Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Day 19 - Penzance to Lands End

After a leisurely breakfast we knocked off the final few miles to Lands End in just under an hour to arrive triumphant at 10.45 am.


1052 miles in total. John O Groats to Lands End was 1037 miles and we'd completed it at an average of just over 10 mph.

We spent a good couple of hours taking photo's, texting and making phonecalls, posting postcards, drinking coke and eating ice cream before taking a leisurely ride back to Penzance, elated and relieved.

Day 18 - St Austell to Penzance

We were expecting another really hilly day today, but apart from a couple of stiff climbs out of St Austell and another one out of Truro, it wasn't too bad. After Truro we headed for Redruth on minor roads, then joined the old A30 again throught Cambourne, Connor Downs and Hayle.

No real alternative to the A30 itself as we completed the final few miles into Penzance.

Day 17 - Okehampton to St Austell

A really tough day today, with some horrendous climbs.

We joined the A 386 towards Tavistock, which climbed onto the edge of Dartmoor.

Then a fast descent through Mary Tavy to Tavistock. Here we joined the A390 and had a stiff climb out of the town, then a drop down to cross over the river Tamar and into Cornwall.

We had a real killer climb through Gunnislake to Drakewalls. We then continued along rolling roads to Callington and stopped for a picnic lunch at Liskeard.

From Liskeard, we dropped onto the newly completed Dobwalls Bypass and turned off at the first opportunity into Dobwalls village. It was now baking hot and there was very little tree cover. We continued on the A390 to cross the river Fowey at Lostwithitiel and another stiff climb out of the valley. We eventually made it to our overnight stop at St Austell and stopped at the Travelodge.

53.63 miles today
in 5hrs 21 mins
Ave 10.01 mph
Total so far 999 miles

Day 16 - Tiverton to Okehampton

An easy run down to Exeter on the B3181 through Willand, Cullompton and Broadclyst. We crossed Exeter and climbed the very steep Whitestone hill to Whitestone village, before dropping down to join the old A30 road at Tedburn St Mary. We stopped here to top up with drinks as it was now very hot.

We continued along the old A30, a delightful road to cycle on - rolling hills, good surface and not much traffic. We passed through Cheriton Bishop, Whiddon Down and Sticklepath and on into Okehampton. I expected Okehampton top be busy with tourists, but it was virtyally deserted. We stopped for a Devon cream tea before the final climb to the Travelodge at Sourton Cross.

47.82 miles today
In 4 hrs 49 mins
Ave 9.91 mph
Total so far 945 miles

Day 15 - Chew Stoke to Tiverton

An easy ride down to West Harptree and then a very steep climb up to the top of the Mendip Hills along a narrow, wooded lane from Compton Martin. There were fine views across Chew Valley Lake from the top.

We headed across the top of the Mendips and then a lovely descent of Cheddar Gorge, which wasn't busy as we had arrived before most of the tourists.

We made our way to Wedmore then turned off into tiny lanes across the Somerset Levels, to emerge in Bridgewater. We followed the A38 out of Bridgewater, which was quite busy, so we turned off at the first opportunity and joined the Bridgewater and Taunton Canal.

We followed the towpath right into the centre of Taunton, stopping for tea and cake along the way. We were following Sustrans route 3, but couldn't pick up the route out of Taunton and had to join the extremely busy A38.

Most of the traffic turned off at the motorway junction and we continued along the A38 past Wellington, then up a long climb to cross into Devon, before descending to our overnight stop, the Travelodge at Sampford Peverell.

62.79 miles today
in 5 hrs 52 mins
Ave 10.68 mph
Total so far 897 miles

Day 14 - Symonds Yat to Chew Stoke

Another fine and sunny day today. We had a nice run down through Coleford and St Briavels and across Tidenham Chase before dropping down into Chepstow and briefly into Wales. We had a steep half mile climb to get up onto the A466 and the Severn Bridge road.

The crossing of the Severn Bridge was spectacular, but I wouldn't want to do it on a windy day, as it's quite exposed in the middle. We re-entered England as we came off the bridge and stopped for a celebratory coffee at Aust services.

