We decided to treat ourselves to a hotel rather than seek out the Septic Psychos  for a space on their sofa ( I remembered their name now, though I think Septic Pants is better!). It’s been so lovely meeting all the people I/we’ve been staying with but after 8 hours or so of mounting peaks with a bike and a trailer we figured for one night it would be even nicer to have a little time to ourselves and enjoy some luxuries.. such as a bed and a shower.  We found a reasonably cheap hotel right by the station, that had breakfast and a pool and spa included, even more luxuries, we hey!


We showered and then wearily wandered the streets of Chesterfield looking for a restaurant open at 10pm on a Monday night and finally settled on an Italian, as I am now, after being a wheat avoiding, salad eating type chic… right into pasta! I love that you get to stuff your face guilt free, after a day’s cycling! We then for some reason decided to watch ‘The Shining’ which I’ve never seen before, whilst staying in the large empty hotel. For anyone who’s been living in a box like me, and has also managed not to have seen it, it’s a horror film starring Jack Nicholas set in .. a large empty hotel, in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t sleep particularly well that night. We kept hearing comings and goings and noises in the corridor outside our room…. This seemed to go on all night, why would that be happening!?  We moved a chair to block the door from any men with axes that might try to ‘huff and puff and blow our house down!’ Eventually we did sleep and in the morning we realised that the room opposite ours was the store room where all the towels, sheets, teas, coffees and sachets of shampoo lived and therefore being accessed by the staff, it would seem all night. But the room next to it was room 327………The room in The Shining that the little boy is told NEVER to go into!!



Every steep climb on today’s ride was rewarded with magnificent views across Derbyshire. It was a clear, sunny day and cotton wool clouds dotted the blue sky. England had truly redeemed itself in my eyes, since my rides out of Birmingham’s endless urban sprawl and equally uninspiring Burton on Trent, my heart heavy with despair at what we’d done to our fair land, a few days earlier. Now, thank god, England was beautiful again!


After successfully crossing the moors, as directed by our large trousered friend in Critch, we reached the infamous Slack Hill. An 11 mile hill steeply climbing forever upward from Matlock and then finally  down into Chesterfield.

We joined it, thankfully, as predicted, on the way down, however it was only to be followed by an ..all the way up again experience. That which I know so well. If it’s one thing I’ve learnt on this cycle ride, it’s what goes up, must come down, but equally what goes down..will more than likely go up again, so don’t get too excited! A downhill slope does however generally still, fill me with joy!

Slack Hill however, just filled me with fear! It was a busy A Road, full of speeding vehicles and the incline was vertiginously steep,  in my eyes close to vertical.

One of the issues with pulling a trailer is that not only is it a total bitch to pull up hill as gravity drags it behind you. When travelling down hill gravity works in reverse and it pushes you from behind, speeding you up. Having fallen off back in Gloucestershire when I had to make an emergency stop, I know that I cannot stop suddenly or go very fast, the weight of the panniers will just pull me over to one side or the other, therefore I cannot speed down hills I just don’t have enough control of the steering. This hill was so steep that I had to hold the breaks on almost fully, all the way down, till the smell of burning rubber made me think I should really give them a rest. I kept stopping, genuinely afraid to continue down the further half mile of drop. However, the next mile of up hill needed a bit of speed to at least get me going back up…dilemmas! I did cautiously continue with various pauses everytime the smell of burning rubber became alarming and was finally met by a nice lady half way up the next hill who gave us water and muesli bars, the kindness of strangers strikes again!  After much more climbing, panting and sweating there was eventually a more gradual slope down into Chesterfield with it’s crazy bendy Cathedral spire, which looks like something out of a fairy tale or a Surrealist painting, and when it stands as a beacon, announcing your near arrival to the end of crossing one of  Britain’s hilliest counties,  it is a joyous sight to behold!


So I sit tonight upon my hilltop (my personal hilltop of course!) in Spain beneath a full moon, casting the mediterranean in shimmering, platinum light. I was thinking about Joni Mitchell’s Matala moon in the song ‘Carey’ and just discovered through another  blog that Matala is actually in Crete, for some reason I always imagined her in Tarifa in Spain in that song with the wind blowing in from Africa, but Crete is acceptable and I’m glad to know who Carey was now too. My magical moment of peace and natural beauty is being accompanied,  not only by the gentle rustle of the easterly breeze through the pines and a chorus of cicadas, but somewhere, in the near distance,   ..several girls, around a pool, whom I suspect may have been drinking rather a lot , singing: ‘I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world’ at the top of their voices… thank you ladies, for completing the perfect moment, tonight you are my muse!


