Josie Dew

Welcome to the official website of Josie Dew: cyclist, writer and cook.


KING ALFRED’S WAY August 2021

Back in the summer school holidays I tackled King Alfred’s Way with two of my three offspring – Daisy (11) and Jack (who was 7 when he started the ride and 8 by the time we finished).

King Alfred’s Way is a 220 mile (350km) route that is immersed in 10,000 years of history. The route loops around historic Wessex, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Alfred the Great and takes you to places like Stonehenge, Woodhenge, Avebury stone circle, Larkhill cursus, Figbury Ring, Uffington White Horse, Caesar’s Camp, Iron Age hill forts, Roman roads, Silchester, Old Sarum, the Vale of Pewsey, Salisbury Plain, the Ridgeway, the Monarch Way, the South Downs Way as well as a good smattering of castles and cathedrals.

Of course you can start and finish the ride wherever you like but tradition has it to start and finish in Winchester near the cathedral at King Alfred’s bronze statue, erected in 1899 to mark one thousand years since Alfred’s death (he’s buried in Winchester). We started from home so did a sizeable chunk of the immensely hilly South Downs Way before we even made it to Winchester.

We carried everything we needed on the bikes and my Bob Yak trailer (water, food, tent, clothing, books, radio and sloth) and navigated our route with 8 Ordnance Survey maps. Each day we didn’t know where we would spend the night apart from hoping it would be somewhere near the side of the track in our Terra Nova Starlight 3 tent.

We ended up cycling 232 miles but didn’t do the whole of the official route due to veering this way and that (cycling with children you have to keep them happy by going with the wind). Sometime soon I’ll go back and ride it all again (official route) and maybe even do it alone (wishful thinking).

Jack rode his second hand 24-inch wheel Squish.

Daisy rode her 27-inch wheel Scott.

I rode my 26-inch wheel, 35-year-old Orbit.

For more info see: www.facebook.com/itsjosiedew/

About to tackle the south face of Butser Hill (highest point of the South Downs – 889 ft, 271 metres)

Camping in field on the South Downs.

Camping in another field near Salisbury.

Camping on a farm near Avebury stone circle.

Camping in a churchyard.

Our one and only night in doors in 3 weeks and our one and only bath. Good for doing our one and only proper clothes wash. Travelodge, Amesbury.

Inner tent cycling Top Trumps.

Jack giving Daisy a helping push.

Taking it slowly through overgrown nettles.

Warning: Tanks ahoy! Crossing the ‘pretend’ war zone of the military training area of Salisbury Plain.

Atop of Harting Hill.

Have sloth will travel.

Crossing the M3. We’re glad we’re up here and not down there.

Entering Winchester

Winchester Cathedral

Big skies, old barns near Sparsholt.

The sad sight of a ‘ghost bike’ placed at the spot where David Davenport, a 59 year-old from Eastleigh was hit by a car in June this summer while cycling along this road. He was taken to Southampton General Hospital where he died a week later as a result of his injuries.

Jack’s 8th birthday in a playground where we were camping.

Sizing up our wild camping spot.

Track side snacks.

Daisy coming in to land.

Near the Long Barrows of Larkhill.

Long bike, narrow bridge

Picnic spot on the Ridgeway on Penning Down. We’re sitting beside the memorial that commemorates the death of a German soldier who died here in 1993.

The one and only Stonehenge spotted on a perfect day.

Gary and Molly meeting up with us at Avebury Stone Circle.

 

 

 

 

No Comments

POST-LOCKDOWN CYCLING ESCAPES SPRING/SUMMER 2021

Post-lockdown we’ve gone somewhere, if not far, and slid sideways to Dorset.

Thanks to lockdown growth Jack has grown about a foot and Daisy is now taller than me -not difficult seeing as I’m the human equivalent of perfect travel kit (small, compact and packable). So here are the younger pedalling team, demonstrating their bigger bikes at Bosham.

Slippery slipway onto the Itchenor ferry.

Aboard with bikes.

Picnic spot bike park. On show: Jack’s 24-inch wheel Squish, Daisy’s 29-inch wheel Scott, my 30-year-old 26-inch wheel Orbit.

