New Bike Under Cycle to Work Scheme

Two years ago I purchased a new bike under the “Cycle to Work” scheme, which is run by the government to encourage people to, er, well cycle to work!  I say “purchased” as this is effectively (and finally) what happens, but, due to the complex way governments and tax departments run, what I actually did was rent the bicycle for a year from my employer, who took the “rent” (which is the full retail cost of the bike plus accessories) in my 13 pay slips over a year, but took these payments “before deductions”, so in effect the rent is tax free.  At the end of the “hire” period you make a final payment to “buy” the bike from the company for the “depreciated value”, which I think is about 5% of the original value.

The last time round I purchased a mountain bike for £799+£100 of accessories, which has done me very well, and, with the scheme offering the tax free savings, I think the net cost was around £550 paid over a year.

This time I have purchased the new Specialized Allez Elite 2013, which is a road bike.  The reason I chose a road bike is that, pretty much from day one, I have had “slick” tyres on my mountain bike.  These are good for getting an extra few (5-7) mph out of the bike on the road, but they make the mountain bike pretty bad as soon as any mud is encountered.  Not very useful on a mountain!  The cost of “wheels” has always put me off having two sets of wheels, so the only option is to change the tyres depending on the circumstance of the ride, which is very time consuming and has not once been done.  So I had a mountain bike for two years that I hardly ever took off road.

I have now ridden the Allez Elite twice, and, having never had a road bike before, I’m getting used to the brakes, handle bar position etc.  I purchased shoes with clips and also the appropriate pedals.  I haven’t tried these out yet, so maybe tomorrow morning or Sunday….. I’m a bit scared of falling off with the clips on, as I’ve never used these before.

I also purchased (not through Cycle to Work) a Garmin Edge 800, which is excellent so far.  I didn’t buy a package with sensors, but I will be adding  a cadence sensor in the near future.

Once I’ve done a decent ride, I’ll review the bike, shoes, pedals and GPS.  I’ll also be putting the knobbly tyres back on my MTB and taking it off road, where it belongs!

Review: New Trent IMP50D

If you’re like me and you use your phone a lot for everything from GPS to a video camera, Twitter & Facebook to even something as outrageous as making calls, then you’ll know that mobile phone batteries have not advanced at the same rate as the mobile phone.

This is where the “external battery pack” steps in.  Think of it like a normal phone charger, but without the need for a plug socket when you’re out and about.  You just plug your phone into the battery pack and it recharges it as it sits in your bag, on your desk, on the seat tray on the train, wherever you need external power.

The IMP50D is not the most powerful in the New Trent range, but, at around the size of an iPhone, it’s small enough to slip into your pocket or bag and not be chunky or a weight burden.  It has a 1A output and a 500mA output, so you can charge big devices like iPads or Galaxy Tabs in less time than a lot of normal USB chargers would.

The IMP50D has a charge indication on the front – three lights showing the charge state, so no excuses for taking it out without charging it – a word of warning, the lights remain on until you press the button again, so make sure you switch off after use, or you’ll eventually drain the battery!

You charge the IMP50D using a mini USB input – this is not the normal phone USB (that’s a micro USB) but it the USB that most cameras have.  The lead supplied with it has interchangeable ends, so you can just plug into your PC if you don’t have a mains USB charger to hand, no big dramas there.

I have a, rather juicy, HTC One X, and this product can give at least two overnight charges, so it’s ideal for a night or two camping, backpacking or a day when you know you’re not going to be near the mains for a long time.

The IMP50D is available from Amazon for just under £20 and is a good “starter” battery pack for those who require power on the move for their phone or tablet device – an extra battery for your phone (if you can even replace the battery – iPhone users take note!) will probably be at least this price and will only give you one charge.

5/5

Steve Pilfold’s Bonfire Buildup on Rocket FM

Steve Pilfold and guests will be building up to this year’s procession, bonfire and fireworks by the Lewes Nevill Bonfire Society in 87.8 Rocket FM, Lewes between 5 and 7pm this Saturday.

As well as information on the bonfire at Nevill, Steve will also have information on the inaugural event by the reformed Seaford Bonfire Society aka the Seaford Shags and one of the most popular village events of the season at Fletching.

So sit back, light a rookie and stick a guy on the fire before donning the stripes and heading off to your local bonfire event.

