Day 7

Acton Bridge to Clitheroe

An omission

I begin by rectifying an omission. On Day 5 I really should have shown a photo or two of Hopton Castle, which we visited about an hour before arriving at our hotel in Wentnor. It’s a perfect little structure. It was founded in the 12th century as a motte and bailey castle, with a keep (perhaps wooden) built on a raised earthwork called a motte, which was surrounded by a courtyard, or bailey. The stone version of the keep was built in the 1260s. The history is outlined in the Wikipedia article above, and in the castle’s own site here. The castle was an important stronghold for Parliament in the west of England in the English Civil War. In 1644 Hopton Castle was besieged by a Royalist force of about 500, led by Sir Michael Woodhouse. The thirty Roundheads, commanded by Samuel More, eventually surrendered, perhaps following a breach in an unusual garderobe chamber.

I was very impressed by the energy of the Hopton Castle Preservation Trust, and by how much of the history was inferred from work done by a TV archaeology programme called Time Team.

DSC00122.JPGThe keep of Hopton Castle

DSC00127.JPGThe remains of the bailey

Today’s ride

The plan for today was to get to Clitheroe, a name I am most familar with from listening to The Clitheroe Kid, a radio programme that I think was broadcast on Sunday lunchtimes, before or after Round the Horne. My dad loved both, and they were required listening for our family. The Clitheroe Kid was quite funny all those years ago, but I don’t think it quite holds up now. See what you think of this example.

The day wasn’t meant to be too taxing, but the weather was changeable and I was beginning to feel a few aches and pains. My right shoulder hurt, making it harder to look behind me as I was cycling; as a result I would veer wildly to my right whenever I checked the traffic. My knees (especially my left knee) were beginning to give me some pain, especially uphill. I tried to decide whether it was better to have fewer pedal revolutions, by using a higher gear, or less exertion per pedal stroke, by using a lower gear. I went for the latter. And then a bloody bee stung me through my shorts, in the back of my left leg. Ouch.

Oh well. It was never supposed to be easy.

Two-and-a-half miles after setting off we went through the attractive village of Comberbach, where they have converted a phone booth into a mini library:

DSC00144.jpgComberbach library

And it wasn’t long before we crossed the M6.


At 13 miles we reached the Manchester Ship Canal, a 36-mile waterway which links Manchester with the Irish Sea. Construction began in 1887, and it took six years to complete; that sounds pretty quick to me. I had always thought the canal would be pretty industrial all along its length, but not a bit of it. The first photo below shows me taking my life in my hands by standing in the middle of the bridge to take a picture. The second shows the view from the bridge.

DSC00149.JPG The bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal

DSC00151.jpgThe view from the bridge

Refuelling is (as I have said before) very important, and we all joined Rob at a café in Glazebury for coffee, tea and cake. Here is a photo of me, with Allison in the background. I was wearing a jacket at this point, so it was getting pretty cold.

IMG_4372.jpgMe. Note red nose

And here is Father Paul, taking some photos for his own blog. Those are The Whippets in the background.

IMG_4370.jpgPaul photographs The Whippets

On we go—through Hindley and a road to Wigan Pier (probably not the road…).

DSC00153.JPGA road to Wigan Pier

Lunch was in Rivington. A cheese and ham toastie and a diet Pepsi, and then back on the road again. It kept changing its mind as to whether it was going to rain—when it wasn’t raining the countryside looked pretty good.


We crossed the M65 near Blackburn, and the tiny sign that you can’t read below says Ewood Park, the home of Blackburn Rovers Football Club. They play Millwall tomorrow in their opening game of the Championship. With Blackburn in mind, I am cross with myself for not taking a photograph of a hole, so that I could make a joke about the Beatles song A Day in the Life. Maybe next time.

DSC00156.JPGThe M65

Then it was across the River Ribble for the first time. The river was beautiful but I was too tired to take any photos. (I confess that I had only heard of the river because I know of Ribble Cycles, who make really good, and good value, road bikes.) But as we came into Clitheroe we crossed the Ribble again, and I was able to get a photo after all.