Bike chains. Itchenor.

It says: NO BIKES. We say: YES BIKES. Especially as the bike way is flooded!

Me bringing up the rear.

Hills high, rivers deep.

2.5 years is a long time for a granny not to see her only grandchildren. We couldn’t see Gary’s mum in 2019 for one reason or another and then. when we were about to see her in 2020 Covid struck with its multiple lockdowns and rules. So at the beginning of June, when more freedom returned, I bundled bikes and offspring and camping kit into the battered leaking camper and took off to cycle around Dorset and to see Nanny Val at last.

Daisy and Corfe Castle

Me mid-push near Church Knowle.

More pushing up Knowle Hill.

Atop Knowle Hill.

Collapsed on Knowle Hill.

Upright again!

Waiting for our steam train (Swanage Railway).

In a proper guard’s van with proper windows you can stick your head out of.

With Nanny Val at last!

The reunited reunion.

NEWS JUST IN:  This summer school holidays I will be heading off with bike, trailer, children, tent and trusty Swiss Army knife on King Alfred’s Way (a mostly off-road route that loops 220 miles around historic Wessex, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Alfred the Great).

We will be carrying all the food, water and camping clobber that we need and putting up our tent wherever we can – hopefully somewhere near the side of the track.

We are raising money for our primary school and village hall (money raised will go towards sports/play/exercise equipment – like bikes!). If anyone would like to spur us on please go to:

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/bike4school

 

 

 

No Comments

SNOW, RAIN AND OLD SUN. 2021 SO FAR (with some yesteryear thrown in to dry us out).

Well, that’s Feb half term done and dusted. It rained and it rained and it rained and then it rained again and then there was a rare glimmer of sun so I put the sheets out and then it hailed. And then it rained. I think the highlight was going litter-picking in the roadside muddy ditches with Daisy and Jack and finding 2 big-cupped bras. (Anyone out there missing any?).

Another highlight was cycling to the dump to get rid of an old kitchen sink that Gary found at work on one of his building jobs. A lot of wisecrackers think that because I cycle with so much baggage and clobber and weight on my bike that I must have a kitchen sink on board. This time I really did – minus the mixer taps. We’re using those in our kitchen.

So along with some snow and putting-large-things-on-bikes photos here are some slightly more sunny pictures to warm the winter cockles – pictures from bygone days a-wheel.

No need for a four-by-four in the snow when you’ve got a three-by-two.

The snow-and-ice mobile. On two wheels ice is dangerous. On three wheels it’s fun.

As demonstrated by Jack.

Lockdown 3 homeschooling in full swing. The lesson: DIY sledging on an old piece of plastic we use to grow veg under.

How to carry a kitchen sink on your bike.

How to carry a bike on a trike.

That’s my cycle when cycling in Nepal and India 1988/89.

Sahara desert. Algeria. 1985.

Japan 1994

Atlas Mountains, Morocco 1988

Iceland 1987

Mexico (with vultures) 1993.

Crossing USA 1992

Cycling across USA (Monument Valley)1992.

The Netherlands 2016

The Netherlands 2017

The Netherlands 2018

A good notice to notice.

Road closures often mean rough roads which can lead to…

…tightening your bra straps as a precaution.

The End. From Mexico 1993.

 

 

 

 

No Comments

THE SOUTH DOWNS WAY – Travels with a pram. Summer 2020

Propping up the pram. If I let go I’ll be flattened. This hill near Harting Down is a lot steeper than it looks. My right arm is quivering.

This summer I walked the South Downs Way with offspring in tow (Molly 13, Daisy 10, Jack 7).

The South Downs Way (a Bronze Age trading route) is 100 miles long (we went west-to-east – Winchester to Eastbourne) with a total of around 13,000ft of ascent. There were downhills too but, when you’re pushing what feels like the equivalent weight of half an elephant, most of the way felt very uphill. With various excursions to find food or diverting off course to look at interesting sights etc we did 118 miles altogether.

We started off heaving and hauling all our kit in a Dutch Walking Wagon (a glorified wheelbarrow) but it was so heavy and slow I swopped it for a fourth-hand pushchair. The girls walked while Jack pushed or cycled his bike.

