I hope you are all well even though in the depths of winter! It is just over five months since our first camping event and this email is about the prospects for a second!
This email is being sent to those who participated at the 2022 event at the Outdoor Pursuits Centre. Action requested – please reply as soon as you can, and in any event no later than Tuesday 14 February, saying whether you will be coming and the details of other members of your group. (We hope that you will be able to bring some others with you this year).
The purpose of this note is to invite commitments to attend so that we can plan with confidence. We have so far landed one grant of £300 and are fairly confident that another grant, perhaps even two, may be achieved. The purpose of the event itself is to “Show and Tell” how anyone might take a holiday break based on Active Travel and Cycle Camping.
As in 2022, we plan to provide as much as we can of the weekend free of charge. The camping will be free and we will have to see if we can similarly provide the Bell Boating activity on the same basis. We have approached funders so that we can provide the experience on an equitable basis. At an early stage like now there are always uncertainties, but we are working hard to clarify things as best we can and underpin another fun active travel experience.
Why are we doing this?
The number of people who say that they’ve never been camping is very high. Most people who camped as children tend to remember it with glee. Three things drove the idea in 2022.
The first was the Active Travel theme: enjoy the health dividend of exercise while moving rather than “sit down and steer”.
The second was the availability of a hidden gem for the people of Leicester – the Outdoor Pursuits Centre. Not everyone knew about it. Like many charities, LOPC took a big hit from the Pandemic.
The third was a willingness among us to help “show” what local cyclists and cycling organisations do and “tell” how they do it. Leicester City Council has a world leading approach to cycling and its infrastructure. The local cycling community is well represented in planning and delivering this event. Leicester Spokes, Community Cycles, Cycle-City and Leicester Wheels for All are all involved again this year.
Planned Timetable in Brief
So far we have come up with the following draft timetable
Arrival After 16:30 on 19 May 2023. (Outdoor Pursuits Centre, Leicester LE4 5PN)
Saturday activities 20 May. Camping and Cycle Rides. Plus an evening get-together in the social area around the fire.
Sunday 21st May – Bell Boating event and final day of camping.
As ever, there will be some administration/form filling around the camping and bell boating – full details to follow.
Everyone is responsible for their own food, drink and camping equipment. We may be able to help with some items and please let me know if you need anything. As it is a “Show and Tell” event there will be plenty of people on hand to provide hints and tips where it is wanted. Most campers provide their own food and cooking utensils but it is also possible to buy food (ingredients or cooked meals) nearby.
If you have any questions/ideas please let us know by email. We will write again next week with an update. If you would like to discuss anything please let me know by email – certainly in the first instance. My impaired hearing isn’t equal to receiving calls without prior arrangements, as I think many of you will probably know.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
If you know of any funders who work or support events in this space please let us know. We will be delighted to contact them.
As people are leaving Twitter in droves I thought I’d blog my gradual departure from the platform. That way I can keep in touch with those I know who have left the platform and prepare for post-Twitter life. It sounds rather grandiose. Pretentious even. I’m just doing my best.
If you’d like to receive updates from time to time please let me know. I can be contacted on my Leicester Wheels for All email address
Safiya was just one of our group who’d never camped before. This is her account of the event! The City Council is keen to promote Active Travel because It will help to boost the health and wellbeing of Leicester residents, reduce pollution and promote safety for all.
All set for the night. You can tell I’m a novice, when the others saw my chair, they said that’s not a chair it’s a throne! That made me laugh, looking at the images now, it’s huge. Very comfy.
Instant noodles, pasta packs and soup but I really was out of my comfort zone, it took me longer than normal to prepare my dinner!
Cleaning my teeth – Miswwak Natural Toothbrush
I took my Miswwak with me to camp! This is a natural toothbrush that my fellow campers did not know about, so here it is!
A Miswak is a small thin twig, derived from the Salvadora persica tree. The Miswak’s natural properties serve as chemical plaque control. It’s easy to carry, disposable, biodegradable, and eco-friendly. No need for toothpaste ( less to carry), and it’s healthy. Read up to learn about this natural product. You can buy on-line and they come vacuum packed. We’ve been using these for over 1400 yrs! 🙂
Overcoming my fears
Time to switch off the lights. I settled into my tent and was just hanging the lantern over my head so I could just organise my stuff – and there it was! The biggest spider I had ever seen!
I had to calm myself quickly and so I named the spider ‘Steven’ it worked, and then there was another so that was Steven’s wife! I managed to get them both out. After, that I was unable to get to sleep. I could hear a fox crying. But, I did eventually get to sleep.
Saturday Morning. What a beautiful view to wake up to!
Saturday was a beautiful sunny day to cycle around.
