Post by De Graaf van Salland on Nov 8, 2014 22:22:10 GMT 1
Wikipedia: A hill figure is a large visual representation created by cutting into a steep hillside and revealing the underlying geology. It is a type of geoglyph usually designed to be seen from afar rather than above. In some cases trenches are dug and rubble made from material brighter than the natural bedrock is placed into them. The new material is often chalk, a soft and white form of limestone, leading to the alternative name of chalk figure for this form of art.
For us, it was just an excuse for a nice trip through the English countryside on our bikes.
RJ: We used Pinterest this year for the first time along with Dropbox to help our trip planning. GvS did most of the route planning as he has a sat.nav. I am buying one soon, so next time it will be easier to share the lead role. It was fun hunting the internet for chalk figures, a surprising quantity when you look for then. Restricted by time we could not visit them all
GvS: This years trip would be on new bikes for us both because RJ bought a VFR750 and I got myself a V-strom 650.
Post by De Graaf van Salland on Nov 8, 2014 22:33:52 GMT 1
GvS: I left just before 8 o’clock from my home near Zwolle in the Netherlands. Weather: clouded with sunny spells, but DRY ! Stopped after 20 km, to check and tighten the luggage. Near Nieuwegein, I badly needed to find a toilet. So I stopped at a petrol station. While there, I also filled up the tank, because I knew I wouldn’t make it to Dunkirk on what was in the tank then (but I wasn’t low on fuel yet !). Walking into the office to pay for the fuel, I found out that you also had to pay to use the toilet (a coin-operated machine), which doesn't happen often in the Netherlands. Unfortunately I had tucked away my Euro-cash very far down in my luggage, so there was no chance to use that. Riding on, close to Breda, I was overtaken by a motorbike policeman; he gave me a "thumbs-up" while he passed me.
Next stop was the Dutch-Belgian border (Hazeldonk), where I had a coffee & doughnut at the McDonalds. I had to pay for the use of the toilet there as well, but this time I was deperate, so I dug down into my stuff to retrieve some coins. Fortunately, they let me use the invalid toilet (more room inside), which is much better, considering all the stuff I carry with me. I was getting a bit late by then, so the trip from Hazeldonk to Dunkirk was a non-stop one. I also increased the speed a bit. I later found out that the fuel consumption of the bike was highest on this part of the trip (only 18 km per ltr. / the rest of the trip it was closer to 24 km per ltr.).
The Belgian/French weather was a bit wet, but I never put on any raingear, so it wasn’t too bad. Because of the French petrol price (€ 1,54 per ltr, compared to € 1,80 / ltr, which I paid earlier in the Netherlands), I wanted to fill the tank, before I went on board the ferry. The DFDS-ferry terminal at Dunkirk is quite a long way south of the town of Dunkirk. RJ & I had passed Dunkirk on our trip last year. In fact I filled up my tank at a petrol station, we had also used the year before ! I didn't have to wait very long at the DFDS ferry terminal. I also used this route 3 years ago, on my first bike trip to the UK, so I thought I knew how it all worked.
Staff on board give you a pillow, to put on your seat. And then a strap is pulled over it, which is hooked to a loop in the deck on either side of the bike. I had put the ratchet on the right side of the bike. But a staff member kindly corrected me: the ratchet should be on the left hand side, because the side stand is on that side. If the ratchet is on the right side, you pull the bike over, while tightening the strap. The crossing was uneventfull. I sat on deck in the sun & had a very large lunch on board. It takes 2 hours to cross the channel on this route. But, because of the time difference between the UK and the continent, it's effectively only a 1 hour crossing.
The ferry was supposed to dock around 3 o'clock local at Dover Eastern docks; right under the famous white cliffs. The meeting point, RJ & I had agreed on, was only half a mile from de dock's exit. I don't know if the ferry was late or unloading took so long, but it was nearly half past three before I arrived at the meeting point. I arrived first, but had to wait only 3 minutes or so before RJ's Honda VFR arrived.
RJ: This year I was on a new bike with soft luggage, I was very pleased with the panniers but getting it all fixed to the bike took longer than planned so I was late leaving, stopping on the road out of town to insert my earplugs. I did not fancy the motorway so I headed for Loomies again this year for a run accross the coast on the A272. The roads were dry and the bike was running well, Loomies was very quiet but a found another biker there for a natter over a brew. A quick snap later and it was head down for some more fun.
