Going gluten, wheat and dairy free...

This is my experience and what I've found. I'm not preaching and I'm definitely not right...just thought it might be interesting...

As I'm sure every chef has encountered, there are A LOT of gluten, wheat, dairy, onion, garlic, well-done/burnt meat, eggs [scarily too often confused with dairy], cream, 'organs', vegetarian, chicken, salad, meat on the bone, vegan, organic, 'locally sourced', 'locally produced', 'locally grown', 'locally driven in from miles away' FREE people out there. The list is endless. I admit I was a part of the clan of chefs that would get really rather grumpy at these requests, often remarking "stay at home if you want to be bleeding awkward!" But it was only about a year into working as a chef that I actually found it exciting, interesting and a challenge. It meant I needed to cook something new, that still tasted good and actually resembled proper food. 

So I started questioning why people had their particular dietary requirements. I tried [and am still trying] to understand why, if you're a veggie, why not go vegan? Can I still give you a spring onion, or even a leek if you don't eat onions? Not in an abrasive, confrontational way, however, I would just like to understand people's reasoning and decisions behind their culinary choices, as it's something we all have our own opinion on. Cultures, taste buds, smell and approach to eating are all subjective, or at least defined by the path in which you choose to follow. 

Though it was all well and good for me to question and listen to people whilst I happily skipped along eating anything and everything, not worrying about whether I'd cramp up, release horrendous toxic gasses or have immune or bone issues. So when a good friend and an incredibly talented and knowledgeable nutritionist, Ben Coomber [www.bodytypenutrition.co.uk], suggested I 'went' gluten, wheat and dairy free for 30 days to see if I'd feel any benefits, I couldn't say no. 

In fact, I stretched it to 50 days, just to make sure! 

It has honestly been one of the greatest and most informative learning experiences of my career, in terms of being a chef [and relative to the time!] that I've ever had.

I would strongly recommend to any chef who hasn't tried going gluten, wheat and dairy free, to try it for at least a month. Not only to understand the short comings that people with these ailments have to face  on a daily basis, but also as a way of maintaining a menu in an ever-changing culinary world.

Man up if you think you can't handle it!!

The most common dietary requirement [apart from vegetarian/vegan] is gluten free. Restaurants are now compiling menus to accommodate these needs. I admit that before, I pretty much knew what it was all about, however, abstaining for 50 days from gluten, wheat and dairy I feel very confident to advise and cook for any gluten/dairy free person. Even those who have to check with the waiter if even the gluten free menu is safe, or the back of any pack in the gluten free isle at Tesco is going to kill them. I'm not claiming to be an expert, I'm not, I've just been there for a while and I really enjoyed it. 

Gluten is basically a type of protein naturally found in wheat, barley and rye [including bulgar, spelt, farro and kamut]. This is the most common misconception. Whilst trying to explain to friends, family and others that I am gluten free, they often think it's the starchy foods and carbs. Someone said to me they couldn't do it, they said they "couldn't live without potatoes". It was this statement among others that made me realise that the general population really don't actually understand what gluten is. It's snuck into a lot of processed food and the majority of which has been packaged [what's labelled as 'freshly prepared' food] and been tossed in some sort of seasoned, rank flour, deeming it to be packed full of gluten. 

Dairy is quite self-explanatory. I've been 'off' cows dairy. Therefore goats milk/cheese sales have soared in my local shop! The fat molecules in goats milk are only a fraction smaller than cows milk and therefore are broken down easier. Goats milk can also help to lower cholesterol and speed metabolism.  

Though to sum up gluten and dairy and the reasons for not consuming so much of it...we haven't evolved to be able consume any other animals milk apart from humans, and certainly not into adulthood. We also haven't evolved in terms of our digestive system, to deal with so much gluten. If one ate a home-made, less bread/cake/pasta diet, we'd be fine as a population! 

But god it looks good!

