Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Would you like to sponsor?

Hastoe Housing Group has been linked with the rural community of Ruhanga in SW Uganda through the charity 'Let Them Help Themselves.'  On retiring from the post of deputy chairman of Hastoe, I agreed to do this ride. Harriet joined in enthusiastically and we aimed to cycle up to Hastoe's Head office at Hampton Wick, then through East Anglia up to North Norfolk, west through Bucks, Oxon and Wilts, through Somerset to West Devon and back via south Devon, Dorset, Hants and finishing in Sussex. And we did it.

We expected to do about 850 miles and visit 60 Hastoe rural housing schemes. In fact, we did 990 miles and paid 57 visits (to 55 schemes and two of Hastoe's offices).

You can contact Harry or me at [ or] or write to us at Knowlands Farm Granary, Barcombe, LEWES, Sussex BN8 5EF. Or if you prefer, go to and with a bit of luck you may be able to give that way.

If you like to send a cheque, it should please be made out to Uganda Lodge Community Projects (a related charity, UK charity number 1150023)

Ruhanga is a remote village in South West Uganda. One of Hastoe's residents had a connection with the place and started a charity called "Let them Help Themselves" who got hold of money to fund the building - by the local people - of a community medical centre and the idea is to provide cash to fund the equipment for it. 
At the end of it all we hope to send at least £3,000 to Let Them Help Themselves for Ruhanga.

Useful inks:

Nature Notes

Birds. I decided at the start that I would make a note of bird species observed on the ride. Frankly, the result was rather a disappointment. But then we never stopped to look for nature (except for half an hour at Sandy, the headquarters of the RSPB, where we didn't record anything of note).  Many birds were not singing or calling at this time of year. Among the exceptions were robins (singing everywhere), wren, curlew, tawny owl (heard once each), wood pigeons, nuthatches, swallows and martins.  Some surprises. Birds missing from the list, especially song thrush. And the number of times we encountered nuthatches (often heard, never seen), goldfinches, buzzards and ravens. We only saw one kestrel and no sparrow hawk, surely unthinkable a few years ago. Far and away the most common bird was the wood pigeon. They were absolutely everywhere. Under the eaves of one Hastoe home in Devon was an active House Martin's nest, perhaps a third brood. The tenants had been good enough to encourage (or not discourage) the birds. Swallows and martins were gathering in sizeable parties, especially in the west country, but towards the end of our ride the numbers were much reduced - they had departed, going south. when we got home, we found swallows still going in and out of the garage to their nest.
Here's the rather dull list - 51 species. I expected many more.

  • Blackbird
  • Blackheaded Gull (many)
  • Black Swan (in a hotel garden)
  • Bluetit
  • Bullfinch (encouragingly, several sightings)
  • Buzzard (lots)
  • Canada Goose
  • Carrion Crow
  • Chaffinch
  • Chiffchaff (identified only from the call, so somewhat doubtful - no song)
  • Coal tit (only on arrival home!)
  • Collared Dove
  • Common Gull
  • Coot
  • Cormorant
  • Curlew (heard, once)
  • Dunnock (only on arrival at Knowlands)
  • Feral Pigeon
  • Goldfinch
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • Great Tit
  • Greylag Goose
  • Green Woodpecker
  • Heron
  • Herring Gull
  • House Martin
  • Jackdaw
  • Jay
  • Kestrel (one only)
  • Linnet
  • Little Egret (one, on the Exe estuary)
  • Long-tailed Tit
  • Magpie
  • Mallard
  • Meadow Pipit
  • Moorhen
  • Mute Swan
  • Nuthatch
  • Pheasant
  • Raven
  • Red Kite
  • Red-legged Partridge
  • Ring-necked Parakeet
  • Robin
  • Rook
  • Song Thrush (one freshly killed on the road was the only one we saw)
  • Starling
  • Swallow
  • Tawny Owl
  • Woodpigeon
  • Wren

