had a wonderful cake concoction and a cup of tea (which I was charged for).


Whilst I was eating my cake a man came to chat to me about my bike and the flag which says Help For Heroes. I explained about why I was raising the money and he gave me a small donation and then offered for me to have lunch with himself, his wife and his daughter. However as I was pressing onward towards Arnhem I turned him down but that was very kind of him!

Although the forecast today was for thunderstorms, grey cloud and rain it was actually much nicer than that with lots of blue sky evident between the white clouds and it got warm enough that I swapped from my waterproof jacket to my windproof.

I followed the route that my Garmin suggested to the next waypoint which was past Doetinchem and the Garmin did an excellent job with cycle paths beside the main road for a short way before we turned off onto a quieter road (still on a cycle path beside it). I was really enjoying this riding, stopping now and again to take photographs of things that interested me such as windmills:



Giant metal wings hanging off trees


The cycle path was for a little while in a section of woodland which was very attractive. I saw a huge bird of prey swoop across my path settle on a treestump; I braked to stop to take a photo and the squealing of my discs scared it off, unfortunately.

I approached Doetinchem and at this point my Garmin directed me off the main road and down some residential streets. I wasn’t too sure about this but as it had generally been pretty well behaved I went with it; how glad I was!

There has clearly been much money spent on a wonderful cycle path that runs right across the south of Doetinchem and once I was on it it was a fab ride. The path was fast and easy as whenever it met a main road there was an underpass under the road so you zoomed down and then up the other side without having to slow down at all or wait for traffic lights.


I think I went through about eight of these – quite expensive construction compared to sticking in a pelican crossing but much, much better.

Some of the path was clearly brand new (the bit near Doetinchem station) but other bits were clearly older. Anyway, it all joined up really well and I had about a four mile section of fantastic riding. I could really get used to these cycle paths!

There’s another huge difference in cycle path usage between the UK and between Germany and Holland and this is the attitude of car drivers – strict liability. In Germany or Holland, if you’re on a cycle path that runs beside the road on the pavement or in its own little section, when you get to a road that crosses your path (that joins the main road) you as the cyclist have right of way so can just go straight across the road (obviously checking that any cars are stopping – they always do). There are markings for the car drivers to show a cycle path is crossing. Car drivers in Germany and Holland seem to go out of their way to let you cross in front of them or get onto their road and it’s a wonderful change from the situation in the UK when you are always having to make sure there are no drivers whizzing up a side road about to take you out. Of course, in Germany and Holland if you hit a cyclist you are automatically at fault (unlike in the UK) so it tends to make them more careful – and more people cycle anyway.

I was getting a bit hungry after 30 miles so thought it about time to stop for lunch. I was passing the village of Wehl so pulled off the route there (I was by now back alongside the N318) and found a little café bar. It was an interesting communication experience as the barman spoke no English or German and I speak no Dutch. I could vaguely decode the menu (I chose a burger) but when I wanted tap water it took ages to explain my drink – I ended up having to prod at the tap on the bar and then the barman taught me the Dutch for ‘normal water’ which sounded a bit like ‘normal watter’.

Anyway, here was my burger and with the Dutch requirement of mayo with your chips!


It was interesting having the communication difficulties with the barman as I’m just not used to that now as I tend to holiday in Germany or Austria. Although people say that everyone speaks English in Holland, which is almost true, it’s actually not understanding what random people who are chatting together as they walk past that is noticeable. In Germany I can tell what people are taking about, I can understand menus, I can read road diversion signs etc. In Holland I feel like an Englishwoman abroad – slightly at a loss.

However, Dutch as a language has its amusing side. It seems liberally peppered with lots of ‘ij’ sections in words, lots of ‘ui’ and ‘aa’ and sometimes the words themselves look a bit strange. I liked this Hooge sign!


And then I came across a sign for ‘Bent Sports’ – bent is the commonly-used alternative for recumbent so I thought I’d photograph Alfie in front of it.


And the wonderfully-named town/village of Loo!


This last photo was taken in Duiven as I was heading off to Westervoort. Duiven is somewhere I had visited before during a work event in 2006 so it was interesting to be back again.

I headed into Westervoort to find my B&B. About a quarter of a mile from the B&B I passed a supermarket so went in and bought some chocolate for later. I then arrived at the B&B and was met by a very friendly lady who helped me install Alfie round the back of her house. I asked to check the WiFi out before going to my room (it only worked in the public areas, not in the rooms) and she gave me a card with the network name and the password. The thing was, the network name didn’t show up in the list of available networks and the password didn’t work with any of the available ones. I tried both iPhone and iPad – no joy.

I said to the lady this was a significant problem as I hadn’t booked my hotel for tomorrow, wanted to write up my blog etc etc and I have only been booking hotels with WiFi. She phoned another local hotel and they apparently had a room for 62 Euro which had WiFi (breakfast was 9,50€ more so I’ll leave that) so I headed off to this hotel Gieling. Which turned out to be the hotel I had stayed at for the sales meeting in 2006 (they even still had my records on their computer!)

So anyway I installed myself in the room, washed my clothes and hung out yesteday’s slightly damp clothing to dry completely, wrote up the blog, had a free cup of tea and started on the chocolate.

I’m now starting to organise a bit more my final day on Sunday (Colchester to London). It looks as if I will be able to visit the Colchester Personnel Recovery Centre on my way past on Sunday morning which is brilliant news as it opened yesterday – it will be great to see what all the sponsorship I have raised will be going towards!

Tomorrow I am heading to Utrecht or its environs and I shall spend a bit of time studying the official route – it just might be worth giving it a go!

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 45.93 miles
Moving time: 4 hours 46 minutes 40 seconds
Maximum speed: 18.1 mph
Average speed: 9.6 mph
Average heart rate: 111
Maximum heart rate: 142
Calorie burn (estimate as heart rate monitor didn’t always get a reading): 1,600 calories



Filed under Berlin to London, Cycle Tours

B2L – Münster to Oeding (Day 12)

Click here to see my progress so far: Auntie Helen’s Berlin To London ride

My cycle ride is featuring on the Help For Heroes website at the moment: Berlin to London on a recumbent trike

If you think what I’m doing is pretty cool, perhaps you might sponsor me to give me some encouragement and, more importantly, to help a really good cause. All sponsorship greatly appreciated! The link to my sponsor page is here: Auntie Helen’s sponsorship page

Tuesday 8 May 2012

I met Stefan yesterday evening at the railway station and we wandered around the Altstadt. What really amazed me about Münster was the number of bicycles – they were everywhere! Stefan told me that Münster is famous for its bicycles, partly due to being an old University town.


