Berlin Challenge Day 5

The last few days were tough, with my Achilles aching, Garmin becoming unruly on these continental roads and mentally feeling a little crushed from the 150 mile day 2.

So today I set out to get over “hump day” the middle of the planned trip. The route from now Bielefeld to Ahaus, had shortened (albeit theoretically) todays journey, but I still managed to overcook the Garmins prediction of 66miles with 84miles in the bank and a great day mentally.

An early, cold, set off put me in good stead with 30 miles completed by 10.30. Things were going well on good roads with lots of little towns passing me by. I eventually stopped at a Bakarei and attempted to order a sandwich with cheese and ham. I was given a ham and also got a creme pastry (below) which really filled a hole. I was also talked at by an older German man who informed me that from what I could tell when he was younger he’d cycled 5000km. No mean feat!

As the approach to Holland gets closer and closer the westerly wind is certainly taking its toll slowing progress somewhat. You can tell how close we are from all of the windmills. However I stuck at it and before long signs for Ahaus were being displayed. One last climb and an eventual 7% descent allowed me to get up to 37mph, a welcome change from the flats.

Entering the small town was a treat, especially on a Friday where the locals are out in force enjoying ice creams in the square. The hotel is the nicest so far and still not too expensive. Wifi is free so I’m making full use and even tweeted Olympic cyclist Lucy Martin whose friend is cycling a 1600mile solo ride sometime soon. A minute later I received a reply, which is always an honour from an Olympian.

It’s topped the day off…along with this beer. Here’s to tomorrow.





Berlin challenge day 4

I have a two confessions. Firstly i hate the garmin. Calculations on garmin connect and the garmin itself are totally different and the mileage from the device only works out how far point to point you’ve got to go, so you end uo going stupidly tough routes and finding out you’ve then got even further to go than you thought.

My second confession leads on from the first. I’ve cheated myself. I cycled 30 something miles to then be told to go back on myself again adding 40 more miles to my journey. I wasn’t doing it, not today, not after Tuesday, not after the unexpected 15% climb for 4 miles and certainly not after the 15% descent through the mountains on wet roads carrying this much weight. And so I confess I took a train. In fact I took 5 trains totalling 3 hours of travel to get me to a place where I could then add more mileage but still be in a safe place before dark. I think I’ve managed to rack up 55ish miles today.

So here I am in Bielefeld planning in every loose sense of the word my journey for tomorrow towards Ahaus. I’m hoping to find a hotel there but at the moment I’m struggling to find one that’s cheap. If not it could be my first night in the tent. According to Garmin the route is 66miles. According to Garmin connect its 80. According to
Google it’s 90. I’m going to go with the later, just so I’ve got it in my head that’s how far I am going.

Positives of the day are that I managed a huge climb with panniers on. I certainly feel sorry for a pal who is currently on a trek from Barcelona to London taking on the Ventoux with a similar setup to me! It’s also a lot cooler today. Only 13 degrees. I had to put the jacket on, but at least I’m not losing as much water to the heat.




Berlin Challenge Day 3


After the sad news this morning I decided that it was best to enjoy Every Moment by spending the day in the town of Goslar. Beautifully situated just north of the mountains the small township is baked with history dating back to the 12century.

After an original trek into town to the bank and to buy an iPhone charger, I headed back to the hotel for a bit of r&r at the spa. A gentle swim followed by an intense hot sauna cold shower combo, helped my aching body. How the pro’s do this day in day out I don’t know.

Carb loading for lunch was followed by more exploration of the town as seen above. Apparently the square or “marketplatz” hosts a very famous Christmas market and is every year covered in snow. Enjoying a beer here while watching the bell show from the bell tower, I returned to the hotel for an intense planning session for tomorrows ride. I’m sill very confused on the route to take as Garmin 800 and Garmin Connect are telling me two different things to the equivalence of 20 miles. So I’m not sure how it’ll be yet. Wish me luck!

Berlin Challenge Day 2


As I sit here now in the hotel in Goslar, a small historic town in the mountains just outside of Wolfenbüttel (where they make jägermeister), all I can think of is the distance that I cycled yesterday.

The Garmin clapped out at 129.51 miles and I had forgotten to click start for about 10 miles, and continued on after it had until the next major town. I believe I cycled 150 miles even though I was meant to be cycling 90. The Garmin had routed me wrong causing me to head back on myself for a large wave of the trip. I must check the route properly today.