Butterflies. For the first two weeks we saw a great number of butterflies - mostly whites - but not a great variety and nothing of special note. Again I had expected more. I glimpsed one rather copper-coloured butterfly that i could not identify - perhaps a Small Copper or Wall Brown. Here's a list of those we saw and recognised:

  • Clouded Yellow (twice)
  • Green-veined White
  • Common Blue
  • Large White
  • Meadow Brown
  • Peacock
  • Small Tortoiseshell
  • Small White
  • Speckled Wood (in great numbers in the West Country especially)

Wild mammals seen:

  • Badger*
  • Bat (species unknown)
  • Fallow Deer
  • Fox
  • Grey Squirrel
  • Hare*
  • Hedgehog
  • Mouse (species unknown)
  • Rabbit
  • Rat
  • Roe Deer*

(* = only dead on road)

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

A look back over the ride and some vital statistics

We've had a hard day today trying to work out, for our lovely sponsors, what we did. Cycling was easier in some ways. Here's the result:

  • Miles: 990.91 (includes conservative estimates of a few spells where Gigi the Garmin Gadget didn't keep a record).
  • Hastoe rural housing schemes and Hastoe offices visited: 57 (55+2)
  • Punctures: 2 (one each)
  • Injuries: 3 (Harry is now in plaster and awaits an appointment at the local hospital to get her arm sorted out)

I can't think how to sum up our excursion. It was a holiday and it wasn't. It was arduous but we had a lot of fun. Here are some photos in chronological order, one for each of the 22 days. Because we added a day at the beginning, the first day (out of 22) has to be Day zero. that was Monday 19th August and we got back yesterday, Monday 9th September.

Day Zero. Squeezing through a gate somewhere near Strawberry Hill while following a route chosen by Gigi the Garmin Gadget. On the other side was a sign "PRIVATE".

Day 1. A traffic jam of a kind. Yes, that is the London Eye you see.

Day 2. Harry's two falls leave her arm looking as though she
has overindulged in the spinach. She decides to press on.

Day 3. A typical Hastoe housing scheme. Affordable but good.

Day 4. Taking tea and cakes at Gaymer Memorial Cottages, Attleborough. In this environmentally made-over cottage, built in the 1940's, the tenant (the other white-haired lady in the middle) has more gadgets, fitted experimentally by Hastoe, than you could shake a stick at. And she knows how to work them all.

Day 5. The swelling on Harry's arm has moved down.

Day 6.  Rule Gardens, Fordham, East Cambridgeshire. I think!

Day 7. We had done over 50 miles per say on average for eight days. Harry caught me having a little sit down.

Day 8. Field Close, Tingewick, Aylesbury Vale. the sun is shining and all is well.

Day 9. That sign says 10%. After a week in East Anglia, we weren't used to such things. 

Day 10. A random White Horse somewhere in Somerset. Pretty but those hills are not nice when it comes to going over them. My beard has just begun to make its presence felt.

Day 11. A tenant and some of her family at Longman's Lea, Ditcheat. We loved the way people here seemed free - children playing and riding bikes round the village.

Day 12. Our kind host near Ilminster bringing back the dustbin on her bike.

Day 13. Time for a bit of wildlife. This striking Speckled Wood butterfly caught our attention along the canalside near Tiverton. Gigi was going to take us on the road but we spotted the canal in passing and it proved a much pleasanter ride.

Day 14. Wonderful views abound in Devon. the wheatfields of Suffolk long behind us.

Day 15. The excellent Bike Shed in Crediton fixed us up with much needed new brake pads.I spotted three unicycles hanging there but Harry was not keen to try them out. 

Day 16. The hills got even steeper. This was the day my tyre burst from
overheating going down one of these hills; and the day we met the cows
going to be milked, which were terrified of our yellow jerseys..

Day 17. This lady lives in the only Hastoe home in the village
of Hardington Mandeville and liked it so much she wanted to buy it.

Day 18. We really didn't mean to get quite so off-road. If only I had mastered the instructions for Gigi before we departed.