The other statement that has been horribly common and really [sorry mum] pissed me off about the general public, is the thought that a sauce, gravy, soup, chutney or anything that might be a little runny, has been thickened with flour. I obviously understand that not everyone could realise exactly how to cook these things, but it's a cringing insult to those that can. 

Hence, being gluten free or coeliac and not having a good knowledge of how to cook, I can totally understand and sympathise that it must be a horribly daunting feeling, and one where you think you won't be able to eat anything ever again.

It's almost like one needs a constant knowledgeable hub to question what they can healthily and safely eat for dinner that night without spending hours on it. I'd be happy to be that hub on Facebook if anyone ever wanted a recipe/advise or an idea! But these days we have Google, so it's up to you!

Sitting down for dinner with someone with any kind of dietary requirement and having to talk about it, discuss it at length, question every morsel of food, is possibly one of the rudest, yet fashionable, habits of this century.

The truth of it is, my [very understanding!] boyfriend and I have eaten as normal for the last 45 days and the only things I've missed is good cheese and our monthly 'epic burger night!' You've just got to STOP thinking you're 'special', 'different', 'no-one understands you' and stop preaching! I know not everyone has the time to cook and I'm not going to tell you to use expensive and time consuming recipes, but just start cooking the odd thing, like you would, but substitute what you can't have. Get to know these recipes, freeze them, teach the other half/children. Enjoy cooking good food without feeling rubbish and stop worrying!

I've come across great substitutes, cheeky numbers that I wouldn't normally use, cake recipes to satisfy the sweet tooth, favourite foods that are both gluten and dairy free, and a gluten and dairy free lasagne!

I'm not going to bamble on, but here is a quick list of some favourite food tips;

-Dairy free sunflower spread - great in cooking and for toast [haven't tried in baking]
-Marmite is safe!
-Jelly tots - also safe and I was very excited!
-Best bread - Tesco own brand seeded 'free from' range [have no time to bake my own!]
-Best pasta - Tesco or Asda gluten free range
-Best flour - Doves gluten free flour
-Quick fix dinner - Lloyd Grossman sauces or Dolmio - sorry, I'm a sucker for tomatoey sauces on the run!
-Rice noodles
-Indian food out, but properly cooked Indian food! You'll soon get to know which typical dishes don't include milk/cream. Also, they mainly use gram/chick pea/rice flour so if you think you can't eat something - it's worth checking first.
-Soy sauce - just use tamarind
-If you're adamant on coffee whilst out, go for a 'soya flat white', I personally think anything else tastes rank with soya milk! But don't make the mistake I did by dictating the size, you'll only get laughed at, it's only made in one size [something I still don't know about in my barrista innocence!] 

Restaurants near me that have been very accommodating and lovely;

-The Anchor, Woodbridge. [www.theanchorwoodbridge.co.uk] Food is always amazing and they told me all their ingredients of each dish I asked about so I could make a proper decision. It's the only place I had a proper meal and was confident in the chef!
-Zunaki, Woodbridge. [www.zunakirestaurant.co.uk] They were so incredibly helpful, to the extent where I got a free glass of wine whilst waiting for my food. Two dishes were made especially for me. I was craving a korma alongside our other dishes and they made their own 'dairy free' version. I was very happy!!
-The Coach and Horses, Melton. They have their own gluten free menu, so I could just choose off that using my 'dairy free' brain! Though I did order prawn cocktail and had to convince the waitress eggs weren't dairy. Always very good service there though.
-B's Kitchen, Grundisburgh. [www.facebook.com/BBsKitchen] I ordered a cake for my boyfriends birthday from here. I wasn't being lazy! Just far too busy with everything else to make it. They made a banana and chocolate cake decorated just how I wanted - it was so good!!

In summary; as annoying as it is because I've been so strict, I have actually felt no different being on this diet! However, from all that I have read and understood, I will continue goats milk in my home brewed coffee and morning smoothies. Gluten free pasta and bread too, apart from when I make my own. But seriously, bring on the proper cheese!

