16 June 2019

Bergen-Hohne

Bergen-Hohne is the place where our BBF was stationed in the 80’s and so Alan was looking forward to arriving there.

We only had a short 30 km ride so there was no rush. The sun was shining when we set off, but the humans first had to visit a Cash Point to stock up with more money!

Occasionally the wind was against us, but generally speaking it was an easy ride! 


We had a short stop in a tiny hamlet which had a “Hermanns Eck”! Then it was off again across the pristine fields and country side. 

In Bergen our BBF knew the way and so took a short cut to get us to the road leading to the barracks.



He paused briefly on the railway bridge to show us where the NAZIS unloaded the trains with all the “undesirables “ destined for Belsen Concentration Camp!

And then we were there!





The Chairman, Keith Orton, of the Bergen Branch of the Royal British Legion was waiting to greet and congratulate us on our journey so far.



The humans were feted and given isotonic drinks and introduced to the small but warm welcoming committee!



The Chairman presented us with their Branch pennant a really nice gesture we thought.

The Bergen-Belsen Branch had kindly organised a barbecue supervised, organised and cooked by Niel! 

The food was not only excellent, but well organised considering the short notice they had of our arrival. A special thank you, from Chris and Alan and us Bears goes to the Chairman and all involved.






Suitably refreshed and sustained we took our leave of our new friends and retired to our hotel!

Alan did his daily washing, showered and then set off to visit good friends from his time in Bergen, leaving us Bears and Chris in the hotel.

The friends had had a problem with the Just Giving web site so kindly gave Alan cash for the fund which he added immediately to it online!

Tomorrow looks to be another short day as we are only going to Fallingbostel. We feel the other RBL Branches now have a high standard to follow with regards to a reception and a send off! 

15 June 2019

A long hard day!

Last night our BBF wanted to watch the final of Let’s Dance, so after dinner he retired to the room and sat and watched it, while we Bears wrote the blog! 

It had been a another strenuous day for the humans and Chris was the first to retire. Alan turned the TV down, but he never made it to the end, before he to succumbed to the need to sleep!

This morning the humans woke at 07:00 hrs and were fit and ready to rock and roll after a good breakfast! 

The day, however, had other ideas. To start with it was grey and overcast and it tried to rain a bit! This forced our human to put the rain cover on his helmet, us in his pack and then the rain cover on his pack! 

Fortunately the drizzle didn’t last and so the two humans set off on their journey! Bad Bodenteich was where Chris wanted to go, but Alan thought they could cycle on to Sunderburg which is what he had programmed into his Navi! 

Though grey the day was fresh and clean with the scent of Linden Blossom on the air.



We passed fields where farmers had planted strips to encourage and help bees. 



The route today seemed a steady up hill one, sometimes with long dragging hills at others with a short up followed by a short down, and then another up and down.



We came to a large white pillar which indicated the border between Saxon-Anhalt and Lower Saxony! 



As another sign showed this was the old Iron Curtain Border which came down in 1989. 

At one short stop for an isotonic drink the humans discussed how far they could go today. Alan favoured a more Northern route to Sunderburg, while Chris wanted to go the southern way via Eschede. It was decided that they would decide which way in Bad Bodenteich which they hoped to reach around lunchtime!

This is now where our BBF made a mistake. He set off like a greyhound after a rabbit, not realising that his planned route to Sunderburg did not go through Bad Bodenteich! 

When Chris realised Alan was off on the wrong track he called him up and we turned back to rejoin Chris.

Now on the road to Bad Bodenteich they met a man who gave them general directions which amounted to, go straight on not turning off at all!

At another junction Alan now made a grave error of judgement! He went straight on instead of following the road round to the left! He saw too, that the path went up hill and into a wood and that the tarmac ended and they would be on Forest tracks. 






He can be reckless and just forged on. Chris to give him his due followed though he knew it was wrong! The going got tough and both humans were forced by the soft ground to get off their bikes before they fell off! About three kilometres they rode through the wood until they came to a tarmac road again! Chris was rightly angry and told Alan off. They did not have mountain bikes, each had a replacement knee and Chris had a replacement hip as well! To fall off their bikes would be a disaster for them and not to be contemplated. Alan apologised and was suitably humbled by the fact that Chris was actually with his hip and knee 50% disabled!! 