We had a slice of cake each and a cup of tea.


We then found our way to Saturn, the multimedia shop, and had a browse.

Münster is very attractive!


I saw this distance marker to York (presumably York is twinned with Münster or something?)


Stefan got the train home at 7:30pm and I got a quick pizza before coming back to the hotel.

I saw this advertising poster which amused me. I think Axe is the German name for Lynx, but I don’t think an Axe to the head would improve most people’s hair!


I plotted my route for the next day and booked a hotel right on the border (but still in Germany) in Oeding, and just as I had finished all this the WiFi stopped working so I got my booking in just in time!

I slept really well in this hotel and had a later start, going down to breakfast at 7:45. I checked that Alfie had survived his night propped up at a bar (he had), enjoyed a very good breakfast polished off with a mini Amerikaner pastry, and then went back to my room to get ready. The weather forecast was much better today – up to 20 degrees – so it was back into shorts, although I would start the day off with socks with my sandals as it was still single figures by the time I was ready to leave at 8:45am.

My first ten pedal revolutions on the bike had the Alfine hub skipping. I immediately noticed that the cable run where the trigger shifter is had been bent down (this happened once before in the car when James’s bike was laid on top of mine) so I straightened it out and it worked again but I think I need to do some sticking-of-insulating-tape around the wire to keep it a bit straighter in future. This probably happened if someone brushed past the bike and whacked it with a bag or whatever. Or perhaps Alfie’s night at a bar had some unforeseen effects!

Anyway, off I pootled out of Münster towards Roxel. The sky was blue and the sun was shining and it was a good day to be cycling. And then suddenly, a couple of miles out from Münster I found myself next to some army barracks – 1st Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment. I stopped and took a pic of the sign


Then I thought I might ask someone at the security gate to take a pic of me. I cycled up to a man who looked like a real traditional Scottish chap with a very impressive white beard and a smart beret. I asked if someone could take a photo and he directed me to a window in a building, saying I should ask there. His accent seemed a bit odd but I thought nothing of it. Whilst we were talking lots of English-registered cars were coming and going which was strange to see after all this time in Germany.

Anyway, the sober-looking chap at the window said he would send someone out to take a pic of me (once I had explained what I wanted) and within a minute or so a young and very presentable soldier appeared, all friendly and smiles, and wielded my iPhone and my camera suitably.




To be honest, this soldier would have been a much better subject for the photos as he was really rather easy on the eye, but he wasn’t cycling from Berlin to London. We chatted a bit about what I was doing and then his boss had a go on my trike. The chap who I had originally spoken to was German rather that Scottish so the boss spoke to him in this most fantastic totally-English-accented-German.

Then the young soldier asked if I wanted a ‘brew’. Of course I said yes to this, and he then asked ‘one sugar or two?’ I think I was a bit of a disappointment having no sugars, but I was given a very good cup of tea so clearly they import their teabags (Yorkshire tea?) He also handed me a little brochure about what they do which I shall read tonight as I was extremely vague about the Yorkshire Regiment (although I was able to remember they are in Catterick some of the time!)

After a stop of about twenty minutes in total I shook hands with the soldiers and carried on, continuing on the very good cycle path beside the road from Roxel to Havixbeck. There were even some warning signs when the cycle path was a bit bumpy (some tree roots had grown up).


After Havixbeck I could see in the distance a quite reasonably-sized hill which, in due course, I started climbing over.


It was very wooded so at the top I didn’t particularly have much of a view but did see a herd of deer in someone’s garden.


I also saw my first pheasants of the trip (they are common as anything at home). I enjoyed seeing two hares and a slow worm earlier on during my travels and there have been lots of interesting birds flying around – not that I can tell what they are, although I did see a woodpecker right beside the road the other day. Today I saw two small-ish birds mobbing a big raptor.

At the top of the hill was a huge aerial (the WDR sender) and an interesting-looking tower the Longinusturm.


It had got a lot warmer so I removed my windproof but retained my short-sleeved fluorescent jacket as the wind today is a headwind (south-westerly) and it was pretty blowy on the top of this hill.

The next few miles were good fun downhill and I soon arrived at Billerbeck, a town with a very attractive Dom (Cathedral). I stopped at the Dom Café for a slice of cake and a cup of tea as it was 11:30. I have been stopping more today to look around as the hotel I am aiming for in Oeding doesn’t let you in your room until 4pm so no point in getting there early!

When time came to pay for my cake, would you believe it but I was actually charged for my tea! 1,50€ so hardly a great deal but it was quite a surprise! Still the fantastic Erdbeertorte was very good value at 2,70€ so overall it was OK.


The loo in the café had a rather unfortunately-branded toilet roll holder!


Before I set off I decided to do a small bit of fettling on my bent gear selector cable housing. This was what it looked like – as you can see, the cable takes a sharp right as soon as it comes out of the barrel adjustor as the metal housing it is in has opened up a bit; the whole thing is pulled down by the weight of the cable going through the handlebars.


All I did was pulled the cable up through the housing as it disappears into the handlebar and wrapped a bit of insulating tape around it so that it was too fat to fit through the hole and stayed higher up. Consequently there was much less strain on the cable where it initially comes out of the barrel adjustor. Job done!


I took a quick pic of the attractive Dom in Billerbeck


Whilst I was taking this picture a Weimaraner dog walked by – you don’t see them very often in Germany, despite the fact they were bred there. This one reminded me a lot of our dog Lucy who died last year.

I cycled down the high street of Billerbeck on my way out of town. Here’s looking back at the cathedral again.


From Billerbeck I headed out on a lovely quiet road through Osthellen and Westhellen. This sign for Westhellen made me think of a suggestion or a command – but it’s right, I’m keeping on plodding westwards towards home.


I stopped to change the batteries in my Garmin and whilst I was fiddling with it I heard lots of baaing and a load of sheep appeared. They sounded quite feisty so I was glad to see they were behind a fence.