From Aust, we followed minor roads towards Thornbury, skirting around Bristol. The CTC route is quite hard to follow and we missed a turn off in Iron Acton. We headed towards Pucklechurch, where we found a cycle path. We were wondering whether to continue on the road or follow the cycle path, when another cyclist offered to show us the way. It turned out he was the runs captain of the Bath CTC, so knew his way around.

We followed the paths to Bitton, on the Bristol to Bath railway path, then carried on to Saltford and Compton Dando. We got a little lost in the lanes, but we were heading in generally the right direction. We eventually emerged at Chew Magna and found our way to Chew Stoke and our B&B (Orchard House).

55.33 miles today
In 5hrs 23 mins
Ave 10.26 mph
Total so far 834 miles.

Day 13 - Ludlow to Symonds Yat

Another nice day. it started off cloudy but dry and cleared to bright sunshine in the afternoon.

After a short stretch on the A49, we continued south towards Leominster on B-roads. We stopped in Leominster to buy a picnic lunch before continuing. We turned off into country lanes and skirted around Hereford to the east. We ate our lunch at Fownhope - "Home of the Oak Tree", before continuing on increasingly hilly roads towards Ross-on-Wye.

We turned off the B-road at How Capel and found a tiny lane which dropped down into the valley at Hole-in-the-Wall. This stretch was really beautiful, running right alongside the river Wye.

After a couple of miles, we had a steep climb out of the valley and then dropped in to a busy and congested Ross-on-Wye. We continued southwards past Goodrich Castle and turned off towards Symonds Yat, a picturesque beauty spot on the banks of the river Wye. Here we spent a relaxing hour, sitting by the river, drinking Coke and eating ice cream.

The last climb of the day was a killer 1 in 5 climb up Symonds Yat Rock itself.

This was possibly the hardest climb of the whole trip. I had trouble keeping my front wheel on the ground, due to the gradient. I managed to ride the whole climb despite having to stop half way up. Sue also rode most of the climb. Her knee, although still painful, seems better after the rest day. We stopped at the view point at the top with fine views across the hills and down to the river below.

From here it was just a couple of miles to the Rock B&B at Hillersland. We had a mile long walk to the pub, the New Inn at Shortsighting. After dinner, washed down with a few pints of Wye Valley Ale, we took a leisurely walk back to the B&B.

54.76 miles today
In 5hrs 35 mins
Ave 9.78 mph
Total so far 779 miles.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Day 11 - Crewe to Ludlow

A lovely day today. We followed the CTC route virtually all day.

We left Crewe towards Nantwich and then turned into the lanes to make our way towards Audlem. Sue's knee is continuing to give her problems and she is having to take painkillers to be able to cycle. She bought a knee support in Audlem, which helped stop it jarring on the rough roads.

We made our way towards Market Drayton, which is the "Home of Gingerbread". Sue had a gingerbread man but wasn't impressed at all. We got lost on the way out of town and found that Market Drayton is also the home of Muller yoghurts. We eventually found the intended route south past the Golf course, despite a complete lack of signposts. We followed the Tern valley southwards and we could see the Wrekin ahead - the only hill for miles around.

The planned route went over the Wrekin, but we diverted west towards Cressage, where we took a minor road towards Much Wenlock. We had to climb a 1 in 6 hill, up Wenlock Edge before dropping into the town. We had a quick look round but there wasn't much to see. We continued up another steep climb along a road running parallel to Wenlock Edge, which we followed all the way to Ludlow. This road gave superb views of Brown Clee Hill on the other side of the valley. We eventually made it to Ludlow and a much deserved rest day.

76.30 miles today
In 7 hrs 8 mins
Ave 10.68 mph
Total to date 725 miles

Day 10 - Whalley to Crewe

We followed the CTC route for the first few miles from Whalley, which is very scenic. However, scenic means hilly and worried about Sue's knee, we abandoned the planned route and dropped down onto the A49 south of Preston. We followed this through Wigan and Warrington, though busy in parts and quite urban, we made good progress. We turned off into the country lanes south of Warrington and made our way towards Crewe. The weather had been cloudy but dry but it started drizzling a little for the last hour's run into Crewe where we stayed at the Travelodge.

