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Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Lejog trip summary.

A great trip which lasted 14 days, covered 958 miles, I actually covered more than 1000 including the 10 miles from Penzance to Lands End, a couple of diversions and getting lost once or twice.

It was interesting being in parts of the country I'd never visited before, the scenery was great and everyone was friendly and interested in what I was doing.

I followed a route from a book I purchased 6 years ago, dated 2002 called Bike Britain by Paul Salter and it proved worth it's weight in gold. Indeed the few times I got lost were mainly due to me or down to detours due to road works etc. The book was designed to do the trip in 3 weeks but it was easily adaptable to do it in 2. The larger cities were quite slow and difficult to navigate through, particulary Preston but most of them involved quite a lot of time and concentration to get through.

I scanned and printed the maps from the book with the directions and the profile and used them in my map holder on my handlebar bag. I had to wrap them in a see through plastic folder to ensure they didn't get wet as my map holder proved not to be waterproof.

The route daily destinations are listed below:
         Date                      Destination             Daily Miles   Total Miles

18/08/2010 Wed Land's End 0 0
18/08/2010 Wed Nanstallon 70 70
19/08/2010 Thu Crediton 67 137
20/08/2010 Fri Radford, Bath 73 210
21/08/2010 Sat Bromyard 80 290
22/08/2010 Sun Ellesmere 70 360
23/08/2010 Mon Eccleston 68 428
24/08/2010 Tue Windermere 69 497
25/08/2010 Wed Annan 64 561
26/08/2010 Thu Tarbolton 76 637
27/08/2010 Fri Ardlui 75 712
28/08/2010 Sat Fort William 60 772
29/08/2010 Sun Beauly 65 837
30/08/2010 Mon Helmsdale 69 906
31/08/2010 Tue John O'Groats 52 958

Things that I wouldn't change:

1) The bike, My Hewitt cheviot SE touring bike is a great touring bike and it has low enough gears that I was able to get up all the hills, without geting off and pushing. It always feels stable even when fully laden. Also, I managed to do it without one puncture.

2) The Brooks saddle - I had no posterior problems at all.

3) The direction of travel, quite a few go from John O'Groats to Lands End but I thought it was good to get the hills of Cornwall out of the way first. Also, although the wind wasn't a major factor, the one day when it was strong, it was from the south so was more in my favour than against me. Also it was good to have Hilary meet me at John O'Groats and drive me home, this wouldn't have been practical at Lands End.

4) My luggage, these Altura panniers  have proved to be very waterproof, so everything was kept dry.

Things I learned and would do differently:

1) I wouldn't take my camping gear, the wet weather wasn't condusive to camping and indeed I ended up getting a cold and the last thing I wanted to do was camp. Indeed it was one whole pannier and was at least half the weight I was carrying and slowed me down no end. I would probably just look at aiming for a place the next day and book a room there the night before.Indeed the second week, Hilary was booking my next nights accomodation the night before after discussing where I should be aiming for, I maybe could have gone further but I was glad of the rest in the late afternoons. Hilary was a great help here and I would have struggled with out her.

2) I would look at doing the trip in May, as I believe it is quite often drier and certainly less busy tourist wise. This should make it easier and cheaper for accomodation.

3) I'd probably take more photos but somehow I never feel like taking photos in the rain. So the photos I do have are mostly when the sun showed up.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Day 14 - Helmsdale to John O'Groats (Final day)

52 miles covered.
Finally the last day, set off at 7:30, after the worst nights sleep yet, the B&B had a party of 8 workmen arrived at 2am from Ayrshire, not the quietest arrival, the land lady was most apologetic.
There is quite a tough 4.5 mile climb out of Helmsdale and then a very steep climb out of Berriedale, still managed to negotiate these, I was now confident that I could go the whole trip without having to push. The terrain was then undulating and I got to Wick, 35 miles up the road by 10. Now I had said to Hilary that I wouldn't be at John O'Groats until 1 so I stopped at Wick for cup of tea as I only had 17 miles to go.
I rang Hilary when I was 2 miles from John O'Groats as I still hadn't seen her pass me in the car and sure enough she was still about an hour away, I was an hour early and arrived at John O' Groats, jubilant and relieved at 12 noon exactly.
Hilary appeared at 12:45, with champagne and sandwiches in hand. She took my photo at the all important sign and we headed off and had our champagne picnic at Dunnet Head.

