Thursday, 24 June 2010

Some final reflections...

Having had a few days to contemplate the journey I thought I would pen a few final thoughts.  I have still to add the statistics, some more photos and the actual route followed (with some of the wrong turns edited out :-)).

Overall it was a great experience and something I feel a sense of achievement for having done.  It's the first time I've done multiple days of long distances on a bike and carrying that amount of weight in panniers.  I can see why people get addicted to the idea - and it increases my respect for someone like Mark Beaumont immensely.  The idea of 195 days doing about 100 miles a day with a lot more weight than we were carrying beggars belief!

In the first 9 days I lost no weight at all.  In the last 5 I lost a few pounds - probably due to fewer cake shops :-).

We raised about 2800 pounds for RP- Fighting Blindness along the way - thanks to everyone who contributed, particularly those we met along the way including the "Bettyhill Babes" who paid some of our coffee and cake bill when we realised we had insufficient cash!  It's hard to pick the top cake shops - the one in Carrbridge scores highly for having a table with cakes laid out and you picked your own :-).  The most unusual cake award goes to lumpy bumpy cake in Kinross.

The best lunch remains the one with John and Frieda in Chepstow - very welcome after a long morning skirting Bristol on some pretty busy roads to reach the Severn Bridge.

People were really friendly and helpful throughout.  The folks at the Elerkey guest house who even volunteered to let us cannibalise their son's bicycle to sort my broken rear mech hanger, the "Lord Mayor of Mark" and friends who we met in the Pack Horse Inn in Mark (the wettest day of the trip,) the B&B owners in Mark who took us in despite (or perhaps because of) our bedraggled state, the B&B owners in Langholm (Wauchope Cottage) who have previously done the end to end thing, where they even had bike racks and a map to show the way to the pub (and yes, I do really know the difference between a suspension bridge and a stone bridge,) the B&B in Blair Atholl where we were mobbed by tame blackbirds, Robbie for putting us up for a night in Inverness, Mike and Kai at the Crask Inn (best unplanned experience of the whole trip) who let Sandy sleep in the summer house and the lady at the B&B in Thurso who let us take Sandy's bike apart in her back garden and gave us the best sandwiches, made with home made bread, to eat on the train home.

Most places we stayed were really good - the top award probably goes to The Crask Inn - mainly for the novelty of the experience - with a tie between Wauchope Cottage in Langhom and Dalgreine Guest House in Blair Atholl, closely followed by The Elerkey Guest House in Veryan and Kingsley Farm in Mark.

The weather was fairly kind to us.  There was only one day where we ended the day wet - we had one other fairly wet day and the odd shower.  Temperature was fairly good for cycling - although it was cold the day we went over Shap and absolutely baltic on the last day.  The wind was northerly throughout, although for the most part it was light enough not to notice - the exceptions being going over Shap and the last day.

We pushed up a few hills on the first couple of days - not helped by loss of drive on my bike - and some more on the 5th day.  I think we pushed up one short one in the whole of Scotland, which must mean that Scotland is basically flat(?).

The scenery throughout was for the most part great - great variation across the length of the country.  One of the odd things is that Britain on a bicycle somehow seems smaller than Britain done by car or train.  Even though it takes longer to get places, every day we got to somewhere distinctly different - different scenery, accents, beer....whereas travelling by car it seems to take ages to get to the next major place down a busy motorway.  We were on back roads for the majority of the trip - even the A roads we were on were pretty much like back roads a lot of the way.  For the most part we avoided towns and cities - but when we did have to traverse them they were rather hard work - Exeter, Telford, Warrington, Wigan, Lancaster, Penrith and Carlisle coming to mind in particular.  The one way systems had a habit of taking you a long way round - which could easily be done more directly on a bicycle.

Of the major points along the way, The Lizard was probably the most spectacular.  Dunnet Head was rugged - but it was so cold and windy we didn't really get to appreciate it.  Land's End was ok - good views and it was sunny - but John O'Groats had little to recommend it.

The train home was perhaps the least exciting part of the whole trip - I was certainly glad to get home that afternoon after the air conditioning in the carriage we were in failed.

So we did it - we have plenty of memories - many but not all of them recorded in this blog.  Thanks to everyone who supported us and a personal thanks to Sandy for accompanying me on this journey.

No comments:

Post a Comment