I then went through Sükerhook on another quiet road before reaching the outskirts of Coesfeld which is a reasonable sized town. It was very cycle-friendly with great cycle paths and there seemed to be more bikes than cars as I was riding around.

After Coesfeld I followed my Garmin’s selected route which was a great one – wide, quiet, smoothly-asphalted roads going in a straight line and, for once, not entirely into wind. I passed lots of farmhouses, fields, little wayside chapels and more. What’s nice about this bit of Germany is that they don’t seem to be growing oilseed rape – the smell of it gets up my nose rather badly!

It was about quarter to two when I arrived in Gescher which is about 10 miles from my final destination. I decided to stop here for some lunch and found an Italian restaurant which provided some tomato soup and bread.


The place seemed really quiet except for the church bells that were ringing continuously for about five minutes. Then just after they stopped ringing the world and his wife appeared from the direction of the sound of the bells and the street was full of pedestrians and people wandering about.

Generally this part of Germany has a wider variety of people in evidence than the east – Stefan was explaining to me yesterday how young people tended to move from the villages of the east to the big cities such as Berlin, Dresden etc, but that didn’t tend to happen as much in the western half of Germany.

Anyway, I set off at about half past two and made my way to Südlohn, where I saw this nice windmill.


It was just three miles from there to Oeding where I played an amusing game of ‘find the hotel’ (it was tucked in amongst some new housing and, although huge and with a big tower, I just couldn’t find it initially!) and then checked it to the very nice building. The WiFi works in the room but is a bit slow so I’ve gone to the main restaurant area to type up this blog.

I have booked a B&B near Arnhem for tomorrow; well, it’s just this side of Arnhem. Arnhem itself is pretty expensive and I spent a day there a couple of summers ago with my Dutch friend Marieke so don’t feel I particularly need to invest in visiting it again!

This is the hotel that I am staying in tonight:

This is my chicken salad dinner!

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 42.11 miles
Moving time: 4 hours 21 minutes 55 seconds
Maximum speed: 30.7 mph
Average speed: 9.6 mph
Average heart rate: 113
Maximum heart rate: 144
Calorie burn (estimate as heart rate monitor didn’t always get a reading): 1,200 calories


Oh, tomorrow is an important day for another reason. It’s the day of the oral exams for the German course I’ve been doing at Essex University. Unfortunately this trip was planned long before I got the date for the exam so I’m missing it and it’s unlikely I will officially finish this final year. I hope the others in my class do well, though!

Oh, and here is a screenshot of the statistics of who’s been looking at my blog today. Nine people from Finland???!!!!



Filed under Berlin to London, Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany

B2L – Gütersloh to Münster (Day 11)

Click here to see my progress so far: Auntie Helen’s Berlin To London ride

My cycle ride is featuring on the Help For Heroes website at the moment: Berlin to London on a recumbent trike

If you think what I’m doing is pretty cool, perhaps you might sponsor me to give me some encouragement and, more importantly, to help a really good cause. All sponsorship greatly appreciated! The link to my sponsor page is here: Auntie Helen’s sponsorship page

Monday 7 May 2012

I had an enjoyable moussaka at a Greek restaurant last night although it was a good fifteen minute walk to the first restaurant that was open and the evening was quite chilly.


I slept well (I had clearly got used to the cigar smoke smell eventually!) but woke up at 6am this morning, keen to get going.

I have pre-booked my hotel for this evening, the Hotel Marco Polo in Münster. Part of the reason for this was that hotels looked pretty expensive and I did need to be near the railway station as my good friend Stefan is getting the train to Münster to visit me this afternoon, thus if I were in one of the cheaper hotels several miles out then I’d need to get on the trike again. One of the hotel booking sites had a good price (well, relatively good) on the last of the single rooms in the Marco Polo so I went for that. This hotel is right next to the railway station so it ought to simplify matters!

I have been using three different hotel booking sites, all of which have Apps for the iPhone. The website which I have used for many years has generated the app; the booking website, which I think is one of the best on a ‘real’ computer for Germany, has the iHotel app, and yesterday I booked through (which I think might be Dutch) so downloaded their app. The app has the significant advantage that you can filter for hotels with wireless internet – with the other two apps I have to read the blurb on the individual hotels. They by no means have all the hotels listed but do tend to have the larger ones and sometimes it’s useful to know you do have a room, especially for today when I didn’t want to waste time looking for a hotel when Stefan was on his way to visit.

Last night I had another chat with Poppy the dog on Skype!


Poppy had been out sailing with James yesterday but is apparently not much of a seadog and sat shivering in the cockpit and howled when James went forward to do something to the sails. Sounds just like I used to be on the boat!

One good (I think!) thing about the Hotel Busch in Gütersloh is that something about the bathroom took me back to when I first started to visit Germany, about fifteen years ago but in the meantime has largely changed. What is it? Frequent visitors to Germany/Austria will recognise what I say whem I mention toilets with shelves.

20120507-064733.jpgI think this is partly because the Germans are generally a bit more interested in their digestive systems than Brits are (we tend to ignore them or soothe them with tea and chocolate) and a toilet with a shelf allows you to check that all is OK before you flush. However it can seem a bit yuk to visitors and these toilets now seem to be being replaced almost entirely with toilet designs that Brits might be familiar with – except that German toilets seem to now hang off the wall rather than standing on a pedestal. I am always worried that the bit of wall they are hanging off might crack when I sit down, but I console myself with the fact they must be tested to the weight of solid German types like Helmut Kohl so should manage to cope with me. So far so good.

Anyway, today dawned cloudy but the rain seemed to be keeping away and at least the temperature was due to be a bit warmer (although not till the afternoon – it was likely to be single figures all morning). The forecast for later in the week in Germany is good although in Holland it’s looking to be more like British weather – cold and rainy and windy. Still, I’ve had almost a week of fab sunshine so I mustn’t complain.

I went down to breakfast at 7am and, after having my cereal and then cheese and ham, checked on Alfie who was stored in the corner of the breakfast room. All looked fine – still no punctures (famous last words!)20120507-073441.jpg

I paid my bill (40 Euro) and set off just before 8am – my starts seem to be getting earlier and earlier! It was cool out so I wore both my windproof and my waterproof jacket, as well as gloves and two pairs of socks. It turned out that even two pairs of socks aren’t enough to keep feet warm in sandals when the temperature is just 7 degrees. Oh well!

