Legendary tales from the road: the journey ends

27th July 2011 by

Northern Souls, we’ve done it!

750 miles since setting off from the west coast of Wales, the team spun into our final destination, the city of Edinburgh, looking like we’ve just landed from the Mediterranean; bronzed faces, arms, and legs while boasting a stellar collection of tan-lines (helmets, watches, gloves, socks, sunglasses, t-shirt). No stranger would have guessed from our appearance that we had just spent the past five weeks crossing the UK (except for maybe after having seen our thighs of steel)!

Charged with a major sense of accomplishment and an abundance of new knowledge, we now begin the re-integration into the real world. A challenge it may be for some and perhaps a relatively smooth transition for others, we will try to weave the Otesha message into our separate lives. Over the past six weeks we’ve built a firm foundation of inclusive and transferable community standards while developing the ability to creatively and positively participate in our communities.

During the tour wrap-up in Edinburgh with Calu, the team shared enthusiasm, hopes, fears, and dreams about the next chapter of our lives: from continuing on our personal low-impact routine back home, to starting a student composting scheme, to selling off that car, to baking more bread — we’re all excited to move forward with positive energy in our stride

We also took some time between eating massive jacket potatoes topped with veggie haggis and trading hardboiled eggs for inanimate objects on the streets (a final group challenge dreamt up by Pete and Heni to test the curiosity and generosity of strangers), to reflect and laugh over the amazing adventure we have all just completed! Our final tour blog entry would not be complete without recap of our major highs, the odd bump along the road and awards for all the amazing qualities and inspiration each member brought to the team.

Total miles cycled: 750
Schools and youth clubs visited: 14
Total puncture count: 12 (7 of which were on trailers)
Kg of peanut butter: 12
Rainy cycling days: 1.5
Most obscure performance venue: a polytunnel (the result of a combination of midges and rain)
Bars of Kendel Mint Cake consumed: probably 10 big ones
Team Member Awards

The Wampire: Heni; At the beginning of tour she often pronounced her ‘v’s as ‘w’s and her favourite song to strum on the ukulele was “I am a Vampire” which first came out as “I am a Wampire”. Another favourite is “Let’s buy Weggies for dinner” (instead of veggies).

Hip-Hop Honey: Meghan; She brought a full helping of hilarious American culture (among many other great things) with her on tour and provided the team with great tunes with her Ipod and speaker combo—on and off the bike.

Hedge Diver: Holly; She had a unique way of getting to know her bike at the beginning of the tour by sporadically moving from the road to the nearest hedge. Luckily she had great technique and the only damages incurred were holes in all of her tights.

Sugar Fairy: Rachel; She was always well equipped with emergency sugar supplies from fruits, to marzipan, cake icing blocks, mint cake and more! Her stocks helped out the team on many occasions to avoid potentially disastrous low-sugar-bonking situations while on the road.

Bunz of Steel: Erin; She had a particularly odd relationship with the trailers—namely BigZip—as she was often first to jump on the opportunity to hook one up regardless of the many hills and mountains. The team gave their gratitude through bottomless encouragement and several (serious) offers to have an image of BigZip tattooed on her once in Edinburgh.

Mother Hen: Iona; She is a calming force for everyone and held all the right remedies for low and tired morale. From massages to chocolate, real coffee, and assuring us that we’ve (almost always) cycled further than we think; her energy, awareness and thoughtful actions kept the group’s spirits high.

Taste bud Guru: Susie; She has incredible insight to satisfy every team members’ palate and cravings— an extremely important element in maintaining high morale. From surprise Nutella and fresh bread before a performance, to chocolate covered Brazil nuts half-way up a hill; gourmet Indian dahl, nourishing soups for dinner and sharing bites of her chocolate tiffins; she always knows how to keep spirits high, healthy and “hit the right spot”.

DJ Gasolina: Petor; He set the tour off on a high note with his extraordinary mobile sound system, providing a variety of beats and rhythm in our stride and in the lives innocent bystanders along the road. He also hosted many impromptu dance parties with surprises like strobe lights and anthems to sing while searching for camping fuel donations (hence gasolina).

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Northern Soul Otesha UK tour to make it such a success! We look forward to visiting you all again someday and keeping in touch.