Eastbourne Bonfire Procession and Fireworks 2011

Sorry for the late and brief update on Eastbourne – this is my fault entirely!

Eastbourne is a good, family bonfire, with no rookies/bangers allowed and lots of good viewing on the seafront.   Posh Old Bloke and Beardy Hat Man put a lot of effort into this, so come down and enjoy it!  Michael Fish says this evening will be dry and there won’t be a hurricane.  So I guess a waterproof jacket wouldn’t go amiss!

The procession is different to last year – starting at the Fishermens’ Club, down the eastern end of the seafront (near Fort Fun/Treasure Island/The Redoubt) and heading down towards the Wish Tower.  It will be on the road at the start, before heading down to the beach level.

The procession will start from the Fishermens’ Green and head towards the RNLI museum at 19:30, it will then descend to the lower prom for fireworks and fire-dancing.

Enjoy!

Rotherfield Bonfire 2011

This Saturday, 1st October 2011, sees the Rotherfield and Mark Cross Bonfire Society hold their annual torchlight procession (sometimes known as a parade – incorrectly!).  The procession is in two parts – following the same route in both directions, except at the end, where it spurs off down “Mayfield Road” before turning back to the village.

After pouring rain for two of the last three processions at Rotherfield, we could have record breakingly high temperatures of 27-29°C this year!

Click here for a general map based on my personal knowledge. This is unofficial but shows parking, procession route and fire site.

Official parking is at Milk Lodge Farm and this is where the procession will form up.  The procession will form up at 7:30pm and move off at 7:45pm. As far as I know the procession route will be up to the village square, and down the B2100 to Town Row, where shelter from the rain last year was most welcome.  There will be a twenty minute break at the railway bridge before heading back to the village and the firesite, where there will be a fairground.

Rotherfield is the second “village” bonfire of the season, but is the first to have both a fire and fireworks, with Mayfield two weeks ago only having fireworks.  The village square itself is always attractive on carnival night, with traditional sweet stands, steam engines, musical organs and bands all making appearances in the past.

Rookies are not permitted in the procession, but boom boxes have been in the past, although I’m not sure on the rules this year, as there were some incidents last year, so if you are in the crowd, be prepared for some noise.  For members of the procession, a playpen has always been provided for “antics”…. I’ll say no more than that.

Fireworks are scheduled for around 10pm at the firesite.

All the above info is accurate to my knowledge, but I haven’t got it from any official sources!

The Rotherfield bonfire procession also has floats from local organisations at the tail end, making an attractive finish to the night, with all the kids in fancy dress.

Steam Fun in the Village Square

Access to the parking is from Crowborough.  I remember finding a parking are on the approach from the Argos Hill-Mark Cross road a couple of years back, but it was full and I parked on the road, and walked into the village, which is a fair old trot.  I believe the parking area was somewhere around here (click for map).  This is “unofficial from my brain” so it may not be correct.

There is no public transport available and don’t forget all roads around the village will be closed to the public from around 7pm.

Last year was very wet, so hopefully this year will be a bit kinder, as we have had at all events thus far in 2009!

PLEASE SHOW YOUR SUPPORT TO LOCAL BUSINESSES AND LICENCED TRADERS IN THE VILLAGE SQUARE AND PUBS AND AVOID THE UNAUTHORISED SCALLYWAGS!

Rotherfield and Mark Cross Bonfire Celebrations are also known as Rotherfield Bonfire, Rotherfield Carnival, Rotherfield Bonfire Parade, Rotherfield Bonfire Procession and (probably) Rotherfield Fireworks Night!  Phew!

Burgess Hill Carnival and Bonfire 2011 – IMPORTANT

Saturday 24th September should see the annual procession in Burgess Hill.

Sadly, a few weeks ago, just before the start of the bonfire season, Burgess Hill announced that they would not be holding their procession and carnival in 2011.  The reasons for this have not been entirely clear, but it seems that, once again, lack of support on the ground, on the night, seems to be a major contributing factor.

I have been informed that the bonfire society and fairground will be putting on a firework display on the evening.

This means we get a weekend off, a chance for our bogeys to lose the blackness they have obtained over the last three weeks of smoke breathing, and Sussex Bonfire will return on Saturday 1st October, with Rotherfield and Mark Cross.