DSC00159.JPGThe Ribble, near Clitheroe

I got to the hotel at about 4:15, and having described my routine yesterday, I immediately diverted from it. I cleaned my bike, so that it looks shiny and fairly new. Then I showered and washed my kit, but instead of writing this blog I went out to buy some ibuprofen gel and tablets for my shoulder and knee, and some anti-histamine for my insect sting. And also some DEET for the midges in Scotland in a few days. Only then did I rest, eat, and, now, write. And in a minute, I’ll go to sleep!

Here are my stats, our route for the day, and our overall progress. We are getting closer!

Screenshot 2018-08-10 18.51.33.pngStats

Screenshot 2018-08-10 18.48.35.pngProgress today

Screenshot 2018-08-10 18.49.31.pngProgress overall

Looking at this map reminds me that Lisa and I were discussing today the familiar Mercator projection and the Gall-Peters projection, and how much of our ride is in England and Wales and how much in Scotland. More on this later.

And more soon on cycle shorts, introduced by another great Van Morrison song, St Dominic’s Preview (and here and here and here too).

Tomorrow is a very tough day. Wish us luck!

Day 6

Wentnor to Acton Bridge


This will have to be short because I only just finished yesterday’s blog, because dinner calls, and because I have some work stuff to do tonight. So I’ll save my discussion of cycling shorts for another time, and instead describe my daily routine for this two weeks of cycling.

The day begins early. I wake up at about 6:30, think about going for a run, decide not to, and look at BBC news or read the paper on-line before having a shower. I have already packed and laid out my cycling kit of choice (see below), so there’s no panic.

Breakfast is usually at 07:30 or 08:00. This is when we load up for the day, and although I am not usually a big breakfaster, I do try to get some calories in. So do my fellow cyclists, although Father Paul was frustrated this morning when the kitchen misinterpreted his request. The hotel had given us a list of breakfast options the night before, asking us to tick the boxes alongside our choices. Father Paul made it clear how he wanted his eggs done (poached) and, so as to experience as wide a cuisine as possible, made his mark in all the other boxes as well (hash browns, sausages, black pudding, tomatoes, bacon…you name it). Unfortunately, the hotel interpreted his Xs as ‘no thanks’ rather than ‘yes please’, and he was served just three rather lonely eggs rather than the hoped-for very full English breakfast. The chef did eventually return to the kitchen to cook everything else, and, replete, Father Paul was able to set off for his ride.

During breakfast Rob describes the route, after which we give him our bags, blow up our tyres, give our bikes an anxious once-over, and set off. We all go at different speeds (obviously). The three whippets (known to us all as ‘The Whippets’) set an impressive pace that the rest of us cannot hope to match. Rather, we sort of pootle along, like Fotherington-Thomas out of the Molesworth books, saying hello clouds, hello sky…

We variously stop for coffee, for elevenses, for lunch, for coffee, for cakes, for tea, and for much-needed snacks—in case we get famished before dinner. We labour up the hills or coast down them, we grit our teeth as we cycle into the wind, and we keep looking at our cycle computers. Why won’t it switch from 40.4 to 40.5 miles?

And eventually we get there. Today’s ride (see below) was 69.2 miles with 3205 feet of climbing—what Rob called an ‘easier’ day. He met us at the pub where we have rooms, took our bikes, gave us our keys, and pointed us towards our rooms, where he had already taken our bags—what a saint.

I enter my room, and immediately demolish any biscuits the hotel may have provided. Then, after ten minutes of lying on the bed in the recovery position, I have a shower. Now this is important, because the evening shower is also the evening clothes-washing session. One’s cycling kit, and any dirty non-cycling stuff, is thrown into the shower basin, and the shower switched on. I step in, admiring my cyclists’ tan lines, and as I wash myself I march on the spot as if I were treading grapes. It may not match the sophistication or delicate action of Hotpoint’s finest washing machines, but it gets the job done.

