Day 15—Lanlivery to Land’s End

The final day. Breakfast had been scheduled for 08:00, and I arrived a few minutes early so that I could make a quick getaway; at this point we were all keen on getting to the end. John and Jamie were there, and we were soon joined by Amardeep. Carl and Les were having breakfast in another hotel and would be ferried over at about 08:30 by Rob so that we could all set off together. There was to be no solo stuff from me today; we had planned a triumphant processional ride, like the last stage of the Tour de France, but without the sprint on the Champs-Élysées. With this in mind, it made sense to discover that the slightly slower Cornish contingent, with Mike, had decided to leave a couple of hours early that morning so that we could meet up a few miles from Land’s End. That would explain the bicycle noises I had heard as I woke up!

Me and Amardeep

With the exception of John and Jamie, who wore their Honeypot shirts, we were all wearing our Bike Adventures kit. Almost as stylish as Team Ineos Grenadiers, I’m sure you’ll agree. Amardeep and I are modelling the shirts here (right), and I took a selfie of me and my bike as well (below).

Me and my bike, ready to go

We headed out due West, aiming for the North Cornwall coast. It was what we cyclists call ‘lumpy’. Up and down, up and down. So many rivers to cross.

I can’t remember where we stopped for coffee—Perranporth or St Agnes, I think it was. Maybe one of my fellow riders will read this and be able to tell me. All I really remember was that the coffee and cake were OK, but the service was glacial. For a cyclist in a vague hurry, this was hopeless. I did get a chance to fill my bottles, however, and as the day wore on this became increasingly important. It was getting hot, and the thing with cycling is that it’s easy to lose fluid without knowing it. You may be sweating, but it evaporates so quickly you’re hardly aware of it. As Julian Hutchings says—drink before you’re thirsty! Jamie was very good at this. Almost every time I saw him he was swigging from his bidon.

Me with a pasty

Anyway, refreshed, we left our coffee stop. We were setting quite a reasonable pace, and eventually caught the Cornish contingent, who had stopped for a lunch break. We thought of stopping with them, but had resolved to have lunch 46 miles into our ride in Hayle, at the HQ of Philps Pasties. Apart from an inadvertent Ginsters earlier in the ride, this was to be my first and my last pasty, and from the size of it, it could have been my first, my last and my everything. (Note spurious references to popular songs in this part of my writing.) It was huge, and, I must say it was delicious. I think I managed to eat about 70% of it, and if I hadn’t been cycling it would have easily made a nourishing meal for two.

The Cornish crew passed us while we were having lunch, and we continued along the North Cornwall Coast and into our last major climb before Land’s End. (One climbs into Land’s End because thanks to a cliff it is 223 feet above sea level—see the profile below.) The coast was as beautiful as ever, and the weather was perfect.

North Cornwall Coast

With eight miles to go we met up with Rob in the van and with Denise, Donald, Mike and Sonjia. I replenished my water bottles, and we cycled together towards Land’s End. There were a few little climbs, but mostly this was a triumphal procession. As we approached the famous line in the road we were met by Denise’s family and friends, and by John and Jamie’s partners and family, and it was all quite emotional. The photos below sum up how we all felt.

Rob gave us all a glass of fizzy wine, a certificate and a medal (Jamie is wearing his in the photo above) and eventually we dispersed. The Cornish contingent went home, while others, including me, went to a hotel in Penzance, where our bikes either went into our rooms or into the van eventually to be delivered to our homes.

That’s what I call a wine glass

Dinner that night was bittersweet. We were relieved to have finished, but it had been fun, and it would be strange not to be cycling the following morning! I ordered a bottle of red, and received with it the biggest wine glasses I have ever seen. I was reminded of Theresa Marteau’s work. To quote the Cambridge University web site, “when restaurants served wine in 370ml rather than 300ml glasses they sold more wine, and tended to sell less when they used 250ml glasses.” I should have asked them whether they had heard about Theresa’s work.

And then to bed. Today’s route is below, and you can see nicely how well we followed the North Cornish Coast. It was a great end to a great ride.

We cycled 69 miles today, climbed 5,764 feet, and took five hours 35 minutes to do so. My weighted average power was 124 Watts, my average speed 12.3 mph, and my maximum speed 32 mph. I used 1,826 calories. The total distance from JOG to LE was 1050 miles.

And here is my favourite photo, of the whole team around the famous sign.

