The Dunwich Dynamo is not a race but an adventure. On Saturday Dad, Andy, Richard and I set off to London Hackney Fields, the start of the Dunwich Dynamo. Arriving there for 19:00 we set up our bikes, had a last-minute pee and then started our Garmins and rolled out of London, on what was to become a great evening’s ride.
Making our way out of London past Epping Forest we soon left the hustle and bustle of the big city behind and the scenery turned to arable fields full of golden corn.
The hours ticked by and we were making good progress, eating on the bike I had a mixture of salted peanuts, cheese and onion chick peas, dates and
homemade granola. Our plan was to stop once we got to Sudbury at the fire station BBQ, the half way point, but as we travelled through little villages friendly locals had free cake! Too tempting for my Dad, who was after all, spending his birthday biking from London to Dunwich.
As we cruised through the back roads the light faded, bikes whizzed by decorated in fairy lights and with glowing wheels, note to self to decorate my bike next year.
The ride is not a Sportive there were no route markers or support as such, however at each junction our route was illuminated by a flicker of a candle showing us the right road to take.
After 57 miles we entered the town of Sudbury and the smell of BBQ filled the air as we pulled up to the fire station who put on an excellent array of food and drink, all in aid of their charity. Hungry cyclists lined up for burgers and sausages and warming cups of tea. The place was alive with people chatting excitedly about their adventure so far, bikes were stacked up all around the edge of the fire station.
Munching on a cheese burger and drinking tea at 1am was a wonderful ride break, I now understand the importance of coffee stops when cycling and will be looking to add them to my rides!
Taking the opportunity to fill our water bottles we headed back out into the darkness, at a slightly slower pace, I blame that on our full bellies!
Leaving the town back out on the country roads we got back into our rhythm we passed groups of cyclists including one man on a Brompton bike.
This section of the journey was a lot more undulating than the last and the hills, although not as big as my South Downs hills, really seemed tough at times, this also was to do with riding in the ‘witching hour’ between the hours of 2 and 3.30 I felt tired and dug deep to keep going.
The weather had been very kind, especially as the rest of the country was being blasted; we had a spatter of rain but remained dry and had the wind on our backs, thank you weather gods!
Rolling through the night 6 hours into our ride my Garmin battery decided to nap. Losing the ability to know when I had to eat was challenging I kept asking my Dad for the time and tried to gauge what I should eat it was also disappointing to not have the whole ride on my Garmin as I was keen to see the difference between the first and second half’s data.
Riding into Framlingham I knew we were close but as we had been wiggling through back lanes it was hard to judge just how long would be left to travel.
The dark night sky had started to turn grey with cloud and a pinky red glow was appearing us as we neared the beach, 10 miles to go and then 5. We started to see people’s twinkling lights coming towards us, people leaving the beach some on the trip back to London, I take my hat off to those who cycled back!
Rolling into the car park it felt exhilarating to have made it there for sunrise, there was a gorgeous smell of bacon and a buzz of activity as people shared their stories and talked about the ride.
We walked onto the beach and watched the sun rise for a moment, the morning air-cooled us quickly and I soon felt my teeth chattering. An obligatory team photo was needed before the adventure continued, sadly not to the café for a bacon sandwich but back onto the road to finish our adventure a 15 mile bike ride home.
Until next year DD.
A holiday in Bali needn’t just consist of lazing on a beach. Cycling is one the best ways to explore the island’s natural and cultural sights. There are hundreds of cycle tours that you can take, which are great opportunities to meet new people. Alternatively, you can rent a bike and make your own route. Here are just some of the best ways to go biking in Bali.
Biking along the beachfront
Cycling along the beachfront in Bali is an incredible experience, especially at sunrise and sunset. There are plenty of vacation villas in Bali situated on the seafront which could be great bases for cycling from. The most popular route takes you through Sanur village where you’ll find a scenic 7km beach path – there are tours that can take you via this path whilst also stopping at sights such as the Taman Festival ghost town and the Beatles Mania Cavern.
Taking a temple tour
Bali’s temples are all situated at the top of hills – many tours start at these temples and work their way down, although if you’re feeling brave you can try an uphill cycle ending at one of these temples (electric bicycles are favoured across the island and will make the hilly terrain easier to tackle). A trip via Kintamani is definitely worthwhile – this town is located near the top of a volcano and has several epic temples located nearby including the huge complex of Besakih the Hindu temple of Tirta Empul featuring a ritual bath.
