Ride Journal – Egersund to Stavanger

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A few weeks ago I took the train down to Egersund to explore a length of the North Sea Cycle Route on my bike. I had heard lots of nice things about it and knew that Nordsjørittet – one of the most popular gravel races in Rogaland is held along much of the route. I was excited to experience riding the entire length of the Jæren region for the first time, known for its farmland and fields of glacial boulders, as well as feeling slightly nervous to be doing my first long ride in a good while. An hour or so of comfortable train ride later and I was pedalling out of town.

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The route starts out on an old railway track of gravel at Egersund (it was about 30% gravel over the whole 80km route) winding its way to the amazing beaches at Ogna. I really wanted to stay by the beach for longer but decided to keep on as I had no idea how slow I would be along the route!

I was already pretty tired, as the gravel section veered inland just before the beaches of Ogna and headed up into the steep rocky hills. I didn’t mind getting off to push as it gave me an excuse to take a lot of photos! I was the only person around for miles! Just me, an empty track and sunshine!

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Then I was properly heading up into Jæren! I made use of the wee villages dotted along the route to pop into a supermarket for some lunch and then started along the coastal gravel section. There were so many nice things about this route that I would be hard pushed to pick a favourite. However, the company of the sparkling sea to my left and beautiful Lapwings calling to their young in the fields to my right made this section of the coast (Kongevegen ) particularly special!

Freewheeling down from the eerily silent uplands to the lush fields filled with birdsong was a little like cycling into spring. I was glad that it was finally here!

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Obrestad lighthouse provided a welcome (if very windy) stop to savour a few pieces of Swedish chocolate biscuit. From then on it was a case of winding my way up the many cycle paths that line most of the main roads in northern Jæren up to Sola and then Stavanger. However, I made a wee diversion out to Vigdel strand to dip my toes in the sea.

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Vigdel Strand has to be my favourite cove on the whole of Jæren so far! There was a perfect spot to bivvy up on the headland and I can just see myself getting up out of my sleeping bag and going for a swim in the calm morning sea as the sun rises!

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I am hopefully going to have the opportunity to explore the Jæren coast a bit more on my bike soon, (Hå Prestegård in particular!) but for now here is a map I drew up showing my route and of course – I had to paint some Lapwings!

Jæren Coastal Walk

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I have been really taken recently with the Norwegian tradition of a Sunday family walk or ‘Søndagstur’. I like how enjoying nature seems so normal here in Norway and how young children are often part of the walk, so people are often dandering around at a very relaxed pace which means plenty of time for chatting and resting.

I am also really enjoying researching the Jæren coast here in Rogaland and looking for interesting walks along the shore. So when my girlfriend’s mum was visiting one misty Sunday this spring, we got together and headed out for a slow family walk by the sea!

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The walk starts at Tananger Indre Havn which is just outside Stavanger. I really want to come back to the harbour again in low evening light as there are quite a few lovely old buildings on the wharfs. From here on the rocky seashore scrambling begins!

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And what fun that scrambling is! It can be quite slow going on the sometimes slippy rocks but it is nice to slow down the pace. That way you  can enjoy the views out to sea and look out for seabirds and passing ships. Not that we could see the sea very much! (We could hear the ‘ghost ships’ though!)

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Returning to our car at the harbour we stayed a while to enjoy the first signs of spring and sip some lovely Norwegian filter coffee we had brought with us in a flask. I love this ‘Søndagstur’ tradition so much; I would love to try and do it as much as possible this year!

 

Mountain running plans for the year

Last winter I had my first try at a hill race at the Kendal Mountain festival. I really enjoyed it but as the winter has gone on I have been pondering what direction to take my running next.

So far I have learnt that my favourite part of fell running has to be fun technical downhill running! However, I currently (and hope to continue!) only travel around by bike and public transport, (mainly with environmental concerns in mind) and realise that to compete in even just a few fell races each year would mean a lot of travelling for me.

However, a big inspiration for me is the idea that by running I can explore more mountainous/upland terrain in one go and connect routes that would have previously been a logistical nightmare to walk. Hiking Pádhraic would have had to attempt such areas section by section and to return by public transport, which in many cases is pretty much impossible.

