Day 1 - Land's End to Truro - 7 June 2013
Malc on his bicycle for Prevent Breast Cancer charity
[For the first half of his ride, Malc has been joined by Ernie Humphries, Removals & Storage Manager at Britannia Bradshaw Removals.]
We had travelled to Land's End from Manchester the previous day. Our lodgings were the Land's End Hostel, which was much nicer than it sounds.
Thursday evening Ernie and John Jones, who had kindly given up his holiday to drive us to Cornwall, and myself had supper in The First and Last which is either the last pub in England or the first depending on which way you are heading.
Supper was our usual healthy option of fish followed by 3 pints of Doom Bar bitter which ensured a noisy night in our hostel.
After breakfast we headed off to Land's End for the obligatory photo in front of the famous signpost. Surprisingly there were about 20 other cyclists already there ready to start their journey all on behalf of various charities. Ernie and me in pink tutu's did cause some hilarity. Looking around most of them had no panniers on their cycles which meant they were doing the ride with a support vehicle. Ernie and I are carrying all our own gear which adds best part of 15 kilos to your load which you feel on every hill. May think about support on the second half of our journey.
The day was very hot with few clouds, plenty of fluids had to be consumed to keep the body hydrated, but it was still a very hard day. God alone knows how the cyclists on the tours do 200+ kilometres a day.
Our route took us mainly on B roads with very little traffic. Our main problem was avoiding farm machinery being moved by tractors the drivers of which were surprised to see a couple of cyclist on the small lane.
The route we took was first to Newlyn, then onto Penzance and Marazion where the famous St Michaels Mount is just of the coast.
We then headed inland to Godolphin Cross, then onto Truro where the hotel booked by Mel arrived just in time as we were both very tired by then.
Total mileage 42 miles which does not sound very far but those hills and a 15 kilo back pack are making progress very slow.
Mark Lane called into the hotel early evening for a beer and a chat which was very good of him as it took our minds off those unrelenting hills in front of us.
Day 2 Truro to Camelford - 8 June 2013
Our plans of an early start from the hotel were scuppered by thunder and lightning, followed by showers which delayed our departure until 9am.
We had a short ride into Truro where Ernie found a cycle shop to change his clip on pedals to standard pedals as both of us had accidents the previous day by not being unable to unclip in time. Fortunately we had both fallen into the grass verge rather than the road.
Day 2 got progressively more difficult with the hills getting higher than the previous. Malc's knees started playing up with the pressure of trying to ride up the climbs.
By lunchtime and only 24 miles into our day Malc had to cycle into Newquay, where fortunately his brother in law Jon was on holiday. Jon is a physio for Walsall FC, and he kindly iced Malc's knees to bring the swelling down.
Ernie cycled on alone to Camelford where Malc joined him later in the day.
Malc had booked a hotel online which Ernie arrived at first. His description over the phone that it was like the Bates Motel was indeed correct. I wish I could say it was cheap but it was not. We made the decision over supper to take the chance on accommodation and only book what we could see.
Total mileage day 2 was 46 miles
Day 3 - Camelford to Great Torrington - 9 June 2013
The hotelier had rescued an American the previous evening, who had had two punctures during the day and had used his spare inner tube on the first puncture. He did not have a repair kit so was stranded miles from anywhere until rescued.
As it was Sunday with nothing locally open, Malc gave him his repair kit and prayed that he did not get a couple of punctures.
The route out of Camelford (which is on the A39 a main route through Cornwall) was especially busy today as all the exhibitors from the Cornwall show which had been held in Wadebridge were leaving town together with the people who were leaving Cornwall after a glorious weekend (unless you are cycling). As with the previous two days it was a cloudless sky with temperature of 25 degrees.
Malc did 24 miles and was able to get to Bude, but as with the previous day, the hills had got the better of his knees and had to retire. Not a bad place to get left behind as the weather was glorious.
Ernie kept going, and we met up in Torrington. Cornwall had been left behind and we are now in Devon but the hills in front of us look just as big.
Tomorrow we are due to cycle 70 miles to Bridgewater in Somerset but we may well be reassessing that during the day. But the hills are due to get easier.
