Rest Day – more

Cut off again, weird. It shouldn’t do that! Tch, you just can’t get the staff…

Worst road : No competition. The B5074/A530 between Nantwich and Middlewich Just awful for cycling. The old A30 between Launceston and Okehampton was pretty grim too, but it was pouring with rain.

Worst hills : Bristol. Avoid. Should have stuck with the more westerly route through Avonmouth I had originally planned.

Summary : We are both loving it. There’s no pretending that it isn’t hard work. It is physically demanding and tough at times. Fully laden with kit even small gradients see us down into the lowest gears, you just have to let the gears and legs ease you up the hills. But it’s fab all the same. We are measuring progress by regional accents, it’s amazing how much they change each day over relatively short distances!

It’s been odd not to cycle today, kept touching the bikes, can’t wait to get going again in the morning.

Rest Day

Our first day off just short of halfway. We spent the morning washing our clothes (everything I have apart from what I was wearing). The weather was warm and sunny, great for drying and solar charging everything.

We also gave the bikes some TLC. New rear brake blocks for me, now fully adjusted I might have good working brakes for the first time since Devon! Andrew cleaned, oiled and adjusted his gear indexing. Mine got a wipe, oiled and derallieur degritted and lubed (ooer).

In the afternoon we lazed, ate some lunch, stocked up on chocolate and gatorade. We then spent some time people watching next to the river sat in the shade on a bench. Having somewhere to sit with a back is nice occasionally. I may or may not have had a go on the little train ride.

I though I’d do a halfway summary.

Best campsite : Clitheroe, for facilities, friendly staff and location. Huntstile close 2nd with best hosts.

Worst campsite : Middlewich. Easily.

Best shower : Okehampton Filter House YHA. Proper bathroom and a shower that could knock you over.

Worst shower : Ludlow, more a dribble in a cold stone floored room.

Best road : Lots to choose from in the southwest. We’ve both picked the Cheshire Cycleway between Northwich and Lymm though. Smooth, flat, quiet with good scenery. B4361 between Leominster and Ludlow was hillier but also good

Day 8 – Clitheroe

thumbnail imageWhy does my schedule say 59 miles for this day? That’s what we were expecting but ended up doing over 70 again!

This was a day I hadn’t really been looking forward to. Getting through the cities and towns of the northwest can be tricky. But in fact I loved it, Andrew was less keen on the cycling through the gritty towns as I was.

We did have our earliest start today, probably as we were both woken by 5am by the traffic noise. Nice old couple that run the site, but it has seen better days I feel.

First stop was Northwich (after an unplanned visit to Middlewich due to a missed turning). I wanted to get my bottom bracket replaced. The first shop (Grays) had closed down so I rang the other (Dave Hinde) to confirm that they could do it.

They are a specialist racing frame builder but kindly stole a bracket from one of their very expensive showroom bikes to fit to mine. Thanks guys, much appreciated.

Just as I was paying up my mate Red (Martin, and yes I realise that none of my friends appear to have proper names!) came with his Dad to say hi. He’d brought tea and chocolate with him which were very welcome. The choc kept us going chunk by chunk all morning. Red’s Dad runs a caravan park near Barcaldine and will be able to sort us out some camping nearby when we stop there. Thanks for coming to see us guys, it’s great that people are taking the time and trouble to wish us well.

After getting back on route we had a quick look at the top of the Anderton boat lift and headed into green leafy flat Cheshire lanes. Superb cycling country. The roads were very quiet too, it was good that we were here on a weekend. We crossed the Manchester Ship Canal by a wonderfully rickity looking bridge.

It wasn’t until Leigh that we encountered any built up areas. I thought Leigh seemed a nice enough town. Westhoughton was far less attractive. We only cycled the outskirts of Bolton.

Up to here I can’t see how you could improve on the route we took. Fast, smooth and quiet.

We had our first real proper hill since Bristol onto the moors above Bolton The contrast in scenery was stark from the morning. This was proper bleak moorland. Long climb through Belmont where I had the pleasure of overtaking a guy puffing away on his unladen racer.

We were pretty tired above Blackburn and took a few minutes to recover. We lunched in Glazebury before Leigh by the way. The drop down into the town was spoiled somewhat by stupid speed humps.

Blackburn was OK, a very cycle aware town with proper lanes and markings. The oneway system was a bit of a pain though. We didn’t dally and made our way to Whalley and the much further than expected stint to the Camping and Caravanning club site in Clitheroe. Proper clean facilities and a laundry. A laundry, bliss. I might have to go naked tomorrow as I need to wash everything I have!

Much needed rest day tomorrow. My neck and shoulders our causing me most discomfort but our bums will be grateful for a day off of the saddle.

Distance : 71.50 miles
Time cycling : 6h22m
Ascent : 1388 m
Average speed : 11.2 mph

Day 7 – Middlewich

thumbnail imageStill exactly on schedule. Pretty mean planning I reckon.

