Josie Dew

Welcome to the official website of Josie Dew: cyclist, writer and cook.


TIME FLIES WITH THE WIND IN MY WHEELS. June 2022

Time flies. It’s exactly 30 years since my first book The Wind in my Wheels was published in 1992. Thirty years sounds like several thousand blue moons ago yet I remember all the cycling missions I wrote about in that book as if they were yesterday. That’s one of the many boons about going off on a long-winded cycling jaunt, especially alone – the clarity and intensity of the experience carves itself into your memory like stone.

It was also 30 years ago that I cycled around Hawaii and across America – a total of over 6000 miles. So here are some of my USA snapshots from yesteryear.

When people ask me are my lengthy bike-touring days behind me I reply, ‘Not on your Nelly!’ because I like to think I’ve got a lot of wind in my wheels to get under my belt yet. It’s just that I’m currently in the midst of a child-rearing phase (interspersed with regular doses of school-holiday-length voyages by bike and by foot).  But once my young threesome are older and the restraints of school no longer apply the wider world beckons. Daisy has expressed keenness to join me cycling from Alaska to Patagonia. Then there’s the appeal of riding up through Africa and cycling home from Australia (via Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Island – I fancy re-cycling around those fair and wind-blown Nordic lands again). Last year even Gary expressed interest in cycling across Russia with me though frankly I think he would rather go in his 64-year old Morris Minor. There again, he’ll probably rather be in his workshop making more things like go-carts powered by old electric drills.

Hello from an upside down Faroe Islands 1992.

The Mittens of Monument Valley. Utah, USA.

Cycling through a drive-through giant redwood in Northern California.

A Buddha and a bicycle. Maui, Hawaii.

Splat onto the volcanic black sands of Waipio Valley, Hawaii.

Top of Waimea Canyon, Kauai.

After 2 days of cycling up hill I arrived at the top of Haleakala’s House of the Sun volcano, Maui.

High up and out-for-the- count.

Riding to Kauai’s spectacularly mountainous coast.

Oh, storm coming!

Not the most reassuring sign to see when you stop for a roadside wee.

Canyon country, Utah.

Dwarfed by the massive sandstone hulks of Zion Canyon, Utah.

The sun beats down on a lonesome desert highway.

Cooling off in Colorado.

Crossing the Continental Divide in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

I’d rather not, thanks.

Gary’s 1958 Morris Minor with Jack doing a fly-past on his go-cart made by Gary out of a few lumps of steel.

The Makita cordless combi drill which provides Jack with 2 gears.

Look out, here comes the Drillmobile.

 

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POGO-STICKING IN DORSET April 2022

Much as I would like to cycle everywhere all of the time it’s proving more and more difficult to do with three children in tow who only either want to cycle some places some of the time or no places none of the time. This means I still cycle most places most of the time but when it comes to their holidays I try to compromise instead. Hence, this Easter I went on travels with a pogo stick instead of a bike.

Leaving Gary in his element (making windows in his workshop) I piled Molly, Daisy and Jack into our rusty, leaking 26-year-old camper van and off we took to Corfe Castle, visiting Nanny Val (Gary’s mum) en-route in Blandford. We found a place to camp near a pile of bushes outside Corfe with some roe deer and their fawn as company. The camper stayed motionless for a week while we walked miles and miles among the glories of the Isle of Purbeck hills and coast. Along with the Isle of Wight, this is the first place I cycle-toured with gusto from the age of 11 to 15 and I will never tire of the place. Give me a Dancing Ledge any time of year and I’m happy.

Just heading off on my morning’s pogo-stick session.

Keeping to the good old tradition of travelling light.

Corfe of course!

The young tribe bearing down on Corfe.

Jack contemplating launching himself over the side.

There he goes.

Stepping down to Dancing Ledge.

Stepping into Dancing Ledge.

Daisy attempting a selfie.

Jack bucket-dancing at Dancing Ledge.

Molly engrossed in teaching herself a seaside spot of crocheting.

Purbeck cliff-top loveliness.

Cosy sardines in a motorised can.

Night-dwelling with a crocheting Molly and Daisy (their new-found fad). Jack’s in his upper sleeping shelf quarters watching Thomas the Tank Engine.

 

 

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KING ALFRED’S WAY August 2021

Back in the summer school holidays I tackled King Alfred’s Way with two of my three offspring – Daisy (11) and Jack (who was 7 when he started the ride and 8 by the time we finished).

