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''End-to-End'' Charity Bicycle Ride.
UPDATED SEPTEMER 23, 2003
Steve has cycled from Land's End (Cornwall) to John o'Groats (Scotland) to raise money for the Down's Syndrome Association*.
Steve started in Land's End on 3rd of September 2003 and reached John O'Groats the morning of Saturday 13th, at 10am. One day went lost due to a broken bike, it had to be repaired. He made the 1000miles / 1600km in 10 days. An impressive result. By the way, way back (when he was 30 years old) the same trip took Steve 12 days !
A trip of 1000 miles / 1600 kms
01.Sept. 2003 - Ready to take off.
Photo courtesy of a local newspaper from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.
Land's End to John o'Groats - September 2003
By Steve Walwyn
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from Land’s End
Tue Sep 2 - Getting there...
After loading up the bike with panniers, front bag, water bottles etc., checking and re-checking everything, I cycled from home to Birmingham New Street Station (about 40km) and boarded the train to Penzance (delayed, of course!). Two cyclists on the train on their way to Cornwall for a holiday wished me luck with my trip and donated £5. During the journey I checked my route maps, and wondered what on earth the next few days had in store for me! The weather forecast was not bad, but rain was expected towards the weekend. Arrived in Penzance 2 hours later than scheduled, so had to ride in the dark to my hotel at Sennen, near Land’s End, with only emergency LED lights which are quite useless for seeing where you are going. Quite scary at times!
- The journey begins...
Wed Sep 3 - Day 1: Sennen to Bude
Woke up early, had breakfast and got to Land’s End at about 8am. I had my record sheet (supplied by the Cyclist’s Touring Club [www.ctc.org.uk], of which I am a member) stamped at the Land’s End Hotel, took a few photos and was applauded on my way at 8.30am by a family on holiday. It was a glorious sunny morning and I was soon back in Penzance, and stopped to buy a few provisions. I was reminded of my previous End-to-End trip (back in 1986, when I raised money for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association) and of just how many hills there are in Cornwall! Although there are no really big mountains in this part of the British Isles, the terrain is quite strenuous for a cyclist, because the short, sharp climbs keep coming at you! I was very glad of my 27 gears... Had lunch at Newquay; the weather was now fairly cloudy, with a light headwind from the north-east. Somehow my camera had jammed, so I took it to a photography shop at Wadebridge, where it was repaired in a darkroom. Continued (more hills!) to Bude, arrived at hotel at 7.40pm, pretty tired but pleased with my first days progress!
- 158km today / 214km total
. Thu Sep 4 - Day 2: Bude to Taunton
Had breakfast; the landlady had very kindly given me a bottle of wine (the night before - she obviously thought that I needed it!) and made sandwiches for my lunch. I was soon tackling a big climb out of Bude, then due east to Holsworthy where I got my record sheet stamped at the Post Office. More hills across Devon, had lunch in Chawleigh churchyard. The weather was fabulous; warm sunshine but the wind was from the south-east (headwind again). The prevailing wind in the British Isles is normally from the south-west... Continued across Devon; fantastic views with Dartmoor rising in the distance to Yes Tor on my right, Exmoor (Lorna Doone country) to my left... Lots of picture-postcard villages with thatched rooves and cob walls, typical of Devon. Crossed the county boundary into Somerset, stopped for a much needed mug of tea at Wellington. Arrived at my overnight stop in Taunton at 7pm.
- 132km today / 346km total
The Clifton Suspension Bridge,
Fri Sep 5 - Day 3: Taunton to Leominster
Woke up at 7am, had breakfast and was on the road at 8am. No hills today (yet!) and a south-easterly wind (tailwind at last!). Stopped at Bridgwater and had my rear wheel checked at St.John Street Cycles. I had noticed that the wheel had been slowly going out of true: this did not at the time seem to be a serious problem... What did I say about there being no hills? In no time I was climbing over the Mendips to the south of Bristol (near Cheddar) having first had my record sheet stamped, also in Bridgwater. Brilliant descent into Bristol with views towards I.K.Brunel’s magnificent Clifton Suspension Bridge. Through Bristol City Centre and onto the A4 under the aforementioned Clifton Bridge. Memories flooding back of staying at the Clifton Bridge Hotel when Lee was alive... Crossed the first Severn Bridge (which is an experience in itself on a bike!) and continued north past Chepstow to stop for tea at picturesque Tintern Abbey.
