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Wensum – Swum

Those who have been following my efforts with swimming and cycling will know that this year didn’t quite work out as planned.  The Dunwich Dynamo was on a working weekend and I had hoped to do the Suffolk Sunrise Ride instead.  In the end I wasn’t able to do the Sunrise on the official date but had a great time doing it a few weeks later. My other main aim for this year was to do the 2 mile Great East Swim. Then the weather happened; specifically huge gales and the swim was moved to the Sunday, a working day for me again.  Although I have done a few 2 mile swims at Fritton lake it didn’t feel the same as doing an event swim.  So I signed up for the Norwich River Swim with Active Outdoor (who run the Fritton swims).  This morning as Suffolk was being racked with massive thunderstorms I set off for Norwich to swim through the city. It was lovely, well done to all the keen swimmers who went off at a heck of a lick with the joy of going with the flow and the fact that everyone will have recorded a personal best [the swim has not been done before], me I did my more leisurely breast stroke, no wetsuit, to the end and enjoyed the leafy city from river level.

Huge thanks to those who have donated to my charities this year.  The pages will remain open for a few more weeks, then its time to think of challenges for next year….

Dunwich Dynamo – Get ahead, get a hat!

The meet point for the Dunwich Dynamo

The second of my two challenges for this year was the Dunwich Dynamo.  This is a bike ride from the Pub on the Park, Hackney to Dunwich; about 120 miles overnight. I did the ride with two chaps from the next village, we are part of a quiz team called the Rivals, the two villages compete against each other in everything vying to see which is best.  On this occasion they reassuringly told me – it’s not a race.  Clearly for some of the Lycra clad whippets who take part in the Dynamo it is a race but we are more the mature, take in the view, kind of riders.

We arrived in Hackney relatively early, which is just as well for our driver getting back out for the journey home.  Gradually the space around the pub filled as rider after rider arrived. Everything from the whippets to people who looked like they were off to shop for a pint of milk via, man-with-two-dogs, tandems, fixies, recumbents and tricycles.  With ages ranging from teens to over 70’s it really is something fpr everyone.  One tandem appeared and then with a gasp realised that with a broken chain their ride was over before it even started. We decided to leave early, just after 8.00pm as we knew we would be slowish and wanted to get out of the built up areas before dark (bumpkins you see).  In the first section there were just enough riders to follow that we didn’t need to keep checking the map.  By the time we were into Epping Forest the numbers of riders passing us was increasing as the whippets whizzed past. The great thing is though that groups of riders would stop at various watering holes and we ambled by. After a while things settled into a gentle rhythm as fairy-light clad cyclists passed and then were overtaken again.

The feeding station at Sible Heddingham seemed to arrive remarkably quickly and it was at that point it really was possible to gauge the scale of the numbers on the ride.  I hope the people who live in the houses near the hall didn’t find it too much of a disruption but you can see by the stream of lights in this shot from the hall steps that there were a lot of people there.  It took about an hour to queue and buy and eat soup and a roll.  Looking around the room I would say only about 1:10 riders was female and only about 1:10 over fifty.

From there it was the long haul to Sudbury, with a great down hill into the town and a chap ringing a bell at one of the junctions (does he do this every night or just when 1,000+ cyclists ride through?).  A minor diversion in Sudbury to see where one of our group was born and to take in the aromas of the Purina factory brought us back on track for the ride on through to Needham Market.  At some point the Mendlesham Mast became visible, this acts like a beacon for locals; you can see it for miles. The light steadily flowed back into the sky and by the time we were riding through Framsden there was a beautiful lilac dawn spreading over the landscape.  Framsden to Framlingham was reassuringly familiar and we decided to go off piste riding to Cransford via New Road, which was prettier but meant we missed Gentleman Plumber and his feeding spot and Des and his photographs.

The final stretch felt like hard work but we were joined and spurred on by Theflyingchef1’s other half who had leant me some super dooper lights.  Then finally there was the last downhill glide to the beach.  It was a good feeling to get there, bodies everywhere and while the boys bought bacon butties from the Flora tea rooms I went in for a swim, probably the best physiotherapy going.

Huge thanks to everyone who has helped along the way.  Whilst I’m drafting a thank-you page here is an important message from James Cracknell.