I prefer people to tell me they have dietary requirements. It's a self-taught lesson I've learnt in the cooking world. When I studied architecture I learnt a similar lesson pretty quickly. For my first project to design a student house, I chose an open field surrounded by trees because of the infinite, vast space it provided me. I was later shot down quite aggressively in-front of my fellow first years during a 'crit' and told that if there were restrictions and obstacles to my design, it would only improve and inform what I was creating.  

Bring it on dietary requirements!!

This is my experience and what I've found...


The Big Cycle, 2014!

Grundisburgh, Woodbridge, Suffolk > Copenhagen

So the plan is, August 1st 2014 I am going to cycle from my mother's house in Suffolk, down to Dover, across the channel and joining the North Sea Cycle Network and cycle through to Hamburg, to Fehmam, catch the ferry across and up into Copenhagen to my father's old house. And of course, eating in all the amazing countries along the way!

All in aid of the British Heart Foundation! 

North Sea Cycle Route ferry

The ride will be approximately 1,200 miles and take 15 - 20 days to complete. 

Due to the vast expanse of water that we'll be cruising over on a ferry, I feel I'm cheating a bit and therefore will be swimming the estimated 35 miles of water crossed just before leaving, preferably in a nice swimming pool with a sauna! I don't think that bit is cheating!

The biggest mistakes I made last time were:

-going alone
-no support vehicle
-not really too sure where I was going but I made it anyway!

This time....

-We will have a group together who is mad enough as I am and will be pushing each other on. Massively keen, super fast cyclists need not apply, you'll only get bored of our meandering across Europe!
-I will be roping in some lovely person/people to be the support vehicle along the way to carry our luggage and boost our energy levels!
-We will be following a properly recognised route. It may be adding a couple of hundred miles to the journey in total but will be worth it and very lovely and scenic!

There will be a minimum sponsorship that will need to be raised in order to take part. I will calculate this and final details of the length of the trip in due course. I expect the minimum sponsorship target to be approximately £800.

What is included on the trip:

-Tour t-shirt or hoodie, individually branded with British Heart Foundation logo and our tour information. A specialised cycling top is available with an additional £30 payable with registration fee. [These are very nice and I recommend going for one!]
-Ferry journeys
-Return to Suffolk
-Luggage transfers
-Overnight accommodation
-Breakfast and dinner each day excluding breakfast on the 1st August and dinner on the returning/final day.
-Support team, medical support along the way
-British Heart Foundation support and fundraising advice

What is not included:

-Personal expenses such as drinks, gifts, site seeing entrance etc
-Any travel outside of the planned trip
-Insurance poilcy. You must have an insurance policy to cover the duration of this trip to join us
-Bike, helmet and equipment regarding your cycle

Cost of registration: £25

Up for it then? Email me at Hannah_TRoberts@Hotmail.com

Right...I'm off to train!


The Circus Video is Up!

I've finally put together the time-lapse shots for the Bumblebee Circus dinner party from March last year! The full blog can be viewed by clicking on 'March 2012' on the time-line above. 

Comments welcome.



Now taking Christmas bookings!

Ever considered having your Christmas party in the comfort of your own home rather than a noisy restaurant with strangers? 

Whether you're thinking of having the relatives round for a buffet, work colleagues for a simple supper or a brilliant slap up five course meal with friends and family, take the stress out of the cooking and talk to me about providing the menu ideas, recipes or the whole shebang! With waiting staff and me to take care of you in your own home, you'll be sure to have a relaxing evening before the hype of the big day looms!

Just some ideas to get you thinking...