Pedalling through the rice paddies
One of the most popular cycle routes starts from Ubud and takes you through the scenic rice terraces of Tegalalang – these rice paddies are UNESCO-listed due to their cultural significance and stunning appearance. Sunrise is one the best times to cycle through these plantations as not only will everything be coated in a golden glow, there’s also a lot less road traffic to contend with. The owners of these plantations often charge an entrance fee for cycling through them which is about 10,000 RP (roughly about $1!). Whilst cycling around Ubud, you may be able to incorporate a few of the island’s most scenic waterfalls into your trip. Ubud Monkey Forest is also worth making a detour for – this is the island’s best spot for seeing long-tailed monkeys.
Exploring the towns
Cycling around Bali’s largest towns such as Denpasar and Kuta should be done with caution – the traffic is a bit chaotic and can be dangerous to those that aren’t used to it. That said, there are many villages across the island that are cycle-friendly, plus its worth touring the outskirts of many of the larger towns. It’s in the towns that you’ll find many of the cycle hire shops and tour operators. Shop around for pricing and always do an inspection of the bikes and equipment so that you know you’re getting something good quality.
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As the nights get lighter and the days a little brighter the opportunities for us to get out on adventures increases! Have you been on a micro adventure in the UK?
You only get one life, you get to choose how you spend your time, but sometimes ‘adventure’ can seem financially out of reach however there is no need to reside yourself to the dull and mundane just yet. There are endless micro adventures you can get up to here in the UK without spending a fortune or needing a month off work, here is my top 10:
1. Head for your local trail center! I am a little biased as mountain biking is my passion so of course biking micro adventures are top of my list, but in the UK we have some great trail centers where there are routes for all abilities from green which is beginner level and good for children to black and orange for those for who their wheel to leave the ground and like it to be steep and technical. In the south head for Queen Elizabeth Country Park or Swinley Forest further afield Cannock Chase and the Chiltern Hills are super fun! If you need a little confidence boost book yourself a morning with a coach to help improve your cycling ability. Mountain bike trail guide coming soon subscribe to keep up to date.
2. The UK capital of adventure personally would be Wales. Head for Snowdonia for a micro adventure, where you will find great camping spots, pretty b&bs plenty of sheep along with loads of outdoor activities from white water rafting to climbing. At Plas Y Brenin you can get great coaching in kayaking and climbing.
3. Surf’s up! Jutting straight out into the Atlantic Ocean, Cornwall is a magnet for swell, creating perfect waves for surfing! Also having some of the best beaches in the UK ideal for rock pooling and beach combing adventures. Why not take on a litter pick for surfers against sewage at the same time. A micro adventure with purpose!
4. Go for a wild swim – whether it’s a lake, river or the sea find some friends and go for a dip! Remember to check the tide times if you pick the sea and a wet suit could be a good shout!
5. Sleep outside without a tent – you can pick up a bivvy bag from Go Outdoors armed with this and perhaps a friend or two and a camping stove and your local woods could become your first micro adventure.
6. See how far you can run/walk/cycle in a weekend/day/morning/evening…
7. Take a new route to work – Micro adventures can happen at any time, why not have one five days a week, I am fortunate enough to live on the South Downs a beautiful area. I first discovered just how beautiful when I mixed up my commute routes for a couple of weeks not only did this give me a real sense of achievement in finding new ways to work but I could use these cycling routes as new training rides as well.
8. Use this great site called Fancy Free Walks to find a walk from a new place. Martyn and I have been using this site to explore our local area finding walk with good pub stops and making an adventure of it.
9. Scotland – The most beautiful and wildest part of our great Island. Okay it can take a while to get there but the sleeper train from London is a great option or why not drive and stop off at different places along the way to make a real road trip of the UK. Read about biking in Scotland.
10. Enter a race! Not to win (unless you want too) but for the adventure. Racing gives you a reason to exercise and motivation to get outside and maybe try something new. There are loads of sites which have these types of challenges like Rat Race, Tough Mudder and Cycling Events UK the bonus is your likely to get a badly fitting t-shirt and a medal as well! Read about my Mum and I racing in the New forest.
Share your micro adventures with me on Facebook.
One year off – what would you do?
This April I am leaving my job and life and friends behind to go travelling round Europe. Having asked for a sabbatical I have a year off work to try and fit in so much living!