King Alfred’s Way is a 220 mile (350km) route that is immersed in 10,000 years of history. The route loops around historic Wessex, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Alfred the Great and takes you to places like Stonehenge, Woodhenge, Avebury stone circle, Larkhill cursus, Figbury Ring, Uffington White Horse, Caesar’s Camp, Iron Age hill forts, Roman roads, Silchester, Old Sarum, the Vale of Pewsey, Salisbury Plain, the Ridgeway, the Monarch Way, the South Downs Way as well as a good smattering of castles and cathedrals.

Of course you can start and finish the ride wherever you like but tradition has it to start and finish in Winchester near the cathedral at King Alfred’s bronze statue, erected in 1899 to mark one thousand years since Alfred’s death (he’s buried in Winchester). We started from home so did a sizeable chunk of the immensely hilly South Downs Way before we even made it to Winchester.

We carried everything we needed on the bikes and my Bob Yak trailer (water, food, tent, clothing, books, radio and sloth) and navigated our route with 8 Ordnance Survey maps. Each day we didn’t know where we would spend the night apart from hoping it would be somewhere near the side of the track in our Terra Nova Starlight 3 tent.

We ended up cycling 232 miles but didn’t do the whole of the official route due to veering this way and that (cycling with children you have to keep them happy by going with the wind). Sometime soon I’ll go back and ride it all again (official route) and maybe even do it alone (wishful thinking).

Jack rode his second hand 24-inch wheel Squish.

Daisy rode her 27-inch wheel Scott.

I rode my 26-inch wheel, 35-year-old Orbit.

For more info see: www.facebook.com/itsjosiedew/

About to tackle the south face of Butser Hill (highest point of the South Downs – 889 ft, 271 metres)

Camping in field on the South Downs.

Camping in another field near Salisbury.

Camping on a farm near Avebury stone circle.

Camping in a churchyard.

Our one and only night in doors in 3 weeks and our one and only bath. Good for doing our one and only proper clothes wash. Travelodge, Amesbury.

Inner tent cycling Top Trumps.

Jack giving Daisy a helping push.

Taking it slowly through overgrown nettles.

Warning: Tanks ahoy! Crossing the ‘pretend’ war zone of the military training area of Salisbury Plain.

Atop of Harting Hill.

Have sloth will travel.

Crossing the M3. We’re glad we’re up here and not down there.

Entering Winchester

Winchester Cathedral

Big skies, old barns near Sparsholt.

The sad sight of a ‘ghost bike’ placed at the spot where David Davenport, a 59 year-old from Eastleigh was hit by a car in June this summer while cycling along this road. He was taken to Southampton General Hospital where he died a week later as a result of his injuries.

Jack’s 8th birthday in a playground where we were camping.

Sizing up our wild camping spot.

Track side snacks.

Daisy coming in to land.

Near the Long Barrows of Larkhill.

Long bike, narrow bridge

Picnic spot on the Ridgeway on Penning Down. We’re sitting beside the memorial that commemorates the death of a German soldier who died here in 1993.

The one and only Stonehenge spotted on a perfect day.

Gary and Molly meeting up with us at Avebury Stone Circle.

 

 

 

 

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POST-LOCKDOWN CYCLING ESCAPES SPRING/SUMMER 2021

Post-lockdown we’ve gone somewhere, if not far, and slid sideways to Dorset.

Thanks to lockdown growth Jack has grown about a foot and Daisy is now taller than me -not difficult seeing as I’m the human equivalent of perfect travel kit (small, compact and packable). So here are the younger pedalling team, demonstrating their bigger bikes at Bosham.

Slippery slipway onto the Itchenor ferry.

Aboard with bikes.

Picnic spot bike park. On show: Jack’s 24-inch wheel Squish, Daisy’s 29-inch wheel Scott, my 30-year-old 26-inch wheel Orbit.

Bike chains. Itchenor.

It says: NO BIKES. We say: YES BIKES. Especially as the bike way is flooded!

Me bringing up the rear.

Hills high, rivers deep.

2.5 years is a long time for a granny not to see her only grandchildren. We couldn’t see Gary’s mum in 2019 for one reason or another and then. when we were about to see her in 2020 Covid struck with its multiple lockdowns and rules. So at the beginning of June, when more freedom returned, I bundled bikes and offspring and camping kit into the battered leaking camper and took off to cycle around Dorset and to see Nanny Val at last.

