11 of us had a great time on Lewisham's Isle of Wight ride at the weekend. An early train from Waterloo (with a bonus TWO guards vans!)took us down to Portsmouth Harbour where we transfered to the ferry for the 40ish minutes crossing to the little port of Fishbourne.
Up and out of Fishbourne (our first hill of the day) we were soon out in the country lanes following the well-marked cycle route clockwise around the island. The Isle of Wight attracts lots of cyclists (a number of whom were quite glad to see us and our detailed OS maps) and has two signposted routes around the island. The clockwise route signs show a blue bicycle on a white background whilst the anti-clockwise route signs show a white bike on a blue background (think I've got them the right way round!)
Since most of us were camping it took a while to get used to the unusually heavy bikes, laden down with sleeping bags and tents but it wasn't long before we reached the little town of Ryde where the ice cream stand beckoned.
A short stop and then back onto the bikes heading south east around the coast. A bit of gravelly off-roading up hill reminded us of the undulating landscape of the Isle of Wight but gorgeous weather lifted the spirits. Hot, warm sunshine and the sea was a beautiful turquoise colour and if we hadn't known otherwise, we could have been in the Med.
Our destination for Saturday was Totland, near Freshwater, out in the far south west of the island. Another long slow climb but we were rewarded with our first sight of the famous needles and then for five or six miles the wind helped us thunder along mainly downhill towards Freshwater. Unfortunately the usually open coastal road was closed (fellow cyclists confirming that there was no way we'd get through) so the last few miles had to be inland.
Another few hills later and we finally arrived at our campsite for the night complete with hen night party from Lymington, all over here for a big night in Yarmouth!
Having missed lunch it didn't take long to set up camp, shower and saunter over to the virtually on-site pub for the best but most garlicky bread in town and a well deserved beer.
A quick word with the landlord and then cooked breakfast was booked at the pub for the following morning as well. Fantastic.
With an excellent but filling breakfast inside us, we took things leisurely on Sunday, the first port of call being the Needles on the far west of the Island. Very impressive for those of us that had not seen them before but not very needle like in shape. An hour or so was spent walking out to the viewpoint and then lazing in the sun before we made our way to Totland and its little beach. The slightly choppy waters and the skilled parasurfer didn't put some of us off so 4 of us dipped our toes in the water whilst 3 of us went for a cooling dip.
Sunday was destined to be an easier day - we only had a quarter of the island to go, so after aboub 5 miles of cycling we decided to stop for traditional cream teas (their bread pudding that we bought for later was out of this world).
A short ride to Yarmouth where two of us left, to spend more time on the beach and an extra day on the island leaving the rest of us to do some more serious cycling (10 miles without a stop anyway)! Once again Sunday was a gorgeous day and the scenery so lovely- such a change from views of the Thames, nice though they are.
A quick refreshment stop and then we gave our legs a real stretch, powering into Cowes and the little chain ferry across the River Medina. We were making good time and had a while before the ferry so we refuelled at a functional pub just outside Fishbourne. The 7pm ferry meant that we had just minutes to spare at the other end before the 7.48 train to Victoria. We didn't think we'd make it but the now 8 of us thought we'd give it a go and piled into the guards van (only 1 this time) just as the guard blew his whistle.
A tandem and more bikes got on along the way but there was room for everyone and we managed to get 8 bikes, 8 sets of luggage and 8 people off the train all in one piece in split second timing at East Croydon, just in time for most of us to get onto the New Cross train.
A long weekend but great fun and wonderful to be by the sea again. Many thanks to Roger for organising everything. Roger's off to John O'Groats this week for his 2 week end-end trip. Check out the Lewisham website for daily updates.