Today I’m a broken man. My Achilles are completely shot, I continue to be covered in sweat rash and the mosquito bites have matured to full itchiness. With all that said though…I cycled 150 miles yesterday. It’s the most incredibly emotional feeling to have cycled that far and getting so close to the £2000 target for EBT is making things even more special.

The ride itself wasn’t actually too bad, just long and very hot. I drank about 10 litres of water and stopped in some great little towns. I met a family who had cycled with their 11 year old daughter from Amsterdam in 9 days. That really spurred me on and gave me the boost I needed.

I woke up this morning in pain, with the idea to carry on to Detmold, but as I sat in reception talking to an older english lady whose husband had passed away this morning from a heart attach, I had the realisation that the strap line “Every Moment Matters Always” couldn’t be more true. So I’ve decided to stay an additional night and enjoy my surroundings.

Berlin Challenge Day 1

Day 1 of the Berlin Challenge is now done and dusted and I know that a lot of people have requested that I write a blog about my experiences of cycling abroad and raising money for such a fantastic cause. As I sit here now the total money raised sits at £1672.62, from 71 donators.  I really can’t thank you all enough if you are reading.

So how is the cycling? Well my first thing to tell you all is that you really shouldn’t decide to do a big event after a weekend on the beers in 30+ degree heat. I’m dehydrated, covered in heat rash and ridiculously tired. But that said cycling in Germany is undoubtedly one of the best experiences I’ve had cycling. Nice wide avenues, preferential treatment for cyclists and less bikes than Amsterdam, it sounds like a cyclists dream…and it is, if you’re into the flat straights that the city has to offer. For me with it being so flat has helped and has made it the perfect experience so far for a rookie tourer who’s carrying 30kg of bike and gear.

The day itself has been nice, with 28 degree heat and some fantastic bike paths practically the whole length of the journey. It’s also my first time properly using the garmin for touring and while it’s been great in certain situations, it’s been a nightmare in others. Today alone I found myself on sandy “unpaved” paths, attempting to access a motorway (to be stopped by a police man) and in the middle of a bug infested forest on a non bike path. I’ll show you the evidence as soon as I can.

So what would be my advice for anyone touring? Plan your route properly. We’re lucky in the uk that the majority of pathways and routes are kept clean and up to date. It’s not always the same abroad. Bring bug spray. I’ve been bitten to shreds. Get a camelback. It’s allowing me to carry an additional 2ltrs of water and keep on the road longer. Bring spare zip ties. They’re so amazingly useful. Bring some luggage straps. My tent would be left behind had I not.

Tomorrow looks set to be hot again, and with a more hilly 145km to cover I’d best be getting to bed.


Comedy Night


Thank you to everyone who came along to The Station pub to support our comedy night on 1st February. We had a great evening with five great comedians putting on a very funny show. Our host was Bob Ferris and the comedians who gave their time voluntarily were Stevie Gray, Gary, Geoff Rose Michael, Lucy Cox, Steve E Blunder, and Liam Smith.


The audience were superb and have all asked if we are going to do another one – that shows you how good these guys were!!


Ball 2012 033 Ball 2012 034 Ball 2012 035 Ball 2012 037 Ball 2012 028

Ball 2012 031

Thank you Asda

We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who supported us for the Community Matters at Asda in Burgh Heath.

Lynn Brandon accepted the cheque for £200 at the store on 24th October which was presented to her on behalf of Asda by Caroline and Rosie.

We are spending the day in the store on Sunday 16th December raising money by packing bags. If you would like to help then contact us by email or by calling 07732 262011

Chris’ Spoke-mangling SE to NW Cycle

After a few years of idle loafing in the wilderness, I thought it was high time I concocted another daft adventure to shake off the cobwebs and hopefully raise a bit more money for the Trust. Being no good at running, swimming or sailing, I decided to stick with the cycling and opted for the route linking the most south-easterly point in the UK (St Margaret’s Bay) to the most north-westerly (Cape Wrath).

All the good intentions of training and planning went by the wayside very early on so I set off on the 21st May not entirely convinced that either myself or the bike would get very far. Luck shone down on me from the off though and I was blessed with hot sunshine for the first 8 days (incredibly). The slight downside of this was that I acquired a dubious 2-tone tan effect as the left hand side of me got burned to a crisp while the right side stayed pale and pasty.

