Setting Off From Sandwell valley

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Tuesday 5th to Thursday 7th January - Stuck in Hemel Hempstead

It's Thursday now and I'm actually sitting in the most wonderful cycling shop I've ever been in - Leisure Wheels - [] in Hemel Hempstead. They're repairing the bike from the damage from Tuesday's fall on the ice and they've allowed me to catch up on the emails.

Right, Tuesday - well it was a fabulous morning. Got down to Otmoor after seeing red kite whilst cycling to the reserve from Stanton St John where Richard and Lynn Ebbs had kindly put me up for the night. 19 Red-legged partridge had moved off the frozen [ should have taken more notice!] lane for another year tick and a yellowhammer flew over closely followed by a meadow pipit, both calling. [64 species - year list]

Down to the first screen and shovelor [65] was with a large group of mainly teal with some mallard and wigeon, all around the only bit of ice-free water to be seen. More red kites, 5 of them were seen here and a raven came over [66]. Phil, originally a Scouser gave some company and chat and he caught up with me as I went onto the second screen.

Bittern! Walked out from edge of left hand read [phraggy!] area and then after 10 minutes or so flew over the ice into the middle of the right hand reeds. [67]

Phone rings - BBC OXFORD TV girl has arrived for an interview. Poor girl. She really must have drawn the short straw to be out here in the bitter cold. Filmed riding, stopping by the gate, getting off and going through the kissing gate - 4 times. Interviewed C.C.C. - climate change, children and charities. I should add another C - contacting.

Off back to Richard and Lynn's to collect the panniers and off I came. Thick ice had been unnoticed until the bike went from under me leaving me rolling along the ground. Luckily only had a small cut on the palm otherwise just shaken. The bike though was worse off. The right hand gear system was broken and the pedal cover smashed. Got back up, fixed the gears as well as I could and walked for a bit until the ice seemed less. The gears started to work reasonably well but with a slight crunch now between each one.
Got the panniers, said a very sincere thanks to the wonderful Lynn [I'd said goodbye and thanks to Richard at Otmoor. This wonderful man was with a group of very dedicated volunteers carrying out a work party in the frozen area of hedgerow along one of the paths] and started off for Hemel Hempstead.

A group [herd? What is the collective noun for deer] of 41 roe deer were in a field to the left after about one mile and I stopped to look. The stag, resplendent with huge antlers, was keen to watch me. Oh yes, forgot to say a bank vole had been exploring Richard and Lynn's stone wall. I saw it as the Hounslow, Brentford and Twickenham newspaper reporter was talking to me.

A green woodpecker flew alongside me next [68].

Thame - post office for juice bottle - Lucozade Sport.

Prince's Risborough - a beef lasagne and hot chocolate in a cafe opposite Marks & Spencers. Didn't catch the name but recommended.

Dark now - 5.30pm and a climb/walk up and over the Chiltern Ridge to Great Missenden.
Up and over again - thick, heavy snow falling now - down towards Chesham. An ambulance pulls me over. Do I look that ill? No it's the back light not working - reason broken cable. Dropped skiing glove in the panic. Walked back half a mile or so and found it.

Into Sainsbury's at Chesham. No back lights for cycles or anything for cars. Buy a torch, tie it to the back! No elastic bands, no string. Use good old British ingenuity. A pair of 'value' ladies tights and an RAC £4.99 torch.

Off again - snow ridiculour now but up yet another hill and on a very dark 'pot-holed [!!!!!] road towards Berkhampstead. The A41 - a snow-bound dual carriageway that felt like a motorway. Must take it - it's the straightest way. Past a Premier Inn - no, had promised hemel Hempstead landlady, Mrs Peters, that I'd be there. 5 miles - stops and slogs - the junction. The workmen. The Police Station - well I needed directions for 47 Crescent road - the cheapest B & B in town. 945pm. Fantastic Police Ladies [is that PC PCs?] and the B & B not too far away.

At last - sanctuary! Thrilled to have made it. Mrs Peters, the landlady greeted me in and got a hot mug of soup, toast, Christmas cake and 2 mince pies for me. Wonderful! Shown the room and shower but too tired. went to sleep perchance to dream.


  1. Excellant story (probably for all the wrong reasons. Hope to catch up with you at Hayle

  2. Hi Garry,
    Well done and congratulations.
    An excellent start, i will try to follow you all the way through your incredible journey.
    Enjoy your experiences and make the most of it!

    Bye for now, keep going, keep pedalling, keep smiling...
    love Deena x

  3. Hi Gary,

    Just read the local free paper and there is a short piece on you and your intended year; will keep it if you want. Hope both you and the bike (and the optics) are OK. Year list seems to be progressing nicely (well it's bigger than mine anyway).

    Cheers for now