The great thing then is to dry your clothes, and there are various techniques:

  • Roll them in a towel and stand on it for a while. This gets rid of most of the water pretty quickly
  • Let it drip into the bath overnight. This is hopeless
  • Hang it out the window. This is surprisingly effective when the weather is OK, but there is the risk of (i) ridicule and (especially if you are on the ground floor) (ii) theft
  • Play a fan on the damp clothes. Slow but effective
  • Use the heated towel rail in the bathroom. Less effective than you’d think
  • Use the room’s electric heater if it has one. Works well with the first of these

This is also the opportunity to charge your Garmin/Wahoo, laptop computer, phone, watch, iPad, bicycle light and camera. I also rinse out my water bottles, and generally make ready for the next day: which cycle shirt and shorts should I wear, have I got the right maps in the map-holder, have I scraped the dead insects off my sunglasses, and so on.

Then, and finally, I do some writing (this blog) and emailing, and have dinner. Dinner is when one hears our companions’ tales of the road—the triumphs (such as getting up a hill without walking), the mishaps (punctures), and the tragedies (falling off). It’s good fun, unless someone does get hurt, and we are forming quite a tight-knit group.

And after dinner, more writing and reading, and then bed.


So that’s the routine. What of today? I left alone, following The Whippets but not making any serious attempt to catch them. I looked at the scenery, and I looked out for anything else of note. The fact that there is a village called Thresholds might appeal to Lewis Wolpert, James Briscoe or Jeremy Green:


And I found this tree rather attractive:


Lunch was fun because we all managed to congregate at the same place, at the Old Fire Station in Malpas.


At one point after lunch it got slightly colder, and I put on my arm-warmers for a bit. I felt like a real cyclist then!

This photo captures a typical road on our trip. Narrow with little traffic—great for cycling.


It’s almost pointless posting a photo of a church whose name you don’t know, but this was quite attractive.


As was this castle hewn into the rock


And finally, Rob warned us of a bridge with a really steep gradient leading up to it. He didn’t add that it was a weak bridge, and one doesn’t need the sign to deduce that. The gradient is so steep that it can be hard to change down quickly enough to get across it, and it’s easy to take a tumble.

DSC00143.JPGWeak bridge


Here are the data as usual. I was disappointed to discover on Strava that cycling uses fewer calories than I thought—just 515 today—so I am definitely over-doing the eating!

Screenshot 2018-08-09 21.07.08.pngStats

And this is what we did today…

Screenshot 2018-08-09 21.06.01.png

And this puts it into the context of the whole ride.

Screenshot 2018-08-09 21.06.32.png

Until tomorrow!

Day 5

Tintern to Wentnor


When I’m cycling, or running, I sometimes sing to myself (this might be too much information, but for some reason singing does help me focus on the task at hand). At about 40 miles today (out of 80) there was a distinct smell in the air, and because I was singing Van Morrison’s Summertime in England (which, with its mention of Wordsworth and Coleridge, is actually about the Lake District and not Hereford and Worcester) I was instantly reminded of his song Redwood Tree, and the lines “And it smells like rain/Maybe even thunder”.

Sure enough, it started to rain, and I got a chance to try out my new Gore ONE 1985 Gore-Tex Shakedry jacket which, in spite of its name, is pretty good. But mostly I was reminded how sensitive our noses are to petrichor—the earthy odour produced when rain hits dry ground (or, because it wasn’t even raining when I first detected it, perhaps simply when the humidity is high). The word petrichor was coined in 1964 by Joy Bear and Richard Thomas. It comes from the Greek petros, meaning stone (from which the smell is derived), and ichor (referring to the blood of gods). I learned from Kathy Weston’s biography of David Hopwood that in fact the smell is that of geosmin, a chemical derived from the soil bacterium Streptomyces. Members of the family of bacteria to which Streptomyces belong are the source of most of the anti-microbial drugs we have today, so as Kathy says, not only do Streptomyces smell good, but they have saved millions of lives. With my Wellcome and biomedical researcher hats on, let us hope that worldwide efforts to solve antimicrobial resistance are successful.

I was singing another Van Morrison song later in the day, and this will provide the introduction to my thoughts on bicycle shorts at some point. Watch this space.


With 80 miles ahead of us, it seemed sensible to set off early, and Allison, Lisa and I formed our little breakaway group as we had done yesterday. I took a photo of the church next door to our guest house just before we left. It looked good in the morning light.

DSC00094.JPGChurch in Tintern

I should be honest and say that the trip today was long, but it wasn’t quite as challenging, dramatic or eventful as previous days. The Wye Valley was beautiful and verdant, but it was by no means as steep or relentless as implied by this download from my Wahoo data. (In contrast to most people on the trip I use a cycle computer made by Wahoo, not Garmin. The screen doesn’t look so fancy, but the battery life is better.) To use an expression borrowed from famous cycle commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, I didn’t have to dig too deep into the suitcase of courage to finish this ride.

Screenshot 2018-08-08 19.11.47.pngToday’s data

Perhaps because the trip was so uneventful there were fewer photo opportunities, but I liked this sign to Abergavenny because I always enjoyed going to Abergavenny with my school some 50 years ago.

DSC00097.JPGTaking a trip up to Abergavenny/Hoping the weather is fine

However, we did have the chance to hang around a sign outside a shop in St Weonards that purported to show how far we had come and how far we had to go. All I can say is that we must be taking the long way round; our journey is a lot longer than 863 miles! You can see more photos from this stop on Allison’s Twitter feed.

DSC00098.jpgKaren and the sign

We stopped for a snack by Madeley Parish Church (that’s my bike there), fuelled by snacks from the Spar grocery on the other side of the road…DSC00112.JPGMadeley Parish Church

We continued to see some great views, and we visited the fanciest dovecote I have ever seen…



As usual, the day ended with dinner, and it was great to meet new friend Sally and to discover that for many of us on the trip the famous six degrees of separation can be reduced to just one or two. Father Paul, for example, studied with the son of the cellist Raphael Wallfisch, with whom I was at school and still see occasionally. I’m sure there will be more links to come.

And to finish, a map of our ride today…

Screenshot 2018-08-08 19.12.24.pngEighty miles

And a map to put the trip so far into context…

Screenshot 2018-08-08 19.09.19.pngProgress!

Postscript: I’m late posting this because the hotel had no wifi—it may mean tomorrow’s post will be a bit shorter.

Day 4

Bridgwater to Tintern


Our ride this morning went swimmingly for the first five miles but we were then held up for perhaps twenty minutes by a great many cows on their way to be milked. Any advantage my little group may have had (and yes, I do know it’s a holiday and not a race) was wiped out as we all walked slowly behind the last cow wondering when they were finally going to turn off into a field.

DSC00079.JPGThe back ends of some cows

DSC00080.JPGThe back ends of a load of cyclists

But the photo above got me thinking about what you wear when you ride a bike (or what Rapha, the high-end bicycle clothing company, would call cycling apparel). When Ian joined me yesterday he was wearing a very sensible bright orange T-shirt, but my companions and I are nearly all wearing a tight-fitting collared jersey with a full-length zip and three pockets at the back, sometimes advertising Sky TV or a bicycle manufacturer. Why this particular style? Do we get any marginal gains from such attire?

I admit that I gave quite some thought beforehand as to what I would wear during this ride. For my top half I quite liked the idea of having no advertising and no artificial fibres, so I went with Roadrags: “A line of cycling wear which is not only remarkably stylish and comfortable, but also breathable, odour-resistant, and environmentally sustainable.” It sounded unimprovable, but as a friend pointed out, the merino jersey had an alarming tendency to droop whenever you put anything in one of the back pockets—a mini pump, energy gel, phone or wallet. This not only looked silly, but it was a real nuisance when the back of the jersey got snagged under your saddle. Evidently, Roadrags are really good for posing moodily in cafés—and road cyclists really enjoy posing moodily in cafés—but they aren’t so good on the road.