Day 14—Whiddon Down to Lanlivery

The road to Dartmoor

The penultimate day! Whiddon Down proved not to be the best place for meals, because breakfast, scheduled for 07:30, was delayed until 08:00 because the diner opened half an hour later on Sundays. (Fair enough, actually.) Les and I toddled over to the nearby garage to get coffee, and I bought two Boost bars, which rapidly turned into four Boost bars when the guy behind the till charged me for a Red Bull by accident, and it just seemed easier to buy two more Boosts than to get a refund. I gave one to Carl (who says he likes them), put one in my pocket, and saved two until tomorrow.

Cow

Once the diner had opened, breakfast was quick and efficient, although not terribly tasty—how can you mess up a bacon sandwich, that’s what I want to know. Anyway, we were soon out of Whiddon Down and on the road to Dartmoor. It was a road that after about four miles started to climb, quite steeply, and after passing a few baleful-looking cows, in my lowest gear of 34/32, we were on the moor. (Next time it’s a 34 in the rear cassette for me.)

The threshold to the National Park was marked by a cattle grid and a sign exhorting us not to exceed 40 mph. I was going to say fat chance, but it would have been quite easy to exceed that going downhill on the other side, had I been so minded. I didn’t, however, because there were more cows on the road, as well as sheep and ponies, and I didn’t want to kill or be killed. The ponies were, I must say, quite attractive, although one wanted to eat my rear brake lever.

The threshold to the moor

The ride over the moor was another occasion when my school physical geography lessons kept coming back to me, and of course I was irresistibly reminded of The Hound of the Baskervilles as I cycled along. (I seem to make so many references to Holmes—I wonder if Arthur Conan Doyle ever cycled LEJOG or JOGLE.)

We came down from Dartmoor and into Tavistock, where we had coffee and cake at an excellent cyclists’ café in Church Lane. Talk turned to Eddington numbers (I think I have referred to these already) and Carl and I were delighted that (i) we had the same number, 52, and (ii) by the time we got to Land’s End we’d probably be up to 53. Here we are celebrating, with a bemused Amardeep between us.

I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours

Then we were into Cornwall, with yet more hills and what I think must have been tin mines.

We then skirted Bodmin Moor and had lunch (my first cheese and ham toastie of the trip) at a café in Minions—famous as a film, apparently, and as a portable DNA/RNA sequencing platform. On the way down the hill from Bodmin Moor we passed King Doniert’s stone, the only surviving examples of 9th-century stone crosses in Cornwall. Amazing.

And then it was into Lanlivery, and the 12th-century Crown Inn. This was one of the best hotels of the trip, with good food, a kindly landlord, and nicely quirky rooms. I had dinner with Amardeep, Carl, Jamie, John and Les. The conversation was about The End of a Holiday, as Fairport Convention would have it. It’ll be an interesting day tomorrow. What was particularly nice this evening was not having to wash my clothes on this last night! Instead I organised myself such that everything I would need to take home went in my main bag, and everything I could wait for, including bike bits and so on, went in my day bag. At the end of the ride this would go in my bike box, along with my shoes and helmet, lightening the load for the journey home.

Statistics: 55.1 miles, five hours 16 minutes moving time, and 6,115 feet of climbing. Average power was higher than usual at 121 Watts, average speed was 10.4 mph and maximum speed was 36.4 mph. I used 1,709 calories. And I get the slight sense that I am getting fitter. At last!

Day 13—Bridgewater to Whiddon Down

My bike, ready for the off

This is really late! I got so behind with my posts that eventually I accepted that I’d have to write about the final three rides, together with any addition pensées, once I got back to London. So here we are, on September 2, with me racking my brain trying to remember what happened on the last three days of the ride.

Jake and Elwood. Or Jim and Les

By day 13 we are getting close, and everyone, even my bike, is beginning to realise that there are but three days to go (it has a few creaks that it didn’t have before). There are senses of expectation, of tiredness, of ennui, of disappointment, of anxiety, and of the challenges of the return to normal life (whatever that is, these days). There was also a sense that Les and I looked like Jake and Elwood out of the Blues Bothers.

Sun-dappled lane before the climb

So it was that we set off. I had popped into a nearby Tesco to buy a couple of energy bars and some Savlon to treat a rather painful toenail injury (don’t ask) but even so I was first out of the blocks today, heading along a sun-dappled lane towards a pretty steep climb into the Quantock Hills, just west of Bridgewater. The climb was almost five miles, and it was not much fun immediately after breakfast, but it’s good to get some ascending out of the way as soon as possible, and I knew that what was left in terms of low-gear stuff for the day was just the final ascent into Whiddon Down.