Getting ready to ride around Watermead Park with one of the two cycling groups organised that day.
I joined the led ride with Peter and Kevin, this was my first and I enjoyed it very much. My confidence was building and I look forward to joining more of these.
I didn’t ride all the way up the hill to the life-sized sculpture of a woolly mammoth, but I certainly sped down and stayed on my bike. Susan & Maryam, my instructors at Ride on Sistas, would have been proud! Excellent control. I was proud of myself, didn’t fall and had excellent smooth brake control!
This was fun! I made a suggestion to Peter. I said we had the before-ride photo of the cycle group, but it would be cool to have the after image – looking exhausted! We agreed it with the group and so I got to say “ACTION!”
I made ‘masala tea’ and shared it with bloggers, around-the-world-cyclists and like-minded individuals who shared their camping experiences and tips. I was in another world, so calm, not once did we talk about our work and that’s exactly what I needed.
Safiya recently finished one of her sessions with ‘Ride on Sistas’. Everyone’s talking about my masala tea 🙂
Looks like I have inspired others to take part in this cycle camping activity. Some have made it clear that will only come if I’m there to make the masala tea!?.
Perhaps we could have one day when I can come and make masala tea like a taster’ for everyone.
I think this might just work, of course, it’ll have to be a Saturday or Sunday and at the Outdoor Pursuits Centre (local ) we can kill two birds with one stone, help the centre get the customers it needs and get the publicity that will help to attract more participants trying out “Active Travell with a cycle on holiday”. ?
This time last week we were awakening on last morning of our “Active Travel on Holiday by cycle-camping” event. Many of us were together again yesterday on the Pumping Station Museum Ride, still talking about it. The photo is of Jo with her well travelled @brakesandcakes tent. pic.twitter.com/DRU9RCmqxG
In the last few years as our young family began to grow, my husband and I have found ourselves cycling more and more. My husband, Zubair, had been a strong cyclist as a teenager but given up when he started driving. I knew how to cycle but hadn’t done much more than race up and down the road as a child. But with rising petrol prices, broadening waistlines, busy schedules that left no time for the gym, and Leicester’s impressive cycle infrastructure, we found ourselves leaving the car at home more and more.
Sarah arriving at the campsite with her fully laden bike. Her partner Zubair is in the background.
The Ride Leicester group rides have been a real turning point for us. We have met other cyclists and learned routes, tricks and tips that meant our go to transport is now cycling. Yes, we have become those people.
Then in August of this year we heard of something new… cycle camping! With Ride Leicester, Peter Simmonds had organised a cycle camping taster session where we could borrow equipment and camp in a group with plenty of experts on hand to help us out, right here in Leicester.
Neither me or Zubair had ever been camping, but a few months earlier we had given glamping ago. We had enjoyed it but weren’t sure about taking the plunge and buying a tent, wondering which one would suit us and whether we would even use it! This taster session seemed the perfect thing to help us make up our minds.
Peter assured us he could sort a tent, so we set about gathering sleeping bags and mats. We borrowed what we could, uncovered a few cobwebby items from the attic, and found a handful of things on Facebook market place for a bargain price. I wasn’t sure what my 1 year old would need sleepingwise so found a largish gro-bag and some foam floor tiles which I hoped would do the job.
Aside from sleeping gear I had learned from our glamping experience how quickly the temperature drops at night and how cold it gets even on warm summer days. So I gathered a collection of coats, jumpers, thermals and wooly socks to cover all four members of the household. I even brought a wooly hat for myself! Add in some snacks, the baby carrier, nappies, a pared back toiletry bag and Zubair and I stared at what seemed a huge pile of luggage that we were somehow to fit onto our two bicycles, as well as two children.
Most cyclists that do cycle camping tend to carry their luggage in frame bags and panniers, and try to mimise the weight as much as possible. With kids to haul, going lightweight was a lost cause, but we did have a bit more space for luggage. Our five year old went in her usual seat on the back of my bike, leaving my gigantic front basket which is normally filled with her school bag, coat, snacks, pine cones, teddies etc. We piled all the sleeping bags and mats in there and secured it with some bungee cords.
The clothes and coats we squeezed into the back of the child trailer, while a few odd bits and pieces including a box of Cheerios for breakfast, actually went in with the 1yo. We reasoned that they doubled as toys. Last minute addtions like locks, chargers and the baby carrier (we nearly forgot it) we put in Zubair’s panniers and I’m proud to say we actually had a little room to spare!
The event started on Friday night but we had agreed that it might be too much to try for two nights with the baby, so decided to join on Saturday morning instead. With all the luggage to plan we were relieved to see that Kevin (another of our cycling friends and an elite ride leader) was doing a feeder ride from Victoria Park to the campsite, meaning we didn’t need to worry about planning a route. Somehow or other we got to Vicky park in time and met Kevin at the top of Peace Walk. Our adventure had begun!