Daisy and Corfe Castle

Me mid-push near Church Knowle.

More pushing up Knowle Hill.

Atop Knowle Hill.

Collapsed on Knowle Hill.

Upright again!

Waiting for our steam train (Swanage Railway).

In a proper guard’s van with proper windows you can stick your head out of.

With Nanny Val at last!

The reunited reunion.

NEWS JUST IN:  This summer school holidays I will be heading off with bike, trailer, children, tent and trusty Swiss Army knife on King Alfred’s Way (a mostly off-road route that loops 220 miles around historic Wessex, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Alfred the Great).

We will be carrying all the food, water and camping clobber that we need and putting up our tent wherever we can – hopefully somewhere near the side of the track.

We are raising money for our primary school and village hall (money raised will go towards sports/play/exercise equipment – like bikes!). If anyone would like to spur us on please go to:

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/bike4school

 

 

 

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SNOW, RAIN AND OLD SUN. 2021 SO FAR (with some yesteryear thrown in to dry us out).

Well, that’s Feb half term done and dusted. It rained and it rained and it rained and then it rained again and then there was a rare glimmer of sun so I put the sheets out and then it hailed. And then it rained. I think the highlight was going litter-picking in the roadside muddy ditches with Daisy and Jack and finding 2 big-cupped bras. (Anyone out there missing any?).

Another highlight was cycling to the dump to get rid of an old kitchen sink that Gary found at work on one of his building jobs. A lot of wisecrackers think that because I cycle with so much baggage and clobber and weight on my bike that I must have a kitchen sink on board. This time I really did – minus the mixer taps. We’re using those in our kitchen.

So along with some snow and putting-large-things-on-bikes photos here are some slightly more sunny pictures to warm the winter cockles – pictures from bygone days a-wheel.

No need for a four-by-four in the snow when you’ve got a three-by-two.

The snow-and-ice mobile. On two wheels ice is dangerous. On three wheels it’s fun.

As demonstrated by Jack.

Lockdown 3 homeschooling in full swing. The lesson: DIY sledging on an old piece of plastic we use to grow veg under.

How to carry a kitchen sink on your bike.

How to carry a bike on a trike.

That’s my cycle when cycling in Nepal and India 1988/89.

Sahara desert. Algeria. 1985.

Japan 1994

Atlas Mountains, Morocco 1988

Iceland 1987

Mexico (with vultures) 1993.

Crossing USA 1992

Cycling across USA (Monument Valley)1992.

The Netherlands 2016

The Netherlands 2017

The Netherlands 2018

A good notice to notice.

Road closures often mean rough roads which can lead to…

…tightening your bra straps as a precaution.

The End. From Mexico 1993.

 

 

 

 

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THE SOUTH DOWNS WAY – Travels with a pram. Summer 2020

Propping up the pram. If I let go I’ll be flattened. This hill near Harting Down is a lot steeper than it looks. My right arm is quivering.

This summer I walked the South Downs Way with offspring in tow (Molly 13, Daisy 10, Jack 7).

The South Downs Way (a Bronze Age trading route) is 100 miles long (we went west-to-east – Winchester to Eastbourne) with a total of around 13,000ft of ascent. There were downhills too but, when you’re pushing what feels like the equivalent weight of half an elephant, most of the way felt very uphill. With various excursions to find food or diverting off course to look at interesting sights etc we did 118 miles altogether.

We started off heaving and hauling all our kit in a Dutch Walking Wagon (a glorified wheelbarrow) but it was so heavy and slow I swopped it for a fourth-hand pushchair. The girls walked while Jack pushed or cycled his bike.

Molly heaving the Walking Wagon with Daisy bringing up the rear.

My pushing-pulling team: Molly, Daisy, Jack.

We carried a lot of excess clobber with us including a dumper truck. But it kept Jack happy for hours.

We spent 3 weeks on the move (half of August and the beginning of September) which was about a week longer than I estimated (heatwaves and days of storms and rain at the beginning hampered progress).

The worst storm to hit was Storm Francis which the Met Office said had lashed the UK with ‘unseasonably strong gusts of nearly 80mph (129kph) winds and heavy rain’. We were camping near Cocking Down at the time. We nearly got blown into oblivion.

It’s raining men, hallelujah.

Life in tent during the build up to Storm Francis.

One of the advantages of living outside for 3 weeks is that children sleep through anything – even tent-flapping storms.

