Little Shelford blogs
Eat, Sleep, Ride…Repeat.
I have just returned from France having cycled Stages1-6 of the Tour de France for a wonderful charity called the William Wates Charitable Trust who organise Ride Le Loop, their annual fundraising event, cycling the whole or stages of the TDF one week ahead of the Pro’s.
In 2022, I cycled three Alps stages of Le Tour. Fuelled on adrenaline, energy gels, the testimony from a recipient of the charity and general disbelief that I’d done it, I decided that I’d commit to six stages in 2023. Seduced by Le Grand Dèpart in Bilbao and the subsequent three stages in the Pyrenees I signed up. A whole year to get fit and smash this! It was just the push I needed.
2023 arrived too quickly and I continued to have post Covid niggles, and a crisis of confidence with cycling and life in general. The long, cold Spring, provided excellent excuses not to train. The more I knew I should, the less I wanted to. I was really struggling.
Eventually with the support of a friend who is an excellent cyclist, panic training started in May. Far too late but at this stage, but anything was better than nothing! There isn’t anything that can truly prepare you for an endurance event such as this. Training has to fit in around daily life and family commitments. It’s almost impossible in the UK to simulate the terrain, and hours in the saddle that you do on tour and I was hugely undertrained.
Fast forward to June 23rd and I arrive in Bilbao on a flight with many fit looking people eagerly chatting about bikes, training, mountains, food and realise I’m not looking that fit but the company is great.
Cycling is a great leveller. I very quickly found myself in the company of 117 cyclists from all backgrounds, ages and parts of the world. Interestingly there were only 9 women in this group. There were 5 Canadian women who had invested over a year of intensive training to ride all 21 stages. They looked fit and rearing to go! We were told that as amateurs cycling repeat stages of the TDF puts us into the elite category so the pain we’d feel is elite pain. Elite pain was repeated constantly through the tour!
Life on Tour is crazy. It is definitely not a cycling holiday. The days are insanely long, and exhausting. We spent a lot of time in car parks. They became hubs for transfers, food stations, loo stops, massage, dinner and briefings. I think when I wasn't cycling, most of the week I was in a car park somewhere! Organisational skills need to be fine tuned and there certainly aren’t enough hours in the day.
A typical day starts at 5am. Radio Tour sends out essential timings
5.30 luggage on the van
5.45-6.15 Day Bags on the right van
There are four feed stops during the day, roughly 40km apart. Vans cover stops 1&3, 2&4 so you have a day bag for each van that you access at feed stops for extra kit, suncream, electrolytes etc. Making sure the right kit goes in the right bag is a challenge! This year I doubled up and kept the same stuff in each bag so I didn’t get it wrong!
Then we cycle….. occasionally we cycled from the hotel but most days there was a transfer to the start of the stage. Car park faff, checking tyre pressures again, loo stop and off you go. The first 40km each day is neutralised. No one can leave the first feed station until the last person has arrived. This encourages people to meet and cycle with people that would normally cycle at a different pace. It also paces those who would be tempted to tear off too quickly. I saw the first 40km each day as a warm up and it was usually a fun, chatty ride.
Days in the saddle were long, generally between 165-209km daily. The heat at the start was brutal. It was hot - the sun, the wind, and freshly tarmaced roads all threw heat back from every direction. We all struggled. The metres of climbing increased too especially as we hit the Pyrenees and the high category climbs. We cycled from one extreme to another, there was cloud cover to the point of being freezing at the top of climbs requiring long gloves and jackets from day bags to descend. I reached the top of Col D’Aspin in drizzle and cloud so thick I couldn’t even see the feed stop vans! With good visibility it was a joy, cycling through towns and villages decorated and ready for Le Tour passing through the week after us. Locals clapping and shouting Allez, Allez, Allez as we passed through gave much needed encouragement and smiles.
I broke each day up into feed stations. This made the day much less daunting and achievable. Just get to the next one…..
I learnt very quickly not to loiter at feed stations. Sign in, drink, fill bottles, eat as much as possible then go. It was easy to chat but the days are long, keep moving. Generally I’d reach the hotel or finish point by 7pm. There would be just enough time to wash out bottles, check bike, wash kit, repack bags for next day, if lucky have a massage, then make it to dinner and be briefed for the next day. Eat, sleep, ride, repeat!
On the third night we were joined by Christian who leads the Star Foundation, funded by the WWMT in Bristol and one of the young people, James who has benefited from its scheme.
James is only 16 yet he witnessed and finally stood up to his abusive Father to protect his Mum & siblings when he was younger. The circumstances of his childhood affected his behaviour and he was expelled from school and educated in a unit for two years. His love of rugby resulted in the Star Foundation picking him up and mentoring him at a rugby club in Bristol. The influences of his coaches & mentor gave him a stable adult to trust.
He’s now been back in mainstream school, taken his GCSE’s and is a sociable, well rounded, lovely young man. He spoke eloquently about his journey and how the charity turned his life around.
He had only cycled a few 12km rides before joining us but he completed 117km in trainers on a road bike. Chapeau to that young man. I will never forget him. He left all of us in tears. We were reminded why we were there, every pedal brings in the pounds, and every pound goes directly to helping a young person get back on track and have hope for the future.
504 miles and over 11,000m climbing later, I’m back home, once again in disbelief and looking at Le Grand Depart in Florence next year, having said I’ll never do it again!!
Posted July 11 2023
Little Shelford blogs
Penny Saich and her memories of being at the King's Coronation on 6th May 2023
I had the unexpected privilege of attending the Coronation of Charles III at Westminster Abbey, because sadly my sister Clare unexpectedly died at the end of January and my brother-in-law Mark Drakeford, the First Minister for Wales, asked me to accompany him to the event.
The Welsh Office informed me the dress code for women was day dresses with hats and fascinators as optional accessories.
I travelled to London on Friday, and stayed in a ground floor room at a Waterloo hotel overnight. I was very surprised at 6.30am to hear major activity outside my window, as the troops assembled to march to the procession route. I was treated to immaculate marching music and the applause of the gathering crowds. By the time our party left the hotel at 9.00am the crowds had moved on to the main route.
Once in the First Minister's car, we were directed through the barriers to meet up with the newly elected Scottish First Minister's car and together we slowly made our way to the Abbey for our allotted arrival time of 10.03am. We waited in a long convoy by the side of St. James’s Park under the direction of a very cheerful police officer, who kept the line of waiting cars, up to date with progress – timing was so important and a key issue.
There were no crowds as we arrived, in the drizzle, at the main entrance to the Abbey at exactly 10.03am. We were greeted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean of Westminster.
I found it very daunting entering the Abbey. It was beautiful but vast, with so many different faces of people on either side of the Nave plus an extremely long, lonely walk through to the Quire Screen and eventually to our named seats at the far end of the choir stalls, nearest to the Altar.
Our seats were with the present leaders of the UK government and members of the House of Lords. Directly opposite were past UK Prime Ministers with their wives. I sat between Mark and the Scottish Parliament Speaker, Alison Johnstone, and to my right was the choir.
Opposite to the left we could clearly observe the Royal Family engaging in the ceremony. I was particularly impressed with the behaviour of the young Royals. This really was an amazing position to both view and listen. The choral voices and music from the many different musicians was just enchanting and one of my outstanding memories.
From the moment we arrived in our places, the time passed so quickly. There was a constant stream of British and Foreign Royalty processing just in front of us, as they were directed to their seats for the prompt 11.00am start. The whole ceremony lasted just over two hours and I found there was so much to observe and enjoy around me in such a fascinating and magnificent ancient building.
There was a very relaxed atmosphere as guests left the Abbey in the reverse order of arrival, with Prime Ministers, past and present, mingling and chatting together as they walked in the rain to their cars.
Although I appreciate how lucky I was to be part of this very spectacular historical occasion, I had very mixed emotions because, although I enjoyed supporting Mark, it was the very recent death of my sister that allowed me to attend.
The music and the choir
The exceptional organisation and timing of the whole event and the number of people involved
Closely observing the Royal family and the crowning of King Charles III
June 1 2023
Penny Saich arrives at the King's Coronation with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford
Penny Saich (far right) can be seen on the right of the photo at the King's Coronation
Photos copyright @BBC TV
Penny Saich (right) at the King's Coronation with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford
Little Shelford blogs
King James 1st and Little Shelford
The All Saints Bell that triggered a hunt that led to a King
Having lived in the Village for 23 years I have grown to appreciate how much history surrounds us here in Little Shelford. A small village with a Manor House and Hall? That’s quite unusual enough but the history of All Saints is of particular interest to me and there is an excellent Church History available written by Kenneth Hurst in 2004.