Buffet [8 - 30 people, starts at £10 a head]:

Celariac veloute
Warm sausage rolls
Suffolk Gold cheese goujeres
Game terrine + red onion jam
Beetroot + vodka cured salmon
Classic prawn cocktail

Simple supper [6 - 20 people, starts at £20 a head]:

Parsnip soup, chestnut foam
Roasted turkey with all the trimmings
Braised BeckBred lamb shoulder, crispy black pudding, red cabbage
Christmas pudding ice-cream

Five course indulgent dinner [4 - 16 people, starts at £25 a head]:

Carrot + Swede soup, bacon croutini
Truffled wild mushrooms, goats cheese mousse, Beth's seeded toast
Pan fried mackerel, fennel, beetroot, anchovie
Roasted turkey three ways with all the trimmings  
Warm chocolate tart, morello cherry sorbet

Contact me here for more information and to talk through your thoughts: Hannah_TRoberts@Hotmail.com


Cycling across Britain, the way I did it...

It all began with some ridiculous idea back in January 2012 that I needed a challenge and something that wasn't related to cooking as I live and breathe it [nothing wrong in that but everyone needs a break!] When I was very little, my mother and I would regularly look at the map of Britain on our kitchen wall and discuss walking/driving across the widest part of it. This never happened and so within less than an hour of thoughts racing through my head I'd decided to cycle it, by myself, with about 55 kg of luggage [it varied due to eating snacks/drinks and buying beetroot!], no support with me, over nine days in memory of my father who suffered a fatal heart-attack in 2000 and therefore cycling for The British Heart Foundation. As I was going solo, I wanted to make sure I went to as many places along the way where I had friends/family to make the journey even more enjoyable, this meant that rather than doing the standard 280 mile journey from Lowestoft to St David's Head, I cycled 400 miles, same start and finish points but went a rather wiggly way about it!

Just want to point out that the mileage per day on here is an estimate as I have lost my notes of how much I did per day!

I left Lowestoft-ness in the morning, two days after my brother's wedding on August 5th 2012 still rather tired! Despite heading off in the wrong direction for 10 minutes and having to cycle back passed my family as they continued to wave, it all started quite well. Mother had attached a 'British Heart Foundation' balloon to my bike which made me chuckle along the way!

The Tally Ho Tearooms Menu (pdf opens a new window)
Unfortunately at the beginning I was very focused on where I was going and didn't take many photos. The first is my lunch at the very interesting 'Tally Ho Tearooms' near Bungay. Stepping into here felt like stepping back into the Victorian times. Creepy music, and the gentleman who I assume was the manager reminded me of the 'cleaner' character from Black Books and it all felt a little bit 'too' friendly for my liking! I had a glass of water and a chicken and mayo sandwich. It was a place where you very much get what you ask for, not much more or less, but that seems to work for them. 

This was the beginning of my depressingly strict diet of omelette and beans for breakfast, followed by either chicken or fish. Snacks of cereal bars and jelly babies. It doesn't sound all that bad but eating it for 10 days straight really did start to get tiresome!

Into Norfolk where I was slightly on edge after being brought up in Suffolk.

I did start feeling slightly more confident as it had got to the point where I was far enough away from where I started for it to actually start to kick in that I'd now be cycling alone for nine days. I think this was also about the same time where singing became an even greater occupation for me...

Finally arrived in Thetford, staying at the Pink Cottage B and B. Very friendly and good value for money, though paper thin walls and not en-suite.

40 miles, done!

For dinner my only options [without getting back on my bike] were a few take-aways or a Wetherspoons, alas I chose the latter and very much regret it! Southern chicken goujons that tasted like a pepper pot followed by chicken and chorizo pasta with 4 cheeses, I ate a couple of bites and left.

The next morning I was woken by a very noisy group of walkers followed by the window cleaner banging on the window! I had a pleasantly cooked omelette and baked beans, met the two dogs and set off for Cambridge and the thought of dinner at Alimentum and seeing a good friend definitely helped the journey and time pass.

I should probably introduce Basil at this moment. Literally just before I sped off from Lowestoft, my mother attached him to my handle bars, as well as the British Heart Foundation balloon! The balloon burst on the first day sadly but Basil was captured along the way the cheeky fox! Here he is at Thetford Forest.