Jack relishing the sun again.

Heading down off Butser Hill, which at 271m (889ft) is the highest point along the South Downs Way. (Molly is with her school friend Lucy who joined us for some of the walk).

Jack had his 7th birthday in a rainy field above Buriton.

View from tent door near Forty Acre Lane near South Harting.

On the Downs what goes down must go up. Near Mount Sinai, south of Elsted.

Jack on large lump of chalk near Cocking.

Jack about to attack Daisy on Heyshott Down.

Chilly camping on Graffham Down. Wild camping is not allowed on the Downs so every night where we couldn’t get permission (which was most nights!) we tried our best to tuck ourselves out of the way.

Apart from one night in a hostel’s bunkroom at Southease, we camped at the side of the track every night, often sleeping on hard, lumpy ground beside old chalk pits, Roman roads and ruins, Iron Age hill forts and tumuli (burial mounds). The views from high up on the whale-back ridge of the Downs were constantly magnificent: a line of coast and expanse of sea on one side; the multi-varied patchwork of fields and woodlands and villages of the Weald on the other.

Crossing a stubble field on Littleton Down, west of Bignor.

Big skies and rolling hills near the Roman Road of Stane Street.

The rough and rutted tracks caused the pram to capsize far too often. The effort of re-righting needed a lot of effort. By the end I had a lot of names for the pram none of which were complimentary.

Heading up Amberley Mount.

Top of Amberley Mount.

View from tent on Kithurst Hill.

Puncture! All change.

About to put the tent up on Chanctonbury Hill.

Misty morning view from camp spot.

 

 

 

Jack and Daisy eating through some of the contents from the local bakery in Steyning High Street. We had to come down off the Downs to replenish food supplies.We carried enough food for a week (we only saw 3 shops in 3 weeks) and 8 litres of water, which was about enough to last 2 days depending on the weather. (Water taps are dotted along the Downs at rather irregular intervals).

Trying to dry our clothes on my homemade inner tent washing line.

Camping up near Ditchling Beacon.

Jack throwing a stone into a dew pond (no relation).

The windblown threesome.

Jack had his 7th birthday in a field above Buriton. Gary came out to meet us there with a prepared-before-the-programme cake I’d made and frozen.  It rained very hard and we sang happy birthday to Jack while kitted out in full waterproof regalia.

We had 1 shower, several washes beneath cold taps and 3 punctures in 3 weeks.

For navigation I used a small OS 1:25,000 scale map book of the Downs. I gave Daisy and Jack daily lessons on how to map read, identify symbols, read a compass and estimate the time of day from the position of the sun in true Rambo style. The advantage of using an OS map is that it doesn’t need charging – plus it makes great reading. It told us we were passing places like Scabby Brow, Plonk Barn, Cheesefoot Head, The Bosom, Mount Sinai, Muggery Pope, Granny’s Belt, Grandfather’s Bottom, Winding Bottom, Well Bottom, Bushy Bottom, Moon’s Bottom, Deep Bottom, Long Bottom, Loose Bottom and Breaky Bottom. Yes, up on the Downs you look down upon a lot of Bottoms.

Heading up the short, sharp steepness of Bunkershill Plantation.

The wind tends to blow from only one direction on the Downs (south-westerly) giving most exposed trees a bad hair day look.

A blue sky high on Iford Hill.

On the old military road with our first Seven Sister in sight.

In the field where we crossed from the Western Hemisphere into the Eastern Hemisphere.

Daisy climbing up the Down above Breaky Bottom Vineyard.

Daisy and cows Itford Hill.

Dog poo bag swinging in the breeze – unfortunately an all-too-common sight of fence adornments on the Downs. TAKE IT HOME!!

Full steam ahead with views of Mount Caburn and Firle Beacon.

Finally, on a perfect cloud-free day, we tackled the dramatic roller coaster coastline of the Seven Sisters. It was a long 13-mile day. Not long after the sun set behind Belle Tout lighthouse we donned head torches so as not to fall over Beachy Head by mistake and made it to Eastbourne in darkness.

Jack tackling a Seven Sister with Daisy bringing up the rear.

I would push the pram up one Seven Sister before running back down to push up Jack’s bike.

Sunset over Belle Tout lighthouse.

Daisy coming in to land.

Night time arrival at the end in Eastbourne. Or the beginning if you’re about to head for Winchester. (The signpost says: Winchester 100 miles.