So instead I went to Bon Velo, my fantastic local bike shop, and bought one of their jerseys. The great thing to remember when buying bicycle jerseys is that the sizes are based on the average person in the peleton of the Tour de France; they are not based on the average person on the street. So what might be a medium on Chris Froome (height 1.86 m, weight 68 kg) or Geraint Thomas (1.83 m, 71 kg) might be a little tight on you or me. With this in mind, although I am a medium in almost everything else, I went for a large, and I’m pleased to say that it is only slightly too snug.

Since then, however, I have discovered the wonderful Fat Lad at the Back cycle wear. Now you’re talking. It’s sized for normal people, so I am a medium again, and it is cut for what you might call the fuller figure—for those of us who may have acquired a little avoirdupois in later life. It also eschews the flamboyant logos that I hate so much. It’s not made of merino, but that does mean the pockets don’t droop and you can carry everything you need. And the style minimises wind resistance and makes you look as if you’re a cyclist. So of course you go faster too!

Over the next few days I’ll have a think about cycle shorts…


Returning to why I’m here, I should say first that it was a fantastic day. I cycled with Allison and Lisa, and I am grateful to them for helping keep me going. The first section was on the Somerset Levels, and how nice it was to hear the word ‘level’ applied to part of our ride.

Screenshot 2018-08-07 17.52.34.pngIllustrating the Somerset Levels at the start of our ride

This flat section was followed at about 20 miles by Cheddar Gorge. I had been slightly nervous about this, because it’s another long climb, but it worked out pretty well. Am I getting fitter? I doubt it. But it was impressive and beautiful. Why have I never been here before?

DSC00082 2.JPGLisa cycling through Cheddar Gorge

Lunch followed at about 40 miles, but not before Allison had been stung by a wasp and later had serious chain trouble, only to make the cardinal error of wiping her oily hand on her face:


Then it was over the Severn Bridge and into Wales. The bridge was incredibly windy. I lost a camera case when i was trying to take a photo, and almost lost my rain jacket.

DSC00087.JPGLooking east on the Severn Bridge

DSC00089.JPGYour jacket is about to fly away!

DSC00090.JPGInto Wales

From the bridge it was a fairly easy run into Tintern, but we were all feeling pretty tired by then. Not so tired that we couldn’t take a photo of our bikes and the Abbey, though:

DSC00091.JPGTintern Abbey and my bike

I was reminded of the times I came to this part of Wales with my school, and indeed with old friends like Ian. We would visit the castles at places like Chepstow, Raglan, Grosmont, Abergavenny and Usk.

As in previous blogs, here is today’s ride, followed by how far we have come so far:

Screenshot 2018-08-07 17.50.48.pngToday’s route

Screenshot 2018-08-07 17.53.22.pngHow far we have come, and how far we have to go!

Tomorrow will be 80 miles—the longest yet. Will we make it? I expect so.

Day 3

Whiddon Down to Bridgwater

This was meant to be an easier day, and if Rob from Bike Adventures says cycling 59.2 miles and climbing 4501 feet is an easier day, then who am I to argue? But I found it tough going again, especially the climb over the Quantock Hills at the end of the day (see below). I confess I had to get off and walk at one point, but I did use the opportunity to take a photo.

Screenshot 2018-08-06 18.09.17.pngThe route

DSC00072.JPGView from the Quantock Hills

But I am getting ahead of myself. The day started earlier than usual, and I set off for Crediton to meet Ian, who had arrived with his bike on the train. We have cycled together before, but not much and not recently—we did the sea-to-sea about thirty years ago, some cycling with Oli and Sue in the West Country after that, and (some of) the Reivers route about a decade ago. We slipped right back into it, though, and established a companionable pace. We passed Bradfield Chapel (I wish we’d gone inside) and Bradfield House, and took a selfie…

DSC00059.JPGBradfield Chapel (1)

DSC00063.JPGBradfield Chapel (2)

DSC00065.JPGBradfield House


Soon afterwards we passed from Devon to Somerset…



It was a frustrating day gastronomically because pubs in Devon and Somerset seem to be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so there were no opportunites for lunch, and indeed there were precious few chances to re-fill our water bottles or buy a sandwich—what happened to the village shop?