Peace and bicycle grease,
Heni, Iona, Holly, Rachel, Pete, Susanna, Meghan and Erin

Tales from the road – part 4

18th July 2011 by

As many of you may have gathered, every day on tour is a little bit different. Writing tour journal entries is one of those tasks that seems quick and easy in theory, but when it actually comes down to doing it, well… easier said than done. Between cycling days, play performances, cob building, swimming in streams, cooking, workshops, crazy weather, bug bites, minor injuries (not always bicycle related), camping, hula hooping, bicycle mishaps and mountain passes, our days are jam packed and full of adventure! And I feel this is why the tour journal is so difficult; to try to sum up a week on tour is like trying to navigate through Manchester using only an OS landranger map (scale of 1:50 000). You have to stick to the main roads and it often lacks a lot of important details (we speak from experience!). As such, I feel it is worthwhile to give you all a more in-depth (city-sized, if you will) look at one of our cycle days.

Though in general we have been very fortunate weather-wise (I came prepared for rain all day, every day), our second cycling day in the Lake District brought some discouraging conditions: heavy rain and uphill towards a mountain. After an hour’s delay in feeble attempt to wait out the rain (forecasted all day), we set out only to discover about five minutes in that a set of brakes had come loose. After addressing this problem (still raining), we set off for the second time, now two hours later than our planned departure time, and only about 0.1/35 miles complete. Still recovering from taking the trailer up a mountain two days prior, my legs were not very happy on the steady incline up another, but with three of my lovely teammates supporting me with a push and a cheer here and there, we finished the climb on the winding, wet roads safe and sound. The only casualty: Meghan’s pump, which was run over by two coach busses. Ironically, once at the top of the climb we also realised her tyre was very low. And there we were, stopped again only a few miles into the day, cold, soaked, two of us trying to find a pump to rectify the tyre situation, one of us holding three bikes and the trailer. But fear not! It was downhill from there! Well, for another 10 miles or so.

After a lovely rendez-vous with the rest of the group at the Lakeland Pedlar wholefood bicycle cafe in Keswick, where we stocked up on chocolate tiffins, coffee, hi-vis vests and chain lube, we continued our journey to Cockermouth. After much debate between the high traffic A road, a hilly B road with a near vertical mountain pass, and the cycle route with a few miles of off-road trail, we decided that the cycle path would probably be our safest bet. Our first glimpse of this path was not encouraging: far too narrow for fully loaded panniers (let alone a trailer), way too many large rocks and gravel for our slicks, and a little too steep for our liking. But, we couldn’t go around it, couldn’t go under it, had to go over it (pushing our bikes). And that is how my first experience hiking with a bicycle began. Luckily the rain had stopped, and the path was indeed only a few miles long, and with everyone taking turns pushing the trailer, we arrived at the “meadow of heaven” as Erin dubbed it, and took a nice sunny break on the top of the small mountain, enjoying the lovely view that the steep climb had just afforded us. To our delight, we rolled on to a nicely paved windy country road (the BEST kind), with Holly yelling “HELLOOO LOOOVAAAA!” in her charming Aussie accent, and it was, literally, all downhill from there.

Peace and bicycle grease,

Susanna and the rest of the Northern Soul Cycle Tour team

Northern Soul's School Days – part 3

8th July 2011 by

Fun Facts:

Bicycle Punctures: 5 regular punctures to date (4 go to Erin, 1 goes to Heni, both have purchased new tyres). 2 inexplicaple inner tube explosions (both on Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres….uhoh!)

Trailer Punctures: 4… the thorns got us good.

Miles cycled: 420

Schools and youth clubs visited: 10

Bee attacks: 1  (but well compensated for by honey and mead)

Minor bicycle mishaps:~5

Kilos of peanut butter eaten: 8 (that’s 1 per person)

Baby hedgehog saves: 1

The real blog:

Last Tuesday morning the entire Northern Soul team wriggled out of a tiny two-man tent to find 100 primary school children sitting in neat rows (this may have been planned).  It was one of many great visits to schools over the past couple of weeks.  The performances and workshops always remind us why we’re on tour.  The children’s and teachers’ laughs make the performances so much fun, and their ideas and initiatives inspire fantastic conversations during workshops.