Since I was a kid I was always the girl in all the sports teams, doing all the extra-curricular activities I could get my hands on. The idea of sitting on the sofa doing nothing night after night sounded so boring when there were so many activities out there to try. However, as I got older I realised that the world really needs you to sit in a box and do what your told, instead of what really gets you going.
In college I was lucky enough to have a choice between A-levels and International Baccalaureate. Had I done A-levels, it would probably have been Maths, Physics, and Further Maths- how dull! By choosing IB, it meant I got to do 6 subjects instead; Maths, Physics, English, German, Economics, and Art, as well as Theory of Knowledge, my first exposure to “dissertation” style report writing and all my extra-curricular activities counting towards the bonus 3 points.
When you go to university however they really like you to specialise, so while Civil Engineering was what I wanted to do (as a result of a lifelong love of Grand Designs), I was disappointed when the sports and social clubs training regimes meant that I could only join one or two each year.
I love construction, there is always a new challenge and I have a nice mix of planning and fire-fighting which keeps things interesting. But now, if you include university, I have essentially spent 9 years doing engineering. It’s the kind of career that requires so many soft skills and it draws on the transferable skills I learnt in all those different subjects, but I don’t get enough time to do the myriad of adventure sports that I enjoy, which is the main contributing factor to me deciding to take this time off. It also helps that I don’t own a house or have kids so my lifestyle doesn’t require me to stay in one place.
At work, I started talking about my dream of going travelling about a month before I officially asked permission to go. This meant it wasn’t a shock to them when the form came through, but also it led to some good conversations so they understood it was because of what I wanted to achieve outside of work, rather than assuming I wanted to quit. This means that I still have a job to come back to, and I haven’t burnt any bridges for future work. I’m sure the Terms and Conditions vary between companies, but mine means that I can still choose to not return, but I’d have to give them notice just as I would if I was still working there. It does relieve the pressure to find a new job at the end of the year though when I start to run out of money, but I’m not tied in if I decide I need to go live on the other side of the planet!
I was also concerned that I would fall behind on my career goals by taking this step back, so I have had a really productive development conversation with my manager, so that I am confident of progression upon my return.
My plan for the year can be roughly divided into 3 sections,
- Holiday- Learning to Paraglide in Spain and a Kitesurf Trip to Morocco
- Road Trip around Europe in my Campervan
- Snowboarding – I have found an awesome course so I can gain my instructing qualifications with a guaranteed job in the same season
It has been really important for me to find goals for my trip. I don’t want to return at the end of the year and feel like I have wasted it. I have so many ideas swirling around my head at the moment but I’m sure these will clarify themselves as I go along, but improving my sports, doing better at posting on social media and keeping my blog up to date are definitely some of them, so follow me to find out what I get up to!
People have been asking if it’s daunting; and it is, but I have made certain decisions to reduce my concerns. These include
- not including Ukraine or Russia on my itinerary,
- doing the Spain and Morocco legs of my trip by plane instead of driving (there would be heavy baggage charges and multi-leg flights to do the journey direct from one to the other and I’m not keen on driving in Morocco)
- heading north during the summer holidays to avoid the crowds and heat
- not having a publicly visible GPS tracker or only publishing location specifics after leaving to avoid unwanted attention (as happened to Laura Kennington in Russia- although it seems quite unlikely that my trip will go viral!)
At the end of the day, Europe is not that far from home, so if it all goes Pete Tong I can always just hop on public transport and come home.
You can also follow Helen on Twitter: @trektradewind and Instagram: @trektradewinds
I’m Chris Astill-Smith, 25 years old from Devizes, Wiltshire. There were a couple of reasons why I chose to swim the channel, the first one being that I wanted to set myself a serious challenge, a challenge that would only be possible with a lot of hard work and dedication. I’ve always been a strong swimmer since a young age but never a professional. I used to swim for my local club from ages 12-18 and was more of a sprint swimmer, so when I decided to swim the English Channel
I had no endurance experience, let along open water experience. The second reason was that I wanted to raise money for a small charity, one that was close to my heart called Dreams Come True
. Dreams Come True is a small U.K charity that helps kids with life-limiting conditions achieve their dreams. I didn’t want to choose a large charity, where all my fundraising efforts would just get spent on admin or marketing costs, I truly wanted to be able to help those that needed it the most. In total £23,500 was raised for DCT from my swim and I’m so happy to have been able to meet lots of the children who’ve directly benefited.