Longest daily ride so far but also the least hilly. It was also the hardest first 20 miles for me. I was cold and tired and had doubts about making the distance. Weather today was steadfastly cloudy and pretty chilly. Wind is still with us. Occasional light showers which were barely enough to wet the road.

The picture shows the way ahead. Beyond Andrew eating his gravel the Corve Valley curves to the northeast.

The valley road on the east side offers good fast flat cycling. We joined the B-road at Shipton and this is where I started to feel very tired. Andrew was fine though.

We stopped for chocolate at the quaint village store at Brockton and on to Much Wenlock for a proper break. An expensive and empty caf

Day 6 – Ludlow

thumbnail imageHello blog peeps. Third of the journey done already. It really seems quite surreal that we are now in Shropshire when just a few days ago we were on a beach in Cornwall!

BTW contrary to what some people may think we have actually camped every night. Even at the YHA in Okehampton we pitched the tents in the rain and slept in them in the rain. We did use the nice warm lounge to eat and relax in though smile

So today. Three different counties in a day. Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire. Not bad, not bad at all. Well Herefordshire was a bit grot!

We started the day, dear reader, climbing through the Forest of Dean to Coleford. Pretty scenery along the way, we saw several JOGLErs along here. Beyond Coleford we descended to Ross and a teabreak at the Pots and Pieces teashop and gallery. We had a lovely chat with the owners who kindly put some money into the sponsorship kitty. We had just missed a downpour as well luckily.

After Ross we had a very undulating minor road right next to the Wye at times. Pretty but tough. We got diverted at Brockhampton onto the B4224 due to a closed road. Probably just as well.

We skirted east of Hereford and were in a lunchbreak hunt. We did not pass a single shop or eatery until Bodenham. Even then it was just a very odd Post Office and a garage. Do people not eat around here?

We bought some bits and bobs and ate them sitting on a stile up the road. We quickly got to Leominster and out again (probably for the best) and made it onto the B4361.

Let’s hear it for the B4361. What an ace cycling road. Quiet, smooth, a little undulating but fun and great views! Ludlow was the target for this day and we got there, a crazy steep ascent to the campsite but worth it for the fantastic views.

We walked down into the very pretty town and ate at the Thai recommended by the Pots and Pieces guys way back in Ross!

A good day, weather was excellent. Cycling was good. Neither of us have any major physical issues so far. I have a bit of a sore neck and Andrew has sunburn.

PS I photographed 3 cut marks and a rivet today. Benchmarktastic!

Distance : 62.72 miles
Time cycling : 6h04m
Ascent : 2243 m (it felt like it)
Average speed : 10.3 mph (result)

Day 5 – Part Deux

Hmm, seems like only half of yesterday’s blog made it through the ether. Here’s the rest of what I writted…

Very soon after Andrew broke another spoke. Tch, how careless! Thank goodness we bought spares in Crediton. A repair later and we were up onto the Severn Bridge. This isn’t something you do every day, cycling high above the water. It was pretty ace but we were getting tired.

Chepstow is rubbish. It meant we did a few miles in Wales, but it had no open shop for food and no camping. Luckily we found a shop in Tutshill and made our way on the unplanned east side of the Wye Valley to get to a fab campsite Tracey had found for us in Tidenham Chase. A hilly end to a long day in the saddle.

A tired blog post today. Should be a shorter day tomorrow. Wind is picking up outside. Night night blog followers.

Distance : 69.33 miles
Time cycling : 6h21m
Ascent : 1632 m
Average speed : 10.9 mph

Day 5 – Tidenham Chase

Tough day today, we think probably due to getting our breaks all wrong. We really only had one proper break at lunchtime. We must do better. The weather was better though, warm and sunny. No rain! Yippee!

We had our fry up at the farm, very yummy, and payment for the camping was waived! Such fine hosts.

We quickly made our way to and through Bridgwater, probably quicker than the cars. A couple of surprising small climbs were negotiated before we descended onto the levels.

Very, very flat. A little like the Vale of White Horse back home. I half expected to see the horse on the Mendips ahead. The pace was good and the weather good enough to ditch jackets and Andrew went down to shorts!

All too soon though the levels were done and we got through the gap in the hills ahead to Congresbury for lunch.

After lunch we headed for Bristol with a long tough climb up Ashton Hill. We stopped for an ice cream on Clifton Suspension Bridge which was narrow so barely saw the view.

Bristol is hilly. Some nasty steep climbs over Clifton Down and beyond before we descended into Henbury and a diversion towards junction 17 on the M5 due to the bridge at Hallen being shut.

