Thank you!

1 Sep

We did it! We are incredibly proud to say we have cycled from John o’Groats to Land’s End. We have had the most amazing, exhausting and rewarding two weeks. As time goes on we’re sure we will be able to look back and reflect on our achievement, but as we head back to London we’ve been jotting down one or two notes on everywhere we’ve been (see below) and laughing at the bits that can’t be repeated in a blog.

As someone said near the start of our trip, ‘Never in the world of cycling has so much been done by so many for so few’. They weren’t joking. We owe huge, huge thanks to each and every person who transported us and our gear, fed us, cheered us on along the way and put a roof over our heads. There are too many to list on this one page, but you were all part of Team JOGLE and we owe you a huge debt of thanks.

We’ve also been spurred on over the past two weeks by the cheering messages (via the blog, facebook, in texts and emails) and donations which have prevented us from crawling into the car with our support driver on the days when getting out of bed was hard enough! Our blog received over a staggering 2,000 views, with friends from countries all over the world including the USA, France, Germany, Australia, Spain, Switzerland, Pakistan and the Bahamas. It was great to know there were so many following us and wishing us well. It was never the two of us alone on the road. And through your generosity, you’ve helped us to raise over £6,800 for First Story and Wings for Warriors, smashing our target. THANK YOU!

So, would we do the trip again? Hmm. Would we recommend it? Certainly! We spent much time debating the pros and cons of going south to north or north to south. But whatever, it has been an unforgettable way to see the country (thank god for the kind weather!) and something we have no doubt will remain with us forever.

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Random musings of two lady cyclists 

As if you haven’t heard enough from us already, here are a few notes on everywhere we visited along the way:

Scotland: highest number of public conveniences; easiest navigation; largest number of war memorials in relation to population size (sombre point throughout); best supplier of Irn Bru; favourite country (Kirstie)

  • Caithness – windiest weather, flattest terrain, surprisingly raucous nightlife, best restaurant of the trip
  • Sutherland – start of the huge number of war memorials seen in every Scottish town, beautiful scenery, Sarah’s favourite-situated B&B, B&B with the worst decor, worst-feared hill (Struie)
  • Ross and Cromarty – windiest bridge, Sarah’s favourite scenery
  • Inverness-shire – start of The Knee issues, least number of physios in the UK per head, Kirstie’s most lonely day (Part I), most educational and touristy, most road kill observed
  • Perthshire – furthest distance in one day, rainiest day, highest point reached, best cake eaten in a lay-by
  • Kinross-shire – most unexpected and unwelcome hill, highest number of suspicious looking gentlemen in their cars on quiet back roads
  • The Kingdom of Fife – population of Scotland looking the most likely to vote ‘yes’
  • Edinburgh – most alcohol consumed, best quote of the trip, best banana bread, foggiest destination
  • The Borders – most welcome hangover remedy (getting back on the bike), most helpful stranger in the form of a coach of blind cyclists
  • Dumfries and Galloway – best descent (Devil’s Beef Tub), saddest moment for Kirstie (leaving Scotland), most number of cows

England: average age of tractor drivers: 14; most nettle stings in unwelcome places…

  • Cumbria – most sheep, rudest B&B bathroom hoggers, Sarah’s most rageful moment, first seriously hilly day
  • Lancashire – more hills, more sheep, most surprising good weather, windiest lanes
  • Cheshire – more hills, more sheep
  • Shropshire – prettiest villages, most unexpectedly scenic afternoon, Kirstie’s loneliest day (Part II), most Archers episodes listened to
  • Herefordshire – most orchards, best behaved dog, steepest hills
  • Gloucestershire – day with the most counties and counties visited
  • WALES (yes we know it’s not England) – briefest country visited, most annoying one-way system, friendliest young chap behind a bar
  • Somerset – best cycle paths
  • Devon – worst weather, biggest and worst bonk, most sweets/caffeine consumed, most restorative car journey, most architecturally impressive overnight stay
  • Cornwall – hilliest, hottest, most exhausting, highest number of seriously annoying mini double roundabouts, surprisingly populated, interesting place names, least scary scary road, worst tan lines, most number of roads built over hills rather than around, most welcome sight:  The Finish Line
Essential items: hideously expensive Assos padded shorts (worth every penny), lashings of chamois creme, iPods, Baywatch theme tune, Gary the Garmin (when working hence a dubious entry), spare inner tubes of the right size, German rheumatism cream, massive dollop of humour, jelly babies (never again!!)…

Final Day: Bodmin to Land’s End

31 Aug

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We made it!!

Day 14: Chulmleigh to Bodmin

30 Aug

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We were told that one of the advantages of starting from John O’Groats was that the weather would improve as you went along. ‘They’ lied!! We set off from a chilly and wet Devon for our penultimate day, using our waterproofs for only the second time in the trip (the first time was Dunkeld in the Scottish Highlands). Devon is hilly, but the route we took seemed to have long downhills and very gradual climbs so it was much better than we anticipated. No ‘bonks’ today for us. Phew.