A question for you:

A couple of other Dynamo blog posts and articles you might like are here:

Guardian

The Dynamo plus

And finally a playlist on Spotify for you

Great East Swim 2011, Skyride Ipswich and Little Tractors

One down, one to go [playlist here]. This year’s Great East Swim was excellent.  Once again the event was very well organised and the weather was 100% better. In place of gales and squalls there was relatively little wind and at various times the sun shone creating golden bubbles in the crystal clear water, I swear I saw a huge fish at one point too. I was pleased that my time was about 7 minutes better than last year. I was also thrilled to be able to have Paddy and Scotts coffee and a burger prepared by @gthebutcher from Suffolk Food Hall. The challenge now is next year do I try and improve my mile time again or go for the two mile course?  Huge thanks to those that have donated to my Justgiving Page. Diabetes UK were on hand on the day dishing out Bananas and other goodies.

After the thrill of the swim on Sunday I cycled with a friend into Ipswich to experience the Skyride. They closed streets, stopped traffic with marshals and generally created a fabulous family atmosphere, samba, steel bands, clowns the works. It is thoroughly reassuring that despite what the tabloids might tell you there are still plenty of families, who given half the chance will get out on their bikes and take exercise. The route encompassed the New College site, Waterfront, ITFC ground and the Town Centre creating a great advert for the town.

All good practice for the Dunwich Dynamo the 127 miles overnight on 16/17th July.

On the route back I was brought to a halt by a lady tractor safari that was taking part in aid of charity. A bunch of bedecked tractors in pink balloons coming down the hill. Certainly made me pedal fast to hit the Framlingham co-op before it shut!

Cakes, Rides, Local Food and Silicone Knickers


The weather has been amazing in the UK; for Easter Bank Holidays it is unparalleled, not surprising then that I haven’t written anything here for ages.  There seem to be pairs of things queuing up; please skip to the bits that interest you most.  In the following order we have:

2 Apps; the 360Panorama and the Moleskine

2 Cakes; a giant Jaffa cake and a sweet, tart, redcurrant tart

2 Fungi;  A Dryad’s Saddle Paper experiment and St George’s Mushroom

2 Foragy bits; Sea Purslane and an experiment with cleavers and milk in an attempt to make cheese

2 Fabulous cycle rides, mapped from Framlingham, one following the Alde and one Green Bagging in Bow and Arrow Country

2 Local Food Discussions; why does Suffolk have a strong local food culture and a new local food festival?

2 Swims – How is my training going? – first sea swim of the season

Two Apps – 360Panorama and Moleskine

I have recently downloaded two apps for the iPhone that I am enjoying immensely. The first I heard about from @ssilvestori  who showed pictures of Lecce using it. Fantastic images; Silvestro is currently cycling around Puglia to generate interest in the small towns of the region.  His website is worth a gander, he offers food and wine courses and much more besides. The 360Panorama app allows you to take 360 degree images that can be shown flat, like the one below, or if you have an iPhone, the images can be uploaded and viewed as interactive 360 images.

The second app that I am enjoying is a digital version of the Moleskine note book.  I think it is going to be great fun for gardening and foraging notes, especially as it allows you to geotag pictures.  Now if it could just capture sounds and smells, and if I could draw a little better….. However I am quite pleased with my cover and a simple gardening note.

Two Cakes – Giant Jaffa Cake and Sweet, Tart, Redcurrant Tart

This being Easter cake baking seems essential. I have been quite pleased with two cakes this holiday so I am recording them here so I don’t lose the recipes. The first is a giant Jaffa Cake. Based on a Guardian recipe designed by Ottolenghi and supplied by the lovely @downatheel, it is a rich almondy, moist cake.  I adapted it by adding a jelly layer. Using 300ml of fresh Clementine juice and gelatine at 1.5 times the normal ratio.  I set the jelly in a soup plate before scooping it onto the cake.  I allowed the chocolate coating to cool as much as I dared before covering.

The second cake is described as a tart but is somewhere between a cheesecake, meringue and a desert sponge. It is sweet-sour and just plain lush. I used frozen currants which worked well but makes the meringue very tricky to apply as it part freezes as you mix them in. The whole cake is gloriously messy to make, but well worth the effort.  The recipe can be found on Catalina Bakes.