Barcombe Bonfire Society Announcement

LAST NIGHT THE BARCOMBE BONFIRE SOCIETY COMMITTEE MADE THE DECISION THAT THIS YEAR’S EVENT WOULD BE BY INVITE ONLY AND “BRING YOUR OWN TORCHES” WOULD BE THE ORDER OF THE DAY FOR THOSE THAT DO ATTEND.

Committee member Charlie made the following statement on the Sussex Bonfire Forum:

“Just to clarify all the rumours surrounding Barcombe this year, our celebrations WILL  take place  on the 19th November as usual, however; our event will unfortunately be scaled  down.  This is due to us having to operate at  a  budget of over £2000 less than required.  A further blow was the cancellation of our big fundraising event  of the autumn: our autumn ball due to lack of  support and failing to even break even. 

We had a vote at our public committee meeting on the 12th September as to cancel this year’s event or go ahead with a smaller budget.  The motion carried that we go ahead as we felt cancelling the event would make it very hard to get off the ground again for 2012. 

As a result we are having a smaller firework display and a shorter procession. 

We stress that this year Barcombe is strictly INVITE ONLY [for visiting societies]. If you are not invited please do not turn up as you will not be torched up or permitted to partake in the procession. 

Societies that are invited are kindly requested to bring as many torches as they can for themselves and also due to our  committee now standing at a lowly seven or so dedicated people we require much help with marshalling as we  only just managed last year. A request to the Bonfire Council will be made for  this.

We apologise unreservedly for this  situation as we are aware many societies enjoy Barcombe to end the season but we do not have the financial support or the manpower to put on the grand  spectacle that is normally expected with no clear way of gaining the extra money in the short amount of time set.”

While rumours of problems at Barcombe have been circulating for some time, it is, nevertheless, quite a surprise for this statement so soon after the demise of Burgess Hill’s procession, which has been cancelled for “manpower and support” reasons, in the last few weeks.

This needs to serve as a wakeup call to those involved in Sussex Bonfire that you cannot just pay your £5/10/15 to join a society, get granny to knit you a guernsey and expect to be able to roll up at the village pub, twenty minutes before the start of the procession, and have a jolly good laugh for a couple of hours, before going home and waking up gritty eyed and black bogeyed the next morning.

I know we all have pressures on our time, but bonfire doesn’t “just happen”.  Organising 500-1000 men, women and children with sticks of fire for three miles takes enough doing, then there are the “services” – fire, police, first aid, refreshments, placing and organising the filling of water butts, the building of the bonfire, fencing on the fire site, clearing up.  And that’s just on the night….. making the torches is a time consuming process, collecting the kerosene, dipping the torches….. this all takes time, as does preparing tableaux, fire banners, other set pieces.  Oh, and then there is the fund raising, the pub quizzes, the standing under a gazebo which is trying to blow away as a July squall hits the summer fete……  Did I forget to mention the legal side?  Organising and paying for insurance, making sure road closure orders are obtained, making sure there is parking, keeping the local farmers on side, organising the fire site location and arrangements.

I’m sure that Barcombe will have a great evening and I hope I’m not restricted to standing in the crowd.  What is good is that the cry for help has gone out, maybe a bit late, but it’s gone out.  This is something which didn’t happen with Burgess Hill – most of us found out via Facebook and Twitter that the event had been cancelled, and this was the first we knew of any problems.  Whilst I understand that there may have been other forces at work, internally, leading to the cancellation of that event, it’s always better to ask for help before you are forced to cancel.

Well done to the Barcombe Committee for doing this, I hope that you get the support that you need to put on a great night, as it always is, and come back bigger and better than ever in 2012.

FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN HELPING THERE WILL BE AN EGM IN THE ROYAL OAK ROOM, BARCOMBE ON 26th SEPTEMBER 2011 AT 8PM.

Mayfield Bonfire and Carnival 2011

Times, travel, parking and procession (parade!) information for Mayfield Bonfire 2011

*** A STRICT ALCOHOL BAN WILL BE IN FORCE ON THE MEMORIAL FIELD, ENFORCED BY THE POLICE ***

With the two bonfire procession down, on Saturday, 17th September 2011 the focus turns to the small village of Mayfield, between Heathfield and Tunbridge Wells.