So this is where this year’s plans come in.

I grew up looking up at Slemish. It’s a wee rocky mountain overlooking a broad valley and I couldn’t begin to count how many times I have climbed it! It is a very special place for me. It also lies at the end of a long distance footpath called the Antrim Hills way. I have yet to explore many parts of the route and have never walked the whole 35km. So this summer I am aiming to find a good dry spell,(roughly a third is pathless bog!) get up really early and run/fast walk all the way from my door to the end at Glenarm (maybe dip myself in the sea too!). An afternoon bus later and I will be home for tea!

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I am also very lucky to be going on a wee holiday to Sognefjord for my Birthday next month! My bike can’t come with me unfortunately so I am planning to do loads of exploring on foot. I am not making many definite plans as the weather can still be quite wintery above 500m there in April but I do have one goal. To run up Storehaugfjellet!

The summit lies at 1173m and has beautiful views over Sogndal and across the fjord. I attempted to run it in December but ran out of daylight and turned back at around 900m. Once I left the tree line I did feel like some snow spikes (something I don’t own at the moment) would have been helpful but I think in similar conditions I will still be in a safe position as long as I give myself enough time to go very slowly and carefully on the steeper snow sections.

I have many more ideas but these are my main goals for this year. Keep an eye out on my twitter for updates or even just to have a wee chat. I would love to hear what running adventures people have planned for the coming year!

Norwegian Bikepacking Book – Villmarkssykling

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Last year I had the pleasure to work with Mikkel Soya Bølstad on his latest book about adventures by bike in the wilderness and nature of  Norway. I have been following his adventures and photography for a while on instagram so was really excited to work with him.

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I was initially just working on the maps of the bikepacking adventures he features in the book but at the end of the project I was asked to illustrate the cover as well! The designers did a really nice job on the cover so I was very happy with this surprise extra work!

I went to the book launch in Oslo and got my first look at the finished book and it was everything I had been dreaming of and more! In my second year of uni, just after I completed my first solo bike tour in the Hebrides, I searched all over the internet for beautiful photography showcasing adventure cycling. I was really hungry for visual inspiration but I hardly found anything at all!

Fortunately, there has been a lot of positive interest in bikepacking recently, and now websites like bikepacking.com are doing a great job at providing beautiful stories and photography to inspire you to get out there on your next adventure. I think Mikkel’s book perfectly embodies all those things I was looking for when I first started getting into travelling and camping with my bike. Now I just have to up my Norwegian translation skills so I can read it!

Christmas Card Design

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This year’s Christmas card was again inspired by an Irish poet. I used the words of Seamus Heaney from his poem An Ulster Twilight  as inspiration for the design and had plenty of fun researching into the poet’s background and story.

Designing with pattern I wanted to show various important elements from the poem but I also tried to include some atmospheric details too, as for me the poem conjures up some beautiful cinematic and peaceful imagery  like Lough Beg that I felt had be painted too.

I am not sure yet what I will come up with for next year’s card but it would be great if I could keep up the theme of my home in Northern Ireland. I find it really inspiring to explore things like folk history and rural life when I am working and would love to do more things like this design. Until then, have a great cosy Christmas holiday!

Climbing a Fell in the Lake District

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This November I finally made it back to the Kendal Mountain festival! I managed to watch some really inspirational fell running films on the big screen and I also took part in my first fell/trail race up on to Scout Scar.

Having made the long trip to get there, I didn’t want to waste the opportunity for some winter walking in the Lake District, so with the good company of my sister we headed for the fells.

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Red Screes was our goal and once we had climbed out of Ambleside I quickly remembered how refreshing it was to be high up in an upland valley, lost in our own thoughts, keeping our heads down in the rain.

We didn’t mind the poor weather as we knew it would pass by late morning, when we would be high up near the summit, looking down on the path we had arrived by, far down below us on the valley floor. 