Total mileage to date 124 miles
Day 4 - Great Torrington to North Molton - 10 June 2013
We had anticipated that the Devon Hills would be more sympathetic to our old limbs than Cornwall's. This proved not to be the case and as soon as we were out of the hotel we hit a series of hills that proved a challenge.
At High Bullen (I guess the clue is in the name) we encountered two very long hills; the first with a 35% incline the second and killer a 25% incline.
Going down the hills is really no fun as it is over within a minute or two and you always know what is at the bottom - another hill.
We cycled on through Atherington and into Umberleigh which was very pretty. We stayed longer than we should on the bridge watching the fish jump out of the water catching the flies.
Out of Umberleigh there were several more climbs and into South Molton, a beautiful historic town. We stopped in South Molton for tea and a cake (Ernie had scones with jam and clotted cream - little wonder we struggle up hills).
At that point we decided to reassess the position as this was our fourth day trying to cycle unaided while carrying all our own kit, and we were not making great progress . By this time we were both really struggling with our knees, so the decision was made to defer the rest of the big hills and move forward to Chepstow. We will return to complete the balance of Devon and Somerset at a later date when we can bring a support vehicle to carry our kit. At 64 and 62 I guess it was asking a bit much of our bodies to carry all that extra weight.
South Molton had several lovely hotels all of which were full due to a vets convention in the area. We also tried all the local B&Bs, but they were also full. At this time I was beginning to understand how Mary and Joseph must have felt all those years ago.
We had little option but to continue on a few more miles to North Molton to Bates Motel 2. North Molton is nothing like it's southern namesake, and is a very tired village where all the young have left for jobs near the coast or in the city. Ernie and I were the youngest in town but still in bed for 9pm.
We have organised with Britannia Bradshaw / BCL Office Moving to send us a small van to move us forward to Chepstow. We hope the vehicle and driver can stay with us for a couple of days carrying the kit to give our limbs a little recovery time.
We both agreed that we need to complete the Devon and Somerset sections of the route, but not on this trip.
Total distance day 4 - 25 miles
Day 5 - North Molton to Hereford - 11 June 2013
Bates Motel in North Molton had a lovely German Shepherd dog puppy which was 10 weeks old and as yet not house trained. You stepped carefully around the place just to ensure no mishaps.
The support vehicle from Manchester was a little late so Ernie decided to stretch his legs (like mine they do need stretching) so set off from the 'Miners Arms' and off down the road into Somerset which was at the bottom of the hill out of the village. I stayed in the hotel guarding the bags with a coffee and the Daily Express. The transport arrived and we collected Ernie who was just starting to walk up another hill. Somerset looks like it is going to be little different from Cornwall and Devon.
The support vehicle moved us on to Chepstow in Gwent. At some stage we will have to go back and cycle Somerset and Avon sections of the cycle ride, this section is 110 miles but I am not fit enough to do it on this trip. Ernie could have done it, but he did not need fat man acting as an anchor!
We were dropped off by the support van just north of Chepstow and cycled into Tintern Abbey. The last time I was here was in 1962 when I had canoed down the River Wye with a youth group.
Tintern Abbey was founded by Walter de Clare in 1013. Various Lords over the years added onto the Abbey. You do not see many of today's Lords giving money to the church, most are more interested in 'cash for questions' in the house. How the world has moved on.
Out of Tintern, past St Briavels castle into Coleford which is in the Forest of Dean. We cycled on into Ross on Wye which is a very pretty town. After tea and the now obligatory scones with cream, we headed off towards Brampton Abbots. We only did another 10 miles and ended our day in Mordiford.
Our accommodation for Wednesday was the Travel Lodge in Hereford; we know how to live it up. After a shower we were obligated to walk into Hereford town centre as to my surprise Travel Lodges do not always have pubs attached. I will make sure Mrs H checks these things out when booking future accommodation. We found The Green Dragon Hotel in the centre of town which was a fantastic place. They had an Indian Buffet evening which suited me down to the ground.
Day 6 - Leominster to Ironbridge - 12 June 2013
It was an early start today as The Travelodge apart from not having a bar did not offer a breakfast service unless you wanted one in a box from a vending machine.
We were on the road for 7.30 am cycling first to Luston, then on to Richards Castle. The castle has long since disappeared and is now just earthworks. At Richards Castle we entered the county of Shropshire, inching ever closer to home.