Little fluffy clouds woo oo, little fluffy clouds..

ANYWAY.. I digress massively!  It is time, to cast my mind back to a year ago today when I had just reached Chesterfield in a state of exhaustion after taking on my greatest challenge yet with cycle and trailer…. the peak district, Derbyshire, famous for peaks!  Image

After lunch in the bus station cafe as shown in yesterday’s post, and Brian’s tyre being fixed in the local bike shop. We set off for the mean hills of Derbyshire. Whether we took the wisest route or not I don’t know. According to the man with dog we stopped and talked to at the top of one massive hill, we’d taken the worst route possible, according to the women in the cafe, it was probably the easiest route. According to the man with high waisted trousers in Critch, we had stumbled across God’s own country and we should really climb higher still to get the best views!

All I can tell you is that this was the most physically challenging day of the entire trip and also the most beautiful, and actually one of the most enjoyable. Despite the pain and exhaustion it was a great day and I was very happy to be able to share it with Brian. I was also very happy to be able to share my panniers.. (just the once, might I add) with Brian! In fact I’m not sure what would have happened if I’d been alone that day, I may still be there, half way up a hill, sat on a dry stone wall, crying, waiting for my non existent support van to come and save me!


Forever grateful for that day Mr Hargreaves!


We climbed and climbed…. and climbed, up to the village of Critch (pronounced: Christ! With a ch) As in ‘Critch!!! It’s hilly! where’s the shop? I need a drink before I’m completely dehydrated!’

Outside the shop, we met a very nice slightly oversized man in very high waisted trousers, or possibly it was just that his body was out of proportion to his trousers. Anyway he asked us if we’d ever been to Critch before and wanted to tell us all about what the seemingly small village had to offer. He said you really must carry on up to the viewing tower it’s …….metres above sea level, as Brian’s face brightened at such a thought my heart sank, ‘Really!?’ I thought, ‘We need to climb an extra hill, not on our route, with a trailer in tow, just to see the view???! ‘

He also told us about a route across the moors that would be most direct towards Chesterfield and would end up on the infamous ‘Slack Hill’ that climbs steeply up for 10 miles out of Matlock before descending into Chesterfield. He said we’d join it on the incline.

Brian ever the trusting, optimistic soul, said ‘What a lovely man. We should definitely do that then!’. This meant that we would not be following the cycle streets route planning app that I’d been religiously following up until now and therefore straying from my navigational comfort zone. I had my reservations about this coupled with a slight reluctance to trust the word of a man with such high trousers, even though he did seem very nice… Still it was a beautiful day, and in the spirit of adventure I gave in!


As the kind Derbonian housing co operative welcomed us into their country house, set in beautiful conservation land. We were told we could sleep in the wasp factory..’Ooh that sounds nice!’ I thought; not wanting to appear ungrateful of course.   ‘Don’t worry, it’s called that because it WAS full of wasps, now it’s full of tools and random stuff we don’t know where else to put, and there’s a bunk bed in the corner.’ So, as it turned out to be: a giant wasp free shed, it was kind of cool! And after a lovely communal dinner around a huge table set out in front of the house, looking out across fields and forest and a few glasses of wine, we settled into our shed bed for a sound night’s sleep.

Ooh I nearly  forgot , on arrival, while I chatted with the lady cooking in the kitchen, Brian was sitting outside in the garden with Jenny, meeting a few folk and telling them about our plans. A guy said, ‘ok let me make some calls’, and within 5 minutes he said , ‘Right, there’s a punk band in Chesterfield, called..’ damn what was it? Septic Ants or something.. Septic pants?  .. something suitably punk rock anyway.  ‘You can probably sleep in their squat you just have to call them when you’re near, and I’ve got a hunt sab mate in Doncaster , you can stay in the campavan in his front garden when you get there’ ..amazing! Opportunites to help ease the journey were opening up thick and fast the flow was now definitely happening man, and then this guy just upped and left, he didn’t even live at the house..just a random mate of the household who’d popped round for a bit!  Another example of the kindness of Derbyshire folk

In the morning, refreshed after a good night’s sleep, uninterrupted by wasps, we went ‘wild swimming’. Though I struggle with this term. Aren’t we just re branding swimming in rivers, lakes and the sea because you don’t have to pay for it as ‘wild’ therefore commodifying it somehow nevertheless? I mean, people have been ‘wild swimming’ and ‘wild camping’ for centuries, long before swimming pools and campsites were invented, but now let’s produce some coffee table books about it shall we?