Molly heaving the Walking Wagon with Daisy bringing up the rear.

My pushing-pulling team: Molly, Daisy, Jack.

We carried a lot of excess clobber with us including a dumper truck. But it kept Jack happy for hours.

We spent 3 weeks on the move (half of August and the beginning of September) which was about a week longer than I estimated (heatwaves and days of storms and rain at the beginning hampered progress).

The worst storm to hit was Storm Francis which the Met Office said had lashed the UK with ‘unseasonably strong gusts of nearly 80mph (129kph) winds and heavy rain’. We were camping near Cocking Down at the time. We nearly got blown into oblivion.

It’s raining men, hallelujah.

Life in tent during the build up to Storm Francis.

One of the advantages of living outside for 3 weeks is that children sleep through anything – even tent-flapping storms.

Jack relishing the sun again.

Heading down off Butser Hill, which at 271m (889ft) is the highest point along the South Downs Way. (Molly is with her school friend Lucy who joined us for some of the walk).

Jack had his 7th birthday in a rainy field above Buriton.

View from tent door near Forty Acre Lane near South Harting.

On the Downs what goes down must go up. Near Mount Sinai, south of Elsted.

Jack on large lump of chalk near Cocking.

Jack about to attack Daisy on Heyshott Down.

Chilly camping on Graffham Down. Wild camping is not allowed on the Downs so every night where we couldn’t get permission (which was most nights!) we tried our best to tuck ourselves out of the way.

Apart from one night in a hostel’s bunkroom at Southease, we camped at the side of the track every night, often sleeping on hard, lumpy ground beside old chalk pits, Roman roads and ruins, Iron Age hill forts and tumuli (burial mounds). The views from high up on the whale-back ridge of the Downs were constantly magnificent: a line of coast and expanse of sea on one side; the multi-varied patchwork of fields and woodlands and villages of the Weald on the other.

Crossing a stubble field on Littleton Down, west of Bignor.

Big skies and rolling hills near the Roman Road of Stane Street.

The rough and rutted tracks caused the pram to capsize far too often. The effort of re-righting needed a lot of effort. By the end I had a lot of names for the pram none of which were complimentary.

Heading up Amberley Mount.

Top of Amberley Mount.

View from tent on Kithurst Hill.

Puncture! All change.

About to put the tent up on Chanctonbury Hill.

Misty morning view from camp spot.

 

 

 

Jack and Daisy eating through some of the contents from the local bakery in Steyning High Street. We had to come down off the Downs to replenish food supplies.We carried enough food for a week (we only saw 3 shops in 3 weeks) and 8 litres of water, which was about enough to last 2 days depending on the weather. (Water taps are dotted along the Downs at rather irregular intervals).

Trying to dry our clothes on my homemade inner tent washing line.

Camping up near Ditchling Beacon.

Jack throwing a stone into a dew pond (no relation).

The windblown threesome.

Jack had his 7th birthday in a field above Buriton. Gary came out to meet us there with a prepared-before-the-programme cake I’d made and frozen.  It rained very hard and we sang happy birthday to Jack while kitted out in full waterproof regalia.

We had 1 shower, several washes beneath cold taps and 3 punctures in 3 weeks.

For navigation I used a small OS 1:25,000 scale map book of the Downs. I gave Daisy and Jack daily lessons on how to map read, identify symbols, read a compass and estimate the time of day from the position of the sun in true Rambo style. The advantage of using an OS map is that it doesn’t need charging – plus it makes great reading. It told us we were passing places like Scabby Brow, Plonk Barn, Cheesefoot Head, The Bosom, Mount Sinai, Muggery Pope, Granny’s Belt, Grandfather’s Bottom, Winding Bottom, Well Bottom, Bushy Bottom, Moon’s Bottom, Deep Bottom, Long Bottom, Loose Bottom and Breaky Bottom. Yes, up on the Downs you look down upon a lot of Bottoms.

Heading up the short, sharp steepness of Bunkershill Plantation.

The wind tends to blow from only one direction on the Downs (south-westerly) giving most exposed trees a bad hair day look.

A blue sky high on Iford Hill.

On the old military road with our first Seven Sister in sight.