A further six miles down the road, we entered the Market town of Ludlow. I have never been to Ludlow before which is a shame as it is a beautiful place. As you enter Ludlow, you pass through what remains of the town walls then up into the town to the castle.
The castle, firstly a Norman fortress and extended over the centuries to become a fortified Royal Palace, has ensured Ludlow's place in English history- originally built to hold back unconquered Welsh, passing through generations of the de Lacy and Mortimer families to Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. It became Crown property in 1461 and remained a royal castle for the next 350 years, during which time the Council of the Marches was formed with responsibility for the Government of Wales and the border counties. Abandoned in 1689 the castle quickly fell into ruin, described as 'the very perfection of decay' by Daniel Defoe. Since 1811 the castle has been owned by the Earls of Powis, who have arrested further decline.
As we had no breakfast it was time for lunch or brunch. Tuna panini for me, a serious all day breakfast for Ernie. This was followed by a walk round the market when we both agreed we should come back either for the races or the annual food fair - even better!
It was time to leave so it was back on the bikes to cycle through the villages of Bouldon, Tugford, Brockton and into Much Wenlock which is another lovely village. After a stop for tea and the obligatory scones and cream it was on into Ironbridge, Telford where we ended our day. It was raining by this time so we did not visit the museums, but we will do before we commence the next leg from here.
At this point we were less than a 100 miles from home and as I had run out of clean underwear two days ago, and been in the same cycling shirt for the last week we decided to head home for the night for a bath and clean clothes. Andy our support driver drove us up the M6 to Manchester.
Ernie at Ironbridge
Day 7 - Nantwich to Bowdon, Cheshire - 13 June 2013
It was great to be home for the night. A soak in the bath, a few glasses of wine and crashed out in bed for 8.30. So much for this trip making me fitter and more energetic.
Andy our driver picked me up from home about 9am and we headed down the M6 to our start point for today which is Nantwich, in Cheshire. We have had to defer the Ironbridge to Nantwich section until next week, as we have to be back in Manchester by Thursday night. We have a photo shoot booked with Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention charity to publicise our companies' involvement with Genesis.
Nantwich is a traditional market town, the market dating back to 1720. Originally Nantwich was a Roman settlement providing salt for the garrison town of Chester. In the doomsday book it is recorded that Nantwich has eight salt houses (mines). No surprise then that I read in the newspaper the other day that Manchester is worst place to live in the UK if you want a long and healthy life. Too much salt in our diet!
The day did not look good with lots of black clouds in the sky. We had been lucky with the weather all week and until today the only rain we had seen was in Truro, when we were safely in the hotel. However we had to get on our way and headed out of on the B5074 towards Church Minshull. Just before Church Minshull the heavens opened and the rain started.
Whereas on previous days we had stopped to take a few photos and a drink, rain somehow makes you want to keep going. Through Church Minshull on towards Middlewich where the rain stopped long enough for us to grab cup of tea and a KitKat staple food for us cyclists.
Middlewich, like Nantwich was also a Roman settlement once again providing salt for the Roman Army. "Wich" or "Wych" means salt town. In Cheshire we also have a Northwich and Leftwich. I am still looking for Rightwich (no jokes here about the mother in law). Interestingly enough the biggest salt mines in the area which provide the road salt for most of the UK's local authorities is in Winsford. Those salt mines are so large you have roadways underground and the lift can carry 15 tons of salt at a time.
One of the large document storage companies Deepstore have leased part of the disused mines and offer secure storage to local authorities, the police, in fact anybody. The conditions are perfect as the humidity and temperature remain constant throughout the year. Have a look at the YouTube link.
Out of Middlewich for a very wet and cold ride into Knutsford. Through Tatton park and onto the very busy A556 towards Bowdon. We have been on our cycles for over a week and without doubt the busiest and most dangerous section was the last few miles on the A556 towards Manchester. The government wants us all to get on our bikes, but when will they give us safe riding conditions like those provided in Holland.
I plan to return to Ironbridge on Thursday 20th June to complete the Ironbridge to Nantwich section. I am then off sailing for a few weeks so it will be late July before I start the next sections of this ride from Manchester to John O'Groats. I am sure most of you ail welcome the break from these daily updates.
Please support Malc in his long journey from the bottom of Britain to the top and donate to his chosen charity, Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention.