25 May 2009

A week in Wales...

Around 20 years or so ago Lynda and I discovered a little holiday hideaway on the Welsh coast, the village of Aberporth. Since that first visit we’ve returned many times - we’ve lost count but it must be about 12 or 13 times. Last week, we spent yet another week relaxing at The Penrallt Hotel, this time in one of their self-catering cottages.

Our holiday cottage.

The weather wasn’t amazing but it wasn’t all that bad either. We hadn’t planned on doing much other than relaxing, eating, drinking and also going to a gig on the Thursday night. No break would be complete for me without a small amount of birding at some point so we spent a few hours at the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve, Mwnt beach and also Aberporth beach. By the end of the week I’d recorded a total of 67 bird species. Most of these I could easily see here within my 10-mile zone but one or two were birds that would be considered as scare or unheard of in Derbyshire.

Sighting of the week was without doubt the two Chough that we saw at Mwnt, closely followed by the numerous Red Kites that we came across. Cetti’s Warblers were singing and showing well, for Cetti’s, at Teifi Marshes. Fulmar, Gannet, Shag, Kittiwake and Guillemot were the pick of the sea birds but waders were very thin on the ground with only Oystercatcher and Curlew being found. A couple of Wheatear were on Mwnt along with a Rock Pipit and a single Grey Wagtail was spotted in Cardigan town centre. Swift, Swallow and House Martin could all be seen from our cottage whilst Sand Martin were present at Teifi Marshes. As well as the Red Kites we also saw plenty of Buzzard, a couple of Kestrel and a Peregrine that was hunting over Aberporth village.

The indoor swimming pool, and also spa pool, at the hotel was put to good use on a couple of occasions but nothing like as often as we used the hotel's catering facilities! The Penrallt has always been very good when it comes to food but the standard was higher than ever this year. Even though we were in a self-catering cottage we found ourselves eating in the hotel every day - and also enjoying the delicious cappuccino coffee that they make too. The bar met with my approval the moment I spotted a bottle of Talisker whisky! The free WiFi connection available in the hotel lounge came in handy too - just how did we ever survive without the internet?

Before we set off on our holiday Lynda had been checking the internet for events in the Aberporth area, her searching came up with a gig in Cardigan by the Michael McGoldrick Band. I have to admit I wasn’t aware of this band before Lynda found them but I’ll now be keeping a look out for them in the future - the gig was great! Michael McGoldrick is a superb Uillean pipe player and also an amazing flute player. Checking out his past work on the internet revealed a huge list of names that he has performed with in the past - Kate Rusby, Eddi Reader, Sharon Shannon, John McCusker and also bands such as Capercaillie and Shooglenifty all appear. There was also an awesome Bodhran player in the band - John Joe Kelly - who kept me spellbound throughout the whole gig. His Bodhran solo was one of the highlights of the evening! The gig left me on such a high that it wasn’t until we set off back to the cottage that I realised just how hungry I was - a quick stop off at the local supermarket for supplies soon sorted that out. I was cooking myself a Chicken Jalfrazi a short while later!

As we spent much of the week doing very little I don’t have too many photos but here are a few of my favourites...


Teifi Marshes.

Water Buffalo, in Wales?!

Poppit Sands.


We almost always see Dolphins whilst in the Aberporth area, this year this was as close as we came!

10 May 2009

BHF ride...

Yesterday was my sponsored cycle ride in the Vale of Belvoir and I’m pleased to say I completed the 40 miles without any problems. The weather was good - dry and bright with only a steady breeze - the route superbly signed and marshalled and the sausage, bacon and egg sandwich I had after the ride was great! You can’t ask for much more!

Belvoir Castle.

Lynda and I arrived at Belvoir Castle at around 8:00AM giving me plenty of time to sign in and to get the bike out of the car and the front wheel back in place (I have to remove it to get it in the car!). I then went for a quick warm-up ride up and down the entrance road to the castle.

Ready for the off.

At just before 9:00AM the organisers called the riders to the start line and then began to release people in batches of around 30 at a time. I hung back a little and set off at the back of the 3rd group. The first mile or so was a bit slow going due to all the riders that were trying to get out of the park and onto the open road. After that, things settled down and I was able to pick up speed a little. I wanted to ride an average 16mph so that I could complete the ride in 2hrs 30min and that’s just how it worked out.

The riders gather...

Only 40 miles to go!

Much of the route was reasonably flat but there were also three or four punishing climbs too. Two of the hills saw many riders having to revert to the “pushbike” mode of transport and get off their machines and push. Somehow, I managed to spin my way to the top of all the climbs without having to get off my bike! The amount of cycling I do may have helped me up the hills but I think a lot of it was to do with riding the new Cannondale - it’s just so much lighter than my old bike!

The fastest part of the ride for me came at just after 30 miles when the route took a short but steep descent towards the village of Branston. The GPS tracker on my phone clocked me at 40.9mph down the narrow country lane. If only I’d been pedalling the bike I may have been able to push that speed up a little! As it happened, I was too busy looking out for potholes and gravel to have time for spinning the pedals as well!

At the end of the ride I felt much better than I’d expected I would. My legs felt good, I certainly wasn’t out of breath and my energy levels felt okay too. Although there were a number of refreshment stops on the route I chose to ignore them and instead carried my own energy drink and flapjack bars. I ate and drank at regular intervals, whilst on the move, and it certainly kept me from “hitting the wall” and running out of energy.

The end of the ride!

So, all in all, a great time was had. If this event is run again next year I’m pretty certain I’ll be taking part. The GPS tracker on my phone did highlight one little “issue” though... the ride is advertised as a 40-mile route. My GPS reckons I did 40.51 miles! Perhaps having to weave my way through the crowds and then up the steepest of the climbs accounts for the extra distance!

Thank you to the British Heart Foundation for organising a great event and THANK YOU to everyone that sponsored me!

Whilst I took part in the ride Lynda took a walk around the castle and grounds - you can see more photos HERE.

Today, I woke up feeling none the worse for the cycling yesterday so took the bike out again. I told Lynda I was going for a steady ride around the local roads and would be back within 20 minutes or so. An hour and a half later I returned home from a 25 mile ride! I sort of got carried away!

08 May 2009

One last push...

In less than 12 hours I’ll be starting my sponsored bike ride for the British Heart Foundation. The weather isn’t looking too bad and I’m all set to go!

I’ve had quite a good day today raising sponsorship - my total stands at £220 at the moment - but I really would like to reach my £250 target. The Justgiving web page is still open so please consider making a donation. Every single pound can make a difference to someone's life.

07 May 2009


There is now less than 36 hours until I take part in the Vale of Belvoir cycle ride in aid of the British Heart Foundation. My sponsorship drive is going okay, but it’s not going great! I really would appreciate more sponsors!

So far I have pledges totalling £155 and I’d like to thank everyone that has sponsored me so far.

Please, if you haven’t done so already, visit my Justgiving page and add your name to the list.

Thank you for your support everyone!