I headed out of Gütersloh via Pavenstädt. I realised almost straight after leaving the village and getting onto the main road that there was a decent cycle path on the other side of the road but I couldn’t get to it as there weren’t any obvious access ramps – I would have to wait for a junction or something. Of course, immediately after I noticed this I heard a car coming up slowly behind me – a police car. He wound down his window, favoured me with a rather slack-jawed look and pointed at the cycle path. I started babbling on about missing its start (which was true) and he wound his window up and sped off. Fortunately there was a ramp to the cycle path almost straight away so I was able to get on it, and continued along it for what felt like miles (into a headwind, of course!)

I saw a number of signs on the path to say it was the Pixel Radweg and then came across a carved piece of stone which explained that this cycle path had been created voluntarily by the citizens of the area in their spare time. Rather a nice community project, I thought, and made the journey between Pixel and Gütersloh rather nicer than it would have been before.


From Pixel I turned southwest and went through a very arable-looking area which bore quite a few similarities to home. This view, for example, could almost be Essex.


And I thought it was time I took a photo of one of the many houses which have roofs entirely covered with solar panels.


Although the scenery wasn’t entirely unlike Essex, of course in our part of the world you don’t tend to see more than ten solar panels on a building as that’s the maximum amount you used to be allowed with the Feed-In Tariffs. Unlike Germany, clearly.

I saw several fields which looked like they were for potatoes (rows of high mounds of earth) but covered with a long row of black plastic, a bit like you sometimes see for strawberries to start. Then I noticed a field further on that had people working in it – there was a contraption that ran on wheels and lifted the plastic and the worker harvested whatever was underneath – which turned out to be white asparagus. I meant to take a photo but had gone past – I’ll take one when I see another field, I thought, and of course didn’t see any other fields!

When I got to Lette I saw a rather attractive, relatively new church which had its clock built separately and behind glass. I took a few pics, although unfortunately I seem to have appeared in all of them as a reflection!




I was making better progress now that I had changed direction slightly and was less into the wind. I was mostly riding directly on the quiet roads now as they were less busy than the earlier roads and didn’t have cycle paths.

After eighteen miles, and still at only ten in the morning, I arrived at a bakery in Ostenfelde and stopped for an iced nutty pastry ring thingie and a cup of tea (the tea was free, of course!)


After I had eaten I asked if they had a loo and they took me through to the staff one which involved going through lots of huge rooms where they clearly do the baking and cake making and other preparation. It’s not like a UK bakery which gets it bread and stuff part-baked from the freezer, in Germany they often make everything from scratch every day.

I meant to say that the other day, too, after I had the Waffle in the REWE supermarket I asked for the loo. In the UK if you provide a sit-down place for food that you buy there, they have to provide a loo. I’m not sure if that’s the same in Germany but anyway I was taken to the staff toilet in the REWE supermarket warehouse on that occasion.

I was ready to hit the road again at 10:30, hoping that it would get a little warmer for my poor toes!

I noticed a large number of wayside shrines as I was cycling today. I’ve seen some on other days but there were noticeably larger numbers today. They vary in size, complexity and artistry enormously – this was a random one I chose to photograph.


I was making good progress through Westkirchen and then found myself at a large junction with some road signs with familiar names.


My friend Stefan who I am seeing today lives in Hamm. I wasn’t that far away – nor from Münster!

I carried on through Freckenhorst. Somewhere along the way I saw this interesting totem pole thingie with various different signs hanging on it. I think it might be another community cycle path thing.

There was also this plague for the Poggenradweg.

From Freckenhorst I carried along the main road (but on a cycle path) towards Everswinkel. This was a lovely long, smooth ride which helped my average speed a bit.

In Everswinkel the Garmin directed me off the main road and onto a side road which was a slightly shorter distance (and had much less traffic). There were lots of bus stops along this road, all of which had huge numbers of bicycles locked up there. I assume people ride to the bus stop, then get the bus into Münster. Park & Ride!

I was soon back on the main road (which isn’t officially a B road but was getting quite a lot of traffic) and there was no cycle path so this was a slightly less pleasant bit of the day’s ride but as up till this point it had been low traffic, good cycle paths I can’t complain. And very soon I found myself on the outskirts of Münster.

It was just two miles from here to the centre, all along a cycle path which was pretty decent. I passed the Hauptbahnhof where my hotel was, but as it was only 13:00 it was too early to check in so I carried on into the centre of town on the cycle path to get some lunch.

I aimed for a landmark I had seen from a fair way away!

A lovely gothic church nestled in the midst of a huge pedestrian zone. Or perhaps the church was there first!

Outside the church there was some kind of event by the police – lots of police on motorbikes and stands saying they would service your bicycle, etc. I trundled in to the area and peered around. Lots of men in uniform, various people doing things to bicycles. Then my eye was caught by a sandwich board with writing on it. I had a quick look down – it was a list of rules for bicycles and the amount of fine that can be charged for failures (i.e. no bell is a 10 Euro fine). I got out of there quickly before they checked my trike; although it has a bell it doesn’t have reflective pedals (not sure if these are obligatory in Germany but they are in the UK) and I don’t have a rear reflector either… I didn’t want to have a run-in with the police today!

I also saw a most bizarre sight – a policeman on a Segway which was marked up with police markings. Rather amusing!

I stopped for a quick lunch of Bruschetta which was rather overpriced. Here is Alfie looking rather dirty.

After lunch I made my way to the hotel, not sure what to expect. It was right behind the station and could have been a bit seedy so I was slightly nervous.

A very, very friendly receptionist welcomed me. I asked if there was bike storage and she said no, but I could bring Alfie into the reception area for now and she’d think of something. So there he was, next to the sofa where people can sit and wait.

The rooms are all named, rather than numbered, and I am in Venedig (Venice). It turned out to be a huge room with even a little kitchenette.


And just what I needed in a hotel room on this tour – an exercise bicycle!

There’s a sign out in the hall giving the distances to the places after which the rooms are named. So London is 532km…

After my shower and clothes washing I went down for a cup of tea and discovered the receptionist had moved Alfie to somewhere more comfortable – he’s now in the bar area!


So I put my information boards on him and left him to his drink.

Stefan will be arriving shortly by train – I may write a bit more about Münster later!