The previously forecast rain duly arrived, so waterproofs on and continued to Monmouth. More memories of Lee, passing our erstwhile favourite watering-hole, the Punch House (see sleeve notes, Feelgood Factor album). Happy days! More hills - big climb out of Monmouth, north to Hereford (reached 50mph/80kph down one of the hills – yeah!). Continued to overnight stop at Leominster (one last hill for the day to climb) and received very warm welcome with tea and biscuits at hotel, arrived 7.45pm.
- 183km today / 529km total
Sat Sep 6 - Day 4: Leominster to Spurstow
Early start again; after a light breakfast I was on the road by 8.15am, cycling through rolling Herefordshire countryside with lots of half-timbered black and white buildings. Then on into Shropshire and the lovely town of Ludlow, with its picturesque weir and Castle. I had my record sheet stamped here and stocked up with fresh bread and fruit from the market. Continued north to Church Stretton, A.E.Housman country near to the Clun Forest. The Shropshire poet’s words flashed through my mind:
“Clunton, Clunbury, Clungunford and Clun,
Are the quitest places under the sun”.
On to Shrewsbury, with its English and Welsh bridges, and got caught in a sharp hailstorm where the temperature seemed to drop by about 10 degrees C in 10 seconds! Stopped in Whitchurch to buy waterproof trousers (seemed like I might need them!). Continued on to my overnight stop at Richard Spencer’s farmhouse B&B at Spurstow, south of Warrington in Cheshire (very peaceful!). This is also near to Bunbury Mill, which Phil, Robert and I had visited previously this year on our travels.
- 120km today / 649km total
. Sun Sep 7 - Day 5: Spurstow to Windermere
Having had an early night yesterday, I woke early. My host Richard was already up and about, so I had breakfast (it is amazing when cycle-touring how important and significant meal times become, as if the whole day revolves around food!) and was on my way by 8am. Richard not only gave me a substantial discount for the accommodation but also donated to my charity - top man! Post Offices are closed on Sundays so I had my record sheet stamped at Warrington Railway Station. Continued north on the A49; the back wheel was out of true again so stopped to have it checked and re-trued near Charnock Richard. The spokes were now very tight with little or no margin for re-adjustment... On through Preston and Lancaster (appropriately, the RAF Red Arrows passed overhead - I heard later that they had appeared at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, so I guess that they were on their way back from there), and into the Lake District to re-visit one of my favourite cycling areas in the British Isles. Found a very nice B&B near to Lake Windermere. Started to rain about 9pm, continued raining through the night.
- 181km today / 825km total
The Kirkstone Pass Summit
Mon Sep 8 - Day 6: Windermere to Thornhill
Mindful of what was in store for me this morning, I allowed myself the luxury of Poached eggs and Bacon for breakfast. I left the hotel at 8.15am and was soon confronted by the mighty Kirkstone Pass... I have cycled all of the passes in the Lake District at least once, and I think this must have been my fifth or sixth time on the Kirkstone (it doesn’t get any easier!). At least there is a Pub at the top of this one... Massive climb, with Helvellyn lurking on the left hand side. I was joined on the ascent by a fellow cyclist who had ridden overnight from Thirsk in Yorkshire (through the heavy rain)!!! After pausing at the summit to take some photographs, there followed a brilliant and spectacular descent (at this point, all the climbing seemed well worth the effort...) down into Patterdale and Glenridding, where my record sheet was stamped. I overtook four very surprised motorists on the way down! Then some superb cycling along the shores of Ullswater and on into Penrith.
I had lunch by the roadside at High Hesket an the A6, then continued to Carlisle and on into Scotland (it was a huge psychological boost to cross the border, and see the sign ‘Scotland Welcomes You’).
