Lands End to John O'Groats!
A month or so ago EJ helped sponsor Jane Thurnell-Read of Health and Goodness to do a cycle ride from Lands End to John O’Groats. Jane raised £2,400 for Village Water in the process. Read on for Jane’s account of the journey…
About 970 miles in 12 days
- Land’s End in the extreme SW of England to John O’Groats in
the extreme NE of Scotland. I came back tired but proud I’d
completed the trip and also in the process managed to raise over
£2400 for Village Water….
The first day was Lands
End to Liskeard, a mere 73 miles. The route took us past my house,
which was a very strange experience. John, my partner, rode with us
till lunch. I rode with 2 men, Tom and Steve, (as well as John) and
was delighted to discover that I was in the fast group at the front.
There were 12 other riders and 2 support crew with two vans.
The second day was
Liskeard to Sampford Peverell, 72 miles. It was raining when we left
Liskeard but eventually the sun did come out. Once again I rode with
Tom and Steve, enjoying being at the front again. I know it’s not a
race, but it still feels good to know I’m faster than so many
people who are a lot younger than me. We have two support crew and
one of them,Kenny, asked me my age in the evening. He nearly fell off
his bar stool when I told him!
day once again I rode with the two “boys” Today it was Sampford
Peverell to Tintern and a longer day at 86 miles. There was a last
sweeping descent to Tintern itself and a sudden magnificent view of
the ruined abbey there – worth the hardship of the day for that
view. Rain in the evening, although it had been fine during the day.
Tintern to Shrewsbury for
the fourth day. 88 miles. Rode some of this on my own as I was tired
from the fast pace of the first three days, but I was still faster
than most people. Got lost round the one-way system in Shrewsbury
town centre but eventually found the hotel.
Shrewsbury to Preston (77
miles) was dire with riding on the A49 (especially the bit through
Warrington) being fairly challenging. Every traffic light seemed to
be against us, and then it started raining. I had a rain jacket with
me but even so I got wet and cold – glad to reach the end of the
day brought Shrewsbury to Carlisle and Shap Hill. We were told how
bad this was, but I was second up and a bit surprised it hadn’t
been steeper. The weather started to come in, so Tom and I had a
quick lunch at the top of Shap Hill (provided as always by the
support people) and set off again. About a minute into this part of
the ride the heavens opened. A passing car aqua-planed on the road
but fortunately it had pulled right over to the other side to pass me
so I was not in any danger. Very quickly I left Tom behind and cycled
on feeling strong. Soon the rain stopped and the sun came out and I
enjoyed going fast and feeling good.
Day 7 was Carlisle to
Kilmarnock in Scotland. In theory 96 miles today, but Jason, the
other support guy, told me an alternative route to get to the hotel
and added 9 extra miles to my ride by mistake! A long day and I rode
most of it on my own, meeting up with some of the others at the 3
roadside breaks (mid-morning, lunch and mid-afternoon). At last we
were in Scotland I was beginning to appreciate just how far we’d
Day 8 Kilmarnock to
Inverary was the day we travelled about 78 miles and used a ferry to
cross to Dunoon. A magical day with the sun shining and the route
taking us round the sides of some beautiful Scottish lochs. A slight
head wind for some of it but nothing like what was to come. (Looking
back after day 12 I wondered why I had complained about the head wind
on this day – it seemed like a gentle breeze by comparison.)
Day 9 was Inverary to
Invergarry – a longer day of 95 miles. I think it was on this day
that I walked up part of one very steep hill – the only time I did
it – but my legs felt very tired and I decided not to push myself.
Am I learning sense at last? More Scottish lochs and great scenery.
Day 10 Invergarry to Bonar
Bridge. 76 miles. I was really beginning to feel tired, but still
managing to enjoy the riding even so. That night three of us stayed
in a separate B&B as the hotel had not had room for us all. It
was a truly sumptuous place – I felt a bit nervous about my dirty
sweaty clothes. Next morning a great breakfast but we had to be on
the road so we couldn’t really relax and enjoy it to the full.
Day 11 Bonar Bridge to
Bettyhill. 55 miles – that now constitutes a short day! Some pretty
scenery and some rugged bare mountain wilderness. The east wind is
really beginning to blow. The second half of the afternoon we turned
into this cold head wind and it was time to grit the teeth and just
keep going. This was actually one of my favourite days. I love the
experience of cycling (when I’m really fit) and pitting myself
against the elements. Everyone else hated the day. When we got to the
hotel we were told the forecast had been for a 25 mile an hour wind.
“What about tomorrow?” we asked. “Oh worse – 25 mile an hour
winds, gusting to 40 miles an hour and a high chance of rain.”
Other cyclists laughed and asked me if I was going to enjoy the next
day as well!
Day 12 Bettyhill to John
O’Groats. Well, this was the toughest day of all even though it was
‘only’ 52 miles. The weather forecast was correct. The wind was
still in the east. We were going mainly east and occasionally turning
north. The wind was truly horrendous – you’d have to describe it
as a gail-force wind. My average speed on the other days had been
around 13.5 miles an hour with one day averaging over 15 miles an
hour. On this final day it was 9.1 miles an hour. The ride demanded
total concentration: if you stopped pedalling when you had the east
wind, the bike felt like it was about to go backwards. If you stopped
pedalling when riding north, the cross wind would almost blow you and
the bike across the road. The rain lashed at my face stinging it and
making it difficult to see. I enjoyed the first 20 miles but after
that it became a hard grind. About 2 miles from the destination I
eased up on the riding and spent a few minutes reflecting on the trip
and what I’d achieved.
The plan had been to have
a big celebration at John O’Groats, take photos and sign the
official end-to-enders book. Because of the weather conditions, we
didn’t do any of these so the only proof I have that I got there is
a certificate from the company who organised the trip.
Now I’m back at home,
resting a bit, catching up with work and friends and reminding myself
to eat less!
Thank you to all of you
for supporting me through donations to Village Water
(http://www.villagewater.org) and through your cards and good wishes.
If you’d like to do a similar trip, then contact the organisers
Discover Adventure (http://www.discoveradventure.com).
You can see my online
fund-raising progress here: http://www.justgiving.com/janebiking