The first sign of setting foot (or wheels) in Cornwall was the Cornwall County Waste Disposal truck that sped past us sometime during the morning. We then began to notice the endless Cornish flag stuck to every car and proudly on display in most villages. We were in our final county of the trip.

We met Monty for lunch at a small town called Holsworthy. The high point of the local restaurant scene seemed to be a cafe/fish and chip shop that clearly had not had a refurb since 1971 and a clientele to match – we brought the average customer age down by about 50 years. We had a huge portion of fish and chips to fuel us on for the remaining 30 miles of the day.

After lunch, we waved goodbye to our trusty support driver as he set off back to London. Thank you Monty!!

A couple of nasty climbs in the afternoon didn’t stop us and we sped towards our penultimate destination, Bodmin. We bumped into Kirstie’s Mum, Carol, as we headed towards the B&B, and AK, Kirstie’s Dad, was waiting for us in arrival. Last time we’d seen them was 600 miles ago on our Scottish leg of the trip. Not long to go now…

Total miles: 773

Day 13: Banwell to Chulmleigh

29 Aug

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Day 13 was never going to be a good ‘un. We reluctantly set off in the morning to drizzle, the first time for over a week we’d seen rain. We immediately hit a vertical hill which meant that wearing our waterproof jackets, we were as soggy inside as out. As the rain eased we removed the jackets and Sarah noticed a flat tyre. Oh joy. And at this stage we hadn’t even been going two miles.

Mercifully, tyre now changed, the road soon flattened out and our legs warmed up on the road to Bridgewater where we stopped off for a wee snack of chocolate and crisps (who said this was a slimmer’s holiday?!). We cracked on to Taunton and a bit beyond where Support Driver Monty had found a delightful little pub, courtesy of his much-thumbed Good Pub Guide. Arriving there rather late, at 2.15pm, meant we missed service which ended at 2pm. Sigh.

Cracking on, we eventually found somewhere to serve us but it was too late… we both hit every cyclist’s worst nightmare: The Bonk. We’d heard legend of this evil and hoped we’d never have to experience it. No amount of coke, chips and coffee was going to cure this bad boy. Monty sat on, looking mildly horrified as the two Lycra-clad lady cyclists before him sunk into a cyclist coma. Strange how cycling nearly the whole length of the country can have the same effect as a night of heavy drinking (not speaking from experience, of course). There was no way we were going anywhere, not even with the 700 mile mark hovering six miles down the road.

Monty eventually managed to coax us to the car, where dear readers, we must admit to a horrible crime. With bikes tied to the back, he gave us a lift down the road to make up for our recovery time and ensure we wouldn’t arrive at our day’s destination in the dark. He was our knight in shining armour and I’m sure we slurred such words in his direction as we stirred from our exhausted slumber. We promise, to all you wonderful supporters, to do several punishing laps of Richmond Park next week to make up the miles.

He tipped us out and set us on our way for the final hour and a half journey to Chulmleigh. We were considerably slowed by having to descend one spectacularly steep hill at the speed we usually go up, sitting on our breaks the whole way down, and having to push our bikes up the other side due to an off-the-scale crazy gradient. We were well and truly in Devon.

Never have we been so happy to get off the bikes. It was a short hop in the car to reach our hugely welcoming Devonshire hosts, Jo and Ed Howell, and Ed’s brother and sister-in-law Charlie and Sam and their two girls Elly and Addie who they also have staying. We were rather envious to hear Charlie and Sam had arrived in their vintage VW camper van and felt rather outdone on the transport front.

We had a lovely evening with them all, being shown around Ed and Jo’s C19th ruin (which they’ve converted into a modern haven of comfort and style), hearing stories of camping in Ilfracombe and feasting on delicious home-grown veg. Thank you Howells for a far more enjoyable end to the day than the start!

Total miles: 711

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Day 12: Wellington to Bristol

28 Aug

Today started well for Sarah and not very well for Kirstie. Finally Kirstie had a flat tyre! Sarah shouldn’t have rejoiced too quickly though, Kirstie was able to inflate it and get going again.

First excitement of the day, only a few miles in, was hitting the landmark figure of 600 miles – just outside Sainsbury’s in Hereford to be exact. We celebrated while wiggling through random parks and backstreets, trying to find the road to Ross-on-Wye.

The morning was slow going, lots and lots and lots of small annoying hills and sore limbs made slow progress. We finally made it to Ross-on-Wye and after cycling around it what seemed like a squillion times (it’s a rabbit warren) we decided to have an early lunch break. We met Monty (Sarah’s boyfriend and the day’s support) who was laden with gifts for Sarah – new tyres and a new water bottle (the old one popped off into a load of traffic – eek!).

After a cycle workshop lunch break where Sarah fitted some shiny new tyres and Kirstie finally admitted defeat and changed her rapidly deflating puncture, we were off for the afternoon feeling a lot more optimistic!