Naturally enough, and what with there being a hill, my lead didn’t last long, and I was soon caught by Amardeep, Carl, Jamie, John and Les. I took the opportunity to take photos of some of them, and to check out the landscape, too.

The hill was followed by an amazing descent that I remembered in the other direction from four years ago (this was a really hard climb in the LEJOG direction!). The base of the hill took us over a bridge past Bishops Lydeard station, which I also remember from four years ago.

For some reason I can’t t remember anything about our coffee stop, but lunch was at Crediton, and we gathered in the town square looking for somewhere to eat. Alas, there wasn’t much, and in the end John and I had a piece of cake and coffee, which rather repeated (I assume) what we had at our earlier coffee break. As we set off I remember putting on my helmet and placing my (spare pair) of sunglasses in a plant pot for safe keeping while I did all the other things you do before you set off on a ride. Needless to say I forgot them. That’s two pairs of glasses lost now!

My bike in my room

It was a relatively short day, and the end of the ride marked our approach to Dartmoor (see the map below). The climb into Whiddon Down wasn’t as steep as I feared, and it wasn’t long before we rolled towards the Travelodge. The great thing about this hotel was that we could take our bikes into our rooms, and I was really pleased to take the opportunity to clean my machine up a bit. We had been given strict instructions by Rob not to take our bikes into the shower, so I resisted this temptation, but I did get through quite a lot of loo roll in getting rid of most of the accumulated mud and grime. The hotel was a Travelodge, with all that implies decor-wise, but it did have a rather nice retro bottle-opener attached to the desk (see below).

Bottle opener

For dinner we went to a pub a couple of hundred yards down the road. I can say confidently that it was the slowest service I have ever experienced. We sat down just after 6:30, and I was still waiting for something to eat at 8:15. And I had to eat that quickly, because I had a phone call at 8:30. Oh well! At least there was a fan in my room to dry my clothes, and I was able to prepare myself in good time for the rigours of the 14th day, which looks like a tough one. At least, however, there’ll be no more washing of clothes. I can easily survive on what I have.

Statistics: I did 55.6 miles and climbed 5,715 feet, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t too bad. Here is a map and the elevation profile to show the two big hills of the day

My moving time was five hours and twelve minutes, and my weighted average power was 116 Watts (quite a lot compared with other days—must have been those hills). Average speed was 10.9 mph (hills again) and maximum 33.0 mph. I used 1,736 calories.

Day 12—Chepstow to Bridgewater

I was disappointed not to have spent more time in Chepstow; I had visited the castle whIle I was at school, as well as many other castles of the Welsh marches, including Grosmont, Skenfrith, White, Raglan, Usk, Monmouth, and so on. Chepstow is particularly interesting because of the way it stretches along a cliff on the river Wye, and because it has the oldest castle doors in Europe—tree-ring analysis says they date to the 1190s. The doors were covered in iron plates to prevent attackers burning them down, and on the inside the lattice framework has the earliest mortice-and-tenon joints known in Britain.

Crossing the Severn—a view from the bridge

The weather was good as we set off, and it wasn’t long (after just a little bit of faffing as I tried to interpret my Wahoo, followed by extensive consultation with other members of the gang) before I was crossing the Severn and heading into England. This felt like a landmark of some sort, and I thought the sign marking the borderwas worth photographing. It didn’t inspire much confidence, unfortunately.

Welcome to England

We cycled through Somerset and had coffee and cake at (I think) about 25 miles, but preying on everyone’s mind was the climb at about 37 miles, over the Mendips towards Cheddar Gorge. We had the impression from Rob and Andy (whose A5 sheets say the road climbs ‘very steeply’), and from our cycle computers, that this would be a very tough one. It was indeed tough, with gradients going up to 18%, but it was only tough for about a mile, with a much gentler gradient for the next mile or two. I must admit I had to stop once or twice in the steep section—once because of traffic and once because my legs were on fire—but it was nowhere near as bad as the Cumbria/Yorkshire/Lancashire section. (Was it really easier than Cumbria/Yorkshire/Lancashire, or am I getting fitter? It may be the latter; I am positively sailing up the steep hills at the moment.)