70.18 miles today
in 6hrs 26 mins
Ave 10.9 mph
Total to date 649 miles

Day 9 - Shap to Whalley

We didn't have breakfast til 8.30 and then I managed to get the key to the garage stuck in the lock and it took 20 minutes to free it again, this delayed our start and we didn't get away until 9.45am.

We made our way over through Orton (where they were having a "Scarecrow" competition - one of the scarecrows was of Eddy Merckx, celebrating 40 yeards since his 1st Tour de France win).

We continued towards Tebay and then had a back-breaking climb out of the valley. After several nore tough climbs, we emerged into the Lune valley and made our way to Kirkby Lonsdale for lunch.

We continued to follow the river but had more tough climbs to contend with. Sue got a puncture at the Crook of Lune and it was now 4 pm and we still had over 30 miles to do. We abandoned our planned route and dropped onto the A6 to get some fast miles in, before turning off at Garstang and heading for Whalley, where we stayed at the Abbey. We didn't get to the B&B until 7.20 pm, by far our longest day.
The Abbey itself was very picturesque, but we didn't have the time or the energy for a proper look around. This was the view from our bedroom window.

We ate at the local Indian restaurant, who had an eat as much as you like Sunday Buffet, so we ate loads, then went back to the Abbey and straight to bed, completely shattered.

78.77 miles today
In 7 hrs 15 mins
Ave 10.66 mph
Total so far 579 miles.

Day 8 - Lockerbie to Shap

It was raining quite heavily as we left Lockerbie and rejoined the B7078 south through Ecclefechan and on towards Gretna Green and the border with England. It stopped raining as we got to Gretna.

Sue stopped to take a photo of the Old Blacksmiths Forge, but I didn't hear her shout and carried on for about a mile. We nearly lost each other and I had to retrace a long way back to find her again. We crossed into England and stopped for photo's by the "Welcome to England" sign, before turning off the main road and following minor roads to Carlisle. The roads were very busy as we neared the town, so we diverted onto a cycle route into the centre. After lunch, we left going south past the racecourse and had lovely views of the Lakeland hills to the right and the Pennines to the left. We arrived in Penrith, which was busy with Saturday traffic and began the long climb up to Shap on the A6.

We stayed at Fellhouse B&B in Shap and at the Mango restuarant, where I had Jambalaya and Sue had West Indian Lamb curry.

Physically, I was Ok but Sue was starting to suffer with her left knee.

60.34 miles today
in 5 hrs 46 mins
Ave 10.45 mph
Total to date 500 miles

Day 7 - Motherwell to Lockerbie

We made our way through Hamilton on busy roads, but the traffic got lighter as we got further south.

We were following the B7078, which was the old main road before the motorway was built. The surface was rough in places, but on many stretches, one of the dual carraigeways had been turned into a dedicated cycleway, so it made for pleasant riding with hardly any traffic. The road was rolling with long gradual climbs and long downhill stretches and we made good progress, even though we had a headwind. The weather was cloudy but mostly dry, but we did catch one shower about 10 miles from the end of our ride.

We had lunch outside the village shop in Abington, which is, surprisingly, the highest village in Scotland.

We stayed at the Elms guesthouse in Lockerbie. The weather had cleared to a fine evening and we took a walk up to the Garden of Rememberance, which marks the Lockerbie Air Disaster, where 270 people died in 1988. We found that many of them were 20 year old American students returning home for Christmas.

After watching Steve race in the first round of the Tour series on ITV4, we walked into town to get something to eat.

63.87 miles today
In 5 hours 33 minutes
Ave 11.50 mph
Total so far 440 miles

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Day 6 - Inverbeg to Motherwell

A fairly easy day today, mostly on cycle paths, down Loch Lomond, then along the river to Dumbarton then into Glasgow. Weather OK in the morning, but rain showers again in the afternoon.

After updating the blog at Glasgow Library, we made our way back to the riverside and followed the riverside path eastwards, past the Celtic ground at Parkhead (site of a famous Forest victory in the 1984 UEFA Cup), to eventually emerge at Uddingston, where it was a short ride on the road to reach our overnight stop at the Inkeeper's Lodge at Strathclyde Park, just off the M74 motorway. We had asked for a ground floor room, but didn't get one, so had to lug the bikes up the stairs, as they were being kept in our room overnight.