Ian left for home at Milverton (it was great to see him), and I carried on towards the Quantock Hills, pausing to take a photo at what I think was Crowcombe station. If so it’s a site that was used in the filming of A Hard Day’s Night. I hope someone will correct me if I’m wrong.

Oli corrected me: that was Bishops Lydeard I photographed!


Then to the Quantock Hills and a brilliant downhill stretch into Bridgewater.

DSC00073.JPGLeaving the Quantock Hills

Tomorrow we head into Wales, which feels like progress. But here is how we stand this evening. There is still a very long way to go!

Screenshot 2018-08-06 18.10.17.pngProgress!

Oh, I nearly forgot—just for Louise Wood, here are my data:

Screenshot 2018-08-06 18.12.06.pngA numbers game

Day 2

Par to Whiddon Down


Readers of the road cycling literature will be familiar with Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About the Bike, his own version of his early life. Less well-known is Rob Penn’s It’s All About the Bike, Rob’s amusing and informative account of how he built his dream machine (seriously, it’s a great read—don’t miss it). For many reasons I tend to Rob’s view, and this blog begins where the last one ends—about my bike. Along the way I’ll answer my friend Chris Bird’s Twitter question, where he asked whether I had bought the Di2 version of the Mason. More on that later, Chris.

I have bought a few bikes in my time. The first serious machine was from Pete Matthews in Liverpool, in about 1993. I had just come into some money, and there was about £1500 left over once we had built a new garden pond. I scoured the internet to find the best bespoke bicycle builder, and happened upon Pete. His main claim to fame was his wheels—they’re strong, light, and built just for you. However, he also designed frames, and these too were strong, light, and built just for you.

If you think the size and shape of your bicycle frame depends on nothing more than your height, then Pete has news for you. Height, inside leg, length of femur, length of trunk, length of arms, width of shoulders, your weight…you name it, he measured it. And six weeks after my fitting I had my beautiful black bike. The frame was made of Reynolds 853 steel, the groupset (the brakes and drivetrain and so on) was Campagnolo Daytona, and the wheels were Pete’s own Pianni brand. I still ride this bike most days to work. It’s been re-sprayed and I have upgraded the groupset a little, but the wheels are the same, and after 25 years they still run beautifully.

Since then I have bought a fixie in French powder blue from Mercian cycles in Derby (where I was fitted on a special sizing jig), a folding Bike Friday from Eugene Oregon, and a blue Brompton S2L (made in Brentford and then Greenford and sold by Bikefix).

So why did I need a new bike for my LEJOG trip? Well of course I didn’t. I could have put a new groupset on the old Pete Matthews to give it a wider range of gears, but I was quite happy with the gearing for my regular commute, and I didn’t want to spend about £1000 to make the bike probably less useful for its normal purpose. The fixie was no good, and nor were the folders, so a new machine was clearly the way to go.

So I scoured the internet again. It seems that framemakers are busier these days, and any bespoke machine wouldn’t have been ready in time for my ride, so I went for an off-the-peg job instead. To a man used to bespoke frames this was a risk, but it turns out that I am not an unusual shape (well, not a very unusual shape), and that most off-the-peg bikes would fit me OK.

Initially I was very taken with the Fairlight Strael, but so popular is it that this wouldn’t have been available in time either, so I ended up with the Strael’s arch-rival, the Mason Resolution2. The reviews were terrific, I liked the look of the frame, the fact that it was made of Columbus steel made a change from my usual Reynolds, and I liked the beautiful paintwork. I went to Lancing, to the barn where the cycles are assembled, and I loved it. I went for blue with black handlebar tape, and rather than Campagnolo I opted for a Shimano groupset. For the long-distance cyclist Shimano is preferable because spare parts are more easily found.

And did I go for the top-of-the-range Dura Ace Di2 Hydro? As Chris Bird will know, this is lightest version you can get, and with electronic gear shifting as well as hydraulic disc brakes. Alas no. Referring back to my previous blog, our car is worth a paltry £200, so if you do the multiplication you’ll work out that I have the Ultegra groupset with hydraulic brakes—and very nice it is too. I’ll write more about the bike some other time.