It was the best picnic I've ever had.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Day 13 - Beauly to Helmsdale

69 Miles covered.
Glenmorangie Distillery
Set off at 7:30, undulating terrain, roads were quite busy, especially when I joined the A9 to cross the Cromarty Firth. Route took me off the A9 into Evanton and then B roads to Alness, Invergordon and Tain. These were much quieter. There was a huge cruise ship in dock at Invergordon, right next to an oil rig, not something you expect to see in the Scottish highlands. At Tain I took a look round the Glenmorangie distillery shop. The A9 was less busy now, set off for Golspie got there too soon for lunch so carried on to Brora, where I found a good wee pub for lunch. Arrived at Helmsdale at around 2:30. I had a sleep and then looked round the village.
In the evening, I had supper in town but struggled to get a phone signal to phone Hilary and I couldn't find a public phone. Eventually one of the barmen told me to stand at the front of a ford focus in the pub car park and lo and behold, I got a signal so was able to arrange with Hilary to pick me up at John O' Groats the next day.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Day 12 - Fort William to Beauly

 65 miles covered.
Set off with a late start at 8:45, it was Sunday after all. Took the A road to Corpach and turned off onto a B road towards Gairlochy, a very nice quiet wee road, at Gairlochy turned left towards Clunes and at Clunes joined a 7 mile stretch of dirt track to Laggan. Then a minor road to Invergarry, then the A82 until Bridge of Oichy, then I followed the Caledonian Canal to Fort Augustus. It was then the A82 to Drumnadrochit for 18 miles.

I had lunch at Drumnadrochit and then set off for a 1 mile 15% climb on the road to Beauly but it was basically downhill for the 10 miles after that to Beauly. I got there at 3:30pm. There was some extra miles because of the Great Glen Cycleway detour but it was worth it as I was only on the A82 for 20 miles out of a possible 50.

It rained off and on all morning.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Day 11 - Loch Lomond to Fort William.

60 miles covered.
Start off at 7:30 after 2 bowls of cereal for breakfast. I t had been raining all night but was dry when I set off, the heavens opened, 2 miles down the road. Stopped and put my overshoes on, a gradual climb for 5 miles to Crianlarich, on to Tyndrum, there was climb out of Tyndrum and a good downhill to Bridge of Orchy. From then on it was a climb up Glencoe and the road was getting busier. The scenery is great here though and there is a long downhill freewheel to Glencoe village. I had a cup of tea at Ballahulish, I continued on the pavement for 10 miles and 4 more on the road to Fort William. Arrived around 1 pm, soaked to the skin. Had a sleep and went into town and watched Man U v West Ham, surrounded by English holiday makers, supporting the team from Manchester, it was the English bank holiday weekend. I had an Indian meal for tea and got soaked walking back to the B&B.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Day 10 - Tarbolton to Ardlui, Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond
 75 miles covered.
Set off at 7:30, uphill but nice quiet road to Neilston, Neilston was the start of the route around Glasgow, which wasn't too painful. I crossed the Erskine Bridge about 40 miles in and joined the Glasgow to Loch Lomond way at Bowling, at the north side of the bridge. This took me all the way to Balloch at the south end of the loch. There is a cycle path along the west side of the loch, which I followed and this was a good decision as the A82 was very busy with tourists.

I had lunch at a nice cafe in Luss, I bought midgie repellent next door, as I was entering the land of the dreaded midge. I set off for Tarbet, unfortunately the cycle path runs out there, so I had to ride on the A82, which wasn't so enjoyablebecause of the traffic on the narrow windy road. Reached Ardlui at 15:30 and the heavens opened, actually got wet packing my bike away.

Mainly sunny day, with just some heavy showers later on.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Day 9 - Annan to Stair Inn, Tarbolton, Ayrshire.

76 Miles covered.
Road to Carsphrain
A huge bowl of porridge for breakfast, I set off at around 8:45, flat and a bit of a hill to Dumfries. After Dumfries, I took one of the most scenic roads of the trip to Carsphrain, quiet and wooded, a long uphill followed by an equally long downhill. On to Darmellington, where I was going to  have lunch but it was thronging with school kids on their lunch break, so I carried on, I didn't find anywhere for lunch until my destination at the Stair Inn. Luckily it was still serving lunches, as it was only 2pm. I had done 76 miles none stop. Not advised, I was shattered ! Had lunch and went to my bed again, my cold was getting worse. I had my tea in the hotel and went to bed. Pattern seems to be:
A dry day with some sun.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Day 8 - Windermere to Annan

Top of Kirkstone Pass
 64 miles covered, a short day today, as I thought it would be one of the toughest, with Kirkstone Pass in the way.