We ate at the Toby Carvery next to the hotel, where I had an "eat as much as you like" Chicken Curry and Sue had Roast Beef, before retiring to bed.

51 miles today
In 5hrs 31 mins
Ave 9.27 mph
Total so far: 376 miles

Day 5 - Inchree to Loch Lomond

An epic day today. It was raining as we set off and we had a wet ride through North Ballaculish and over the bridge to Glencoe. It stopped raining at Glencoe village and we had a lovely ride with a tailwind up Glencoe, a 9 mile climb, but not steep. We stopped several times to take photos on the way up. It started raining again near the top and it was pretty grim over Rannoch Moor. We had now turned into the wind and it was very exposed over the top. We passed the summit (1142 feet) and were expecting a long descent down to Tyndrum, but the road was still up and down and we had a 3 mile climb to reach Tyndrum itself. We stopped at the Green Welly cafe, which was a bit pricey and had a shop full of tourist tat.

We hit the real downhill now, descending quickly to Crianlarich and then down to Ardlui on the shores of Loch Lomond. It was still raining on and off and we were riding into the wind, but the traffic wasn't too bad. I had been warned about the traffic on the A82 over Rannoch Moor, but we didn't find it to be a problem. Perhaps it's busier on a sunny day in mid-summer. We continued to Tarbert and to our B&B at Inverbeg, up a little side road to Glen Douglas. We had a nice, big room, with a wonderful view across the Loch.

Dinner at the Inverbeg Inn was a bit pricey and the portions weren't that big. Managed to sample 2 more real ales - Highlander and Killellen. Back to the B&B to watch "The Apprentice", then off to bed.

Another 65 miles today
Total now 325 miles.
B&B - The Corries

Day 4 - Drumnadrochit to Fort William

After a hearty breakfast, we set off along the north shore of Loch Ness, stopping for lunch at Fort Augustus. The weather was cloudy with sunny spells, but it remained dry all day.

After lunch, we did a short stretch along the Caledonian Canal, but rejoined the A82 at the Bridge of Oich, as the towpath was a bit rough in places. We could see the snowcapped peaks of Anaoch Mor and Ben Nevis in the distance. We carried on along the A82, which wasn't too busy. We stopped at the Commando Memorial near Spean Bridge to take some photo's and had tea at a nearby cafe. We then dropped down on a minor road into the river valley at Gairlochy, then followed a minor road towards Fort William. This was far from flat, but afforded great views on Ben Nevis, on the other side of the valley.

We did the last few miles into the wind along the busy A82, south of Fort William, to our B&B at Inchree. Despite assurances when we booked, that there'd be somewhere to eat, the owner told us that the local Bistro was closed on Tuesdays. However, he suggested catching the ferry to the other side of the loch, where there was a pub doing food. He gave us a lift to the ferry terminal, which was about half a mile from the B&B. We caught the 6.15pm ferry (free to foot passengers) to Ardgour. The pub is right by the slipway and we had Fish Pie(Sue) and Steak and Ale Pie(Trev), washed down with several pints of Calders 70 shillings ale. We caught the 8.30 ferry back and walked the short distance back to the B&B before retiring to bed.

63 miles today in 5hrs 36 mins - ave 11.18 mph.
Total so far 260 miles.

Day 3 - Bonar Bridge to Drumnadrochit

After a decent breakfast, we set off under cloudy skies along the southern shore of Dornoch Firth. We were still on Sustrans Route 1 and the road was fairly quiet and pleasant. We had planned to go over Struie Hill, but gave it a miss as it was covered in low cloud. We joined the A9 at Dornoch Bridge, but only for a mile, turning off into Tain. We were tempted by the Glenmorangie Distillery Visitors Centre but pressed on. We followed minor roads past Loch Eye (the noo!) where it started to rain. I crossed the A9 at Kildary and looked around but Sue was nowhere to be seen. She eventually appeared, she was suffering from "the bonk" (a technical term meaning lacking in energy), so we stopped at a garage for food and drink.

We continued over minor roads to Invergordon, stopping at a cafe for lunch, where the owner gave us some free chocolate and water for later. He had also done the End-to-End but on foot, taking 42 days.