I then rode through Gretna Green with its famous Blacksmiths shop, and was joined by Gretsch from New Zealand who was also doing the End-to-End. We rode together to Dumfries, where she was staying for the night (we were to meet again). I continued to my stop at Thornhill, arriving at 8pm. Weather today was misty at first, then sunny but headwind from Penrith.
- 160km today / 985km total
Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond
Tue Sep 9 - Day 7: Thornhill to Luss
Had a light breakfast and was away by 8am. Lovely route to Sanquhar (record sheet stamped at the oldest Post Office in the world), then tackled a fierce headwind west into Cumnock. Turned north (with relief from the wind) at Kilmarnock and rode through heavy rain at times into Paisley and Glasgow. Thankfully, the rain eased and then stopped altogether. Crossed the Erskine Bridge over the Clyde, and continued on through Dumbarton. Having paused for a break, I noticed that the bike's rear wheel was not only buckled again, but a crack had appeared in the rim where one of the spokes had pulled right through - this was now a serious problem... continued to Luss, and stopped overnight at the Colquhoun Arms Hotel on the shores (or should it be bonnie, bonnie banks?!) of Loch Lomond. Arrived 7.30pm.
- 152km today / 1137km total
Wed Sep 10 - Day 8: Luss to Fort William
Early start again, and was on the road by 8.30am. I was now quite concerned about the rear wheel, because today's route passed through some fairly remote countryside, with no bike shop until Fort William (to my knowledge) and I was only carrying a basic tool kit. However, I continued and had my record sheet stamped at Tarbet and the Lady behind the counter kindly donated £5, as did a customer. Then a long climb through Glen Falloch to Crianlarich; climbing again across lonely Rannoch Moor. I was blessed today with superb weather; lots of sunshine, a light tail wind and some truly spectacular scenery. It really was a privilege to be in the Highlands on that day, and the memory will stay with me for a long time...
The only niggle in my mind was the back wheel, which was worsening by the mile. Brilliant descent through famous (maybe notorious?) Glencoe - fantastic cycling, 50+mph even with a dodgy back wheel! Also treated to the sight of RAF Tornados practising some low-level flying in Glencoe. It now seemed to me that the wheel would have to be rebuilt, as no adjustment was possible. I arrived in Fort William in time to find Off-Beat Bikes (shop) open, and they offered to re-build my wheel first thing tomorrow.
- 130km today / 1267km total
Loch Linnhe, near Fort William
Thu Sep 11 - Day 9: Fort William to Inverness
Woke at 7am. Had breakfast and took bike to Off-Beat Bikes by 9am. The wheel was to be re-built with a brand new rim. While it was being done, I had my record sheet stamped at Fort William Post Office and had a walk around the town. It felt a bit strange not to be cycling! I was back on the road by mid-day and cycled up the Great Glen, through Spean Bridge, Invergarry, Fort Augustus (I had broken a spoke here on my previous End-to-End, back in 1986!) and Invermoriston. Passed the brooding ruins of Urquhart Castle by Loch Ness (unfortunately didn't see Nessie!). Would you believe it - I broke a spoke... is that weird or what? Arrived at Inverness, where Highland Cycles were still open, and they replaced my spoke and re-trued the wheel again. Found accommodation for the night. I was helped today by a strong tailwind, although there was some rain for a time.
- 112km today / 1379km total
Fri Sep 12 - Day 10: Inverness to Wick
After a light breakfast I was on the road by 8.15am, and was soon on the A9 going north across the bridge out of Inverness and across the Black Isle - good descent down to Alness where I had my record sheet stamped at the Post Office there.
I caught up with a cycling team doing the End-to-End for Cystic Fibrosis (6 British, 2 Americans), who were somewhat impressed that I was doing the trip alone (so much so that they donated £40!). They were also taken aback that this was my day 10, compared to their day 13... - We cycled together for a while, and they stopped for lunch at Dunrobin Castle. I decided to continue to Golspie before also breaking for lunch.
After lunch, tackled huge hills at Helmsdale and Berriedale (down the Berriedale Braes again reached speeds well in excess of 50mph/80kph!).
I think that I could have reached John o'Groats today, but decided to stop at Wick, 17 miles short of my goal, and finish in the morning. Good weather again today, with a tailwind again and no rain!
