Bike Ride Day 5 - 25th July 2010
Today was a long cycle, darting in and out between England and Wales all day and trying to hug the flatter land from the Black Mountains to just North of Oswestry. A crow could have flown this much straighter but I was happy to meander around the countryside looking for the level ground!
It was meant to be almost exactly 100 miles but 20 miles in to the ride I looked at the map and realised I could take a small detour which would save me 4 miles, so I did - making the day 96 miles in total.
Once again, the wind was against me for much of the day, restricting my speed and probably adding an extra hour's cycling to the day - which isn't much fun when your legs are aching and your backside is already saddle-sore.
But the flatter terrain was a Godsend and even if I was slow it was much more bearable than it has often been to date.
It's interesting - I had specifically chosen to cycle this on my own, and had been looking forward to some solitude. But I've found that it's a long and sometimes lonely day in the saddle, because rather than ambling along leaving your mind a certain latitude to mull over the meaning of life, you're constantly checking for potholes in the road, watching the traffic, avoiding lorries (lorry drivers have become the thing I would consign to Room 101), checking and re-checking your route (I decided against forking out £400 for a cycle GPS that would have told me exactly when to take a turn, opting for the slightly lower-tech solution of writing out basic directions and sellotaping them to my handlebars), and making sure you're properly hydrated and nourished. Oh yes, and every few minutes telling yourself not to be such a wimp because loads of people have done this and it's not really hurting you half as much as you think it is.
None of which leaves much time for appreciating the scenery or deep and meaningful private conversations with self.
So today it was lovely when an Irishman drew alongside on his bike and rode with me for about 10 miles or so. I enjoyed the company and regretted having to turn off on my route. Maybe if I did this again (ha ha - no chance) I would do it differently.........
Anyway, a long, tiring day but it was lovely to arrive at our B&B for tonight, directly opposite Whittington Castle. Home from home!
Tomorrow I set off unaided and unsupported for 48 hours. Another unexplored aspect of the odyssey so far.......
Bike Ride Day 4 - 24th July 2010
Today was the first of the longer rides, and it's been a mixed sort of a day. The first section, through the Somerset Levels, was great - as the name suggests, nice and level! Wedmore, Cheddar and Axbridge, picking up the A38 to Bristol (up a much bigger hill than I remember being here when we used to live down this way), left at Barrow Gurney and then the big hill up into Failand, leading into Bristol over the Clifton Suspension Bridge. This was a trip down memory lane, as we lived in Bristol for 8 years and knew the city, especially Clifton and Redland, well. Cycled past one of the places we used to live, and then past my old theological college, before heading out of the city up towards Cribbs Causeway and the last few miles to the Severn Bridge.
Then it was in to Wales, through Chepstow, and I met up for lunch with Gill at Tintern Abbey, the stunning ruined abbey on the banks of the River Wye - another place we both have fond memories of.
The last stretch was the hardest for me - OK to Monmouth, following the river, but then my route took me cross country through the Welsh hills. They didn't look anything much on the map but that only goes to prove that maps can be highly misleading! My legs were already tired after 75 miles, but the last hour and a half was murder, up and down some pretty steep climbs. Decided that someone must have been out covering the roads in treacle, so slow was my pace by now. Had a funny moment (in retrospect) as I was heading for Grosmont, only for it to suddenly dawn on me what 'Grosmont' meant! Absolutely enormous mont more like.
But eventually arrived at the Lancaster Arms in Pandy, the only place I could find to stay for miles around because there is a big choral festival this weekend at Abbey Dore, which is where we are MEANT to be tonight! Involves a 10 mile detour that to be honest I could have done without.
Never mind. 4 days down, only another 8 to go. I could stop now and feel that I'd already done enough! But I'll just have to plough on.
There are moments when you can loook around and appreciate the sheer beauty and grandeur of the scenery you're travelling through, and then there are moments when all you can think about is how tired your body feels. I cannot believe how the winds seem to have been northerlies this week! The whole point of travelling in this direction - from Lands End to John O Groats - is to catch the prevailing south westerly breezes, but apart from the first day these seem to have perversely switched around and been in my face. Maybe tomorrow will bring a southerly wind............
Bike Ride Day 3 - 23rd July 2010
It wasn’t until half way through the night that my heart rate returned to normal after the exertions of the hills yesterday, so I didn’t sleep very well and I guess I was a bit anxious about how my body would cope with another ride today – especially when the B&B owner (who’s a cyclist) told me that the route I’d chosen today continued to be very hilly and difficult!
BUT...........it’s been a MUCH better day, and all I can say is that the hills of Devon and Somerset are not a patch on the hills of Cornwall! Yes, it was still hilly, but nothing even approaching the Himalayas of yesterday. And once I was up on the top of the moors the cycling even began to approach something vaguely resembling FLAT. Fantastic.