But what of today’s ride? Quite simply, it was the hardest day I have ever had on a bike. It started out tough and got tougher. Perhaps the best thing is to start with the stats, and here they are:

Screenshot 2018-08-05 22.44.54.pngStats

Although we only (only!) cycled 56.6 miles, we climbed 6391 feet—that’s 1.21 miles. If you have a moment, stand outside, look up at the sky, and imagine going up 1.21 miles. Or to put it another way, imagine climbing the equivalent of Mount Loma Mansa, the highest peak in Sierra Leone (isn’t Google wonderful?).

We started by climbing out of Par through some rather attractive sun-dappled lanes, and although it was steep at the beginning the climbs weren’t too long and there were some compensatory dowhills that made up for it.

DSC00037.JPGDappled lane

But then we started heading up towards Bodmin Moor, and here it got tough. I was fortunate to join up with Allison and Lisa, and together we kept ourselves going as we passed King Doniert’s stone and reached the first cafe stop, where quite a few of us were already gathered. On the way to the cafe there was some excitement that we were to pass through Minions, and I was pleased that so many of our number were aware of the latest advances in DNA sequencing technology, but I think the word means different things to different people.

DSC00042.JPGKing Doniert’s stone

DSC00043 2.JPGIt’s not about the DNA sequencing technology

DSC00044.JPGRefuelling—Rob from Bike Adventures on the left, Lisa in the middle in the foreground and Allison behind her

So far so good, and from there we went up and down to the River Tamar, where Cornwall becomes Devon. We regarded this as progress, with the sign a welcome sight.

DSC00047.JPGInto Devon

DSC00049.JPGThe view from the bridge over the River Tamar

But then, after lunch in Tavistock (bacon roll), it got tough, as you can tell by the fact that I took so few photographs. We climbed and we climbed and we climbed onto Dartmoor. It was steep, it was relentless, it was hot and it was sunny. I had refilled my water bottles in Tavistock, but I was really worried that I’d run out before we got back to civilisation. (I did, in fact, but it wasn’t catastrophic.) This is where it helps cycling in a small group, and the three of us (metaphorically) pulled each other up the hills. Here are Allison and Lisa at about 40 miles, at what may have been the highest point.

DSC00055.JPGAt the top

It rolled a lot after that, and there were some more steep climbs. My technique was to get up as much speed as I could on the preceding downhill stretch and then try to blast up the hill. This usually worked for about 10% of the climb, but the rest was just grind, grind, grind. But then we had a left turn, a fantastic long ride off the moor, followed by just a few more difficult bits (one where we had to get off and walk) before reaching our hotel at 5:15. The hotel let us take our bikes into our rooms, so having written so much about it above, I’m pleased to show a photograph below.

DSC00057.JPGThe bike

I showered, did my washing, and lay on the bed groaning for a bit until Ian arrived. Ian is my oldest friend (I mean the friend I have known for the longest time) and he moved to Devon a few years ago. He kindly came to the hotel and we drove off to Chagford for dinner and a long chat. Great to see him again, and with a bit of luck he’ll join me tomorrow on the next section of the ride. As we left the hotel for dinner, at about 7:00, we heard that only ten out of eighteen of us had yet arrived. There’ll be some tired legs at breakfast tomorrow.

Here is Ian, and a view of the sky while we were having dinner.



And what did we achieve today? This:

Screenshot 2018-08-05 22.42.41.pngToday’s ride

Which again looks impressive until you look at this:

Screenshot 2018-08-05 22.45.57.pngPutting it into context

But we have only done two days out of fourteen, and I have every confidence we’ll be further on tomorrow. Watch this space.

Day 1

Land’s End to Par

I guess there won’t be that many people who will find this blog interesting—in particular, it won’t be terribly different from the many other blogs that have been written with exactly the same title. But it’s a useful aide-memoire for me, so on we go.

