Monday 9 September 2013

THE NORTH SEA ... cycle route

Muriel's been a bit neglected this summer, as her crew have been away cycling the North Sea Cycle Route, a long distance international cycleway.  We started from our home in Devon, cycling from Exmouth along Sustrans route 2 to Dover before crossing to Dunkirk and heading north on route LF10 to Rotterdam. This is where the North Sea route begins.  From there it was north to Germany, Denmark, Sweden (crossing from Grenaa to Varberg) and into Norway.  We then crossed to Shetland, then Orkney and finally to John O'Groats, from where we headed home.  In all we cycled about 4000 miles in exactly 14 weeks.  All but 4 nights were spent in our small tent, a far cry from M's comfortable cabin. Here are some photos of our journey. 

The route

Starting out - newly trimmed, like the grass

A lunch stop along England's lovely south coast

One of many ferry crossings needed to get to Dover along the Sustrans coast route

South coast towns. Great beaches, great promenades, great weather... Greggs

The Sussex port of Rye

A heated bollard in Folkstone

The Belgian coast - don't worry, we told him it's all over (and who won)

Marinas and sea ports - welcome changes among Belgium's long line of coastal tower blocks

Boats, boats, boats - well, it is a sea route we're cycling

Plenty of cargo.  All essential for a three month trip
We're in the Netherlands

More boats and some picturesque Dutch towns

Lunch at a museum. Tea, cakes and 60 year old motorcycles - bliss

Big boats, big docks

Everyone in the Netherlands cycles - no hills in sight

We rested for a day every 6 - 9 days. Our second rest day was spent in Katwijk aan Zee, in the Netherlands

Flat and easy - Dutch cycling

The start of a 32 km dam, the Afsluitdijk...

... with the wind behind us we flew across

More ports, more lovely towns, more sunshine - great summer, so far

Germany, and the dyke begins.  We were to see this sea defence for the next 3 weeks.  And the stripey light houses, they seemed to be everywhere along the German coast and into southern Denmark

History in Wilhelmshaven

Old ships ... 

... and new ones.  

Busy, busy, busy.  The German coast line

German engineering 

The Elbe.  A fantastic  river - for most


Sea Conger enters the Kiel Canal on her way to the Baltic from the Elbe estuary

Picturesque Germany 
Denmark ...

... and more, erm, boats

Danish churches - there are loos and somewhere to sit.  Cyclists' heaven

No more dyke - just dunes and beaches

And more ferry crossings.  High sided - we wondered what the weather could be like here

Local boat building style

Skagen, where two seas meet.  The North Sea on the left, the Baltic on the right

And another ferry.  Short crossings, usually, but a nice rest  

Some ferries are small, some are big.  This was our crossing to Sweden.  Four hours, all you can eat buffet - he, he
Sweden and rock after weeks of sand.

It looks a bit flat as well

There are benches, and there are benches


Rocks and ferries

Swedish Americana: big cars and wooden houses
Norway - I've lost 15 stone getting here and Sue was the same height as me when we started, but we've made it

Island hopping on the east coast - it's a lovely break from the hills. Norway not only has oil but minerals as well, and they're all in these rocks.  Many are only found here, Canada and on the moon, apparently

From flat to hilly

A lovely old wooden ferry.  We got here at 0800, it left at 1145.  If it wasn't for the bikes we would have swam across

Crazy Guy.  A Canadian cycling from Iceland to Torquay on a recumbent trike and living in Norwegian hotels (v-expensive).  I said he was called Crazy Guy

Some paths are better than others

What a view, what a campsite.  Kristiansund £39 to pitch a tent, the showers are miles away, the place is minging ..

Big hills, high bridges

Fjords and mountains - we're approaching the west coast

Tunnels are to be avoided ...

... for safe, happy cycling

A canal in Norway, it's true

We crossed to Shetland and cycled from Lerwick

Shetland: it's a wild and lonely place

A Puffin a Sumburgh Head

It's not as flat as it looks, not on a bike

Shetland has strong links to Scandinavia

Orkney is more gentle than Shetland - especially to cyclists

A chapel on Orkney built by Italian prisoners in 1943 

Our final ferry - to John O'Groats

Only about 900 miles to go

We head South, for the Highlands

Not quite Dutch standard but UK cycle paths are not too bad

Glasgow - a big surprise to us.  Modern, cultural, vibrant, interesting, busy - Glasgow  has it all

England - the hoof for home begins ...

... and soon slows on the most severe hills of the trip.  Not the long 5 km climbs of Norway but steep (25% in places) and frequent, the Dales and Peaks are a killer

Apparently the Tour de France will come over this summit in 2014 - not carrying their own luggage they won't

Birmingham - we feel at home now

Gloucester Docks for lunch

A final stop - Lympstone on the Exe

Home - trim, unlike the grass

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