So I’ve managed today without too much trouble, and arrived in Bawdrip (at our friends’ house) at 2.45pm, much earlier than I had planned (Gill didn’t get there until half an hour later!)
The route has been through some of the loveliest countryside in Devon and Somerset, and the weather has been great – lots of sunshine but not too hot, and although the wind continued to be unpredictable it was pretty light so didn’t make too much difference even when it was in my face.
Actually met up with a couple of other cyclists today – I have passed absolutely nobody else in either direction cycling the route I took the first 2 days, which probably tells me something!
I’m struggling to eat as much as I’m meant to be eating – there are only so many calories you can pour into your body each day! So Gill now tells me that I’m starting to waste away.
But I’ve survived 3 days of the 12. I know that these were the ‘short’ days, when I was meant to be acclimatising my body to the ride, and tomorrow the mileage hikes up to 100, which is still more than I’ve ever cycled in one day. So, another new experience to look forward to...........
Sorry no pictures today – by the time I realised there was a lovely view I'd passed it!
Bike Ride Day 2 - 22nd July 2010
Day Two not so positive! Tremendously hard day cycling along the north Cornish coast, almost constantly hilly and today with a wind that felt as if it was in my face every inch of the way.
Day dawned with rain in Mawgan Porth, set off up the horrible hill that leads out of MP and that set the tone for the day. The scenery continued beautiful and breathtaking but the hills got steeper and longer. Anything from 1 in 7 to 1 in 3 - if you want something to compare it with, the famous Porlock Hill is only 1 in 4. Add to that the wind against you, and after a while it became almost demoralising to see what the cycling terrain was for most of the day.
Along the way of course the views were amazing. Padstow is a lovely little town and I enjoyed taking the ferry from the harbour across to Rock. I met up with Gill for a coffee in Boscastle - and it's hard to imagine a more picture postcard English seaside village anywhere in the country. I had a reflective moment sitting on a rock at Crackington Haven, scene of some of our family holidays when I was growing up (and with strong memories of both my Dad and my sister Judy). And lunch by the river in Bude in the sunshine (which came out intermittently throughout the day) was another welcome respite from the hills.
But apart from that it was just relentless, and although today was only a mere 66 miles I feel like I've cycled twice that distance. My legs are like jelly and I'm apprehensive about how I will find tomorrow. But who knows what a good night's sleep will do? We've stopped overnight in Great Torrington, which has some pretty startling views of its own - very different from the coastline but equally beautiful.
Bike Ride Day 1 - 21st July 2010
Signing in from a sunny Mawgan Porth on the beautiful north Cornwall coast. After so long thinking about and preparing for this trip it was great to get going at last.
Yesterday Gill and I drove down to Lands End and got there about 5pm. It's a fantastic place, if you ignore what the humans have done to it! Lovely evening mooching around the beautiful Sennen Cove and enjoying a bit of sunshine after a very wet journey.
Day One dawned sunny and bright, with a forecast for sunshine, showers, and most importantly a South West wind. Cyclists will understand the importance of this! Had a huge breakfast and suitably fortified with enough calories to feed an army we set off for Lands End just in time to catch the famous 'signpost' being fixed into the ground. Had photos taken underneath it and then began the End to End (a few photos attached) at 9.30am.
Absolutely fantastic first stretch to St Ives along some amazing coastline, dotted with the remains of disused tin mines. Fairly hilly but nothing too bad, and made good progress to a rather over-run St Ives, then picked up the coast road through Hayle, Portreath, Porthtowan (horrible horrible hill out of Porthtowan), Goonvrea and St Agnes to Perranporth where I stopped for lunch. Then on to Newquay, Porth and finally to my first destination Trevvarian, just outside Mawgan Porth.
The route was always going to be hilly, but I don't think I'd realised just how undulating the road was. Basically, it goes like this: every time you come into a coastal town or village the road swoops down an incredibly steep hill to the sea; and then you have to cycle up a monstrous hill to get out! The first time I looked up the hill I was about to climb I thought 'you cannot be serious', but it was. By the end of the ride I knew the score - enjoy the downhills because the road is going to get its own back (the problem is that you can't fully enjoy the downhills because they're so steep you're riding with brakes full on for most of the time!). So, by the time I reached Mawgan Porth, with the rain starting to fall, even though this first day was a mere 60 miles I knew I'd been on a ride.
But it's been a good day. Such incredibly beautiful scenery. Found myself freewheeling down a particularly wonderful stretch of road singing out loud at one point! And by virtue of a fairly short journey today it meant that I arrived in Mawgan Porth early in the afternoon, so after a shower Gill and I headed off for the beach and had a lovely couple of hours strolling around this idyllic place enjoying the sunshine that had now arrived.
To sponsor Adrian on this ride please go to www.justgiving.com/rochestercathedraltrust