The track through the forest they had traveled on was actually an historic road as it was the old freight road! 

Once in Bad Bodenteich we found a nice pub called “Zum Alten Ritter”! We stopped for lunch and large isotonic drinks. Alan charged his bike battery and Chris his Navi. Eschede was the destination it was decided!

The first shock when we reached the hotel in Eschede was that there was no room in the Inn! Using the Bett and Bike App Alan found a  B and B which had two single rooms!

The landlady was kindness itself! She not only provided rooms, but isotonic drinks and a meal! 







The humans had pedalled over 105 kilometres today! Another personal best for our BBF so all’s well that ends well! 

Tomorrow we reach Bergen-Hohne where we understand a lunchtime barbecue awaits us!





14 June 2019

Ferry across the Elbe



The accommodation in our former Railway Station is to be recommended. Mind you we are in the middle of nowhere and we’re it not for the petrol station opposite where the isotonic drinks came from we would be lost.

Our two humans were up early and keen to be off, but now we had the first problem they could not get the door to where the bikes were kept open! Each human tried, but it seemed as if the door was bolted from the inside at the top!

They decided to visit the Café in the petrol station to have breakfast! That done when they returned there were two women who had locked the door loading their car! Now they could get started.

After the thunderstorms of last night the day was sunny and promised to get hot. 

The route took us across the flood plains of the Elbe River and the scenery was lovely. If you want to see the stars this is the place to come, for there would be no ambient light from streets and buildings!





The Boys made good progress over these paths, until they got to the banks of the Elbe where the road was a bone shaker of an old cobblestone road!  


But first we crossed the Havel and as you can see the country side is beautiful.



Storks there were aplenty! From here we followed the dyke and the Elbe Radweg!



And then the bone shaker road to the ferry.





There were a couple of other cyclists there. 



The ferry was attached to a long wire anchored upstream and by pulling on one wire to position the bow it used the power of the River Stream to cross from side to side.



We followed the dyke along the River for quite a bit! 

We stopped at a place where there was a seat and shade for a short break, when a couple of cyclists we had seen on the ferry joined us. They had Trecking bikes without an emotor and were in their 60‘s and had started in Munich and were on their way to Hamburg!

At one stage our BBF needed to water a tree! Chris cycled on and when we followed we came to a point where our Navi said we had to turn off, but Chris was nowhere to be seen. The humans then spoke on the telephone and Chris kindly came back to us, but when we did turn off at the point Alan wanted the road we needed was closed for repair! We should have cycled on to join him after all! 

We cycled on to the village of Beuster where Chris led us off route to a great little Hofladen and Café where the humans had an isotonic drink and some lunch! 

Then it seemed a long drag to Arendsee particularly because we had a strong headwind against us.
In Arendsee Chris saw a cycle shop where he asked if they knew of a place we could stay! One kind cyclist showed us the way to the other side of the village to a small hotel, which did have a room for us. 

And so ended another 86 km day! As we write the clouds have closed in and there is thunder and rain again. We wonder what tomorrow will bring?



13 June 2019

Our longest day!

Our day started well in that our two humans navigation instruments couldn’t agree on the route to take! „I’ll follow you!“ Chris said as our BBF‘s route was shorter! One left, one right and one left later the two humans were separated! Ours rode on and arrived at the Royal British Ligion Berlin Branch Office where Daniel, Chris‘s son and Andreas from the Berlin Branch were waiting!  Chris eventually arrived from the complete opposite direction all the humans expected!



Daniel did the honours with the photos. You can just see the RBL Logo above the human‘s heads! Then without further ado goodbyes were said and we were off. 



Alan changed the tight RBL cycle Jersey for a more comfy light dayglo yellow top. 

Generally now for the first part of the journey we were on a cycle path which followed the Heerstrasse out of BERLIN. This was a noisy route as a lot of traffic thundered by.

