Follow Mike as he takes on an incredible challenge cycling from
Great first day. Left Lands End at 9.45am after obligatory photos, with strong crosswind the first 20 miles but this died down once we got inland and there was a nice temperature throughout day.
Got to Truro around 1pm and was delighted to meet Nick the Big Issue vendor there. Nick and his dog Bryony have been selling for 12 years outside M&S following Nick badly breaking his leg and finding it difficult to get other work, and he is proud to still be selling. I gladly purchased this week’s mag- proof that it has truly national appeal and distribution.
Some big hills in the afternoon but got safely to Liskeard around 5pm. Tomorrow, we’ll be crossing Dartmoor.
74 miles covered and 5,500 ft climbing today.
It's all about the hills today, including an energy sapping but exhilarating climb over Dartmoor rewarded with fantastic views at the top. After dropping down into Exeter (max speed 46mph according to my GPS device) things got flatter and I eventually got to Taunton about 5.30pm. Will sleep well tonight!
87 miles covered today and 6,700 ft of climbing.
Days 3 and 4
Thursday (day 3) was a (slightly) easier day, passing through Cheddar Gorge, Clifton Suspension Bridge and Ashton Court Estate. Yesterday (day 4) was a looooong run up from Bristol to Shrewsbury, just over 100 miles. I was happy to be at the rear of the peleton with a charming group comprising of Mike, David, Jo and Sarah, taking our time. Highlights were Severn Bridge, Tintern Abbey (never had a cream tea at 9.30 in the morning before) and the amazingly pretty Wye Valley up to Hereford. A few more hills appeared in Shropshire before we finally dropped into Shrewsbury quite late. Touch wood the body and the bike are both holding up so I shall continue the "go steady" strategy for now.
Saturday's stage was an 80+ mile ride from Shrewsbury, passing over the Cheshire plain and up through Warrington and Wigan to Preston, a lot easier on the legs than the previous few days though often lacking the spectacular views we have experienced since leaving Lands End. Highlight of the day has to be getting a blue light escort into Warrington town centre from a WPC in a police car who we got talking to at some traffic lights. Good to know HM Constabulary still has a sense of humour.
Today was a 94 mile run up through Lancashire and Cumbria, taking in Lancaster, Kendal, a mist covered Shap Fell and Penrith before finishing at Carlisle. Great views across to the Lake District at times. Felt good all day until the last hour or so when I started to feel the pace and was hanging on at the end.
I felt a bit rough first thing but was back to my chipper self once I got riding as we finally crossed into Scotland. Spent most of the day in Ayrshire with dodgy road surfaces and a brisk westerly wind but ended at Kilmarnock feeling pretty strong considering another 95 miles done and 600 miles covered in 7 consecutive days. The Highlands now beckon.
Most enjoyable 80 miler today which split into equal halves. Morning ride up the coast from Kilmarnock with stunning views across the Clyde estuary to Arran. Stopped for scooby snacks at Nardinis in Larg which fuelled a mad dash to the ferry for Dunoon.
Once across the water it was a different and tranquil atmosphere, with rippling lochs and lush vegetation as we grazed the Trossachs National Park. Later we dropped down to Loch Fyne with tonights stop at Inverary visible only a mile across the water even though we still had 15 miles to cycle right round the bottom end. Lovely riding not spoiled by overcast and drizzly conditions.
Today's challenge was a winding and undulating 96 mile route from Inverary to Loch Lochy. with low temperatures and wind for extra effect. The pay off was a series of thrilling views across estuaries, lochs, canals and mountain ranges that can be better experienced than described. Definitely an area to come back to.
Today's lazy ride along Loch Ness turned into a monster - with a 15% killer climb called the Drum and strong cross winds for the last 15 miles. Supposed to be the shortest day of the whole route but I am kernackered. Hope I get my mojo back by tomorrow.
More importantly I eventually got to Tesco's Dingwall where I met Alan, the northerly most magazine seller of my chosen charity the Big Issue Foundation. He is featured in this week's print version and was expecting my visit so we chatted for a while and he is a top bloke despite supporting Celtic. He's not a bad salesman either and I walked away having purchased 10 copies of the magazine to help him in his mission to beat the national weekly sales record!!
The first 45 miles of yesterday's leg from Evanton was a hard slog north up to Bonar Bridge and Lairg and then out onto exposed and windy moorland. However once we passed the Crask Inn (holder of the dubious honour of the remotest pub in the UK) gradients and wind became more helpful. By mid afternoon Amy (my riding companion for a lot of the day) and I finally spied the golden beaches and rolling surf of Bettyhill and we turned east, We blasted out the last 30 miles full gas to reach Thurso just before 5pm.
107 miles and 5k feet climbing for the day with John O Groats less than 30 miles away
We finally reached John O Groats mid morning, 11 and a bit days and 969 miles after setting off from Lands End. Feelings of elation, satisfaction and yes relief all mixed in together and it has been an unforgettable few days with much seen, experienced and learned from a tremendous group of fellow travellers. Thanks also to the Discover Adventure crew for bringing us all together and supporting us through the inevitable highs and lows...
The trip has been dedicated to my recently departed stepfather John whom I thought of often as I pedalled along; and I was pleased to be able to raise a bit of cash and awareness for The Big Issue Foundation includung meeting Nick and Allan, the southerly and northerly most Big Issue vendors in the whole country.
It’s now a few days after reaching John O Groats and I am safely back home in the Thames Valley, reflecting that I got lucky in so many ways.
Meeting Nick and Allan during the trip was brilliant, hearing their stories and aspirations gave me a real morale boost as well as a better understanding of the good work that The Big Issue and the Foundation do right across the UK. I have since heard that Allan smashed the Scottish weekly sales record last week by selling 339 copies and will rightly be recognised for that achievement!
Regarding the cycling I was very fortunate. The overall weather was decent and there was only one biblical downpour - predictably in Wigan; amazingly I had no injuries, so needed nothing stronger than sunblock, insect repellent and liberal applications of Deep Heat to get through each day; my bike had zero punctures and no mechanicals worse than losing a mudguard bolt on some bumpy Scottish roads. Can't imagine being that lucky again...
But most of all, the last two weeks showed how utterly reliant I was on family, friends, fellow cyclists and professionals whose generous emotional, practical and technical support meant I got from one end of the UK to the other in one piece and for that I am so grateful. Thanks to all, its been an unforgettable experience and a great lesson in teamwork.
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