I stopped at The Anchor in Burwell for lunch a little late and just caught last orders. It had been a very difficult morning and so some Aspalls were certainly in order! Lunch was chicken and black olive spaghetti, my attempt to forget last nights dinner. It was edible this time but clear the chef was in a rush to get out the kitchen. I've been trying to tweet about my experiences on this journey too but alas 'The Anchor at Burwell' has protected tweets...an interesting approach to marketing.

I tried to keep away from busy roads as much as possible however the one time I went on one during this trip, my water bottle fell off...just something to add to the incompetent cycle shop in Suffolk, more about this later...

The signs that I was getting closer to Cambridge kept me going but tiredness was really kicking in. It's amazing though how good jelly babies are at keeping up energy levels.

Finally arrived at the Youth Hostel in Cambridge early evening and after renting a towel the price I paid I might as well have gone to a cheap B and B, but when I had so many places to book in advance and trying to save money it's pretty difficult to get it all right. It was nice to share a room with seven other women all from different countries doing different things but as all I wanted to do was to have a shower and a nap, it was pretty squashed with all my cycling bags and sleeping on the top bunk [not with the bags!]

35 miles, done!

After walking the wrong way for half an hour I met up with Mark at Alimentum who I hadn't seen since our first 'Dingley Dell's Flying Visit' and sat down to a tasting dinner. Unfortunately though we were nattering so much I forgot to take photos of each dish. Was a really great experience to be in his restaurant having him talk through the dishes whilst we ate. Apologies for the quality!

We started with salt and vinegar popcorn and cheese gougeres, followed by courgette mousse, feta, black olive and basil. Still no pictures I'm afraid but next was Teriyaki smoked eel, turnip and grapefruit.

Pigs head and cheek, pineapple and fennel

Roast scallops, smoked hazelnuts, chicory and onion

Slow roast beef fillet, cauliflower truffle and wild garlic

Apple and cucumber sorbet, rapeseed oil crisp to follow and white chocolate and apricot parfait with granola to finish and wines to match each course. I couldn't pick out my favourite dish as they all complimented each other so well, all I can say is I think after a few days of chicken, omelette and beans of the worst variety, my palate was definitely brought back to life, entertained, delighted and thrilled! Definitely recommend a visit.

A swift few pints at the local pub and off to my rickety upper bunk bed in the youth hostel ready for my longest day to Towcester!

Woke up to horrid rain and the thought of cycling 60 miles to Milton Keynes, with a slightly sore head on the Tuesday! I cooked my beans for breakfast in the hostel kitchen and off I went.  

The rain continued and I had to shelter under a bus-stop as it got to the point of flooding roads and very low visibility, this photo definitely doesn't show how bad it was!

It started to clear and the hills got increasingly tougher, not to any extremes but considering I'd trained in Suffolk with about 20 kg of luggage, it was a shock to the system. The scenery improved too though and I stumbled across a lovely little village with a small cottage selling fresh produce from the garden. 

I'd promised my sister I'd bring something for dinner so bought a bunch of beetroot [as modelled by Basil here!] and continued my way to happy old Milton Keynes!

Lunch came in the form of a pub in a sleepy village with a man in tight fitting pyjamas [he was quite large] and a woman in a 'kinky' apron [also ill-fitting], I was the only customer and the menu consisted of: pie and chips, scampi and chips or sausage and chips. Following my fish or chicken diet I went for the scampi. The bar man fell asleep at the bar watching the Olympics and I could have easily wondered out [or poured myself a pint!]

Twelve miles to go and I made it to a pub [another one, yes, but one does need toilet stops!] out of the rain and met up with my friend Lewis who I used to work with at The Pheasant in Keyston. Lovely to see him again and very random circumstances! It was about 7pm by this point and although a normal twelve miles would take an hour, with the amount of weight I had, there was another two hours to go, very horrible thought! 

So after the pint Lewis went home for a cuppa and met me at my final destination...Towcester Travelodge! No where around was open for dinner except for McDonalds, so to royally ruin the fantastic meal I'd had the night before, hamburger and chicken nuggets was on the menu!