Set off at 7:30, The landlord at the St John's Lodge B&B cooked me an early breakfast. I prepared myself for a big climb up Kirkstone Pass, I thought I might have to push but it was more long and windy rather than mega-steep. One hour and 8 miles later, I was at the top. A resident of the Kirkstone Pass Inn offered to take my picture at the top, duly attached.

A long steep downhill to Patterdale at Ullswater followed. It was a sunny day by now and after a couple of short steep climbs, it was downhill and flat all the way to Carlisle for 20 miles. I negotiated Carlisle ok and set off towards Longtown along the A7, I had lunch at a cafe there. I made it to Annan at around 3, where Hilary had booked a b&b. I went to my bed, I was suffering with a cold which I had picked up during those soakings in NW England. I got up around 7pm and had pasta for my tea in a good Italian restaurant in Annan, recommended by the B&B owner.

This was a very good B&B - Ravenswood, St Johns Rd, Annan. I considered sending my tent and stuff home as this cold doesn't encourage me to camp. I just want to get rid of it. I just persevere, just in case it's needed in the last week.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Day 7 - Eccleston to Windermere

69 miles covered.
Millenium Bridge, Lancaster
8:00 start.
Poured with rain all morning, I had to shelter a couple of times, as the rain was so heavy. At Preston, there was a huge diversion, so I couldn't find a way to Garstang. After a few enquiries, a local shop owner pointed me in the right direction and eventually, I got back on track, an hour and a few miles wasted.

The rain went off at around 12 and I was in Lancaster by this time. It now started to get hilly, I had lunch at Twittefield, 20 miles from Windermere, I thought Id get to Windermere for 4 but it was 4:30. I underestimated how hilly the lake district was. I'm now half way - 494 miles up the road. I'm getting more tired every day. Bowness is very busy, thronging with tourists.

My solid gold £5 watch has now got water in it, it is still telling the time though.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Day 6 - Ellesmere - Eccleston, Lancashire

68 miles covered.
Set off at 8am, heavy rain all day, it was downhill most of the way to Chester, indeed just out of Ellesmere, I was skirting in and out of Wales, some of the signs were in Welsh and English. Chester was 24 miles up the road and seemed like a nice place but it was pouring with rain and I didn't get any pictures.
After Chester, I was back onto A roads and I had to negotiate the urban sprawl of Runcorn, Widnes and St Helens, I had been dreading this and with the rain it was worse that I thought. With the help of directions from the local folks, I got across Runcorn Bridge, unfortunately the cycle path was alongside the opposite carriageway and I didn't see it until I was heading across on the road, with lorries whizzing past me. I couldn't see much for the spray that they were kicking up. The A577 which I was on was more like a motorway than a Scottish A road but it did have a good hard shoulder to ride on. I was glad to find the turn off for Prescot, which I thought was never coming. I eventually found the B road I wanted at Prescot. I was glad to get onto quieter roads and the rain had gone off a bit now.

I had lunch at Eccleston, St Helens, yes there was 2 Eccleston's on today's route, just to confuse matters. I got to the best B&B so far at Eccleston, nr Leyland, Hilary had booked for me the night before. And the very kind landlady actually washed and dried my wet clothes. It was only 3pm when I got there but I was just glad to get to dry land. The flattest but wettest day so far.

The landlord and landlady were cyclists and were glad to help their bedraggled customers, the Parr Hall Farm, Eccleston is recommended.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Day 5 - Bromyard to Ellesmere, Shropshire.

70 miles covered.
Shrewsbury town centre
The sun was actually out when I packed up camp and left at 7:45, 10 miles down the road at Tenbury Wells, a local cyclist was out for a Sunday morning ride to Ludlow, so he rode with me and showed me where to go so I could continue on my way to Shrewsbury, it was a pleasant hilly ride following minor roads to Shrewsbury. I passed the Acton-Scott's "Victorian Farm" and had a cup of tea at Church Stretton on the way and got to Shrewsbury around 13:00. I had lunch there and continued towards Ellesmere, again following quiet minor roads, the terrain had levelled out by now. I did miss a turning somewhere and did 2 or 3 extra miles. Got to Ellesmere around 4 and got a pretty basic room above a pub, the Red Lion. The landlord was friendly and gave me a cloth and bucket of water to clean my bike, it was filthy after all the rain from the previous days. Some of the countryside was interesting near Ellesmere as there was some canals and there is a lake nearby as well.