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The descent was genuinely awe inspiring and it has been a long time since I have felt so good about a day’s climbing. However, the stand-out moment for me came when 2 fell runners flanked by their dog came bounding effortlessly down past us as we climbed towards the summit. We watched them as they ran as tiny specks of colour below us against the shadow of Fairfield, until they merged into stone wall and heather and were gone.  Maybe one day I will return and that will be me running!

Feast – Poster design for Lost and Found

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This was a really fun commission from Lost and Found coffee shop for their series of evening gathering events, celebrating local food.

Based in Coleraine, on the North coast of Northern Ireland, Lost and Found has quickly become one of my favourite local businesses that have popped up since I left home to study in Cornwall. I love their ethos and appreciation of good design and can’t wait to see more inspiring events from them in the near future!

Climbing Clougha Pike

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At the start of the summer, Champion Lad, of Jerome Twell fame (see previous post here) travelled all the way up to Lancashire for a few days hanging out and climbing hills.

The weather was perfect  and after some time exploring Lancaster itself we headed up into the fells with the goal of reaching Clougha Pike and then walking home down the Lune valley.

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We took a while actually getting up onto the open terrain of Bowland as we spent well over half an hour reverting to our childhood ways, with a full on dam and cairn building session in a beautiful green valley with a stream cascading down it! It still surprises me how much fun it can be to play in the outdoors, even as an adult!

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Up onto the heather and under a beating sun we spent the morning looking for lapwings and testing our bird knowledge on each other. Reaching the summit it was time to discuss the merits of the various varieties of cheese we had brought with us (we went a bit mad in the supermarket!).

We discovered that there is a really good track up there so I definitely want to bring a bike up one day to cover a bit more ground and explore more!

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I am so glad Jerome made the trip up, as it was just great to be able to share the open hills with a friend, especially when we had such a nice weather window! I am already planning how I can get down to the midlands in the new year, so we can head into the Peak District!

Cycling in Longsleddale, Cumbria

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Earlier this year, I met up with my good friend Bee in the Lake District, where she is working on lots of exciting steam bending and craft projects. As I am currently getting very excited for my next adventures in Cumbria when I travel to the Kendal Mountain Festival, I thought I would share some photos from a cycle ride we did together up the Longsleddale valley.

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It was a particular special trip for me, as lots of my ancestors lived and farmed in Longsleddale and as we rode our bikes down the narrow lane that takes you up to the end of the valley I tried to imagine what their lives must have been like working on those steep hillsides. I sometimes wish I knew more about farming and my family history and I think that maybe in future visits to the lakes I can try and explore more farms and try to gather some stories to inspire my illustrations.

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There were so many interesting things to see on the ride up to the valley as well. Bee showed me a great barn that housed an amazing collection of boats, tools and all sorts of unusual old things. It was hidden down a wee lane and I really felt like we were discovering something secret and special!

A birthday barbecue in the evening sun at the beautiful Witherslack finished off a great trip! I know that there are many beautiful landscapes out there but perhaps due to nostalgia or maybe just too much Arthur Ransome as a child, I always feel a little bit sad when I have to leave the Lake District.

Cycling across Bowland and Salter Fell

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Here are a few photos from a ride I made across the moors of Bowland, Lancashire. I rode my Raleigh Randonneur bicycle across a fantastic rough track of gravel, boulders and ancient Roman pavement. This was my first real off road ride of any distance and I learned later that my Uncle and Grandad made the exact same crossing on the Salter Fell track many years ago!

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The glorious feeling of paved road again as I finally made it off the moor and onwards to the Trough of Bowland for some excellent climbing and miles of beautiful descent by the Marshaw Wyre river.

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I had concerns about impending thunderstorms and had made a half way point of no return on the map. I didn’t quite reach it on time but I was too eager to continue and went on ahead anyway. On the way down the final section I met a couple riding the other way on a mountain bike tandem!

I am now doing much more offroad riding here in Norway, having just got my very own Cyclocross bike!

In the picture above you can see the view off to Three Peaks country and Ingleborough. This morning I discovered the Three Peaks CX race online and now I really want to ride a bike up around the mountains there. I didn’t quite make it into the Yorkshire Dales this year but who knows where my bike will take me next year!