As many of you will know by now I made it to the far tip of Cornwall in just under 10 days from the time James and I started.
True, it wasn’t the 7 days we had planned but what a great journey it was all the same!
Picking up from where I last left off, the A6 south from Penrith rises up over the bleakness of the route’s highest point at Shap Summit. Back in the day trucks would struggle – especially from the South and in Winter the road would frequently be blocked. Not so the day I arrived on the scene. A great howling Northerly wind ensured I managed to ride all the way top in the big chainring at roughly 12 mph!
In a way I was sad to not have seen the lake District but if I was to try and keep to the schedule, albeit several days askew, I couldn’t afford to go the pretty route. Shap is bleak and barren and somewhat industrial. Criss-crossed with electricity pylons and granite quarries with the M6 thundering 100m below the old road. It was the confusion over the height of that road (319m) that led me to believe this was the second highest point on route in the this short clip:
After the brief pause then came the long roller-coaster ride into Kendal and in true big dipper fashion the first downhill stretch was the fastest and steepest: the speedo nudging the 50mph mark at one point. Shortly after I passed (!) a rider on a carbon race bike only to be caught as the road levelled out a bit and my weight advantage was gone. Turns out he’d given up going up Shap from the South because of the wind.
We chatted for a few more miles before he took a left turn into Westmorland but not before perhaps the most dangerous and unnecessary event of the ride took place:
A brief stop for a bite to eat by the river in Kendal and I picked up the A65 heading south out of the Lake District. The A6 becomes swallowed by a must faster feeder for the M6 here and even the A65 had to be diverted off to work a route avoiding a busy junction. After joning the A6070 I came across two Frenchmen in Burton in Kendal, one on a recumbent and the other on an expedition upright bike stopped at the roadside. I duly stopped and struck up conversation: we clearly had two diametrically opposed view as to what was necessary equipment; me with as little as possible that I could get away with, for the sake of speed and they on the other hand whom I couldn’t quite be sure but was that the tap of the proverbial kitchen sink I spied behind the saddle…
After roughly 550 miles of riding on my own from Inverness to Worcester I was joined by my friend and Cardiff Ajax CC club-mate David Medhurst:
He’d come fresh off his medical elective in Ghana and asked me if he could join me en route: there wasn’t a way in the world I was going to decline this Cat 2 racer’s help and company!
After a great steak meal and a wild-camp at Castlemorton Common in the lea of the Malvern Hills we rode through the gap at Hollybush and into Ledbury where we rendezvousd with some other Cardiff cyclists. They set the pace down the Wye Valley after we fixed an issue with Dave’s chain in Ross-on-Wye and we parted company to cross the Severn Bridge alone thus ending our sojourn in Wales.
Our next stop after some fish and chips in Cheddar (not with cheese) was a fantastic campsite at Wedmore where the couplelet us stay for free. They hada strange combination of Alpacas and a defunked Harrier Jump-Jet! Oh and a fantastic view over West Sedgemore which looks spectacular on a misty morning…
Leaving Somerset behind we skirted the toughest bit of Devon, Dartmoor, in order to keep on track of time,but it’s still hilly believe me! I won’t forget the abuse we got in a pub in Okehampton: being called ‘stick insects’ by stoned pot-heads is a first! We made it into Cornwall by nightfall after one of the very few unscheduled detours off route as we tried to make our way out of Launceston. The hidden valley is a gem by the way, and no, that wasn’t the bit where we got lost…
Another wildcamp, this time on the A385 before Davidstowe was the last sleep before Lands End. A fine morning and a hearty breakfast in Wadebridge, was met with no joy with finding new cleats for my shoes forced me to make as few stops with feet down as I could for fear I wouldn’t complete the ride! Anyway we just went for it: Dave and I rode at an average of 20mph all the way down the A39 and A30 to arrive 1 1/2 hours under 10 days at the Kitsch Lands End resort. I kind of prefer John o’ Groats after all!