60 miles, done!

The morning wasn't the most pleasant one, it was the first time I'd really felt the soreness of my legs and realised what a really rather daft thing it was that I was doing! After un-pegging my almost dry belongings from around the room I hopped onto my bike and began my journey to Oxford. 

Through Buckingham and the countryside, really enjoying the views and couldn't wait to get to Oxford to visit my sister and surprise her at work. 

I studied Architecture in Oxford for 4 years and it's also the place where I began my cheffing career so is very close to my heart and when I started seeing signs like these, I'll admit, I did actually start getting a bit emotional!

I arrived at Becci's [my sister's] work 20 minutes before she finished and thoroughly embarrassed her before going home and finally relaxing in the bath  before sipping some lovely cool wine!

37 miles, done!

Becci invited some friends round as well as some of my old university friends and she cooked us lemon chicken [her favourite dish ever!] with roasted vegetables and my beetroot that had travelled with me for a couple of days.

So great to see everyone and sip some lovely Cotswold ale before an early night.

It was incredibly pleasant to pack all my freshly laundered clothes back into my bags thanks to Becci before setting of for Cirencester where the hills became even worse but the scenery of the Cotswolds is breath-taking. 

Had a surprise lunch with Becci half way to Cirencester as she was on a course, then to the Royal Agricultural college to stay for the night.

40 miles, done!

Becci has just completed her second masters at the college and since visiting her there I recognised some of the staff. Here is Stampy, the security guard who remembers us all from many parties...oh dear!

I had dinner in the centre of Cirencester at 'Made by Bob'. Some bread, olives and oils to start followed by fillet of salmon, cannellini beans, green olives, chorizo, peppers, basil and aioli. [They had quite an informative menu!] The food was one of the best dishes I'd eaten on my travels and the restaurant had an open kitchen which was great to see, brilliant decor. However without knowing any of it's background, turning up for an evening meal it did feel a bit too much like a cafe with staff that either weren't quite sure what to do, or didn't really care much about their job. They were all quite young and it almost felt like a youth project [albeit a fairly good one]. It may have been because I was eating alone, as they also seemed pretty confused by this! 

I woke up on the Thursday morning with a fantastic view over the grounds of the college and went to have breakfast with the foreign students who come over from various places such as Italy, Japan and Spain. Whilst eating breakfast the realisation of a life of cycling and sleeping in different beds has hit me, and it doesn't seem particularly appealing!

Off to Bath and just seen one of the many signs I have been dreading...[above!]

Basil Brush at the top of Thompsons Hill.

The Cotswolds just seems to get prettier, and when you're on a bike it's a lot easier to take everything in. I realised how much I kept cycling passed many beautiful spots and things to look at before when stopping for a few minutes was so pleasurable [and if I did look like a lazy cyclist, I really wasn't bothered!]

Lunch was taken at the 'Salutation Arms' where I treated myself to two courses because I couldn't make up my mind!


Pan fried squid with chorizo followed by scallops with 'textures of apple' and crispy proscuitto.

The amusing part of the scallop dish was the 'textures of apple' which were apple puree, julienne and brunoise...hardly textures! But it was a nice meal overall considering a lot of the pub food I'd been stumbling across.

More scenery shots as I descended into Bath.

A welcoming sign after a rather tough day finishing at the Holiday Inn, kindly funded by my boyfriend Jamie as a nice surprise after some cheapy places! 

45 miles, done!

I then met up with a friend from university, Mike. A few cocktails and meeting his work friends followed by a slap up meal at Wagamamas. Nothing like a chilli chicken and prawn ramen to warm the soul after a busy day!

Had a really good nights sleep for once due to a very comfy bed and had breakfast in the hotel restaurant, not as good! Mike's friends are part of a cycling group [of which I can't remember the name of...!] but recommended a bike shop in town so went to take my bike there to have it's gears looked at. They kept changing whilst going up hills which really wasn't ideal! In the mean time, I went to the cheapest hair salon to chop off the mountain of hair that was getting in my way everyday. It was a graduate stylist who did it for £20, but unfortunately she had never done a new style before and was confronted by my mane. It took her two hours to chop, and I was left with something rather unpleasant!