I bumbled my way northwards, staying in some very dodgy guesthouses and hostels along the way, one of which I later discovered has been branded ‘the worst in the UK’! As I crossed over the border into Scotland, the effects of too many deep-fried haggis burgers began to show and I was forced to pit-stop in Stirling to have my badly buckled rear wheel realigned. That evening my luck finally ran out and, having nowhere to stay at 10pm, I lay myself down at the side of Loch Tummel for an evening of al fresco sleeping. I needn’t have worried about sleeping. I spent the entire night dancing the Highland Fling to escape the marauding midges and managed about 20 minutes of shut-eye. A lesson learned the hard way.

Despite the slight setback, I pushed on to Inverness the next day and the following evening spent a glorious few hours speeding through the stunning mountain scenery of Sutherland to reach Durness at 11pm! The final leg involved jumping on a tiny ferry with my bike to be taken over to Cape Wrath itself before clattering my way up a bone-jarring 11-mile track to the lighthouse. Spokes were pinging left, right and centre but the bike just about held out and we reached our final destination at midday on 31st May.

After a few hours taking it all in and refuelling with tea and cake, it began to dawn on me…. ‘How on earth do I get home from here….?’.


Day 1 – St Margaret’s Bay to Westerham – 72 miles (72).

Day 2 – Westerham to Buckingham – 91 miles (163).

Day 3 – Buckingham to Derby – 91 miles (254).

Day 4 – Derby to Ashton-under-Lyne – 69 miles (323).

Day 5 – Ashton-under-Lyne to Carperby – 98 miles (421).

Day 6 – Carperby to Brampton – 68 miles (489).

Day 7 – Brampton to Caldercruix – 106 miles (595).

Day 8 – Caldercruix to Tummel Bridge – 86 miles (681).

Day 9 – Tummel Bridge to Inverness – 102 miles (783)

Day 10 – Inverness to Durness – 107 miles (890)

Day 11 – Durness to Cape Wrath Lighthouse – 13 miles (903 miles total).


Ride For Emma 2011

Day 1: Thursday August 25th, Royal Marsden to Harwich, Essex (approximately 95 miles)

We set off as usual from the Marsden. The first leg of our route took us east through London and on into Essex and our ultimate destination of the ferry port of Harwich.

The weather was truly horrible with persistent rain for much of the way. We had a stop mid morning near Tower Bridge for a cup of tea and a bit of a drying out (plus a quick call to the office!).

Once we’d crossed the river we were into “real” East London, and traffic became more and more of a hazard. As we reached Whitechapel Road and the London Hospital district I took my first tumble of the trip when a seemingly blind and totally incompetent driver turned out of a side road and struck me a glancing blow, pitching me sideways over the bonnet of his car and into the road.

Ian was behind me and managed to pull me to safety before any further damage was done. Luckily I’d suffered nothing worse than bruised ribs, legs and hands and eventually recovered sufficient composure to plough on.

Eventually we managed to break free of East London’s urban sprawl and got into the Essex countryside, which was generally a much more pleasant cycling experience, albeit one punctured with a couple of punctures along the way.

We were happy to get to Harwich as we were tired, wet and hungry, and also as the last hour and an half or so from Colchester and the A120 had been defined by long, flat, featureless and windy straights. We grabbed a much needed meal at the local Brewers Fayre place before joining our ferry and flopping into bed in the extremely comfortable cabins for the overnight crossing to the Hook of Holland.

Day 2: Friday August 26th, Hook of Holland to Amsterdam (approximately 54 miles)

We grabbed a quick breakfast in a local café in Hook of Holland village before hitting the road. Once again the weather was against us as we picked up the coastal cycle route that meandered toward Amsterdam.

The cycling itself was generally good and we made excellent time. Eventually we found ourselves cycling through the crazy streets of Amsterdam, full of other cyclists and trams. The trams were particularly “interesting” as they had the slightly disconcerting habit of seeming to come at you from different directions at the same time!

By the time we’d found the rough location of our St Christopher’s Hostel in Central Amsterdam we also hooked up with Paul who’d unfortunately had a puncture of his own in the back up car.  Once the faulty wheel had been changed, Paul drove off across town to find an overnight parking place as there wasn’t anywhere to park near the hostel.

Happily Paul was able to put his “internal sat nav” to good use and managed his way back to us at the hostel. After a shower we went and had a fantastic Argentinean steak in a nearby Gaucho style restaurant. We got back to the hostel full and ready for a night’s sleep.

Day 3: Saturday August 27th, Amsterdam to Hook of Holland (approximately 54 miles)

Yet more persistent rain blasted us as we left Amsterdam on our return to Hook of Holland, and the mood was low as we slogged our way out to the outskirts of the city.