Two Fungi – Dryad’s Saddle and St George’s Mushroom

Spring is a joyous time for mushrooming, mostly because the spring ones are a bit easier to identify.  A friend brought me a Dryad’s saddle.  Not many commentators declare this to be edible, but it is supposed to be able to be used to make paper. I cooked it for hours, smushed it, strained it and ended up with some thing crispy stuff – nothing to write home about or on…. but it had an interesting transulcence so it might be useful added to other materials.

Much more exciting was the early appearance of the St George’s mushroom. One thing I have learnt is the earlier it arrives the less likelihood of worm damage.  This year there were far fewer, so I only picked two, but they were in tip-top condition. For the record, this year’s photograph April 18th whereas last year they didn’t appear until May 8th – what a difference a year makes. This year I sliced them and placed them with trout and Jack by the hedge, wrapped in foil and cooked on the barbecue.

Two Foragy bits – Sea Purslane and using cleavers to make cheese

Spring is a great time for foraging on salads, two of my favourites at the coast are samphire and sea purslane.  The samphire was not much in evidence this week but there were some lovely snacks of crisp, salty, purslane to be had.

Another favourite of mine is cleavers, a fresh pea-pod taste that makes weeding a pleasure.  I had read that it was used in the past as a rennet for cheese making.  I found a recipe for feta cheese and bought some goats milk.  I heated the milk, added the yogurt and then decided to squeeze a massive handful of cleavers into the milk mixture.  I left it and left it for days at room temperature.  After two days I had remarkably fresh smelling yoghurt, no goaty smell, no cheese though. I think that cleavers other title of ‘milk sweet’ might be interesting to explore further.

Two fabulous cycle rides – Orford/Iken/Alde and ‘Green Bagging’

This spectacular weather has been a great excuse for some serious cycling. Regular readers will know I am hoping to take part in the Dunwich Dynamo so I am steadily increasing my distances.  I don’t seem to be able to increase my average speeds though so I think I will be on the bike for in  excess of 10 hours.  Several chums have asked me how I manage, especially now I have a bike with a more racing style seat.  The seat is quite comfortable, I am naturally ‘well upholstered’ and I have recently invested in silicone knickers, with thick padding they are supposed to be good for up to three hours – so do I need to wear four pairs?

Two great rides though.  I have remapped these from Framlingham for you, parking in Framlingham is good at the Elms car park.  Both rides are mostly on very low traffic routes.  The first takes you to Orford, where there are plenty of pubs and the wonderful Pump Street Bakery, I also include a slight side track to High House Fruit Farm where they have fresh apple juice and Asparagus.  Points to watch out for on this route too Adders! on the Iken lanes, basking on the tarmac.  It is worth stopping and strolling down to the river for a spot of foraging (see above), you may also see Alpacas between Blaxhall and Farnham.  Click on the image below to go to the full map at MapMyRide.

The second ride was my Suffolk version of Munroe bagging.  I recently downloaded an app called Hill Lists, needless to say Suffolk doesn’t feature.  However, if someone would like to create the antidote I think it could be used for bagging greens, bottoms or castles all of which abound round here.  In this ride I count nine Greens, it goes over two commons, the one at Wingfield complete with tethered cattle.  It is worth checking the Wingfield website before you leave, if you have time to stop they have magnificent arts exhibitions and can offer tea and coffee.  There are plenty of pub stop-offs, if your timings suit;  The De la Pole at Wingfield, the Low House at Laxfield (actually named the Kings Head, but called the Low House) and the Queen at Dennington (actually named the Queens Head but known as Dennington Queen) all have solid reputations for food and ale.  If you just want quick supermarket fayre there is a shop in Laxfield and Framlingham has a full range of shops, coffee houses, pubs and a cycle repair shop.  This journey is largely traffic free and you will find miles of Bow and Arrow country – remember too the #bowandarrowtweetup if you are interested in joining a few of us for drinks or to watch The Social Network on 25th May 2011 at Wingfield Barns.  As before click on the map below to go to the MapMyRide site.


Two Food Discussions – Why does Suffolk have a strong local food culture and a new local food festival?