We headed home inland for a while. Stiles and loaded prams are not a happy mix.

Waiting for the train home.

 

Molly, Daisy and Jack raised £370 for the NHS and around £2200 for our village primary school where Jack and Daisy still go to school.

For more updates see: www.facebook.com/itsjosiedew/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OPERATION WALKING WAGON 2020

Molly and Daisy taking the strain on the South Downs Way in 2014

As I think it’s probably best not to venture too far from home this summer in the hope of giving that stealthy and villainous virus a wide berth, my wheels will be staying firmly put this side of any seas or oceans or watery channels.

Goose on full power heaving wagon up hill

Instead, sometime in early August, I’m swapping my bike wheels for four wheelbarrow ones as I fancy attempting to walk the 100-mile length of the South Downs Way with my three boisterous offspring: Molly (13), Daisy (10) and Jack (6). Molly’s school friend Lucy will also be coming with us. We will be pushing and pulling, hauling and heaving a Walking Wagon (a large glorified Dutch wheelbarrow) containing all the camping kit and clobber that we need to keep us going for a fortnight or more.

Stopping for a breather on top of Harting Down

I last did the walk with Molly and Daisy and 11-month-old Jack (he crawled a lot of the way) in 2014 accompanied by my Dutch friend Anoek, her young daughter Mila and Anoek’s ex-PE teacher friend Guust (Goose) who helped to push the wagons. This time I will be the only adult so it will be hard work as the Downs are very steep and the Walking Wagon is leg-quiveringly heavy. Oh, and my knees are a bit dickey.

Jack making a break for freedom

Daisy and Jack are raising money for their primary school to help buy sports and play equipment that the school needs. If anyone would like to sponsor them please go to: https://www.gofundme.com/operation-walking-wagon

Molly and Lucy are raising money for the NHS (National Health Service). If you would like to sponsor them please go to: https://www.gofundme.com/operation-walking-wagon-2020

I will try and send an update on our progress (or lack of it) on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/itsjosiedew/once we hit the ups of the Downs. I will only have solar power to charge my phone so if all goes quiet from me, I think you can safely presume it’s raining. Either that or there’s been a mutiny and my wagon-pushers have abandoned ship. Both options are high possibilities.

To give you a taster, here are some photos from the SDW mission we did back in 2014.

Walking back down the Down to pick up Wagon Number 2

Meeting some cyclists and rather wishing I had gone by bike instead.

Emergency nappy-changing

Glastonbury without the music and crowds – just sheep

Tent city

Wagon One half way up

After pushing a wagon up a hill I would retrace my steps to retrieve the pram. No wonder we got nowhere fast

Bits like this made the effort all worth while

Jack contemplating his next escape

We camped anywhere we could along the way: when small legs get tired you just have to stop

Mila and Daisy having an in-depth discussion about a handful of stones.

Molly in pensive mood near Ditchling Beacon

Gary joined us on Butser Hill for half a day’s push and pull

Jack’s first birthday in a field near Newhaven

Bearing down on the Seven Sisters!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LOCKDOWN CYCLING MAY 2020

Here’s a snippet of cycling during lockdown on an A road near where I live. Normally I steer clear of this road as it is usually like a race track with an almost constant stream of nose-to-tail cars, vans and trucks careering along. But here I am riding it in lockdown on my Circe Triplet with Daisy on the seat behind me and Jack on the seat behind her. When I was at school I used to cycle along this road all the time as there was precious little traffic on it. In lockdown it felt almost lovely again. Apart from a handful of vehicles that passed after coming through the traffic lights at a single-lane bridge up the road we had the place virtually to ourselves. Only trouble was trying to control our 14-foot road-train with Jack swaying around while singing the Batman theme tune and Daisy swinging round to try and knock him off. Takes a lot of concentration and flexing of forearm muscles to keep the unwieldy bike upright.

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MORE ACTION CYCLING IN THE NETHERLANDS 2019

This is my 9-year old daughter Daisy’s first attempt at filming as we’re cycling along on the Triplet (a three-on-a-bike sort of contraption). I’m at the helm, Daisy’s on Seat 2, 5-year-old Jack is on Seat 3. The filming  goes up and down and all around, but you should get the  gist.

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ACTIONS STATIONS CYCLING IN THE NETHERLANDS 2019

This time a year ago I was cycling in the Netherlands and it looked like this:

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