Isle of White Coastline. Source: Wikimedia Commons by Barbara Murdter.
If someone asked you where the best place to go walking or hiking in the British countryside is, whereabouts would you think of? In the UK we have lots of beautiful countryside and we are certainly spoilt for choice. The first place that I would think of would be one of our National Parks, probably the Lake District, or the Highlands of Scotland. For countryside which is less rugged, possibly the White Peak or the South Downs would come to mind. One place that would probably not spring to mind is the Isle of Wight. Yet the Isle of Wight walking festival is advertised as “The UK’s Largest Walking Festival.” As of 2010, it is in its twelfth year and with around 300 walks over two weeks there is certainly plenty of opportunities to do some walking. Indeed, some 24,500 people took part in the 2009 festival!
The Island has over 500 miles of well-maintained and signposted footpaths around 30 miles of Heritage Coastline, while more than half of the Island is recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Walks and Hikes
With three speeds of walk to choose from, gentle, moderate and brisk, and five difficulty level from easy to strenuous, the Isle of Wight Walking Festival something for everyone. Some of the walks are themed, for example the “Isle of Wight Ghost Experience”, “In the Footsteps of Thomas Rowlandson” and “Climate and Energy Walk”. There is plenty for nature lovers including “Red Squirrels in the Park” and “Dawn Chorus Magic”. If you like gardens then the “Glorious Garden” walk could be for you, it is a long but gentle walk through the lovely Parish of Shalfleet visiting some outstanding private gardens. If you are looking for romance there is the “Speed Dating Walk”, which boasts no less than three marriages of people who met on this walk in the past. For information about all of the walks visit the Isle of Wight walking festival website. They have a fun navigation bar depicting animated walkers and cute rabbits enjoying the Isle of Wight countryside.
Some of the walks are free whilst others require that you make a small charitable donation. In this way the Isle of Wight Walking Festival raises money for the Earl Mountbatten Hospice, which cares for over 800 patients facing life-threatening conditions every year.
The Isle of Wight enjoys better than average UK weather. Considering that half the time I go walking in the Lake District it is raining and the cloud base is just above my tent, heading south to the Isle Wight sounds like a tempting idea. That said, its is always a good idea to take waterproofs when hiking anywhere in the UK!
The 12th Annual Isle of Wight Walking Festival will take place from the 8 – 23rd May 2010. However if you cannot make it then, there are still plenty of opportunities to get out your walking boots throughout the year. There are 14 trails on the Isle of Wight Walking Festival website that can be downloaded as PDFs. The trail guides contain detailed descriptions of the walk, a map and brief notes about interesting landmarks.
Interesting Facts about the Isle of Wight…
It was an Independent kingdom briefly in the 15th century
It has a rich maritime history: Cowes Week is the longest-running regular regatta in the world
There are no grey squirrels and the red squirrel population is thriving
The 1980s pop group Level 42 is from the Isle of Wight
There are three breweries on the island
One of the island’s largest events is the annual Garlic Festival
The Isle of Wight is made up of a wide variety of different rock types
There are two rivers called “Yar”, the Eastern and Western Yar.
There is undoubtedly something for everyone and it is hardly surprising that the Isle of Wight is often referred to as Britain in Miniature!
Ryde and Bembridge in the north east of the Isle of Wight. Source: Flickr by PhillipC.
Shanklin and surrounding countryside on the Isle of Wight. Source: Flickr by garryknight.
About a year ago I was cycling home from work and came a cropper when I hit a pot hole in the road.
The road in question is in the countryside, just on the edge of the city. There are no street lights and it was a dark, rainy winters night. I have a Cat-Eye Power Opti-Cube LED bike light, which I am very pleased with. It provides enough light to see where you are going when it is dark, but when faced with the glare of the headlights of on-coming traffic it is impossible to see the road surface.
The wind was behind me so I was cycling at a fair pace, looking forward to getting home. I had cycled past a section of road that I knew to have pot holes. In order to avoid them I had kept to a position further out in the road than normal. After cycling about another 5 metres I began to move back towards the edge of the road. It was then that I hit the nasty pot hole. Despite having a reasonable pair of suspension forks, when my front wheel hit the edge of the pot hole the bike stopped dead. I took to the air! Fortunately I was travelling towards the side of the road and not in the path of on-coming traffic. My flight ended abruptly when I ploughed into a wooden fence on the verge. Fortunately my injuries were minimal: just a big scratch on my forearm. Luckily too, my bike was undamaged although I really ought to buy a new helmet since the side of my head hit a fence post. A kind motorist who had seen what happened pulled in to check that I was ok, which makes a pleasant change from motorists usual disregard for the safety of cyclists.
The next day I rang the council to report the pot hole. They did not seem overly interested until I told them that I had fallen off my bike. To their credit the pot holes were filled in a few days later.
Cyclists Fill That Hole!
Now I have found out about another way for cyclists and other road users to report pot holes to the council, which I think is worth sharing. Its a nifty website run by cycling organisation CTC, called Fill That Hole .org.uk. Since cyclists are particularly vulnerable to pot holes and cracks in the road, I would recommend that all UK bike riders add it to their bookmarks.