Around lunchtime I decided I was not going to get to Dover on time. Not to worry technology was at hand, in the form of my phone with its free satnav. Tapped in Dover 'Fastest route' and off I went. Village after village bend after bend, then sun shone and life could not be considered better. It was only when I started seeing places I recognized, and not on the way to Dover I thought I may have a problem. I had forgotten I had previously set my phone to avoid motorways. Google's version of the Bendy Roads setting. Fine if you do not want to get anywhere fast :-)
The setting was adjusted and on the motorway, progress was made. I was amazed I was only 3 minutes late. I don't like getting anywhere late. It was good to meet up again and catch up over Dutch biscuits, even if I could not remember trying them on our last trip!
GvS: Yes, indeed it was good to meet up again. It’s a pity we live so far apart, otherwise, I’m sure, we would do this more often.
Because it was far too early to go to the campsite, I had searched for some things to see locally. The first was a National Trust site, called "White Cliffs", which is just north of Dover. After filling up RJ's tank, we went there. Entry is free for bikers; nice gesture from the National Trust. Because you're on top of the cliffs, you don't see the actual clif side very well. But you do get a very nice view over the channel & the whole of Dover harbour.
Leaving this site, I had a small disaster. Well...... , at the time I thought it was a disaster and really hated the whole situation. Now, looking back on it, I'm just sorry that I didn't take any photo's. Leaving the car park, I had to make an unscheduled stop, because a car appeared suddenly out of nowhere. Unfortunately I stopped with both my front & rear wheels on a small hill. And where I wanted to put my foot, there was a small hole. Unable to keep the bike upright I jumped away and the bike fell on it's right side. RJ, a friendly helpfull tourist and I put it upright again. Damage was fortunately very minimal: a scratch on the right indicator and on the crashbar. And the front brake lever had snapped off at the point where it is designed to snap off.
The Suzuki designers have designed a weak point in the lever, exactly for such events. Which meant that the bike was still ride able; only the front brake lever was a bit shorter. Also, I believe the way I packed the bike (soft luggage and the water bottles attached to the crash bar), prevented a lot of damage. The water bottle was crushed a bit, but I could push it back into its original shape (more or less). At least I can now say that I’ve checked that the tip-over-switch in the bike works. The engine was very nicely turned off by it.
Next stop was the "Samphire Hoe", which is a lookout point on the coast between Dover & Folkestone. You have to ride through a single track tunnel to get there. Traffic is regulated with traffic lights, so you don't meet any oncoming traffic in the tunnel. This viewing point is at the bottom of the white cliffs. A lot of the land was created with all the soil that was dug out of the channel tunnel. Unfortunately it was clouded by that time, so the view on the white cliffs wasn't that exciting.
That night we camped on "Little Switzerland campsite" in Folkestone. We'd stayed there last year, so it was familiar to us. The pitches where we had to put our tents were so small, that we had to park the bikes on a different level. After pitching the tents, we went to the local pub (the “Valiant Sailor”) for some food. The pub is up a steep path, which goes zig-zag up the cliffs. We'd done it last year, so we knew it was going to be a steep walk. Even though efforts had been made, the path is badly maintained. You certainly shouldn't rely on the railings to stop you from tumbling down the cliffs! The pub had changed ownership since last year. And I have to say I thought the food was less nice. Also the free wifi had gone.
RJ: Tend to agree the food was OK not poor, just not as good as the previous year. May be time for a new site next trip. Good job I had my phone for a hot spot and we were able to locate the local Suzuki dealer for spares the following morning.
GvS: Down the path in darkness was a challenge (especially because our drinks had not been alcohol free), but we managed to get to our tents without any major incidents.
Post by De Graaf van Salland on Nov 8, 2014 22:43:49 GMT 1
Friday Aug. 29
GvS: I had a bad night, but we woke up to a completely cloudless sky. Had breakfast with coffee & rice pudding.
RJ: We used my gas cooker to boil the water for our coffee. I think it makes too much noise for an early start. I much prefer GvS's tinned fuel. Not cheap, but it's silent.