Anyway, rant over! For now let’s embrace it..We ‘wild swam’ in a local river which was bleedin’ freezing ( I nearly had a heart attack when I finally jumped in after pussying about for half an hour, and then amused myself at Brian suddenly being scared to jump in having seen my reaction! ) despite the cold, it was fun and invigorating and definitely crazy and wild nevertheless!      Then finally we said our goodbyes to our lovely hosts ..

….you see! this is why the blog stopped, too much happened everyday, we’ve not even had breakfast yet, let alone started a days arduous cycling across the peak district! How to fit it all in to one post?

I think we’ll have to call this part one, and continue tomorrow before I lose your attention..I’ll end with breakfast and some arty shots I took..

On we travelled, all the way into town to an ace little cafe by the bus station where I had an omelette with bits of shell in it, but the girls working there were lovely and it came out looking rather good, with my hipstamatic camera app which I was right into in those days..


It was all about the union jack last summer. What’s happening this summer?


Are we still feeling patriotic a year on people of Britain?


Is the bunting still up everywhere now?


Sunday July 22nd 2012..

I have to say that Derbyshire was probably my favourite part of the journey, it was when the true magic that I sought for this adventure happened and I think in retrospect had I given myself longer for the trip, perhaps I could have opened myself up to more experiences like this one..

Sunday we awoke in Derby, for the first time with no idea where we’d be staying or should cycle to that day. In one of my many moments of yoda like wisdom, I turned to Brian and said..

“Let’s not worry and trust that everything will work out today….Jah will provide!

 and failing that, there’s always travel lodge.”Image

Jenny decided to cycle with us and we decided to first head to Belper a mere 11 miles from Derby, so not really far enough by schedule, but we would go there first and then see..  Finally after so many dull roads from Birmingham – Derby we found ourselves in beautiful countryside and for the first time I realised I was actually enjoying the ride following friends old and new down winding country lanes on a sunny July afternoon and felt a little bit like…. I was on holiday!

On coming into Belper, Jenny saw some girls she knew and went over to say hello, then returned saying,’ that was a very useful conversation I just had.. apparently there’s a new housing co op where a girl I met once lives who might put you up and it’s Belper open gardens day so we can go and get free tea and cake! ‘


We pedalled onwards to a row of cottages with classic English country gardens leading down to a boating lake, we were invited in to the garden of a gentleman named Jim who was sporting a fantastic waistcoat and had a kitchen filled with marvellous homemade cakes at 50p a slice..  ok so it wasn’t free, but what is these days…50p still a bargain and one of the best things about being a cyclist, you can eat loads of cake! Image


So while we enjoyed our tea and cake by a boating lake,  Jenny phoned a chain of tenuous contacts to reach the housing co op and then finally reaching one, reintroduced herself and asked if we might be able to stay… and being kindly Derbonians of a leftward leaning, of course they said yes!

We also starred in the Amber Valley  5 minute film promoting tourism in the area..though only Jenny and Jim the true locals made the final cut as  speaking parts! Look out for us cycling by about a minute in.

Speaking of everything having a price these days it would seem I have to pay  60 dollar to upload  videos here now, so for now here is the link..will also paste on Facebook.

Belper Vision Film



A year has passed and I never finished the cycle tour blog, it’s has been nagging at me ever since..Often people say to me, “Ooh how was your cycle tour? I was following your blog and then I don’t know what happened I must have got distracted.” Guiltily I think, no YOU didn’t get distracted..I did!!  Well to be fair by cycling, and meeting people and having adventures and being bloody exhausted at the end of everyday and having to keep on going every morning, sadly the blog seemed to get left behind somewhere in Derbyshire!


Soon in the Autumn I will be trying out another form of sustainable music tour, so it really seems only correct and proper that I finish blogging about the last one before we leave and start a new one..


I really do feel the need to write it all up before it is forgotten, whether anyone’s still interested in reading about it is really up to you, but I hope so!


