Come to the theatre, or let the theatre cycle to you…

27th May 2011 by

Our first tour of the summer will be hitting the road on 10th June.  We’ll be visiting schools and youth clubs from the north-west corner of Wales, up through Manchester, the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District, along Hadrian’s Wall, through Newcastle and up to Edinburgh! Young people across the UK will get a chance to enjoy our high-energy ‘Morning Choices’ play and participate in a series of hands-on workshops all about environmental and social sustainability.

You don’t have to be at school still to catch a show, we have a public performance lined up at Heron Corn Mill on Monday 4th July at 6:30pm.  There are plans in the works for Newcastle and Edinburgh – so watch this space!

The schedule is getting fuller by the minute – but there’s always a tiny bit of time left to squeeze in an extra school visit or a public performance!  (I’m sure the team won’t say no to delicious vegan meals, hot showers, or spare inner tubes either, just saying!) This year we’re headed to Felin Uchaf, Bangor, Saltney, Manchester, Skipton, Beetham, Burneside, Penrith, Cockermouth, Carlisle, Newcastle, Alnwick and Edinburgh.  Our next tour will be rolling around the south of Scotland, follow this link for more!  If you’re en route for either tour and want to organise a visit, email for more information and to find out when we’ll be in town!

Grants available for our Northern Soul tour!

5th May 2011 by

We have four grants available for our Northern Soul cycle tour! What are you waiting for?

Starting in Snowdonia on 10th June, the Northern Soul team will be navigating north through the stunning Yorkshire Dales and the lovely Lake District, cruising from coast to coast and spinning into Scotland.  If you fancy joining this six-week life-changing and world-changing adventure we have the following grants available to help you on your way:
– One full grant to cover the complete £800 fundraising goal
– Up to three partial grants towards the £800 fundraising goal

We’re thrilled to be able to give this opportunity to four lucky cyclists.  We want these grants to have the deepest and broadest impact possible, so here’s what you have to do to get your hands on one!
1. Fill in an application form to come on tour (you can find it online here)
2. Write us a little letter explaining:
– the impact coming on an Otesha tour will have on you personally;
– how you hope to promote sustainability within your community after you return from your Otesha adventure;
– your dream project working on environmental and social sustainability that you would love to set up and run if you had desk space for six months and a £500 start-up pot!;
– financial need.

Please send your electronic letter to Calu and Iona at by Wednesday 18th May!

If you’ve got any questions, send us an email or give us a ring 0207 377 2109.

How to survive a 1,000 mile cycle ride in 10 easy steps

4th May 2011 by

This blog is cross-posted from Brake the Cycle, written by Liz and Matt.

So, it’s now the end of day 8 and we’re 550 miles into the trip, camped by a beautiful river in Kendal, at the start of the Lake District. Now, we can’t claim to be Lance Armstrong-calibre cycle touring experts but we have learned a few things along the way, which we thought we’d pass along to you. So we present, in no particular order, our top tips for making the most of a two-wheeled cycle adventure:

1. Bring chocolate. Lots of chocolate. And sugar. Lots of sugar. Especially on hilly days. Bananas are good too (and chocolate peanuts, and energy bars, and apples, and pink jelly babies, and blocks of cheese, and oatcakes, and sandwiches, and pastries…). Evening meals should pay homage to the great chickpea (or other good sources of protein) in the form of something warm or delicious like a curry. In general, eat twice or three times as much as you usually would.

2. After a few long days on the road, padded shorts will be your best friend. Three to four layers of padding are optional but recommended by some, as long as you don’t mind looking like the Michellin Man. A happy bum makes for a happy cyclist, trust us.

3. Don’t have a pint at lunch, no matter how tempting the pub and how sunny the afternoon. It will only make you sleepy later. Do have a pint (or two…or three?) at the end of the day.

4. Stretch consistently throughout the day. Roadside stretching is especially good since it also entertains the drivers passing by, and who doesn’t like to brighten up someone else’s day with a few lycra-clad lunges?