One of the features of  Twitter is that it is not a forum or a place for lengthy discussions; until one breaks out.  A few comments and before long a group of us were involved in a discussion about why Suffolk and Norfolk have a strong local food culture, as opposed to other areas which seem to feel a bit adrift.  You can read and add to the full conversation synopsis here.  It ranges from great products and producers, through sympathetic media and a relative absence of the ‘big stores’, but covers much more besides.


Pride in local food is important in so many ways.  There has been a food, craft and music festival at Framlingham College over the last three days.  The pre-publicity did not give many clues about who the exhibitors and demonstrators would be and I knew that a couple of local food related people were not involved so I wondered what the outcome would be.  Framlingham has a bit of a reputation for events being called off due to appalling weather, with the Gala rained off, fireworks not even making it to the stage of damp squibs etc.  However, the setting could not have looked better in glorious sunshine, looking at the castle across from the college green was a rural scene befitting of Midsommer Murders.  There were a few local food suppliers, notably the Chilli Company, Jimmy’s Farm, Suffolk Cup Cakes and local chef Emma Crowhurst was providing demonstrations.  There were also suppliers from further afield so it had the air of the food stalls at a county show.  It will be interesting to see if the event is run again and grows to include more local suppliers, they certainly had the best possible of weathers and things looked reasonably busy, with plenty of cars in the car parks and people wandering the grounds and at the demonstration.  I bought chilli sauces, curry sauces, sausages and enjoyed Emma’s demonstration, not least because real time demos are so much better than edited TV for things like sugar work.

Two Swims – How’s my training going?

I think I’m on track for the Grethathalon two swims; one the Great East Open Water Mile and the other a dip at Dunwich Beach preceded by the 120 mile overnight Dunwich Dynamo bike ride.  I am gradually increasing my miles on the bike. I have been doing more reading around the subject and beginning to understand why the training plans also focus on shorter, faster rides.  I hope this will make me try and ride faster, to build up the relevant muscles, mitochondria etc to improve my overall performance.  It has to be said I am a bit sedentary at the moment.   


Yesterday I did my first sea swim of the season, at Dunwich Beach; no way was I going to attempt crawl or put my face in the water though, so back to the old chestnut of controlling the drowning reflex.

If you would like to make a donation, I am supporting Diabetes UK this year.  My Just Giving page is here.

Has anyone seen @Farctum?

I have some new loves in my life – variously Suzette, my speedy new machine and on-line Scrabble like games. Suzette and I are making quite a team, with a trip to Ipswich and back last weekend; once I had left Tuddenham village I only saw four cars.  All part of my preparation for the Dunwich Dynamo I am steadily building up the miles.  Yesterday’s 20 or so miles in strong wind were very hard work though.

I play Lexolus and Words free; neither of which are exactly the same as Scrabble, different layouts, numbers of letters, dictionary they use, which words they allow; still I keep trying.  I’m Grethic in both places if you fancy a game.

Wingfield Barns and a potential tweet up – #bowandarrowtweetup

Wow – great bike ride. Thanks to @spudballoo for being the catalyst, we went on a cold but sunny bike ride. After miles of empty countryside; what we locally call ‘Bow and Arrow’ country, we reached Wingfield Barns. One of those wonderful rural miracles, a proper arts centre in the middle of nowhere. The great thing is, I thought it would be closed (off season and no exhibitions on). A lady [Lesley] appeared and said ‘well look at you fit people’. We asked if anywhere was open and she replied, ‘well no, but I’ll open it for you – would you like a cup of tea’. With that we had a private viewing and perfect tea.

Wingfield will have to be a profit making concern from the 1st April, no longer under funding from arts or local council grants. It has gained some interesting patrons eg Phil Jupitus but still will need lots of support from locals. Thus a plan was hatched – how about a tweetup; they are showing The Social Network on 25th May – just book direct and we will see who appears, quite a few of the local twitterati have already said they will go.. will you too? [If you are going, post a comment here so others know it’s real!!] there is a host of other interesting stuff on their programme, take a look Rory for one!