Report a pot hole to the council using FillThatHole.org.uk
Following the deluge of snow and ice during cold snap, many new potholes have appeared. As it happens, whilst out driving the other day I noticed a large pothole in the road. Unfortunately by the time I noticed the pot hole there was not enough time to alter my course. Although I applied my brakes, my front nearside wheel hit the pothole with a great big bang.
Its not all bad news. The discovery of this pothole has given me the opportunity try out Fill That Hole!
Its a relatively straight forward process. Just click on “Report a Hazard” and fill in the questions. These include giving a description of the pothole, including its approximate size and depth. The next bit I like. Using Google maps, you find the location of the pothole, click on the map and a little red flag appears indicating the position of pothole. You also need to add a detailed description of the location of the pothole.
When you click “next” a page appears asking you to confirm the location, and the highway authority has automatically been identified.
The next page asks whether you were injured, whether your property was damaged and what mode of transport you were using. Finally you need to enter contact details. Then you can submit the report. Job done. All you need to do now is sit back and wait for the council to chuck a lump of tarmac in the pothole.
You get confirmation of your submission by e-mail and also the opportunity to add comments, update the report when the hazard has been fixed and even upload photos of the offending pot hole.
You can also find out where other potholes are by searching on the map or via the list of authorities. The following is comment that someone has made about the stretch of road where I fell off my bike, as mentioned above:
The road surface at the side is just horrendous. Its full of lumps bumps and potholes. You have to try and drive/cycle/ride in the middle of it to avoid getting that bone shakin feeling! Its been like that for years and never been re-surfaced. Its heavily used so you have no choice but to drive in the normaly driving position at much detriment to car/bicycle!
Pot Holes Filled
One other feature of the Fill That Hole site is that you can see how effective different highways agencies are at fixing potholes. The site average for all highways authorities and councils is only 33%.
The pot hole that I reported had already been filled by the time I rode home 2 hours later. So I assume that it had already been brought to the councils attention and scheduled for repair before I reported it to them. So unfortunately I will be unable to report on Fill That Hole’s effectiveness until I am able to report another pothole!
Is your council reluctant to sort out potholes? Are you a cyclist who has used Fill That Hole .org.uk? Did the pothole get filled? Share your experience, click on “comments” below!
Ironman is a name that has become synonymous with the triathlon event:swimming, cycling and running. The first Ironman event took place in Hawaii in 1978. Since then it has become a global phenomena. In 2010 there will be 25 Ironman races held in 16 countries worldwide.
“Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life” Ironman registered trademark.
Top athletes can compete the course in just over 8 hours, however to finish the race, participants must complete all three sections within 15 hours. All finishers are entitled to call themselves an Ironman!
The Ironman Triathlon Swimming Stage is 2.4 miles. Photo by: Bakke-Svensson/Ironman.
This gruelling event is not for the faint hearted. Anyone must be crazy to even think about entering. So this year I abandoned all reason, coughed up the £305 entry fee and have signed up! After entering the Liverpool Triathlon last year I felt greater things lie ahead, since it was not as hard as I had envisaged. When it was suggested to me that I enter Ironman I was initially sceptical, but now I’m confident that I can pull it off.
The Liverpool Triathlon is an Olympic distance event, that is a swim of 1.5km, bike ride of 40km and a run of 10km. I completed it in just over 2 hours and 33 minutes, putting me in the top 27% of competitors. Its a good background but I’ll need to step up a gear or two if I am to complete Ironman, which is being held in Bolton on the 1st of August 2010. There will be a lot of training for me over the next 8 months, but by signing up for other events along the way I will be able to build up my stamina with no excuses for ducking out of the training.
What with the Christmas plus the snow and ice, my training volume has been lower than I would have liked. I’ve only been doing about 3 hours a week. I’ll need to be doing 8 or 9 hours a week if I’m to become an Ironman! My training will include running or cycling 13 miles to work. In addition to that I’ll be doing other personal challenges. For example, on my day off last Friday I rode 50 miles on the bike then ran a half marathon. This was quite a testing, but I got through it ok. Swimming is will be the toughest part of the challenge for me. The training is addictive so I should be able to keep it up.
The Lovell Telescope is a familiar landmark on the Cheshire plains. Source Flickr by cloudsoup.
I’ve signed up for the Torelli Jodrell Bank Cyclosportive Challenge on the 14th of March. This is an 80 mile bike ride round the beautiful country lanes of Cheshire. This part of the Cheshire countryside is relatively flat so I’m hoping to be able to keep a good pace throughout this cycling event. For those of you who have never heard of it, Jodrell Bank is a space observatory as opposed to a financial institution. The Lovell radio-telescope that has been observing distant stars for 50 years and is a familiar sight on the Cheshire plains.
Following on from the Jodrell Bank Sportive, is the Verenti Cheshire Cat Cyclosportive. This will take place on 28th of March and will be a slightly tougher challenge for me. This bike ride is going to be 100 miles long, 20 more than the Jodrell Bank Sportive. There will be a steep climb or two and plenty of undulating country lanes!
As well as keeping up with the Ironman training, I’ll be posting updates about my progress here on the CheapTents.com blog.