Something more unpleasant however was my return to the bike shop. They'd had a general look over the bike whilst it was there and had pointed out that the head tube had a lot of wearing away from a basket that used to sit there, this had caused holes on either side and they told me that it could possibly buckle at any point. I smiled, paid for the new gear cables and cycled back to my hotel room with tears in my eyes. Turns out that my local bike shop had managed to miss this fault after two services within four months and had therefore allowed me to cycle across Britain on a very un-safe bike...not brilliant!  

So I waved good-bye to Pegasus II and [with a lovely boyfriend at the end of the phone with a pretty, sparkly debit card] went back to the bike shop to choose a new bike to continue my journey. This done, they had to spend a few hours re-fitting all the bits and pieces and also telling me how to use my speedometer which my local shop had no idea about [despite fitting it], so I took this opportunity to explore a bit more of Bath and have some lunch.

I ate at the Pump House Restaurant with home made foccacia, sun-dried tomato tapenade and oils to start, followed by chicken wrapped in bacon with roasted veg and yoghurt for main course, all washed down with some lovely ale! [And perhaps another cheeky glass of wine, it was a very emotional day!]

The mirrors in the toilets at the restaurant, thought they looked quite cool.

I finally left Bath and was so excited this photo is taken literally five minutes outside of the city. However then I was in a rush to make the rest of the day and to Newport so no more photos until the morning I'm afraid.

I arrived in Newport at about 11pm and missed dinner and anywhere near-by that served any form of food. This, followed by a horrible day and the most un-safe place I'd stayed, I wasn't very happy! 

27 miles, done!

A pretty average breakfast and off again I went, this time to Neath.

Did find some lovely Welsh blackberries though!

And here is the new bike, Pegasus III, in all his glory waiting patiently at Neath Canal.

It all looked so beautiful I wanted to go for a walk, but having 50 kg of weight with me sort of put a stop to that! A few miles from the centre of Neath and I stopped at a very local pub for lunch but all they served was crisps! 

Finally arrived at the Castle Hotel, Neath and the staff were so lovely and accommodating. The receptionist helped me with my many bags and after learning what I was up to very kindly upgraded me to the bridal suite complete with a four poster, double sinks and a large room. Was fantastic! After a bath I went down to the bar for a well-earned pint of Tiger beer. Definitely out of Aspall country now! 

50 miles, done!

I decided I was getting towards the end of the cycle for the first time and treated myself to some fatty foods that I probably shouldn't have. Good old fish and chips and some wine in the hotel. Unfortunately it wasn't brilliant, just standard grub but did the trick.

That evening was the Olympic closing ceremony which was great to watch in my fancy room before nodding off for a brilliant sleep.

Woke up the next morning and managed to smash the screen to my laptop, not too happy about that! It was my companion along the way! 

Omelette and beans for breakfast as usual and then off to my final stop over.

The Welsh hills really started taking their toll on my legs and I'll admit I had to push the bike up a hill too, so sore!

The other issue I encountered with the remoteness of Wales was the lack of open shops on a Monday! I'd been cycling since 9am, it was now 5pm and I still hadn't found any where for food. There were points where I genuinely thought I was going to pass out. 

I had water so that was OK but didn't have anything left to eat until I found a Morissons 7 miles from my bed and breakfast. It almost felt pointless stopping after cycling 45 miles on an empty stomach but I stopped anyway and also bought some dinner. 

Finally arrived at Manordaf bed and breakfast in St Clears where I met the owners, Steve and Pat, who were fantastic hosts. Very friendly and helpful, especially after a long day. The room was small but with an en-suite, very clean and welcoming. Had my sandwich for dinner and then drifted off into the best sleep I'd had all trip. Pretty sure it was the comfy bed and the thought of seeing my mum the next day. 