- 176km today / 1555km total
Gretsch again (on the left)
Sat Sep 13 - Day 11: Wick to John o'Groats
Woke up to the sound of rain and strong wind outside... weather forecast on TV confirming gale-force southerly winds in the north of Scotland. Had breakfast, on with the waterproofs and left the hotel at 8.45am. Massive gale, blowing me along in top gear most of the way to John o'Groats, and I arrived before 10am. The only other people there were two cyclists, one of which was my previous companion Gretsch from New Zealand!
Took some photos in the howling gale and driving rain. End of journey!!! Yes!!!
Actually, not quite. My original intention was to cycle back to Wick in order to catch the train to Inverness, but having struggled a mile or so southwards into the gale, I decided that a better plan was to go to Thurso (west from John o'Groats) instead, to avoid having to cycle straight into the teeth of the wind. Thankfully, the rain also stopped after an hour or so, and I arrived at Thurso around mid-day, and caught the train in the afternoon back to Inverness.
- 71km today / 1626km total
. Sun Sep 14 - Day Off!
Guess what I decided to do on my day off before catching the train home tomorrow? Well, would you believe.... I went for a bike ride, what else! I had a superb day ride from Inverness to Glen Affric, then back along the shore of Loch Ness (again, still no sign of Nessie!), returning to Inverness.
- 96km today / 1722km total
. Mon Sep 15 - Going Back Home...
Travelled by train Inverness - Edinburgh - Birmingham - Leamington Spa. Arrived home in time for my daughter Lily's Birthday Tea! (She thought that I wasn't coming home until tomorrow!).
Some afterthoughts... Well, I did it again! And, to be perfectly honest, I was expecting it to be much tougher than it was the last time in 1986, bearing in mind the difference in age... I'm not by any means saying it was easy, because it most certainly was not (I did have a few of those 'what on earth am I doing here' moments!). However, I was very lucky weather-wise, despite more than my fair share of headwinds, which are the bane of the cyclist. I met some very kind and generous people along the way - the number of times that cars passed me with encouraging hoots, horns, yells etc. were countless, as were the number of people who thought that I was (am) completely mad!!! The mechanical problems with the bike were overcome with both luck and generosity on the part of the cycle shops involved. My legs (and backside!) held out despite severe maltreatment and I competed the trip feeling a little bit fitter (and lighter!) than when I started.
Would I do it again? Probably, but having done the End-to-End twice now, it might be nice to try another challenge... I have an eye on the Camino de Santiago (Pilgrim's route to Santiago de Compostela) in Spain... Watch this space!!!
Special thanks - in no particular order:
Gabi Schwanke, Kevin Morris, Chris Fenwick, Phil Mitchell, Robert Kane, Ann Adley, John Butterfield, Cubbington School (Teachers, Pupils and Parents), Grand Records, Chas Roberts Cycles (Croydon), St.John St.Cycles (Bridgwater), Broadribbs Cycles (Leamington Spa), Off-Beat Bikes (Fort William), Highland Cycles (Inverness), Feelgood Fans and Supporters everywhere, The Leamington Spa Courier, The Southend Evening Echo, anyone who has donated to my charity and last but not least Ruth, Lewis, Lily and of course Laurence.
For the technically minded, here is the specification of my bike:
Frame - Chas Roberts Audax Special, hand built by Chas Roberts in Croydon, from Italian Columbus Tubing, lugless construction. Wheels - Campagnolo Hubs, Mavic MA3 Rims, Sapim Stainless Steel double-butted spokes. Gears - Campagnolo 27 speed. Brakes - Shimano double pivot. Brake Levers/Gear Changers - Campagnolo. Tyres - Panaracer Pasela Tourguard 700c x 28 with Kevlar anti-puncture strip (not one puncture!). Saddle - Brooks Professional. Luggage - Altura Skye Panniers and Front Bag (proved to be completely reliable and waterproof). Bars/Stem 3tt.
Thanks again for all your support...
Steve has accomplished the ride, he continues to collect money for the
Down's Syndrome Association. So if you want to support Steve's Charity, here is
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