But boy! The decent through Cheshire Gorge was wonderful. Five miles, fast and awe-inspiring. The best descent I have ever done, I think. To say I ‘swept’ through the curves would be to over-romanticise a little, and to exaggerate my cycling ability, but I felt like I was going pretty fast, and it was super fun. I took a couple of photos, but mostly I was riding as quickly as I could.

Once in Cheddar centre ville I had hoped to bump into Rob or Andy in the van, but they were nowhere to be seen, so I passed through the crowded tourist area and managed to buy a pasty at a shop near the end of town. This quick meal meant I was ahead of the rest of the gang, and I crossed most of the Somerset levels in this position until I was joined by Amardeep, Carl, Les, Jamie and John. This was not the most pleasant part of the ride: the roads were not good, and they didn’t seem to represent the shortest route between two points: why would one go south, then west, and then north? Doesn’t make sense. For Les, I should say that I did see a sign for Glastonbury!

We went through Bridgewater, our nominal destination, and ended up in a nice enough hotel in North Petherton, a few miles to the south. A couple of beers, dinner, and I fell asleep over my laptop as I started typing this report.

Statistics!

Map and elevation

We cycled 68.6 miles, with a moving time of 5hours and 40 minutes. We climbed only 3,310 feet (‘only’ because of the high drama of getting onto the Mendips), my weighted average power was 106 Watts, and my average speed was 12.1 mph. I used 1,662 calories (is this really right? It doesn’t seem enough.)

Day 11—Wentnor to Chepstow

A long ride and a good day. It began when Rob, Andy and I went to the B&B which housed most of the rest of the gang and where we had breakfast. Our server was taciturn to say the least, but the food was good enough and there was enough of it. We set off for the ride in the usual order, but not before Rob had fixed Amardeep’s front disc brake. It seemed to have stuck ‘on’; I suspect this happens more frequently with cable disc brakes than with hydraulic brakes.

There had been much discussion about where we should stop for coffee and lunch, and the consensus in the end was that a coffee shop in Pembridge at 28 miles would do very well, and that lunch should be taken at about 61 miles at the post office that boasted a LEJOG/JOGLE sign (see below). With a ride as long as today’s these were at just the right distances.

The weather at the beginning of the ride was overcast but dry, and it was warm enough that I spent some time re-examining the excellent Hopton Castle (see my previous LEJOG blog).

It wasn’t too long before I reached the Pembridge coffee shop (fruit cake and an Americano) and caught up with the leading group of riders. The shop was very nice, and it was sad to hear from the woman working there that it would have to close in seven weeks unless a buyer were found.

Dovecote

Setting off from Pembridge I passed a fancy dovecot, and noticed a sign exhorting Dilwyn to drive carefully. I thought of texting this image to my friend Dilwyn Williams, father of my ex-PhD student Huw, but instead I sent it to Keith Peters. He would get the (rather weak) joke.

Drive carefully Dilwyn!

The weather was getting hotter, and around this point I took off my rain jacket. This led, as I discovered later, to the beginnings of a tan on my arms, and indeed I even have tan lines on the side of my face where my helmet straps have protected my cheeks. I should be more careful!

The views at this part of the ride were great and they were green—so different from the London I left. I must ask my son to send me a photo of the back garden, so that I can see what it’s like in London.

I got to our pre-arranged lunch stop at about 2:45, and bought some fruit, a flapjack and a sausage roll (I really must improve my diet!). Not too much, because I knew I’d be eating a lot in the evening. The post-office was on a route that is used by many LEJOG/JOGLE riders, and it features a sign with some rather inaccurate figures as to how far it is to the two villages. That’s my bike you see in front of the post.

Just before Monmouth

The route from this point was essentially one road, up and down, towards Monmouth, Tintern, and then Chepstow. It was really green just before Monmouth, and with just a little damp on the road here and there it made one forget what London had been like throughout July and much of August.

And then it was full speed for Tintern and Chepstow. We stuck to the same road: smooth, with ups and downs, but nothing too steep. It was good cycling but for a driver in a Mercedes who came rather close to me. I thought they were supposed to leave a metre and a half!

Tintern Abbey

I got to Tintern about 4:35, took the standard photo, and then (ahem) powered towards Chepstow. Rob had not yet arrived withe the bags, because the trailing group had had some mechanical difficulties, so I mooched around for a bit before beginning my now very familiar rituals. After a shower it was off to an Italian restaurant with Amardeep, Jamie and John, and then back to my room to write this and yesterday’s blogs. And now bed.