5. Water security is important. Don’t ever cycle with less than 2 extra bottles somewhere on your bike, or travel with other people who have lots of water. No matter how many fancy sports drinks you chug back, the humble tap water is the most refreshing drink of all.

6. Don’t bonk. Avoid bonking by adhering to point 1 and point 3, and possibly point 5. (According to some, bonking is cyclist-speak for when you suddenly run out of energy, usually when you’re about to cycle up a really big hill, and your muscles don’t want to work anymore.)

7. You’ll be spending at least 15 hours a day with the same people, so make sure you like your company. Boring people get very boring when you have to spend 8 hours pedalling next to them listening about cricket. Luckily, the Brake the Cycle group is very nice. Also none of them like cricket.

8. Love your bike. You and your bike will develop a very close relationship whilst on the road. You can nurture this relationship by lubing it up regularly before getting your leg over.

9. Don’t be a Debbie Downer. Be a Positive Polly or even an Uplifting Ursula. If all else fails, tell cheesy jokes.

10. In the end, remember that it’s not the destination, it’s the journey that counts. It can be tempting to compulsively check bike computers to clock record speeds and watch the miles rack up under your wheels, but the real magic happens when you take your eyes off the road speed and look at the counties, villages, cities, countryside and countless sheep you’ll see as you pass by.

The wind and hills

4th May 2011 by

As I cycled along the Somerset coast this weekend, I was thinking about the wind.  The wind and hills. It was a perfect road for cycling: an amazing gradient, hardly any traffic, moorland, ponies.  But man, that crosswind! That wonderful gradient, pedaling hard but going so fast (how fast I don’t know, I forgot the speedometer..), but fast (but not quite as fast as the people on racing bikes with carbon-fibre bottle cages)… but that crosswind. Man.

Later on, going up a never-ending hill – one of those not-so-steep but really never-ending hills – accompanied by another crosswind I thought, as I’m sure others have before, about putting a sail on my bicycle.  It could be quite fun, not knowing where the wind will take you,  just don’t try it on a cliff-top. Or a busy road.  Or any road?

I thought again: just get over it, cycle up the hills without complaining and use the wind a bit more usefully! Exmoor’s pretty spacious: other than beautiful moorland, it’s also got some fields and roads, pubs, cream tea places (yum), and, did I mention? Wind! Ten points for guessing what my more useful suggestion is.

In April this year wind power became Spain’s main source of electricity for the first time ever! It hurts to not bring my sailing bicycles plan to fruition, but just in case there’s not enough wind to go around, I won’t steal it – I’ll leave it on Exmoor and hope some clever people help us follow in Spain’s footsteps!

Our amazing training week location!

9th March 2011 by

Super news folks – we’ve found a beautiful spot for the Northern Soul training week!  The beautiful Felin Uchaf project is tucked away in the north-west corner of Wales.   “The Felin Uchaf Project grew out of a vision to create a place where people and the land on which they worked could nourish each other in body, soul and spirit and to found a Community Enterprise Centre based on a holistic understanding of our spiritual and physical needs.”   I can’t do it justice in a few words in a blog post so  – check out their website!

Amongst all our other super fun training week activities: we’ll be dining locally on fresh veg from the gardens of Felin Uchaf; doing some work exchange; and sharing our performance and workshops with volunteers, staff, and hopefully some nearby schools.

So if you’re already coming on the Northern Soul tour – get excited!  And if you’re super excited, but not yet coming on the Northern Soul tour – get applying! This is just the beginning of all the amazing places we’ll be visiting this summer…

Super Summer Cycle Tours

7th March 2011 by

It’s a beautiful sunny day here in London town.  It might not be quite warm enough for me to cycle to the office without losing feeling in my toes, but have no fear – if you join one of our cycle tours we can guarantee you six weeks of beautiful, warm sunshine*.

Just in case you don’t know already – this year we’re heading on two terrific tours.  Northern Soul will be visiting Wales, England and Scotland, and Tartan Trail will be winding its way around Scotland.

On tour you can expect to:

– get skilled up and learn loads about everything from bike maintenance to consensus decision making, sustainability to group living

– perform our play and deliver workshops about sustainability in schools, youth clubs, and festivals up and down the UK

– have more fun than you could imagine

But hurry, the places are disappearing, don’t miss out – you can find the online application form right here.

*Unfortunately we don’t quite have the power to control the weather, but you will feel the warmth and beauty of making many new and amazing friendships.

Thoughts and love to Otesha Canada

20th September 2010 by

We have had some awful news at Otesha UK – a cycle tour member on an Otesha Canada tour (our kind of “parent” organisation) was killed in a collision with a lorry on Thursday and two others were admitted to hospital with what we believe are minor injuries. It is so, so sad and I can’t even imagine what the team over there are going through, so my thoughts and love go out to them and to the friends and family involved.

The person killed was a 23 year old man from Brooklyn, NY, called Andrew Wolf. I had never met Andrew or heard of him until yesterday, but I do know some things about him, as each person who signs up to an Otesha tour has these things in common: An incredible spirit. A thirst for adventure. A belief that the world can change for the better. A belief in themselves. Strong thighs, strong heart. A deep sense of morality. A smile. An inherent optimism and appreciation for people, beauty, nature, life. The ability to meet a stranger and soon enough, call them “family”. An open mind. A need to prioritise what’s important in life – people, experiences, contentment, our earth – over prestige or money.  A good sense of humour. An ability to laugh at themselves. Playfulness. A desire to connect with young people and pass on what they’ve learnt. A desire to stand up and be counted.

The world has lost another who was trying to change it for the better. Please, please, let’s do all we can to make cycling safer for ourselves and our loved ones.

End to End almost done

23rd August 2010 by

Kirkcaldy proved to be more akin to a Carribean beach resort than the grey coastal town that it had been rumoured to be. We experienced tremendous luxury at the JRD trust who kindly put us up for the night and allowed us use of all their facilities (never have so many people taken such joy from merely sitting on sofas) including a convenient courtyard which was soon transformed into a hub for bike maintenance. The tropical temperatures prompted us to head for the beach. Our swim in the sea was slightly short lived as the water was a minefield of floating sanitary towels and jelly fish so we headed for the shore to spend a relaxing afternoon soaking up rays. A couple of us headed back to the JRD trust to sit in on a bible study class and emerged to be greeted by puff pastry pizzas made by the rest of the gang. The gastronomic odyssey did not end there however as, after a prolonged absence, Pete returned bearing PIE and various other sweet delights which we demolished with due haste. A late night play rehersal ensued on an ACTUAL stage but due to delirious tiredness the majority of the cast ended up rolling around on the floor laughing..

The next day we awoke and set off for Pitlochry. The ride there was amazingly beautiful and followed the cycle path almost the entire way ensuring minimal navigational stress. The day was filled with stunning views and music. Our group stopped in Perth to refuel with coffee and eggs. With renewed energy Pete took his turn pulling the trailer and we headed through some of our most beautiful countryside yet and spotted an array of wildlife including families of deer and hundreds of baby pheasants. We were welcomed into Pitlochry by a pipe band and coconut curry kindly procured by the cooking team. Our evening activities including the recital of a poem Olivia had written us followed by a doughnut eating competition – the aim being to not lick your lips whilst eating (this proved to be much harder than anticipated).

We had an unexpected day off in Pitlochry the next day which we filled with visits to the salmon ladder, cake, knitting, shopping, loch swimming and more cake. ‘Hettie’s’ proved to be the finest cake vendor in Pitlochry serving slices the size of your face. We had to say a tearful goodbye to Pete who had to return to London to work. We wept into our cake a little and then consoled ourselves with eating more cake. A crack team of hardcore thrillseekers, namely Louise, Sam and Robin set off for Loch Tummel to have a dip in its icy waters whilst the rest of us spent the rest of the afternoon exploring, perusing charity shops, learning to knit and listening to music in the sunshine.