I will try to post something everyday it is almost exactly a year ago.. So let’s think back to the halcyon days of last summer, when every village and town across Britain was adorned with union jack bunting, left up from the queen’s jubilee and awaiting the London Olympics and Cecily embarked upon a ridiculous quest to cycle from Bristol to Edinburgh dragging a hefty trailer piled with musical instruments and busking gear along behind her…

IMG_0216My mule!   (kindly lent to me by Webbs of Warmley)

Jenny had a course to go to on Saturday and left early so I got myself up and ready to go busking in the town centre. Whilst I was getting ready I heard distant music, loud and booming. I thought wow it sounds almost like a carnival sound system. I stuck my head out of the front door and down at the end of the street on the main road I caught a glimpse of a procession of floats going past. It is a carnival!  I cycled towards town and caught up with the procession heading in the same direction. I love a carnival and since Bristol council decided to make it impossible for St Paul’s to hold theirs properly this year, it was great to stumble across the Normanton Carnival!

Normanton carnival procession 2012

I cycled on ahead of the procession into town where I found the crowds aligning the city centre streets awaiting my arrival for my first proper busk, this of course became a familiar sight in every town I arrived in!

I’d actually applied for a permit to busk in Derby and there were certain allocated busking spots. I went for one adjacent to the clock tower and public toilets, positioning myself in the surely frequently traversed pathway serving Western man’s greatest needs: to find out the time and relieve himself. There was also an ice cream van and so I figured people waiting in the que for ice creams would benefit from some entertainment. While I was setting up I met Pete the whistle seller, he started to sing Bob Marley through my microphone insisting I turn him up and accompany him on the ukulele. After I’d evicted Pete from the stage and negotiated a good price for a whistle, I started singing a few of my songs. I love the way busking can inspire such non reaction from people, particularly perhaps the people of Derby. I introduced myself to the people eating their ice creams on the nearby benches telling them why I was busking, whilst they continued to look blankly in another direction. I sang my songs, smiling at people looking them in the eye..not too much you understand to make them feel I have any psychotic tendencies and therefore leave them with a sense of unease! It’s just they looked like they needed cheering up, despite the sun shining, carnival atmosphere and fact that it was the weekend. Still they did not respond, yet after a while they put coins in my box and even ventured a few claps. Anyway I was just happy to finally be having a day off cycling,to be busking in the sun and to be in Derby which as far as I’m concerned is definitely ‘up North’.

In the evening Brian came to join me from Bristol and we met up with Jenny and her friend Roz. A very interesting woman who had recently returned to the UK after living in New York for many years. I always like asking people about New York even though I’ve never been there! We ate in a brilliant no frills Indian place on Normanton Road then moved on to The Falstaff, a good old fashioned real ale free house with quirky décor and obligatory old bearded men furnishing the corners. At some point on the way home from the pub I mentioned the eery morning trumpet I’d heard to Jenny, ‘Oh that’s the really annoying scrap metal man!’ she replied, my supernatural imaginings, dashed in an instant.


Mc Turk


This is not where we ate nor did we eat at Savoy fish and chips I just liked the look of them and the name ‘Mc Turk’!

I woke up in Normanton, to the sound of a trumpet making strained noises below my window in the street. A strange, haunting sound, I felt in my half sleep that I’d been transported to the 1950’s. I was listening to the ghost of a child learning to play in the Victorian terraced streets. Something ethereal about this neighbourhood, now very multicultural, Asian, Eastern European and Caribbean resonated for me with history, I’d felt an echo of the generations of different communities who’d inhabited the streets in previous lives when I’d arrived.

Waiting for my couch surf host Jenny. I’d been stretching out in my tracksuit and hoody also wearing an Arab scarf around my head, I was getting cold, taking in the Friday evening scene, banging teenage party next door, boys in hoods and girls in braids coming and going, Muslim elders taking an evening stroll, all quite like where I live in Bristol but with the houses more squashed together, the front doors right on the pavement, but the streets in the evening sunlight looked so timeless

Jenny the very lovely artist with whom I stayed with was my couch surf host number two. Her house equally seemed to cross dimensions, an inner city terrace on the outside but as you stepped through the threshold you entered a cosy country cottage; large fire place, narrow steep staircase, plenty of books, no TV, scent of incense, this is the kind of house that I’d like to have .