Chris‘s navigation instrument is a TEASI a special cycle Navi. It picks out the best cycle routes and catorises them into „recommended“, „easiest „ and „shortest“! Alan uses Komoot which also seeks out cycle paths but does not offer you alternatives! Chri‘s Navi said we had to go 100 odd kilometres, Alan‘s said 94! 

The humans started by following Alan’s but got fed up of the traffic for we were following a main road! Then then followed Chris‘s route which took us through woods and along quieter paths and roads.

The day was a lovely sunny one and so we Bears as we were not exerting ourselves were able to enjoy the journey. We think the humans did too, as there were certainly no complaints. It was flat with no hill to speak of until the late afternoon! But even then it was not much to speak about, except for the view from the top.



We  did cross over this major road using a foot bridge later. Which in many ways was a shame as we then could not stop to view a Soviet Cemetery!



All the humans could do was take a picture from across the busy highway.



Once in the country we were cycling between fields of corn and often poppies, which reminded us of our Camino travels and the friends we had found on them.

Lunch was had in an Asian Imbiss and shortly thereafter on the other side of Nauen we found ourselves on a former railway track! Initially the going was good but there were patches where the tree roots had made waves in the tarmac! This sudden unevenness caused Chris‘s panniers to leap off his bike!





The pictures do not do justice to the actual ground.



This was the other end of the railway line and now we followed country roads.



 Occasionally the humans paused to study a proper map to ensure we were going in the right direction.





We even followed what Alan thought was a GDR Tank road as it was made out of precast concrete like we have seen on the old inner German border! 



Here we were probably at the highest point of the day!



In Friesack the humans stopped for an ice cream!



When we arrived in Rhinow the humans had had enough and Alan noticed a sign advertising rooms to let. He rang up and we were all pleased to be given a room each!

The accommodation is in an old Railway Station. Chris had the Kippler Room and we have the Egyptian Room. When our BBF chose it we did not know it was called thus! Some of you will know that we have been five times to Egypt with our human three times to learn Arabic, so we felt it appropriate!



The nice lady that checked us in, also went to the petrol station to get isotonic drinks and mineral water for our humans!

Today our humans have cycled 86.4 kms which is the longest distance Alan has ever cycled in one day. 

We have no idea where we will end up tomorrow but you will be the first to know when we get there!

May we also mention that these two humans are cycling this to raise money for the Poppy Appeal and if you have not sponsored them yet please do so by clicking the Just Giving Button on this Blog or by going on the Just Giving Web Page and entering our humans name, Alan-Tyson-Carter! Thank you! 





12 June 2019

A train to Berlin



Our BBF was awake by 05:00 hrs, but slumbered on until 06:00hrs, when he just had to get up and get going! We are not sure who was more excited, we Bears or our human! 

We got to Mönchengladbach Hauptbahnhof early, but Chris Farrell, the other old codger on this mad escapade was there before us.



He greeted our human by giving him a package which contained a cycle jersey (far too small for our tubby human) and a T-shirt with RBL Rheindahlen Branch Logo, plus an RBL water bottle. A really nice gesture we thought, though Alan looks like a fat liver sausage in his cycle jersey!



He changed into the jersey on the first train.
As this was only our second time on a train with the bike we found it all went fairly smooth and the DB seem to have it well organised, up to a point! 

We changed trains in Duisburg and again in Minden where now we got on an Intercity train which had come from Amsterdam.

Getting the bike up the steps into the carriage would have been difficult alone, we thought. As it was one had to take the panniers off as it was rather narrow and crowded. A good thing the humans had booked places for the bikes as well as reserving seats.



Chris had to really hang his up by the front wheel, whereas Alan only had to fix the front wheel up a bit. There were lockers to put the panniers in!  



We in our basket were taken to the seats, after all we were guarding our human‘s lunch!

Alan slept a bit while Chris chatted to a sweet little one year old.

We arrived in Berlin to a really hot sunny and sultry afternoon. Chris had programmed his bike NAVI with our hotel address and so now we set off on our cycle ride!



It was only a short 8 km ride and then we were there enjoying a welcome cup of coffee at the reception. Chris‘s son came to say hallo before having to go to work again. He is staying in the hotel too, so will give us a send off in the morning!