The mood got worse as Adam had to stop cycling due to a nasty knee problem which had been getting progressively worse throughout the trip. Ian and I soldiered on and immediately got lost in one of the towns bordering the outer limits of Amsterdam.

We stopped to ask a local directions back to the Hook of Holland cycle route, and imagine the surprise on his face when Ian – forgetting he was still part clipped into his pedals – toppled over to one side and hit the ground in front of him!

Eventually we found our way back onto the right cycle route, and were cycling through a small town when both of us (independently) skidded whilst crossing some tram lines and came off our bikes with a serious thump. Amazingly, neither of us sustained any more damage to ourselves than bruises and cuts to legs, knees and elbows, and both bikes also came through the ordeal relatively unscathed. In fact, the more serious damage was probably done to our egos as we managed to come off next to a local tram station stop, and a number of people raced over to help, concerned about our wellbeing!

Once we got to Hook and met up with Paul and Adam we had some time to kill before ferry departure, and so we decided to get a beer at a “real” Dutch pub. The place was packed with middle aged locals who all went silent as we entered, still damp, sweaty and togged in our cycling lycras (nice…!).

The mood quickly changed as the locals welcomed us warmly. In fact, one or two of the ladies wolf whistled at us (!!??) and appeared to take a particular shine to Ian as he went up to the bar to get a round in! We even managed to get a “discount” on our second round, which was delivered by one of “Ian’s ladies” with a wink….

Needless to say, we got out of there reasonably quickly (!!) before downing a reasonable Chinese meal and then boarding the ferry for our overnight return trip to Blighty and some welcome shut eye.

Day 4 Sunday August 28th, Harwich to Royal Marsden Sutton (approximately 95 miles)

We stopped at the Brewers Fayre for breakfast, which was a lifesaver as we were all starving.

Sadly Adam’s knee was still bad so Ian and I set off without him into the gloom. The A120 part of the journey through to Colchester was hard as it was windy and it was proving hard to get started. However, we got through it and started to pick up the pace, stopping for a hearty ham, egg and chips lunch in an Essex village pub en route.

As we left quiet roads for an intersection with a main road my rear wheel hit a cats eye, causing it to rear up nastily. I wobbled, perilously out of control for a split second as Ian looked on in horror from behind, with cars speeding by us. Luckily I regained control and we picked our way carefully out of this particularly busy intersection.

After that we really started making good progress, crunching the miles through Essex and on into East London. Ridiculously we managed to “lose” Tower Bridge (!!) and so crossed the Thames at London Bridge before following our route westwards through South London.

As we approached Rose Hill and Sutton and the end of our journey, two things happened. Firstly, two youths barracked Ian as he cycled past (although we’d had the odd problem with UK motorists, this was a “pedestrian first” for the trip), and secondly I had the misfortune of hearing things get worse and worse for my beloved Arsenal at Manchester United via my DAB radio (I’m sure you all know what happened there so I won’t repeat it!).

Somehow we got to our final destination at the Marsden without a. Ian lamping the two youths who abused him (I’m not sure that they’d have been quite as lucky if it had happened at the beginning of our trek) and b. me trashing my DAB radio in a fit of pique!

Annoyingly when we did the formal tot up we realised we’d cycled 298 miles for the total trip. If we’d have realised this on the way in I’m sure that we’d both have spun the last bit out for an additional 2 miles, but overall we were happy with our achievement. We decamped to the Derby Arms in Epsom for a final “debrief” (actually a couple of pints of delicious Aspalls cider, but that’s another story…) before going home, tired but satisfied with our efforts, and looking forward to our Bank Holiday Monday the following day.

Special thanks to everyone who sponsored the three of us as you make all of the effort, bumps and bruises worthwhile, and also to Ian and Adam who were – as ever – fantastic companions on the road, and who made the miles slip by (relatively) painlessly.

Last, but by no means least a special word for Paul. Without his tireless support and relentless positivity we really wouldn’t be able to do this stuff, and to have a bit of fun along the way.

Please watch this space for information about Ride for Emma 2012, coming soon…

Mark Brandon

Fashion Show 2011

We held our second fashion show on Monday 11th July and had a packed house! Thank you to everyone that came along we raised £332 .65. Most managed to bag some bargins while enjoying a glass of wine and watching the show.

Thank you to our lovely models Louise, Ellen Diane and Brodie who all looked lovely and did a splendid job on the catwalk, but most of all thank you to all those that came along and supported us.Keep checking the website for the next one!