Sunday, 23 January 2011

Reconnaissance mission part 2

Bikes and waterproofs on board, Kat and Sue headed off southwards from London early yesterday.
Pausing only for a truly revolting breakfast at Fleet Services en route, we were dead on time to check in thirty minutes ahead of the 11.45 ferry sailing. Enlivened by the caffeinated energy drink she had unwisely ingested to wash down the Foul English, Kat spent the crossing on the "sun" deck shooting some video... We'll upload it when edited. Here's the first important thing we discovered about our ride: it's going to be COLD. Long legwear, at least two thin fleeces and an impermeable top layer are going to be essential, as are good gloves and lipsalve.

Our excitement mounted as the boat approached Yarmouth Castle and we eagerly got back into the van and drove onto The Island. Our route planning began immediately as we identified the best place to transfer from minibus to bike. Our first task was to work out the best cycle route from the ferry to our base and (sustained by chocolate) we investigated the coastal path and found it very suitable for cycling.

We had a good look at the Youth Hostel from the outside - we hadn't been able to raise the manager on the phone; and as there was obviously a group staying there we felt we couldn't ask to be admitted even if the manager had been at home. However we did seize the opportunity to look in through all the windows when we realised that the people staying there were out for the day - and were very pleased to see a fireplace in the dining room. We can look forward to some cosy evenings when the day's riding is done.

We're hoping to use the official "round the Island" cycle route for most of the ride, but as it doesn't cover the south western tip where we'll be staying, we had to do some fairly detailed exploring. In fact the bikes stayed in the van and we ended up checking most of the off-road routes on foot, grateful for our thermoses of hot soup and tea.

We also discovered that at the point we intended to join the official route it runs for several kilometres along a pretty vicious main road, so we plotted an alternative using the Tennyson Trail. This is an unsurfaced track so we may have to think again if it's very wet when we do the ride.

Back on the official Round the Island trail we were able to follow the blue and white signposts although Kat backed this up by marking our route on the OS 1:25. We worked our way round as far as Wroxall on the East side, pausing to research what turned out to be an excellent chip shop in Ventnor.

Unfortunately at this point we ran out of daylight and decided to head home, but we felt we'd had a very useful day. There certainly won't be any nasty surprises on the first half of the route. If we can't fit in another day there before February 21st, it shouldn't be too difficult for one of our support team to check out the rest of the route whilst the riders are tackling the first leg.

watch this space for Kat's video diary of our trip!

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