I ate in the pub and they had a pub quiz on, I was tempted to enter but  it would have finished too late and I was pretty tired, indeed I think they had only done 3 rounds before I hit the hay.

The landlord did give me some money off the room as I skipped breakfast, I wanted an early start the next day.
This had been the sunniest day so far.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Day 4 Bath to Bromyard, Herefordshire.

80 miles covered.
Bath taken from the 1st climb out
8:15 start, 7.5 miles to Bath, I had a quick tour of Bath city centre, mainly looking for the minor road I was taking out of the city. There was a steep 2 mile climb out of Bath, thank goodness for the low gears on my bike. Then I headed out towards Stroud and Gloucester. I got to Gloucester by 13:00 and it was packed, it was Saturday, I suppose, I eventually found my way out of the city, it was pouring with rain by this time, I had lunch at a place called Newent in the Black Dog pub and the landlord and locals were friendly and very interested in what I was doing. I was planning to stop in Newent but I carried on and actually got to a town called Bromyard, 20 Miles further up the road. I noticed there seemed to be a couple of pubs/hotels closed down in Bromyard, as seemed to be the case in England, away from the obvious tourist spots, like Cornwall, talking to some of the friendly local folks, the recession had definitely hit there hard.

I couldn't find any digs in Bromyard but I knew from the map there was a campsite 2 miles up the road so I cycled up to it, there was no reception at the campsite but I rang the number on the sign and they said I could pitch my tent, near the entrance.

After pitching my tent and a quick wash, I cycled back down to Bromyard to find somewhere to eat. After my tea, the heavens opened on my way back to camp and I got absolutely soaked. I think I managed to keep the inside of my tent dry though.

There had been a mixture of drizzle and heavy rain all day.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Day 3 - Crediton to Bath

73 miles covered
Set off at 8:15 again, Hilly but not as steep as the previous 2 days, Got a bit lost and did an extra 5 hilly miles. Stopped at Wellington and had a cup of tea, getting lost had annoyed me. Wellington to Wells was pretty flat for a pleasant change but it was mostly on A roads which were quite busy. Especially the Taunton By-pass, indeed cars were passing me, not giving me much room and I tried going up onto the pavement and there was a slight kerb and the bike refused and I came off, I was just grazed and embarrassed. My left hand brake is now askew on my handlebars.
Stopped at Wells and visited the cathedral, I tried booking a B&B in Bath but my mobile phone was flat.

Wells Cathedral
There was a steep climb out of Wells on the A39 to Bath, it was very busy and I was glad to turn off after 15 miles onto a side road towards Paulton. I found a nice small inn, The Old Malt House at a place called Radford, 7 miles south of Bath.

Drizzly Rain all day, I managed to miss the heavy rain, the streets were soaking in Wells.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Day 2 - Nanstallon to Crediton, Devon.

71 miles covered this included a v hilly 4 mile detour due to roadworks 10 miles S of Crediton.

Set off at 8:15, there was a very hilly start, met a local cyclist and he tells me that the hill out of Nanstallon was an 18% climb. The rain came on just after I left the campsite, it did reduce to a steady drizzle after half an hour or so. More ups and downs. I had lunch at a place called Bridestowe and I booked a B&B at Crediton and I was able to dry things out there. Arrived at Crediton around 16:45.

I did get soaked walking back to the B&B from town in the evening, glad I wasn't camping.

Felt pretty tired all day, Cornwall had taken it's toll.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

John's lejog day 1 - Lands end to Nanstallon (nr Bodmin)

10 miles from Penzance to Lands End.
70 miles from Lands End to Nanstallon nr Bodmin.
V tough day with many steep hills.
Day didnt start well, I had to reinstall the front gear changer, it must have got knocked on the journey down to Penzance.
Only started from Penzance at 9am. Met a couple at Lands End who had just finished. So they took my photo beside the sign, so only started from Lands End at 10:15. Route followed the N Cornish coast then inland at st Agnes, towards Bodmin. Lunch at Portreath.
St Ives

Got to the Ruthern Valley campsite at around 6, exhausted after many hills, owner took pity on me and gave me a beer, she also waived my pitch fee, for the cause, so I will donate it to Cancer Research. A very nice campsite. Weather was cloudy but dry.