GvS: One of RJ's sons is training for the Royal Marines and he gets plenty field rations. In fact, he gets so much, that our whole trip we had our coffee & drinks sponsored by the Navy.
First target of the day: head towards the Suzuki dealer in Folkestone. Leaving the campsite, the path was a bit muddy; my rear wheel skidded and I nearly dropped the bike again (naturally this time to the left...). With all the strength I could find, I managed to keep it upright. I was lucky that Folkestone has a Suzuki dealership. Alford Brothers did have a new brake lever for me. So, for only GBP 24,50 (price of the lever, incl. fitting) my bike was fixed again
First hill figure to see was the Folkestone White Horse. This figure is best seen from the Eurotunnel terminal, when you're crossing to France. But we weren't going there, so we rode to the road on top of the hill, above the figure. If you walk into the fields from there (as we did) you can see the figure from the side, which isn't a great view. But you do get a great view over Folkestone and the Eurotunnel terminal.
The small back roads were so narrow and there was a lot of gravel on the surface, which meant that our speed was really slow for a long time.
RJ: It was very slow but some fun little roads I would not have wanted to miss.
GvS: Also, there had been an accident somewhere, because the police had blocked off our planned route on 2 occasions. Next hill figure was the "Wye Crown". We got a very good view of this one.
Just past Ashford, we found a caravan in a layby which served food. We got a very nice late breakfast/ early lunch there.
RJ: The food was cracking at that point it seemed a long time since our tin of rice breakfast, and the quarter pounder found the right spot
GvS: In Tenterden, RJ's bike gave up: the battery was completely dead. So, after we unloaded all our luggage & removed the seats (on the pavement, in the main street), we restarted the bike, using jump leads. RJ had been riding with his headlights on and apparently the battery doesn’t charge in that case. Turning off the headlights solved this problem for the time being. We were only going to ride in daylight and, anyway, my Suzuki has a very powerful headlight; enough for the both of us.
RJ: After the trip I found the Reg/rectifier had died, since replaced, but it did add some drama to the trip. I was very pleased I had the jump leads or it could have been the end of the trip.
GvS: The best hill figure of the trip was next in line: the "Long Man of Wilmington". We rode the bikes into a field for the best photo's.
RJ. There was nowhere to park in the little country lane but this gave us the ideal excuse for some off road riding, which I found easier on the VFR than I had my previous bike - Honda Revere. I kept my engine running, still unsure at this point it would start again anytime soon. I stalled it turning in the field to get out!! but it started again which made me feel better about the world.
GvS: When we wanted to leave, I couldn't find my earplugs anymore. I've got a nice set of custom-made earplugs. I would never consider riding a motorbike without earplugs in. I've already lost some of my hearing, so I certainly wouldn't take any risk with what's left. So we searched and searched……. , until RJ found them in the grass, just a few meters from my bike.
Only a couple of miles from the Long Man is the Litlington White Horse. As you can see in the photos, this is not a good looking horse. It looks like his feet (hooves) are the wrong way 'round. By this time were running late. The original plan was to see a few more things and then take the A272 (along Loomies) towards the Salisbury area, where our next campsite was. Due to the time pressure we decided to take the fast route (M27) to the campsite. However, the sat.nav. took us right through Brighton, along the seafront, thus making us lose even more time.
The weather deteriorated and it was getting dark by the time we reached our campsite. The last few hours had been a race to reach it. Not helped by the fact that the visor had detached itself from my helmet on one side. Fortunately only a screw had become undone & we could fix it on the spot.
Both tents were piched very fast on the campsite: Alberbury Touring Park. Opposite our tents was a very nice MG 1300 with Danish numberplates, next to a caravan with also Danish plates. Impressive feat for such an old car to tow the caravan all the way from Denmark.
Dinner was in the "Three Crowns", just opposite the camping's entrance. We had a very nice "pork's belly", washed down with a few pints. And they even let us charge our phone's & camera's there!
Post by De Graaf van Salland on Nov 8, 2014 22:50:03 GMT 1
Saturday Aug. 30
GvS: Had a shower, which was very nice & warm. That was a nice surprise, because the shower only had one tap, which you expect to be the cold one.