It was now raining again and carried on for most of the day. We continued through Dingwall, Muir of Ord and Beauly to start the last climb up the A833. This went on forever, we must have climbed for 9 miles, before a steep descent into Drumnadrochit and our overnight stop at the Aslaich B&B. Eveing meal was taken at the Benleva Hotel, where we had 3 courses. My sweet was interesting, it was called "Cramachan" - a mixture of wild berries, cream and oatmeal. Full of calories but delicious. Meal was washed down with several pints of Piper's Gold.

71 miles today in 6 hrs 11 mins - ave 11.5 mph.
Total so far 197 miles.

Day 2 - Bettyhill to Bonar Bridge via Altnaharra and Lairg

A lovely day today. Started at 9.30am in bright sunshine from the Bettyhill Hotel. We met another end to ender, about the start the last leg of his journey going north.

We rode through Strathnaver on a single track road with hardly any traffic. The weather was dry with sunny spells and the wind was still an easterley, but much lighter than yesterday. It was a cross-wind for most of the day.

We kept getting passed by a French couple and a German guy, who were doing the Strathnaver trail, which is about the clearances in the early 19th century. There are lots of abandoned villages along the valley. We spoke to all 3 and found out the Frenchman's wife was actually from Lands End!

At Altnaharra, we met a couple of cyclists going the other way, who were doing LE-JOG and on day 16 of their trip. They'd only had one day of rain on the whole trip. I bet we won't be so lucky.
We started a long climb at Altnaharra and were suffering a bit into the wind as we reached the top. Luckily, we came across the Crask Inn, where we had sandwiches washed down with tea.
Suitably refreshed, we carried on southwards into the increasing strong wind, which had now veered round to the south-east. We were still on single track roads with passing places. Most motorists stop and wait for you, but some just carry on regardless, not even bothering to slow down and bullying their way past you. On such car flicked up a stone which caught me square in the face.

The road became 2 carraigeways just before Lairg, where we diverted onto a minor road to the Falls of Shin. We stopped at the visitors centre for a drink and saw a life-sized waxworks model of Mohammed Al Fayed wearing a kilt! Tacky or what? Apparently, he owns the visitors centre and there are lots of Harrods goods for sale, but we didn't buy any. We carried on to our B&B, Kyle House at Bonar Bridge. We had an evening meal at the Dunroamin Hotel, washed down with several pints of Skye Red Cuillin ale - recommended.

57 miles today in 5hrs 15 mins
Ave 10.94 mph
Total 126 miles so far.
B&B - Kyle House, Bonar Bridge

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Day 1 - Wick to Bettyhill via John O Groats - Sat 16 May 2009

The forecast rain arrived and we set off from Wick with a strong cross wind and driving rain. Took us an hour and a half to do the 17 miles to John O' Groats. We saw a couple of End to Enders going the other way, south to Wick and beyond. We arrived at JOG cold and wet. I was so cold I couldn't write properly on the post cards I'd bought. We had photos taken then warmed up whilst drinking coffee at a cafe.

Then we set off westward along the North coast, with the wind, thankfully, now right behind us. It was still raining but we gradually warmed up on the road to Thurso. Saw plenty of Lejoggers nearing the end of their quest.

We lunched in a bus shelter at Thurso and carried on past the Dounreay Nuclear Power Station. The road had been pretty flat and the scenery uninspiring up to now, but at the Bridge of Forss, we started to hit the hills. The weather cleared up after lunch and the sun even made a momentary appearance at one point. We stopped for a warm drink at Melvich. The landlord said he gets quite a few End-to-End cyclists in. The fastest were 3 guys who'd ridden up from Lands End in 3 days, riding for 20 hours a day. The slowest were a group of 70 year old ladies who'd taken 6 weeks. After Melvich, the route became ever more hilly but the views across the mountains and out to sea were great. We rolled into Bettyhill just after 5pm, having covered 70 miles.
I'm glad we had a tailwind today, I don't think we'd have made it into a headwind in that weather. Bettyhill is very picturesque with great views of across a sandy bay.
We head inland tomorrow and finally start heading south. Hoping for better weather, we've got 55 miles to do and it's pretty flat, by all accounts.