In the field where we crossed from the Western Hemisphere into the Eastern Hemisphere.

Daisy climbing up the Down above Breaky Bottom Vineyard.

Daisy and cows Itford Hill.

Dog poo bag swinging in the breeze – unfortunately an all-too-common sight of fence adornments on the Downs. TAKE IT HOME!!

Full steam ahead with views of Mount Caburn and Firle Beacon.

Finally, on a perfect cloud-free day, we tackled the dramatic roller coaster coastline of the Seven Sisters. It was a long 13-mile day. Not long after the sun set behind Belle Tout lighthouse we donned head torches so as not to fall over Beachy Head by mistake and made it to Eastbourne in darkness.

Jack tackling a Seven Sister with Daisy bringing up the rear.

I would push the pram up one Seven Sister before running back down to push up Jack’s bike.

Sunset over Belle Tout lighthouse.

Daisy coming in to land.

Night time arrival at the end in Eastbourne. Or the beginning if you’re about to head for Winchester. (The signpost says: Winchester 100 miles.

We headed home inland for a while. Stiles and loaded prams are not a happy mix.

Waiting for the train home.

 

Molly, Daisy and Jack raised £370 for the NHS and around £2200 for our village primary school where Jack and Daisy still go to school.

For more updates see: www.facebook.com/itsjosiedew/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Comments

OPERATION WALKING WAGON 2020

Molly and Daisy taking the strain on the South Downs Way in 2014

As I think it’s probably best not to venture too far from home this summer in the hope of giving that stealthy and villainous virus a wide berth, my wheels will be staying firmly put this side of any seas or oceans or watery channels.

Goose on full power heaving wagon up hill

Instead, sometime in early August, I’m swapping my bike wheels for four wheelbarrow ones as I fancy attempting to walk the 100-mile length of the South Downs Way with my three boisterous offspring: Molly (13), Daisy (10) and Jack (6). Molly’s school friend Lucy will also be coming with us. We will be pushing and pulling, hauling and heaving a Walking Wagon (a large glorified Dutch wheelbarrow) containing all the camping kit and clobber that we need to keep us going for a fortnight or more.

Stopping for a breather on top of Harting Down

I last did the walk with Molly and Daisy and 11-month-old Jack (he crawled a lot of the way) in 2014 accompanied by my Dutch friend Anoek, her young daughter Mila and Anoek’s ex-PE teacher friend Guust (Goose) who helped to push the wagons. This time I will be the only adult so it will be hard work as the Downs are very steep and the Walking Wagon is leg-quiveringly heavy. Oh, and my knees are a bit dickey.

Jack making a break for freedom

Daisy and Jack are raising money for their primary school to help buy sports and play equipment that the school needs. If anyone would like to sponsor them please go to: https://www.gofundme.com/operation-walking-wagon

Molly and Lucy are raising money for the NHS (National Health Service). If you would like to sponsor them please go to: https://www.gofundme.com/operation-walking-wagon-2020

I will try and send an update on our progress (or lack of it) on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/itsjosiedew/once we hit the ups of the Downs. I will only have solar power to charge my phone so if all goes quiet from me, I think you can safely presume it’s raining. Either that or there’s been a mutiny and my wagon-pushers have abandoned ship. Both options are high possibilities.

To give you a taster, here are some photos from the SDW mission we did back in 2014.

Walking back down the Down to pick up Wagon Number 2

Meeting some cyclists and rather wishing I had gone by bike instead.

Emergency nappy-changing

Glastonbury without the music and crowds – just sheep

Tent city

Wagon One half way up

After pushing a wagon up a hill I would retrace my steps to retrieve the pram. No wonder we got nowhere fast

Bits like this made the effort all worth while

Jack contemplating his next escape

We camped anywhere we could along the way: when small legs get tired you just have to stop

Mila and Daisy having an in-depth discussion about a handful of stones.