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 42.85 miles
Moving time: 4 hours 32 minutes 15 seconds
Maximum speed: 20.1 mph
Average speed: 9.4 mph
Average heart rate: 107
Maximum heart rate: 152
Calorie burn: 1,344 calories



Filed under Berlin to London, Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany

B2L – Nieheim to Gütersloh (Day 10)

Click here to see my progress so far: Auntie Helen’s Berlin To London ride

My cycle ride is featuring on the Help For Heroes website at the moment: Berlin to London on a recumbent trike

If you think what I’m doing is pretty cool, perhaps you might sponsor me to give me some encouragement and, more importantly, to help a really good cause. All sponsorship greatly appreciated! The link to my sponsor page is here: Auntie Helen’s sponsorship page

Sunday 6 May 2012

First I will mention a little about yesterday evening after I finished writing up the blog.

I had a rather fab Wiener Schnitzel for dinner at the Berghof – this truly was a rather good hotel.


Then when I got back to my room I had a chat with James on Skype and I also talked to Poppy the dog. Here she is:

I have previously failed to mention a rather unusual item that I am carting around with me:


It’s a pine cone (a very small one) collected from the forest around Potsdam on day 1 of my tour. Why? Well it’s a present for Poppy the dog – I felt bad that I didn’t bring her any presents back from my holiday in Austria over Easter but I thought she’d enjoy playing with a pine cone, especially one that would have travelled nearly 800 miles by bicycle. Well, I’m not sure she’ll entirely appreciate the importance of that fact, but it’s a small pine cone and it is so far surviving in the bottom of my pannier.

Something else I forgot to mention yesterday – I nearly got doored cycling through Holzminden. If you’re not familiar with the term, this is when you are passing a car and someone opens the door into you. When we teach bikeability we warn children to always pass a car with a huge amount of room and to maybe take into account other cues, such as if you can see someone in the front seat. Anyway, I was cycling on one of Holzminden’s very nice pink cycle lanes which were beside the main road (on the carriageway rather than on the pavement as usual) and then noticed they had done that really bad idea of putting parking between the cycle lane and the pavement. This has been installed on Southend seafront and it’s lethal. Anyway, with all this in mind I was proceeding down the cycle path past some parked cars but I had my hands covering the brakes and I was going a bit slower than normal. Lo and behold a woman started opening her door into me. I had been keeping an eye on my mirrors the whole time and knew there was no traffic behind me so I swerved out into the road and shouted at the lady – she looked most startled (or perhaps didn’t understand the meaning of ‘Oy!’) This was my most dangerous traffic situation on the entire cycle tour and it was caused by bad cycle lane design again. Sigh.

Anyway these experiences all go to make one a safer cyclist and I expect that lady will check her mirrors a bit more closely for random recumberating Englishwomen in future.

I took this photo last night which shows what happens if you cycle in Germany in sandals whilst England is being rained on non-stop:


And now to today, my seventh day of cycling in Germany. Perhaps this should have been a rest day, especially as it was a Sunday, but my schedule requires me to keep going and I would be bored if I didn’t have any riding to do.

The plan was to go to Gütersloh. When I programmed the route into my Garmin I worked it out as about 54 miles, thinking this was a 10 mile reduction from the official R1 route. Something went wrong there as actually it ended up being 43 miles and the official route was only 54. It was also largely flat or downhill which was a bonus and the wind was an Easterly, thus blowing me along (although a bit chilly).

Breakfast was entirely on my own (there were only three guests in the hotel, according to the chap) and rather than setting out all the food buffet-style I had a selection delivered to my table. What a surprise – bread with cheese and ham! This is the staple German breakfast, which is also the staple German lunch. For dinner they have ham pizza! When I’m in Germany I usually have some muesli and some fruit for breakfast (as well as the cheese and ham) and every other day have an egg as well (they usually make an appearance at German breakfasts).


The hotel owner had opened the garage for me and told me that Alfie was still there when he looked this morning (that was a relief!) and I was setting off at 8:15am. It was grey and cloudy but not actually raining so I eschewed my waterproof jacket (which means I get a bit hot) and had my windproof instead.

I left Nieheim on a route that I had cobbled together using my R1 book and Google Earth. I went west to Oeynhausen, then turned northwards to Bergheim (which, despite the name, was fortunately not very hilly) and then up to Vinsebeck. I looked back on the scenery – it looked rather English!


After Vinsebeck I went to Oberheesten and then to Horn which was the largest town I had come to so far today, although still deathly quiet (the Sunday factor).

At Horn I had to stop as my feet were getting a bit cold. I was wearing socks with my sandals (I know, I know) but they weren’t enough and I needed to put a second pair of socks on. Whilst I was stopped a man pulled up behind me in a car and got out to ask me if I knew the way to Hermannsdenkmal. Well no, but my iPhone did and discovering its location on the phone I was able to show it to the chap on my R1 map. He seemed very pleased and off he went. I think Hermann saw off a lot of Roman soldiers a while ago, or something.

From Horn the route I was taking and the official R1 route often joined up before separating again. I went through Holzhausen-Externsteine, Fromhausen,, Berlebeck and then headed to Heiligenkirchen. Whereupon I found this strange barrier:


It suggests that only one car is allowed through at a time (this was a quiet side road). I cycled round it, pootled along the road rather hoping I hadn’t accidentally wandered onto a military firing range or something (I was pretty near Detmold where the British Army hang out). I was relieved to see another cyclist coming the other way at one point, so it looked as though bicycling was allowed. There was an equivalent barrier after about half a mile which I went round and then we were back to normal. Random.

Another random thing I saw in Heiligenkirchen:


I pootled on to Hiddesen and then did a slight detour to Schwarzenbrink and then Pivitsheide to avoid some dodgy off-road stuff on the official route. Although the official route was a short cut I couldn’t face the probably surfaces.

Pivitsheide was about at the twenty mile mark and my cake antennae were twitching. I was whizzing down a hill when I saw this bakery so swerved in (slightly embarrassingly, the car behind me had been a police car but they continued on past, presumably deciding it was unwise to get between an Englishwoman and her cake). Here is Alfie outside Wester Bäckerei.


Wester Bäckerei on a Sunday is hopeless. They only had bread rolls! Not only that, she couldn’t make me a cup of tea either! What a disappointment.