70 miles today in 6 hours actual riding time.
Ave 11.5 mph.
Plenty of sheep on the roads, but no cows!
B&B is the Bettyhill Hotel.

Day 0 - Travel to Wick

A epic 14 hour journey on the train. Caught the train from Newark to Edinburgh, this went OK. Bikes in guards van, though it was a bit of a scramble to get them loaded at Newark. Then had a 2 hour wait at Edinburgh for the Inverness train. They only announced the platform about 5 minutes before the train left, so there was a mad scramble to get on, but we got on OK. Then a 40 minute wait at Inverness for the Wick train. We had reserved space for the bikes. There were 3 bikes on the train and, in theory, 4 bike spaces, but 2 of the spaces were taken up by pushchairs, but we still managed to squeeze the bikes on.

Beware, even if you have reserved bike space, it doesn't guarantee you'll get it, if it's taken up by someone else first.

A slow journey north from Inverness as the train line meanders inland then back to the coast, then inland then to Thurso and finally to Wick. The countryside inland is really desolate with miles of peat bog and hardly any buildings. We saw many herds of wild deer. We'll be cycling back through this area on Sunday and Monday. The train got in at 10.15 and the B&B was just round the corner from the station. We watched the weather forecast before going to bed, forecast heavy rain for north Scotland with an easterly wind.

B&B was Bramhill Guest House - cheap and convenient for the station.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

The Bikes

We've both bought a new bike this year, ready for the challenge.

Sue's bike is a Dawes Horizon:

The 2008 model in blue with Shimano Sora/Alivio gears. She has the smallest size - 48cm - and changed the saddle for a ladies model. It was bought from Spa Cycles in Harrogate. I'd recommend a visit there, if you're in the market for a new tourer. They let you test ride them on the road outside the shop and are happy to change components and adjust things to suit.

Trevor's bike is a Ridgeback Panorama:

Though mine is the 2008 model in gunmetal grey. It's a mix of Shimano Tiagra/XT and Deore, bought from Freewheel Cycles in Nottingham. Mine is the 58cm model and I've changed the saddle for a Brooks B17 leather saddle.

Who we are

An explanation of who we are.

A married couple from Nottingham, with 2 grown up children - one at Uni but still living at home, the other off to Uni in September.

I (Trevor) am a lifelong cyclist, a member of the Sherwood Cycling Club. I'll be 50 this year and I've been cycling since I was 14.

My wife (Sue) is 43. We have done quite a bit of cycling as a family, and Sue's been taking it a bit more seriously over the last year. In September, 2008, we cycled from Nottingham to Skegness (80 miles), a long held ambition for my wife. We ride regualrly at the weekends, usually covering 50-60 miles a day. We also cycle to work.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

An End to End Bicycle Adventure

My wife and I have decided to join the ranks of the End-to-Enders and cycle from one end of the country to the other. So we're starting our ride from John O Groats on Saturday 15th May 2009.

We are taking around 20 days to complete the 900 odd mile journey to Lands End, hopefully arriving on 3rd June 2009.

Our route will be as follows:

Day 0 - Travel from home to Wick

Day 1 - Wick-John O Groats -Bettyhill via Thurso & Melvich

Day 2 - Bettyhill to Bonar Bridge via Lairg

Day 3 - Bonar Bridge to Drumnadrochit

Day 4 - Drumnadrochit to Inchree via Fort Augustus and Fort William

Day 5 - Inchree to Luss (Loch Lomond) via Glencoe and Rannoch Moor

Day 6 - Luss to Hamilton via Glasgow

Day 7 - Hamilton to Lockerbie

Day 8 - Lockerbie to Shap

Day 9 - Shap to Whalley

Day 10 - Whalley to Crewe

Day 11 - Crewe to Ludlow

Day 12 - Rest day at Ludlow

Day 13 - Ludlow to Coleford

Day 14 - Coleford to Chew Stoke via Severn Bridge

Day 15 - Chew Stoke to Tiverton

Day 16 - Tiverton to Okehampton

Day 17 - Okehampton to St Austell

Day 18 - St Austell to Penzance

Day 19 - Penzance to Land End

Day 20 - Travel home from Penzance