In lovely sunshine, Kevin guided us on a relaxed route through Abbey Park, past the Space Station and on to the outdoor pursuits centre. Taking it slow, on calm cycleways and away from the road, we hardly noticed our extra luggage. The baby somehow got the plastic bag of Cheerios out of the cardboard box and was waving it at us through the window, while our five-year-old marvelled at the ducks on the canal.
It was around eleven when we met the happy campers at the Leicester Outdoor Pursuits centre. It was reassuring to be with some familiar faces and we knew that if anything went wrong we were just a few miles away from home. Peter showed us our tent, a smart blue one with two sleeping compartments and a middle sort of covered porch. I had been picturing a sort of triangular military style tent in which we would all sleep like sausages so this was a pleasant surprise. We ditched our excess baggage (clothes and equipment, not children) and joined the rest of the group for a ride around the nearby Watermead Park. We headed up to the mammoth to take a photo and then out a bit further before stopping for a chat and snack by the statue of King Lear. We thought Peter and Kevin were going to treat us to a rendition but they politely declined. Back at camp we lounged in the sun and chatted to the rest of the group, having a nice rest as I for one had cycled about 12 miles since the morning with my five year old in tow. The group was a real mix with some ladies from the Ride on Sistas cycling group, others from the Let’s Ride group, Jo and Debs of Brakes and Cakes, real veteran cycle campers, and a whole host of others in between.
At 3pm Peter had kindly organised a bell boating activity for those of us that were interested. I had never done bell boating before but wanted to join in with the five-year-old so poor Zubair had to stay with the baby, but he was a good sport about it. Bell boating turned out to be great fun, going up and down the River Soar, paddling, chanting, laughing and now and then getting stuck in the weeds.
Back on dry land it was five o’clock and our thoughts were turning towards dinner. We had contemplated pot noodle or trying to sort a camping stove but with space at a premium and no idea how much havoc our children might cause, we went for a soft option and ordered pizza.
Camping in the city does have clear benefits.
While the food was on its way, we got our mats inflated and our sleeping bags laid out. We also took advantage of the showers to wash up and get into our warm clothes as the heat of the day started to fall away. Debs and Jo showed us how they use their stove to make simple but filling meals like pasta, and use herbs and spices so they don’t get bored of their own cooking. We listened attentively while inhaling the pizza – it had been a tiring day!
As dusk fell we gathered in the campfire area and Debs and Jo gave a fun talk on the basics of cycle camping, covering what to pack, how to decide where to go, what to eat, and got us thinking about what kind of tour we might like to take one day. We had opportunities for questions and finished the day buzzing with possibilities.
Then it was time for the biggest test! Were we well prepared enough to weather the night? Our five year old had barely got into her sleeping bag before she was asleep. I settled the baby and then, feeling a little nervous, got into my own bag. My layering had worked — I was nice and warm — and the mat which had seemed a bit deflated, did a good job of supporting me.
Despite being warm, comfortable and with a full tummy, it did take me a little while to doze off,perhaps the novelty of being in a different setting. Soon enough I could hear Zubair snoring away, and I happily drifted off, still with my bobble hat on my head.
Though I can’t say I slept very well, that had little to do with camping and lots to do with my 1 year old’s preference for waking up every two hours. I didn’t feel any worse in the morning than I usually do, in fact I felt elated at having made it through the night. While the kids were full of beans, Zubair had found his air mat had let the cold from the air up, so we agreed that a decent mat for him would be an essential buy for us.
Cheerios for breakfast — we hadn’t remembered to bring a bowl or spoon but luckily Debs offered us one of hers. It took quite a bit of time to pack up the sleeping gear (definitely more time than it had taken to unpack it!) and after taking a few photos we started the journey back home.
Part of what we love about cycling is the ability to stop where you want and detour as the mood takes you. On the way home we meant to pass through the city centre but realised the end of summer city festival was on, so passed a good few hours watching all the different events and enjoying the sunshine.
Back in Victoria park we had one last stop off in the playground and then back home for a nice hot shower and an early night. So ended our first cycle camping adventure.
Favourite parts from all the family:
Sarah: chatting to all the different campers Zubair: the company Five-year-old: bell boating and pretending to be a pirate One year old: wandering around the campsite and stealing peoples’ water bottles Top Camping Lessons From All the Family Sarah: wooly socks make for happy campers Zubair: sleep is very important so make sure you have a decent mattress Five-year-old: take marshmallows, you can just eat them even if there’s no fire One year old: watch out for guy lines