I carried on.

After a quarter of a mile I came across an Italian coffee shop. The chap there could do me tea but he had no cakes either. What is it with the dearth of cakes in Pivitsheide? He asked me about my tour and seemed a bit mind-boggled that I was cycling to London and that I had been in Berlin on Monday. We had a nice chat, I had a cup of tea that I didn’t have to pay for and then off I went.

Friedel from TravellingTwo (the people I met on the train from Venlo to Düsseldorf) asked me whether I bring my own teabags as a thrift mechanism. This isn’t the reason (although it’s a useful side bonus – I haven’t paid for a single cuppa yet on tour and have used at least 40 teabags), the reason is that I’m afraid to say the Germans can’t make proper tea. Well, I will qualify that. They have a huge variety of different teas – teas to help you sleep, wake you up, ease your cold, sort out that bunion on your left foot, make your circulation better… you name it, there’s a tea for it. Of course I can’t stand herbal teas and as I only drink tea, orange juice and water it’s important to me that the tea is good.

In Germany what I would be drinking would be called ‘Black Tea’, although if you ask for a cup of black tea you have a 30% chance of being given Earl Grey (yuck yuck) which they think of as normal tea; failing that it might be Assam or Darjeeling. They specify the tea leaf. Whereas we Brits know that there are only a few worthwhile sorts of tea: Tetley, PG Tips, Yorkshire, Twinings. I happen to like Tetley so I have my pot of 110 Tetley Drawstring teabags with me and I’m happy.

Anyway, I left the Italian café and headed off to Augustdorf which was a lovely straight road through a forest with a village in the middle. This was a really nice bit of riding with a very decent cycle path (which I used). There were lots of Germans out on their road bikes whizzing along – this is clearly a much-used cycle route (the roadies were on the road, not the cycle path) as it had a good surface and there was little traffic.

After Augustdorf I got to Stukenbrock where my Garmin got its knickers in a twist slightly. I could see there was a road which went exactly where I wanted to go but clearly in Open Streetmaps there was a problem which meant the Garmin didn’t think I could be routed along that road and kept asking me to do all sorts of random little detours. As I could see the route ahead I ignored all the instructions from the Garmin and it settled down once I had presumably passed the electronic obstruction.

The next place of note was Schloss Hotel which I reached just after crossing the A33 Autobahn. From here it was another lovely ride along a cycle path beside a decent road to Bornholte and then to Verl. I started seeing signs to Gütersloh as only 16km away so I realised at this point my distance estimates weren’t very accurate and I’d get to Gütersloh fairly early.

On that basis I decided to stop in Verl (a large town six miles before Gütersloh) for some lunch.

Verl seemed surprisingly devoid of the obligatory Italian restaurant – or indeed of an obvious town centre – but I happened upon a little bistro which looked like it would do the trick.

A cup of tea was ordered and the teapot came with this fantastic device to keep the tea warm:


The menu choice was a bit sparse for those who didn’t want more cheese and ham (i.e. me!) and in the end I had to go for a complete unknown – “Pickert”. I asked the lady what it was and she described something that vaguely sounded like Kaiserschmarrn (which visitors to Austria will know is cyclist/skier food of the gods) but with potato. Slightly odd was the choice of accompaniment – jam or silver beet. I went for jam. And this arrived:


It was a giant potato pancake thingie and was very good – very warming and hearty. The butter and jam went well with it, oddly.

In the café I did some last-minute hotel choosing (I had a shortlist of two, both of which were the same price, 50€, and in the end chose the one in the centre of Gütersloh as I thought there’d be more to do). I programmed both hotels’ locations into my Garmin and headed off.

It had started to rain whilst I was in the café so I put my waterproof on and was glad of the extra warmth of it.

This is a common sight in Germany – loads of photovoltaics on rooves.


I also noticed in the last twenty miles today a lot of German flags outside houses (rather like you see in America). I hadn’t noticed this on any of the previous days and wondered if it was to do with being in an area where the British Army hang out.

I also today had the unusual experience of being hooted at by a car. Was this because I wasn’t on the Radweg? No – I realised both times that the cars had British number plates so they were presumably responding to my Union Jack flag on the trike. I waved at them both as they disappeared into the distance each time. I also saw one British Army Jeep with a Detmold number plate.

Talking of number plates, the German number plate system has been a really useful guide to my progress across Germany. The number plates start with 1, 2 or 3 letters which signify the local area (B for Berlin, NOM for Nordheim, GT for Gütersloh, BI for Bielefeld etc) and the little circly sticker things afterward tell you which German Land (county) the car comes from as well. As I was riding this morning I saw the number of NOM cars reducing, went through an area where the cars were all LIP and then finally started seeing some GT so I knew I was getting close to Gütersloh. When you’ve been on your own on a bike for a week, these kind of things become more interesting than they should. I am talking to myself more and more every day too! I hope I will return to normality when I get back home to Blighty!

And after just four miles, all on excellent cycle paths, I arrived in Gütersloh.


So why did I choose Gütersloh to visit? There is in fact a reason for this which goes back to a business trip many years ago to Holland. I worked for a record distribution company in the UK and each year we and our European partners would meet somewhere and the American record company executives would come over and tell us about all the new CDs and DVDs over the next few months, the bands, touring and that kinda stuff. Anyway, a few years ago I was in Holland with my colleagues and was involved in a conversation between one of the American chaps and the two German representatives. The American said that he had been to Germany previously, so the Germans asked where.

“Gutter-slaw,” he replied. Slaw as in coleslaw. Gutter as in the thing that drains rain from your roof.

The Germans had to get him to repeat it several times when eventually they worked out what he meant.

“Oh, you mean Gütersloh” (gooters-lo) they said.

“Yeah, Gutterslaw,” he said again. They tried to teach him how to say it but he just couldn’t get it at all. It was an amusing little vignette of the problems of language learning if you haven’t been exposed to particular vocal sounds when a child as I gather it can be almost impossible to hear them accurately if you first encounter them as an adult. You rarely hear younger Germans saying “Zis is ze correct vay” as they are exposed to ‘th’ and ‘w’ on television or in songs and so are able to say it correctly, generally.

Anyway, I fancied visiting Gutterslaw as a result of this memory, and so here I am.