52 miles, done!

Had a wonderful breakfast in the morning, full English for once, decided, why not?! Then left a couple of my bags there for my mum to pick up on her way through to save me cycling to the finish with everything. 

I decided to learn from my mistakes on the last day and stopped at half 12 for lunch in a town called Haverfordwest. The cafe was called 'The River Cafe' [or something similar!] and from the outside looked lovely and overlooking the river. Unfortunately once I was inside and sat down, it looked like a truck stop cafe and the menu went a little like this...[yes I did risk the humility of taking a photo of the menu!]

I went for the 'chips & chicken burger' which was the worst thing I'd eaten all trip! Not really sure what lesson I should have learnt from my lunch dining experiences!

Back on the bike again and the end was getting closer. So excited to see St David's in the distance!

Newgate Bay was tough! Huge decent which was obviously great fun, but the journey back up was horrible, especially being overtaken by other cyclists. Though they didn't have the weight I did and I'm pretty sure they hadn't cycled as far either, but to be fair, I really wasn't too bothered by this point! 

Solva Harbour, a beautiful sunny moment with people on their boats, children and dogs swimming. A small town just outside of St David's.

I made it to the city! 

I was in contact with my mum the whole way and she was 'apparently' alone, however I could hear my sister in the background of the car and became suspicious! My mum didn't want to tell me she was running as late as she was so subtly told me to go and visit the Cathedral.  

It was beautiful and I went inside to light a candle for my dad. It started to get rather overwhelming so couldn't wait any longer and got back onto my bike and reached the end. 

Now this is the part where my mum got confused! My intention was always to go to the furthest point on the map at St David's which isn't actually St David's Head, however she thought otherwise, and so after a lot of confusion and me cycling to both just to make sure, I had finally completed my ridiculously long journey!

Turns out the reason my mum was late was that she fell down the stairs at my sister's over night and broke her foot in three places and couldn't drive, hence the reason Becci was also there!

I had a medal presented to me with my name and achievement engraved on the back at St David's Head Youth Hostel, the furthest point we could park the car and take mum! 

Jeff was the lovely man there who runs the youth hostel, helped us and really cheered us up as we were all getting rather teary!

Becci, Jeff, Basil Brush and I

It really didn't feel like I'd done it! - still doesn't!

We were staying in Warpool Court Hotel which has the best views in that area. They were stunning and the rooms were nice, though not sure they were worth the price. 

We had dinner in the hotel's 2 Rosette restaurant that evening. Tuna carpaccio with wasabi cream to start followed by lamb three ways. The starter was nice with a refreshing salsa, however the main course really lacked in flavour. The shoulder was burnt and the rack over cooked. My mum's dinner also tasted badly, poorly seasoned. 
Finally in bed and the weather suddenly took a turn for the worst, hailing and incredibly windy. So by the morning there was no chance we were going to walk outside to enjoy the swimming pool! My first journey in a car for a long time and back to Suffolk, it all felt rather surreal! 

So I have this to help remind me of my travels!

Until next year's journey...


Just wanted to say thank you to all these people and places and if you have the chance, visit them or follow them on Twitter to see what they're up to, I will keep adding to the list when I remember more:

Becci Roberts [the sister!] @becciRTR
Jamie Christensen [the boyfriend!] @CBD3D
Susannah Roberts [the mother!]
The Tally Ho Tearooms: 01986 897818
Pink Cottage B and B: 01842 764564
Mark Poynton @markjpoynton 
Restaurant Alimentum @alimentum1
Lewis Moore
Jamie Williamson
Simon Holden
Becci's friends and housemates!
The Royal Agricultural College
Made By Bob @madebybob
Michael Halliwell
Michael's friends!
Avon Valley Cycles
Castle Hotel: 01639 641119
Manordaf B and B: 01994 230464
And all the brilliant people who I met along the way who I will never know the names of!

And all you lovely people who donated!

And finally, my fantastic father, Steven Roberts.