Although the funniest part of the play for the children is repeatedly a tree in the Amazon being cut down, interactions with the children after the play and during workshops assure us that they are really engaging with issues of sustainability.  The only thing children don’t like about our Fairtrade workshop is the reality that many people in the production chain of a non-fairtrade banana don’t get paid fairly!  Children have told us about significant changes they will make in their (and their families’) transport choices; they’ve also told us (half-way through a workshop) that they’ve just used less toilet paper!

It’s great to see so many projects going on in schools already, led by students and teachers alike.  From gardening projects to bike-ability classes, and keeping chickens to composting, the schools really impressed us with their knowledge, motivation, and desire to learn and share with us.

We’ve experienced such wonderful hospitality from schools: from donuts for breakfast, to moving meetings for us to use their staff room, to letting us camp in the school hall or field, and even gifts of Fairtrade chocolate, juice and oatmilk.  These school visits along with the hospitality from all our other wonderful hosts has given us new faith and hope in humanity.

Legendary tales from the Northern Soul cycle tour – part 2

27th June 2011 by

This past week has been eventful… to say the least. Like the winding hills of North Wales, we have seen many summits, a few tight corners, and some good steeps!

We bid farewell to our lovely friends at Felin Uchaf on a sunny morning and only an hour behind schedule (good, we are told). Successful journey to Busybees organic farm where we managed to spend an entire days budget (almost) on their incredible honey, eggs, and fresh strawberries! All of our dreams come true. That extra protein and sugar helped us power through our first performance and set of workshops — which were a total success!

Whoever would have thought that carrying a bicycle pump in our bike maintenance trailer would be SO hilarious to a bunch of primary school kids. After a few hours worth of workshops and one hour of playtime, we were delighted to hear the kids requesting more fair trade products in the canteen, and the banana song being sung in all corners of the playground. It was so nice to have such a positive response from the kids and teachers — it has given us lots of motivation for the weeks ahead!

And then… 3 exciting days of cycling. We won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say they included several modes of alternative  transportation (land rover + horsebox, train) resulting from a few bicycle mishaps.
Until next time…
Peace, love and Marzipan biscuit sandwiches to you all! :) x

Meghan, Pete, Erin, Susanna, Holly, Heni, Rachel & Iona
The Northern Soul cycle tour team

Legendary tales from the road – part 1

22nd June 2011 by

At last the team has come together to prepare and bond before we hit the road for our 600-mile adventure from Aberdaron to Edinburgh!

We’ve had an action packed week of workshops; sharing our journeys to Otesha; outreach training; and familiarising ourselves with the ‘Morning Choices’ script to craft our very own version of the Otesha play. We’re beginning to feel well prepared to spread the message of low-impact living far and wide, and we’re excited to learn more from everyone we meet along the way. Thanks to Liz and Calu for facilitating all the week’s activities, and to Matt, Harriet and Sylvia’s Mother for keeping us well nourished!

There have been so many highs with a few healthy lows; we were perhaps all too optimistic in leaving those extra layers behind only to realise that just because it’s June, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be warm! But it was easy to forget about the cold nights with the beautiful rides, learning exchange, bicycle maintenance, cob building, and did we mention delicious food?

We’re very grateful to our hosts here at the inspirational and beautiful Felin Uchaf centre, who have shared bounty from the garden and their enchanting folk stories around the fire. It’s going to be hard to leave but after our first successful play performance, we’re energised and excited for our shows ahead.

Smiles, pedals, peace & peanut butter power,

Meghan, Pete, Erin, Susanna, Holly, Heni, Rachel & Iona
The Northern Soul cycle tour team

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P.P.S If you want to subscribe to updates straight to your inbox, email cycletours@otesha.org.uk with the subject line “Ey up, it’s a blog!”


Ey up, it's a blog!

27th May 2011 by

Want to hear about the adventures of our Northern Soul team? If you want to know all about the team’s training, cycling, performing, workshop-delivering, camping, eating, volunteering, (maybe the odd day off), and plenty plenty more – you’ve come to the right place!  Send an email to cycletours@otesha.org.uk with the title ‘Ey up, it’s a blog!’ and you’ll get a little bit of Otesha magic straight to your inbox every week – we’ll try not to make you too jealous not to be on tour with us, or make too many terrible puns! The fun begins when our tour liaisons join us in the office next week, so sign up soon!

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 cycletours@otesha.org.uk for more information and to find out when we’ll be in town!

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…


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