The following days cycle to Carrbridge was undulatingly lovely. After reaching the highest point of the tour we descended down to be greeted by the Dalwhinnie whiskey distillery where lunch was had. All three teams managed to pass Olivia who was spending a day at the Highland Folk Museum and wave furiously. The sun had held for most of the day  but our entry into Carrbridge was marked by a massive downpour. The rain stopped long enough for us to set up camp and get cracking with a dinner of veggie sausages and mash. However, as the air thickened with midges we were all forced to seek refuge in our tents and have an early night. When we awoke we were greeted by sunshine. We all began our final day off on tour by basking in the sun’s rays and some had a discreet wash in a bucket. We ventured in ‘to town’ and took over the coffee shop for a session of postcard writing and beverage drinking aswell as clearing out the cafe’s stock of cake. Sadly Ellie had to leave us for a few days to attend a wedding so in usual style we wept into our cake and then ate some more cake as consolation. Back at camp in the evening we feasted on a fabulous meal of vegetable chilli and surprise coconut pudding concocted by the lovely Ruth. As the sun set a cloud of midges descended so we headed for the pub to seek shelter and discuss ethical veganism.

Next morning we were very excited to return to primary schools. We ran a banana chain game workshop in Carrbridge Primary and then performed the play in the school hall. Afterwards we headed onwards to 4 miles down the road to Deshar Primary School to perform the play once more. Both performances went really well and everyone was glad to be back in primary schools after the break. We returned to Carrbridge and once more stormed the coffee shop and devoured cake.

The cycle ride from Carrbridge to Alness got better and better as the day progressed. Sarah recieved her first puncture leaving Mike as the last member of the tour to remain punctureless (accusations of sabotage have been floated). On the way we visited the Clara Cairns, one of the best preserved burial sites in the UK. We experienced one of our windiest days yet adding an extra challenge going up hill…and downhill for that matter. We also passed our first signpost for John O’Groats. This provided a realisation of just how close we are to the finish. Our team had managed to meet up with another charity doing LEJOG but in reverse. They were mid way through their first day of cycling and were planning to cycle the entire route in 7 days! We stopped for a cheeky cup of tea and slice of cake with then and exchanged stories. Team 3 managed to be the first to Alness but the others were not far behind. We were greeted at the West End  Community Centre by feast of delicious food and the service of a five star restaurant. The boys took delight in the availability of video games and air hockey at the centre and everyone slept like logs – happy to be under a roof for a change. The centre had really kindly provided us with EGGS for breakfast so we feasted merrily before heading off to the leisure centre for a much needed shower.

End to End – tour journal 6

19th August 2010 by

The new week began with the usual scramble to leave on time. Bags loaded and with our temporary new recruit Helena on board (Mike’s girlfriend), we left Newcastle in search of Alnwick. It was a beautiful 50 mile journey along the coast to the place of Harry Potter’s Castle. We slept away the night in style at Alnwick community centre, which was full of luxurious treats such as a tuck shop and table football! But the slumber was short lived and once again the morning, along with the youth of Alnwick, was upon us. The play and bicycle maintenance workshop were met with much enthusiasm which powered our pedals through the treacherous thunderstorm that was to come on our way to Budle Bay campsite (the wise amongst us hibernated with coffee and cake whilst it passed over).

Sleepy cyclists crawled out of their tents at the cry of the time lord “6am everybody!!! Breakfast in fifteen minutes”. Greeted by a glorious blue sky, the day began with a pretty trundle along the coast. After a euphoric boarder crossing, Scotland kicked in and we struggled with our first mountain! Celebrations at the top included a puncture and a heavy shower. After that, all that remained was to cruise downhill to Edinburgh (although the ferocious headwind meant that pedalling down hill was a must!). But all arrived safe and sound 83 miles later at Mike and Helena’s flat, and after chips settled down to a restless night excitedly anticipating the day of the Fringe!!!

After a quick rehearsal and a run through of our new final song we made our way (fuelled by Irn Bru) through the streets of Edinburgh to the Royal Mile. We were greeted by more rain, but it ceased long enough for us do our work in all its splendour. The audience were not only treated to the delights of Mike in his kilt (and all that entailed) but witnessed the LEJOG crew at its best. The day off in Edinburgh that followed was most enjoyed by all (various activities included haggis eating, fringe watching, Arthur’s seat climbing), and concluded with a magnificent ceilidh, in true Scottish style.