Here are my statistics.

I cycled 85.5 miles, and climbed 4,993 feet, with a weighted average power of 106 W and an average speed of 12.8 mph. I used 2,090 calories.

Day 10—Acton Bridge to Wentnor

This is a day late, so I apologise to any reader to whom I provide their early-morning entertainment. (Hello JH!)

The funny thing about cycling, or any long-distance sport, is that the energy one has to do a challenge is always three miles less than one needs, irrespective of the length of the ride. It sounds bizarre, I know, but a couple of other people said the same to me at breakfast this morning, so it may be true. It’s all in the head of course, as are many sporting endeavours.

And the funny thing about blogging is that there are always things I keep forgetting. Yesterday, for example, while passing through Blackburn, I was hoping to see lots of holes in the road, so I could refer to the Beatles song A Day in the Life (look it up). I was sure I’d see lots of holes on a road called Broken Stone Road, in which there was a warning of loose gravel (below), but to my disappointment the road was almost pristine. Maybe, 55 years after Sgt Pepper was released, Blackburn has got around to fixing the holes.

But what of today? This was an intermediate ride, somewhere between yesterday’s recovery ride of 53 miles and tomorrow’s ride of 85 miles. To tell you the truth it was one of the least memorable legs so far for some reason. It was flat for the most part, and the scenery was not the most inspiring we had seen, although a castle apparently hewn into the rock was interesting.

We stopped for coffee at a café in Malpas, where we had also stopped four years ago when I did LEJOG. As usual I was in a middle group of one, with the leading group of Amardeep, Carl, Jamie, John and Les arriving at the café 20 minutes before me (or maybe a bit more!) and the trailing group of Denise, Don, Mike and Sonjia (usually accompanied by Andy) arriving 20 minutes after me. I had been wondering about the etymology of Malpas, and it’s as obvious as can be: it’s from the old French and means “bad or difficult passage”.

Because it was less scenically interesting, I thought I’d make a couple of videos (lots of people seem to make videos these days). I must admit that they would have been better with a mouth-mounted GoPro, but maybe that’s for another day.

First video—it’s 67 miles, not 73
Cycling downhill
Cycling uphill

This was a day when we didn’t have a real lunch stop, so I popped into a small supermarket (I can’t remember which one) and, greatly daring, bought a Ginsters pasty (I had been warned off this by many people!). Actually, it wasn’t too bad, and with some grapes and Lucozade it got me to the foot of the hill before the B&B where most of us were staying. It was a steep hill, going up to 18%, and I must admit that I had to get off a couple of times. But I got there, and rather than spend the night there I was quickly whisked off to a B&B six miles away, where I stayed with Rob and Andy. We had a really good dinner and I returned to my room with its poor wifi and went straight to sleep without writing this blog.

Statistics!

We cycled 67.1 miles and climbed 3,783 feet, with an average speed of 11.9 mph. I used 1,707 calories.

Day 9—Mellor to Acton Bridge

Today felt like a rest day in the Tour de France. You still cycle, but it’s really an easy day where the main thing is to turn your legs over and (in our case) try not to arrive too early at the accommodation. Rob explained this to us in our briefing today, and indeed the tone was set by having a later-than-usual breakfast (08:00) and by having the time to clean our bikes a bit and to take a little more care about pumping the tyres up and so on. Indeed, Carl had time to leg it over to Halfords (his wife was visiting, and she had a car) to buy a new Garmin. His old one had finally packed up.

So we set off quite late, and as you can see from the map at the end, after some lumpiness at the beginning the rest of the day was quite flat, except for the very end of the ride, when we approached Acton Bridge. As I was cycling along it struck me how many churches I had passed, and I decided to take pictures of as many as I could (without becoming obsessional about it). As you can see below, there were quite a few. And as I have said in a previous blog, if you were a historian whose specialist subject is (say) church architecture and how it differs as you go from north to south in the UK, then a three-week Bike Adventures JOGLE or LEJOG would be the way to do it.

Coffee was at just 16.8 miles, at the Rivington Village Green Tea Room. I have been there before, and very good it is. I had a sort of curranty slice, which was very nice, and a cup of coffee, before setting off again fairly slowly. As we ate, John heard that his fund-raising efforts for the HoneyPot Children’s Charity were to be publicised with an interview that evening, which is fantastic news. As I type, he and Jamie (his son) have already raised £72,200. Amazing!