DSC00017.JPGOur hotel; bike store to the right and restaurant to the left

Day one proper started with various attempts to break the record for the biggest breakfast ever consumed, followed by last-minute panics about our bikes. One poor guy kept having a puncture—every time he installed a new inner tube and put on the tyre, the tube burst when it got to 100 psi. It eventually turned out that there was a slight and invisible protrusion from the wheel, where the inner tube sits, so the fix was simple and (as far as I know) he got through the day without incident.

Of course we had our photo taken by the famous sign. It turns out you have to pay to do this, and the group picture will be emailed to our leader Rob. But I did manage to get a snap of Father Paul and his friend from Kansas, and here it is.

DSC00020.JPGFather Paul and friend

The answer to the next question is ‘no’, but his cycling jersey was cunningly adapted to allow him to wear his collar. Pretty cool.

We were given pause for thought as we left.

DSC00018 2.jpgBe careful out there

It was cool and overcast as we set off, and I wished I had my (ahem) newly-acquired arm-warmers with me. Here is a typical scene—apparently the view is pretty spectacular if only you can see it. That’s Karen a little way down the road.


But by fifty miles the mist lifted, the sun came out, and I wished I had slathered myself in Factor 50. I now have a cyclist’s tan, of sorts. Here is what Cornwall looks like when the sun comes out.


DSC00034.JPGSun at last

The day was hilly—really hilly. I was glad to have an 11-32 cassette, although 11-34 would have been better. But the main problem, and the main worry for tomorrow, is the heat. Strava records my speed, heart rate, power, and the temperature. I can hardly believe it reached 122 Fahrenheit, but it’s clear how quickly the temperature went up. And how much my speed varied.

Screenshot 2018-08-04 18.50.10.pngData

I reached the hotel at about 4:15, had some orange juice and peanuts (hydration, protein, salt…), and then a shower. The question of fuelling myself is an interesting one. I nearly bonked once, and I really don’t want that to happen. Slower tomorrow, with more breaks…

This map shows how much progress we have made so far:

Screenshot 2018-08-04 17.37.14.pngNot bad…

And this map shows how little progress we have really made:

Screenshot 2018-08-04 18.38.40 copy.pngA long way to go

And finally, it shouldn’t be about the bike, but I am jolly pleased so far with my Mason Resolution2. I have explained to some people that when I had our elderly Vauxhall Zafira valued on, I calculated that I’d have to sell 17 of our cars to buy the Mason. But I’ll cycle more per year than we drive the car, and it’s a beautiful machine, so I think it’s money well spent.



London to Penzance by road is 284.4 miles (if you take the A303 and the A30). This is 27% of the distance I’m proposing to cover over the next two weeks by bicycle, so it was pretty scary this morning looking out the window of the train and watching the countryside flash by at 100mph or whatever it was. It’s a long way from Land’s End to John O’Groats. But I hope my bike is more reliable than the train. Just over an hour into the journey it came to an abrupt halt and were told that the buffet could no longer serve hot drinks. I assume the two were not linked.


Paddington this morning

This video doesn’t exist

Eating up the miles

But I made it to Par, took a slow train to Penzance, and met fellow travellers Lisa, Karen, Nigel and Pam in the car park. Rob picked us up and drove us to the Lands’s End Hotel, where we spent a happy hour or two assembling our bikes. I was relieved that my precious Mason was undamaged, although I had the usual angst about how best to carry stuff like spare inner tubes, a jacket, a lock, and so on. The saddlebag proved to wobble too much, so I went for a handlebar bag. I hope it doesn’t mess up the handling too much.

The weather is cooler and cloudier than in London, though it’s pretty changeable. The two pictures below are separated by dinner—about an hour and twenty minutes.DSC00010.JPG



Looking out at the lighthouse

After dinner I came back to my room, with (to followers of LEJOG blogs, at least) its familiar views.DSC00015.JPG

The hotel and the tourist stuff associated with it

We set off tomorrow at 09:00, presumably with a picture of all of us gathered round the famous sign. Seventy-odd miles with a lot of climbing. It’s the beginning of a fourteen day cycle of sleep/eat/cycle/eat/sleep. Time will tell if it’s catharsis or something else.