RJ: I had the same feeling when I saw the single tap and was ready to jump out quick
GvS: I was looking forward to this days riding, because the distance was not very far & we got to see a lot of hill figures. First target of the day was not a hill figure, but another landmark: Salisbury's "Gold Hill". But before we got there, we found an unexpected series of hill figures: halfway between Salisbury and Shaftesbury (on the A30) we accidentally found the Fovant Badges. These had not come up in my research for the trip. So it was a bonus.
RJ: The weather this morning was outstanding and the roads were dry.
GvS: We had breakfast outside the cafe, just at the top of Gold Hill. I don't think I've ever had a better view while enjoying my breakfast. Next in line were the hill figures: • Westbury White Horse • New Pewsey White Horse • Alton Barnes White Horse • New Devizes White Horse • Cherhill White Horse • Broad Town White Horse Some are better looking and better maintained than others; see for yourself in the video. The weather was excellent & the views over the Wiltshire hills was magnificent.
Heading for the campsite, we passed over one of Englands more remarkable landmarks: the magic roundabout in Swindon. Riding over this roundabout is a challenge, even for a Brit, let alone a foreigner. When we were there, there was the additional problem of a home-town football match. And all of the hooligans, sorry fans, wanted to pass this roundabout.
RJ: When I realized where we were, I did think “oh crap this could be a challenge”, but GvS took it steady and we weaved our way between fans and mounted Police; which added interest to an already challenging set of roundabouts. Worth Googling if you have never seen it.
GvS: Towards the end of the afternoon we arrived at the next campsite: Bridge House Campsite. Just a couple of miles south of Oxford. The campsite is small & primitive. There's no reception or fulltime caretaker. You have to fill in a form & put the money in an envelope & put it in a letterbox. Also the whole campsite, shares just 2 toilets. One of which appears to be inside the house of the caretaker (you pass their freezer & other stuff on the way to the toilet). All very quircky. For dinner we walked across the bridge to the other side of the Thames, to Shillingford Bridge restaurant & hotel.
Waiting for our dinner there (while enjoying a pint or 2), we witnessed a quarrel between a lady guest and the staff & manager: the middle-aged lady was definitely not pleased with the seating arrangements for her dinner. This went on for about 15 minutes, with quite a lot of verbal abuse, until her husband (we assume) arrived and whisked the lady away in about 5 seconds, while apologizing to the manager. We were totally surprised by this action. And so was the manager, we later spoke to. We've been wondering if the lady had some sort of mental illness, which you do not detect in normal circumstances. Anyway, dinner was fine & we sat outside overlooking the river Thames and some very nice boats, until it got too cold. And then returned to our tents. The night was quite noisy. It was Saturday night and it looked like local youths used the road over the bridge as a race track.
Post by De Graaf van Salland on Nov 8, 2014 22:55:51 GMT 1
Sunday Aug. 31
GvS: We forgot to buy some tins of rice pudding the day before, so it was only coffee and some biscuits for breakfast.
RJ. I think I was distracted with the bike issues and like you missed the Rice start. But my big breakfast went down well as a result.
GvS: Fortunately we found a biker cafe not long after setting off and had a cooked breakfast there. Weather was again fine and quite a lot of bikes turned up for breakfast.
First target for the day was the "Bridge of Sighs" in Oxford (officially known as Hertford Bridge). Under the bridge is a double yellow line, so we very quickly took a photo and rode away again before we got fined.
The last hill figure of this trip was the Whiteleaf Cross. Not a very impressive figure and you could very easily pass it if you didn't know it was there.
Here RJ and I split up. The original plan had been for him to come along with me to Harwich and ride home alone the next day. But the battery on his bike wouldn't charge with the headlight on. And the trip from Harwich back to his hometown would have meant riding in the dusk, which was not a very good idea. So RJ went home a little early, but that did mean that he didn't have to ride alone in semi-darkness.
RJ: It was a shame to end our trip early but the hill figures are a good excuse for a trip, even if some of them are a bit run down. I had a flyer of a trip home and not needing lights I had no issues with the bike. The roads were clear and dry so it was a happy ride home.