And I should mention that Les and Carl are raising money in memory of their friends Dickie and Baxi, and that Denise is supporting Cancer Research UK (I don’t have the link to hand, but will find it). Good luck to them all.

We had arranged to have lunch at a place just after Bents Garden Centre, near Glazebury (31.7 miles). The route there from the Village Green Tea Room was slightly lumpy, and there was a short hill around the 20-mile mark where I fell into conversation with a gentleman who was riding a brand-new blue Pinarello Dogma F. This is one of the bikes to end all bikes. It was released last year, and the man, who works at (or owns) a bicycle shop in Ormskirk, explained carefully that he bought it at last year’s price. This means it must have cost about £12k. I was pleased that he was puffing almost as much as I was going up the hill, so I don’t yet feel the need to invest in such a machine myself!

The Pinarello is immediately behind Rob’s head

The guy stopped with me at the top of the hill where Rob had parked the van, but after discussing his machine with other members of the group he disappeared.

On we went down the hill for lunch, at the excellent Halls Victorian Sweetshop and Tea Room. I was feeling a bit gastrically challenged, so didn’t have anything to eat, and indeed as I write, at 21:49, I still feel a bit ropey. I hope I’m alright tomorrow!

Anyway, the rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. I went slowly enough that I arrived at a respectable 4:30 pm, and it was nice to ride slowly enough to look around me properly. That poem by William Henry Davies, of which everyone knows the first two lines, occurred to me:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

I had never, until now, read the whole of the poem and (speaking as a scientist and not a poet) I must say that there is something of the schoolboy about it, with its repetition and its relentless iambic tetramers. Oh well—I expect I am in a minority (maybe of one). Reading about Davies has at least inspired me to read his autobiography, Diary of a Super-tramp, which looks pretty interesting, even if it did inspire the name of the eponymous prog-rock turned pop music combo (think The Logical Song and Dreamer).

Moving on! Eventually, after a short climb, I arrived at the Wall Hill Farm Guest House and went to my room. Rob had already kindly put my bags inside. We were to have dinner in a nearby restaurant, but it was closed (Covid) and the gang went off instead to the Hanging Gate while I nursed my stomach. Better tomorrow I hope!

Here are my stats:

Today’s route

We travelled just 53.1 miles, and ascended 2,946 feet, so this was a feeble effort compared with yesterday. My weighted average power was 111 Watts, my average speed was 12.3 mph, and my maximum speed was 35.0 mph. And I only used 1,409 calories today. It’s tougher tomorrow, so I hope I have a good breakfast!

Day 8—Ravenstonedale to Mellor

The gang met as usual at breakfast today, and Rob gave his introduction to the day’s ride, with warnings of road conditions, ideas of where to eat, sights we might wish to see, and any nuances of the route. There was a sense of foreboding: Andy had described this as the ‘Queen stage’, Rob as the hardest of all the stages we were to do, and I remembered that it was pretty tough in the other direction four years ago. And it was harder than four years ago, because it was ten miles longer: the usual hotel in Clitheroe wasn’t available, so we were to go further, to Mellor. In retrospect I thought Rob and I could have been a little more upbeat, channeling our inner Henry V at Agincourt: there was a lot of climbing, true, but we were cycling through some beautiful country, and those of us who outlived this day would certainly stand a tip-toe whenever JOGLE was discussed. But in the end we all had stomach for the fight, and off we went.

I left first, to maximise my chances of arriving before 5:00. I was surprised that no one caught me for a while, so I took a few photos along the way. It was pretty desolate, but quite beautiful. At this point it was what we cyclists call ‘lumpy’, but there were no really scary climbs.

As I went on, the ride entered North Yorkshire, as a sign made very clear (there was no such climb indicating that we had left Yorkshire, I must say). Around this time I was caught by Amardeep, Carl, Les, Jamie and James, but I managed briefly to get ahead of them and take photos of them climbing a 15% slope. I was interested to see their pain faces, but they seemed remarkably unaffected! Here are John in orange and Les in yellow.