Our human showered first then he came back down to reception where they had opened the cellar for the humans to store their bikes, as outside it was raining cats and dogs! 

The humans are going off to eat and drink something alcohol we think. Tomorrow we set off into the wild blue yonder and we wonder how it will go!

Bis morgen, Buen Camino! 🧸🐻❤️


6 June 2019

D-Day 75 years on!

There are moments in time and history which have great significance. 6 June 1944 is one such day. I can never think of this day without thinking of my father. Were it not for D-Day I would not exist.



My father was a simple man coming from a working class family. His father had served in the Royal Engineers in Mesopotamia in the First World War. Dad left school at 14 and tried his hand at various things before getting an apprenticeship as a mechanic. Being a small man, only 5ft 5inches, he made his presence felt, by being a bit of a rebel. Had he been allowed to he would have joined up much earlier, but being small he couldn't lie about his age.




He enlisted into the Territorial Army on 18 March 1943, aged just 18! He joined 7th Battalion The Royal Hampshire Regiment which were part of the 43rd Wessex Division.




He never landed at D-Day being part of this Division, but on D+18 24 June 1945. By this stage in his career now aged 19 he was a Lance Corporal. 

I had the good fortune of going on a Battlefield Tour with him and we retraced his steps in Normandy. He told me that his battalion were issued with bicycles which on landing they all dumped in a field. Within 48 hours of landing the Division was involved in the fight for Hill 112. the 7th Hampshires fought their way through Maltot, but sadly were forced to pull back by a fierce German counter attack. It was at this stage that my poor dad was badly wounded by friendly fire! A Canadian Typhoon strafed his position instead of the enemy! 

He was evacuated back to Wales to convalesce and it was here he was forced to learn how to embroider to improve the functions and motoric of his arm and hand. 

He rejoined his battalion, now in Belgium in Autumn 1944. The 43rd Division were involved in the drive to reach Nijmegen and to link up with the 1st Airborne Division which had been dropped on the far bank of the river Lek west of Arnhem. And we all know how that went.

He took part now in the Division's crossing of the Rhine and the 150 miles dash in 18 days to Cloppenburg, which is where he was awarded his Military Medal for gallantry. He was a section commander now and when the lead section commander was killed by sniper fire trying to cross the bridge in Cloppenburg, his platoon commander ordered him to take that section and cross the bridge. There was nothing but open ground down to the bridge and though my dad tried to get this section to follow him, they all refused.
He returned to his platoon commander and told him that if he gave him his section he would get across the river and clear the far bank.

As I walked the ground with him many years later, he told me how his section did nothing but complain about being volunteered and then about getting their feet wet as they crossed the stream, because he took his section across to the left of the bridge in dead ground to the enemy. He was now fed up of their complaining, so after clearing a house on the far side by the bridge he made them take up a defencive position and went on alone to find the sniper. The said sniper was located in a tall building, then a hospital. He found and took him and a number of others prisoner taking them back to his section. As he had seen from the top of the building a German motor base plate position which was shelling his company, he now returned with the German's sniper rifle as he was only equipped with a sten gun! He now sniped and killed the base plate position, returning to his section once more for more ammunition for the rifle!! 

Sergeants of the 7th Hampshires taken in Winsen Luhe


The end of the War saw his battalion first stationed in Winsen Luhe and then in Soltau. The photo of him receiving his MM from Montgomery was taken in the Church in Celle.




It was at this stage in 1945 that he met my mother!

As he was a volunteer enlisted man, he did not return to the UK when his battalion returned to be demobbed, but was transferred from one battalion to another within Germany until his time was up.




Back in the UK he was discharged and rejoined this time the Parachute Regiment, serving a total of 26 years until he finally retired as an RQMS (WOII). 




Upon final discharge he emigrated to New Zealand because, "I did not want to fall flat on my face in civilian life in front of my comrades!" 









He didn't fall flat but made a great success of his life and enjoyed a fulfilling second career in New Zealand. I owe him my life and he has always been a great example of a humble, but strong, brave, patient and determined man.