Molly in pensive mood near Ditchling Beacon

Gary joined us on Butser Hill for half a day’s push and pull

Jack’s first birthday in a field near Newhaven

Bearing down on the Seven Sisters!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Comments

LOCKDOWN CYCLING MAY 2020

Here’s a snippet of cycling during lockdown on an A road near where I live. Normally I steer clear of this road as it is usually like a race track with an almost constant stream of nose-to-tail cars, vans and trucks careering along. But here I am riding it in lockdown on my Circe Triplet with Daisy on the seat behind me and Jack on the seat behind her. When I was at school I used to cycle along this road all the time as there was precious little traffic on it. In lockdown it felt almost lovely again. Apart from a handful of vehicles that passed after coming through the traffic lights at a single-lane bridge up the road we had the place virtually to ourselves. Only trouble was trying to control our 14-foot road-train with Jack swaying around while singing the Batman theme tune and Daisy swinging round to try and knock him off. Takes a lot of concentration and flexing of forearm muscles to keep the unwieldy bike upright.

No Comments

MORE ACTION CYCLING IN THE NETHERLANDS 2019

This is my 9-year old daughter Daisy’s first attempt at filming as we’re cycling along on the Triplet (a three-on-a-bike sort of contraption). I’m at the helm, Daisy’s on Seat 2, 5-year-old Jack is on Seat 3. The filming  goes up and down and all around, but you should get the  gist.

No Comments

ACTIONS STATIONS CYCLING IN THE NETHERLANDS 2019

This time a year ago I was cycling in the Netherlands and it looked like this:

No Comments

AROUND THE ISLE OF WIGHT: BACK ON THE ROBERTS WITH THE BUILDER.

An unusual happening: I recently carted off Gary (the builder/husband) to the Isle of Wight by bike – our first child-free time together for nearly 13 years for heavens sakes. The last time Gary and I camped together sans offspring was cycling around New Zealand in 2004. The last time Gary went on a bike before our recent jaunt around the Isle of Wight was… ummm, I don’t think my memory stretches back that far. Let’s just say cycling isn’t his favourite cup of tea in life. But where there’s a bike wheel there’s a way so off we went.

Gary’s only had one night in a tent since 2012 when, against his better judgment, he agreed to cycle with me and Molly and baby Daisy 1000-odd miles from Holland to Denmark. This spring/early summer it didn’t rain for months. Everything was bone dry. The sun shone and shone. Until the morning Gary and I left home to cycle to the station. Result: we arrived for our train to Portsmouth looking as wet as if we had just swum the Channel. Never mind, we had a tent on board. In fact we had Jack’s tent on board. Jack, who’s now 5, loves army camo things so Gary had bought him a £40 ex-French army tent (with sniper panels!) off E-bay. Despite the fact that Gary scarce fitted into this sparse shelter we took it with us to act as our fancy abode for 3 nights.  After a day or two, the rain stopped and even the sun showed its face and, against all odds and Gary’s reticent thigh muscles, we got 101 island miles under our belts. The odd thing, apart from Gary managing to cycle up most of the hills (albeit in quite a vocally huffing-puffing manner), was not having children attached. Everything was so easy. And quiet. And simple. It was all very lovely. Mind you, Gary hasn’t cycled since.

A rarity: lightweight child-free travel. Up high above Alum Bay.

Gary bracing himself against the un-summery high winds and torrential rain. Ryde pier.

Lovely wet car-free cycling beside the murky River Medina.

Poised beside the remains of the last paddle-steamer to cross the Solent. It’s the P S Ryde and carried passengers across the Solent from 1937 to 1969 with an interlude during WW2 where the ship served as a minesweeper and then an anti-aircraft ship, seeing action at both Dunkirk and D-Day. A team of money-raising enthusiasts had hoped the ship could be restored to its former glory, but unfortunately  that’s currently looking unlikely due to the deteriorated state that its in.

Our elaborate French army tented home in the sun…

…and in the rain.

Flowery cycling.

Gary surveying the remains of the secret 1950s rocket test site at the Needles.

The wonder of the Needles. Above Scratchell’s Bay.

Preparing to hurtle off Tennyson Down.

Gary in action with livestock. Near Freshwater Bay.