At this point the weather was overcast but pretty dry, and we continued to ride over open moorland. The weather remained OK, and I was beginning to think about having some coffee. I bumped into Rob, who had parked the van by the side of the road, and we agreed that Ingleton was a good bet. Ingleton is an attractive village, and there is a slightly complicated story about the place that involves Arthur Conan Doyle. I like stories involving Conan Doyle—my earlier LEJOG blog mentioned the village of Musgrave (which we passed yesterday) and how the Sherlock Holmes story The Musgrave Ritual influenced TS Eliot when he wrote Murder in the Cathedral. In this vein I might add that Eliot’s description of Macavity the Mystery Cat was based on Conan Doyle’s Professor Moriarty. The second line of the poem reads “For he’s the master criminal who can defy the law” and the last two lines read “Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time/Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!” As Eliot himself said, Good writers borrow, great writers steal.

Anyway, Conan Doyle’s mother lived in nearby Masongill, and when visiting her he would have arrived at Ingleton railway station. His subsequent journey by cart would have passed through Holme Head. When Conan Doyle wrote A Study in Scarlet he was going to name his principal character Sherrinford Holmes. That same year, however, the church of St Mary the Virgin in Ingleton was rebuilt to the design of famous Liverpudlian architect Cornelius Sherlock. Coincidence? I think not.

Yet another view

I found a coffee place in Ingleton, using my four-year-old local knowledge, and met Amardeep, Carl, Les, Jamie and James. I had a big cheese scone and a cup of coffee, and after chats about the relative merits of Garmin and Wahoo cycle computers (Wahoo for me) I set off, a few minutes after my chums. By now it was quite hot, and I had taken off my arm warmers. This may have been a mistake. At first all was well. The scenery was as impressive as ever, and the physical features of the land reminded me of many a geography lesson with Mr Elliot. I only wish I could remember the names of some of those features.

Geography lesson

But then it was the first really tough climb of the day, at about 34 miles. You can see it on the route profile at the end of this blog. Clucking bell. It was over five miles long, and I had to stop a few times, when the gradient got to about 15%. I didn’t take any pictures during the ride, but I think the image below is taken from the end of the ascent, looking down. It gives no impression whatsoever of how tough it was.

From the topi of the climb, I think

And then it stared to rain hard. My camera stopped working, and I couldn’t be bothered to reach into my back pocket for my phone, so from this point on, no pictures. Let me summarise the next 25-odd miles by saying that the downhills were treacherous and the two remaining climbs exhausting, each occasionally getting up to 18%. I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted to have been anywhere else, but it was really hard. The last climb, fortunately, brought us into Mellor, and Rob was waiting to put our bikes under a tarpaulin before loading them into the van for the night. I’m hoping that it’ll be dry-ish on Tuesday morning, so that I can clean off the mud and just make the bike a little more presentable.

Amardeep, Carl, Les, Jamie and James had already arrived at the hotel when I arrived at about 4:30, but Andy was still on the way, having had a gear cable replaced, and other members of the gang didn’t arrive until 6:30. That’s a long, wet, exhausting day on a bike, and real credit to Sonjia, particularly, for doing so well.

The main thing with respect to stats is that I increased my Eddington number to 51, which I am very excited about. I am now in the top 44% of cyclists, which at least is the top half! Otherwise, here is the route:

Our route and the profile

Our distance was only 68.1 miles, which is small beer by previous standards, but we ascended 7,064 feet, which is quite a long way. Imagine climbing a 1.3 mile-long ladder, carrying a bicycle on your back. I used 2236 calories, the most yet, so I felt justified in having a big supper!

Day 7—Ecclefechan to Ravenstonedale

The inscription on the bridge

Today was a big day. Perhaps most importantly, it didn’t rain at all. This was fantastic, and I am even showing faint signs of a cyclists’ tan. But in addition, we left Scotland and entered England. To mark this achievement we set off together to the bridge over the River Sark that marks the border between the two countries. There is an inscription half-way across the bridge that Rob read out to me, but to be honest I couldn’t make out much at all (see the photo above). I originally thought the inscription was taken from the Burns poem Such A Parcel Of Rogues In A Nation, but Rob tells me it’s completely different, and refers to the name of the structure, which is the Corries Mill Bridge, now a category C listed building. Oh well.

We had cycled the 11 miles from our Ecclefechan hotels to the bridge together, a bit like the neutralised start in the stages of the Tour de France, but as soon as we had taken our photographs, and listened to Andy’s recordings of Three Lions, Jerusalem, and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 (this was only slightly naff), we headed off at our own speeds. (Although not before John and Jamie changed their shirts to publicise their efforts for the Honeypot Children’s Charity.)