The history of the Church describes the five bells, in the belfry, one of which has an unusual inscription “Richardus Holdfeld me fecit – Henry Wrysle Earle of Southamption, 1612”, “me fecit” is Latin, but quite simply reads “made me” so put into modern English the inscription says “Richard Holdfeld made me for the Henry Wriothesley [pronounced "rose ley"], Earl of Southampton, 1612”.
I was intrigued, why on earth would the Earl of Southampton [His 1603 portrait is shown here], whose family seat was Titchfield Abbey in southern Hampshire, donate a bell to All Saints Church Little Shelford?
I also remembered, from my school studies, that Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton, was the individual to whom in 1593 William Shakespeare dedicated his narrative poem Venus and Adonis, followed in 1594 by The Rape of Lucrece.
The dedication on the front cover of The Rape of Lucrece is couched in extravagant terms: “The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end ... What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours”.
This triggered my interest, I really needed to know why the bell? What was the connection between Henry Wriothesley and Little Shelford. This began a considerable amount of research which in turn led me to many interesting and intriguing facts about Little Shelford, its residents and many other residents in nearby Villages and towns, including a direct link to King James I of England and VI of Scotland. I have summarised all I have found as the story of “The Court of South Cambridgeshire” in which Henry Wriothesley played a significant role.
For those who are interested to know more, I will be doing a presentation on many of my findings entitled “The Court of King James in South Cambridgeshire and its surprising connection with Little Shelford” at the next meeting of the Little Shelford History Society on Wednesday 9th November 2022 at 7.30pm in Little Shelford Memorial Hall. It’s a few months off so in the meantime, if you would like to know more you can contact me at email@example.com and if you are interested in the Little Shelford History Society you can contact the Chairman, Ray Saich, on firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Oct 4 2022
Think hard about a broadband upgrade
Brenda Bishop has warned villagers to think carefully about a broadband upgrade after she experienced a couple of hiccups recently.
Brenda said that the broadband strength itself is fine. But she felt that not everything involved with the change was transparent.
"I phoned BT. I complained that I should have been warned of the disadvantages albeit that I could not have done anything about them," said Brenda. This is what I would highlight:
1. The fibre connection has to be in sight of the BT telegraph pole so has to come into the front of the house by means of a black wire from the pole to the house soffit and thence down to the bottom of the wall where it enters the house through a hole drilled through the wall.
2. The new hub and other connection, including your telephone base, are therefore where you may not have chosen to site them (in my case they are on the floor in a corner of the lounge. I have hidden them with a large chair).
3. When dialling local numbers you now have to include the area code.
4. You are supplied with 2 BT hand sets. You can continue to use your existing phones so long as the base one is plugged into the fibre system. If you leave them plugged into your existing telephone connection they will cease to work. You can keep the BT phones as spares.
Be interesting to see what happens.
Posted October 27 2022
Ella The Therapy Dog
Ella, who lives in High Street, Little Shelford, had been training to be a guide dog from a few weeks old but sadly she did not quite achieve the very high standards that are set and we were lucky enough to be offered Ella to rehome over 2 years ago. Due to her breeding and training she was very calm, well behaved and seemed to have an intuitive understanding of people around her.
With this in mind when I was approached by the Well Being Co-ordinator at Hills Road Sixth Form College to ask if Ella would be interested in being coming a Therapy Dog with them I jumped at the chance. We had a very successful trial after which Ella now goes into the College one day a week.
It is well recognised that dogs can proved endless therapeutic benefits in numerous situations. They are calming, reduce stress, improve mental and emotional health and can induce a general feeling of well being. Ella spends time in the Well Being Centre with students during the day and is walked around the College in breaks and lunchtime. She has become an invaluable asset to the College and is loved by staff and students alike. She thrives on the attention given to her and is always super excited when I drop her off there. It is a win win situation!