However, I am not in the Center-Hotel, nor in the Lindeman Hotel, as neither had anyone there (I arrived at Center-Hotel, phoned the number on the door and the guy said he was two hours away(!!!) and no-one was answering the phone at the Lindeman which wasn’t too encouraging). I decided to set off towards the Lindeman Hotel and see if anyone where there when I got there – it was two miles away.

I passed this sign which initially I thought was for an event for fat ladies, although I think on further reflection it’s for ladies of all sizes, although why they would want to dance on tables I am less sure.


I also passed a Netto supermarket which was open. On a Sunday! This gave me the opportunity to correct the shocking lack of chocolate in my diet by buying some M&Ms, which I duly did. Here they are on Alfie’s seat.


And would you believe it, 100 metres up the road I found an amazing bakery. I just had to buy a cake for my afternoon snack – but which one?



I made my choice, laid the cake carefully in the top of my pannier and headed off again. The Lindeman Hotel was a mile or so away but I found myself passing the infelicitously-named Hotel Busch so thought I’d pop in and ask the price. 40 Euros including breakfast, said the cigar-puffing chap at the reception desk. Not only that, they had WiFi (he pointed at the Router which looked suitably WiFiEsque) and a locked room for Alfie. Well, a bird in the hand is worth two in the Busch, so I decided to stay at this hotel. It’s the least salubrious I have stayed in on this trip and the cigar smoke smell is all-pervading but it has the usual German Sauberkeit (cleanliness), I had a free cup of tea and the WiFi works well. Oh, and the cup of tea – I had it to wash down this:


I had a message from my friend Stefan who lives in Hamm (not too far from here) that he should be able to come and see me in Münster tomorrow which is fab. I just need too make sure I can find my way there OK and that I get a slightly more salubrious hotel.

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 44.68 miles
Moving time: 4 hours 36 minutes 52 seconds
Maximum speed: 28.1 mph
Average speed: 9.7 mph
Average heart rate: 111
Maximum heart rate: 154
Calorie burn: 1,488 calories

Oh, and in case any of you were wondering about the tracker at the top of this blog, I am using an iPhone App which is created by a German chap called Mike Adam called “GPS Logbook”. It enables me to manually mark a waypoint which I do every 15 minutes or so. I don’t leave it running all the time as it eats the iPhone battery, I just switch the logging on for 5 seconds, then off again, and the route is gradually unfolding. Thanks to Mike for such a good app for a very reasonable price! More info here:


Filed under Berlin to London, Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany

B2L – Einbeck to Nieheim (Day 9)

Click here to see my progress so far: Auntie Helen’s Berlin To London ride

My cycle ride is featuring on the Help For Heroes website at the moment: Berlin to London on a recumbent trike

If you think what I’m doing is pretty cool, perhaps you might sponsor me to give me some encouragement and, more importantly, to help a really good cause. All sponsorship greatly appreciated! The link to my sponsor page is here: Auntie Helen’s sponsorship page

Saturday 5 May 2012

I slept really well again and woke up to rather different weather – drizzle and cooler (about 10 degrees today, I think, compared to 20+ previously).


I went down to breakfast at 7:15, only to discover that they don’t start serving till 8:00.

When 8:00 finally came and I went down to breakfast the room was already full of other guests – all of whom were wearing greens, browns or camouflage and many of whom had leather trousers and dark shirts with elbow patches. I was the only person in bright colours and felt a bit conspicuous! This is clearly a hotel for hunting parties and I presume everyone will melt into the forest behind this building all day and shoot things, or whatever. There were a lot of young men with their fathers here but no young women (apart from me, if I can be called ‘young’).

So after my later breakfast it was 9am by the time I was ready to leave. I fetched Alfie from the garden shed and then saw there was a group of chaps about to go hunting standing around in the car park. There’s nothing like seeing lots of spotty teenagers with guns to make you feel bold so I asked one of the fathers to take a photo of me – I thought it was about time I featured in one or two. I explained how to use the iPhone camera but he proceeded to hold the phone with the screen facing me, trying to peer through the camera lens as far as I could tell. His son sighed, took the phone off him and took a pic of me. Score one to the modern youth with their technological awareness. Anyway, here’s the pic – and it appears my face has caught the sun rather considerably over the last week!

I set off in very light drizzle with occasional dry spells. Although my weather app said it would rain all day and might be up to 9mm of rain, it occured to me that 9mm over twelve hours isn’t necessarily all that much, and so it transpired. The rain wasn’t bad at all, my baseball cap kept the water out of my eyes and there wasn’t much spray from the roads (which can be a bit of an issue on a recumbent). I half hoped that the rain might wash some of the dust off Alfie but I suppose it will just turn it into mud.

The first mile was a fantastic downhill whizz, although my brakes protested at the bottom again. I think the disc pads are full of muck and now water so were squealing away quite impressively.

I had now left the Harz mountains behind and the landscape was much more rolling.

This rolling included, of course, far more uphills than down (or so it seemed) and I was also unlucky in that most of the significant uphills tended to be as I was cycling north (I did some north, some west today) and there was a fairly strong northerly wind so I was crawling up some hills at 4-5mph. Mostly on the main road, occasionally on a cycle track to the side, but all the roads today were white roads on my map (i.e. not equivalent of A-roads) except for one short stretch on an A-road equivalent, so it was a much pleasanter riding experience today than yesterday.

My B-road route (well, I think the Germans call them K roads) was a bit more direct than the meandering R1 official cycle route and it took me through Kohnsen, Vardeilsen, Amelsen, Lüthorst, Wangelnstedt, Stadtoldendorf, Arholzen, Lobach and Bevern. I stopped in Bevern, having decided to stop for a break about twenty minutes before but finding no bakeries in Arholzen or Lobach. In Bevern I stopped at a bakery and asked for a cup of tea but the lady said they didn’t do hot drinks – she recommended I went to the café in the REWE supermarket 200 metres down the road. So I did, and it was a fab suggestion as the moment I walked through the door, feeling rather wet (it had decided to rain a bit more convincingly for the last five minutes) I saw a lady making waffles and selling them for 50 cents each. Well I had to have two, of course, and then I got a cup of tea from the bakery (which was free of charge – they only seem to charge you if you use their teabags) and had a fantastically warming snack.