The map of our journey – sorry Spud turns out is was 26.58 miles in the finish the map is here

Janathon – New Year’s Day Ride

#OKdoggy investigates

Well here we go…the Janathon has started.  Simple; exercise everyday, blog it and log it at RunningFree.  I am hoping this will keep me on track.  I am training for the Great East Swim and the Dunwich Dynamo.  My training plans are coming from taketothestreets as I found the swim training worked for me last year for the Great East.

Today I was doing Session 9 of the cycle training plan.  Supposed to be done as a “Mixed – Negative Split: Easy/Moderate (40)”.  I think that’s what I achieved.  The roads were quiet, only saw 5 cars in the trip but the lanes are very muddy and badly broken up due to lorry damage and the snow so one down hill section was a little hairy. I do love going down hill fast though.

As can be seen from the picture above I can’t be accused of ‘all the gear and no idea’ more my gear is ‘agricultural’ – time to visit the wiggle site I think and kit myself up properly!

I hooked up the iPhone to a new handlebar bracket and used mapmyride which means I can produce an upitydownity graph.  I’ve wanted one of these ever since Dave Gorman used something similar when he did his tour cycling from gig to gig.  So below is my upitydownity showing a very clear whhheeeeeeeee section.

and now for the Stats:

Machine – Maud the Claud

Distance – 7.53 miles

Time – 40 mins and six seconds

Average speed – 10.9 mph

Sundailies

There is a new craze doing the rounds of Twitter; daily papers created from the links people tweet to your account.  You create the paper at a site called paper.li.  At first I wasn’t very inspired by the concept, but then I received a link to Nick Shore’s Suffolk paper and quite liked the idea.  So turn on your Spotify, turn up the sounds on the playlist and sit down to my version of the Sundailies.  The Sundailies are all the Sunday supplements in one place, updated daily.  For me an easy was to summarise hat has been going on in my bit of the Twitterverse whilst my back has been turned.  As these are paper.li links they will update each day.

First the Vivia daily – the top news stories across the whole of my timeline today

Then local news in the Suffolk Daily – I hold great hope that one day Felixstowe Port will tweet ”

QUINQUIREME of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine

 

A little sports news from the Swimmy-types and the Cyclists

Then on to lighter topics The clebs are all in the-A-Z-list section

A bit from the arty-crafty and foodie types

News from abroad in the Italy section and then the mostly-green-gardens

For the moment I can not create; news-sport-tech, maps-and-that, writerly or news from the librarians as the limit is 10 papers, but I will as soon as the limit is increased.

In the meantime I leave you with the dfaolbilts section – it is likely to be quite random -dfaolbilts stands for “don’t fit any other lists but I like their style”- enjoy

 

Reflecting on the power of small things

This is stacking up to be an ‘interesting’ week.  Monday was a gorgeous day after the heavy rains on Sunday, we had clear air; the Suffolk landscape and particularly the skyscape was revealed in all its glory.  I took dozens of photographs of the skies reflected in the huge puddles I cheerfully splashed through on my bike to and from work.

Full of gusto on Tuesday I decided to cycle into Framlingham after work to do a spot of shopping, this being the first of the lighter, drier, evenings and trying to up my daily mileage to build stamina ready for the Great East Swim.  Then nearly into town, a puncture; the tyre went down almost instantly.  As I pulled into a driveway I went over the handlebars and landed on my chin; which is now 330066.  Five-to-five, so I attempted to push the bike to the cycle shop; which was closed when I arrived.  Then to Solar where at least there would be light and I changed the inner tube.  The new tube went flat as fast as it was pumped up; I had failed to spot the little bit of flint that had caused the damage.  In the end I was rescued by car and the bike is still in bits as I haven’t had the time to mend the two punctures.  Another 21 miles not cycled.

However, I am now reflecting on the power of small things.  That little bit of flint brought me down and changed my plans for several days.  Small things can make big changes after all.

Ride to work – watch out for the ‘bergs

The #f450 campaign continues; a quick post before I go off to play badminton.  Kept my promise to the dog and did morning and afternoon 1 mile walks.  Plus managed the bike to and from work; round trip of 7.54 miles (calculated on MapMyRide). I bike across farm tracks and the going is best described as ‘sticky’.  Although in some cases that is because I have to avoid stretches like the one above by cycling alongside the track.  No swims today and meetings tomorrow will mean walking only.

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