Jenny and her friend Ruth met me at the door. It was already about 9.30pm by the time we got in, so it was definitely time to start drinking red wine. Our  delightful, erudite conversation flowed from art to activism, to Alice Wealdon (local Edwardian feminist, accused of being the attempted assassin of Lloyd George ) and a Polish woman who moved a caravan onto the roof of the old bus station where she lived for months defending the building against demolition. She lost, but apparently it was a scummy bus station anyway!


I took Jonathan my host for lunch, by the cathedral via Erasmus Darwin’s house. Samuel Johnson also had a house in Lichfield, and that is all the history you’ll get from me! We got to talking, I’m not sure why, about Cougars. I asked what age a woman becomes a ‘cougar’ and why there isn’t a similar term for a man. A guy sat alone was amused by our conversation and joined in. We got to talking about relationships and what makes them last. The guy said he thought a real man needs two women to keep him satisfied, one for fun and one to ‘chill’ with. The conversation depressed me a little, as did, to be honest, most of the cycle from Lichfield through Burton upon Trent to Derby. It possibly didn’t help that it took me what felt like an hour to find my way out of Lichfield, which is a relatively small town. This is quite a common thread to my daily journies now. Get up a bit later than planned, faff about alot re packing things I should have never unpacked, then get lost trying to leave. Arrive in the next place several hours later than planned, not have energy left to blog, busk, tweet or twang!

I followed Sustrans route 54, which is fine, it’s not their fault it’s a miserable stretch of countryside (at least where they’ve put the cycle path), but not so fine if you have a trailer. It involved some pavement alongside a busy stretch of the A38 where large clouds of black flies seemed to be everywhere. Then a long stretch of path beside a river. A river of which it’s water had shall we say, an innercity quality to it.  It wasn’t up to the Birmingham canals standards of obstacles per 20 metres but there were still gates to pull the trailer around every 100m or so and bumpy paths, and when I finally got to the end I had the choice of a lovely steep flight of steps or a steep muddy bank to contend with.

I kept promising myself a break but never seeing anywhere I’d actually want to stop, thinking somewhere more appealing would be around the next corner but it never was. I finally reached a village called Eggington surely Eggington will have a pub, I’d been cycling for about 4 hours now, I had already ordered myself a drink and sat myself in the garden to plan the rest of my my head. Eggington looked like the perfect village for a pub, no pub, as I turned each bend in the road, surely a pub would reveal itself. No pub…NO PUB!!!!!             I swore and carried on back towards the grimness of the A38, cursing my romantic plans to pedal across England.. ‘Laurie Lee this is f***ing not!’ I thought.*

*For those readers of  older and more polite generations than my own, please pardon my swearing in print, but I do feel it necessary for affect to recall exactly what I was thinking at this point!

Then as I crossed a bridge over the A38 I looked down and there a neon beacon between the trees, a chorus of angels singing, I saw it.. the legendary OK Diner!

The OK Diner is a 50’s style American diner, Tom my guitarist friend has told me about so many times but we never seem to pass it or we’re never on the right side of the road to stop at it, but there it was my saviour.

Rock n Roll music and a proper American diner menu, everything about it 1950’s Americana barr the dower British service! I ordered pancakes and maple syrup and a huge shake, and settled into a booth, and after the OK diner, guess what?  Everything was OK!

OK Diner

ok diner condiments

ok diner

OK Diner

Many hours, hills and downpours of rain later I escaped the sprawl that is Birmingham and reached  the house of my first ever couch surfing host in Lichfield. His name was Jonathan and he greeted me on the driveway saying ‘Welcome to couch surfers!’.  I was just awkwardly admiring his mountain of cereal boxes on top of the fridge ( I meant to take a photo it was mighty impressive!) when his new lodger Dan came downstairs. He introduced himself as a star wars toy collecting geek and asked me if I wanted to see his new light sabers. How could I refuse? I’d been in the house less than five minutes and I found myself having a light saber fight with a complete stranger in another complete stranger’s living room, the latter slightly worried about his computer being in range of said weapons of mass destruction. I’d like to add that they were to my untrained eye very high quality light sabers, not just kids toys, definitely made for the adult variety of child.

Johnathan was a very kind host who took me for a delicious dinner in a restaurant overlooking the cathedral and a lake or maybe you’d call it a large pond, whatever the body of water was it was a very attractive setting for a dinner and I ate very well, like a woman who has cycled from Birmingham to Lichfield with a trailer!

All in all I’d say my first couchsurfing experience complete with light saber ice breaker activity was a very positive one!

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