Day 19. Another magnificent vista. 

Day 20. West Sussex. We had a spot of rain on two occasions in East Anglia but this was the first time we really got wet. It was also the day Harry took another tumble and had to get medical aid. She's in a plaster now, but still managed to ride with me a mile to our last destination, The Willows, Barcombe.

Day 21. Arrived in Barcombe at last.

Monday, 9 September 2013

9th September - West Chiltington to Barcombe

We made it. After 21½ days on the road, we are safely home. It feels good.

A traffic jam somewhere in Devon
After a couple of hours I reached Hastoe's development in Lower Beeding. [In that charming Sussex way, it is far to the north of Upper Beeding.] Then on to Wivelsfield Green and then to The Willows at Barcombe, our final destination. Yes, I did say us, together. I had called in at home to get some lunch before pushing on to our last stop and found Harry, arm in a sling, all set to ride with me at the end. A splendid welcome party met us at The Willows including Martin Craddock who replaced me as deputy chairman of Hastoe. Alison made cakes and provided tea. Helen and Leila from Hastoe were there too. They have been such an encouragement to us. And Ida, the person who got Hastoe involved with Ruhanga and Let Them Help Themselves - she came too
Barcombe - the end of our saga

Tomorrow I aim to tot up the mileage for those who have kindly sponsored us by the mile. And tot up the schemes we have visited for those who have sponsored us by the scheme. and perhaps write some reflections on our journey.

A million thanks to all of you our sponsors and our supporters. You have spurred us on every mile.


Sunday, 8 September 2013

Droxford, Hants to W Chiltington, W Sussex - in which I lose my wing man

At the Indian, Harry turned down my offer of earplugs and went to sleep. I tried both sets (acquired from different airlines) and neither made the slightest difference. I slept we'll after 1. 00 am when the post-disco chatter and horn-blowing contest eventually subsided. Sad. I was so proud of having the forethought to bring those earplugs.

A lovely ride in the morning, bright September sun, magnificent views and some 35 minutes while we saw no other vehicle except a peleton of Sunday morning cyclists all identically dressed and in formation. Except one, who rode at the back and may have just tagged along. They sailed past us, of course.

The occasional shower was forecast. We met it as we crossed from Hampshire into Sussex. There is a handy yew tree just at that point, which provided shelter while we added rainproofs. Arrived at West Dean in time for lunch but sadly, just before we got there, Harry, my wing man, took another hit. She has been brave beyond reason until now and her elbow, damaged 19 days ago, had just about got better. Now her raincoat got caught on the saddle as she dismounted and the same knee took the brunt of what should have been really a minor tumble. It proved to be enough to knock her out of the race. Milly and Mikey valiantly came over from home and collected Harry and her bike. A sad day for Harry, ditto for me. She's hoping to join me again tomorrow for the finale.

Bad news for sponsors by the scheme. I was able to find both Hastoe's housing projects in West Dean, which are quite separate from each other so I am counting it as two hits. Charming developments, both, with Sussex round flint walls.

The shower we had met earlier came back with several of its big brothers and I got thoroughly drenched during the afternoon. It makes me realise how wonderfully we have been blessed with fair weather until now. Even today, the sun came out and partly dried me out before reaching West Chiltington where I have found a decent place to stay.

Ad so to bed (early). Tomorrow, God willing, I will be back in Barcombe via Hastoe developments at  Lower Beeding near here and Wivelsfield Green.

Huge thanks for all the support we have received. I believe we are set to make our target of £3,000 with perhaps some over. We have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. It has proved much more demanding than, in my innocence, I had expected.


