On Friday 9 June I set off from my home in South East London for Stansted Airport. Yes. The airport. For the first (and only time) in 2017, I needed to travel not Powered by Me. Sad times I know. Some might even say I’ve ‘cheated,’ but my journey to Carcassonne for my friend Alex and Alice’s wedding was simply too far for me to travel human-powered (1,240km to be precise).
If I could have booked more time off work, it would have taken me well over a week to cycle there and another to get back. So instead I made the decision that this was my one and only holiday for the year and the only journey I was going to make using normal transport (return flights and a hire car). BUT. I had to cycle to the airport (and back). Essentially clocking off from Powered by Me once I left the country. So here is my guilt-free write up from the wedding and my ride to and from the airport. And I say guilt-free because I am content with the fact that this is the only exception for the year and all my other year-long human-powered efforts still count (with a total of 3,499.38km travelled Powered by Me to date).
[London] Stansted airport ride
I set off at 7.30am on 9 June for [London] Stansted airport, with London in brackets because it’s far from ‘London’ as most of us know it. A total distance of 70km was ahead of me which was going to take me around 5 hours with very little time to stop.
It was a warm, glorious day, with lots of sunshine and little breeze. Passing Mile End area in East London, it wasn’t long before I was cycling through the gorgeous Victoria Park (one of my favourites in London) en route to the canal towpath.
Once onto the canal, it was a dreamy flat 30 or so km ahead, passing through Stratford and the Olympic Park, Tottenham Hale and Waltham Abbey. It was lovely a quiet with only a few cobbles to get over when passing under some bridges.
Passing a mostly sunken boat, a load of swans and some horses having a cuddle the route took me off the canal and into Lee Valley Park, closely followed by the farm. I’d been to parts of Lee Valley before, but never through all of it and didn’t even know there was a farm in the park. It was picturesque, really quiet and perfectly flat.
After passing the park I reached Nazeing, a small village in Essex. My route took me down Tinkers Lane, off-road and literally through woodland. I had to hurl my bike up and over some turnstiles and once on Tinkers Lane it was so overgrown I got off my bike and pushed my way through the stinging nettles and brambles. I contemplated turning back and finding the road but was almost half way down Tinkers Lane. So I decided to commit, knowing there was a road up ahead about 1km away.
After what felt like a long 20 minutes or so I saw the clearing and road ahead. Thank goodness as by this point I was stung all over my legs from the nettles and was seriously reminding myself why I was doing this! Winding through quiet country lanes and passing through some larger towns I was close to the airport, which meant closer to my one and only holiday this year.
I arrived at the airport safe and sound and after a quick wash (with wet wipes of course) and a change of clothes I was on the 14.00 flight from [London] Stansted to Carcassonne. I was tired, delirious, seriously hungry and ready for my friend’s wedding.
I must admit, it felt weird getting non-human powered transport. But, it also felt really quite normal too. I think it’s because after getting off my bike at the airport, mentally and physically I had checked out of Powered by Me for the weekend, making sure I didn’t feel guilty about it, being proud of what I had achieved so far but also knowing I still had many months of cycling, walking and running ahead of me.
Chateau de Quille – Mr & Mrs Foley’s wedding #Chateautayfo
The next day I was sore, tired and very stiff. We had several hours to kill so I had some breakfast and joined my friend Luke for a stretch in the beautiful sunshine.
Chateau de Quille was just beautiful and perhaps the most romantic place I have seen anyone get married. The celebrations for Alice Taylor and Alex Foley’s wedding had begun with the hashtag #Chateautayfo used by many throughout. A day full of love, laughter and light (oh and some intense 30 degree plus sunshine over dinner, hence why the napkin hat!).
Back to London town
After 4 glorious nights of seeing friends, celebrating our friend’s marriage and lots of drinking, I headed to Broxted (my bed for the night) after landing back at Stansted airport. I was staying at the cute Church Hall Farm bed and breakfast and after checking in, ordered myself a post-hangover curry.
The next day I set off bright and early for London town, my home. I took the exact same route back and once again, it was quiet, flat and a beautiful day for riding.
It wasn’t long before I was back on the canal tow path and traffic free. If your lucky to get a road that’s quiet and pot-hole free it’s a bliss to ride on. Most of the time it’s busy(ish) with many pot-holes to dodge, so I love nothing more than going off the beat and track and cycling off road where all I have is nature and peace around me.
Soon enough I was passing once again through Lee Valley Park and hit the iconic Olympic Park in London (never get bored of it) which meant I was less than an hour from home.
After riding for 5 hours I arrived home just after lunchtime. A quick shower and bite to eat and I was back to work, working from home for the afternoon. Another successful long ride with a cheeky little non-human powered mini break in between.
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