Next stop…. Kirkcaldy!!!! And an easy peasy lovely jubbly pucker 35 miles over the magnificent Forth Bridge and along the coast. Here we experienced our first wild camp, as we pitched down on the beach front ready for our early morning dip. A misty murky morning lay ahead for those brave souls who ventured down to be greeted by a somewhat refreshing wake up call!!!

End to End – tour journal 5

19th August 2010 by

Derby was the location of our long awaited mid-tour retreat. Our vision of it being an emotional and physical recuperation were fulfilled as we rolled along the sweeping gravel driveway to discover a Jane Austen-esque estate complete with horses, a lake, afternoon tea and a man- servant (Alfie you’re a legend!!). Unfortunately Mr Darcy was away on business.

After a restful nights sleep on the manicured lawn we awoke to some meditative yoga led by Hannah. Having removed the knots from our cycle weary bodies we thought a team building exercise in the guise of an Otesha pyramid would be fun! It lasted all of three seconds before a crumpled heap of bodies shouting “my arm, my leg, my hip” ensued. The fun continued down at the lake. Our vision: crystal waters, Borris the boom box and his finest tunes and a picnic lunch. The reality: a cesspool six inches deep with algae, topped with stinging wasps and hissings swans. Undeterred Sarah was the first brave soul to wade neck deep into the delights of Derby’s leisure facilities, closely followed by Robin and Kerry. Ellie and Hannah took a different approach gliding in on their lilos. We doused both them and our tupperware’s in citricidal that evening.

Alongside these frolics we had time for quiet reflection both on our progress so far and looking forwards, gearing our minds and bicycles towards the epic journey to Leeds. We set off bright and early, dominating the Peak district and its unending hills. As the hours passed and pedals turned we were all safe and tucked up in our sleeping bags by the respectable hour of 3am!!! Going in a 2 mile circle through deep foliage didn’t yield the fastest progression. The following day we partook in the 10th Breeze Festival in Armley Park, Leeds. Morning Choices was received with a rapturous response. One of the festivals aims was to ‘party without pollution’ so Otesha felt right at home, as we put our Lance Armstrong legs to good use, powering a DJ set up inside one of the Marquees.

One of the highlights of the Lejog tour has been the number of quirky places and interesting people we’ve encountered en route and East Rounton was no exception. Pulling in after 62 miles we pitched our tent among the chickens. The owner had taken it upon himself to convert an old barn into an art studio, showcasing local talent. It was pretty awesome to view all the depictions and sculptures of the surrounding countryside, from still life to real life as we ate our morning porridge.

Ellie and Robin were keen to descend on Newcastle, spending the cycle there getting into character perfecting their Ant and Dec jordi accents. Way –ey!! The 70 mile journey was picturesque along the East coast, restoring our faith in cycle path terrain. No journey is ever hitch free through as team one discovered arriving at the Tyne river crossing tunnel, with a lift out of action and broken down escalator the prospect of carrying 4 bicycles, pannier laden and big zip down 350 stairs was not plausible. Onto the next green method of transport  the ferry was considered but with none in sight Becky, Ruth, Louise and Mike loaded their bicycles onto a trailer and hopped in the car shuttle service, ready to face the treacherous crossing to arrive safe and dry in Newcastle. Another town, another workshop, we packed up our tools and set off to deliver another energy filled bicycle maintenance workshop. Those 37 punctures to date had proved handy practice. However beyond this it turned out to be more of a workshop for some of us as the Newcastle kids showed off their bicycle knowledge. Ellie how do you use a bicycle pump again??

Thalia and her sweet talking ways had organised our enforced fun evenings entertainment with a private film showing at a local anarchist cinema. The set up was run by volunteers and consensus s decision making ( a thing or too we also know about) and we reclined in comfy chairs enjoying locally brewed cider at their in- house bar. The following day we cycled on to Alnwick spurred on by Louise’s song “500 miles to John O Groats, All we need is OATS, OATS, OATS”!!

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