Events in the village start early in the day, with a street market from 12:30-3:30pm in the village centre and at 3:15 the children of the society and village take part in their own procession from the Royal Oak to the War Memorial at St Dunstan’s Church in the village.

If you’re looking for something to do earlier in the day, then take a trip to the Congregational Church in the village, in Station Road near the junction with Rotherfield Road, where you will find a memorial in the courtyard to the six martyrs of Mayfield (and one of Rotherfield) who were burned near this location in the persecutions of Bloody Mary. But more of that when we visit Lewes on the 5th!

The main events of the evening kick off at 6:45, with the laying of a wreath at the War Memorial, followed by the crowning of the Bonfire Princess, who, I am reliably informed, will not be burnt on the fire (there isn’t one!)….

At 7:30 the first procession heads from West Street to the Rose and Crown, where “refreshments” will surely be served. At 8:20 we move off to Stone Cross, via South Street before forming up again at 9:15 to head from Stone Cross to Nat West. After this short procession the final “grand” procession heads from the Natwest to the Memorial Hall, before fireworks at 10:15pm in Court Meadow!

Parking in small villages can be a nightmare, so make sure you arrive in plenty of time, or you will be in for a bit of a hike. Make sure you park with consideration, the lanes can become very congested and emergency vehicles still need access, as do locals.

Remember – Mayfield is a small and remote village with no station and can become very congested. The discharging of fireworks is not welcome in this procession and the local police will be backed up with reinforcements from around the County, so don’t try it!

Support the society and community by only buying merchandise and food from authorised retailers. The society have confirmed they have organised their own bar and food stall and are asking everyone to support it – last year it was very conspicuous in the middle of the village street – good value beer at £2.50/£3 a pint!  Programmes are on sale in the village with the full information!

 12:30-3:30pm  Street Market in the High Street
 3:15pm  Children’s Fancy Dress Procession (from the Royal Oak to the Memorial Hall)
 7:00pm  Ceremonial Laying of the Wreath (procession around 6:45pm)
 7:30pm  First Procession – West Street to Rose and Crown
 8:20pm  Second Procession – Rose and Crown to Stone Cross
 9:15pm  Third Procession – Stone Cross to Natwest Bank
 9:30pm  Grand Procession – Natwest bank to Memorial Hall
 10:15  Grand Aerial Fireworks Display

By car follow the A267 from Tunbridge Wells towards Heathfield or the A267 from Heathfield to Tunbridge Wells.

From the coast the best route is to Lewes and then take the A26 towards Uckfield, fork right to Ringmer on the B2192, follow the B2192 over the A22 at Halland and then after about four miles take the left hand fork just before Cross-in-Hand for Tunbridge Wells (A267) along the “Mayfield Flat” then follow the A267!

The official website can be found here!

Crowborough Carnival 2011

[flickr id=”1669766037″ thumbnail=”thumbnail” overlay=”true” size=”small” group=”” align=”left”] Saturday 10th September sees this year’s second Sussex Bonfire procession of the year, with a trip to one of the highest places in Sussex, Crowborough.
The main event of the evening gets underway at 7pm, when wreaths are laid at the war memorial, which I believe is next to Chapel Green.

The procession gets underway at 7:30, from Chapel Green, just after the crowning of the carnival queen at 7:15.

After leaving the green at 7:15, two hours of processing through the streets of the town get underway, with a long ramble right round the town, which last year was in the area south of Crowborough Hill and took in a refreshment stop at the Bricklayers Arms in Whitehill Road, but the details of which can be found in the programme, which is available in the town. The route of the procession will take the procession of torches and floats through the streets and back to the Chapel Green area for about 9:30pm.

Last year there were no fireworks and I believe this year will be the same, although this is unconfirmed at the time of writing, but there was a fairground and small bonfire on the green, again check for details if this is of importance!

Roads will be closed from around 6pm and parking is available around the area, on street and in car parks, but please be sensible about where you park and be considerate to residents.

Trains arrive at xx:46 FROM Uckfield and xx:09 FROM London Bridge/Oxted to Uckfield.

The last train TO Uckfield is 23:09 and the last train TO East Croydon is 22:46. It should be noted the train station is a fair walk from Crowborough town centre.