GvS: I continued alone towards Cambridge. At first it did feel very strange to be riding here all on my own. I have been in the UK very often, but rarely alone. The direct route to Harwich would mean that I would have had to wait for a very long time before my ferry left. So I had planned a de-tour via Cambridge. The route took me right through Luton town centre, which was a mistake. Next time I've got to more careful when planning. It also took me through the village of Melbourn, which was definitely not a mistake: another one of those picturesque English villages. Unfortunately, I didn't stop there, so the photo's in the video are all stolen from the interweb.
Cambridge was full of Japanese or Chinese tourists (I can't tell the difference ). I parked the bike on the pavement and bought myself an ice cream with flake and took a few photo’s.
The route I had planned, had been made using the “bendy roads” option in Garmin’s Base Camp. And I have to say that the programme did get me a lot of bendy roads
Another one of those picturesque villages where I stopped was Cavendish. Here I did take the time to make a few photo’s & video’s.
When I was about half an hour away from the ferry terminal, I searched on my sat.nav. for a place to have dinner. Only 3 miles from the ferry terminal was a McDonalds. Because I just wanted a quick snack, I set my sat.nav. to guide me there. After 20-25 min. of riding, I crossed a bridge over a big stretch of water. At that moment I thought: “this is not right” & found a lay-by to have a closer look at the navigation. It turns out that the McDonalds the sat.nav. was taking me, was across the water from Harwich, in Felixtowe ! I might have been only 3 miles, but it was across open water ! So I turned the bike around and rode the same bit of road back again.
There was nothing to eat at the ferry terminal, so I rode into Harwich to see if I could find a Fish & Chips shop. It was a quiet Sunday evening, but I did find one that was open. Unfortunately they didn’t take any cards and I hardly had any English cash on me. I did manage to scrape enough together for a “Chips and one sausage”. The chips were so greasy, I could have used them to change the oil in the bike. Looking back, I should have heated up the emergency rations I had with me.
Also waiting for the ferry was a large group of German scooter riders and a Scottish couple, also on scooters. The Germans were on their way home after going to a scooter-rally in the UK. The Scottish couple had come from the same rally, but were on their way to a rally in Belgium.
Loading the bikes was straight forward. The Stena line ferries have a couple of steel cables attached to the deck, parralel to each other, about a meter apart. You have to park the bike between the cables. Straps are supplied. The idea is that the strap is hooked under the steel cable on one side of your bike, then it goes over the seat and is attached to the steel cable on the other side. Using the ratchet you pull the strap tight. The ferry company doesn't supply a cushion to protect the seat, so I put my gloves between the strap & seat. Also the straps are very flimsy compared to the ones used on the Durkirk-Dover ferry.
Then I had to go up quite some floors. Fortunately there was a lift. I had already received my cabin key (smartcard type) when checking in, so I just had to find my cabin. These ferries are very big and I had to walk along long corridors before I found my cabin. The cabin is small (as you would expect), but the quality is good. Before I fell asleep, I did do a quick check where I could find the emergency exits, just in case there would be a repeat of the "Herald of Free Enterprise". But I was sleeping before the lines were cast off.
Post by De Graaf van Salland on Nov 8, 2014 23:02:57 GMT 1
GvS: I had accidentally left the TV on when I fell asleep, which was programmed to "Bridge TV" (=live view from the ship's bridge). So, when I woke up, the early morning light lit up the inside of my cabin even though I had booked an 'inside cabin' (i.e. no windows).
I had a lovely shower, just before the song "Don't worry, be happy" was piped through the sound system on the boat and woke up everybody else. Breakfast was good (perhaps a bit too much).
The sun was shining by the time the ferry docked in Hoek van Holland, but I still dressed up warmly. After all, it was still early and I had a 3-hours motorway trip ahead of me. Unfortunately there were quite a few roadworks, which caused traffic jams. I also started filtering, even though I wasn’t very happy with this because I didn’t exactly know how wide my bike was with the luggage attached. But I don’t think I hit or scraped a car.
Somewhere on my way home, a BMW motorbike overtook me. I greeted the other biker using my left hand. The other biker returned the salute, using his right hand.......(?). Normally this would cause a bike to lose it's speed of course, but this one kept up the speed. The only thing I could think of was that it was an unmarked police bike, because all Dutch police bikes have this modification. And, sure enough, a few minutes later I saw the same BWM biker check over a car.
The rest of the trip was boring, but I arrived home safe & happy, where our dog was ecstatic to see me again