At Pilning my Bristolian mate Chowny (Stephen) rang as he was out looking for us. He eventually found us at Northwick for a brief hello and good luck. It was great of him to make the effort to seek us and say hi. Cheers buddy

Day 4 – Huntstile

thumbnail imageFirst up an apology to all of those eagerly anticipating another day of following our epic journey. Oops, I forgot to turn the live tracker on! It was pouring with rain when we set off OK?

What a fab fab day despite the weather’s best attempts to drown us at various intervals. Not too impressed with the torrential (there cannot be enough emphasis on the word torrential) downpour just 10 minutes from camp.

Back to the beginning. The YH was stuffed full of end to enders (there were two others) and Sam chose to spend the day with us despite our slowness potential. He was heading to Cheddar. Great lad and great company. We had an ace day, cheers Sam. I hope my navigational skills were good enough!

After finding our way out of Okehampton, which wasn’t that easy, after an initial climb it was downhill all the way nearly and we ate up the miles. It wasn’t long before we were just a mile from Crediton when BANG one of Andrew’s spokes snapped (did I forget to mention that he was the first faller yesterday when he forgot his bike is wider with panniers on?).

No worries, Crediton has a brill bike shop that put the kettle on for us while they fixed it. They also provided some useful route advice. Cheers Bike Shed.

We headed for Cullompton for lunch and just before we saw one of the Ice Trikes of Ben and Donald ahead. It was Ben on his lonesome and we found a caff for a chat and a bite to eat. I hope Ben found Donald again! The picture is Sam, Andrew, Me and Ben.

After some navigational twists and turns we eventually found the NCN 3 which followed little lanes into Taunton and then forgot to signpost us out again. Hmm, we negotiated the rush hour traffic instead and rang ahead to Huntstile Organic Farm for camping.

What an excellent location. We appeared like drowned rates but the coffee was on before we could hardly say hi. Great hosts have plied us with beer and conversation. Full English for brekkie tomorrow, that must be better than cold left over pizza like this morning? Not sure we’ll be able to move afterwards though!

Where was Devon? That was easy peasy, what’s next?! It would be nice, pretty please, for a drying day.

Distance : 72.96 miles
Time cycling : 6h28m
Ascent : 1677 m
Average speed : 11.3 mph

Day 3 – Okehampton

thumbnail imageAfter the evening’s children’s entertainers at the holiday camp it was off to the tents to be kept awake most of the night by the light above the tent and the wind.

I was feeling rubbish in the morning and it was cold and windy. I packed rather haphazardly and we set off. After the few miles to Padstow the cobwebs were blown away though.

We followed the Camel Trail from Padstow through Wadebridge to Wenford Bridge which was very pretty and well surfaced. A few heavy showers didn’t deter us. It was a little muddy in places due to the rain.

We stopped for some lunch at the Post Office in St Breward (highly recommended) before the fantastic scenery and minor roads over Bodmin Moor.

We kept to minor roads as much as possible to Launceston (pronounced Lans-Ton) apparently. After a minor navigation error into the industrial estate we found the way out of town and over the River Tamar and into Devon. That’s Cornwall done and not the hilly nightmare we were warned about. We hope Devon isn’t too bad!

We stopped for a cream tea in Lifton just as the heavens opened. A lucky break we thought until shortly after resuming they opened again.

The old A30 was busy with fast traffic and pretty miserable in the wet but we got to Bridestowe and climbed the rough track onto the Granite Way for a fab run into Okehampton.

The YHA guy then sent us into town and back out again up a really steep hill back past the Granite Way! We’re camping at their out of town hostel which is nice and warm and I can charge everything up.

Neither of us are having any problems with the cycling yet. It’s going ace!

Distance : 68.06 miles
Time cycling : 6h33m
Ascent : 2476 m (allegedly)
Average speed : 10.4 mph

Day 2 – Harlyn Bay

The weather during the night was atrocious. Heavy rain and strong winds. The thought of losing the tents on the first night crossed my mind as I lay awake.

They survived but we woke to wind and rain and had to pack up in the wet. It was full waterproofs weather and it was torrential during the short cycle to Hayle on the A3074.

By some miracle however it blew over and the Sun came out so that we removed our waterproofs before we’d even got to Portreath. The rest of the day was mostly sunny with very brief heavy showers. The very strong southwesterly was still with us helping us along the way.

We had our first navigation error in Porthtowan, only minor but I think it gave us one extra steep climb.

We stopped for lunch in Perranporth. The cycling had been pretty straightforward to this point, not really any of the dreaded Cornish hills to worry about.

They came between St Newlyn East and Rumford. Up and down with some fairly steep ascents. Nothing really bad though. We stopped for supplies in Treyarnon and loaded with food bags stopped at the first available campsite which is a rather tacky holiday camp. Never mind, it was cheap and we’ll have better some nights I’m sure.

Distance : 51.80 miles
Time cycling : 4h58m
Ascent : 1382 m
Average speed : 10.4 mph