 

For more updates and bits on bikes see: www.facebook.com/itsjosiedew/

 

No Comments

Cycling and Pramming the High Weald Way. Horsham to Rye. Easter 2019

In Easter school holidays I embarked upon the High Weald Way which is more officially called the High Weald Way Landscape Trail. It’s a 100-odd mile long-distance path that stretches from Horsham to Rye linking the area’s ridge-top villages through the High Weald of West Sussex, East Sussex and Kent. I was with Jack (5) and Daisy (8) (12-year-old Molly was busying herself elsewhere as long-winded slogs like this aren’t quite her cup of tea). Jack and Daisy rode their Islabikes and, as I can’t fit my bike and trailer on the train, I trotted along pushing/pulling an old pram loaded with kit/food/children’s clobber.

Gary seeing us off on the train to Horsham.

Waiting an hour at Dorking Deepdene due to the excitement of a fire on our train. 

By the time we reached Horsham hours had passed and seasons had changed. Leaving home it had been sunny and warm. Horsham, in contrast, was very cold and very wet. We donned balaclavas and full waterproof regalia and headed off through the muddy wooded tracks and quagmires of St Leonard’s Forest (apparently St Leonard once slew a local dragon here). The sun did eventually show its face, though not until the next day. In fact we had rather peculiar weather as the first week was particularly cold with nights down to below freezing. The second week was a heatwave and involved buying shorts in charity shops, slapping on the sun cream and sweating up hills wondering how the heck we ever wore mittens and multiple layers a mere few hours before. But such are the joys and vagaries of the British weather.

Wet mud. St Leonard’s Forest.

Slippery mud.

Sunny mud. Near Ardingly Reservoir

Large puddly mud.

Wonked bridge.

Over 12 days we walked/ cycled/pram-pushed/staggered/dragged/clambered (some off-road gradients were nigh-on vertical and spectacularly slippery) 127 miles averaging about 10-11 miles a day. One of  the trickiest parts was negotiating the scores of styles and kissing gates that we came across. This involved not kissing anyone (apart from my own offspring), removing a total of eleven hefty bags of kit off the pram and carrying them (and the bikes and pram) back and forth, back and forth over said obstacles, while often being chased by frisky cows and bullocks at the same time. The whole operation to move a mere handful of feet would take not much short of half an hour. And so the days passed.

Negotiating style with pram on head.

Jack on depth-testing duties.

Near miss!

Not a position I can keep up for long due to arduous gradient.

Jack giving a helping push up testing terrain.

Our route took us from Horsham to Rye via Cuckfield, East Grinstead, Groombridge, Tunbridge Wells, Cranbrook, Rolvenden and Wittersham. We slept on floors in houses or in cramped pubs where we shared the toilets and showers with chefs and in-house dogs called things like Juno and Dulux. The scenery was a delight in so many places: wooded tracks bordered by carpets of wild flowers (bluebells, daffodils, stitchwort, anemones, wild garlic), sweeping views of hills and valleys and Downs. Accompanying us on our way were birds like red kite and lapwings and larks. I think it must be impossible to hear the song of a lark and not feel happy. The only unpleasant thing was rare encounters with motor traffic. For hours we would travel in beautiful quiet countryside with just the accompaniment of bird song. Then, shock to the system, we would encounter a swathe of noisy dangerous road and have to run the gauntlet to cross the tarmac before being hit by the torpedo speeds and menace of modern vehicles.

Field crossing.

More field crossings.

Easy cycling.

Not so easy cycling.

Come-a-cropper cycling.

Sights at the side of the road: attractive pub (Kent)…

Unattractive dumped fridges and freezers.

Ingenious use of a bike tyre on farm gate.

Wooded picnic spot.

 

Experiencing proper trains. The Bluebell Line.

Jack and Daisy after emerging from beautiful 120-year-old carriages made of American oak.

Eridge station and the Spa Valley Railway: modern and not so modern. We prefer the not-so-modern (lovely slam-door trains with big caged guards’ vans).

Close up encounter of the Kent and East Sussex Railway just before we crossed the tracks at Wittersham.

Short grass cycling. Following the River Rother in the Rother Levels.

Long grass cycling. River Rother.

Daisy in perfect cycling weather action.

Me beside Jack’s ‘spear’ he dragged out of the River Rother.

Arrival Rye Harbour.

Arrival the sea! Rye Bay.

 

 

 

6 Comments
Rss Feeds