Saturday, 7 September 2013

Broad Chalke to an Indian in Droxford

Saturday, 7th Sept. 9.15pm.
Broad Chalke to Droxford
This trip has been long on experiences. Each of them is a surprise. This evening is no exception.  I am typing this on an ill-made bed (there is no chair) in a little room above an indian restaurant. We cannot hear the muzak from immediately below because it is drowned by the considerably more powerful output from a disco in a back room. The disco is from time to time augmented by some enthusiastic horn blowing, I deduce that the party has something to do with the local hunt. You must understand that we did not go out of our way to choose this place. It chose us. We had travelled some 54 miles from Broad Chalke and found ourselves in Corhampton. We knew it was Saturday night. We did not know today is the day of the Alresford Show. We had not realised that Corhampton is (just) in the South Downs National Park and is on the South Downs Way. Neither did we realise that there are few if any bed and breakfast places hereabouts. A friendly employee of the inn there appraised us of these facts and explained that there was no room for us in the said inn. She kindly called up a couple of rival establishments - no luck. Finally she explained that the White Horse at Droxford did an excellent Indian and had rooms. She could vouch for the food. About the rooms she only knew they were cheap. So here we are; and now we know why.

No Hastoe schemes at all today. For reasons lost in time, Hastoe has only ever had one scheme in Hampshire and that to the north of the county. And today we have been crossing Hampshire, so no schemes to record.

We left our excellent pub in B Chalke at 9.30. Late, because I had written up yesterday's blog after breakfast, much to Harry's annoyance - she wanted an early start. No such mistake today.

We had mapped a course crossing the New Forest and avoiding main roads. The sun shone after last night's rain. It was perfectly lovely. A recent email from James the rector prayed: "may the wind be at your back" which exactly came to pass. On a particular stretch of level road, wisps of straw were being lifted by the wind and blowing past us from behind. Thank you, James.

We failed to buy a map in Fordingbridge. We forgot, I mean. After that, our rural route was devoid of shops. One thing we have learnt is that chances missed are - well - missed. The A272 beckoned but we chose instead a route parallel and to the south of it. No shops. No tea. No inns. Hardly a passer by to ask directions. All contributing to the Indian Saga. And the fact that we did 56.3 miles with an elevation gain of 3,235ft and an average speed of 10.5 mph. I think we must be getting the hang of this cycling thing. 

Now it is ten past ten and in two hours the disco music will cease, we are told. Lucky I packed two pairs of ear plugs. We'll try them out tonight.


Friday 6th September - Sydling to Broad Chalke

Sydling is in our a hole. Our kind hosts take a car when they go for a walk, walk home and take another car to rescue the first one. So we expected a hill to start the day. We were not disappointed. But we got up it without getting off the bikes.

There are some lovely names of places around here. Sydling St Nicholas, Margaret Marsh, Staunton Caundle, Logs Kindling (may be two places?), Loose Chippings, Sixpenny Handley.

Discovered Shaftesbury. Might have known a Saxon Hill Town would require another long haul of the upwards variety to arrive at it. Gigi played a trump, taking us up an alley which got narrower and steeper and steeper and narrower until we not only had to dismount but could only with the greatest difficulty even push the bikes.  I had to come back to help Harry. We finally emerged in the High Street.

After Shaftesbury we had some more substantial hills and found ourselves on the ridge of the downs. Gigi had another card up her sleeve. A rough track beckoned. Local advice (from a car driver) was that it was doable but rough. We took it on as the alternative was a U Turn. It turned out to be about four miles of very rough indeed, going at minimal speed. W eventually net a young shepherd who said we might "with honour intact" take an escape route - though that proved even more exciting
as it was steep downhill and we had again to dismount.

I have to admit it was nice up there on the downs and we saw a fox (alive, this time) and heard a Tawny Owl. Recently we have added Little Grebe and Long-tailed Tit to our tally of birds observed. Remarkably and sadly, we have not yet seen a Song Thrush except one dead on the road. Nor a Sparrow Hawk. There,s still time.

We have spent the night at the Queens Head in Broad Chalke where they have looked after us very well. Today we set off for Hampshire or wherever we can get to, going east. Incredibly, the forecast is for another day of sunshine with a risk of a shower. The rector blessed us with the traditional "may the wind be at your back" and certainly we feel well blessed in that department.