My 3 top tips for anyone thinking about swimming the channel would be:
1) Take on other big swims prior & learn from your mistakes. I took on Lake Windermere a year before my English Channel swim. Lake Windermere is an 18km swim in the Lake District. After only 4 months of training this was a huge challenge and to this day it still remains the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I tore my right bicep tendon after about 10km and stupidly decided to carry on in such pain. It took 4 months of rehab to recover from that injury and had to completely change my technique. However, if that hadn’t of happened, I may of never decided to change my technique and never completed the Channel.
2) Test your feeding plan. It’s so important to keep testing which foods your body can handle while swimming. Numerous times my body would reject certain foods during my training which proved crucial to the big swim. Nutrition is so important when doing any long distance swim because without it your body just won’t be able to go the distance.
3) Don’t waste time in the water. Another big tip would be to not waste time taking breaks across the channel. First of all you have the tides pulling you up and down the Channel, so any time you’re not swimming you’re being pushed further up or down with the tides. The tides get much stronger closer to France so the closer you are to France before the tides change direction the more chance you’ll have of making it. Another reason why you don’t want to be wasting time in the water is that when you’re not moving you’re body is getting cold. You have to keep generating heat to keep warm. I was spending between 30-45 seconds on each feed, that was enough.
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Marytn and I live in a beautiful spot nestled under the South Downs Way. Being two very busy people it is a real treat to get out and explore our local trails together with our dog Luna. So this Valentines weekend we put our boots in the car, packed up Luna and headed around the corner for an adventure in our own back yard.
Parking at the Whitehorse in Chilgrove, one of our favourite country pubs, we had a quick drink to rehydrate and checked out the map. Martyn was in charge of directions, and not getting us lost!
Thirst quenched we set off walking along the main road towards our first of many gates, through the gate we entered a field and continued to follow the path until we could not hear the buzzing of the road. The leaves crunched beneath our feet as we entered the wood, making our way through the trees, the first signs of spring’s arrival peaking up on the banks, a charming carpet of white snowdrops.
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Our path soon came to a small road called the Hooksway, a chalky hill leads up steeply to the South Downs Way. We decided it would be nice to sit at the top and eat lunch so continued up, heads down, heavy breathing, watching our footing on the slippery chalk.
As the track levelled out we passed the Devil’s Jumps, one of the best preserved Bronze Age barrow group left in Sussex. It is said that the reason for the name is that the devil jumped from barrow to barrow to annoy the God Thor, who then threw a stone at him and he ran off…. Make of this what you will! We saw no gods or devils just rabbits and sheep!
Leaving the woods our comfortable journey turned cold as the wind buffeted us; it was time to test the warming powers of our Berghaus jackets. Putting my hood up I felt cosy and sheltered from the elements. The view outstretched before us showing our chalky route heading back in the direction of Brighton. After a few more fields of sheep we found some large logs to sit on. Pic-nic time! Out came the sausages sandwiches and flask of tea. We munched our way through thick cut bread, sausages and mustard, crisps and a flask of tea, being eyed up by Luna who was convinced that there must be something in our pic-nic for her.
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Bellies full and with slightly chillier fingers we packed our bag and headed onwards. Martyn said we needed to pass three fields and then turn left and leave the South Downs Way. Following Martyn we merrily did what we thought was correct and ventured down a steep chalky path through woodlands where Luna was animated by the smells and sounds of potential squirrels behind every tree.
Happily walking along, soon we were not 100% convinced this was our path… stopping to check our map it became apparent we had missed a left hand turn earlier on and had actually now taken the path we should be walking up, not down!
We re-traced our steps back to the South Downs Way and straight over into West Dean woods, back on track, it was becoming dusky and walking from the open track into a new wood it was clear we would be finishing in the dark! All of a sudden Luna squealed with excitement as three majestic deer crossed our path about 200 metres in front of us.
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Even with the fading light West Dean woods was a magical place the spongy forest floor was covered in deer tracks, the sweet smell of forest filled the air and the mighty oaks and hazel trees towered above making you feel protected from the elements.
Steadily descending out of the woods and through a big wooden gate we followed the twinkle of lights onto a country road, illuminating our path by the stars and torch light we soon arrived back at the Whitehorse, just in time for a well earnt pub dinner and a nice glass of wine!
My Women’s Berghaus Extrem Micro Down Jacket was perfect for this adventure. I wore it with a jumper underneath and for the time of year and climate in the UK was great. The Extrem jacket uses Body-mapping design techniques which help regulate your temperature and put warmth where it’s really needed.
Head over to Instagram to see my story of the walk.
Follow Berghaus here
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