We then embarked on the biggest climb of the whole trip. The numpty who planned this route decided, in their wisdom, that the best way to tackle the big unavoidable hill was to take the most direct and shortest route. Our first warning should have been the fact the road hadn’t been used in about 15 years… our worst suspicions were confirmed. It was STEEP. So steep that we had to admit defeat and get off and walk, pushing the bikes up the mammoth hill.

Finally we reached the top and the end of the road time forgot. Only to find more hills. GROAN. Luckily we were met with fantastic views of the Bristol Channel. We also passed into our third country of the trip, Wales, and out again fairly quickly…

Not long to go, we cycled over the big bridge (I think the Clifton Suspension Bridge) and then did a quick 10 miles to Anthony (Kev), Katie, Lucy and Stanley’s house and a fantastic dinner and evening there. Thank you for having us – and putting up with our slowly deteriorating chat!!!

Total miles: 660

P.S. We really love receiving your messages of support in their various forms. THANK YOU – they are much appreciated, especially now the days seem to be getting longer and hillier!

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Day 11: Wem to Wellington

27 Aug

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Today was one-man-band day as Sarah woke up suffering from knee-related injuries. So I powered on solo from Wem in Shropshire all the way down to Wellington in Herefordshire on relatively flat roads (phew).

It was a day of two halves as this morning was spent on the rather unexciting but busy A49 with a few too many lorries for my liking. It gave me ample time to reflect on the changing scene of Britain’s agriculture (I won’t bore with my sheep/cow musings) but the delightful pong of the Shropshire fields was enough to keep farming at the forefront of my mind. Needless to say I was thrilled to arrive at my lunch-time spot for a change of scenery and lorry-relief.

My lunchtime host was Drea Minton Beddoes and her three delightful sons, Caspar, Rupert and Henry (and their impeccable table manners) who gave me an excellent lunch in their gorgeous garden. I left feeling well fed and reluctant to get back on the bike… but I did. Drea and Rupert accompanied me a mile or so down the road and I was on my way.

The afternoon was a far more scenic and relatively traffic-free route. My company – of course no replacement for Sarah – was two weeks’ worth of The Archers which I’d been saving up for such an occasion. I think my mouth was actually open wide as the shock of the Helen and Rob storyline unfolded and I must have swallowed at least ten flies in the process.

I soon entered Herefordshire and into apple country. The highlight of the afternoon – which prompted me to put away The Archers and pull out the camera – was riding through Bulmers orchards. Sadly no sign of their famous cider but it was exceptionally picturesque and a grand way to finish the day’s ride.

I arrived to meet Monty and Sarah in the sweet village of Wellington where are were staying with an old friend of Monty’s (sadly away) and his lovely wife, Rebecca. Monty massively upped his hero points as he presented me with a bottle of Irn Bru on the doorstep. Legend.

I was feeling incredibly proactive on the good stuff and took the opportunity to give the bike a good ole spring clean. Sarah rather reluctantly followed suit with a little help from Monty and myself. Our shiny bikes will be raring to go in the morning in preparation for hitting the big 600!

Total miles: 594

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Day 10: Southport to Wem

26 Aug

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Hello flat plains of Lancashire, Cheshire and Shropshire! Thank you for your mercy on our weary legs after the beasting we took yesterday on many a relentless hill.

We bid a fond farewell this morning to Liz and Paul Butler who have looked after us incredibly well for the past couple of days. Sarah’s boyfriend Monty has taken over as our support driver and he led us through the wiggly roads of Lancashire to set us off on the right road.

The sun shone and the skies were blue from the moment we started, a first for the trip! We repeatedly commented on how it felt like being on holiday, which would have no doubt bored anyone half to death within earshot. Feeling rather weary at this stage of the trip, we generally find things require repeating at least three times before the meaning sinks in. As Monty has already pointed out.

We cruised along the flat roads towards lunch and it looked as though we’d hit 500 miles at our appointed lunch slot. Spurred on by this, we pushed ahead – until – at exactly 498.53 miles Sarah pulled a worried face and the breaks went on. Puncture. Rewind to setting off when I’d asked if she wanted to pump up her tyres before we set off, “Oh, I can wait till lunchtime” was the response. Famous last words.

Puncture changed, we hit the lunch spot (some random park Monty had found in some equally random town) at exactly 499.5 miles. Not to be outdone, Kirstie went for a little spin around the park until the speedometer hit 500 miles. We are well and truly over half way there. To celebrate, Monty kept up the tradition of top-notch picnics and we feasted on smoked salmon blinis and Cokes. Winning combo.

Lunch saw us pass into Cheshire and more picturesque landscapes. Shropshire didn’t disappoint either and we lapped up the sun’s rays as we sauntered down quiet country lanes past endless farms.

Tonight’s stopping off point is a small Shropshire town, Wem. Being bank holiday Monday the place resembles a ghost town. Luckily for us, we found somewhere to serve a pub supper and very good it was too. The hills from yesterday are still haunting us so another early night is in the cards. Rock and roll.

Total miles: 534
Punctures: 5 (all Sarah – so far!)

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