The first part of the day was pretty uneventful. At one point we cycled along the narrow path that I cycled along in 2018 and fell off. I was pleased not to do so today.

The great thing on these rides is to decide where to have coffee and lunch. As I have said before, I am a fan of having coffee at well over 33% of the ride, and then lunch at about 66%. This means that the distance to be covered after lunch is easily manageable, and makes sure we get to the next hotel around 5:00 pm. So we had coffee at 28.8 miles (38%) at a pub with the unlikely name of Fantails. The meal was slightly unusual because the pub served only coffee, and we had to get our carbohydrates at the nearby village shop. I had a bar of chocolate; I have been missing chocolate!

As the day wore on things became hillier and hillier. I was OK until lunchtime, at 1:30 and 46-odd miles, when a sausage roll, a pear, and a kind of energy bar thing were a great help. I had the sense that the remaining 30 miles would be manageable. But it was tough going, and especially the last 15 miles, which were inexorably skywards. But I eventually managed the last 100 feet of elevation and rolled into the Fat Lamb.

It turned out that the Fat Lamb isn’t putting the heating on, so I put my washed wet clothes into the hotel’s drying room. When I came back after dinner they were nearly dry, so I’ll give them another 30 minutes.

Maybe tomorrow I can be more inspired! But for now here are my stats.

The route

We cycled 76.7 miles, and climbed 4,744 feet. My weighted average power was 109 Watts, my average speed was 12.3 mph, and I used 1980 calories.

Day 6—Motherwell to Ecclefechan

Second blog in a day, in an effort to catch up and thereby make subsequent entries less rushed.

It rained much of today. I know this statement is otiose (hello Ed!), but it’s so irritating that I thought I’d mention it again. We were aware that we had a long ride to Ecclefechan today, so we had an early breakfast (after I had helped Carl load some .gpx files to his Garmin) and got out as fast as we could, about 08:15.

So off we went through the Strathclyde Country Park, negotiated the M74, and we were on the open road. Everyone says that it’s much more sensible to do LEJOG than JOGLE because of the prevailing winds. They are right. As well as rain today we had a really horrible headwind to negotiate. And I also had a minor brake malfunction when something or other got stuck in the front disc assembly. It seemed to have bent the disc a bit, which is bad news, but I took the wheel out and forced the pads apart so that they’d have to re-set their position, and everything seemed OK.

I need to record that at about 25 miles the wind died down, the road was smooth, the rain eased off a bit, and there was a slight downhill gradient. Brilliant!

We had discussed whether to stop for coffee in Biggar (London’s big, but Biggar’s Biggar etc etc) at 33.6 miles or in Broughton at 38.8. I went for the latter, on the principle that the more of the ride you do before coffee or lunch, the less there is to do afterwards, but alas, I found myself alone in the excellent Laurel Bank café. At this point, the sun came out and suddenly the weather was fantastic, and this inspired me, on the next stage of the ride, to take the photographs below (I can’t summon the energy to take pictures when it’s pouring).

After Broughton was a long slow climb that leads towards Moffat (look at the stats below). On the way, near the top of the climb and before the descent into Moffat, I passed a hollow called the Devil’s Beeftub (the bottom image of the four above). The ride that is known as the Devil’s Beeftub starts at Moffat and ends at the Beeftub, and is rated 4/10 by cycling cognoscenti. All I can say is the descent, in the other direction, is brilliant. Such fun!

Moffat was our agreed lunch stop, but I couldn’t see anyone around so I had a quick Scotch Pie and went as fast as I could for the remaining 20 miles to Ecclefechan. It was, of course, still raining, and the road was pretty rough, so it was pretty tiring. I checked into my room as quickly as I could, had a shower, and joined Les and Carl, and then Jamie and John, for dinner. Here we are (from left to right it’s Carl, Jamie, Les, Jim and John).

Dinner (all a bit tired)

A shorter day tomorrow, but with the same amount of climbing. We shall see how it feels! Here is a map and some stats for today:

Today’s progress
Data

Speed and energy consumption are on the right (over seven hours cycling and only 2,397 calories!) and more data about heart rate, elevation. and speed are below. I’m surprised my heart rate went up as high as it did during the climb (I haven’t been above 180 for a long time) but it came down very quickly so I’m sure it’s OK! More tomorrow…