I returned to my bike which I’d left at the bike stand unlocked and with my clothing pannier still on it (I take the other pannier with money, iGadgets and more wherever I go). There were another nine bicycles in this bike stand and not a single one was locked. One had a trailer attached which had two cratesful of beer – just left out in the open. Not something one would particularly expect to see in the UK!

From Bevern I went through Holzminden which was a nice bit of downhill and then crossed a very large river on a huge bridge. The river was the Weser and is the border between Niedersachsen and Nordrhein-Westfalen so I had now crossed over to my original county. Readers of this may think I am an Essex Girl, having grown up in Essex and living there now, but I am actually from NRW originally.

Straight after the bridge over the Weser there was a big t-junction with the B64 which looked like a pretty busy road. Before I got to the t-junction I saw a cycle path beside the road and decided to be a good cyclist and get on it, assuming there would be a bicycle traffic light crossing up ahead (I could see general traffic lights).

I pootled along this cycle path for 30 metres and then found this:


So that’s another cycle path to nowhere then. I couldn’t safely get up the bank so turned round, cycled back along the path for 30 metres, joined the road and behaved like a car – which was much less effort!

I have noticed that as yet no-one has shouted at me for being on the road and not the cycle path. On some of my previous cycle tours along German rivers that tends to happen if you’re not on the Radweg (which, by law, you must use if it’s there). Perhaps because there are fewer cyclists on the R1 it’s less annoying for motorists but I’ve not been shouted at in six days of cycling and I’ve often been on the road beside an apparently very decent cycle path.

I stayed on the A-road (although on its cycle path to the side, which was a decent one) for the five miles or so between Holzminden and Höxter. At Höxter I turned off towards Lutmarsen in a more northerly, and consequently uphill and hard work, direction. This turned into a lovely, quiet, attractive cycle along a little valley between some hills. There was hardly any traffic coming my way but the other way had lots of really lovely cars – there must have been some kind of rally on somewhere. Aston Martins, Bentleys, posh old cars which I couldn’t identify, about twenty different interesting cars went past. As a cyclist you tend to notice old cars by smell as much as anything else – there is a very specific odour to the LRP petrol that they use and it was noticeable as these cars whizzed past. Of course I never had my camera at the ready, despite trundling along uphill at just 4mph so I could probably have taken a reasonably steady shot.


Because of the cold weather my Alfine hub gear complained once or twice in its ninth gear. I tend to find the Alfine is sensitive to the cable length; if it is adjusted correctly (there are two little yellow marks which should be lined up in sixth gear) then it works perfectly, but in winter the cable obviously shrinks a bit so the alignment is different. Two days or so ago it was 27 degrees and I had adjusted the cable to be right for that temperature (there’s a little barrel adjuster on the trigger shifter). Now we were down to 8-9 degrees the cable was a bit short and it meant that sometimes ninth gear skipped into neutral, which is a bit surprising when it happens but you just change up a gear and things are OK again. If I remember I’ve do the adjustment before I set off tomorrow morning as the forecast is a cold and rainy day again.

It was a long old way up this valley (and it was a lot of uphill too!) but eventually I arrived at Vörden. I thought I might stop there for lunch, even though it was only another five miles to Nieheim, but as I arrived in Vörden the rain started to become really heavy and my legs got pretty wet and cold. I decided it was best to press on so I could have a warm shower at the hotel.

From Vörden I had a fantastic downhill run to Bredenborn and then I was swooping towards Nieheim when my Garmin asked me to turn off onto a track to the left rather than staying on the main road. I was a bit indecisive about this (well, for the twenty seconds of warning I had) but in the end decided to go with the Garmin as it was displaying a shorter distance to Nieheim than the road signs. It turned out this was a shortcut but it did involve going up a hill and down the other side – the road went round the hill. Oh well, it’s all good for my fitness grinding up these hills!

When I got to Nieheim my Garmin sent me off to the south before I hit the centre as I had programmed in the location of the hotel. Its name should have tipped me off about where it would be positioned – Hotel Berghof (Berg meaning mountain). Yes, it was up yet another huge hill. And by huge hill I mean super-steep, if only about three quarters of a mile long. I actually had to put my trike into first gear out of its 33 for the final stretch – I don’t think I’ve used that gear in months!

But the climb was worth it as this is the best hotel yet. I booked using the HRS iPhone app yesterday (HRS is a German hotel booking site) for 42 Euro and it’s clearly excellent value for money. The WiFi is super-fast which is a real treat as well. I have a large room with a balcony that looked out onto… Alfie


He has since been installed in the hotel owner’s locked garage.

This is the view over Nieheim:


And this is the view of the hearty Gulaschsuppe that I ordered once I got in, wet and a bit chilled. It had huge chunks of beef floating around in it and was just what I needed to warm me up. The hotel owner chap was really friendly and helpful as well.


Here is a pic of my room (before I emptied out my panniers and made it look as though a bomb had gone off):


And here is a view of the traditional cycle tourer’s bathroom. Things hanging in the shower…


And that most wonderful of inventions, a heated towel rail…


Because it was a colder day today I had extra layers so much more needed to be washed. Tomorrow is also cold but then it warms up again to 18 or 19 so I should be able to get the shorts out again (they dry more quickly).

After my shower I decided to see if I could rustle up a cup of tea whilst I wrote this blog. The hotel owner asked if I’d like a small or a large Kännchen (that’s a pot) and I said large – I got a gallon flask of hot water!


I also bought my first chocolate for five or six days (if you exclude the chocolate topping on that giant cake yesterday). I think I need some more energy as I haven’t been eating enough on this trip really, I haven’t felt like I wanted to. But it’s hard not to want a Snickers if it’s there, looking at you.

I’m thinking I will try to cycle as far as Gütersloh tomorrow which is a bit further than the last few days but it’s a large enough place that I think there should be a good choice of hotel (I may well book one this evening again as it’s nice to be sure I’ll have a room). The cold I have been nursing for a few days seems to be easing a little which is a relief, particularly as the weather is now a bit grotty. I will probably be right as rain by the time I get home again.

Statistics for today:

Distance travelled: 44.11 miles
Moving time: 4 hours 48 minutes 46 seconds
Maximum speed: 31.3 mph
Average speed: 9.2 mph
Average heart rate: 121
Maximum heart rate: 154
Calorie burn: 1,792 calories


Filed under Berlin to London, Cycle Tours